Who Are You?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Have you ever had a church sermon that really hit home? Like the speaker was looking right at you. I had one such experience yesterday morning. The message addressed exactly what I have been struggling with lately--my identity. I know some of you are thinking "If I wanted a preacher, I would go to church--now show me some pretty pictures!!" I am not here to preach, nor am I qualified. (And patience, the pretty pics are coming!) This is just information that hit me over the head like a ton of bricks. It gave me such a sense of freedom and rejuvenation when I heard it, that I just had to share. Now, I am not trying to convert you over to my church. There are some truths that transcend the segregating borders of differing religions and beliefs. Some teachings can truly apply to everyone, and I believe that this is one such lesson.

The concept is about an individual's purpose and their worth in life. And how you can get sidetracked from your purpose if you let other people determine your worth. For example, say I stole Jenny's boyfriend when I was 15. From that moment on, Jenny (and anyone within earshot of her) sees me as a skanky person with no sense of moral integrity. Now, 13 years later I am an entirely different woman. But I know that they all know about this horrible incident from my past. So anytime I see Jenny or her friends, I skulk on by with my head hanging down. Instantly, I regress back to an awkard teenager trying to fit in. Everytime I interact with someone who knows of one of my regrets from the past, I am reminded of how weak and vulnerable I am. And although I would never do those things now, I know that I was once guilty of them. This makes me think that maybe I am not "qualified" to do the great things that I aspire to. Perhaps, I am just that skany teenager pretending to be someone else now. You can see how this could hinder the progress in your life. There is a famous saying, People call you what you will answer to. So, yes, people can and will talk; but they can only bring you down as far as you let them. Rather than allowing them to keep you stuck in the past, you must declare who you are now--in the present. And who you strive to be in the future. After all, who knows you better that you? Shouldn't you be the one who determines who you are and what you stand for?

So I learned two great things from this message to keep in mind when I interact with people:

  1. I should not let people around me (most of whom hardly know me) tell me who I am.
  2. We all make mistakes and are broken in some way. So cut folks some slack and look at their potential rather than their flaws.
  3. Oh, and I should stop doing stupid things that make me feel bad about myself.
You may be a lot smarter than I am and already know this stuff. If so, pass it along! Now as promised--pretty pictures. Happy Monday!

The Right Wedding Photographer Makes all the Difference

Friday, August 27, 2010

With the Summer coming to an end, most couples have had their weddings and are settling into their new found lives. But I must admit that the Fall Wedding has become increasingly popular. The leaves, the colors, the vintage feel of the season lends itself for a gorgeous ceremony with unbelievable weather. I had a fall wedding and all of those factors played a huge part in my color choices and location. Since I do love all things pretty, I have been stumbling around the web in search of weddings that make me want to marry my husband all over again. The one thing that has stood out to me is the quality of photography. And thinking about wedding photo's makes my heart sink a little.

See, I had a great photographer. He was a friend of mine who is a professional in Los Angeles. I trusted him completely and gave him a list of everything I wanted photos of. He did a very nice job and I was happy with the pictures. But as the last few years have come and gone, I have developed this insatiable thirst for amazing photographs. So anytime I come across wedding photos that scream creativity, vintage style and immense quality, I become a little sad that I didn't focus more on what exactly I wanted for my wedding photos. artistic sense that so many photographers have these days.

If you are planning your wedding, I urge you to consider the things that mean the most to you. Whatever is most important should be what you spend the most money on. Even if photos aren't big on your must-have list for life, your wedding photos will be ones that you cherish forever. Plus, your parents, children, grand-children and great grand-children will cherish them too. Take your time researching. Seek out a photographer with the artistic style you are trying to accomplish and go with them. Here are a few gorgeous selections from around the web to get you started:

Abigail Seymour Photography

Laurel McConnel Photography

Our Labor of Love Photography - Heidi

Jake Holt

Smitten Photography

Carla Ten Eyck

Anna Kuperberg - My cousin Jennie's Wedding!

