Summer Break!

Summer is here and it's time for a little vacation. I'm heading out to Canada for a three week chamber music residency with Diagenesis Duo at the Banff Center - woo!! To be honest, it crossed my mind to just pack my suitcase with crafting supplies and keep blogging, but I think that's the crazy cat lady in me talking.

I'll be back to happy blog land the first week in July. If you want to be sure and catch all of the posts when I get back, I highly recommend subscribing to insideways here. You can even have each post emailed to you personally!

There's another part of me (not the crazy cat lady part... well maybe) that's worried everyone will forget about insideways while I'm gone. But, I know it's important to take time and recharge. I also want to get all I can out of this summer residency. Here's crossing my fingers that you'll still be around when I come back.

I'll miss you!!


The Up-Sizing Challenge

Moving from a 1920s victorian house in MA to grad housing in CA definitely qualified as major downsizing. Choosing favorite items and slowly getting rid of more and more because it just didn't fit was really hard (and very rewarding). Tim and I are totally pumped about all of the space we have in our new place, but... in a totally unexpected twist, I'm a little design paralyzed by the opposite problem: upsizing!

It turns out that room design can be just plain hard no matter where you are, hah! In an attempt to work through some of the challenges, I'm going to share them with you.

Space Planning: In a small place, sometimes there's only one furniture layout that "works." If you're only dealing with 125 square feet or so, yes, the couch has to go along that wall. In a big living room the possibilities are almost endless! We've moved the couch at least 4 times since moving into the new place and I think we've finally found the right spot.

More Furniture: Once the layout was working, the laundry list of furniture that would make the room perfect became clear: an arm chair, bench, rug, piano(!!). I'm having trouble with this step for a lot of reasons. 1) I want all of the furniture right now because I'm impatient, but I don't want to rush and spend money on the wrong pieces. 2) I'm not mega rich or really even that far above the poverty line (ahh the student life), so buying a house sized amount of furniture is not an option. Basically it boils down to must. Be. More. Patient...

Paint Colors: I'm dying to paint. Dying! But, again with this whole patience thing, I know it will be better to get a rug and match the paint color to it than try to match a rug to the random paint color I choose. Also, would you believe that I'm actually considering painting the dining room white? The white walls in my old place must have rubbed off on me!

But just imagine, a cowhide rug (yes Tim, I'm still in love with that idea - sorryiloveyou!), some cute new chairs and my deer paintings on that wall. We might refinish the table top with wood or paint it white too. SO GOOD.

In a nutshell, I want it all and I want it right now. Ick, I suck. What happened to the good ole days of finishing my living room in two weekends!?

The one thing I take solace in is knowing that these are completely normal problems. A cozy space takes time! Just look at Brick House or Young House Love - they're always working on something new. Slowly but surely I'm learning to love the process and not worry as much about getting to the finish line.

Now, off to craigslist to search for some more rugs!!


The Blanket Basket

Sometimes a piece of furniture is so simple that you never think about how really awesome it is. Sure, people post about kitchens, chairs, sofas, and paint colors all the time... I think a particular home essential is being ignored. The blanket basket.

"Hm, yeah Jen, this really isn't interesting..." Wait! I've only had room for a blanket basked since I moved a few weeks ago and I totally forgot how amazing it is to have one. Nothing beats cuddling on the couch under a blanket with your sweetheart. The texture and softness of a beautiful throw can't be beat!

Having a cozy home for your blanket array is super happy making. Trust.

Your cat won't mind it either...

I know I know, a whole post for a basket, but I'm just such a fan! It's nothing fancy, just a wicker hamper with blankets, but give it a try. It's the little things you know?


Iced Coffee Ice Cubes

As a caffeine addict, one of my favorite things about the summer is iced coffees. I. Can. Not. Get enough of them. In fact, it's very likely I'm drinking one as you read this...

But, iced coffees have a major problem - before you get to the bottom of the cup, the ice melts and makes them all watery. Gross and depressing.

Would you believe there's a really simple solution to that problem? Use coffee ice cubes instead of water ones! It's simple...

1. Pour leftover coffee into an ice tray.

2. Freeze the coffee overnight to get all of the coffee cubes you need.

3. Add them to your homemade (great recipe here) or even store bought iced coffee.

You'll still get melting, but the coffee cubes will make your iced coffee stronger, not gross and diluted. Life changing people. Life changing. I learned this handy dandy trick from Felicitous in Tampa, FL. Why doesn't every coffee shop do it this way!? If you get a chance to visit them, do it. They're lovely people with a lovely shop :)

I have to be honest, I'm a total novice at making homemade iced coffee and am currently spending way to much buying them. Anyone have must-know tips for a newbie iced coffee brewer?


