Thursday, October 30, 2008

Odd Week...

So I know that I usually post on Wednesdays, but this week is a little crazy. Some things on the home-front are up in the air (potentially a move in my future) and there's a party that I'm unexpectedly helping to host on Friday.

But just so that you're not left high and dry, here's a bit of inspiration. Not home-design, or even party - but life design, which isn't too far from everything else.

Life Design = organizing and creating your life to bring inspiration to yourself and those around you...even if it's just an inspiring gigglesnort. (Which, btw, is one of my favorite made-up words.)

I took this lady's lovely advice - everything is more fun in a tutu - and made one. It's part of my halloween costume and then it will become what I wear to make dull things more fun.

And the photo of the in-process cookies:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Inspired By Domino

While flipping through the new issue of Domino, I spied this:

and I thought, "Now there is something easy and fun I could do with that old mirror that's hanging in our entry hall."

"That old mirror" is actually this old mirror, inherited from my great-grandmother (mother's father's mother) and dearly loved.

I also have an over-abundance of loose photos and postcards that I've just stuck into the edges of frames on my Wall Of Shame:

So I just pulled them out and compiled them into the mirror:

And my Wall of Shame is back to being as neat as a Wall of Random Stuff can be:

Voila! A freshened entry hall in less than 10 minutes (including time for photos.)

P.S. The Gentleman who owns the mirror has also decoupaged his kitchen appliances. I want to be his new best friend.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Yoga Space

I see a lot of "Designated Yoga Spaces" in Yoga magazines and Design magazines and the one complaint that I've had - and the I've seen in reader-response letters (yes, I read those sometimes) is that they're all for people with loads of space - sometimes even an extra room or an extra house on their property.

Given that I have none of those things (we have 1190 sq. feet and you've seen our office) I thought I'd share my space with you. It would be really easy for you to duplicate. I've measured it and it requires floor space of 6 sq. feet - or an open yoga mat with space to extend your arms.

I double-mat because concrete is so unforgiving on the palms of your hands. Spend 5 deep breaths in downward dog and you'll understand. Sequences, pulled from issues of Yoga Journal, are mounted and taped on the inside of the office door, so that they're readily available when I need inspiration. They rotate out, except for the Sun-Salutes on the top left, which should be performed daily. To the left, off of the picture is our office and to the right is the open loft area, namely the couch. Directly in front is our reading (scotch/cigar) corner and the beginnings of Christmas shopping.

I have a view of both my monitor and my television, which is nice when I using a video because I don't have to adjust my space. I have a couple of DVDs, but I get the most motivation and variety from an online course at Yoga Today. They're free (and not paying me to gush) and so informative. The instructors can tell you where your focus should be, what your body placement should be, and what you can expect to feel from your muscles as you go through their sequences.

The space needs two things - a sense of serenity (which you can get either from meditation or the ambience of the room), and something to focus on when you're doing balance moves. I focus on the finial of the floor lamp by the card catalogue:

So ultimately, you don't need an entire room (or structure) you just need a clear patch of floor. And some uninterrupted time to find your breath. Namaste.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Every now and then I have a hard time reconciling my sense of responsibility with my job. I spend my days surrounded by the Old Dusty Moneyed debating the merits of tapestry vs. embroidered silk. I can smooth it over with myself by saying that it's helping in a small but important way - by making a home a more pleasant place to be people are less likely to spend their off-hours stressed and surely that's good for something, karmically speaking.

When I measure myself using the best yardstick I know (my family) I come up drastically short.

My mother runs a university library. The skills she helps the students learn enrich their lives much more than wool carpet ever will.

My sister teaches in bilingual 1st grade classrooms - students enter her room in the fall often coming straight from the fields in Mexico. It's not uncommon for them to have never seen a printed word in their lives and when they leave they speak both Spanish and English (are well on their way to being fluent, given the capacity for retention at their young age) and can read and write well enough to move into 2nd grade. These families have stories that bring tears to even my charred, blackened heart and it's entirely possible that one of the desks in my sister's classroom was filled by a future president, rocket scientist, doctor...and I've seen her teach. If she had been my 1st grade teacher I would have been so motivated to learn.