Keep Nostalgia Alive

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The other day I was heading down to my local outdoor shopping center and as I was searching for street parking, I noticed this new little shop had opened up. It was a Soda Shop! "How neat!" I thought. "Once I park, I will have to go in and see what it's all about." Of course, I am a vintage girl at heart and just love anything like this. So, I walked up to the shop and noticed that it was also a candy store. Inside they had aisles and aisles of candy as well as old bottles of different flavored sodas in all sorts of brands. And the old poster tins that lined the walls helped create such an interesting atmosphere which the customers inside this busy little shop seemed to enjoy.

After stopping in this place, I began to think about why places like this are popular. It seems to me that so many of us are craving nostalgia and it's no wonder. Everyone loves to go back in time for a little while and reminisce about our childhoods. We think about a simpler time when we weren't stressed over our mortgage, our jobs or our health. No, we get to walk into a little shop that has a bottle of Dad's Rootbeer (which reminds me of trips to San Diego with my Dad) or Chick-o-Sticks, Candy Cigarette's, Salt-Water Taffy among many other childhood favorites.

Places like the old Soda Shop, Candy Store, Ice Cream Shop, Bakery and even Pharmacy's help us remember the good times. And I think it's important to support these local businesses so that they allow us an escape from our current situations in order to remember simpler times and relax a little. I recommend searching out these shops in your local area and head on over! Heck, you'll get a chance to act like a kid again!

Photo: Ruffledblog.com by Megan W Photography

Handmade Wednesday's: The Rag Bag

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Growing up in a rather crafty family with a mother who had the capability to make everything we ever needed, has given me a very imaginative mind. I absolutely love creating new things, especially when they are repurposed out of old. There is nothing better than realizing you just made something yourself that serves a purpose in your home and you saved another object from being thrown away, never to be seen again. I recently discovered the Handmade Home by Amanda Blake Soule and fell in love with some of her crafts. And these are not just random pull-the-kids-together crafts, these are fun things that you can create to make your life more natural, green and all around more inviting.

Today is all about the Bag Rag. It's handy to hold stained clothing, old towels and stray socks that have become your new cleaning rags. Most of us have begun solely using paper towels, but let's remember that by using cloth instead of paper we can help our environment and get the house much cleaner (cloth cleaning rags are much more absorbent, versatile and effective). And this bag will be a great place to house your rags as they wait to be put to use! So, if you're handy with a sewing machine, take this project on! Soule recommends using material that you have already, such as cotton tablecloths or any cotton, canvas or linen fabrics.

Here's what you'll need:
Fabric 1: (1) 12" x 28" for the bag
Fabric 2: (6) 4" x 10" scraps for the balls
Embroidery floss: (6) 30" long
Embroidery floss: (6) 6" long
Embroidery needle
Double-fold extra-wide bias tape for straps: (2) 18" long
Double-fold extra-wide bias tape for the drawstring: (1) 30" long
Buttonhole foot for sewing machine
Pinking shears

