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When I began college almost 12 years ago, I was pretty sure that I’d come out of the other side as a painter with a degree. The degree, yes, but the painter? Technically, no. After going through the grueling initiation of foundation art classes the first year (a required stepping stone, after which you had the freedom to concentrate on whichever medium you pleased), I dived into painting – and  I didn’t like it. Looking back now, it seems clear. While I rather enjoy the act of painting, at the time, nothing measured up. I had no patience for my oil paints to dry; I was unhappy with the large canvases we were provided with; I felt sad and sleepy listening to the music my peers chose (silly? maybe!), and I found myself much too eager for our mid-morning break. Most importantly, I didn’t “get” my professor, and he didn’t “get” me.

I stuck with it for the quarter, and I moved along to photography. This is where I met Janie, my teacher and mentor to this day.

In case it’s not clear with my current reality, I do love to paint. The timing is meant to be – now. But what I didn’t love then was my lack of choice and nonexistent student-teacher relationship. After the switch, I remember developing my very first photograph in the darkroom. It was f@*ing magic! I was hooked, in love. And having Janie as a teacher took the cake – I was inspired by her. I would lay awake at night before the new quarter and dream up ideas to execute in the following months, and I could hardly wait to tell her, get approval and get started. She was soft spoken, but when she gave advice and direction, it mattered.

I graduated 8 years ago, but beginning in 2009, Janie was motivated to deliver a commencement speech to her (then) graduating class. She passed the speech along to past graduates, and has continued the tradition every year since – and I’ve been lucky enough to be on the receiving end. This time, she spoke about curiosity. In her words:

I believe that having a thirst for continuous learning will move you forward in your lives in ways that you could never imagine [...] It will help you overcome the fear that you will inevitably have about making major changes in your life path. Taking risks can be worth it, if you feel that part of the tradeoff will be an expansion of your life, an acquisition of new knowledge and experience.

She continued by listing 6 ways in which to itch our curiosities, and after relieving our chalkboard entry of a boring ol’ honey-do list, I wrote them down for a daily reminder:

Above, they’re paraphrased a bit (nope, she didn’t actually say “nada”), but the message is the same. She went on to say:

These things are all quite simple. In fact, these actions are the very essence of a college education. You have been asked to function this way every year you have been here. But after you graduate, your life will take on a different kind of complexity, and the daily grind can all too easily make it difficult to do any of the above.

I didn’t intend for this to be such a wordy, lengthy write-up. Rather, I simply wanted to share her words that really hit home for me, in hopes it might do the same for you and your boat. It’s funny how quick we are to forget the basic fundamentals of our education, and it’s scary how easy it is to focus on anything but that. 8 years later, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve certainly allowed the day-to-day to muddle with my curiosities at times, and I’m resolving to kick that habit – 6 different ways. I already ask too many questions, but for me, the challenge is in that last one.

Now, I feel incredibly fortunate to make a living painting (life is strange, isn’t it?) and photographing our surroundings nearly every day for this virtual home. But having recently been stirred-up, excited, anxious and ultimately relieved by our recent Shop undertaking, her commencement couldn’t have come at a better time. This makes us wonder: who do you turn to for inspiration? Or maybe you’re the one inspiring others? (Surely you are!) Tell us about it; we want to soak it up, too.

  • Tina - June 29, 2012 - 9:08 AM

    Those words couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’m in my junior year of college (at age 30–let’s say I never found the right path until now) and yesterday I was struggling with where my life was right now. Those words are just the inspiration I need to continue on, finding out where I want to go and what I want to do.

    BTW, I still think you should add to your career by including your photography into your sales. They are stunning.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - June 29, 2012 - 12:12 PM

    Tina, I’m happy to hear this!

    And PS: I’m 99% sure I will. Thank you for the encouragement!ReplyCancel

  • Jimmy - June 29, 2012 - 5:04 PM

    Now is a great time for the autodidactic. The internet makes self-teaching super accessible. iTunesU and other services puts expensive college courses in anyone’s living room. More than this, I’ve found that the ability to research and find the best, most respected books and resources on a subject to be a huge advantage today. No longer do you have to buy blind. Instead, you can just do a little googling skip right to the stuff that’s actually worth your time and has stood up to scrutiny.

