Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wrap-Around Ottoman Tray - one of my favorite projects!

So we have one of those giant ottomans instead of a coffee table.  I like it because you can push it into our sectional and it creates a gigantic couch which is perfect for forts, sleepovers and just general movie watching.  The only thing is if you want to snack or have a place to set you're drink your outta luck.  So like most people with this type of sofa, we had those little trays sitting on top of it which is fine I guess...

I just got tired of them and wanted something a little more special, ya know?  I'm all about custom stuff to make our house more homey.  I looked online and really couldn't find anything like I wanted.  I had the exact design in my head (sort of a long shelf with smaller boards that would hang off each end to "hug" the ottoman). I also wanted it to function as a very short table if needed (you'll see that below).  After some searching, I did find a wrap-around ottoman tray from a place on Etsy that was nearly $400.


 It was exactly what I had in my mind (which means it was SUPER simple) so I was shocked at the price.  Granted it is very pretty, made from reclaimed wood and all that.  We made ours for about 15 bucks... And we even bought the upgraded wood and I toyed with staining it but I really wanted a more whimsical piece for our room.  I thought about doing a chevron pattern cause that's super popular right now but I figured I'd get sick of it.  Then it came to me, I'll do Subway art and since we spend most of the time on that couch watching our favorite TV Shows and movies, we'll features some of our favorites on it.  I wanted it to be one of a kind and I think we accomplished that.  So here's how we did it:

First we measured our ottoman and then added an inch to that measurement and purchased a board that could accommodate that measurement from the hardware store. And like I said, we even bought the nice wood (I think it was $12 as compared to the cheaper stuff that you can get for around $8).  The nicer boards are pretty enough to be stained if you wanted.

Next, Matt cut it down to size.

You can see from above that there was over a foot left in excess board.

Next he sanded...

At this point you could use your leftover board to make the "legs" of the tray.  Just cut it to the size you want (in other words cut the legs to the length you want them to hang over your ottoman).  We had a scrap piece of 1x4 in our garage so we ended up just cutting it to size and using it.  Matt attached the "legs" with L brackets - less than $2.

I added some wood putty to the seams and then sanded a bit more.

I knew at this point I was going to paint it a light color so I thought the filler would give it more of a finished look.  If I was going to stain it I would have left the wood the way it was.  I gave it a couple coats of Glidden Mid Day Mocha - it's sort of a greige.  I just bought a sample tintable tester, they are inexpensive and I didn't even use half!  After the paint dried it was time to start on my Subway Art.

Now there are a TON of tutorials out there on how to do Subway Art.  A lot of them require vinyl printers - which I don't have.  The other popular way it to print letters on normal paper then trace them on contact paper then cut them out then put them on your piece then paint over them, etc etc etc.  It seems to work well for people but I don't have the patience for all that!  I used stencils and white paint.  When I first started I thought it was going to be hard but once I got the hang of it, it was easy... and actually fun.  Matt and Cady ended up doing some as well.  The important thing to remember if you are using this method is to do it in stages.  I would have several words in progress on different parts of the board - one letter at a time.  You will have lots of breaks for dry time. We had some stencils from previous projects and for future projects, but you can get them at Hobby Lobby.  I let the paint cure over night and then distressed it a bit the next day.

I used 150 grit sand paper so it was really just a light sanding.  You may not be able to tell the difference in the pic but it's there.  The sanding took away any of the glops of paint or uneveness in the thickness.  Did that even make sense? It also gave it a weathered look, which is what I was going for.  The last thing I did was give it 3 good coats of polyurethane.  I did this because I knew it was going to have glasses set on it and plates of food, etc.  It needed to be wipeable. :)

Here's a closer shot of the words we wrote... out favorite shows, channels, sports teams, etc.  And at the bottom we put our names.

And it can also easily be removed and used for this:

A nice tray for the kids if they are sitting on the floor.  LOL at Milo's face... when he goes in for a snack, he totally commits!

We love it!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Our Favorite Christmas Movies!

Oh my goodness, I love Christmas!  And Matt (obviously - he IS a movie critic afterall) loves movies!  Combine both of those and it's a win-win!  I won't lie, it's not even Thanksgiving and I've got my schedule for ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas Movies ready... I've also got my  Hallmark movies ready to be DVR'ed.  I will admit, some of the Hallmark ones can be a little cheesy, but I love them anyway.  I've even got Cady hooked on watching them.  That being said, there are a few Christmas movies that we MUST SEE each season and this year is no different...  Only difference is I've made a list!  Cause everyone knows I love a good list.  This week I even went to Target and purchased a brand new spiral just for my list making purposes.  It's got flags and tags and dividers.  I've used color coded ink, highlighters and sharpies.  I love it, but I digress.  Back to the Christmas movies!