Then I move to the cousins - one works for a city planning company in California. Clearly - doing good works there. I can't even imagine the chaos that could ensue if people in her position suddenly disappeared. I have another cousin who works at a mortuary. She's the first face grieving families see when they start that gut-wrenching process - having grown up with her I KNOW that she helps relax them and ease - if not their outright pain - then their stress at the process. On the east coast I have a cousin who is a massage therapist. Having been in need of one of those myself I can say with certainty that she is on-par with medical doctors. She improves the quality of life for her clients in ways that you and I can't understand. Her brother, currently at Princeton Law, has spent his entire life traveling the world to understand how it works and to make it better.

So you can see where my crisis of conscience happens. Pity-party, table of one?

Not really. Because at some point in my voracious reading I came across a term that resonated: Noblesse Oblige. It basically means this: Those who have the means are obliged to do good with them.

Am I a noble? Not technically. Although this is America, so the barriers-to-entry of Nobility are less stringent than other countries. Here's my yardstick for that: the Global Rich List. According to this, my husband and I are the 45,439,321 richest person in the world. That might not seem like it's very near the top until you percentagize it: the TOP 0.75%

That's right. We fall into the top 3/4ths of the top 1% of the world's population.

The site further breaks it down thusly:

$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.

$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.

$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.

That's all well and good, you say, but what does that have to do with design?

It shows that for - as the informercials say - pennies a day, even those of us with the most frivolous jobs can make a difference by giving of our time and our money.

I have three favorite organizations:

1st - most closely to my heart: Habitat For Humanity. With the economy in its current state I haven't been able to give as much as I'd like, but I do give. The best part is that these guys don't just want you money. If you have usable salvage from demo sites, they'll take that too. What they don't use on their sites goes into retail shops where anyone can go and pick up anything from furniture to tile. At the risk of sounding trite: sometimes the biggest difference in a person's life can be made by the smallest a house key.

A Little video to show you more:

2nd: The Make It Right Foundation. Where our social services failed (and right at this moment I am even more outraged at the $7000b bailout. Bush can't re-build homes of those displaced by natural disasters - not just in NOLA but all over the country - and yet he's willing to shell out my money to corporations whose CEOs made more last quarter than most people will see in their lifetimes? OUTRAGE.) Re-starting that sentence: Where our social services failed, our Nobles stepped in. They built - and will build more - houses that managed to withstand this past hurricane season. They brought not just shelter, but hope and inspiration to the risk of repeating myself - even my charred and blackened heart is touched. (Not to mention, THIS poster is ah-maze-ing. I've purchased it to add to my Wall Of Shame.) I'm hopeful that when their current goal is met they will expand their efforts.

This is an older video, but it's Brad Pitt explaining what they're doing.

3rd, and not design related, but still SUCH a great organization: Heifer International. If the old saying is right: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for life - then this is the Teach Him To Fish Organization. Again, it's about the small things. A single cow provides milk, which makes cheese and yogurt - all three of which are saleable commodities in demand in the 3rd world. Also, it's fun to put the "flock of chickens" card in someone's stocking at Christmas. Imagine, if you will:

Recipient: "What's this envelope with the fancy bow...?" Untie-ing and opening..."'s a Flock. Of. Chickens...."
You: "Yeah, through Heifer International. You gave a family in the 3rd world a flock of chickens for Christmas! So now, instead of the entire family - even the children - working so hard to get food, they have eggs and chicken, which they can eat themselves and sell so that they can buy what they need. The kids don't have to work as hard and can afford uniforms so they can go to school and learn and lead productive lives to help pull their family out of poverty. All because of one flock of chickens."
Cue tears all around. (Probably best to have the box of tissues ready.)

