August 31, 2010

future project: custom blocks

A box of cedar scraps already cut into interesting shapes.


An image from a recent catalog.


Leftover house paint.

= inspiration!

August 30, 2010

I spy...

...a creepy crawler! I think it is a Cicada, actually. Or at least that's what my 2-year-old daughter informed me. I thought I was supposed to be the smart one in our relationship!

Many viewers may disagree with my assessment of this rather large insect as any form of art but I must say the wings alone are amazing. So thin and light yet powerful enough to lift the entire creature. And what a great contrast between the black outlines and transparent panels. Kind of reminds me of stained glass.

August 27, 2010

pergola progress

It's the real deal people! The framework is up. Will my husband complete it before the school year begins? The race is on!

I am pleasantly surprised at how well the stained cedar matches the brick.

August 26, 2010

paint project: shutters

I actually used some of the paint I went crazy buying earlier this year! My lack of regular posting this week and last was because of my lack of progress so this blog has done what I intended it to do – motivate me!

My old vinyl shutters were a faded maroon. As part of my so-called "front yard facelift," I wanted to paint them. Internet research seemed to suggest it was possible. There is even paint especially formulated for vinyl. But you had to pick from like 12 colors. Like that's going to please me! Besides, the end goal is to repaint the doors to match and the only way to do that is to paint them with the same paint.

I ended up priming them with the fabulous all-purpose Kilz Primer. Hasn't steered me wrong yet. At the same time, I also primed my rain barrel. You might see it in the background of these photos. And at the very same time that I am switching between green and purple paint, my husband is staining pergola parts! Needless to say, the vehicles haven't been in the garage lately! He recently commented, "One day we're going to look back at this and ask 'why did we do so much at one time?'"

Step one: Prime

Step two: First coat panic – do I even like this color?

Step three: Second coat relief – ahhhh, much better

Step four: Hubby hangs them up and I admire how they coordinate with my new purple plants

August 23, 2010

new old art

A "new" piece of art for my living room! I took this treasure home from my parents' place after it was revealed during a recent cleaning binge.

My childhood summers were spent at my grandparent's cottage on Lake Michigan. They were the second set of owners. The original owner was an artist who built the place, crafted fantastic furniture out of wood, decorated with beautiful pieces of found driftwood and left his own paintings on the wall. He's no one famous so the value is not in the art but instead in the memories it evokes for me. The view he paints is the one we would see, standing on the bank, allowing our gaze to drift north. A quiet Lake Michigan beach with a wooded shoreline is now counted as my favorite place to be.

I intend to hang it up but haven't done so yet. The frame is pulling away from the painting a bit so I need to consider how to best repair it. The art is not behind glass but I think I prefer to leave it the way the artist himself did it.

August 20, 2010

empty shelves

We got some new furniture in the living room. The lovely leaning shelves and desk from Crate & Barrel that I've been eying for a while now. We've got wireless internet too, a graduation gift from my husband's parents. So hopefully we can keep the tangle of computer wires to a minimum. There definitely isn't space for the usual clutter of papers, pens, and manuals. Such a clean slate to leave the old computer desk in the basement!

What I am most excited about is the empty shelves. Just waiting for me to decorate. I am mentally gathering art books from the basement and treasures from the closet and buying bins or baskets from IKEA and so on.

So, welcome to my new blogging space. Now everyone can enjoy a mental picture of where I write from.

August 18, 2010

my claim to fame

Follow this link to see my library and my design publicly praised. I have to admit it is always nice to be recognized by outside sources. I have since found out that the "Best of Show" awards are judged by professional graphic designers, not people from the library world. That makes the award that much more real to me.

August 17, 2010

patio perfection

One of the two big projects is done! The patio is finished and we've already enjoyed two or three meals out there, including a family breakfast. Summer mornings are lovely and I am excited to have a new place to enjoy them from.

 It has rained a few times, rinsing the yellow caked on mud from the stones so now you can appreciate their true colors. Such a lovely variety of browns, tans, yellows, oranges, and even black.

a brilliant orange...


I spent lots of the past weekend with family and with church and not with crafts or projects. So I don't have as much to post about at the moment. So instead I share this lovely, slimy, slowly creeping slug. He joined us on the patio for breakfast. His size and color make him cute but I have seen others that disturb me. So if you don't like him, I won't blame you.

August 13, 2010

garden lessons

Life lessons I have learned from my garden:

Be realistic
Sun-loving plants don't grow in the shade. Know what works for you and stick with that. We all have some minimum requirements for being happy and healthy that we should respect above all else.

Be patient
Everything takes more time than you think. Especially growing.

Be experimental
Don't be afraid to divide, transplant, and find new friends. Mixing it up – within your own boundaries of "be realistic" – can lead to fantastic results.

