Around the house

Welcome to My Swym and a Few Things I've Figured Out Along the Way

When we moved to Kansas two years ago I doubted I'd ever want to sew again. My entire life had been surrounded by creativity but I thought that was all behind me. I was ready for a change.

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The small room at the bottom of the stairs in our new home would make a wonderful sewing room but I had no desire for it to be anything other than the gym that the previous owners had designed it to be. So before we moved we sold my sewing room furniture and loaded up the treadmill. Goodbye California, hello a whole new life in Kansas City.

Umm...ya...well, not exactly.

Many of you know that my progressive idiopathic peripheral neuropathy is the reason we relocated to KC. Not knowing where this medical condition would lead, we felt it best to be near our son and his family. I am so thankful for that nudge. I'm sure Bill and I would still be working if it hadn't been for my health issues. I mention this only to explain the importance of that beast of a treadmill.

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It has become an important part of my wellbeing. Although doctors can't tell us why I have neuropathy, I have figured out on my own that I feel better when I eat "clean" and move. I also have figured out that I truly enjoy the comforts that air conditioning and heat can bring, so the treadmill needs to stay right here, in the house.

One morning while walking on the treadmill I got to thinking that perhaps I could incorporate a sewing room into the gym, a "Swym", if you will. It wouldn't be perfect - there were no windows or natural light. There was carpet instead of my preferred hardwood floor and no storage in this oddly shaped, mirror lined room. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could make it work. 


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I started researching sewing cabinets but couldn't find anything that I thought would work. About that time I received a catalog from Ballard Designs. I knew their office furniture because I had used it in my office at Strawberry Patches.  I loved it because I could configure it however I wanted, they offered the corner unit that I was looking for, it came preassembled and it was all 25% off.

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After running my ideas by Bill I ordered it and it arrived five days later.

Welcome to my swym...

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The wooden Cathedral arches are from Kirkland's and helped break up the mirrored wall. 

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Both of the inexpensive lamps are also from Kirkland's and help a lot with the lack of light.


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My comfy adjustable chair is from Pottery Barn

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and I found that cute Fall pillow at Kirkland's too.

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There was a small closet in this room that housed a radon detector (?) and the electrical panels for the house. After relocating Bill's golf clubs I had room for a storage cart to hold most of my fabric boxes

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and over the door storage units for my doodads - all from The Container Store.

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Is it perfect?

No.

But, you know what?

It's perfect for me, right now. It's organized, cozy and most of my stuff is right here at the ready.

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One more thing I've figured out along the way. It's important for me to stay positive and to look to the future with excitement, enthusiasm and optimism.

As my sign says, nobody said it would be easy. I think sometimes what is easy is to sit back and wring our hands and say, "Why me"?

I prefer to ask, "Why me? - how did I get so stink'n blessed"? 

Now, except for that one hour a day on the treadmill I have all day to do what I have always loved to do in a fabulous redesigned space - 

Create

Encourage one another,

Suzanne

 *Please feel free to ask questions about any of the items mentioned in this post. I was able to find discounts above the discounts advertised in the current Ballard Catalog and Kirkland's offers daily discounts through their app for regularly priced merchandise. Hey, all the more money to spend on new fabric. Right?

 


How I Store My Stuff

When we started shopping for a new home in Kansas we noticed something about the homes here that we weren't used to seeing in California.

Basements.

Some homes had completely unfinished basements that were just big open areas, as big as the house above, with concrete walls and floors and exposed pipes and support beams. Others had beautifully finished basements with bedrooms, bathrooms, media rooms, fireplaces, gyms, game rooms, wet bars and wine cellars. Then others were a combination of both, partially finished but with large open unfinished areas for storage. The common thread was that all the houses we looked at had some kind of basement and some kind of a storage area.

The house we ended up purchasing was perfect for our needs; a finished basement with just the right amount of unfinished storage. My philosophy has always been that your stash should not exceed  your given storage space, so not having a huge storage room would hopefully help keep my stash in check.

