Archived Ideas for ‘Inspiration’

IDEA 79: HONOR THE SURPRISE

Aug
2015

Surprise_cake_2

My daughter, the teenage baker, got an intriguing assignment from one of her teachers. This teacher has become pregnant and she has decided to find out the sex of the baby. But her plan is to have her doctor put the results in a sealed envelope. She will then deliver said sealed envelope to my daughter who will bake a tiny cake with a surprise inside. If the results are a girl, the filling will be pink. For a boy, blue. The teacher will then, with her husband, celebrate one evening by cutting the tiny cake, and thereby discovering if they are having a boy or a girl.

There are so many things about this that I love. First of all, the thought that this teacher is allowing my daughter, her 17 year old student, to see the news before she herself does. But even better, the fact that the discovery of this news is becoming a bit of celebration.

Believe me, I understand some of us just can’t stand waiting for baby to be born before decorating the nursery. But what a great way to make more of a deal about unveiling the surprise!

Surprise_boy

IDEA 78: PRESERVE THE SUMMER

Jul
2015

Strawberry_Box

Who knows. Maybe this post would be better in mid-winter. Because right now it borders on the obvious. But if it hadn’t occurred to you to go out and pick fresh berries, maybe this will serve a purpose.

Wyatt's_strawberries

I am a strawberry lover. My earliest taste memories include that sweet warm sensation that explodes in your mouth at the first bite of a freshly picked strawberry. But I have to admit, it was never at the top of my weekend list to go to a “U-Pick” and harvest fruit.

But I’m married to a consummate gardener. And the least I can do to thank him for the beautiful work he does in our yard is be a good sport about field trips to the berry farm in the hot sun.

And of course I’m so happy I went.

Pick_Strawberries

I think the best part was seeing my otherwise indifferent husband having such a ball. I swear he was not going to leave as long as there were still so many berries left to pick. We came home with about 20 pounds of berries, which of course is way more than we could consume before they would begin to wilt.

Most people in this situation would have a plan to can or jar. But that was not in the cards for the rest of our weekend. We washed everything, then divided them into three categories: Eat now, Put in the fridge and Freeze. If you go online to find berry freezing techniques you’ll find half a dozen, some of which involve slicing and adding sugar. We chose what seemed best for us. After washing, the tops were cut straight off and the berries were placed to dry on paper towels. They were then transferred to cookie sheets lined with wax paper, cut edge down.

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These trays were thoroughly frozen.

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Then the berries were popped off into vacuum bags.

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The air was sucked out, and the bags sealed and popped back in the freezer.

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According to the recipe, these will be good for the next six months. So right now I’m planning on making strawberry muffins the first morning I wake up to a new snowfall. And remember that tangy sweet smell, and bending in the hot sun, and watching my husband as he systematically attempts to harvest every last plump berry.

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IDEA 76: MAKE A CHERISHED HAND-ME-DOWN

Apr
2015

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What is it about our off-spring’s little hand and footprints that look to us like one of nature’s most beautiful design motifs?

When my firstborn came back from the hospital nursery with inky feet, I was thrilled to see that the nurses had captured the one-day-old feet on a beautiful document, and I requested they put another set right onto the page of his baby book.

Foot_Nell_Book

When my baby daughter got to day-care, I received a “corsage” made by one of the teachers. It was for Mother’s Day, and was made using my daughter’s tiny handprint in pink paint, cut out, laminated with a pin back, and festooned with small pink ribbons. I wore that corsage on Mother’s Day for years.

That’s why, when my colleague Jen told me about her handprint project, I knew I had to share it. It’s just SUCH a BellaPamella idea!!

With each child’s first birthday, she purchased a white tablecloth. The birthday kid was allowed to put a painty set of his/her handprints on the cloth, which was then labeled with their age (1). As the birthdays commenced, the handprints collected. Each cloth is different, reflecting the “design sensibility” of each child.

Hand_Noah_Tablecloth

The original idea was to bring out the special tablecloth to decorate the birthday party table. But, very quickly, Jen realized this keepsake was way too precious to expose it to spilled Kool-Aid and ice cream.

So, it still comes out. It gets it’s annual set of prints, and becomes a wall hanging or other decorative drape for the duration of the celebration. Then it’s safely stowed, away from flinging food, until the next year. And one day, it just may provide a favorite story for her grand kids.

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IDEA 75: STAY INSPIRED

Jan
2015

Inspire_hat_lady

Stay inspired. Now, there’s a New Year’s resolution worth making.

