Monthly Archives: February 2012

Can I Cope With the Slope?

Getting shelves up on the pegboard above my desk has been the slowest process ever. First I waited until I could paint the pegboard, then I couldn’t find pegboard shelf brackets locally and had to order them online. Once I got them, I realized that not only had I ordered the wrong size, but the brackets allowed the shelves to learn forward slightly. It seemed like it was just one thing after another.

After an embarrassingly long time in the lumber aisle, I figured out that I could use super cheap 1×3 furring strips to adjust the size of the shelves. They were something like $1.30 each and the staff at Lowe’s cut them to size for me so it was an easy and inexpensive fix. I still couldn’t get the shelves to be level, though. I tried putting little pieces of cardboard or wooden shims under the bottom of each bracket, but I just couldn’t make it work. After several hours of fiddling with them I finally decided to just return those brackets and get some different ones. Then I spent a week emailing back and forth with the company I bought them from and they are just really not being very cooperative. It’s all very annoying.

Well, this weekend I got sick of waiting and decided to put all the shelves up just to see how it looked.

Obviously the boards still need to be painted, but I want to make sure I’ll actually be using them first. Is the fact that they slope forward glaringly obvious to you?

You can see here how I put the 1×3′s in the back to fix the depth.

Don’t things look reasonably level from this perspective?

The bubble says otherwise.

I’m really tempted to just paint the boards and move all my stuff up there. I feel like I’ve been waiting sooooo long to use the shelves I’ve been envisioning for months!

I really think that the minor issue that anything capable of rolling would be completely unsafe is not such a big deal, but maybe that’s just the desperation talking. Once I get those boards painted white, tweak the height and spacing of the shelves a little (and maybe even ditch that very top shelf), and load them up with lots of pretty and functional stuff, I’ll forget all about the whole sloping issue, right?

One Year Blogging

This week marks a year since I first started this little ‘ol blog. At the time I was just emerging from a period of depression. Over the past year several of my friends had moved far away (or died suddenly, as in the case of one dear friend I’ll never forget). I had been out of grad school almost two years and so far found the practice of social work to be much harder and much less rewarding than I’d predicted. Despite a solid job and a great marriage I was feeling lonely, isolated, and incompetent. I got some perspective with the help of an antidepressant and realized that I needed a hobby. I needed something that I could feel good about, proud of, and that maybe would help me feel more connected with others.

Writing has long been my coping skill of choice. Going back to childhood I had spiral notebooks filled with my musings. In college I chose to major in English, and only my senior year decided to pursue a career in social work instead of teaching writing. Grad school necessitated a lot of academic writing and I kind of fell out the habit of writing just for me. Last February, though, when I sat down to think about what I could do to add more meaning to my life, “more writing” was the obvious answer.

At the same time, Nick and I had recently bought our first house and I was really enjoying the process of decorating it and making it our own. It was kind of a solitary activity, though, as Nick’s not really into that sort of thing. One of my goals was to regain my sense of being connected to others, and blogging about my house seemed like a good way to combine these two endeavors. Writing + decorating my house + connecting with others = the perfect storm for my self-improvement plan.

Well, let me just tell you, things have been coming along swimmingly. The blog helped a lot. I still miss my old friends, but I keep in touch with many of them more now because they read my blog. I’ve even made a few brand new friends along the way (even if I only know them via the internet, they still count because I like them). And it’s so nice to connect with all of you through your comments. Social work is still hard, but when I have a bad day at work I don’t beat myself up too much because I know that it was just that-a bad day. Somehow having hobbies outside of work gives me more perspective on that. And you know what? I think I’ve actually gotten better at what I do. I’m more creative, less stressed, and much more self-confident than I was before. I’m able to recognize when I’ve done a good job and pat myself on the back for it. Turns out those are all good qualities for a therapist to have.

The past year of blogging has made a tremendous difference in my life. I’m pretty sure it was the best idea I ever had. I want to thank each and every one of you for reading, even if you’ve never left a single comment (although I do enjoy them immensely). This whole operation would not be nearly as meaningful without readers. You all are what keeps me inspired to continue even when I’m tired and don’t feel like writing. This next year is going to be full of personal and professional changes for me, but I hope that I can look back at the end and say that I’m glad blogging was a part of it. Thanks again for reading, and here’s to another year!

