Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pinterest Project - Egged On

Well folks, I fell of the Michaels wagon pretty hard this weekend. I hadn't stepped foot in the craft store the last couple months, quite the feat considering it was my second home last spring and summer as I prepared for my wedding. With a 30% off entire regular price purchase coupon in hand, I hit the aisles up yesterday afternoon and walked away with a haul.

I stayed close to the Easter decorations to see if inspiration would hit - I barely ever decorate for this holiday, mainly because the few decorations I have are buried in one of my Christmas totes and I haven't made the time to give them their own accessible bin. And so, Easter Sunday typically passes without much fanfare in this house. However, when I saw this dome full of eggs on Pinterest a few weeks ago I thought there might be something worth exploring here....
I picked up 3 sets of papier mache eggs and fake moss from the floral section. At first I had regular easter grass in my basket but, just as I had passed over the colored plastic eggs in favor of papier mache, I thought the moss would create more of a grown up look.
I was about to head home and consider which of my hurricanes would look most normal turned upside down, but thought to stop at the Marshalls store above Michaels. I've been on the hunt for the Perfect Pillows for our entryway bench so thought Marshalls might have a hidden gem or two. They didn't deliver in the pillow department, but when I saw a glass dome for $9.99 I didn't want to pass it up. Long after its life as a centerpiece we can use it during parties over the cheese plate or other items to keep fresh.
Sitting the dome atop a plate would not give this guy much height, so I was doubly pleased when I discovered it was the perfect fit for a stand I already had. I created two stands out of small plates and candlesticks just ahead of the wedding and they have also come in handy during the holidays as mantle decor. I first made a homemade cake stand early in this blog's life to act as tub decor (also my first posted IKEA Hack). I actually repainted it navy blue to act as our cake stand at the wedding since it was a perfect 12" in diameter.
To get a feel for the look, I filled the dome with eggs and set it atop the stand. Before I laid some moss down the eggs didn't fill the dome quite well enough, but once the greenery was in place we were cookin' with gas.
I decided to repaint the stand to match our already existing table centerpieces (a Fiestaware pitcher and a silver bowl with a pop of orange). Because my orange paint was much lighter than the dark blue paint color and red of the original plate, I scrapped off what I could of the old paint with a wet paper towel and sandpaper. Many coats later, the orange mixed in with some of the blue and red still left. This actually helped darken the color up a bit so it wasn't quite so neon. 
In between applying orange coats onto the stand, I got to work on the eggs. I focused on pastel colors, mixing white paint in with the darker greens and purples to be nice and Eastery.
I had visions of ombre eggs, elaborate patterns and using a couple rolls of washi tape I had picked up at Michaels, but in the end keeping them solid had the simple and not too over the top effect I was looking for.
I did give one of the peach eggs a mini-accent with a butterfly stamp and purple ink pad. I messed up a couple times on the stamp before I figured out the right application level on a rounded surface! The key was to press down all four corners separately. 
Once everyone was dry, I laid the moss back down, filled the dome with eggs and carefully put it into place. 
So now we have a happy reminder of Easter and Spring on our table - the question is, how long after Easter is it kosher to keep as a centerpiece??
Creepy - I just noticed my reflection in the silver bowl as I took the photos....
Have a wonderful Easter Sunday - eat lots of ham, devil lots of eggs and - whatever you do - DON'T let your kids sit on one of these Easter Bunnies!
photo source:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Music to Keep Them Moving

Booking the entertainment for the wedding reception - this can be a drawn out, conflict-filled decision between brides and grooms. It seems as though the possibilities are endless, and all with their own pros and cons: A Cover Band can be great, but expensive. A DJ ensures the songs are played by the actual artists you love, but a DJ with a microphone can be a dangerous thing. And your Uncle Larry plugging in his iPod is cost-effective for sure, but does he really know what he's doing around that sound system???

Bob was all for the idea of filling an iPod playlist and hitting start, but I worried too much about the flow of the songs. What if I tripped and my dress ripped in half and amongst all of the concern, the next song to start up on the automated playlist was extremely inappropriate for the situation? Bonus points to whoever can come up with the most inappropriate song that could come up at that moment.
photo by GReyes Photography
After reading some amazing Yelp reviews of Chicago based DJ companies like Style Matters and Toast & Jam, I decided to go the same route I did to find a photographer - Just Craigslist It! This was our solution for paying in the hundreds and not the thousands. The fella I found via a Craigslist ad seemed right up our alley - not too expensive, not too full of himself, not too cheesy.