Diane Lane talks about it here. (Best to have the tissues ready - she talks about Nights at Rodanthe first, but trust me. It's worth watching.)

Another video, totally kid-friendly and will likely make you chuckle: (and as he says - count your blessings and spread them around. Even those of us whose lives revolve around pillows and sofas can make a difference.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

How To Wrap A "Soap-Opera" Present

I like to wrap gifts in boxes so that you untie the ribbon, and pull off the box. No wasted paper, and the box can be re-used for another gift. A friend who received a gift in this manner told me that she and her sister call that "Soap-Opera wrapping."

I originally thought that I would have to wait until Christmas to give you a step-by-step but the opportunity arose, so I grabbed it.

Funny story: one of my husband's co-workers has spent the better part of this year and last in and out of the doctor with his wife. When this started, I was also spending the better part of my time in and out of the doctor, so they commiserated about waiting rooms, etc. Not wanting to pry, my husband never asked the nature of her illness, but he assumed it was chronic because her doctor trips continued after mine had tapered off. Then, mid-summer, Husband comes home and says "You know, I think it might be something degenerative, because Co-Worker bought his wife a tricked-out minivan so that she could get around easier." Fast forward to last week and husband comes home and says: "You remember how Co-Worker's wife was at the doctor a lot? She's having twin girls. In November." Right. Chronic and degenerative. Something like that.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled for them. I purchased appropriate gifts and wrapping (Paper-Source) and got to work:

Step one, cut a piece of paper large enough to wrap inside the box top/bottom.

Using craft glue (or double sided tape if your glue bin has been glued shut) fix the top/bottom to the paper - this will keep it from sliding around while you secure the sides. I ran tape around the perimeter to prevent odd lines or bubbling.

You want the edges of the paper to be as smooth as possible so I run the tape up against the edges and corners. Also - when you find that it's time to wrap inside the lip, I cut two diagonal slits so that there's as little folding as possible.

Because it's a gift, and we're not all Martha Stewart, I do have some folding on two sides - much the way a traditional wrapped package is folded.

Secure any loose ends with tape and proceed to the other part of the box. Repeat all steps.

Then you pack the box, and tie a ribbon. (Can you tell I was losing my natural light by now?)

Et Voila! A sweet, pretty gift that can be re-used. Also nice about this - when you go to a shower or any event with a large amount of gifts, yours will stand out for it's simple chic-ness. It's a skill I've honed and I always feel so proud for putting in the extra time to wrap my gifts when I set it on the table amongst all of the generic bags and tissue. In fact, I'd venture to say that if you can't spare the time to wrap a gift properly, it's well worth your money to pay someone to do it for you. Any story offers that option.

Because it's hard to tie a ribbon and take photos of the stages, one of these days I'll recruit my husband to take video. But that's another post for another day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Thursday I wandered out to Cedar Hill to visit the campus of my Alma Mater (does that apply to University?) where I'm sitting on the panel of faculty, students, and alumni who are helping the school apply for the pre-curser of the Baldridge Award. Full Disclosure: my mother runs the library.

After the meeting, my mother, a baseball player, and myself wrangled a circa 1950s solid-wood card catalogue into the back of my Magical Honda Fit. (That's right. There was even room to spare. Aforementioned Baseball Player was SHOCKED.) It sat in my trunk overnight. It must weigh close to 200 lbs. I'm not even exaggerating.

