4 steps to a pretty paper basket

A Tisket, A Tasket, I Made a Paper Basket

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And you can whip one up, too, if you’re so inclined.

I’ve been looking forward to this next art for some time now, though this isn’t the project I was planning to kick it off with.

34 Plaiting cane baskets, etc.

Making solid seats with dry canes.

Small basket made out of magazine covers and pages.

I’m not quite up to cane seats (though I do have an old chair on the garage that could use a new seat), but I do remember doing some basic basket-weaving in elementary school. I thought I’d seen supplies at my local Hobby Lobby but apparently I hallucinated that (or, you know, in a year the inventory has changed, but that couldn’t be it, right?) so it was on to Plan B.

Besides, cane is wood(ish) and paper used to be wood.

All justification aside, if your weaving skills are a little rusty, or you’ve got little ones around in need of a rainy-day projects, this might just be the ticket. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve got plenty of materials around.

My magazine stash, or at least part of it

This totally makes me look like a hoarder, doesn't it?

My magazine-saving obsession notwithstanding, I was happy to find the instructions from the Family Fun site to follow. Of course, I did things a bit different: I overlapped my magazine strips to make a sturdier basket and used 2 of the leftover strips as crossed handles, secured by little brads.

4 steps to a pretty paper basket

Todd had the awesome idea to use some of the wallpaper sample books I’ve got saved up in The Abyss, but they’re, ah, not exactly as easy to get to. In fact, I think the stacks of magazines are blocking the sample books.

A basket like this (mine is about 3 inches square, not counting the handles) would be perfect for delivering a small stuffed toy to a sick friend, as a cute place-setting for a summer garden party, or even just to organize light-weight craft supplies.

Personal Style

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“Style” is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.

–John Fairchild

Do you know what your style is?

Here’s a quick test to see if your style matches your clothes.

  1. Write down what you consider your style to be.
  2. Go into your closet.
  3. Notice what colors, patterns, and pieces dominate.
  4. Compare the two.

Pretty simple, huh? Our clothes along with shoes, jewelry and other accessories, plus the way we put them together is our way of saying “this is me” to the outside world (or even just to ourselves).

My Closet

My Closet

For instance, I know my style revolves around simple pieces, tops in mostly solid colors, soft stretchy fabrics and that I prefer skirts with a tailored look or details and slacks over jeans. Shoes are a major draw and I like to have plenty of heel, color and style options. My closet?

The facing rack is all tops with dresses on the left and two racks of skirts and pants tucked into the right side. Behind the dresses are built-in shelves of shoes with more stored on the top shelf and still more in my office closet (more about shoes in another post to come). This was taken just after Todd installed the ClosetMaid system–it may only be a rental but that ancient steel rod I knew was going to collapse with the weight of my former walk-in closet all settled on it! I wish it was always this neat, but I do keep my tops in more-or-less color families in the standard ROY G BIV lineup with white on one end and black and grey on the other. Putting my clothes in this sort of order made it very easy for me to see what I was most drawn to.

Sometimes I think it would be fabulous to wear, as Kimberly Wilson does, all black and just accessorize with color but… as you can see, I’m drawn to tops of all hues and just don’t think I’d be happy with such a limited palette!

What if you aren’t particularly happy with your current style?

Longing for a makeover but Clinton and Stacy aren’t knocking down your door to lend a hand? Before you text a 911 to your most fashionable girlfriends, let’s try a fairly simple exercise that will show you what direction your style is heading, even if your closet doesn’t know it yet.

Lucky Style Collage, September 2010

Lucky Style Collage, September 2010

What you’ll need:

  • Fashion magazines (Lucky, Glamour, Cosmo, Elle, etc.)
  • Sticky tabs (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Plain paper
  • Glue or tape

Grab your first magazine and your stack of sticky tabs. I admit, I’m partial to Lucky as they give you the sticky tabs right in the magazine–so considerate of them! Now, you can skip straight to the scissors but I like this first-pass to be look-and-tag simple.

Simply flip through the pages. Don’t read the articles, don’t look at the brands or prices or any of the fine print, just tag whatever catches your eye and makes you think WANT or LIKE! Just do it, don’t think about how it’ll fit funny here or there, we’re going for broad strokes, here.

Once you’ve tagged a magazine or three (I usually do an issue at a time but doing 3 or 4 from the still-to-be-read pile can give you a broader look to work with), start removing pages that you tagged and cutting out the items that interested you. These can be clothes, accessories, colors, textures, the entire image or only a detail if that’s what caught your eye.

Take all your pieces and start to arrange them on your blank sheet of paper. This is collage 101: match up pieces that go together (again, I don’t necessarily mean outfits, just shapes and colors and items that look fun together–we’re not ready to analyze yet) and move them around the paper until you can see the parts you want and like the arrangement. Glue or tape them down.

