I've been blogging regularly since about 2005, but it wasn't until I started this particular blog (and got on Twitter) that I really became part of the broader blogging community. I had no idea what I was missing.

One of the first people I "met" was Cailin, the lady behind A White Picket Fence. I couldn't get over how nice she was. Right off the bat, Cailin was welcoming, conversational, and cool. And it's really nice to be welcomed into an online community with open arms. Makes a huge difference. I doubt I'll forget it.

Anyway, Cailin suggested a blog challenge and I was gung-ho to participate. So today, we are both posting our "5 Essentials." Cailin is a wizard in the kitchen so she's writing 5 essentials for baking and, per the title, I'm writing 5 essentials for a home with heart.

Now, I'm not a tasteful person. In fact, I am often rather distasteful, just to provoke a bit of a laugh. But I care about my home. And though I'm no expert, I love decorating, crafting, and living in a space that makes me happy.

So with no further ado, here are my 5 essentials for a home with heart:

1. Honour Childhood.
If you have kids, display their artwork. If you don't, display some of the memorabilia from your own childhood. Here's some art I did when I was six:
2. Hang Stuff.
I've talked about this before, so I won't go on and on about it. I don't care what you hang, but hang SOMETHING. Bare walls are depressing.
3. Make Music & Play Games.
You don't have to be a musician to own an instrument or two. And the instruments  don't have to be expensive. A plastic recorder, a bongo drum, a couple of shakers from that trip you took down to Mexico - all those are fine. Regardless, when you have musical objects around your home, people play them. And it's fun. I also suggest other accessories like books, games, records and puzzles. (This stuff can be stylish - think of a really nice chess set... not that I like chess. Boooooring!) Whatever. Just fill your home with stuff that's fun and activity-based and your home will have heart.
4. Get Comfy.
To have a home with heart, you need to have snuggle zones. Throw blankets, curtains, pillows, duvets, etc. Pile on the textiles. Homes that are cool and modern and highly designed look amazing in magazines, but they're often like hotel rooms. If you want a home with heart, I think it's important to put comfort (and snuggling) first and style second. (A close second.)
5. Bake!
I say this, in honour of Cailin and her 5 essentials, of course, but also because warm baked goods smell amazing. My mom wasn't much of a baker, but nonetheless, the smell of baking is in my hardwiring. It's a smell that says happy. I'm not saying you have to become a master pastry chef or anything, but why not learn to make one thing? Chocolate chip cookies, for example. Need some recipes? Head over to A White Picket Fence. and I bet you'll find some.
That's it, folks. 5 (totally biased) essentials for a home with heart.
This weekend I was inspired to do a little crafting. Or sort-of crafting. I never know what to call projects like this one. Makeovers? All the phrases seem too big and complicated for anything this simple.

Anyway. I found this bunch of hollow pears and baby gourds from Goodwill for only $5.05, so I brought it home and considered what to do. I had a little oil-based gilding paint left over from a previous project (just barely enough) and I decided to use it on the pears. Here's what happened.

1. Pears (and gourds) before:
Tools: Gold leaf paint and wire cutters (to release each pear from the bouquet).
Gilded pears, after:
What do you think? Pretty, right? I know gilded fruit reeks of Christmas, but I think pears are so beautiful in general; I might display these babies all year long. I made eight of them, and I figure they could work well as place setting, in a bowl, etc. Maybe I'll hang them from the ceiling. Who knows?

For now, they're marching along my dining table, looking very fine indeed.

I still have three pears in their original condition, plus the gourds. Plus the metal stems, which seem too handy to toss. I wonder what I'll do with that stuff...
Well, on Friday, I posted about my determination to use vinyl lettering in new, interesting and cheese-free ways.

I don't think I'm doing very well.

I've installed two vinyl phrases so far. I did one on the picture I made of tumbling vinyl chairs that reads "ashes ashes we all fall down" and one at the top of our front hall mirror that says "you always look good to me."
Yeah. Not great. I know.

Still. Remember what I started with. I bought the original decals from Dollarama. The six original phrases were as follows (with all grammatical and punctuation errors preserved):

1. HOME is where our story begins!
2. The Heart that Loves is always young.
3. Life isn't Measured by the number of Breaths we take but by the Moments that take our breath away.
4. A Mother holds her child's hand for just a short time. but holds their Heart forever.
5. Dance like no one is watching
6. Live well Laugh often Love always

So considering what I started with (barf), I think I'm doing pretty well. I'm mixing up fonts, trying this and that, and having fun with it. And it IS fun. Sticking stuff up around the apartment is surprisingly fun.

Know why? (This just occurred to me.) It's fun because playing with vinyl decals is exactly like playing with STICKERS! I know that as a child, I loved stickers, but my parents would get angry when I stuck them all over the furniture and walls.

I was limited to my "sticker books" -- not fun at all.