This thought was INSPIRED by this thin strip of a photo that was staring back at me as I was searching out wood trim at a salvage yard. If you’re lucky enough to have the kind of salvage place we do here in Minneapolis, you know around every corner you’ll find another pile of stuff, old hardware mixed with the occasional lampshade and, in this case, a dozen yellowed darkroom photos of ladies modeling coats.

Most people in their right mind, especially those on a mission to find wood trim, would not give a second glance to the coat ladies. But something about them drew me in immediately. I was particularly intrigued by this sassy brunette in her large-diagonal-diamond-patterned-fur-collared-coat and amazing hat. I couldn’t figure out the pocket, except to assume a piece of the same diamond fabric is appliquéd on top for flair, even though it gives the appearance that the pocket has a star shaped hole right through it.

Inspire_pocketInspire_coat_pocket

I wondered what colors the outfit was in, and if this very average looking woman was considered a beauty that would make every woman want that coat.

I decided since the photo was narrow, I would use it for my bookmark. Now, every night when I escape to a book for a few minutes before falling asleep, I can contemplate my new friend.

Is this a big plan? No.

It’s a very small reminder that in all the fray of raising a family, holding down a job and/or just making your way through life, you will benefit greatly if every once in a while you simply allow yourself to be inspired by some small thing, even if no one else gets it.

Inspire_bookmark

IDEA 74: MAKE A HOLIDAY KITCHEN TREE

Dec
2014

Kitchen_Tree_Dec_Bistro

Many years ago, at a kitchen shop, I was enticed by a silver-plated Christmas ornament in the shape of a miniature colander. It was at that very moment I decided to give my beloved kitchen a Christmas tree of its own.

Of course, there isn’t a lot of extra room in my kitchen, so I bought the smallest tree I could find, about 2 ½ feet high.

Over the years I have collected special kitchen themed ornaments for this tree, which has now become an annual tradition, brought home along with the regular sized family Christmas tree.

Kitchen_Tree_silver_3Kitchen_Tree_UtensilsKitchen_Tree_Silver

I’ve got a tiny old fashioned egg beater, a whisk, rolling pin, fry pan, cheese shredder, kettle, a mini spoon, knife and fork, a tiny blender and myriad plates, cups and teapots.

Kitchen_Tree_Pear_TeapotKitchen_Tree_pitchersKitchen_Tree_CoffeesKitchen_Tree_BlenderKitchen_Tree_Plates

Kitchen_Tree_Time4Tea

To make your own kitchen tree, you’ll need a small tree stand with a water reservoir. The one I use is much bigger than it needs to be, but it was one we had around so I use it. Look for a nicely shaped “table top” tree. They are much less expensive than a full sized one, although I usually have to shop around a couple places to find them.

Kitchen_Tree_Bare

I like to start by winding a beautiful ribbon on the tree. I don’t use any lights. But you could if you want to.

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My wide ribbon has wire in the edges. This makes it very easy to just sort of unwind the ribbon down the tree. It naturally wants to curve that way.

Then I insert several “fruit picks”. I keep these with my ornaments and just stick them right into the tree.

Kitchen_Tree_Berry_picks

You don’t need everything right away. In fact, it’s more fun to add a new ornament to your kitchen tree each year.

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So what do you put on the treetop? A star shaped cookie cutter, of course.

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IDEA 73: SHARE

Aug
2014

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When you are mom, you are so busy, it’s hard to even think about anything beyond this day, and the problem that’s in front of you right now. But somehow, maybe in the middle of nap time, take a moment to think back about something you loved as a child that you could share with your little one.

TallTales_inside_cov

Here’s the deal. One day they will be off to college, or otherwise moving away from you. At that time you may think to yourself, “Did I give them part of me?”

When my middle son moved out, I heard he served a “guest” canned peaches, still in the can, straight from the frige, with a fork sticking out of them. On hearing this, my first thought was NOT “Gee, why didn’t you put them in a dish?”  What I thought was, “Did I serve food that became part of this boy’s comfort?”

What are those things that you will share with your kids? Things that were part of you. Things that comforted you as a child, that you will give to them?

I had “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” sung to me by my mom. And I had The Tall Book of Make Believe. Being the youngest of four kids, I didn’t have many things that were mine alone. But the “Tall Tales” book was one. My middle brother drew on some of the pages. And the spine has long been held together with electrical tape. But to this day I cannot read Moon Song or the Land of Counterpane without going straight back to a very safe and simple place.

