Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Project Photography

I love pretty pictures.  Any pictures.  As long as the composition is artful, the lighting is beautiful and the focus is sharp I'm happy.  I love mountains and streams, houses and food, but especially portraits.

When Tessa was a baby we joined the JC Penny portrait club and took FULL advantage of it.  I think I had her picture taken about every 4 weeks for the first 2 years of her life.
During that time I met and became close friends with one of the photographers, Tonya.  When Tessa was 3ish Tonya quit Penny's and started her own business, Photography Impressions. She took our pictures for trade.  I helped her out with marketing materials, website design and photo editing.  Sometimes I would give her a gift certificate or $20 for a sitting fee...I definitely came out ahead on the deal.
On top of the pictures she also gave me mini lessons - explaining a bit about lighting, cropping, editing, etc.  Some time ago Tonya moved to Idaho.  We are still friends, though neither of us is especially good at long-distance communication.  
Anyway, I miss her and her photography expertise.
She's spoiled me.  JC Penny doesn't do it anymore.  Kiddie Kandids doesn't even do it.  I crave beautiful, natural light, candid photos in outdoor locations.
So I have no choice but to take my own. 

My technique is lacking.  
I'm good enough at the creative aspect - finding the location, posing the subject - but I have very little technical knowledge.  Luckily I have a nice camera, and I'm smart enough to know that if you're not sure of quality, you shoot for quantity.
So I take a million pictures, and hope to find 2 or 3 that are decent enough to blow up and frame.

On Saturday morning I took Tessa out for her 7 year pictures.  
Her friend, Isabella, had spent the night before with us.  She offered some distraction for Tessa and I (my photo sessions are known for getting a bit 'intense') so I took her with us and photographed her as well.

Here are the best of Tessa.

Tessa is difficult to take a picture of because she won't look at the camera.  She turns her hear in your direction, but her eyes are everywhere else.  It takes a lot to get her to look at me.  On top of that she has a terrible camera smile, so I'm constantly trying to say funny things.  She knows I'm trying to get her to smile or laugh, so she tries to comply...and ends up over compensating with face splitting grins and fake giggles.
Luckily, she's gorgeous.  Prettier than any little girl I've ever seen anywhere.  Prettier than she has a right to be.  So that helps things.
We're getting better - photo sessions used to be very stressful, but they are improving.  This one was actually fairly enjoyable.
Overall I'm happy with how they came out.  My favorite are at the top, least favorite at the bottom.  You can see bigger versions on photobucket.

If you're interested in seeing the ones I took of Isabella you can see them here.  They actually turned out better than Tessa's, because Bella actually looks at me and smiles.
Also, probably because I'm not so picky about her - since she's not my kid!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Garage Door

A few months ago Matt and I went to the Home and Garden Expo with Becki and Colby.  There were, of course, dozens of fun things to inspire new projects.
One was a garage door, painted to look like wood.
I asked Matt if he thought we could do it and got a non-commital grunt in reply.  
So the garage door was relegated to a shelf in the back of my brain - to be pulled out at a later date, of course ;)

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Nester had this garage re-do on her site.  When I read about her technique I decided I was definitely going to copy it on my own garage.
As long as Matt agreed.
I was a bit worried...he's super easy going about anything I want to do inside, but this was the exterior...people drive by...
But I was worried for nothing - and I should have known better.  This is Matt, after all - the most indulgent, easy-going husband ever.  
LOVE him.

He even helped!

Here is a before picture:
(taken last fall - it's the only one I had)


(best husband ever, putting our first coat on the high parts)

And After.

It turned out shinier (not sure that's a word.  Probably should have said "more shiney") than I would have liked, but I'm hoping some of that will fade as the sun beats down on it this summer. It certainly faded the paint that was there before.  

I haven't added any cute hardware yet, but I might still do that.  I'm at the Home Depot at least twice a week this time of year, so I can check it out any time.

Overall, I love the result.  It was a super easy, super cheap project, too.  Can't beat that!

P.S. - I know the yard is a mess.  I'm getting to it.  Also, the dead balloons on the front porch were from Tessa's Birthday party the night before.  I took them in with me after I was finished taking pictures.  I swear.  However, the unplanted flowers on the front porch are still there, several days later.  

Friday, May 8, 2009

Growth Chart

When I redecorated Asher's room a few weeks ago I had planned to create a cactus growth chart - but somehow managed to forget about it.  
Probably because I was distracted by a little girl tugging on my sleeve and asking for "curtains around her bed"
But anyway...

I remembered, and I've (slowly) been working on it.

First I sketched the cactus on the wall with pencil.  Then I painted it in with a celery green wall paint, which was left over from Becki's kitchen, and was a color I originally helped pick out :)

When the first coat of paint was dry, I used craft paint to darken the remainder of the wall paint and sponged it on to give the cactus some texture.  Eventually I tinted the wall paint 3 different colors for shading.

After all that, it still looked a little flat to me.  I was all out of wall paint by that time, though (the bulk of Becki's leftover paint went to another project - will post that one later!) so I resorted to straight craft paint.

When it was shaded to my satisfaction (3 more days of shading!) I drew the numbers on the wall.  I wanted to use an 'old west' type style, so I found one I liked and hauled my laptop into Asher's bedroom with me, so I could reference what the numbers looked like.
I penciled them on the wall first, then outlined them with a sharpie.  I painted them in with black craft paint.
I do wish I'd had more shades of real wall paint to use, rather than so much craft paint, but overall the cactus turned out really cute - both Asher and Tessa love to stand next to it to see how tall they are.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Practice Cake

Matt is working late.

Project #1 for the evening is a practice cake for Tessa's Birthday.
I'm a big fan of the practice cake.  It allows me to try out the recipe, the pan, the tools.  
It also allows me to eat cake.

Tonight I made a from scratch vanilla cake, which I added a few drops of almond extract to - because I have a serious almond extract addiction lately.
I baked it in my springform pan.  I was nervous about it leaking...but all went well!
I picked up a cake leveler today from JoAnn's.  

Interesting product, a cake leveler.
Or maybe it's not that interesting.  Maybe I just suck at using it.

Anyway, long story short, the cake tasted good but didn't look it.  Don't know how much use that leveler will be getting.  At least I know the pan works and the recipe is tasty!

Project #2 for the evening...

Tessa's pen pal, Karissa, turned 7 on april 26th.  We've had a letter to mail her for a while, but I decided to hang on to it and send a Birthday package.  Just got around to making her gift tonight.
If i remember right, her favorite color is blue.  So I made these cute blue and pink hair clips for her.

Tried them on Tessa, to make sure they worked :)

Project #3 - Mothers Day Cards!
One for each mom - luckily there are no divorces in either family, so I only had to make 2 ;)

I looked up quotes about mom to find something to write in them.  I'm not a Hallmark employee, and even if I were I think I'd have a hard time writing something like
"for all the times you were there for me...
here's a card."
The quote I decided on cracked me up - hope the mom's find it as entertaining!

"Mothers are fonder than fathers of their children becuase they are more certain they are their own" - Aristotle

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tessa's Room

The after pictures of Tessa's bedroom redecoration are finally downloaded and uploaded - here they are!

There are so many projects within this project.  The ragamuffin garland and the bed curtains were especially fun and satisfying to make.
I didn't start my project blog until after I was done with the room, otherwise I might have documented some of them step by step.
But I didn't.  Maybe I'll make those things again sometime and blog about it then.  For now, this is all I've got :)

The whole redecoration started with Tessa asking for curtains around her bed.  This is what I came up with

From the side

The bottom is my favorite part :)

The bedding is all new, too, of course.  I made the duvet cover and the dozens of throw pillows. (got a little carried away with those! the t is my favorite one :)

Hanging from her foot board is a Ragamuffin Garland - something I found on Nesting Place and thought would be perfect in Tessa's room.  I love it.  I want to make more.  I just don't know what for.

The window valance is more influence from Nester.  It's very sweet.  I love it above the desk.

The accessories...
You've seen the desk and the art, here are the other little things.
the lampshade (I covered it and added bows)

a trinket box (on clearance from Target)

a flower arrangement

the bean bag chair she HAD to have

hanging butterflies from Pottery Barn

her memo board - already a mess

shelf on the wall with pictures

her name on the wall (after taking pictures, I've decided it needs to be painted a color, white looks totally washed out.  I'm thinking yellow.)

and my favorite thing - hatboxes for her dolls to hang out in.

(they love it, btw - look at those happy faces!)

See all the pictures (bigger, if you want) in my Photobucket album here :)
I'm so glad to be done!  I had fun, of course, but Tessa's room seemed to be a lot more work than Asher's.  It's been almost 3 years since I decorated her room the first time, so I figure I have another 3 years before I have to do it again!

Saturday, May 2, 2009


I like a theme when I do a room.
Not a scary, over-the-top theme. I'm not talking about anything Disney-esq.
Just an idea to keep in mind.
For Tessa's room we decided on butterflies as the theme.

I visited the Pottery Barn Kids website for some inspiration, and I wasn't disappointed. I found this gorgeous piece of art:

Unfortunately, it's $180. hundred and eighty dollars.
I'd have to be crazy to pay that for a piece of stretched canvas with a butterfly on it!
So I've made my own.

In the beginning I planned to use only a few real buttons. I thought I'd paint most of them with a circular rubber stamp I found at Joann's. However, the first time I used the stamp I realized it wasn't going to work - the canvas just didn't allow the paint to saturate evenly. So I ended up using all buttons.
I really like the way it turned out, though it's obviously pretty different from the original.

It also cost a lot less! The canvas came in a 2-pack from Michaels for $14.99, but I had a coupon and actually bought them for about $10. I already had a lot of the buttons, the remaining ones cost another $10, maybe?

I ran across these sweet little bamboo butterfly table confetti things at Pier 1 and grabbed them, not know what I'd use them for.

They ended up on the second canvas, after I painted it with 4 different shades of blue paint to give it a streaky appearance.

Now Tessa has two good-sized pieces of art in her room that really help tie the theme together and add some much needed color (which was beginning to be overtaken by pink.)

Her room is finished - I just need to get some good pictures to post!

Desk Refinish

Tessa's room is almost finished!

One of the reasons I decided to go ahead and redecorate for her is that I really felt like she could use a desk in her bedroom.  She loves to draw pictures, write stories and play on her laptop.  I think she'd use a desk.
I've been looking for ages.  I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted, I knew where I wanted to place it, and I didn't want to spend much money.  It took a long time to find something that met all my criteria!

I found it, though, at a consignment shop downtown.  If you live in the area, check it out at 9th Avenue and K Street Downtown.  Cute little shop and the ladies that own it are darling.

They had the desk listed on Craigs List, and I called on it Friday morning to ask for the measurments.  She didn't have them then and asked me to call back, which I did Friday night.  By that time she'd had another offer.  I told her I'd pay her more if she'd sell it to me, and to talk to her other buyer to see if they'd match my offer and let me know.  I didn't expect to hear back from her, but she called me Saturday morning and said it was mine!
Tessa and I drove downtown and bought it that afternoon.  
We got the desk AND chair for $50!  

But wow, were they in need of some TLC (and refinishing!)

Here's the desk in it's raw state:
I (of course) forgot to take a picture of it until after I'd already removed the ugly brass hardware and had sanded off much of the 90's colored wood stain.  In short - there's already an improvement in this picture.

And here's the chair:
The cushion was disgusting - covered in 4 layers of filthy, hideous fabric.  I removed all the staples and threw ever bit of that fabric in the trash.  It should have been incinerated.  Gross.

Wait until you see the finished product!
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