I must add here that in our home in California, Bill and I shared the massive built-ins that lined the walls of the garage. I kept extra dishes and seasonal decorations out there along side his lawn chemicals, car wax and whatever else men think they need. Smiley
When we bought this house we agreed that Bill would take the little storage there was in the garage and I could have the small storage room in the basement. Knowing that I needed to be able to fit the entire contents of my previous sewing room plus overflow dishes and seasonal decor into that small space forced me to carefully evaluate what was making the move. I purged heavily before moving, bringing with me only the things I loved. Once we got moved in we purchased six industrial shelving units to line the walls of the storage room and I started organizing.

My hope with this blog post is that you might get an idea or two that will help simplify how you store the things that you don't use everyday. I am by no means an expert. This is just what has worked for me.

Just off the main media room in the basement is a door leading to my storage area. I kinda think of it as my girl cave because it's mostly mine although I do share it with two AC/heating units, a hot water heater, media equipment and a few fishing poles.

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I love that it's tucked away behind the bar and under the stairwell because I can shut the door and nobody knows that it's there and that it sometimes looks like this (insert scary music here)

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This is how it often looks after a party or major decorating spree - or both.

So the other day, while tackling this room I decided to snap a few photos and show you how I store my stuff.

Below is a photo of the wall to the left as you walk past the heating units and water heater. On this side I keep all my extra dishes and linen. Across the top shelf are clear storage bins with Christmas decorations.

Tip #1: Buy MATCHING CLEAR storage bins when possible. It looks neater. Although most of my bins are labeled, being able to see at a glance what's inside is so helpful.

Tip #2: Measure depth, height and width of your shelves and space before purchasing storage bins to maximize storage space.

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My shelves are not arranged neatly but I do try and keep like things together.

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Mason Vista dish collection

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Valentines and Easter dishes

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Place mats and table linens.

On the opposite wall I store my fabric, again in mostly matching, labeled bins.

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I put like fabrics together, stripes, solids, dots, etc and label each box.

Tip #3: Label the boxes

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This really helps me keep organized and helps since I sew upstairs so it's easy to grab a box of fabric I think I might need and take it up to the machine.

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Across the top of the sewing and craft supplies are more big bins with seasonal decor. More Christmas, fall, spring and patriotic. Since I tend not to decorate the same each year I don't label the bins for areas (mantel, kitchen island etc). I just label and store them for the season and recreate each year.

Here's a view of the area under the stairwell. I keep luggage and oversized items in here - small fully decorated trees, a couple of big Santas, my big tiered tray from the kitchen island. It's dark and the ceiling is low so big things that we don't use often go in there.

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Yes, we have a skeleton in our closet. I'm pretty sure every family does.

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Probably the best thing that I did was

Tip #4: Hang wreaths and garlands

 

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I had Bill insert long screws into the studs so I can hang my wreaths and garlands - four deep. This keeps them from getting crushed, I can see what I have at a glance, and they are up out of the way. If I had to put them into tubs I never would have had enough room to store them all. Also because they are in the basement there is relatively little dust.

Looking back toward the way you walk in is my eight foot Christmas tree, seasonal door mats to the right and two more wreaths hanging up out of the way on the rafters. Yes, that's fishing gear above the sound system equipment - I'm a generous wife. Smileyface


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It's certainly not pretty by any stretch of the imagination but it's functional and I know where everything is. I love that I don't have to bug Bill to get something down for me when I need it and I get my exercise running up and down the stairs. It's all good.

I hope you got an idea or two on organizing bigger storage areas. I'd love to hear about how you organize your stuff and what works for you.

Until next time - love you more than labeled matching clear boxes.

Encourage one another,

Suzanne

 

 

 

 


Decorating with Tiered Trays - Part Three

This is the third post in my three part series on decorating with tiered trays. You can find part one here and part two here.

These last two tiered trays that I have to show you are rather primitive. I like the warmth that the wood provides and that they are easy to style. This first one was purchased at Nell Hills in February ($85) to go in a corner in the kitchen under the upper cabinets. Remember that rule I mentioned in the first part of this series; the one about knowing where you want to put your tray and measuring the spot before you buy?

Yeah, well I didn't do that.

Actually I did measure the height of the cabinet and knew the tray was a smidge too tall (24"), but I loved the tray and thought maybe Bill could cut it down so I bought it anyway.

Once I got it home I decided cutting it probably wasn't such a good idea so I sat it on my stoves grill until I could decide whether or not to return it. Seeing it there, made me think it just might work right there, so it has lived there ever since. 