He seemed a little taken aback at how many traditional DJ interludes we shook our heads at. We wanted a DJ who played great music and that's about it - we weren't going to do a grand entrance, have him introduce our bridal party (this is something Bob and I did while giving our speech before dinner) or need any color commentary for a bouquet toss or garter throw (we didn't include either in our wedding, mostly because I have terrible hand-eye coordination and was embarrassed with how poor my bouquet toss was sure to be).

I provided a playlist via a shared GoogleDoc to our DJ after he gave us an approximate number of how many songs would fit in our reception timeframe. In the end, I think the only songs that got played that weren't on the list were a couple requests by our guests (nice to hear you again, "Seven" by Prince. It had been awhile!)

This list was culled from many a wedding reception and cover band experience over the years and I'm happy to report it kept people on the dance floor well into the night. Our endless flow of free booze at the bar might also have had something to do with this.

We started with a few specifics:
Cake Cutting - How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, James Taylor
First Dance - Rock With You, Michael Jackson 
Father/Daughter and Mother/Son Dance - Thinking About You, Norah Jones
Bridal Party Dance - Let My Love Open the Door Remix, Pete Townshend (From the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack)
I also indicated which ones to play early in the night - the oldies but goodies and a few requests made by my 3 year old Beyonce-lovin' niece, Ella. I wanted to make sure she was still awake for her songs!
  You Never Can Tell, Chuck Berry
  Louie Louie, The Kingsmen
  Cecilia, Simon and Garfunkel
  Boogie Shoes, KC & the Sunshine Band
  Build Me Up Buttercup, The Foundations
  Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond
  Oh, What a Night - The Four Seasons
  Your Love is Lifting Me Higher, Jackie Wilson
  Single Ladies, Beyonce (an Ella special request)
  Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5 (an Ella special request, which she calls "Moves for Jagger")
  Call Me Maybe, Carly Jepson (an Ella special request and definitely the Song of the Summer)
And of course the slow songs to intersperse throughout the evening:
  When You Say Nothing At All, Ronan Keating
  Maybe I'm Amazed, Paul McCartney
  To Make You Feel My Love, Adele
  Crazy Love, Van Morrison
  Fade Into You, Mazzy Star
Then it was time to get the party started, in no particular order:
  Say Hey, Michael Franti
  Ignition, R Kelly
  Gold Digger, Kanye West
  Hey Ya, Outkast
  Jump Around, House of Pain
  Yeah, Usher/Lil John/Ludacris
  Like a Prayer, Madonna
  Party in the USA, Miley Cyrus
  I Gotta Feelin', Black Eyed Peas
  Katy Perry Mix (Last Friday Night/California Gurls/Teenage Dream)
  Lady Gaga Mix (Just Dance, Born This Way, Bad Romance)
  Michael Jackson Mix (PYT, The Way You Make Me Feel)
  Good Feeling, Flo Rida
  Empire State of Mind, Jay Z/Alicia Keys
  I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Whitney Houston
  Take On Me, A-ha
  Lights, Ellie Goulding
  Prince Mix (1999/Little Red Corvette/Kiss)
  Crazy in Love, Jay Z/Beyonce
  Rock Your Body, Justin Timberlake
  90s Hip Hop Mix (Baby I Got Your Money/Bust a Move/Mo Money Mo Problems)
  You Sexy Thing, Hot Chocolate
  Mama Told Me Not to Come, Tom Jones and Stereophonics
  Humpty Dance, Digital Underground
  Cupid Shuffle, Cupid
  Party Rock Anthem, LMFAO
  Tik Tok, Ke$ha
  Right Round, Flo Rida
  Footloose, Kenny Loggins
  I Like It, Enrique Iglesias
  Summer of '69, Bryan Adams
  Forget You, Cee Lo
  Evacuate the Dance Floor, Cascada
  Gettin' Jiggy Wit It, Will Smith
  The Whistle Song, Flo Rida

Although there are some "specific to 2012" songs in here - I'm looking at you, three-time appearin' Flo Rida! - for the most part it is a playlist that could work in any year with a good mix of oldies, 80's, hip hop and pop. A few extra tidbits of info about the list:
- We made sure to add in a few personal favorites like the Tom Jones version of Mama Told Me Not To Come. When I asked Bob to make any additions he would like, he kept it simple with just one: The Humpty Dance. 
- Cupid Shuffle was our only concession to an organized dance a la Electric Slide or The Chicken Dance. And this is because it is the only one I know how to do.
- The "mix" idea for Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, etc was a way to have the DJ put a little bit of his own spin on the songs as opposed to just playing multiple by the same artist over the course of the evening.
- Party in the USA was a must-play. Seriously, it is a great song.
We also used our DJ for the ceremony. I have had 2 songs in mind for the last few years as the processional and recessional and knew we needed someone in charge of the timing. The bridesmaids and I walked in to John Legend's "Refuge (When It's Cold Outside)".
photo by GReyes Photography

