2013 Christmas Cards

Hey all,

It’s been over a month since I last posted. Wow! It doesn’t feel that long. This year, the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas was shorter than normal, but for me, Thanksgiving seems so long ago. Shortly after Turkey Day, my grandmother (mother’s mother) passed away. I flew to Oklahoma City to remember her life and be with that side of the family. Thankfully I was able to escape from work, which is not a given when working retail during the holiday season. I’m so grateful I got to be with my extended family during the holidays, even though the circumstances surrounding the occasion were somber.

In a way, I do feel like I got to “go home” for the holidays, even though my home is right here in CA. Being with my mom, dad, aunts, uncles, and cousins for Thanksgiving in the Midwest is something we haven’t been able to do in probably close to ten years(!), and this may be as close as we get for a while.

Then, I returned home and hit the ground running when it came to work. The Holidays, people, when many retailers make three months’ worth of revenue in two weeks. Did you know that? It’s totally, absolutely, literally exhausting. Please be gentle on us for a little while. We are still trying to recover.

All this to say, I have been notably absent from the blog. Part of me has missed blogging, and another part of me forgot all about it since life has been so crazy. It is something I enjoy doing, and I’ll try to climb back on the horse (as they say) and come up with some fun and interesting stuff to populate this little corner of the interweb.

This year, amidst all the madness, I wanted to try to illustrate our little family for a card, instead of having our photo taken. It was more work than I anticipated, and that is why I’m getting them sent out today, on the 27th (sad trombone noise). Drawing the sketch was fun, and outlining it in sharpie was stressful. Doug managed to scan it into the computer and used Adobe Illustrator to clean it up (I’ll have to have him show me how to do it).

2013 Christmas Card

Since the photo and message on the back are all black and white, I tried to inject a little pizzaz to the card by using leftover envelopes from Stephanie’s wedding invites. I love how special they are. I’ll probably order metallic envelopes for all my holiday cards from now on!

Thank you all for reading, and especially for commenting throughout 2013. The year went by so fast! I am eager to see what 2014 will bring.

Instagram Fridge

This was such a simple project, and I’m in love.

A few weeks ago I realized that I hadn’t ordered any prints of my instagram photos in over a year, so I took advantage of a fall sale and ordered 60+ prints through the Postal Pix app.

The stack sat in my kitchen and I flipped through the pictures many times, but wanted to display them somewhere! I have a little scrapbook I started with instagram pics in it but I didn’t feel like scrapbooking. I did feel like throwing away all the expired coupons, takeout menus, and storing away old thank-you notes from my fridge, though… so I took an idea that has been done in 1,000 blogs before mine, and ran with it.

It started with cleaning off the side of the fridge and then cleaning it thoroughly with windex. Kitchen surfaces can get so grimy, can’t they?

insta_fridge1

Then, I spread my prints out on the kitchen counter and started taping up photos in a grid. There’s about a centimeter (give or take) between each photo. I made sure to mix light, dark, and vibrant photos evenly so the eye isn’t drawn to any one area too strongly. One tip for a cohesive looking collage is to use one or two filters all the time, instead of always going with a different one, so the color wash is similar on them all.

insta_fridge2

This was such quick and relaxing project. I love looking at photos and reminiscing. I completed the whole thing before my mug full of tea even had time to get too cold. Now I spend a ridiculous amount of time in my kitchen gazing at my loved ones and remembering great times.

insta_fridge3

It also serves as an antidote to all the stark white, too!

Pine Shelves: Installation

Hi, I’m Staci’s husband, Doug. She has asked me to write a guest post on the blog about the details of our new pine shelves.

