Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Festival of Lights

We’re not an especially religious family, but we love to celebrate holidays, and because my father was Jewish I think that entitles me to both Christmas and Hanukkah. Since I’ve always had trouble finding menorahs that are aesthetically pleasing to me and also within my budget, I decided to make my own this year.

Instead of opting for one candelabra or vessel to hold the traditionally tall & skinny Hanukkah candles, I opted for nine separate mercury glass votive holders lined up in a row, one of which is just slightly larger than the others to signify its identity as the “shamash” candle (the one used to light the others.)

At $.99 each for the eight small ones, $3 for the one larger one and $6.99 for a package of XX candles (all from Target) this is a cheap and chic option, if I do say so myself.

The other benefit is that after we’re done celebrating the Festival of Lights, these pretty candle holders can grace my dining table, mantle or bathroom any day of the year and fit right in. 

Oh, and here are a couple more “modern” menorahs that I think are a stylish and irreverent way to celebrate, should you be so inclined:

Manzanita Candlabra from West Elm - this one isn't technically a menorah,
but it holds nine candles and looks awfully pretty in the process

Last Match by Kathleen Walsh

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Monday, November 29, 2010

How To: DIY Advent Calendar

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration full of delicious food and family fun - I hope you did too, but I'm glad it's over so I can start getting ready for Christmas!

First on the agenda was an advent calendar worthy of our new digs. In years past we've usually gone with the $1.99 24 windows of chocolate, picked up from Trader Joe's or Target, but this year I wanted to do something more visual and exciting for the kids. I've seen lots of great ideas, like these featured on Oh Dee Doh a few weeks back, but when I spotted these little paper bags on my last trip to Michael’s, I got my own idea.

I created a word document the size of the bags (3.5 by 6.75 inches) and added the numbers 1-24 (one on each page of course) in Baskerville Old Face font in size 200, but you could pick whichever one you think is right for your home or décor. 

Then I started printing. I’ll be honest – feeding each bag into the printer and then sending the next page to print was time consuming, and at least a few bags got jammed along the way, but the end result was worth it.  

I couldn’t fit all 24 on our mantle, so we did two rows of 12 and angled the front row so you could see the rest peeking out. Once we hit the 13th we'll switch the two rows and move the back to the front.

Starting on Tuesday night after the kids go to bed I’ll be tucking a small prize into each one – cheap things like packs of gum, little finds from the Target dollar spot, and of course chocolate. It’s such a fun way to welcome the holiday season and build up anticipation to the big day on the 25th. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank You

I'm up to my elbows in cubed bread and chestnuts, but wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this little blog. I'm so grateful for this fun creative outlet and for the support of all the friends, family and followers who read it faithfully.
For those of you who I do not have the pleasure of being with today, I hope you're having a deliciously decadent day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chance of Showers III: The Finale

Today I want to share just a few more details about the shower, and then I'll put this baby (ha!) to bed!

First off, when I was planning the day I knew I wanted to find, do or make something that could be a special keepsake for the parents-to-be, something they could keep as a reminder of the day and the people who were there, and also a way for the guests to share a bit of their love, wisdom and humor. The onesies were fun – and hopefully also provide a useful takeaway for the baby – but I was in search of something with a little more emotion behind it. Then, a couple weeks back I read about a beautiful shower where the host created a “wishing tree” – a large vase full of branches that guests could hang little wishes on – and decided it would be a perfect fit.

I started scouring our backyard and sidewalks for good branches - big enough to create a presence, but not so long someone could poke out an eye. Then I picked up a few sheets of green paper in different tones, as well as packing twine. I drew out a few different leaf shapes, traced them on the paper, and started cutting. Once I had cut enough (about 30 for us) I punched holes in the stems and tied a short piece of twin on them for hanging.

We wrote up a little note to explain the wishing tree to the guests and laid the leaves out on a plate along with a couple of pens. My daughters wrote out the first wishes to get everyone started (“I wish your baby loves school as much as I do,” wrote my seven year-old, and “love” was the wish from my four year-old.) By the end of the afternoon the tree was full of beautiful little leaves with great messages of hope, love and excitement for the new baby and her family.

