Monday, May 12, 2014

The More You Know

Warning: serious post!

Today seemed like a good day to highlight something that's been on my heart for quite a while. Mother's Day was yesterday, and it's time of celebrations and warm fuzzies. But it's a tough day for many women, for a myriad of reasons. One of those reasons is infertility.

The National Infertility Awareness Week was a couple of weeks ago, and the theme was "Resolve to Know More." Couples struggling with infertility are all too familiar with the pain the diagnosis brings, but many people don't know much about it or just don't know what to say. Whether or not you know someone touched by infertility, check out the link-up at Our Crazy Every After to hear stories from dozens of women (and men) living with infertility. Resolve to know more about a disease that affects 1 in 8 couples.

In happier news, only four more weeks left of school! We've got a jam-packed summer ahead, with several trips planned and lots of relaxing and recuperating. Bring it on, summer! I am so ready for you.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


September brings new beginnings. A fresh school years starts; the long, dog days of summer become shorter, and the air is replete with tiny hints of fall. For us, these new beginnings are accompanied by another big change: a bathroom remodel. (Dun dun dun!)

Unlike what you typically see on HGTV, we didn't initiate the remodel because we chose to upgrade our bathroom; ours was rebuilt out of necessity. Back in May, we discovered that we may have water damage within the wall that backs up to our shower. After many weeks of wondering and three plumber visits later, we had a diagnosis: mold and a leaky shower valve. Our only option was to gut the shower. (Cue scary music.) Thankfully our insurance company agreed to provide us a paltry sum, but we had a daunting task ahead of us. Neither of us had experience with renovations, and we bought our house specifically because it was move-in ready and didn't require any changes. However, I have to be honest; as frustrating as the prospect of a renovation was, I wasn't completely heartbroken when found out that we'd have to rebuild the shower. I always hated that bathroom. It was the one space in our house that I was never happy with, but I always made it work. (If it had been our kitchen, I seriously would have cried!) So it gave us an opportunity to create the bathroom we always wanted, a little sooner than we'd planned. Or at least that's what I tell myself!

 Goodbye, ugly shower!

And so, our renovation journey began. I had always heard horror-stories of renovations and the stress they can inflict on a marriage, so I came into the process knowing that it would be frustrating and cause fights. That's only been partially true. For me, the most stressful part was making, and agreeing on, ten thousand decisions, large and small, about every inch of our bathroom. What kind of tile do we want, and what size? Should we go ahead and replace the toilet? Brushed nickel finishes, or oil-rubbed bronze? What about paint color? The list goes on and on and on. Decisions can paralyze me since I'm such a perfectionist, and, for me, that was by far the most frustrating part.

We hired a contractor that we had complete faith in, and he gave us a timeline of about a month. Then we moved into our guest bedroom to avoid the unending deluge of renovation dust. (That's one thing I had no clue about!) Once we had chosen every tiny detail, the workmen took over. That's been the easiest part by far, since, thankfully, it's out of my hands. I come come from work every day and see the new shower gradually take shape.

As I write this, we're a little over halfway through the process. Hopefully in a month I can say I've survived a renovation, something I never thought I'd say! Maybe new beginnings aren't so bad after all.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Summertime DIY: Faux Gold Leaf

School is thisclose to starting, and my mind has been on overdrive this week. Teacher inservice began on Monday (accompanied by meetings ad nauseum, of course!), and the kids come back in two days. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that! My classroom is organized, my lessons are planned, and my copies are ready. All that's left are the students. Eek! Since my summer's coming to a close, I thought I'd post one last Summertime DIY project. I hope it gets your creative juices flowing!

 The before

After I framed the agate coasters from my last post, I was inspired to rim the edges with gold leaf for a pop of metallic, to tie them in with the other tones in my living room. However, the prospect and time commitment of applying real gold leaf was pretty intimidating to this non-crafter; there's no room for error. A more artsy person could have pulled it off, but I took the easy way out with this bad boy: a faux gold leaf paint pen. Bonus: it's cheaper than a gold leaf set. Best idea ever!