I've put our faves into three sections.  Mine, Matt's and Ours.


I'm a fan of the "Holiday Romantic Comedy" as you can see from Love Actually, The Holiday and The Family Stone.  I also like some of the family classics - Home Alone and Polar Express.  Each of these movies has moments that give me a lump in the throat and bring tears to my eyes.  And each of them has a happy special Christmas morning at the end - that's not a spoiler, if you didn't know that you've been under a rock!


I asked Matt why he likes these particular three and he said "Scrooge because it is a classic..Christmas Story because of the nostalgia of the era.. and Surviving Christmas for the dysfunction".

And then there were a few that were on both of our lists...


Elf has been a family favorite for years.  We have just about worn out our DVD.  We love to watch it and decorate the tree - it's a tradition.  Christmas with the Kranks is a relatively new movie on our favorites list.  It's funny and slapstick and you can't help but laugh at this poor family's silly mishaps!  Matt and I are not fans of A Christmas Vacation, but love this - they are similar in a way.  And of course, I can't wait to watch the classic Grinch Stole Christmas and Charlie Brown Christmas on TV each year.  Matt was born in the 60s and me in the 70s - and we both grew up watching these.  Gage and Cady are also fans and I hope Milo will be as well.  (I'm totally humming the Whoville Christmas song right now...)

So those are our favorites!  Don't you just love movie watching this time of year?  We have freezing weather and rain (perhaps sleet) in the forecast this weekend.  That means a fire will be built, hot chocolate will be made and Christmas movies will be watched.  Yessss!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mini "Eating Area" Makeover

Our growing family has prompted us to make quite a few changes around our home in the last few years.  We put french doors on what was once our formal dining room and made it into an office/guest room.  We HAD to have a guest room because when Gage went away to college, his room became Milo's nursery.  When Gage comes home he can't very well sleep in the crib with Milo or on the couch for weeks on end so a temporary guest room was in order.  That worked out well for a while...sorta.  The issue came when we moved our dining table and hutch into the breakfast area of our kitchen.

We had to put the hutch in front of one of the windows - there wasn't an open wall.  I wasn't crazy about this set-up because a) we lost a window and it's light and b) it was really crowded.  When all of us sat around the table it took some finagling, actually it was near impossible.  I finally decided a few weeks ago (especially with holiday family dinners planned...) to move the hutch out to the garage.  We'll be moving in the next year, so essentially we'll just store it out there.  Hopefully it will have a place in our next home.  I added our table leaf that had been in the attic and a bench to one side of the table so that we could seat at least 5 now.  I also decided to take down our thick dark curtains to allow more light in...  Unfortunately, when I took down the curtains it revealed our horrible mini-blinds.  All of the bottoms were missing slats and had rips from a dog that we had staying at our house at one time. They were also covered in a thick dust that no matter how much I scrubbed wouldn't come off.  I think when the kitchen walls were re-textured many years ago, the contractors just left the blinds up.  

As you can see, this is MUCH better.  Look at all that natural light and space around the table!  The old blinds went in the trash and the old curtains were replaced with neutral panels.  The eat-in area stayed this way for a few weeks and then two NEW things started to bother me.  1...I missed my dishes from the hutch.  They are my grandmothers wedding dishes and there was just something comforting about having them near the dining table.  2...While I loved all the light and open windows, there was no privacy!  Our laundry room is located just off the area and there are quite a few times in a week that I need to make a naked dash there to grab something I'm looking for to wear.  I'm sure the neighbors were unimpressed...

I searched online for cheap blinds or roman shades, but there wasn't really anything in our price range that worked.  Our big window is also not a standard size, so blinds would need to be custom ordered.  I know from blinds that we've ordered in the past that this isn't cheap. I also searched pinterest for an easy DIY shade of some sort but didn't really find anything I liked there either.  Queue my amazon search.  That's when I found these fabric temporary shades.  They were $8 a piece and could be cut down (with scissors or utility knife!) to fit our windows.  You can get them as low as $3 depending on the size you need.

The reviews were really good so I decided to give it a try.  So far, so good.  They were super easy to cut and then install.  I think it took less than 5 minutes.

