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Friday, August 22, 2014

Gold Accessories are Back in Fashion, so why not gold bra straps?

Oval gold link bra straps by Brapples
Have you noticed lately the huge come back gold accessories are making this year? They are everywhere now in stores, taking over the decades of silver only mentality when it comes to accessorizing. I used to look down at my gold wedding band and engagement ring and think....well you can tell which decade I got married in. I suppose if you wait a bit everything comes back in vogue. Now if you were like many of my friends who sold all their gold in one of those "bring your gold and get money for it" parties that have been the rage for several years now, then I guess you start all over. Might I suggest some gold detachable bra straps shown here. Forget the necklace when wearing these. You will definitely get noticed.  But when you do want that touch of gold around your neck, the below sections are two of my favorite that I have worn all summer. Great length for layering and have adjustable chains in the back. So if you are like me and you hung on to your gold, then it is time to put it back on. If not, Brapples unique jewelry and bra straps has you covered.
White Star Fish necklace
Blue and Gold Necklace

Monday, August 18, 2014

Patio Designed to Live In

My husband and I live in a fairly tiny 110 year old home. We use every inch of our space, and each room is lived in. There is no off limits...this is only for guest rooms in our home. I have busted into walls to add shelving nooks, and walled off space from bedrooms to make one more closet.  The thing about old homes is they definitely give off a vibe of history when you walk in; in fact mine was once an antique store called the Iron Horse Antiques. But they do not come with an abundance of closets or oversize bathrooms. So we live with a small carbon footprint which seems to be in vogue now. We are lucky that collectively my husband and I are experienced plumbers, wood workers, dry-wallers, floor layers, landscapers, seamstress, interior decorator and electrician. We don't need to call out for help very much which is a great thing when you purchase an old home. So recently we put more emphasis on our backyard so that it could be an extension of our home. We love it, and the whole space is under a canopy of a gigantic magnolia tree that we light at night.


I built this table out of cedar wood. The legs I believe were ordered off ebay. The chandelier is a massive size candle holder found at TJ Max that I stuffed with brown roped Christmas lights, hung with a chain and connected to the round tea lights within the trees. To the right I made a window box and simple shutters, all made from cedar. I lined the wood window box with 1/4 inch concrete board to make it even more water proof. The hardware is just accessory items from Hobby Lobby made to look like shutter dogs and door pulls. The privacy screen (seen closer below) is actually three iron garden trellis from Hobby Lobby ( I use to use two of them for trade shows, and I was lucky enough to find one more),. We added the old shutters in between to hide the metal structure my husband rigged up to hold them in place. And those are just candle holders that we screwed into the shutters. This whole structure is actually lifted from the ground about a foot to maximize height and to protect it from the elements of nature.

This is a close up of a bamboo love seat I found at a consignment shop for $75. I did however have to touch up the stain and reupholster the bottom cushions with left over fabric. The top cushions were beyond help so I purchased three outdoor pillows and made the two graphic pillows to coordinated the look with the other chairs. I save furniture like my sister-in-law saves pets. She probably gets more saintly points, but at least I am saving the planet and the landfill. That is what I tell my husband anyway.

Below is a close up of the window box. The project requires skill with a miter box and table saw. And a nail gun powered by an air compressor for me is a must.
    Here is an older picture that shows the maple tree that hangs over the patio lit up by bulb lights from Target. To the left is our garage which we recently had built with a room above for our two boys to have their own space. As they get older they seem to accumulate more smells and attitude, so a detached space from the house for them is a win-win for everyone.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My daughter's bra straps keep showing

I hear this comment all the time from moms about their daughter's bra straps showing. Then they look down at the many decorative bra straps on display, and found on, and at first think they are looking at beautiful beaded necklaces, or in the case of my braided bra straps, awesome headbands. When I tell them they are decorative bra straps, I always get the same look...that, are your serious look?. After the concept sinks in (usually about 2 seconds) they all say "wow, that is the coolest thing ever", followed by, "why didn't I think of that". Brapples decorative bra straps are a great solution to the dilemma of two generations of women. The 30 to 40 year old generation who are trying hard to conceal or blend their bra straps with their tops, to those teens and 20 year olds who don't mind if they show their ugly tan, black, or contrasting bra strap as some sort of ill advised fashion statement. I personally always tried very hard to conceal my bra straps, and would buy many different color bras and shove them in a drawer hoping I could find the right color later. And there was nothing more dreadful than wearing that strapless bra when no other bra would work. Brapples decorative bra straps was an answer to my own issues with ugly bra straps showing, and from its ever growing popularity with customers, I'd say women of all ages felt the same.

