Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Kitchen Chairs!

I just ordered new chairs (in RED!!) for the kitchen from Pottery Barn. I am so excited. I've had these picked out for awhile. We were making do with a $100 dinette set from K-Mart that Heinz bought while we were dating. The chairs have been falling apart for some time now, and Heinz would put them back together with some bolts and stuff. But this weekend I sat in one that was leaning and I almost fell backwards. So we felt like the time had come to buy some new ones. I brought a bit of our curtain fabric to Pottery Barn and held it up to a sample of the red chairs, and it matches PERFECTLY. Like they were made for each other. I can't wait to get them in!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Is SOOO Wonderful

I think there's too much pressure for Christmas to be perfect. Everything's supposed to be fun, cheery, and happy all the frickin' time. And a lot of time it isn't. (Especially when you have to deal with an alcoholic around the holidays.) It's easy to start stressing about getting everyone the right gift (oops, I can't forget my neighbors, I better make some homemade treats), getting your cards out on time (I'm a freak and want to make mine, which adds to the stress), plus there's work and making dinner and cleaning house on top of all this Christmas goodness. Then you have to see as much family as possible. Let's cram it all in!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a scrooge. I love making gifts and treats, I love making Christmas cards, and I love spending time with people I love until it starts to be dysfunctional. I just think the idea of Christmas is overblown. Maybe I have it wrong in thinking I'm supposed to be happy all the time. The magic of Christmas is supposed to be for little kids, I guess, and it's up to the adults to make sure that happens for them. My niece has been asking for homemade marshmallows, and I think about years from now when I'm old and I can't make them anymore, that perhaps she'll remember how Aunt Leah loved her enough to make them for her and how much she enjoyed them in her hot chocolate. Just like I remember my old babysitter Mrs. Chick and her butter cookies and how much I looked forward to that tin of cookies every year. I always think of her when I make them and about all of the hard work she put into them.

What are some ways that you enjoy the holidays without stress? I just have to let some things go and realize that not everything can be perfect.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dali Decal Coupon Code for My Readers

The nice folks at Dali Decals left a coupon code on my post about the decal in the guest bedroom for my readers (all five of you).

"Thanks so much for the write up too! As our way of saying thanks, here's a coupon code you and your friends can use for $10 off, no minimum purchase. Coupon code is leahinthesouth1"

I am already planning my next decal: I'm going to have them do a custom quote for the slanted wall of my craft room that you see right when you walk in the room. It's going to say "Leah's Craft Room of Awesomeness" unless any of you have another idea.

According to Dali's website, they're having a 10% off deal right now anyway along with free shipping. The code for that is HOLIDAY09 and it ends on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sea Salt Caramels

I get a lot of card ideas and stamps from Impress Rubber Stamps. I saw this caramel packaging and wanted to make some, even thought I didn't know what Sea Salt Caramels were. But I found a lot of recipes for them. I ended up using third-person Grandma's recipe and just added the Fleur de Sel at the end like what some of the other recipes recommended. A tip for making the caramels easier is to buy precut squares of wax paper to wrap them in.

Packaging from Impress Rubber Stamps:

My version of the packaging. I designed the labels in Quark (don't be hatin') and printed them out on card stock and attached them with scrapbook adhesive squares.

Here's the Recipe:
Caramels or Sea Salt Caramels

1 pound light brown sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
½ pound (2 sticks) butter (I use salted)
½ teaspoon cream of tarter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fleur de sel (sea salt), optional
Extra fleur de sel to press into cut pieces
Special equipment: parchment paper, candy thermometer, wax paper squares

Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir mixture until temperature reaches 245°, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.
If using fleur de sel, sprinkle 2 teaspoons on top of caramels after 10 minutes. Let caramels cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cool.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board. Lift caramel out of pan and place on parchment paper sea salt-side up. Cut caramel into bite-size pieces and wrap in 4-inch squares of wax paper. If using fleur de sel, you may press some extra into cut pieces. Don’t use too much because a little bit goes a long way.
Makes about 6 dozen caramels.
NOTE: This recipe can be easily doubled. Use a bigger pan to cook the caramels and pour into a 13x9-inch pan.

