Shelf Life

I have a friend who recently moved and is currently in the abyss of decorating her built-in bookshelves.

When we moved in I filled my bookshelves with all kinds of junk. Then I proceeded to spend 5 minutes a day adding, removing, rearranging items for the next several weeks.

I realize I’m kind of crazed. I probably think about things more than I should and over-analyze the placement of items. I also have a plethora of books.

(No, really, far too many. I tell this to myself every time I move. NO MORE BOOKS! Then I see one little used book sale and come home with armloads more.)

Suffice it to say we have four bookshelves in this house. And I still don’t have room for them all. There, I said it. And I’m not ashamed.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared my living room here before.

Here she is in all her pre-painted, just-moved-in glory.

Here she is now. (By the way, while sanding the mantle I discovered that it was once painted teal. Crazy huh?) This was our favorite room to paint. (Read: easiest job to do because it required the least spackling, sanding and prepping.)

And yes, our humongous television is in front of the window, but we don’t have much of a choice. There are 5 large windows, two built-in bookshelves, one fireplace, two doorways and one radiator (we already removed one!) to deal with. Not to mention furniture. It was here or over the fireplace. And we weren’t really feelin’ that. Plus, I don’t think we will have our tv in this room for long. Next to this room is an amazing 70s wood paneled sunroom we will tackle. But until

So, back to my being crazy and analyzing how to balance out our bookshelf decor.

Here is a close-up of our two built-in bookshelves side-by-side.

As you can see, it’s not totally finished yet. Some of the photo frames are still empty. And most of them are filled with the first photos I could find in our move. I’ll get back to it someday. I have since been distracted by IKEA pendant lamps, evil kitchen cabinet hinges and cleaning up from Hurricane Irene.

There were three rules of balance I used when decorating and fiddling with my bookshelf decor.

1. Color

Color-coded bookshelves are all over the map. This is likely because it helps a huge stack of books look a little less sloppy and slightly more presentable. I should add, I totally judged a book by it’s cover. If I didn’t like the spine of the book, it didn’t go on these shelves. My “uglier” books (aka: most of my paperbacks, how-to books and chick lit are upstairs).

  • Whites: white, cream, yellow, silver, gray
  • Darks: black, brown, navy
  • Reds: red, orange, pink, maroon, purple
  • Blues: blue, teal, blue-gray
  • Greens: evergreen, lettuce green, you get the idea

2. Elemental

The elements of the world are earth, wind, water and fire. The elements of your bookshelves will depend on what you are putting on them. Mine are paper, wood, metal, glass and organic material. Yours could be pottery, plastic or ice cubes.

  • Paper: books, obviously
  • Metal: photo frames and other collectibles
  • Wood: sentimental knick knacks made out of *shocker* wood
  • Glass: vases
  • Organic material: woven straw, rocks, seashells, etc.

3. Impression

I am not sure if I really know how to describe this one.

While I was arranging by color and by element, I was also trying to balance out the impression certain piece gave. I distinguished them by graphical, weathered and photographic.

  • Photographic: I think this is obvious. Photos.
  • Graphical: A lot of these are book spines with graphic text on them. As a graphic designer I pay a lot of attention to type, so this would bother me if everything was arranging sloppily. (Did I really just admit I arrange my books my typography style. Eek.) I am also including any frames or vases that are a solid color into the “graphical” category.
  • Weathered: I also own a lot of older books (Hi, my name is Kat and I have a used-book-purchasing problem.) so I wanted to group a lot of these together. Other weathered items include driftwood, a carved buoy and pieces that just looked old.

Perhaps the easier way to describe this step is to balance out your antique (that word for me is kind of a stretch) and new items.

I think I’ve reached a new level of nerd-dom in this post.

Please tell me I’m not the only one?

Serendipitous Artistry

I love reading a good book and then noticing how things in my life crop up that I would have otherwise not appreciated.

I just finished reading Clara and Mr. Tiffany. I fully recommend it to anyone who considers themselves an artist in any sense of the word. It is a fiction novel based on historical facts.

The book , by Susan Vreeland, is about the life of Clara Driscoll, an employee of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the artist who is (now) credited with designing the famous Tiffany lampshades of the early 20th century. The story is filled with meticulous description of the glassblowing, glass-choosing, glass-cutting and glass application processes. As someone who has always wanted to try glassblowing, I found the details quite enchanting.

The book also wades through weighty issues such as the conflicts of artist collaboration, sexism in the professional arts, vocation versus marriage and sacrificing art for the sake of commercial means. Any artist will be able to identity with the creative process and ethical decisions Clara is forced to withstand.

While this book has still been lingering in my mind, I came across this cake design.

It is undoubtedly inspired by the Tiffany lamps.