Coloring inside the lines

The project as a whole was fairly simple and only took about 30 minutes to complete. First, I bought the paint pen at Michael's and detached the coasters from their frames. (Thank goodness for painter's tape!) The paint pen was exceedingly easy to use, and I practiced a few times on scrap paper to get the feel of it. Then I methodically filled in the edges, piece by piece. The coasters were about a quarter-inch thick, so there was enough area for me to paint without worrying about leaving stray marks on its face. The hardest part, though, was ensuring full coverage on the more craggy areas, where I had to wiggle the paint into the tiny crevices. The overall process was kind of enjoyable, in a quiet, zen-like way.

The big reveal: ta da!

I'm thrilled with the final product. It makes me so happy to see the smidgen of gold peeking out from the edge of the frame. I highly recommend the paint pen. It provided full coverage, was easy to wield, and dried almost instantly to a glossy, gold sheen. Now I want to gold leaf everything! (Hide yo' kids, hide yo' wife, 'cause I'm gold leafing everything out there!) Thinking ahead to Christmas, I'm dying to make some DIY presents with agate slices and my trusty paint pen.

Now I'm off to finish some last-minute planning for Monday. I'm excited for the year ahead and ready to meet my little baby students, but I always get the back-to-school butterflies the weekend before.  Wish me luck, and hug a teacher in your life as he or she heads back to school!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summertime DIY: Agate Art

Get set for the final post in my Summertime DIY series!

My most ambitious project to date is this wall of framed agate. I always loved polished rocks as a kid (who didn't?), so the current design trend of natural stone is right up my alley. I'd been searching online for a set of agate coasters and in the process stumbled upon a blog with a collection of framed agate that would look perfect on the bare wall in our living room. (Do you sense a theme here?) So, I bought the coasters from Etsy on the cheap and used a coupon at Pottery Barn for the frames. I decided to go with nicer frames for this project since the ones from Target looked cheap against the pretty agate.

With my frames and agate in hand, I began the assembly. The coasters are pretty thick, so I secured them to the frame's paper insert with painter's tape, in case I ever want to move them around or use them as actual coasters. I was a little intimidated to hang them on our judges paneling because it's difficult to patch any errant holes, so I used the newspaper method from the wall o' plates to line up the frames. It took a while to get the spacing just right, but it was worth it. I love having such a unique piece of art that's perfectly me.

 My next project is to put gold leaf around the edges of the coasters (using this tutorial) to make them pop and connect more to the metallic tones in the room. Fingers crossed that I can actually pull that one off! I guess you'll have to stay tuned.

I'm hoping my DIY obsession can last once the chaos of a new school year begins. Until then I'll enjoy my creations and wait for the next stroke of inspiration to strike.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summertime DIY: Wall O' Plates

Part 2 of my Summertime DIY series is comin' at ya!

After my success with the framed tea towels, I got brave enough to tackle another problem area in my house: the dining room. I inherited a beautiful antique sideboard from my grandmother but couldn't figure out how to decorate the huge empty space above it. Thanks to our high ceilings, it needed a massive art piece that would still blend in with the rest of the room. Inspiration hit while perusing Pinterest (aka the DIYers crack) when I saw a display of adorable, sculptural white plates. (You can coordinate a plate display in any color, but white worked best for my room.)

My first step was finding plates. My grandmother gave me the large one in the middle, and I culled the rest from Target for about $4 each. Then I applied these ingenious, invisible adhesive plate hangers to the backs of the plates, since I didn't want tacky wire plate hangers visible. I also secured the plate hangers with duct tape for extra insurance, and so far nothings has budged. Then came the most intimidating part: assembling the display. I didn't want to hang the plates willy nilly and end up with my wall looking like Swiss cheese, so I traced the plates on newspaper, stuck them to the wall with painters tape, and played around with the shape until I settled on this one.  This part took the most time, but hanging the plates was a snap since I knew exactly where to place the nails. While this project took a ton of planning and prep work before the actual execution, the final product and ease of assembly made everything worth it. The plates bring so much light into the dining room.

Stay tuned for Part 3 on Summertime DIY later this week!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summertime DIY

Alas, only one more week till I head back to school. Inservice begins a week from tomorrow, and the kids come back a week later. But it's been a good summer, full of traveling and friends and family and reading and, most importantly, relaxation. As much as I enjoy my downtime during the summer, I still crave structure. I need some semblance of a schedule in order to function. Otherwise I'll find myself on the couch at 5:00 p.m., sans makeup and still in my pajamas, with nothing to show for my day. Trust me; it's happened. Ennui seeps in if I don't set some sort of daily goal, like finishing a book, going for a run, or watching a few episodes of my summer binge TV show. (Although that's a post for another day!)

