Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Button Up!

A little over a year ago I picked up button necklace making as an unemployment hobby. I had a free button source and time, which was a very handy combination. Incidentally, I credit button necklaces as the beginning point of my DIY/crafting obsession. So the holiday season of 2011 had me crafting necklaces, napkin rings, bracelets, coasters, and anything else I could think of to make with buttons. Then I moved to Winnemucca and largely abandoned the medium until I was struck with a case of “pair-down-the-crafting-supplies”. Luckily, this coincided with a trip to Canada and the need for bachelorette party favors and hostess gifts. So I delved back into my button necklace making.
I forgot to take pictures before I gave them all away, so here are the two remaining necklaces:



I still have not scratched the surface of my button stash, so if you are interested in a necklace, let me know what colors you want and we’ll work something out. I’m contemplating an Etsy shop, if I can ever get my act together.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Canada, eh?

I’ve been out of the country seeing this beautiful lady married to her sheep farming prince:


It was a wonderful reunion of childhood friends and a meeting of new ones (plus one new husband!). Highlights of the weekend include meeting the most beautiful baby:

Bachelorette pedicures:

Decorating adventures:

Winning a donut at Tim Hortons:


Although my dear friends struck out.


It was a whirlwind of a trip, but precious moments all around.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Back to My Roots

Those of you who have followed me since my Life in the Desert days know that it was through photography that I discovered and began to own myself as an artist. My short attention span means that I have since moved through several other artistic media, but artistic identity I now cling to was shaped primarily through photography. I love photography in that it allows us to capture the simple, oft-ignored aspects of life and make them magnificent. This theme continues in my artistic endeavors today: turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.


The enormously transformative power of participating in an art project can heal most wounds. At the end of a difficult day, I turn to art first to sort my thoughts and restore peace to my soul. Winter is challenging because I miss the gorgeous light that natural photography thrives on. Consequently, I lose my go to source of the artistic “fix” (yes, I’m addicted).  So in this winter night, after a discouraging photography session, I found myself looking back through my pictures from the summer. I discovered these two shots of signs around Reno. A restorative photo-walk six months ago yields similarly satisfying photo search in the dead of winter. I surely do love you, photography.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Easy Peasy Homemade Granola


Granola is one of my favorite foods to make and eat. My fondness of this breakfast item extends beyond its tastiness to the fact that it is ridiculously cheap in comparison to the store bought granola. In fact, I am willing to bet you have most, if not all, of the necessary ingredients at home right now. 


You will need:
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1/3 cup of honey or maple syrup, or a combination of the two
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
~3 cups of oats (rolled work best, but quick oats will do in a pinch)

Step 1: Preheat your even to 250 degrees and combine all of the ingredients except the oats in a bowl:


Step 2: Add oats until the oats are lightly coated with the syrup you just made.

I usually don’t even measure the oats, I just dump them in until I have the right consistency, but start at three cups.

Step 3: Spread the oats out on a cookie sheet. The thinner the layer of oats, the faster the baking process will be.


Step 4: Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the granola every 15 minutes to keep it cooking evenly. The process is similar to roasting coffee beans--you can bake it for longer if you want a darker flavor. Beware, after 45 minutes the granola can burn easily.

Step 5: Take the granola out of the oven, but DO NOT STIR again. Let it cool and it will clump up on its own. Once the granola has cooled, add nuts, dried fruit, and coconut in whichever combination you prefer. For this batch, we added raisins and walnuts.


Consume your granola plain, with milk, or my personal favorite—granol-gurt (home made yoghurt* and granola).

This really is a simple recipe, and it is very adaptable to the availability of ingredients and personal preference. If you want your granola to be sweeter, try adding some brown sugar. If you want more clumps, add a few tablespoons of wheat flour or wheat germ (or both).

I gave jars of granola as Christmas gifts to co-workers last year, and everyone loved it.

And for those of you who find picture recipes difficult to follow, here is the whole shebang in a nutshell:
  • Preheat the oven to 250.
  • Combine:
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1/3 cup of honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of  cinnamon
  • Add ~3 cups of rolled oats until the oats are lightly coated with your syrup.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring at least every 15 minutes.
  • Embellish to taste.
  • Enjoy!