When Bob was instructed to kiss the bride, we launched into the opening chords of "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire to lead everyone out. That is the song that gets me out on the dance floor at parties and events - it is almost guaranteed a play early in the night at every reception or event and I treat it as my cue to start cutting a rug. This song is also the reason I wanted a September wedding, but venue-wise we couldn't make it work!
photo by GReyes Photography
Fun fact - I first came to love the song September thanks to the end credits of the movie Get Over It as a cover by Sisqo and Vitamin C. Although I couldn't bring myself to want Sisqo in my wedding ceremony, the movie continues to be one of my guilty pleasures.
So there it is - a playlist fit to print for a 3-4 hour shindig. It won't disappoint!* What's on your must-dance-to-it-at-all-costs list? 

*Unless you like country music or heavy metal, then it will probably disappoint.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reading Rainbow

One of the tasks that took us the longest to finalize for our wedding (already 6 months ago!) was writing the ceremony. We utilized some major Google-searching skills to steal create ideas for our officiant to build on and find 2 readings to accompany the ceremony.

Getting married outside of a church meant we didn't have a built-in officiant, and searching online for someone ordained who would do the job for $500 or so just seemed a bit impersonal. We decided to ask a friend to marry us, both a way of personalizing the ceremony and having more good friends involved without forming a groomsmen/bridesmaid train on either side of us. We also had the distinction of a ceremony conducted off of an iPad - I'm sure a growing trend! Although, I don't think I would have ever gone as far as that couple who tweeted their vows.
photo by GReyes Photography
This link takes you to a script we cribbed the most from. I read this script so many times, I really feel as though I know Kristen and Frank...those crazy kids. Just kidding. We changed things up a bit according to our own thoughts - skipped over the involvement of family and friends and wrote our own vows. We kept them short and sweet, though I did threaten weeks earlier that I was going to rap mine. We each began with three sentences of "I love that you...." which was a nice way to tie them together.
photo by GReyes Photography
When it came to finding readings, the world wide web was not short on suggestions. It was interesting to see how many times the same ones popped up: Oh, the Places You'll Go, The Velveteen Rabbit, Shakespearean Sonnets.... Our "do not play" list was simple: non-religious, not too sappy, not too jokey (we don't need them rolling in the aisles) and we'd rather it not rhyme. I narrowed down a few choices and asked Bob to make some final choices.

Stumbling upon "Gift from the Sea" we found a text that talks of the complexity of working together to maintain and grow the relationship while looking to the future. It tied in well to the partnership aspect of our ceremony script. And, we all learned a new word: propinquity. Bob's college friend read this one for us.

From Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

So most couples in the growing years of marriage struggle to achieve a place in the world. It is a physical and material battle first of all, for a home, for children, for a place in their particular society... In these years one recognizes the truth of Saint-Exupery's line: “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction” For, in fact man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction; they are working outward. Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base. Here one makes oneself part of the community of men, of human society. And here the bonds of marriage are formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of love. Yes, many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow growing devotion and playing these through, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language, too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental. It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges. The web of marriage is made by propinquity, in the day to day living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction. It is woven in space and in time of the substance of life itself.

What I liked about the ceremony script is a focus on responsibility and respect. So when I found this reading, it seemed like it fit right in. It didn't hurt that it is from one of my favorite stories of all time, The Little Prince or that the author was also cited in our first reading. We asked my aunt to share this short passage:

From the Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery

And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye," he said.
"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."
"It is the time I have wasted for my rose--" said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose..."
"I am responsible for my rose," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

With respect to Mr. Saint-Exupery, we did make one edit to the text above - something about saying "time wasted" didn't seem quite right when talking about our relationship, so we changed it to "time spent on." 

I printed the readings in  large spaced out print and used photo corners to paste the pages to sized scrapbook paper.
The ceremony stayed within 20 minutes, truthfully I was never the biggest fan of readings but added them in to help boost the time! In the end, we were very pleased with the readings we had - they hit all the right notes and really meant something to us both.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Anatomy of a Library

Although we have made little touches to every room in the house since buying our condo a year and a half ago, we only have a couple areas that we can call finished. At least while the focus is on "decorating" and not "renovating." One is the second bedroom, which spent last year transforming into a craft room/office. Next up on our crossed-off list is the library!

When you live in a loft-style condo, the number of "areas" you create will likely outnumber the amount of actual rooms. Right now our main living space contains the kitchen, dining room, living room and library. A careful use of furniture and space is vital to not overstuff the room. 