Clara Driscoll

I love that the ideas of one woman has inspired other artists for over a century. And not only artists in glasswork, like herself, but bakers and writers. Even more so, that she did it all for the sake of art, not the glory.

(Actually, Clara and her 30 “Tiffany Girls” brought the lamps to fruition. And they couldn’t have done it without the male glassblowing and lead welding departments either. The true meaning of artistic collaboration.)

You see, it was only discovered that Clara was the actual designer of the lamps, not Louis Comfort Tiffany, in 2007.

Martin Eidelberg, an Art History Professor at Rutgers University recently came across a large amount of letters from Clara to her family and has been credited with making the discovery.

And while today Tiffany lampshades are not a completely unusual, albeit lovely, sight they were an unheard of in their infancy.

images via

I have always striven to fix beauty
in wood, stone, glass or pottery,
in oil or watercolor
by using whatever seemed
fittest for the expression
of beauty,
that has been my creed.

– Louis Comfort Tiffany

Summer Reading List: Window Shop Wednesday

It’s Window Shop Wednesday again with The Katie Chronicles! This week’s location is my biggest weakness. The place I can walk around aimlessly for hours, scouting out comfy chairs and look longingly at the vanilla lattes but never purchase because I’m too cheap. I used them for their free wi-fi in my college days, and usually walk out satisfied but empty-handed… Barnes & Noble!

As you know, I have an unhealthy obsession with books.

Today I am picking out all the books I would buy at B&N given the chance. (In reality, I will be getting most of these from the library. Libraries rock!! P.S. I just got my new library card for my new town! I love my new library already. Plus, they have a magazine swap bin! I came home with a huge stack of Better Homes & Gardens)


I have a policy. If I want to see the movie, I need to read the book first. I knew that as soon as I saw the new movie trailer for “The Help”, starring the hilarious Emma Stone, I needed to read this book. The Help is a story of a young journalist who shares life stories from the perspective of three African-American maids who work for white families in Mississippi in the 1960s.

I love to read memoirs and biographies. This summer I would like to read A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard’s memoir of her kidnapping. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you would know that Dugard was kidnapped when she was 11 years old and was kept in captivity (while having had two children mind you) for 18 years before she was discovered in 2009. I would love to hear her tale and see how she had remained so positive and grounded throughout such a life-altering experience.

I have actually already read this book. But, I haven’t read it since my dear life-long dog friend/pet/family member Woody passed away almost two years ago. The Art of Racing in the Rain will make you cry. It’s a story of a race car driver and his life told through the perspective of his dog, Enzo. Grab me the tissues already, will you?

I judge novels by the cover. So sue me. I’m a graphic designer. It’s what I do. This cover is just stunning! I always looks for classic books with beautiful covers or bindings whenever I am at used books sales or garage sales. With seven Austen books packed in one, I may actually consider buying this one new!

I read Julie & Julia (duh, see my policy under book #1 listed) a year or so back and also saw the film. I am so intrigued by the life of Julia Child and I would love to learn more about her life via My Life in France. This has nothing to do with the fact that my Dad used to talk in a Julia-Child-voice while making Saturday morning cinnamon buns.

I don’t really know a lot about Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens if you’re tight). This was Twain’s last book that he wrote and was published in 2010. Did you read that correctly? Yes. This is why I want to read this book. Twain wrote his autobiography (a whopping 736 pages) but then laid down restrictions that it couldn’t be published until 100 years had passed after his death, giving Twain the rare privilege of writing a best selling novel in 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Why wouldn’t you want to read about a man that interesting?

I have also already read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I thought this book was fascinating. Granted, I work in the biotechnology industry, but this woman and her story have impacted every person on this planet and no one knows her name. HeLa (HEnrietta LAcks) cells make up nearly every cell on the planet that is used for medical testing. Her cells have gone into space, are being used to fight AIDS and cancer and help create every vaccine you could imagine. Little would you know her cells were taken from her without her knowing before she died from a vicious bout of cancer. This book is about Henrietta Lacks, her family and racism in the medical testing field in the mid 20th century.

And finally, I would buy a new copy of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, because mine is falling apart. This is a very interesting read and one of my favorite works of Lewis. It’s a series of letters back and forth between the Devil and one of his minions on earth talking about how to tempt his assigned human into sin.

There you have my new reading list!

What are you going to read this summer?

Farewell Harry Potter

Maybe it’s because I know I’d be in the house of Hufflepuff. I’m not brave enough to be in Gryffinndor. I am too much of a goody-two-shoes to be in Slytherin. Ravenclaw is a close second, but I don’t think I would ever be able to figure out the riddle passwords to get into my Hogwarts dorm room.

Maybe it’s because I feel like I know what Butterbeer and treacle tarts taste like. Maybe it’s because I can feel the warm, cozy buzz of sitting in Honeyduke’s on a chilly winter day catching up on Charms homework.