Here's how to do it:
  1. Gather all materials and cut all fabrics to the measurements given.
  2. Begin by making the fabric balls. Taking one piece at a time, wrap the raw edge under itself and begin to roll the fabric. Tuck the ends as you go along, forming the fabric into a rounded and tight ball shape.
  3. Then using the 30" length embroidery floss in a color of your choosing, wrap the fabric ball tightly to keep it's round shape. Wind until you have a 4" length of the embroidery floss left, and then tie a knot to the other end of the strand. Cut away the excess floss. Repeat this step for all six balls, and set them aside.
  4. Fold the bag fabric piece in half lengthwise, with right sides together, so that it measures 12" x 14". With the fold at the bottom, sew a seam down both 14" sides. Trim both seams close to the stitching without cutting into the stitches.
  5. Turn the bag right side out. Along the bottom fold, measure and mark six evenly spaced points with a pencil. The marks will be approximately 1 1/2" apart.
  6. Attach the fabric balls. Thread a needle with 6" of embroidery floss. Coming from the inside of the bag, pull the needle out just slightly to one side of one pencil mark along the bottom seam, leaving at least a 2" tail inside the bag. With the needle, pick up a few strands of the embroidery floss and a bit of fabric on one of the fabric balls. Place the needle just to the other side of the marked pencil spot of the bag, and pull the needle to the inside of the bag. Remove the needle from the floss. From the inside, pull both ends of the strand tightly to bring the ball to the edge of the fabric fold. Tie the ends securely with a double overhand knot. Cut the excess floss. Repeat this step for all six fabric balls.
  7. Hem the Bag top. At the top of the bag (still right-side out) fold the raw edge toward the inside 1/4". Press. Edgestitch.
  8. Make the buttonholes. Choose one side of the bag to be the front. Place the buttonholes by measuring approximately 5 1/2" in from each side and 3" down from the top; mark this spot lightly with a dot in pencil. Using this dot as the top point for the two vertical buttonholes, measure 1/2" lower than the dots and mark a straight line, 1/2" long, moving from the top measurement toward the bottom of the bag. This line is your buttonhole guide.
  9. Create two buttonholes using your machine's buttonhole foot and instructions. Cut each buttonhole open with sharp scissors or a razor.
  10. Make the drawstring casing by folding 2" of the top edge toward the inside of the bag. Press. Edgestitch. This will cover the back of your buttonholes, creating a casing. Complete the casing for the drawstring by stitching around the entire top of the bag, 1" down from the top folded edge. This line of stitching should be at the top of the buttonholes.
  11. Make the straps by stitching an 18" length of bias tape close to the edge to close the binding. (TIP: to prevent the bias binding from slipping into the plate of the sewing machine as you begin to sew, hold the thread from your bobbin and spoon taut as you begin stitching. Use these threads to guide and gently pull the binding until the seem gets started.) Trim each edge with pinking shears. Repeat this process for the second strap.
  12. Along the casing stitching on the inside of the bag, measure out 2 1/2' from both sides of each vertical seam. Pin both ends of one strap to the front of the bag; pin both ends of the other strap to the back of the bag. The ends of the strap should just touch the casing stitching. Stitch the straps in place with a zigzag stitch.
  13. Now let's finish her up! Make the drawstring by stitching the 30" length of bias tape close the edge to close the binding. Trim each end with pinking shears. Secure one end of the drawstring to a large safety pin and place it inside one of the buttonholes. Using the safety pin to guide the drawstring through the casing, work the drawstring around the bag and out through the second buttonhole. Work slowly and carefully when you get each side seam to get the the drawstring past the seam fabric. Adjust and center the drawstring, tying it in a decorative bow. Remove the safety pin.

HomeWork: Repurposing The Chalkboard

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

There is something in the air each year when August rolls around. There is an imminent feeling of autumn and students and parents alike are aflutter with a new school year just around the corner. I believe Tom Hanks said it best in You've Got Mail--"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." I share that sentiment. For some reason when my thoughts turn to fall, I just want to be in a classroom. Luckily, I have an excited little boy heading into first grade so I will see my fair share of a school campus. Nevertheless, I think that I will bring a little of it into our home as well. My muse? The chalkboard, an elementary component to any classroom, and a surpisingly versatile design element as well with the help of chalkboard paint. Chalkboard paint is liquid chalkbaord on demand. It is great because you can paint it almost any shape, size and design your little heart desires. And what's more, Martha Stewart has a recipe for homemade chalkboard paint. I am partial to the classic green shade, which is surprisingly hard to find, so I love Martha's route. It seems pretty simple and you can customize the paint to any color you want. Here are a few projects that I am toying with right now.
I love the idea of chalkboard in the kitchen. There is so much to jot down in the kitchen: grocery lists, recipes, schedules, menus, etc. I particularly like the idea of uesing a chalkboard surface for labeling. Never again will you have to tell someone which cabinet the bowls are in. Although, I think that I would choose a more neutral shade to blend into the other colors in my kitchen, (Thank you, Martha!).
I have been in search of a calendar that can fit our family's needs for quite some time. So I am excited to create one that is custom made for us. I am thinking of applying magnetic paint underneath and making some fun magnets for the kids to put on when we have a special day as well.
    Childrens' bedrooms are a natural choice for a chalkboard. But I especially like the idea in the picture above because it provides a fun place for the kids to play, yet with just a swipe of an eraser and you have an attractive, polished look.