The next thing I tackled was some sort of shelving so I could display a few things.  I knew it needed to be very non-invasive as space is precious in this area.  Initially I thought I'd get Matt to DIY me some skinny shelves.  You could totally buy a few 1x4s and then some "L" brackets and hang them on your own... Only thing was, he'd have to find time to build them... and he'd have to also build in some type of lip so that I could put plates on them if I wanted.  Then I'd need to prime and paint them and then he'd need to install them. The benefit to all that is we most likely could have done it for $20.  I decided to check amazon for grins and came across these.  I wanted them to be varying sizes and these would be perfect for plates because of the lip.  They also looked really nice and finished.  I'm amazon prime so shipping would be free and they'd get here in 2 days, so I went with it - it was worth the extra $15.  Matt installed them the day they came in and I think they turned out adorable!

And I know I'll be able to add little holiday touches here and there.

 The shelves take up zero room so we didn't lose any space.  The fabric blinds were inexpensive, easy to install and still let in all of our natural light.  Yay!  Problems solved. Best part of this mini-makeover is all the extra space we'll have around the table now - makes me ready for a turkey dinner!

*sponsored post

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Acorn Wreath! DIY

We have tons of acorns and pine cones in our front yard.  I LOVE Fall so I was jonesing to find a cute craft to use them.  I did use some of them on our Autumn themed mantel this year, but I needed a way to use the rest!  Last year Cady and I did a Fall themed ribbon wreath, but I was sort of tired of it so I decided "hey!  I could make an acorn wreath!"  There are tons of them on sale online and even other tutorials, but I figured it would be super easy and I was right.  It also cost me less than 10 bucks so that is the real win!

First things first... You gotta find a super cute 1 year old to help gather acorns!

Fortunately I have one of these (if you don't, gather them yourself or grab any size kid, hubby, aunt, uncle, etc)!  Cady isn't as interested in doing crafts me with anymore (she's 13 and can't seem to get her face out of her phone...), but Milo loves hanging out and picking up dirty acorns, sticks, pine cones and anything else his chubby little hands can find.  I think one of my favorite parts of the holidays is doing crafting with the kids.  I've got a few pinned that will interest Cady and even a few that Milo can participate in.

Cleaning & Baking (don't skip this - you don't want outside critters infesting your house!):
Bring your Fall goodies inside and rinse them in the sink.  I use our plastic colander so that I can really shake, bounce and sift all of the dirt off - you may have to do this a couple of times depending on how big your colander is and how many acorns you collect!  I run the colander through the dishwasher afterwards to make sure it gets sanitized.  Put your acorns on a few papertowels to get the excess water off and then line a cookie sheet (or 2) with aluminum foil.  Dump your acorns (and pine cones if you have them) on the sheets and make sure they are single layer.

Once they are finished baking, let them cool.  You can leave them in longer, but I've found that 20 - 30 minutes at 200 degrees works perfect.  One time (yes, I've baked quite a few batches of acorns!) I cranked the heat up because I was going to multitask and preheat my oven for something else and the acorns started popping!  Like they seriously EXPLODED!  Another tip, before I put them in the oven I sprinkle them with cinnamon.  It makes them smell nice.

You'll need a Styrofoam wreath - whatever size you want, I used a 12 inch because that's what I had.  I wouldn't go much bigger because you'll need a TON of acorns and it could get too heavy.  I saw some really cute mini ones for sale online that looked like they were about 5 inches.  You'll also need ribbon, straight pins and a glue gun.

The ribbon was (obviously) 50% off at Hobby Lobby.  You KNOW you should never buy anything that is not on sale at Hobby Lobby...  And you probably won't use the whole roll.

Wrap the ribbon around the wreath, securing it with straight pins (see pic below).

Next I sorted thru the acorns.  I used plain ones for the first layer to cover the wreath.  I mainly covered the front of the wreath and the bottom inside.  There is no need to cover every square inch but if you want to, go for it!  I saved some of the "prettier" acorns to glue on as a partial second layer.  I also glued the tops of the prettier ones onto the acorn so it wouldn't fall off later.

Like I said, the second layer is just a partial one.  I mostly used it to pretty up the wreath with the capped acorns and fill in any gaps.

Lastly I bought a roll of thick burlap ribbon to use for a hanger (again 50% off at Hobby Lobby and you won't use nearly all of it).  I folded it lengthwise and then made a bow at the top (folding it lengthwise make it extra sturdy and also gives the bow extra volume once you fluff it out).  You can use the leftover burlap on other fall or even Christmas decor!

