Friday, May 27, 2011

A Very Long Overdue "After"

It seems like ages ago I mentioned wanting to rearrange my apartment.  I played around with several floor plans and ultimately decided on Option 1.  It was a favorite among those I harassed politely asked for opinions from and made the most sense for the way I live. I really needed to pick an option which kept the sewing nook all it’s own since this fast growing hobby is taking over the apartment.
Despite revealing this more than 5 months later, I actually did the rearranging immediately.  Boyfriend moved to Dallas shortly after I made a decision, and once he was settled, I put him to work helping me recreate option one.  It looks mostly like the picture with the exception of a second chair and the end table is on the other side of the love seat. Here is a shot from the entrance to the great room: 
One from the other corner -- you can see my lonely chair and awkward nightstand posing as a side table:
Here’s an attempt to show how the sewing nook relates to the rest of the space: 
Overall, I’m really happy with the change.  I like how the living room feels cozier and separated from the kitchen, more like it's own space. I also love that I eat at the bar almost every night now and the glare on the TV is practically non-existent -- even in the middle of the day with tons of light pouring in through the massive windows. 
I’m still trying to fix up the blue wall to my liking. It feels a little too random and disconnected from everything else right now.   
I’m also trying to figure out a way to utilize the space behind the loveseat.  Due to centering the TV and couch on the window, the loveseat is a good 3 feet from the wall behind it.  
I’d love to be able to utilize this space somehow. I recently inherited a great new piece of furniture that I think may help with this. Once I figure these things out, I’ll be sure to show some updates -- there’s a good chance more rearranging is to come!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Great Crate Debate

I have a secret, hideous corner of my apartment that has never been seen by the blogging world.  I’ve shown several pictures of my sewing nook which lead you to believe it is the perfect sewing space with nothing out of place. Although I do love it and think it’s great for my needs and perfect in most ways, I have intentionally left out views of the right side of this frequently used space.  See how pretty?
Little do you know -- and little do I like admitting -- that just to the right of my desk is a very unattractive and much neglected doggie corner. Unfortunately, it is the only place I can find to keep the not-so-glamorous dog crates that I use on a daily basis -- and while the puppies are growing and well behaved most of the time, I am still not brave enough to give them free reign of the apartment while I’m at work each day. We’ve been slowly working up to a full day with a few unsupervised hours here and there, but not even close to putting those crates up for good!  Alas, the extremely unattractive but very practical dog crates must stay.  
In my very first post, I explained that there were several ways in which projects of mine get started. One of the more common reasons I tend to begin something new is “to make a necessary and/or functional item coordinate with everything else.”  So, after more than a year of neglect, I have finally decided it is time to take on the task of disguising these eye sores.  You can see how desperately they need help and why I never show this corner of the apartment... oh, how shameful! 
To make matters worse, I have to admit that Nolan’s crate is actually the pink one -- I’m a terrible mother, I know! But, in all fairness, the teal cover was made for Shiloh before Nolan came along and I could not take it away from her.  It was actually one of my very first sewing projects and used to hide in the corner of my room. You can see how pretty it is below, prior to me washing and accidentally shrinking it. Sewing lesson learned: ALWAYS pre-wash your fabric!
One option I considered for the great crate make-over is simply sewing a matching cover for Nolan’s.  The downside to this plan was that I didn’t have enough fabric for a whole second one and wasn’t sure I could still find it. Also, while I do love the cover, there were changes I would make for the second one which would leave me with creating two brand new covers and not enough fabric for either one. The more I thought about the process to create two brand new covers, the less I liked that plan.
I eventually realized that I liked the idea of having one large cover since the crates are always side-by-side.  I looked around for benches to fit over the top of both making it a functional area while also disguising the crates. Unfortunately, nothing I found fit the crates or my budget.  I had thoughts of building my own but realized I didn’t really have the space or the tools to do this in an apartment.
I thought more and more about simple ways to create a bench or table as a way of hiding the crates and finally decided on a process -- I’d like to have a solid wood top with fabric covering all sides.  It probably sounds totally nuts and hard to visualize but as the plan stands now, I’d like to get a piece of wood cut to the length and width of the crates side-by-side. I’ll then paint it to coordinate with my fabric and staple panels to the underside of the wood piece.  I also want to have separate fabric panels over the doors that can be rolled up when the puppies are in the crates, but let down to completely hide them when not in use -- essentially looking like a large bench or table.  The hard surface can act like a table top and I can set dog treats, pictures, or even a basket with leashes on top. 
Also, with fabric only around the outside, it leaves the two sides of the crates which touch completely open so the puppies will be able to see one another during the day. In my mind, I've decided they’ll love seeing one another but still be seperated and have their own space.  Here is the extremely amateur, cartoon-looking makeover that I envision -- can you tell I am NOT the proud owner of Photoshop? 
I’m still searching for the fabric and trying to determine how many yards it will require, but I’m 99% certain my love of blue / teal will be reflected in my choice. I’d also like to find a coordinating pattern for a lining that you’ll see where the teal and pink are in the picture above. In a sewing project a while back, I made pillows to fit inside the crates. Once I’ve decided on a fabric, I’ll sew some coordinating, soft, dog-friendly pillow covers to complete the whole look.
Sadly, the wall above these crates is also bare.  My 'after' vision involves something functional for sewing and other projects so I’m leaning towards a custom, fabric memo board.  I’d be able to display sentimental photos or keepsakes along with all the images I find to inspire my next project.
I hope to make some progress on all these items during the week and weekend so be on the lookout for some updates and after photos.  For now, I’ve got a promising plan in mind and am in desperate need of the perfect fabric!