The other small touch I added was customized water bottle labels. This was a simple and quick addition, but it was definitely noticed by the guests. First I scanned in the original baby shower invitation so I could create a digital version of the beautiful green letterpress dandelion. Then I made a template for the label in Microsoft word just by pasting in the dandelion image and the letters H2O. I printed the sheet out onto Avery labels in the 2X4 size, removed the existing labels from store bought water bottles and replaced them with the new customized versions. I think they looked chic and unique:

Finally, the favors. I spent a long time thinking about these. I wanted them to be something the guests would want to keep and something that matched with the overall event décor. They also needed to be fairly affordable since I had to get about 15 for each family, 30 if I wanted to give to each individual. In the end I decided on small succulent plants, which I picked up from Ikea in different varieties and wrapped in tissue, popped into a cellophane bag and tied with twine. I made a small tag for each one – also with the green dandelion image – that included the care instructions (although succulents are almost indestructible.) Everyone seemed to love them and were excited to pick one out of the pile on their way out the door.

So, aside from a few other highlights – namely the cake pops! – those are the important details from Sunday’s event.

Now, on to Thanksgiving! We’re headed down to my in-laws’ house. I thought about hosting this year, but decided I would be too worn out after the baby shower, so instead I’m bringing stuffing and table decorations (my favorite.)

I hope everyone has a celebration full of love, laughs and style!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chance of Showers Part II: Stenciled Onesies

Now that I'm rested up from Sunday's festivites, I'm excited to share some of the details from my first baby shower in the new house.

When I was cooking up ideas for activities, I knew I wanted something that would be fun for both men and women, could do double duty as a keepsake for the guests of honor, and would be fairly easy to execute. When a friend suggested decorating onesies, my mind conjured up a mess of neon puff paint and bad freehand art, but when I saw these Lotta Jansdotter stencils at West Elm, I knew they would help the less artistic guests (like me!) come up with something more presentable.

The shapes were amazing- organic with just the right touch of whimsy but not so infantile they were corny. Gorgeous leaves, tree branches, even a baby elephant were included, and they seemed like the perfect touch (plus, I could keep them after the shower and use them for my own projects at home - yippee!)

I snatched up the stencils, along with two packs of Gerber Organic Onesies straight off the registry and stencil brushes and paints in a range of colors.

I did a sample one at home the night before and was thrilled with the results:

I hung mine, along with several other blank onesies, from a clothesline (complete with adorable mini clothespins) on the mantle, and laid out the rest of the onesies, paint, brushes and stencils on a table for the guests. My kids got the painting party started and before you know it, everyone was at it - even the men!

By the end of the evening we had a beautiful clothesline full of onesies that - I think - anyone would love to put on their baby.

Here are some of my faves:

So that was our main activity for the afternoon - what do you think?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chance of Showers

Yesterday was the highly anticipated baby shower, and it was a wonderful afternoon. We had just the right amount of food and drinks, guests participated happily in the activities, I got lots of compliments on the house and decorations, and - most important of all - the mom and dad-to-be had a great time.

The weather ended up cooperating perfectly, despite the warning of 90% rain, and even though I would have loved to utilize our outdoor space, having everyone in the living and dining room made it a cozy gathering full of laughter and music.

I'm still recovering from all the prep work and cleaning, so I'm going to rest up before I share all the details, but here are some shots of the big event:

I'm looking forward to sharing additional info and pics on my customized water bottles, Lotta Jansdotter stenciled onesies, wishing tree and succulent favors. More to come! 

Friday, November 19, 2010

A San Francisco Treat

Despite my fabulous LA morning on Wednesday, I had a not so fabulous San Francisco afternoon on Thursday when my return flight was delayed for more than three hours and I was left wandering SFO on just two hours of sleep from the night before. I scoped out the available power outlets at each gate they moved us to (that would be three gate changes, thank you United) and spent most of the time working on my laptop. During the last hour, however, I got fidgety and couldn’t sit anymore. I ventured around to some of the airport shots and found some treats to delight my senses:

Ghiradelli Chocolates

Cool new Swatch watches

And this amazing UK home design mag:

Although I would have much preferred to be cuddled up on my sofa at home, I'm glad to have found this little gem. I'm also glad to have been able to sleep for a full eight hours last night!