Wing Chair Reality Check

I’ve decided that it’s time. The wing chairs can no longer sit neglected and unfinished. I’m gonna put on my big girl panties and finally just get it done. Step #1: assess the need.

My strategy of reusing the old curve ease and tacking strips backfired. Sheila likes to climb up the back of this chair, like, every day, and it just didn’t hold up.

I never even got around to doing the back of the other chair, which is just as well since I’d have to do it all over again anyway.

The pieces that cover the fronts of the arms are still missing. I covered two of them with the new fabric, but the other two still need to have the old fabric removed and the new fabric stapled on, plus all four need trim around the edges.

This cushion needs a new cover (which includes sewing piping and a zipper in the back).

And the inside of the left wing on this chair needs a little rehab.

I got about halfway through making a cover for this cushion, but it’s still missing a back and a bottom.

I usually keep a folded up blanket over it because if I don’t Juliet will do the small-dog-burrow-to-make-a-bed thing and make a mess of the thin layer of batting under the fabric (learned that one the hard way and had to replace the batting once already).

So, in summary, I’ve got to:

  • sew a lot of piping (hard)
  • cover remaining two arm-front pieces with fabric and trim all four with piping, then attach (relatively easy)
  • attach bottom and back (with zipper) to half-finished cushion cover (hard and scary! I’ve never done a zipper before!)
  • sew a cover for the other cushion from scratch (completely overwhelming)
  • cover the back of each chair (this one is actually not that bad. I’ve got an idea to use cardboard)

I’m a little scared, but I know these chairs are not going to reupholster themselves. I gotta just do it. My plan is to work little by little, maybe alternating between easier and more challenging mini-projects to keep my momentum up. Gosh I wish I could outsource those zippers, though! They are enormously frightening to me. My limited sewing skills are mostly self-taught and zippers are the next frontier of crafting obscurity. Anyone want to teach me how to sew a zipper? I’m really gonna have to work up some courage to YouTube this one.

Easy Update: Paint a Vintage Frame

This vintage floral print spoke to me from the shelves of a suburban Goodwill.

I loved the pretty pinks and greens, but felt like the frame just wasn’t doing it any favors. The lines were good, but the dark wood finish was sucking the life outta those flowers. Something had to be done. I had no idea what I would do with it and in fact could have easily convinced myself that I didn’t need it at all, but it was too pretty to pass up so it came home with me.

I hemmed and hawed about what to do with it for a day or two, then day before yesterday I noticed the vintage print with the yellow frame in my downstairs bath and was inspired!

I decided to spruce up the frame using some of the leftover paint I mixed up for my mustard yellow coffee table. It was about 7pm when this inspiration struck and I couldn’t bring myself to wait until the next day, so the painting progress pictures are taken in my kitchen at night (definitely the worst lighting in my house).

I disassembled the frame and gave all the wood and hardware three coats of mustard yellow. I could have left it after one coat (pictured below) for a more shabby, distressed look, but I really wanted a little more modern finish to contrast with the faded tones in the print so I kept going to get really nice and even coverage.

Here it is after three coats + half a day of drying time. I love it.

It’s living for now on the mantle in my front room, but I don’t think it’s going to stay there.

In fact, as much as I love this happy little print, I can’t think of anyplace in my house that would be the perfect home for it, so I decided to go ahead and list it in my shop. I like to let shop inventory pretty up my house while I still have it, though, so I probably will scope out a nice cat-proof location for it to live until it goes on to its forever home.

This is such an easy and quick way to update an outdated frame (available in droves at thrift stores everywhere). I especially like the idea of using a really modern color, like a punchy pink or turquoise, to contrast with a more classic shape or whatever’s inside the frame. It’s a good project for testing out your skills in mixing paint colors, too, since you don’t have to spend a lot of money to find a pretty frame to experiment with. And of course you can always switch out the print that came with it for something more modern, or even a photograph (just put a sheet of white cardstock behind the image to mimic the look of a mat). The possibilities for experimentation are endless and the cost to get started extremely low, so if you’ve got a blank wall or shelf that could use a little pick-me-up consider heading out to your local thrift store to rescue a well-constructed frame from the shelves of despair.

