Monday, October 31, 2011

where happiness leads

Can you boil down your entire sense of self and outlook on life into one single sentence? Is there one driving force in your life that ultimately leads you in each of your life-altering decisions?

Think about it. It's pretty hard to shave it down to just one thing, right?

Well, given my indecisive personality and the fact that common self-evaluating tasks like "describing myself in three words" give me unimaginable amounts of anxiety, this would seem like an impossible task for me too. However, I was thinking the other day just how hilariously ironic it is that when it comes to this one thing - my personal motto - I have somehow managed to develop a very strong, singular position over the course of my life thus far. (Seriously, it's the ONLY thing I can decide on when it comes to who I am.)

If there exists such a thing as a life mantra, mine is this: Where happiness leads, I follow.

Seems a little silly, I know, as pretty much anyone would admit that they aim to follow their happiness. I mean who would really choose to be unhappy, right? Well silly as it may be, and obvious though it seems, it really is the one thing that I find constant in the many twists and turns my life has taken thus far.

You can ask my close friends and family, and without a doubt they will agree, personal happiness is the one guiding principle that ultimately determines where my life's path will veer. It's not financial gain, not social approval, not even long-term success.

I've made some interesting decisions in my life thus far, decisions that not a lot of people understood at the time I was making them. Ending relationships, switching jobs, taking certain opportunities while passing up others, choosing to order the peanut butter cheesecake despite my near-state of a food-induced coma (That last one I'm sure plenty of you out there understand.)

Decisions like these have never been easy - in fact many of them have caused me sleepless nights of worrying and wondering. That worry, of course, can be blamed on my sense of pragmatism and logic. (Mom, I swear it exists.) But each time I've encountered a fork in the road in my life, I take a step back and silently listen to my heart. In most cases, it becomes clear to me that it has already decided for me. Which path will make me happier than I am right now? Whatever the answer, that's where I let life take me. I believe that no matter what the future beyond that point holds, I'll never look back and regret a decision I made knowing that it was going to make me happier. I just won't. And that's why I trust this one solitary mantra above all other guiding principles.

Now some people may not agree that this is a great way to build a life that will be full and plentiful down the road. And to that, I'd have to say that I agree. But I decided a while ago that basing my life on what might be down the road if I just "put in my time now" is a surefire way to be miserable. And who really wants to be miserable? Not this girl.

I've heard it said that people are afraid of being truly happy. I don't buy that. Nobody wants to be unhappy. What I do believe, though, is that people are terribly afraid of the risks that it takes to pursue their happiness. Maybe it's fear of giving up the stability of a normal job, or it could be fear of disrupting your life and routine to end a relationship that isn't right. Or maybe it's just the simple fear of the unknown. There are always barriers to happiness and most of these can be attributed to comfort. But hey, it's no crime to want to stay in your comfort zone.

Here's the funny thing I'm learning about myself though: my comfort zone is breaking out of my comfort zone. (Sorry to go all Inception/Chinese proverb on you, but it's true.) I find myself thriving when I'm pushed beyond my comfort level, beyond my routine, beyond stability, which is where I hope to always find myself. The more I think about my future, the more I want to make an adventure of my life - whatever that might mean.

Call me an idealist. Or call me young and naive (it's fine, I get it all the time.) But I accept those words as compliments because they are the things that continue to make me strive for the ideal, to push beyond what is accepted and what is complacent. As cheesy as it may sound, I truly believe that nothing can stop me from creating the life I see for myself in my dreams. And one day, hopefully many, many years from now, I will look back on the whole of my life and smile, knowing that every crazy thing I did and every seemingly nonsensical move I made, was all in the name of a simple thing called happiness.

Photo Credit

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

hey fall, thanks for showing up

Being a Florida resident has its seasonal downfalls. For instance, sometimes the date on the calendar has a tendency to be at odds with the temperature in the air. This would occur when it's, oh, say, 94 degrees in the middle of October. Don't get me wrong, I'm immensely grateful that I don't have to wrap myself in twelve layers of wool to walk to work in the morning, but still... a couple of leaves on the ground and a brisk chill in the air wouldn't hurt anyone.

Which is why I was extremely excited when we got our first real cold weather of the season a few weeks ago, and I've had fall on the brain ever since.

Fall has to be my favorite season. There's so much to look forward to. It conjures up all these warm, rich memories for me: football gamedays, family roadtrips to the Carolinas for Thanksgiving, and comfort foods. One of my favorite feelings in the world is when the air is cool but the sun is at its peak, shining on everything. It creates the most magically comfortable temperature in the world and it makes me itch to spend all my time outside. Let's also not forget how much fun it is to wear fall clothing (I mean I've been practically begging every weekend for an appropriate temperature to bust out my fall scarf collection.)

Anyway, last weekend we participated in what I think is the first ceremonial ritual of the fall season: pumpkin carving. It's the first time I've actually carved a pumpkin as an adult and had a front door of my own to place it in front of, so I was pretty excited.

Jason, his sister Kim, and I went last Saturday morning to a local pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkin canvases. Of course I had to pick out one of the biggest, heaviest ones that I could find. (Thankfully I managed to convince Jas to carry it back to the car for me. I seriously thought I was going to have to roll it.)

Kimble with her awesome pumpkin! 
This pumpkin is in fact quite large, but apparently it
dwarves in comparison to a 6'5" gorilla-handed man.
(That's not a derogatory comment, his hands are seriously
the same size as the gorilla hand prints at the zoo.) 
The whole way home I was trying to think of what I wanted to carve. I looked through some of the templates that were in the book that came with our carving tools, but nothing really struck my fancy. In the end I just decided I would do something free-handed and see where it took me. I had seen a pumpkin before with the word "boo" and I thought that was cute/simple enough that I could start there and experiment with the rest. I also wanted to play around with the whole "shaving" technique because I love designs with the lighter color orange and the darker orange.