A "Dish" of the Simple Life

Friday, August 20, 2010

Life is just plain hard, isn't it? We all try to make it better, easier and happier but it still ends up being hard. You can simplify life by incorporating technology and gadgets, but what if you can't afford those marvels or they won't fit in your home? You don't just give up, do you? No! You just make it work. Heck, what did people do 75 to 100 years ago when that piece of technology didn't exsist? They made due. For me, the item I am lacking is the Dishwasher. My husband and I have been living for the past 4 years in an apartment built in the 1930's. When it was built, people didn't have dishwashers in their homes and theowners have never remodeled the kitchen to fit into the 21st century. So, we've had to adjust to the lack of a dishwasher - among many other things - and I'm here to tell you that it is completely possible to live without one! Here are some warnings and rules for your dish washing hands to live by:
  • Be sure that if you live with someone, are married or have children you set up a schedule or a regular routine so that no one is surprised when it is their turn to do the dishes. This will reduce fighting over who has to wash at that particular moment. Maybe, the kids always do dinner dishes and switch off between cleaning and drying. If you've got a roommate, make sure each person does their own dishes or whoever did the cooking does not have to do the dishes after that meal. Whatever works for you!
  • I also recommend NEVER EVER letting your dishes pile up in the sink. I know it's hard because sometimes you just don't want to do them. But if you wash them after every meal or at least in the afternoon, prior to dinner, and then again after dinner you will save yourself a headache, a stinky kitchen and ruined dishes. Plus, as the dishes pile up the task becomes more and more daunting which in turn makes you not want to do them more. It can be a very vicious cycle.
  • If you will be leaving dishes in the sink for a little while, be sure to rinse them off first. The last thing you want is old, crusty food stuck to yournice dishes. It will be harder to clean if you don't do this and to top it off, by rinsing first you will decrease the likelihood that you kitchen will smell.
I have also tried out quite a few Dish Racks in the past 4 years, so here are some that I think work really well for different reasons:

The Bamboo Rack works well for people who do not go throug
h a lot of dishes and want a nice way to dry a few dishes, but also store the rack away with ease.

The In-Sink Dish Rack has been a fantastic option for my husband and I. We really don't go through too many dishes, but enough to where the Bamboo Rack doesn't work for us. We also have a small kitchen with hardly any counter space, so having a a rack that sits on the counter was not practical. Plus with a smaller rack, we have no choice but to work through our dishes faster.
The Counter Top Dish Rack is the best option for those of you with a family and a decent amount of counter space. But if you are going to go this route, I recommend purchasing a larger rack to make sure you have enough room for all the dishes. Try looking at KitchenAid or any 2-tiered racks. This one is awesome!

Friday's Fab Etsy Finds: Hair Wear

There are some times when I just need a little something extra. Whether I am feeling discouraged, anxious, upset or just having a bad hair day; there are those days that require a little distraction. Some people turn to shop therapy. Some people turn to rocky road. I turn to the little vanity drawer in my dresser. This is where I keep all of my pretty little hair pieces. There are barrettes, clips, bands, ties and more. And each one has an unique feel to it that makes me feel special. I know that it may sound silly, but it is like wearing lacy underwear. It makes me hold my head a little higher, it makes my step a little lighter and it helps me feel more confident about whatever it is that I am trying to conquer. The next time you need a pick-me-up, you should give it a try. Here are a few Etsy finds to get your collection started.

This Satin Lotus Flower Hair Clip is made with an antiqued brass alligator clip. The flower is a realistically layered lotus flower made of satin in a peachy coral hue. As you can see, it is beautiful. But what makes this such a amazing piece is that the flower can be folded in to be smaller or spread out to be bolder. A few of these would go perfectly with a simple summer dress or they could dress up a tee shirt and a pair of jeans nicely.

This Set of 3 Green Silk YoYo Bobby Pins have tiny hand stitched rosettes complete with pearl centers. They are just the thing to add a little interest and whimsy to a polished outfit. Perhaps, to help you stand out just enough at you next job interview or meeting.

This paisley Liberty of London Braid Scarve take a simple loose braid to a whole new level. It is dainty, chic and apparently the next hot trend in hair.

Why We Don't Keep Up With The Jones'

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A recent Girls' Night Out was just the eye opener I needed to bring my attention to a small, but very annoying personal habit. I have a few groups of friends, and none of them really mix well (I am a Jill of many trades...). With each set of friends, I am a slightly different version of myself. On this particular night, I was out with my mommy friends. We like to talk about kids, home life and vent frustrations no one else could understand. When I left the house, I was feeling fine. I was grateful to have a husband that got off of work early and a house full of happy kids. But after a few hours of nitpicking and comparing families, I was on my way home ready to set things straight.

