Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DIY Baby Shower Invitations

Paper turns me on. I think it all started when I was about 10 years old and my parents sent my brother and me to Colonial Camp at the Peter Wentz Farmstead. The farmstead was built and established in the mid- to late- eighteenth century outside of Philadelphia. It served as headquarters to George Washington in the fall of 1777 and now the site (farmstead and 90 surrounding acres) has been restored and furnished to reflect its appearance at the time of the Revolutionary War. Every summer they have a camp where campers learn trades and activities of the Colonial Period. During camp my brother and I made 3 legged milking stools, dipped candle sticks, pressed flowers, weaved ticking tape, painted theorems (that are now framed and hanging in my kitchen!) AND made paper from cotton pulp among other activities.

In my childhood diary I still have pieces of the paper that I made at camp. It's highly texturized and blended with lavender from the Peter Wentz kitchen garden. I'm pretty sure I was hooked right away.

I spend stupid amounts of money on paper, unique letterpress cards (especially anything from Saturn Press in Swan's Island, Maine), and nice pens. My own stationary is navy blue with a white monogram and the envelopes are lined in kelly green. It makes me happy to think of people receiving my thank you blue envelopes must be eye catching amongst the bills and catalogs, right?

So when it came time to create baby shower invitations for my dear friend Ruth...I couldn't just go out and buy pre-made or printable invitations. Here's the catch...I'm temporarily unemployed...and not exactly flush with cash at the moment. So, I needed a DIY invitation on the cheap.

First, the theme: We don't know if Ruth is having a boy or a girl so I needed a color/theme that was gender neutral. Ruth's favorite color is green and before she was even pregnant, had a fascination with peapods. Perfect...that was easy!

Second, card stock: I went down to my favorite store in Northampton, essentials, and found bundles of 4" x 6" white card stock. The paper is texturized, which makes it feel more expensive than it was. I got 4 bundles of 10 cards for $12.00, because I needed to make 36 invitations. I figured I would need at least one test invitation and a few mess-ups in my printer.

Third, design: Recently, I watched "The September Issue," in which Vogue-chief Anna Wintour says, "Less is more." I agree! I wanted a simple, straight-forward design that wasn't too cutesy. Ruth has fabulous taste...and doesn't buy into consumerism one bit, so I figured she would appreciate a simple design as well. Here's what I came up with (personal info has been deleted/altered). All 36 invitations were printed on my cheapo HP printer that came free with my MacBook 4 years ago:

Fourth, envelopes: I like to make my own envelopes. I figure it's eco-friendly and unique. Several years ago Santa brought me these awesome envelope templates from Paper Source and ever since I've been making envelopes out of old maps, old Patagonia catalogs, used wrapping paper, old New Yorkers, and anything else flat that I can find. I wanted an envelope that would grab attention, reflect Ruth's eco-friendly interests, and be beautiful. I stopped in at an art supply store and found some gorgeous paper (you'll notice it from my header) that matched the green I used on her invitations. I also used the same peapod design for my address labels. Here's the end result (with personal info altered):

And that, my friends, is one of the ways I have kept busy during funemployment. I love projects.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Find: Anthology Magazine

I'm a fairly faithful reader of Anh Minh's blog and just yesterday, when I decided to dive back into this blogging life, I found her new project: Anthology Magazine. The tag is "Living with substance and style." Now why didn't I think of that? I clicked through the preview and fell in love. For possibly the first time in my life, I am ahead of the curve (or at least I think I am). This magazine is brand new and if you order soon, you'll get the first issue (Fall 2010). For just $38, you'll receive 4 issues per year and from the looks of their will be $38 well spent.

