Monday, December 30, 2013

A Tu B' Shevat Edible Craft

I discovered Chana's blog, chana' a few months ago and have been following it ever since. Not only is she extremely talented and creative, she runs a Chabad House with with her husband (that's a full-time job!) and has a huge family. (I can barely get things done and I'm an empty Nester!)

Last week she created these amazing edible trees for the upcoming holiday of Tu B'Shevat...

 S P R I N G
So creative and beautifully done, right? For the how-to's check out her blog:

Friday, December 27, 2013

What Was That Paint Color?

I love to chat with the guys at my paint store. I'm not talking about the ones who work in the paint department at the big box stores...I mean the people at the smaller shops that have been in the paint business for years and are a wealth of knowledge. 

Here is the latest tip I got this week...Have you ever wanted to repaint a room after several years but forgot what paint color you used? Try this little trick you'll always have the right color on hand.

Simply write the paint colors and manufacturer on the back of a light switch plate in that room! Genius, right?
Of course, you can use a sharpie and just write the names but I had to get all fancy and type them out, cut and paste.
I took the idea one step further and added the name of the tile I used on the back-splash. You can also add things like custom window shades, just in case they need repair and you don't remember where you ordered them from.
Who knows, maybe in the future the new home owners will find this and thank me!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I (Heart) Connecticut

Yes, I know our taxes are too high and the unemployment rate is still not great. But I moved here via New York City and before that, the Midwest and I so appreciate living in Connecticut...beautiful picture-st New England towns, an easy drive to Boston and New York, and not too far from the ocean and mountains. 

So to celebrate Connecticut, I put together a collection of cool Connecticut souvenirs--any of these would look so awesome in my home!
1. Pillow  2. State Artwork  3. Bird mug  4. Home Sweet Home plate  5. Map mug  6. Glass  7. Dish towel

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Lemon Tree for Tu B' Shevat

Since Tu B' Shevat falls on January 26 now is the perfect time to start growing a tree from seed for this beautiful holiday which celebrates the "New Year for trees". 

I chose a lemon tree because who wouldn't want fresh lemons growing in the house!  They are easy to grow from seeds although it may take anywhere from 3-6 years for your tree to be capable of producing fruit.
Things you’ll need:
1. A lemon. Make sure you purchase an organic lemon since some non-organic lemon seeds may be “duds”, incapable of germinating. Any organic lemon will do, but if you have climate or space restrictions, you may want to try looking for a specific variety called a “Meyer” lemon. Meyer lemons are a smaller type of lemon, often grown for ornamental purposes, and are thus better suited for indoor containers.
2. Potting soil.  Use one with a blend of peat, perlite, vermiculite, and organic fertilizer.
3. Container/pot. A container (with drainage holes) that is 5-6” deep and a few inches in diameter will be sufficient for sprouting; however, the seedling will need to be re-potted into a much larger container. Mature lemon trees prefer a container that is wider rather than deeper, so plant your seedling in a pot that is 10-16” deep and 12-18” in diameter. Your baby tree will happily make itself at home in this larger container for the next few years, at which time you may want to upgrade again.
4. A grow light or lots of sun. Lemon trees need a lot of light, especially when they are sprouting and require 10-14 hours of it each day. If you don’t have a consistently sunny window, get a grow light. They don’t cost much and will prove their worth in healthy green foliage.

Method for sprouting the lemon seed:
1. Pre-moisten your potting soil. Put some soil into a bucket and mix in some water until the soil is damp all the way through.
2. Fill your container with the pre-moistened soil. Leave about an inch of space below the rim of your container.
3. Slice open your lemon and choose a seed that looks completely full of life. Pop it into your mouth and suck on it until all the flesh is removed and the lemon flavour is gone. Do not allow the seed to dry out at any time. It needs to stay moist in order to germinate.
4. Plant your seed! While it’s moist, plant your seed about 1/2″ below the soil level. Cover it completely with soil and water well with a squirt bottle or gentle watering can.
5. Cover your container with breathable plastic to keep your seeds warm and moist. You can use a piece of clear garbage bag with holes poked into it and a rubber band to securely hold it in place.
6. Place the container in a warm location and observe for the next few days. Keep in mind: your seed needs warmth and moisture in order to germinate. Don’t allow the potting soil to dry out completely. Also take caution that you don’t cook your seed in its little greenhouse. Too much heat and moisture could lead to a rotten seed! You’re aiming to achieve a nice balance, so if you feel like the soil is warm enough without the plastic then it’s probably safest to remove it.
7. In about two weeks you may notice a sprout emerging from the soil. Once it appears, remove the plastic (if it’s still on) and place the little guy in a warm location with plenty of direct sunlight. Supplement sun with your grow light if needed.
8. Care for your new baby and watch it grow! Provide it with:

  • Water. Ensure that the soil is damp at all times, especially when your lemon tree is young. Do not allow it to sit in a puddle of stagnant water though; those drainage holes are there for good reason.
  • Sunlight. Place it in a warm sunny window where it will receive eight hours of direct sunlight each day, or supplement some sun for a grow light.
  • Food. In order to keep your lemon tree healthy and growing the soil will eventually need to be replenished with nutrients.  Feed it an organic fertilizer, such as compost or vermicompost, once it has developed a nice little set of leaves. Dig a little trench around the base of your tree, fill it with compost and water it well. Or, serve it up as compost tea. Try feeding it twice a year or as needed, but do not overfeed! When it comes to fertilizing, less it best; so if in doubt, put it off a bit longer. (Another option is to start your seed in potting soil with vermicompost or worm castings mixed into it).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Statement Chairs and One Kings Lane

I received an e-mail from One Kings Lane asking if I would help introduce their Home Decor Resource Guide. Would I?  Yes! I love their online marketplace.  If you're not familiar with One Kings Lane check out the photo below from their website and you'll see why...
Gorgeous, right?
Their resource guide is a new design tool that explains different styles of furniture.  You can browse through each category to research a piece of furniture you might already own or even use the site to learn about different styles and periods.  

My assignment: write a feature about a statement chair in my home. I knew right away which chair I would write about---these from Hotel Liquidators in New Haven, Connecticut. 

I bought them long before I had this blog which explains why I don't have "before" pictures, but trust me they were not pretty. The wood was a mustard color and the fabric was a nubby tweed, but I loved the shape and size. After painting the frame a soft taupe topped with a walnut glaze I had them reupholstered in a gorgeous silk stripe. The cost of the fabric was a splurge but it really made the chairs and now, years later I'm happy I sprung for it.

After using their guide I learned my chairs are a reproduction of French armchairs. (Who knew? I just liked the shape and size.)
I'll be looking for more pieces to furnish our house and the resource guide is a great tool to inspire, aid and educate home decor enthusiasts when purchasing and reupholstering the perfect statement chair.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Styling a Bookcase

I was so relieved back in October when our Ikea Liatrop bookcase was finally assembled and painted. It was a time consuming job painting all the shelves and doors one coat of primer and two coats of semi-gloss paint. The color, river reflections is a beautiful taupe/gray, but after I finished painting the entire thing I realized it was just too bland next to the walls! :(  Here is a before...
So, now that Chanukah is behind us I picked up a quart of Chelsea Gray and got to work. As you can see below the new color is quite a bit darker.
It adds richness to the piece and looks better against the burlap-covered backs and the walls which are painted Coastal Fog...
Now that the painting is done the fun begins...styling the shelves. Almost all of our books are on a bookshelf in the den so these shelves hold the T.V. and are the perfect place to display decorative objects. (Otherwise known as tchotchkes!)
1. Freshly painted, ready for accessories.
2. It's usually best to start filling in with the largest objects. I tried to stagger them so your eye travels around the unit.
3. Keep adding, keeping in mind you want to vary the shapes and sizes.
4. Finally, I added a bit of color with the moss, pottery, and touches of gold.
Done (for now.) It's always evolving!
I still have more to do in the living room but at least I can cross this off my list!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Art in the Bathroom

I haven't hung much artwork in our house since I'm still priming and painting walls. But, the main bath has been painted for a while and there was a large empty space above the toilet that was crying out for some kind of art.
See? So empty looking!
I already had two nice frames I bought on sale years ago at Pottery Barn, so I just needed art to pop into the frames. I looked for something on Etsy but couldn't find anything I liked in the right size and shape. Then, I noticed the jar of shells I collected last summer on our trip to Kennebunkport, Maine...
How beautiful would they look in the frames? I laid them out on a sheet of gray paper and took two photos...
then sent the files to Staples and asked them to print color copies to fit an 8 x 10 inch format. The entire job cost $1.25!
Like most bathrooms, it can get pretty steamy so I didn't want something on the walls that was too precious. I can always print more and replace these if they get ruined over time.