Just like nearly all of the projects that we have undertaken in our three domiciles since we have been together, Staci was once again the lead engineer of this endeavor. Her creativity never ceases to flow! I was happy to help, and after a bunch of careful measurements (which ended up not being so careful after all– more on that later) we began by buying the needed materials. I’m decidedly a “list” guy, so instead of intricately weaving each material into a well written example of how it was implemented like I’m some sort of writer, I’ll simply list what we bought and from whence it was got;

  • The hanging structure, and shelf supports —IKEA’s ALGOT (link to similar configuration)
  • Drywall screws –Local hardware store, such as Ace, Home Depot, Lowe’s
  • Untreated pine boards 1″ X 10″ X 12′ –Home Depot
  • Laser level –Lowe’s
  • Power Drill –Home Depot

Putting up the brackets and shelf supports was the easy part. We simply bought enough length of the top horizontal piece, which came in several sizes and slapped it on by pressing the pieces against the underside of the counter and screwing them into place. We then placed each of the vertical supports evenly throughout the 9 feet, with the laser level as our trusty companion. Once we popped in the super-easy shelf supports, we decided to call it a night. The only thing left to do was to put the carefully measured and tenderly cut shelves into place!

pine shelf how to 1

Since the spot we wanted to shelve measured exactly 9 feet (or 108″) I proceeded to buy enough pine to make 3 shelves that spanned the entire space. This was the second day of the project. I bought three 12-foot boards and had them each cut into 4.5-foot pieces. This obviously gave us extra, but it seemed to be the cheapest way to buy 27 feet. In other news, Mosey appears to be taking a yoga break after some diligent work.

pine shelf how to 2

Wait, the space was 108 inches, right? Wrong; we must have rounded up from 107 and 3/4 of an inch-ish. Oops.

pine shelf how to 3

Commence the troubleshooting! While Staci was at work, I started using a small sanding block to carve down the end of one of the shelves to see if I could make them fit. After about 20 minutes of this nonsense (and the onset of a rapidly over-exerted arm), I remembered that we owned an electric sander. The sander bailed me out, not unlike San Diego’s Philip Rivers bailed out my beloved Kansas City Chiefs a few years back during a Monday night game… by fumbling a crucial snap and resulting in a Chiefs victory!

So, after some fluid electric sanding and the aid of a make-shift saw horse out of a cheap folding lawn chair, I adapted the shelves to fit in the space! And…. voila, when Staci got home from work, she was greeted with this:  (!!!)

pine shelf how to 4

Staci here– A huge thanks to Doug for not only saving the day by finishing the shelf installation, but also for filling in by writing this post on an evening when my brain couldn’t put coherent thoughts into sentences. We have really enjoyed filling up the shelves and are both truly enamored with them… We’ve spent many hours patting ourselves on the back and gazing at the finished product. ;) 

Our Pine Shelves are Installed!

This post’s alternate title: “It’s Been A LONG Time Coming.”

Ever complete a project, step back and it seems like you can hear the angels singing?

Completed Pine Shelving

Ever since the day we moved in and realized our faux-tolix barstools wouldn’t work with the kitchen counter overhang (overhang is too short/ stools are too tall), I wanted built-ins here under the overhang. However, given that we’re simply in an apartment and not in an owned home, I thought that we wouldn’t be able to install anything permanent or semi-permanent like shelves. So we got a few IKEA units (on sale in the as-is section) to act as a stopgap solution…

bookcase_after

This looked OK– better in photos than it did in person, though. Since they were on carpet and hadn’t all been assembled identically, they kind of leaned back or forward from each other and didn’t look as neat and clean as what I had in my vision. So little by little the area underneath here was altered…

Living and Dining Area

One unit was removed to make way for our turntable… then all three units were relocated to the west wall when we got our green couch and reoriented the whole apartment.

After hanging art

Now… Ahhhh. This is so much better!! They are only ten inches deep which actually gives us five more inches of floor space in that area when compared to the EXPEDITs. Five inches may not seem like much, but it’s almost half a foot, and the space is so much more streamlined, as the photo below makes clear. The pine warms up the space in a very honest way. Somehow, yeah, “honest” seems like the word for this simple solution. Here’s a few more shots:

Pine Shelving

Pine Shelving

Completed Pine Shelving

I feel like purposefully leaving the area underneath the bottom shelf empty makes it seem light and creates the illusion of more floor space. The best part is that the project was affordable, there aren’t many screws in the wall, and the whole thing can be taken with us to our next place next fall! I will have a how-to and budget breakdown here for you Wednesday!

