My Two Favorite Organizing Books

Yes, I have just two favorite home organizing books. I’ve read many, but only two have actually changed the way I think about home organizing. This is the best time of year to gear up for organizing your living space to better fit your needs. You’ve just accumulated more wonderful possessions from the holidays, and now you need places to put them.  In next Sunday’s paper, I’ll write more in depth about the process of purging. For now, here are  two book recommendations, as you consider what to get rid of and how to fit your new belongings into your daily life.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This book really has changed my life for the better. Her determinant for what to keep and what to toss is, does it spark joy? Not only did this help me get rid of lots of excess, but it stays on my mind as I shop, so I am less likely to buy impulsively. Kondo also encourages you to purge by category of item, not by room. This was a game-changer for me. I’ve got her newest book Spark Joy, due out on January 5, on order and I am so looking forward to its arrival.

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My next favorite is Organizing From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. I love this book because she really delves into how to arrange your living spaces so that they make the most sense for how you live your daily life. She also gets specific about filing systems and how to store all kinds of items. Morgenstern encourages you to think of your spaces in terms of zones, and how you use them. For example, a living room might have zones for reading, watching TV and doing homework. Then you work off of that footprint for where to put things you’ll need to access for those activities. She compares it to the way a Kindergarten classroom is organized. I just loved that principle and it has really stuck with me.

I hope the approach of the new year has you motivated, energized and ready to improve your home’s function through the power of organization. We can go on this journey together.

Five Stylish Wall Calendars for 2016

I love when it’s time to trade out last year’s calendar for the new year’s.  As my husband and I have yet to sync our i Cal’s to keep tabs on each other’s engagements, we stick to the old fashioned method of writing things down and occasionally double-booking. For our family, the wall calendar is our go-to spot to check what events are on the horizon. Calendars also make great last minute Christmas gifts! Here, I’ve rounded up some pretty little calendars to accent your own decor taste in 2016.


Coffee &Tea by Rifle Paper Co. A sweet way to see dates at a glance in the kitchen. $18.
Coffee &Tea by Rifle Paper Co. A sweet way to see dates at -a- glance in the kitchen. $18.
The Great Big Calendar by Paper Source. Nice and large, 24" x 19", for writing down lots of important to-do's. $29.95
Great Big Calendar by Paper Source. Nice and large, 24″ x 19″, for writing down lots of important to-do’s. $29.95
Brush Script calendar by Paper Source. Simple and clean, but still pretty. Three different colors of cardstock, and a grid big enough for jotting down engagements. $26.95
Brush Script calendar by Paper Source. Simple and clean, but still pretty. Three different colors of cardstock, and a grid big enough for jotting down engagements. $26.95


Seasonal Fruits and Veggies by AzulHome on Etsy. I just love the vibrant watercolors on this calendar, something to inspire my cooking! $30.
Seasonal Fruits and Veggies by AzulHome on Etsy. I just love the vibrant watercolors on this calendar, something to inspire my cooking! $30.
The Vertical Calendar by Make Collaboration. I love the sleek modern look of this one. It also has a magnet hanging system and comes with event stickers. $32.95.
The Vertical Calendar by Make Collaboration. I like the sleek modern look of this one. It has a magnet hanging system and comes with event stickers. $32.99.

You Don’t Need a Sewing Machine to Make New Pillow Covers

Around the holidays, I like to switch up my decor scheme just a touch, for added Christmas flair. I wanted to do a few changes this year, that might carry through into winter, so I wouldn’t have to take it all down right away. As I was searching for inspiration, I kept seeing images of cozy cabins festooned with tartan plaid prints and layered with Pendleton wool blankets and shearling accents. To capture a woodsy feel, but not go gung-ho log cabin, I bought some plaid flannel fabric at JoAnn, and made pillow covers.


Possessing the ability to sew a straight line is such a game changer when it comes to quickly updating your home decor. You can make pillow covers, hem curtains and do basic upholstery too. I’ve had my sewing machine since I was a senior in high school. I’m not a talented seamstress by any measure, but I’ve got the straight line thing mastered.

After I cut my fabric last weekend, I headed down to my studio to set up my sewing machine. I got the bobbin loaded, the thread through the needle and positioned a pillow cover under the presser foot. And go! Only it didn’t. It got all hung up, and I tried and tried to trouble-shoot the issue, but I couldn’t figure it out.

I’m sure it is high time I had my sewing machine serviced, but I just don’t have the time to deal with it this month. What’s a determined decorator to do then? Well, I just happened to have some Stitch Witchery fusible web tape on hand, and to my great surprise, it worked like a charm! While I wouldn’t normally substitute sewing with this method, since I’m not planning on using these covers indefinitely, I wasn’t too concerned about long-term wear. This is also not a 100% no-sew project, because I closed up the pillow covers with hand-sewing. Here is what I did.


