Tuesday, January 31, 2012

14 Love Letter Prompts

I've decided to do my own version of the 14 Days of Valentine's Day.  I have an amazing husband, one whom I don't tell nearly enough how great he is.  I'm all for striving to show him how much I love him throughout the year but I think its great that I get to do something extra special in February.  My husband loved his anniversary gift and I'm discovery how much he needs that validation on a regular basis, just like me and the best way to do this is through word.

I've decided that for my 14 Days of Valentine's Day I will write my husband some sort of love letter.  It's inexpensive and something he will hopefully cherish for years to come.  The supplies and prep were fairly minimal.

Envelopes (Hobby Lobby)
Cream Paper
Black Vinyl
Ink & Stamps
Paper Punches

I used vinyl for my envelopes for the day numbers.  I used stamps for the brackets on the envelope and the "love" at the bottom of each piece of paper for my signature.  I used a lip punch for the bottom right corner sort of as a "sealed with a kiss."

Then I came up with some prompts for each letter to help add some diversity.

Day 1:       Dreams
Day 2:       Favorite Memory
Day 3:       Write a Poem
Day 4:       Physical Traits
Day 5:       Personality Traits
Day 6:       Things That Make Me Happy
Day 7:       Funny Memory
Day 8:       Crossword
Day 9:       Favorite Hobbies/Dates
 Day 10:    Things I‘ve Learned
Day 11:     Acrostic Poem “VALENTINE”
Day 12:     Fond Memory from the Past Year
Day 13:     Something You Might Not Know About Me
Day 14:     All About Love

I'm pretty darn excited, now I just need to get busy writing my first letter.  Happy 14 Days of Valentine's!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Best Blog Designs - (Simplify)

This is a year of changes for me.  Some of them small some of them big, either way the key is going to be to learn how to simplify my life in preparation for this change.  One of those things I hope to accomplish very soon is to give my blog a make-over.  It has been long overdue.  Today's guest post is by one of my designer friends who addresses both issues.  I hope you will take a look around her blog, she has some great suggestions.


Hello Everyone! I'm so excited to be featured by Sarah today! Isn't she great?

Quick introduction: I'm Caley (long "a" sound).

Sarah and I attended school together a few years back and have both, obviously, fell in love with blogging as well! I share my design work at Design by Caley as well as write for howdoesshe.com.

Sarah asked if I would talk a little bit about simplicity today.
Not only is it important in life, but also in the design and blogging world.

One thing I love about simplicity is that it lets the details speak for themselves. It allows the eye to settle on the focal points while settling the mind on what is most important for the moment.

The same thing is important in blog design. Blogs have backdrops, focal points, explanations, and drama. But WE must decide what they are. I recently realized this and gave my blog a makeover.

Tips I've Learned over my Blog Designing Years:

Simple is Better. While it is fun to have cute backgrounds, buttons, headers, and so forth, don't get carried away. A busy looking blog can be distracting for readers. Decide what is most important and make that the focal point (it should usually be your posts.) Do this by simplifying all the other aspects of your blog.

Don't be Afraid of Negative Space. This allows the more important aspects to stand out. Think of a museum. The backdrop is completely white allowing the art to be the focal point. It is the same with blogs. Use that space to frame the important things and lead the eye to what you want readers to go to first!

Font Overload. There are some pretty awesome fonts these days. I could not choose a favorite if you made me. ;) BUT that's not a reason to use them all. The general rule for fonts is to not use more than two, three at the most.  Decide on 2 main fonts. Select the easiest to read (i.e. arial, georgia, helvetica, century gothic) for the body of your blog. Then use the other as the date, gadget, or post titles. This allows for personality, but also lets your readers actually read the text. There's nothing worse than going to a blog and giving up after the first sentence because you can't read it.

Pictures Speak How Many Words? Photography is a beautiful thing. It captures moments, tells stories, evokes emotion, brings back memories, and much more. You don't have to have a fancy camera to take a good photo. You also don't have to have a perfect photo to blog. But in today's busy world, most readers are skimming their favorite blogs, not necessarily reading them. Photos allow readers to stay updated without spending a lot of time reading. That's why it's a good idea to include a few photos in your posts.

