DIY Open Concept Bookshelves

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1. CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD

There are so many different styles of bookshelves nowadays and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when deciding what direction to take a piece in. I knew I wanted something modern, Scandinavian inspired for my wall shelf, so I took to Pinterest to see what was already on the market. Two things I learned from this research 1). I was drawn to the white more than the natural wood and 2). Styling is key with this style of shelf.

I also discovered that open concept bookshelves of this scale are insanely expensive and in-home delivery is even more pricey. This only made me want to design a shelf myself even more.

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2. OUT A DESIGN CONCEPT WITH MEASUREMENTS

Don’t be intimidated by this step if you aren’t a designer…you’re just getting an idea on paper.

Since the ceilings in my house are pretty high, I knew I wanted a book shelf that went nearly to the top, without hitting the air vent. I also knew that I wanted the shelf to be 84 inches long in order to fill the entire open space on my wall. I started doodling a few ideas, making sure to leave some shelves significantly open to give it a very airy feel. I referenced my inspiration board while drawing a few sketches.

From there, I sketched out my ideal shelf, then went back in to do the math. Check and re-check the math! It’s easy to get numbers mixed up here, so before you start cutting wood, check that all of your calculations are correct. Here is my chicken-scratch of a sketch for comparison.

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3.PRE-CUT WOOD & PAINT

Once you know your measurements are correct, it’s time to head to your local lumber store. If you aren’t leaving the wood natural, I’d highly recommend painting all of the pieces outside or in an open garage and let set overnight.

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4.BUILD UP, NOT SIDEWAYS

Once all the wood is brought inside, it’s time to start assembling. Build layer by layer and make sure that every piece is evenly aligned before drilling and nailing. Pencil in where all of the pieces should go before hand if that helps you get a better visual (this is easily disguised under one additional coat of paint at the end of the process).

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We tilted the shelf right side up when we hit the half way mark, just to make sure it was looking good.

5.ADD FEET LAST THEN NAIL TO THE WALL

Once all of the wood pieces are assembled together, it’s safe to attach the feet (if so desired). Also, because this shelf is solid wood, it needs to be as stable as possible, so nailing to the wall is a must.

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6.STYLE THE SHELVES

Finally, the fun part! The key for me when styling is to mix textures. I know this shelf is primarily for books, but I never want to overcrowd the spaces and make it feel jammed. The best way is to break up the books is with textured objects like, baskets, pieces of artwork and plants. Also, standing some of the hardcover books upend facing out so they act as a display piece adds additional depth. This will also help create movement throughout the shelf so your eye doesn’t get stuck on just one area.

There's no right way to style shelves, so just do what feels right in your space.

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This was the majority of process and turned out MUCH cheaper than purchasing a solid wood shelf from a furniture store. This same idea could even be translated into closet or laundry shelf organization.

I’m so pleased with the outcome of the bookshelf and hope to do more DIY Home Decor posts in the future.

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Alaska with Disney Cruise Line

The perfect marriage of adventure and family fun is Disney Cruise Line’s sailing through Alaska. Where else can you combine glaciers and amazing Disney service (and don’t forget Mickey!)? Disney really stepped up their cruise game on this trip, both in their excursions and on board service. Here’s a few reasons why I loved traveling to Alaska with Disney Cruise Line.

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Glaciers, and Mountains and Mickey, Oh My!

There is virtually no other experience in the world that places Mickey and friends in front of a picturesque mountain landscape. The cruise ship sailed up into Endicott Arm to the beautiful Dawes glacier. While we entered the blue waters of the fjord, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald appeared on deck in traditional Alaskan attire to mingle with guests. This was a great family experience for everyone on board, as well as a wonderful photo opp.

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Whale Watching Is An Every Day Activity

I learned from day one to always keep my eyes peeled towards the water, even when wandering around the ship. The aquatic life is ever active, and we were fortunate enough to see multiple orca pods and quite a few humpback whales throughout our journey. From the ship, we saw a humpback whale dive into ocean with a mountainous sunset in the background. Talk about Disney magic.

Open roof whale watching boats are the best way to go for an actual excursion, just make sure to bundle up (and don’t forget sunscreen, too). It is possible to get sunburnt on the boats, even in freezing temperatures.

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Breathtaking Views Onboard the Disney Wonder

There is nothing more relaxing than sailing through glaciers and mountain sides, while in the comfort of the Pub onboard Disney Wonder. The ship offers wonderful vantage points, as long as you can find a free window seat.

