Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday DIY : Art with Strings


In the more sophisticated parts of internet this/similar one is called Fiber Art. I am choosing to call it string/yarn art since that is what it actually is in my case - yarn from the fabric store. Until a few months ago, it felt the whole blog land was filled with these. I encountered with one of these when I saw it hanging at Dana's ( @ House tweaking ) living room. I tried Dana's trick and later I used the same technique to create a larger wall hanging in our bed room. These happened months ago and then I just forgot about it.

In truth, this one goes way back in my life.My mother used to make similar wall hangings with some kind of plastic disks and yarn several summers ago. those were hanging at our home until as recent as my wedding. I think they lost out on the refreshed décor that comes with a wedding. That reminds me she had also made a swan out of nails and strings too which was my favorite.

Any how I thought of bringing it back when a little "client" of mine asked for some nature theme in her room. She already has some branches and leaves painted on one corner in a wall and I have been searching for something that will be apt to go with it yet in her color theme of purple and green. I haven't found anything yet so thought I will make something with some birds, feathers and yarn - all in budget from craft store and get away with it.

I just needed a start, then I followed with a few of my own versions because I had a bit of yellow, pink yarns left out from some previous projects. Since I am sure I am not going to crochet ( never say never - my mother tells me but yet I say that.) I thought why not play with it.

So here we go :-

I used some rings ( embroidery hoops will work too), skewers from kitchen and branches from back yard as base. Super glue goes a long way to attach these pieces to one another. Along with these the only thing I used is some yarn and of course the scissors. You can try "n" number of arrangements with these to come up with various designs. No limit to imaginations. Those of you good at crochet can work magic with these but I basically know only the simplest possible way to tie a knot. It is like that story in the Aesop fables where the cat knew only one technique to escape the tiger.


 used the above technique to make all except the yellow and pink geometrical design one.

For the geometrical one, I just stuck two skewers together and tied the yarn around and rotated in an almost square shape to get this.

( Psst: these are not well thought out - I know only one basic knot, so please teach/share your better ideas)

So that concludes this Friday's DIY funda. I am sure you have some yarn and some branches ready at hand. Happy tying knots and a very happy weekend.

Keep Smiling,


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The great "Toy Despair" and a cure.

If you are a parent, you know or at least once have gone through the toy despair I am talking about. As a parent and as a person, I am very mindful and minimal. We buy toys that are really useful or well-awaited. I try to encourage toys that could be used for a long time and those that encourage imagination as in blocks, doll house, figurines, pretend kits etc. Yet somehow our little girl's collection too is growing and piling up on me.

Add to this books that I actively get her, craft supplies, crayons and knick knacks and gifts - the situation is something that gets easily out of control. That is why the term "the great toy despair". There are some rules I follow actively and deliberately to keep things under check. It is an absolute necessity around here because we have only three rooms and it would stress anyone out if that available tiny bit is cluttered - even with cute toys.

So over to the rules.

Rule 1 - Have system :

Invest in some good storage system. When I say a system, that includes a place to store the toys and also the decisions about who, how and when will the play and "putting them away" part happen. A well thought out plan  that considers how much storage you need and how and where you plan to store them helps a ton in keeping things under control.

Rule 2 - Purge :

This is a hard one, at least in our home. With both me and my husband being emotional ones, we have tough time getting rid of the used up and done with toys. But though with a heavy heart I follow this rule from time to time. At the least I would throw away the ones that are broken or with missing parts or not "in vogue" with her for over 3,4 months.

Our "purge Now" Pile

Rule 3 -  One-In-One-Out :

We try to follow this but as young as she is doesn't work out all the time. But as she gets older I am sure this is a rule that we can definitely impose. When ever a new toy is bought, I ask her and her father which toy are they ready to part with. If she is buying a new one she has to give away one to someone in need ( that means goodwill or donation center ) . The only kind that is exempt from this rule is books.


Rule 4 - Organize :

This one is the easiest and most important of all the rules for me. When everyone knows where exactly the toys should go after use and if putting them away is easy and simple, there is better chance of us actually doing it. Since our little one is young I have an open shelf and baskets and bins. If the kids are older concealed storage will work too. It will be easier for everyone if you can categorize and label them - as all the lego pieces together, mega blocks together so on and so forth.

Our storage system:

We have an open toy shelf that has individual baskets for categorizing. We have had this for past 3 years so Akshara, our little girl now knows where her things are kept. I don't yet insist on arranging them properly, she just needs to collect them and put them back in any basket. End of the day, well most days I empty the baskets and put everything back in the place they belong. ( Confession : Girish, my husband does this most of the times :-) )

In addition to this we have a number of baskets, actually one in each room where I collect random ones she carries around the home. End of each day or mostly when the baskets are full I take them to her room and arrange everything in order. That is our system right now which has been working perfectly so far.

