Thursday, August 30, 2012

Baskets and Bookplates

So, even though I know my house (and in particular, my living room) is full of unfinished projects, I also know that any decorating I do will be eclipsed by the insane messiness that is my daily life.

I am just a mess.

The thing is, in general, the messes don’t bother me (except for their detracting from my pretty decorating).  I get blind to them. There are little piles of things all over, and I generally know what’s in each pile, so they don’t look messy to me. My problem is that if things don’t have a specific place, I’m scared to put them “away” in a random place. Because if things are hidden away in a random place, I will most certainly never be able to find them.

As I’ve stated, my current solution is just to leave things all over the place in piles. But a better solution, for my marriage, for my decorating, and for getting ready for company coming, is to get organized and find a place for things to live.

My friend Nicolette is on a mission to help me organize my house. (We bartered. In exchange, I remodeled her wedding dress.)

One of our first small steps was on the living room bookshelves.

I like a fun, busy look on bookshelves, but there is definitely a fine line between fun/busy and just plain cluttered.

First, we cleared off non-book and non-decorative items from the shelves. (Here’s what the bookshelves looked like when we first put them up…they are a great catch-all!)

Then, I found some baskets around the house that match the wood tones of our floors (a suggestion from my designer friend, Valerie). Besides matching the floors, the baskets can now be the catch-alls…thus cleaning up my junk and keeping the bookshelves looking neat. 

Here’s where we are now. It’s not done, but it’s looking much better.


But in the spirit of organizing, I wanted to label the baskets…so that there’s never an excuse to not put something away, and so that I can always be assured that I’ll be able to find things later.

So I got to work.

I wanted the labels to be changeable, so I dug out these bookplates that I got on clearance from the scrapbooking section of JoAnn’s a while ago.


You’re supposed to be able to glue them right onto whatever your project is and be done.

But my baskets were a little too textured.


So I decided to glue the bookplates to thin cardboard, then glue the cardboard-backed bookplate to the basket.

bookplates in process

I traced the bookplate out onto cardboard from a mailing envelope, cut out the cardboard, used Loctite super glue gel to glue the cardboard to the bookplate, then the whole thing to the basket. Slip a little piece of paper (a little paper label, if you will) inside the bookplate, and you’re done!

baskets with bookplates

Labeled baskets with organized contents…all neat and cute on the shelf.

baskets with bookplates

baskets with bookplates

This small change is really making a difference in my “picking up the house” process. I can’t wait to keep this organizing trend going!

Upcoming organizing projects with Nicolette include the kitchen, the huge pantry, the rest of the living room, the closets, and the guest room/junk room.  So, pretty much the whole house.

Of course I will keep you updated.

What about you? Any good organizing ideas and tips? Of course, I keep pinning good ideas on Pinterest, but I’d like to hear/see any others you’ve got!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Cold Stone Creamery Birthday

When I saw this lemon soda float picture from in my inbox earlier this summer, I thought that it’d be something fun to serve at a small birthday picnic. I figured I could buy a couple of tubs of ice cream ($10 total at Aldi) and some sparkling lemonade and other flavored sodas (maybe $15 at Aldi), set out some cute straws and tall cups and be done.

Looks delicious, doesn’t it?

But we don’t do things that simply in the our household.

I didn’t know how I could keep the ice cream cold while serving it in an adorable way (taking ice cream in and out of an overstuffed freezer just isn’t what I imagined Martha Stewart would do). 

Then my friend Pam mentioned to us that Cold Stone Creamery does catering, Brian looked into it, and that’s how we ended up with this in our back yard!

Cold Stone Creamery catering cart

Inside the refrigerated Cold Stone cart were 50 double scoops of ice cream.

Cold Stone Creamery catering cart

They provided us with 4 toppings, fudge, and caramel, and I found even more fun toppings to serve. Cookies, mini Reese’s, chocolate chips, M&Ms, cashews, sprinkles, star-shaped marshmallows….you name it, we were prepared to put it on ice cream.

Cold Stone Creamery catering cart sundae toppings

sundae and ice cream float buffet

I still wanted to have some ice cream floats (it was my original idea after all!), so I found Goose Island Root Beer, IBC Cream Soda, sparkling lemonade, and some grape and orange soda to serve with big fat straws and tall clear cups. :)

ice cream floats

Goose Island root beer and IBC cream soda

pink lemonade sorbet and sparkling lemonade float

And my friend Pam (who suggested the Cold Stone cart) made this awesome cake that looked like a melting ice cream cone.

melting ice cream birthday cake

My friend Jessica and I had fun decorating the setup with some paper garlands, paper lanterns, and paper fans. We made the blue polka-dot ones out of napkins! (As I was cleaning up the back yard, I purposely left up these vines for decorative purposes. I was inspired by Pinterest, of course!) ;)

ice cream sundae and ice cream float bar

birthday decor
(And at night, these paper lanterns lit up!)

