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With a couple of sizeable baby purchases lately/in the wings, I’ve been stretching my creativity around the home.  Right now I’ve got a temporary rule that anything I do ought to be done using stuff I already have, or cost less than $10.  When you’ve been doing DIY for a couple years, you’re bound to have odds and ends of various supplies sitting around taking up space, and I’ve discovered a few fun uses for them.

1.  Temporary ribbon trim on curtains.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a little bored with my plain white curtains.  The reason my living room drapes are white is because I have never been able to settle on what else I’d want there.  Do I want a color?  A contrasting band at the bottom?  Some sort of wide or narrow stripe of ribbon trim?  After the last ribbon trim I glued on got old fast, this time I decided to SAFETY PIN my ribbon trim on.

I save good ribbon to use on holidays and for gift wrapping, and I had a couple long pieces of gold ribbon that I grabbed one day to test out on the leading edge of my living room curtains.  Though that particular shade of gold was too mustardy for me, it inspired me to go spend $4 at JoAnn’s for a 9-yard roll of gold satin ribbon.  Then, in case I get tired of it, I just looped the ribbon through my tiebacks and safety pinned it at the top and the bottom.

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See?  Totally works.

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This will work on any curtains that don’t get drawn often (we use the miniblinds in the living room).  Sometimes you have to adjust the fall of the ribbon so it stays looking attached all the way down, but it’s still a great method for trying out a new trim or letting you change it up a few times a year.

2. Using up small bits of fabric.

Whenever I sew something, I keep any scraps that appear to be of a potentially useful size.  This week I used a scrap from my french door curtains:

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and another from my lampshade project:

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…to make my baby’s swaddle wraps one size bigger.  I swaddle her when she sleeps, and lately she has been on the verge of outgrowing these essential items.

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I bought a swaddle the next size up with a gift card, but although it was long enough it was far too wide in the body.  So I took my scrap fabrics and cut out a piece shaped like an elongated eye (narrow at the ends and wide in the middle) to extend and widen just the legs portion of her two swaddle wraps.  I didn’t do pretty sewing, but it does the job.  She now has lots of room on both her swaddles to let her hips swing open and to kick out her legs straight.

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3.  Art from books.

A while back I bought a nice coffee table book that was on clearance.  It highlighted innovations in typesetting and text layout over the last century… woohoo, right?  Well my dad did typesetting before computers got common and my dear graphic designer friend Amy geeks out about fonts so I guess it’s part of my world :)  Anyway,  I bought this book specifically to cut up for art but have barely used anything from it.

I had a blank spot in my kitchen wall that was begging for art and I’d previously considered getting this piece:

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but in the end I decided I had enough “wow” things happening in the kitchen/dining room already and needed something a lot quieter in that space.  I searched online for pen and ink drawings and even printed out some tree sketches but they weren’t really doing it once I lived with them.

Then I remembered my typesetting book!  I found four pages that balanced each other well, cut them out with a razor, and simply taped them to the wall with a small loop of scotch tape on the back.  Why not?

I do plan to frame them eventually (almost grabbed four $6 clearance frames with mats at Michael’s but that would break my spending rule!  They always have great clearance frames and I just need to wait) but in the meantime, I am really enjoying my art solution.  Forgive the early morning light in my photos – it makes everything look more monochromatic that in real life.

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The four pieces not only look good, they all have some sort of meaning to me.  There are pages from some French fables, the Book of Common Prayer, Genesis, and something with my husband’s name.

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What are your favorite $10 or less changes around the home?

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The beauty of a thrift store is that you can actually go in with twenty dollars in your pocket and come out with several fairly awesome items.

Recently, while the Chief watched our girl, I made a mad dash through three of the local resale stores to look for some of the things I want to add around the house, particularly for the living room.  It was in the Salvation Army that I hit pay dirt.

First of all, it was half off day.  I noticed the sign advertising “50% off today only!” as I walked in and promptly forgot about it.  I began to look around the store for lamps, dressers, trays, and frames but it seemed that I would be disappointed in my endeavors because this store was having a particularly bad selection day.  Everything seemed to be either little dirty cluttery junk or way, way overpriced.  Witness a pair of large blue and white ceramic lamps and shades in good condition for fifty dollars – EACH.  You could get better ones at Home Goods for less than that price.  They had some more lamps in the back but they all seemed to be $18-$22 and not very nice.  Bah.  There was one I liked the shape of but it was on a shelf out of my reach and probably marked at least $18 anyway.

As a last stop I went to the back room where they keep the larger furniture items and there, leaning on a shelf full of porcelain knick knacks, I found a big beefy frame.  Wow! It was already in keeping with my color scheme, not too beat up, and was priced at $10.  I didn’t have a specific spot in mind for it but I realized I could think of at least four places it would work, and so was able to convince my inner cheapskate that a frame that big (the opening is 24″x36″) for that price in those colors could not be passed up.  Here’s  a sneak peek.