Before It's Too Late

Before it’s too far past Mother’s Day and we all start focusing on the next parental holiday, I wanted to share how I spent the day celebrating with my Mom -- and not because it was a super fabulous idea that's never been done, but simply because it involved a lot of yummy, easy recipes everyone should try!
Since I am no mother myself, I get to focus all my attention on making it an enjoyable day for my Mom.  I decided a couple weeks beforehand that I wanted to surprise her somehow. After spending a lot of time on, and countless blogs, I knew breakfast would be the perfect opportunity -- it’d be a first-thing-in-the-morning surprise and give me a chance to try all the delicious brunch recipes I kept finding.  So, after I narrowed it down to the top three must try recipes, I bought all my groceries, and prepped as much as I could the day before. 
One thing to know about my mother is that she is up early. Every. Single. Day.  I suppose that’s what happens when you’ve spent countless years -- like how I didn’t give away her age? -- waking up early for work, children, and now puppies.  So, if I was going to surprise her with breakfast, I knew I’d have to get up even earlier so I could finish putting things together, load up the car, and make the 45 minute drive all before my early-rising mother ate her own breakfast.  So, I hesitantly happily set my alarm for 5:30am.
Unfortunately, when you’re not used to waking up that early, it is far too easy to simply reach over and unknowingly stop all annoying sounds -- which is what happened.  When I woke up on my own and saw the sun shining in, I immediately jumped out of bed in a panic and realized what had happened. By some small miracle, it was only 7:30, so the plan wasn’t totally lost.
I ran around like a mad woman finishing up cinnamon rolls which had to rise for 45 minutes before baking -- perfect for the car ride there -- and running to my car with all the things I needed to bring. Knowing my early rise would lead to a greater chance of forgetting things, I was wise enough to put almost everything in one large bag in the fridge the night before, along with wrapping her present, signing her card, and arranging her flowers.  I didn’t look nearly as glamorous as I had hoped for her big day, but I did finish the food prep and got the car loaded surprisingly fast considering the frantic wake up just 30 minutes earlier.
So, just an hour and a half later than planned, I was off to surprise my mother.  I got about 15 minutes into the drive when I realized I’d left the stuffed French toast!  It had to soak overnight and would not fit in the large bag with everything else, so it somehow got overlooked while I was gathering things.   Seeing as it was a third of the breakfast and pretty important to the meal, I frustratingly turned the car around to get it -- what’s another 30 minutes at this point, right?
I got back, ran up the stairs, grabbed the French toast, looked around to double check nothing else was being forgotten, and headed off once again.  Although I was late according to my own schedule, it was still early in the morning and the roads were clear allowing me to make excellent timing.  The best part of the whole morning was that despite my alarm mishap, my mother was completely surprised when I did show up and to my amazement, had not eaten breakfast yet -- at least that’s what she told me. 
After I arrived, we finished some of the baking and enjoyed this lovely feast Sunday morning.
Now, for the scoop on the delicious dishes -- we had Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls and Mini Frittatas via the lovely and oh-so-talented Giada, along with Mixed Berry Stuffed French Toast from a blog I happened across last week.  Sadly, I cannot find the blog, so I've included the recipe below.

The French toast requires some advanced planning since it has to soak overnight and the cinnamon rolls require defrosted bread dough and need about 45 minutes of rising time. 
Other than a little pre-planning, all dishes were super easy and tasted amazing!  The mini frittatas are extremely versatile and you could add anything you have in the fridge. Ours followed the recipe, but bell peppers, onions, various cheeses or even bacon would all be great additions.  And although the recipe calls for mini muffin pans, I was feeling far too lazy to pour my egg mixture into 48 tiny spaces and opted for a regular muffin pan and just doubled the cooking time -- which did not seem to have any effect on how fast they disappeared.
So, the next time you want to surprise someone, throw a brunch, or just want to make a huge breakfast for your family, I encourage you to try all of these recipes!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All Grown Up

Yesterday, sweet little Nolan had his first birthday! We kept the celebrations low-key and simply sang a joyous "Happy Birthday" followed by a mini Jumbone birthday treat -- both dogs seriously go nuts for those things!

Nolan is growing into such a wonderful little boy and I couldn't be more thrilled to have him. He is always so happy and content -- whether he's playing with his bone doing spin moves, sitting with you on the couch in his unusual way, or being chased by big sissy, Shi.

I say it all the time -- because it couldn't be more true -- but he is honestly the sweetest boy that ever lived.  Happy Birthday, little Nollie!