DIY Wedding Bouquets (Faux Flowers)

To save money on her wedding, Steph agreed to let me try my hand at arranging flowers for her bouquet and the bridesmaids’ bouquets. I had so much with these faux flowers!

My first foray into faux flower arranging was a year ago when I helped create my friend Lisa’s bouquet for her own big day…

Lisa's Flowers

Lisa's Flowers

Photos by Scout Weddings.

So since I had a little experience, I kind of had a starting point for Stephanie’s wedding. First, we identified the color scheme of the wedding– Magenta and “metallic tones.” Since the venue was more of a tropical setting, with a pond, palm trees, and other lush greenery, we decided to go with bright and vibrant greens, as opposed to the dusky earthy tones I had used with Lisa’s bouquet. I created the bride’s bouquet first, and then did the MOH’s as a kind of “prototype.” We realized that the “star” flower was out of our price range to include in every bouquet (we were trying to save money after all) and created a scaled-back version of the MOH’s bouquet for the rest of the girls.

For the Bride, we found the most amazing pink flower, perfect for the color scheme, then accented it with browns and whites:

The Bride's Bouquet

The MOH (me) got a gorgeous white version of Stephanie’s pink flower, with matching white hydrangeas and a brown version of the anenome flower:

The MOH's Bouquet

And the bridesmaids (six!) got arrangements of white and brown. They are the same as the MOH arrangement minus the more costly white bloom–they have the same brown anenome, brown roses, and white hydrangeas:

The Bridesmaids' Bouquet

Since these photos are close-ups, it’s a bit more obvious that the arrangements aren’t real flowers. On the day of, however, I doubt people could tell, or were even thinking about them.

Here are a few tips if you decide to try your hand at a DIY faux flower bouquet. Got more tips? Share in the comments.

  1. Splurge and get the nicer flowers. It’s easy to tell the difference between a $15 stem and a $5 version of the same flower.
  2. Shop when they’re on sale. Both times, I got flowers from Hobby Lobby and they put their silk flowers on sale every two to three weeks.
  3. Bunch all the flowers together while shopping, and create the loose idea of what you want the arrangement to look like while still in the store. Our cart looked very crazy with all kinds of different flowers until we decided on our winners.
  4. Keep warm tones and cool tones in mind when choosing flowers, and pay careful attention to the leaves–they are the most tonal (brownish, blueish, yellowish green) and more apt to clash.
  5. When arranging, start with the main flower and accent flower(s) and create what looks like a triangle from above. This will help the bouquet look attractive from any angle. Then, begin adding in greenery as filler. Here’s a little illustration:
  6. A Bouquet Triangle
  7. Keep turning the arrangement around and around while working on it. Make sure all the sides look nice, because the person holding it will not remember to hold it a particular direction. I guarantee it.
  8. Get creative when it comes to greenery! It’s the weakest link, in my opinion, when it comes to faux flowers. There are simply not as many plain foliange options! I wouldn’t have normally gone for this faux boxwood but the vibrant, pure green was just the tone we needed. I’m so happy we used it!
  9. Tear it apart! Our boxwood stems came with four to six (I can’t remember) “pieces” attatched together. By separating each boxwood sprig, we could poke it into the bouquet just where more greenery was needed.

Bridal Party

 

Photo by Faithfully Focused Photography

My favorite thing about faux arrangements is that they last forever! My mother had faux flowers at her wedding in the 80s and she still has her bouquet.

Thanks for reading! I really had so much fun creating these.

DIY Wedding Invitations

Well, Stephanie is in Maui and I’m missing her like crazy. Is there a better way to get over it than to reminisce about the planning and preparation that led up to last weekend? Is it too early to reminisce?