Another way I kept myself busy this summer was by becoming an amateur DIYer. (I use the term loosely; there are some hardcore design DIYers online who put my little projects to shame!) I caught the DIY bug after stalking some design blogs for ideas to redo our living room and was inspired to dip my toe in the water. I would never describe myself as crafty or artistically inclined, but I've had a blast making pretty, affordable things for my house that are all my own. This week I'll share my (very meager) achievements in hopes that it will bring a little DIY inspiration to your space, starting with...

Hallway Art Gallery

A narrow hallway connects our kitchen, living, and dining space with the back of the house where the bedrooms are. For a long time it was a long, beige wall of nothing. We hung some wedding pictures on one side but put off decorating the other half. There was just so much space to fill; it was kind of intimidating. Art can be expensive, even from Big Box stores, so I knew my only solution was to make something. I'd seen designers on HGTV frame fabric as affordable wall art, and one day I came across four coordinating tea towels online and decided to go for it. The assembly was pretty simple; I bought matching 16x20 frames at Target and secured the fabric across the frame's cardboard insert with tape. Voila: mini art gallery! The hardest part was getting the towels wrinkle-free, but that's nothing an iron can't fix. This was my gateway DIY project, and after seeing the final result I was hooked. The cheery colors put a smile on my face every time I walk by.

Stop by later this week for more projects! I'm off to enjoy my last week of freedom.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thoughts on an Estate Sale

Confession: I'm an avid estate sale shopper. As in, once I see an ad for one, I can't help myself. I make a beeline for what I imagine to be a gold mine of antiques and undiscovered treasures, just waiting for me. Usually my hopes are dashed and reality comes crashing down once I take a look around, but I have walked away with some sweet steals, like these little beauties I picked up today.

I collect crystal and cut glass, so these two are right at home with the rest of my pretties.

My passion for estate sales was born out of necessity, not indulgence. Brendan and I married while I was still in grad school, which meant that we needed to furnish a duplex on one meager income. Both of us inherited a handful of leftover furniture pieces from past roommates, but there's something about being newly married that makes you want something that's just ours. Every now and then I'd hit up an estate sale, and we slowly amassed a mismatched but well-loved collection of furniture and decor culled second-hand. Fast forward five years, and we're living in a new city on two incomes, having shed our estate-sale trappings and enjoying a new home and new furnishings to match. When it came time to donate our well-worn furniture, I felt a deep twinge of nostalgia. It was hard to let go, imbued with the memories of living on love and little else. There's something very special about the things you had, when you had next to nothing.

I surveyed the spread at today's estate sale with a keen eye, trying to separate the hidden treasures from the junk. Taking in the dishes and Christmas decorations and old clothes and books and knick-knacks, I kept thinking about all the stuff, rooms and rooms it. The woman who lived in this house had recently died, and all this was hers; some of it was probably very dear to her. But now, weeks or even days after she passed away, it was junk, a lifetime of possessions ready for strangers to wade through in search of a bargain.

Her stuff, this nameless woman's things, made me think of my stuff. I'm a spender. I struggle with caring too much about the things I have and want. I tell myself that I need a new dress when school starts. I become convinced that people will look down on me if I don't have trendy furniture and decor for my house, and that my new outfit will look terrible without the perfect shoes and jewelry. I focus on it way too much, but all that stuff won't bring any real meaning to my life. It's just noise.

When I was in college, a professor was talking to us about the importance of using our money to help others. His mother-in-law died a few years back, and she was a hoarder. He and his wife spent a week packing up her house to get it ready to sell, parsing through and throwing away piles of possessions that were once important to her. Now they were all trash, or something to sell to a stranger simply to get rid of it. Things, he said, won't matter when we're gone. We need to spend our lives giving back to others.

My goal is to have a new perspective about the things in my life. I'm not saying that you shouldn't have furniture or buy that dress you love; we need to view them through a different lens. One day all our possessions that we loved so dearly, put so much thought into, and worried so much about, will be useless to us. The best thing we can do is give back to others, invest in helping people, and care less about our things. My goal, my work in progress, is to measure my life not in what I have, but in what I give. And hopefully I can remember that the next time an estate sale rolls around.