A less than stellar wide shot of the living room. If there was ever an excuse to buy a better camera, it would be because of the lack of natural light in our home! Our northern facing windows, right up against the neighboring building, force us to turn on all of our lights by noon.
The photos of the loft when it was on the market showed a pretty standard way of breaking up the room. The TV was over the fireplace with a couch, coffee table and general living room items taking up most of that side of the condo. A dining table was up against the other wall. 
When we looked at the place, most of the furniture was already moved out, so it was easy to see a blank canvas and imagine how we might best organize. Here's how it looked for the first week after moving in. Notice that the floor is covered in books, but the mantle has been decorated for Halloween. Priorities, people.
We decided to avoid the "TV/fireplace combo" after 2 years of craning our necks to watch television at our rental, where it did hang above the mantle. We had grown tired of the trend and wanted to use the fireplace space to create a cozy reading nook and a home for entertaining. A shot of our old place:
So how did our condo go from this....
to this.....? Read below for an extra long post!

We owned two Billy Bookcases from IKEA already and quickly realized we required another for our growing collection of hardcovers and paperbacks. Shelf styling is not overdone, with many shelves taken up entirely with books. There are personal items peppered throughout: display boxes from various overseas trips like a wooden spice box found in a Turkish bazaar, dried flowers from when Bob proposed, a globe on a shelf with all travel books. The same row on each shelf holds picture frames of all sizes and colors. I always liked the idea of containing the photos in one area of the house rather than having frames on every table and wallspace. 
We picked up a dozen magazine filers from IKEA and added them to the bottom row of 2 shelves to hold our Dwells, Marthas and Elle Decors. Check out this post with how I made the nametags for each. 
Pinterest projects certainly found a home in this area of the house. Painted thumbtack balls (find out how I made them here) rest in the large London Hurricane from Crate & Barrel, next to our favorite set of C&B silver candlesticks. These were the first items we scanned when it came to putting our wedding registry together.
On the other side of the mantle, a simple white vase from Target holds dried eucalyptus from a bouquet Bob picked up early in our relationship. The purple color plays nicely against the artwork hanging above the mantle: the five foot tall canvas Bob created for us! (check out Prove It Parts 1, 2 and 3!)
A recent addition finds itself displayed against the window. In my day job I book motivational speakers and entertainers for conferences. Last November, we had Jewel at one of our events doing a "storytellers" like gig. She was amazing - funny, witty, self-depracating... not to mention an incredible voice. The agents I worked with surprised me with a signed guitar as a thank-you. Extremely unexpected and such a lovely gift - although I can't play a lick!
Looks like I will need to add "learn to play guitar" to the next cycle of annual goals
Our cats are strictly indoor, not even a balcony for them to lounge about on, so we brought a little bit of the outside to them with a purchase of cat grass seeds. They didn't take long at all to sprout, and the boys have slowly started nibbling. 
As I move in a circle, next up is the bar. I first wrote about how we turned a $35 dresser picked up at an antique store into a backdrop piece at our wedding here. 
We wanted to use it in our house as opposed to discarding it after the big day, so after some consideration as an entryway table it was declared the new bar. Something about the mirror'd back makes this a natural fit against this wall when the top is filled with bottles, an ice bucket and decanter. We still find ourselves with way too much liquor after the wedding so eventually one of the bottom shelves will be opened up!
Above the bar we hung a gallery of three. A print from the Lichtenstein exhibit at the Art Institute, an enlarged photo of a stairwell in Egypt that Bob took on our trip and a sketch of London inherited from a family member. Because a metal pipe runs along the wall, two of the pieces hang on much longer screws than usual. Bob is learning a lot about drilling into brick during our time here!
Next up, what library would be complete without a pair of armchairs? I wrote all about these in a post just before the holidays, when our Tux chairs from Crate & Barrel finally came in. The size of these are just perfect for the small space. We still talk about adding a footstool, but are waiting to find the perfect size and pattern to make it work here.
The chairs sit on the shag rug I made last year after staring at a Pinterest pin for months, getting the courage to tackle it. 28 white t-shirts, 4 boxes of RIT dye and 60 hours later - we're loving how it turned out. 
The cats like to slide into it after barreling down the hallway (this is their favorite game), so we finally picked up a rug mat last weekend to put under it and keep it in place. $5 later and the problem of finding a bunched up rug every morning was solved.
So you've got your book, you've mixed a cocktail and you've got your armchair to nestle into. All that is missing is a small table to hold your drink. We found ourselves at a going out of business sale at World Sofa last month. A contemporary furniture store with reasonable prices, we found more than a couple pieces we were interested in. For $60 we couldn't pass up a square end table with a black-brown tray top that matched the bookshelves and chrome C-shaped legs (is that a term?). I like that the table is lightweight, and open on the bottom to not take up too much precious library real estate!
There we have it, a cozy library to read, to entertain, to relax and to enjoy! I hope all of the other rooms in the condo are this fun to put together!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pepe the Pew

Not sure if Bob will go for my proposed moniker for the newest addition to our home, but I am sort of digging it.

