Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deck the Halls

I love to make little Christmas pillows. They are fast and fun and they “smoosh” and pack away really easily. That’s great for me because I can not stand holiday decorations that take up too much room. Here’s my latest design. I hope you like it. (Embroidery design can be purchased here.)

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Don’t stick with the traditional red/green Christmas colors—mix in your favorite colors as well. For me that would be turquoise. And don’t forget my tutorial for invisible zippers. Yes, I know, you probably won’t need to launder a pillow that only sits on your couch 3 weeks a year, but I can sew in a zipper faster than I cant stitch the pillow shut by hand. I avoid hand sewing whenever possible.


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Friday, December 09, 2011

Kitchen Remodel part 1

Five and half years ago we moved into our lovely home. The first thing I said to my husband when I walked through this kitchen is, “You gotta let me paint these cabinets.”

This is the picture I took on our first walk through.  It’s ok if you gasp, I nearly cried. Diggin’ the purple/brown walls, huh?

Kitchen Cabinets

I am so not a fan of the rustic look. Nor knotty alder. After we moved in Paul said he liked this kitchen and therefore crushed my dreams of having a white kitchen. I am not sure why. After all, this is how we transformed the brown kitchen cabinets in our old house:

Post 2-Kitchen

Lots of beadboard and glossy paint. And then some subway tiles.

kitchen remodel in old house

I am still proud of the above kitchen. I remember we spent $1,000 on the above remodel—paint, backsplash, and granite tiles. That was a lot of money! Look hard I am working putting up the backsplash? You can read about it in this super old blog post from 2005. I saw the below photo and that’s what inspired the red lower cabinets:

red&cream kitchen cabinets with beadboard backsplash

I didn’t care if I got tired of the red because hey, those were probably $800 dollar cabinets. It’s not like I was ruining anything valuable.

Ok, Ok, back to my current kitchen, if you are still reading.

I’ve talked about this in a previous blog post so I’ll quit the whining. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Because I am grateful I have a nice place to cook meals. This kitchen just isn’t my style. At all.

I’ve done what I can by adding a white subway tile backsplash, adding a hood that actually vents outside (microwave is in pantry) and painting the island white. (I painted the island white just six months ago thinking it would calm me down.) But it’s time for a change. These cabinets have fulfilled their knotty alder destiny. At least in my home. They are for sale now. $2,000 or best offer.

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Maybe being from California is the reason I am drawn to a coastal look—white cabinets and bright tiles. So we’re moving forward! I hired the talented Benjamin Blackwelder (his website doesn’t work in internet explorer) after seeing the below kitchen he designed in the Parade of Homes 6 months ago.  (You can read all about the kitchen by clicking here.)  I walked through this kitchen gasping. Finally a cabinet maker in Utah that wouldn’t try to talk me out of a white kitchen. (I asked about white cabinets in our first home in 1997 and allowed the idiot salesman to talk me out of them. “Oh they are too expensive, you don’t want them.”)

parade of homes

I am so excited. This kitchen has been a dream of mine for at least 8 years. I have worked so hard this year on my business saving all my pennies (a few nickels and dimes too). I have my range picked out, the Carrara marble for the counters, and the tile.

kitchen pics

Demolition begins the week after Christmas, stay tuned!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Annie Selke Fabric Pillow & New Chairs

So I haven’t blogged much lately as I have been up to my eyeballs in sewing Christmas stockings for money-money. (Cue the Abba song, “I work all night, I work all day, I pay the bills I have to pay…Money, Money, Money”) Don’t they look awesome stacked all together? This photo was taken right before heading to the post office. Yee haw!

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But I did have to stop the madness for just a few minutes to make some new pillows for my couch. I absolutely love the Annie Selke green/white fabric in the back and well….kind of like the bright pillow in front. It’s a bit loud, but I like it for now. Can you believe I got that Annie Selke fabric at Joann? Sha, I know. I usually hate their home decor fabrics but online the selection ain’t so bad. I also bought the same print in taupe to make a pillow for my bed. Stay tuned for that.

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Oh and I also got me some new chairs for the family room. Hot diggity dog, ain’t they gorgeous? They are the Cara chair from Mitchell Gold ordered through Alice Lane here in Provo. (New couch will be another month)

I think I will repaint the walls later this winter as my family room is now one giant blob of green/yellow. Maybe soft white or light gray?

