Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gift Wrap Station

I used to house all of my gift bags and tissue paper in a large plastic bin in our unused sauna. Though it was nice to keep them out of the way, it was really a pain in the you know what to get anything out of the bin when I needed it.
Recently, A Bowl Full of Lemons, had a challenge to organize your gift wrap station. When I saw her gift bags arranged on shelves, I thought about some unused shelving units in my daughters closet. I moved the shelves to my craft room and immediately set to organizing my bin of bags into the much smaller and more functional shelf. Though my station is nowhere near as cool as some I have seen, it definitely functions much better for me now.

For now, tissue paper is placed on top of the shelf. The second shelf holds baby and birthday themed bags and a box full of all of my gift tags. The next shelf holds colorful bags for all occassions. The final shelf is full of Christmas bags.

The gift boxes and wrapping paper are still in the sauna for now, but much easier to get to.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Exterior Paint Colors

My husband and I have been discussing re-siding or painting the exterior of our house since moving in, October 2009. We have finally paid off most of our debt and are getting to the point where some of our major projects on the house can begin. We have done our homework in researching the color we would like by driving through local neighborhoods and taking note of the colors that we like. We also have taken into account the colors of other houses in the neighborhood. We have stone work on the ground floor of our home as well as for the chimney, the color of which also plays into our decision. Taking all of this into consideration we have decided on a sagey green. Though we have done all of our research, I would like to be able to see what it would look like before we spend the money and time making this change. I started researching photo editing services online and happened upon the Sherwin Williams webpage and Color Visualizer. I easily uploaded a before picture of the front of our house:

Then I followed the directions to highlight the areas that I would paint. Finally, a large selection of exterior paint colors is revealed and you are allowed to simply drag and drop the color of your choice to the photo. Immediately the color is filled into your photo and "voila!" your home or room is transformed! I tried the greens first since that is the color we had decided on, but was not really sold on any one in particular. We had also talked about painting the house red as it sort of looks like a big barn. After trying several reds on the visualizer, I knew that was not something I could live with for any length of time. Finally, I tried several grays and found two that I absolutely love!

This one is called Thunder Gray.

This one is called Downing Stone.

Which one do you like? I like the Thunder Gray but worry that it may be too dark. Thankfully, I still have a few weeks before it will warm up enough around here to be painting outside!

I don't know how I am going to choose, but am so glad that I was able to see the colors I liked before purchasing paint and using a color that I absolutely hated! I usually just buy the cheapest paint available from either Menards or Wal-Mart, but loved this Color Visualizer from Sherwin Williams so much that I believe I will actually splurge for the Sherwin Williams brand paint.

I am also going to upload pictures from several rooms in my house that I have been wanting to paint. I have no idea what color I want to use, but I'm sure that Sherwin Williams will give me plenty of options!

Disclaimer: I have in no way been reimbursed for this commentary regarding Sherwin Williams or the Color Visualizer. I am just passing along information that I found useful and thought could be useful to others.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Master Closet

Unfortunately our house was not equipped with a large walk-in closet. Though we do not have a large walk-in closet, the space that we have works as long as I keep it organized. I keep like items together (i.e. sweaters, shirts and dresses) and then organize them by color within those categories. Here is a picture of my closet before. Though all of the hanging clothes are pretty organized, the shoes are all thrown on the floor in a pile and my folded sweaters were falling off the shelf.

New clothes still in a bag on the floor!

Can you see how badly the rod bows! I also placed cardboard on top of the shelves to prevent the screws that stick up from ruining my sweaters.

I did pull out a few items that I no longer wear to donate, but for the most part it just took some re-folding and straightening to get things back in order.

The box on the floor holds my summer (seasonal) clothes.

I upgraded to all plastic hangers in college and they really are so much better than wire. I fold all of my sweaters because the weight of them on a hanger often leaves bumps in the shoulders.

It's still not perfect, but will have to do until I can install a dream closet organization system.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Thomas the Train Birthday

"Thomas!............And Friends!" I hear this about 100 times a day. My son is absolutely obsessed with anything and everything Thomas the Train, which is why we decided on that as the theme for his 2nd birthday.

I immediately started looking online for different ideas for everything from invitations to decorations and cakes. I did not see any invitations in the store that I liked, so I decided to print out a picture of Thomas to use on the front of the card. I then added the steam cloud with "Aidan's 2nd Birthday" to mimic the Thomas logo.

The back side of the card reads, "All aboard for Aidan's 2nd Birthday!" I then cut out a ticket shape for the back of the card to write all of the party details. I can't take credit for the creative wording of the invitation as I found that online.

Once the invitations were sent, I got to work on decorations. I did not want to spend a lot of money so I knew that I was going to be making decorations. Because it was train themed, I decided to make miniature versions of signs that you would see along a train track and hung them throughout the rooms we would be using.

I made another birthday sign using the Thomas logo subsituting Aidan's 2nd Birthday. Underneath that I hung up directional signs leading guests to various locations. The roundhouse is a resting place for engines after a days work, in our case the living room. Engine works is where the trains go to have repairs, in our case the kitchen. The wash down is where the trains go to be cleaned, for our party this was the bathroom. Finally the station masters' office was the master bedroom.

I majorly splurged on the Thomas balloon bouquet, but plan to hang the balloon in my son's room long after it has deflated so that he can enjoy it.

Finally, I constructed a Thomas centerpiece out of gift and shoe boxes and toilet paper rolls all wrapped up in blue wrapping paper and various scrapbook papers and ribbon. I read about a woman who made one for her son's party, but did not see any pictures, examples or tutorials for one online.

