Mid-century modern decor, DIY-style

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Another thing I made! We have a lot of blank walls in the house, and although I own a lot of artwork yet to be hung, not all of it feels right. I want decor for this house! Once again, I got an idea in my head, and so I thought about how to make a giant starburst. Initially, I thought I’d make three starbursts in different sizes for a wall next to the TV, but I hoped to figure out how to make the biggest starburst I could. When I cruised through my local Lowes looking for wooden dowels, I discovered a 7-inch round piece of wood.

The beauty of spending $8 on a round piece of wood is that someone else cut it for me, perfectly round. I could have spent nothing on some cardboard or whatever, but the imperfect circle would cost me peace of mind.

Once I found that round, I grabbed it and went (back) to the wooden dowels and started laying out the various sizes. I picked a size, counted out how many dowels I thought I’d need, and doubled that number. Just to be sure.

I cut the dowels in half. I drew a circle on the back of my 7-inch round as a guide, tracing a small plate, and marked even quadrants of the circle. Then I started gluing, trying my best to glue one dowel to each quadrant at a time.

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My goal was to place the dowels as evenly as possible, with mixed success.

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This thing turned out to be roughly 5 feet wide and tall. Carrying it outside to spray paint was comical because I didn’t open the doors for myself before I picked it up. I used two cans of silver spray paint over about 3 hours of painting. Those skinny dowels eat up a ton of spray paint. Traditional paint may have been the better option to waste less paint, but I’m not sure how I’d get total coverage. I already had the spray paint, so that’s why I used it.

Once the paint was dry, I cut a rough circle out of a bag to create a backing for the starburst. I screwed in two eye-loop things … the metal things you get in the picture-hanging kit. I strung the wire from said picture-hanging kit between the two loop things, and hung the beast on the biggest blank wall we had.

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After some discussion about placement and repeated measurements, I centered the starburst horizontally between the crown molding and the hight of the table. Weeks later, we installed (and by “we installed,” I mean I picked it out and Jeff did all the actual light hanging and electricity connecting) the new light fixture!

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My first foray into furniture

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Since buying our home last May, Jeff and I have tackled a wide variety of projects together and separately, none of which I have taken the time to document yet! But this cute little bench for the entry is something I always thought I’d be able to do, but have never attempted making actual furniture.

(The sputnik lamp shown in this image is another project we tackled. And by “we,” I mean I picked it out at Nebraska Furniture Mart, kind of tried to cut the wires to length, but Jeff actually did the hard work of getting it up there and working.)

Here’s a little bit about how I made the bench

First, I do not use affiliate links, so anything I link is just for the sake of sharing. Now that the tacky business is out of the way, some information about how I came up with my design.

I knew the rough dimensions the hallway would accommodate, and then wandered through Lowes to see what materials were available. I found a “craft board” made of pine in dimensions that would work, similar to this appearance board. Mine is 4 feet long by 16 inches wide.

Once I had the board as the foundation of my bench, I took to Amazon for everything else. I knew I wanted mid-century modern-looking legs, like this:

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I also ordered the hardware that attached the legs at an angle. Turns out, 11 degrees is the magic number to make the legs look like that, which I did not previously know! At my husband’s suggestion, I attached the legs to a spare piece of 2 by 4 to stain them.

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Amazon also had tons of foam options to cover the seat — I went with 5-inch memory foam that came vacuum packed in a relatively small roll considering it unfurled to about 6-feet long!

I got some fabric suggestions from fellow crafters, and I was pleased to discover that Spoonflower fabrics are available via Amazon. I got two yards of this cute pattern:

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We put the hardware for the legs on first because Jeff wanted to make sure they were extra secure. Then I wrapped the whole thing like a Christmas present and used my staple gun to assemble the bench.

Doggie tax:

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My conservative mom raised a liberal

Of all the things I thought I would write about contemporaneously, a fight about white supremacy was never on my radar. White supremacy is the stuff of college research papers, not presidential press conferences. This subject was also a frequent topic of conversation when I was growing up.

My mom was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She always told stories of seeing chain gangs — usually all black men — working around town. As an adult, she told her parents they were not welcome to visit us if they continued to use the n-word. When mom was a girl, her family was a poor, working class family, and my mom’s first store-bought doll was dark-skinned. She still has that doll, Paula May.

I have always believed that my parents were telling me to check myself for thoughts and attitudes about being better than anyone. I feel like they were raising me to know that some people are less blessed than us, some people have a different — sometime a lot tougher — road. In my mind, I should follow my mother’s example of how to treat people around me. Here’s one: I was having breakfast with my parents one day, and she spotted a guy leaving the restaurant who doesn’t get around much on his own because of some physical or mental deficiencies. I don’t know his story, just that she said, “Oh, Duder McGee is here!” and she hopped up to say hello, and as my eyes followed her I saw that he had help with him and that he was not a typical grown man. My shy, introverted mom jumped up during breakfast to run after someone to say, “Hey, good to see you!” because she was genuinely happy to see him.

