Love What You Love

HAPPY FEBRUARY my beautiful people.  I don’t like Valentine’s Day.  Like, not at all.  It’s so cheesy and cheap chocolate-y and gross prix fixe-y.

In the year 6 BB (that is six years before baby, or 2007) my husband took me to Valentine’s Day dinner at the Walnut Grill in Pittsburgh.  This restaurant isn’t open anymore, which doesn’t sadden me in the least if that gives you any indication of how this story is about to go down.

I have a pretty sappy and thoughtful husband, and he was trying to do the right thing by making a Valentine’s Day reservation.  Except he dropped the ball.  He basically secured the last possible reservation at the last possible restaurant at the last possible minute.  In his defense we were in law school at the time.  Law school has the effect of turning even the most organized, romantic person into a soulless, coffee-stained specter whose nightmares feature banana peels in various stages of decay and big, blocky mnemonic devices that would make Seuss’s head spin.  Plus we were in our second year, which means we were also applying for really important jobs that neither of could care less about now.  Oh, Life, you have quite the sense of humor.  Can I get tickets to your next show?  I’ll be the one heckling you from the back row, most likely dressed in yesterday’s PJs.

When we arrived at the restaurant we were seated at a table wedged between the kitchen and two blonde undergrads whose self-worth correlated strictly to their inability to trick a reasonably attractive frat boy into buying them an overpriced dinner on this most important of all days.  With the clanging from the kitchen assaulting one ear and the whiney omigodmylifeisover piercing the other, the highlight of the meal was the creamy soft cheese drizzled with honey.  And that was the appetizer, so, you know.

Matt still apologizes to me for this night.  But he really did me a great service.  It was like Toto pulling back the velvet emerald green curtain.  That stinky little table pinning us between the guts of the restaurant and the gut-wrenching conversation exposed Valentine’s Day for money-grubbing, single-person shaming fraud she is.  Ugh, Valentine’s Day.  What a sham!

But, I do like pink and red hearts.  Especially when they are so delicately strewn across my bookcase, creating a stunning contrast against its deep teal finish.

Embrace My Space: Paper Hearts

What?

Did you really think I was that cold?  The Tin Man didn’t go home empty handed that day after all.  This certainly restored my faith in Love and hearts.

Embrace My Space: Paper Hearts

I recently finished the stencil in the foyer so I turned my attention to restyling my teal bookcase, which is a piece from the Arhaus relics collection.  I wanted to do something bold and graphic on top of the bookcase, and I’d been envisioning a huge palm frond or something similar.

Earlier this month on a trip to Terrain, which is a garden shop and café curated by the geniuses behind the ethereal and eternally stylish Anthropologie, I found this stunning dried red stem of a plant of unknown origin. Unknown to me, that is; I’m sure the folks at Terrain could tell you but I know diddly about plants.

Embrace My Space: Paper Hearts

I went on a mission to find a large vessel to display my red stem.  Along the way I found a great basket weave vase in the dishware section of HomeGoods, perfect to go with my coastal, casual vibe.  The stem in the vase didn’t quite hold her own up there, so I tracked down a faux palm leaf to help her out.

My stance on plant life in the home is as follows:  real is preferable, but only if you can keep it green and alive, dried is the second best option, particularly if you can preserve the original color or pick it in your back yard, and as for faux, a single stem or leaf is ok, as are twigs, bamboo stalks and the like, but no silk flowers or plants in colors that don’t appear in nature.  No.

Embrace My Space: Paper Hearts

One day last week when my son was napping, I decided I didn’t feel like reading or writing or ‘rithmetic but I still wanted to do something productive.  I went upstairs to my craft supplies and pulled out every shade of red and pink paper I had on hand.  Then he woke up so I left the paper, along with my string, scissors and pencil in a pile in the middle of the living room floor.

Embrace My Space: Paper Hearts

Later that evening after my son went to bed I resumed work as I watched some TV with my hubby.  I drew a ton of hearts in various sizes on the paper and cut them out.  When I realized that would take forever, I began to fold the paper a few times and cut once so I could get more hearts with each pass of the scissors.

Embrace My Space: Paper Hearts

I taped the paper hearts to some string in no particular order, so the garland has an imperfect, organic look to it.  I also had some hearts left over so I taped a few to the mirror anchoring my living room gallery wall.

Embrace My Space: Paper Hearts

I made two simple garlands, one for the bookcase and one for the fireplace.  I also added a few red accent pieces to the mantel to make the display look a bit more Valentiney.

Embrace My Space: Paper Hearts

If you have time to watch TV and you passed your pre-K art class, this project is for you!

I leave you with this inspirational quote from my design muse, Jonathan Adler, who also said “If you love it like crazy, it will work.”  I couldn’t agree with him more.

jonathan adler love

This Valentine’s Day and every day, I hope you’re surrounded with what you love.  Happy hearting!

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The Great Curtain Conundrum

THE STORY I’m about to share wouldn’t have happened but for my personal pride as a DIYer and my innate desire to save a buck.  My mom is the reason I possess these wonderful instincts that often send me swirling into a spackle-covered downward spiral of cussing and unfinished projects.  Thanks Mom!  You’ve raised me right.