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I know, I know, I need to make new pillows now that exude more ‘calmness’ for the chartreuse chairs (the W pillow is fine)…and a new throw to cover the arms. That $5 orange Ikea blanket has fulfilled its blanket destiny and it’s time to get a nice one. But for now, it protects the chair arm from grimy children leaning over to get even closer to the TV. And time to move the power strip. My old ikea chairs were big and bulky and hid that outlet perfectly.  Nuts.

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Now back to sewing. I figure if I make 10 stockings a day I can stay on track.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On Being Honest

I have had my photos stolen twice in the last month. Let me rephrase that: I have simply caught two others stealing my photos. Who knows how many other small businesses are out their using my photos and claiming my work as their own.

When I was a college student I heard this phrase:

I have been asked what I mean by my word of honor. I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls - walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground - there is the possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I'd die first!
Karl G. Maeser.

Every time I walked into the Maeser building for my horrible sleep-inducing Philosophy class on the campus of Brigham Young University, I thought about these words and used them to measure my integrity. College was hard for me. Dang hard. I never got great grades and probably could never get into graduate school if I even wanted to (which I don’t). But I was proud to say that every ounce of lousy homework and testing I turned in was my own. Even when I would leave the testing center crying because I got another D on a test, at least it was my D. Yes, I did graduate.

So imagine how I felt today when I found a competitor who had stolen my Christmas stockings photos. My heart was racing and my fingers shaking so hard I couldn’t type a reply to her.  This competitor stole 12-16 of my photos, rubbed out my watermark, and posted my work as her own.

Here’s an example:

My photo with original watermark:

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And after what I am sure was hours of using the ‘clone stamp’ tool in Photoshop, here is a screen shot of that same photo on her Facebook business page that she claimed as her own:


Notice there is no sign of my watermark left across my mantle. I zoomed way in on this photo—no scarring was left from her Photoshop attempts. This is where the dishonesty just blows my mind.

What is my integrity worth? It’s priceless. Without my integrity I have nothing and am nothing. If I can’t be trusted, there is no point to much else. I can be lazy, sarcastic, eat too many carbs, and be judgmental, but I am an honest person. I could list a bunch of dumb things like how when I get home from Macey’s Grocery Store I find out I wasn’t charged for the milk in the bottom of the shopping cart and how it angers me that I have to return to the store to pay for that milk, even though it was their mistake. It annoys me, but I do it. Because it’s the right thing to do.

We need a return to honesty, to integrity, to virtue, to all the values that make a civilization tick.

cynthia in sewing roomI wish the folks that steal from me could see me……..picking out my fabrics for hours at a time, online and in stores, to find the perfect combination….. I wish they could see me digitizing fonts at my computer, sampling them in satin stitch and filled stitches on several types of linen and canvas to find the perfect combo, often having to redraw each letter from scratch because the stitch angles are all wrong…. I wish they could see the dishes piled high in my house and my sticky floors because instead of cleaning, I am sewing my fingers to the bone to fill my orders. I wish they could see me awake at 2am because my mind has finally come up with the perfect way to interface the stockings that will give them structure and yet not make them stiff….. I wish they could see me dragging my knuckles across my arms at night because of chronic pain in my arms that no doctor (neurologist, chiropracter, orthopedics) can figure out. I wish they could see me emailing each customer countless times to ensure that they get the perfect font for their special Christmas stockings.I wish they could see me with my Nikon camera, set up my tripod, fiddle with the aperture, the shutter speed, deciding whether to shoot in RAW mode or just a vivid .jpg, open my mini blinds, attach the bounce flash, take the photos, then spend loads of time editing them in Photoshop only to spend even more time writing the listings for etsy to sell the stockings.

In other words, I wish they could see me work like a dog for my little business instead of stealing it all from me with just a few hours of crooked Photoshop time for them. Maybe then they would think twice about stealing from another small business.

But until then I’ll keep adding ugly watermarks to my photos.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wood Signs and New Photo Prints

Have you seen the etsy shop Old and New Again? They have the coolest handmade wood signs. I want everything in their shop. But for now I settled for this amazing sign that now hangs in my kitchen. They custom painted it turquoise. (Gee, there’s a shocker, me choosing turquoise!) I can’t wait to work with Liz again!

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I also love my new Red & White food stores print behind. My brother took that photo somewhere in the southern United States. The sign is all scratchy and oh-so-vintage looking. Contact him if you’d like to purchase a copy at his website, Automotive Photography. I also bought the canvas print below from him, taken in southern Utah around some gorgeous red cliffs. Pretty impressed with Costco’s canvas printing. I wanted something colorful but not sappy or childish. I think this about does it.

canvas print

Goodness, I love new accessories.