Cut two pillow cover pieces one inch larger than the size of your pillow form. Example: My forms were 18″ x 18″, so I cut my pieces 19″ x 19″ for a 1/2″ seam allowance on each side. I use a Fiskars cutting mat, O’Lipfa Lip Edge Ruler, and Fiskars rotary cutter for this task. It makes very quick work of the job.

Lay your pieces right sides together. Pin around the sides.

Now cut strips of Stitch Witchery fusible web tape to match the length and width of your pillow. You’ll want them to overlap at each corner. My tape was too wide for the seam allowance I had planned on, so I cut the strips in half, length-wise. You’ll also need to leave a gap on one side, to slide the pillow form into the cover when it is finished.


Sandwich the tape in between the cover pieces, making sure to keep the strips nice and straight and overlapping at the corners. Leave a decent-sized opening to put the pillow form inside. I think mine was around 10″.


Heat up your iron, and press! Set your iron to wool, or another high setting. You’ll want to use either a damp pressing cloth, or a damp piece of plain cotton between your iron and the pillow cover, to protect your iron in case some of the fusible web tape escapes. Hold the iron in one spot for 10 seconds, then move on, until all the edges of  the cover are adhered.


Turn the pillow cover right-side out. Now you can gently stuff your pillow into the opening. You can either sew it closed by hand, with a needle and thread, or try to add a strip of fusible web tape inside the seam allowance, and iron it closed. This can be difficult to do, with the pillow form inside.

And there you have it, a pretty simple pillow cover, no sewing machine required! I made three covers in all, in two different plaid prints. They joined two blue tweed pillows on the couch for a super cozy vibe. My cat Teddy can attest to that!

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Why I Didn’t get a Traditional Christmas Tree This Year

I do love trimming up a gorgeous Christmas tree, and over the years I have amassed a beautiful collection of glittering, festive ornaments. The tree usually takes a prominent spot in our living room and we rearrange the furniture to accommodate it.  My favorite part is how Thomas helps us put the ornaments on, and the tree ultimately ends up feeling very bottom heavy. Then we sit and watch Christmas movies in the twinkling glow of the tree’s tiny white lights. Magic!

Well, this year, we decided to change our approach for several reasons, most of them having to do with our adventurous ten-month-old baby. Lucy is an explorer by nature and would rather get into things she should not, than say, play with baby toys.  As our house is small, the main play area is our living room, and for the most part it is baby-proofed, so she can be free to roam and be safe while doing so. Adding a Christmas tree into this environment sounded like a recipe for constant headaches and countless “No, Lucy, don’t touch that!” moments.


Instead of heading out to cut down a traditional Christmas tree, we went to Bremerton City Nursery and chose a five-foot-tall Leyland Cypress in a pot. We asked the gal on duty that day, Alex, lots of questions, and learned that if we were careful, we could keep this tree alive and use it again next year or plant it in the yard this spring.  We left feeling very encouraged that we could make it work. The following tips just about sum up her advice, but if you decide to do this yourself, I would certainly consult the experts in person, since I am not an authority.


  • The tree can survive indoors for around three weeks, given the care it needs.
  • For a few days after you bring it home, leave it on a covered porch, next to the house, or in a daylight garage to ease into acclimating it to life indoors.
  • Place the tree near a window, so it can get natural light.
  • Give it lots of water, since the air in your home is much drier than it is outside, especially with the heater running.
  • Speaking of heaters, if you must place it near a heat vent, position the louvers on the grate to point the air away from the tree, or close them to block the airflow completely.
  • Get it back outside after Christmas, under cover for a few days, then it can be out on the patio, soaking up the winter rain.


There are many varieties to choose from. Our Leyland Cypress has sort of a Charlie Brown feel, but we dressed it up with various metallic ornaments and a vintage paper garland that I made. I tried putting lights on it, but they looked a bit bulky. I just might order a string of those teeny, tiny “micro” lights, and see if they blend in any better.

micro fairy lights


I put the tree’s pot inside a plastic garbage bag, to hold the excess liquid from watering it, then disguised that with a burlap coffee sack. Now it sits on our buffet in the dining room, and adds lots of holiday charm to the space. We eat in the dining room three times a day, so we get many opportunities to appreciate the tree’s simplistic beauty. I hung cedar garland with white lights in the living room, and decorated every surface with something Christmas-y, so we aren’t want for a festive feel at all. While I did miss the ritual of going to the tree farm with friends to select the perfect tree, I thoroughly enjoy our potted tree and the house doesn’t feel any less magical!



DIY: Vintage Book Garland and Decoupage Letters

Tuesday on the blog, I shared instructions on making a wreath using vintage book pages, and today, I’m going to walk you through the steps to make a festive garland and decoupaged holiday message. Both of these projects are very easy, and could be changed to suit your personal decor style.