My mom and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment until I was about 9 years old.  We had a lovely landlord, Hoss, who would take care of our creaks, drips, cracks and rattles.  When Hoss came over to fix something he would enter through the side door to our tiny kitchen, and he’d always turn a blind eye to our vagabond house cats as they squeezed their way into the house before the heavy metal screen door caught them by the tails.  My mom still hid the kitty food bowls when she knew he was coming over.  Maintaining a semblance of obedience will take your far.

When my mom bought our house just before I started fifth grade the cats came with us, but Hoss did not.  So what’s a cash-strapped first time home buyer to do when she’s lost her built-in handyman?  Do it herself, of course.  And so for years and years I watched my mom repair dripping toilets, mow our lawn, caulk the bathtub, paint the kitchen, and sew curtains for my bedroom, all while bringing home the bacon and making sure I still got to go to Disneyland.  Wow, don’t I feel like an ass for whining about staying at home to care for my child while my husband goes to work.  Again, thanks Mom!

Anyway, growing up watching my mom do pretty much everything herself ingrained me with a lively can-do spirit.  What I’ve discovered through the course of many home projects gone awry, however, is that a can-do spirit don’t mean jack if you have no skills or actual tools in your toolbox.   So sometimes that lively can-do spirit of mine goes a little something like:  “Mom, you can do this for me, right?”  Ha.  Just kidding.  Well, not really.

Because I did ask my mom to make me these lovely curtains for my son’s playroom.

Playroom Curtains: Embrace My Space

What, you aren’t noticing the curtains? I should have cleaned up for you.  Sorry.  Let me see if I can get a better shot for you.

Playroom Curtains: Embrace My Space

Ah, just kidding.  Not happening today.  Remember, I’m not my mom.  Can’t do everything.

Try to look passed the caterpillar tunnel, McDonald’s Happy Meal Furbies circa 1998, recycled plastic dump truck, drunken Minion and so on.  Right there, next to the window.  See them?

Okay, now that we are all on the same page, take a look at these beauties!  Last week my mom came to stay with me and on my to-do list was to hang these curtains she sewed for me using this Richloom Solar Outdoor fabric I purchased from Fabric.com.  Using my own calculations I imagined my mom could make me six stunning 90″ panels out of eight yards of this fabric.  At under $9/yard, that’s a steal at just under $80 for six panels.

The key is that I imagined this.  Because in reality what I got was those full, lush palm curtains you see above and these two slim fellows you see below.

Playroom Curtains: Embrace My Space

womp, womp.  My measurements were way off.  You see, this is upholstery grade fabric so it’s sold on a 54″ wide bolt.  Being the clever, frugal gal that I am, I figured my mom could splice those eight leafy yards right down the center leaving me with six 26″ x 90″ curtain panels.

So she did, and what I ended up with was six, sickly thin panels as you see displayed above.  The photo is a bit deceiving because the panels really don’t look all that bad there, but if you look at this side by side comparison maybe you can get a better feel for what I’m saying.

Playroom Curtains: Embrace My SpaceOn the left you are seeing two stick-thin panels and on the right you are actually seeing the remaining four panels (two bunched together on either side).  Basically, I ordered about half as much fabric as I needed to make these curtains look right.  It was a downright mistake on my part.  I thought the panels would look okay at just 26″ wide considering the curtains in my living room are about that width.  The problem I ran into is this fabric is just way too thin to hang properly at that width.  While I really do like to stretch a buck, it’s clear that the full width panels are much better looking.  So back I went to Fabric.com to order eight more yards of fabric so my mom can sew me three full-width panels to finish off the room.

So sad.  What’s even worse is that I went to Fabric.com just now to pull the link for this post and the damn website gave me a pop-up offer for 20% off my purchase with email sign up.  Where were you last week when I ordered those eight extra yards, huh, coupon!?!?

Even with my original snafu, I spent just under $160 for what will be six total curtain panels for this room.  That’s $27 per panel.  As far as custom curtains go, that’s not a bad price at all.  Your typical curtain panel from West Elm or even Target will cost you more than that, especially if you are getting something longer than the 80″ length curtains that are available in-stock at the store.

And just one more thing before I go.  You might not have noticed this, but the fun didn’t stop there with this project.  No, siree.  I mentioned that my mom was here for the week so I wanted to get these curtains knocked off my to-do list while she was here to help with my boy.

A simple task, or so it would seem.  Because before I even got to the point where I noticed how sickly thin the curtains were going to look unless we doubled them up, I put a half dozen or so holes in my walls trying to mount the brackets.

Playroom Curtains: Embrace My SpaceI’ve hung a million curtain rods in my life.  Well, that’s an exaggeration.  I’ve hung at least 10 curtain rods in my life and I NEVER would have imagined what an absolute disaster it would be for me to hang these.  I will spare you the long, nightmarish tale and just tell you that, similar to 50 Shades of Grey, the highlights include hammering, screwing/unscrewing, sweating, cursing, spackling and a little crying.  After all of that I packed up my can-do spirit, my bruised DIYer’s pride and paid my carpenter $20 to hang the rods for me.  I think my mom would be proud, because even she would admit that the only thing worse than spending extra money to pay somebody to do something you should have been able to do yourself would be to let the project sit there unfinished.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’m done trying to be a hero.  I will ask for help when it will make my life easier.

