Thursday, December 31, 2009

inspired life, final day

Thank you everyone for all the support this week, it's been an important series for me personally and I hope a helpful one for you too. As we bring this giveaway series to a close it's time to look at a topic that is often overlooked but just as important to living a balanced, happy life.

Let's talk about passion.

Think about your life for a moment in pie-chart form. The portions are divided between things you don't like to do, things you do like to do, and things you don't really mind doing. And then there is the section of your life that is spent doing something that you are passionate about. It lights you up from the inside, something you can get lost in and feel richer for. What percentage of your chart falls into this category?

Stop and think on this. Letting your passion play a larger role in your life will create a sense of self that nothing or no-one else can give you. If your 'pie-chart' number is relatively low or non-existent, now is a great time to really examine the things that make you feel whole. Once you are aware of how much or how little time you devote to your passion you can figure out ways to bring it into your life even more.

Let's use me as a quick example. I know I'm passionate about design. I also love giving advice. I get excited when I find cool, design-y things in magazines or on the internet. I'm giddy when it comes to fabric, dinnerware, pillows, you-name-it. I'm a self-proclaimed design geek! So when I sat down a year ago and had this same conversation with myself...this blog was born.

And when I had this conversation with myself (and my husband this time) a few months ago, another project came to be. We decided to open a furniture and home decor store. That's not exactly how I planned to announce it, but in the spirit of openness -and getting the point across- this is the perfect place to put it out there.

Even when life gets crazy, demands are high, money is tight, and support is hard to come by, there is always room to nurture what you love to do. So the assignment today is to look at your 'chart' and see where it falls. I imagine that most of us could use a little more spark, so my next assignment is to have that conversation with yourself about what exactly makes you glow. Once you've got it identified you can begin to work it into your life with small (or large) steps.

Enter your comments or email me at to enter yourself into the last day of our giveaway from living rooms direct for a chance to win this awesome, design-y pillow from

Every day you've commented or emailed to let me know you're participating becomes one entry into the drawing. As a bonus (thanks to Tyler of Living Room Furniture) if you repost this on your own blog you get an additional entry. Hey, if it makes an impression on you why not share it? You can enter until midnight tonight -not like anyone is at home reading blogs on New Year's Eve, but whatever - and I will announce the winner on Monday. How exciting!

Thank you once again for following along and I hope you've enjoyed doing this as much as I have. I feel rejuvenated, inspired and ready to take on the New Year. Cheers!

Oooh, one last thing. If you're inspired by this to seek out a new passion, check out this great article from Life Coach Cheryl Richardson. Click here

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

inspired life, day 3
image courtesy of

As the song goes 'everybody needs somebody sometimes.' Let's focus today on nurturing those connections. Life gets hectic and it's easy to let weeks or even months go by without reaching out to the important people in your life. So the assignment for today is to think of these 5 people in your life:

1. The most important person in your life at this moment. Think of a way to tell them how much they mean to you.

2. Someone who has done something nice for you. Find a way to thank them.

3. Someone you think of often but rarely or never talk to anymore. Maybe do a little search on facebook to locate that long lost college bud.

4. Someone to say sorry to. We all have small regrets for things we shouldn't have said or done. Sometimes "I'm truly sorry" goes a long way.

5. Someone you are starting to lose touch with, and give them a call before it happens!

Send a comment or an email to let me know you're participating and you will be entered into this week's giveaway from living rooms direct, with a cool prize from Each day you comment is one entry, plus an additional entry for reposting this on your own blog (great idea Tyler!) This giveaway series ends Thursday, December 31st at midnight PT

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Working with Metal, and Forcing Patinas on Steel

You'll remember from last week's post that the doors for the walnut media center are going to be metal. I had a metal fabricator near my shop make these for me because I saw some holes punched in a roll cage he'd made.

