Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Time for Mother's Day

As a shop owner, I have always been horrible at planning ahead for holidays.

On-time gift giving, let alone early gift-giving, is not one of my strengths. Sisters, mother-in-laws, nieces and nephews routinely get their birthday gifts mailed to them the week or two following their birthday. Oops. (Meg, go check the mail... I think yours might be coming today!)

So you can imagine how hard it is for me to conceptualize, shop for, execute, photograph, write descriptions, and finally put up for sale new holiday items or seasonal gift sets in time for anyone except pityful last-minute shoppers like myself to have any chance of ordering them. But, I have something really sweet for Mother's Day (a whole 5 weeks away!) in the shop right now, and I wanted to share it with you... if for no other reason than the fact that it's there. Small victories. :)

These are vintage-inspired french stripe kitchen towels personalized with a custom, hand-stitched, 2 letter monogram, just like antique European grain sacks and linens. They come in 3 colors - brown, blue, or red for $16.50 each. What a perfect gift for Mom! Beautiful, handmade, and just for her.

When I first introduced these towels a couple months ago, I only had the patterns created for a few letters, and I thought that it would be fun to offer the towels with anonymous monograms, just like an actual found antique.... Well, that went... OK. I ended up doing a few custom towels by special request for someone, and I noticed that several of the other people who ordered them just happened to have initials that matched the ones on the towel. {Light bulb} People wanted the towels personalized. I know, I should have known that from the beginning!

I spent the last week researching and coming up with patterns for every letter of the alphabet. The cross-stitched initials are patterned after letters from actual antique grain sacks, but some initials you almost never see on antique linens, so I had to piece them together using the patterns and style cues from letters that I did have. I used this etsy shop, which is FULL of grain sacks, for much of my inspiration when designing the letters.

I use the original (anonymous) towels that I stitched back at the beginning in my own kitchen now, and I even have some in the bathroom too. They add that perfect touch of french farmhouse style that I just love.

And did you notice that one has the initials "EC" on it?  Yep, that one is for me, too :)

Don't forget! Mother's Day is May 8th.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Horray for Toothpicks

The humble toothpick takes a place of pride in my china cabinet, thanks to this old miniature silver-plated trophy cup, found at a flea market.

See it there, on the second shelf?

I like the contrast that a dark touch of pewter or tranished silver brings to an all-white collection. And I love having toothpicks at the ready :) Horray for toothpicks!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Light Makeover

As hinted at in this post, I have a new Impatient Decorating project to share with you. A burlap cord cover for the chandelier in my dining nook!

My husband surprised me with this little chandelier for Christmas, to replace the gigantic frosted glass and shiny brass wart of a light fixture that was adorning the ceiling when we moved in. Now, I know, it's no french antique... It's actually Swedish! (cough, cough, Ikea.)  But it's amazing the difference it made!

Sorry... again, no "before" pictures. In looking through early pictures of the dining room, I noticed that I had purposefully framed all the shots so as NOT to include the ugly light fixture. Go figure. But it was one of these...

...only bigger, older, and dirtier. Yuck.

Much better :)

If you are renting something less than your dream house, know this: it is remarkably easy to change out an ugly light fixture, and absolutely worth it!  I had to reassure my husband that my utter shock and amazement at how fast he changed out the light had nothing to do with my doubting his handyman skills, and everything to do with my cluelessness about the world of electricity. It took less than 10 minutes!

But, as will all modern conveniences, it came with an ugly cord. I have seen burlap cord covers from places like Pottery Barn for around $20 that are made to neatly snap around the cord and stylishly hide it.

But aside from spending the money, ordering one involves lots of waiting. And one morning, I decided that I didn't want to wait anymore! I had a nice big piece of burlap on hand, so I had to decide how to make it work. I thought about velcro... but didn't have any. I though about stitching it... but that takes way too long. I even thought about hot glue... but that involved digging around for the hot glue gun, not to mention an extention cord. So what did I use?

Nothing! I ended up cutting the burlap into long strips about 6 inches wide, and just started wrapping it around the cord. I secured the end by tucking it into the chain and tightly wrapping the burlap a couple times around it. I would wrap a short section at a time, not paying too much mind to how it looked, and then go back and scrunch the section together to get a little more volume and tuck all the raw edges under. Wrap, scrunch, and tuck. Wrap, scrunch, and tuck. At the end, I just tucked the end under a fold and into a loop of the chain and it held just fine. Not a drop of glue or a stitch of thread in sight! And it looks just as good at the Pottery Barn ones, for a fraction of the cost.