Everyone had a ton of fun picking out their ice cream and toppings :)
Cold Stone Creamery catering cart and sundae bar

It was still just a small picnic, so there was lots and lots of ice cream to go around. (We also served food, I swear!) It was a super fun way to celebrate a birthday.

Happy Cold Stone Creamery Birthday!

Happy 30th Cold Stone Creamery birthday to me! :)

See these pictures bigger at Flickr…so you can zoom in on details and deliciousness! :)
(And feel free to comment comment comment on posts to help me feel awesome!!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Today, I turned 30 years old. Whew.

I’m hoping to celebrate with a lot of ice cream this weekend. If it turns out as cute as it is in my head, I will post pictures. :)

Today, my friend Jacqueline sent me  these cute flowers that look like a cupcake.

cupcake bouquet from Jacqueline

I did a lot of yard work. Then the mower broke. So after a nice dinner with Brandon, we attempted to fix the mower. Our efforts are so far unsuccessful.

working on the lawn mower

And, my little cilantro sprout is growing so big! It’s only been 2 days since I last posted a picture!

big ol' cilantro sprout

Happy birthday to me. :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mansueto Library

I’m turning 30 tomorrow.

But in the meantime, I went to my alma mater, the University of Chicago today to take a tour of their newest library. It was amazing.

Look at this gorgeous reading room.

Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago

The books are all stored in the basement in huge bins. There is room for 3.5 million volume.

the library

The basement storage facility is fully automated. The books are all barcoded. When one is requested, a crane is put into motion and retrieves the proper bin.

the library

Then the bin is sent upstairs to the gorgeous reading room for your bookly enjoyment!

books in bins

It was a great tour and a great day. I wonder if I would have studied more if I had such a gorgeous study spot when I was there. ;)

Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago

See these pictures bigger on Flickr.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Aerogarden Update #10, or, Starting Over

Since I killed my cilantro sprout, and since my basil wasn’t looking fantastic, I decided to overhaul the Aerogarden.

clean, fresh aerogarden

I carefully lifted out the top (now with just the basil plant living in it), lifted out the bowl, dumped the nutrient-(over)filled water, and thoroughly cleaned everything.

As I was cleaning the top (the basil was still in it, so it was getting jostled a lot), a little gray caterpillar fell out of the basil! I didn’t take a picture for you (boo!) because I was so shocked and relieved to find the culprit that had been eating my basil! So I killed the poor little guy and now I know what to look for when my basil looks sad and has bite marks in it.

Anyway, the whole thing got a nice clean makeover. I refilled the water and added new nutrients, I trimmed down the basil so I could lower the light a bit, and I totally replanted the cilantro (new seeds, new grow sponge) and another basil. I know that I haven’t been all over using basil like I used the cilantro, but I figure with 2 plants (and who knows how long my big one will last) I’d have more basil for recipes and will hopefully use it more.

all clean and re-planted

I did all that cleaning and refreshing on August 16. When I checked on it today, just 5 days later, I’ve already got little sprouts!

baby cilantro sprout

A cilantro seed sprouting.

baby basil sprout

Two tiny basil sprouts!

Don’t worry, as soon as I took these pictures, I replace their little plastic domes. I don’t want to mess anything up like I did last time!

What about you? Have you done any replanting lately?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Janis’s Bunting Installed :)

Yay! The alphabet bunting that I was hoping to give Janis for her March baby shower has finally been delivered and installed in her nursery.

yay! the bunting is installed in Janis's nursery

I love how everything looks together! I love her espresso and white d├ęcor and how the bunting ties in perfectly with her awesome yellow lamp!

I will be posting more about the trials and tribulations of this huge project (and what took me so long!), but for now, I am so happy to stare at this great picture of everything put together. :)  I am so happy to have contributed more to Lincoln’s nursery.

I’ve mentioned this huge bunting project here and here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Janis!

Happy birthday to my friend, Janis! I hope the day is gorgeous for you and you get to spend it with your amazing family. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Few Photos from the Fair

I dragged my mom and aunt out for a mid-morning trip to the fair yesterday and took a few photos.

the Midway, mid-morning

entering the fair

Starship, Area 51

I tweaked them a bit in Picasa, and posted them here. :)

Like these photos? See them bigger on Flickr.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sigh and Satisfaction

Janis! I have finally finished the bunting for your baby’s room!