Analyzing your Style Collage

Lucky Style Collage, October 2010

Lucky Style Collage, October 2010

First we want to look at colors–what color(s) drew your eye most? Going back to your recent closet evaluation, is this something you have in abundance or are you totally lacking that color in your wardrobe? If it’s the latter, you’ll want to look for it the next time you go shopping and buy one or two pieces in that hue (or at least try them on in the dressing room) to see if you like that color on you. If it’s a color that doesn’t work with your skin tone, it’s okay, look for accessories or accents in that color, instead.

Next, did you pull out any total outfits? What about individual garments that have a particular detail you like? Again, if you don’t have it in your closet, considering adding a piece or two that reflects the style your drawn to. You don’t have to buy exactly what’s in the magazine! Visa knows those sorts of things aren’t in my budget, but knowing what you like can help you be on the lookout for items of similar style in the places you already shop.

For instance, the red sweater with the black buttons in my October collage would never stay shut with just those 3 buttons at top–my boobs would make it into a gaping mess! Instead, though, I can look at updating one of my current red sweaters with some over-sized black buttons to get the look without flashing everyone! Same with the skirts–I can find a simple wrap skirt practically anywhere and add my own edge treatment to make it look more tailored.

Give yourself permission to be a little daring. After all, a makeover is most effective if it’s totally unexpected!

Why not ask your girlfriends?

Just because you bff is a snappy dresser, doesn’t necessarily mean her style is for you. Once you’ve determined what sort of things you want to add to your wardrobe, then you can call her up and plan a shopping day or a weekend at the nearest outlet mall.


Clothes may not actually make the man or woman, but I know for a fact that I feel loads better when I’ve put together an outfit that is more my style than someone else’s. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt, even if that’s what everyone else at the event will be wearing, makes me feel frumpy and uncomfortable.

It’s better to be comfortable and have people wonder where you’re going to or coming from to be dressed so differently than wear something that doesn’t reflect the real you.

So, are you planning any wardrobe updates this season?

Inspiration for Change

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Have you gotten the itch, yet, to make your bedroom into a true sanctuary? To make it lush and inviting? Relaxing or invigorating?

If I didn’t have quite a bit of work still to do on our living room (namely custom slipcovers for 2 sofas and a love seat, throw pillows* and art for the walls) I’d be heading to the hardware store to pick up just the right shade of antique gold paint and a few spare curtain rods (closet doors bug me, especially the hanging roller-track things of the 70s that are in our home; solution: take ’em down and hang curtains!)–that and a nice picture frame or two would go far to making our room that more cozy.

But where do the ideas come from? If you’re looking for a change, where do you go for inspiration?

I found the inspiration for our living room while wandering the aisles of a Tuesday Morning (overstock housewares store for those unfamiliar) where I came upon a small box in a blue and black pattern. We had some blue lamps and brown walls–tadaa!

Other places I like to browse for ideas: Better Homes & Gardens’ website, Apartment Therapy, and IKEA showrooms (they have the power to make me believe I could actually live in 700 square feet if it was laid out correctly). Sometimes it’s a complete room image that seizes my imagination, other times it’s just a single thing or piece of fabric. Touring open houses is also a good way to get ideas; even if you’re not in the market for a new home, professionally staged homes are a fount of inspiration.

A couple of blogs that come to mind are The Cottage Nest and Making it Lovely. I learned about both of these blogs through a BHG competition a while back and have remained a fan and subscriber since then. The former in is in the midst of a move right now but has, in the past, posted great pictures of cottage-style decorating and her own transformation of her (now former) home in the charming cottage style. The latter, though, not only runs her own stationery & more store, pink loves brown, but she is also is in the process of transforming her home. In addition to her own progress pictures and stories, she frequently puts together series taking one or more key pieces and takes them through various rooms and living situations giving a host of options for using investment pieces in your decorating.

What are your favorite spots for interior decoration inspiration?

*I’m not a devotee of shabby chic but I do like some of the elements of it. I created a technique I call “shabby applique” for my living room throw pillows and show the complete how-to in one of my articles for eHow.com.

Magazine Courtships


I think I’ve written before about getting into a magazine abundance rut–so many back issues, so little time–and pairing down to a manageable trifecta (Glamour, Imbibe and Food Network Magazine). Of course, my info-on-file with the Glamour subscription expired so it’s been on hold until I get my wallet in gear and update it and I missed some Imbibe‘s from the move and it’s expired. So I’m down to just Food Network Magazine and I miss the others showing up in the mail.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, this past month I’ve gotten 3 offers from 3 other magazines, all courting me for my subscription dollars. I feel so in-demand!