Detective Kits

Some months ago I was brainstorming ideas of books to get for my friend's son who is a voracious reader. I remembered the Encyclopedia Brown books, which made me think that it would be fun to make detective kits for Christmas. So I have spent some time putting them together for him and my nephews and niece. I got Encyclopedia Brown box sets for the 9-year-old boys, I Can Read Berenstain Bear Mysteries for the 7-year-old, and a Strawberry Shortcake mystery for my 5-year-old niece who is obsessed with pink. Planning the boxes was so much fun. I designed ID badges and business cards, and also included fake mustaches, magnifying glasses, mini clipboards and notepads, and a really rad invisible ink pen that includes a light to read the messages. I think that these would be great favors for a mystery-themed birthday party.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ribbon Wreath

I saw a ribbon wreath on my friend Stephanie's new blog and went out to buy the supplies that day. The idea came from here. I used wider ribbon and used four different kinds. I love the result, and it doesn't look super Christmasy. I think that it could be used throughout the year.

Paper Lanterns

Paper lanterns were the design inspiration for the guest bedroom. I love the colors.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


My friend Christy from New York was in Atlanta last week, and so I drove over there to meet her for lunch. After lunch we walked around and stopped into West Elm, the place where I got our bedding. Just within the last three weeks since I'd been there, they have this new shiny shiny incredible soft bedding. Christy said, "You have to get this bedding!!" But since I had just gotten new bedding, I decided to supplement.

First I got these throws for the library. They won out over some chunky knit throws from Pottery Barn because they're machine washable and the ones from Pottery Barn are dry clean only (no thank you!).

Then I got these standard shams for the bedroom. The color is pretty close to the wall color, and I love the two standard shams in front of the Euro shams instead of the king-size ones.

And...More Sewing

Yesterday I made some curtain tiebacks. I think they look a lot better now.
These Amy Butler curtains were my inspiration. They would have cost $300 for two windows. Mine, including the panels I bought at Wal-Mart, were about $42. Plus a $400 sewing machine, ha.

I then hemmed a piece of fabric with a lining to go on top of an old sewing table. I ordered a piece of glass to go on top of it so it can be used as a desk. Then it will be safe for even a laptop or to throw your keys on there. The piece of glass is about $10. If you didn't want to hem a piece of fabric, you could put cute scrapbook paper and photos underneath it. I think that I'm going to do that with my nightstand and leftover wallpaper.

You know those rice bags that you can heat up in the microwave to use as a heating pad? My grandma uses one all the time for her arthritis and other ailments. She needed some new ones since one I got her several years ago caught on fire in the microwave. (There's only so long they'll last. The rice gets dried out.) So I whipped up a couple of new ones. I made one of leftover cotton and one out of flannel so it's supercosy. (It also reminds me of my grandfather.)

I actually put the rice in a plain bag first and made the outside to actually be a slipcover so they can be washed easily.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Leah Marie's Semi-Homemade

I was so pleased with how the bathroom valence turned out that I made two more for the guest bedroom. I bought the curtain panels underneath, making the whole project more doable. I think I'm going to do this same thing in the craft room. It's a great way to bring in a pattern without having to make long panels.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Check Out My Fly Curtain, Yo!

I made a fabric valance for the guest bath last night. I'm pleased with my first attempt and have learned a few lessons for next time. Today I'm going to make a couple of valances for the guest bedroom windows in coordinating fabrics. I like how this fabric pulls in the other colors and explains why the walls in the bathroom are green.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Decals Are Addictive!

I liked the decal that I did in the dining room so much that I decided to get one for the guest bedroom. I wanted it to be a main feature on the wall above the bed, so I used this large cherry blossom tree from Dali Decals. I like a lot of their other designs too. When I look through them, I think, "Where can I put that?!"

I'm still on stage one of the room. There's still a lot more to come!

The decal consisted of one big branch (with 2 little branches you put on separate) and then all of the flowers were individual so that you could put them on where you wanted. This decal definitely took a lot more work than the chandelier; it took me several hours at least. Before the flowers went on it looked like a crack in the wall.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Doin's and I Made a Skirt!

I ran out of candy this year...and I had enough for 270 trick-or-treaters! Last year I had 212, so I thought I had gotten enough. My neighbor across the street was able to get his yard up in time for tonight; it rained all last night and half of today.

Luke and Katie came over tonight to go trick-or-treating. Luke's costume was supercute.

I decided to be Professor McGonagall this year. I was going to be Elizabeth Bennet, Zombie Killer, but I thought it would be too cold. (I was right.) So I ordered her trademark plaid tartan hat and made a wool skirt. I used a Simplicity pattern for a costume skirt that has an elastic waist. The curved hem was a bit tricky but I'm happy with how it turned out. It didn't take me long to make it. I'm sure that I'll be using this pattern a lot in the future!

