Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holly Giftwrap

I always try to make sure that the gifts I pick for my family & friends are something they would like- ideally the kind of thing that they didn't even know they wanted or would never have bought for themselves! I am a big believer in the importance of making the outside of a gift look as special and unique as the gift inside... you want the first impression of your gift to hint at the fabulous-ness inside!

I came across this idea for Mistletoe Package Toppers in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living & thought it was adorable. The only thing that I didn't like is, who knows what Mistletoe looks like? I personally would never recognize a Mistletoe leaf or berry on it's own... unless it was hanging from the ceiling!

So I decided to take the idea & tweak it a bit... using Holly instead of Mistletoe. All it took was some green felt & red jingle bells.
Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Painting Project: Entry

I've been wanting to do something in our entryway for a bit, but haven't been quite sure what.

Plain painting just doesn't feel like it would be enough here... Nevermind that this area opens up to the living room just up the stairs, and I don't know what color I want there yet. Lately I've been loving graphic patterned wallpapers... but this being a rental, I don't know that I really want to mess with putting up and then tearing down wallpaper.

So I've decided to use a stencil & fake my own wallpaper. Now, if the word 'wallpaper' makes people cringe, I think 'stencil' is even worse- it makes me think of teddy bear borders. But I am inspired by the 'fauxpaper' Holly from decor8 featured here - a stencil will be the perfect way to get the repeating pattern I have in mind.

I couldn't find a stencil I liked, so just made my own (more info on how to do that later!). I started one corner & asked J what he thought- I knew it would be a lot of work, so wanted to make sure he wasn't completely opposed to the idea before I got too much done. Not that it would necessarily make me stop if he didn't like it...!
So J looked and reported back "It is so you"... I was thinking 'Perfect! That is just what I want people to think when they walk into my home!" And then he finishes: "Only you would pick something so tedious and time-consuming." Which I guess is also true- just not quite the response I was hoping for! I still think it will look cool when it's finished, so I'm soldiering on...

I'll post an update once I get it finished!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Have a very Puggy Christmas

Every year I make my own Christmas Cards... I like making things, so even as crazy as this time of year is, I really try to make a point to get my cards done. Though some years I've sent New Year's cards instead!

Seeing as the Pugs are the big change in our lives this year, they are of course featured! (Bonus: J and I didnt have to agree on a picture of ourselves we liked.)

I decided to make it complicated by adding props- I had grand visions of the boys licking candy canes (which Boozer did, eventually), peeking their heads out of a wrapped 'gift' (Frank decided he was afraid of the box), and donning santa hats, but had to be a bit flexible.

The end product is shown here - the front of the card is above and the inside to the right. I printed all the text using my Gocco & took the pictures at home (using a hung sheet as a 'backdrop'). Deciding that using glue would be way too simple, I used my sewing machine to attach the front pictures. It ended up being a lot of work, but I think that the end result was worth it.

Hopefully our friends & family agree!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Primary Ingredient: Smiles

I'm love beautiful packaging... I have a tendency to buy gifts (especially the small, stocking stuffer variety) at least partly because I like how they look. I'm a total sucker for Creative/ gorgeous from the outside.

So, imagine my suprise when I came across the cutest thing today while snacking on some Goldfish crackers... check out the first ingredient in the picture here. HOW ADORABLE! Love it.

Have a happy weekend! Nicole

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

We'll miss you, Pandora!

So sad- just went to Pandora to listen to music as I get work done this morning & found out that they're GONE! I guess they're not allowed to share music in the US anymore... so sad!

I need a new music site... Any other good suggestions out there??

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Meet the Pugs!

After my last post I realized that I hadn't properly introduced Boozer & Frank... here they are:
The boys are brothers (from the same litter) and are 8 months old. I've been wanting a dog, a Pug specifically, for a loooong time, and this Spring J finally gave in (his words)/ realized what a fantastic idea it was (my words). We had heard that Pugs are very social creatures and need someone around all the time, so if you work it is good to get two to keep the other company. For some reason we bought into this logic, hence the two puppies at once. On one hand having two is great- they play with one another & cuddle together when they sleep. On the other hand it is crazy- not only twice as expensive (food, treats, vet), but everything is much more complicated... walking 2 dogs at once is not as easy as it would seem!