First was Bon Appetit offering me their Professional Discount Rate of $10 for 1 year (plus $3 shipping & handling). 12 issues of a long-running leader in the cooking magazine world plus a free cookbook. Hmmmm… not much to think about on that one, really. Especially with Gourmet having closed it’s doors recently.

Then a newcomer: Vegetarian Times tempted me with a 2 year subscription (19 issues) for $11. Now, I’m not a vegetarian and I’m not planning on becoming one, but I do recognize the health benefits of meatless main dishes and finding out new ways of preparing them is never a bad thing. I admit, I’m a little on the fence, still, but leaning towards acceptance.

Finally, what shows up in my mailbox one day but a sample issue (breaking out the big guns, no?) of Cuisine at Home. Apparently it thinks it’s best feature is that it contains absolutely no ads, because it says this even above the title! That’s some confidence. And speaking of confidence, let’s take a look at their price: $28 for 1 year (6 issues).

Now wait just a minute.

Bon Appetit is your BMOC, the one you’ll gladly take home to Mom: proven track record, a good family over at CondeNast. He’s generous, too, but not too pushy–he doesn’t need to be. Vegetarian Times , however, is more like the sweet, unassuming boy next door who’d really like a chance and is willing to go the extra mile. He’s not pushy, either, because he knows that once you get to know him you’ll be happy you signed on for that 2nd year for an extra dollar–he’s determined to prove to you he’s worth it.

Cuisine at Home, however, is the cocky, brash, bantam rooster type: you’ve never heard of him but he’s going to make sure you don’t forget him! Oh, sure, if you act now he’ll throw in an extra year for “free” but that first year? Yeah, it’s gonna cost you. But, he says, I’ve got no ads, I’m “100% Cooking” and I’ll prove it to you! I’ve got pictures galore and I make fine cuisine accessible to the everyday home cook!

Ah, but that where he tips his hand. I’m not the “everyday home cook.” I have a culinary degree and his sample issue recipes like Shrimp Risotto, grilled Pizza and Chicken Piccata are pretty basic to me. And, I think, a lot of self-professed foodies would consider it the same.

Furthermore, I don’t mind ads in cooking magazines. Why? Because the ads are targeted, they make sense: appliances, ingredients, cookware–I’m happy to see ads for these because it let’s me know if something interesting is out there that I might want to check out. Unlike website ads, magazine ads don’t blink or pop out at you, covering what you’re trying to read.

So at almost $5 an issue, I’m not inclined to invite Cuisine at Home in for a nightcap any time soon. It missed it’s mark with me, but that doesn’t mean others, those newer to cooking and looking to expand from basics, won’t find it interesting.

Magazine Mash-Up


Okay, everyone, show of hands: how many subscribe to cooking magazines? Bonus round: how many times have you actually used a recipe from said magazines?

Uh huh, exactly what I thought. (Don’t worry, I’m just as guilty as the rest of you.)

It doesn’t seem to matter what I’m interested in, a “collector” streak always seems to run right through it. In my heyday of culinary collection, I probably subscribed to half a dozen food-related magazines (at least!) and, while I did read them, and store them, and flip through them occasionally, I probably only used half a dozen recipes total (mostly from my favorite: Cooking Light).

Since that time I’ve moved house more than once and in one of the pre-move purges I forced myself to toss the years of back issues that took up so much space. Then I went several years without buying or subscribing to a single cooking magazine–I know, however did I manage?–until last Fall, when Food Network announced they were coming out with their own magazine. Then I found Imbibe… here we go again!

So now I’m back to subscribing, but still trying to keep things under control. Also, I’d like to actually _use_ the magazines’ content more than I have in the past. It doesn’t help that I also use a menu service (Saving Dinner’s Menu Mailer) which includes dinner recipes, suggested side dishes and an itemized, categorized shopping list for all of it each week–I seldom actually plan a meal these days. Which is why I was so proud of myself a week or so ago when corn on the cob was the suggested side dish one night. I remembered seeing a mention of “Charm City Corn” in the last Food Network Magazine, dug out the issue that was hiding on the bedside table, and was able to dress up the side dish a little bit.

Instead of relying just on my own memory, I’m trying to come up with ways to making using the information in those pages easier. Here are what I’ve come up with so far:

  • A tear-file of possible favorites, kept in an accordion file or binder, organized by primary ingredient.
  • Recipe cards kept in a file, maybe hand-copying the recipes will make their existence stick in my memory better.
  • Scanning interesting recipes into my computer with a spreadsheet to cross reference ingredients (that might be a lot of work, though).
  • Sticky flags (color-coordinated?) in the magazine itself.
  • Planning a magazine-based dinner once a week in addition to the planned menus I get from Saving Dinner.

Okay, those last two seem the easiest to implement. The others… might be better for long-term storage and make me wish for one of those counter-top recipe gadgets.