    Not to totally thread-jump, but a few years ago I got really into civil war history. I don’t know where it came from, but it happened, and now I’m a total nerd about it (visiting battle fields and such – it’s gotten out of control). Anyway, there has been a book published on the subject for every single day since the war ended 150 years ago. That’s a lot of literature, and sifting through it to find what’s actually worth reading would be a full time job without access to the crowd-sourcing you can get on the web.

    Anyway, as you can see I’m a huge proponent of continued learning and self-education. This post is right on. Good on your professor for pushing it.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 30, 2012 - 9:49 AM

      Thank you, Jimmy! Wow, that is amazing – and no joke, a LOT of literature! Pretty incredible.

      Lauren, that’s great, and thank you! Jess is inspirational, isn’t she? Love that girl! As for our tiny home, we often joke that we can’t imagine living anywhere larger – too much to clean. Ha!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren L. - June 29, 2012 - 5:58 PM

    I love this post so much! I get a lot of inspiration from Jess at Makeunder My Life. I found her at a time when I really needed “her and her blog” I soaked it up and realized that I needed to make a change. I am one of those weird people that has known what I wanted to do since high school: be a teacher. Two years ago I thought that I might not want that anymore but after taking the break to go to graduate school I realized that I missed the classroom and my students. And that teaching is truly my passion. I also get a lot of inspiration from your blog! I love how you and Scott are working with what you have. You never complain about your little condo. You just make it work. So thank you for sharing this story with us! Have a wonderful weekend.ReplyCancel

  • Adrienne J - June 30, 2012 - 9:10 PM

    I too turn to teachers who have really made a difference in my life. I recently made a complete 180 into a non-art career but I know they all support me in my decision. Graphic Design didn’t seem to be a good fit for me but I hope to open my etsy paint shop next month!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - July 1, 2012 - 12:31 AM

      Ooh, good luck, Adrienne! Let us know about your shop once it opens – we’d love to see it!ReplyCancel

  • Jill - March 6, 2013 - 2:18 PM

    BEAUTIFUL! I must’ve accidentally missed this and unfortunately probably more of your entries because I was in newborn, no sleep hazy blissdom. Oh, and wonderful postpartum feelings too! haha! I love this blog entry, Kim!ReplyCancel

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It’s been a while since we’ve talked about the stu-stu-studio, and shame on us for never officially showing you the final outcome! Yes, you’ve seen one half of the room when we debuted grandma’s chair, and you saw the other side when we installed our shelves, but the room as a whole? (Crickets.) I kept telling Scott, just one more tweak!, because in my mind, the room was never really complete. Well, we’ve been tweaking for – what, a few months now? half a year? – and over the weekend, we finished the last big task for the room: the window treatments!

Years ago, we installed plain, white venetian blinds. They were a steal on Overstock, likely because they were nameless, plastic imposters. They’re fine; we’ve never thought much about it either way. But after transitioning the room from dark blue to pale, pretty pink (and painting everything from the ceiling to trim, installing chair rails, a fauxdenza and new lighting and laying down a new rug), we were ready to rid ourselves of these:

Originally, I had dreams of lush, velvet curtains, draped ceiling to floor. I pinned my little heart out, debating between gold, grey and blue. But as I told my friends this idea over dinner, they immediately nixed any further thoughts, reminding me that, um, we have cats! And a dog! And that’s a lot of hair just waiting to suction to my non-existent curtains.

My thoughts turned to faux-silk (me = thrifty), and Scott and I bounced around the idea of DIY pipe rods to mimic the paper pipes on the opposite wall. We quickly realized that the home made rods would stick off of the wall a good 3″ (at least), and dare I say again – this room is a teeny, tiny 8′x10′, with only an 8′ square for usable area. Thinking I’d be stuck with the blinds, I had a change of heart when we saw these roman shades at West Elm:

A-ha! I could have my privacy, keep my precious inches, control my natural light and bring in texture and softness with fabric! It was a win-win-win(-win), and even better, Scott liked it too. Unfortunately, neither one of us was a fan of the $170 price tag (although admittedly, they were thick and durable), so I locked the idea to memory then took to Pinterest for any sort of DIY tutorial – and immediately, I found this one from Jenny at Little Green Notebook.

