Monday, September 26, 2016

Vintage Suitcase Makeover: From Trash to Adorable Treasure

I have a thing for vintage suitcases. They represent a time when people didn't wear pajama pants on airplanes. What can I say? I'm nostalgic like that.

Something else I love? Reusing and upcycling things to keep them out of landfills.

So recently when my husband and I were returning home from running errands and I noticed a vintage suitcase sticking out of the top of a trash can--what is wrong with people?--and my husband offered to pull over so I could grab it.

It was charmingly worn but also in good shape, nice and sturdy. I brought it home and knew immediately what I would do with it. Fairly often when I'm at meetings or get-togethers people will ask if I have any honey or skin care stuff in my car. I never do because something about selling stuff out of the back of my SUV isn't as adorable as having people come to the cottage and tour the garden. But one day it dawned on me that if I could create a portable bit of charm to carry things I might be willing to do that.

About a week later I saw the suitcase. Yep, it's a sign. If you have an old suitcase you'd like to repurpose, here's how:

Clean it up. Mine was dirty and looked like it had actually had an interesting life. I just used the disinfecting bathroom wipes I had on hand to get off the top layer of dirt. After that just wipe it down with a damp rag. As you can see a little elbow grease goes a long way.

vintage suitcase
old suitcase

After cleaning it up I gathered my supplies:

  • fabric
  • scissors
  • Wonder Under
  • iron
  • glue gun and glue sticks
  • trim


 I laid the fabric down over the inside and pressed it down arranging it the way I wanted to permanently attach it. I left plenty hanging over the sides to leave room for mistakes.

vintage suitcase makeover

Next I put the Wonder Under between the fabric and the suitcase and ironed it together. The inside surface of the suitcase didn't adhere quite as well as I would have liked but it worked alright.

Note: Because I wanted to add a pocket to hold business cards I sewed that on first. You can see it in the bottom left. 

suitcase makeover

I trimmed off more excess material making sure that I didn't remove too much. You can always trim more later. Then I carefully began to tuck it under and glue it down using the glue gun.

vintage suitcase makeover with hot glue gun

For the corners I treated it like wrapping a present in reverse. It's a bit of trial and error. Tuck. Trim. Glue. See the cute little pocket for my cards?

old suitcase upcycle

I was really happy with the way it was looking but felt like it needed a couple more whimsical touches. Nothing says whimsy like rick rack and pom pom fringe! I decided to use some scraps to make a tiny pennant banner for the inside lid. I stitched the triangles to the trim...

sewing pennant banner

Because my pocket wasn't perfectly even I used bits of trim to disguise my lack of attention to detail.

old suitcase makeover

I used hot glue to attach my little banner to the inside of the lid.

pom pom fringe

old suitcase repurpose

Now instead of something sad and unused headed to a landfill, it looks like a party waiting to happen!

old suitcase makover

I tucked some goodies inside to try it out.

It looked so cute on the inside that I needed a colorful retro vibe on the outside as well! Instead of travel stickers and luggage tags I used fun stickers from some businesses and events and a few Pen & Hive ones. Then I attached some of my gift tags to the handle and this project was complete!

I can think of a million other uses for a refinished vintage suitcase. It would be perfect for storing fabric or off season clothing. It would be darling in a guest room with extra blankets stored inside. You could even use it to store toys or art supplies. 

Here's hoping there is a sweet and happy ending to all of your trash picking adventures!

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Stop Dreading Mornings and Gain Control of Your Day

Most people undervalue the power of morning. Many of us awaken with a few simple missions: to get coffee, find out what happened overnight--either with friends or in the world--and to get the most urgent thing accomplished. That may be getting to work on time or getting the kids to school, or both. For almost everyone mornings are hectic. Often times rushing around can steal any optimism we might have for the day.

What if I told you there is a better way?

Well there is. It is creating a morning ritual that focuses on your mind, spirit, and body before you do anything for anyone else. Here's what you should be doing in the morning according to science to be more productive and energized for your entire day.

1. Get up first. There is something powerful about the time alone in the morning when you are the only one awake. This is the time to get yourself in the mindset that will carry you through the day. If you normally get up at six to leave for work at seven, then start getting up at five instead to have an hour to prime yourself for the day. Yes this means going to bed earlier, but anything really good that happens on Jimmy Kimmel will be on Youtube tomorrow.

2.  Drink water. Your body has been losing water all night through exhaling and sweating.  One of the first things you do in the morning should be to rehydrate with sixteen ounces of water.

A word about vitamins: Several studies have proven that multi-vitamins are mostly a waste of money, especially if you eat a balanced diet. I take individual vitamins instead and sometimes change them based on what I feel are my current needs. Here's an article about the supplements that are proven to do the most good. Five Vitamins and Supplements that Are Actually Worth Taking

3. Stretch.  Ever noticed that in the morning your body wants to stretch and you do it naturally? You'll even notice that your dog or cat do the same thing. I spend about five to seven minutes stretching in the morning while the coffee is brewing. What are the benefits of stretching in the morning?

(a) While I'm stretching I practice deep breathing. Breathing deep and getting the oxygen flowing has a number of proven benefits. 
(b) Activate the "third eye" and open the heart. During my stretching and breathing time I also 
acknowledge my intuition and subconscious mind (third eye), I focus on my heart being open   
and kind, and set a spiritual intention for the day. This might be practicing more compassion or
determining to extend grace to everyone I meet today. 