If you’ve planned a wedding you know that invitations are crucial for setting the tone of the event and can get expensive really quickly. I’ve seen invite suites that exceed $4 per invite… if you plan on inviting 100, 200, 300 people the price can get astronomical very quickly. Lucky for me, I have some wonderful friends in the printing business. They designed and printed my wedding invites for me in 2010, and have always been patient in indulging my amateur graphic designer side by allowing me to submit my own work for them to print. Case in point: Stephanie’s wedding invitations!

For her event, Steph wanted a simple and classy affair, and chose the color scheme “magenta with metallics.” Early in the planning process she had also mentioned working in Art Deco elements, so I took a few cues from that and created something that I think fits the bill and is unique. Do you think it fits the vision?

The paper looks pretty white on my computer screen, but FYI, it was printed on an ivory-cream stock.

DIY Wedding Invites

I created them using Microsoft Publisher, since that’s the program I’m most familiar with. I now have the full Adobe suite on my mac and would love to learn more programs, but time wasn’t cooperative in this case. So Publisher it was. I think they turned out very nicely.

DIY Wedding Invites

The fonts are Chopin Script, Castellar, and Baskerville Old Face… in case you were curious.

Since the invite suite was simply cream with black text (classy looking , AND cheaper that way!) We used metallic bronze envelopes to spice things up. I think it worked really nicely. We were able to print these for right around $80–including 200 invites, RSVP postcards (two sided) and the info cards. The envelopes added a bit to the cost but we definitely saved a lot of money compared to ordering suites online or out of one of those catalogs they have at print shops.

Here are some of my tips in case you’re interested in trying this out yourself:

  • Look at other invites to see what kind of styles you like and would feel confident in mimicking.
  • Make lots of test prints! What looks good on your computer might look very different on paper.
  • Keep things simple! By limiting my color scheme to black and white, I was able to easily drop in some art deco designs I found online.
  • Limit yourself to three kinds of fonts. This is a basic graphic design tip you’ll see all over the place. If you start going too crazy with fonts, things can become too busy and look more amateurish than you need to.

Have you ever designed your own paper goods? Business cards? Christmas cards? 

Coffee Talk Epilogue: Nespresso

Last February I shared a three-part series detailing my experiments with at-home coffee making… without using a standard Mr. Coffee. If you missed them, make sure to check out my tips and tricks for a French Press, Mokapot, and Pour-Over!

Have you heard of Nespresso? It’s a capsule-based espresso system. Their commercials here in the US feature Penelope Cruz, but internationally George Clooney is their spokesman.

(Bonus points if you recognized “Nora” from How I Met Your Mother)

I have a quick epilogue to add to my coffee conversation! My kitchen has a new little addition to it. I sell Nespresso machines at work and well… you can see, I’ve sold myself on it!

Nespresso

My machine is the budget-priced Essenza, but my favorite machine is the cute and user-friendly Pixie

Espresso is a different animal than coffee is: its flavor comes from water forced through a tightly packed shot at a high temperature and high pressure. That’s why the flavor is so intense and most espresso shots are only 1 to 2 ounces. When you order a latte at Starbucks, it’s normally two small shots added to steamed milk. Think–you’re really paying $3+ for four ounces of coffee!

Nothing against grabbing a latte out with friends–I love meeting up at a coffee shop with people. It’s grabbing a quick latte every day before work that becomes a big-time money suck. Enter Nespresso: the machines heat up in no time and the flavor options they have available are really delicious… and for 60 cents a shot–it’s much faster and cheaper than going through the Starbucks drive through on the daily.

Nespresso

When I have a lot of time in the morning, or a lot of writing to do and want a massive carafe of coffee that will last for hours, I still default to “normal” style coffee made in my French Press (which I’m getting better and better at making!) When time is of the essence and I want a yummy caffeine fix, my routine is this: prepare my cup with a small spoonful of sugar. I run the capsule through my Nespresso and then finish the cup off with milk. This process takes roughy two minutes–120 seconds!

I’m not getting paid or perked by Nespresso to write this post–Just sharing the technology that’s out there with you all in case you hadn’t heard of these machines and were suffering from paying too much for specialty coffee drinks every day.