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I know this isn't for everyone but I love decorating above and around my stove for the seasons. I spend a lot of time cooking these days and surrounding myself with happy things makes me so, well... happy.

It all started quite by accident. I had made this LOVE banner for Valentines Day and planned to hang it on my range hood just below my heart wreath, but no matter what I tried I didn't like it there and ended hanging it behind the stove instead.

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Once I took it down after Valentines Day, the area seemed sooo bare!

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I love hanging my ADORNit watercolors  on my "clothesline" over the stove and displaying them on my tiered tray. They remind me to be thankful, brave and happy while celebrating every day.

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As I edited these photos I realized that the white film on the grill and around the lambs feet is flour! Ha I made my granddaughter a birthday cake the day before I took these photos and I guess flour fallout is real. Thankfully I dusted in the following photos. How embarrassing! (The cake was delicious by the way).

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For me, part of decorating is surrounding yourself with things you love and that have meaning.

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A tiered tray is the perfect spot to create happy vignettes.

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 Sadly I don't have a sewing room in this house but I styled the next tray as inspiration for those of you who do.

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I gathered some favorite treasures to display on the two wooden shelves. Notice that the fabric and cookie sheet extends beyond the edge of the lower tray. You can't do that with trays that have a ledge.

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 Again, this little tower of happiness doesn't take up much counter space but adds some color and charm to the space.

 

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This next tiered tray is from HomeGoods. I saw it on a trip there recently but didn't buy it (it was $99). I couldn't stop thinking about it so when it was still there a few days later I popped it in my cart.

I have never liked this spot behind my basement sectional. I've tried trays and plants there but everything seemed flat and uninteresting

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until I brought this 39" two tiered tray home. (There is 15" between the tiers!)

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I added a few stacks of books and a small collection of porcelain boxes along with some greenery. I love the height and interest it adds to the table and you can style these so that they look good from all sides.

My most frequently asked question has been, where do I buy tiered trays?

I combed the internet to hopefully find some resources for you but didn't have a whole lot of luck. This first one is called The Charlotte from Vintage Farmhouse Finds  and is $129. I like that the tiers seem further apart (although they don't give those dimensions on their website and they didn't respond to my email).  

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Here is the same tray styled and by their photo it looks like it has fairly good spacing between tiers.

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This next photo is from Pinterest - same Charlotte tray just styled differently.

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If there was a negative I'd say that the high ledge could be somewhat limiting.

Speaking of Pinterest, you might want to check out my board on tiered trays here.

Not to be too negative but I would not buy this one from Pottery Barn

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I know some of you have it and have commented that the tiers are too close together (just 6"). I also think the sides are too high. Just my opinion.

Of course check out Hobby Lobby, HomeGoods, Nell Hills (they ship) and your local independent gift shops. They are there,  sometimes you just have to look since they are usually used as display pieces and buried under other merchandise.  

The other question I got was do I use the stuff I put on the trays or is it strictly for display. I usually leave them alone except for the times I'm having company for dinner and wonder what I did with those soup bowls...then I'll borrow.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and have found it helpful. Next time I'll be back with another sewing tutorial.

Until then,

Encourage one another,

Signature

 


How to Decorate Tiered Trays - Part Two

Today I want to show you how I use my smaller glass and metal tiered trays. These are slightly smaller than the one in my previous post, much more portable and work in lots of different spots around the house. These first two are perfect for serving food because hors d'oeuvres  and pastries can be placed directly on the trays. When I'm not using these for food I usually do a more permanent display that I tweak for the seasons.

This first one measures 17" tall, has just two levels and is square. Here it is as the center piece on a 36" round table but since this photo was taken it has found a new, more permanent home...

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in my bathroom!

 

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It doesn't take up much space and to me, creates a spa like atmosphere while adding height, a pop of color and most importantly softness to my tub area. I love this tray here!

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Notice that the two stacks of towels are on opposite sides of one another and that pink is the predominate color repeated in the towels, candle and flowers. I tried to balance the two vintage silver vanity bottles and the two heart shaped pill boxes. A favorite framed photo and a fancy wrapped soap completes the look.  I love how the green of the flowers and faux fern adds continuity and a bit of softness. I shopped from my stash to style this corner, not buying anything but the flowers from the grocery store. I just love how this one simple, two tiered tray adds so much to this now cozy corner. I do change the colors here for the seasons, swapping the pink towels for red and adding a small poinsettia for Christmas.

