Sunday, April 14, 2013

My new spice rack

As I said last week, my new kitchen is considerably smaller than my old one.  My husband and I both have a large collection of spices, and nowhere to put them.  So we started looking around...lots of handy little spice racks available... if you have 15 jars or less.  But we have well over 30 jars of spices, and no wall space or doors to hang anything on.

However, I did have an old basket rack that had been nailed to the wall of my old house (though probably started life as an over-the-door unit):

I decided that it would work if I could somehow hang it off the side of my fridge... but how to secure it and make it sturdy and not damage the fridge?

So I some saran wrap and folded it in 4 the long way, and ran that behind each basket/shelf, and secured the ends with fancy leopard duct tape - to look purrty (you can see a little of it in the picture above).  Now, even if I bumped into the rack and it moved, no spice jars would be able to fall out the back.

I went to the hardware store and got two zinc corner braces - sturdy metal bent almost at a 90-degree angle with a hole drilled in one each end.  Something like this:

Everbilt 6 in. Zinc Plated Corner Brace

They were less than $4 each, very sturdy, and 'good enough'... the only problem with them is that they are designed to provide support by being put UNDER something, so while the outside does make a neat right angle, their inside angle does not.  But it would do.
The plan was to put these hanging over the top edge of the fridge on the side opposite where I wanted the rack hung, and use thing rope or fishing line or something to connect the two.

I finally decided on using fishing line rated for 40lbs, figuring that really ought to be enough weight!  The fishing line is clear, and won't look ugly, and thin enough to keep a low profile.  I used some more of the leopard duct tape to wrap the brace.  This made it look prettier, but also gave it more 'grip' so it wouldn't move around on the fridge, and also kept the metal from scratching the fridge.

My finished work -

Close up of the brace on the opposite side of the fridge:            The empty rack hanging in place:

And filled with spices.....

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My gorgeous "Good Enough" sideboard

We recently moved into a new house with a kitchen less than half the size of my old one.  Desperate for space, I decided to get a sideboard - a low cabinet to put in the dining room that can hold dishes and serving pieces, and the top can be used as a side table for serving from.  I didn't want to spend much money on this, so I went on Craigslist, and finally found a hideous piece that was at least close to the right size, and at $40 was vaguely the right price (sorry for the crappy picture - my camera tried to eat the file...).  Don't you just love those dated-looking spindles on the doors?

I took it home, and primed it in preparation for painting it.  MY 2 MISTAKES.... First, there was a lot of other stuff going on in my life, and somehow I idiotically forgot to clean the piece first!  Major error!  The dirt and oils that are naturally on the surface of even 'clean' items will impede proper paint adhesion.  Every surface MUST ALWAYS be thoroughly cleaned before painting.  Then my second error... the sideboard was originally covered in fake-wood-look laminate.  Since laminate is such a smooth and glossy surface, I needed to either rough up the surface with sandpaper to give it enough 'tooth' to hold the paint properly, or use a primer that can go directly on to such a glossy surface (Apparently, Sherwin-Williams makes the only one...but I was using KILZ).  I THOUGHT I was using such a primer, but it turned out, I had failed to do enough research and actually check for myself that it was ok - it wasn't.  By the time I realized both of these errors, I had already primed half the cabinet.  These errors meant that the finish on this cabinet would not hold up to much wear-and-tear, and over time, the paint would start coming off.  How long before this happened could not be predicted and depended on many factors, including climate and abuse.  But if I was gentle with it, I could probably get a few years of use out of it, and even if I had to retouch it periodically, I figured I wasn't looking for heirloom furniture to burden my children with, but a piece I could use and then replace when I moved or changed styles.  Figuring this was a CLASSIC case of 'Good Enough' crafting, I kept going...

The primed cabinet:

After the primer dried, I saw there were some spots of discoloration - pinks and yellows bleeding through the white primer.  No idea what they were, couldn't find any answers online, so I went and found a carpenter to ask.  Turns out, this is another problem that came up possibly due to my earlier mistakes.  He thought it was oils and glue from the old veneer leeching through.  So I sprayed the whole cabinet with a light coat of stain blocker (any will do, and it dries almost instantly), then went on to the next step...

