February 25, 2010

Kitchen Makeover: the paint

So I've been itching to paint the kitchen ever since we moved in. The color is fine, a brick red of sorts, but it's just not mine. My husband has successfully put me off for almost four years now. I've painted our living room, our dining room, our sunroom, our bedroom, the basement family room (that's a long story), the multi-purpose "art room, and Julia's room. Teal, orange and yellow, yellow, lavender, red and gray, three shades of purple, and green with a custom mural in case you're wondering.

Oh, and I did the hallway, a staircase, and the area near the back door in a tan color. It was cream before but I thought it needed to be warmer to go better with the wood floor. Choosing a neutral color paint is rather difficult. When I first was painting with it I was horrified because I thought it looked like concealer!

For a while I was thinking of keeping the red but making it brighter. I don't think I was ever entirely sold on that though. I always wait until I have a clear vision before I embark on my projects. Now I know what color I want. It's a teal but lighter and greener than the color of my living room. I've dumped the contents of my kitchen folder out onto my scanner for your viewing pleasure:

I especially like seeing the color shown in a kitchen! I too have white cabinets and trim with wood floors.

And of course, if you haven't seen the news:

Should I do something to my stairs?

The wallpaper idea is in this month's issue of This Old House Magazine (thanks Christy!).  I have a feeling I would never find a wallpaper pattern that I was satisfied with though. The painted sample is ripped out of a magazine long ago. I am not so much a fan of the stenciling but I am definitely not opposed to paint. The finish on our stairs doesn't really match our floors (it's darker) and they're kind of beat up so it might be fun to do something sassy! I must say, this is in the idea stage, not the planning stage.

February 24, 2010

Legacy Exhibit

I had the pleasure of designing the exhibit Creating a Legacy: The Women of Grand Rapids in December and January. As is too often the case,  it was a rush to the finish line! Fortunately, my efforts will be enjoyed for a full 8 months before we'll be switching it out. So you've got through the end of August to come visit it on Level 4 of the Main Library.

The exhibit highlights women in Grand Rapids' history, both far past and more recent, and the impact that they have had on the city. When the idea was originally presented by the local history department, there was going to be a portrait and a description for each women. I was concerned that was going to leave a lot of empty space on the board and was thinking about what else I could do with the design.

The original thought was to put the women in chronological order. The department then changed their mind and decided on alphabetical order so that the color and black and white images would be mixed up. When they decided on that, my mind thought about how to highlight their names or initials as a piece of art to accompany each woman. There are over 20 women in the exhibit and I wanted to have some variety beyond flat color. Then I got the idea to frame their initials in a texture. The easiest and quickest texture I could come up with was taking photographs of the different fabrics the Library is decorated in. We've got some rooms with fabric wall coverings and some reupholstered furniture.

Here's a sample of the result:

Since the initials had a nice border, I also put a solid border around the portraits. This helped to highlight the image, and give it more visual weight:

Lastly, the women in the department went above and beyond by gathering up additional images from the archives to help tell the story of these women.

Putting up the exhibit:

If you're curious about the mother and daughter pictured above, I've copied and pasted their information for you to read:

February 23, 2010

Birthday garland!

So the next project on my radar is some festive re-usable garland. I want to craft some up before Julia's birthday party. I have visions of yellow and pink and butterflies but I can be easily influenced by other temptations in the delicious fabric store so I am not making any promises.

I first saw some how-to instructions in Amanda Blake Soule's book (apparently I am her big fan!), Handmade Home. I've also since fallen in love with the website whipup.net, which very helpfully offers a round-up of different garland ideas all in one amazing list. I am attracted to number 17 because it's easy and because it's scallops instead of triangles, which I think looks pretty. Number 27 from The Purl Bee is crazy fun too! Lots of shapes and I adore how they zig-zagged it across the ceiling in this lovely photo.

Of course the original idea was triangles spelling "Happy Birthday" that can be draped across the fireplace. And I should probably do that one first. I have a feeling this is something I could seriously get carried away with! Doesn't every room need a garland?

February 20, 2010

The art of nature

I have this "discovery tray" on my coffee table in the living room. I took this photo after carefully arranging it. More often than not it is all jumbled up but that's ok by me. Julia is old enough that I don't have to worry as much about her putting things in her mouth. Instead we can talk about how the stones are smooth and how the coral used to be underwater with fish and how the seashells have stripes. Amanda Blake Soule talks about doing something similar in her book The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Connections. In her house, there is a special shelf that gets decorated with seasonal treasures.

I so wish to gift Julia with an appreciation of nature. To do so, I have had to make an effort to notice it. In the brief moments we have together outside, transitioning from our home to Granny's, we've noticed the pink and purple clouds, we've crunched our boots in the snow, we've listened for birds singing and then searched them out, we've watched squirrels, and, occasionally, we've found a treasure or two. She is beginning to notice things before I do – "Mama! Look! A leaf!" – and I am so pleased. Spring will bring even more outdoor adventures.