The next morning, with all but the drawers still taking up space in my trunk, I hop in my car and head up to the wine shop whose tasting area we're designing. As I'm driving past construction in Highland Park I notice the distinct smell of lacquer and note with dismay that it's detrimental to the otherwise nice fall-ish smell in the air. (You know that smell...molding leaves, ragweed, freshly cut 2x4s) Well past the construction and I'm still smelling lacquer. Completely wish the smell would go away because I'm starting to get a bit light headed. Then I pull to a stop light and there's a moment of silence on my ipod. A moment of silence except for the small hissing sound coming from my trunk. And then it hits me: spray paint. I have two cans of orange spray paint in my trunk - from Sunset Lounge. Two cans of potentially crushed spray paint. And I'm definitely getting high. I get to the wine shop, have the electrician lift up the hulking bit of furniture and pull out only one crushed - and spraying - can. The other can was saved and is now completely out of harms way. Luckily for all involved the paint is restricted to the back of the card catalogue and the rubber mat that protects my floor.

So I come home (still high), have some lunch, and get the super to help me haul it upstairs, where it slides under the window in between our tufted suede armchairs:

I - of course- have been flashing this photo around to anyone who'll look at it. I've heard everything from "that's So Harvard Library" to "Is that your new scotch and cigar corner?" It does make a nice little reading corner. I need to clean out the flostum that's collected behind the chairs.

The cats, of course, love having a new "hiding" place:

Actually, I was cleaning out one random bag and discovered baby spoons which belonged to myself and my sister. From what I can tell they were made in the 50s, which means they might have been my moms, first. But in my family it's hard to tell. (Mine is on the right.)

I've decided that when I start preparing for our children I'm going to splurge for a full set of these little spoons - in the interest of creating heirlooms. Also because I'm a firm believer that everything you use every day should be exquisite. All of the banal items used to make it through life should be instruments that make you smile.

Next up on my list...something MUST be done about my desk. But a hack? An entirely new desk? Here's the story: desk is from Container Store circa the 1990s and the most heavily used section (first by my husband in his college days and then by me) is wearing and vaguely splintering.

Idea #1 - and least expensive: sand and spray. But what color?
Idea #2 - take an idea from AT (exact entry) and decoupage "posters" to the cover. Inspirational ones such as this:

Idea #3 - new desk entirely. Either this one from West Elm or a custom one involving a trip to IKEA. Time will have to decide this one...

Monday, October 6, 2008


Finished the table! My brother in law gave me some instructions for fixing the leg but it sounds like they require a garage...and not the communal kind I have. And since the structure of the table isn't precarious without the repair, I'm going to put it on hold for now. The table rarely sees more action then a glass while I read so I think I'm safe.

So here is the after:

The color is a blend of the wall paint from our bedroom (BM Almost Black) and a rejected sample quart from a client's house (Parlor Tan by Manor Hall). I rather like it.

Pretty Little Things...

I've put the first coat of dove-grey on the table. And it's drying, so I thought I'd post up a couple of ads that I ran across that I love:

Maybe it's the time of year. Maybe it's the simplicity. Maybe it's just fabulous. I keep running across this Coach ad and every time I see it I think of how much I love it. If I didn't already own black mary-janes, that ad would be enough for me to go and at least try them on...

This one showed up in a Barney's catalogue in my mailbox. Again - perhaps it's the time of year. Or maybe I'm finding myself moved by Black and White recently? At any rate, if $1600 boots were in my budget, these would be in my closet.

Finally - I know it's not an ad, but I have a girl crush on Zooey Deshcanel and I love the font in which her name is printed. Any suggestions as to where to find it? (I'll likely contact Nylon directly if I can't find it on my own.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Little Conundrum

I'm tackling the things on my to-do list today. Namely, the table. I started by sanding:

I'm not interested in getting it perfectly clean. Mostly because I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. (Glossy paint?) I did want to get any rings, staining, and minor scarring off. So then I did a light sand on the legs:

And then I flipped it over so I could tighten said legs and perhaps put an end to the wobbliness. No such luck. What I found was that the bottom shelf of the table had split (the majority of the piece is solid, but the bottom is three layers of wood pressed together.) I have no idea how to fix this without completely re-making the shelf, which I'd rather not do.

What the broken leg looks like:

What it should look like:

Suggestions, please?