Brapples braided straps come in wide variety of color combinations. This picture shows the orange/white/blue style. Braided bra straps are made of comfortable stretchy material with an additional length adjustment in the back. These are great for sports activity because they stay on your shoulders even better than normal bra straps. I wear them with tank tops and those colorful strappy style dresses and tops. This style is a great solution for moms who are tired of seeing their daughters bra straps and at just $8 each they are very affordable. Buy several colors and make it fun, like the way they decide to leave the house with two different color socks on their feet. I have even seen some girls hook the two ends together and wear them as a headband.

For woman in their late 20's, 30's to 50's, the beaded and rhinestone bra straps are perfect for accessorizing our outfits. We can buy those off the shoulder tops that are so popular now because there is cute shoulder jewelry available now to hold things in place. It really has become my favorite way to accessorize. They are functional and stylish, and with all my beaded and rhinestone bra straps, along with the braided and solid color bra straps I wear, I have been able to edit my bra drawer down to just comfortable nude color convertible bras. Before I had every ill-fitted color you can imagine. Never to be found again once stuffed in my drawer. The straps can be hung like necklaces, or just place them all in a easy to store decorative box on your dresser. Brapples has other unique accessories such as fabric belts, and faux fur scarf/hats that can be found in stores across the country. But even easier, find their store on-line at

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Small Bathroom Remodel for less than $2000

This small bathroom picture had been filed away for two years in a folder as the exact look I wanted for our home's tiny upstairs bathroom. When I saw it, I knew when the day came when my husband was mentally ready for another home project and was fed up with the ever-clogging pipes in our 100+ year home, that I would pull out my dog-eared magazine clipping and say yet again,"well, I was thinking...". The designer who did this bathroom, Mrs. Phoebe Howard, as she is affectionately known in the designer world has made quite a name for herself through magazines such as Coastal Living and has a store front in my home town of Jacksonville Beach, FL. Well Mrs. Howard, thank you for planting the inspiration seed in my brain and I would like to show you my version (for less than $2000) on your great design.

So here is my reality. Yes it is a tiny bathroom, but it lives large and has a decent size closet that helps. We had to take all the drywall down and remove the entire sub floor to access all the pipes. We jackhammered out 6 inches of poured concrete from the floor, you read that right. Previous owners had leveled the floor with concrete right over the old pipes. I took advantage of attic space above and just like the picture, arched the ceiling in my bathroom by using plywood forms that attached to the top of the old ceiling. My talented drywaller then scored the green board and patiently bent into place, using 5 coats of durabond for a smooth and perfect look. I need a better picture probably. It turned out so pretty I have been afraid to put the accent molding like the inspiration picture. Still looking for a pendant light but it is wired for it. I found the basket weave tile on-line for $13 a square foot. For the record, I called Mrs. Howard about the inspiration floors and was quoted $75 a square foot. I used my old vanity which I had made myself previously out of plywood, but added more stock molding to it so that it would accommodate a new marble top I found on craigslist for $150. Bought a new undermount sink for $80, and sink fixtures for $89 (big time sale). My tip is find the product you love on-line, copy and paste it to google search and start your price comparisons. You can't see it in the original picture, but I will add a close up the ceiling in the shower where I took glass beads (found at hobby stores) and used silicone glue to attach them randomly on the overhead tile. The art work is just two shadow boxes from Hobby Lobby that I took the back off and cut two pieces of clear plastic sheets (also found at Hobby Lobby) to fit inside. The coral was found for $4 each at Ace Hardware in Jacksonville Beach, FL. I painted each one a greyish blue. Walls were painted with Benjamim Moore, Revere Pewter (Aura, Bathroom and Spa) The Aura was a splurge upgrade but with all the steam from a bathroom I considered it a wise investment. Bought new fan vent but threw away the vent cover and made my own out of decorative metal work from Home Depot. Much nicer look. Here are some close ups and some of those ideas, and feel free to comment me and/or let me know if you want more details or links from any of my purchases.

