Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to Business

I have this tray on my kitchen counter. For the entire summer I filled it with beverages and the blender for spontaneous visitors and drinks on the deck. As soon as school started up, I found myself once again 'nesting' to get ready. Each school year I try to attend to areas of the house that will help the kids and myself stay organized. (My kitchen desk, dresser drawers, and even the fridge). In my attempt to make packing lunches easier, I sadly put away my summer beverages and replaced them with lunch boxes and thermoses for both kids. I always hated unloading them from the dishwasher each day to then turn around the next morning and dig them out of the cupboard. As unsightly as it may be on my counter, it has to live there. 

Fridge = Message Center
What are you doing to get ready for the school year? Share what trick you have to make getting ready for school easier or the homework routine less painful. How do you stay organized? CLICK the email button on the right --> and send me your photos and ideas! I'd love to post them! Have a great school year!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Timelines & Cupcakes

I tend to be the 'photo keeper' of the family. Throughout my childhood, I remember my parents developing the hundreds of photos they took and jamming the envelopes full of prints into their bedside table drawers. They were not the scrapbooking type. These drawers finally became overstuffed just about the time they divorced. I feared the photos would be lost in the shuffle, so I put them in huge garbage bags and actually hauled them to my dorm room in college. Dork alert.

From there I divided them up into 5 piles, one for each of us. It made me feel better knowing we each had some tangible memories of our lives when we were all together. What each person did with those photos was up to them. I prayed they would be carefully arranged in scrapbooks in chronological order (as mine were), but I had my doubts.

Fast forward 20 years. My brother-in-law was having a big bash to celebrate his 40th birthday. My sister wasn't over-decorating since it was already a pretty cool setting at a trendy new pub in Saratoga. I wanted to contribute something to the festivities and knew I wanted to include photos of him in some way. I started gathering any pictures I could find of him. Pre-digital prints were temporarily removed from my scrapbooks and scanned. I then combed through years of iPhoto for digital images. Once they were all gathered, I printed them out in contact sheets for the size I needed. They became cupcake toppers. Everyone sang Happy Birthday as his eyes scanned the 60 photos of his many happy years with family and friends. They were a big hit.

This summer, my other brother-in-law was turning 50. My sister was throwing him a backyard pig roast with many family & friends invited. I thought the photo cupcake toppers would go over well. His mother sent me prints of him when he was growing up, all the way through his high school years. She even gave me his birth announcement! I then scanned everything and found all of the digital photos we had of him.

100 cupcakes were being served, so I had to find at least that many photos. As I was printing out the small contact sheets, I figured I would print each picture in larger 4 X 6 format for a giant timeline to hang somewhere at the party. I started to arrange the pictures in chronological order (see below). I decided to hang the timeline on the side of the house where the bar would be set up, hoping people would linger as they were getting a drink. I had 18 feet to work with, so I had to make 3 rows. I stapled each photo to 3 inch grosgrain ribbon. Here is the initial layout:

Here it is installed:

Here are the same 100 photos covering a span of 50 years as cupcake toppers:

Starting to think of what I will do for Josh's 50th…need to start gathering pics!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Petra's Bed Make-Over

When we moved in 3 summers ago, Petra got the smallest bedroom in our home. I've always felt a bit bad about it, especially since she will eventually want to spend more time in there and need much more storage space for her clothing. Earlier this summer, she was willing to pass on most of her larger toys in an effort to make her room "more grown up". I was also anxious to rid her room of her dresser that took up so much floor space. Her current bed was in a "nook" that is unfortunately 6 inches shy of a twin size mattress or twin bed frame. The only solution I could think of was to build her a custom sized captains bed in the nook and then have a custom mattress made. Here are some of the beds that inspired me:

Love the many drawers.

Great use of space- especially with sloped ceiling.

So many shelves, not too many drawers.

Really dig the nook being painted a separate color.

This summer seemed like the perfect time to jump start this project. I realized hiring our contractor to build the bed wasn't going to happen in a timely manner, so I took the initiative to do it myself after seeing this photo:

This is the photo that motivated me.
Love the wallpaper, serene colors and loads of storage.
The dresser Petra already has was a white Malm Ikea she had in the city. We happened to have another one (temporarily in my room as a placeholder for a walnut Danish modern I am dreaming of…) so I got right to work. The  mattress from her youth bed was coincidentally the same exact width of the 2 dressers side by side. It was just shy in depth by about 20 inches, so I ran to Home Depot and built a frame for support. 

I just need to build a safety railing or we could use a
toddler bed rail that slides under matters each night so it is hidden during the day.
I will also install a shelf up in the nook to take the place of a bedside table.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Boat Update: Work in Progress #4 Continued….

I have been trying to work on the boat at least one day after school each week. I originally thought I would just be  decorating with my new goods: making the beds, changing out old photos with current ones, fluffing the pillows, switching out old beach towels with new, but I cannot ignore some of the major cosmetic deterioration. My focus has now shifted as I scramble to fix some of these issues before  it's too late. As I make these repairs, I am switching up some of the materials originally used to better suit the limited time we can devote to boat work in the future. 

