by Wiley

There are endless ways to reuse and repurpose old clothes. And catching the upcycling bug can start at any age. This weekend, my friend’s daughter, Caitlin, transformed a simple tank top into a gorgeous, one-of-a kind tote bag. Want to see how she did it?

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by Wiley

One auspicious morning, I saw this beautiful desk (along with a “FREE!” sign) out on my neighbor’s curb.

I was sure someone would snag the desk before the day was done, but when I got home that evening, it was still there!

With my Mag-Lite in tow, I went to investigate. The desk was missing a slide-out tray but seemed awesome otherwise; it had plenty of storage space and was built to last. Feeling a bit like a creeper skulking around the neighborhood at midnight with my flashlight, I stealthily removed the drawers and carried them to my garage. It took six trips.

I left a note letting my neighbors know I’d take the rest of the desk home once I rounded up the troops. The next evening, Walt and Fiona and I lugged it into the backyard.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to just clean it and use it immediately, or repaint it. My least favorite part of furniture makeovers is sanding and priming, and I wasn’t sure if I was willing to do the prep work to repaint the desk. Then I read a Design*Sponge tutorial about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I learned that chalk paint (which is different from chalkboard paint—paint that you use to create a blackboard-like surface) can be applied to just about any wooden surface without having to strip, sand, or prime the wood beforehand. It leaves a velvety finish and is good for projects where you want a shabby chic/vintage/antique look.

I decided to give it a go. Even though Annie Sloan products are expensive (1 liter of paint: $38; 500 mL of wax: $28) and the brand is hard to find, I thought the money would be worth the time I’d save not sanding and priming.

In all, I worked on the desk for two days (one day to clean, one day to paint). It really could have taken just one day, but I drove to San Jose twice because the store was out of wax the first time I went. I hope this tutorial will inspire you if you’re considering a furniture makeover of your own!

DAY ONE: WASHING THE DESK

Supplies

  • furniture cleaner
  • steel wool scouring pad (0000)

The desk was originally covered in a thick layer of grime. After vacuuming the desk, I scrubbed it with a cleaner then hosed it down and let it try in the sun. (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you soak your furniture in water. But since it was a very hot day, I knew the wood would dry quickly.)

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE HARDWARE

Supplies

  • screwdriver
  • knobs
  • screws
  • spray paint

After removing the knobs, I spray painted the hardware in a navy blue color. Easy-peasy!

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE INTERIOR

  • paintbrush
  • primer
  • interior paint

At this point, I decided I wanted to compare the “prime then paint” process with the “chalk paint only” process. Since I already had some primer and paint samples from past projects (and since I didn’t want to use too much of the costlier chalk paint), I decided to prime and paint the inside of the drawers.

I painted the drawers with a coat of primer…

…then topped that off with two coats of a light aqua-colored Benjamin Moore interior paint.

Priming and painting took several hours—and the primer/paint smell was strong, even though I was working in an open garage. About mid-way through the process, I wished I’d just stuck with chalk painting the whole thing!

DAY TWO: PAINTING THE EXTERIOR

Supplies:

  • paintbrush
  • chalk paint
  • clear wax
  • rags

Now on to the fun stuff!

I painted the desk’s exterior in “Coco,” a gray/brown color to complement my dresser. The paint applied thickly, dried quickly (in just half an hour), and did not smell nearly as much as the primer and traditional interior paint. It also provided great coverage, so I ended up just painting one coat (with plenty of paint left over for future projects). Overall, I think the chalk paint is definitely worth considering if you’re contemplating a furniture makeover.

After buffing the table with clear wax, my buddies and I managed to get the behemoth desk into my room. (The whole process involved a lot of guesstimating, experimenting, maneuvering, and door removal-ing.) Then we celebrated with beers, brats, and giant pretzels at a local German beer garden.

All in all, a great weekend!

by Wiley

Liquid watercolors—so vibrant and fun, and a fantastic (washable) medium for kids and grownups alike…

Here are some  Olympic flags designed by Walt’s neighbors (ages 3, 5, and 7)…

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…a hungry, hungry caterpillar made by some of our favorite East Bayers (ages 6 and 8)….

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…dip-dyed coffee filters for a summer picnic…

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…a flower garland for a friend…

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…and a quick experiment with liquid watercolors + paper cutting.

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by Wiley

Looking for a way to keep the little ones busy for a bit? Take a look at these kid-friendly printables I helped develop for Kiwi Crate.  :)

Dive into reading with a DIY bookmarkDr. Seuss said it best: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Reading is an unparalleled way to open up wonderful worlds of wit and whimsy. Make a splash into your fall reading lineup with a bookmark that’s easy to make and fun to use.

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Tell tall tales with printable story cardsThese 30 story starters will stretch your kids’ imaginations and help them spin yarns worth weaving.