Like this:
These doors cost me $30 each and are 21" x 24". I was really surprised at how inexpensive they were. Strolling into a dark oily shop with welders blazing and grinders screaming may seem a little intimidating, but the guy told me himself that he grows weary of working on trucks all day and likes to something different every once in a while. The holes were cut out by his plasma cutter, then he uses a press to add the dimples. I only mention this because the plasma cutter runs off of cad files, so if you are handy with that sort of thing, or know someone who is, you can get ANY shape you want cut out for not much money. He showed me some house numbers made from 5/8" thick steel that looked terrific, but maybe you are into birds and want a life sized flamingo made of metal. No problem! Get some pink paint you'll be set. For inspiration and some inexpensive scrap, visit: or something like it in your area.

Naturally, the doors come in a silvery steel color (this isn't stainless, by the way), but I am looking for something a little grungier and more weathered looking. I have seen old industrial parts and there is a certain character they have from use. This is what I was going for, but I refused to paint them. Paint is too thick, and to me looks like you are trying too hard to add age. There is some info out there on the web regarding patinas on steel but not much, mostly you'll find sculptors talking about aging bronze and working with copper.

From what I could find, the easiest D.I.Y. route to a darker look to my doors was using gun blue. The gun blue can be bought at most sporting good stores, but here is a link to the brand I bought: Birchwood Casey, and another link that taught me how to use it. The actual results are more black, with a hint of blue. It's easy to apply, but difficult to apply evenly. On large pieces like these, I'm not sure if I could ever get it to a perfectly solid looking black color. If you want to have a go yourself, don't forget the latex gloves and a well ventilated area! This stuff stinks something fierce, and I vaguely remember reading the word "poison" on the bottle. I tend not to get bogged down by such minor details and neither should you. Just have fun and try not to drink any of it.

Here is a door with one application (on the left):
Here is the first test door: This is full strengh applied in two coats. Sanding with 400 grit paper after the first application helped the color even out, but as you can see, it is still quite streaky.

Here is a big mess: This was just for fun. I added mineral spirits to prevent the chemical from fully getting into the metal, and just smeared it around in three or four applications. Interesting, but not for me. Note the rust on the right. This stuff oxidizes the metal in minutes--it wasn't there when I started.

Here is one I'm almost happy with: This is one application of gun blue, then sanded with 400 grit to remove most of the patina, and a final coat (two or three is better) of an oil based polyurethane to prevent any oxidation. I think what it needs is much finer sandpaper, or steel wool. Something like 2000 grit will make all the obvious sanding, much less...obvious.

Another, certainly greener, method of getting some color on steel is to burn oil into it. I used a plumbers torch to heat the metal dowel below, then rubbed a paper towel soaked in olive oil on it. I did it twice. The metal must be really hot for this to work, and make sure there is something quite thick between your sensitive skin and the nearly red-hot work piece! As you can see in the picture the metal is quite dark. But what you can't see in the pic, is that in my opinion, this gave a better result than the gun blue. It looks truly and properly old.

inspired life, day 2

Today we're going to focus on health. I think this is so important because it seems to get overlooked more than anything else. Sure, we'll eat better next week, exercise tomorrow and take some time for ourselves after...(insert excuse here).
image courtesy of storm communications

The thing is, if we don't have our health what do we have?

So my assignment for today is to ask yourself: How do I feel? Take a look at your physical well-being and make note of what's going on. If there is something that you know you could improve, come up with some simple changes to start.

For example, if you've been feeling tired a lot lately and you've become a caffeine addict as a result, make a promise to get yourself to bed a half hour earlier for a couple nights (Note: I won't tell you to ditch the caffeine, so don't worry...). In a couple of days ask yourself the same question and see if the answer is any different.

Feel free to share as much or as little as you want. We've got two days left to our giveaway so let's keep it up! If you're still feeling inspired when this is over, check out the whole living total action plan for wellness

Note: I received some emails from readers that were unable to comment via blogger due to a technical error. If you run into that problem shoot me an email at Each day you comment is one entry into the drawing so comment away! Plus, get a bonus entry if you re-post this on your blog.

This giveaway is brought to you by Living Rooms Direct, with a prize from

Monday, December 28, 2009

in with the new...and a giveaway!

A recent series of events has reminded me how important it is to take care of ourselves and to nurture the elements that make us feel whole. I created this blog to be a place of inspiration and I try as much as possible to keep thing interesting. But we live in very busy times and it's easy to get too focused on the external demands in our lives and not pay enough attention to what is important.

