I’m on Apartment Therapy!

Well, let’s be honest, reHabitat is on Apartment Therapy. They were the ones behind this genius bedroom makeover.

Either way, it’s pretty cool to get online and see this…

Apt Therapy screen shot

It’s our bedroom! On Apartment Therapy! And you can go vote for it right now!

And then go check out reHabitat. They’re good.

So to recap. Vote. reHabitat.  :)

Absolutely no occasion.

The day that Alex and I got engaged (two years ago yesterday!), I was totally and completely 100% shocked and surprised. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, I had absolutely no idea when I woke up that morning that I would be making the biggest (and best) decision of my life.

But no one believes me when I say that because everything about the experience screamed, “Look!!!!! You’re getting engaged today!!!!!! It’s so obvious!!!!!!!!”

Alex told me to get dressed up because we were going to do something REALLY special. We’d been dating for about 8 months. When he picked me up, he was wearing a suit and handed me tickets for a lunch cruise on the Odyssey II, the boat where we met. When we got to our table, there was a bottle of champagne and shrimp cocktail waiting for us. My response? “Alex! I love you because you would plan something like this with absolutely no occasion!” He just smiled.

A windy engagement day aboard the Odyssey II.

A windy engagement day aboard the Odyssey II.

The reason why I love our engagement story so much is because as obvious as that day sounds, in the moment it seemed perfectly natural for Alex to have planned something so thoughtful and fun with absolutely no occasion. He made me feel that special all the time.

I was so thrilled by the messages I got from people who used the Valentine’s Day cards I posted.  I love the idea of making cards and writing notes and encouraging people, but I don’t do it nearly as often as I would like, especially for Alex who I love and respect more than anyone in the whole world.

The response to the V-day post inspired me to regularly post some ideas about how you can easily encourage or appreciate people in your life year-round, with absolutely no occasion.

So consider this the intro to the Alex-inspired, Absolutely No Occasion series, premiering as soon as I get back from my work trip in Seattle…

In the meantime, why not start by simply telling someone that you appreciate them today. And give them a reason why. You certainly don’t need an occasion for that.

There will be snacks, there will be snacks.

Andrew Bird knows what’s up: where there are friends, there will be snacks. And the only thing better than snacks are cool little plates to serve them on.

Snacks

When I discovered ceramic paint last year, I bought this great set of appetizer plates on sale at Crate and Barrel intending to spice them up a bit. (That was within the first few months of being married when we were at Crate and Barrel every weekend with gift cards. Not a bad gig.) But they’ve just been sitting in our cabinet since then.

Not anymore! My friend Alli came over for a little girl time and Crafterhours the other night. Let’s paint a few snack plates, shall we?

First, collect your supplies: something ceramic (I bet you could find some plain mismatched thrift store dishes and make them look like a set!), porcelain paint (you can get this at Blick), and white wine (Alli and I agree that it must be white).

Prepping

Doodle a little to get into the swing of things and figure out a design or pattern you like. Alli used the curtains for floral inspiration. I tried a few monograms, but ended up going a bit more basic. Then go for it!

Working

This paint is great because it wipes off easily if you make a mistake or just don’t like something. So don’t be scared. Just have some paper towels ready. When you’re done painting, let your items dry for 24 hours.

Waiting

After you’ve stared at your new snack plates for 24 hours, stick them in a 300 degree oven for 35 minutes. The paint will stay raised, but will harden creating a really cool depth and texture.

Your last step, fill with snacks! And if you’re smart, those snacks will be from Alli’s awesome food blog, Living Fully Without.

Lauren plates

Alli plates

For the record, Alli told me at the start of this project that she couldn’t draw. But look at those flowers! Proof that you too can probably create something more beautiful than you expected. Al, you got it goin’ on!

The Idiot’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

Dear boy readers with sweethearts, if you only ever do one project from this blog, do this one. (Preferably print this on Wednesday at work, because Valentine’s Day is on Thursday.)

Valentine printable 2013

Dear girl readers with sweethearts, you might be surprised by how much your admiration and praise melts even your manliest of men, so you should do this too.

You may have heard of something called the Cost to Income Ratio. Well, this Valentine will net you many many more times what the two sheets of paper will cost.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Print this.
  2. Fold the card in half, and then in half again. Sign it.
  3. Fill in the hearts using the handy little prompts.
  4. Cut the heart paper into six cards.
  5. Tape the cards in places your sweetheart will find them on Valentine’s Day. Like this:

DIY Valentine | handmaden.com

And this:

DIY Valentine | handmaden.com

Or this:

DIY Valentine | handmaden.com

Even if you’re not into Valentine’s Day cheesiness (maybe especially if you’re not into Valentine’s Day cheesiness), you can make someone feel awesome with just a few minutes and some kind words. (Most of the cards could also encourage a coworker or friend.)

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

PS: Here’s last year’s Valentine Printable too…

You say goodbye and I say hello.