So, if you have small children, I know. You are so busy. But it goes so fast. What’s something from your childhood that helped you? Bring that thing into their young lives. After all, you may not have had time to realize it yet, but that’s what it’s all about.

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IDEA 71: LET THEM MAKE CAKE

May
2014

Cake_maker_girl

My friend and colleague Kiersten has an amazing cookbook collection. Baking beautiful cakes and treats is her creative outlet. And a holiday does not go by without K whipping up a cake or beautiful dessert creation. That’s why it occurred to her that her young daughter Sydney might find it exciting to create a cake of her own.

Baking with young kids, we’re often left with a choice: either create our thing of beauty and suffer the consequences of angry offspring, or allow them artistic freedom and leave our idea by the wayside. That’s why this idea of Kiersten’s is so inspired. Using a box cake mix she didn’t need anyway, and leftover candies, she helped her daughter make a simple sheet cake. Once it was done, Syd was given free reign to decorate “her canvas” any way she liked. Does she want the icing black? No problem. Would she like to pile all the candy in one corner? Why not?

Cake_maker_kid

As it turned out, Syd actually had a bit of talent when it came to a pleasing distribution of deco on the cake top. But the real beauty was that she was completely in charge. That’s something that makes us all feel great. (Look at that sweet, proud face!) And, what an awesome gift to give your “big” little child.

IDEA 70: CELEBRATE THE FINISH

Apr
2014

CELEBRATE_BATHROOM

About a year ago, I posted about our DIY bathroom project that followed the premise “When there is no money, throw time at the problem”. That, in part, explained why after several months work, the bathroom looked pretty much like we’d just started. We live in a 1912 house, and this bathroom had been remodeled somewhere around 1950. Ever since we moved in, I’d wanted to make it a beautiful ommage to 1912 (with all the modern amenities, of course), so we took it down to the studs.

Well, a grueling 16 months after it began I’m happy to report the bathroom is finished! And, as promised, I’m now posting “afters”. I adore my new bathroom. But remodeling to return a room to it’s former glory comes with one potential downside: If you do your work too well, no one will know you did anything at all. So, for those interested in old house details, here are a few highlights.

Remember the doorknob?

Old_Chrome

I was all set to buy a new one, thinking this one was a badly worn artifact of the mid century remodel. It did not match the other knobs in our house; in fact it didn’t even look to me like it would have come from 1912. But a painter that had been working in our house told me that it was indeed original. Although the hall knob (on the other side of the door) was quite ornate, the inside bathroom knob and the inside kitchen knobs were simple and smooth, in an early twentieth century attempt to create a more sterile environment. And since chrome was not the finish of the day, these knobs were usually plated in polished nickel. The story intrigued me so much, I had the knob re-plated in nickel, even though everything else in the bathroom is chrome. I guess I’m not a purist—or maybe that means I am…

CELEBRATE_KNOB

You might recognize the towel hooks from a past blog entry. That easy project adds just the right detail to the new space.

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I am in awe of the beautiful yet practical storage my husband built, including open shelves for towels, closed deep cupboards for cleaning supplies, shallow storage for small items and a built in hidden laundry chute!

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Above the tub and shower, a row of new-to-look-old cupboards stash anything you don’t care to see for a while.

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Our original commode looks right at home here.

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As does the vintage sink we snagged at the salvage yard.

CELEBRATE_SINK

We found a beautiful, simple cast iron drop-in tub from Waterworks at a local shop. The person that had ordered it changed their mind and I was thrilled to see the exact item I was lusting after online (lusting after, but not being able to afford). The shop gave me a deep discount, and I didn’t have to pay to have it shipped either. Since I was looking for a solution that would marry a modern drop-in tub with a 1912 house, we ended up cutting 18” square marble tiles from Home Depot in half to create an oversized brick pattern to mimic the subway tile.

CELEBRATE_TUB

By moving the tub to the corner, we were able to fit in a separate shower, something I have always wanted. An almost invisible glass door keeps the corner clean and understated, even though it’s a bit of a departure from 1912. Trying to match the age of a house can be tricky with kitchens and bathrooms. My philosophy: strike a balance between comfort and style. You want to live in a house, not a history museum. But I do think the chrome knob on the shower (rather than the standard towel bar) adds a little old-timey class.

CELEBRATE_TUB_SHOWER

The sink is mounted on a short wall sporting a marble cap. This was a feature I chose for practicality as well as authenticity. I found the marble piece at a scrapyard, and my husband (with the help of a few extra saw blades) was able to cut it down to size. Above that, we installed the Restoration Hardware Framed Medicine Cabinet.

