Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guest post: Earring holder DIY

My friend Nicole is really crafty.  She has tons of talents, including crocheting, embroidering and sewing (can you say Martha Stewart?) but from time to time, she tackles less difficult projects, as well.  Here, she shares with you her most recent adventure in crafting: a picture frame turned earring holder.  No need to fear, this one is as easy as 1, 2, 3 so that even the DIY Dummies among us can do it. 


I have a friend who is slowly getting into crafting. While perusing a craft store one day she “casually” mentioned that she was looking for something that would hold her ear studs. Not just any earrings—ear studs. Since her birthday is coming up soon I doubt there was anything really casual about the remark, but the gauntlet was thrown.

She knows me too well.
I perused the internet. There are lots of how-to videos posted mostly by teenagers with a little too much interest in zebra prints and bows for my taste. In all fairness, however, the basic idea remains the same.

Here's what you need:

1.              A frame. Not one of those 'invisible' ones, but the kind with an actual frame that you   
          could adhere something to.
2.              Enough fabric to cover the frame. I chose burlap. It's got a lot of holes in it that are 
          ideal for poking studs and normal earrings through. I also learned that burlap is a biotch to 
          work with. It frays easily and gets everywhere. An interesting alternative is a cheap 
          machine-made doily you can spray paint, but really any porous fabric will do.
3.              A staple gun/a regular stapler/hot glue gun/super glue combo. I used a normal stapler 
          and a hot glue gun (just because I wanted a reason to buy a hot glue gun, really).
4.              Scissors.
5.              Paint or beads if you want to decorate further.

Step 1: Get your stuff gathered. 

Step 2: Remove the backing and glass. Don't throw away the backing. It comes in handy later. You're free to do as you will with the glass.

Step 3: Measure out a piece of your fabric. Eyeball it. It just needs to cover the opening plus enough to fix in place. Cut.

Step 4: Choose some place on the back of your frame and staple it in place. Pull tight and do the same to the opposite end. Repeat on either side. A note about stapling: I used a normal stapler because that's all I had on hand. The problem is that you really need to be careful; it's slippery and the staple doesn't always go in the right way. A staple gun would do the trick the first time.

Step 5: Prep your glue. You could of course staple all the way around, but my burlap frayed and I wanted every bit of it to be stuck to the frame. You want it to be durable. It's better to hot glue all around the edges and smooth the loose fabric over it with a card.

Step 6: Get your backing. Decide how you want to frame to sit (lengthwise or on its side). Once you've worked that out, prop your backing and frame together so that it forms a V. You want to be able to reach around and pull off the earring backing when you need to. After you've determined everything, hot glue/super glue the backing's edge. Press it to the frame to form the V. Hold for a minute or two.

Step 7: Back away and admire your handiwork.

Optional Step 8: Go to town decorating your useable masterpiece. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A gilded menagerie

My favorite?  A teeny, tiny gold animal perched on top of some books.  (Image from Glitter Guide via Living Gazette)
I don't know that there has ever been a time when "interior design" has been so focused on detail.  I say interior design in quotes, because I am not really sure that this term is even accurate anymore.  It brings to mind images of immaculate houses with Martha Stewart-made beds and framed art hung on the walls but these days it seems that emphasis is on having a home which is organically assembled and then imperfectly styled rather than on being "designed."  (Check it out here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

What we are seeing is more and more use of detail (and dare I say clutter) to give spaces a more personalized, lived-in look.  Particularly common are things like necklaces and other jewelry hung over dressers or on the wall, used as decoration; pretty bottles of lotions and potions left out in the bathroom; pictures leaned up against the wall or on the floor instead of being hung; photographs strung across the wall like bunting or haphazardly taped up with washi tape and blankets and pillows thrown on the couch like they have just been used.

How whimsical and unexpected are these?  GOLD DINOS!!!! (Image from Glitter Guide via Living Gazette)
I love these looks, as hard as they are for me to achieve with my organization and cleaning OCD. I try to make things look "unintentional" but it bothers me when things aren't in their perfect place. Our place is simply either messy (Peter seems to think this look can be achieved by throwing his pants and socks on the floor when he gets home from work) or it is so tidy and organized people are afraid to sit down on the couch for fear of messing up the pillows.

In an effort to metaphorically kick off my shoes (and resist the urge to put them directly into my closet), today I  am bringing you...painted gold animals. This suuuuuuuper simple DIY/tchotchke-maker is the perfect way to add a little detail (and a little clutter) to your space.  It's sooooo easy.  I saw this idea on one of my favorite blogs Decor8 and I just had to share it.