Over the next week I would like to spend some time looking at those important things: our health, our personal connections and our passions. I believe these elements are key to living a happy, balanced life. And what could be more inspiring than that?

Today's Topic: Stress

The one thing that has always helped me when things start to feel a little crazy is to breathe. There are so many times when things like yoga, meditation or a hard workout are out of the question (like after a stressful office meeting or when you're in line at the grocery store) but breathing is something you can do anytime, anywhere. Check out this great article on coping with stress through breathing.

Now that we're breathing, let's talk about the giveaway! Monday through Thursday this week I will post a small assignment to help get you more focused on your needs. Post a comment to let me know you're participating (you don't have to share unless you want to) and at the end of the week I will enter your name into a drawing. The folks at have graciously donated a gift for me to giveaway to the winner of this little challenge. Exciting, right?

List up to 5 things that are stressful for you right now. Be very honest: if you break down the obvious things (love, money, work, etc.) you will find that there's usually more to it. My biggest stressors typically come from guilt.


Now look carefully at each of these things. What about it can you control and what can't you? I've always been told that if you can change something you don't like, do it and if you can't, let it go. That's easier said than done, and this will take a little work. But it's totally worth it.

Think about it and let me know. If you have some insight to share, please do. Happy Monday!

in the library 12.28.09

This Christmas I found some great books for my collection under the tree. Unfortunately my scanner is out of commission until late January (technical difficulties with Windows 7) so we're going to do this the old fashion way...

My book pick this week has nothing to do with design, but I would be doing a great disservice to my readers if I didn't share. It's called Vefa's Kitchen and it's all Greek to me.

With recipes like cracked potato tossed in coriander and cheese pastitsio, this book truly is the bible of Greek Cooking! I'm inspired just by looking at the gorgeous photos.

Many of the recipes are surprisingly simple. I guess that's the beauty of Greek food: simple, natural and delicious. Everything has a 'thrown together' feel to it, something that inspires my earth-mother sensibilities.

I can't wait to try some of these recipes, though to be honest it will mostly be David doing the real cooking...I'll probably stick to the lentils and rice. Either way, this book is a must have for your library.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays Everyone! Enjoy the time with family and friends, and when you've had enough quality time check out this video of things do when you're bored over the holidays.

Disclaimer: I do not actually recommend doing any of the ideas if you get in trouble, it wasn't me :) Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

in the workshop

I am extremely impatient. I hate traffic. I hate waiting in line. I hate not having what I want now, RIGHT NOW. It has always been in my nature to try something once, then dismiss it as "stupid", when it didn't work. When I became a carpenter a few years ago (officially the "cabinet guy" at our remodeling company), I really had no idea that I'd frequently be putting myself into a world of hurt. This is a craft that requires a level of patience that I simply don't naturally have. But our nature, bad habits, and excuses must be worked on when the alternative is even worse. I pushed past my urges to give up over and over, and found that the satisfaction in the end makes up for the sometimes challenging points along the way. Somehow things always seem to work out.

In my posts I will share with you what's going on in the shop: inspiration, design ideas and drawings, prototypes, and hopefully a few finished pieces.

The latest, is a media center made of walnut. I love walnut, that rich gray/brown color right out of the box just makes me happy. I have a sheet of plywood sitting around that was going to be used for this, but I stopped by Builders Surplus in Santa Ana the other day and found some 10' long walnut stair treads for about $3 a linear foot. Perfect! Reclaimed and CHEAP. This works out great because they are substantially thicker than 3/4" plywood and will give the piece a nice chunky look. Stair treads are normally about 12" deep, so I cut one of them in down the middle, and glued it to another whole one, making the media center nearly 18" deep. Being an impatient fellow, I just started building this thing with no specific vision in mind for the base. I've changed my mind about ten times so far, but I think it's getting narrowed down. Sometimes I just have to sit and stare at things for a while before a solution becomes clear.

