Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative

I mentioned in my last post that I’d post about the Totoro party, so here I am making good on that! The party, overall, was a success. Considering how little planning I did and just sort of threw some things together at the last minute, I was pretty happy with how the decorations turned out. If you aren’t familiar with the movie “My Neighbor Totoro,” you should check it out. Quil loves it (obviously,) as do Andrew and I
Also, BIG THANKS to my sister Maria for hosting and helping with decorating and making food and baking the mini-cakes. She is the best planner and most organized person I know. No family holiday or event could take place without her. The members of our family would all be arriving at different locations at different times and there’d be no food if she didn’t wrangle us all together! She really is “the glue” in our family.
Here are various photos of the different details. Totoro is a forest spirit so a lot of the theme was basically nature related. 
The table center piece consisted of faux-plants, dried moss, grapevines, fabric flowers, and flower stickers. I hot-glued dried moss to wooden boxes from the dollar aisle at Target, we then used as risers for the cakes. 
These wooden acorns were made from mini-wooden eggs found at the local craft store that I stained and painted to look like the acorns the Mei collects in the film. It’s hard to see in this photo, but they have a clear coat of gloss spray on them as well. 
Here is a wider view of the table with all the mini-cakes (there were five birthdays being celebrated. We have a big family!) All the faux-plants were purchased from a local craft and hobby store. 
In place of party hats, we had a few leaf hats based on the scene from the movie where Totoro has a leaf on his head to protect from the rain. These were pieces of felt cut in the shape of a leaf, with a little extra piece for the stem, hot glued to brown headbands.
We happened by this outfit for Ellis at Target randomly. It’s supposed to be a rabbit, but I thought it looked close enough to a Totoro costume to warrant its purchase. Plus, it’s just super cute. Target has that ability to lure you in with their low-prices and high-cuteness-factor. It’s a dangerous situation to go into when shopping last minute for a party!
This paper cut mobile was supposed to have three tiers, with Totoro at the top and then the two smaller Totoros (the blue and the white ones) hanging below. However, the pieces for the smaller Totoros were so tiny, there was no way I was going to be able to cut them out within a reasonable amount of time. Mind you, I was working on this around 10pm the night before the party (because I’m nuts.) So I decided to forgo the smaller guys even though the OCD/perfectionist in my brain was giving me hard time. In the end, it still turned out fine.

And a few more shots of the mini-cakes my sister made. You can see some Soot Sprites peeking out here and there. For these, we bought black pompoms and stick-on googly eyes. They were so simple, my 4-year-old niece was able to make them. We had her churning out Soot Sprites at maximum speed! The little pink, orange and aqua flowers are from the dollar aisle in Target. They came as long ribbons, but I just snipped a few strands apart and sprinkled them around. They actually reminded me of the candy the Soot Sprites eat in Spirited Away.

So, that was our joint-birthday Totoro Party, in a nutshell! I can relax for another 5 months until Ellis has her FIRST BIRTHDAY. Yikes. Hers should be extra nuts because she’s a summer birthday! I’ll be sure to “over-do” like I always do, according to Andrew.

While we’re waiting, waiting, waiting for Baby Girl to arrive, I’ve been doing what is normal for anyone who is mega-preggers – taking on huge projects that are made infinitely more difficult by my huge belly and constant body pains. That’s normal, right? Right?!

So, my current obsession and project in the works: crocheted rag rugs! We’ve been in the process of fixing up the kids’ room – which I hope to post about soon – and one of the rugs we have in their room is just too big, in my opinion. So, of course, I decided to make a new one. You know, before the baby comes. Ha!

I was trolling Ravelry (if you are a knitter or crocheter and aren’t on Ravelry, do yourself a favor and check it out now!) and came across this amazing crocheted Calico Rag Rug by Gillian Hamilton which inspired me to give it a shot. I did a little more research and also came across King Soleil which has a whole page dedicated to her process of creating rag rugs and tips and tricks she’s learned through her experience. She mainly uses upcycled materials, which really appeals to me since the amount of material it takes to make one rug can get pricey. I’m thinking a thrift store run is in order!

However, this current one that I’m working on (pictured above) is made from muslin that I purchased at the local fabric store. Basically all you have to do is find any sort of woven material you want, cut it into long strips and start crocheting in a circle and, Voila! you have a rug!

So far my rug is about 2 feet in diameter and there are few things I’ve learned:

l. Crocheting on a large scale is a workout. Think less wrist movement and more entire arm movement. Multiple times I’ve had to ask Andrew, “Is it hot in here?” Nope, just doing my crochet workout.

