Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pulling an Al Bundy

The character Al Bundy from the popular white trash sitcom Married with Children, would frequently relive his glory days of his high school football career. His family would roll their eyes as he would drift off reminiscing the highlights of when he scored 4 touchdowns in one game. I frequently pull what Josh calls "an Al Bundy" when I talk about the great things I used to have time to do. Don't we all?

So as the holidays approach, I thought I'd pull an Al Bundy and share with you my crafty days in NYC when I would rent a table at the Fall Festival and sell my goods. The Fall Festival was held in a beautiful church on the upper east side just before the holidays and was always packed. Each year I tried to make something different, but soon stuck with the few hot sellers until the trend died out. My company name was Peeme & Chama, named after imaginary friends my sister and I shared. Here are a few shots of my glory days:

Charm Necklaces
The idea was that you would choose your cordage and charms. I would assemble on the spot and of course gift wrap was included. Not a great seller. I learned that people don't really like to make-their-own anything when trying to get holiday shopping done.

Painted Glassware
These were actually a good seller. I bought all of the glassware from restaurant supply shops on the Bowery for next to nothing. Profit margin was high since they took no time to paint. People bought sets of wine glasses, salt & pepper shakers, and votive candles. They even ended up being published in one of those cheesy craft magazines you find at the check-out counter at grocery stores. 


Preppy Belts
Oh my- these were a huge hit. I would get all of my ribbon from a supplier in the garment district who would secretly sell me ribbon another well-known ribbon belt designer had just special ordered. After I had sold out, people were taking orders. I was making belts up until Christmas and would hand deliver them up and down the upper east side. Ribbon key chains are a good way to use up the left overs:

Handbags - My biggest Flop
I first tried to sell these on consignment to stores on Martha's Vineyard. I went door to door down Main Street. Not one store took them. I was pretty crushed. They bombed at the Fall Festival too. Too small for ladies to carry and not cute enough for little girls. Oh well. 

Wish Necklaces- My biggest hit
The idea was that each necklace came with a specific wish like good fortune, love, strength...The necklace had no clasp and was tied on. Once the necklace falls off, your wish would come true. What could be easier to make? They consisted of thin thread, a small charm and no clasp! The packing took me longer to assemble than the necklaces themselves. 

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...