diorama-rama!

If you’re a huge nerd like myself, you might already know that Milwaukee has quite a history with dioramas. If you’re not, allow me to illuminate you.

Famed taxidermist Carl Akeley actually created the very first habitat diorama at the Milwaukee Public Museum – and it’s still on display there today!

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It’s these cool muskrats. Source.

The museum went on to create many more dioramas, both taxidermy and non. The Streets of Old Milwaukee is considered one of the world’s first walk-through dioramas, and as a kid I was always especially into the tiny intricate recreations of Egyptian cities or faraway places. I could stare into those windows into another world forever. (I also really liked the T-Rex chomping down on a triceratops. I’ve always been a woman of simple pleasures.)

All of this is to tell you that both Milwaukee and I have some diorama bonafides, which is why I’m excited to invite you to Diorama-rama! This celebration in honor of National Diorama Month will take place on March 29 at Blackbird Bar in Bay View and feature a Milwaukee-themed diorama contest. Your donations supporting Milwaukee Pets Alive will get you votes, but there will also be an esteemed panel of celebrity judges…and one of them is me! I can’t wait to see what our creative local diorama enthusiasts come up with, and yes, there will be fabulous prizes. This event is sure to be fun, creative, wacky, crafty…everything that I love! I hope that if you’re free you’ll come on down to support a fun new event and a great cause (or just to say hi!).

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diy tissue paper art

It’s crafting time! I always want to do more crafting, and somehow other things (time, inspiration, materials cost) always seem to get in the way. But I’ve been wanting to start filling in some blank spaces on my walls with some large scale art, and large scale art ain’t cheap. I knew I that the only way to get some big decorations fast was to DIY it.

After searching around for cheap (I mean…inexpensive) DIY art projects, I settled on this beautiful tissue paper flower backdrop. All you need is tissue paper, double-sided tape, some sort of base to attach it too, scissors, and patience.

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I did most of my crafting during procedural marathons on the weekends. Nothing livens up crumpling up hundreds of pieces of tissue paper quite like sex crimes (ION airs Law & Order: SVU all day on Saturdays!). Maybe it was all the staring at the TV that did it, but I eventually decided that above the TV would be the perfect spot for this piece. It’s always looked a little empty up there, since I have a very petite TV, but I didn’t want to hang up an actual piece of art that would compete visually with whatever was on the screen. This lovely, textural piece was the perfect compromise.

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Ain’t she a beaut? I’m really happy with how this came out. It required literally zero skill apart from not accidentally handling the tissue paper too roughly (I did have a few ripped casualties…). I feel that a treatment like this would be super fun on a base that’s a fun shape (a heart?) or even letters. It is a little bit tedious, but it was nicely mindless. You definitely don’t have to pay close attention to it, so it’s perfect for zoning out while you watch some TV. I mounted this with some Command Velcro strips, which is my preferred method of hanging for pretty much everything. So far it’s holding up pretty securely.

I’m excited to start doing some more projects and making more changes…it’s coming up on a year since I moved in, and there’s still a lot I’d like to do to make the place my own.

don’t you forget about me

breakfast club

A little belated, but my most recent cross stitch was a Christmas present for my former roommate & general partner in crime. She loves The Breakfast Club, so I grabbed this pattern from Wee Little Stitches and stitched away! I learned a new stitch for this one, the french knot, and also included a lot more detail work which was fun (the french knots, for the record, were not fun). I loved adding bits like the streak in Bender’s hair…little things like that really bring something as simple-seeming as this to life.

It’s definitely one of my goals to do some more needlecrafts this year. From the projects I’ve done, I’ve ended up with a pretty nice stash of embroidery floss, so I’m eager to start experimenting with creating my own patterns. I’d also like to do some embroidery in addition to cross stitch, learn some new stitches. Maybe I can make myself some decorative tea towels or something…eventually I’d love to jazz up some plain cardigans with some cute embroidery work, but I’ll get some practice in first. I find needlework to be very soothing; it’s great for keeping your mind engaged enough that your thoughts don’t wander too much without being so taxing that it’s difficult to work on. It puts me in kind of a zen place, so it’s really nice for de-stressing. Plus you end up with something pretty at the end! Always a win.

the spooky files: halloween cross stitch

It’s been too long since I did a cross stitch project, so I was eager to tackle a seasonally-appropriate pattern in time for Halloween! Cross stitching is one of my very favorite crafts because it’s super inexpensive (embroidery floss is like 60 cents and you really don’t need to use much for an average-sized project), and I find it very relaxing. The repetition is pretty zen, and just following after a pattern lets me zone out just a little without it being completely mindless (I tend to get bored while knitting, for example). Plus, though I have designed my own pieces and patterns before, there’s a wealth of awesome, inexpensive patterns available for purchase if you just want to pick up something cute.