I used to say that I had one foot in a hiking boot and the other in a stiletto. These days (could it have been 2 years in Maine?) I appear to be drifting away from the stilettos, but I still crave style and art in my every day life. Mostly, I want to live with purpose and yet be effortlessly surrounded by beautiful things. It seems Anthology Magazine is bridging the gap. The idea of a quarterly magazine is also enticing - with the New Yorker, Martha Stewart, Real Simple, Lonny, House Beautiful, and a plethora of short stories and novels...I don't think I can fit another monthly magazine into my reading life. I just ordered my subscription and I'm eager for Fall 2010 to arrive in our mailbox...I expect great things!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blood, Sweat and Tears

This is long overdue. After living in our house for 1 year and 2 months and putting countless hours of work (and dollars) into the big, lovely Greek Revival, we decided to move. My husband received a job offer, nearly out of the blue, that we couldn't refuse. We both loved our home, our town, and the state of Maine, but I'm of the opinion that one must go where the opportunity presents itself (especially when young). We've been married for 4 years and have lived in 4 different houses, two of which we've owned. That's some math.

In a strange stroke of premonition, I actually folded up and saved all of our moving boxes and packing materials in our attic. So back in July and August, Jon and I set to the task of finishing our major renovation projects, packing most of our belongings, finding a new place to live in the Amherst area, and putting our house on the market.

The months of July and August were stressful and challenging, but September and October have been close to perfection. Our house is still on the look for future posts of updates on the windows and finished front hall. Between moving, finishing projects, and finishing my job at Colby...I had zero time or energy to post anything.

Through the blood, sweat and tears of renovating and then quickly leaving our beautiful home, we've learned some valuable lessons. I want to record these case I need reminders in the future:

1. In a home purchase, buy what you need now (or maybe what you need now with logical space for an addition if necessary). Don't over-obsess about planning for the future. Case in point: two people who each work 60+ hours/week do not need a 4 bedroom home. This was all part of planning for our sometime-in-the-future children, but we decided to move before we even thought about having children!

2. Small is better. So, I learned an expensive lesson by buying a big house. I learned that I like small cozy houses (with plenty of storage space for hiding the mess) furnishing budget is on a smaller scale.

3. For us, a twenty minute commute is max. A long commute on the way to work is okay, but at the end of a long day...I JUST WANT TO GET HOME.

There may be other lessons that I've learned, but those are the most glaring at the moment. And perhaps you're wondering what I'm going to do with this little, unread blog? Well...I've thought a lot about just giving it up, but I think I'll keep it going for a little while. I like that I can look back on our little crazy life and feel grateful for how far we've come. And as soon as our big, lovely Greek Revival sells...I'm sure we'll be anxious to buy another home that needs a little reviving. But in the meantime, I'll focus on fun projects and fun escapes. No promises for any regularity...but I'll do my best. Thanks for reading. Oh...and if you have a friend who wants to buy a beautiful house in Gardiner, Maine that has been loved and loved and loved, here's our listing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Good riddance blue floral.

The most efficient man in the world has managed to eliminate every square inch of wallpaper in our house in less than a year. Our one year anniversary of owning our home is on June 24th and yes...we have successfully achieved our goal of stripping all the wallpaper. The front hall was the most daunting of all the rooms: 2 floors of dark greenish-blue floral wallpaper in very hard-to-reach places. Good riddance!

 The first strip is gone. 
And of course, the paper was doing a great job of hiding the cracking, crumbling, disintegrating plaster walls. Rule #1 of renovating an old house: One project always leads to at least 5 new projects.
Looks better already.

First round of wall repair. Can't wait to scrub those stairs.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

5.25.1950 to 5.25.2010

My Mom had a big birthday last week and to celebrate she threw a luncheon for all of her friends. I flew home to Pennsylvania on a surprise visit to help with the preparations...and to take part in the festivities.

Happy Birthday Mom! It's going to be a great year. You certainly know how to throw a party!

I took a few photos of the pre-party set-ups:

Here's the bar table for mimosas, iced tea, and Pelligrino
And here's the sideboard with plates, linen napkins, and silverware
My Mom has a beautiful collection of vintage linens - these are from my grandmother, Mimi.
On the invitations, my Mom requested NO GIFTS. But...I thought this was such a kind gesture: one of her guests sent flowers the day before her party so they could be on display and enjoyed by many at the party.
Here's the dining room table before the food was put out. My Mom arranged the flowers...she is one talented lady.
Detail of the table cloth - again, this is a vintage heirloom from Mimi.
She ordered Petite Fours from our local bakery. Delicious and cute!
Here is a close-up shot of the party favors. My Mom made 31 of these chicken potholders for her guests. Aren't they adorable? Each one was a different combination of fabrics.
She displayed her party favors on the center hall staircase. Martha Stewart would be proud.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Serena & Lily

Usually I hate mailing lists. I'm actually one of those people who spends hours on the phone trying to get people to stop mailing me stuff: charity mailings, credit card offers, mortgage invitations, etc. But, somehow my name/address has been added to a jackpot mailing list from home design heaven. After a long day at work writing annual reports and planning fall programming, I arrived home to a beautiful catalog from Serena & Lily.