Once you have those beautiful photos, make them BIG! In the template designer under "adjust widths" it allows you to widen your blog enough to make those photos big enough to see what's going on! When writing your posts, click on the photos you've uploaded and choose "x-large". I promise it will be worth it. ;)

Tabs/Pages. This is one of my favorite aspects of the new blogger. They can help clean up your sidebars by taking those many photos, stories, and buttons and organizing them into categories under your tabs. It's also much easier for readers to navigate through. They can be placed across the top, under your header; or along the side like the ones on my blog.

See all the blogs I've designed HERE!

If you haven't figured out the new blogger interface quite yet, you're in luck! I've recently made a quick, basic, tutorial. See it HERE!

I hope these tips help you as you simplify your blogs! If you have any questions feel free to email me at caleypark @ gmail.com!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Valentine Decorating Ideas - (LOVE)

Here is another masterpiece my mother-in-law and I came up with for Valentine decorating ideas.  I don't have any pink in my house and I don't put a lot of effort in to Valentine's Day decorations.  I like holiday decor that is simple, classy, and will match what I already have up year round.

I once again turned to Pinterest to find my inspiration for Valentine decorating ideas.  One girl had taken a canvas and place the letters LOVE vertically and in two rows.  It looked so simple and fun.  However, her's had bright splashes of colors for her letters which would not fit my house.  Thus the wheels started turning on how I could adapt this project and make it my own.

The best part is that this tutorial is super easy.


-large piece of canvas (my mother and I found a 2 pack at Hobby Lobby and used a 40% off coupon)
-newspaper or old book pages
-Modge Podge
-chip board letters ($1.99 a piece at Hobby Lobby)
-black acrylic paint
-sponge brushes
-E-6000 glue

Step 1:  The Paper

Now had I had my way I would have found an inexpensive copy of Pride and Prejudice and started ripping out the pages.  However I didn't have one on hand.  Thus I took a newspaper and started ripping it into pieces.  I didn't wan't any photos or large titles that would stand out.  It's nice to use different shapes but I suggest trying to make your pieces of ripped paper fairly large.  It will take fewer pieces to cover the board.

Step 2:  Burn the Edges

I took just a handful of my ripped newspaper pieces and burned the edges just slightly.  I did this over my sink so that I could drop the paper if I didn't blow the flame out in time.  Please note the newspaper burns quickly.  Please use extra caution when do this.

Step 3:  Modge Podge

Next comes the Modge Podge.  I would take my brush and put a little bit of Modge Podge on the canvas where the paper was going as well as on the back of the paper.  Then I would place it down, smoothing it out as much as possible.  I would do this to several pieces of paper, layering them on top of one another and had them going different directions.  After I had about half of the board covered I would Modge Podge the top of the newspaper, once again smoothing out the ripples.  Repeat this step until the whole canvas is covered.

I then Modge Podged the burnt pieces on top, strategically placing them on my canvas using the same process.

I let the whole thing dry for an hour or so and then did one final Modge Podge layer on top.

Step 4: Paint Your Letters

This step doesn't need any explanation.  You can seal the paint if you like however I liked the matte look.

Step 5:  Glue

I measured the side of my canvas and my letters to center the L and the E.  I placed some E-6000 glue on the back and stuck them on.  This was easiest as I was able to match the side of the canvas up with the side of my letters.  I was then able to take my ruler and place it on the bottom of these two letter to match up the O and the V and just eyeballed it to make sure they were about the same distance apart.

Step 6:  Find a fabulous place to display your piece.

I would say that total this Valentine's Day project took me maybe an hour and a half (not including drying time) and took very little skill.

Perhaps one of the things I love most about my last couple of Valentine decorating ideas is that they can be used for more than just this holiday.  I could leave the LOVE board or my AMOUR banner up for a while and pull it out for special occasions like anniversaries or date nights.

How do you decorate for Valentine's Day?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Texture Ball - (DIY Home Decor)

Another favorite school project of mine was the texture ball and was done at the very beginning of my freshman year at college.

The Project:  Take a Styrofoam ball and cover it in whatever material you want that would show tactile texture but also be visually pleasing and interesting.