A larger gold pig.  You could use a kid's piggy bank.  (Image from Glitter Guide via Living Gazette)
Here's how:

STEP 1:  Buy little plastic animals at a toy store/Target/the dollar store.  You could also use anything you had on hand or anything that you like. 

STEP 2: Buy gold spray paint.  Or borrow some from my mom.  Seriously.  I've never met someone who spray paints more things gold.  I am sure she has some to spare.  

STEP 3:  Spray the animals.  

STEP 4: Let them dry.  (Wait, is this really it's own step? Yes, it is.  Now go for a run or cook yourself some dinner.)

STEP 5:  Put them around your home, any place you want guests to get a little surprise, like in the bathroom. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gemütlichkeit is: in the lighting

Don't forget the garden--sweet soft light (from La Source).
If you asked me the one thing that makes the biggest impact in the pursuit of  coziness, I wouldn't hesitate a second when saying lighting.  Probably the most important aspect of your home, lighting dictates the ambiance, the mood and even the pace of your home and of your life.  The lower lighting is, the more comfortable, relaxed and at ease you will feel in your home and the more perfect your home will look (if the lights aren't bright, no one will see that dust bunny in the corner).  

This perfect, cozy lighting--which will beautify your surroundings and make living in them all the more pleasurable--is easy to achieve by just keeping these few things in mind: 


A pretty lamp on a pretty dresser creating a cozy glow (from Pinterest).

Lamps, I am afraid, are the only way to keep the lighting in your house warm and inviting.  If you do nothing else that I suggest to you on this blog, at least turn off your overhead light for good (or save it for emergencies, like looking for your keys when it's dark or mopping up that red wine you just spilled on your new carpet).  Overhead light is not attractive, does not give your space a sense of warmth and, most importantly, drives me nuts.  Opt instead for lamps--many of them, placed all around your rooms.  As a rule of thumb, all lighting in a room should come from about eye level or below (unless you have beautiful chandeliers or overhead fixtures with a dimmer).  

Soft lighting makes this room really inviting.  (From Little Green Notebook via Pinterest)

Now that you've got a bunch of new lamps and have turned that overhead thing off forever, it's time to invest in light bulbs.  And invest you shall...

As we all know, somewhere around the end of the last decade it became a crime against humanity--and polar bears--to use regular old incandescent bulbs (oh! the wasted energy).  Now, I am all for saving the environment, but nothing (and I mean nothing, except for maybe fluorescent lights) are uglier than those horrible, curly-fry CFL bulbs that they suggested we use.  

Consequently, I dragged my heals when switching over.  I had maybe one in one lamp I never used.  Until, that is, I discovered the coolest thing: most of the big companies make "warm" or "soft" white, pear-shaped CFL bulbs these days, which look all glowey and almost like the warm yellow light bulbs I knew as a child.  (To compare the regular CFL bulbs with the soft ones, check out the image below.)  

The drawback to these awesome bulbs?  They are expensive. Really expensive.  They often go for almost 10 Euro a pop here in Germany.  However, they last a long time and save you on your energy bill, so it's an investment worth spending.  Just be sure not to cheap out and get the curly-fry daylight ones. 

Colors of CFL bulbs from warmest to coolest.  (From CFL Know How.)


This one is simple.  (Almost) always use lampshades.  The more yellow or warm they are in color, the warmer and cozier the light in your room will be.  Avoid white, blue and green lampshades at all costs. Choose off-white, cream, yellow, brown, burlap, parchment or any other warm color (pink, orange, red) that you want.  The light will look more flattering and soft.

Pretty candlelight makes a room glow and makes you feel romantic and relaxed (from Pinterest). 
The final element to perfect mood lighting is candles and plenty of them.  I have candles everywhere in my house.  There are about 10 in my living room, six in my bedroom, three in the kitchen, two in my bathroom, one on my desk and three throughout my office/guest room.  I light candles all the time, including in the morning, in the afternoon, when it's sunny, when it's rainy, when it's evening and when it's night.  Candles make everyone look like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, so you may want to consider them on your next date night...or, heck, any night!    Point is: by them in mass quantities and use them in mass quantities.  Plus, keep one in your favorite container and scent by your bedside and on your desk, or wherever you spend the most time in your house.

Candlelight gets twice as cozy when it's wrapped in a sweater (from Pinterest).
And there you go!  You are all ready to have a romantic dinner and enjoy a cozy evening in.  Don't underestimate the importance of lighting when it comes to your home.  A perfectly designed room can be completely destroyed by a too-bright overhead light.  Likewise, a home with no decorating scheme whatsoever can become an inviting sanctuary simply with a few well-placed lamps and candles.   

