We have ants.  It’s as if the veil of reality has been temporarily lifted and I have begun to see that the whole house, which I thought was made of boards and beams and nails and tin and wires and pipes and screens and paint, is actually made up of ants. They are swarming in the corners. They are pouring up mysteriously from cracks in the floorboards. They are moving in angry semicuicular currents underneath the microwave and seething in the damp seam of countertop behind the kitchen faucet and the wall.

We are fighting back. Whenever we spot one of these writhing masses of shiny insect bodies, we place a clear plastic trap filled with borax nearby. Soon, they team around it, drinking greedily, antennae waving excitedly. They drink and drink. They are supposed to bring the poison back to their colony. It is supposed to end them. Soon, the clear liquid inside the traps is gone, converted into the dead carcasses of ants. But still more come. They come and come and come. They come to new corners of the house. They come to places that food could never possibly be. They crawl along the cabinet by the door where we keep our shoes and keys and wallets. They come marching under the door to an empty corner, just to show their strength. Their dead bodies litter the floor like dust. Industrious, aren’t they? Relentless. Determined. Busy with their tasks.

In my own life, I have been on an endless quest for the defining transformative moment. I like the idea of a big, grand, once and for all solution. I think most people do. It’s very human, or at least, very American, to assume that one day I’ll finally do the big wonderful thing and suddenly my life will snap together,  like the satisfying click of the final puzzle piece.

I can devote huge amounts of energy to an overhaul project that promises to improve my life, especially if it involves my immediate environment. Eric and I have moved 23 times in our ten years of married life, and in each home, I’ve spent tremendous amounts of time making the house just so.  Refinishing furniture, sewing curtains, re-organizing relentlessly. It’s the lure of never having another mess occur. It’s the idea that maybe, finally, everything will be put in order once and for all and I can finally get on to the real things. The real things I want to do with my life.

Joan Didion once said that she wrote in order to know what she thought.

Can that be done sporadically, on the rare days when there is no work, and the laundry is all put away and the baby is napping? One doubts it.

I think it must be necessary to marry the big push with the daily grind. You know the grind already, don’t you? The get up and make coffee and get dressed and drive to work kind of daily grind. It’s not my favorite, but it is part of life. It’s what the ants are doing. They aren’t thinking about much, they’re just doing what needs doing, what life demands of them. Ah, but the project. The project I love. I love the excitement of possibility. I love the surge of energy that flows into me- I become almost superhuman when there is a deadline to be met or a party to be thrown or a room to be painted or a suitcase to pack.

I’m not looking to routinize everything, to have a rigid schedule that I have to follow to clock my creative time. But I do want to find a better balance between these two parts of life so that my daily grind is not missing the creative and so that projects are not limited to home improvement.

How do you find a balance between your daily realities and your creative aspirations?

I recently saw an add for a magnetic make-up palate and it struck me as a fun DIY to attempt.

Here’s how I did it.

You will need:
Makeup in containers- I used eyeshadows.
Something to pry the pans loose with- either a screwdriver, or a finer tool like a pocket knife blade.
A container to put the loose pans in- I used a Cavallini & Co. Sticker box
A hot glue gun

First, pry the make up pans loose from their containers. It may take several tries to loosen them.

Pull them out.
Arrange them into a pleasing pattern. (Don’t they look cooler already? It reminds me of a painting!)
Assemble the pans into a pleasing pattern in the tin.
Use a bit of hot glue to adhere them in place. (Since both the tin and the pan are metal, you can move them around if you’d like later.)
I added a few shadow applicators from the drugstore.
Ta da! I love how this has lightened the load in my make up bag. Plus, now I can see the whole spectrum of color I have to work with when I put on my makeup in the morning. What fun! Be sure to let me know how your palate turns out.

Here is a wonderful simple, elegant, easy DIY gift just in time for Christmas. It takes a bit of a head start, which is why I’m posting this tutorial now! Want to play elf with me? You will need:

Glass containers- mine are drinking glasses from the thrift store, costing around .50 cents a piece.
River Rocks- this container of smooth black pebbles from Target was $6.00
A big lucky bamboo plant you can cut starters from, or buy small potted ones.
Clean glass containers you can sprout your starter in.
First, cut snips off the big bamboo plant at the “joint” or knuckle of the bamboo plant. Put the starter in a glass of clean water for 1-2 weeks until you see white roots beginning at the base. I used 3 starters for each of my final gifts.
Put a few river rocks in the base of your container.
Holding the starter plants upright, fill container with rocks around it until the plants are solidly supported.