Updating the ‘Ol To-Do List

Every now and then I like to publicly declare here on the blog all the things I want to get done in the next few months. It helps keep me focused and accountable, I think.

One of these days I am going to get around to finishing the wing chairs. The thing that’s holding me back is that they’re perfectly functional as-is. I put the old cushions back on them and they are comfy as ever (as long as all the mismatched fabric and protruding stuffing doesn’t make you nervous). I’m having a hard time getting motivated to jump back in to a project that gave me so much grief the first time around, but the payoff is worth it so I’m determined to get ‘er done sometime in the next three months or so. For the record, they look much worse now than they did when I snapped the photo below. Time has taught me that my original efforts didn’t have what it takes to survive in a home with cats.

I’d also like to actually use the new pegboard in my office. I solved the problem of shelves that were too shallow with 1×3 furring strips, but the issue of brackets that allow the shelves to slope forward remains. I tried to rig them up to be workable with no luck, so I’m now trying to return the brackets so I can maybe get a different kind. So far the company I bought them from seems to be giving me the runaround, and I’m wishing that I’d just hung some shelves on the wall the old fashioned way because it would have been done weeks ago.

Once I get some shelves up on that pegboard I can add all sorts of function with baskets and jars to corral everything from wine corks to scrap fabric. I’m seriously looking forward to the part where I get to put everything I want and need up on the shelves and get rid of everything else (note also that finishing up the wing chairs will help significantly with the clutter issue in the office).

And last but not least, I’d like to get started on the nursery in the next month or two. I’ve got so many plans and ideas swirling in my head, but I know from experience that it’s better to wait and give my ideas some time to marinate before I start taking action. I’ve got a pinboard and a set of notes on my phone completely dedicated to collecting ideas and inspiration, and the more I think about it the more things are starting to come together in my head.

So that’s not too bad of a list, right? There are some smaller projects running in the background, like planting and tending my veggie garden, sprucing up the yard and porch for spring, and generally keeling the house clean and organized. I think it’s totally doable.

Super Cheap Custom Rug Pad

I have been loving the vintage yellow shag rug that I got for a mere $40 on etsy. It’s the bees knees.

But you can see in this photo from the first day I got it that it was prone to slipping around and getting bunched up. Juliet’s face rubbing activities totally threw it for a loop. You can imagine what kind of havoc a cat wrestling match would wreak on it.

It really had the feeling more of a blanket that had been spread across the floor than an actual rug. This is the same quality that allows me to throw it in the washing machine, which is nice, but it needed some more substance. Bee tee dubs, I have had occasion to wash it already thanks to a certain somebody peeing on it to let me know her feelings were hurt. I’m not naming any names, but let’s just say she’s got a mustache and a jealousy complex. I guess I would have issues too if people were always comparing me to Hitler.

But I digress. Onto the rug pad. I wanted something thick and cushy, which meant it could easily get pricey. My rug is also oddly sized at 5.5 feet by 7 feet. A 4×6 pad would be too small and a 5×8 would just be wrong all around. Somehow I got the idea to use regular ‘ol carpet padding. I figured since people buy it in much larger quantities (like for a whole house) it would be relatively inexpensive for a little area rug. I kinda thought it would be complicated though, like maybe I’d have to talk someone into selling me a remnant from a larger purchase. But to my surprise, on my last trip to Lowe’s I noticed a bunch of smaller pieces rolled up and tossed on top of each other near the back of the flooring department. I went up to the service desk and asked the lady who was working there and she said I could buy a pre-cut 6×9 piece for $26. I’d seen the sign above the remnants that said they were only 48 cents per square foot, though, so I asked her if I could buy a smaller piece by the foot and save a little dough. She didn’t seem thrilled to have to drag out a remnant and cut it down to size for me, but she did it. I could see from her work that it was really easy to cut with a box cutter so I didn’t bother her about the width, just the length. For only twenty bucks I took home a 6′x7′ rectangle of lush padded goodness.

I neglected to take any progress pictures, but it was so freaking easy. I just laid the pad down under the rug, smoothed it all out, then used a pair of heavy-duty scissors to trim it to size (including those rounded corners).