*YES! I have conquered home made Greek-style yogurt. Three batches in and it keeps getting better.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Friendly Friday: Mer and Ben Part 2

For some reason I thought I had scheduled this post to go up yesterday, so I apologize for the delay. At long last, I have Meredith’s Christmas Craft, a supplement to Ben’s woodwork last week. It has been a long day of sanding (more on that later), so without further ado: home made candles.
Mer writes:
Meanwhile, I tried my hand at candle-making! After failing to find any local candle supply stores, I ordered soy wax, wicks, and fragrance online from Rustic Escentuals. While there are a plethora of materials made specifically for home candle making, I went low-cost. I bought a $6 stainless steel pot that I knew I could use as a double boiler with another pot I already owned, and got a $3 candy thermometer.
I started with the candle containers – found this eclectic mix at an antique store downtown – Two Gals’ Junk.
Then I had to secure the wicks perfectly straight in the middle of the containers. I used needle-nosed pliers to guide the wick, with a dab of hot glue on the end, into the bottom of each container.
Use a clothespin or tie the wick to a pencil laid across the top of the container to secure the wick firmly in the middle.

Now comes the messy part! You can use a scale to measure out the perfect amount of wax, but again: I went low cost, and I don’t currently own a kitchen scale. Instead, I just used all the wax I had bought and figured I would fill as many containers as I could. The soy wax flakes generally melted to about half their original volume.
I read over and over again how important it is to be cautious when melting wax – it has a flammable point, so I used a double boiler and this candy thermometer to monitor the temperature as it melted. I also covered my workspace with old sheets just in case I spilled anything!
Here’s where you can add fragrance and coloring if you want – I added just a few drops of pumpkin scent, but decided to go natural with the coloring. I’ve read that while crayons do work for coloring candles, they can sometime harden differently than the wax and make candles more difficult to burn – so I think I’ll probably buy the coloring if I go that route in the future.
Once ready to pour, I used a plastic measuring container with a spout. It takes 24 hours for the wax to dry completely.
I packaged each candle a little bit differently – some I decorated with cloth and ribbons and gave as a pair, others I sent separately as a small thankyou for the light that my friends are to me.
The only candle I didn’t end up giving away is the strange blue one that is a hand holding a cup (review candle pic #2) – I thought it was so fun and funky in the store, but the longer I looked at it, the weirder it seemed. My husband and I laugh about it now, and shoved it behind some other decorations on a bookshelf. Ha!

Isn’t this a great idea? I will probably channel this next year for Christmas. Also, I was the loving recipient of that teacup candle in the bottom left corner and it literally brightens my day every evening when I light it.

Want to post on Friendly Friday? Email me at sitwithmeawhile(at)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day

…aka another day to embrace creativity.

One of the many things I love about my family is that we tend to run with the philosophy of “why buy a card when you can make one?”  Along these lines, my valentine’s card/gift from my mother came in this form:


And inside it was a Valentine making kit!


I had a lot of fun after a dreary day of work putting together some valentines for my loved ones. I did not have the foresight to photograph each valentine before I sent them off, but my favorite one used the heart stencil and those extra paint chips from the 2012 Calendar.

The inside reads “You’re the perfect paint color on my wall”.

So Happy Valentine’s Day, dear reader. You truly are the perfect paint color on my wall. And on my furniture. And on my clothes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Third Time’s the Charm

