Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wrapping...and a little Desk Hack

Chances are you know someone with a birthday next month. If you're in my family, you know close to a dozen people with birthdays next month. So I've been spending a bit of time wrapping gifts the past few days.

Every time I present a gift to someone there is always a comment about how nice the package looks, so I thought I'd share a few tips.

First: go with simple paper and a fabric ribbon. Trust me. Even something simple like grosgrain will up the ante on any gift.

I do take the age and gender of the recipient into account, which is key. Observe:

The two gifts in the background are for my brother-in-law, who will be turning 33 in a few weeks. The paper is from IKEA and I think I grabbed the ribbon from the $.99 bin at Michaels. What keeps his gift from being too precious is the lack of a bow. I simply wrapped the ribbon around and snipped it where the ends come together. Some double-stick tape holds it in place and then I plopped a label over the (not pretty) joint. My sister, a few days younger than her husband, will be getting a present wrapped in craft paper and tied with another length of $.99 ribbon. She gets a bow (your basic square-knot - just pull loops and not the full ends. Don't be afraid to re-tie once or twice) as well as a label. Do I always use such conservative wrap for these two? No. But it appealed to me for the season in which their birthdays fall.

Another birthday falls next week, and the recipient (who will be ten) is getting this:

The paper is from Paper-Source and the ribbon is from Costco. I picked up the paper because it reminds me of Dorothy's slippers and the recipient has recently discovered and fallen in love with The Wizard of Oz. Her gift is saved from preciousness by the black and white ribbons. I like to add tie-ons ocassionally, this is a bottle of "Birthday" bubbles from Sephora. Adults generally get wine-stoppers or ornaments...but anything from keychains to slinkies can be tied onto a gift. If your tie-on, like mine, isn't being cooperative, get creative with the ribbon and secure it with double-stick tape.

That's my secret weapon - double stick tape. You'd be amazed what removing the strips of tape from a gift will do.

When I start wrapping the gifts I'm taking to Switzerland for Christmas, I'll do a step-by-step of what a friend of mine dubbed "Soap-Opera Wrapping." In the interest of full-disclosure, I learned how to do it from Martha Stewart.

And on a completely unrelated note - I raised my screen today. I realized that while my chair and desk are at a good height for my legs and arms, the center of my screen sat a good 3 inches below my line of sight, which was leading me to slouch...and likely undoing all of the good posture that Yoga gives me.

Forgive me, I just have after pictures:

Believe it or not, my screen surround is usually covered with about ten times as many sticky notes. It's a testament that I've been able to remove so many this week. Mercury is in retrograde.

I used an in/out box from Target as my stand. Now if I can just keep it from getting clogged with detritus...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Checking Off the List

Stained the cedar chest - woot! A couple of coats of polycoat - clear - was all it took for the base and top to take on the sheen of the body of the chest. Granted, the patina of age will come with well, age, but I don't feel the need to rush it. I like my aging to be authentic.

Behold, after:

Now I'm debating about the end table (in previous post with the before pictures)...suggestions? Glossy black? Glossy white? Ebony? It's solid idea what kind, though.

Unrelated, I snagged this bowl from my mother-in-law and it is temporarily filled with apples. I say temporarily because the apples will soon be in pie. But I love this bowl and feel like after the apples are gone it will remain on the table, all nubby and inviting...

Even more unrelated - on the not-design blog I have an entire post dedicated to Pomegranates, which I love. And one for fashion. I updated my weardrobe account this weekend, too. Perhaps in the quest for an organized wardrobe I am finally making strides...? Right now my best tip is to start cataloguing so you know what you've got. And weardrobe is a great source to help keep it all organized. Happy shopping!

EDIT: I've fixed the broken link to Sorry about that!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My To-Do List

Before I forget, if you liked the paper crafts below, here's a link to even more...and not just animals. I still think these would add such a fun, whimsical touch to a child's room. And if your children are a little older and/or have the fine motor skills for it, it would make a great afternoon project.

And speaking of projects, I've got a nice little list to do around here myself.

First, finish the bedroom. So far it's painted:

The walls and ceiling are Benjamin Moore's Almost Black in eggshell and glossy, respectively. The molding is an acidy-yellow-green that I mixed from leftover paint I had laying around. Notice that I cut my bed out of the shot? That's because the spread is tan. I plan on hitting an India import store that I know of and picking up something colorful to hang in the windows and cover the bed.

Note: the dark paint does, in fact, make the room cave-like at night. If it weren't for the 15' windows it would be cave-like all the time. I sleep so well now.

Next on the list is this cedar chest:

It survived my childhood and came out slightly scarred. I actually think my mom bought it at a yard sale for $25 back in the 70s. It's solid cedar. I'm going to sand down the top and put a clear coat sealant on it. (The base is a new base my brother-in-law made to replace the one which had broken during a move. It also will be sealed.) Then I'll have a cushion made and it will be a nice window seat.

Finally, this table, also inherited from my mother.