Add water and perhaps a gift tag with care instructions and you’ve got a thoughtful, inexpensive gift for a co-worker or hostess.

Care instructions are simple: when water level diminishes, re-fill your lucky bamboo plant. Periodically, you may want to remove plant and stones and wash them thoroughly before repotting and refreshing the water.

Just after I finished shooting this tutorial- a tiny lizard took up residence! Pretty nice digs, huh?
Do you have any great DIY Christmas Gift ideas? I’d love to hear suggestions- thanks to my new job at an elementary school there are a lot of folks on my list this year.

A black cashmere cardigan because winter in Hawaii is colder than you’d think, and I love slipping a cardigan over my sun dresses.

I love the clean, modern look of these glass candleholders. They would mix perfectly with my collection of clear glass votives and cylinders and I am always arranging and re-arranging the tablescapes in our home.

I’m mad about this Peacock Lollipop holder, but I think I’d fill mine with feathers or flower stems. (And while we’re at it, I’m still lusting after this Lolita Sunglasses Case too!)
These Quartz Ornaments remind me of icicles without being too literal. (Decorating with ice and snow just seems sort of silly when there is a riot of greenery, color and pounding surf right outside your door.)
I like that Trompe L’oeil is a little visual joke, so these 76th St Flats are loads of fun. What’s on your Christmas Wish List this year?

With Christmas on it’s way, I thought I’d reinstate my “Etsy Portraits” series from last year. It is so much fun to comb through listings with someone special in mind, don’t you think? This collection was inspired by my dear friend Gwen who loves gnomes, the ocean and an exquisitely made cup of coffee. It was also featured on Etsy’s front page recently!

this rather macabre Sailor Hand Clock has just the right combination of whimsy and dark humor.
Gwen loves to be outside in the sunshine and saltwater, so this print would be perfect in her house.
As a devotee of all things miniature and woodland, this Handmade Hobbit Hole would be awfully fun to play with. Plus, it’s small and pretty enough to display on her desktop! (The seedpod bed is my favorite part.)

This stunningly Beautiful embroidered hat reminds me of folk art and the sweet acorn top shape calls up the woods perfectly. A bit impractical for Hawaii perhaps, but pish posh. It would be just the thing to wear on her fantasy jaunt to Scandinavia.
What could be better than serving perfectly made cappuccinos in this Stripey Vintage Coffee Set
with sugar cubes and tiny cookies on these Handpainted wooden dishes?

This handwoven nautical doormat would be the perfect welcome to her home overlooking the water. (She has an amazing view of the Hawaiian sunsets!)

And I couldn’t resist this Gnome & Deer Photograph– it’s just about perfect.
What are you wishing for this Christmas?

I did a little more fussing with the details of my mini bathroom makeover.

I filled the vases with seashells and added the Ship Shadowbox to the tableaux.
All this re-arranging got me to re-thinking my art selections. I brought in my wonderful Jacques Cousteau poster from Wayne Pate and moved my Seashell Specimen Boxes here to hang in a pretty row. I like how all the mirrors let me enjoy all these beautiful objects no matter where I am looking. I also think the variety of blues adds depth and prevents everything from looking to matchy-matchy or themed. (That would completely undo the relaxed beach vibe I’m shooting for.)

Apothecary jars and trays of perfume- I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of keeping those on the bathroom counter top. Someday I fantasize about having an old fashioned mirrored vanity table with a pretty silver monogrammed hairbrush and hand mirror.

What about you? Added any new feathers to your nest lately?

I love the look of Mercury Glass and I thought I’d try my hand at making my own faux version to use as votive candle holders. To give this project a whirl, you will need:

Metallic Spraypaint
Misting Spray Bottle of Water
Recycled Paper
A glass vase or drinking glass
First, line the outside of the glass with the paper, taping it closed and trimming away the excess.
Next, spray the inside of the clean glass object with a fine mist of water. Don’t be shy- the mist will make the spraypaint look mottled and antiqued- just what we’re after.
Working quickly, lightly coat the inside of the glass with the metallic spray. Let dry overnight.
Voila! You’ve just created a beautiful antiqued centerpiece for your holiday table! Now, wasn’t that easy?
What have you been making lately?

This month’s Giddy Giveaway combines a few of my favorite things: Travel, Color, Whimsy and Smelling Good.

