Tuesday, November 11, 2014

5 tips to make it through the holidays

Want to know how to have a stress free holiday season? The secret is less. Do less, buy less and eat less. 

If the holidays make you irritable, cranky and worn out, then it's time to reevaluate what you are doing. 
  1. If you have too many parties to go to and you just can't take anymore, then review the list and say yes only to the invites that make you want to say 'Hell Yes!'. Going to a party should not feel like an obligation. 
  2. Stop with the shopping madness. I remember as a kid driving to my grandparent's house on Christmas morning and nothing was open. Not even the local gas station. I was wrapped up in a cozy cocoon in the car and there was this sublime hush as the tires crunched over newly fallen snow. Unless you are saving babies, you shouldn't have to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas.
  3. Buy less. Cut your shopping list in half. It means you have to spend less time and less money shopping. Christmas should not put you in debt. My mom would set aside cash all year in envelopes for each person in the family. When she was shopping the cash in the envelope dictated what she could spend. Nothing went on credit cards. I have a friend who made a decision to buy each child four things. Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. She pointed out they already have so many toys they don't use. Another way to save money, and the environment, is to not buy wrapping paper (plus where do you store this stuff!). I save packing paper throughout the year and use that to wrap my presents. 
  4. Give something different. I teach sewing and am an interior decorator and sometimes I give away lessons or design work as presents. I'll make presents using upcycled materials or materials I have on hand. Since I am on a pretty tight budget right now I was thinking of making dinner for a couple of friends instead of buying presents. If you need to get some shopping done then shop local. You'll support your community and find unique presents for the people in your life. 
  5. Give yourself permission to say no. If there are traditions that are no longer working for your family then rework them. If there are obligations that you can no longer make then don't do them. Keep yourself happy and sane this holiday season. 
I can practically hear you scoffing, but try the things I've mentioned. Yes, someone may be upset with you because you didn't fulfill their needs, but what about your needs? What about being a pleasant person to be around and being there for your friends and families because you aren't stressed out so much that you've checked out of the conversation? What would it look like if you had time to spend with loved ones? 
This holiday season you may not see me much because I'll be enjoying myself. 

The dining room as is

I was so inspired by how great the living room felt after I revamped it that I decided it was time to tackle the dining room.  So here is a brief 'before' tour of the dining room.

One of the challenges to this room, which is very similar to the living room, is that it has windows and doors and openings all over. Below the door with the brass doorknob is the front door and you are dumped right into the dining room. Oh to have a foyer! The other door is to the second bedroom, which is just frightening right now! 

Directly to the left of the front door, along the Southern wall, is a non working fireplace. It's kind of huge and that red has grown on me. I still debate painting it though. The top of the mantel isn't going to change much. The vase is covered in mosaic tiles and was done by my great-grandmother in the 60's. The radio is my Poppy's and I remember he used to always have it on when he was working in the garage. The camera is his also. The very large awesome piece of art was taken by my friend Doug Birkenheuer who is a brilliant artist. The jute rug, white table and red chairs are from West Elm from about 3 years ago.

I pile books in the fireplace since it doesn't work.

Turning towards the SouthWest corner. There is a vintage photography light and a vase on the mantel. The pendent lights were found on Etsy and the curtains are also West Elm. 

The vintage globe was my great-grandparents. A vintage Turkish olive bucket is my 'out box'. And there are a couple of sewing machines tucked away on the shelf of my grandfather's old workbench. On top of the workbench is a rabbit foot fern in a pot from Jayson home, a vintage hat mold and a candle. This workbench holds a lot of my sewing tools and fabric. 

Here's a closeup of the ottoman holding some books and the globe in the corner. 

Oh look sewing machines. Isn't that what everyone has in their dining room?!

Moving to the NorthWest corner are some prints from the 90's of performers in Cirque du Soleil. A chair with a radio on top of it is tucked in the corner. 

Most of the North end of the dining room is made up of the entrance to the living room. These rooms flow together and so I definitely want them to 'speak' to each other. I don't feel like they need to match, but that they need to reference each other in terms of style and color. The NorthEast corner has my very favorite poster and vintage French Victorian chair. You also see part of the railing to the spiral staircase that leads downstairs to my bedroom in the basement. 

Here is another view of the piece of art along the wall by the stairwell. I bought it because it looked exactly like a picture I have of my great-great-grandmother.

The other side of the stairwell where I hung a small viking ship I got in Denmark (I'm part Danish). This wee spot is my landing zone where I hang my keys and set my purse down.  

