Easy Weekend Project: DIY “Floating” Shelves

We didn’t realize that “high ceilings and lots of windows” really meant “your shit is going to look way too small in this place.” We chose to look past the impossibly high ceilings and wall-to-wall carpet because we love our town home’s abundance of sunlight, the lofted office, the breakfast bar and the open, airy feel. Nice tradeoff, eh?

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But seriously, we are having a pretty hard time finding art that’s the appropriate scale. We’re trying.

Everyone has that wall, that one wall, and here was ours:

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I looked into purchasing a painting to cover that non-functioning light switch (seriously, wtf) but narrow, tall, awkward-shaped art is somewhere in the $200 neighborhood, and I didn’t feel like investing that much money or time for the sole purpose of hiding a switch.

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I had some leftover 1 x 4s from some tables we made, and I decided to put them to use and make a faux-floating shelf. Why not make an actual floating shelf? Honestly, the hardware for this method was cheaper, and required fewer tools to install. All I had to buy were a couple of “L” brackets  (I already had the wood and stain).

First, the outdoor part. I used my leftover walnut stain and some pretty badly damaged end pieces, which I think adds to the charm (note: you can get these at a discount at Home Depot if you ask nicely), along with a couple of 1 x 1 dowel rods that I had cut to size to be flush with the shelves. You don’t necessarily need the dowel rod “lip,” but I wanted my shelves to function as magazine racks.

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Once your wine is done- I mean, the stain is dry, you can move indoors for the gluing process. I added a couple of nails (not pictured) for good measure.

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Hang the brackets on studs (you can position your shelves around them) upside down so the shelf’s contents hide the bracket.

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Arrange your artwork/magazines to hide the brackets (and that fucking light switch), and you have yourself a sturdy, almost-free floating shelf.

Total cost: ~$20 if you buy all the products new
Total time: 1 hour of actual work + overnight drying

I can now rest easy, and/or move onto other absurdly tall walls. Stay tuned!

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How I (Finally) Learned to Love Running.

Running always seemed stupid to me, and I could never figure out why anyone did it on purpose. “I run if I’m being chased,” I’d joke, and I maintained a healthy weight by counting calories (drinking whiskey instead of beer) and stopping by the occasional yoga class.

And then I received a very unwelcome diagnosis.

After four surgeries and a painful tissue expansion reconstruction, my doctor cleared me for “light jogging,” but not yoga.  And I thought she was fucking nuts. Really? You want me to bounce this shit around? Have you lost your mind? But even though I wanted to do yoga I couldn’t. I had zero upper body strength left after all of the muscle-rearranging. I couldn’t chaturanga if I was being… chased.

But I knew I had to do something. Not being able to exercise taught me how much I was taking my body for granted, and sitting around takes its toll on your body and your mind. Finally one sunny afternoon I put on my embarrassingly-untouched Nikes and started the Couch-to-5k app on my phone.

The first day of the program has you jog for 60 seconds with 90-second walking breaks, and I fought for every single step. That first “run” sucked, I’m not going to lie, but when I started my walk home, I burst into tears (for the millionth time in 2013. God, I was a mess.). I couldn’t believe I did it. After all the shit cancer threw at me, I was doing something I never thought I could do. And maybe I was being chased, by all of the fear, insecurity and body shame I’d been holding onto. Maybe I was running from it, but I didn’t care.  It felt really, really good to take back control of my body.

And yeah, sometimes I was slow. Sometimes it hurt, but every time I got a side stitch I reminded myself to breathe. That this is nothing compared to the first time I put on pants after my mastectomy. That I am capable of a lot more than I think.

I stuck with the program, one step at a time, until I ran my first 5k. I was 26 years old, and 3.1 miles was the farthest I’d ever run in my life. I got Z to join with me and we became one of those annoying couples who run together, and then talk about running (ew, gross), and buy things to wear for running.

It took a life-threatening illness for me to realize that exercise is a gift you give to yourself, not a punishment for overeating. I can’t believe the way I used to treat my body, and I’m so glad I have the chance to change it.

This year I’ve challenged myself to run 500 miles, and I’d love for you to join me. Outrun whatever it is that’s been holding you back.

If you’re one of those people who thinks you could never do it, please believe, if I can do it, you can. You absolutely can. You don’t have to go fast. You just have to go.

Ready to get started? Here’s what to do.