I had decided that I really hated those spindles on the doors, but what would hide them and be a design that I could touch-up easily down the road without looking 'fixed'?  Trees!!!  The round spindles would add some real depth and shape to my trees, and I'd always loved those pretty aspen and birch tree paintings - plus it was a design my husband would like too.  So I used low-tack painter's tape to mark out the placement of my trees - all the spindles, plus some extra trees - don't forget to do the sides of the cabinet if they will be visible!

Off to Home Depot for paint!  I started with their 'Oops' section - paints that were ordered by other customers than not wanted for various reasons.  These paints are steeply discounted, but selection varies widely and they or may not be willing or able to tweak the color at all.  I found a gallon of a suitable latex paint in a nice shade of blue and used that as the primary color.  A gallon is way more than I needed, but I can use it for lots of other projects.  I then used the paint swatch cards to find 4 other colors that all complemented each other and the blue quite nicely - a red, yellow, dark grey, and purple.  I had those mixed up in the little 4oz tester sizes - more than enough paint for me.

I went ahead and painted the top the first base coat of blue, since I wasn't planning on continuing my trees up to the top.

With the 'trees' masked off, I painted the rest of the cabinet the same blue from the top, then painted the bottom half of the cabinet with the purple, roughly blending it into the upper blue.

When that was dry, I pulled the painters tape off - generally, you should do this BEFORE the paint is totally dry (just do it carefully), so that you don't lift off the paint with the tape. My trees are now visible as primed shapes against the 'blurple' (blue-purple background):

I then took a tube of white acrylic artist's paint I had laying around, and thickly smooshed it around all the trees - primarily along the right side.  While that was wet, I took the dark grey latex and used a medium brush to make a fat uneven line of it up the left side of the each tree.  Then I took a fan-shaped paintbrush and used it to draw the grey into the white and shape and define each tree in little arc strokes.  I used a fine brush to go back and add some dark marks into the tree trunks, which I then feathered with the fan brush.  I worked as quickly as I could, one tree at a time, trying to finish the whole tree before it dried.

This step took twice as long as all the others to dry - 2 days.  When the trunks were fully dry, I used makeup sponges to sponge the yellow and red paint all over as the beautiful fall foliage.  This was tricky since the paint had to go on thick to fully block the blue underneath which kept trying to green my yellow.  I allowed the paint to freely drip lines over the surface, though I did NOT allow the 'leaves' to drip and run.  In order to prevent the thick paint of the leaves from running down the sides, I kept monitoring the whole piece as it dried, going from cluster of leaves to cluster, and using the sponge to reblot any leaf that threatened to drip.  When it was finally mostly dry to the touch (about an hour or so later), I could rest.  It then took several more days before it has fully dried.  But my cabinet was so beautiful, I was delighted with the result.  I still need to get new drawer pulls and door knobs for it, and maybe when my nice sponges turn up I will add some wispy white clouds to the top, but otherwise, it's done and I love it!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Good Enough" crafting

Lori Gottlieb wrote a book called "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough" in which she suggests that instead of turning down perfectly suitable partners because of some tiny flaw, we stop holding out for perfection and just find someone who's Good Enough.

I think the same concept can be applied to the crafting and sewing world.  Yes, sometimes PERFECTION is ideal or required, but all too often, we hold ourselves back because we are so busy trying for that level of perfection ALL THE TIME that we miss out on all the Good Enough we could do.

I read once in Threads magazine about a woman who won a sewing contest with a denim suit that was fully interfaced in silk organza, and lined in silk charmeuse.  Everything about this outfit, inside and out, was impeccable.  That's wonderful, and I admire her dedication and skill.  However, I don't intend to use that much silk to line the inside of a denim suit, or spend THAT much time and effort on the parts that don't really matter.  But that's just me.  I would rather have 3 Good Enough garments to show for my time than 1 AMAZINGLY crafted museum piece (that I will probably never wear because it's so special and valuable).

I will be talking about this concept a lot more in the coming weeks!

What about you?  Is Good Enough crafting for you?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm Baaaack!

