hey there perfection

Too much talk about dreams and goals fills me with a need to stop everything, cuddle my husband, play with my puppy, ride my bike, pick some flowers, and invite my nearest and dearest for a home-cooked brunch.

Envisioning my perfect day helps me recount the things and people that are most important to me.  I close my eyes and wonder: ‘if I could do anything, what would I do and whom would I do it with?’

Is the perfect day an illusion?  I described bits and pieces of what mine would look like – friends and biking and cooking  – but still so much was left out – think yoga and hiking and being with friends.  All the activity makes me wonder if the perfect day truly exists? Might I be more honest if I envisioned the perfect week?

It seems true that there isn’t enough time for all my favorite things to happen in just one day. For instance, I need time for a morning stroll and time to make waffles; time to read the WSJ and time to sleep-in; time to watch the sunrise and time to call my grandma. And heavens: that’s just the morning.

Journaling about the improbability of the perfect day has me mentally creating a game where you pick activities and design a different ‘perfect day’ each time you play.  So much, in fact, that I stopped writing and designed this graphic:
Now tell me: what’s your perfect day? Week? Does it look anything like my game?

spontaneous dance party

A stranger from Indianapolis wrote me an email saying that I was lovely and we should live together.  Perhaps share a two bedroom near the park? Let me know!  XOXO, Kali.

To be fair, I was the weirdo that posted an advertisement for roommates on Craigslist.  Kali was the first to respond, and we instantly bonded over a mutual love of painting, poetry, holidays, baked goods and spontaneous dance parties.  We found a small mansion in Lincoln Park, scouted out another 2 roommates to fill the house, and moved in a month later.
Jon had a pool party the weekend I met Kali, and so I invited her along to meet my friends.  She’d only known me a few hours, but she grabbed her bikini and followed me downtown for some afternoon fun.  We were sitting on the bus, only 5 minutes from Jon’s building, when it started pouring rain all around us.  I made a comment about the rain ruining the fun, and she said something I never forgot

“Not every day is happy, but there is something happy about every day — let’s put on our bikinis.”

I prompted her for details about where we should do that, and she told me to run behind the dumpster. Ummmm K?  So we did.  To prevent soaking our clothes, we put on our swimsuits, and then we ran the last 4 blocks (through downtown Chicago people — Kinzie/LaSalle) to Jon’s apartment.  We arrived soaking wet but incredibly happy, and we suggested to my dear boy that we take umbrellas to the hot tub.  Problem solved.
Living with Kali made every.single.day happy: we had Trader Joe picnics in the living room, swapped clothes in both bedrooms, and took turns leading designs projects in the house.  The greatest design project, by far, was a mural of the Chicago skyline that Kali did in the main room:
Can you tell she’s a graphic designer?  It’s obvious, right?  She currently does marketing and design for a beauty company, but she just started her own freelancing business, June Mango.  Her designs are vibrant, fresh and indicative of her sweet&quirky personality:
Awesome, right?  Right now she’s actually in a competition on Minted, and you can support my BFF by voting for Kali Edwards in the State of the Art Challenge.

If you’re more into making friends than voting, head over to her blog and say hello.  She’s the best, and, what’s more, you don’t even have to write a creepy Craigslist advt. to meet her 🙂

a whimsical jaunt

Simple words contain incredibly vast and imaginative worlds.  Nicknames, for instance, recall happy memories about a person that is near and dear (Baboozle for Jon).  Other words (for me, CENTER! and PAWS!) bring back memories of inside jokes and inspire laughter.  Still more, words that represent a special food (gelato brings me back to Italy), place (Phoenix makes me think of my sister), or time (2012 reminds me of the engagement) bring a comforting joy each time I stumble across the unique combination of letters.

Then there are words without a personal story or connection that somehow manage to make me smile for the sweet and happy things they stand for.  Whenever I encounter these words in texts or speech, I almost always feel grateful that someone created a single word to symbolize the incredibly nuanced and/or detailed thing that the word describes.  Today, just for fun, I made some of my favorite words into artistic prints:

Remember the DIY fall candles I made a couple weeks ago?  I’ve been using them near constantly, and today I noticed that they were just about burnt out.  I made new candles as a replacement, but this time I used spray paint to make them a little more festive for the holidays. What do you think?
If you want to make your own, it’s as easy as 1) spray paint a mason jar 2) place a wick in the bottom and 3) fill with wax.

Happy Friday, everyone!

urban tree house

What would you do with 100 million dollars?  I overheard a couple discussing how they would pay bills, buy a house and maybe take a vacation.  Boring, right?  I mean, 100 million dollars?  You could surely come up with a few things more fun than paying your bills.