2. Working with such large pieces of fabric yarn requires the largest crochet hook I’ve ever seen. It’s obscenely large and slightly embarrassing. The hook I’m using for this particular rug is a 15mm – Q hook.

3. I’m a pretty experienced crocheter and I still had some problems with the rug getting wonky and wavy. I’m still not exactly sure why this was happening but with some minor adjusting I was able to straighten it out and it seems to be back on track.

I will post more pictures when the rug is done, which hopefully will be sooner than later.


Ever since we cleaned off our porch, baby boy has been hanging out there a lot. It’s baby/toddler proofed enough that he can be out there by himself and we don’t have to worry about him getting into trouble (other than eating the occasional ant, yuck!) Most of the time he just sits out there and watches cars pass while singing to himself. It’s quite sweet!

But anyway, lately he’s been coming inside and shutting the door behind him. Not completely shut, but enough that it’s hard for him to re-open without something to grasp. So instead of him having to come get us to re-open the door every time, we put a little drawer pull on the door within his reach so he can open it himself! So far, it’s been a success.

However, he can’t open the door if it’s locked or closed completely. So, he can only get out there if we open the door for him initially. Don’t worry. Q won’t be terrorizing the neighborhood. Plus, it’s a screened in porch with a locked screen door. Just to be safe ;)

Our baby boy is growing so independent! Yikes.


We recently cleaned off our side porch (finally!) because it was starting to look like Sanford & Son out there. During the cold season it sort of becomes a catch all for anything we can’t figure out what to do with. Recycling getting out of control? Throw it on the porch! Old busted laptop taking up space? Throw it on the porch! And it doesn’t help that you can see all this junk from the street! Ugh, what must the neighbors think? I’m sure they could care less, actually.

Baby boy is an outdoor baby and being outside soothes him. We decided to make a little haven for him to play and hang out. We swept and sprayed and scrubbed then put down an outdoor rug to cozy it up a bit. He loves it! Now we just need to get some compact space saving furniture (it’s only about 6 feet wide) and we can hang out there all summer long. I went looking for porch inspiration and found some real winners. Seriously. Our porch is not nearly as big and spacious as any of these, but a girl can dream right?

Porch images via Remodalista, Coastal Living, & Pintrest 

How awesome is that porch swing/bed thing? I would love that, but I would be scared of spiders spinning webs under the pillows and blankets and such.  And I just imagine it would feel… damp, no? Spiders in your damp porch bed = when reality meets fantasy.


I’ve missed you guys! Things have started heating up around here (literally) but it’s still raining. Work has been getting busy busy and  I haven’t been able to take photos of things I’ve been wanting to share. This weekend I was able to sneak in a mini-photo shoot while Q was napping of these cool porcelain glove molds (I got two!) that I found at the thrift store where we got our china cabinet/hutch thing-y.

They seem to be a hot thing on the second hand market these days. A little while back I found one at an antique store for $50 ding-dang bucks! I got both of these ones for a little over $20. I like me some vintage things, but only if the price is right.

I’ve been looking for a way to store my ever growing collection of necklaces and these seem to fit the bill. They sort of look like Homer Simpson hands but I like them!


Everyone knows that the Midwest is where awesome vintage goods are just hiding out waiting to be discovered by some big city folks looking for a diamond in the proverbial rough. Well, the Medina Antique Mall is one such place. Also known as AntiqueLandUSA, it’s so chock full of old shit it will make your head spin. Most of the inventory is stuff that I don’t have too much interest in, like ratty porcelain dolls with scary eyes, old baseball cards, and Victorian furniture. I mean, some of the stuff is really beautiful, just not my style.

However, we took a little trip there a couple weekends ago and found some real gems. There was one dude who had a booth full of mid-century Danish modern goods, hell yeah! As well as a few other choice pieces scattered here and there.

One draw back of this place (other than the fact that it’s super huge and overwhelming) is the fact that it’s mostly out of my price range. At this point in my life, I just can’t afford to spend $600 on a single side chair. No matter how awesomely designer-y cool it is. But it doesn’t cost anything to browse!