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Counting down to a special day? Inspire creativity with a countdown chain. This DIY calendar is an easy way for kids to understand how many days they have left until the Big Day. Each day’s link features a word that will inspire your child to get creative. So go on, “play,” “ponder,” and “build” together during your summer of discovery!(pic below by a colleague)

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by Wiley

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It’s a really good feeling to see some of my closest friends in an entirely new light. As I eavesdrop on Tawny rattling on about rotator cuffs, I remind myself that this is the same person that I bonded with 19 years ago (and just yesterday) about Calvin’s potato tattoo in Wayside School is Falling Down. As I read Walt’s paper about astronomical instrumentation, it occurs to me that the same guy who relishes playing peek-a-boo with two-year-olds and hiding behind furniture to give me a scare (hm, I’m starting to notice a pattern) is also singularly the most brilliant person I know. (No offense, everyone else I know.)

The last half of June was filled with transitions…and flowers!

It wasn’t until my last year of college that I started appreciating plants. Three of my closest friends (including Tawny and Ingo) were landscape architecture students, and I took a class taught by Robert Hass, a poet/nature lover who stressed the importance of “knowing the names of things.”

Over the years, I’ve become more appreciative of the elegance of a single peony, the heady fragrance of jasmines at dusk, the endless whorls of a field of ranunculuses. Nowadays, I love flowers…and these past few weeks were unexpectedly abounding in blooms that marked a time of transition, hope, and friendship.

The past two weeks were about…

…saying, “Goodbye”

The past nine months of working at a start-up have been an incredibly rich experience. Last week, I said goodbye to the amazing team that I’ve learned so much from, and they, in turn, sent me off with this gorgeous bouquet (sunflowers, Peruvian lilies, lilies, and irises) and their best wishes.

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One of my favorite girls even made a paper bouquet.

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…saying, “Hello” 

Exactly one year to the day that I’d turned in my letter of resignation at my corporate job, I received a delivery of Gerber daisies, roses, and lavender from the new company that I’ll be joining next week. I was stunned by the gesture. The new job is quite literally a dream come true (I’ll be an editor/crafter/blogger for an amazing company that makes activity kits for kids), and I’m thrilled at the prospect of joining a talented team with big dreams and people-centric priorities.

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…saying, “It’s nice to know you”

Walt surprised me with hydrangeas and chrysanthemums(?) last weekend to celebrate our two-year anniversary. Two years would seem like plenty of time to get to know a person, right? And yet the time has gone by in a flash…and it seems like at least once a week, even still, I learn something new and entirely wonderful about Walt. Recently, I found out that he once invented (and still uses) several alphabets, each with its own symbols, consonants and vowels, and usage rules. I feel so lucky to know someone who always surprises me with the depth of his kindness, curiosity, and wit.

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…saying, “Welcome home”

Tawny and Jonathan got this arrangement at the Durham Farmers’ Market to make me feel at home in their new digs. This is the first time that I’ve spent any extended time with just the two of them since they got married in 2010 and also the first time that I’ve been able to get a glimpse of the life that they’ve built for themselves on the East Coast.

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When we were in college, I used to wonder what kind of man would possibly be good enough for someone as inspiring, funny, and unforgettable as my best friend. When Tawny and Jonathan first started dating, I was cautiously optimistic about this guy whom I barely knew but who, by all accounts, seemed like a pretty good guy.

As their relationship grew more serious and as I learned more about Jonathan’s character and sense of humor, I knew that Tawny had found someone who could keep her on her toes—a guy who complemented her sweet yet feisty personality, and who would be able to support and challenge her in all the ways that mattered.

Over the years, I’ve seen that Jonathan is an awesome person in his own right who’s insightful, hilarious, and remarkably hospitable. Like Tawny, he’s become a cherished lifelong friend.

Besides being full of great food and great friends, this trip to Durham seems like a homecoming of sorts. It’s been a good reminder that with time and experience, we hopefully become a truer reflection of who we are and who we want to be…that with friends who touch our souls, we’re always on the journey together even if the road meanders or paths diverge…and that whatever the future has in store, you can always come home again.

by Wiley

What a way to start the week! This pretty pom was hanging above my desk when I got into work Monday morning.

mondaypom1

It turned out that my boss had made it over the weekend to celebrate the launch of a product that we’ve been collaborating on. As if that gesture wasn’t sweet enough, later that afternoon, one of my coworkers asked if I was expecting a package because something had come in for me. I wasn’t expecting anything, but she urged me to open the box. Before I knew it, there was a gaggle of girls behind her. I was confused, but I opened the box — and was so touched by what was inside! The box was filled with homemade and craft goodies — a hand-embossed card, fabric flowers, an adorable tea satchel, scrapbooking charms, and other treats. Everyone’s been working so hard to get to this product launch, and it was very unexpected to get singled out … and in such an incredibly thoughtful and heartfelt way!

lucia

by Wiley

What’s your favorite childhood toy?