February 18, 2010

Taste of Soul Sunday

The Communications Department at the Grand Rapids Public Library, where I work, has been trying a new promotion for large events. I've been designing posters in addition to the usual brochure. We mail them out to local churches and businesses and go door-to-door posting them in appropriate places. For this particular event we even inserted them into our city's African American newspaper, The Grand Rapids Times.

Designing posters is really fun for me. For this particular design, I used elements that I created specifically for this event. All the patterns were derived from African designs that I found in books (and we have plenty of those at the Library). The colors are all from the Library's logo, as opposed to using a traditional African color palette. I do think the oranges serves well for getting attention. Taste of Soul Sunday is in its fifth year. This is the third year I've designed the materials for it so I think the "look" is somewhat established. I am always experimenting with different ways to use the patterns.

When I first had this piece drafted my one concern was that it was too busy. But that's honestly an accurate reflection of the spirit of the day! The Library will receive between 1,200 and 1,500 visitors in a four-hour period. The building is packed and buzzing with excitement. If you're here in Grand Rapids, you should definitely consider checking it out!

February 17, 2010

How sweet!

I came across this recipe for sugar cookies, and, even more exciting, glaze! I've never seen a recipe for a glaze before and was really excited about how it looked. I have to admit I had a hard time with the dough – the consistency wasn't right – but that's probably due to user error. Besides, I am sure any sugar cookie recipe would suffice.

They used little squeeze bottles for the glaze. We had one but of course I had to have more than one color! The only similar thing we could find at the grocery store were really designed for ketchup and mustard but they worked just fine. When I first mixed up the glaze it was pretty stiff, like regular frosting. I added more milk to make it more liquid. And I definitely added a bit too much. Ah, well. We'll do better next time!

Depending on the age of your little ones, this activity could actually become three separate kitchen adventures. We made the dough on Saturday (it needs to chill at least one hour), did the rolling and baking Monday night (cookies need to cool before decorating), and then the decorating on Tuesday. My daughter especially loves the sprinkles!

February 16, 2010

An affordable splurge

I discovered the website 20x200 a while ago. There was a blurb about it in one of my design magazines. The name of the site comes from the fact that the artists sell 200 prints at $20 each (along with larger prints at higher prices).

This past weekend I decided to treat myself to a piece of art. The painting I bought was one that caught my eye when I first discovered the site many months ago. Lucky for me there were a few left. I am in love with the colors. The beautiful sky, the lush green, and the striking black and white of the birch trees. It has a calm and hopeful feeling for me. The artist is Lisa Congdon. I glanced through her blog and saw her entry in regards to her birthday. She noted that she did not start painting until she was 33. See? It's never too late to pursue the thing that interests you!

February 15, 2010

Sharing the Love

Ok, so Valentine's Day was yesterday. That doesn't mean we can't still be enjoying festive heart decorations now does it? We need something cheerful to get us through this last painful month of winter! A few weekends ago I enjoyed some crafting with Christy (my "sew" talented mom-in-law). I had a vision for cute little plush hearts to hang from doorknobs and in windows.

I sent some down to my nieces and nephews. Some stayed at Christy's house. The rest my daughter found homes for all over the house. We plan to make more next year! It was a super fun afternoon and a great way to use up scrap fabric. 

I also wanted to make a garland to hang on my fireplace mantle and brought along some pre-measured green ribbon just in case we got that far. We debated on the colors of the hearts (all red? all pink? every other?) but the final scheme was suggested by my sister Michelle. I especially like the bright green with the red and the pink. Like flowers on a stem I think.

February 14, 2010

Valentine smiles!

I got crafty this year and hand-made valentines for Julia to send to grandparents, aunts & uncles, and great-grandparents, and other such important people. And of course I made an extra one for the scrapbook!

I am trying to be thrifty in my crafting so I used some fun bathtime photos that I had already printed with the intention of mailing. I still have some red number 10 envelopes left from our wedding invitations (I had to buy 500) so I based the size on that. The piece with the greeting is actually trimmed off the end of the full valentine. The cool transparent paper was a free sample from a paper vendor (hint: secure it with clear 2-sided tape so it doesn't show). And the cute little heart was made with a paper punch that migrated to my home when I moved out (sorry Mom!).

Speaking of Mom, she was my inspiration for this project. She did something similar with photos of the three of us girls during my childhood. One year, each of our faces were flowers. Another year, we were each a scoop on an ice cream cone. I can remember specific photo shoots just for these valentines. And, if my memory serves me correctly, we got to help assemble and use the very same heart paper punch!