I didn’t bring my camera to the Antique Mall so I will resort to found images on the interweb. Here are just a sampling of the cool things I found:

1. Bertoia Side Chair by Harry Bertoia
2. Wassily Chair by Marcel Breur
3. Dansk Kobenstyle Cookware
4. Sprite Stacking Chair by Ross Lovegrove
5. Crayonne for Habitat Ice Bucket
6. Lucite Folding Chair
7. World Time Mantle Clock by Howard Miller
8. Herman Miller Eames Shell Chair
9. Italian Guzzini Arco Style Floor Lamp

Not all these items would be at home in our house, but I still enjoy them nonetheless, though Andrew wasn’t too keen on some of the things I pointed out. A couple times Andrew referred to the furniture as “looking like it belonged in Akeem’s Apartment”. For those of you who forgot the movie “Coming to America” let me jog your memory:

God, I wish that image was bigger. But don’t worry, our house looks NOTHING like that.


We got really lucky in this department with Q. He started sleeping through the night around three or four months. I have many friends and relatives with kids so I know this is not always the norm and something to be envied. So much so, that people give you the side-eye when you tell them that your baby sleeps through the night. I totally understand.

During those first few weeks I really understood why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I was dead on my feet much of the time. But after awhile, the human mind and body really shows what it’s made of! By the end of those first four months I was able to sit up in bed at 3am, wide-eyed, and not be tired at all. And not only that, but I could function normally during the day on only four hours of sleep! Take that college days!

Last night, Q had one of his rare bad nights and ended up in our bed around 5 a.m. only to whine, and toss and turn and chew on my shirt, and smear his snot all over my pillow until 7 a.m.! It really made me appreciate that, in general, he is a really good sleeper. However, all those super awake-on-4-hours-of-sleep powers that I gained during those first few months pretty much disappeared after he started to sleep through the night.

So, since we’re on the topic of sleeping, I’m hoping to get better pictures of Q’s crib soon so I can post those. Made with love by his Papa! Here is a sneak peek:

Enticing, isn’t it?

This weekend we finally completed the next step in Project Clean-Up-This-Old-China-Cabinet. In the first phase, we cleaned all the grime only to realize that the top would need to be stripped because the grime had pretty much damaged the finish. Phase 2 consisted of Citri-Strip, which looked like this while it worked its magic:

Followed by removal of the loosened old varnish with plastic scraper and lots of this nastiness:

Disgusting! So after that, we let it hang out for a bit, then the next day we gave it a cleaning with Mineral Spirits, a little sanding with extra fine sandpaper, another wipe, then a couple coats of Teak Oil. Voila! A long ways away from this mess.

Andrew decided that it needs a coat of shellac because as beautiful as the teak finish is, it isn’t as shiny as the rest of the piece so it doesn’t quite match. I trust his judgement. So! One to Phase 3! Hopefully, Phase 4 will be the phase where I fill it with all my junk!


You may remember my post about my early Mother’s Day mid-century modern china cabinet present? That was a really confusing sentence. But come on people, it was just last week. Anyway.

This thing is beautiful but very dirty. I’m sure it’s just an accumlation of years of dust that has congealed into a nasty black grime. But part of me thinks it could be that someone never learned to wash their hands after handling crude oil OR Andrew’s hypothesis: A smoker with a china cabinet next to their stove where they fried fish all day. Whichever way you swing it, this thing has some serious build up issues.

Murphy’s Oil Soap to the rescue! Thanks to Morgan’s post on Refreshing Vintage Wood, we had an idea of how to start dealing with this mess. As you can see from the before and after pictures, we got a lot of the nastiness off but next step is the strip the top of the old finish. Everywhere else on the piece is fine, but the top could use a sand and a finish with some Danish Oil.

I can’t wait to just GET IT DONE so I can start filling it with all my junk!


Does anyone know what this piece of furniture is called? A china cabinet? A hutch?

Whatever it’s called, it’s awesome and beautiful and it was Andrew’s surprise early-Mother’s Day gift to me!

This past weekend we went on a little thrifting trip and came across this china cabinet (that’s what I’ll call it for now until someone corrects me) at a local thrift store that is usually hit or miss. This particular store can sometimes look like those hoarder houses on A&E, but they usually have really good prices on large items. So much so that I am willing to look past the old lady who chain-smokes and the cat in the corner giving birth (no joke).

We saw this china cabinet and we both really liked it, but it wouldn’t fit in our car. So we had to pass on it. The minute we left I knew we were passing up on something good, but there wasn’t anything we could do! I was feeling some serious non-buyers remorse. Is there such a thing?

Anyway, Monday I come home from work and it’s in our living room. Andrew had gone back with his Dad’s truck and got it for me! What a guy!

We’re still unsure of what our plans are for it, but you can be sure I’ll be posting about it again soon.