Maybe it’s because I love the thrill of watching a good game of Quidditch or the idea camping out for the World Cup with friends.

Maybe it’s because I know I would never want to be in the Tri-Wizard tournament, that I, too, would have disliked Lavendar Brown, and would cringe at receiving a howler from my Mom.

Maybe because I think my patronus would be a songbird. Maybe because I can see myself reading the Quibbler with Luna on the train.

Maybe because I think I’d be BFFs with Ginny. Maybe because I think I would start to be good friends with Hermione after I got used to her. (At first she would annoy me.)

Maybe because I know I would have joined the DA to protect my sorry self. (I don’t see myself being very good at defensive spells. Lack of rapid response.)

Maybe this is why I, along with many other people, have gotten lost in J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter.

The last installment of Potter films premieres tonight at midnight. I am going tomorrow night (!!!) and can’t wait!

But I also feel a twinge of sadness. The same twinge I felt when I finished the Deathy Hallows book for the first time a few years ago. There was no more Hogwarts to learn about and explore.

Behold the power of a good book.

Fan fiction here I come!

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real? 

-J.K. Rowling, “King’s Cross,” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

All images from Pinterest.

Frankly Scarlett

75 years ago today a big fat book was published. It was written on a Remington typewriter at a little desk in front of a little window by a little woman named Peggy who lived in Atlanta and was recovering from a car accident.

Gone with the Wind, by Margaret “Peggy” Mitchell, won the Pulitzer Prize two years later and later was transformed into a American film classic of gargantuan proportion.

I love Gone with the Wind. I remember watching the movie as a kid and covering my eyes during the Atlanta fire and marveling at Scarlett’s famed 18″ waistline (that corset scene still makes me laugh! How she managed to eat eggs after that I would love to know).

As an adult I picked up the book and, despite being intimidated by it’s weightiness, thought I’d give it a shot. I couldn’t put it down! From the lovely parties thrown at Wilkes Manor to the dirt and potatoes of poverty, Scarlett makes you love her, hate her, and love her again. She is one of my most perplexing characters in the literary world. “After all, tomorrow is another day,” she frequently laments.

Here are a few ways to spend your weekend in honor of the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind:

1. Sew curtains!

Or learn how to sew curtains! This is going to be on my list of things to do shortly. Everyone remembers the scene in Gone with the Wind where Mammy transforms the living room drapes into a marvelous dress for Scarlett so she still looks nice and rich when she visits Rhett in jail.

2. Make sun tea!

I know I”m a Yankee and all, but I know Southerners love their sweet tea. I don’t think I’ve ever had sweet tea, but I love sun tea! Or maybe my goal should be to try sweet tea? Don’t they serve that at McDonald’s now?

3. Yardwork!

Some of you may be scratching your head with this one. We tend to only remember Scarlett the southern belle. The one fluttering her eyelashes and making boys bring her cakes while making googlyeyes at Ashley Wilkes. While that character is a quite glamorous, Scarlett spends most of her time in the book taking care of Tara (her family’s plantation, for those who haven’t read the book) by farming the land and tending to animals. After all, thanks to Pa, the concept of land is a major motif throughout the book, so taking care of the land I shall do.

4. Read it, Silly!

Or you could always honor the anniversary the good ole fashioned way – pick up the book and start reading.

Or you could just watch the DVD… “after all, tomorrow is another day.”

Top 9: Expecto Patronum

To say I am anxiously awaiting the epic final film installment of the Harry Potter movies would be an understatement.

Although I was a little slow on the uptake when the books came out, I read all of them a few years ago and have continued to re-read them on a regular basis.

To help curb my appetite, as I have been watching the HP movies this week and keep seeing the trailer on TV, here are my top 9 Etsy HP buys:

1. These earrings are possibly the cutest Harry Potter paraphernalia I came across. Subtle enough for us nerdy muggles to pull off.

2. This is a classic HP charm necklace. A pendant for those with a penchant for the Boy who Lived.

3. Looking to send a post by owl? Send one of these adorable notecards! “I love you like Neville loves Herbology”. Love it!! Although I don’t think my husband would get it…

4. SPOILER. For those of you who haven’t read the books…. don’t read the next sentence….. really. Stop here. *Sigh, we find Severus Snape’s soft spot. (There. Was that vague enough for you movie-only watchers? I hate giving away things.)

5. My lifelong dream is to become a vela. I will be one step closer with their awesome hats! Now I just need to learn how to flutter and I’ll be on my way to Beauxbattons.

6. I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good. This metal-pressed keychain is cute. Although I’d rather have a real Marauder’s Map instead!

7. I would love to hang this up in the subway and crash into it with a shopping cart!

8. LUNA LOVEGOOD earrings! AHH!! Haha! Luna is the greatest little weirdo in the HP series. Put on a pair of these and grab a Quibbler and you’re set to go.