The padding gently grips both the rug and the floor so things don’t slip around so much anymore and I can march right across it with reckless abandon. Plus it’s now extra cushy to boot. Perfect for a certain man in my life who likes to lounge right where Pistachio is sitting while he plays Major League Baseball 2K7. He’s a man of simple pleasures.

Funny story before I sign off: as I was walking out of Lowe’s with my roll of carpet padding some guy who works there hollered at me, “It’s a boy!” I smiled and said, “It is a boy.” Then he said, “I know. I can tell by the structure of the belly!” I laughed out loud. This was only a few hours after I fainted at Goodwill and was mortified by all the people freaking out about the pregnant lady fainting, so it was kind of nice that this guy gave me a good laugh. And before all of you freak out about the pregnant lady fainting, let me just say that I’m fine, it’s happened to me before (years ago), and it’s because I was standing up in one spot at the register for like twenty minutes while they tried to fix the credit card machine. I guess I locked my knees or didn’t move my feet around enough or something. I felt myself getting lightheaded but was too embarrassed to say in front of the approximately 27 people in line behind me that I needed to sit down. I know now that it’s much, much, much more embarrassing to actually pass out in front of all those people. They were all very nice and concerned but I hope I never see any of them again because I was absolutely humiliated.

So that’s how I spent my day off of work for Mardi Gras-public humiliation, discussing the structure of my belly with strangers, and adding a little cush to my tush when I plop down on my rug. Laissez le bon temps rouler!

How to Hem a Pair of Jeans

I’m a pretty thrifty person in general, but I am extremely cheap when it comes to clothes. I just don’t care about them enough to spend a lot of money on them. The bulk of my wardrobe was found either at Goodwill or on a clearance rack, and I like it that way.

Once my belly started getting bigger, which happened much earlier in pregnancy than I expected thanks to an extremely short torso, I needed some new clothes. The belly band didn’t work for me much past the first trimester. I know a girl who is due in May and still wearing regular jeans with a belly band! I’m really jealous. The selection of maternity clothes is much smaller than that of regular clothes, so there are fewer treasures to be found in thrift stores and blowout sales. Add to that the fact that I’m ridiculously short (standing just a smidge under 5 feet), and you can see why I’ve found it nearly impossible to find affordable, flattering clothing to fit my new figure.

I finally turned to the internet in desperation. Although few things entice me less than buying a pair of jeans online, I felt I had no choice. After a good bit of searching I finally found a pair I was willing to give a try.

Loved By Heidi Klum Under Belly Super Stretch Slim Leg Maternity Jeans

They didn’t come in petites, but the dark wash and skinny fit made them the kind of jeans I would have bought even if I didn’t have a burgeoning belly to consider. And at $40 they weren’t the cheapest jeans I ever purchased, but the price wasn’t completely unreasonable. So I ordered them, and I wasn’t disappointed. They were waaaay too long though, so something had to be done about that.

I actually tackled the hemming of the jeans back in January, but I haven’t posted about it until now because I’ve been meaning to go back and make them just a wee bit shorter. I finally decided, though, to just leave them the way they are. So I give you, dear internet, my method for hemming jeans. A short girl’s lifesaver.

First I laid my new jeans out on the floor.

Then, I took a pair of pre-pregnancy jeans that fit me well and laid them out on top of my new stretchy-waisted wonder.

I pulled one leg out to the side and tried my best to line up the inseams.

Then I cuffed up the leg of the new jeans to be the right length.

I was going to keep the original hem, so I should have cuffed them just a little bit higher so that the seam lined up in the same spot, if that makes sense. This is why they ended up just a smidge too long.

Once I thought I had the length right, I made sure the fold was straight all around and used some straight pins to secure.

Then I took it over to my sewing machine and used my zipper foot to sew all the way around.

I turned the fabric so that the cuff was now folded up inside the jeans and took a gander at my work. To my dismay, it wasn’t looking quite as snazzy as I had hoped.

So I went back to the sewing machine and tried again, this time getting all up in that original seam’s business. I tried to get as close to the thick bottom hem as I could without sewing right on top of it.

And when I turned it inside out I wasn’t disappointed! You’d have to be looking at the hem really closely to realize that there was extra material folded up in there.