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The Yukon Territory on a Steam Train

My favorite excursion on the trip was this insanely breathtaking railroad excursion. My jaw dropped around every corner. It’s something that pictures will never fully do justice to, but if you ever find yourself in Alaska, the train ride is an absolute must.

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Local Alaskan Art

I sound like a broken record in every blog post, but buying local art is something I’m so passionate about. As an artist myself, I always bring home art from the places I travel and not the super touristy pieces). Alaska brought so many unexpected beauties, especially in their traditional art. I found a darling art shop in Skagway where I purchased quite a few pieces, both for myself and for friends. The colors and shapes inspire me so much and I love the perspective and story told in each piece.

I also purchased a one of a kind, hand carved bowl, which I will treasure forever. The artist hand-carved this bowl while out on the water in his canoe, and the store owner knew him personally. I loved this back story, which only made me more excited to purchase this beautiful piece. Be aware that there are many “traditional" looking designs, but most likely aren’t made in the region you’re visiting (some are even made in China). Ask questions in the art galleries and really examine a piece if you’re looking to buy something memorable.

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Amazing Disney Service and Dining Experience

Calling the seafood lovers of the world: this trip is 100% for you. The food on this cruise was out of this world. My biggest tip for those considering a Disney cruise: on previous Disney Caribbean sailings, the food and drink are always good, but feel much more family generic. The Alaska sailing works specifically with the local fishing town and fishermen to bring the day’s catch on board. Fresh fish, crab, lobster and shrimp were on the menu every night, but served in very different ways. If you are more of a red meat eater, there are great options for you, as well, you just won’t get as full of a food experience. Every meal tasted so fresh and was served with amazing Disney service from cast members.

Every waiter we had was so personable and charming. They’d get to know your likes and dislikes when it came to dinner and could always help you find the perfect dish.

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The desserts were out of the world as well!

There are plenty of other reasons to book an Alaska trip though Disney Cruise line, but I feel the topics discussed in this post were most helpful for me when recommending this trip to friends and family. I hope it was helpful to you as well!

My next post is all about cafes, schnapps and the Sound of Music…any guesses where? Stay tuned!

A Not-So-Touristy Guide to Key West

Is a relaxing trip to Key West even possible? I decided to put it to the test by avoiding the party scene, and seeking out the culture and laid back activities found on the island. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

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Make a bee line for the key lime

While the key lime stereotype may seem touristy and over-rated, finding an authentic slice of pie is a great, relaxing way to start your vacation. My best advice is to drop your bags in your hotel room and run to find the key lime pie. I don’t care if it’s 8AM, your vacation starts when you have a piece of key lime pie in front of you. Better yet, for all of the chocolate lovers, try the chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. This was one of the most unusual, yet insanely amazing things I have ever tried. I’d go back just for this snack. We found this tasty treat at the Key Lime Shoppe on the corner of Front and Duval street.

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Stay in a small, local hotel

One of the best ways to have a relaxing stay in Key West is to find a small, local hotel or Bed and Breakfast. Stay away from the party hotels because the pool and bar scene will get crazy at night and on the weekends (which most likely means you’ll hear the noise and won’t sleep a wink). We stayed at the Eden House and it was a small, tropical garden paradise. From a quiet pool, to a garden of hammocks, there was plenty of space to lay low and not feel confined. 

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Take time for brunch

While the rest of the island is recovering from last night’s hangover, try to make it to brunch. I had my heart set on eating at Sarabeth’s, since I know how amazing the one in Central Park in NYC is. Sit back, relax and sip coffee at the outdoor patio. Starting your day on a relaxing note is the best way to be motivated to explore later in the afternoon.

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Do a book exchange

While this is probably the most unusual activity on this list, it really is a great way to relax on the island. Drop off an already read book from your personal library and pick up something new. With so much activity happening around you, look for small moments like these. Plus, whatever book you trade-in can be your read for your entire vacation. It’s a win-win.

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There’s such a unique, charming heritage on the island that is often over shadowed by the bar and party scenes. Take time to pick up pamphlets about the history and go on city walks. Take in the beautiful, old Florida architecture and admire the gardens found across the island. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and explore the historic district. Ask questions along the way and really absorb the unique, cultural surroundings of the island. You’ll be glad you did.

For those looking for an adventure off-island, I’ll be posting next about taking the ferry to Dry Tortugas. Stay tuned!

Lady Mary Doodles

I was reminiscing over Michelle Dockery's fabulous costumes in Downton Abbey a few days ago and decided to doodle a few of my favorites. Here's to Lady Mary Crawley and her fabulous hats and headwear.