If you want to try it at home, I do have a Tip of the Day for you:

If you have anything on your table, take it off before you start!
The burlap will shed hairy little strands all over the table, and in my haste to get started I neglected to remove the tray of garden pots, candles, and urns that I had on the table, so they were covered in burlap fuzz by the time I was done. How much easier it would have been to just sweep off an empty table. :)

But I am SO happy with the end results. Proof again that you can do great decorating projects with next to nothing!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gardener's Hand Care Kit

I've been working on a brand new gardeners set for summer, and it's finally here! The "Gardener's Hand Care Kit" is a collection of all-natural lemony-herb scented soaps and creams, paired with a wooden soap dish and nail brush for a perfect sink-side clean-up set that will get your hardworking hands clean and soft again after working all day in the garden.

But enough of the sales pitch! This is the reason I'm so excited about this new gift set...

The vintage French seed packet labels! I ordered a whole pack of these darling little vintage carrot labels from Jane at Simply French Vintage, a beautiful etsy shop from across the pond that carries all sorts of vintage french goods, such as buttons, seed packets, linen towels, burlap sacks, and vintage spools of string. Simply gorgeous is more like it!

I was so excited to get my the package in the mail a few days ago! I skipped around the house for a few minutes out of pure excitement (you know how girls jump up and down and clap their hands together in a rapid flutter of little girly "mini-claps" when they get excited? Yeah, that's me.) But these Carotte Rouge (red carrot) labels add just the perfect splash of color and touch of vintage garden charm that I was looking for for my newest Gardeners gift set!

I mounted the vintage label on a piece of textured off-white cardstock with a hand-torn edge, and tied the whole thing up with a big, thick, mossy-green ribbon.

If you know a gardener who would be as excited as I am about these Hand Care Kits, you can order them here for $24 each. I will be adding them to my etsy store as well, but I couldn't wait to show you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Beautiful Box

I have a "thing" for old wooden crates and boxes with lettering and logos. I buy quite a few to sell on Etsy, but this gorgeous hardware box is staying with me. :) I love the simple layout and crisp black words paired with the weathered, rustic wood.

This stack of boxes sits right beside the chippy white table that serves as my husbands computer desk in the livingroom... which means the gigantic tangle of computer cords gets hidden behind beautiful boxes! I love hiding the "ugly" with something so pretty :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Right at Home

Within days of moving into our new place here in Nebraska a few months ago, the one thing that made me feel most immediately at home was not arranging the furniture, or unpacking and decorating with my favorite antiques, or even discovering where the nearest Panera Bread was...

It was the squirrels!

I missed squirrels in the city. We lived in downtown Chicago for over a year after we got married, and while you see squirrels in the parks or scampering across the sidewalks, you don't get to see too many furry little critters from the 8th floor windows of a high rise. Not anything like at home, where at any given time there are well over a dozen squirrels gathering at the birdfeeders at my parents house.

So on Sunday afternoon, Pete and I found a cute little nature shop in town (which also made me feel right at home... but more on that later :) and I scooped a couple pounds of black oil sunflower seed into a brown paper sack, feeling a little like a kid in a candy store. Once we got home, I sprinkled a little sunflower seed on the wide stone sill in front of the big livingroom picture window, and then sat back and waitied. It didn't take long!

I was worried I would scare the little guy, but I soon discovered that I can move around right in front of the window and it doesn't seem to bother him.

I could almost hear my mom rolling her eyes over the phone as I excitedly told her about my new little squirrel feeding set-up this morning. (I think she'd be more than happy to box up a couple of the squirrels from her place and send them to me :) But I love it!

He just munched and munched and munched, and when he had enough, he turned tail and scampered away...

But, with plenty of seed left in my brown paper bag, I'm pretty sure he'll be back tomorrow :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring!

The first day of spring was gorgeous here in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was calm and mostly sunny, with temperatures in the 60's. Our neighborhood was all a-bustle with leaf raking, dog walking, and sidewalk chalk drawing. Pete and I did a little outdoor spring cleaning at our humble little rental home, sweeping off steps, pulling sticks out of the front bushes, and wiping down the ivory-colored metal front door (it looks so much better!) Horray for spring!

Last Friday, my husband took a day off work and we took advantage of the beautiful spring-like day to explore the nearby Sunken Gardens.  The gardens were mostly still asleep, but there were a few beautiful little spots alive with color and new growth. The natural textures and colors reminded me of spots in our home...

This beautiful stone wall with vines and little blue berry clusters reminds me of the color scheme of my living room, especially the cluster of pillows made from antique linen grain sacks and vintage ticking fabric.

These slender branches of elongated red berries remind me of the vintage-inspired red stripes and antique red and white quilt in the bedroom.

Happy first day of spring!
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