Pretty Small Things: dear deer wall art

I just couldn't help myself... dear? deer? hehe I'm sorry...

Because I am clearly a hoarder who just hasn't quite made it to the point of intervention, I'm here to share yet more weekend finds. These two deer paintings were thrift store finds that are still making me swoon. They're about 3 feet tall and were $26 for the pair. If you've seen any other pictures of my house, you know these are right in line with my color palette. I'm so excited that I have about 10 different places I'd like to hang them! Just have to choose one...

And what's this? The itty bitty edge of experimentation towards sharing outfit posts? Methinks so... I've been pondering adding that series to the good ole blog, so let me know if you're interested. I don't have a crazy experimental style, but I like mixing classic looks with homemade vibes. For example, this cute cute cute apron and belt that I got this weekend...

... love those little tulips. (Apron $3, belt $2.) No, I wouldn't wear the apron for anything but cooking, and yes, I bought another doily. (Those are clearly related thoughts...) Just FYI, my doily collection is getting overwhelming in that it's overwhelmingly awesome.

So help me out, what do those deer paintings scream to you? Living room? Bedroom? Kitchen? Craft room? Hunter - look out!? Couldn't help myself again... :)


Home Depot and Healthy Air Plants

A few weeks ago I was thrilled to buy a beautiful Air Plant from Home Depot and hang it in a picture frame - so lovely!!

The air plant came with a copper wire hanger that I thought was super clever. Well, it turns out that a copper wire hanger is not very smart at all! A super awesome reader shared some crucial information with me...

And yes, my air plant had died!
(Here's an article that says the same thing about copper.)

I've since updated that post, but I wanted to point this out separately for regular readers who might not travel back into my archives before wrapping their own air plant in copper poison. COPPER KILLS AIR PLANTS!

Home Depot is such a smart place - why would they sell a product that was made to fail?? Well the good news is that Home Depot has a fantastic return policy and really really great customer service!

When I told them about the copper, they exchanged my very dead air plant for a brand new one. This time I chose an air plant with an aluminum wire hanger. Into the picture frame it went. Much better.

But there were still a half a dozen air plants for sale at Home Depot that were wrapped in copper. Serious sad face...

Home Depot, if by some chance you happen to read this, please stop selling air plants wrapped in copper. Also, thank you for having such a great return policy. You guys are the best and are waaaay above selling faulty products.

PS. I took these photos in my new craft room. It gets such lovely light and I even managed to capture a few sun flares! Love! It's going to be a while before I get it all put together, but I sure can't wait to share :)


Pretty Small Things: estate sale

I've only been to two estate sales in my life - I'm usually more of a thrift store girl - and I have to say, you can find some pretty sweet stuff!

Last weekend, Tim and I happened upon a sign for an estate sale and popped on by. (You know you've found a good partner when they're up for random estate sale exploring on a Saturday morning!)

We explored a lot, but didn't buy much - probably the best combination :)

We bought a set of four of these copper containers for just $8. They're in great shape and I love the little wooden knobs.

After digging through piles of linens, I walked away with this adorable hand towel for $1. The colors are so happy they just kill me! Hmmm a weird combination in retrospect...

This blue crochet blanket was the first thing I saw when I walked in the house. $2! You know I snatched her up! Carrying it around for the rest of our estate sale exploration was not super fun.... ;)

Tim and I have mixed feelings about estate sales. One the one hand, they're so packed and full of stuff you can really dig into. On the other hand, it's a little sad to be confronted by all of the treasured possessions of someone who's not there anymore... What do you think? Any estate sale junkies out there?


Natural Brass Cleaner

You know I love me some brass! (Apparently, I "love me" a lot of things. As in, I think I use that phrase too much... oh well...)

ANYWHO. A couple of weekends ago while thrifting when I should have been packing, I found this dirty little (brass) bird.

Patina is the best, but this was just looking grungy. I knew I could probably buy some brass cleaner to do the job, but I seemed to remember there were some great natural cleaners for brass. A little internet research proved this to be the case.

Along with ketchup (catsup?), lemon juice is allegedly a great brass cleaner. Time to put it to the test!