It was really cool to see what some people came up with.  For mine I used small Christmas Bulbs and took the the tops off (the part where the hook goes).  I glued them on with hot glue and filled the negative space with colored saran wrap.  I didn't have to glue the saran wrap.  I just took a small amount and with a sewing pin just shoved it into the space.  It was so simple to make but made such a statement.

With Valentines Day just around the corner I'm thinking this would have made an excellent topiary piece or one that just stands alone on a mantle.  What do you think?

I also had the thought that this would be a fun "Challenge Project."  The idea would be that bunch of us bloggers would all try to come up with our own texture ball and then in the end have a parade of all the different designs.  If you're interested in participating email me at info@sarahdawndesigns.com .  

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Cardboard Chair

It's been a Monday if there ever was one.  Remember all of the big changes that I'm working on for 2012? Let's just say that January has been quite the month and today I was feeling a little overwhelmed.  I haven't gotten nearly as much done as I had hoped.  Being away from home and my husband for a few weeks tends to throw you for a loop but... it's for a good cause.

To help remedy my Monday blues I started looking through photos of years past and came across some of my school projects.  One in particular was this cardboard chair.

The project:  To build a chair completely out of cardboard and glue that could sustain at least around 200 lbs.  We were also focusing on green design, sustainability, ergonomics, and functionality.

We were split into groups of three.  My group and I found our inspiration from a couple of cardboard tubes that were laying in one of the offices left over from our floorplan printer.  From there we gathered up as many of those cardboard tubes from around campus and headed to a carpet store for the larger tubes.  Cutting the carpet tubes was quite the chore.

This chair was surprisingly comfortable and rather durable.  Most of all, I loved the unique design, it really is a piece of art.  It's amazing what we can make out of recycled materials.  It might be time to challenge myself with some sort of project like this.  Anyone else interested in joining me?

Have you made anythings out of cardboard?  How about out of recycled materials?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Valentine's Day Craft Projects - (Holiday Banner)

 I had been itching do some sort of project the only problem is that I've been traveling so much I don't always have my "regular" tools and supplies with me at all times.  Lucky for me I have a mother-in-law who doesn't mind being my partner in crime.

I had been perusing the Pinterest boards looking at Valentine's Day craft projects not knowing what I should do.  I don't typically get all gung-ho when it comes to some of the smaller holidays and after Christmas don't really want to re-decorate my house again.  I also don't really want to put a bunch of colors up that don't already go with my everyday decor.  That's when my light bulb went off.  I could make a holiday banner.

My house has touches of shabby chic in it and a lot of black and white, silver, gold, etc.  I had an idea in my head of what I kind of wanted the holiday banner to look like.  I opted for the word "Amour" to "Love" as I not only have another craft in mind for that word but also wanted something a little longer.  Thus, off to Hobby Lobby we went in search of  various papers.  Little did we know that was the easy part.

Next we logged in Silhouette's library and found various tag templates for all of the backgrounds.  The hardest part was deciding how to accent each letter and background.  I'm not kidding when I say I spent a few hours on this part.  The Silhouette did all of the cutting for me so after my design was complete I just had to assemble it together.

I couldn't be happier with the outcome.  I can easily hang this up in my house without doing any sort of re-arranging of my current decor and it not only acts as a Valentine's Day banner but it could also double as an Anniversary banner.

Here are the specifics for each letter:

A - Black and White Cream Polka Dot Paper Background; Grey Paper with Music for the Shield
M- Tan Paper with Words All Over for Background; Pearl Embellishments on top of the Letter
0 - Red Damask Paper Background; Cardboard and White Pearl Specialty Papers for Rectangles behind the Letter; Hearts Punched out of Various Papers
U - Grey and Cream Small Polka Dot Paper for Background; 2 Flourishes out of Cream Cardstock; White Pearl Specialty Paper for the Bird
R - White and Gold Patterned Specialty Paper for Background; Gold, Word, and Grey Cardstock for the Brackets

Then of course there is the Fleur De Lis which is on a pink striped paper.  It has just a touch of glitter which I love.

I used the antique ink on a few of the papers to help add a little variety as well.

Overall it really is a simple project, one worth attempting.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Resolutions Printable - (Download of the Month)


Happy New Years!  I had a friend who asked if I could make some printables that would help her keep track of some of her health goals.  I thought that this idea would make a great free Download of the Month for January and I think they turned out pretty darn good.

