Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's the little things...

This Pinterest website has me totally ready to renovate my entire house. Every time I pop on there to see what is new, I find another 10-15 things I would love to do to our house. But, the reality is that we cannot afford to change everything about our house right now. I am a stay-at-home mom, so we are living on one income with three small children (two are in preschool, one is in dance, two are in ice-skating, all three are in gymnastics, we go to a pricey gym, etc). We can afford our lifestyle, but it does not leave a lot leftover for the house, especially for unnecessary decorative changes. But, it's fun to dream about all the things I would like to do in the future. Thus, I created my "Dream Home" board on Pinterest... for all those unrealistic things I love about other homes that I'd love to do someday (in the far, far future).

I also have my "For the Home" board where I put my more realistic ideas. Usually these are smaller projects, organizational items, or paint color ideas, etc. I decided I would start with organization and fixing some of the eye sores in our house that have been here from the start. We may not be able to renovate our master bathroom right now, for example, but that doesn't mean I cannot take steps to make it look nicer in the meantime, despite the pink tile! This works out well for me, too, because it allows me to do spring cleaning while also decorating and rearranging.

One of those recent projects was our pantry (I'll get back to the master bath later). Now, before you go looking at the pictures, expecting to see a Pinterest-worthy pantry with all kinds of cool glass containers. Stop. You will not find that! :) I am not sure I am up for that just yet with my kids being so small. I am imagining a lot of broken glass in the next few years. Once they are a little bit older and capable of being careful with what they are doing, I will start doing cool stuff like that. But for now, we'll stick with plastics and boxes.

My beef with the pantry was the walls. When we moved in, we painted our house from top to bottom. Ceilings. Walls. Baseboards. Doors. Everything. We did all the closets except the main closet in the foyer and the pantry. By the time we got to those two, we were tired and just wanted to get everything moved in. So, we threw all the food in the pantry and moved on. Four years later, the pantry still looked like a train wreck.

I started off by cleaning the pantry out. I threw out old foods, tried to come up with a new way to organize the food on shelves so that it made more sense, etc. This was a good start, but those walls were an eye sore. They were so beat up. Scratches and marks were everywhere. I decided it was time to paint. What a pain in the butt that was! I uninstalled all the shelving and emptied the pantry. I decided to use color in the pantry this time. Clearly, when the walls are white, they show every ding and scratch made by all the food containers and cans. I wanted to disguise all that with some darker paint. Since we have some red accent walls in our kitchen, I decided I'd go with that.

It only took two coats of paint, surprisingly, but the pantry looks incredible now. Once we do get all the cool storage containers, I'll be very happy. But in the meantime, this makes me happy. That little pop of color when the door opens looks really nice! It was a lot of work to paint such a small area (and Ryan had to reinstall all the shelving). But, I think it was totally worth it. (See below for pictures.)

When it comes to fixing things around the house, it's the little things... Here is one of those "little things" projects of mine. The master bathroom changes are still to come. I have a few things left to finish.

BEFORE: The pantry had cream walls that were extremely beat-up. It looked like this when we moved in, but we never got around to fixing it (until now).

AFTER: Using the same red color as our kitchen accent walls, I painted the pantry walls (and ceiling) in the deep red color. Since the pantry is not on one of the kitchen walls that is red, it really pops against the cream walls outside the pantry.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Mommy loves your artwork, dear. But I need to be able to open the fridge."

Two posts in one day. I'm on a roll. ;)

My kids love to get creative. Add in the fact that two of them are in preschool, and it seems like we are constantly flooded with art projects and crafts and such. There is paper everywhere. Seriously. It is actually part of the preschool experience that I hate. I really don't need every little scribble sent home. ;) But, that is a whole other blog...

My refrigerator is not that big. We have other important notes on it. There are tons of magnets (I need to scale that down or at least come up with a more Pinterest version of magnets!), plus our kids have a few of those Leap Frog Fridge Friends magnet toys. There are 3 sets of magnets for those toys up there too. I really do not have room for all their projects and crafts on the refrigerator, too. When their artwork is added, usually I struggle to open the fridge without everything falling down. Not to mention, it ends up looking like a total cluster. I hate that.

At the same time, I am a mom. I have three kids... three kids who are proud of their projects and want it displayed for all to see. I get that and I can be on board with that plan... just not on my refrigerator! I have seen some stores selling these shadow-box-style frames where you can open the front part of the frame and switch out the artwork. While those are nice, they are expensive. On top of that, it seems that a lot of the artwork that does come home is not the kind of thing that would fit into some framed space. Look at Henry's Hickory Dickory Dock project (see pictures) as an example. I needed something that would allow us to display projects, no matter their size or shape.

My solution was to use a piece of wood plaque (from Michael's) and two clothes pins, plus a little scrapbooking paper and some remnant fabric I had around the house. I started by painting the wood plaques white (since all our doors and woodwork are white here). Then I traced each child's hand onto some brown scrapbook paper and cut it out. I measured out two pieces of scrapbook paper to put on top of the wood plaque to make it look framed. The under piece is a dark maroom (tan for Henry's) and the top on all three is a cream color paper. Then I cut out a heart and the first letter of their name using the remnant fabric and used a scrapbooking glue pen to apply it. I used a gold pen to write their phrases ("Lucy's Artistry", "Henry's Handiwork" and "Charlie's Creations") onto the cream paper. I glued all the paper and fabric parts with the glue pen and then used hot glue to apply the completed paper piece to the wood.

