Kate Spade Inspired Frames


My very favorite type of craft project is one that doesn’t cost anything. This project is all made out of items I already had at home, and therefore could be completed without a dash to Michaels or Joanns.

My boyfriend recently moved into my apartment. Among the furniture he brought with him was a dresser, which we have sprayed white and put in the closet. This means that there was an empty dresser surface in the closet in need of attention. I love postcards, and probably single-handedly keep the postcard industry in business. In my large stash I knew I had some from an exhibition of Grace Kelly’s clothes, and some WW2 poster reproductions that would look fantastic in a clothes closet. The only problem was I didn’t have any suitable frames, but I did have some unsuitable ones in need of a project.

phdpfks2Tools needed:

  • Plain frames, (I had some 5 by 7 pink ones from Target’s dorm collection)
  • 1 inch Circle Punch (mine is by Recollections)
  • Martha Stewart bow punch
  • Primer
  • Assorted Spray Paint, (I used Rust-Oleum white, gold glitter, and pink)
  • Sealant (I used Krylon Crystal Clear Gloss Top Coat)
  • Assorted paper scraps
  • Glue (I used E6000)
  • Pretty postcards or pictures for framing

This project was really easy, and perfectly transformed boring frames into something special. Like many other crafters, I am a little obsessed with gold and polka dots at the moment. I love Kate Spade, but not the prices, and so took inspiration from the brand to do a little DIY job.

After taking the glass out of the frames I sprayed them with Primer. I don’t know if this step was really necessary, but my frames were a dark pink plastic, and I didn’t want the color to show through. Once dry I then sprayed them with two coats of spray paint and left them to dry completely.

Once dried the real fun could begin. Using my punches, I punched bows and dots for my frames. I also cut some long strips so that I could make stripes. The gold paper was from an envelope I had from my grandparents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary over 10 years ago! How I still have it with me after all this time and moving across the Atlantic, I really don’t know. However, it just goes to show the benefits of hoarding! The envelope was actually perfect because it was thin. I don’t think heavy cardstock would well on this project as you wont get a smooth finish.

I experimented with where I wanted to put the embellishments on my frames, and when happy with how they looked, I glued them down. After everything had totally dried I sprayed the frames with top coat to  seal them. (I didn’t spray the glitter one as I didn’t think it needed it). Finally I put the glass back in and framed my postcards. And voila, beautiful frames! This was such an easy craft, but it has made the closet look so much prettier.



My first American Girl

Fotor0918115849When I was little my younger sister had a prized toy rabbit, Bestie (short for Best Bunny). Bestie went everywhere with her, until one awful Summer when she lost him. While my parents searched high and low for the missing rabbit, I gathered all my dolls together in our lounge. Before going to bed I arranged them around the tea table, put water in their teacups, provided a picnic of cardboard sandwiches, and whispered in each one’s ear that they must find Bestie. Such was my faith in my dolls. The next morning the sandwiches had bite marks in them, but sadly no Bestie. He did not materialize for several months, until my sister found him stuck in her coat sleeve. However, although my dolls didn’t find Bestie, my faith in make-believe did not diminish; to me the “bite marks” in the sandwiches offered irrefutable proof.

Growing up in England I had a Tiny Tears baby doll, and my older sister had a Cabbage Patch Kid. I remember Baby Borns, Baby All Gones and Baby Alives. There was no shortage of doll fads in England, but one doll never made it to the British market: the American Girl doll.

A contemporary of the Cabbage Patch Kids, American Girl dolls first launched in 1986. The dolls were designed by a textbook writer, Pleasant Rowland, who realized that toy manufactures only made baby or teenage Barbie dolls. Rowland set up a mail order company selling dolls of a similar age to their future owners. Each doll represented a distinct historical time period, and Rowland hoped to teach young girls about American history through play. Kirsten was a pioneer girl, Samantha was an Edwardian, and Molly McIntire lived through World War Two. Each doll’s story was one of courage, of overcoming struggle and finding inner strength. The dolls were immensely popular, in part thanks to the variety of historically themed accessories and clothes available for additional purchase.

In 1998 Pleasant Rowland sold her company to Mattel, and in the same year the first American Girl Place shop opened in Chicago. I was first introduced to American Girl when I went to American Girl Place five years ago. I was in Chicago with my best friend and her family for Thanksgiving, and they said I would love it. They were quite right. My second trip to American Girl Place was in the Mall of America last Fall, when I took my boyfriend to the brave new world of dolls and their accoutrements. We picked up a catalog and I spent the whole flight back from Minneapolis to Boston looking at it. By the time we arrived home I was totally hooked.

The catalog revealed that Molly McIntire, the braided brown-haired doll with glasses, would soon exit her life in World War Two, and travel to the “American Girl Archive” along with her accessories, and her evacuee friend from England, Emily, never to be sold again. And so last October to celebrate completing an important section of my PhD, a research paper on postwar Anglo-American relations, my boyfriend took me to American Girl Place in Natick and bought me a Molly doll before they disappeared inside the archive. It was unquestionably one of the sweetest things he has ever done.

American Girl Place is like doll heaven. To find the store we followed the stream of little girls carrying their dolls through the Mall in specially designed American Girl carriers, and watched a stream in the opposite direction departing with their red shopping bags with white stars. Upon arrival I rushed to the Molly section, nervous that she might have been put in the vault early. Thankfully there were plenty of Mollys. We got one, her accessories pack, and some 1940s pajamas.

With a Molly safely procured we looked around the rest of the store. Everywhere you looked little girls ran around, dolls in one hand, and bags full of little red clothing boxes in the other. Some waited in line for the dolls’ hospital, some had an appointment at the salon, while others waited to have a dolls’ tea in the tearooms. There was not a computer or phone in sight, just little girls having the time of their lives. As a multistory palace of dolls and accessories, American Girl Place receives frequent criticism for fueling commercially driven children, and “princess” girls. However, I didn’t see this. Instead I saw books for sale on topics such as good manners, surviving divorce, managing money, and being a good friend. I saw children playing together face to face, using their imaginations rather than an electronic screen. And I saw girls who placed as much faith in their dolls as I had once done.

Nearly a year later, Molly has more than just pajamas. Her collection includes a ski-suit, bunny shaped slippers, a nightgown, shorts, t-shirts, winter boots and coat, and a Halloween costume. She’s been to England twice and is the delight of my young nieces. Twenty-odd years late I got the American Girl doll my eight-year-old self (who had long brown braids like Molly’s) would have longed for. But I’m just babysitting. Molly really belongs to any future daughter I might be lucky enough to one day have. When that day comes, she promises to eat their cardboard sandwiches.

We Didn’t Start The Fire

Well actually, truth be told, he did. Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire was my first real introduction to American history. I learned all the words while at school, and vowed that one day I would find out what it was all about. I suppose in a sense, Billy Joel is thus responsible for my American Odyssey. After 10 years in higher education, I have indeed discovered the significance of “Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, and Punk Rock,” and the song remains dear to my heart. Last year when my boyfriend revealed he did not know it, I reacted with shock and horror. All Americans, I assumed, would surely learn this along with The Star Spangled Banner and America The Beautiful. We were in Cape Cod at the time, and I made him listen to it on repeat for the remainder of our journey. He is now a Billy connoisseur.

As a historian of the 1950s, the irony that the song begins in 1949 is not lost on me. Perhaps I subconsciously took the idea that all history worth studying begins postwar from Billy. Moreover I think the song reflects my interest in cultural history and American Studies as “Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland” are deemed as important as the Communist Block, and Juan Peron.

DSCN2598This Summer I got to see Billy in concert for the first time, and while he didn’t actually play We Didn’t Start the Fire seeing him at Fenway Park marked an important step in my American Dream, taking it full circle from a schoolgirl listening in England to a twentysomething living in Boston.

My Mum organized fantastic seats on the pitch for my boyfriend, her and me. Unfortunately, however, my boyfriend was sick so my Mum and I headed to Fenway to embark on our first foray into the world of ticket touts. Almost as soon as we picked up our tickets we met Joe, a large fan wearing a pink cowboy hat with silver trim and a big smile on his face. He offered us $50 for our $140 ticket, we said no but he gave us his number in case. We continued to wander round the outside of Fenway, seeking out touts who offered us a range of very low prices for our prime location ticket. Unsurprisingly ticket touts proved to be rather unsavory characters who treated my Mum and I like we were prime idiots. After dealing with one particularly offensive character, who looked like your classic seedy mediocre Hollywood villain with a worn black leather coat, greasy hair, a deep-set frown, and permanent sneer, Joe the cowboy bounced around the corner and agreed to buy our ticket for $70. Although we lost money we were relieved to sell the ticket, and escape the world of seedy ticket touts with South Boston accents. Joe was thrilled, and immediately told us he worked for Duran Duran and could get us tickets any time we wanted. This was clearly a lie. As he told us his email address and explained that the aol.com in it stood for America Online we began to doubt whether giving the tickets to a true fan was a good idea. Our fears intensified as he told us he never sits down but likes to run around the stadium. We had just sold our prime location ticket to Tigger in a cowboy hat.

We politely declined Joe’s offer of a beer with his buddies and went into the Stadium. With a pretzel and a margarita in hand we walked onto the pitch and found our fantastic seats. My Mum had never been to Fenway before and we enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds of the stadium. Almost as soon as we sat down we became aware of trouble to the left of us. Two angry, oversized women sitting in the seats next to us demanded to see our tickets. Angry Woman Number One tried to snatch our tickets from Mum’s hand, and barked at us questioning how we had paid $140 for tickets in the same area she had paid over a $1000. Hardly our fault. Her touted tickets, it seemed, were fake and security were keen to remove her. Angry Women Numbers One and Two were not so keen to leave. Angry Woman Number Two nearly knocked a staff member over as she tried to reason with her. The idea of adding our cowboy friend to the mix did not exactly bode well for a good concert experience. Thankfully a relative of Angry One and Two eventually came to get them, promising that he was in discussion with the President of the Red Sox for new seats. Good luck with that I thought, but at least they were gone. Even better, instead of Cowboy Joe a friend of his arrived to take the seat just as Billy came on stage.

DSCN2594We did not sit down for the entire show. While there was no We Didn’t Start the Fire we were hardly short changed. Billy played 24 of his own songs including Scenes From an Italian Restaurant (my Mum’s favorite), River of Dreams, Allentown, Always a Woman. He also treated us to renditions of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and Sweet Caroline, which drove the crowd wild, and afforded my Mum her first chance to join in with the iconic “So Good, So Good, So Good!” The stage lights were spectacular, and Billy had a relaxed and friendly stage demeanor, cracking jokes and engaging with the familiar Red Sox Yankees rivalry. Even though he had given away his ticket, Cowboy Joe put in several appearances. He bounded over, catapulting himself into our seats with the awkwardness of an overweight, overenthusiastic human cannon to declare that he loved us. The feeling was not mutual.

DSCN2601By the encore I could barely make a sound, the past three hours of euphoric screaming and singing had left me hoarse. But still we got song after song of impeccable Rock and Roll: Uptown Girl, Still Rock and Roll, Big Shot, You May Be Right, and Only the Good Die Young. Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band joined him for You May Be Right, and the country contingent in the crowd, myself included, went wild. There are moments in life where you wish you could stop time. My Mum and I jumping up and down, arms round each other, belting out Uptown Girl is one of them. If I could print that moment it would a Polaroid of my American Dream. The chances of that schoolgirl who listened to Billy making it to America were slim to none, but I am one of the blessed few who did. Thank you Billy.