After browsing the Halloween patterns on Etsy (this is my go-to source for cross stitch patterns that are a little more kitschy-modern than the more country-craft style I usually see at actual craft stores), I decided on this pattern from Red Bear Designs. Spooky cuteness and puns all in one? How was I to resist?

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Isn’t she cute? Another thing I love about cross stitch is how easy it is to make something your own; the original pattern used the same brown as the broom for the witch’s hair…but I had this adorable lavender thread leftover from another project, so why not have a darling little purple-haired witch? I love the skull, the bats, her little cat. This was an easy weekend project that just took 3 solid sessions of work, which was a nice change from some of the more labor-intensive patterns I’d take on before. Plus, now I have a super cute Halloween decoration to pull out each year.

If you’re a crafter, do you like to do seasonal crafts? I might already be eyeing up some cute Christmas designs…

easy canvas art diy

Hey friends! I hope you had a great Fourth of July weekend! I wanted to do some “home” stuff over the long weekend, and I did a few projects (switched out my duvet covers, reorganized some clothes), but the most important of which was one four years in the making.

In my senior year of college, I took a portrait painting class on a whim. It sounded like fun and, in fact, it was! However, though it didn’t have any prerequisites, it really wasn’t intended for someone like myself with zero painting experience. I didn’t really end up with any work I was proud of, but I knew that canvases could be repurposed in a wide variety of ways for home decor, so I hung onto them…and hung on…and on…and on…

The two largest paintings I did finally were thrown out in my last move, but I still had two self-portraits that I refused to get rid of. They’ve been in my trunk since March, but last weekend I finally moved them inside and committed to redoing one over the weekend. So that’s what I did!

paint collageI was inspired by this tutorial from A Beautiful Mess for a simple, yet impactful art redo. Take a piece of art that you don’t love, place vinyl letters on it, and go nuts! I used a foam brush to sponge the paint on around the letters to try to minimize leakage, and then used a brush on the larger segments of canvas. My final piece isn’t quite as fun as the inspiration piece with all the colors peeking because the original painting was done in grayscale, but I’m still pleased with it!

Now I just have to decide what to do with the other painting…

summer inspiration: merry mag

I’m often tempted in the supermarket checkout line by the glossy pages of lifestyle magazines. Real Simple, HGTV Magazine…I flip through them, maybe sighing softly over a particularly beautiful spread, before putting it back on the rack and leaving with my groceries. I am a reformed (mostly) magazine hoarder, and I know that bringing another one home is just asking for trouble.

Luckily, we live in a modern age where I can browse a beautiful digital magazine and not end up with a box of 100+ issues of Entertainment Weekly gathering dust in my closet (but what if I need them some day??). I’m getting tons of inspiration from the summer issue of Merry Mag. The photos are bright and beautiful, and I love how much they’ve taken advantage of the format to allow linkouts and additional information on blogs, allowing aesthetics to reign. It’s gorgeous, and it makes me itch to pick up a paintbrush, a cocktail shaker, and maybe an ice cream maker.

And just for fun, here’s a new little friend I met at Old World Wisconsin today:

pigs

easy diy gift wrap

Have you wrapped your gifts yet? If not, that means you still have time to try this super easy DIY project!

I wanted to do something a little bit special with my gifts this year, but I also didn’t want to take on some intense time-consuming project for something that’s meant to be disposable. I’ve been feeling the simple, rustic and shiny this year, so I landed on this:

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Ain’t it cute? It was incredibly easy, but I think it has a really lovely look to it. All I needed was a roll of kraft paper, a shape of your choice for stamping (I used a round foam brush) and some paint. There are a lot of great holiday options for color cominations, but I already had gold paint and am completely obsessed with gold polka dots (damn you, Kate Spade)! I stamped the paper in a vaguely un-patterned pattern, then let it dry overnight before wrapping the presents the next day. I was a little worried that the kraft paper would be difficult to work with, but it was really great. I think I actually ripped less than I usually do with normal wrapping paper. (I can be a emphatic wrapper.)

