Friday, January 15, 2016

Project House Update: The Birds and the Beach

You know how it takes me forever to finish a project? And like even longer to write about it? Well, today's your lucky day because not only did I finally get around to/finish two projects, but I'm going to brag about them now.

The first project was a shadowbox chock full of reminders from our trip to Hawaii in the summer of 2014 (see? It only took me 17 months to get around to it). The second was hanging a dove wall sconce that's probably been sitting in my closet for over three years.

I mentioned it in my list of tips for visiting Turtle Bay Resort, but we really expected to bring home a bag of shells as a souvenir. That was not the case. Every shell we found (minus a small piece of driftwood) is carefully arranged in this shadowbox. Maybe seven shells total.

Since I couldn't get as many shells as I wanted, I filled the void with beach sand. A lot of sand. This was only half of the sand. Dan's called dibs on the other half. Combine my sand, the shells, a great picture Dan took of me on the beach, and a high-quality shadowbox and you have something worthy of the term 'art'.

I say 'high-quality' shadowbox because this was not my first attempt at this project. Originally, I couldn't find a shadowbox I liked, so I bought a cheap one from Michael's and gave it a coat of paint. However, the back of it didn't seal well and I had to make a hanging mechanism because it didn't have a hook. Yeah, there was no way I trusted that on our wall. So, I found a pretty good one from Target and gave it two coats of spray paint. It even has a gasket around the end of the back to keep the sand in. Worth it.

Onto my unique choice in shelving...

Several years ago, I found this plastic dove shelf at the antique's fair. It's tied with my lamp for my favorite thing we've found out there. I didn't know what I would do with it, but it was vintage and birds and it called to me. Unfortunately, it was a gross 1970's color, but that could be easily fixed.

For a long time, I debated what color to paint it. Once I'd painted the sand shadowbox, it hit me that these might group well together so it got a matching coat of white paint. Someday I may change my mind, I could see it in an antique gold. Or a more matte white. Or even a weird painting project where I hand-paint it all the colors it should be, with brown branches and white doves with little orange beaks. If you've got ideas of your own, I've found one on etsy. It's part of a set even!

It was hard to find the right spot for them in the house, but I settled on the entryway. Here's the corner of the entryway before. It felt a little off-balance because only the left wall was decorated.

And now both walls are adorned. It felt a little awkward at first for displaying a picture of myself in a bikini in our entryway, but it's probably less creepy in the entryway than in the guest room.

I'm still styling and arranging things on the dove sconce. Since it's plastic and not even six inches in radius, I don't trust it yet to hold anything fragile or important. It hasn't earned my trust yet. We're still just acquaintances.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Project House Update: Sense of Shelf

In a first step to claim the den for myself, I staged a coup of the built-in shelves. About once a year, I attempt to reorganize and style them. However, in spite of all that effort, they always ended up looking something like this; crammed, cluttered, and Tetrised into place.

After reading Emily Henderson's Styled and Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it was time to upgrade my shelves to 'vignettes'. So, everything came down, was evaluated, and organized and restyled.

It took several days and several attempts, but I'm really happy with the results. Over time, I developed a handful of rules that kept me on course. Hopefully, these rules will help me keep them nice in the future. My new rules are:
  • Keep the space functional 
    • Be aware of the shelves goals - Before the reset, this was a drop spot in our house. Have something that's kind of pretty without a home? Just put it on the shelves. A random book you haven't finished? Shelves. Basically anything that needs to be kept out of reach of the cats? Find a spot somewhere high. This turned out to be a recipe for disaster. Now, we've defined their functions and only certain things can be added without consideration. These serve three separate functions: 1) helping the den function as a home office, 2) housing books I love, and 3) displaying our pretty, delicate knick-knacks. Each shelf has at least one group of books and one pretty thing.
    • Understand placement for usage - Because the shelves are mounted on the top half of the wall, anything on the top two shelves is out of reach to me without a step-stool. So, the shelves are less functional as you go up. Knowing that, here are some of the functional elements I made sure to keep low.
      1. Paper organizers for Dan: it's where he stores receipts, papers to file, and papers to shred. They need to be at arm's reach when he's sitting at his computer. 
      2. Cat spot: I left a spot my boys because they grew attached to being tall. And it keeps them out of our hair when we're working. 
      3. Candles: They're on a low shelf so I can reach them, but they're on a tall, wide shelf so things don't catch fire. 
      4. Record player and records: Because sometimes you just need to listen to hair metal when you're writing. 
  • Spread out themes - In the past, I thought it would look/work best if I grouped all of Dan's car stuff together on one shelf. 

