I used to be a carefree single girl who lived a raucous Chicago lifestyle yet visited antique malls and thrifts with her mother on the weekends. (We also took line dancing lessons together, but that's a story for a different day). On one such outing in Rockford, IL, we came upon the unassuming garage sale of a schoolteacher. Where I found treasure.

See what it says there on the right? $5.00. Want to know what's inside? Literally an entire box of mint condition grade school story strips! If you hit up the Alameda Flea circa 2008, you would have seen the booth of the guy that sold similar strips and flash cards for $1 a piece, or MORE. Goldmine.

But why on earth would I buy these? It's my mother's fault really. What can I say? She is an artist and she molded me in her image. This box oozed potential. I imagined if I were lucky, that someday I'd have a baby, or someone I know would have a baby, and I would paper an entire wall in its room with this patchwork of '70s color and fragmented sentences. It would be genius, ambitious, impressive even.

So the box traveled with me to a few apartments, spent some time in my folks' attic (hence my name on there which is code for DON'T THROW OUT OR TONYA WILL KILL YOU). Then it made the cross-country journey to California where it waited and waited and waited...

And then I had my chica.

Because we were drowning in kitchen renovation my entire pregnancy, projects like this had to sit in my head, stewing and torturing me—symbols of my failure. Then Thora showed up 5 weeks early and we were in a mad scramble. Her room wasn't ready at all, no crib, no mattress, let alone artwork. Oh, it was hilarious.

But then a few months went by and she became a good sleeper and I started to catch my breath. And I remembered the box.

And the colors! And the Helvetica!

And the illustrations! Did I mention the illustrations? Charm explosion.

Screw the patchwork wall. I wanted to make something for my kid and I wanted it now. A quick trip to Ikea for the largest frame they sell, followed by a quick sort and organize of my favorite colors, sayings and drawings, followed by a session with spray adhesive and some good ol'eyeballing it and I had this:

And I love it. Best of all, Thora loves it too. She loves to touch each letter and point to the dragon and the girl and ok, I kind of regret this, the peacock. The piece brought instant color to her room, color that I can pull from and use elsewhere. That coral is to die, it may very well serve as the inspiration behind her big girl room. It's also the perfect anchor for her other art. And this kid has it in spades, clockwise from top: Tim Biskup, Jen Corace, Kostas Seremetis (that piece is signed TO Thora!) and Lark Pien. She is a lucky girl.

If you ask me, totally worth lugging from all those apartments.

Disclaimer: In case you are worried for Thora's safety, I mean we do live in earthquake country, please note: All art is hung with proper picture frame hangers and attached at the bottoms with Command velcro strips. Best invention ever. Also, the Ikea frame uses plexi, not glass.

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