Sunday, March 30, 2008

For Those Other 364 Days

I was planning on writing on this subject anyway, but tonight seems particularly appropriate since we are experiencing a white-out blizzard here in Laramie and it feels more like the middle of December than nearly April.

Looking around my apartment recently, I realized that I have several Christmas decorations out to use year-round. I have four tree ornaments hanging on my kitchen cabinent handles, an angel cookie stamp on my back-splash, and Christmas bells on my bedroom door. And really, why not?

I had been using these items out of season inadvertently, I kept them out because I like them and I thought they looked nice in my kitchen. Especially with tree ornaments, relatively neutral shapes such as stars can make cute adornments even in the summer. So instead of tossing all of your "Christmas stuff" back in the closet as soon as the holidays are over, see if you can get more than two weeks worth of use out of some of your decorations.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Whatever Fish You Wish

I love my hurricane vase. Every home should have one. I fill it with lemons, oranges, squashes, garland--whatever the season or my mood calls for, creating an easy and elegant centerpiece. Recently, I was thinking about what I would fill it with next when I realized that it might make an interesting fishbowl. And now that I am back from Spring Break, I am the proud owner of a calico-colored Shubunkin goldfish. Her name is Lola, which means "sorrow" in Spanish but she's brightening up my living room already. I will assume the fish is a she because I like the name and the calico coloring is so pretty, but it may be a Luke. Oh well.

I wanted the fishbowl to be interesting for me to look at and nice for Lola to live in. I started by filling the bottom with decorative natural-colored rocks and pebbles. These can be found in the home decorating section of stores like Target, Walmart and Pier One, usually priced between $5-$10.

Then instead of a tacky plastic castle or treasure chest, I put in two antique glass insultors. I used to use them for decoration on my bookshelf, but they look great in the water too. These now-collectable knick-knacks were onced used on the tops of telephone and electric poles in the late 19th to early 20th century. Even though mine are nearly 100 years old, they cost less than $5 at my local flea market. I think they are an unexpected, fun twist on fishbowl decoration.

For now, I bought a cheap plastic plant to give Lola a plant to swim around and through, but I hope to find a more interesting twist on the fishbowl plant too. I'm not sure what could substitute, but I will be keeping my eyes open.

Although I'm still working on it, I really like my hurricane vase turned Lola's new home. It turns out it's pretty easy to turn an ordinary fishbowl into a chic decorative piece.

Friday, March 21, 2008

International Cosmo-Blogging Part II: Unser Heime im Berlin

My dad and I just got back from three days in Berlin, so I thought I would share a little about our home away from home in Berlin. We stayed for two nights at the NH AlexanderPlatz Hotel, located in the eastern section downtown Berlin. I really loved the styling of this hotel. It was very modern and clean. Something I'd love to do with my place if I were fabulously wealthy.
So, Berlin--was amazing. We left Wiesbaden on Wednesday morning and traveled by train for about 5 hours to get to Berlin. We rode in a first-class cabin and it was actually a very comfortable and relaxing trip.
After we checked into the hotel, we headed down to Museum Island, an area in Berlin packed with museums. First we went to the Pergamon Museum, where we saw the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon and an amazing frieze from a temple in Greece. We then headed to the Berliner Dom, a Lutheran cathedral with the largest crypt in Germany in its basement.
The next day, we took a great 4-hour walking tour around the city and visited the Altes Museum, where we saw many ancient Egyptian artifacts, including the famous Nefertiti bust.
On the last day, we went up in the Fernsehterum, a 203 meter high TV tower. The views of the city were incredible. Then we took the train back again. I think we did a good job of getting a lot of sight-seeing into just a few days.

And tomorrow, it's back to Wyoming. Back to my apartment and enough blogging about my travels. I'm sad to see my vacation end!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

International Cosmo-Blogging Part I: Guten tag aus Deutschland

I've been on Spring Break vacation in Germany for 4 days now and I'm having a great time. I am staying at my dad's place in Wiesbaden and since my blog is all about the living space, I thought I would talk a little about his apartment. It is in a very cool, old neighborhood about 5 minutes from downtown Wiesbaden, a city of about 300,000. The interior is beautiful, with hardwood floors and crown molding. And it is so nice having a house to come back to instead of a hotel while on vacation.

A little update on the vacation: so far, we have been very busy. On Saturday, my sister and her boyfriend came to visit while they were on vacation in Brussels and they joined me, my dad and stepmom when we went to visit the Denkmal statue memorial, looked at a bunch of castles along the Rhine River, and stopped at a cafe in the town Bacarus. Then, on Sunday we went to the Dom in Cologne, a giant 13th century church in which we had to climb 509 steps to get to the top! We then drove my sister and her boyfriend all the way back to Brussels. Yesterday, we took it a little easier. When my dad went into work, my stepmom and I walked into downtown Wiesbaden and did a little shopping. Here are some pictures I've taken:

The vineyards and the Rhine River by the Denkmal. We rode in gondolas to get the top of the hill where the statue was.

Kaitlin, my dad, and me in Bacarus.

The Dom church in Cologne. Yes, I hiked to the top of that thing! But the view from the top was definitely worth it.

So much driving around on the Autobahn!

Today, my dad and I are planning on going to Mainz to try to teach me how to drive a stick-shift. We'll see how that goes. And then on Wednesday, it's off to Berlin! More pictures to come.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen!

Tomorrow I will be leaving Laramie to go to Germany for my final Spring Break. Although I will only be gone nine days, there are still some small preparations for my apartment that I’m going to make. I've collected these tips from years of traveling, so if you are leaving town, you may want to try them as well.