1. Download the Couch to 5k app
2. Grab a buddy (someone who will hold you accountable and vice versa)
3. Be prepared for a few awesome days, and a few shitty days. Even a bad workout is a workout, so be good to yourself.
4.. Get a good playlist. Check out the Cassie Cares facebook page for an hour-long Spotify playlist of my favorite workout songs.

One step at a time, you got this.

Take Care,

Cassie

Give Old Shoes a Second Chance (For $1)

Two things I like:

1. Wearing stylish clothing and accessories.
2. Being mindful about how much I’m consuming.

Tough to do in a world where we just throw everything away and fashion changes seasonally. Still, I always try to repurpose clothes before I donate them because I feel it’s important to love what you have, instead of always looking for more.

If you get your hands dirty (or covered in glue) you can make make your wardrobe last at least an extra season or two, and it’s cheap to boot.

I took three pairs of shoes that were perfectly fine (other than the fact that I’m tired of them) and gave them a little pick-me-up.

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Pretty cool, huh? Keep reading if you’d like to see how I did it.

First, here’s a picture of what you’ll need.

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Studs (these were half-off clearance price at H&M. I paid $1 for two packs) , whatever gems you’d like to use in adorning your shoes (my sequins are extras from a party dress, and gems are from a pair of broken shoes), and super glue (easier to work with than hot glue). I kept needle-and-thread and scissors handy, though I didn’t use them.

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Arrange your studs to see what you like on the shoe, and then press firmly and evenly to get the studs to go through the shoe. Make sure you consider your toes!

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See those spikes? Make sure they’re folded against the top of the shoe so you don’t fill your shoe with blood (Romy and Michelle, anyone?). I broke a few nails during this step. Please use caution while folding the spiky end of the studs!

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For the nude shoes I used sequins and gems, then mixed with a couple of leftover studs. Patent leather is really tough to poke through, so it was a lot easier to embellish these using mainly glued-on gems and sequins.

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That’s it!

Total cost:

$1 for studs at H&M
(I had the gems,glue and sequins handy, and you can definitely find these on the cheap)
30 minutes
2 broken nails

I hope you get a chance to try it yourself! If you’re trying it and have questions about the process, please ask in the comments.

Take Care,

Cassie

Party’s Over, Now Clean Up Your Life.

No one ever makes a new year’s resolution to get more organized, but everyone should. Now that the holidays are over and you’ve (hopefully) put your tree away, it’s time to assess the damage. Having a streamlined, organized home can help you arrive on time (no more ‘Where are my keys/shoes?!’ moments), get more done, and perhaps even sleep a little better (less clutter, less stress).

You might say I have OCD. I say I take pride in a functional home. Tomato, potato.

The thing is, I don’t spend hours every day cleaning my house. I just set myself up so that the place stays nice, and that, my friends, is the ticket to a streamlined home.

Not all of us can afford professional organizers, and if you’re like me, you’re never going to pay for a California Closet. At least, not until Sallie Mae has her way with us for a few more years.

So I’ve compiled a couple of cheap (or free) ways to tidy up the place and make your life a tad more efficient, even in small spaces. No more digging through the junk drawer that has become your life, or wondering where the hell the scissors are. Here are a few of my favorite methods.

1. Rethink Your Recyclables.

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I cut the top off of this spinach box to contain the contents of the junk drawer, separating them from important documents. You can also use these to store scarves, etc. when you’re not using them in the summer.

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We always end up with an abundance of beer boxes. They’re perfect for under-sink storage. We store Moxie’s dog brushes, treats, and medicine this way, and it’s easy to grab when we go on road trips with the pup.

2. Look at What Things DO, Not Just What They Are.

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I actually found the above tie rack in a closet from three apartments ago, and then I stole it. Those previous tenants had no idea that it would be one of my most useful possessions, or that it would actually be used to store jewelry. See that star holding the earrings? That’s an old box lid that I repurposed.  Below, I use a belt holder to hang dresses and camisoles. Easy peasy.

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3. Display Your Storage In a Creative Way.

We moved in and realized our kitchen had two drawers. Two. Sometimes your utensils just have to be part of the design. This vase was a thrift store find, and we use it to keep cooking utensils handy.

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4. Look Up, and Store “Like” Things Together.