I repeated the whole process on the other leg, then used my iron to press the folded part flat. I’ve worn and washed these a bunch of times since then and haven’t had to iron it again. It pretty much stays put. If you wanted to you could cut the excess fabric off, but I figure skinny jeans will probably not be en vogue by the time my next pregnancy rolls around so I will likely give these away or sell them when I’m done. Chances are their next owner will not be so short, so I wanted to keep the option of letting them back out.

Here they are being modeled by yours truly. I wear them, like, every day. And I love them. At first I thought they were still too long and I kept meaning to go back and make them a little shorter, but I’ve gotten over it. The little bit of extra bunching at the bottom is so not worth the effort.

Can you believe that I’ve lived my whole life being so short and never ever hemmed a pair of pants before? The cost of professional alterations has steered me away from many an adorable purchase (I told you, I’m super cheap). Now that I’ve done this I feel like my bargain-hunting horizons have been even further expanded. And if I can hem a pair of jeans, what’s stopping me from hemming a skirt or dress? It can’t be that hard, right? It’s a brave new world of clothing selection, my friends.

If You’re Bendy and You Know It Clap Your Hands

I took the plunge this weekend and made my very first purchase for the nursery. Very exciting! Let me tell ya, I had to work for this thing. I saw it listed on craigslist for $15 on Friday and called the number provided right away. I knew from the moment I saw it that I wanted this thing. The ad said it was in Zachary, about half an hour north of me, but the guy who answered the phone told me that he could meet me the next day at his shop in Baton Rouge. “Just call me when you want to come see it and I’ll meet you there,” he said. Sounds wonderful, I said. So I called him the next day about 11 and he said, “Oh, I’m at my shop but the chair is in Zachary. I’ll head up there to pick up the chair in a bit and bring it back here. I’ll call you.” Okay, great, I said. Nick and I wanted to leave town soon to go visit his parents that evening, but I talked him into cooling his heels while we waited to hear back from the guy. By 2pm, I got impatient and called him. “Oh, it’s raining, it would get all wet if I tried to move it today. How about tomorrow? Just call me.”

Well dude, I thought to myself, you’ve got a good point that it’s raining, but you could have called and told me you changed your mind. How was I to know you wouldn’t be moving it in a van or SUV? I bit my tongue, though, and politely asked if we could go ahead and set something up for tomorrow instead of leaving it with the open ended, “just call me,” that had served me so poorly thus far. So he said he would bring it to his shop tomorrow morning and I could come by anytime between 10am and 7pm. Awesome.

We got back from visiting Nick’s parents about 3:30 that afternoon and headed straight to his shop. It was all kinds of sketchy, and this is coming from a girl who frequents bad neighborhoods in the name of social work. And guess what? He’d forgotten the dang chair! I was so annoyed. He suggested that we come back tomorrow, but the crestfallen look on my face must have spoken volumes because after Nick had agreed to come by after work the guy suggested that maybe he could just run up to Zachary and get it now. Yes, please, that would be wonderful, I said. Nick and I (with Juliet in tow) killed time on the wrong side of town for an hour before finally, finally, after a weekend of hopeful anticipation, getting to meet this lovely lady in person. So worth it, I said.

Ta-da! It’s a bentwood rocker. And obviously in need of some TLC.

Adding an upholstered cushion to the seat will be a cinch. I got lots of experience with that working on my dining room chairs. The caning on the back appears to be in good condition, but I haven’t decided if I’ll keep it or replace it with upholstery.

As for the cats, they made quick work of checking it out to make sure everything was structurally sound.

Pistachio took care to double-check the caning.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about the wood. It’s all scratched up. I may paint it, or I may step wayyyy outside my comfort zone and take a shot at sanding and refinishing it. And of course there’s always the option of leaving it as is, rendering cat claws and matchbox cars harmless against it.

I’ll probably wait until I have most of the other big pieces of furniture in the room before deciding exactly what to do with it. I cleared all of the old stuff out of here a few months ago and it’s sooo exciting to have the first piece of official nursery furniture moved in. I even took it for a spin with various pets acting as baby stand-ins. It’s very comfy and I find the gentle rocking motion quite pleasant. Bonus: my feet actually touch the ground, which makes rocking significantly easier. I can’t wait to pretty it up a bit and put some miles on it with an actual baby in a little over four months. OMG, is he really going to be here that soon?!? I’m freaking out.

