Classic Movie of September…and a tribute to Ethan Hawke


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As I drove home from work today, I cued up the newest podcast episode of The Moth and squealed with delight (literally) when I saw the storyteller was Ethan Hawke. Never to disappoint me, he told a great story about the real secret inspiration of his life.

Did I start in 1985 with The Explorers, starring Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix (my other tragic obsession)? I certainly watched this movie over and over as a kid. Or was it White Fang in 1991? I’m not sure, but at some point by the tender age of 12, Ethan Hawke became my real secret inspiration.


Be still my heart…

In 1993, he starred in the film Alive, the movie based on the true story of a South American rugby team being stranded in the Andes Mountains after a plane crash – and they survived 72 days. Next to Aliens and The Empire Strikes Back, I watched this movie over and over and over. Between starring my favorite actor and dramatizing a horrible true disaster, this movie was meant for me.

Then let’s not forget just a year later when Reality Bites came out…the anthem of my generation.


Yet, at that point, he was just an actor in my mind. Until my second year of college, where I randomly picked up a copy of his novel The Hottest State. I remember having to justify to all my other Lit major friends why I was reading a book by Ethan Hawke. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. And then again a year later. I forced it upon my college roommates, who also read it with similar veracity. (Sadly, the movie sucked, but we won’t go there).

Today, listening to his podcast, I realized just how much of his real life is embedded in The Hottest State and it was like experiencing the book all over again. Honestly, I can’t say I’ve seen 80% of the movies he’s been in, but I’ve read a lot about his life as a writer and performer from his own perspective. He’s a dude who proves you can have a messy homelife, drop out of college, and still make something of yourself.

So anyway, back to Alive. After the podcast this afternoon, I immediately knew what my classic movie of September would be.

aliveAlive (1993) – Beyond my love of Ethan Hawke, this movie was the fire of my burgeoning obsession with true disasters. 7th grade, I read the book (twice); and in 2007, I saw the documentary Stranded. I really don’t understand why people watch so many movies and films about fake disasters when the real ones are so much more intense. Those who might be interested in stories or films about Edward Shackleton can appreciate that although there were 29 lives lost in this tragedy, it was the team dynamics and group leadership that are attributed to the survival of the remaining 16. And much like Shackleton, two of the players literally hiked out of the Andes Mountains and returned to save the remaining passengers.

It’s an amazing story. I’ll never get over it.

Also, you can check out his podcast episode here: Ode to Stepfather

Citizen’s Police Academy One Year Later


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Last year one of my goals was to join the Multnomah County Citizen’s Police Academy, but little did I know that I would be joined by three of my very good friends on a 12-week criminal justice adventure. We met the drug dogs, toured the jail, went on ridealongs (both in a patrol car AND patrol boat), watched a taser in action, and on and on.

Even though we got to see a lot of really fun and interesting things, it was still a three hour night class after a full day of teaching. We were exhausted. One time some lady brought in fresh baked cookies for us and instantly I knew that once I had graduated from the academy, I, too, wanted to be “the snack lady.”

So last night, my friend, Courtney, and I revived our citizen’s police academy traditions. We met at Elmer’s for dinner, and then went out to the Wood Village City Hall to deliver snacks to the new recruits. It was like the fun started all over again. We greeted familiar faces, and other people were like, “Who are these giggling girls with the snacks?”

Last year, one of our more random traditions became taking a photo in the car, 12 weeks in a row. Last night we had to revive that tradition, as well.

photoIt was really fun, and we will totally serve as the Snack Patrol again soon.

Ok, now the fun part of this post is over. Time to get serious.

I really did learn a lot from the Citizen’s Academy (and then the FBI Academy a few months later), and a lot of it resonated with me. Quite honestly, I’m not someone who fully trusts law enforcement; I’ve had too many run-ins in my earlier years that made me wary of cops who sling their authority around. But the Citizen’s Academy really did make me feel safer. I met some really intelligent, hard-working, and down-to-earth people who work in all different areas of the county sheriff’s office, and I’m grateful for the time they spent with us.

Something one of the sergeants said was, “If you see something strange, don’t hesitate to call it in; if it gives you a funny feeling, you’re probably right.” I heard that exact line later at the FBI Academy, too. That stuck with me.

Today on my drive home from work, I was just getting on the Fremont Bridge (one of the higher bridges in downtown Portland) and I noticed a guy walking along the edge.

Fremont BridgeHe was disheveled, and had a rope in his hand. It alarmed me immediately because I didn’t see a broken down car anywhere, and he was getting ON to the bridge, not OFF of the bridge (and it’s not the kind of bridge to just take a stroll). On our riverboat ride along, I remember the officer telling us that Portland averages about 50 suicide jumpers a year, and he had a gruesome story of a guy attempted to hang himself with a rope but a concerned truck driver immediately cut the rope and the guy still plummeted to his death. As soon as I was over the bridge, I pulled over and called 911.

Maybe it was nothing; but like the guy said, if it gives you a bad feeling, better to call it in.

And finally, I’ve been listening to a new podcast called Everything Is Stories. So far, it’s real people just telling stories of their life…somewhat disturbing stories. The episode I listened to this morning felt timely. In the first half, a crew member for the show COPS recounts his experiences, and how working for the show was sometimes funny, but mostly depressing. When he talked about witnessing police officers become jaded (and even a little sadistic) from dealing with violence and poverty day-in and day-out, I was immediately reminded of my recent years teaching in a high-poverty neighborhood. At a certain point, it really does change you; for better, and for worse. I agreed that a certain point, you need to leave or you will lose your faith in humanity.

The second story was from a crime scene photographer. His perspective was similar but from a more grotesque point of view since he only dealt with the fatal aftermath of a crime. His story echoed the first, in more gruesome details. I thought back to a lot of the stories we heard at our citizen’s academy.

Listen to it here: EIS – Burden of Proof

Overall, it was a year with many new experiences and it gave me more perspective than I would have initially anticipated.

Teaching Smarter, Not Harder


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Today I was in my classroom from 7:45am until 6:30pm. It’s one of the very few days of the year I will work that many hours, but we had a family Ice Cream Social and even though it wasn’t required, I wanted to at least make an appearance. Most days, I show up a little bit early, and get out by my contracted 4:00. But as the new year has started, tons of my teacher (and principal) friends have been lamenting how late they are staying at school and how little they are sleeping.

I’ve had several of those same friends say things like, “I just can’t get out the door,” or “I have too much to do so I have to stay.” I, too, remember the pressure to stay late my first year of teaching, but I knew immediately that it working ten, twelve, fourteen hour days is a fundamentally flawed system. How many people on their deathbed say, “I wish I had stayed later at work…” ?? No one. That’s who.

Working late means you exercise less, sleep less, eat crappier food, and so on. On the most basic health level, it’s not good for you.

So how can you get out the door on time when the mountain of work seems insurmountable? I pride myself on efficiency; on working (teaching) smarter, not harder.

First off, checklists. Have you read The Checklist Manifesto by Atwul Gawande? Without a prioritized checklist, you are most likely wasting time on items that can wait, and not checking off the things that really need to get done. I even make my OWN checklist notepad.

IMG_2869Are you getting enough sleep? You may think that all those extra hours you are putting in are efficient, but studies constantly show that sleep deprivation makes you super inefficient. It also kind of makes you depressing and an asshole. No one wants to be around that. And on a vanity level, you’re ruining your complexion. Look at this excerpt from “Three Reasons You Need More Sleep” on Forbes:

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As a teacher, I expect my students focus and engage in their work, but at a certain point, they have permission to just put it aside and come back later. If they are managing their time well, then no one can fault them for not finishing an assignment.

Which brings up inefficiency and inefficient processes. I always tell people I didn’t get two Master’s Degrees to learn to use a copy machine. A teacher’s job is never done, but with some strategic delegation it can actually be easy at times.

For years I have created a “classroom internship” that gets high quality college students into my school to deal with the minutae of my job. It’s a win-win. They get real-life experience and a stellar recommendation, and I get someone to make copies, put stickers on student work, and make cool artwork displays. I also employ parent volunteers, student teachers, and students themselves…the message is that we must work together to achieve our goal. (That being said, I never want to exploit my help…I try to always repay them in a different way.)

I also highly recommend analyzing your habits and processes on a regular basis to figure where your effort should really be focused. One of my favorite books is Do More Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier because it’s super interactive. A really easy tool is to use this map to plot out how you spend your day:

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Then you do one of how you wish you spent your day (within reason, of course…you can’t say 100% of the time on tropical beach). Then the book helps facilitate a change from your current reality to your desired reality. It takes some intentional thinking, but I can vouch that it really helped me find a lot of clarity in how I spend (and waste) my time.

What’s the most important part to getting home on time? Understanding that you are your worst enemy. You must be willing to change your current habits, but for me I rarely say things like, “I can’t…”Looking for more reading on this topic? Here’s a couple I also refer back to for my own personal and professional growth:

The Inefficient Frontier: Work-Life Balance

10 Signs Your Burning Out and What To Do About It



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Generally I’m not one for celebrities. While I do enjoy movies and music and television and all the things celebrities put together for us, I can’t understand idolizing a group of the most phony people in the world. When they die and everyone starts filling my Facebook feed with what an incredible inspiration that person was, I barf a little bit in my mouth. 

HOWEVER, I do have a random cast of oddball celebrities that do excite me. I like people who don’t apologize for what they bring to the table, no matter how good or bad you think they are; I like to think that’s how I live my life, too. This list would include Lady Gaga, QVC host David Venable, Snooki, all cast members of The Young & the Restless…and of course, Joan Rivers. 

While I’m sad that one of my favorite celebrities is gone, I was really interested to read the excerpts of her funeral wishes since I just recently put together my funeral plans for this blog. 

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Although I just planned my funeral less than two months ago (read all about it here!), I’ve already been tweaking my last wishes in my head. Apparently it was just a first draft. No, I don’t want a paparazzi event like Joan Rivers, but I do want something fun and specific to my personality.

Perhaps I’ll be buried in my Joan Rivers Houndstooth Riding Jacket…


Worn sportily with my Nike running tights.

Or my Joan Rivers Leopard Trench Coat…



Thanks for the fashion, Joan!

Goals of Remembrance Past


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As I was assessing my lackluster progress on this year’s goals, I went back and checked my previous year’s “bucket lists” and realized that some of those goals from almost three years ago are impacting my life today. And that I could even cross a couple of the “didn’t happen” ones from previous years off. Today we take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of my the goals of 2012 and 2013.


Ohhhhh 2012. You were a difficult year, and I’m glad we have parted ways. We spent most of the time on crutches and experimenting with various forms of glucosamine supplements. But we had our good times, too…

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1. GUNS: Although my goal of learning to properly shoot a handgun was more that I was hoping to start shooting at a range on a regular basis, I did get to shoot at the FBI range this spring with real FBI instructors. I think if my goal was to simply learn how to shoot properly, then I could technically cross this one off now.

2. PODCASTING: Holy crap! I can’t believe that I didn’t even know how to make an mp3 of a podcast just a few years ago! This summer I presented how to actually make a podcast at a conference. I believe the technical term would be, “The student has surpassed the teacher.”

8: SNOWSHOEING: Hey, I actually own snowshoes now, and I’m already plotting this winter’s outings. You like that?

10. DOLLHOUSE: It was my first venture with submitting a craft to the state fair…but it certainly wasn’t the last. My dollhouse furniture is currently on display at the 2014 state fair AT THIS VERY MOMENT. (And no, I won’t be attempting to go pick it up.)

21. BINGO: Dudes! Did I tell you I won a whopping $125 at bingo the other night?! While the bowling team was not near the fun I had hoped, bingo has become a favorite pastime for not just myself, but many of my other nerdy friends.



Moving on to 2013…I had a year of bucket listing under my belt. My goals got even weirder, and I had even more fun.


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13. CAKE: The four-layered rainbow cake is now my party specialty. I’ve made several for my students (who always oooohhhh and ahhhhhh one a slice comes out), and I’ve experimented with different types of filling and frosting. Perhaps it should be next year’s state fair submission.

15: WORKSHOPS: Wow, this one still has me speechless. Was it really only a year and half ago that I was hoping to get more opportunities to teach teachers? Because this summer I spent a week working with Corwin on a new, amazing team to lead PD around the country. 

17 & 22: ADMIN/JOB: The funny thing is, I have no desire to be a principal anymore. Yeah, I got my license and I worked REALLY hard for it (like harder than anyone I personally know because I had a completely manipulative and toxic mentor), being on Corwin team is the perfect fit. An up-to-date post on this whole thing is coming soon…

23. ACADEMY: I never could have guessed that the Sheriff’s Citizen Academy would have led me to the FBI Citizen Academy, where I’m now and official alum and I’m hoping to visit Quantico next summer. In addition, I just signed up to be the snack-master for the current sheriff’s academy recruits.


Of course there are other things that I didn’t mention. I’m still running and doing push ups and making marshmallows and even dabbling in the stock market. Whether you’ve slacked on your goals for 1 week or 1 year, just because it didn’t happen like you wanted it to in your head doesn’t mean it can never happen. Some of my goals changed over time, but the point is that several really evolved organically into something bigger.

Get out there. Get those goals.

Books of August


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Oh the last month of summer. The last month I can read a book by the pool.

I have to say that making the goal of reading three books a month seems not that challenging, but at the same time it is. It’s easy to come up with excuses not to read, and some are legitimate…but having this goal has often made me pose the question, “Read or play video games?” “Read or watch TV?” “Read or troll the internet?” And thus I choose the former, but I know that if it wasn’t my goal to read, I would just indulge in more screen time (of which I get plenty).

Here’s what I read by the pool this month.

51CezGFihILMy Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer – As a kid, I couldn’t get enough of the weird, violent, cannibalistic elements of fairy tales, and since I’m a big Angela Carter fan, this book has been on my “to read” list for awhile. But, overall, this book was just too damned long for me. There were some stories that I would love to read again, and others that I couldn’t stand, and maybe I would have enjoyed the last few stories more if the book itself wasn’t so overwhelming. Instead of rag on aspects I didn’t like, I will just tell you a few of my favorites and if you’re a fan of fantasy and adult fairy tale literature, I hope that you check out at least one. Of course I liked several more, but these are my top four:

“A Day in the Life of Half of Rumpelstiltskin” by Kevin Brockmeier

“The Mermaid in the Tree” by Timothy Schaffert (my favorite of the whole book)

“Catskin” by Kelly Link

“Pleasure Boating in Lituya Bay” by Jim Shepard

mzi.jeamasis.225x225-75 The Power of Storytelling by Jim Holtje – I am a big fan of personalizing presentations, and telling stories is a key way to get people to not only remember you and your message, but make them believe in your message. This book is more tailored to those in the business world, than someone like myself in education, but nonetheless I wanted to get a better grasp of how to effectively choose and tell my stories. Unfortunately, I got bored too easily. I felt like the stories were too surface level, and while I did dog-ear a few for later reference, overall they weren’t very memorable. In addition, the book didn’t really help me develop my own stories, but suggests that you use these CEOs’ stories when you give a presentation. Um yeah, no thanks; I don’t exactly what to reference the CEO of Dow Chemical when I’m trying to motivate and inspire people. I give it a “meh.”


UnknownKing Rat by James Clavell – This is officially the 20th summer in a row I have read this book. I almost feel like there should be some special limited edition print just for me, like “Lindsay’s 20th anniversary edition.” I’m not sure why this books speaks to me so much, but perhaps it’s my own personal fantasy in some sadistic way. There are no women characters, but a slew of POWS held in Singapore during WWII by the Japanese, and I find their relationships intriguing, entertaining, and complicated. Every time I read the book, I feel like I’m unraveling a new clue, and if you saw my recent post about planning my funeral, you know that I want the final passage to be read at my wake. 

There was a movie made in 1967 (which I have seen), but I think when you know a book so well it’s sort of impossible to pare it down to 120 minutes. That being said, I think HBO should option this one as a series and let me be a lead story consultant.


Top 5 Tips to Making Homemade Marshmallows


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With the deadline to submit state fair entries just a couple days away, I spent my afternoon making homemade marshmallows for one of my entries. Last year, I submitted marshmallows on a whim (having never made them before) and realized mine were far smaller than my competition. This year, I focused less on cute little round ones, and went for thick and fluffy squares. 

Last year, I also bemoaned the fact that at the last minute I scrapped my intention of submitting mexican mocha flavored marshmallows for just standard white vanilla. They were all good, but I didn’t trust my gut. Today, I made two batches: mexican mocha and lemon meringue. They’re both really good…but the chocolate is undeniably my winner.

If you’ve never made marshmallows, it’s actually pretty easy. The toughest part is the mess (cornstarch and powdered sugar disaster!), but I’ve come up with a few tricks to minimize the pain.

First off, I’ve tried a few different recipes over the last year, and the golden winner is from A Beautiful Mess. Alton Brown from the Food Network has one that seems popular, but the result was far less fluffy than the ABM’s recipe:

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Here are my tips for marshmallows:

1. Cover your working surface with foil, and do everything there. It makes clean up significantly easier.
IMG_27382. Use a sifter to dust your pans with cornstarch and powdered sugar. Rather than clumps on the bottom of your marshmallows, you’ll get a fine dusting. Dust the top after you pour in the fluff, too.

IMG_27393. To make chocolate marshmallows, I added 3 heaping tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder during the last minute of mixing. You can also add a couple drops of extract (like cinnamon or peppermint) if you want to really take it to the next level.

4. You don’t need to wait overnight, but you do need to wait at least 4-5 hours. I made the mistake in the past of thinking they were set and they ended up not turning out very well. Today I put them aside and took a catnap.

IMG_27405. Once the marshmallow is set, ease the whole thing out carefully with a butter knife and onto a big cutting board. I’ve tried cutting them individually out of the pan and it SUCKS. Also, don’t use the pizza cutter. Or scissors. Those failed repeatedly. A big sharp knife is best.


And the moment of truth? Making a s’more over the stove with just the chocolate marshmallow. SO GOOD. I’m not sure if my marshmallows are really worth a blue ribbon, but they are a huge step above last year’s entry.




#2: Throw a Summer Beach Bonfire Party. Check.


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Ok, I’ll admit this one was really easy. It’s not exactly the physical and mental fortitude of a burpee mile, or the long term dedication and commitment of getting a new job, but it’s something I wanted to do – so there!

Last summer over Labor Day weekend, a few friends and I thought we would venture out to Sauvie Island and have a bonfire. Technically, you’re not supposed to be there after dark, or have a fire, so we were a little nervous. But if you ever go to the island’s beach, you’ll see plenty of evidence that others have had nighttime fires. And back in the fall when we were in the midst of our Sheriff’s Citizen Academy, we asked one of the deputies if they cared about river fires, and the looked at us with a raised eyebrow and said, “Uh, we have better things to do.” Thus, with a little more planning, I figured I could finish out the summer with my best buds.

For those not totally familiar with Sauvie Island, it’s pretty much all farmland and wildlife preserve. 


The first thing people ask me when I tell them that I like get my bronze on at island’s beach is, “Do you go to the naked beach…??” To which I reply, “Yessss…but fully clothed.” It’s true. A very large section of the beach is “clothing optional” and you’ll see people out playing beach volleyball and bocce ball and partying on their boats completely au natural. Clothing, no clothing, or a little bit in between – it’s your choice; like my friend, David, who dons his speedo. Welcome to Portland.

Several weeks ago I invited some friends to join me, toasting one of the last days of summer (yeah, I know summer technically goes till late September, but for those of us in education, it ends when the school year begins). The weather was perfect and we had the entire beach to ourselves. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire (built by my eagle scout husband, Thor), kicked back a few beers, and did our thing. 



IMG_2726In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m someone who like seasonal traditions, so hopefully this becomes an annual outing. 