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Quite possibly, the most difficult decision was what lights to install. My husband (my lighting expert) suggested two lights, one on each side of the mirror, with the bulbs pointing up, for a “soft bounce” off the ceiling. It was the perfect idea. This set-up provides beautiful, flattering light that easily removes ten years from your age when you look in the mirror. So, that was decided, but where to find just the right lights that celebrate the vintage without looking too fussy? I finally landed on lights from one source and glass shades from another. I got the lights online because I liked the vintage style. Then I bought an inexpensive two armed wall light from Home Depot because I really liked the modern looking straight-sided oval glass shades. I put those with my vintage lamps and they are (in my opinion) the perfect balance of old and new. (or maybe I just like to mettle). At any rate, it was an inexpensive way to get a unique look.

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And speaking of lights, doesn’t every bathroom need a nightlight? I came across this sweet one online, and couldn’t resist.

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I framed black and white pictures of my kids in the old bathroom, bringing these sweet, nostalgic moments to my current bathroom. And now they adorn the three walls surrounding my tub.

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Just for fun, here’s where I found our tub spout, tub handles, shower handles, laundry chute pull and cupboard door knobs.

I’m so giddy about my bathroom remodel I don’t even mind the fact that some people may not know I did anything. The hotel-like amenities and soaking tub provide a welcome retreat in which I will celebrate this finish for years to come!

CELEBRATE_TP

IDEA 69: HELP YOURSELF BY HELPING SOMEONE ELSE

Mar
2014

Inside_bike

This morning I put my bike up on rollers in my sunroom. Even though there is still a couple feet of (old, dreary) snow outside, I’m determined to be bike-trained by June. See, I’ve committed to ride in the MS 150; a hundred and fifty mile bike ride over two days, to help generate money for a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. So, what does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, as moms, it’s difficult for us to carve out “me time.” It seems there is always something or someone else that is more important than ourselves to consider. And so, we ignore our needs and tend to the squeakiest wheel.

But, child-rearing time is also a great time to consider helping out a charity. It’s your perfect excuse to lean a little harder on your husband or support system, because after all, it’s not for you. It’s for the charity.

When my kids were small, our church often held sewing nights. All interested persons with a sewing machine would show up and spend an evening making diapers out of old T-shirts. Day care was provided by somebody’s older child, and it was a great way to catch up with like-minded-freedom-deprived moms.

When my kids got a little older, they enjoyed pitching in to the cause. Which was, of course, a great way to teach kids about giving back. A local chapter of Feed My Starving Children held a 24 hour marathon in our town. Anyone could sign up for a shift bagging beans and rice for the less fortunate. The task was easy for my daughter and her friend to learn, but the best part was picking our shift, from 2:30 to 4:00 A.M.

We set our alarm clocks and drove in the dark to the facility. It was the most inspiring thing I’d done–especially in a hairnet. And I’ll never forget how, after our shift as we stepped out of the building, we were greeted by the most beautiful sunrise.

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So, this June I’ll do my best to ride my butt off for MS. Along with that comes the quest of getting myself in shape, and a goal to get on that bike every morning without fail for the next several weeks. It’ll be a little something for MS. And it’ll be a great big deal for me.

Win-win.

IDEA 68: STAY POSITIVE

Feb
2014

Chocolate_Butterfly_cake_top

We all have our coping mechanisms, and it’s a good thing we do. Here in Minnesota, winter brings a boat-load of snow and this year, record below zero temperatures to boot. That’s why I was so delighted to see this sweet extra-curricular project my daughter fashioned. Here, in the midst of snow days and the occasional power outage, she didn’t just bake a cake. She baked a pink-and-chocolate-and-white cake with a lacy chocolate butterfly on top.

The cake is tiny, only about four inches across. It’s white cake, covered in chocolate buttercream frosting, with rolled white chocolate over that. She piped a ring of frosting around the bottom into which she pressed alternating light and dark pink m&m candies. But the true genius is the butterfly. After melting the chocolate, she folded a piece of parchment paper and placed it, unfolded, onto an open book. The parchment paper took the shape of the curved pages underneath, as did the chocolate, drizzled in a butterfly shape. Once cooled (in the fridge), the resulting winged creature stands 3-D atop the cake as if it just alighted temporarily before moving on to the next posy.

I can’t decide which was the more gratifying winter escape: The beautiful butterfly, or gobbling it up! Yum!

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