Mine’s the Transit of Venus Care Bear.

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More elusive than the furtive Yeti of the Great White North, more wanderlust-y than Nessie of the Scottish lochs, the Transit of Venus Care Bear only appears once every 105 years. But don’t look directly at him! The Care Bear Stare’s* so bright that you gotta wear shades.

Last summer, Walt taught an astronomy class. This sparked (what I think will be) a lifetime interest in star-gazing. When we’re outside, his neck cranes upwards as soon as darkness descends. He looks for familiar constellations and contemplates the wonders of the universe, as I glance upwards occasionally while also keeping an eye out for oncoming cars. This is a good metaphor for our relationship.

This Tuesday marked the transit of Venus, a once-in-a-lifetime (twice, if you’re a super ager) occurrence where Venus travels across the sun, Earth’s closest star. (It’s flabbergasting to consider that Venus is 3.5x closer to our planet than Earth is to the sun!)

People all over the world set up special equipment or donned cardboard glasses to see the spectacle, including at the Stanford Student Observatory where astro enthusiasts brought telescopes and projection solar sun spotters.  (Walt on his Care Bear-ish pic: “This has got to be the best photo of a concrete floor I’ve ever taken.”)

Here are some photos Walt took during the viewing:

carebear4 carebear2 carebear3

I wasn’t able to make it up to the observatory in time, so Walt set up his astronomical binoculars for me in the flatlands of Menlo Park during the last hours of the transit. Here he is projecting the solar image onto a lens cap he’d crafted out of a Fat Tire container. (“Hey kids! If you want to make a binocular cover, just grab the closest beer cans and…” Just kidding. :))

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Pretty extraordinary!

By the way, my second favorite childhood toy is Teddy Ruxpin.

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*If the Care Bear references didn’t make sense to you, you probably weren’t an American child growing up in the 80s. Here’s a writeup that might help, authored by some of the greatest literary minds in the world.

by Wiley

You don’t need an arsenal of art supplies at the ready to get the creative juices flowing. Here are some easy projects from Kiwi Crate’s popular Two-Ingredient Tuesday feature:

  •  Create a craft stick puzzleAh, the craft stick—that most ubiquitous of art supplies. Craft sticks have fortified countless cabins, propped up innumerable paper puppets, and provided the framework for frames beyond measure. Their versatility makes them a favorite around these parts. And if you’re really lucky, you can obtain them the old-fashioned way. (By snacking on Popsicles.) Craft stick puzzles build up patterning and sequencing skills—plus they’re a hit with kids of all ages!

craftstickpuzzle

stickermosaic

  • Experiment with negative space drawings.  Playing around with the space around and between objects bolsters spatial thinking skills…and is just plain fun! Cut out some simple shapes (e.g., circles, triangles) from a sheet of paper, and see what your kids come up with.

negativespace

by Wiley

  • Summer Splashdown: 5 Water Games for Kids.Searching for a surefire way to put a smile on your kid’s face? Just add water!Have you noticed how most kids love water play? One parenting paradox is how it can be a struggle to get kids to take baths—yet when you bust out a Slip-N-Slide (or water balloon), kids can’t wait to give it a go (or throw)! Make a splash in your summer routine with these fun water games and activities.
  • Design a Discovery Zone. Creating space around the home for your kids to…well, be kids will help open up a world of imagination. Here are some
    ways that you can make room for creativity in the home.
  • 7 Super Summer Camp Crafts. Recently, I had an amazing time at a homegrown summer camp. Two of my favorite neighborhood kids invited me to Adventure Camp, a carnival wonderland that the kids constructed out of cardboard and anything else they could get their hands on. (One of the games involved seeing how quickly camp visitors could shove rocks and pebbles down a cardboard tube.)
    adventure_camp
    The kids created their own tickets and prizes, and eagerly encouraged me to spend my “tokens.” (By the end of the afternoon, Violet even sweet-talked her way into making me an Official Employee.)Violet and Max had never heard of the Los Angeles boy who recently made headlines for bringing a community together with his elaborate cardboard arcade. However, Adventure Camp was certainly in the spirit of Caine’s Arcade.Whether your child’s at a sleepaway camp or you’re hosting a day camp of your own, these camp crafts are a great way for kids to get creative.

by Wiley

For a newbie sewer like me, the more visuals, the better!

This weekend, I used Etsuko Furuya’s “Scooter” fabric to make a small bag for a friend who’s traveling abroad this summer.

The bag’s pattern is based off of the “Velcro Pouches” chapter of Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing for Baby book. The book has a ton of cute product shots but is fairly text heavy, with few (if any) instructional diagrams for each project.

I made some adjustments to Jansdotter’s pattern and have rewritten simplified instructions. After the jump, you’ll find step-by-step pictures of how you can make a travel bag of your very own!

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