Not to shabby eh? I only needed paper towels and lemon juice from the bottle to get this all spiffed up. For the more persistant spots, I let the lemon juice sit for a few minutes or scrubbed extra hard with the paper towel. After the bird dish looked good-n-shiny, I cleaned off the excess lemon juice with a little dish soap.

You can see that it's not a perfect method, but I like that the lemon juice didn't brass things up to a garish point. A little bit of tarnish keeps things interesting. I especially like that the discoloration in the etching on the bird stayed put.

Easy new way to clean brass - check!

Do you swear by any natural cleaning solutions? Please share! They're so awesome!


DIY Save the Date

Let the wedding DIY begin! While Tim and I know we can't do everything on our own (and don't want to), we're really excited to tackle a couple of wedding projects ourselves.

The first one is done!

(if you're viewing this in a reader and can't see the video, just pop over to the blog)

We decided to do a video Save the Date because 1) it saves paper and is overall enviro-happy 2) it was a fun new challenge and 3) it could be something we and our family/friends could watch and enjoy in the future. I'm not going to lie - it was hard, but so worth it!

If you're interested in making your own...
   The photos were taken by me with a tripod and camera remote
   The cartoons are paper cutouts I made, photographed, and edited using photoshop
   Tim put it all together using Flash (and boy that program has its quirks...)

For you facebook friends, yes this was the mess of the day special project I hinted at twice :)

We emailed the video to our friends and family this past weekend - BAM DONE. I only wish we could invite every single person who has been an awesome influence in our lives (including you sweet readers), but dang this wedding biddness is expensive.

Next on the DIY list is invitations. I'm thinking stamps... love me some stamps...


Advanced Craigslist Searching

With a huuuge new place to fill with fabulous furniture, you know I've been craigslisting my heart out over the last two weeks. In particular, I'm looking for a second sofa to be best friends with our current one - not so easy...

In the mean time I ran across a beautiful 7.5ft Fiddle Leaf Fig tree for $60 ($60!!) and had to snatch it up. Wanna know how you take a 7.5ft tree home with you?...

That's how.
The lady selling it got a total kick out of our shenanigans :)

As fun as it is to find great deals like that one, CL searching can be a total pain. Ever find something than search for it again with no avail? Yeah, their search engine is no Google...

So, today I want to share Advanced CL search commands that will make your search easier!

1. All normal CL searches are "AND" searches: If you type leather chair only posts with the word leather AND chair will show up. You'll miss out on any leather chairs for example. Darn that sneaky s.

2. Add "quotes" to find a specific phrase: if you search for "leather chair" you'll only find posts that use that exact phrase. If someone a seller says I'm selling a chair upholstered in leather it won't make it into your search. BUT this search is great for some items like paint brush. You don't want to see posts randomly using the words paint and brush, just paint brush posts.

3. Filter spammy terms with a -minus sign: Ever search for leather chair and have millions of car postings show up? Annoying. Just add -car to your search and all of those spammy or unrelated adds will be filtered out.

4. Use the pipe character | for "OR" searches: This is a LIFESAVER. I'm looking for a couch, but some people call it a sofa or sectional. Instead of doing a ton of different searches, I'll search sofa | couch | sectional and see all of the results together! (The pipe character is on the same key as the backslash \ on most computer keyboards.)

5. Group with (parentheses) to combine to your heart's content: Want to get down and dirty? If I'm looking for something pretty specific for my couch I might search... -leather (sofa | couch | sectional) oceanside "smoke free" BAM. Translation "I'm looking for a sofa, couch, or sectional in Oceanside that isn't leather from a smoke free home." Pretty great huh?

In other news, if you're wondering... here's the current state of my living room... We've got a ways to go :)


Moving Day

Well folks, moving day has come and gone [insert exhausted sigh here]. Actually, I am pretty tired, but the move went really smoothly overall. Having moved across the whole country only a few months ago, I think Tim and I are really getting the hang of this whole bidness.

A few key things in particular have made everything easier. Just in case you have a move coming up, I thought I might share them.

1. Protect Your Breakables - Well, duh right, but how? The #1 cause of something breaking during a move isn't a box being tossed, dropped, or manhandled (though those things can all happen) - it's general shifting inside poorly packed boxes. Pack your boxes tightly so that your heavy cast iron pot can't roll on top of your champagne glasses. Use brown paper or bubble wrap to keep everything safely in its spot and your trinkets are much more likely to survive.