After a very long hiatus in which I was busy exhibiting my art and fashion all over the world, running my boutique, preparing a book draft, researching the dress trade in Australia, getting married, and moving to Seattle, I'm finally back!!  I'm refreshed, revived, and very inspired by all my amazing experiences.  Are you ready to get busy?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Great Summer Outfits...

Glamour Magazine and Yahoo are presenting 20 'cute summer work outfits.' This is a great idea, and about half of the outfits really are good for summer in the office. HOWEVER, the problem lies in the other half...

Only wear short skirts, low cut tops, snug or sexy outfits if you don't actually want either a promotion, or to be taken seriously. Many studies show that women whose work clothes say "sexy" more than they say "consumate professional" are less likely to be promoted or to earn as much as their more sedately dressed counterparts.
Rumpled clothes, or a top and skirt that are too casual, or don't really go together, are fine for a day out with the kids, but not good choices for the office. One of the most important things to consider is the fit of your clothes.  Most people cannot just walk into a store, even a high-end one, and wear something straight off the rack with no alterations.  Worse, while men expect to have their suits altered, this concept is not a part of women's shopping expectations.  Add to that the fact that the vast majority of women do not even know what constitutes a proper fit.....  Lots of bad looks that could have been gorgeous, if only the garments had fit!
Consider colors carefully.  Remember that whole thing some years ago about 'finding your season' and wearing those colors.  While the concept may be a trifle déclassé these days, it is still pretty good advice.  Not every color works for every person.  Bland neutrals tend to wash most people out, and downplays your good features.  Look for colors that really enhance your looks.  Solid black is too harsh, aging, and funereal for most people. (frum women, take note! and remember you have a halachic obligation to look attractive to your spouse, and not to cause a chilul Hashem because everyone is commenting on how frumpy you look!)

I have seen a lot of fashion Don'ts already this summer, and some very bland things, but very little that is fabulous or even worthy of comment.  Boost your look, and let the compliments flow.
If you need some advice putting together cute outfits that actually work for YOU, please ask about our wardrobe consultation services.  Or just come by for an explanation of what works and what doesn't from the Glamour magazine picks.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Still hot at 40....

For all women who worry or even just wonder about the common idea that women get less attractive as they get older, and men are attracted to the hotter, younger, girls....

Overheard in the supermarket line, 2 guys in their late 20s, frat boy types, discussing Jennifer Anniston..

"Man, she must have a great publicist, she's always on the cover of, like, every magazine." I know, every week!" "But it's ok, 'cause she's so hot!" "She's a total fox. But she's like, old, by now, she must be what, 40?" "Yeah, but you know, I think she's way hotter now than she was when she was first on that show, what was it, Seinfield?" "Friends. Yeah, she's way more of a babe now. Plus you can tell she really knows herself and what she wants, she's got more confidence." "Yeah, chicks like that are so hot."

The vocabulary may be a trifle redundant, but at least the conversation was surprisingly deep, for guys we always assume to be so shallow.

So while you may be 'old' by 40, at least you're still hot as long as you have self-confidence and poise!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Career/Office Attire

I recently spoke at a job-training seminar about appropriate clothing to wear in the workplace. To summarize for those of you not lucky enough to attend :> (Tips apply for people working in offices or going on interviews anywhere.) ....

Men are easy - good quality, well-fitting dark suits (black, navy, or grey, or tiny pin-striped versions of those colors), crisp, clean, pressed shirts (white or colors) with all buttons present, matching, and fastened, and a silk tie in complementary colors. If you aren't sure what well-fitting means, ask a tailor or... a sales clerk in a posh men's store (even if that isn't where you bought your suit).
Silk ties are a must. Polyester or rayon is NOT a substitute!
Remember, it is worth investing in a good-quality dark suit an tie. Sure it's more expensive than the cheap stuff, but it looks better, lasts longer, and can be worn on interviews, at work, to weddings or funerals, on dates, and really for just about anything.  So save up if you have to, but invest in that good suit.  With some careful selection, you can pick a suit that will be relatively impervious to fashion trends and will look good year after year.

Next up, women's wear!