There are two different types of downloads this month.  The first is a monthly calendar to keep track of when you reach your daily goals.  The beauty is you get to set your goals.  You get to decide how many hours of sleep each night you want to get, how much exercise and what type, how much water you want to drink each day, and if you keep within your set goals for "treats."  As you can see you just fill in each month with a white board marker on top of the glass of your 8 x 10 frame and check off the goals you reach each day.

The second set of printables are for your weekly goals.  It is a little more detailed in that you keep track of how many cups of water you drink each day, the number of hours of sleep, what you do for exercise each day and what "treats" you did or did not eat.  Again you get to set your own goals.

Then you wipe it away and start over each week.

So what is a treat?  Anything you are trying to limit.  Perhaps crackers are your treats that you want to only eat twice a week.  Maybe you are trying to limit the amount of breads you eat.  As you can see my weakness right now is sugars.  The idea is that by writing down what treats you do eat you will be more conscious each day of what you eat.

You can find all of the downloads at my website.  They are jpeg files and are intended to be printed on 8.5 x 11 size paper and trimmed down to fit into an 8 x 10 frame.

Happy Health!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Exercising in 2012 (What's Your Excuse?)

Photo Source: Alantankenghoe

I know it's that dreaded "E" word.  The problem is that it really shouldn't be something we dread or cringe each time we hear it.  Exercise is such a wonderful gift we have been given, one that is overlooked.  Not anymore.  Exercising is 2012 is about taking advantage of what we do have, what we can control. 

Less than a year ago I was sitting in a room with a counselor discussing my struggles with depression after a third miscarriage AND my constant battle with anxiety.   My counselor made sure to point out that depression and anxiety are two very different things but sometimes the treatments for both may be similar.  At the time I was trying to switch anxiety medications and was having a really hard time.  For various reasons other than just the medication I was having a lot of stomach pains, anxiety, depression, and other physical ailments.  Emotionally I was a wreck and common tasks like eating were a struggle.  I had become a hermit in a few short weeks.  My counselor had suggested that whether or not I was on medications to help with my anxiety and depression one of the most important things I could do (I being the important word for someone with anxiety) was to make sure I was getting an adequate amount of exercise in.  Not feeling helpless is key to duking it out with my anxiety.  The problem lie in the fact that it physically hurt to sit up for too long let alone getting out of the house to do anything.

Luckily I was blessed with an amazing husband who strongly encouraged me to push through the pain, a little at a time.  I would go sit at the table and work on a puzzle for X amount of minutes.  I would take a walk around the block regardless of the cold weather.  The steps were small but it was amazing how much a short walk helped me physically and emotionally.

I'm not always in such a low state but like many exercise always seems like such a chore.  "I'm too busy.  I'm too tired.  There aren't enough hours in the day.  It hurts to exercise.  I hurt after I exercise.  It's not fun.  People are judging me while I exercise.  I often don't feel very well.  It's cold outside.  The gym is too far away. I don't have anyone to exercise with."  Etc. Etc. Etc.  Ya I use those excuses too. 

That's where exercise becomes an oxymoron.  Sometimes exercise will hurt or we may be tired but the way to get more energy yes even sometimes how to overcome pain is to exercise.  Starting before Thanksgiving I had started training to run a 5K with a friend.  Small I know but it was a goal.  Three times a week we would run for a minute and walk for a minute, 8 times with a warm up and cool down.  It took about 45 minutes.  Surprisingly those days that I ran I had a large increase in energy.  I was getting way more done on a day I exercised vs. one I didn't.  The first day or two I definitely hurt afterwards but that pain started going away the more I exercised.

Mentally, the thought of exercise can be daunting but if you just push that thought to the back for 30 minutes a world of difference can be found.

Currently I have been given exercise restrictions from my doctor and can't do anything more than walking.  I may not be able to burn huge amounts of calories or get my heart rate up.  That doesn't matter.  Walking is better than nothing.  Sometimes we are limited in what we can and can't do.  I just hope that when it comes to exercising in 2012 we do something to get the endorphins going.  Could it be hard?  Sure, but it won't always be.  In fact I find that in the end I'm a happier healthier person capable balancing quite a bit.

Truth be told.  I can't afford to not exercise.  Can you?