…aka coffee table re-do.  As with most of my furniture, I inherited my coffee table from some friends. At the time, the coffee table was a significant improvement from the Rubbermaid bins that previously served as a footrest/coffee table surface.
After a while, however, the worn state of the coffee table just wasn’t doing it for me.
I really liked the texture of the table top, so when I was brainstorming up-cycle ideas, I wanted to keep this principle in play. My first idea was to use PVC pipe to make a surface, akin to Alicia’s mirror or Mandy’s dresser. I guess I should have been wary when everyone I told about this idea was skeptical. The boyfriend even (lovingly) refused to do this project with me. 
Round One:
I forged ahead anyway, and 40 feet of PVC later combined with 20 minutes with a rotor saw left me with this:
Hello my pretties!
Anyway, I got right to work laying out the PVC inside the newly deconstructed and painted coffee table frame. This blue-gray color is another treasure from the the “oops” paint section.
At this point, the coffee table is upside down with some scrap boards underneath to support an even lay of the pipes. So far, so awesome, right? I was having visions of an epic brag blog at this point. But pride comes before the fall, my friends. The idea was the glue the pipes together with a high strength epoxy and between the tension and the glue there wouldn’t be any need a base support. The guy at the hardware store (reluctantly) recommended an epoxy, so I went to town. In an attempt to make a uniform pattern, I worked from all four sides inward. And, to my utter dismay, I ended up with this:
A mid-table gap. Bad news bears. I am not quite sure how this worked out, since it all fit perfectly when I did the dry run.
So round one, fail. I can speak to the strength of the epoxy, however, since it took a hammer to crack out the pipe slivers when I went to break them out.
Round 2:
Next thought was the painted wood grain plywood table top. The best example is Mandy’s lamp shade (minus the glitter).  My landlord generously showed me how to use his fancy table saw so that we could get straight cuts for plywood piece. However, three seconds of the plywood placed in the table frame told me round two was a no go.
Round Three: Fence Fence Planks
My next idea was to use some old fence planks from my landlords’ fence (lucky for me, they are extremely generous with their tools and old materials). Fortunately, they were the perfect length for the coffee table. With my newly acquired table saw skills, I took a bit off the sides. Then it was a matter of nailing the boards together. I wanted to keep the rustic nature of the planks, so I just did  a quick sand to remove splinters and then used a gray wash (gray paint + water) to antique the color a bit. Two coats of polyurethane, and ta-da! I am in love.
This was by far my most time consuming and expensive failure. Fortunately, the final fix was free and perfect. In retrospect, the table now reflects the style of the house more than the PVC table would have. I do have a box full of PVC slivers and a large piece of plywood at my disposal now. Napkin rings for all?
In conclusion, this table is the poster child of the iterative creative process and how it behooves the artist to be flexible and generous to the inevitable flops that may precede the final beauty.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friendly Friday: Meredith and Ben, Part 1

Happy Friday! Today’s Friendly Friday comes from my dear friend Meredith and her husband Ben. This week I’ll feature Ben’s Christmas crafts and next week I’ll unveil Meredith’s creativity. Meredith is a beautiful writer, so I will just leave you with what she wrote up.

Now that the Christmas trees are departed; the lights stored in attics, I think a short reflection on the beauty of gifts that still provide meaning is in order.

Gifts like the pear jam that my college roommate, Emily, made from her grandmother’s pear tree that my husband Ben and I now savor on toast and biscuits.

Or the plaque with mod-podged old music sheets and a cute bird stencil that my friend Leticia designed, now hanging in our bedroom.

I love the time that went into these gifts. It puts a little bit of the giver into it, and I am reminded of that every time I see (or taste) the gift. It brings to mind the best of the Christmas spirit.

It was based on this sentiment that my husband Ben and I attempted to make 2011 a good year in the Bergstrom household for gift-making. My husband is a carpenter and has been blessed with a great shop he can use at work. As for me…well, I have no specific talent or workspace, but I do have a willingness to try!

Ben spent a good number of his December evenings working on these projects for family:


An 8” x 10” chalkboard – so fun for the kitchen or living area! Ben used cedar fence planks left over from our summer garden to make the frame. The backing is thin masonite from the local hardware store, painted with leftover chalkboard paint from when he made a larger version of this for our kitchen.


Coasters: I love how simple these are, perfectly accentuating the beauty of natural wood. Ben made three sets, experimenting with leaving or removing the bark based on the type of wood and finish. He found the oak logs at his workplace – a camp set in a pretty valley just west of Siloam Springs, Arkansas.


Napkin holder: This one is super fun. We agreed it looks like an alien. Last year, Ben made coasters with this white finish for his sister and brother-in-law, and they had requested a matching napkin holder. The dowel rods and tiny log cross-sections tie this together with the coaster design. Lift up the tamp and you can fit a good stack of napkins in here!


Here’s the crown jewel: a lamp! Ben has wanted to try a lamp for a while, and this white oak log proved to be really beautiful sanded down. The base is also white oak. The wood has two coatings of paste wax, buffed before it dried completely to ensure smoothness. We cheated on the lamp shade and got it at Lowe’s!

All gorgeous, right? Stay tuned for Mer’s creations next week. I can’t wait to see more from these two!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hey, Hey, My Boyfriend's Back

Guess who's back in the great state of Nevada?

