Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring 2013: Etsy Trend Watching

I'm guessing we all have that little elevator snippet for what we say when someone asks "what do you do?" Usually after telling folks I work in Merchandising for Etsy, they're either curious to learn more or we move on to the next topic of conversation.

I recently wrote a trend forecasting piece for Etsy that details a little more about my role and the work I do, so I thought it might be interesting to share here. For those interested, find out a little bit more background behind my work at Etsy and what we've got on our radar for spring 2013 in this newly published trend watch article.

Image from Etsy

Find the full article, more pictures and spring trend breakdown on the Etsy blog.

Image credits:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

DIY Decor: Stacked Vintage Suitcase Nightstand

Today we thought we'd share a peek into our bedroom — the DIY solution we came up with (with a little help from Pinterest) for one of our nightstands, that is:

Yep, those are stacked vintage suitcases and a wooden crate making up this bedside table — and we love the way it turned out:

When Sherry & John of Young House Love and Katie of Bower Power announced it was that time again for the Winter Pinterest Challenge, we knew exactly the project we'd share this go round — it's been one of those temporary solutions we threw together shortly after moving in as a place marker for furniture that's turned into one of our favorite mainstay details in the bedroom.

The Pinterest Challenges are simply self imposed challenges to make or do something inspired by the pins on your Pinterest boards — the project can be anything and anyone can participate.

Image from Young House Love

You might recall we tackled making DIY bean teepees for our pea plants during the Winter Pinterest Challenge this time last year, underwent a total under the kitchen sink transformation for the Summer Pinterest Challenge and made our very own pumpkin planters for the Fall Pinterest Challenge.

For this challenge, here are the stacked suitcase nightstands and inspiration images we'd been pinning with this fun idea:

It's amazing how many different variations you can pull together to create different looks. Inspiration images from top right to bottom left were all sourced via Pinterest, with their original sources credited below:

1. Pinned by Lauren Hastings, originally sourced from the Kemble Interiors New York Lookbook.
2. Pinned by Lena Wilson, originally sourced from this Better Homes & Gardens Slideshow.
3. Pinned by Rusty Retro Antiques, originally sourced from this House Beautiful Slideshow.
4. Pinned by Ronni Ascagni, originally sourced from Houzz.
5. Pinned by Clark Stevens, originally sourced from Country Living.

Here's what we came up with for our inspired take on this decorating concept:

Not too bad! This has got to be one of the easiest DIY decorating projects out there — we just collected varying sized vintage suitcases from around the house that were previously storing craft supplies like fabric and yarn and stacked them on up next to the bed where a nightstand would live:

I even kept the craft supplies in the suitcases since many of them are on the less than frequent use rotation (let's face it, I'm a craft supply hoarder) — so we've got some functional storage going on here too!

We topped the stacked suitcases with a vintage wooden crate since we had one on hand that seemed to give us the perfect height level next to the bed for actual use and had a smooth flat surface like a tabletop.

Down the road, we might try to find a piece of glass, marble or other flat surface to put on top of the wood crate so we can flip it right side up again — we realize it might look a little funny with upside down advertising on it at the moment:

As for dressing the table up, this is my side of the bed, so you're getting a look at the things essential to a good night's sleep in my book, ha. We've got a tin of Bag Balm (seriously can't live without this stuff), a mannequin hand holding a palm full of shark's teeth I've found down by the river-shore at my mom's house (also good for holding earrings I forgot to take out before bed) and a little bud vase where I like to put the leftover blooms from bigger bouquets on their last legs.

Funny story about that mannequin hand — one of my Etsy coworkers found a few of them in a dumpster on the way to work one morning when I was living in Brooklyn and I  begged him to let me have one on my desk at the time. I brought it back to Richmond with me when I moved and have had it in various places around the house ever since. Tim used to think things like this were creepy and now he's just grown to accept this part of me, ha.

You might also remember the DIY faux mercury glass finishing technique we used to get the mirror glass finish on that little bud vase along with the little upgrade we gave this previously broken lamp a few weeks back:

So that's the story of our suitcase bedside table! Will you make one after seeing how easy it is now? This idea would be great for a guest room or a fun way to create a side table between two chairs in a living room or beside a sofa. Heck, one could probably make a coffee table with a couple huge suitcases stacked up together.

Also, if you haven't, take a moment to check out all the other great projects shaping up across the blog world today spurred by this Pinterest Challenge — great places to start are with Young House Love & Bower Power.