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This next photo has nothing to do with this post except that I wanted to show you my Epsom salts scoop. 

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We need to talk about plate stands for a minute. You will want one or two or three like this one.

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What makes this one so great is that it allows the plate to sit on the tray, unlike those wooden ones that raise the plate up an inch or two. You just never seem to have enough room between tiers and that inch or so makes a huge difference as to whether or not a plate will fit up right. Also, because it's metal, you can bend it easily and in so doing you can reduce the depth of the stand. I bought this one at Hobby Lobby, but look carefully if you go because this smallest size (3"x3") only comes in gold - there are cool black and silver ones that are tempting, but probably too big for what you'll need.

We have a round coffee table in the basement surrounded by four swivel club chairs.

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It's the perfect spot for another tiered tray.

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We love sitting here with another couple while enjoying a glass of wine. When I'm not serving cheese and crackers on this three tiered tray I give it a more permanent look with seasonal décor. 

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Again, the tray doesn't take up too much space, is low enough to allow conversation and adds a fun pop of interest to the space. If we dissect the trays you'll see that I tried to repeat the same flowers, figurines and balance the placement of dishes. The idea is to repeat color, theme and textures from one level to the next so that your eye travels from item to item. The greenery adds visual softness and a spot for your eye to rest. The NIBBLE plate is fun and suggests that guests do just that.

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This last tray measures 27" tall and I bought it to complete my Paris nook off the kitchen. I just love this antique French bakery table (it's one of the few pieces of furniture that made the trip to the Prairie). From Paree to the Prairie. ha A long way from home.

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Here it is decorated for Valentines Day.

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Notice how the greenery softens the hard metal and adds warmth.

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And here is the tray ready for Easter...

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I try and keep the colors soft here, cueing off the pale pinks on the wreath.

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This time I've grouped antique candy jars, then added a bit of greenery for softness and a few flowers for color all while trying to maintain balance and symmetry as it tells my story.

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Faux pastries add to the look of my French patisserie.

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Note to self: I need to buy macaroons for the jars

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I hope you have found this post to be helpful and maybe just a bit inspiring and that you will try a tiered tray (or two) in your own home. Once you get the hang of it they can be really fun to decorate.

Next time I'll be back to show you my two rustic wooden tiered trays and the most unusual place where one lives. I'll also give you some suggestions as to where to buy them and answer some questions that I have received.

Until then,

Encourage one another,

Signature

 

 


How to Buy Tiered Trays - Part One

I have this love affair going with tiered trays. They are so great in spots around the house where you want to add some height to your décor and not necessarily want to take up much table space. Today I want to start this three part series by talking about what to look for when purchasing a tiered tray. I might add here that what tray you buy is probably the most important part of having a well decorated tiered tray.

  1. Decide how you want to use it. Will you use it for serving food or will it be strictly for decoration? It is generally not safe to place food directly on wooden trays. A better option for food service would be metal or glass. Also consider the size - smaller trays are a smarter choice when serving food because you'll need to fill it. A smaller two tiered tray is great for small get-togethers filled with hors d'oeuvres or pastries.
  2. Although I tend to move my trays to different spots around the house, you probably will want to start by buying a tiered tray for a specific spot. Decide where you want to display it. Know your cabinet height if you want to put it under the kitchen cabinets. The one pictured here is huge (34" tall and 22' wide at the lower tray - purchased at Nell Hills KC). I wanted it to make a statement on my large kitchen island (5' square), but  the drawback is that it's so big that it won't work anywhere else in my house.
  3. Think about storage when not in use. All on my trays including the one in this post come apart by unscrewing the trays from the spacers, but this one, even when disassembled takes up a lot of storage space. Fortunately we have basement storage, but it's a good thing to think about should you ever need to store it.
  4. Probably the most critical thing to be aware of is the distance between the tiers. So many trays on the market are made with the tiers too close together. You probably will want at least enough room between the tiers to display a salad size plate on a stand. This one has 9" between tiers. Anything less than 9" can be challenging.
  5. Look for trays with flat tiers. This one dips down from the edges so it's hard to display things on it without things looking wonky. I've learned to work around the dip but prefer trays that are level.