The mahogany railing that I painstakingly stripped, sanded, stained and varnished years ago had some serious aging and exposed areas. If I didn't address it, the mahogany would look terrible and the peeling varnish feels like a paper cut when you grab it. It's now totally stripped & sanded, waiting for a coat of stain and I will now use two coats of Cetol instead of several thin coats of varnish. This will save time in the long run & will look just as great. Stay tuned for final photos.

The swim platform hadn't been sanded in a few years and looked so faded and sad. I used the radial sander so hard, I actually broke it. Thank God I was basically done & ready to Cetol. 

The headliner is in really bad shape. In many areas, it is not even attached to the ceiling frame anymore.  To replace the entire thing is simply not in the budget. There were a few holes that if not repaired, would only tear open more. One was the size of a fist. hmmmm...Beckett...The problem is, after researching online & checking a few marine stores, they really don't sell headliner patch-kits so I decided to make my own. I bought a yard of the liner at an upholstery store that works mainly on boat cushions. To adhere it to the existing 46 year old liner, I bought a 3M spray product used by car repair shops for car headliners. It was pretty toxic & extremely difficult to apply upside-down. I admit, the stack white looks a bit odd against the old liner, but better than a hole I guess.

Other housekeeping jobs that have kept me from my decorating finale were painting the bottom, scraping the trim tabs, rudders & propellers and scrubbing the fenders. Almost to the finish line- I'll post  more photos when finished!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The White Shirt Experiment

After months of a freezing winter layered in sweaters and more sweaters, I was so happy to finally bust out my summer wardrobe. Well, I'm kinda bummed. My summer wardrobe sucks. I can't seem to piece anything I like together. 

Problem # 1: 
I made a promise to myself when I turned 40 I would no longer wear shorts. They are completely unflattering on my bod. However, after going a few summers now in sundresses and skirts, my thighs are fighting and begging me for a separation. Ok. I may buy a few 'city shorts' this summer. I will give that a try, but knowing there is a fine line with short attire between looking like an L.L. Bean suburban mom and a cool mama , (the difference being about 30 lbs.), I am torn. Not sure I am a fan of shorts after all.

Problem #2:
I went tunic-crazy over the last 2 years. I do love them, I purchased many, but they are all 3/4 sleeved, and most are too short to wear w/o pants, which makes it hard to keep cool.

Problem #3: 
Nothing I have really goes with well together. I hate having to find a top & bottom each morning. And the cargo pants I thought would make me look like a casual Jennifer Anniston with a tank, clearly look like maternity pants. I heard all you haters loud & clear. 

I once read an article about Giorgio Armani. They showed a photo of his personal closet. It was filled with about 100 hangers of black T-shrts and below, 100 hangers with jeans. That's it. WOW. Serious focus. Serious uniform. I was sold. I have always loved the idea of wearing the same thing to work Monday-Friday and then going fashion-nuts on the weekend. If my kids had to wear uniforms to school, I would be in heaven. There are other things to worry about. 

So, I came to a grand conclusion about my summer wardrobe dilemma. I am calling this summer the 
"WHITE SHIRT EXPERIMENT". With all of the odd bottoms I have in my closet, I can't go wrong with a classic white shirt, can I? 

*Starting July 1- Labor Day, I will narrow my daily clothing choices down to wearing either:

1. a tunic / sundress 


2. a WHITE SHIRT paired with a bottom

a few of my tunics
a few of my white shirts

a few of my inspirations:

I'll let you know how my 2 month experiment goes...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Creature Comforts

Living in a city apartment for 17 years didn't allow for many overnight house guests. When and if people stayed overnight, I tried my best to make them comfortable (on my living room floor). Dreadful. I always dreamed of having an empty guest bedroom, with a freshly made bed, clean towels laid out, and a candle ready to be lit, magazines and a few snacks - a-la Martha Stewart. Of course these treats would be arranged in a basket like these:

There is something so nice about having things within arms reach once you have settled into your room,
& not having to bother the hostess. 
My friend Rachael is an expert at arranging guest rooms complete with any and every desire a guest could have. Believe me, I have stayed at all of her homes over the years and leave one happy customer. She outfits the guest rooms with carafes filled with fresh water on your bedside table, a pad of paper & pencil, and plenty of fresh towels of course. But then she goes the extra step: chocolate within arms reach next to the bed - right next to the universal remote just begging you to watch Apple TV all night long. The closet is no exception. In there, she leaves a tote bag for your trip down to the lake, an umbrella for rainy days in town, a luggage rack, and of course, a cozy sweatshirt for sitting around the fire pit at night. (Which somehow made it into my suitcase upon departure…) oops!

