Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Uncommonly Good

I knew I had to fit a post in today to take advantage of our added day this Leap Year - to somewhat make up for my poor showing in February - a measly few postings to this ole blog. While the output may be lacking, the in progress at the house is anything but. Over the next month I promise to share with you the trials and tribulations of making my own shag rug, Bob's amazing painting in all her glory and an entertainment center fit to print. 

So what to cover for you this February 29? Unless frozen pizzas count, my cooking endeavors the past couple months have been slim to none. Our wedding planning has had some great developments, but I'm not quite ready to share the latest (and ruin the "save the date" surprise for our invitees!). 
How about a trip down "gotta have it" lane? Have you ever visited the site uncommongoods.com? Its a treasure trove for unique gifts, both kitschy and useful. It is usually one of the stops on the Christmas shopping go round, but I visited it again just recently after receiving a very fun gift from my sister (she who introduced me to the site). all images are from uncommongoods.com.

I will be visiting London in April (wahoo!) and have no sense of direction. What better gift than
a map that you can crumple up and is never in danger of ripping? This was the perfect item to bring the excitement level up a notch. Especially since Kara and I booked our hotel in the last couple weeks. 
So what else can you find on this site? 
This plate is sloped to catch syrups and sauces so you make every bite count.
An OCD cutting board is going to make sure each one of your dices is accurate.
A search for cufflinks provides ample options, might Bob be sporting these come our wedding day? 
If you take a few minutes to peruse the site, what do you find interesting? I think it has a good mix of budget friendly options with a few luxe items thrown in for good measure. What other gift sites are you using for housewarming and happy holiday shopping? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bob's Bday - Puzzle Perfect

By now you probably know the drill. Every February I try to outdo the previous year's celebration of Bob's birthday by creating a theme and decorating the house. Since we now live together, this has also involved kicking him out of the house for a few hours and instructing him when it is safe to come back!

For a trip down memory lane, check out the indoor camping trip, the Lost: Season 3 marathon weekend, an Around the World trip and last year's James Bond theme.
This year presented a bit of a challenge. I was going to be out of town on his Thursday birthday and would not be coming home until late Friday night. Also, we had our engagement photo shoot scheduled for Saturday. Hmm. . . I got to thinking and then saw a promotion come across my inbox I couldn't pass up. The new hotel PUBLIC Chicago recently opened and I had the pleasure of attending a recent work function there. Instantly in love with the design of the place, I was on the look out for when our next staycation could be scheduled! I quickly snatched up a room for Saturday night, and the Valentine's Day package which included breakfast for two, 2 drinks at the famous Pump Room bar and a bottle of Prosecco in the room. Gotta take advantage of the proximity of Bob's birthday to V-Day!
But how to present the hotel stay without losing out on my usual process of decorating the house? I kept it a secret until Thursday the 16th - his actual birthday. I decided to get up early that morning (he leaves for work way earlier than I wake up) and decorate then so he would come home to the surprise even while I was traveling for work.

I picked up a 24-piece puzzle from Michael's, which was the smallest number of pieces they had and printed out pictures from PUBLIC's website. You can see that my printer ink was pretty poor at the time, so it just goes to show that while I put effort into these things, it is not so much that I'm willing to go buy new printer ink! Along with a couple phrases to clarify the plan, I modpdged a collage onto the completed puzzle.
So let me start with how this was going to work in my head: I would use an Xacto knife to cut around the puzzle pieces resulting in a perfectly formed puzzle piece with a new image on the top.

Here's how it actually went down. The paper ripped apart too easily and left me with a mess. I don't know if the paper was too thin or if I didn't let the modpodge dry enough. Probably a combination.
Take Two: I outlined each puzzle piece on the collage and cut them out individually. Again, I'm no perfectionist so this wasn't the cleanest of cuts. Some of the pieces had a little trouble sticking together after I glued on the images, but you can still get the gist. And if I thought my printer ink was suspect with the first round of photos I printed, the quality only went down further. . . .
I jumbled up the pieces and seperated them into trios. Using ziploc bags and numbering them created 8 little clue sets.
The clues were placed throughout the house, aligned with "hotel" type activities/items. Chocolates on the pillow, travel sized toiletries on the bathroom sink, coffee machine with mugs and individual serving packets.
And the most ghetto Do Not Disturb sign you will ever see.
Bob said it took him a little while to get the puzzle together thanks to our cats - they will disrupt any project we happen to be working on by laying on it or stealing pieces of it. 
And to sum it up, our staycation was a great one: drinks at the Pump Room bar, dinner at Gibson's and a lazy Sunday morning breakfast. I definitely recommend making a staycation at least an annual activity. If nothing else, it is a great way to experience a different side of the city you call home!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