In this post I'll show you how I've styled my kitchen tray throughout the year. It's kind of like a perpetual calendar that changes with the seasons and holidays from one year to the next. I never seem to grow tired of it because it never stays to same for long.

Here it is in January and the first part of February (the first photo is this year, the second is last year).

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Notice the plates on the bottom two levels. You can't put them upright if the tiers are too close together.

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If you don't have room to display plates upright between the trays you can always stack them like I did above.

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My island has two chandeliers that I sometimes hang things from. It just extends the decoration a bit and is kind of fun.

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In March and April I decorate for Easter and Spring. The next few photos are from Spring last year. (I was in my foliage phase). ha 

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Here I hung glitter eggs from the chandeliers with clear thread - you can use floral wire, fish line or bakers twine too.

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Did you notice how many candies I ate while I was hanging them? Smileyface


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Here are some close ups of some of the areas on the tiers.

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I save the candy that I use in the jars from year to year. It's expensive to buy fresh each season and it's not at all tempting when you know it's old and stale. I just empty the candy into baggies, wash the jars and refill them using saved candy from previous seasons.

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Such a good place to display treasures that make us happy. That's what this is all about. Right?

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Here is this years. Slightly more understated but the same recycled flowers, greenery and candy.

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You may also notice that I tend to hang colorful napkins over the edge of the bottom two tiers. I think this adds a pop of color while softening the hard edge of the trays. You, like me will probably come up with a formula that you like and will find yourself repeating it time after time.

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Here is last summers display. Since we live in Kansas the sunflowers seemed appropriate. I was also going for a blue and yellow French Provence vibe. 

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You might notice that the foliage is basically the same as Spring. I just pulled out the pink roses, added the sunflowers and traded the pastel napkins for the yellow French provincial ones that complemented the yellow sunflowers.

We need to talk about that foliage. I often use wreaths on the bottom tiers and candle rings on the upper one.

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In June, July and August I switched out the sunflowers for American flags and added some red dishes to the blue ones. Replaced the yellow napkins for red and white. The whole transformation took minutes.

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In September, October and November I switch it into Fall by replacing the greenery with some fall foliage and pumpkins.

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As I look at these photos I realize I need to add some more fall like linens to my shopping list.

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Then of course after Thanksgiving it becomes Christmas...

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I often add those cute little fairy lights with timers too.

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and then in January I start all over with Valentines.

Next time I'll try and go into depth about how I style my trays and show you two more smaller ones. I hope you find this three part series helpful and that it encourages you to try a tiered tray, or two, in your homes décor.

Until then,

Encourage one another

Signature


Tutorial Tuesday #1 - Embellished Towels and Napkins

First I want to thank you so much for the encouragement you extended me on my last blog post. I so appreciate your kind words. 

Several of you asked that I do a tutorial on the towels that I showed there so I thought, what better way than to bring back Tutorial Tuesday? 

Here is the napkin I shared last time using ADORNit fabric. The same technique will work wonderfully for towels of any size (even bath and beach towels) as well as baby's burp cloths.

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My first stop in preparation for this tutorial was Home Goods for kitchen towels. I found these by SOHO, two for $4.99. 

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 Since I was working with ADORNit's Flamingo Fever fabric I took it along to match with the towels. These pineapples were so fun with the fabric group and the color was perfect. You could also, of course, use solid towels as well. I feel like I just got lucky with these.

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I'm obsessed with this black and white stripe and how it complements my Mackenzie Childs tea pot. It makes every fabric I put with it just pop. You all neeed at least a yard of that stripe!

 

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 These next towels were just so perfect that I half way expected them to say "ADORNit" on the tag. They are by CASABA and there were two for $6.99. What I love about these towels is that they are terry cloth on the back so they are super absorbent. Again, the colors and motif were just made for my ADORNit fabrics.

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The cute hibiscus plate below is from Hobby Lobby and turquoise plate is vintage. 

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Here's how I embellished my towels:

You will need:

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Ruffle fabric 3" by WOF

Ruffle band (optional) 1 1/4" by WOF

Contrast band 2" by WOF

All fabrics for this tutorial were provided by ADORNit and can be found here.