It wasn't until after I got home and heard myself saying the exact same sentence from one of my girlfriends rants that I realized I had a problem. I was allowing other people to set my expectations for me. And I was piling their expectations on top of my own and hurling them all at my husband and kids. From that moment on, I vowed to put their feelings and my relationship with them ahead of other peoples' opinions and standards.

I am still taking baby steps. It is hard to hold back from throwing a to-do list at my husband, Alpha, when I see him watching TV on his day off. Or letting my first grader, Aiden, play outside when he could be practicing his reading words. Some days Alpha does work around the house and Aiden does stay inside to practice his reading. And I find that they are a lot more cooperative and willing to do so when I am not nagging and yelling. By relinquishing just a little control and giving them more of a say not only makes them happier, it makes me happier too. So what if that stupid kitchen light still needs to be replaced and Aiden isn't running circles around the other kids in his class. It is a small sacrifice to make for a stronger family bond.

A Place to Rest

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reading is a great way to relax and escape the world around you. But don't you find it hard to really enjoy it if you aren't extremely comfortable? I know I do. I usually have to go hide in my bed and cozy up with all the pillows around me just to be able to sit back and engulf myself in a good book. That can be a little extreme at times, but I believe that there is a solution to this quandary. That is the Reading Nook.

Now the Reading Nook can be more than just a place to read. So, don't get crazy on me if you're yelling at your screen, "Lady, I don't like reading!" I've never been one to spend a lot of time reading (enough to create a special area in my home especially for it) so I know where you are coming from. Instead, consider it your little "Getaway Nook". This area of your home can be a place - even outside - where you can read, write, pray, sleep or just watch nature unfold in your garden. And the best way to make it everything you need it to be is to follow these few, simple steps!

  1. Place the nook in a corner that has a good amount of windows so that you get as much natural light flowing in as possible. This will allow you to have light for reading, writing etc. without having to always turn on a lamp. We do want to be eco-friendly as well!
  2. Use comfortable furniture. This means soft, yet supportive. You want to be able to sit there for a long time without it wrenching you back or neck. Comfortable chairs also need to be made out of the right materials. Leather may work for you, or perhaps a soft and light weight cotton is better - it's really your preference that matters.
  3. Have an ottoman. Ottomans are great for putting your feet up or for acting as a coffee table of sorts. You can throw your magazines and a light blanket on top, or get a sturdy tray for securing your beverage. And when choosing an ottoman, I would recommend an octagonal shape so that it addresses every angle of the room and every piece of furniture in your nook.
  4. Make sure you have storage available to house your books and other "Nook" accessories. Most people would put up some shelves, which is a great option, but consider a small dresser (preferably antique!) because the drawers hide everything and it's completely unexpected in a living room.
  5. Then give it a personal touch. Add fun throw pillows, a lamp shade you decorated, or a quilt you made. But the best way to accomplish this is by utilizing your shelves, dresser-top or side-table for pretty items that speak to your heart. I love flowers, so I always try to have a unique vase or container to hold the gorgeous roses from out front. But you might want to show off a small piece of art, some shells your kids collected at the beach or a few pictures of the people who mean the most in your life. Ultimately, this is your resting place so have things there that help you relax.

Purple and Gold: A Dazzling Return

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lately I have had an unyielding desire to pair purple and gold together. Now I realize that this combo tends to conjure up images of Laker uniforms and MC Hammer, but that doesn't mean that it has to be relegated to the ranks of Halloween costumes and cliches. In fact, I think that this dynamic duo is poised to take over the fashion scene this fall. With the economy flopping and flailing all over the place, we could use a good comeback. And this shimmering plum pair could do just that. If purple and gold can recover from its cliche status, there is no limit to dreadful circumstances that we can bounce back from--hey, LiLo might even still have a shot. Here are a few ways that you can use purple and gold to improve our econonic outlook.

Donning this marbled Winter Kate cami under a fitted black suit at your next interview will have potential employers marveling at your bold, sophisticated decision making; thus lower the uneployment rate one fashionista at a time.

