This week I’m playing around with some new blog designs and styles, and trying to settle on a bona fide name. So stay tuned for an official reveal (“Move that bus!”) coming soon…


Home Cookin: Bean Pot Soup

Welcome to a new little segment I like to call “Home Cookin.” Today I bring to you a Sally Wilgus specialty (passed down from Grandmom Erwin)…

(Print the recipe card here.)

Alex and I discovered that BOTH of our moms think it important that we have recipes passed down in their own handwriting. I am a major supporter of this idea. We love getting tastes of home (Texas and New England) now that we’re in our own little Chicago apartment. And these recipes are just too good not to share.

This weekend, try out a nice warm pot of soup. Enjoy it on Sunday afternoon and package up the rest for an easy-grab lunch through the week.

So here we go. Bean Pot Soup in 10 easy steps.

Now the good part! It’s delicious with some home-baked cracked-pepper whole-wheat (that’s a lot of qualifiers) tortilla chips. But it’s even better with warm buttered skillet cornbread. Yeah, definitely go with the cornbread.

PS: One hearty bowl comes in at a whopping $2.46! (Not the dainty little cup in the picture. And that’s assuming you already have salt and Paprika in your cabinet.) Another reason why we cook this up once a week.

I’m one lucky girl

I have no doubt that my parents are responsible for any ounce of creativity and/or love of things handmade that landed inside of me. They have always fostered environments where we can be creative…write, sing, craft, build, design, paint, cook…you name it, we did it. I was measuring and cutting drywall out in the driveway by the time I was 11.

I feel very lucky to have grown up in a home like this, and it’s no wonder my brother became a music teacher, my sister an interior designer, and I a non-profit writer/designer. And that we all married creative types to boot. They planted in each of us the desire to pursue interesting things, make our surroundings beautiful, and turn even the plainest of spaces or events into something special. It was not uncommon for us to dine on Kraft macaroni and cheese on our finest china over candlelight.

So what a wonderful Christmas it was this year, exchanging handmade gifts and appreciating the unique talents of one another. There was not a dry eye in the place.

Marmie crocheted this beautiful chevron pillow for me. It’s finally resting on our living room sofa where it belongs:

Pops crafted this wood tray. Best part is he made it using the reclaimed wood that he had first crafted into the table that held the cake at our wedding. Like I said, waterworks.

And Pookie. Well, she outdid herself with these incredibly detailed glittered paper ornaments. She made a set for each of us, and used sheet music and book pages depending on our interests.

Daniel and Jenn claim they are not creative. But if you’d listen to them sing, as we do every time we are together, you’d know what a wonderful gift that is too. (I’ll prove it.)

So I promise the point of this post is not just to brag about all of the incredible things I got for Christmas. (Well maybe a little.)

But as I opened each of these beautiful treasures, I couldn’t help but reflect on what a creative home can do for a family. It doesn’t just produce impressive end results. Creativity within a family fosters kindness, thoughtfulness, laughter, generosity, love, and lots and lots of happy tears.

Do you hate trying to hang pictures too?

I shudder just thinking about all of the nailing, straightening, renailing, restraightening, etc, etc, etc.

So that’s why we’ve been living for two months with our living room like this:

We did have a lovely Christmas wreath of real pine hanging above the fireplace for a time. But it still looked a little weeny hanging up there all by itself on that huge blank wall.

So I finally had enough. I was not going to let that wall and my fear of picture hanging get the best of me any longer. But let me back up. Because despite what you may think, it took a few improvements even to get this fireplace wall looking this good.

Here’s what it looked like when we moved in:

Compared to once we patched and painted:

Now this is where the real story begins.

Turns out that starting to clean up the guest room was a good idea. I came across all kinds of really great framed pictures that were hanging out all lonely in the corner. Just the types of wall hangings I needed, namely, free.

I spent about 30 minutes laying out various arrangements of the frames on the floor and finally landed on this grouping of five.

Once I had an arrangement I liked, I traced the edges onto a sheet of kraft paper so that all of the hanging mechanisms landed on the paper:

Then I taped the paper above the fireplace so the arrangement would be centered on the wall. I needed to call in my handy assistant from his guest room cord-untangling duties to help with this part. It took a few tries to get it right.