Image from Young House Love

The other guest hosts this season are Megan from The Remodeled Life and Michelle from Decor & The Dog. We've already discovered so many inspiring projects and new-to-us blogs to add to our own readers. If you joined in the challenge this season, we'd love to see what you were inspired to take on as well!

What have you been repurposing lately?

Discover More:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How To: Plant and Grow Ginger Root

We must be in the cold calm before the spring, because we've got quite a few little potted gardening projects going on around here and we're just waiting for them to burst into their full bounty. Indoor container gardening just might be the only thing keeping us from completely going stir crazy about not being able to get outside in the garden.

So, what have we got up our sleeves? In addition to our newly planted horseradish root and pineapple top, this weekend we decided it was high time to start out an indoor potted planter for ginger root. That's right, we're growing ginger root — and we're doing it from a few leftover pieces we picked up from the grocery store a while back for one of my recipes.

Ginger is one of those plants with long documented health and medicinal benefits, but for the sake of keeping things real, we've decided to try and grow our own self generating supply since Mary and I just LOVE the taste of it. We're planting these little root nubs with big hopes for future add-ins to recipes, for canning and spirit concoctions. OK, and Mary's excited to see the and use the flowers from the plant. Maybe I am too. A litte.

Here's how easy it is to plant ginger root — start with a piece of root from the farmer's market or grocery store and twist or chop off the knobby portions, called "fingers," for planting. You want each of these to grow and expand their own sets of nubby root fingers, so we'll start small.

Twist or cut off "fingers." See how we just pulled apart the 3 main sections of a single root:

We saved one to keep sealed in a zipper bag in our freezer for use, then planted the remaining two pieces sprout side up in a soil filled container:

The ginger shoots will eventually sprout and emerge from each of the little nubby areas, called eyes (like a potato has eyes), on each finger section. You may find a piece of ginger root that already has these sprouts coming out, or you can even encourage them to do so by leaving them near a windowsill before you plant.

Press gently into the soil and add more well draining soil to the pot, just enough to cover the root pieces:

You're almost done! Now, you just need to keep the soil moist and warm in a sunny area and watch for growth. Almost exactly as we explained when planting our horseradish root, the ginger root will grow and expand underneath the soil throughout the growth season. Before you know it, you'll have an ongoing supply of ginger root in your own space, negating the need for you to ever buy it again from the store.

Because ginger plants require more warmth and sunlight, we've brought the container indoors and have it nestled in a little grouping with our two avocado tree plants underneath the windowsill in our kitchen that we've had the most luck with sprouting plantings. If all goes well, with regular waterings and warm sunlight, we should see green sprouts pushing their way up through the soil in the coming weeks. For now, they're just getting all happy in their new home by the window.

From what we've read, after about 4 months of growing in the container, we should be able to cut small portions of ginger straight from the edge of the root for use in the kitchen — these early pieces will have a milder taste than the more mature root we'll get later in the growing season.

We'll be able to fully harvest after about 8-10 months of growth and will look for signs of the plant to be ready for harvesting, like leaves drying and dying away. At this point, we should be able to remove the entire new big pieces of root from the container and break them up for use in the kitchen, storing, and replanting right away in even more planters.

So that's how we got our little ginger root container plant started — you can bet we'll keep you posted on it's progress. It was actually such a quick and easy container gardening project, it left us wondering why we haven't tried it sooner!

Discover More:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weekend Basics

We spent a good chunk of Saturday figuring out the wording, styles, name configurations and mailing addresses for our wedding invitations. Who knew there were so many different options!? Whew, we were both glad to have this part of the planning tasks wrapped up and will be excited to see how the final invitations turn out. We're going with a variation on this design from Teal Typewriter Studios on Etsy and should be able to see the finals in just about a month.

Sunday we did get teased with some warm spring weather, so we took full advantage by heading outside to take care of a little yard work and potting projects we've been meaning to get to — more details on these coming this week.

While it was nice out, we headed up to Church Hill to take Basil to the dog park and while up on the hill, we stopped by Ardent Craft Ales:

Ardent is a craft brewery, still in the planning phases, currently operating out of this amazing small space in Church Hill that used to be a garage. We got a chance to sample a few of the ales they were working on:

It was very cool to say the least, and we're excited to see more from Ardent here in RVA.