This is such an easy way to get inexpensive and pretty art for your wall. Other objects from nature would work just as well, like acorns, leaves, feathers, flowers or pine cones.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Decorating 911!

My sister Lisa lives halfway across the country but with the ease of the internet and digital cameras I can give her decorating advice without having to fly to St. Louis! 

She e-mailed me a while ago asking for help to update her living room, which has not been touched for years. Let me begin by saying it certainly is not a bad looking room! The neutral wall color is fine and so are the major pieces of furniture--it just needed a little tweaking to bring up to date. Oh, and she needs to keep costs down (three kids in college)!

Here's a peak...
See, it's pretty, right? I love the french doors and the white slipcovers are timeless. To update the room my first thought was to paint the french doors black, add a modern rug, replace the heavy coffee table with something lighter and replace the black lamp. Also, introduce charcoal gray along with the leaf green color and add touches of brass/gold.
 The white curtain panels don't do much for the room and the tabs are dated.

Here is my plan to update the room:

1. Spray paint existing rod and bracket gold
2. Gray and white striped panels from West Elm (or DIY white curtains with paint!)
3. Chevron rug from West Elm
4. Pillows from H&M home
5. Martin Table Lamp from Crate and Barrel
6. Walker Campaign Coffee table from World Market
7. Throw from West Elm
8. Studio Tripod floor lamp from Shades of Light

Here's a shot of the wall behind the looks too skimpy.
Here's a mock up of the redesign...
Replace the artwork with a large mirror (Target online or Overstock is a good place to find this) add over-sized accessories like this bowl and lamp, and use covered baskets on the shelves for storage.

The mantel looks pretty good...
I would spray paint the white vase gold and add some new branches that have more of a loose look...
I can't wait to see what she does with the room. Do you have a decorating 911? Shoot me an e-mail with photos!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tinker Toys for Grown Ups

Do you remember Tinker Toys?  They were created in 1914, after seeing children play with sticks and empty spools of thread. I've always loved the simplicity of the batteries, endless ways to put together a design. 
Sometimes, the beautiful designs are too pretty to take apart and put back in the box so I created a permanent "Tinker Toy" that sits in the living room for enjoyment everyday.

I used wood dowels from the hardware store and round wooden beads in place of the cylinders. Here's how:
1. I used garden pruners to cut my wood dowels into seven-inch pieces. You can cut as many as you'd like...I used seven.
2. The ends where you cut will not be clean cuts, but they'll be covered so not to worry.
3. Using a hot glue gun glue two sticks together in the center.
4. Keep gluing more sticks so that it stands.
5. Mine didn't turn out perfectly symmetrical but I liked the looseness of the design.
6. Add wood beads to all the ends of the dowels.
7. Mine were different wood tones which was fine since I planned on painting it.
8. Cover the holes on the ends with Spackle, let dry and lightly sand to smooth.
9. Spray with a primer--I used Zinsser in an oil base spray.
For the final coat I used this beautiful gold spray paint from Michael's because everything looks better painted gold!
I'm still deciding where its permanent home will be but I smile whenever I walk pass it!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Shop + Nosh

Early last month I traveled to New Haven, Connecticut. It's home to Yale University and like most college towns, New Haven has some great shopping and places to dine.

Yale is one of the country's oldest universities and is famous for it's Gothic architecture. 

Picture-st Chapel Street is where many of the shops and restaurants are located...

Okay, time for shopping! Wave Gallery is one of my favorite places to shop in New Haven.
Here, you’ll find artisan jewelry, a large selection of homemade soaps, beautiful cards, lovely glass bowls, hand-blown glass paperweights and gifts for the home.
Since I visited the store before Chanukah their selection of unique menorahs were on display. I want the brass colored bird menorah but really don't need another one.
I'm a sucker for anything with typography so I loved the black and white artwork and those typography pillows on the left.
Great place to pick up a unique hostess gift...

Next we headed to Claire's for lunch--a vegetarian, organic and kosher restaurant.

In addition to good food and drink, Claire's is notable for its extra-comfy "hippy" atmosphere. Service is semi-cafeteria style: line up, browse the blackboard menu and the pastries on display, place your order, and pay.
The menu is mostly soups, sandwiches and Mexican. They also have a gluten-free menu which is perfect for  me--the Enchiladas were yummy!

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