I would build a tree house in the middle of downtown that reaches higher than any of the skyscrapers.  A pool-slide would wind from my sky-high bedroom down into the lazy river surrounding my tree house.  The lazy river would wind through the city and connect with my favorite brunch spot.

Getting the picture?  I could wake up Sunday morning, jump on the slide, and then lazy down the stream to brunch.  Perhaps sip a mimosa while I float back home.

I was eavesdropping on the 100 million dollar couple while shopping for a get-well card.  Per usual, I got distracted by nicknacks and found myself wanting colorful pinwheels, florescent paints, and other items of questionable importance (but guaranteed fun).  The worst deterrent, however, was all the Christmas decor — It’s not even Halloween, and here I am looking at holiday cards, stocking stuffers, and make-your-own-ornaments.  I was like a kid in candy land: defenseless.

Luckily, I specialize in making things I want for a fraction of the retail cost, and so I took my favorite find of the day, a Christmas calendar, and made it with wooden blocks, spray paint, and stickers.

If you want to make your own dice, you will need to use the following numbering system:

Die #1: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Die #2: 0, 1, 2, 6, 7, 8

Now, tell me, what would *you* do with a 100 million dollars?

pants on fire

A soap bubble explosion in the kitchen put Martha Stewart on my official “do not trust’ list.  Fizzy bath bombs went off like rockets in the night when I followed her instructions.  Not a pretty look for my kitchen.

To be fair, it was sort of fun to relive the volcano explosion experiment from 7th grade, and my apartment now smells like a soap factory.  Not the worst, right?

I tried to make Bath Fizzies, which I was told would look something like the picture below.  I wanted to keep mine clear, however, and so I opted for no food coloring (only difference).

Here are pictures from what actually happened — first, the mixture began puffing up up up from the mold:
and it eventually covered the entire plastic:
I had faith that the puffiness would settle over night, and that the magic fizz bombs would appear by morning.  I was wrong. After 12 hours, the mixture turned into a crumbling piece of… well… fizz:
I’m calling out Martha, but I think it’s a lesson for the blogging community in general.  How often do bloggers post about projects, recipes, or other activities gone terribly  wrong?  I know this isn’t the first time *I’ve* gotten disastrous results by following a blogger’s suggestion.

I think it’s time for a revolution – let’s stop posting about how we made THE BEST cookie, art project, outfit, etc, and just be honest. Maybe say: this cake was OKAY but I would never make it again – it was too much work and confetti cake from a box tastes the same.

That might be an extreme example, but what I’m advocating for here is honesty.

I’m also a fan of resilience, and so I turned the experiment around and made something much easier — alphabet soap.
4.5 4 5 6 7 8

ace in the hole

Quick fact: Researchers at Berkeley refer to Darwin’s work as “survival of the kindest.”

Darwin believed that charity evolved to ensure the survival of family and build prosperous communities.  The idea of helping family seems instinctive, but the argument for community is that individuals benefit from a stimulating, creative and progressive environment.  People reach their full potential when their community inspires and motivates them to fully develop as individuals.

Our inclination for altruism is so engrained that we’re capable of becoming addicted to the good feeling it provides.  Jordan Grafman, neuroscientist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, published a study confirming that philanthropy provides the same high as eating chocolate cake, having great sex, or winning at the blackjack table.  Philanthropy just feels that good.

My hands spent today crafting a paper wreath for the holidays, but my mind was working overtime to plan a fun random act of happiness for tomorrow.  The wreath is below, and I’ll share my super silly experiment with you right after it happens (as always):ImageImageImageImageImage

gimme s’more

Fall weather makes me want to sit around a bonfire and roast s’mores with my closet friends.  In a best-case-scenario, we’re sitting below a starry sky with caramel swirl marshmallows and ghiradelli chocolate.  We listen to Lorde on the stereo until the sun comes up, and then we take the canoes out to watch the sunrise on the water. Image
Sounds like a perfect weekend, right?  It’s based on actual plans for an upcoming cabin weekend, but, as for now, I’ll do my second favorite fall activity: read inside while I listen to the rain fall in the streets.  In this best-case-scenario, I’m drinking mulled apple cider and surrounded by candles. Image
Jon and I took a drive out to the country to see the changing leaves, and the trip inspired me to make fall-inspired mason jar candles.  Perfect for keeping me company while I’m reading on rainy days.  If you’re interested, the process is detailed below:
Fill the outer rim of a mason jar with fall leaves:
I used double-sided tape to secure a candle wick at the bottom of a mason jar:Image
My wick stood straight for the majority of the project, but toward the end I secured it between two knives:
I melted soy wax in a microwave-safe bowl:
And then poured the wax into the mason jar and around the candle wick.  When the wax dried, the candle looked like so:

the art of failure


Embrace failure.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You might fail?  Great odds, considering you will fail without doubt if you never even begin.  The good news is that every failure creates an opportunity to begin again with additional knowledge.  The second time you attempt something you will be in a better position to succeed, likely creating something much more successful than you attempted in the first-go-round. 