Then, you guessed it. I nailed right through that kraft paper. You probably don’t need a picture to see how that went down, but I kind of like this one:

Once the nails were in, I took them back out, tore the paper down (quite aggressively to be honest), put the nails right back in their respective holes, and hung the pictures on their respective nails. Felt pretty good hanging up that first frame:

And then…ta da! All five frames. Perfectly hung on the first try.

You might notice that one of the frames needs something in it. Still brainstorming that one. But already enjoying an almost-finished project that has completely changed the look of our living room. And also one step closer to having a functional guest room thanks to a little re-purposing of clutter.

As for that pesky exposed outlet. We’re just going to pick up a solid outlet cover and paint it (along with the nail heads) the same color as the wall. Should blend in quite well.

PS: Maybe the best part of this arrangement is that each picture has a story. Top middle is just one piece of a big wall-hanging from my parent’s house that I remember from middle school. Bottom left was painted for me by Emily while she was still in high school. And bottom right is a block print I absolutely loved the minute I saw at the Renegade Craft Fair one year. Top right, not so much a story as just a cool frame.

Without further ado…

…the guest room.


A. Comic books
A. Comic books
A. Comic books
A. Comic books
B. Leftover wedding invitations
C. Really cool tin divider/storage unit/shelf I found at the Randolph St Antique Market
D. Computer cords, guitar cords, internet cords, amp cords, cords, cords, cords!
E. Grandma-made crochet blanket
F. Moving bins that need to be returned to Anna 
G. Random vases and lamps
H. Important documents
I. Salvation Army chair in need of re-do
J. Paris painting from Deo
K. Old bed frame and bookshelves
L. More lamps
M. Printer
N. Craft supplies
O. Alex’s keyboard and amp
P. Ye Olde Curiousity Bag (Alex named it. You know, that bag of stuff you don’t know what else to do with.)
Q. Wrapping paper
R. Various pictures and wall-hangings 

Welp, there you have it. A perfect contender for a home organization game show. But I’m much too embarrassed to put our mess on TV, so I decided to post it for hundreds of my closest friends to see instead. (I guess hundreds is an exaggeration at this point.) So go ahead. Take it in for all its closed-door glory.

But just you wait! Boy do I have plans for this place. And I will post some progress now and then. So stay tuned. I’ll leave you with a few more pics so you get the full effect.

Oh, and don’t think for a minute that just because you’ve seen this online you’ll get to open the door when you come over. Just pretend like you don’t know a thing.

Curved Glass Does Not Magic Make*

I recently found magic. 

A substance that created the look of etched glass that I saw used only everywhere, including here and here and here.

I wanted me some magic.

I discovered the source of this magic to be Armour Etch, or glass etching cream. I found it at Blick. Apparently it’s so dangerously acidic that it’s kept under lock and key. So if you go looking for some, you’ll need to ask one of the friendly, pierced, and tattooed Blick employees to help you out. Also get a basic old little paint brush while you’re there.

Once you have those rubber gloves on…

Then get a little more fancy:

Vases for Jenn and scotch glasses for Daniel. (We debated whether the purpose of these Roman Tumblers was to be able to identify one’s glass, or identify the number of drinks one has consumed.)

But remember how crafts are hard? Let me show you some things I made that do not look like magic:

Here are a few pointers to bypass the non-magic phase:

  • Use straight glass objects. The curved glass shown above made the tape buckle and the cream crept under against my will.
  • Find these straight glass objects at thrift stores or Target. Not fancy curved glass objects at Crate and Barrel that cost more money anyway.
  • Apply tape or stickers with force. Get your fingernails in on it. Press that tape down like you thought you could never press tape down.
  • GLOB on that Armour Etch. No perfectionism here kids. The messier the better.
  • Don’t try to give it a second coat. It just doesn’t work.
And there you have it. The end of Christmas Crafts 2011. Until you see the incredible handmade things that were given to me…

*As promised in the last post, this is actually “Christmas Crafts Part 2.” Fortunately I realized how awful that was for a blog post title before publishing it for a second time.