Next time keep your eyes peeled for a full set of curtains in each window.  I’ll also clean up before showing you around.  I promise.  Happy weekend!

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The Stencil is Done! And those other things I didn’t do in 2014.

LAST YEAR I declared right here out in the open for the whole world to hold me accountable that I was going to:

1.  Turn my coat closet into a mudroom.

2.  Upgrade my powder room.

3.  Makeover my laundry room.

4.  Give my foyer a facelift.

Unless you count the three canvas bins I put on the shelf in the closet as “turning my coat closet into a mudroom,” here I sit one year and 23 days later having completed only two of those four projects.  The foyer, pictures to follow, and my laundry room.  A whopping 50%.  An “F” if we’re back in school.  So if you grade me on my performance for 2014, I failed.  An incomplete in two out of four endeavors.  Right?

WRONG.

It’s all about perspective.  And I often find myself channeling the wrong one.  When I introduced the Real Mom Monday hashtag I talked a little bit about the human desire to overachieve.  Always wanting more instead of being content in the moment.  Always comparing ourselves to what we see others doing, which is particularly easy to do when our lives are spewed all over the Internet.  Yeah, I cleaned my whole house today.  But she ran 10 miles through icy road conditions and burned 697 calories.  Yeah, I took my kid to the library today and taught him how to say “night night!”  But he just made partner at the law firm.  Yeah, I finished reading a really great book today.  But she made homemade chia and flaxseed muffins from all-natural ingredients she harvested from her rooftop urban garden.  blah, Blah, BLAH.

My friends, in 2015 I’ve decided to stop drinking from the half-empty glass of Kool-Aid.  Instead of saying I completed only half of what I wanted to do last year, I’m going to go ahead and say I’m batting .500.  For those of you who don’t know much about baseball, this means I’m pretty awesome.  I’m done not feeling awesome about what I’ve accomplished.  I’m done wishing I could have completed more and letting those feelings cast a shadow upon all the glorious awesome-ness I’ve managed to experience and create.  Done!

Today I am celebrating this AMAZING thing I did in 2014.  I turned this:

Foyer Before

Into this:

Embrace My Space Stencil

With my own two hands.

Embrace My Space Stencil

Okay, that’s not completely true.  I did have some help from my painter’s two hands.

Embrace My Space Stencil

I learned quite a few things in 2014.  The first being that I can’t do everything I want to do right now.  Or this week, this month or even, as this post illustrates so clearly, this year.  I can’t.  I can’t get every single project done around the house, cook dinner every night, stay at home with my son, wash his diapers, teach him sign language, blog every other day (or every other month), work on my muffin top, write a novel and have a super-successful professional career.

Embrace My Space Stencil

And I need to be okay with that.

Embrace My Space Stencil

The second thing I learned is that I can accomplish a lot on my own.  But I can accomplish even more with help.

When I made my four item to do list for 2014 my son was only 3 months old.  For all practical purposes he was a small blob I could move around from the kitchen to the living room to my office to my bedroom depending on what it was I wanted to do at the time.  Sometimes I didn’t even need to pick him up because he was snuggled warmly to my chest in my woven baby carrier.

But as he got older and less blob-like he let me know he had his own agenda.  Following me around the house all day so I could get everything on my to-do list done was not high on his list of priorities.

There are a ton of growing pains to sort through when you become a parent, one of the most aggravating being that it will take you twice as long to do things and you have about a quarter of the time you used to have to do them.  I’m no math whiz, but if you set yourself up with an insurmountable to-do list then your chances of getting everything done by yourself are about as good as your chances of winning the Hunger Games armed with nothing but an electric toothbrush and your extensive knowledge of 90s rap song lyrics.  But hey, may the odds be ever in your favor.

So this year I learned to ask for help when I’m feeling like I can’t do it alone.  This is exactly what happened with this stencil project, which had been hanging over my head for months.  I just couldn’t find the time to finish it myself.  I finally admitted that asking for help would be better than suffering through the darn project all by myself.

Embrace My Space Stencil

I’m so glad my painter came to the rescue because I’m absolutely thrilled with the end result.

Embrace My Space Stencil

I moved the rug from my son’s nursery into the foyer because it was getting really bunched up under the furniture in his room.  I think it was a combination of the flat weave style rug over wall-to-wall carpet that caused the bunching.  The rug is so gorgeous and I’m pleased it fits here.

Embrace My Space Stencil

The stencil makes its way all the way down into the hallway leading to the garage.  The doors on the left are to the coat-closet-yet-to-be-turned-mudroom and the door on the right leads to the still-covered-in-plaid-wallpaper-powder-room.

Embrace My Space Stencil

There you have it.  An amazing project I (with help) FINISHED in 2014!  I’m going into this year with an open mind, an organic to-do list and a muzzle on that little voice reminding me of what I didn’t do.

What are your plans for 2015?

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