9. Yum. Pumpkin juice. I wonder if they also sell this at the Disney Harry Potter World? I’ve heard the Butterbeer is delish.

“I always knew that Harry’s story would end with the seventh book, but saying goodbye has been just as hard as I always knew it would be. Even while I’m mourning, though, I feel an incredible sense of achievement. I can hardly believe that I’ve finally written the ending I’ve been planning for so many years. I’ve never felt such a mixture of extreme emotions in my life, never dreamed I could feel simultaneously heartbroken and euphoric.”

Says J.K. Rowling on the Deathly Hallows.

I read once that J.K. Rowling started telling her son a made-up story about a wizard named Harry. I remember she said that the character Harry walked into her head fully formed.

I’d like for a multi-billion dollar idea to just walk into my head please.


Beware. It will be stuck in your head for the next day.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and so can I!

As I promised before, I will only share my reviews of books that I can’t stop babbling about to everyone I know.

I had heard of The Pioneer Woman once upon a time and kind of forgotten about her until I was reminded of her by my cookinista (I just made up that word) friend Katie . I was sold. The combination of Ree Drummond’s (aka The Pioneer Woman) beautiful photographs, witty commentary and down-home goodness is a win-win. I read her blog daily but I knew I needed to check out her cookbook.

I was not disappointed.

The awesomeness of this cookbook is three-fold:

First, my favorite thing about Ree’s recipes is that they are relatively simple and for real people. So many of Martha Stewart’s recipes look amazing, but I have no idea where to find fresh lavender springs, stone-ground very fine flax flour or jellied blueberry curd. Okay, I just made all those ingredients up, but you get the idea. Ree’s recipe ingredients lists are usually things I already have in the kitchen! Woohoo! Or I can at least find in a regular old grocery store. Who has time to travel to specialty food stores? Not me.

Secondly, I have a thing when it comes to cookbooks. No photos, no cookin’. The Pioneer Woman takes this to the next step by photographing each step. This was particularly helpful when I made her homemade cinnamon rolls – how to roll, cut and space the rolls in the pan.No recipe is too daunting.

And lastly, her commentary is hilarious. Let’s just say her golf club upbringing and LA lifestyle did nothing to prepare her for life on a cattle ranch and married to a cowboy. Yes, a real cowboy. I didn’t know they still made those. Throughout her cookbooks she reveals their life on the ranch in a photo-journalistic style – complete with babies, cattle, wheat fields and chaps. Farm life here I come.

The only downside of her cookbook is that her recipes are “decidedly caloric”. She uses plenty of butter and red meat. I’ve swapped out red meat for ground turkey in a few of her recipes to cut down on that.

But besides that, everything I have made so far is D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! Check out Ree’s cookbook today!

What’s your favorite cookbook?

Yellowed Pages

Guilty Pleasures. We all have one.

Maybe yours is Starbucks frappucinos, or placemats or funky high heels. Maybe it’s an old VHS tape, a crummy t-shirt or early 90s dance song.

I know what mine is. You may be able to guess.

I am a strong woman until I see those three little words.

Used. Book. Sale.

Like today. I stopped by our local library book sale because I wrote on my calendar (*ahem about 6 months ago) that it was our local library book sale week. It was glorious. I love thumbing through piles and piles of books. Old, new, fiction, poetry, travel, classics.

New books smell good, but old books smell better. I am not sure why that is.

I take that back. Old books that are well taken care of smell good. Old ones that smell like musty basement cardboard boxes I can do without and I will plug my nose as I pass it by.

Old books that are loved have a certain smell. Any book-lover will agree. It’s as if all the tea, muffins, cable knit throw blanket and hearth-side reading chairs all leave little pieces of themselves absorbed into the paper. It’s like all the rainy skies, warm book-reading hands, loud laughs, grimaces and even the tears have been stuck inside to form a simple, papery smell that can not be reproduced.

The other perk about used books is that they are already broken in. There’s no need to feel bad about dog-earring a page because you can’t find your bookmark, which I never can. I love that you can hold the book wide open one-handedly. There is no spine-crackling, finger-lickin’ stiff page-turning or weird new book smell.

The yellowed pages. The cracked spine. The scuffed corners. Just like wrinkles and age spots, they are marking the journey it’s taken through time.

I especially love when there are messages written inside.

I have the funniest one in my Wurthing Heights novel. It’s from a girl to some boy (okay, who think he actually read Wuthering Heights? I’m going to say no.) and she talked about how the novel is like their love – it transcends time and place. *insert guffaws here*

Books can take you anywhere. Pick one up soon. Short ones count too.

And always, always read the book before you watch the movie. You won’t regret it.

Unless it’s the Vampire Diaries series. Because, well…. trust me.