Vent cover is actually a metal screen from home depot. As luck would have it, the protective paint coating on the screen was identical to the paint color I chose. I cut it with metal cutters and framed it with simple molding that I painted with the wall color.

Carrara Marble tile floor with a basket weave pattern. Chose polished, not honed. This has a pretty taupe-grey square mixed with the carrara marble. Used white (not too white) grout. But make sure to mix the grout with a product called "milk" instead of water. It will add the needed protection you need from mildew and mold. Do that in the shower as well. You can not find this product in Home Depot. Try a tile store. Then use an impregnator sealer after it cures such as one made by Dupont that can be used on marble floors. Oh, and can you tell what the legs of the vanity are? Yep, those are post finials that are used mainly for decking (found at home depot). For this project I actually taught myself how to use a paint spray gun. It makes a huge difference on the final look. Husband set up a room of clear plastic sheeting for me on all sides...the prepping takes the longest. Spraying is actually quick. You want to do multiple light coats with the primer and then with the final paint. Lightly sanding when needed.

This was my grandmother's mirror that I already had in the bathroom. Problem was that it was gold. It had a beautiful patina and could be 150 years old. I love it, but gold wasn't working and I really wanted to keep it in the mix. So I purchased some silver leaf rub on paint called Rub n' buff (1/2 FL. oz, tiny tube and goes a long way)at Hobby Lobby and literally used my finger and an old sock to rub it on. I tried my best to keep some of the aged patina. I am just happy that it worked out and didn't totally destroy my grandmother's old mirror.

So this is a picture of the arched ceiling in the shower. Yes, that is glass beads that you buy in a bag for like $2. I used the one that has random clear, white, and buffed beads and randomly placed them as you see in the picture. Everyone that sees it loves it. Because my ceiling arched, I was very limited on what type of tile I could use. I had actually tiled this myself over 8 years ago so all the new hip glass tile in sheets was not available to market yet. This is just floor tile from Home Depot that I modified to look different. I have to say, I still love it. This is so easy to do, and not a single bead has ever fallen off.

This is the marble top I found on craigslist for $150. This is one those purchases you make before ever doing the project just praying that what you think will work, will. Otherwise this would have been passed on to another craigslister. It originally was a piece from Restoration Hardware for $650. So I did score a great deal. I was worried though I wouldn't find a sink to fit. But I believe that if you find something that is a little bigger than the opening it actually looks better. Having more of the counter top overlapping your undermounted sink hides the silicone caulk that is sometimes used to mount the sink. Mine was actually mounted by routering the top of the vanity so that it fit snuggly right on top. All the credit for that rigging job goes to Daniel, my drywaller who is a great "out of box" thinker.

Hopefully this picture shows the extra stock molding detail added to the base of the vanity. The marble top was bigger than the original top that was on here (a yucky goldish fake marbly thing). So I had to beef it up a little on the sides and back so that the top fit better and didn't extend out too much. This is simple to do with any cabinet piece. Think of those flat sides in kitchens. If you were planning on painting them, it would be a good time to add detail such as molding. There is a closer look at the deck finials for legs. You can highlight the picture and see the molding that was used up closer. My pictures are not very professional, and I am now noticing that there is a yellow glow from the light that is on, but hopefully you can get the idea. Mrs. Howard has a staging team that I am sure does all her pictures.

Close up of my inexpensive frames ($20 each, I think I got them half off for $10 at Hobby Lobby). Every room in my house has some form of coastal element to it, usually shells. I grew up in Atlantic Beach, FL but have lived in Chicago now for about 14 winters. Having beachy items reminds me of home and warmth, even when there might be 16 inches of snow on the ground. For this project, just remove the back and cut sheets of plastic (found at Hobby Lobby...I am starting to think they should sponsor this make over) to fit inside. Glue the coral in the center and let dry. Then glue the whole piece so that it sits in the inner rim of the shadow box. Be careful not to let the glue ooze so that it shows past the rimmed frame. Then I glued a second piece of plastic to the inside where the old back use to go. It is a shadow box, so there is space inside for the object. Just make sure your object is not too large.