Again, I was so excited that we found a place that I forgot to notice that the kitchen couldn’t accommodate our stuff. I am She Who Gets Rid of Things, so the fact that our stuff didn’t fit means this kitchen is, in a word, miniscule. Luckily it had a gap between the ceiling and the cupboards, so we filled it with displayed storage. I love having fresh flowers, so I wasn’t willing to part with our vases. By putting clear glass and chrome-painted items together, this method looks intentional, which is what you’re going for with displayed storage.  (The spray painted antlers and branches are just for looks. We have no use for those.)

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5. Think of How You Use the Space, and Go From There.

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I’m not sure how much my in-laws will appreciate a picture of their outdoor/utility closet on the internet, sorry guys. But it does serve to demonstrate all of the aforementioned methods. By thinking about how the space was used, adding recyclables (a cut-open shoe box), and maximizing the vertical storage with like-items, they’re now able to use the space to dress/undress for skiing and they can store things they don’t need all the time (vacuums, winter gear).

Alright, muchachos, go forth and clean up your spaces. I’ll be here if you need support (or empty beer boxes. Seriously we have a ton).

 

Take Care,

Cassie

Super Simple Ways to Make Your Guests Feel Welcome

Remember when having guests meant that everyone drunkenly stumbled into your house and passed out wherever there was an open surface? And remember that time that Jen woke up on a yoga mat with a baguette in her arms? What about the rather unfortunate chapstick mishap? Or the time Jer woke up with bright yellow curry-pants?

Though the days of mystery bruises, drunken curry and baguettes aren’t totally behind us (I hope), it’s time for us to consider that our overnight guests might want more than leftover booze and whatever glass is clean enough to drink out of.

You don’t have to move apartments so you can have a guest room, and you don’t have to get all Martha on your place. No need to get crazy. Below is a list of a few simple touches that can make your friends feel right at home.

1. If you do nothing else, give your guest the gift of clean linens. Your friends love you, but they don’t want to share your drool-covered pillow case. Have an extra set of linens in your closet, and keep a linen spray (like this one that you can make yourself) on hand to freshen up clean sheets that have been in the closet a while.

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2. Offer a clean towel, a fresh razor, a personal loofah, and a bit of toothpaste. I keep a stockpile of inexpensive bath poufs and disposable razors on hand so my guests don’t have to feel weird about using ours. Same with the towel. And people always forget toothpaste.

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3. While we’re on the topic, wipe down your shower. Showers can get mildewy, and that’s fucking gross. It might not bother you, but it’s really as simple as spraying a little bleach or vinegar solution and wiping with a paper towel. Your guests will appreciate it.

4. Tidy up within reason. Our guest room also functions as Z’s office, storage and music room, and we’re not going to pretend like it doesn’t. Again, your friends know you, and they’re going to wonder where all your shit is if you hide it. We’re not going to iron a wrinkly duvet or hide our mismatched rugs, but we will offer a cozy, comfortable place to sleep among Z’s treasures (we use one of those queen-size aerobeds that looks like a real bed when you dress it up. Cheap and comfortable).

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5. Ask what your guest wants for breakfast. Your travel-weary friend will appreciate a little normalcy after a long time on the road. Grabbing a little oatmeal isn’t going to break the bank, and it’s an easy way to show that you care.

And that’s it. Seriously. Notice how I didn’t say “make a four-course meal, bake cookies, and hire a cleaning service.” It’s really just a few small, inexpensive touches that go a long way toward earning you the title of “Fabulous Host.”

Take Care,

Cassie

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What To Get Your Kid’s Teacher for Christmas (or Whatever)

I suppose you may be wondering why a person who neither has children nor teaches them might be writing about what to get a your kids’ teachers for Christmas (or whatever we’re calling “the holidays” now). And while I understand that this may seem strange, I need you to know this:

I sit at happy hour with your kids’ teachers and hear all about the stuff they (and you) do all year.

And it drives me to drink.

Scary as it may be, I  am glad to have a few teacher friends.

Crazy stuff aside, they sit with your offspring for hours every day and help shape their minds. They teach them how to read, how to stand in line but still ask questions, to remember their prime numbers, and how to someday grow up to be a decent person, a responsibility that deserves our respect and admiration.

What better time to show them you appreciate this huge, monumental feat than over the holidays?

Don’t worry, I gotchyerback. I asked a few of my favorite teacher-friends what their favorite gifts have been over the years, and I’m here to share that list with you (not surprisingly, no one said “apples.”).