Turns out, that approach didn't really work. The shelf was crammed so full that it was impossible to add new items and it didn't show off any of his cool stuff (and some of mine, too). After reading this article, I learned how to spread it out and incorporate it in a manner that's more styled. Now, rather than a single shelf, our books and models live on almost every shelf.

  • Be mindful of unintentional accent colors and their placements - Once I began placing and styling things, I became aware of how many white, porcelain knick-knacks I have and how they stood out. White may not seem like an accent color, but when I got going, any white pieces near each other seemed heavy. It was too much. To keep it balanced, only one white piece per shelf and not on adjacent shelves if I could help it. 
  • Don't overcrowd - Let's take a look again at the 'Before'. They were filled to the brim. Waaaaaaay too much stuff. Books, knick-knacks, CDs and records, games, and all sorts of other random things. Once we set up the new Ikea shelves in the front room and moved the board games out of the den, it freed up a lot of space. However, we still did some editing.

After removing everything and carefully selecting what would go back on the shelves, I ended up with two big piles of stuff to house elsewhere or to donate.

  • Minimize small objects - small objects can make things look cluttered very quickly. Previously, I had placed lots of small objects together and thought it visually equaled one larger object. It didn't. It just looked messy. So, when everything came off the shelves, all the little bits and bobs went into a large ziploc bag and only a few things migrated back onto the shelves. Like a tiny plastic tiger hidden in a Corvette model. 

A few other little tricks I used to style these shelves:

   1. Take all the dust jackets off and store them in a filing cabinet
   2. When in doubt, group things in threes.
   3. Stack similar books together, largest to smallest, and top with a knick-knack.

A lot of these styling tricks and tips bother me for high-use spaces with high-use items (like large illustrated books on coffee tables), but they work well for a curated space like my shelves. We'll see if all of this helps me keep it nice longer than before.

UPDATE: I completely forgot that I did a similar post about shelf styling and organizing in the first month of my blog. You can read it here. It's not good. I won't say this post is that great, but this old one is definitely cringe-worthy.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Goals for 2016

2015 was an odd year. I went into it knowing that it was going to be a big year for us. I could feel it in my bones. I would have guessed promotions and renovations and trips and life overhauls.

And when I first sat down to review my resolutions from last year, my gut instinct was something along the lines of disappointment. There really weren't those in-your-face stand-out moments like I thought there would be. It was kind of an ordinary year.

But once I began writing and really reviewing the past year, I think I misjudged it. 2015 was pretty big, just in small, subtle ways, if that makes any sense. Somehow along the way last year, I became happier with myself than I've ever been before. I feel more like me. I'm not afraid to say what I'm thinking or to be silly or vulnerable or loud or quiet. I don't pick on myself the way I used to. 

I am happy.

I guess you could call that a big year.

Now that I've gotten the philosophical mumbo-jumbo out of the way, let's break down my 2015 specific resolutions:
  • Say 'Yes' more. This one was a big win for me. In the moment, it is sooooo easy to say yes to things. Turns out, the harder part is not moping around afterward when you just want to stay in yoga pants and watch a Criminal Minds marathon (I swear ION shows them three times a week now). However, I am a person of my word and if I said I will be there, I will be there. And then I do the thing and have a great time and regret none of it. I say yes to invitations. I say yes to projects at work. I say yes to almost any ridiculous request, deal with the fault-out, and simply call it an adventure (remember this one, it's going to ripple into 2016, there are stories coming people). A
  • Be ready for my ten year high school reunion. So, my high school reunion is still pretty fresh in my mind given that it was ten days ago. Given that I am the girl who instantly avoids eye contact and hides when she sees anyone in public (basically doesn't matter how much I like you, unless you are a blood relative, I will hide from you if I see you in a Target), it went about as well as I could have hoped. I'm notorious for over-thinking and over-preparing for anything that could be considered remotely competitive and I tried to channel that energy productively. I designed an outfit that was cute, but not trying too hard. I thought up questions beforehand (my favorite being: How'd you get into that?) And I had a back-up plan of just hanging out with my trivia team if I didn't want to talk to anyone else and that's basically what happened. There were a few people from high school that I would have loved to have caught up with in person, but they couldn't make it, so it was just a lovely evening with a bunch of people I used to know. And with the power of facebook stalking, I know there were a bunch of people in town who just chose not to go, I'm calling this one a win for me. B