We have a book shelf in her room where most of her books are kept. Ours is an Ikea Expedit shelf that can stand either vertically or horizontally. We chose to keep it horizontal so that her books and other things are visible and accessible to her easily. I do try to keep the shelf pretty and tidy which inspires me to keep it that way and encourages her to notice and use the things on them.

Our Car garage

We have a doll house that we are very proud of and which engages her for hours. By happy coincidence it came with a shelf at the bottom, so all doll house accessories are contained there.

We also have a one big basket to contain all the stuffed ones which is the only variety of toy that I don't like. I keep the new additions at bay by not letting the basket fill up and flow out. By that I mean, I get rid of the least favorite ones from time to time. I have trick here to achieve this. When I notice one of them is not seeing much use, I hide it. If she doesn't ask for a month, it goes to the donation pile.

Speaking of donation pile, we have one in the form of a plain box with lid. I just add when ever I find one out of favor and if it is not asked about for a month, I understand we are on the safe side.

I do confess, in spite  of all this there are days when the whole place looks run down. But her room is also one that can be easily cleaned, actually in a matter of minutes and reset to its presentable glory.

My point is proper organizing goes a long way. A few hours of thinking, planning and browsing and a few bucks is all you need. Trust me - it is absolutely worth it, because Akshara's room is the most used and abused room in our home yet it is the prettiest.

How do you organize your kids toys and stuff? Do they co-operate? What are your tricks? I would love to hear them.

Do have a happy time purging and organizing,
Keep Smiling,


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ushering in a new season with ease and grace.

There are  a lot of things I have come to love about US in this short period here. But what I love most , next to the stupendous libraries we have here is the change of seasons and the change of scenery they bring in life, both for nature and for daily life. I pour over the internet and the magazines and peek through the window of people's houses in the evenings ( I know it is creepy to peek but I can't help it) for the sheer pleasure of watching how people celebrate the everyday life.

Though fun it is to see things on paper and screen it is much more gratifying to do some decorations in real. That is a practical lesson I learned during last Christmas when we actually decorated the house and a tree for our little girl for the first time in all these years. It turned out to be one of the best of holiday seasons and beautiful for the memories made.

Last X'Mas Morning
But the truth is that most of times I have neither the funds nor the means to go all out every season. With a little kid, a mortgage to pay off ,education to complete and the single income that we have, what I do is, to go low profile, avoid being too themed yet make it feel like it is indeed a season of festivities. This fall-Halloween-Thanks giving season is no different.

So here are some  still-life moments from my home this beautiful season.

In the living room, above the TV I have a tiger portrait in a tiger print frame, this was $2 from goodwill. The frame was damaged, probably that is why someone got rid of it. I fixed it with some black paint and a gold sharpie. I am sure you can not make out the difference. I will simple replace it with the previous ford prints once the season is over. Advantage for not paying much for something like this is, I wouldn't have to regret when I have to replace it.

I have added a grocery store dried flowers to the side. I spend a whopping $8 for this. But I totally intend to paint them in different colors for different seasons.

I had these wooden beads I collected over time with the 50% off coupons from Joann for a nursery project. They can hang in there until the time comes to pack and send them. I painted a few in autumn colors to add to the branches collected from park visits. Nothing speaks of the fall-winter season than the natural elements as these right!

Dining table is an easy opportunity to introduce seasons, replace the flowers in the vase, or add a jar with grains as I have done here. When X'mas comes replace the grains with some left over ornaments or beads or the pine cones and you are done. My wooden coasters have withstood the test of time and use and also the seasons. Red is "in" any season . The table cloth is another $1 DIY. Plain white blanket painted with rough brush strokes. Small changes with no big costs attached.

The side board near the dining table is my shelf for craft accessories. But I use the top surface as a place for vignettes I can easily switch and play with. This time I have a fake pumpkin from Michaels and a candle holder I received as  a gift. It has a weird face to it. Coincidence I believe but happy one indeed. The cookie platter has some candies I got for a project and reducing in number day by day and I suspect won't last many days.

I work from my desk most of the times. Just to remind me of season I have a new cup to hold my pencils and new pencils with a bling. It makes writing about seasons easier right!!! Bugs and spiders are always the "in thing" in this home because the little one is crazy about them. She wants to be a fairy with bugs in hands and hair. One wonderful fairy that would be. I guess!

There are a number of more DIY demons that I am forced to keep under wraps ( my magazine commitment demands to keep things sealed until published - the upcoming edition is going to be treat for your eyes with its "design-décor" theme - )

So that is that. Simple switches, simple ornaments to adorn your home. I know you have many more ideas that are easy to implement. Share for the fun.

Keep Smiling,

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A marble side table and branches from Capitol Grounds - DIY

I believe a marble topped table is one classic piece that will never go out of trend. In fact my dream dining table has a dark wood legs with marble top. Something like the below one from West Elm. I love the detailing and those legs with golden rings - Perfection as far as the scale and details go. I would need a bigger one though. Dreams friends, as the saying goes, dream to reach the sky, you will reach the top of the mountain at the least.