Hint: A word about cutting - when working with fabric such as the flamingos, I think it's important to center the main design on the band. Nobody wants to see a big bird with its head lopped off so plan ahead when you cut. Also on the checked ruffle accent fabric you will notice that I cut on the lines of the print so the checks are straight. Although these fabrics are printed straight, you will still want to carefully cut one layer at a time - it just looks better in the end.

The first thing you will want to do is prewash everything. The towels are 100% cotton and shrunk about an inch in both directions. You will want to get any shrinkage out of the way before you start to sew.

Trim the hem from the end you plan to embellish. This will make construction easier and will reduce bulk.

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Your best friend in this project will be a good spray starch. Having crisp edges and folds makes sewing easier and results in a much more professional end product.

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I cut my ruffle fabric 3" wide by WOF (width of fabric - about 44"). Note: Sizes of ruffle and contrast band will depend on how big your towel or napkin is. I am including measurements only as a guide for you. You can make them as wide as you'd like. When using towels with printed designs you will need to take the design into consideration. A band that is too wide might cover up the design. 

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For the contrasting trim on the ruffle I cut a strip 1 1/4" wide by WOF. This creates a nice finished hem as well as adding a bit more interest. I won't suggest going wider than 1 1/4" for the ruffle trim as a wider trim can cause the ruffle to lay funny.

Press the 1 1/4" strip in half along the length to mark the center, then fold and press each raw edge to the center fold.

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Fold and press in half to create a band. (This is kind of like making bias tape but this piece is cut on the straight, not the bias).

Next wrap the folded strip around the bottom of your ruffle piece and top stitch in place. I used my edge stitch foot #10 for this.

Hint: When working with directional fabrics it's important to pay attention to the direction the pattern is going. 

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You can also just hem the ruffle using the technique you are most comfortable with. Below I used foot #64 - the medium rolled hem foot. You could also press a double folded hem then topstitch.

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Once your ruffle is hemmed you will need to finish the two ends by folding, pressing and stitching.

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I failed to get a photo of this next step, but next you will gather the unfinished long edge of your ruffle fabric using the gathering method that you prefer. I used my gathering foot #16 and by lengthening my stitch and tightening my upper tension it ruffled to the perfect length. You could also sew two basting stitches and pull the threads to gather the strip to the desired length. You will want your ruffle to be the same length as the width of the towel. I wouldn't recommend using a ruffler for this as I think it would make the ruffle too full. You want a ruffle that is about two times fullness.  

Okay, this is important and what you may not be used to: Pin the WRONG SIDE OF THE RUFFLE to the WRONG SIDE OF THE TOWEL.

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Machine baste just slightly to the left of your gathering stitches attaching the ruffle to the towel.

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Now cut a contrasting band 2" by WOF and pin the band on top of the attached ruffle (right sides together). Hint: Pay attention to directional prints.  You should have three layers at this point - towel, wrong side up, ruffle, right side up and band right side down. I know this sounds confusing but the photo makes it clearer I hope. Flip the whole thing over and sew on top of the basting stitches that you see on the towel. Be sure and fold in the raw edges of the band at each end (see photo below).

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Basically you are sewing the ruffle and band to the wrong side of the towel and when you flip it over all your raw edges will eventually be hidden inside the band. (Well that was about as clear as mud)!

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Press your seam allowance toward to towel, tuck in raw top edge of the band and pin. Press. Top stitch.

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See how everything is finished?

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And if you match your bobbin thread to your towel it will look neat on the back.

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Please let me know if you have questions. One thing I know for sure is that I love styling my photos waay more than I like writing instructions.  Wink

Next time I'll show you how I added trim to the burp cloths using my ADORNit fabrics.

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Love you guys more than pretty dishes! Hearts

Until next time,

Encourage one another.

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Flamingo Fever

 My ADORNit fabric arrived last week.

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OMGosh, how cute is this collection?

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My assignment as an ADORNit Ambassador is to use the fabric they send me in any way I choose, so I went with something I was comfortable with: my embellished burp cloth. Colored burp cloths found here.

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"HAPPY" and "mem0ries" words found here

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After I finished sewing and while I still had the ironing board out I thought I'd quickly iron the cloth napkins that were stacked in the ironing pile. Well, a funny thing happened while I was standing there, mindlessly ironing. I got to thinking, why not embellish napkins too? So I started pulling out dishes and fabric and placemats and auditioning combinations until I got a combo that I loved.