Her Grandmother bought it for her at a yard-sale, and I love the shape but not color. So it will be sanded down and restained...this weekend? Maybe ebony?

This is the top of the table (arms of sofa and chair) and the beginnings of my halloween decoration (note the candy). The candle in front is sitting in a candlewick ashtray - the perfect size for candles. The orange candlesticks are from Anthropolgie a few years ago and I love them but I can never get the candles to stay vertical. Any suggestions?

To leave you on a completely unrelated note (and with baited breath to see the "after" shots)...

Happy Birthday, Lance Armstrong!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Good, Green Clean

Back in April, on my other blog, I posted some tips for living a cleaner, more toxic-free life. (I also Saved The World...)

And while all of that is still relevant, I'm going to focus today and getting the best clean you can with as few toxins as possible. I said it before, and I'll say it again: you might not be drinking the Lysol, but you're cleaning with it and then your pets/babies walk over it and then lick their paws/put their hands/feet in the see where this is going. Best to avoid accidental ingestion of poison.

So, step the first: clear the clutter! Victorian houses might have been full of character, but they were also full of DUST. If you have collections, keep them centralized and in an easy-to-clean area. If you've got items that are just hanging on...well, determine what good they're doing you and if the answer is "none" then donate. Your trash is someone else's treasure. Why deny them?

And now that you've got a clutter-free environment, let's move on to the actual product usage.

A) I like Rags. Barmops. Old t-shirts when you need to be lint-free. re-usable, washable, and not very expensive. Target, IKEA, your husbands closet...all good sources for rags. Leave the paper towels for that which is truly gross: cat barf.

B) If it has chlorine, it will kill you. Ok, at worst it'll kill you. At best you'll have asthma-like symptoms. And you've got a fully-formed respiratory system. Birds, poor things, breathe everything twice. If you need bleach, pick a chlorine-free option. Seventh Generation has one.

i) while we're on the subject of respiratory inflammation: synthetic fragrances will do the same thing. Avoid those.

C) But what about bacteria? You ask. I'm glad you did.

White Vinegar. (photo courtesy of ivillage)

To quote a pro:

"Heinz company spokesperson Michael Mullen references numerous studies to show that a straight 5 percent solution of vinegar—thekind you can buy in the supermarket—kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses). He noted that Heinz can’t claim on their packaging that vinegar is a disinfectant since the company has not registered it as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency. However, it seems to be common knowledge in the industry that vinegar is powerfully antibacterial. Even the CBS news show “48 Hours” had a special years ago with Heloise reporting on tests from The Good Housekeeping Institute that showed this. "

(for more on this see here)

D) Lemon Juice. Nature's whiter, brighter, smell-nicier alternative to B. Disposal smelling like things are decomposing? Grind half a lemon in it. Towels smelling musty even after a decent washing? Next time, add 1/2 cup to your laundry and smell the freshness (line-drying in the sun will also help.) It goes on and on.

But what if you're not up to mixing your own cleaner? What if you need a few more tips?

E) My Three Favorite lines:

Available most easily, they designed their products with the full product-life in mind. Non-toxic, recyclable, fragrance-free.

I use their eco-scrub the most. It works wonders on the tub and I don't worry about my cats drinking the potential residue in the bath water. Which they do.

Most of my home-cleansers come from these guys. Their carpet cleaner is such a miracle worker that I have been known to give away bottles to people just so they, too, can know the awesomeness. Cat barf, doggy accidents, and latex paint (still wet): all disappear As I'm Squirting. The consistent ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, which is a disinfectant...and if you can pour it on cuts, you can pour it on carpet. Trust.

And for those of you who need to have the good-ol' Antibacterial Stamp...let me direct you to a slew of hits when the phrase "too much antibacterial" is googled.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Helpful Little Time Killer...

I discovered this little quiz via OhDeeDoh a few days ago and immediately took it. Unlike other "what's your style" quizzes, this one has 14 options (in the form of tiled images) and one gray tile which I took to mean "other." I ignored the "other" option the first few times I took it (I like to retake these things to check for accuracy) and every time I got the following:

"HOME QUEEN: Bringing up baby hasn't in the least bit cramped your sense of style. You have an almost theatrical approach to interior design, dressing up rooms just as you yourself would for a glamorous night out (or in). The look is opulent and luxurious, but can be equally sexy and sophisticated - just like you!"

And before you get all excited, NO, there's no baby in the house. Yet. There's not really one on the way either, but since we plan to be parents sooner rather than later, I chose as though I were already preparing.

You can then choose to read a more in-depth accounting of each room...for FREE. I found it fairly spot-on.

A minute ago, just to see what it would say, I hit the "other" option at every chance and received this answer:

"Ooops! Now you've done it! Actually this doesn't work and it's probably our fault..."

So probably your best bet is to actually chose from the images.

And, because I like to have some images, I'm going to post one I found this morning on I actually like the sign behind his head and am considering making one for our office. Of course, instead of LA, it'll say Dallas. (yes, that's Josh Groban)

PS - I'm updating the links on the right so you can keep up with the cool kids, too.