They tend to provide much of my entertainment on a daily basis (especially when I work from home & don't have much human contact!) so I'm sure you'll be hearing more about their antics!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holiday "Cheer"

As we head into Thanksgiving, that means the Holiday Season is in full swing - we've all seen the Christmas displays in stores since Halloween! Every year I make Christmas cards for us to send out to family & friends. As you can imagine, they tend to reflect my personality a bit more than J's... but this year, he has decided he wants his own cards to send to his friends. This momentous decision was primarily brought about by his love of the 16 Sparrows "F*ing" Cards we saw at the Renegade Craft Fair this summer. Not exactly what I would send out to our grandparents, but definately J's sense of humor!

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I'm going into card-making mode. J has an idea that I think will actually turn out pretty cute- it involves sarcasm, the pugs, and a Christmas Sweater. Of course, he needs a fabulous Christmas Outfit to wear- we decided that a turtleneck with an embellished sweatshirt would fit the bill perfectly... the work in progress:

I'm trying to channel something a Grandmother would make as a gift. I actually started off wanting a big iron-on transfer (perhaps a big santa head? something mary engelbreit?), but shockingly couldn't find anything like that at Joann's. I was suprised- the only super 'crafty' designs I found there were in Cross Stitch. Who knew?! Made me think of the recent "Craft" discussion that was raging over at How about Orange...

I'll post an update once we get the finished product together!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Getting Started...

It is driving me nuts that I don't have this blog all formatted & pretty yet... I need to get a nice logo, background, style sheets, links to my favorite blogs & resources.

BUT, I am kinda proud of still posting before it is 'perfect'. I have a tendency to postpone progress until everything is just right & the stars are all aligned. Which explains why sometimes I never feel like I make much progress. As you can imagine, it is often difficult for everything to be 'just right', so I put off starting. I've put off diets & to-do lists because I hadn't created the necessary files/lists/tracking sheets that I wanted. Pure craziness.

So, while hopefully I get to making this look nice & more 'me' soon, for now I am proud of posting at all... and fighting my urge to avoid the not perfect. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Painting Stripes

More on my Navy Walls drama later (not how it went from pure excitement to 'drama'?!), but I'm pretty pleased with how a different painting project turned out: a Stripe! I realize that people paint stripes all the time, but in general my paint edges aren't super clean (for some reason, taping seems to be incredibly difficult for me), so I have always been scared of attempting them.

I once read of a great trick on BeJane that gave me added confidence: rub some paintable caulk on the tape line & it will create a nice seal... so no paint will bleed underneath & you'll get a clean line!

Armed with my new laser level (yay! I am such a dork... I am seriously pumped about my new tool) I taped my lines, and then used my finger to rub the caulk onto the edge. After letting the caulk dry, I painted. Our whole apartment is painted in a very matte finish, so the caulk area was a bit noticeable at first, but two coats later it turned out like this:

Love it!

This is J's office area... I finished it off with a series of pictures above his desk, a couple from his hometown, a few from college & a Chicago one... kinda like his own mini 'Where I Come From' pictorial.

Hope that this tip helps someone else!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Handmade Holiday

As I yearn to start my own creative business, I realized that I actually need to start creating more. A lot of times you hear of people who got started because friends/family were raving about their homemade gifts... I decided that I need to start giving & making homemade gifts if I ever expect that to happen to me!

Plus, one of the great tips I picked up from the book
Craft, Inc* is that, if you want a craft business you need to treat your crafting as a business and set aside time for it. Which makes sense, but somehow the fun stuff always seems to get shoved aside in favor of my 'real' job, chores around the house, seeing friends... so it's time to get serious.