August 12, 2010

stone steps

Well, after debating about rounded steps made with multiple stones, or finding the one perfect large stone, or using cement or wood, we finally settled on finding pre-cut stone stair treads. We'd seen them online and knew they existed somewhere. It was just a matter of finding them locally. We had great success at Stone Zone. The color was right, the size was right, voila – instant steps.

Ok, so maybe not that easy. They're very heavy. Very. Like, don't you dare load them into a car you fool (we borrowed a different vehicle and a trailer). I should also note, for others of the DIY mindset, that my husband prepared the site in a similar fashion to that of the stone patio: dug it out to the properly calculated depth, leveled it so it angled away from the house, and put down a gravel base. We used two 48-inch stones for the base and one 36-inch stone for the top step.

To move them in place my husband and I – to the credit of married couples everywhere – displayed some remarkable teamwork. We used a method he referred to as Egyptian where we rolled them on plastic pipes. I don't imagine the ancient Egyptians had plastic pipes but perhaps some other similar method of rolling. Once one pipe was released from the back, I quickly fetched it and positioned it in front. Very carefully and slowly we laid them into place. Then we both had to brace ourselves and use all the strength we had to adjust them by half an inch. Really, they are that heavy. Those beasts are in for good.

They were a tad more expensive than I anticipated but isn't that how it goes with projects like these? I really can't complain though. They're perfect for our yard.

August 11, 2010

seeds of inspiration

My butterfly weed recently went to seed. It's more of a wildflower than a civilized garden flower but I love it all the same. And it did live up to its name, attracting beautiful butterflies on a regular basis. The seed pods are long and thin, just like the leaves on the plant (what good design!). They break open and an army of parachuting seeds jump out and head into the wide world. The fuzzy white part looks very much like dandelions but on this plant you can actually see the brown seeds attached to the bottom. 
Such an optimistic way of reproducing – tossing your babies out into the wind with good wishes and high hopes, expecting they will land somewhere new and make the best of it. Perhaps not so different from parenting after all.

August 10, 2010

I made a pillowcase all by myself!

Aren't y'all proud? My very first sewing project completed and it functions as intended. Now mind you, I am not calling it any great masterpiece and those of you who sew might laugh at my, ahem, "fixes" along the way but I decided I should plow through and finish the darn thing. I can only get better – right?

Here's to future projects!

August 9, 2010

home is where the (creative) heart is

It was fate that brought this beautiful home before me. My bike tire mysteriously popped while we were eating dinner one day. The next day I am at a playground in Frankfort with my daughter while my resourceful husband is repairing it. And across the street is this beauty!

To the owner, who I imagine to be a sassy, independent, artistic woman, I say "you go girl!" No need to settle for white when there are so many beautiful colors in this world. Let us all be cheered and inspired by this work in progress.

August 6, 2010

backyard project: on its way

Last week was full of progress, thanks to my ambitious husband! I can fast forward you through:
• mountain of gravel (4 tons!)
• edging in place (you can see the outline!)
• we need more gravel!
• sand!
• stones are here!
• we need more stones!
• one evening and one long Saturday of puzzle-piecing the stones in place

Still left:
• leveling each individual stone by adding or taking away sand
• filling in the cracks between the stones
• buying and staining wood
• building pergola
• finding, buying, and placing stone steps
• digging out sod to place stepping stones
• edging for flower beds
• shifting existing plants
• planting new plants

August 5, 2010

In case blue is your favorite color

Drink deeply.

We biked around Crystal Lake on the Betsie Valley Trail. 18 miles round trip when I haven't biked all season. Are we sensing a pattern of over-ambition here? This absolutely has to be the most beautiful, clear, amazingly blue inland lake I have ever seen.

August 4, 2010

Family crafts at Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Men from the Coast Guard were posted to the lighthouse for duty. Consequently, there is a long history of families with children living here. And children near the beach meant rocks were gathered and family projects were crafted! The little video in the museum made special note of these family projects. I was amused.

August 3, 2010

Treasures from the shore

Oh how I love my nature-based travels where one can acquire lovely natural bits of art. We were rock hounds this vacation. My husband was skipping smooth stones, my daughter delighted in a perfect "egg rock," and all three of us sifted in search of fossils.

August 2, 2010

Good design from the government?

I just have to give a shout out to the anonymous graphic designer who came up with the simple, modern black band that graces the top of all National Park materials. I even saw it used on a template for customizable flyers (where it didn't go all the way to the edge) and on the permanent signage and maps mounted near the campground bathrooms. The consistent use was lovely. I have to say I am seriously impressed the federal government managed to have some classy looking graphic design.

So kudos to the graphic designers doing their best behind the scenes!