Here it is so far:

The frame is built and has been stained. I made lots of samples with water based stains from General Finishes, but wasn't happy with the 'muddy' look and the fact the pretty grain was obscured too much. Dark Briwax gave a nice look, but had a little more yellow than I wanted. Ultimately an old can of Minwax-Dark Walnut gave me the look I wanted after being thinned 50%. The sealer will really bring out the colors, but I'm off to the store for something different, because the stuff we normally spray looks a little too "factory perfect", if you follow. I want this to look slightly rustic. You'll really see what I mean next week, when we experiment with forced patinas on the metal sheets that will become the doors of the cabinet.


I would like to introduce a new guest blogger, my husband and business partner, David Betz (whom I have lovingly referred to as D when writing about him here). D is a carpenter and furniture designer, making him a great addition for a weekly post called in the workshop.

Each week you'll get a sneak peak at what he's working on and learn about the things that inspire him to do what he does best. D is all about honesty and he's the first to admit that it's not as easy as it looks. He's got a great sense of humor too so be prepared for some laughs and a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure :)

Welcome David. I'm sooo looking forward to this.

Monday, December 21, 2009

gettin' crafty

Despite all my attempts over the last year to hone my homemaking skills, I often hear myself say "well, I'm no Martha." It's not a self-deprecating comment, more like the ability to laugh at myself and give credit for trying.

I recently stumbled upon a blog with the same sentiment. Not Martha is a crafty and creative blog focused on all things homey. While the writer actually does come up with the high quality results of Ms. Stewart, she also reserves the right to mess up, and laugh at herself in the process. And I like it.

This recent post is one I just had to share. I love the creativity of it and they just look so beautiful. I can just imagine serving these on Christmas Eve.
gingerbread house that sits on the edge of a mug
These mini-gingerbread houses perch on top of a mug - form and function at its best (save a plate, plus it gets straight to the point of dipping).

Click here for the full post and step-by-step instructions. Happy Holidays.

in the library 12.21.09

According to the trend reports for 2010, we're going to see a continuation of interest in comfortable spaces with earth tones, warm woods and soft textures. We will also be seeing more of a juxtaposition between traditional and contemporary furnishings.

This brings me to the book selection of the week, which encompasses all of these 'trends' in liveable and inspiring spaces.

find this book at amazon

Friday, December 18, 2009

weekend project

I love these dog tags! They are simple but totally cute, and the best part is that they are easy to make...a great gift for a pet owner

Pet ID Tag

So this weekend I will be trying my hand at some custom tags to give to my dog-lover family members (and one for my own little nugget, Lily)

Here are the instructions, from
Tools and Materials

Shrinky Dinks printable plastic sheets (find these at your local craft store)
Regular or decorative-edge scissors
Hole punch
Pet ID tag template


1. Download Pet ID tag template to your computer's desktop. Open the file and type your pet's name and your phone number.

2. Print tags on a shrinky dink plastic sheet. Cut out with regular or decorative-edge scissors and punch a hole where indicated. Bake according to package instructions; let cool. Seal both sides with matte clear-coat spray before attaching to collar.

I will let you know how mine turn out

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

holiday gift guide {unique gifts for everyone}

If you're trying to think outside the {gift} box this year, here are a few clever ideas for those hard to shop for friends.

For the quirky foodie

plant tongs, $27

For the architect
Lego Guggenheim Museum, $39.99 pop deluxe

For the pharmacist (or the somewhat dark but always funny friend)
Pills Small Oval Dish
pill dish, $8.95 fishs eddy

For the do-gooder
Set of 4 square 7 inch plates
plates with purpose, $115 set of 4, riverside design group

For the co-worker

Office supply character stickers, $4.99

For the entertainer
Set of Three Bottle Screws
bottle screw caps, $12.99 pop deluxe

For Anyone
Fabric Horseshoes, $18 each, hable construction

Monday, December 14, 2009

in the library 12.14.09

Classic and Contemporary collide in this week's book pick, with the work of designer John Saladino. His spaces feel inviting with throes to classicism, yet entirely appropriate in today's home.

you can find this book at Amazon or your favorite local retailer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

weekend project

Skip the Christmas clutter this year and go for some natural decor. Whether using it indoors or out, a fresh wreath is a great way to spruce up your home, and you don't have to store it later. Here is an easy project to get you going -after all, it's already mid-December...I'd call you a procrastinator, but I'm in the same boat :)

