outside the lines

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I’m a ‘doodle-in-the-margins’ kinda girl.  After a semester of classes, I consider keeping my philosophy and history notebooks just in case I become uber-famous and the notebooks end up being ‘where it all started.’  Okay, okay, so I guess I’m a bit of a daydreamer too.  No surprise there.

I worked in an art museum for a few years, but I never understood the popular ‘a child could make that’ reaction to modern art.  I’m a fan of Pollock, Calder, Rothko and Twombly, and, for my part – I certainly couldn’t make anything resembling their work.  Let’s be clear: I can doodle in the margins and not much else.

Jon and I visited the Minnesota Institute of Art last night, and my 3 favorite paintings were done by 5, 7 and 8 year olds.  At long last, I realized that some children truly can make museum quality paintings.  I, however, was never one of them:ImageImage
Earlier in the day I made a different kind of artwork that ended up looking, well, better than the doodles in my notebook.  Jon’s visiting his mom and grandma this weekend, and I wanted to make a Valentine’s gift for him to bring them.  What do you think?
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Okay, maybe dish towels aren’t the very.best.gift of all time, but I did my best 🙂  

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:

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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?
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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!

ace in the hole

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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

the art of failure

 

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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:
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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:
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happily ever now

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I truly intend to write about things besides love and kindness. My head is filled with tales of mystery, stories of adventure, and legends of the past.  When I start typing, however, my fingers get all excited about the love stories and, quite simply, ruin whatever else I was planning to write.

Okay, okay, now and again I get to draw silly pictures and make jokes.  More often than not, however, I’m writing about love, friendship, and the kindness of strangers.  Maybe I’ll break the habit, but today was filled with too much goodness to be a starting point.  Perhaps next week I will get to the action-packed sci-fi adventures.

As for today, Jon played hookie from work so we could take a color-drive, visit the zoo, and have dinner at my favorite rooftop restaurant.  When we got home, my sweet friends had decorated the apartment with birthday surprises – it was some kind of wonderful.

My brother-in-law and my aunt have birthdays this week, and so I spent the early morning (before the color-drive) making birthday cards and envelopes.  The envelopes were a fun project because I made them out of wrapping paper and mod-podge.  If you’re wanting to try a fun twist on the classic greeting card, here are the steps:

Pick a wrapping paper, a card (any size) and grab some mod-podge:Image
Place the greeting card in the center of the wrapping paper, just like you’re planning to wrap a present:
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Pull the bottom of the wrapping paper over the center of the card and make a solid crease:Image
Wrap the sides of the wrapping paper over over the back of the card:
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Cut the wrapping paper where at the top of the greeting card.  Use mod-podge to glue the wrapping paper covering the right and left sides of the greeting card to the wrapping paper that you pulled over the center of the card.  It should look like this:
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Cut excess wrapping paper form the top of the card:
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Fold the top of the wrapping paper into a triangle:Image
Tape the triangle over the back of the card:Image
Front of the card (mine is being hand-delivered, but you could also put the address here):Image

I made a simple card to go inside:
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Just a regular ‘happy birthday’ stamp with white ink on red paper:Image
Here are some outtakes from my day with Jon.ImageImageImageImageImage1-IMG_6691

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do you carrot all?

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An easy way to find out if your friend ‘carrot alls’ is to ask them to watch your puppy for a weekend.   For some reason, ‘carrot all’ made me think of ‘carrotalls’ – like carrot overalls, and I ended up drawing this picture:
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But, dear reader, what we’re here to talk about today is not carrot alls, but thanking people with carrots.  Jon and I are going out of town for my birthday, and I sent my next-door-neighbor a text to see if she would mind puppy sitting for me:

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I know, I know, she is the best.  She said presents aren’t necessary, but I disagree 100%.  I figure everyone loves carrot cake, and what could be nicer than carrot cake in a mason jar?  An ‘Eat now or save for later’ sort of thing?  I decided to fancy-it-up a bit and do three layers: caramel,  carrot cake, and homemade cheesecake frosting.

I used a box cake:
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Made the cream cheese frosting from scratch:Image
Put caramel bites on the bottom of the jar:
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Added the carrot cake:
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nd then topped the cake with the homemade cream cheese frosting:ImageImage

Lastly, I gave Kinzie a bath to prepare for her weekend away.  Here is the during and after photo:Image

fallababa disaster

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The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing acts of kindness. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

A lovely thought from a fantastic novel.  We don’t need fancy dinners or diamond rings to show someone that we love them.  One the contrary, we need less tangible things like consistency, loyalty, and, hopefully, laughter.  What matters is that your friends&sweethearts understand you, appreciate your quirks, and remain by your side (come what may).

In an effort to remain habitual/consistent with my rah rah rah experiments, I decorated the Minneapolis bike trail with a ‘happy fall’ banner.  The simple banner was made by painting burlap and then stringing the letters together on a ribbon. Happy fall, y’all:
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When the experiment ended, I met up with Lauren for thrift store shopping.  We didn’t find any clothes, so we bought non-prescription glasses for fancy dinners, baby showers, and hot dates.
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I got home feeling pretty optimistic about the day, but wishing my sign had ended with “y’all.”  I made a pretty graphic to make up for it:
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Fallababa:
what you say when you fall out of bed
opps!! i just fallababa!

2 dollars for 1 smile

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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:
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At my 2013 wedding:
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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:
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mittens in the sink

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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:
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rub a dub dub

My DIY projects last week left made me want to sing along with Vanilla Ice to “can’t touch this…”  Perhaps I’m biased, but I thought thought the mason jar flower vase and makeup brush holder would have Pottery Barn executives calling me to learn all my secrets.  Especially when they realized I was doing all my crafting for less than $5.

The only shortfall, as far as I could see, was that I didn’t have a matching set to make it look organized.  I decided to change that by crafting a matching toothbrush holder and soap dispenser.  Like magic, I now have the entire line of mason jar bathroom products.

The toothbrush holder is the easy-as-pie design that inspired the makeup brush holder.  To replicate, simply fill a mason jar with white sand, and stick your items inside:

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The mason jar soap dispenser is a little more complicated because it takes 3 steps instead of 2.  For this, simply use a pushpin to make a hole in the top of the mason jar, and then stick a pump from another soap dispenser inside (I found a soap dispenser at the dollar store for, you guessed it, a dollar): 
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To add a country chic feel, spray paint mason jars to match the decor of your house, and then fill with flowers.
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You can see how I made the makeup brush holder here, and instructions for the mason jar flower vase are here.

Let me know if you have any other questions, and enjoy the simple project 🙂