Here is a layout of the room because I realized these pictures didn't give a very clear idea of the space. 
Like I did with the living room I'd like to share what everything cost. The biggest investment wasn't in furniture, but in art. 
Starting along the fireplace wall:
Vase $0
Radio $0
Camera $0
Art $900
Lamp $100
Small vase $0

Turning toward the windows:
Work table $0
Ottoman and upholstery $30
Globe $0
Books $0 (they were gifts)
Table runner $0 (I made it out of scrap fabric)
Plant $0 but the vase cost $30
Hat mold $0
Turkish olive bucket $40
Sewing Machines $0 (I stole one from my mom and the other was donated to me)
Candle $25
Curtains $120
Cirque du Soleil Prints $50

The wall along the stairway:
Victorian Chair and upholstery $450
Sheman is Frank print $20 but framing was around $300
Large art $400
Stool $100
Key holder $40
Viking ship $20

The Center of the room:
Jute rug from West Elm $200
Table from West Elm $300
Red Chairs $60
Set of wood chairs $40
Grey Eames chair $20

Grand Total: $3,245. Money spent on art: $1670. Wow you can see where I prefer to spend my money! Art to me is an investment in an object of beauty, the artist and our community. I think it is important to support local artists and the art that I have brings me great joy. 
Next week I will reveal the plan. 

Originally published 11/5/14

Thoughts on Making

Sometimes I get this itch and I feel antsy. I'm not very good at just sitting and watching tv, because I always feel like I need to be doing something. Except, when I'm depressed it is way too easy to ignore that itchy feeling. Yet, crafting is part of my therapy. 

Since I've started feeling better I've pulled out the sewing machine. The pillow above had been on my 'to do' list for months. It felt so good to finish it and see it in my living room. 

I guess one benefit to being a fabric hoarder is I always have something to choose from. I don't usually buy fabric for a specific project, instead I buy fabric and add it to the pile. Then I'll pick it up and let the fabric determine what it wants to be made into. Yesterday I pulled out a mustard yellow light wool and cut the pattern to make it into a skirt. 

Making for me is meditative. I lose myself in the design process. I am a very tactile person and fabric awakens my senses. That slight glow of accomplishment when the finished product sits ready to be used reminds me why I'm a maker. 

What do you make? 

Originally published 11/3/14

Living room reveal

It took me much longer then I thought it would but my living room revamp is done! I did not make any grand sweeping changes, but I do feel like the small changes I made had a large impact. 
In case you don't remember, here is my initial plan. I did not end up getting the round pillow, but I have a feeling it may find it's way here in the future. 
The very first thing I did was get a plant. The corner by the secretary desk was very blah plus this room was crying out for some greenery. I went to Gethsemane Garden Center in Andersonville and I was like goldilocks searching for the right bed. I needed a plant not too short or not too tall, one that didn't need too much light or too little light and it had to be pretty (which I realize is completely subjective). With my ridiculous list in hand the guy helping me at Gethsemane directed me to the Zamioculcas or ZZ plant. It's so easy to take care of and it's been growing like crazy in its little corner.  

Next I 'styled' the coffee table. Before there was nothing on it. I'll have a separate post shortly on how to style a coffee table, because it did take me a couple of trys to get it how I wanted. 

Here is the after. I only purchased a couple of things. The books and all of the items on the round tray were all things I had laying around the house.  

I did splurge on a couple of items such as the glass dome from Jayson home and a couple of candle holders. Inside the dome is a French ribbon spool that I couldn't bear to get rid of, a rock with the word dream on it from a friend and a beautiful pin I bought in Istanbul. 

Before-Another item on the to do list was to clean up my electronics.

And after the wires are a lot less messy and I got rid of one component.


Gallery wall before-

After-I had a You Are Beautiful postcard framed at Blackbird Gallery and Framing and I wanted it displayed prominently so it went up on the wall in place of the vintage light. 

Before-This piece of art just wasn't working in this room because the colors were wrong. 

After-In it's place I put a star chart with the star that I received for my birthday when I was a kid. 

I also changed up the pillows. The green and yellow pillow I made reusing the back of the existing pillow and adding some Marimekko fabric. The other I reused the back and made a pillow front with some scraps of wool and leather I had on hand. 

Before-I desperately needed to repaint my old sewing machine cabinet because the grey was too blue and too dark. 

The after (even though it took me six months to finish) looks so much better. A tray from West Elm holds a couple of vintage cocktail shakers and a candle holder I got in Istanbul. The tray also brings in the bit of turquoise/green from the chair around the corner in the dining room. 

Before-This shelf was made out of an upcycled sewing machine case and some handmade brackets I found on Etsy. Unfortunately I managed to kill the  airplant (I don't know how!).

Afterwards I restyled it and and when I stumbled acrosss a piece of art at the Open Studio at the Cornelia Arts Building that I just had to have I hung it here. I also lined the back of the shelf with some paper I found at the paper source. It has the green from the carpet and the green from the tray mixed together.    

Cost Breakdown:
Budget $300
Paint and Supplies25
Coffee Table76
Brass Pulls


There were a few things that I had on hand, like fabric and I reused the existing pillows. I also had to buy new brass pulls for my french secretary desk because I was missing one. 

I almost stayed in budget, but then, I found a painting and fell in love with it. That put me over and my final tally is $343. 

Originally published 10/28/14

Kicking depression

When I talk about depression I call it a disease that needs to be treated as such. It isn't something you can 'will' away or something that will go away if you 'try harder' or 'work harder' at it. Depression is an insidious disease that weaves it's way into your soul and sometimes it won't let go.