This company is fantastic. I want to be Serena or Lily. Preferably Lily, because I like that name better. But I digress.

They sell some furniture, fabric, rugs, paint, and baby stuff. Their designs are colorful, chic, and just a bit eclectic. Their rugs are on the high end of affordable for my budget...but still in that range. Yay! And their baby stuff. Oh goodness. It actually makes me want to get pregnant or adopt just to buy things! Ha! (Mom...don't faint...I'm just joking.)

Here's a look from their design studio.  This is the perfect tool for someone like me!

And if we ever have a child...the nursery of my dreams would be outfitted in the Dylan collection. Boy or girl...the elephants are just so cute.

And check out their Bazaar - fun, one of a kind objects pictured in their catalog for purchase. 

So...thank you to the genius data entry specialist who added me to this mailing list. And Serena & Lily, you will have a new customer as soon as I receive another paycheck.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Auction fun

Antiques are an obsession. And it's really too bad that my wallet can't support this obsession. So...I go to auctions in my current home state, Maine, where prices (on antiques and other things) tend to be a bit lower than say, Massachusetts, Connecticut or Pennsylvania. Last fall I went to an auction near Farmington, Maine for the sole purpose of a Maine painted bed that I saw pictured in an auction flyer.

I dragged my dear friend Kate along with me. The two of us sat teeth-chattering under a tent in the cold fall rain surrounded by a lovely assortment of Mainers. I hinted to the auctioneer that I was there for one thing...and one thing alone: the painted bed. He agreed to auction it off relatively early. Wink, wink.

So before the auction started, I inspected the bed; it hadn't been amended to a normal modern bed size (twin, full, queen, king) and looked to me to be almost full size. It had holes in the rails for the roping (as do most New England antique beds). The rusty red paint looked original. The headboard had original 'decoration' with black paint on top of the red paint. It was in pretty great condition. I loved it and decided I could go up to $250. What's funny is that you probably can't even buy a bed at Wal-Mart for $250...

The auction started and a few things were lined up, selling for relatively low prices. My adrenaline started pumping when I saw my bed disassembled and carried to the front of the tent. After a few bad jokes, the auctioneer started it at...$25. No...I am not joking...twenty-five dollars.

So I bid. Then another person bid at $35. I brought it to $45. And...then...the other person stopped. The auctioneer called $55 multiple times...trying to entice the second bidder. The second bidder didn't bite. The auctioneer paused...eyeing the second bidder once more, then lifted his gavel..."SOLD. $45 dollars to bidder number 61." That was me!

Yep, I bought my Maine painted bed for $45.00 last October. And I just got around to roping it up.

Here it is assembled, but not roped. The white board below it is called a bunky-board. I had this made at Portland Mattress Makers. My original plan was to have the bunky-board sit level with the rails on-top of L-brackets and then sit a full-size mattress on-top of the rails and the bunky board. I found a problem: modern mattresses are too high and will hide the headboard. So...I'm going to have a custom mattress made. Then I will lower the bunky board below the rails (on longer L brackets) and then sit the custom mattress inside the rails. Cha-ching. So much for my $45.00 bed. Custom mattress will be expensive. the meantime, I decided to rope it up, place the bunky-board on top of the ropes (so that the mattress doesn't sag) and put my futton mattress on-top.

This is what it looks like from underneath. Roped, with the bunky-board resting ontop of the ropes.