The Ardent space is located directly behind the newly opened Sub Rosa Bakery, specializing in wood fired baked goods. They hand mill all of their own flour in the second part of the space that Ardent Craft Ales is using — we slipped in and left with some of the best pain au chocolat and salumi/cheese croissants we've ever had:

We both agreed it's a good thing we don't live up on the hill and have to make the drive to get goodies like these.

We also had time to fire up a big pot of chili and watch the Oscars last night. We were both so excited to see Searching For Sugar Man take the award for Best Documentary Feature since we'd just finished watching it and loved it so much. I'll admit, we haven't been out to see many more of the other films up for awards (we actually haven't been out to see a movie together in a theatre since we got Basil, ha), but had a long list to add to our Netflix queue after last night. Which ones have you seen that you'd recommend?

Speaking of documentaries we've recently watched and liked, we had a little bit of a marathon movie night on Friday and would recommend adding the following to your list to watch:

1. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
2. Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry

Have you seen one or both already? We particularly enjoyed Jiro Dreams of Sushi — it's one of those films that forces you to engage since the majority of it is in subtitles; nevertheless, it was a pretty amazing story.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy Birthday Brandon!

18 years ago today my son was born.

Me with my daughter, Stephanie, and my son, Brandon when he was born.

Well, I blinked and today I wake up to what is shaping up to be a fine young man — you might remember we celebrated together over the weekend:

It is amazing how a baby goes from being in your arms to being 6' 3" and wearing a size 14 shoe (not joking here). It feels like yesterday when you were looking up at me with this little face:

And now I'm the one that looks up to you.

Thanks B-Man for making me so proud the first 18 and looking forward to what the next 18 brings!

Love, Dad

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wedding Details: Making Our Wedding Bands

We mentioned a couple weekends back getting the chance to play around with some molding kits for a wedding related project. Well, we've finished up the first parts of this little project and have all the details to share with you today.

In looking for wedding bands, Tim and I both liked the idea of the fingerprint rings we've seen on Etsy. These jewelers are actually able to make rings with an imprint of your exact fingerprint anywhere on the ring. We liked the look of the ones with a simple and smooth exterior, hiding the fingerprint imprint on the inside of the ring — it's fun to think that one another's fingerprint will be wrapped around the other's when wearing the rings. We also think they could make for great keepsakes down the line.

After much searching, we've begun the custom ring making process with a creative couple named Mika and Scott, who live and create jewelry together in Berlin, Germany. Mika is a German goldsmith and Scott is an American jewelry designer — we just loved the idea of a creative couple working together to create our rings. Find out more about them and view their collection in their Etsy shop, MikaScott.

There were two parts to starting the ring making process — capturing a mold of our fingerprints and also getting a casting replica of my engagement ring to make a fitted set. Let's talk about molding our fingerprints first.

When placing an order with MikaScott, the first part of the process is having the fingerprint mold kit shipped so you can capture your prints and ship them back for them to work with. We were both excited when this little parcel arrived on our doorstep from Germany, complete with a ring sizer and enough molding putty for us to get 2 prints each:

The kit came with thorough instructions and even a link to a video for how it works, but basically you mix the two different types (equal amounts) of putty together for about 1 minute, then quickly make your mold before letting it set — that's it!

So, we mixed the two pieces together, and thinly spread them across the tips of our fingers:

Then we let them set for about 2 minutes and took this cheesy photo while we waited:

Then they just peel right off the finger and capture your fingerprints, like magic:

See how this thin layer of putty captured all the little details of our fingerprints:

Pretty amazing and so fast!

After the putty dried, we flattened each mold and taped them face-down on a sheet of paper (as per the ring maker's suggestions) and have them ready to ship back to Germany so they can get started making our fingerprint rings:

The second part of our molding expeditions came in the form of trying to make a replica shape of my engagement ring to send along with our fingerprints. Tim's band will be a simple circle, but I'm hoping to have a contoured band made so I can wear it with my engagement ring, so the ring maker needed an exact casting of the top and side shapes of the ring in order to make a custom set.

To make a replica of my ring, I picked up a basic silicone putty mold kit and casting kit from the craft store — you can find them in most any craft store or online.