Yes, that's right. Pete-y boy with his iPhone toy and box of vintage maps. Unfortunately for my crafting soul, I don't get to use these maps, but I do get to look at them and photograph them while they await their fate on eBay. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Craft and Conservation

Most of you know that I work for an environmental non-profit that supports land management agencies throughout Nevada. My particular project assesses vegetation and habitat health for the Bureau of Land Management. The project funding comes through concern over declining habitat for the threatened bird, the Greater Sage Grouse. In 2010, the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that this western bird was "warranted but precluded" for listing from on the Endangered Species List. Essentially this means that there may be evidence for a listing, but other priorities and lack of information postpone the decision until 2014. My project is one of many to supplement existing data sets so that the Bureau of Land Management and other sage grouse habitat agencies can gain a clearer picture of the pressures placed on the sage grouse populations.

All of this to say, when I had to do a presentation last week, I thought it would be fun to make sage grouse cookies as a visual aid (since every good presentation has at least 3 visual aids).
I based the idea off of the turkey cookie that we know and love from Thanksgiving. However, sage grouse aren't as charismatically cartooned as the turkey is, so it was a bit of a flop, although it was a tasty flop. Sugar cookies +chocolate+coconut=yum. 

Every spring, sage grouse undergo a mating ritual known as "lekking". In a lek, females gather around the males who "strut" or dance around until the females agree on one suitable mate. For all of the females. Its like a permanent Jr. High for birds.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

One Year In

I have been living in Winnemucca for over a year now, which sets the record for the longest contiguous stay in one place since I was sixteen. Overall, it has been a good year. I have thoroughly enjoyed nesting and exploring my creative horizons. Professionally, Winnemucca has brought numerous opportunities and challenges which have led to some stress but ultimately, great fulfillment.  Living in a small town is wonderful when you want to commute to work in under three minutes, walk to every conceivable location, and enjoy a quieter lifestyle. But with this comes the limitations of breaking into a community that is either highly transient (I have now been in Winnemucca longer than half of the employees at my office) or completely entrenched (half of those who have temporal seniority on me have been here for 15+ years, if not their whole lives). It is an awkward place to be as a twenty something in a long distance relationship. While I have not given up on a rewarding social life, most of my rejuvenation and outside of work activity revolves around the art projects that I produce. I am so grateful to have the tools and time at my disposal to learn new skills. I am also deeply thankful for those of you who read my blog and provide a community, albeit a virtual one.  I am not writing this to whine, but to be honest and dispel any illusion of perfection in my life.
And while we’re on the theme of imperfection, I thought I would give you a little house tour. I did not clean up in advance, and the photography is far from ideal. I love this house. As with my personal life this place has come a long way, but is still a work in progress.
Here is the dining room in 2011:
And in 2012:
The camping table, and first roommate are gone. The deceptively comfortable white chair is now in the room of Roomie #2.  Yes, that is a tequila bottle covered fake plant in the corner. It does not belong to me, if there were any questions. Let’s play ‘I Spy that Project’:
    1. Suitcase stool
    2. Half finished dining table set. The table used to be the yellow oak color of two of those chairs. Eventually they will have the walnut/white combo.
    3. Vintage mirror from my Christmas candle display.
Ok, not much going on in the dining room. On to the living room.
In the living room, let’s spy:
      1. Brand new fake fire place/gas heater.
      2. The other half of the Christmas candle project.
      3. The desk turned cabinet. While the construction of the desk is solid, I still am not crazy about the color combination. Furthermore, one of the re-purposed handles fell off today, so I may be back to the drawing board on this one. At the very least, I won’t be sad to part with it if I move away from Winnemucca.
      4. Dr. Suess lamp. Half way through its transformation from your yawn inducing college kid lamp to a more interesting and austere light fixture.
      5. Part of a crocheted rug. Here’s a hint: it won’t end up as a table cloth.
      6. A blank wall, desperate for some Sarah-Do: February art action.
And into the kitchen! This might be my favorite room in the house.
I have probably put the most effort into this room, and it is the closest to “finished” as I have right now.  There are now cabinet doors (and drawers!) installed. We also ditched the avocado refrigerator in favor of a more sightly, and most importantly, functional appliance. You will also see:
  1. The hand built kitchen table and chairs that started my DIY frenzy.
  2. Microwave stand that I painted red. I also painted/decoupaged some old oatmeal and spagetti sauce jars to create cheap yet decorative storage containers for my beans, nuts, and other bulk items.
  3. Wine bottle art! I am not sure if I ever blogged this particular installment in which I glued buttons and handmade flowers onto the wine bottles.
  4. A Quagmire Halloween costume. Unfortunately, not mine.
Here is another view of the kitchen. For your viewing pleasure:
    1. Barnyard bench, designed to contain our recycling.
    2. One moderately contained craft supply corner.
    3. A pumpkin shell turned bowl.
    4. Safety gear. Don’t forget to wear your earplugs and safety glasses!
I don’t have a before picture of my bedroom, but here is how it looks now:
I Spy:
  1. 2 lamps, halfway completed.
  2. Hand made wall art, never blogged.
  3. My first curtain sewing attempt, crafted from thrifted sheets. All in all, a success. At the time, I did not know the golden rule of curtain hanging: high and wide. Learn from my mistakes, gang.
  4. A mirror, in need of a home on a wall and possibly a home made frame.
  5. 1 slightly tacky throw pillow, that might get a make-over one day.
My bedroom used to be part of the wrap around porch.
And last, but not least, is me! 90% of my weekends are spent looking like this:
All this to say, I am not perfect nor am I the perfect crafter. It may look like a half-baked disaster around here most of the time, but I enjoy it, and I hope you do to.Before my projects make it onto the blog they usually sit around incomplete while I wait for the final flourish of inspiration to hit me. Art is messy, but in the mess I find a peace and quiet joy in my life here. And at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friendly Friday: Undershirt Dress