But vinyl decals let you play with stickers in a totally . You can stick 'em ANYWHERE. And they peel right off without damage! If only I had these when I was a kid. I'd have saved myself a lot of beatings, that's for sure. (Ha. Sorry mom. Just kidding. Kinda.)
First off, I apologise if you have one of these hideous (sorry) vinyl word decals in your home. I apologise because this post is going to offend you.

But seriously. If you have even one decal like this, I think you might want to take a good, long look in the mirror.

Examine your choices, because these things are cheesy beyond belief. They are stinky cheese. They are bits of Limburger left out in the sun.

They reek.

Case in (3) points:
Yuck. If my partner gave me one of these decals, I'd divorce him.
This decal takes my breath away... with its awfulness.
Pardon me, I just barfed on my baby.

These things are just bad.

So what did I do last week? I bought six of them. From the Dollarama. Because I'm crazy like that.

And I am determined - DETERMINED - to do something cool with them. I am determined to deconstruct and upcycle and reconstruct and reenvision them into something neat.

Determined, I tell you!

I have my scissors ready. Do you think I can do it? Have you seen any vinyl lettering projects that HAVEN'T made you want to barf on your baby? Share 'em, people. I need your help. Sharing is caring.

Happy weekend. Results to come.
So, remember when I made that giant chalkboard out of a door?
Turns out, that wasn't such a great idea. At least, not for me. Chalkboards are useful in theory, but if you don't use them (and we didn't) they just sit around getting chalk dust on your clothes and being annoying.

Sigh. Chalkboard: 1, Jen: 0.

Anyway. Since the chalkboard was a bust,  I wanted to find an alternate use for the big ol' masonite door, lest it go to waste. And yesterday, I came up with something.

I flipped the door over to the still-white side, mounted it to the wall in the narrow hall that leads to my bathroom (counter-sunk screws - very easy). And then, using three black vinyl decals from my local Dollarama, I did this:
Vinyl decals have become way too common. But they're affordable and removable and convenient. I think that by using the door as a sort of canvas (which was also utilitarian, since my walls are bumpy and decals won't stick to them) I've managed to create something that is a bit more artistic and interesting.

Don't worry. I know it's not art. Not even close. But the effect is more striking and whimsical in person, I promise. Initially, I intended to add more decals to fill out the white space, but I sort of like the way it is now. It's kind of strange and spare and surreal.

What do you think? Lame? Lame-o?
Nate and I just finished watching the (European) film versions of Steig Larsson's Millenium Triology. Will write about them next week in the Reviews blog.

In the meantime, I'm thinking about Scandinavian design. With the exception of a little IKEA and some mid-century modern here and there, I don't tend to bring Scandinavian style into my interiors. It often feels cold to me. Too spare. I like things cluttered and homey. Warm.

Then again, maybe Scandinavian style IS warm. I'm certainly warming to it. Especially after watching those movies.

Here's an image from a Swedish linen shop that feels warm to me, even though it's dominated by white/black and grey. (It's the yellow, I think. You know how I love yellow.)
Creative commons image of a linen shop by Vilseskogen from Flickr
What do you think? Is this shot representative of contemporary Nordic style?
Am I wrong to think that Scandinavian interiors can feel pretty cold? 
Today's nearly Wordless Wednesday post is brought to you by the letter P, all the colours of the rainbow... and my addiction.
My cupboard situation isn't this bad, but it IS getting out of control. 

I can't stop! What to do, what to do?
All images taken at the Bremerton, WA Pyrex Museum.
Creative Commons images 1 and 3 by Curtis Cronn. Creative Commons image 2 by Rakka.
In general, printed drinking glasses just aren't for me.

Sure, there are some really beautiful designs and patterns out there. And there are printed glasses that I DO like. For example:

A "Take Me Back Tumbler" by Urban Outfitters.
Yoshitomo Nara Glasses by Cerealart.
Winningly retro:
Glasses from Olivia's Vice on Etsy..
At the same time, I think more often than not, printed glasses are tacky and cater to what you might call the lowest common denominator. For example:

Finally, printed glasses are impractical. A plain glass can be used with any table setting, at any occasion. And let's face it, I don't have much cupboard space.

So in general, I do not buy printed glasses.

Consider all this, then consider the post I did recently about the Surrealist clock someone gave me for Christmas. And then consider that not five days ago, I saw two printed glasses at Goodwill. And I bought 'em.

They look like this:
I'm mental. There's no other explanation.
People are always talking about the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Like it's the best thing ever.

Sometimes it bugs me. The KitchenAid mixer is iconic, yes, but also very expensive.

I have a 1950s era Sunbeam Mixmaster (olive green, just like the own shown below). And it works great. Just as great as a KitchenAid in my not-so-humble opinion. And it's pretty too.

Give the Mixmaster some love, people. Root for the underdog. It feels good. Trust me.
Cc. licensed image of an olive-green Mixmaster almost exactly like mine by Peter Pawlowski from Flickr.