Five Months Pregnant

I will be 20 weeks pregnant tomorrow! I usually save these posts for Monday but this week I just couldn’t contain myself.

Nick was stuck at work late yesterday and I really wanted to do this post today, so I snapped the picture myself using a tripod and self-timer before it got too dark out. Kind of awkward running back and forth from the camera over and over again, but I got ‘er done.

We had our second ultrasound this week and found out that IT’S A BOY! If you have seen me since Wednesday chances are I’ve shown you a picture of my baby’s penis. I thought it might be a little embarrassing for him if I put such a revealing picture on the internet, though. I totally understand that some people may not be into this sort of thing at all, so if you are sooo over me talking about my kid already please forgive me. I’m obsessed. Without further ado, cue the gratuitous pictures of my child:

Can you believe that there’s a baby inside of me??? It’s crazy for me to see him in there like a little person, sucking his thumb and everything! As for the boy factor, I thought that I wanted a girl. I really did. But as soon as I found out I was having a boy I realized that’s exactly what I wanted. How could I not be thrilled to see that little guy dancing and playing on the screen? And I’m excited that I can finally start making concrete plans for the nursery. I’m really loving the idea of gray walls with blue, green, and yellow accents (sound familiar? That’s pretty much how I decorate everything lately). And of course I’ll be trying to man it up a little for my little man. Making things boyish may be a little outside my comfort zone, but I really want the room to be able to grow with him and not scream “baby” (even if ruffles and frills are a little more my speed).

I can’t believe how quickly time is flying by. At this rate July is going to be here before I know it. I can’t help wishing that things would slow down a little. This girl has got some preparing to do!

The Hunt Continues

I’m still searching for the perfect pet-hair solution for the back of my white sofa. All three of my animals love to hang out here sleeping, sunbathing, watching me work at my desk (where I sat as I snapped this picture), and anxiously awaiting the arrival of my car in the driveway (which lies just beyond that window).

My newest idea was to throw this piece of cream-colored cotton over it. It’s the same fabric I used for the window shade I made a few weeks ago. I had a dream last Thursday night that gave me the idea and I was so excited that I marched downstairs and sorted through my stash for a big enough piece of fabric before work the next morning. A week later it seems to be functioning really well. It stays put, isn’t ugly, and does the job of catching the cat hair. It’s more than a little boring, though. After I hem the edges I’m thinking of adding a little flair with some DIY appliquĂ© or embroidery. Here’s what’s inspiring me…

I’ve never embroidered before, but a big flower in one corner like on this pillow might not be too difficult for me to give a try.

KainKain on Etsy

I really like the idea of appliqueing crocheted doilies and fabric flowers all over it, which is kind of what this throw from Anthropologie reminds me of.

Quirky Heirloom Throw from Anthropologie

Or I could assemble a bunch of small pieces of fabric into a big flower or something, like this.

Orimono Pillow from Anthropologie

But then, THEN, I was hit with a stroke of genius. I was looking around Urban Outfitters’ website for more inspiration and saw this cotton shower curtain. Look, it’s even got a peacock!

Woodland Garden Shower Curtain from Urban Outfitters

Standard shower curtains (which this appears to be) are 72″ wide-the perfect width for tossing over the back of this sofa, and 72″ tall, which would leave plenty of room for the top of the curtain to hang down the back of the sofa against the wall (so it wouldn’t be so obvious that it was a shower curtain). I love the colors and the whimsical feel. And it’s only forty bucks! I gotta admit that price is tough to beat for something that will require absolutely zero crafty energy on my part.

I’m kind of torn at this point. The shower curtain is colorful and easy. A creamy collection of fabric doilies and flowers, though, would be refreshingly monochromatic and a lot of fun to make. As for maintenance, the hand-wash only instructions for the shower curtain would be a welcome invitation to use my favorite lavender soap (that I raved about in this post) and then lay it out to dry in the sun. Thats pretty much what I do for the tattered quilt top on the living room sofa and it works out just fine. A hand-embellished throw would likely warrant hand-washing as well, but may bear the additional burden of being a magnet for cat attacks. I’m leaning towards the woodland curtain, but I’m feeling hesitant about embracing all that color, even if it does match the other colors in the room pretty nicely. Decisions, decisions…