Source : West Elm
We have a marble topped dining table at my parent's home. It  has lasted so long, well it has been there since the time I can remember. We have been having all our meals at home on the table, breakfast, snacks, lunch, evening tea and dinner. So many memories have this table as an integral part. It has seen so many silly and as many intellectual discussions, arguments, laughter ,quiets and ecstasy in its life time and still living large. No wonder I want one in our dream home and am determined to get it.

But we live in the present and not in future or past. And I don't have and can't have a real marble topped table or anything marble for that matter as of now. What I do have is a roll of faux marble contact paper to bring a bit of marble in my life.

Originally I ordered this paper from amazon to cover up our kitchen counter top. I have always covered our rental kitchen counters which are made of plywood and covered with thin vinyl ( if you have rented apartments in US, you know what I am talking about) with contact paper . It helps not only with aesthetic but also protect them from staining with all the turmeric and spices that are used in Indian cooking.

Anyways, back to our current story - So armed with this contact paper I gave this small side table from Target a marble make-over.

This one is a no brainer as far as execution goes. Simply cut out the shape you want and stick it to the surface you want to cover. It could be counter tops, island tops, desks, tables, stools or anything that you can think of. It is durable ( I have had this from sometime last year), super versatile and easy as long as cleaning goes, no one will guess unless they examine it thoroughly ( which no one does unless you announce it in a blog like I am doing) and doesn't stain. Cool ha!

And what you see on the table is its current sidekick for the blog picture. It is branches from the garden in the front of capitol hills, DC. Akshara has these strange collections of branches, rocks and anything she picks up from road side. I am just adding that information here so that I will remember it later when I am old and senile perhaps.

So, what do you think? How do you satisfy your "small sweet wishes" that are out of scope?

It's a Friday again. I hope to have a relaxed weekend this time.

Happy weekend. See you on Monday.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fall in love with your Home - with Interior Styling

If you haven't heard this already, there does exist a profession called "Interior Stylist". They are the ones who present you homes, that are found in the magazines, be online or print- the way they are. You have to give them credit for creating drool worthy spaces with a few cleverly and thoughtfully placed props, furnishings and furniture.

Because, the truth is, you don't really need architectural miracles and expensive furniture or art that is extravagant to add the "wow" factor to your space. Often times, a well placed cushion or a curated shelf will do the trick. I didn't mean a magazine spread home, but a real, well loved, beat up, "I have seen life" home. ( well loved and beat up - someone said that to me about her home recently - perfect words to represent a home right!)
Though beautiful spaces are indeed a pleasure to look at, I believe styling is over done these days. So much so that while gasping at the beauty, we are overwhelmed, discouraged with the un-attainable perfection.

Source : Better Homes & Gardens

But does that mean we should quit styling our homes altogether? I would say no - style your space the way you want with what you have and how you live. For example, if you like to keep all your shoes near the entry way, do so by all means, just keep them neatly stacked or arranged on a tray or even tucked away in a basket. Simple styling like that will make you love your home more, even without any major upgrades.

There are tons of ways to make a home feel warm, cozy, beautifully maintained while still living the carefree, comfortable life. A coffee table can hold a vase of flowers - I keep fake flowers in an old pickle jar, so even if it is "girl-handled" by my little one I won't be flushed - and a book or a magazine that you are reading currently - instead of bare or even a pile of newspaper and old bills spread on it.

I think shelves and side tables are easiest of opportunities to add personality. We just need to arrange the books tastefully - color code them or put some vertical and some horizontal to break the monotony, even cover them with decorative papers or even with old magazine pages, add your collectibles to add more charm, the possibilities are endless.

A bedroom looks instantly relaxing if you just take time to make the bed and fold the blankets. It would look warm and loved if you could add a vase of flowers or even a reading lamp to the side. Hang a beloved picture over head - it is a done deal. No need of fancy bedding or fancier head board. You don't believe me? Try it once and feel it yourself.


Kids rooms - in majority of homes, the most abused room would be kids spaces, ok second to the living room. I can assure that however we try, they are never going to look perfect. And they need not be. Honestly, a kid space with toys spread out and games played and books every where is adorable.

But we can definitely add a few baskets for easy clean up, Give a space for them to keep their books and study material, hang a few of their art work to inspire, develop a good system to maintain a clean and practical wardrobe. That will make them happy and calm in their own space and that will reflect in your own mindset.

So, style your home today, not decorate, but style it with what you already own. De-clutter, re-arrange and hang those photos never hung , light a candle in the evening, add fresh flowers from garden - style your space at your own pace, one corner at a time -. You will fall in love with your home, fall in love with your life. Be your own interior stylist. Yes that is definitely a profession.

Keep Smiling,