Here it is assembled, roped, and fitted with our full-size futon mattress.
And here's the side view. This futon mattress is actually very comfortable with a featherbed on top. You can see some of the 'decoration' on the headboard.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Working for the Weekend

It's 10:53 a.m. as I start to write this blog and I'm counting the minutes before I'm able to leave my desk for the last time this week. When you squeeze all the things you want to do plus all the life maintenance activities into 2 days/week, it's easy to plan too much!

To do:

1. Strip at least 1 more window frame (likely to take 4 hours).
2. Vacuum a week's worth of Porter fur from kitchen, dining room, bedroom, and tv room (30 minutes).
3. Attend Colby Men's Lacrosse game vs. Bates tonight (3 hours + with travel time). Go Mules!
4. Attend Seize the Mic Karaoke Contest at the Waterville Opera House on Saturday night (4 hours + with travel time).
5. Attend excellent auction in Gardiner (most of Saturday!)
6. Walk on the Kennebec River Rail Trail with my friend, Beth.
7. Possibly drive somewhere in New England on Sunday for the Colby Men's Lacrosse NESCAC Tournament Game (lots of hours).
8. Walk Porter multiple times (3 hours).
9. Read the May issue of House Beautiful magazine (1 hour +)
10. Create a mood board (a la Young House Love) for my living room.
11. Clean up our study.
12. Cook a yummy spring Sunday dinner with fiddleheads and fresh seafood.
13. Squeeze in a margarita or two!
14. FurMINATE Porter (see the photo from last summer....excuse the moving mess.) I'm trying to teach him how to vacuum.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Back to curtains...

You are probably picking up on a trend here: I have lots of ideas...and lots of desires...and no implementation. I keep telling myself if I only I didn't have to work...maybe I'd have time for all the things I want to do. Ohh...such is the life of a modern working lady.

So, our bedroom has been complete (other than all the things I wish I could buy to put in it) since, well, late-October. And we haven't had curtains this whole time! It was okay during the winter when it was dark for most of the time here in Maine- I'd just turn out the lights in the room to hide from the neighbors, but now that day light savings time is in effect...and summer is nipping at my heels, I really need to do something about our curtains!

We just have too much to do around the house- it's almost debilitating. Do I go outside and pull weeds? Stay inside and strip paint? Stay inside and strip wall paper? Paint? Vacuum dog hair? Clean dishes? Shop online for new light fixtures? Scour catalogs for more things I can't afford? Or do I sew curtains?

I told you I needed to quit my job.

I got a bunch of samples from Calico Corners and narrowed my search down to one specific print, but I'm still deciding on color. I think I'm veering away from brown. I think I like the light, slate blue color better. It's softer and more relaxing - good for a bedroom. The fabric is 55% linen and 45% rayon so it has a lovely drape. I can just imagine my completed curtains billowing in the cool summer breeze. Hah. Oh yeah- and these are the only new windows in our house. We added these during our major bedroom renovation:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Window Reburbish

The windows in our home are original, and if I may say, quite remarkable; we have floor to ceiling, triple-hung windows on the first floor and large double-hung windows on the second floor. Most visitors compliment the windows...and I have to admit that the windows were a major selling point for me. Of course, I didn't really examine the windows on our 2 visits pre-purchase. Original, antique windows dating to the mid-1800s are a good thing if you care about preserving the historic aesthetic of a house from 1840, but a bad thing if you dislike drafts in the middle of January in Maine. Our antique windows are also to blame for my sudden Tourette's syndrome-like symptoms every time an oil bill arrives.

Jon and I discussed replacing our windows, but after some research, I discovered that the cost would be prohibitive (even with those well-publicized tax credits). I didn't want to replace the original windows with vinyl, fake-paned, windows, because 1: we couldn't afford it, 2: I felt like the aesthetic of the house would be compromised (see basically any other Greek Revival in our town and you will understand), and 3: vinyl has serious environmental implications. If we were to replace our windows, I would want true, separated pane windows made of wood. Well...those type of windows are seriously expensive and not in budget. So I continued my research and found a community of people in Maine seriously dedicated to antique windows...hooray!

On John Leeke's Historic HomeWorks webpage, I found a subsite called, Save Maine Windows. And on that page, I found comments from Mike LeChance from Maine Historic Windows. He was definitely speaking my language, so I called him up and had him come over for an estimate.

