Friday, May 9, 2014

Wood Pallet Wall Shelf

My favorite times of being creative are the ones that sneak up on you that you don't expect. My job is a creative one. I love that, but trying to go home and tell myself "let's be creative!" doesn't always work even when I want to be. I feel too much pressure or am unmotivated or just tired of being creative if that is even possible.

This wood pallet wall shelf came into my life in one of those unexpected moments, and for that I am grateful.

From the beginning of the year onward I wasn't doing a lot of creative projects. I was consumed at work, re-designing and launching our website and preparing for one of our conferences in California. A lot of design and artistic work goes into those things, so I just wasn't feeling like doing those things at home.

Jacob took the dog out one morning around 6:30 before leaving for work and came inside to tell me he found something in the alleyway. (Considering we live in Chicago, that could mean just about anything.) A wood pallet someone threw out -- did I want it? Sure!

I headed to handy dandy Pintrest and searched for projects at what people have done. The best place for this creation was our kitchen/dining space, so we decided on a shelf for wine and other kitchen related things.

We sanded it down just a bit and I took brown acrylic paint and watered it down. I essentially was going for an old stained look. Jacob helped me sprinkle a bit of water droplets on the wood since the wood would've soaked up so much paint otherwise. Doing this helped keep the paint thinner, which fit well with the look I was going for. I used a sponge you often get in those artist brush kits which worked well since it was large. I kept my strokes of paint light and quick. There was some words stamped onto the pallet, so to cover those up I had to go over those sections one more time. 

We have a slight Italian theme going on in the kitchen/dining space, so the shelf really worked well under our "MANGIA" wall art (another DIY project from last year). Over the past few months we've adjusted what has gone onto the shelf, but it is so handy and cute. And most importantly free! (Doesn't everybody get a good feeling when things are free?)

Our wood pallet shelf currently holds lots of mason jars filled with dry goods. Oatmeal, chia seeds, black beans, and flax seeds. Wine, baby spider plants, and olive oil from Jacob's olive grove hangs out there too. (Upcoming post: the awesomeness that is Nudo.)

I have seen tons of other creative uses for pallets that I would love to experiment with. Someday should I ever get out of an apartment and have more space or have my own outdoor area, I think more pallets might make their way into my life. Even better if they are free alleyway finds.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

oh darling, let's be adventurers canvas art [reverse stenciling technique]

Long time, no blog. 

You know, I deem myself creative and try to live my life accordingly. My lifestyle and work all focus on creativity, and I enjoy that. With that in mind, after a long work day, I lately haven't felt like I've had the energy to do a project for myself. On top of that, having a puppy who is now slowly growing into a dog, occupies a lot of my time and attention. [In fact, she's sleeping on my lap now as I type.]

After a very long but amazing work trip away, I came home craving projects. We started painting and decorating our apartment when we moved in last June, but when Sophie arrived in August, we kind of halted everything. She teethed and was potty training and we didn't want anything new. 

I am so very happy to report we bought a new rug and curtains, and I was finally inspired to create something new. 

A month or two ago Jacob stumbled upon a link on his Facebook news feed of a photoshoot featuring an older couple doing an "Up" themed shoot for their anniversary. One photo was so moving -- the older gentleman was holding a large jug of coins with the quote "oh darling, let's be adventurers" on it. 

I didn't initially know how I wanted to use that quote, but I knew I had to. Our life is more about the adventurers than about the things.

I ultimately decided on doing a piece of canvas art and I wanted to try my hand at reserve stenciling. I did it in kind of an unconventional way, but it totally worked for me. I first found this great decoupage paper with a map print from Michaels.  

The pack included 3 different map prints. The canvas I already had in my craft stash was larger than the print, but I made it work anyways. I centered the map on the canvas and applied mod podge underneath to seal it down. My paper did not lay completely flat -- there were creases. I went with that look. If that is something you want to avoid, I'd just do the mod podge in sections. Cover a small section in the mod podge, lay it down, smooth it out, and then move onto the next section and repeat.