One of the highlights of my neighbor's yard is his friend who dresses up as Gene Simmons from Kiss. He's wearing 4-inch platforms so he's standing about 7 feet tall. He had to lean over to be in a picture with me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Crafts

My neighbor across the street goes all out for Halloween. So many people come to see his house that the police block the street off and we get more than 200 trick-or-treaters. I can in no way compete with him, but the excitement is contagious. I decided to do something fun for my front porch. This idea is from Martha, of course. You cut an opening in the bottom of the pumpkin, and you scoop out the flesh to about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Heinz scooped out the flesh for me with an ice-cream scoop. I then marked where I wanted the holes to go with a Sharpie, and Heinz drilled them out with a 1/4" drill bit. I then inserted Christmas lights in the holes, which was hard on my fingers. You stuff the extra lights inside. I'm really excited with how they turned out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Organic Pin-Tuck Bedding

I just love the Organic Cotton Pin-Tuck Bedding from West Elm. It is so comfy and I love the pin-tuck look. I bought the natural color for our bedroom and the white for the guest bedroom. After much deliberation, I decided to go neutral with the bedding in the guest bedroom so the look could be changed out easily.

Library Chairs

The recliners for the library arrived this morning! Heinz hasn't even had a chance to see them yet. They're the Buchanan recliners from La-Z-Boy. Except we bought them from Vance furniture in North Carolina for 40% off retail. Now all we need are lamps and a table to go between the recliners. If you need me, I'll be in the library reading a book in my comfy new recliner. Then later I'm going to have some brandy and smoke a cigar.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Whole Lotta Paintin' Goin' On

I have painted three rooms plus a bath and a ceiling in the past few weeks, plus single-handedly copy edited an entire magazine. So that's why I haven't posted in awhile.

First of all is Heinz's office. Don't adjust your screens. Yes, it's bright purple; it's Benjamin Moore's Amethyst Cream. I didn't post the second room I painted. It's cream. I didn't think it would photograph very well.

This is the main guest bedroom. It matches some fabric that I picked out to make a quilt and some accessories. No, I don't know how to make a quilt. But if other people can learn to make awesome quilts from online tutorials, then I can too, right? The walls are Benjamin Moore's Providence Olive, and the ceiling is Icing on the Cake (a bright, light blue). I think it's really relaxing.

I painted the guest bath Benjamin Moore's Dill Pickle, which I found out is a lighter version of the dining room color (Jalapeno Pepper). It also matches the fabric. Stay tuned for guest bedroom updates!!

Two Great Crafts That Go Great Together

My latest artwork for the house is for the wall between our closets in the vanity part of the master bath. I combined some hand embroidery with copperplate calligraphy. I borrowed the idea of the tree from my friend Julia's wedding invitation. But after we put them up I realized that it might sadly remind Heinz of all the leaves that will need to be raked in the yard this fall and winter.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Chandelier Theme

I recently had a new idea for the dining room, and that would be this chandelier decal from Blik. I thought it would be fun. After I ordered it, I was looking online for black-and-white damask curtains (so maybe I wouldn't have to make them) and came across these from Target. They look elegant, but when you look closer, you realize they have little chandeliers on them! I was thrilled to not have to make dining room curtains, plus they match the decal.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Other Side of the Foyer

The twig hat rack from Pottery Barn came in this week. I think it complements the twigs in the foyer wallpaper nicely. It's also the same color as the handrail on the stairs, so it actually looks like I kind of know what I'm doing as far as decorating goes. On the wall is more homemade artwork. I got some twigs in the yard to mimic the twig theme. I then added some pieces of leftover wallpaper to it. The only thing I might add to it is an umbrella stand.

Homemade Art Fail

I had these big plans to put nine squares of styrofoam covered with cute scrapbook paper and ribbon on the dining room wall. Except when I started making them, they looked like crap. Like, not professional at all. I would take a picture of how awful they are but I don't really feel like it right now. So instead I'll show you Plan #2. Instead of nine types of scrapbook paper, I narrowed it down to three and put them in 12 x 12 shadow frames. I like how it turned out. And nine might have actually been too busy looking.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Living Room Furniture

This furniture is from the Candise Olsen collection at Norwalk. And it is soooo comfy. Especially compared to the old secondhand couch that we've been sitting on. There were several different leg/skirt options. I almost went with the more modern leg, but I decided that I really like the turned leg. It's definitely more traditional but I think it goes well with the house. And as an added bonus, the color of the leg we picked out goes well with the piano. Which I was going to paint, but now I'm not, so that if I decide to change my accent colors in 10 years I won't be stuck with a red piano.