We decided to focus on our second floor windows, which were in worse shape than the downstairs windows. Actually...the downstairs floor-to-ceiling windows are all painted shut, which has preserved them pretty well. The upstairs windows are plagued with many serious problems: broken sash cords, chipping paint, some rot, broken panes, and general mal-treatment. Not to mention that each window had been painted upwards of 10 times...possibly more.

When considering replacing our windows with new wood, separated pane windows I figured out that each window (on the second floor) would be between $700 and $1000 (that figure might still be conservative). Mike showed me an example of his work...which was spectacular - the man is truly an artisan - and then told me that each window would be around $300. Sold.

Mike has 5 of the 10 second floor windows right now. Here are the pictures pre-refurbish:

 This is our bathroom window- notice that it doesn't close!
In this shot, you see the two running channels that the windows (should) slide up and down within. The running channels should never be painted. Ours however have been painted, and painted, and painted again. Even the pulley systems have been painted. There are supposed to be sash cords, or ropes that run on the pulleys, connected to weights behind the running channels that make it easy to open and close the windows.
 Here's a broken sash cord. Notice that it was also painted at some point...why!? Every single sash cord on the second floor is broken meaning that we have to jam pieces of wood between the window sill and the window to keep it open. This is slightly treachorous- I nearly lost a finger or two last summer when putting the windows up or down.

 The paint is chipping badly on most of our windows. I'm not sure if you can tell how many coats of paint are on this window...tons.
 Here's a broken pane. There are many more like this. You can also notice the terrible putty job that was last done (most likely be an amateur).
Again...bad putty job. Chipping paint.

To save a little money, I am stripping the paint from the running channels, pulleys, and parting strips myself. This task is not all. I am actually using a wallpaper steamer on the paint- which is more effective than nasty chemical stripper- not to mention more environmentally friendly, and safer to my personal health. Because I have no idea how old some of the original layers of paint might be, I'm treating the process with serious caution: I use a respirator and vacuum the paint 'skin' and flakes with a shop vac that is lined with a HEPA quality lining bag and filter. Ordinarily one might use a heat gun to strip the paint...but a heat gun in an old wood house is a serious fire hazard. The steam makes the paint bubble and lift from the wood so that I can skim it off (with some elbow grease), but without a fire hazard and without nasty chemical residue from a stripping agent. Thanks go out to Mike LeChance for teaching me this method! When the first 5 windows come back...I'll post pictures. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rug fetish?

It seems I'm obsessed. My last post was way back in February. It is now April and I'm STILL talking about rugs. Unfortunately, I haven't actually purchased anything. I've mentioned Porter...our 110 lb Bernese Mountain Dog. He can't be trusted with anything valuable under-paw, which has paralyzed me from buying anything at all for our floors.

So the other day I was looking through the Williams Sonoma catalog dreaming of new fritatta pans (yes...fritatta pans) and I saw a rug with blue and white stripes. Now, I love blue and white anything...but stripes!? Stripes are the best! I flipped the pages with ferocity to...

this amazing Nautical Stripe Outdoor Rug. "Outdoor" basically means that it's made of polypropylene and to clean, you simply wash it off with a hose (or take it to a car wash - genius advice from my friend Alice at Henbogle ). A mold resistant, washable, and durable rug may be perfect for most peoples' outside deck or patio, but I think it's perfect for the INSIDE of my house. Porter's claws and occasional barf won't ruin this rug- oh no he won't!

The front hall seems to be taking the brunt of the beating from Porter's daily travels. As is evidenced by the scratched floor boards, he must spend his entire day sauntering back and forth from his lair (our living room) to the front door where he probably terrorizes the mail lady, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, H.S. Football Boosters, and anyone else who dares to walk up to our house. So, I think I will buy this rug in the 3 x 9 size and put it in our front hall. We will strip the (AWFUL) wallpaper from the walls this summer and paint the hall yellow...and of course nothing goes better with yellow than blue and white!

I think I may actually purchase something. Williams are back in my good graces. Check out the excellent prices on this rug! Nautical Stripe Outdoor Rug from Williams Sonoma.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More on rugs.