Vintage Paper Garland

  • Supplies:
  • Vintage book pages
  • Hole Punch
  • Twisted Jute Garden Twine
  • Cardboard and pencil for making your pattern


While I contemplated cutting snowflakes or ornament shapes for this garland, ultimately I wanted this to be not only quick and easy, but to have a simple aesthetic. The 2″ circle design that I decided on was all of those things. I made three 5′ garlands in about 15 minutes.

Design and cut your pattern out of cardboard.


Trace your pattern onto the book pages. Fit as many on one page as possible to make less work of it. I traced the circle onto the bottom of one page, then stacked four pages on top of eachother, because my pages were a very thin paper. Then I folded the pages into thirds and cut out my circle. I was able to get twelve circles out of one cut.


Fold your circles in half, three or four at at time. Punch a hole so that when you are done, the circle looks like a button with two holes.


String them onto the jute twine. I found that about eighteen circles fit onto a five foot length of twine, which was a manageable length for dressing my little potted tree.

garland close up

Decoupage Letters

This project couldn’t be any easier, and if you have never worked with decoupage medium, don’t worry. The technique is extremely flexible and forgiving. Choose any holiday message, and spell it out with any manner of these letters. You could go all capitals or stick with lower case letters. JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts has a great selection, and they are frequently on sale. The process took me around 30 – 45 minutes per letter.

Rip up your vintage book pages into random sized pieces.

Brush glue on the letter, and on the back of a book page piece. Then place the piece on the letter.

Brush more Mod Podge over the top of the piece. Now just repeat that process, overlapping and layering pieces for a textured effect.


There are countless ways to display your holiday message, on a mantle, hanging on the wall, or resting on top of a bookcase or buffet. For the photos I styled for the Sunday feature in the Kitsap Sun, I nestled them among some cedar branches, on top of an old white dresser in our living room.

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DIY: Paper Cone Wreath

You may have had the chance to read my feature in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, but I will bear the risk of sounding repetitive: this wreath is just gorgeous. This year I was inspired to use vintage book pages to make a few holiday crafts with timeless appeal. This wreath was a big project, but it was totally worth the work. Plan on this taking you about four hours. I had to work on it in shifts, since I rarely have a big block of uninterrupted time.

Supplies you will need:

  •  Straw or foam wreath form. Mine was an 18″ form, but a smaller one would take less time and material. I left the plastic wrapping on my straw form, for less mess.
  • A vintage book. Mine was about 500 pages, and I used every single one, plus a few pages from a larger old book, to create longer cones at the back of the wreath. The smallest pages measured roughly 8 1/4″ by 5 1/4″.
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Stapler
  • Metallic gold craft paint (optional)
  • Paint brush (optional)
  • Twine or ribbon for hanging




I wanted my wreath to feel a bit festive, so I painted a shimmery gold stripe down the middle of each page. This added to the overall time, to allow the pages to dry, so you can skip this step if  you want to simplify.

Roll a bunch of cones until you have a huge stock pile. This is a step I should have done, but I just rolled, as I went. It surely would have saved time to just have a big pile of cones to grab from, then glue onto the form. Play around with your rolling technique until you find a cone shape that you like, whether wider and more open or tighter and longer. Use a stapler or the glue gun to secure the cone at the bottom. I wasn’t very methodical with the rolling, so my cones ended up being sort of random widths and lengths, but I like the effect. If you painted the gold stripe, you can roll the page with the paint facing out or facing in, your choice. You’ll see it either way.

Lay down your wreath form on a large work surface. Tie a length of twine or ribbon around the wreath form, to use for hanging later. I forgot to do this at the start, and it was a bit difficult to get it on at the end!


The first layer you do will become the back of the wreath. Begin gluing cones, so that their ends are pointing in, and the openings are pointed outward. Cover the entire back surface of the wreath. Flip it over.


Next, you’ll want to glue a row of cones on the inside of the form. They will look like they are standing up, with the openings pointing out.

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Now,  you are going to fill it in. Bend down the end of a cone and fold it. Glue a row, with the ends folded in, close to the outer layer.

Continue to fold the ends and glue the cones to cover the whole wreath. You’ll notice holes to fill in with cones as you go. This process is a bit free form.

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Hang your wreath! You might even notice a few holes once it’s hanging, so just stick a cone in where you can to fill it out!

Ultimately, I needed a place to put my lamp and radio, so I ended up moving the PEACE letters after I took photos for the Sunday edition.
Ultimately, I needed a place to put my lamp and radio, so I ended up moving the PEACE letters after I took photos for the Sunday edition.
The wreath, pictured here with the decoupage letters featured in Sunday's paper.
The wreath, pictured here with the decoupage letters featured in Sunday’s paper.