He really turned out cute though! I especially love the cotton balls coming out of the smokestacks!

Finally, I found a super easy video tutorial for this cake online.

I liked how it was a 2 dimensional view of the front of Thomas the Train Engine rather than a 3 dimensional model of Thomas. Unfortunately the link has since been disabled, but as you can see it involved making a round cake for the face, a large rectangle cake for the base and cutting a funnel shape out of a regular sized cake pan.

Aidan was a little confused by all of the attention as everyone was singing "Happy Birthday!"

It was a great party and so much fun to plan and prepare! I only wish that we could have the parties without him having to get any older!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Living Room changes

I don't know where my obsession with having faux greenery in my house came from, but faux plants and trees were some of the first things I wanted to buy for our very first house. I had greenery on top of my kitchen cabinets, in baskets and vases, everywhere. I remember bringing a faux tree into our home and thinking that it completed our living room, while my husband just shook his head in disbelief. I found a place for the tree in each of our houses and absolutely loved it. That is until recently. For some reason it has never really fit in this house. I am not sure if that is because my style has changed and I outgrew my love for faux greenery or if it really just does not fit in this house. Here is a picture of our living room with the faux tree.

Never mind the toys that I pushed together almost out of sight of the camera, seriously!

I have always hated how the tree is crammed into the small space between the couch and ladder shelf. I am also OCD and kind of nuts about things being symmetrical. The tree at the end of the couch threw off the art and pictures on the rest of the wall.

Here is the living room after removing the tree:

I plan to buy a new black frame so that the frames are all the same color, but otherwise I love the space without the tree.

Sidenote: I tried desperately to find another spot in the house for the tree, but it just didn't work. For now it is sitting in the attic, but I have a feeling it will be garage sale bound come spring.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ready for Spring

Like many people, I am sooooo tired of winter! I love winter and snow, but by this time of year, I am sick of the dark and cold! Thankfully, my brother-in-law and his fiancee gave us a wonderful excuse to escape the wintry tundra we live in and travel to a warm oasis. We travelled to Chicago just 2 days after receiving 18 inches of snow and flew to Jamaica for their destination wedding.

Our backyard before the great blizzard of 2011.

Jamaica immediately after the blizzard.

The kids playing in the snow.

A relaxing retreat for two on the beach.

The kids enjoying playing in the wonderful white snow!

My husband and I soaking up some sun and enjoying some relaxing couple time.

This past weekend temperatures in our area reached the 40's. It was warm enough that we actually donned sweatshirts instead of heavy winter jackets to go outside. We even drove with the windows down, just briefly, but they were down and we weren't freezing! I hope that mother nature is not messing with us and that Spring really will be here soon!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Picture Perfect.... Not Quite

My husband and I are leaving for a four day kid free vacation to his brother's wedding in Jamaica. As I always do when we leave on vacation, I cleaned the house from top to bottom. I do this so that the only thing to do when we get home is to wash the clothes and put away anything that we took with us. This time it worked out that I had a commitment and my husband is taking the kids to their grandma's house to drop them off for the weekend. As soon as he left with the kids, I realized that the house looks exactly the way that I strive for it to look everyday. Everything is in it's place and cleaned up, a rare occassion with 2 children to say the least! Though everything looks picture perfect, as if ready for a magazine shoot, it does not feel perfect to me. It is missing the people that make this house my home, my husband and children.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Reading Room

Before moving into our current house, I was adamantly against a story and a half or cape cod home. I hated the sloped ceilings and cramped niches. When we walked through our current house I actually liked the 1/2 story because it made good use of available space. The 2 bedrooms were actually large and spacious.

My son's room as it was when we moved in, I need to update on his big boy room!

My daughter's bed, still plenty of room to stand up and tuck her into bed! I have even taken naps with her and do not have to worry about sitting up in bed and bumping my head on the ceiling!
Though the ceiling sloped downward, I was able to arrange the furniture in the room so that the room was functional for the kids as well as adults. I was also excited for the possibilities with the landing at the top of the stairs and a large niche outside one of the bedrooms.
The previous owners left behind a small sofa that was absolutely covered in cat hair. I cleaned it up and tried giving it away on Craigslist. Thankfully I didn't get a single bite. I had a lightbulb moment and thought that the sofa would be the perfect addition to the large niche. Being right outside the kids bedrooms, it would be the perfect spot to snuggle up and read a bedtime story. I bought a slipcover for $50 before I attempted the slipcover on this chair. I'm so mad at myself for being so hasty and buying the slipcover rather than making my own, especially since the slipcover was so easy to make!
Once I had the sofa in place, I placed a small bookcase in front of it to contain the kids ever increasing library. Finally, I spruced the whole area up with a letter wall that I was inspired to make after seeing one in a Pottery Barn magazine (unfortunately I do not have a picture of my original inspiration to link to) where they covered a wall with letters made of various materials and in different sizes and finishes. I thought it would be a cute way to decorate a play room while also being educational for the kids. I began collecting wood letters and objects in our house that looked like letters of the alphabet. Finally, I found a set of three white shelves on clearance at Kohls'. I ended up making the A and Z out of scrapbook paper as I wanted a large letter and I was unwilling to pay the price for wood ones. I used the height of the largest letters to determine the spacing of my shelves. The shelves were hung in a snap as they were the self-leveling kind, ingenious! Finally, I filled the shelves with the letters I had collected.

I ended up using some magnets, puzzle pieces and cookie cutter letters to fill in for ones that I have yet to collect, but I love the way that it turned out! Here is a close up on each of the shelves:

It's not an exact replication of the Pottery Barn wall, but shows how you can use inspiration to make something your own!