These wonderful little oil cloth make-up bags are from Emmilee Designs. Be sure to check out her cute shop, especially with Christmas around the corner. (Who can’t find a use for a waterproof zippered bag?) She generously sent along a few extras to giveaway to y’all. (Thanks Emmilee!)
I filled them up with travel sizes of some great products that I hope you’ll enjoy on your next trip- or on a stay-cation spa date with yourself! I love small sizes because you can try something new without committing to a whole bottle (there is probably a Zsa Zsa Gabor-esque one liner in there about ex-husbands if you care to hunt for it.) And with travel sizes, you can carry on- no small thing for a jet setter! Preparation and Ease are the jet setter’s secret weapons. How else could one emerge from the cattle cart of coach unrumpled and unmussed?

To enter, please do leave me a comment describing a travel moment that made you feel like a Jet Setter (or at the very least, a glamorous Air Hostess circa 1965!) Don’t forget to include your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you are a lucky winner. Please leave a thoughtful entry since I’ll be picking my favorite comments to win. There are 6 fabulous prizes, so don’t forget to tell your friends!
For bonus entries, you can follow me on Twitter, join my Facebook fan page and or visit my Etsy Shop and let me know which item is your favorite. Please leave a separate comment letting me know about each entry.
Thanks for being members of my little blog. I love hearing from each of you and these contests are such a fun way to get the conversations rolling!
Madame B

I celebrated my Golden Birthday on October 28th with wonderful fanfare, surrounded by good friends, amazing food, lots of glitter and glamour.

While planning this little shin-dig, I literally woke up one morning with this thought in my head:
It was as though I’d been doing nothing but flit through golden parties in my dreams all night long.
I knew this dramatic confection would be the perfect pièce de résistance for the party. I also knew it would take days to make. I joke about Martha’s recipes, but this one would literally take at least three days to prepare. Before one even begins assembling the damn thing, one has to make and fill 300 cream puffs. And that didn’t sound like such a wonderful way to spend a birthday weekend.
A few days later I clapped eyes on some frozen cream puffs at Costco. And I decided, heck yes. I’ll just do a bit of stacking.
Not so fast Ms. Kazana. Even using frozen cream puffs, this was quite an undertaking. Croquembouche is French for “crackle in the mouth”. Cream puffs are quite fluffy and light, so the crackle comes from dipping them in molten hot caramel, which is actually scorched sugar. (But not too scorched or it becomes Molasses! And your Happy Kitchen Zen is destroyed as you curse and try to find a way to clean petrified caramel lava off of your saucepan so you can begin AGAIN.) Once they cool, they have a delightful crisp and crackly outside and a cool, creamy, fluffy center. Heaven. But we aren’t there yet.
Traditional Crouqembouches sometimes have a bottle of Champagne inside, but I decided I couldn’t bear to waste one by gumming it up with caramel. I used a plain, clean wine bottle. Quite glad I did. I have no idea how modern pastry chefs do without it.
This is supposed to be topped with “angel hair” which is thousands of finely spun threads of caramel. I was at my limit after two hours. Perhaps as my Kitchen Zen improves I can re-attempt. I also wish I had done it closer to the party’s start time. The Hawaiian humidity made them a bit soft and gooey.
This is my favorite shot from the whole evening. I love the mundane mixed with the supremely glamorous. It got better as my friends started to arrive bearing my favorite gift: Bottles of Bubbly.
My darling husband made individual Macaroni & Cheese for each guest. (It’s GOLD people. Stay with me. I like to think the ramekins made it a bit more elegant.) We also served Butternut Squash Bisque, a green salad topped with golden raisins and golden peppers, crusty french bread, and lots of champagne.

I set the table with gold damask linens (found on Ebay for the occasion- just $25!) simple white china and clear stemware. The flowers are ordinary carnations and roses from the supermarket, but I used votive candleholders for the containers. They make a perfect size for such a small party and then the flowers don’t block conversations. The pops of gold are glittered faux leaves from a craft supply store.

Lighting the candles- sparkly ones, of course! My party dress is Zac Posen for Target– scored on clearance for $20 since nobody in Kona wants such a decadent garment. (Lucky moi!) My dramatic earrings were a birthday gift and looked smashing with my new do. The crown was from lovely Gwen and the necklace was handmade by Kristin.

Eric arranged for this charming Champagne Bottle Pinata to read “Happy Birthday Becky”- and then stuffed it to the gills with golden treats!

We had fun collecting the treats in our goodie bags, (golden, of course!).
I think planning this evening was half the fun! Thanks to my wonderful husband for slaving away with me to make it such a special night- and cleaning up afterwards too! I’m so lucky to have you Eric. Thanks to my wonderful Hawaiian Ohana for celebrating with me. I love you guys.
You can see more photos here if you’re curious!