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Then, because I had a mini coloring book that matched my fabrics, I water colored a flamingo, cut it out and glued it to a toothpick. 

Voila -  instant cupcake topper!

Gah...how cute is that?  Kind'a makes you want to have a party doesn't it?

Life is a party

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I don't know if anyone is interested in a tutorial on these simple sewing projects. Just let me know if you do and I'd be happy to do a couple for you, but really, they are so simple that I'm sure you can do them without help. The most important thing is to start with cute fabric. The rest is easy.

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These projects are such great ways to incorporate fun fabrics into everyday life and everyone knows  that life is so much sweeter when embellished. Don't you agree?

Love you guys! Hearts

Encourage one another,

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Visions of Sugar Plums

 

One of my favorite local gift shops recently had these fabulous candy topiaries on display in their window

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but when I inquired about purchasing one I was told they weren't for sale - that they were for display only.

Whaaa... 

So what's a gal to do when she is told "No"?

She takes a photo of the "NFS Display Only" items, buys a boat load of candy, plugs in her glue gun and gets to craft'n, of course.

Here's what I came up with:

 Candy topiary

Sugared fruits and large and small gummy round disks were purchased at World Market and are by Haribo. Vertical sugared sour tubes were from Target.

Candy Topiary Closeup

 

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Jumbo red, green and white gumballs are from World Market.

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Small gumballs, and all varieties of peppermints are from the Dollar Store.

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Turns out I'm glad the nice people at J'Adore wouldn't sell me a topiary because I wouldn't have had the fun of making them myself - and they were FUN!

Here are a few of the things I learned as I made my candy topiaries. If you decide to make some I hope these tips save you time and some money.

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First stop was a quick trip to Michaels for Styrofoam cones. I'm sure they are available at Hobby Lobby too. I purchased three cones from 9" to 18" tall.

Helpful Hint #1: Although the cones are available at least five sizes, I suggest starting with a smaller to mid size cone. These take a lot of candy to cover and the first one I did took me about three hours to complete. I did get faster with each consecutive one but you should consider any time constraints that you might have as well as the attention span of those doing the decorating. I think this would be a great project for teens as well as adults. Since you will be working with hot glue I feel it isn't an appropriate project for children.

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 Next you'll need to purchase candy. Lots of candy! As I was constructing my topiaries I realized they were a lot like planning  and constructing a quilt with the same elements of design to consider: color, repetition, texture, shape and scale.

Helpful Hint #2: Try keeping your candy colors to two to four. Although it's tempting to use all the colors in the rainbow, in my opinion, your topiaries will be more visually appealing if you use fewer colors. You can create interest by varying the candy shapes, sizes and textures. Repeating colors and shapes as you build your topiary from the bottom to the top will result in a cohesive design. 

Gumballs, M&M's and peppermints are good candy choices. Peppermint disks and sticks are inexpensive and the sticks can be cut with a serrated knife. Candy canes add a fun shape while repeating the red and white theme. 

Helpful Hint #3: Start your candy shopping at the Dollar Store. I found lots of gum ball (my favorite) options there and was surprised at the large variety they carried. I spent over $100 on candy for the three topiaries that I built however I had lots of left over candy. Some candy that I purchased just didn't work well for topiaries (Skittles, Ike & Mike, Dots).

Helpful Hint #4: Consider the size of the candy that you purchase. Although M&M's work well for accent candies, smaller candies just take too long to cover the Styrofoam. Big gumballs and those big round flat disks I found at World Market were my favorite for making quick progress. 

Helpful Hint #5: Buy multiple bags of the same candy. Our Dollar Store had some bags of gumballs with all red gumballs but to get green or white gumballs I had to buy multiple bags of assorted colors to get enough of one color. Remember, the bigger the cone, the larger the circumference, and the more candy you'll need to go all the way around.

Once you feel like you have a good selection (again like quilting you'll need a stash) open, unwrap and sort the candy by color, shape and size.

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It's good to have everything out so you know what your creative options are.