In summary, her instructions turned cheap, $3 mini blinds into roman shades with few supplies needed – and most importantly, no sewing required! I triple checked with Scott, but we figured that although our blinds weren’t of the super cheap variety, they would still work – and if anything, they’d be a bit more sturdy. We picked up 2 yards of white drapery fabric and decorative trim from our local hobby store, and we made these:

You’ll notice that our decorative trim is at the top of our shade, when the original goal was to apply it to the bottom. We’re still not sure if it was user error (never!), but when we pull our shades up, the bottom flap is no longer exposed (see the West Elm shade, above). I think if we had added an extra slat towards the bottom it would have allowed for a bit more fabric “hang down.” After a mild freak out on my end, Scott assured me that the peek of trim at the top was still good; he promised.

Regardless, the overall process was pretty simple, but I will admit that we each had to read her instructions a few times to make sure we were on the right track. If anything, we learned that there was a bit left to our interpretation, including what was considered the front and the back – in our case, we applied the fabric to the front, so that our lift cord would be hidden behind the panel.

We followed her instructions step by step, and again, you can find Jenny’s write up on Little Green Notebook. After installing them, there may have been a happy tear (or two) shed when the fabric folded in perfect, lifted waves. We chose a mid-weight fabric, but as you can see, the white allows for our slats to show when light filters through. This doesn’t bother us one bit, but keep this in mind if you’d like to give it a go.

And now, we think it’s safe to say, the studio is done! As for my day-to-day workflow, it took me some time to ease into (I spoke of it briefly right here, among red lipstick and other things!), but now? I love it. I love it to the moon and back. Being in this room makes my heart sing. This clearly means I have a date with my tripod, and final photos are in order. Soon (please and thank you).

Has anyone else attempted their own version of roman shades? Hell, I’d be impressed if you sewed your own curtain panels – you know how I feel about those scary machines. Can we see?

  • Heather {ModernMealsforTwo} - June 27, 2012 - 9:46 AM

    I love the trim at the top! It’s a fun detail.ReplyCancel

  • Liliana - June 27, 2012 - 10:25 AM

    I really like how this came out Kim. I had seen the tutorial before, and wanted to give it a try. However, my lack of patience stopped me from attempting this diy project, and I instead purchased roman shades from JCP pretty cheap after sales and free shipping = ) While I’m happy to have the privacy, I do not like them much.

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~ L.ReplyCancel

  • Alexis - June 27, 2012 - 1:16 PM

    I’m ready to redo my sewing area and was thinking of making long curtain panels to hang in front of the window instead of the hideous blinds that live there. Now I’m wondering if roman shades would be a better option, maybe with pom pom trim at the bottom…
    Thanks for the link and inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Dave Coates - June 29, 2012 - 7:03 AM

    Well done! We made our own set of roman blinds and decided ‘never again’ once it was completed. It was a fun experience, but it just takes waaaaay too long. It’s actually more worth my time to work a few more hours and just pay someone to do it. We prefer to focus on the manual labour items like drilling, scraping, painting and leave the sewing to professionals (or our mothers ;))

    Love what you’ve done with your house by the way. Well done!

    Namaste,
    DaveReplyCancel

  • Bella - February 26, 2013 - 6:26 PM

    WOW,,, love your new shades.
    I too have that tutorial pinned, and have been contemplating giving it a try. We have the same blinds as you, the thicker, not $3 ones, and I wasn’t sure how it would work.

    Thanks for giving it a try, and by the look of things, it looks GREAT!!

    How have they been holding up? If you want to wash them, is it possible?

    SO glad I stumbled on your blog today, what a treat!