Hopefully you found one or two ideas you can take away from this project. The bulk of my budget had to go to fixing the pipes underneath, so there wasn't very much for the sexy items that people actually see. I am a naturally cost-saving frugal person, so even if I had extra money to spend on this project (which for the record I don't), I still would have made the same product choices and do-it-yourself design elements. I love the final outcome, dare I say it....even better than Mrs. Howard's design.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Life, Lunch, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Recently I had lunch with a friend who was discussing with me her concerns that her daughter wasn’t getting invited to certain social events, or wasn’t always included within the pack of girls she considered her friends. The mom said she would express her concern over such matters to her child, but she would say “mom, I really don’t care…it doesn’t bother me in the least”. I asked my friend, “is your concern, that it really is bothering her?” She said, “no, I really don’t think it does bother her”. And I could tell on some level perhaps that was what was perplexing to the mom. It is hard to know as a parent in situations like this with your child what to say, how to say it, or do you decide not to say anything at all.

Starting down the road of parenthood, there is so many unknowns and we can’t wait for the next achievement. At first, we are just monitoring them to make sure they are healthy and reach all the milestones within the norm. Then they go off to school and you hope please let my child not be bullied, or worse…be the bully. You pray they are kind, and thoughtful, and secretly you hope that academics will come easy for them. I use to tell everyone that I named my children Mark and Luke so that I was assured that they would at least be able to spell their names by the time they were in Kindergarten. Little did I know that my biggest concern would be that one of them insisted on sliding into the reading area as if he was running to home plate for the winning run. Apparently, in the “teacher world” this meant he was socially immature. As I am listening to my son’s teacher talk about such incidences with disapproval I am thinking to myself “it is a good thing you weren’t at my home a couple years ago when this same child dropped his pants and did his (#2) business in my front yard with onlookers across the street. Or when this same child stuck a dehydrated blueberry up his nose and it took five people holding him down at the E.R. to extract it”. I don’t know about you, but with that kind of past social lack of judgment on my child’s part, I wasn’t taking her sliding into the reading area concerns too seriously, obviously I had bigger issues than that. But slowly, my child outgrew his fetish for putting things in his nose and ears (I still don’t know what on earth possesses kids to do that) and he also learned to at least do his business in private…sadly not always in a bathroom. Even my 14 year old gets lazy about that. What’s with boys…just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Yes my kids have issues, and like my friend I do worry that they will be socially accepted for who they are. But I also told her that her concern that her child feels included was something that follows us into adulthood. And that she needs to rethink how she is viewing her daughter’s situation. I told her that she should be forever grateful that her daughter doesn’t care that she isn’t included. To me that means she is comfortable with who she is even at such a young age. And to know that now about herself is such a gift. That in life, we don’t need a lot of friends, we just need the right friends for us. I also told her that “in my prayers I always ask one thing of the lord when it comes to my children…that they will always be content with who they are”. Because I feel that so many children and adults make themselves unhappy by trying to be someone they are not, by living up to someone else’s expectations of success, or look, dress, and act a certain way because society says that is what is cool, and will make you loved by your peers. Being in honors classes, or playing every sport…or later, having a big house, driving the right kind of car or cars, being a member of the country club, or a member of some social circle…it doesn’t make the person. And it certainly doesn’t make a person happy in the long term.

When it comes to happiness, “think small.” A study with America's elders at Cornell University revealed that we must be aware and attentive to small pleasures in daily life, even as we may be waiting for something in our lives to change. Seniors are consciously grateful for what they have, right now, rather than pinning their happiness on future achievements or possessions. How nice it would be if we all acknowledged that concept sooner rather than later in life.

I believe what makes us all “content” as humans is an inner core belief, and just a knowing of oneself. It is definitely not the stuff we accumulate, which is all that is…stuff. Friends will come and go our entire life, many of us will feel rich and poor within our life time, we will go from relying on shelter from our parents, to squatter-like quarters in college, to ultimately for many owning your own home. The only difference you will find with people is some will take what they have for granted, other’s will feel entitled to it, and lucky are those who are “content” and appreciative of who they are, what they have, the contributions they make to their fellow man, and the person they have become.

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. ~A.A. Milne

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