To make the mold of the ring, it was the exact same equal part mixing technique we used to get our fingerprints above, we just used more putty:

After a minute of mixing equal parts, I formed two circles and gently pressed my ring into the soft putty:

Then I just let it sit for about 30 minutes (since the volume of putty was a lot larger) to let things dry and cure:

Once dry, the ring just popped right out of the mold and I was able to pour the clear casting medium right into the putty molds. The casting medium was similar to the mold process in that you mix equal parts of liquid together before pouring into your mold.

After letting the casting liquid sit and dry in the molds for about 48 hours, they also popped right out of the molds into perfectly shaped replicas of my engagement ring:

Pretty neat, right? This way, the ring makers will have everything they need to get working on our wedding bands, without ever actually seeing my ring. We are so excited to see how they turn out and you can bet we'll let you know here on the blog.

- + - + UPDATE + - + -

We got our rings and they turned out great! Here are a few shots of the fingerprint details on the insides of each ring, and a pic from our actual wedding day:

Image by Tori Watson

See more from our wedding here.

We had a lot of fun playing around with these molding kits. While one of my areas of focus was on metal jewelry making in college, I never delved deep into the area of castings, so it was inspiring to think of all the different uses one could expand into with mold making. We have a lot of the putty and casting medium leftover from the kits since we only needed a small amount to get the ring shapes, so we'll have to experiment with other projects down the pike.

So, that's one aspect of the wedding we've been up to! Do you have any meaningful stories or details behind the bands you chose? My best friend's husband used to play baseball growing up and in college and he had his wedding band made from the ash wood of an actual baseball bat (more from their wedding a pic of J wearing the ring here).

Keep up with 17Apart's Wedding:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekend Basics

This weekend centered around celebrating Brandon's 18th birthday! I can't believe he's turning 18 — what a proud and mind boggling weekend it's been. Both Brandon and Stephanie stayed with us over the weekend and we had my parents over to help celebrate for dinner:

Mom made a big caramel cake, which everyone wanted a piece of:

Poor Basil.

On the gift front, my parents got him the latest edition of Microsoft Office for his laptop and Mary and I got him a pair of Dr. Dre headphones he'd had his eyes on since before Christmas:

Everything was a big hit — the headphones were promptly passed around:

Never thought I'd see the day that myself or my dad would don a pair of Dr. Dre headphones.

Then Basil took them for a spin (no sound was actually on):

Outside of celebrating Brandon's birthday, we had time to trim back the Liriope (monkey grass) for new spring growth — if you're in the South, here's your reminder it's time to trim it back!

We also finally had a chance to check out Proper Pie — the new pie place up in Church Hill selling New Zealand style savory and sweet pies:

We each ordered something a little different and got to try the mince & cheese, cornish & pasty, thai butternut squash, and chorizo & egg pies:

The space alone was worth the trip — the industrial vibe of Proper Pie reminded us of being in Brooklyn, and the lines for the counter wrapped around the entire space and out the door. Good thing they know what they're doing, as they were slinging pies and orders as fast as people kept coming in. We all agreed we'd need to go back again just to taste the sweet varieties.

On the subject of outings, we also got a chance to take a stroll through Class and Trash, one of our new-to-us favorite Antique/Consignment shops, located in Ashland, VA. You might remember, it's where we snagged our giant industrial metal letter V and arrow.

We didn't leave with anything this go round, but had fun looking around and as usual, found plenty we liked:

Above: library catalog, sap buckets and giant grain trough.

It also snowed pretty steadily throughout Saturday, so we spent some good time around the fireplace, watching movies and catching up with everyone's busy schedules.

P.S. Can we talk about Downton Abbey (don't worry, no spoilers here)? Mary and I have been hooked after power watching the entire 1st season on Netflix before the season 2 premiere. We've been following along each Sunday throughout season 3 and were eager to watch the finale last night. Can we just say this season has been a roller coaster ride? Mary was literally a crying mess after last night's show (OK, I'm man enough to admit it, we both were). It was such a powerful episode that it made us realize how amazing this show and cast of characters really is — sucking us into the storyline the way they have. Without giving away any spoilers for those who haven't watched the finale or those who might still want to start the series from the start, all we can say is it's a show we've both really enjoyed watching together and one we'd highly recommend if you haven't jumped in quite yet.

P.P.S. While on the subject of Downton, just before the finale we caught this quick (but great) interview 60 minutes did with Maggie Smith (she plays Violet). This interview made us love her even more than we did before, if that's even possible — did you know she's never once watched a finished episode of the show? Watch it here.