Monday, August 29, 2011


DSC_1214 copyUpcycling has to be the dumbest word ever. But I don’t care, it makes me sound environmentally friendly when really I am just cheap and trying to give new life to old clothes. This pair of khakis belonged to my 7 year old daughter last year. She wore them during 1st grade. At the end of 1st grade they naturally became too short.

So I set them aside in my sewing room knowing that I would cut them into shorts or capris for her and add some fun embroidery to give them a new life. Well, they sat in my sewing room. All summer long. I finally got around to giving them a make over last week. 

I cut them off to capri length first. Then I added bias trim to the bottom that was leftover from this quilt. And to cover the stains on the knees I added these cute “paint splashes” applique designs with the perfect Ta-Dot fabric by Michael Miller. I even added an extra one to the hip area, because well, the fabric is oh-so cute.

Total time? Probably a good 1 1/2 hours, too long in my book. I was excited for my now 2nd grade daughter to arrive home from school and try on her new capris!

And guess what, they didn’t fit anymore.  Color me angry. That’s what I get for trying to be frugal.

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Screw frugality, that’s my new motto.


But I made her squeeze into them long enough to snap a few photos before giving them to  my friend Allison’s kindergartener.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Honey Glazed Chicken

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You gotta try this recipe from

I really think it might be the best chicken I have ever made. Ever.  click here for recipe

I think I’m hooked on spice rubs now. They add tons of flavor. We made 2.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs and my small family of 5 ate them all. That’s how good it all is.

I also used the excess spice rub to sprinkle on our corn, which we grilled. And the tomatoes are from our garden. I mashed gorgonzola bleu cheese with mayo and thinned with milk for my favorite ever bleu cheese dressing.  Notice the paper plates? Yup, I’m lazy when eating outside.

This is why I dream of summer all year long—backyard barbecues with my kids and hubby.

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Sewing up a Storm: Roman Shades for a New Home

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My sister-in-law and her husband bought a new home this summer. Winnie is a school teacher and has a small window of time each summer before she has to return to work. Seriously, I knew nothing about how hard teacher’s worked until Winnie lived with us.  For the first few months of each school year she works 15 hour days. She would leave our home by 5:30am and come home around 10pm. All to teach our kids to read. That’s what teachers do and I had no idea.

So for two days I helped her (and my mother-in-law who was in town from Chicago) sew, staple, cut wood, and drill into window casings for six windows. After a couple of days three window were done and hung with shades. Those two gals knew the routine and finished  hanging the last three over the next two more days. How good do her windows look now?

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Aren’t these fabrics gorgeous? I suggested to Winnie and boy did she find some gorgeous ones! She said she spent 8 hours trying to decide. I don’t blame her! There really is a great selection there right now in their home decor section. Can’t wait till fall when I have more time to sew and can dress up more of my own windows.

winnies roman shades 1

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Want to make your own roman shades?

Tutorial for Roman Shades part 1

Tutorial for Roman Shades part 2

Monday, August 01, 2011

I am featured on Etsy’s blog

Extra! Extra! Read all about it. My home is featured on Etsy’s “Get the Look” home decor blog this entire week.

Click here to read the article.

screenshot etsy aug1 2011

piano room edited

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This is the column that I read weekly at etsy and was thrilled when the fabulous Christine contacted me and asked if they could feature my home. Now, I love my home, because, well…’s my home, but I didn’t think others would find it anything special.

It’s filled with inexpensive upholstered furniture from Ikea and my own handmade pillows. I rarely pay retail for anything as I have busy fingers that can work a sewing machine pretty well; hence, I work like Cinderella’s mice to save money for things like pianos and barter for other items like a green buffet in my kitchen.

Someday I want custom club chairs in the above room—with a really modern fabric print that will mask all the dirty hands and feet of my kids. Seriously, you should see the arms of these sad Ikea chairs—nearly black with dirt from grimey hands. (New linen covers from Ikea run $179. Each!) Thankfully the white slipcover of at least the sofa removes in seconds for washing. I have two extra of those anyway. Phew, bases covered there.

And someday (hopefully in just months!) I can get rid of those rustic knotty alder cabinets in my kitchen. Who pays extra for rustic is what I want to know? Why would you want your kitchen cabinets full of knots and holes in all the doors? They’re just grease catchers and a real eye sore. But here in the intermountain west, folks love knotty wood. Check any local listing for homes here in Utah and they list knotty alder as an upgrade. Are you kidding me? This stuff is garbage. Craigslist will be seeing these kitchen cabinets soon. Did I mention these same cabinets are in all the bathrooms and laundry as well?  When we walked through this home the first time with our realtor, I said to Paul, “You have to let me paint these cupboards. They’re awful.” He agreed. And then reneged once we moved in. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not, repeat not, ask my husband for permission to do things. Gag this feminist with a wooden spoon. But when it comes to our home, both should agree on major stuff like that, hence my unusual resignation. Sigh. Adding the white subway tile backsplash and under cabinet lighting helped diffuse the black hole look—brown cabinets, black countertops, and dark brown walls.