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Working on a piece of wax paper or parchment start gluing from the bottom of the Styrofoam cone, building your way up in rows. I didn't plan my topiaries in advance, I just started gluing. Try to use just a small dab of hot glue applied directly to the candy and try to control the "spider webs" as you go.

Helpful Hint #6: If you glue something down that you decide you don't love, simply pry it off and try something else. These are forgiving and the Styrofoam is resilient.

Helpful Hint #7: I kept a pair of tweezers and an orange stick handy to help apply and remove unwanted candies. 

Once you have covered the Styrofoam cone look for stray hot glue webs and give your topiary a brushing with a stiff paint brush to remove any webs or candy crumbs. Display on a candle stick or cake stand if you have them.

I hope this has been helpful. Please share your creations and experiences with us here. Most of all Have Fun!

Encourage one another,

Suzanne
   

 


Making a List...

 

I'll admit that I may have gone a bit overboard this year with my premature, over the top holiday decorating. Yes, I'm that gal who waved her bedazzled holiday freak flag high over her head while humming Jingle Bells in early November (October 30th to be exact), but I'm not sorry.

My goal this year was to be decorated and ready for Christmas before the first of December so that I'd have time to bake and craft and watch Christmas movies by the fire while sipping hot coco without any of my usual stress. I'm happy to report that I'm pretty much ready and even took time to write a Holiday Bucket List of things I hope to accomplish in the next thirty days. I know the boxes probably won't all get checked off but that's okay - I'm determined not to stress over it.  

 2017 Bucket List

I'll post my progress here over the next few weeks and share some ideas for candy topiaries and gingerbread houses (if they are share worthy-we'll have to see).

Oh, and here's one more thing for the list that I nearly forgot

Stay connected

Love you guys and let me be one of the first to wish you an early 

Merry christmas

Encourage one another,

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There's a Change in the Air

 

I can't tell you how excited I am for autumn to arrive here in the Midwest. This is actually our second fall in our new home but I think I was too exhausted from the move last year to fully embrace it.

This year I'm ready!

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Berries

If you know anything about Shih Tzu's you know that they have a reputation for hating heat and humidity so Bailey has been loving her cooler morning walks with Bill and always comes home with wet feet from running through the dewy grass.

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I think my favorite thing of the day is watching my two loves come walking up the sidewalk, heading for home.

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Sometimes Bill unhooks Bailey's leash at the corner so she can make a bee line for me as I wait at the front door in my PJ's - first cup of morning coffee in hand.

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Ears flying and tail wagging, she's one hot mess. My favorite thing for sure.

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On our evening walks I gather acorns and berries from the changing trees, Bailey carries prized sticks home for Mr. Squirrels safe keeping just outside the front door. 

Inside, the house is decked out in all its harvest glory.

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The sun has shifted and cast soft morning shadows, reminding me to be thankful for my many blessings and I am.

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My house wouldn't seem decorated without a set table or three. Smileyface

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The ginger jars, table cloth and napkins were added this year during a recent trip to Nell Hill's - my favorite place for inspiration.


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Talk about inspiration!

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While at Nell Hill's I picked up these three pieces of fabric for Fall pillows (the first fabric I've bought in over a year). I can imagine this is what my Strawberry Patches customers felt as they got caught up in the moment of impulsive inspiration. Will they ever get made into pillows? Only time will tell, but boy did I love picking them out so that's worth something, right?

I think some of you know what I mean.  

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I was thrilled to find pumpkins in my new favorite color - some call it Millennial Pink - I call it perfection! Those blue greenish ones that compliment my wall color and furniture make me so happy.


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I found the garlands and leaves on a trip to a local nursery - they were the inspiration for my look this year.  

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Sorry for the pink pumpkin overload, but seriously, that color!

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I may have gotten a bit carried away with the pumpkins. Ya think?!

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I light candles every night and we bask in their glow as we eat dinner. I honestly don't know if Bill even notices, but I love how the flickering candlelight looks.There is just something so relaxing about candlelight.


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Occasionally we'll enjoy a glass of wine together outside while we grill our dinner.

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It won't be long before we can light a fire.

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Everyone here keeps commenting on the beautiful, mild weather we've been having and compared to the rest of the country we have so much to be thankful for. We all know what follows autumn so we cherish each mild gorgeous day.

Until next time...

 Encourage one another,

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