Okay...I am a little (make that very) slow on the uptake. I'm sure a few people reading this will say..."Um, hello. Where have you been?" I don't know where I've been, but now I'm found. And found is two words, one designer:

Madeline Weinrib

While searching for carpets to take the place of my MISSING WSHome rug, I stumbled into Madeline Weinrib's website. And then spent the entire morning dreaming and trying to convince stores that sell her stuff to sell to me and ship. in Central Maine has its drawbacks. Also, I found an article about how Madeline Weinrib actually sued WSHome for copyright infringement. I agree Madeline!

So check it out:
(from Meredith Weinrib site)
(from Williams Sonoma Home)

Anyway, onto more positive things. I may have changed my mind about a rug for the dining room anyway. Look at this one:

The inspiration for the color change comes from my Mottahedeh Sacred Bird and Butterfly China: 

Plus, I'm still very definite about navy and white for the living room. Because the dining room and living room are connected via two beautiful pocket doors, I need to consider that the colors in each room work together. I adore navy and orange together.  Jon is not I still have work to do. Also...I can't find prices for the Madeline Weinrib rugs anywhere! In the process of trying to find prices/someone to sell me these rugs, I found this adorable store/interior design company in San Francisco: Lotus Bleu Some of their interior design does what I wish I could do -  blend modern patterns with traditional and antique furniture.

Why do I have to live so far from cute shops!?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I am mad at Williams Sonoma Home. Very very mad.

Okay...I haven't posted in a while. A VERY LONG WHILE. Mostly the renovations were on hold because of our overly busy lives. Sob, sob.

Well, because I wasn't getting busy with a hammer...I decided to get busy with my credit card. I started scouring the web (let's face it...I live in Central Maine and online shopping is pretty much all I have) for deals. And I found what I believe to be the deal of the century from Williams Sonoma Home.

The WS Home stuff is way higher quality than Pottery Barn or West Elm and thus...more expensive. I stumbled onto their sale section a little after Christmas...and there...I found the most beautiful HAND NEEDLE POINTED RUG in a herringbone design for $199.00. Originally it was nearly $3000.00.

It crossed my mind at the time that it was probably mistakenly priced at $199.00 and should have been $1,999.00...but I didn't wait. I got out my card and purchased it in 9 seconds flat.

So...then I wait. It says it will ship in 3 days. I start monitoring the lovely UPS tracking device. All it says is:
Location Date Local Time Description
MEMPHIS, TN, US 01/11/2010 2:53 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN
01/11/2010 11:05 A.M. ORIGIN SCAN

So I wait. I must take so long because it's so large. And then I got tired of waiting. I called yesterday. And Williams Sonoma Home gave me the biggest load of bullsh*t I've ever heard:

"Ma'am, our records show that the rug was delivered to your house, was denied and then sent back to our distribution facility in Tennessee, where we resold it."

I proceed to calmly say that it was never delivered to our house, there was no record of any UPS person coming to our house (you know UPS leaves those notices when they can't drop off something and then after three tries you have 2 weeks to pick it up at their facility), and that I want my rug.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am. We don't have anymore rugs. We sold out."

Then I get slightly agitated, "I don't understand. The rug was never at my house. I wanted the rug. My husband wanted the rug. It wasn't delivered."

"I'm sorry Ma'am. There's nothing I can do. You should call UPS. They certainly shouldn't be conducting business that way."

So...I hang up annoyed out of my mind and call UPS. I speak to the UPS agent and give them my tracking number and they tell me that the rug was never delivered to my house. The rug never left Tennessee.

Now...UPS has never failed me. They are amazing. Why would they lie to me? There's no reason...they get paid no matter what. But WS Home? Clearly...I purchased that rug for less than they were willing to sell it for and somebody figured it out.

Well...they messed with the wrong customer. I'm pissed. And the last time I posted something about a company...they FOUND it on my blog and commented. So WS Home, I have one thing to say:  I would like that beautiful herringbone needle pointed rug in my dining room. I am willing to pay more for it. Seriously. I just want it underfoot in my diningroom. I'll forget all about your dishonest customer service representative. Thanks.