Next up: directions for making the decoupage letters pictured above and the book page garland, both from Sunday’s column! Stop back later this week for those project directions. Happy crafting!



A Handmade Holiday

I love making things by hand around the holidays, and although it is hard to find the time, I always try. For my column in this Sunday’s Life section of the Kitsap Sun, I’ve written about some beautiful holiday decor projects, using vintage book pages. Next week on the blog I’ll do detailed instructions for each project, so you can recreate them. I hope that they will inspire you to do something creative this Christmas season, too.


Holiday Gala At Josephine’s Redeemed Thursday

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This Thursday, head down to Josephine’s Redeemed Boutique at 1961 Bay St. in Port Orchard. The vintage decor shop will be holding their Holiday Gala from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. complete with candlelight, food, drink and prizes. I’m sure the place will be absolutely bursting with all manner of vintage and handmade holiday inspiration. Plus, the first 100 people through the door will get a gift! You’ll also have a chance to meet the vendors, and some will be having specials. Sellers of handmade items or art will be available to take custom orders. This little event sounds like a magical way to get in the Christmas spirit and find unique gifts for all of the loved ones on your list!

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How to Hang a Gallery Style Wall

This blank wall was just screaming for some art!
This blank wall was just screaming for some art!

Many of you might love the look of a salon-style gallery wall, with a cozy mash up of art and family photos, but may feel intimidated by how to get the right look. My friend Kim was in the same boat. She had all of the pieces she wanted, but needed help coming up with the right configuration, so that the wall would feel balanced. Here is the process we went through to get it right.


Lay out all of the pieces on the floor in front of the wall they will hang on. Play with the configuration until you achieve a sense of balance. Consider the largest pieces first, they will naturally be your anchors. If you have just one larger piece, it might look best in the center, with the smaller pieces surrounding it. Kim had two larger pieces, so we split them up, essentially dividing the wall into three equal zones.  Also scrutinize the use of color in the pieces. Kim had dashes of red that we wanted to sprinkle through-out.


Now use a roll of butcher or art paper and trace around each piece, then cut it out. Make marks on the front of the paper that indicate where the hooks or hangers are located. Using painter’s tape, adhere these to the wall in roughly the same configuration you had on the floor.


Move them around until they look and feel right. You want to consider the negative space between just as much as the pieces themselves. Keep the spacing as equal as you can. Use a ruler if you need to, or just eyeball it. Step back and look at it from a distance.

Allow for the furniture that will be under the pieces. Kim’s sofa was 36″ high. We left nine inches of space between the top of the sofa and the bottom of the art work. You need a bit of breathing room so you won’t knock a piece down, but you don’t want your art so far above that the furniture, that it feels disconnected and un-grounded.


Once you have the paper exactly where you want it, check that your marks for the hangers are level and centered before driving in any nails. Use picture hooks or regular nails for smaller things, and larger picture hooks or drywall anchors and screws for heavy pieces. Hang a couple of the larger pieces as you go to make sure you like where the grouping is headed. Remove the paper once you have the nails or hooks in place.

Hang your art!


While making the paper mock-ups is a bit laborious, I think it saves time in the end. It also saves you from making too many errant holes in the wall. We ended up only needing to move one piece up a few inches from where our first hole was, due to its weight once hanging. The red “R” though, was another story.  The hanging holes were in odd spots, and it was extremely difficult to get that letter level! Lots of holes for that one, in fact, I lost count. Good thing Kim was already planning on giving that room a new coat of paint, after our hanging day! She can patch the holes then.


The salon-style wall is such a good looking way to fill a big blank wall with character and to display a collection of art or photos. You can match all of the frame and mat styles, or go rogue and make it an artful mix. I just love the way a wall like this adds a layer of coziness and personality to a room.


Mark Your Holiday Calendar for Valley Vintage Market

Photo from Valley Vintage.
Photo from Valley Vintage.

Gearing up for my favorite season to decorate, I’ve been scouting out local sources for Christmas inspiration. This event is at the top of my list, as it should be for you! So, get yourself down to the Valley Vintage Market on December 4th and 5th! Valley Vintage Market is always an excellent spot to score vintage treasures, but this month you’ll also find lots of Christmas and holiday themed decor to accentuate the spirit of the season.

Photo from Valley Vintage.
Photo from Valley Vintage.

Even if you had the good fortune to stop in last month, don’t let that keep you away. Owner of the market,  Lisa Caldwell, takes care to curate different vendors from month to month. While some of the vendors may have showed before, you can bet that they’ll have a new inventory of goods to inspire you for the holidays. Find the market at the Central Valley Community Center, 10140 Central Valley Rd. NE, Poulsbo. The market will be open on Friday, December 4 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, December 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Photo from Valley Vintage.
Photo from Valley Vintage.