The part that I had apparently blocked out of my memory was scooping out the gross innards of the pumpkins. I'm not going to lie, I was a bit of baby at first. (Sorry, but it's the gooiest, grossest feeling EVER to scoop out stringy pumpkin guts.) I will officially state, however, that Jason is quite possibly an even bigger baby than me when it comes to getting his hands dirty. Kim practically cleaned out his entire pumpkin before he'd even think about carving it. What a wuss.

Our command center

I pretty much had no idea where I was going from here.

Humble beginnings.
We had a great time with the whole thing, though. We listened to music, threatened to fling pumpkin guts at each other, cooked up some pumpkin seeds (delicious, by the way) and went out to eat after.

I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. I love Jason's shark, even if I am a little jealous that his is cooler than mine. I make myself feel better by saying mine was more "intricate." (Come on, free-handed flames deserve just a little bit of credit.) After we were finished, we set them up on the front stoop as the sun went down. We must have walked out there twelve times to admire our handy work in every shade of lighting.

Okay, fine, it's cool.
(Jason has been referring to it as "the shumpkin.")

Still in-process at that point...

Kim's haunted house!
Da crew.
Pumpkin carving is such a great tradition and it's one that I hope we'll continue. When Kim left to let the dogs out at her house and Jason and I were left alone, there was a moment amid my carving that I looked up and realized we were both just standing there, completely immersed in our carving, not saying a word. This is what happens when you put two creative people together and give them a project. It was one of those great moments I definitely took a step back and smiled to myself.

Anyway, I put some more in-process shots below and definitely be on the lookout for some more fall crafting. I fully intend to soak up every second of the season, and I can't wait for Thanksgiving to get here!

(I'd also like to let it be known that I'm continuing my relentless pursuit for something fall-ish to hang on our door. I kind of like the fact that Jason refuses to support a wreath because it forces me to get more creative. Let the creativity begin...)

Monday, October 17, 2011

copycraft: chevron wall mosaic

One of the first decorating footholds I nabbed in our house was creative control over the guest bathroom. (Yes, guest bathroom, this is how uncertain Jason was of my decorating eye at the time - he gave me literally the ONLY room in the house he had no reason to enter. Ever.) Still, I'm happy to have one room in our house of blended tastes where I can do whatever I want. 

When I came into the picture, the bathroom was completely bare. I'm talking white shower curtain, two white bathmats and a bar of dial soap. There were a few mismatched white(ish) towels and that was it in the way of "accessories." The huge white-cabinet vanity was topped with some version of plastic faux marble, with ample counter space and nothing to live there. Top it all off with a huge rectangular mirror and some fluorescent lighting, and we had ourselves one cold and stark bathroom. (I wish I had had the foresight to take a picture, but now our wall art is up and hung and getting Jason to take the thing down and rehang it for one picture would probably require cashing in a chip that I'd rather save for a rainy day so... my incredibly vivid description will have to do.)

Anyway, for a while I was stumped on what I wanted to do because the thing lacked any sort of starting point whatsoever. The one thing I did latch onto was the gray color of the walls. I actually really liked how it matched up with the white of the plain shower curtain, giving it a sort of modern color palette. When I stumbled upon this bath rug on sale at West Elm (read further about my love affair with WE in this former post), I knew it was perfect. Plus since the moment I joined Pinterest, I kind of feel like the chevron pattern has been everywhere just screaming to be incorporated into our decor somehow. I adore it. 

The mat definitely spiced things up, but once it was in there it just made the walls look so bare. And I simply could not have a mullet of a bathroom. (Ya know, business on the walls, party on the floor? No? Yeah, it was a stretch.) Anyway, here's the inspiration photo for what I finally decided to do:
via Spunky Junky
Love the asymmetry of it, but also love how the pattern virtually matches up so your eye travels from piece to piece. This blogger used old shoe boxes (awesome recycling idea!) but I decided to use cool brushed metal frames that went with the rest of the hardware in the bathroom. I printed out her pattern and followed the simple steps she had on her blog.

First I laid out my frames in the pattern I wanted across some sheets of thick poster board (I wanted something sturdy enough to be painted on.) I went with an asymmetrical look like the inspiration photo using different sized frames, but of course you could just as easily do any arrangement you like. 

Marking where each frame would line up with one another (and numbering the positions as well as the frames so I'd know how to put them back together), I transfered the pattern by tracing it with a thick permanent marker and taped off the pattern.

Using acryllic paint (I simply mixed black and white to make a gray to my liking), I painted over the tape, making sure to cover all the areas that would be shown in my frames. 

After the paint dried, I cut out each section (based on the previous lines I had marked) and put them in the frames. If you look closely, you can see some of the lines became a little jagged due to imperfections when I lifted up the paint. To fix this I simply went back with some white/gray and touched them up so it would be crisp and straight.

The bathroom is definitely not done, but it's certainly an improvement. Some new crisp white bath towels, along with dark gray accent hand towels and washcloths help tie in the bath mat and mosaic. I especially love how you can see the reflection of the mosaic in the mirror from the doorway. I hope to get some pops of color in there eventually and some more accessories (not to mention ripping out the off-white toilet, awful vanity and terrible tile...), but for now I'm happy with how it looks. 

If you're as obsessed with chevron right now as I am, I definitely recommend this project! It's a fun one! 

(To keep your eye on future copycraft ideas, feel free to follow my Crafty Pants board on Pinterest.)