Failure lets you know that you can do better.  It’s the personal coach inside your head telling you to push forward and strive for your best.  Do you need to add something to your vision, or take something away?  What mistakes were made the first time, and how can they be remedied?

Failure presents dazzling opportunities for growth and creativity, and, if you play your cards right, success. 

To make failing easier, more of a routine, perhaps, I pledge to 1) Recognize failure as a growth opportunity; 2) Learn from mistakes and shortcomings; 3) Apply new knowledge to all future attempts;  and 4) Remember that I haven’t truly failed until I’ve given up.  

I spent the day creating a baby gift for a dear friend, inspired by the welcome wreath that I made my sister.  My hands and my mind were  clearly up to different things, right?  The thing is, I’ve been spending a lot of time contemplating my current situation, my future goals, and different ways of shortening the gap between the two points.  When I’m busy working with my hands, my mind takes the opportunity to wander freely.  Hope you don’t mind the disjunction between the are of failure and the art of crafting 🙂

As for the wreath, the entire thing was made from colorful papers, glue, and a little tape.  I wanted to put a unique spin on the traditional baby gift, and so I went with a “welcome to the world” shadow box.  You can see the process below:Image
I began by sketching the globe and making notes where the ‘welcome to the world’ would be written.Image
The second step was to create cut-outs of the necessary continents on colorful paper:Image
Tape your circular globe to a plane sheet of paper:
And then stick your continent cutouts to the globe —  I used a thick tacky glue so that they would pop off the sheet just a bit:Image
Simple as draw, cut, & glue:

2 dollars for 1 smile

What could be more wonderful than stumbling upon friendship?  I studied abroad in Rome my junior year of college, and oops, silly me, I didn’t take an Italian language class before I moved there.  Typical American girl just got too excited about streets of gold, palaces of art, and endless gelato.  Best decision ever.

The school arranged for a representative to meet me at the airport and take me to my apartment.  Luckily, that representative forgot to show up, and I ended up walking to-and-fro in the Fiucimo Airport wondering how to get a cab.  I made a few inquiries, and within a couple minutes, I was swarmed with people claiming to be taxi drivers and promising the lowest price in Rome.

And then!

Like a dream come true, a pretty brunette grabbed my hand and asked if I was American.  I nodded my head yes, and she told me to come with her.   I followed her through the airport, and she explained about the importance of only using certified cab services, avoiding people without uniform, and always knowing the appropriate price beforehand.

We shared a cab to the university, and the 30 minute drive was filled with more jokes than a comedy show at Second City.  The two of us decided to meet up again the following weekend in Dublin.  Three weeks later we  found ourselves in Prague, six months later in Berlin, two years later in Chicago, and five years later (as in this past weekend) in Minneapolis.

Dear Clare, you’re the greatest friend in the world, and I’m so grateful that you came to visit.  I was going to post about making you a handmade Thank You card, but I just ended up writing all about you (couldn’t help myself).  Your card is included at the bottom of this post.  LOVE YOU.

Clare and Jen circa 2008:
At my 2013 wedding:
I made Clare’s thank you card by making sketches on paper, uploading the drawings onto my computer, and then arranging them into fun designs:

mittens in the sink

Falling into autumn means crisp nights, pumpkin pies, and the return of sweaters&scarves&hats&boots.  As fall progresses into winter, more and more clothes come out of storage, and I begin wearing 25% of my closet to keep warm.  I’m all for layering, but things start to get a little messy when I come home and need to undress – scarves get tossed on the couch, hats get thrown behind the sofa, and mittens get placed in the sink.  Essentially, fall is the beginning of clothing mayhem.

To combat the chaos and stay a little organized, I created a coat rack out of cardboard letters and wire hangers.  4 steps to coat rack: insert the hanger handle into the bottom of the letter, decorate the letter with tacky glue, and then spray paint in the color of your choice.  Here are some photos of the process: