Sunday, March 2, 2008

Seven Questions...Spinning Straw into Gold

All right. I know I have already posted ad nauseam about my adorable youngest sister. I just can't help it! In some ways Marta is my firstborn child. Except better. My mom and dad did all the hard work and I just get to beam with pride at all her accomplishments.

There are a million things I love about her, but one of the best things about Min is the way she can turn something simple into something so beautiful. The way she chooses to live life so elegantly.

Living in a small space with a law-school-student husband has not gotten Marta down. She has not put her entertaining, memory-making, gift-giving days on hold until she has the perfect Pottery Barn bungalow or the Bloomingdale's budget. Marta uses creative flair to personalize everything she touches--from baby showers to birthday presents. And she does it all without breaking the bank. Love it!

Here are Min's thoughts on making something from nothing (or at least not much)...

1. You have a way of working magic on a shoestring. What are your favorite cheap tricks for decorating and entertaining?

I think the details are what matter and they take more time than they do money. I like spending extra time and effort on an invitation because it is a simple way to set the mood and get everyone excited.

I also think party banners are super fun. I print out big letters in a fancy font, glue them on cardstock and cut out in squares, string the squares with pretty ribbon and hang the banner near the buffet table.

I love to make trifle which looks pretty in a footed bowl or individual fancy glasses, it feeds a lot and is simple: layers of jello and whipped cream and angel food cake.

Also fresh flowers in a small square vase can be cheap and lovely, just go with all one color to create a nice color theme.

And when I'm in a bind, I always borrow fancy table cloths or silverware from my mother-in-law.

Sometimes I get caught up thinking my place isn't big enough, cute enough or worthy for a party.. but really it's just fun to have an excuse to get together and chat! I have found that even if a drop-in guest comes unannounced, a pretty bowl full of M&M's sitting on your coffee table is irresistible and makes guests feel right at home. And will hopefully distract them from the dishes in your sink. (p.s. That is my rule number uno about hosting a party. No one wants to see the hostess scrubbing the dishes while everyone else plays charades. Enjoy the party while the party is going, the guests are there and the music is playing. Deal with the dishes tomorrow.)

2. Where are your favorite (cheap) places to shop for cute gifts?

a. TJ Maxx has the best soaps, bubble bath, bags, jewelry etc. I stock my gift shelf with goodies from there.
b. Target. I can always find fabulous things in the dollar aisle.
c. The Sale Table at Anthropologie or Sale Rack at J Crew
d. Consignment Shops often have cute random things.
e. I love giving note cards from my local Stationery Shop.
f. My latest craze is this: buy a pound of Chocolate Covered Cinnamon Bears, pour them into a cellophane bag (be sure to taste one or two) and tie it all up with a gorgeous silk ribbon and tag. Gorgeous ribbon is important to have on hand. It can make anything look a wee more lavish.

3. OK...It's crunch have a friend with a birthday and no time to shop. How do you pull something special out of thin air?

a. One of my favorite things to give someone is an accordion book of photos.
b. I often keep blank sketch books on hand, write a quote on each page and give it to someone for a journal.
c. I like making homemade goodies for someone and including the recipe. Martha Stewart has an awesome Bath Salt Recipe that can be thrown together with simple ingredients from the pantry.
d. I think giving someone your most favorite book, all underlined and dog-earred is a thoughtful expression. Dust it off, wrap it in delicious paper and say something like 'Since you're my favorite friend, I knew you'd like my favorite book. Relax and read in the bath like a Birthday Queen should!'

4. What are the five craft supplies you cannot live without?

a. My Rototrim Paper Cutter. I used to cut everything with my trusty xacto knife. Fortunately I've moved on. I am a little obsessed with making sure my paper gets cut straight.
b. A drawer full of Ribbon and a spool of Baker's twine. I love solid silk colors, but polka dot, rickrack and argyle ribbons are oh so charming.
c. A Bone Folder and Self Healing Mat. For a sharp and professional crease in your papers and a steady surface for writing and crafting.
d. Hole Punch. I love my hole punch and use it every day. It's the typical, old school silver one that is sold at every grocery store in town. I find the new frilly ones over-rated.
e. A favorite pen. Find a pen that you love to write with. (Mine is Pilot .007 fine tip. I also love the handy mini sharpies that for 99 cents can easily float in every purse.) You'll find yourself writing more often, in your journal, on your grocery list, in thank you notes. If you don't like your pen, you won't like to write. If you can't stand your handwriting, practice until you do. Your children, your lover, and your friends will always like to read things written in your own hand.

5. Your line of journals, cards, gift-tags and other paper goodies are delightful! Where do you get your inspiration?

I love to shop for paperie and mix and match patterns and find reasons to give handmade gifts. I find inspiration in photography, in art, in words, in the way people can find happiness in the small things. I like to think that my mini diaries celebrate the details that matter. If you don't jot them down and capture them, you lose them. I am always forgetting my most fantastic and hilarious dreams. I need to put a notebook right by my bedside, so I can re-visit them, like I do with past memories written in journals.

6. I love the way you "recycle" found objects (like magazine pictures) to make something new and beautiful. What other ways do you like to make something old new again?

I always save matchbooks and have them hanging up in a framed collection. They remind me of fancy special occasions and trips abroad. I like to use old maps for wrapping paper or for covering a regular cork board. I also rip out pages of antique (cheap) books for framing or collage projects. I save ticket stubs, cool postcards, business cards, and coasters that have great design elements for further design inspiration. I save beautiful invitations and party ideas and great quotes and stick them in binders for future use.

I have created books out of newsprint and note cards out of old Vogue magazines. The possibilities are endless when you start saving things that look interesting. I save all these goods in archival linen boxes until the day comes when I want to start a project, then I dump the contents out and begin hunting for the perfect thing. I'm always happy to have saved it.

It is a combination of creating something from the past and enjoying the passion of making stuff with my own two hands in the present and reaping the benefits from an original creation in the future.

7. You and your husband are the epitome of romance. What are your favorite cheap dates?

Two words: Barnes + Noble.
I love to sit with a stack of magazines on my lap and sip cocoa and enjoy the wealth of words and fashion and ideas with quiet company. Dan usually reads ski mags or some thick history book, but I always show him what adorn my pages too. Because he always has a funny comment to go along with it. Like, 'That outfit would so not go over in real life.' or 'Don't ever buy me that.' or 'Who's ever heard of that guy?'

I also love grabbing cheap greasy food and running to a good movie. He prefers walks together over anything else. If we simply turn off the tv, the cell phone, the computer and make dinner together, it's always a fun evening.

Just being present in the moment is what really matters. I write him random happy emails and he gives me sweet surprising compliments on the fly.

I always try to remember, it is better to hear a list of things I love about him rather than the weekly list of groceries I need.

We are happy because we are the best of friends. I heard a quote that fits perfectly to what I try to keep in mind, "Love is a condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." - Robert Heinlein

Thanks, Marta! Wishing you much more beautiful happiness!

And on top of all this, she writes so lyrically! Check out Marta's blog or her online shop.


Ilene said...

I have a photographer friend that sounds a lot like your sister. Everything they touch is more beautiful. I would love to be more like that but instead I find myself lacking the energy... so instead I just find myself being part of the appreciative audience.

Everything does look better with a lavish ribbon.

Jessica said...

I try to tell myself that what she does with paper and color, I do with food, but the fact of the matter is the
a) I don't make anything up, I just copy
b) Her stuff doesn't make her fat. Obviously.

She's amazing.

Lauren said...

She is so adorable and her talents are amazing!

I know what you mean about her seeming like she is your, "first born child". I have a sister is much younger than I am, and I feel the same way :)

Hollyween said...

I love her and don't even know her. That read like a novel and her pictures made me want to organize my stuff and buy cute colorful containers to put it in. And to think I was excited yesterday that I cleaned out the toothbrush drawer. Baby steps! She's organized and crafty and lovely. You can just TELL.

Celia Fae said...

I don't even know Marta and I think she is terrific. Her blog is always thoughtful and interesting. I enjoy reading about someone who has such different interests than me but expresses them so beautifully. It makes me believe in the diversity of humanity.

I'm glad other people can make stuff so I have something to buy.

mama jo said...

marta is really talented..i'm sure you taught her everything she knows...big sisters do that..

Rochelleht said...

Ah! Pure loveliness. I can't wait to see her first book in a few years and I can say I knew her sister when...

Wonderful ideas. I think her stuff is fantastic.

Christie said...

Marta has been all of those things, even at the tender age of 12, when I first met her. She is beautiful, artistic, and one-of-a-kind. She makes you happy just by being in the same room as her. She always makes you feel as though you are a rock star. Love you, Mart!

Bridget said...

Wow. She sounds amazing. I love people like her who have such a natural creative flair.

Denae said...

So cute. I love all the ideas she shared. Some people are SO creative! And I love to steal their ideas! (o;

Marty said...

What's better than a sista club? You raised her well, Gab!

Lisa-Marie said...


crystal said...

I love my bone tool, too! I call mine a boner, though--it makes me giggle.

Mique said...

Makes me love her even more. I'm jealous that my sis actually knows her in real life (or did once upon a time in Fountain Valley).
Can we start the adoption process yet? Me, in your family?

meg said...

such a wonderful, warm, inspiring interview! i loved hearing what her 'must-haves' are! just goes to show that having fun and being classy have nothing to do with how much money was spent on party favours or hors d'oeuvres. :) megxx

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