In all the attempts of reserve stenciling I've seen, most people do it with vinyl lettering -- either bought or they use their Cricuts to create it. I did not have the Cricut option, so off to Michael's I went. I actually couldn't initially find vinyl letters. I walked up and down the aisles and instead ended up in the scrapbooking aisle full with alphabet letters. I found a few that where thicker, which I thought would be easier to pull off. A few were foam, which worked out wonderfully. 

Reverse stenciling works in the way that whatever you lay down first will be the print of your letters. After the map went down, I placed my phrase where I wanted it. 

I then painted two coats of brown acrylic paint. I used the brushes I had on hand, with a smaller one around the letters to get into all the nooks. When the paint was dry, I slowly started peeling up the letters. The foam style letters worked the best. They were easy to pull up and they didn't affect the paper underneath. For the cursive "bubble" letters I used, I used my craft exacto knife to begin prying the letter up, and then pulling it up the rest of the way.

I loved the look! I took a small brush to clean up the edges of the letters, which was a quick adjustment. The canvas needed something else though. Because the map paper didn't cover the entire canvas, you could see the transition from paper to canvas. I took one of the other maps and cut 2 inch strips to the top and bottom to cover that visual no-no. I think it really helped pull the look together and helped bring out the map in the letters.

I really love how it turned out! The visual aspect matches up with how the phrase makes me feel. I smile every time I look at it. We've added it to our wall, which I'm now inspired to fill up. Let the projects begin!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: Year in Review

Snow is falling now as I write this. The kind of snow that is light and fluffy. Sparkles as it falls. Magical snow. The snow that helps make you believe that everything can change in the turn of a day (or a year really) if you'd like it to.

This year was a good one. A lot of milestones met, dreams made, wishes granted. Here's a quick recap:

Jacob turned 24 and we did a brewery tour at Goose Island. (January 27)

I worked my first conference for work in Boca Raton. We ended all the hard work with a little Mardi Gras fun. (early February)

Jacob and I did little Valentine's Day celebrations for each other. My little Valentine's Day countdown themed gifts can be found here. (early February)

We ice skated under the Bean. (February)

We had lovey visitors who helped us celebrate our first very green St. Patty's Day in the city. (March 17)

I started my hand at running. The beginning was really rough. At least I had the views. (April)

We ate. And drank. A lot. (All. The. Time.)

We celebrated our third anniversary doing what we did the night he asked me to be mine...ride the ferris wheel on Navy Pier. (May 16)

Jacob and I moved from our first Chicago apartment into one that was dog-friendly. Good thing we have nice friends to help us! (June)

I crafted and decorated and painted a lot at the beginning of our move in. (June)

I laughed, a lot. My hair also blew around, a lot. It is the Windy City afterall. (Summer)

We had a lot of summer fun. Architectural boat ride, Cubs game, Beer Fest, seeing Russel Brand (for free!) with the Just for Laughs comedy tour. (Summer)


I celebrated my pride with my best work pal. And rocked some awesome eyes. (June)

I worked my second conference for work --- in Maui! I worked hard, saw beautiful sunsets, and experienced a lot of fun with Jacob on vacation afterwards. We crossed off "ride a helicopter" from the bucket list. (July)

I turned 25. I made a list of 25 things I wanted to do while I was 25. I'm working on it. (August 17)


We welcomed Sophie into our lives. It hasn't been the same since. (August)

I chopped off 13 inches of my hair to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. My story of the chop is here. (September)

Celebrated Oktoberfest---a few times.

I made this pumpkin loaf with cream cheese swirl and put it on the blog. This has been one of my most popular posts this year. (October)

We went to the House of Blues (yeah Mummies!) and did our first Out of the Darkness walk, which was really important to us. (October)

We took our first trip home in 6 months, with the dog tagging along. I think she enjoyed herself. (November)

We saw Wicked and Elf, enjoyed time with friends and family, and holiday tea during the Christmas season. (December)

Most importantly, there was lots and lots of love.

No matter the hardships, stressful moments, or sticky situations, I will always find the happy. May 2014 be filled with lots and lots of that. <3