It was not in time for your shower in March, it was not in time for your baby’s birth in May, but it will hopefully be at your house in time for your own birthday. :)

I just have to write a nice long note to go along with it, then I can ship it off to you! :)

(Once Janis has received her gift, I’ll post about the trials and process of making this huge, full-alphabet bunting!)

What a sigh of satisfaction to have a big project done and as cute as I hoped it would be!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lake County Fair Results!

Not to shabby for me this year, at the Lake County Fair!

Two firsts and a second!

I won a first place ribbon for Ashley’s wedding dress, a first place ribbon for my pink bridesmaid’s dress, and a third place for my blue bridesmaid’s dress.

I also entered the christening dresses I made for my twin nieces and won second place…

Second place in christening dresses

…which is pretty respectable, considering that the first place christening dress also won Best in Show. :)

Just for fun, here are the dresses in action:


At Ashley’s wedding, with her bridal party.

Jax wedding

At my friend, Jacqueline’s wedding. I made the wedding dress, too! :)
(Sorry this one’s not great quality…I’m working on getting the bride to send me higher quality pictures!) :)


At the twins’ christening.

So if you’re in Northwest Indiana, head over to the fair for some cotton candy and fun, and thanks for letting me share the results!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Things I Love Thursday: Cute Dry Erase Boards!

I was doing errands at Target the other day when I saw these cute dry erase boards in the $1 bins.

$1 dry erase boards at Target

I love that they look like paper! They’re supposed to be for kids to practice their handwriting, but I think they’ll be so cute for lists all over the house! For $1 each. You can’t beat that.

I love that these dry erase boards look like paper!

For grocery lists:

dry erase board for grocery list

For to-do lists:

dry erase board for to-do list

I really bought quite a few ;) and I will be putting them in various places all over the house. :)

And then, I was so inspired by cute dry erase boards to keep things organized, that I took the photo dividers that always come in photo storage boxes, laminated them, and put them in my pantry to label what’s supposed to be behind each door.

making dry erase labels

No excuses for not putting things away in their proper places :)

list in the pantry

An organized pantry makes for a happy lady.

list in the pantry

Kind of cute, right?

So, go to Target and get some cute paper-like dry erase boards!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Report: At Home by Bill Bryson

So my friend, Ashley, gave me this book as a bridesmaid’s gift.  I am a nerd and I love audiobooks, so it was ridiculously perfect.


(Here’s Ashley and me at her wedding.)

Ashley and me at her wedding! I made both of our dresses! :)

(I made both of our dresses!)

The book’s called At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson.

Here’s what’s funny about the English language. I thought the book was called At Home: A Short History of a Private Life.

That would have been a very different book. I read the back of the packaging, which started out, “Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped.” I sort of stopped reading there and began listening…so I was expecting a book about his life.

Then it was turning out to be a book about history.

And I re-read the title. And all of the back of the packaging. And said “Ohhhh” to myself.  A short history of private life.

Once I understood what the book was going to be about, it became one of the best books I’ve ever read/listened to. There was so much information in it that I listened to it twice. I told Brandon he should listen to it and he listened to it twice, too.

At Home by Bill Bryson

So here’s what really happens in the book: Author Bill Bryson takes a closer look at the rooms and objects in his English country house to tell the history of the past 150 years (and before) and how all that history shows itself in our homes. In short, At Home gives the who and the why to almost everything you experience in your daily life.

From why our homes look the way they do, in terms of building materials, paint colors, and lighting fixtures; to Alexander Graham Bell’s father-in-law defending his patents in court, thus securing the future of AT&T; to why many English homes have bricked up windows or no windows at all; to Thomas Edison’s plan for all-concrete houses; to how corn is not self-sowing, therefore could not and would not exist without man; to how different ancient cultures all invented the wheel at separate times independently, and each had completely different uses for it; to how most of the food we eat originated in the stone age; to why the Eiffel Tower was built; to how modern steel was invented by an amateur because no qualified individual would attempt the procedure for fear of it exploding; to how turning cotton into fabric was so difficult yet desirable that creating and inventing the processes to accomplish it became known as the Industrial Revolution.

It’s a book you wouldn’t expect to be cool, but it’s one of the coolest book you’ll ever read.  Bill Bryson’s writing and subtle sense of humor turn what could be boring history into amazing trivia, conversation starters, and interesting tidbits to impress your friends.

You’d never guess that salt and pepper were so interesting.

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