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When I went to purchase it, it rang up for $5 and I remembered it was half price day.  The cashier asked me if I’d found everything I wanted and I said, Now that you mention it, there’s this lamp I couldn’t reach…  so the manager went to fetch it down and when he brought it to the front to show me he said there was no price tag on it but I could have it for four dollars, out the door.  FOUR DOLLARS.  When every other far crappier lamp in the place was at least $18.  I grabbed it out of his hot little hands.  It was missing a harp and a shade but those are so easy to pick up, and the shade would probably have needed to be replaced anyway… you know how thrift store lampshades generally look!

I forgot to take a before picture of this lamp, but it was a speckly tan colored porcelain, about as blah and drab as you could get.

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I gave it a makeover with my navy blue spray paint to match my other spray painted living room lamp.

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So that is how I walked out of the store with two perfectly imperfect items and only $9 lighter in my pocket.

Have you hit up any good thrift stores lately?  What do you like to look for secondhand for your home?

There’s a big blank wall in my kitchen that has been crying out to me for a fantastic piece of art. The space is between cabinets, just above the cutting board where I spend 98% of my time doing prep work.

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Big. Blank. Space.

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So it clearly needs something. A couple times over the last several months I’ve browsed art.com and allposters.com for cheap prints that would work there. The main colors in the kitchen/dining area are orangey wood (cabinets and table), leaf green, and a bit of yellow, red, and cobalt to boot. I would never advise picking art because it matches your room colors – my mom has worked in the fine art world for decades and at least partly because of her influence I believe you should hang art that you love, whether it cost $1 or $1000. Still, I want something that looks like it belongs in here.

Another factor is that I’m most frequently drawn to landscapes that use most of the colors of the rainbow. It’s a plus if they include curves of coastline. Witness some of my other favorite pieces of art from around the house.  Sorry about the reflections on some of these!

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See? I’m predictable. Plenty of blue, some red, some yellow, scenic.  This is totally my favorite type of piece. Although thankfully I don’t have a house full of landscapes – sometimes I go for quirky graphic pieces too.

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(The text under the lobster says, “The next time You find Yourself in a Pinch to deliver the Ultimate in Foil Stamping and Blind Embossing, Remeber, Aladdin Litho…For quality work, guaranteed to get You out of hot Water in a Snap!”  It’s a trade show sample back from when my parents owned a typesetting business in the 80’s.  Awesome.)

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Yes, that is an internet meme that I blew up to 8×10 and framed.

So as for the kitchen, I found this piece I love for $40 after coupon, shipping, and tax, and am wondering whether I should click on that oh-so-easy Paypal button. I’m planning to sit on the decision for at least 24 hours anyway, but I wanted to know your vote. It’s about $15 more than I was initially planning to spend, but apart from the lines of image itself I also love the colors and the brush technique and the illusion of flatness in the depth of field.

This is the piece – it’s about 26″x20″ before framing and matting – with a digital frame rendered in.  I’d get a frame that fits the image from the thrift store.

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And here’s a mockup of it framed and in situ, Before/After.

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This painting is so “me” and yet I find I’m hesitant to pull the trigger simply because I’ve been looking so long.  Maybe I’ll find something just as awesome for less money… maybe it doesn’t look as good in person… maybe I finally found something I love for almost the right price and I should get it?  What do you think?

I feel like celebrating.

I’ve been working on the farmhouse table for weeks now, and it’s coming along slowly but steadily.  This weekend I’d hoped to finish and when it became clear that it was not to be, I decided to let it go and tackle a bunch of Little Things that have been on the edge of my consciousness for some time.

You know the ones.  The things that will take five or ten minutes but you never seem to get around to them because there are Bigger Things that you have your attention on.  It finally gets to the point where you’re saying to yourself, “Ugh, I haven’t repotted the orchid for three and a half months now!”  The pain of ignoring these things gets worse than the pain of stopping for ten minutes to take care of them.  I just did four Little Thing projects, and I can tell you, this is the MOST accomplishment I’ve felt over a weekend in a while!

1. I switched out a piece of art that my husband didn’t like for one that makes us both smile.  It is fancy.

2. I repotted the orchid!

3.  I bought a memory card (and a second battery) for my shiny awesome new camera so that it is usuable.

4. I dusted the house and discovered for the first time in my life that dusting with the vaccuum brush attachment goes faster and doesn’t use half a roll of paper towels.  Not sexy, I know, but I hate dusting and I love clean shining surfaces, and I want to know why no one ever told me to use my vaccuum before.

Bonus/teaser: I also finished the underside of that farmhouse table :)  (Those are stain tests at the top where it’s darker.)

Have you ever taken a break from the Big Things to get a bunch of those Little Things straightened out? Dosen’t it feel good not to have them chattering at you every time you walk by?