Its Friday, Friday, we’re gonna craft on Friday. And everybody’s looking forward to the weekend. Sorry, for that 2011 flashback. Did you know that exactly one year ago, the world was still Rebecca Black-less? My how things change.
This week’s Friendly Friday post comes from my lovely sister. Together, we journeyed into the discovery that we are (gasp!) artists. Our media are different, but the principles are the same. After seeing this dress, I think you will agree with me that she is a fabulous not to mention, gorgeous, artist.  Here you go, the amazing Katie and her Undershirt Dress.
dress 3
Today I want to tell you about my favorite creation of 2011... a dress made out of six men's Hanes undershirts! I have been learning that trusting my intuition can take me to grand, amazing places. For the last year and a half, creating things has been my outlet for experimenting on and testing my intuition.
Let me give you some background.  This past summer I happened upon a stack of new men's white undershirts sizes XL and  2XL that were being given away. I claimed them, having no clue why, except the thought."I could do something really cool with these." You need to know that one of my favorite things to do is to use discarded items and make something practical and pretty with them. Thus, I collect things like undershirts:).  As my goal for this past summer was to make 1 dress (I had never made a dress before), I thought maybe I could use these undershirts.
dress 2
One of the things I've learned about how I create really cool things, is I start off with only the slightest idea of what could be. I start off with the little bit I know how to do  and once I do that,  I get a general idea of the next step.  Then I do that, and the next bit slowly emerges. For me creativity, is all about taking risks, because I have no idea where one little idea of mine will go. And I've learned the process is RARELY linear. I usually make mistakes, sew something wrong and have to rip it out, or get stuck and have to consult either a friend or an online tutorial (huge fan of those, btw!).  But I'm learning eventually I get there if I stick with it.
In short, here was the way I made the dress. With this dress, I first made the top which I knew how to do, then took FOREVER to figure out the skirt, consulted friends for the waistband, and fumbled my way into figuring out what to do with the sleeves. 
So, here's the end result.  A white sundress that is very comfortable to wear in the Texas heat and...sometimes people think I paid at least $50 for it!
dress 4
Thanks, Kate! I am so excited to see where art takes you over the next year.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thursday Thought

Thursdays are my favorite blogosphere days because they are Before/After days on Design Sponge.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sarah-Do: February

So I have decided to make my Sarah-Do list a month to month thing, since the problem of when to put items on, when to take them down, and when to ignore the list altogether seemed, well, obnoxious. On to plan B, which hopefully stands for Better. For February, the Sarah-Do list includes:

  • Finessing my yoghurt making skills. I have made one palatable batch, but I want to make sure this is repeatable before I blog it. Any tips or tricks, gang?
  • Finish coat rack--we're probably sitting at about 85% on this one.
  • Finish my crochet rug in time for A's wedding
  • Finish The End of Vandalism and start one more book.
  • Make one piece of wall art.
  • Refurbish dining room chairs.
  • Host a Friendly Friday every week.
This is probably a conservative list, but I would like to leave some room for innovation and whimsy. What about you? Any goals for this short month?

And here is a horse, just because.

After thoughts

Certain pictures are just more appealing as time goes on.