Comforts from Rachael's guest rooms.
When we finally bought a house, although it had an entire lower level apartment complete with 2 full baths and kitchenette, it really had no extra bed room for us to keep a guest bedroom empty. We converted half the apartment to Josh's studio and the other half to a large family room. When guests come to spend the night, they can choose between Beckett's room (with a new double bed) or stay downstairs on a queen Aerobed (which is surprisingly comfortable). I am still craving the day when I can arrange a room for guests and leave it ready & waiting with all the little things they may need during their stay. That will have wait until the kids go off to college. 

Until then, I can do small things to make guests feel comfortable when they are visiting. I have so far readied the family room for the kid's & their friends. This is so much more convenient than running up and down with snacks & drinks. They can help themselves and have no excuse to come upstairs! I am now trying to think of the next guest basket to have on hand for summer guests…maybe a new beach towel, some flip flops  & sunscreen?

The only problem so far: this is located just outside of Josh's studio and I am constantly replenishing.  hmm...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Polaroid, I Love You.

I recently did some renovations in my art room and came across some old grad school projects. My favorite pieces are from a Polaroid series I shot. At the time I was taking a graduate photography course in NYC and was amongst some very talented photo majors. Yikes. I hate the darkroom. 

Some Polaroids of film & film camera. Ha.

 I was not a photo major and the serious photo majors could sniff me out a mile away. I was, as they soon figured out, an art history major. Gasp. That's right- the much frowned upon major by any serious fine arts major. I totally get it now. I was at the bottom of the art-world pecking order. And so they pecked. At every class discussion and critique, they scoffed at my views and opinions. So I kept quiet did what I wanted. 

For once, I did not conform. I dug my heels in and did not step foot in the damp, musty dark room, but instead, chose to express my photo narratives through Polaroids. Many of the photo students thought (and did express to my face), that I was taking the easy way out. I'd like to think of it as being ahead of the game. My love for the Polaroid stems back to my childhood straight through today's Instagram sensation. Why do I love Polaroids?
Polaroid of Gramps & the girls circa 1977

One of my Instagram shots
They are instant, tangible moments in time. Beyond the instant gratification, the color quality is what appeals to me. Unlike today's super high resolution, crystal-clear digital images, Polaroid prints have a desaturated, sometimes ghostly appearance. It's images seem slightly imperfect and has a certain retro feel to them. Enter: my obsession with the movie The Virgin Suicides (based on the book by Jeffrey Eugenides) both written and directed by Sophia Coppola. Love her. Understatement. Sigh.
The quality of the film reminds me of the Polaroids I grew up loving. So when my photography professor outlined our next assignment to include some type of narrative, I whipped out my Polaroid, dragged Josh around the east village, and imagined a sister from the Coppola movie, party shoes on, hopeless and sadly taking her life. Here's what I came up with:

A few shots from the series.
As I hung my work for the class critique, the other photo majors paused, whispered and moved on. I took that as a compliment. Maybe they hated it, I'll never know because my professor didn't allow them to talk about their darkroom-developed prints. Instead he devoted the entire time to talking about my vision, the dark story being told, the beauty of Polaroid. I felt vindicated and justified. I didn't make any friends in that class, but that's ok. I was proud of my work and the fact that I didn't give into the norm. I wonder how many of those photo majors now have Instagram accounts. Shame on them! Just kidding.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Work in Progress #4

Another ongoing project that will never end is working on our boat. While this is not  necessarily an artistic endeavor, the interior design aspect of the boat is right up my alley. Since it was built in 1968, it requires annual mechanic maintenance and cosmetic maintenance. Years ago, before kids, Josh and I could devote many weekends each spring sanding and varnishing mahogany panels, sewing custom curtains, polishing chrome and making small repairs wherever needed. We went all out:

Working on the boat circa 2003
With the limited time we have to work on it currently, Josh takes on the hard stuff: making sure the engines run, the toilet flushes and that we won't sink. I assist him with these issues in small ways, but my focus is making the boat as pretty as it once was in it's heyday:

This season, I will do my best to spruce up the interior. Although the wallpaper and headliner is ripping in places and has an overall stained appearance, there's nothing I can really do about that with limited time and funds. Luckily, after years of watching HGTV design shows, I've learned how to draw attention away from the ugly with new and fresh items. Here is a peek at how I plan to fool the eye:

-new bedding for the twin bunks & sewing pillow cases for twin bunks
-printing & framing new photos for the walls
-replacing the interior carpet
-sewing new curtains
-sanding & staining swim platform, & stairs to flybridge
-painting fresh boot stripe
-repairing dinette cushions
Kid's sitting at the dining table. The naugahyde upholstery has since torn at the corner.
One of the frames that need to be filled & hung.
New nautical bedding from Ikea for the kid's bunk beds.
Two of 4 pillows that need nautical pillow cases sewn.
I just love this fabric for the kid's.
This job is way over due.
I don't think we have done the swim platform in a couple of years.
A sample of the new carpet.
The old curtains - water stained from windows left open? Not sure.
Need to sew some new ones.
Below deck- couch turns into bunk beds.
I'll post photos as these jobs get ticked off my list so stay tuned...