4. Pray. Meditate. Do spiritual reading. Practice gratitude which has a number of mental and physical benefits. 

5.  Eat something. For the past 6 weeks or so I've been trying to get 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. It's been a challenge but I've noticed that it ends the need for a mid-morning snack and that I'm able to concentrate without thinking about food until lunchtime. It also builds momentum. If I'm going to the trouble of doing that then at lunch I have some motivation to make healthier choices.

6. Create something. According to neuroscientists our brains are most creative directly following sleep. The first three hours you are awake are the most creative you are going to be all day. If you don't have time to do a lengthy creative process before heading out to work or dropping off the kids at school then journal to capture thoughts and ideas you can return to later in the day.

Experiment with some of these practices and see what works best for you. Making better use of our mornings can set us up for success all day long, improve our energy and focus, and help us to prioritize what needs to be done.

Okay, now you can open your email.

Do me a favor and leave a comment about how you structure your morning and what routines or rituals you practice! 

Friday, September 16, 2016

I Was On the Cruise From Hell: The Power of Perception


I had been having a really good time on our vacation. We were with some dear friends, the ship was beautiful, the ports were indescribably gorgeous, and the crew was one of the best we've ever had.

A few years back on our first family crews my kids and I were caught in a group of people getting off the ship who had obviously cruised a lot. They were talking loudly enough to let everyone know it and they were full of complaints. My daughter and I gave each other the telepathic look that means "how bratty and annoying is that?" Later when we discussed our observations we talked about how ungrateful they were. We made mental notes to never take something so wonderful for granted.

On this latest trip my husband and I spent an evening lounging near glass windows overlooking the Norwegian sea with every conceivable food or drink available somewhere on the ship. We sat with our friends and discussed how completely grateful we were. As we talked we named so many ordinary things we were blessed with daily that seem like sparkling miracles to most of the world: running water, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, etc. I know that for me so many nights I am so appreciative for my bed and heat and air conditioning that make our lives not just tolerable but comfortable.


So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived a couple of mornings later to grab a cappuccino and hear the woman in front of me tell the barista that this "has been the cruise from hell!" You see her card was apparently fine to use at any of the many bars on board but not at the coffee shop.

You see where I'm going here.

She informed him that this was just one of a long list of things that had gone wrong. I mean you have to wonder about the other tragedies she'd endured.  She stormed off. I immediately regretted not saying out loud what I was thinking...

Pretty sure the cruise from hell was the Titanic.

This is a fantastic example of our own thoughts creating our reality. The ship wasn't sinking. We weren't caught in a dangerous storm. She obviously wasn't seasick. The power was on. The plumbing was working. We weren't overtaken by pirates. They hadn't even run out of coffee. We were having lobster for dinner, for crying out loud!

It's a wonderful practice to count one's blessings. Anger and  fear run out of oxygen when you do it. We all have those moments when we forget all the good things about our lives and let our negative mind take over. There is also the law of familiarity which I think was the problem with the ingrates my daughter and I encountered. We can too easily begin to allow the marvelous to become mundane if we don't check ourselves.

be thankful

Take some time every day and think about how rich you are on a global scale. The things we take for granted remain glittering dreams for the majority of the people on the planet.

Friday, September 9, 2016

How the Simplest Acts of Kindness Impact the World Around You For Good

 While on my silent weekend a couple of years ago there was much encouragement verbal and non-verbal to spend time in nature. The very place itself beckoned me out of my room and into surrounding woods and meadows. After dinner on my second evening there I noticed a young man in the distance wandering around among some wildflowers. He'd stop and pick some and then stroll around some more. I rocked in a chair on the porch and watched him. He was around my son's age and I imagined all the things he might be pondering in his solitude. 

 The next day after walking a couple of different trails I found one that disappeared into the woods behind the pond.

 About halfway around the pond I happened upon a bench, one of many placed in the most secluded spots to invite contemplation and rest. On the bench rested a bouquet of wildflowers carefully bound with long blades of grass. I caught my breath and smiled. At that moment nothing had ever been so beautiful as this gift left by a silent stranger for an unknown person to find. I took this picture and left it so someone else might be cheered by it. 

Later in my room, I thought about another random act by strangers that had filled me with intense joy.

A few years ago in St. Petersburg Russia we were on an evening riverboat cruise with our travel companions. As we passed under this bridge near the Hermitage a Japanese couple tossed a flurry of paper cranes into the air timed perfectly to shower down upon our boat.

My friend and I scooped up the paper to see what it was and then looked back to the top of the bridge to wave to the strangers who had randomly gifted us. They were beaming and so were we, waving furiously, knowing we would never meet them or know what prompted their gesture and they would never know how grateful we were for a small kindness.

At the end of the retreat when speaking was finally allowed I spotted the young man I'd seen wandering around that evening. 

"Are you the one who left the bouquet of wildflowers on the bench?"


"Well, I have to tell you how incredibly happy that made me when I happened upon it." 

"Wow. You just made my day." 

We all want to change the world for the better. We often imagine doing it on a grand scale. We think real change has to be something big done for masses of people. But if you are feeling small and inadequate, if you think you are only one person with limited resources, if you wonder what you could possibly do to make the world a better place, just start small. 

Where you are. 

With what you have. 

Even if it's just wildflowers or paper cranes.