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1. Money. 

If you are in a position to slap Ms. Teacher a twenty-spot, you should. She’s been working sometimes 60+ hours a week on activities and homework for your little munchkins, with no extra compensation. Sometimes she uses her own money when the school won’t provide her with supplies. A little cash can mean a lot to her.

2. Food. 

Straight up delicious food. My friend Ms. M said the best gift she ever got was some Thai takeout. That was a year ago and she still thinks about how awesome it was.  Cookies, takeout, whatever. Feed your kid’s teacher. Teachers like food.

3. Gift cards (to awesome places).

One of my teacher-friends (who asked to remain anonymous) said, though he appreciates the sentiment, he’s received enough Starbucks gift cards to last, um, forever. For some people this is not a problem, but for him he can’t give them away fast enough. If you’re going to go the gift card route, I recommend local bars/restaurants or places like Target where the recipient can purchase more than one thing.

4. Booze. 

Yeah, it seems a little weird to hand alcohol to your kid’s teacher, like you’re perhaps encouraging her to do… exactly what you do every weeknight when the kids are asleep,  (Careful, this realization might blow your mind like it did mine)  but educators are people, too.

Yep, sometimes even those who educate our youth like to have a glass of wine with friends, and that’s a good thing. They’ve been through some amazing and sometimes heartbreaking experiences teaching our future leaders. They could all use a drink.

5. Books for the classroom.

Age-appropriate books are like currency in Teacher Land.

I don’t know what that means, but I do know that a good book can be a Godsend during a rainy day’s indoor recess when you have to entertain 25 children who just ate a shit-ton of carbs at lunch.

6. A Nice Note.

Teachers above all recognize that money is tight, and maybe the extra gift isn’t in your budget.

That is absolutely fine, and no teacher on Earth expects you to go without so she can have a gift card, especially when you have little mouths to feed.

Every now and then it’s nice to hear that you’re doing a good job.  If you can spare five minutes, a little encouragement could change a teacher’s outlook on his year. And while you’re at it, write a note to the principal about how much your kid loves his teacher, and what a good job he’s doing. Maybe, just maybe, this gesture could result in a raise, which is the best gift of all.

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Not seeing what you’re looking for? Send your kid’s teacher an email asking her about herself. Maybe she’s got a hobby that you could help out with, or a baby boy at home who could use a play-date.

Don’t worry, it’s definitely the thought that counts. You got this.

 

Take care,

Cassie

 

 

 

 

Vintage-Inspired Holiday Ideas for Your Weirdo Friends

I scored this mangled 1947 edition of the Saturday Evening Post in the basement of an antique store for about $2. I knew immediately that I’d struck crafters’ gold.

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That was two years ago, and I’ve come up with countless ideas for it since. Here are a few that might actually be gift-worthy for those who appreciate a little vintage irony.

1. Wall Art

 

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Cigarette ads haven’t been so bold for decades, and I love how ballsy these claims are. For the non-smokers in your life, the Post has all kinds of odd-ball ads. This Smith-Corona ad hangs in my office. There are pages and pages of crazy claims, ranging from traditional to all-out sexist. Definitely a unique statement for a wall. Just not every wall, or your husband will start to doubt your sanity.

2. Weirdo Holiday Cards.

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Because why not? There are plenty of traditional characters in these old magazines, and I thought I’d juxtapose them with some more jarring images for a holiday card that packs more of a punch. (Warning: only send to friends who might appreciate a good statement. ) All you need is some blank stationary and some mod-podge. Voila! A one-of-a-kind card that your hipster friends might actually like displaying. That is, if they don’t think holidays are too passé .

3. Gift Wrap/Box Liners

My dad and I have an old tradition of gifting (and re-gifting) this box to one another. After several re-gifts, it’s starting to wear a bit, but luckily the Post has dozens of pictures of meat (weird, but I’ll take it) that I adhered to the tattered box.

 

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Add these gifts as a nice little cherry on top of your holiday gifts, and delight the Vintage Vixens* in your life.

(*Sorry, I used to write ad copy for a living . It’s a hard habit to kick)

Seriously though, I always appreciate a unique hand-made gift. Time is a valuable asset, and I know how long it takes to craft unique gifts. I hope your weirdo friends appreciate your effots as much as I do.

Take Care,

Cassie