We have this great big dining room table that we painted with chalkboard paint (thanks, Emily) and we love it. It’s perfect for doodling during dinner parties and score keeping for games. It seats 10 people, comfortably: a rarity in a small city apartment. The problem is that I think by the end of every lingering dinner or game night, our guests go home cursing us because our chairs are so darn creaky and uncomfortable. Here’s the line-up:

You say goodbye

I’ve collected our dining chairs over the course of a few years at various Salvation Armys and thrift stores. The point was to have an eclectic mix with no pretense of them even trying to match. The lot of them cost probably less than $8. For good reason. So after some significant Craigslisting and comfort testing (Alex approved), we purchased six of these babies. Hello hello.

Hello Hello

The price was right (aka cheap). And you know I love a good DIY, so I’m ready to get out my spray paint and give these guys a makeover. Almost.

Brightly colored dining room chairs are so hot right now. Let me show you:

emerald

sea foam

yellow

orange

So I’m wondering if I should try something bold. Or stick with a classic glossy white:

white

What do you think?

Dining room

—–

Images from: bhg.com, marieclairemaison.com, designsponge.com, sfgirlbybay.com, littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com

Ain’t she a beaut?

I got a sewing machine for Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks Mom and Dad! Ain’t she a beaut?

Beaut | Handmaden.com

I recently took a sewing class at Lill Street Studio and loved it. My friend Caitlyn let me borrow her sewing machine for a few weeks after the class and it only solidified the fact that I reeeeeeeeally wanted one of my own.

My mom is a whiz on the sewing machine. So anytime I wanted to sew myself a scrunchie, she was there to thread the machine and fix my mistakes. Even with her help, the last time I tried to sew something was in high school when I wanted to make some pajama shorts. I sewed the leg hole shut. Three times. I never finished the shorts.

But after 12 years of running away from the sewing machine, I’m ready to face it head on.

I started this blog to encourage you that you are creative, so act that way! And to hopefully inspire you to tackle something handmade, even if it scares you. Now it’s my turn. This sewing machine scares me because I have no clue what the heck I’m doing. So you should know that anything I post about sewing is experimental and meant to show you that if I can do it, you can do it! So get out that machine you’ve had stashed in your closet for too many years without touching because we’ve got work to do!

I decided my first project needed to be something very very simple. And what’s simpler than 4 straight lines?

Pillows | Handmaden.com

One afternoon later, I have two lovely new pillows brightening up our living room. I generally followed these instructions, and here’s how it went down:

First I chose fabric. Lucky for me, my talented interior designer mom let me raid her fabric sample collection over Thanksgiving. So I pulled out a few contrasting patterns and a soft velvet. I cut them down to fit the two pillow inserts I have. (And in the process realized that cutting square corners is probably the hardest part of sewing.)

pillow fabrics | handmaden.com

I already had two pillow inserts to work with. One from an IKEA pillow that I got home and kicked myself for buying. And another insert that I had from a past never-realized project.

pillow inserts | handmaden.com

Once I had the pieces cut, I pinned them right sides together with openings on the bottom.

pinning pillows | handmaden.com

After sewing around the edge with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, I trimmed off some excess fabric, turned the pillow covers right side out, and ironed around the seams. (Take a hint from me, and don’t sew with velvet the first time you pull out your machine. It was a nightmare and I changed the fabrics for Pillow #2 so that I wouldn’t have to use the velvet again.)

ironing pillow covers | handmaden.com

Stuffing in the pillows was so satisfying! The only thing left to do was handsew the openings closed while watching The West Wing. You won’t get to see any photos of my handsewing. I still need to learn how to make those stitches invisible…

sewing the pillows closed | handmaden.com

It took me about the same amount of time to sew the pillows closed as it did for CJ and the gang to get President Bartlett’s poll ratings up 9 points. So I’d say it was a successful day all around.

handmade pillows | handmaden.com

Thirty by 30

I’ve always struggled to know the line between contentment and ambition.

I want to travel and eat good foods and push myself at work and make new friends and take on challenges and be involved at church and learn new crafts and write letters and take meals to people who need them and exercise and have a welcoming home and do special things with Alex. All great things. And all things that take effort and planning and some amount of wanting things to be different than how they are right now.

So the question is how do I keep that desire — for change and challenge and newness — while being content with who I am now and the things I have now?

I’ve been married for just over a year now. The most significant thing I’ve realized is that my attitude is always my choice. I choose to be annoyed and resentful at a teasing comment or I choose to laugh along. I choose to talk about something or I choose to give the silent treatment. I choose to smile in the morning or I choose to stomp around and brood about running late. Living with someone else suddenly makes my choices much more visible.

This year I will turn 30. I’ve thought for the last 6 months about compiling a “30 by 30” list of things I want to accomplish before June 20. But I decided that it might be more helpful for me to compile a different sort of list. Still a “30 by 30.” But in a spirit of gratitude and contentment, this list will celebrate the opportunities I have already had. This year I want to look back on the last 30 and simply say, “Wow. Thank you Lord.”

Perhaps the answer is that simple: choose thanks.

Perhaps contentment, thanks for the gifts and opportunities we’ve already been given, is the very attitude that spurs us on toward a full life of creativity and newness, as we live with gratitude toward the Giver of all good things.

Psalm 103

. . . . .

Happy New Year from the Wilgi!

Happy New Year!