Copy this elegantly chic decor by pairing purple velvet with scrolling gold wallpaper. It just may be the unexpected designer touch you need to sell a house that has been sitting on the market too long.

This multi color A.B.S. mini dress will have your man dying to take you out for a night on the town. See, you just stimulated your local economy! P.S. for a more coordinated look, swap those black stillettos out for a pair of gold kitten heels to create a charming girl-next-door look.

My Favorite Pretty Things

Monday, August 16, 2010

Since my sister-in-law, Bonnie, and I are here to help you make your life a little prettier with helpful hints, tips, information and advice, I thought I'd start off by sharing some of my favorite "Pretty" things in this wonderful world. Now, you may think I'm crazy for saying that this world is wonderful, but the truth is that though human beings have created a rough, tough and war-ridden existence, this world is wonderful. There is no reason why we can't find the beauty that is out there. It only takes you - yes you - stepping back from your heck-"tech" life to see what makes it all so Pretty! Once, I decided to stop running after the things of the world that I didn't really want, I found that these are the things that make my life pretty.

1. Flowers. I know this seems cliche, but it's the truth. Whoever created the saying, "Stop and smell the roses" wasn't kidding. Over the past year I have had more time on my hands than I would have liked, but during that time I began this obsession for flowers. I noticed them everywhere I went and wanted to fill my entire home with them. I love most kinds of flowers, but my absolute favorite is the Climbing Rose. They are not the traditional rose. In fact, they only resemble a rose to me. They are a species all their own. The most gorgeous part about these flowers is the way the never-ending petals just seems to pour out of the center. This color is my favorite because of the way the petal colors fade as they begin to wilt. So pretty.

2.Vintage Paper. Look, I'm a scrapbooker and vintage girl at heart, so paper with vintage prints on it just makes me excited. Not only are the colors (the browns, faded greens, pale pinks and ivories) so pretty all on their own, but the patterns make me wish for another time. A simpler time, where it would have been expected of me to take my time getting ready for the day because I had to have the perfect hair, the perfect dress, stockings, heels, a coat, a hat and gloves. A time where, I could be simply a mother and house wife and no one would desire more for me. A time where I could feel satisfied with a simpler life. A life that gave me time to take pretty paper like this and place my family memories on it to enjoy when I'm old.

3. Tea Pots. Again, as I'm trying to slow down in life I'm drinking more tea to help me relax. The thing about tea is that just holding it in your hands makes you want to curl up under a blanket, read a book or watch a romantic film. Plus, sharing a cup of tea with a friend (or a sister-in-law!) is a sweet moment. You end up pouring your heart out without even meaning to. And so many tea pots and kettles are unbelievably pretty! Going to an English tea house with my Mother-in-law, I saw so many with floral prints that took my breath away. But when doing my own searching for one that would fit my home decor, I've found that even solid prints are pretty. Because it's not so much the colors or prints that make it lovely, as it is the rounded edges and elegant design of the pot itself.

4. An Autumn Forest. I was born, raised and lived my whole life in Southern California, so I've never really experienced a full-fledged Fall. In fact, I'd never really even seen what Fall looked like until I visited Napa Valley in the autumn months. Granted, I was still in Southern California, but the colors of the trees and vineyard leaves were so glorious. I'm also a huge fan of streets lined with trees that bend over to cover the road, and these trees did just that. So, I decided to pay more attention to photographs of the Fall. Just take a look at this image. Isn't it so pretty?

5. Lovely Photographs. Photo's are a passion of mine. Taking pictures, playing around with them on photo editing software and searching for interesting ones that speak to me are just a few ways I like to spend my time. A good photo (and a good photographer for that matter) in my mind, is a work of art. I recently discovered this little gem which encompasses so much of the things I love. Not only was it taken in the 1920's (vintage!), but it is just after these two were married (such a sweet moment) and the way the camera captured this woman's gorgeous dress and vail flowing extravagantly in the wind made my mouth drop. Do yourself a favor and find a pretty picture that makes you smile. One that gives you a little joy and a peace. And perhaps one like this that takes you outside of yourself and your life. Like a little escape. Photographs are unbelievable.

So, what are your favorite pretty things? Bonnie and I would love to know where you find your happiness!

(Tea Pot image: Laviesoleil.com)