Don’t be sad! Summer’s not over yet! You, too, can still do a bonfire of your own! Here was our checklist for guaranteed fun:

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My Four Rules to Goal Setting and Goal Achieving


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Tonight I suffered a dollhouse fail, but then also a dollhouse success, once again reminding me that sometimes I just have to do things the way I see it in my head.

I spent the last couple days researching tried and true ways of assembling a dollhouse-sized bookshelf with foam core, cute paper, and some decoupage. Typically, I don’t have a lot of patience for measuring things just right or being anal retentive about directions (not just in crafting, but in LIFE). This means sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. After spending an inordinate amount of hours measuring the correct pieces, decoupaging some faux-wood scrapbooking paper on the each piece, and then assembling them, this was the result:


OMG it’s hideous. I said to my husband, “It looks like something that got put out on the curb with a free sign in dollhouse land.” After throwing it aside, I thought I was done for the night. But as I was putting away some of my scraps, I found myself just cutting some basic rectangles out of the foam core and experimenting with the extra pieces. Pretty soon, I had made two basic tables that I think look actually presentable. Then I moved onto a couple chairs.

None of these pieces used a template, and I’m the first to admit that there are many imperfections in size, but frankly that’s the way I do things. Then I glossed over the miniatures I made last week with some clear nail polish (thanks to the suggestion of a friend) and here’s my current result.



My fair submissions are all due in a week and while I’m still fretting about the size of my marshmallows or the texture of my banana bread, at least I have the “dollhouse furniture” category ready for action.

What’s my moral of the story?

1. Take a risk. 

When I signed up to submit dollhouse furniture for judging at the state fair, I had never really made dollhouse furniture before. It’s a little nerve wracking to submit something for judging, and some of the things I’ve seen displayed at the fair are pretty amazing – but some of them are pretty awful, too (once we witnessed a submission in the cake decorating category that spelled birthday in “Happy Birthday” wrong – ouch!). 

2. Make it public.

It’s not always easy to put yourself on display, but without giving myself a deadline, telling my friends, and publishing it here, I know for a fact I would never have made anything. Sure, the idea would float around my mind (as it has been for over a decade), but that’s all. Whether it’s training for a half marathon, finding a new job, or making banana bread, I’m a huge proponent of telling people about your goals. 

3. Make it measurable.

Friends and family have gotten into the habit of asking me, “What’s your current goal?” when they see me (hence rule #2). If I were to say, “Run more,” or “Lose some weight,” that’s not very specific. Some people run seven days a week, some run zero. What does “more” or “some” mean? There’s no guesswork in whether I hit my target. 

4. Have more small goals than big goals.

For me, this is the most crucial rule. Personally, I’ve got to have small successes that give me momentum for the tougher challenges. My list has evolved over the last few years, but I’ve definitely learned that I need a few goals that I can complete in just one day, or one week. If you’ve only got these big over-arching goals, it can feel near impossible. I’ve mentioned before that I once read if you complete 20 goals a year, that can add up to 200 in a decade – things add up!

We are 2/3 of the way through 2014. What goals did you make for yourself this year, and have you checked any of them off? How did you decide on these goals? Are they still important?

How to make a dollhouse chair…sort of…


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This whole time that I’ve planned to make dollhouse furniture for the state fair, I’ve felt a little unmotivated. That is until yesterday, when I was at the craft store and found some leather leopard pieces. I knew what I had to do.

I immediately came home and got to work on two armchairs. Admittedly, they are pretty amateur. I’m not big on reading directions when it comes to anything. Typically, I’ll read a variety of directions and then do my own thing. I found a tutorial on making an upholstered chair, where you use foam core and batting (right here); I glanced at the pictures, and then just started cutting.

Materials: foam core, batting, tacky glue, pen, measuring stick, exact-o knife, fabric.

The foam core is a great way to provide quick and easy structure. The batting was also pretty easy to just glue on.


Actually upholstering the chair was a different story. I began to realize why directions are probably important as I was puzzling pieces of the leather together. The first chair took me over an hour, the second took less than 15 minutes. There’s my learning curve.


But hey, I made them. That’s the hardest part. I’m going to tweak them later today, and maybe shoot for a couch and a bookshelf. 



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