10-Minute Wreaths

Here are the instructions, from Southern Living. Check out more project ideas and inspired living tips at

The Goods You'll Need

  1. Frames: To re-create this look, purchase inexpensive frames from a crafts or hobby store. They go on sale quite frequently, so watch for flyers in your local paper, and then stock up. The style doesn't matter because the base won't show in the end.
  2. Wire: Use green florist wire that comes on a paddle (see photo above, right). It's easier to handle when applying the greenery in a continuous fashion. Use green wire, which blends in nicely with the garland.
  3. Greenery: Here's the secret: Use garland to completely cover the frames. Look for deals at home-improvement stores or large wholesale clubs. We found a 25-foot cedar garland for less than $20. Simply start at one corner of the frame, and continue to wire the garland completely around the piece. Cut the garland, and tuck in pieces of greenery to fill holes.
  4. Clippers: You'll need a good pair of clippers or wire cutters to cut the garland into pieces that perfectly fit each frame.

It Helps To Know

  1. Pick the freshest garland possible. Give it a good shake; if your feet are covered in pieces of greenery, put it back.
  2. Wear gloves, especially if using cedar garland. The greenery has tiny little needles that can irritate your skin.
  3. Store the frames for next year. While you may feel you're spending more on materials this season, next Christmas all you'll need is greenery.
  4. If you place a wreath on a window, you may want to cover the back of the frame as well.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

mastering the cocktail party...

or at least the cocktail portion of the party. Here are recipes for some seasonal libations that will get your guests talking (well, that may be partly due to the liquor)

eight cocktails on a table

Christmas Snow

1 oz. light Puerto Rican rum
1/2 oz. Galliano
1/4 oz. Rose’s unsweetened lime juice
1 oz. heavy cream

Shake well with ice cubes. Serve in claret or large cocktail glass. Sprinkle chopped pistachio nuts on top.

Irish Cheer

2 oz. Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

Stir well with ice and serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with lightly cooked cranberries.

Red Velvet

3/4 oz. crème de noyaux or crème de cassis
Iced Champagne

Pour the crème de noyaux into a tulip champagne glass and top with iced champagne. No garniture.

Wassail Bowl

Serves 12

1/2 pound sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg or 1 whole nutmeg, grated
7 12-oz. bottles light beer
1/2 pint sherry

Heat one bottle of beer and sherry and pour over sugar and nutmeg, stirring until dissolved. Add remaining six bottles or beer and let stand covered for three hours at room temperature. Garnish with apples roasted with sugar and spices (no butter), and lemon slices or apple wedges dipped in red cinnamon. Serve in silver punch cups.

Christmas Rose

1 1/2 oz. applejack or bourbon
1/2 oz. cassis
1/2 oz. grenadine
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

Shake well in cocktail shaker and serve on the rocks in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with a slice of lime.

These drink recipes were written by Allan Lewis and originally appeared in the December 1960 issue of House Beautiful.

for more holiday bar ideas check out

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

holiday gift guide {for the hostess}

'Tis the season for parties and fun, and to thank the gracious hosts of these events I've put together some gift ideas that are sure to get you an invite next year...

For good times and a little competition - High Cotton card game, $25
For holiday cheer - Christmas Tree kit, $8
For cracking open a cold one - Menagerie of carved wooden bottle openers, $24.50
For the eco-aficionado - Recycled windshield wine glasses, $22 set of 2, uncommon goods
For the collector - Fiesta ware sugar bowl, $18.99 fiesta factory (add your own specialty sugar)
For the Designer - Floor plan coaster set of 10, $3.95
For the elegant bartender- Candy cane swizzle sticks, $60 set of 4,
For a luncheon or formal occasion - Lace Pottery remembrance bowl, $40 Maggie Weldon pottery (the remembrance pattern is meant to express or recall friendship and affection)

Monday, December 7, 2009

in the library 12.07.09

Design inspiration is everywhere you turn and this week's book selection takes a look at interiors inspired by fashion. Whether you wear it or live in it, the process of turning an idea into reality is similar and altogether beautiful. Check out some of these awesome boards and the rooms that result in The Well-Dressed Home.