These would be lovely with an addition of colorful ribbon or even some simple twine to keep up with the rustic look, but I’d picked up a pack of Rifle Paper Co. stickers during the Broadway Paper holiday open house, so I used those to add that special something to my packages.

One roll of kraft paper gave me enough to wrap 3 small presents, two very small presents, and partially wrap one large gift. If you have more (or larger) gifts, I would recommend doing multiple rolls, but this actually worked out perfectly for my needs. I did also stamp a matching brown paper bag to hold some irregularly shaped gifties.

And that was my last Christmas craft project for the year! I know there are tons of really cute wrapping papers out there now, but this just felt really special and personal. Plus, they ended up looking both festive and classy, in my opinion. Hopefully my recipients will feel the same way!

how to host friendsgiving

As Turkey Day, a time traditionally spend with family, approaches, people across the land are wondering: but what about my friends? Some people say that Thanksgiving is one of the purest holidays, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. There’s no expectation of gifts, just good food and good company and good feelings. Despite its crummy roots, Thanksgiving has evolved into a pretty awesome holiday. So why wouldn’t we want to share it with the people that we’ve chosen to be part our lives, along with the people we were born with?

I just hosted my first Friendsgiving over the weekend, and I’m here to give you some tips on how to host the perfect celebration, whether it’s in addition to your traditional family Thanksgiving or more of an “orphans” deal for those who can’t make it home for the holiday.

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1. Embrace the potluck

Cooking the full meal yourself is certainly ambitious…but in this situation, it’s unnecessary. You’ll want to provide the centerpiece, of course, but invite friends to bring sides, beverages, and desserts to help fill the table. In addition to being budget friendly, it’s a lot of fun to see what everyone decides to bring.

2. Make a plan

For most people who are not Martha Stewart, a whole turkey is not the kind of thing you can just throw together last minute. Make sure you leave yourself time for defrosting, brining (if you’re into that), and, of course, roasting. Our Friendsgiving ended up being prepared in two locations due to timing/lack of oven space, but a dinner party is like a really exciting game of Tetris. You can figure out a way to fit all of the pieces together just right if you work at it long enough (and are a huge nerd who really enjoys scheduling out cooking…)

3. Don’t worry about running out of food

Unless your friends are like a plague of locusts or you SERIOUSLY under-prepared, you are going to have enough food. You will probably have way too much food. Remember that your guests will be bringing food as well (see point #1!), and different people will focus on different dishes.

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4. Keep your tablescape simple.

When you’re a huge domestic nerd like myself, you get really excited about the prospect of dressing up the table for a very special holiday meal. Remember that Thanksgiving, at its core, is about massive amounts of food. There is not room on the table for a fabulous centerpiece. Stick with something simple and attractive, like a table runner and pretty dishes – perhaps, as a random example, some super cute and retro-fabulous glasses from TJ Maxx. (Okay, I got a little creative with the napkins too. I can’t help myself!!)

5. Be thankful.

If you’re hosting an event like this, you probably know some pretty awesome people that you care about a lot. Don’t forget to take some time to think about that, whether it’s the full on “go around the table saying what we’re thankful for” thing or just a quick “To Friendsgiving!” toast. I know that I feel incredibly lucky to have such great friends that I’m excited to welcome into my home – I hope you do too!

halloween diy: pennant banner

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Last time I talked about how excited I am for Halloween. Well, the calendar flipped over to October, so I decided it was the appropriate time to start getting spooky!

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This DIY pennant banner is one of my favorite projects I’ve done so far. It’s very low cost and effort for what I think is a really dramatic and fun result. There’s a reason that these banners are a favorite of the blogosphere, and the apartment definitely feels more ready for Halloween with a banner along each bank of windows!

To create this craft, I just used a book of Halloween scrapbook paper I picked up last year (I got it for 40% off, and it has served me well!), some black ribbon (also from last year), scissors and a hole punch. It would have been a lot easier/neater if I had a paper cutter, but oh well! I used what I had, and honestly once they’re up, no one can tell if some of my cuts are a little wobbly. Cut out a nice stack of triangular pennants, use a hole punch to make a hole on each side, then string ’em up! You are instantly ready for a spooky celebration!

I ran out of ribbon, but I have some extra pennants left, so I think once I restock I’ll make a little mini banner for my cubicle so I can be spooky ALL DAY.

I did a few other DIY projects yesterday (and might still take on some more!), so I’ll be back with some more easy Halloween decor crafts as the month goes on. Boo!