Well, five years later I couldn’t take it anymore, went all postal,  and at least painted the island bright white just last month. Filling the holes worked ok. Still holding out for white cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling. And a 36” range.


Still, I tried to avoid any close up shots of my kitchen for the etsy article.

Please don’t think I’ll walk into your home and think ‘Wo, ugliness abounds’ if you love rustic knotty wood and dream of owning pieces from the Timberline Collection (huge here in Utah). I promise I don’t think that. The cabin look just isn’t my style, although I think it’s nice for cabins. And even then, I am grateful for a nice kitchen although I kind of sound like a snooty-tooty snob describing it. Growing up in California we had several earthquakes that eventually rendered our kitchen cabinets permanently tilted. The only way to keep them closed was to slide a butter knife between the handle pulls to keep ‘em shut. (Yup, my parents have different cabinets now, don’t worry.) So I know my kitchen hasn’t stooped to that level yet.

A few years ago I read this line in a book by Nate Berkus:

“The idea of living well has always been important to me. It’s the best investment you can make in your well-being….your home is the place to invest your money and energy.”

Those two sentences changed it all for me. I can’t afford to decorate my home and go to Europe yet so for now, I choose to spend the pennies I have on the place where I spend 365 days a year while my passport sits still new and unstamped in my desk. Europe isn’t going anywhere.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Picnic Quilt

I was 17 years old in 1991. That was year I made my first quilt. I knew nothing about quilting, but luckily I had a fabulous Young Women leader from church, Keike, who became much more to me than just a church leader. She and I just talked on the phone yesterday. Love having friends through the years….

Anyway, I needed to complete  a ‘Personal Progress’ project to eventually complete my Young  Woman Recognition award. That’s an award that is similar (although not really) to a boy earning his Eagle Scout.  I wanted to make a quilt, and since projects then had to take more than 20 hours each, I knew making a quilt would be perfect. Being a teenager, I lacked commitment to finish this project, so in stepped Keike. (Bless you Keike!)

old picnic quilt (4)

The summer before my senior year of high school I stayed with Keike’s family in Portland, Oregon. (Can you believe they moved away from California by choice? Crazy!) We made that quilt. And trust me, it was very stylish back then. Filled will soft blues, dusty rose, and plenty of references to farm animals. It was like, yea, so completely 1990s. (Repeat last sentence in Valley Girl.)

How cute is the bunny painted with simple acyrlic craft paint?

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It is now literally falling apart. I’ve fixed so many of the seams, but this quilt has fulfilled it’s blanket destiny.

It’s time to retire it before it literally falls to more shreds.

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Over the last twenty years, this quilt has been so loved. It was on my dorm-room bed in college for a few years. After that, it became our picnic quilt once we had a family. For years I have toted this quilt around in the trunk of my car to make happy babies and Mom comfy at the park. (I know, the nostalgia is dripping in this post!)

So fast forward from 1991 to 2011. After 20 years, it was time for a new quilt.

picnic quilt starting

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This is the back:

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This is the binding—sewn on with a modfied zig-zag. Too lazy to hand sew binding like real quilters. Snoozer.

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I love stitch 16 on the Bernina 830 for attaching bindings to pillows and quilts. Perfect for lazy quilters. That would be me.


Yup, my new picnic quilt is just a bunch of scrappies. No pattern was used because well….I just can’t be bothered with patterns. Time is not on my side these days and without anyone to help me make this quilt, I was left to my own devices.

I used a random funky-squares  to free hand embroider. That dang quilting took so long. Thank goodness I used my BSR (Bernina Stitch Regulator) so that all my stitching lines are exactly 2.5mm. Love technology.

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And this time the year was added with machine embroidery, not acrylic paints. That’s my antique sewing machine design. I just added the heart and year. Clever, huh?

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picnic quilt in progress














I’ve decided I love quilts, but I don’t love quilting. Too much repetitive sewing for my taste. The above picture was take 9 months ago—that’s how long it took me to finish this ultra-simple and wacky quilt.

So here’s to another twenty years before I need another picnic quilt.

Check back in 2031.


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