The most complicated part was the hanging piece. I decided to use the remnants to create the hangers for the plaques. I don't have a sewing machine right now, so it was a no-sew project. I just ironed out three long, thin strips of fabric. Then I folded the ends in on the top and bottom (horizontally) and ironed it so that the frayed ends would be folded in. Then I ironed it into that position. I folded the whole thing in half again to fully tuck those frayed edges inside the strips and ironed again. I just used hot glue to keep it seamed shut. Just a thin strip of hot glue in between the fabric worked like a charm. I created "bows" using the remnants, too. I literally just cut 3 rectangles and then cinched them in the middle and tied it with string. I attached it to the middle of the fabric to make it look a little prettier. I purposely did not treat the edges. I wanted it to fray a little to give it more of an unfinished look.

The last step was to do the clothes pins. I just spray-painted them white and then glued them onto the sides of the plaques so the artwork can be easily hung and removed and replaced. They have space to feature two projects each. I think that is plenty. Then I hung them on the wall in the kitchen, next to the refrigerator.

We now have a "Wall of Fame" in our kitchen where their artwork is displayed. When friends or family come over to visit, the kids will be able to share their projects with others... and I will be able to open my refrigerator without a pile of papers falling off of it!

"Honey, do you know where you put the Target receipt from...?"

My husband is in an accountant. Budgets and bookkeeping are sort of his thing. He's great at it, too. I absolutely hate dealing with the financial stuff, so I feel very thankful that he has a knack for it and a willingness to do it for our family. Thank God! But, being married to a CPA means that all purchases and receipts need to be accounted for at all times. Not just for big purchases, but even the small, seemingly insignificant ones. What does this mean for our household? Receipts. Everywhere.

I thought maybe creating a folder or envelope for them would help. Then we can just place them in an envelope when we have a moment. Although the envelope is in the storage hutch in our dining room, it just never seems to happen that way. They end up on the counter, on the fridge, in pockets, on the floor, in random drawers, in the car, etc. Everywhere but the envelope tucked away in the storage hutch. This clearly was not working.

I decided to find a better way. My husband is great at getting his keys hung on the key rack in our house (which is located at the top of our basement stairway, hung on the wall). I thought, what better place to put receipts than near that key rack. As he drops off his keys, he can place the receipts there, too. I didn't want a large envelope this time either. It gets overstuffed and then he has to sort through it all. I figured it would be best to kill two birds with one stone. Let's not just create a place for receipts, let's create a SORTED organizational plan, too.

We had this old bulletin board that we used to have in the hallway there, but we never really used it. Random junk would accumulate there until we finally removed it and threw it out. It served no real purpose, so I made a purpose for it. I started by painting it white (all the molding and doors in our house are white). Then I cut a piece of fabric from some remnants I have in the basement. I laid the ironed fabric onto the bulletin board and stapled it all along the edges and in several calculated places in the center of the board to keep the fabric in place. I used some ribbon along the edges (hot glued it) to make the edges clean and straight, since the fabric was not perfectly cut. I then took 12 clothes pins and painted them white with spray paint. Once they dried, I labeled them with 12 different categories (such as Grocery, Children, Household, Car, Gifts, etc). I used hot glue to firmly glue the clothes pins onto the board in two rows.

I am really pleased with the outcome! Now the true test is to see whether or not it gets used! But, here are some pictures of the final product:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Create Your Own Photo Collage

I am in love with photo collages. I used to buy the photo collage frames all the time, years ago. But, I have found that it is so much easier (and cheaper) to just purchase a regular-sized frame and then just create a photo collage on an editing program. By doing it this way, you have full control over how many pictures you include, where they are placed, how they are sized, etc. I thought for sure it would cost an arm and a leg to print out these larger pictures, but to my surprise, it is very economical. I use for my printing, and their large-size printing is good quality for a great price. When I do the 16x20 collages (for family members), it costs me around $18 for the print. I have a huge 20x30 frame in my hallway at our house, and it costs only $23 to replace the collage (which I have only replaced once so far).

I typically use Adobe Photoshop Elements (mine is the 7.0 version, but there are better versions available now). There are a variety of backgrounds and options to choose from. I do not like how they require you to pay extra to use all of the backgrounds and such, though. A handful are free and then there are a ton that you can't get unless you pay for a membership, which involves a yearly fee. When you are spending $75 (maybe more now) on the program, you shouldn't have to pay an extra fee just to use it, you know? That's my only beef with PSE. I've still been able to do quite a bit with it, though. I really like the program.

Sometimes I will just do all photographs. Other times I try to incorporate text, whether it be birthdates, a meaningful quote (that I usually find via a Google search), or other words and phrases that are fitting for the theme. These are excellent to give as a gift, especially for grandparents. I purchase one for my mother and one for my mother-in-law, in the frame. Now I just make updated collages that I give typically on birthdays or Mothers Day or even for Christmas. They just switch it out in their frame, and they are all set with a variety of update pictures!

Here are some samples of collages I made. These were all made from scratch, not from templates.