Voila!  I love it!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Autumnal Decorations

For real, autumnal is one of my favorite words.  I like to say it and then people always ask, "what does that mean?" and I say "it means autumn-like or fallish".  I was just saying it to Cady the other day and when I told her what it meant she said "I'm totally going to start saying that.. autumnal..."  Ha!  Anyway, I know I RARELY blog anymore, but I decided to take on the Fall Decoration blog it challenge.  I'm only going to share our fall decorations that are on our mantel because, well, those are the only ones I put up.  First things first, I'll share a big pic of our fireplace - and you might notice something...

Our fireplace is now white "ish".  Post about that HERE.  Most... actually ALL of our fall decorations are old.  I didn't but one thing except the bag of mixed mini pumpkins that I picked up at Walmart for $4 when we were grocery shopping over the weekend.

1. sticks from an old arrangement that I had to dig out of the attic.  They are in an apothecary jar that I picked up from Hobby Lobby last year.  I also put acorns from our side yard in that jar.
2. another apothecary jar I picked up from Hobby Lobby last year. I filled it with pine cones from the yard (hoping to get more as the season progresses).  It's topped with a fall garland that I got at Micheals at least 5 years ago.
3. Hobby Lobby harvest swags that I've had for several years.  They still have similar ones.  NEVER pay full price for anything at Hobby Lobby by the way.  We don't buy it unless it's 50% off (all the fall stuff is already 50% off now) or we have a 40% off coupon - found online).
4. My "Give Thanks" framed art I made last year - you can see some of last year's stuff in this POST... I literally bought a piece of scrapbook paper that looked like linen and then played around with different fonts on Microsoft word and printed it out.  I framed it in an old frame (we have tons of these art frames around - I've learned they are perfect for re-purposing).
5. My homemade boxwood wreath!  I love it.  I added a couple of burgundy eucalyptus sprigs to make it a little more autumnal <-- there I go again.

The lantern (don't you love it?!) that hangs from below the mantel is also a 50% off find from Hobby Lobby.  The candle is one of those battery operated ones that you can turn on or set a timer.  The flickers give the whole fireplace an extra homey look.

P.S. Sorry for all the crappy phone pics... I honestly don't have the time or energy to actually get a real camera out and take pics anymore.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Little Sherlock Costume

Quick and easy and cost us about 10 bucks!  We already had some of the crafting supplies so you may have a lot of this laying around the house as well.  First thing I did was sit down and plan the absolute most easiest pattern I could think of.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the contemporary Sherlock movies/shows out there (here, here and here) but I was going for the classic Sherlock Holmes look.  I drew inspiration from these pics I found on Google:

I knew there was no way I could make a trench coat with my rudimentary sewing skills so I decided on a long "vest" and short "cape".  The effect is the same and it was easy peasy. (Please excuse these horrible drawings, but it's what I used).



Here are the supplies you'll need:

1. Measure your kiddo for the length you want the vest to be (top of shoulders to the knees).  Remember to allow for hems/seams.
2. Cut your material to the shape in the first pattern pic above.
3. Fold on the fold lines and then sew those tabs together at the top.  The top doesn't have to be "pretty" - it's covered by the cape.
4. Finish all the rough edges with a hem (you could use fabric glue as well).
5. I added pieces of velcro to use as closures in the front.  I then glued on 2 buttons so that it looked more finished (pic below)  FYI - I had to snip the back of the buttons off so they would be flat once I glued them on.

1. Measure your kiddo to find out where you want the edges of the cape to hit on his/her arm.  I measured from Milo's elbow to the center of his neck and then to the other elbow and then added a few inches to allow for a hem.
2. My measurement was 22 inches (then I added 2) so I cut a 24" diameter circle. 2nd pattern pic above.
3. Next I cut a slit all the way to the center.
4. I finished by hemming all the rough edges (I folded the edges in about a half inch then ironed it so I would know where to sew).  Again, you could totally use fabric glue.  (see pic below).
5.  Lastly, I put the cape on him and marked where it should close.  Glue or sew a 10 inch piece of ribbon on each side where you marked it so that you can tie the cape closed at the neck.  You could also just use the velcro/button method from the vest on the cape, but I liked the look of a ribbon.

MAGNIFYING GLASS: Martha Stewart has a similar one online (you could probably google it - she uses a foam brush stick instead of a dowel).  We already had a dowel from another project and we have plenty of mason jar tops around here.  (You could purchase a cheap plastic magnifying glass if you don't want to make one.)