Seeing as the holidays are just around the corner (how in the world is Thanksgiving next week?!?!), my lucky family & friends will be receiving handmade gifts this year. Now to figure out what to make everyone! I came across the telented Amy Butler's supply of
free patterns online & I think I'm going to try and make the Sash with Beaded Fringe... I could see my mom looking adorable in it. And seeing as I keep meaning to learn how to sew a bit better, the practice will be good for me. I'll let you know how it goes!


*This book has been a really interesting read & had been getting rave reviews all over the web, so check it out if you're also looking to get crafty full time!

Friday, November 9, 2007

I want Navy Walls

I saw this picture in the November 2005 issue of Domino & fell IN LOVE with this room & the navy walls.

Now, I am not normally a very subdued decorator - my last few apartments had purple, lime green (not my best choice), yellow and bright blue walls... not all at the same time, mind you. But still.

But I came across this picture and immediately adored it - the color is so rich, and the white accents and her many prints on the wall just pop!

I decided that I must have it.

Now, being a renter, we all know that painting is one of the best ways to make a space personal without making any long-term changes. The navy does make me a bit nervous, though... will it take forever to paint? And will it then take even longer to paint over when we have to move out? Am I concerned enough to not have my gorgeous navy room? Though I may live to regret it, I don't think so...

More to come as this adventure continues!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Nice to meet you... or I guess for you to meet me!


I've been sitting here, staring at my blank screen, trying to figure out what in the world to say for my first post... such a daunting task! I guess I'll start with who I am & why I'm even doing this whole posting thing...

My name is Nicole~ I'm 28 & live in Chicago with my husband J & two pug puppies. My family moved around when I was little (Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania), but I really grew up in Michigan. I was one of those kids who was active in anything I could get my hands on, doing whatever sports (ok, that was more limited- I'm not exactly what you call coordinated) & clubs I could. While I was always creative, it took me a while to channel that energy in a way that didnt make me a social misfit (I had a really unfortunate big, flashy, ridiculous, attention-getting-but-not-in-a-good-way earring phase) in the crazy world of teenagers.

I went to college at University of Michigan, where I studied computers (I still don't really know how that happened - I meant to be a first grade teacher going in!) ~ I now have a 'normal' job where I work for a big company, sit in a cubicle, the whole works. And while my job is good/fine in a very normal & typical way, I want more. I want different than just fine.

I was recently talking to an old acquantance from high school, asking what his job is these days. He has one of those jobs that sounds pretty cool & I said so.... he said "It's ok, but I just do it so that I can afford to do what I really want in my free time." I mentioned this to someone & they said something about "that's really all you can hope for" and I thought NO! I want more than that. I need more than that! I want to spend my days in a way that excites me & feeds my spirit - does work have to feel like work?

So, that brings me to this blog... I know I want to do something creative with my life. But beyond that I am seriously stuck. What exactly will I be creating? That is a fantastic, still to be answered, question! I have lots of ideas crashing around in my head, so this is a chance for me to get my ideas out there in the open world. Not sure if anyone will read this, but I hope that if nothing else, this blog will help me to organize my thoughts & interests.

So as is typical with me, while I complain that I can't possibly have anything to share, once I get talking, you can't really stop me. I start many emails to friends with a 'sorry this is so long!' disclaimer. So, I think that is enough babbling about myself for now!

Thanks for reading... more to come soon!

Monday, November 5, 2007

About Me

I am an aspiring entrepreneur, serial crafter, and enthusiastic hostess who is always trying to improve myself, my surroundings, and my skillset. My mind is like a sponge for great ideas, and I am always looking around me for inspiration: I love to take an idea and implement it with my own personal twist. This blog is a little peek into my world and the ideas constantly swirling through my head... and when I find free time, the result of how those ideas come to life.

I live in Chicago with my husband J and two pugs, Frank & Boozer... though the midwestern winters are starting to wear on us, so that may change. My educational background is in computers and I have worked professionally as a consultant for almost ten years, but I dream of owning my own business, selling my creations. (What exactly will I create, you ask? That is still to be seen!)

Thank you so much for stopping by... I am so honored that you would let me share my world with you!