While I’m not comparing apples to oranges when it comes to human beings, I’m trying to explain why I don’t get pissy that someone feels like they need to say “black lives matter!” Or why saying that only white, able-bodied men and their white, fertile wives wanting to “take back” America is just wrong. My mom had me reading the Bible since she knew I could read. (Believe me, I started reading very early. Very early. Earlier than any of you, believe me. Fake news is still trying to learn to read. Sad.) Of course my personal and religious beliefs have defined my view of the world. Likewise, I take the Declaration of Independence at face value when it lists the truths we hold to be self evident. I believe all these lessons are there to help me, and all of us, to be better.

It’s nice to be nice. It’s so much more pleasant than being a jackass. Since when did this simple, every day logic get lost on these hate-filled, un-American, un-Christian white supremacists and their emboldened supporters?! I’d much rather be the lone voice of liberalism in my family than associated in any way with a neo-Nazi or anyone on the alt-right. My mama raised me to be better than that.

I never stop writing

I have not published much here in recent years. I never stopped writing, I just wouldn’t publish. I was mainly concerned about protecting my husband’s privacy, even when we were merely dating.

One thing my husband has consistently says to me when I ask, “What do you think I should do?” is “write!” Today, I want to write about and actually publish a couple of thoughts that have really improved my outlook lately.

First, in light of the sad passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington this year, I just felt so sad. So much talent wasted. Why would these two artists who I respect and treasure so much feel their only option was suicide?! My friend Lauren expressed how their passing reminds us to find our joy — not happiness in money, fame, or “unbelievable talent” — but the joy that comes from a still, small voice inside. Whatever your joy is, I want you to have it.

Second, my amazing friend Heather called me to tell me that God’s timing is at work in my life. I believe she said, “God’s timing started in this [difficult situation], and He will also finish it.” Whatever you believe should give you hope. I believe that the journey I am on will move next to a hopeful outcome.

My first job out of college was editing a magazine. I remember the issue when we switched production companies from a small time, one-man operation to a slightly larger shop that did all the photo scanning and layout. We had two full-page photos mapped for black and white pages. (Yes, the publisher was too cheap to pay for full-color pages throughout the magazine! Likewise, I was making roughly minimum wage + a dollar, with a college degree.) At some point, someone recognized that the two black and white photos for a particular article were possibly switched during production of this issue. The error could have happened during photography, while the author was writing the article, when I labeled and submitted the content to the production company, or anytime at the production company. I’ve always believed that the mistake was on me — it’s kept me humble since then.

I’ve gone through triumphs and failures. I’ve had highs and lows that were totally circumstantial. A lot of my career has been in the software industry, which hasn’t been super stable outside of the Silicon Valley.

Maybe if I could go back to that first job, I would. I wrote, but I also did so many other things I was not trained or prepared to do. Maybe I’m hoping my next professional journey will be just as scary — I want to embrace new things in light of all my experience while learning from others who have magnificent experiences.

Homemade Christmas Ornaments II

The finished product! Acrylic paint on a well baked salt dough is a great medium for your artistic visions. After painting my dog Emmett’s footprint, I touched it up with a Sharpie. Likewise with BB8 — I drew his details in with a permanent marker.

Then I coated both ornaments with five layers of  Modge Podge.

Salt dough is a perfect medium for dog prints, baby feet, adorable hand-made things, and even lover thumb prints you see on Etsy. Go nuts, and share in the comments!

Homemade Christmas ornaments

I was determined to make a Christmas tree ornament of our dog Emmett’s paw print this year. I never did capture a paw print of my late Peanut, and that’s one thing I wish I had in some form.

Our ornaments growing up were all handmade salt dough — little works of art my mother crafted and hand painted that we hung with glee for many, many years. The dough mix is quick and simple, roughly as follows:

  • One part salt
  • Two parts flour
  • One part water (but start slow)

The dough rolls easily, is not sticky, and is easily transferred to a cookie sheet for baking. Emmie was so good with making her paw impression that I decided to use my leftover dough to try my hand at a raised ornament, too.

For the impression, I simply cut a circle in the flattened dough, bribed the dog with treats, and had her stand on the counter for a minute.

For the raised ornament, I simply used the spare circle of dough, rolled the rest by hand to make some spheres, and placed them on the background circle with drops of water.