Oh, and wish me luck on the baby shower this weekend. Weather forecast is calling for rain and 60 degree temps, which isn't ideal, but we'll warm it up with fun, family and cake pops!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

La La Land

Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the morning in Malibu with my older daughter, where she was shooting a commercial in the backyard of a private home.

It was a beautiful morning driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, and warm enough for us to spot plenty of surfers and bikers along the way. When we finally approached our destination we made our way down a long gravel driveway to one of the most amazing homes I've ever seen. I felt like I was instantly transported into a Nancy Myers movie (Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated) with its beautiful Hamptons meets Cape Cod meets Santa Barbara feel. I couldn't get a good pic from the front since it was full of trucks and vans, but here's a shot of the back of the house from the sprawling yard:

And one of the pool area:

Unfortunately I never made it inside the house, but I had fun imagining it full of all sorts of amazing clean, beachy interiors.

By noon I was headed to the airport for a quick overnight trip to San Francisco, but I snapped this beauty on my way out the driveway:

Sometimes amidst the traffic and the smog and the hectic pace I forget how lucky I am to live in a place where I can spend a November morning in the warmth of a sundrenched backyard belonging to a complete stranger while my daughter has the most lucrative playdate one could imagine. Thanks LA.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

Yesterday I shared my little kids dresser turned living room credenza (sort of) project, which I’m super happy with, but from the moment I placed it in the room I knew it needed something on the wall behind it. I could have used these botanical sketches that hang above the mantle, but now they’re accounted for and residing happily in their new home. After much deliberating I decided a mirror would be nice, and since the room has been going in a black, cream and gold direction, I wanted to stay in that family. I scoured some online stores, did some window shopping and hit up my favorite thrift stores, but no luck.

Then I spotted this when I was cleaning out the den closet:

It’s the garland from the Tord Boontje light (sans light) that we bought a few years ago. I was desperate to have it back then, but after getting it home and hanging the light, we realized it wasn’t really a fit for our old space, so I took the garland off the pendant and wrapped it around a ceiling light in our hallway, where it remained until we moved out. I hadn’t found the right home for it in the new place yet, but when I spotted it in the closet it gave me an idea.

1 Torj Boontje Garland + 1 frameless mirror = ??

Since I was off to Ikea for baby shower supplies anyway, I picked up this $15 frameless mirror:

We hung it above the dresser by the clips provided, and then I started wrapping the garland around it. The metal is very bendable but strong and super catchy, meaning it easily sticks to itself as you wrap it. Since I didn’t have enough length to wrap it around all the way I tucked some of it behind the mirror. Here’s what I ended up with:

I think it’s a great addition to the space and perfect for the holiday season, but not so much that it wouldn’t work year-round. Have you seen any other unique projects with with this garland?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paint it Black

I’ve been looking for something to fill an empty wall in our living room since we moved in. First we tried our West Elm console table, but it was too high and too white, so we moved it to the kids room where it now lives as their desk. We thought about putting our new hutch in that spot, but it just felt like a piece that was more appropriate for the dining room, so that was out too. Then I remembered a dresser we had hiding in the garage and my mind started going. We had purchased this piece years ago (eight years to be exact) at the Melrose Trading Post flea market in LA. It was the first piece of furniture we bought for our baby-on-the-way’s nursery (that baby just started second grade!) and was a sage green color when it first came home with us (the dresser that is, not the baby.) I painted it white, laid down floral drawer liner paper, and filled it with little baby outfits.

Fast forward a few years and the dresser was showing it’s age. Paint was chipping (since I hadn’t bothered to sand or prime it the first time around) and the drawers were coming apart (no dovetail joints here) under the weight of the now not-so-little outfits that were being jammed into them. When we were blessed to inherit an Elfa closet organization system in the kids room at the new house, I happily left the dresser in the garage, earmarked for a future yard sale.

Sorry for the dark photos!

When my mind started to go about how to rehab this piece for the living room, I suddenly envisioned adding some feet to the bottom to give it a little lift and painting it a semi-gloss black. This time around I gave it a thorough sanding all around, and then found some short but detailed legs at Lowe’s that gave her just the right amount of height:

…and luckily the bottom of the dresser came equipped with four spots to drill them in to:

Here's the finished product, in its new home:

I love it! Not only is it a great landing spot for my keys and the mail, but it's the perfect place for this lamp and the drawers serve as convenient extra storage.

Now what to hang above it....?