High School Reunion Outfit

  • Find a way to advance my career. At the beginning of last year, my manager and I sat down and had a conversation about how I was on track for a promotion. While my work load and responsibilities have definitely increased, I still won't know about that promotion for a few months. Here's hoping. B
  • Find a doctor. Hahahahaha. Every year. Geez. F
  • Eat more fresh food. This one was a weird one to do poorly on, but it got worse, not better. Somewhere along the lines, I just got really busy last year. Between Zumba after work twice a week and trivia and hanging out with friends and all sorts of other stuff, I had one night a week when I could shop and it was the last thing I want to do. Then, there was this weird drama with the grocery store by my house switching owners and becoming terrible and then closing completely. So, my routine for feeding us got really screwed up. It's truly amazing how many nights a week you can survive on pasta and sauce. It's one of my resolutions for this year, but it kind of became more of a mess than it originally was. I had no idea how much of a pain it is to fit grocery shopping into your life when the stores aren't convenient and you just have no good time to go. D
  • Attempt a long race (5+ miles). I tried to get a jump on it back in January by training for a four mile race. While I happily completed it, I hurt myself pretty badly. I swore off running for a while and really didn't miss it. I took up Zumba instead and I love it. In the last couple of months, I've started incorporating running back into my life, but solely for fun. I go out in my neighborhood, walk to the other side of the block, and then run home as fast as possible. It's just fun and stress-relief, not so much exercise. C
  • Make some more youtube videos. I thought about it. I honestly did. There were times and days I thought about recording and justifying it as 'preserving the moment', but that would have been a lie. It would have been to make a video for video's sake and that didn't feel right. I did enjoy editing the handful of videos I've made, but recording them, at least the ones with me, made me incredibly anxious and I can't even go back and watch them. For now, it isn't worth the headache to me, but that may change in the future. F
  • Embrace being a nerd. This one really could have been summed up by my last resolution, to 'be me more' since I am a nerd, but I think this one went pretty well. Feel free to read my Jurassic World premier night or my Star Wars premier stories for evidence to this. My one disappointment was that I didn't make it to any sort of convention. Opportunities arose, but it just didn't work out. I should have pushed harder and made it more of a priority, though. B
  • Take another vacation. It was the plan to take a vacation. After we loved Hawaii so much the year before, it was a big priority to me. However, then the shop happened and I had panic attacks over money. I did make Dan promise that we will take a nice, long vacation this year, especially since it will be our five year wedding anniversary. F
  • Be me more often. This resolution has been so good for me. It's pretty abstract, but basically I've treated it as: trust your gut, don't over-think things, be true to yourself and don't focus on the potential consequences. Was it probably not a great career move to wear dinosaur t-shirts to work for a week? Yes. Did it let my coworkers get to know me better and was I happy? You betcha. I sing loudly in the car no matter how much traffic I am stuck in. Sometimes I dance in the lab while I'm working on something and am only slightly embarrassed when I get caught. I've tried to become more care-free. I try not to let myself get embarrassed by having fun and being myself. I don't have to act like I have a stick up my ass to be professional. I can high-five someone when I nail something. I just became so sick and tired of trying to wear all these different hats and be all these different people at various stages of the day. Screw that. That ship has sailed. A
If you were to sum it up, I definitely failed more than I passed. However, if you weighted the importance of the resolutions, it ends up looking much better. 

My resolutions for this year are a little more concrete, which is probably a recipe for failure, but let's start the year off optimistic. This could totally be an awesome year, too.

  • Find two doctors: general and ob/gyn. Like, seriously though.
  • Take a vacation. It will happen. Some place fun and sunny. 
  • Be more proactive on home projects. I've learned in 4+ years of home projects that I have three roles: planning/initiating projects, handling the small, annoying things (like hours of edging) to free Dan up to handle the stuff that have simply can't, and motivating him to finish up that painful last 10% of a project. Those are my skills and I will put them to use more often this year. {Sidenote: some things have been set in motion already at the end of last year, but since I haven't blogged about them yet, I think they should qualify for 2016.}
  • Blog a new recipe once a month. It was an unspoken goal of mine last year to update my recipe blog at least once a month last year and if I hadn't missed damn April, I would have done it. Argh. I'm going to pull it off this year. I already blogged one for January. Oh yeah, proactive.
  • Get a promotion
  • Disconnect from technology more. Most days, I'm on my computer for 7+ hours at work. It would probably do my brain and my eyes some good to cut the cord a little more often at home.
  • Make grocery shopping a priority/routine. You know, so I can 'eat healthy' and stuff. Actually, it's probably along the lines of 'so I don't have to eat mac and cheese as often'. Maybe I'll just upgrade to fancy schmancy homemade mac and cheese, which would count as a step in the right direction.
It's gonna be a good one guys. Leap years always are.