I have been trying really hard to kick depression's arse and consistently failing. I feel like I've lost the last year of my life to depression. Two weeks ago I was having very scary thoughts and I decided that it was time to admit that I can't beat this on my own. 

I'm really good at telling other people that you have to treat depression like a disease, but I was still resisting taking medication. I decided that was ridiculous and so I went and saw my doctor and she put me on an SSRI. Next I saw my acupuncturist and we decided that I needed to see her every other week regularly. Finally, I found a therapist in my neighborhood. 

I reached out to friends and let them know I was struggling. I'm lucky that I have an amazing support system, but I should have let people know sooner that I was having a rough time. People genuinely do want to help and take it from this fiercely independent woman- it's ok to ask for help.

Doing all of that gave me a really huge safety net while I waited for the medication to kick in. It also helped immensely. I felt like I had 'team Kandy' in my corner that were there to love and support me. 
There are a couple of other things that I am doing that I have found helpful-
  • Eating healthy food.
  • Exercising twice a week.
  • Reaching out to friends.
  • Napping when I feel like it. Depression feels a bit like the flu and I was spending so much time trying to fight it that I was exhausted. Now I'm listening to my body more and if I'm feeling run down I take a nap. It is definitely helping with my energy level. 
  • Going to my acupuncture and therapy appointments
It is ridiculous how much of a stigma there is against depression in our society. It is like any other disease and should be treated as such. Don't suffer in silence. Reach out and ask for help. You'll be amazed by the help that people want to give. 

If you know someone that is depressed and aren't sure what to do just check in with them. Sometimes it is really hard for me to call or text when all I feel like doing is crawling under the covers and hiding, but it means the world when someone checks in on me. Recognize that when someone is depressed that they may not want to go out, but they do want human contact. Offer to come over and hang out. 

I saw my therapist last week and she recommended using scent and texture within your environment. I laughed because I had just written a blog post about making your home feel cozy. So light your favorite candle, curl up under a warm soft blanket and call a friend. 

Originally published 10/27/14

How to cozy up your home for fall

The nights are longer and getting colder here in Chicago. I find myself wanting to hit snooze a couple extra times in the mornings. As the weather transitions so should our homes. Here are a couple of things to do when the frost starts coating the windows.
  • Change the air filter on your furnace. Those things get nasty. Changing the filter helps with the quality of air in your house and keeps the furnace running better. 
  • Clean the house. While everyone typically thinks of spring cleaning, the changing of the seasons are a good indication that it's time to do a deeper cleaning.
  • Change your curtains. Some people have a whole different winter color scheme and they change out everything. If that makes you happy then go for it. I keep the colors the same, but I do change my light sheer curtains out for heavy lined curtains. I have energy efficient windows but you can still feel the cold through them. Drawing the curtains at night helps keep out prying eyes while keeping in the heat. 
  • Add a cozy throw to the couch. Anything from Faribault Woolen Mill Co. would do the trick. They have a ton of great blankets and it is an American company that has been in operation since 1865. 

  • Light your candles. I always have candles around the house but I feel like I save them for special occasions. Well, I'm special darn it. So, light those candles. Look for scented candles that are spicy or woodsy for the fall and winter months. Jayson Home has a great selection of candles, including Tatine candles, which are made here in Chicago. Her candles are long lasting and the scents are very natural and delightful. 

  • Cook. I find myself gravitating to the kitchen more as the weather turns. With falls bounty there are so many veggie options available to make hearty stews and soups. If you are looking for some fall recipes Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite food bloggers and she even has her recipe's indexed by season. 
  • Invite people over. Now that you've cleaned the house, added some softness, lit the candles and tried some new recipes, it's time to invite people over to enjoy your revitalized space. 

Image via Claire DelMar

​And if you need help decorating your home please drop me a line at meanderingdesign@gmail.com and I can come out for a consultation or we can meet up via the interwebs. 

Top image via Huffington Post

Originally published 10/22/14

Small things- big impact


With all that is going on in the world sometimes I struggle with feeling ineffectual. I want to make a difference but I'm not sure which way to turn. When problems seem too large and complex it helps to focus on helping just one person. For a couple of years now, I, along with a group of other giving people have made a small donation to help support the education of a student in Rwanda named Patience. 

Sister Anna, who is Patience's aunt and also the principal of Rwanda's Our Lady of Angels School, was visiting the states and spoke at Mac and Cheese Productions. It was amazing to hear her story and how she was charged with building a school and so she did. The school has continuously grown and in order to keep tuition down so all children can attend they rely on donations.

What struck me about Sister Anna is that she saw what needed doing and she made it happen. After the genocide she took in orphaned children and gave them a home. Those are the children that we help today through our donations. 

She spoke about how Rwandan people are focused on being one nation today. She along with the Benebikira Sisters have built a school for the community. If you would like to help you can sponsor a student. It doesn't take much. They also encourage you to become a pen pal with the student you sponsor. 

I think about the community here in Chicago and it feels good to be a part of it. It's also great to get an annual progress report and see how Patience is doing. I can't help but imagine great things for him. 

Originally published 10/20/14