ScrapFest 2012

This was a day so big, I just had to take off of work for it. . .for awhile now my sister, aunt and I have talked about getting all of our crafty stuff together in one place and having a day of creativity. With my sister still on maternity leave for a little longer and my aunt visiting from Madison, we took advantage of this past Monday to do just that. By 8:30 we were all set up, the living room pretty much filled up - even the extra card table made its way up from the basement to make more surface area for all of our stuff. Suddenly, it was quarter to 4. Where does the time go? And why can't we do this every day??
While my sister focused on completing her baby books for Ella (so that she can start up on the baby books for little Amelia!) and my aunt helped out on some creative scrapbook pages, I focused on a new set of cards for my declining stockpile. Bring on a collection of birthday cards, wedding congratulations and "just because" cards.

But first, check out some of my aunt's handiwork. Using the phrase "you've got the little cutest baby face" as inspiration, my niece Ella was put center stage. Adorable!
Not to be outdone, Amelia's newborn photo shoot got her own page as well. My Aunt Christine created a little pocket on the page and decorated a tag with Amelia's little feet on one side and some cute giraffe stamps on the other.
And on to the cards. . .This just because one could also be a good St. Patrick's Day card perhaps?
This birthday card, using the phrase stamp "happy bird-day to you" and some cute little chickies, features balloons made out of circle punches and string. Just minimalist enough.
Can you tell I like tags? And scalloped edge paper?
I used a tried and true version of the wedding cards I typically make, but then used some yellow rick rack and a Love stamp to change it up a bit. Who doesn't love yellow and gray together?
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not focus on some Valentine's Day cards! My aunt has a lot of cool heart stamps so I took full advantage. With the red one I just went nuts with the stamp pad and with the music themed one I used the scalloped edge paper (again) to frame a piece of music sheet. Both feature the phrase "all you need is love." The hearts are cut out from a vintage sheet of heart art.
And finally, a play on words to leave you with.
Have you been making any creative cards lately? Or seen any ultra-cool ones in the stores? Do share.

Until the next ScrapFest. . .

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sounds Like a Deal

When Bob and I moved into our new place we conducted a search of all the random stuff that was left in the condo by the previous owner. One find was a set of surround sound speakers stored high above our heads.
After months of letting them sit in the guest bedroom (also know as, the room where all of our stuff with no place to go lives), we dusted them off and picked up some speaker wire from Ace. The speaker wire wasn't any particular brand or quality - we found 50 feet of economy speaker cable for about $8.
It was quite the sight to come home from work one day and see our media center dismantled and speaker wire all over the room. A pleasant sight though - I love when Bob gets as crazy with productivity as I usually do (see: 10 nights and 2 weekends spent working on my shag rug and only finding myself 1/3 of the way done).
Before we even got working on the speakers, we had to remember how to hook the receiver back up. You may recall a long ago post on the drama we faced in purchasing the right receiver. After a few utterances of "no sound,. . .okay now there's sound but no picture. . .now why is the screen purple?" our receiver was back on.
To get the speakers to work, Bob cut the end off of the exposed wire on the speaker and then split the new wire to expose the copper and silver (positive and negative). He simply twisted it around the speaker's wire and secured with electrical tape.
Then, he took the other ends of wire and connected them to the proper receiver outputs and set the receiver to 5 Channel Stereo. We do need to play with the audio levels and percentages a bit as our back speakers sometimes get a bit loud.
For aesthetic purposes, the stand up speakers right behinds our heads as we sit on the couch leaves something to be desired with me, so there may be a switcheroo in our future. . .One goal was to have a low console table behind our couch with a lamp and more bookshelves, so we could always hide the speakers a bit more. But that is for another day!
We only have 4 speakers, so may look at getting the fifth to optimize the audio further, but for now our free surround sound is feeling just fine.

Look closely at these photos and you can see our back panels going up slowly but surely. All we need to put up are the shelves and the decoration and this project is ready to post!