After baking the ornaments in the convection oven, I used acrylic paint as a base layer and let them dry for 24 hours. When baking them, don’t worry about burning them or achieving an even color because you’ll paint them. Instead, bake them enough so there is no more moisture in the dough. Extreme over-baking will cause the dough to crumble, but as all things in life, moderation is key. Bake 10 minutes at a time until the ornament is hard.

Please stand by for photos of the finished ornaments!

 

Introspection on a hot summer night

dallas-starry-nightI just walked the dog and looking at the stars in the sky reminded me of my teenage years, when I would sit outside alone at night and write in my journal. As I remember it, I genuinely believed that I was a deep thinker. In hindsight, a 15-year-old who ponders big questions, writes hypotheses, and then does research is probably good grounds for a critical thinker, dreamer, and writer.

I wouldn’t change my undergraduate education if I could do it again — my degree in professional writing has served me well in my career — but I would probably steer my 20-something AND 30-something selves in grad school to pursue a business degree.  Instead, I got hung up on humanities as soon as the business requirements were out of the way, so I’m stuck believing in business ethics and research methodologies.

Honestly, at 43 I’m still the same dreamer I was at 13. The hot night and the summer stars brought back tons of memories of the introspection I used to do. These days I find myself thanking God for a lot of people and things that I know I don’t get around to thanking those people about.

The Great Clean-up of 2016 continues

Some efforts deserve to be documented! After a pretty successful massive purge of my clothes, I knew I’d continue the momentum. My home office became my target this week because my chiropractor suggested that a more ergonomic set up would help alleviate some chronic pain I’ve been having since 2006.

While I was addressing my desk situation with a trip to Ikea, my husband said that while I’m at it what I needed to do was get rid of the janky cabinet the printer is on.

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Here is the janky cabinet, complete with piles of junk on and around it because it was too unorganized and full to put anything else inside.

Here’s my BEFORE shot of the office:

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Here is the AFTER shot, which is much nicer because all the crap is now organized and in its place:

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Similar to my closet clean-up, I ended up with a huge pile of old papers to be recycled. I feel great! I’m not a tidy person, but because I work from home I’m afraid that I’m even less neat or organized! Having a nice office helps morale and reduces distractions. Thinking about how happy I am in this office makes me grateful that I’m not working at a crappy start-up in a tiny cubical. Home sweet home is office sweet office!

What will be next in my year of the purge? The kitchen and my bathroom are tentative options.

 

The butterfly effect of cleaning

My husband and I are looking forward to buying a house in the near-ish future. We talk about all the adulty things around such a purchase, like credit scores and budgets, as much as we discuss our dream house’s features. One thought took root in my mind and refused to wither away, which was: Are you really going to move again and haul all that crap in your closet with you?

So I googled “how to clean out your closet,” and came across a blog post on bemorewithless.com. Although I’m not quite ready to commit to owning only 33 items every three months, as is the gist of the site, I did take the advice of one post about how to go about purging my crap:

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I spent about six and a half hours going through all my clothes and shoes. I took the closet in three sections, and then tackled the dresser. The entire process yielded seven loads of laundry, several bags of trash, two over-filled bags of clean clothes and linens that I donated to a shelter, dozens of unmatched socks that got trashed or recycled, and one giant pile of hardly worn brand name items I’m going to sell on Swap.com.

Years ago, I got a deep desire to purge all the physical things I owned. I mentioned this to a friend, somewhat fearfully because saying it out loud (or rather via AIM) would commit me to letting go of things. She said that she had read a book weeks prior, which inspired her to purge closets, too. She said that the book warned that even when you don’t tell people what you’re doing, other people in your life will catch the cleaning-out bug, too.

I shared my purging process and the blog link on facebook, and since then two people have called me out for spreading the clean-out bug. And no, they were not grateful comments. One friend said to me, “I don’t know whether to love you or loathe you,” and the other simply said she blamed me for her purging project. (In my defense, both those ladies had a lot to purge.) Several other people have commented on our various posts about their plans to follow suit or the results of their clean-out.

This weekend my husband and I had a few friends and family members over to celebrate his birthday. He mentioned how my purging project really helped us clean the rest of the house to host people and lots of food. The things we needed out of the way were easily stashed in the closet for the day because there is now so much room in it! A deep clean really does have a butterfly effect!

December 11

My father’s father passed away today. He was my last grandparent. He was 98 years old.

Grief is so weird. My granddad is the fourth of my four grandparents to pass, so this isn’t a new experience, but I keep cycling between relief that his ailments are over, and a very deep sadness. I had such a strong affection for him. I remember telling him when I was pretty young that he was my favorite grandfather, and my mother’s mother was my favorite grandmother. (AWKWARD.)

More proof that I’ve never had and never will have a filter.

‘Tis the season for celebrating, and despite our loss my family has been blessed with so much. I’m incredibly grateful.

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