2. Stock Up On Supplies - Nothing is worse than making a 8pm Home Depot run to get more boxes again. Buy more supplies than you'll think you'll need and just return the leftovers. Tim and I started out with 3 rolls of tape, three rolls of packing paper, 20 small boxes, 15 med, and 10 large. We used it all and even bought more boxes. Compare that to our last move where we made at least 10 trips to buy more boxes - ick. Trust me, having huge quantities up front is the better path.

3. Consider Professionals - You know I'm all about DIY, but sometimes you're just killing yourself when professionals could be a great solution. For this move, we hired 3 guys from Pyramid Movers and spent about $550 for them. Worth. Every. Penny. Sure, we could have rented a uhaul, called on dedicated friends, and crossed our fingers for undamaged backs in the end... but yeah, the movers were better. However, we did clean ourselves. After 5 hours of intensely scrubbing our old apartment I sure wished we had hired out for that too... Moving is stressful and we're all busy people - be honest with yourself and don't be afraid to hire out if you think it will be too much.

Of course, that's really just the tip of the moving iceberg. While I'm not an expert, feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments section - I'll do my best to help!


Pretty Small Things: thrifting while packing

As I type this I'm sitting in a car leeching UCSD campus wifi on a break from cleaning my apartment. Why? Because all my stuff is in Oceanside!! Move completed!!!! More on that soon, I promise. In the meantime... just one more post with pics taken in good ole La Jolla.

In the midst of packing, I couldn't help but indulge in a little thrifting. I know that's totally counter-productive and a little insane, but I am who I am. With the cute stuff I found, I'm also glad I am who I am ;)

When I saw this little landscape painting for $4.20 I was pretty stoked. Most of the paintings I've seen around lately have been $20 or more - no thanks! This one is small and has some damage on the frame, but will totally work for my purposes. I've been trying to find a painting like this one to DIY for months. I really can't wait to show you what I've had in mind.

Also in the grab bag was this little brass bird dish. Ever since Tim and I got engaged I've been looking for a ring dish to keep my engagement ring safe and sound while I do the dishes. I saw this little lady a few weeks ago for $12 and just didn't want to splurge. It seems like she waited for me! When I saw her for $6 this weekend I snatched her right up. I need to seriously clean the brass, but that's an easy fix.

Oh and then there's a certain ceramic duck head ($5). Tim thinks it's creepy, but I think it's grand. It mounts to the wall, so I'm thinking this will make for an adorable hook for hand towels. After the eyes are changed up of course... those are a little creepy...

Maybe the most exciting find (actually, no - I was super excited about all of these come to think of it...) was a mother-load of vintage handkerchief, doilies, and table runners. Using self restraint, I left with just a few of the little beauties for a total of $9. They'll be sure to find their way into my wedding and any number of other DIY projects!

So help a lady out - project ideas for my handkerchief bounty?


Down Time Doodles

All of my crafty supplies are packed for the big move, and I have to admit... I'm going a little stir crazy. I need my fix! So what's a girl to do? Well, I thought I might turn to my extremely nerdy grade-school pastime - doodling the alphabet.

With a coffee of course. And yes, I chose my "Messtakes" mug to coordinate with my activity. Don't judge.

But, it's true. When I was younger, I would always revert to handwriting doodles if I got bored in school. I'm not sure why the alphabet became my go-to doodle, I mean there are so many other neato things to draw, but I'm kind of glad I did because handwriting is pretty great.

In fact handwriting fonts are ALL OVER the web right now, and I'm getting pretty obsessed. Mostly I get my font fixes from A Beautiful Mess and Pugly Pixel, but lately I've been itching to add my own handwriting styles to the blog. I just miiiight have to invest in a Pen Tablet....

But why should you care about any of this? Because experimenting with handwriting can be super super fun! Here's how it usually goes for me...

1. Pick an adjective or a couple of them - maybe... low and wide or tall and thin...
2. Write the alphabet in upper or lower case - don't obsess yet, just try it out
3. Take a look - which letters do I like best? which drive me nuts? why?
4. Tweak to my hearts content!

For example, below I tried a handwriting that was tall and thin. I really liked what I ended up with except for the letter a. After a little tweaking I found an a that I totally love (the bottom one there)!

If you're curious (which I'm assuming you are if you made it this far into a post about handwriting - don't worry, we'll be crazy together) my every day handwriting is the middle style in the picture below.

Also, I'm endlessly jealous of people who have beautiful cursive.

Ok, insane post about the very mundane finished! Just tell me, are you a font-aholic too? I won't tell ;)