One of my goals for the year is to finish up the entryway to our condo by adding three areas: 
1. A bench to give us a place to pull on our snowboots and sneakers
2. A row of hooks for a quick grab of workbags and jackets 
3. A table to offer a catch-all for keys, mail and items that don't need to find a way past our coat closet.

About a month ago, Bob came home from church with the idea to purchase one of the old pews the pastor was fixing up and selling. At first I scoffed - it won't look right, it will be too long....but the hallway space between our front door and the second bedroom is a long 105" which leaves an extra 10 inches and upon seeing a photo I deemed the bench "not overly churchy."  

And after a few Pinterest searches, my hopes were built up with photos like this one from
Unfortunately, we were low on the list by the time we put our name in the hat with the pastor. Who knew so many people were interested! So we were back to square one.

I did a Craigslist search a couple times a week, but the ones pictured were either too pricey (we could have gotten the church's pew for around $150) or looked more like they were from the 80s than a vintage feel (hellooo fabric covered seats!).

A Saturday spent at Architectural Artifacts only piqued our interest in having one in our house. Room after room of antique decor, light fixtures, tiles, cars - yes, cars, and what seemed to be at least 50 church pews provided us with hours of strolling and daydreaming. However, the $495 price tag on the pews left something to be desired. I was ready to pull the trigger, Bob shook his head at me.

And I'm glad he did because the next day on Craigslist we found the winner! $150 and not too far a drive? "We can pick it up within the hour!" After an uncomfortable ride home with our seats as far forward as the Ford Escape would go to allow us to shut the back door with the whole pew inside, we maneuvered it into the elevator and into the house.

The dimensions were perfect. At 74" it is a little shorter than the original pew Bob was looking at so it doesn't quite overtake the whole hallway as it might otherwise have. It comes out to about 22", leaving enough room for the front door to open and not make one feel attacked by furniture the second they are in the door.
We have plans to clean it up a bit and stain it a darker color to play off of the City of Chicago signs that hang in the hallway, but we'll be waiting until the weather gets a bit warmer to tackle that project! 

For now, I'll just search for the "perfect pillows" to decorate the bench. Maybe something like these brown damask pillows on

The cats enjoy their new source of entertainment: in the photo below, Fredo is on the offensive as Sonny hides underneath amongst the shoes.....what a menacing shadow Fredo makes!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Starbucks for Less Bucks

By the title, the assumption might be made that this post is about brewing coffee at home and avoiding the daily lines at the local cafe, but for this non-coffee drinker it is all about the Bistro Boxes they offer for a quick snack!

I have a bad habit of not eating much of anything in the morning - I never have much of an appetite getting ready at home before work, and when I do get to work I usually dive right in to emails and meetings and don't think about taking a few minutes to grab something for the stomach.

At the grocery store the other day (where we stocked up on ingredients to make risotto, gnocchi and lasagna over this next week, yum!), I picked out a few items to try my hand at making DIY snack boxes, inspired by the Starbucks packs I like to grab every once in awhile - usually when gift cards for the coffee giant find their way to me.

Here's a shot of Starbucks' Protein Bistro Box: hard boiled egg, peanut butter and honey spread and multi-grain bread, cheese, apples and grapes.
And here's what I built: hard boiled egg, grapes, swiss cheese cubes, wheat thins, a few pretzel sticks and a Babybel semi-soft cheese. I would have liked to add a few apple slices, but need to think about the best way not to let them brown. Something tells me a Pinterest search will be solving that conundrum!
I multiplied this snack box by 4 to stock the fridge for the week. I later realized I should wait until the morning to add the pretzels and wheat thins to the boxes as their taste was a bit affected by the cold refrigerator and mix of food in the tupperware with it, but that was a simple lesson learned. Buying a six pack of Apple Juice also ensured I was drinking something in the morning before my noon hour Pepsi habit kicked in. 
I added up total cost from the grocery store receipt, and final cost of each box - including juice - will average about $2.50. Not bad for a morning worth of snacks! Now the challenge will be to keep up with this initiative of always having something in my bag for breakfast after these 4 days are up...