Monday, August 27, 2012

I realize that I haven't been the best blogger over the summer.  I've shared with you my enthusiasm for this slow, sweet, ripe season, but have pretty much left it at that: a mess of fresh, yummy recipes and pictures of nature.  Posting has been sporadic, impersonal and, quite frankly, sometimes uninspired.

I wish I had an excuse for this--something big or important--but the truth is, I have simply been overworked, exhausted and uninterested.  The rare moment that I have had free has been for spending time with Peter, spending time with friends or spending time with myself.   And, truthfully, it has been wonderful and just what I needed.

As I may have briefly mentioned here, I started a new job in June, which means I am now working two.  It's been a bit stressful at times, but has been a wonderful, wonderful experience so far.  I love everything about the new job--the people are fantastic and the work is challenging but fun.  I feel happier and more myself than I have ever felt in Germany, so I am very, very thankful for what has been going on.  It's the hours that have been killing me a bit and sometimes when I get home, the only thing I can imagine doing is getting straight into bed.


Autumn is my favorite season, and with the temperatures in Nuremberg cooling this weekend, I can't help but lay out plans and dream up dreams for the upcoming months.  In addition to getting super soft, oversized sweaters and a great pair of magenta work pants, I hope to work harder on the blog.  Posting every day is not something that I can commit to, but coming up with higher quality posts more often is something I can.

I'd like to share the things I love about fall with you.  I'd like to have place to write about what I am doing, thinking and feeling.  And, I'd like to (hopefully) give you some decorating, entertaining and living ideas for this truly magical season.  I don't want to waste time being distant or half-hearted, you know?

It certainly sounds good to me.  Now, I have to go enjoy this rainy afternoon with a cup of tea and a good book.  See you soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sweet, sweet August

A calm sunrise on Magician Lake in Michigan.
It's more than halfway through and this month is treating me oh so sweetly.  Most of it has looked like this and for that I couldn't be more thankful.  

I am back from vacation in the States now and August in Nuremberg is nothing but perfect.  Hot, sticky days and lots of lightening feel lazy and perfect for taking advantage of a few extra days I have free (or almost free).  Summer here has proven to be quite fantastic and full of flowers, paddle boat rides and birds on the water.  
Summer days in Nuremberg.
Late summer days in Michigan were also something to savor--full of peaceful moments on the lake, fruit, good food, even better company and the most magnificent meteor shower I will probably witness in my whole life.  Soon I will have a more detailed vacation post for you but until then I will be enjoying the perfect last few days of summer.  Hopefully you are doing the same.  

A fresh lunch on the lake.

The fruits of summer in Michigan.
At the lake house.
My favorite place on Earth. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Food on Friday: Watermelon, tomato and basil salad (aka summer in a bowl)

Most likely, as you are reading this, my plane is landing in Chicago and I am getting on a bus to head towards the Lake, my favorite place in the world.  Summer is truly summer there, and I plan to spend every minute of my time there celebrating the season.

This is definitely on the top of my "make for the family" list, as it combines two of summer's most special, most delicious and most precious treats: watermelon and tomatoes.  I got this recipe from my friend Laura, who is from the South and swears she got it from Paula Dean.  And, although it seems suspicious at first--especially for non-tomato fans like me--you should trust me that it is completely and surprisingly delicious.

I don't have an exact recipe for you, but that is the beauty of summer, isn't it?  The raw ingredients should take center stage and very little cooking should be involved.  In this case, the watermelon, tomatoes and the fresh basil are so good on their own, you hardly need to do anything.

I simply added chunks of tomato and watermelon to a bowl with a little sliced red onion.  On top of that I threw in a large amount of fresh basil.  Then, I cracked a bit of sea salt on top, added some crushed red pepper and a slash of balsamic and...voilà have summer in a bowl.

August has come so quickly and I am sure it will be gone before we know it.  Now is the time to savor every minute of summer and to prepare our bodies, our hearts and our minds for the winter to come.  What are you doing to drink in the last of its warm rays?  I would love to hear about it!

Isn't it gaw-geous? 

So delish!

Dig in!

Gone away

As of tomorrow, I am hitting the road (and flying the friendly skies) for 10 days of bliss in Michigan.  I cannot wait and have been dreaming about it nonstop since summer began.  Posting has been light the last few weeks because of my barely manageable schedule and the fact that my head has been stuck in the clouds.  I probably won't post at all while I am on vacation, so I will see you back here in a little over a week!  Enjoy every last ray of sunshine of the end of summer!