    Have a wonderful day, and stop by anytime to say hello if you can.
    P.s. After coming back from an extended blogging break, I’ve started a 40 day challenge to get HEALTHY by my birthday. If you get a chance to check it out, I could sure use the support!
    Hugs, Bella :)
    Bella’s 40 Day Challenge ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 27, 2013 - 8:32 AM

    Bella, thank you! They’ve held up great, but I haven’t had a need to wash them yet. I’m sure they’d be fine with a little spot cleaning if necessary though!ReplyCancel

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During our recent Pet Shop overhaul, we decided it was about time we snagged recent snaps of this duo, considering most of our photos together were taken on blurry, hazy nights in photo booths. We love a good booth as much as you (you’ve seen our bathroom collection, right?), but we wanted something breezy and bright for our team page, and we wanted all 3 kids in on the action, too.

Yeah, right.

Even with all our wishful thinking, there are not enough self-timers in the world to capture Jack and the girls and come out sans kitty scratches and (literal) hissy fights – and on the deeper end, a visit to the ER. (We cringe at the possibilities.) Rather than rely on our tripod, we turned to our (real-deal photographer) friend Renee and squeezed ourselves in for an hour in her West Loop photo studio. Only our little mister joined in – sporting Silly Buddy bow ties borrowed from his pal, Mr. B – but the felines were there in spirit; we promise.

Not being terribly skilled on the other side of the lens, it took me more than a few minutes to act normal, but we gotta give it to Renee for making it fun and easy. We think Jack’s a natural, of course! Here are a few favorites, including some outtakes – the best parts, we think:

I’m most comfortable behind the camera; this being said, I know we haven’t always been brave when it comes to showing our faces around here. Even above, Jack steals the show! In the coming months, we’ll be slowly rearranging our bloggy format you see now, and with those visual changes, we hope to share more of our every day – more of what we love, what we do (when we’re not playing with power tools!) and what we see. And with that, we hope to share more of ourselves.

Oh, family photos. They’ve come a long way from this, haven’t they?

PS: If you’re in or around Chicago, we cannot recommend Renee enough for family photography! See her work right here.

  • Renee - June 26, 2012 - 7:45 AM

    Still love that we HAD to use that rug for Jack!ReplyCancel

  • Two Pitties in the City - June 26, 2012 - 7:49 AM

    Oh, those look so great! And Jack does wear the bowties well; he looks so dapper!ReplyCancel

  • Rebelwerewolf - June 26, 2012 - 8:29 AM

    Love the picture where you’re lifting Jack’s ears! We do that to our dogs all the time.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 26, 2012 - 9:27 AM

      Thank you!

      Renee, I know, he’s so silly!ReplyCancel

  • Alyssa - June 26, 2012 - 10:38 AM

    These are adorable. You’re right, Jack is quite the star! I know this is quite delayed, but congrats on the relaunch of The Pet Shop. The site looks fantastic :)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - June 26, 2012 - 11:01 AM

    Thanks, Alyssa! Your re-branding is going amazing as well!ReplyCancel

  • Crystal - June 26, 2012 - 2:22 PM

    I love these shots. I need to get some family shots of me with the dogs- I have a ton of pictures of them, but hardly any of us together.ReplyCancel

  • Jane @ The Borrowed Abode - June 26, 2012 - 2:31 PM

    You guys look so adorable and fabulous! Also, love the light and the colors in these shots. Great job all around.ReplyCancel

  • claudia - June 26, 2012 - 4:59 PM

    Great pictures! And Jack is super handsome.ReplyCancel

  • Tina - June 26, 2012 - 5:20 PM

    You can’t say breezy! That totally negates the breezy!! (Can’t remember if you’re a FRIENDS fan but here’s hoping so!)

    Pictures look fun though. Great job!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 26, 2012 - 6:11 PM

      Thank you, everyone! Jack totally steals the show!

      Tina, good gracious, that’s awesome. (I’ve seen every episode at least 10 times. Every now and then, I like to tell Scott to PIVOT!)ReplyCancel

  • Lauren L. - June 27, 2012 - 1:10 AM

    I love these pictures!!! I think we need to take family pictures too now! :)ReplyCancel

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