1. You can glue the mason jar lid to the top of your dowel, but I had hubby use a screw. Our toddler can tear stuff up so I figured it would last longer if it was secured better!
2. Give it a few coats of black spay paint and that's it!

HAT AND PIPE:  There are also a few tutorials on how to make a "detective hat" out there as well.  However, I found a Hat that came with a plastic toy pipe for less than 5 bucks on Amazon so I went with it.  Our shipping is free (hello Amazon Prime!!!) so it was worth it!  The tutorials require you to buy 2 caps then add material on the sides with ribbon at the top.  It would still be inexpensive if you decide to go that route as well.


Milo wore a pair of khakis and a long sleeve white shirt underneath.  I think it's adorable!

plaid material - 50% off at Hobby Lobby 1.99 a yard. (you'll need 2 yards)
black ribbon - 50% off at Hobby Lobby .99 for 15 feet.  I used less than 2 feet so you can have this for future projects if you don't already have some at home.
Classic coat buttons - 50% off at Hobby Lobby - .99 for 3.  I used 2.
velcro - we already had some.  You only need a couple of inches.  You could also actually USE the buttons but I'm no good at sewing button holes!
needle/thread - we already had some.  Pick up fabric glue if you don't want to sew.
Magnifying glass - I had all supplies already
Hat & Pipe - 4.49 from Amazon

You can EASILY do this costume for less than $15... It would cost you more to buy one and it's more special if it's homemade, right?

Milo also wore his to a cosplay convention here in Dallas (Fan Days) and it held up perfectly!  Here's a pic of him during the costume contest on stage:

People were stopping us right and left to take his picture!

Thanks for stopping by - enjoy your little Sherlock if you decide to make one!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mantel Changes & a sad story

One random afternoon I decided I was soooo tired of our dark brick (and black grout - who chooses black grout? dumb) and oak mantel that I white washed and distressed the whole thing!  I sent Matt a text and was like, "I think I'll paint the fireplace" - Half of the fireplace was already painted at that point. hee hee

Horrible pic I had to pull from my text messaging:

It was a beast...  It took SEVERAL coats, mostly because our grout was so dark and we were white washing it and not painting it.  The above pic is after one coat on those bottom bricks and as you can see the black grout looks like it hasn't even been touched.  I'd paint it, and the black would just soak up the paint.  It was frustrating!  NONE of the tutorials online had black grout - suck!  If i had to do it again, I'd probably try to use some sort of primer/sealer on the grout first... One coat of whitewash on the bricks was plenty.

Here's the sad story:

I don't have a before or "directly" after picture of this project because I lost about a decade of pictures, tons of important documents and the latest copy of my novel when my external hard drive recently crashed (which is why you got the crappy pic of the half painted fireplace that I had texted above).  So most of my DIY stuff that I've taken pics of in the last year are totes gone... forever... trust me, we've tried everything.  However, I did scroll thru facebook and my picassa stuff and found some old pics of our mantel.  So just to refresh your memory, here's what it looked like before:

I got a little teary eyed looking thru all those pictures just now...cause I used to be skinny.  Just kidding!  It's fun to think about life at the time these were taken!  That top left one was taken in like 2008!  And I love love love the one of Matt and Syd on right-side center.  You might think I'm nuts for painting the brick and I thought the same thing when the Realtor suggested it ten years ago when I was just looking at this house.  But once we bought our chocolate colored sectional (have to go dark cause of the kids and all) and then we put in the dark wood floor, it was just SOOO cavey and dim in there...  some people like dark decor, but it was starting to border on gloomy for me.  I drew inspiration from a few pics I found online:

via:; and

I used a white washing method I found online and took about a day and a half (allowing for dry time between coats) putting about 5 coats on all that nasty black grout.  Like I said, it just kept soaking up the paint.  The mantel was easy.  I painted it, waited for it to dry and then scraped and sanded it.  Here's where we are today.  The reason I'm even posting about this is because I'm about to do a Fall decorations post and wanted to point out why our fireplace is white now.

Once it was painted, I didn't want to hang the TV back on the fireplace.  I missed having that area to display pictures and all that jazz so we moved the piece that the TV is on back into the room and for now we are leaving it this way.  If we knew we were going to stay here for a few more years, I'd repaint the walls a grayish color and use a bright white on all the existing trim.  For now, (or until we figure out if we are moving in the next 6 months or so), I bought a new brighter bigger rug and threw in a few lighter throw pillows.

That is all... and yes, I'm still upset about my hard drive crashing... you have no idea...