1. Unplug everything
This may be three years of dorm living talking, but whenever I leave my house for more than a weekend, I always unplug all of my electronics. Not only does this protect against accidentally leaving your alarm clock on while you are gone, but it is also an easy precaution to take against power surges or electrical problems that could possibly spark a fire. Yes, the likelihood is very small, but when everything is unplugged, it’s something you never have to think about.

2. Tell your neighbors you are leaving
Don’t announce it to the whole neighborhood, but make sure that someone you trust who lives close, such as a neighbor or landlord, knows when you are leaving and when you will be back. Also make sure that person knows how to get a hold of you, so when they see a moving van in your driveway and strange men moving out all of your furniture, they can alert you—after they call the police, that is.

3. Where are my keys?
Unless you are going to be driving your car, it’s rarely a good idea to take your keys with along with you on your trip. You don’t need them and you run the risk of losing them permanently. Save yourself a headache when you get home and leave them with a reliable friend or family member.

4. Don’t forget about your plants
If you are only leaving for about a week, your plants will probably be fine, but any longer and they may start to get thirsty. If you don’t want to make arrangements for someone to come in a water your plants while you are gone, but you think they’ll probably dry up before you get back, consider putting them in your sink, or if you have a lot, in the bathtub. Fill the sink with a few inches of water and simply put your plants in (of course this only works for potters with drain holes).

Now you can save your worrying for things like passports, airport security and jet lag. Bon voyage!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Oh, Bama!

Alright, this has nothing to do with my apartment but it's just so exciting that I have to share it with everyone. Last night Sen. Barack Obama held a campaign rally at the University of Wyoming, where I am a senior journalism student. I really wanted to go, but I was exhausted after spending the last two days in Denver and upon seeing the line to get into the Arena Auditorium that was literally hundreds of people long, I decided I just wasn’t up for it.

But thanks to my connections from my former internship with the UW Media Relations Office and the fabulous Kristen, who is currently an intern there, I was able to get in without waiting in line at all. And not into the stands, but into the media area, complete with my own press pass. It's moments like these that remind a girl why she got into journalism: for the awesome hook-ups and free food!

There is no word to describe the experience other than “thrilling.” It was so exciting to know that I was seated a mere 50 feet away from the man who might (I hope) be the next president. Going to a political rally seems like such a seminal college experience, I’m so glad that I got to participate in something like that. And although Obama didn’t say anything I hadn’t heard before from him, he is an amazing orator and I felt very inspired.

Here are some more pictures I took last night:

There was a ton of national media there. It was weird seeing people from places like NBC, CNN and AP in little, ol' Laramie.

Kristen and me in the press box. Note the unwashed masses above us.

There were about 5,000 people there. Not as many as I expected, but it was still a big crowd. Especially for Republican Wyoming.

Yes, that is Ok Go! They were standing about 5 feet in front of me, but I was too chicken to ask for a picture. They are crazy for Obama!

One of Kristen's photos. She got really close! Check out her blog for her take on the event. She touched his hand, folks!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Art of Simplicity is a Puzzle of Complexity

This next idea isn’t actually something I’ve done in my home. It comes courtesy of my friend Kristen, who has done some amazingly cute things with her studio apartment. One day I noticed a lovely new piece of art on her kitchen wall. When she told me the print I was admiring was actually a puzzle, I couldn’t believe what a great idea that was. Not only is it a very cool idea to hang a puzzle on your wall, but from a distance, you can hardly tell. So here is how to create your own:

Just like working with tapestries over slip-covers gives you a lot more range in playing with patterns, using puzzles as wall art opens up a whole new world of choices. Try what Kristen did, and choose a puzzle that is based on a piece of art or a vintage poster. A good backing to use is foam board. It is cheap and can easily be cut with a craft knife to the exact size of the puzzle.

Once the puzzle is assembled, use puzzle glue (about $3 for a bottle) to adhere the puzzle pieces together. Coat the front, and once it has dried, flip the puzzle over and coat the back. Repeat the process. Then use craft glue to mount the puzzle onto the foam board.

Once the glue is dry and you are satisfied that the puzzle is secure on the board, you can mount it on your wall. For a no-fuss and temporary wall mount, try removable wall tabs, which can be purchased for under $5.

And that's it, your very own puzzle art! Puzzles are a great way to spend quiet time with a friend or someone you love. Now instead of throwing the finished project back in the box, you can have it to keep and enjoy for years.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I'm Ashamed of My Furniture

Finding a furnished apartment is great. That is until you realize that you don’t actually want to touch any of the furniture, particularly the upholstered parts. Who knows who’s been sitting in that chair or what’s been spilled on that couch. Plus, you may have scored an apartment like mine, with furniture that looks like it was lifted from the Murderville Motel.

For simple shapes, like an armless dining-set chair, a slip-cover can be a stylish and inexpensive solution. At stores like Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond, nice slipcovers can be picked up for under $30. But things get more complicated with more complex shaped or larger furniture. Finding an affordable cover for an armed chair or sofa can be difficult.

So instead of wasting hours trying to find a moderately priced slip-cover, only to bring it home and find that it doesn’t fit, consider using tapestries and even blankets to cover your unsightly furniture. It may sound kind of low-rent, but it actually gives you a lot of freedom to experiment with colors and patterns. Even better, if you shop around at small, local stores or vendors, they are generally going to be cheaper than any slip-cover.

And don’t stop with just your chairs. Consider using tapestries to cover ottomans, cheap plastic organizers, or even the tops of bureaus that are stained or scratched. Have fun, get creative and save some money!

For some fun ideas, check out these sites: