There's nothing like a deadline to get a long-term home improvement project finished up. Ben has been chipping away at a landscaping project in the front and back-yard since about March. But with Ayla's birthday party on the horizon, he wanted to get it finished up -- and he did!
It began with this vole-infested shed at the back of our yard that needed to be hauled away:
While the kids and I were our of town for Spring Break, Ben and his brother Josh took a sledgehammer to the shed and hauled it off into this lovely dumpster that sat in our driveway for about two weeks. The day it arrived was a very exciting day for Paxton!
When we got home from our trip, the shed was gone (as was the rotting deck in the backyard, a grill and a couch that had past it's prime. When a dumpster is available, you better make good use of it!)
In addition to tearing down the shed & deck, Ben spent HOURS and HOURS working on grading the dirt in the flower bed, adding a french drain and gravel, and putting in edging to set the groundwork for a large flowerbed. It's a shame I can write all that work into just one sentence. It was a massive undertaking!
Next, we had a huge pile of dirt delivered to put some good soil down for our flowerbed. The kids had a blast in that dirt pile...who wouldn't?
Once all the dirt was down and graded for good water drainage, we covered it with weed-blocking paper and left it for about a month or so while we were busy with everyday life.
Then one week, we noticed we were about to have gorgeous, unseasonably cool weather and knew we had to get on the ball to get these flower beds finished. This was our chance. It was time to get digging.
So we headed to Home Depot and bought up a ton of perennial flowers and bushes and spent a very long Saturday digging about 100 holes in our yard! Needless to say...we were exhausted at the end of that weekend. But...after adding some mulch over the top, we finally had our finished flower beds:
The backyard isn't the only area that got a little facelift. Ben followed the same process on the front flowerbeds too:
Now comes the hard part....keeping them alive!
Hopefully our work (mostly Ben's) won't be in vain, and these few intense days and weeks of work willl pay off over the years and we'll see all of these flowers and bushes growing back year after year.
Next yard project (who knows when???) will be making some level ground in the back yard for kids to play...might have to hire professionals for that big job!
Saturday morning, we hosted Ayla's 6th birthday party in our front lawn.
She had requested a "Strawberry Shortcake Festival" birthday party. Can't say no to that! We turned it into a summer fun festival, and planned a morning of water sports and "fair food". Here's how the party went down:
I ordered these "Strawberry Sweet Berry Birthday Party" invitations from Zazzle and just change the wording to fit our party.
Tip: I always like to include a drop off and pick up time and mention whether a meal will be served at the party on the invitation. Helps answer a few questions parents are likely to have in this strange inbetween age where parents are often expected to stay at parties with their kids. I got several comments from moms that were SO glad to see that information on the invitation!
Decorations were pretty simple for this party. We borrowed some pop up tents from our neighbors for a festival-like atmosphere, set up a few tables for food & gifts, and put out lots of water toys spread across the lawn.
I made a chalk sign on the driveway for a great "welcome" sign and photo backdrop.
For one of the tents, I made a quick "Happy Birthday Ayla" banner (tutorial here) with some colored cardstock, ribbon and my Silhouette to cut the letters. The kids layed their towels under this tent to eat lunch and open presents.
Under the other tent, I added some red and turquoise fringe that I ordered from ShopSweetLulu.com. We had two tables set up in an L-shape with an adorable strawberry tablecloth (from Target) and a plain pink plastic table cloth on the other. One table was for food, the other held gifts and party favors.
Speaking of party favors...
Each kid went home with a bubble wand. I snagged all the pink and green ones from our local Dollar Tree. We added a strawberry candy with a tulle baggie and a cute (and free!) chevron printable "thank you" card. Then Ayla added a Strawberry Shortcake sticker to each wand.
We tried to keep it simple, but feature "fair food" for our festival. So our menu looked like this:
- Popcorn in green chevron bags
- Corndogs (from Sams)
- Strawberries in Berry Baskets
- Strawberry Fanta with red & white paper straws
- Cupcakes with pink & white icing (Target)
I bought plain cupcakes with sprinkles and added a slice of strawberry to the top to fit the theme:
Activities & Games:
As everyone arrived they played in the yard with all the water toys. We set up three baby pools full of water with sponge balls, water shooters, a sprinkler and a slip-n-slide for the kids to run wild -- which they did!
The night before, Ben and I filled about 200 water balloons. I bought pink & green ones from Dollar Tree to match the Strawberry Shortcake colors.
The water balloon toss was a little chaotic, and I had to do lots of shouting to try and get them to (hear) and follow the instructions.
Next we played a relay race game where the kids ran to a kid-sized camping chair and sat on a water balloon to pop it and then ran back. They liked that game a lot - and got plenty wet in the process.
After a few rounds of that, we just let them loose on the big bucket of balloons. Pure FUN!
The only other formal game we played was with some really cool sponge balls that my neighbor had made and let us borrow. Each team had to carry a wet sponge ball down to the bucket and try to squeeze out the water with their neck into the bucket.
They started cheating quickly. But it was still lots of fun.
And that was pretty much it! Two hours of glorious weather (thank goodness!), lunch and lots of running around the yard. I think it was successful and fun for all the kids. Hard to say...I was running around like crazy the whole time! :) I'm not sure I'm meant for party hostessing....but the planning sure is fun!
Since it's what I do and love, I think it's important to do my best to support other mom-based businesses with a handmade twist. So when offered the opportunity to review this adorable little etsy shop called Burlap + Blue, I jumped at the chance.
Burlap + Blue specializes in cake stands, dessert pedestals and home decor with a vintage-inspired feel. And Linda, the shop owner has a great eye for vintage and shabby-chic, as you can see from her blog. She even has some great DIY tutorials:
|Shabby Flower Pillow||Burlap + Ruffles Ottoman||Wood + Felt Buntings|
This particular black and white damask dessert pedestal in her shop caught my eye right away.
It's made from combining a gorgeous patterned ceramic plate and a painted metal candlestick.
Together, they create this beautiful, delicate stand that says "I'm special."
I envision it proudly supporting a gorgeously decorated scrumptious cupcake for a special birthday, tiny little cheese cubes at a party buffet, or a perfectly wrapped little present with a pretty bow. But for today, a few oatmeal cookies will have to do. :) Don't worry, they're yummy too!
Check out some of the other great hand-crafted products that Linda has in her Burlap + Blue Etsy Shop!
How cute are those customized coasters? And the clock? Love it!
I'll bet you'll find a special piece in her store that speaks to you. If you do..use coupon code signsbyandrea for 15% off - expires 3/22/12.
You're welcome. Happy shopping!
I've been getting antsy. When we moved into this house almost 5 years ago, we had no interest in painting. After all, we had *just* spent 2 years repainting and updating every surface of our old house, plus we had a 1 year old kid to take care of. So, we've had the flat brown paint on every wall in this house ever since we moved in. Now it's full of scratches, dents, holes and marks - most of which we've made, I'll admit.
But I tell you what, if Pinterest doesn't make you want to repaint every room (and thing) in your house, you must not be pinning enough!
So, I made myself a little "Living Room" pinboard and tried to be very systematic and realistic about the color schemes I could use, while trying not to buy much more than paint and maybe recovering a couple of pillows. While I may change out lamps, the rug & curtains at some point, I wanted to start with something that works with what I've already got. Which is this: white bookshelves, navy furniture, and green rug & curtains.
First, I picked out a bunch of light gray swatches, because even though *I* love the idea of turquois-y walls, I was pretty sure Ben wouldn't...and those red floors might not do so well anyhow with such a bright and dominant color. We agreed on a swatch that seemed to contrast enough with the white trim, but wasn't too dark or tinted any strange color.
Then I came up with this:
Working with the navy couch, white bookshelves & trim, green curtains and reddish floors, I added gray walls (using the color from my swatch) and some turquoise accents to make this color scheme.
Then I played around with some of the actual elements in the room, including two large paintings we have and put this idea board together (no, that's not my child in the photo...just someone who has the same Expedit shelves & a navy couch - convenient, eh?!):
Then I painted. It only took a day. Then I put everything back into place so we could decide if we like it or not:
Why do the walls look baby blue? I don't know. Because things on your computer screen never turn out quite the same in real life. Actually, even in this photo they look more gray than they seem to look in real life. *sigh*
MY VIEW: (from my office chair)
I do REALLY love the Expedit shelves put together on a corner like this. Like a little mini-library that fills this side of the room quite well.
My general feelings so far about this new paint color:
- I like it better than the brown with the red floors.
- I'm not sure about the green. I might want a large gray fluffy rug instead and maybe some charcoal gray curtains.
- I'd like to replace the lampshade with a circular drum shade.
- I need a cool piece of furniture to put our TV on - painted white, or dark gray, I think.
- I need some turquoise accents!
- Should I have gone with a darker shade that looks less blue?
- I think the color should extend into my office, the entryway and upstairs hallway. But I don't think this particular color would work in the kitchen/playroom area of the house.
I like how it looks with our "Dot Calm" painting:
I'm open to suggestions and feedback! What do you think?
Brezina Refinishing Review - Birmingham, AL
My grandparents bought a beautiful set of maple furniture for my mom and aunt when they were young. A dresser & mirror, two secretary desks, a lingerie chest and a set of bunk beds. If there were night stands, I'm not aware of it!
Anyhow, my mom inherited the bunk beds, dresser and one of the secretary desks when she moved out on her own (or sometime in her young adult life), which means that for most of my life, *I* used them as my bedroom furniture.
They'd been beat up, scratched, stained, dented, and even had a LOT of stickers put all over them. But still, they remained sturdy pieces of furniture. We had the dresser refinished as a wedding present when Ben and I got married 11 years ago, and it now resides in Ayla's room. As does one of the twin beds, which has since been painted with white laquer paint.
But the secretary desk that I love so dearly has unfortunately sat in our garage taking up space and collecting dust for 11 years until we were ready to spend the money to have it refinished. We waited and waited and discussed it and stewed over it every time we cleaned out the garage. Finally, this year, I decided it was time to either fix it up and use it somewhere in the house or let it go.
Well, I couldn't let it go.
I knew it would look so great in our kitchen and help keep all the mail and papers at bay that seem to collect on the island. But...I'd only like it *IF* it was painted, not stained. With all the red wood floors in our kitchen, the wood finish just didn't look quite right. But imagine it all painted black...now THAT would be sharp!
Originally I was going to try and paint it myself. That illusion lasted about 10 minutes when I told Ben about my big revelation and he said "you're not doing this yourself." He was right. This desk has an insane amount of nooks and crannies and I'm not known for my detailed precision when it comes to stuff like this. Oh, and I've never done any refinishing before so I have zero experience.
So off to the professionals I went. Brezina Refinishing was recommended to me by a local friend, so I called for an estimate, was not completely shocked by the price, and decided to just go for it.
Brezina Refinishing (Tony Lee)
4915 5th Ave S
Birmingham, AL 35222
(Be sure to tell Tony that Andrea Steed sent you!)
I asked Tony for a black satin finish with slight distressing. I was VERY pleased!
He did just the perfect amount of distressing around the edges so that the original wood peeks through. Plus, check out that shiny brass hardware all spiffed up!
He finished every piece of it, inside & out, front and back (since the back is open to our playroom downstairs). It even got three new knobs for the inside drawers (since I was so resourcefully using a paper clip - yikes.
Even the inside shelves have some neat distressing marks that almost make it look like it's *actually* worn down that way.
And the chair looks just as good! Check it out:
Ahh...love it. Working with Tony at Brezina Refinishing was a joy. I would absolutely recommend him for any wood refinishing work. I even got to see some samples of cool furniture he's restored and re-vamped in his workshop and home. He does fantastic work. Plus, I caught him during a slow season, so he was able to have my desk delivered to me only a week and a half after I brought it to him. Unbelievable!
I'm so glad to finally have this desk out of the garage and into the house! Yay!
Next on the bedroom furniture refinishing list -- turning that other twin headboard and footboard into a bench for the entryway. Something along these lines...maybe in a color this time though! I think I'll probably let Brezina Furniture tackle that project too. :)
Inspired recently by the really cool white pumpkin w/black lettering trend, my sisters-in-law and I had a girls night and made our own versions.
Here's how we did it:
Peel back the excesss vinyl, leaving the lettering and design.
Then press the transfer paper to the design so that you can place it easily on the pumpkin. We used large artificial white pumpkins (purchased at 50% off from Michaels.)
Gently peel back the transfer paper and press the vinyl onto the pumpkin, revealing your design.
We decided to add a thin coat of matte Mod Podge over the design, to be sure it stayed put (since the adhesive vinyl didn't seem to be well adhered to the pumpkin. Plus, we thought we might display our pumpkins outside and wanted to help keep them from peeling.
I was so happy with how they turned out, and amazed at how easy it was to do! Here's a look at all three of our creations:
We aren't the only ones with awesome black and white pumpkins. Here are some versions around the web that inspired our evening:
Looking for a fabulous new addition to your fall decor? How about a custom Sign by Andrea? For a limited time only, these seasonal custom-designed hand-painted signs are only $20!*
Trick or Treat? - black w/white lettering - 2ft x 6in - $20
- order -
Count Your Blessings - brown (as shown) or black w/white lettering - 2ft x 6in - $20
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*$45 regular price. $20 fall special runs through November 9th, 2011. Both sign designs are also available with optional beveled edges (+$5).
Don't forget to check out my other personalized sign designs when you order so you can combine shipping costs. It's not too early to start thinking about holiday gifts!
Friday was a gorgeous day, so Paxton and I sat out on the front porch decorating for fall.
I dug through the garage to find a set of four pots to create this stacked potted design (just put a smaller pot upside down inside each of the two pots you can see in order to have a strong base for teh next pot and the pumpkin to sit on. Then I filled the empty space inside the pots with grocery bags and covered it with a piece of burlap fabric before adding the little pumpkins and flowers.
The pumpkin is decorated with a vinyl "S" & spider decal (tutorial on that coming soon), and I decided that since those candlestick holders had sat in a bucket in the garage for several months, it wouldn't hurt anything to use them in some outside decor. :)
I made the wreath with a metal hanger and strips of frayed burlap, following this great tutorial.
And then I added a seasonal 3ft custom "Trick or Treat?" sign over the door. I think I'll replace it with a Thanksgiving-themed sign in November and then a Christmas-themed sign in December and continue to change it out as the year progresses.
For a Friday morning sitting on the front porch enjoying the weather and using all stuff we already had on-hand, I think we did okay. :) Ayla was excited to see it when she got home from school and now likes to walk in through the front door whenever we get home from being out. :)
I don't do much seasonal decorating around the house, but when Halloween and Christmas roll around, I am willing to pull out my bucket of decorations. The kids have a blast seeing all the little goodies that have been boxed away for a year, and it's a nice transition into the holiday season. So, even though our little plastic pumpkins and homemade decor are pretty basic...we do make an effort. :) And I say "we" because Ayla and Paxton were VERY involved in the process...they even helped me clean the house so that we could bring in the decorations.
Here's what we ended up with for our fireplace mantle in the playroom this year for Halloween:
My altered halloween house is my favorite decoration for this season, and the glittery pumpkin and "boo" garland is definitely a kid-favorite - especially since Paxon's favorite color is orange right now (he points it out everywhere).
I framed my "Being a Family" poster and included it on the mantel too (it & the other photos sit there all year).
In the kitchen, we went for a more subtle decorating technique -- but I LOVE the element of surprise. Check out our gallery wall and all the little masked friends! I saved the black cardstock masks I used from last year so that all I had to do was find a photo that fit and stick 'em to the glass.
Plus, I made this trick or treat sign and have a special place in mind for it on our front porch (pictures coming soon!):
Since the weather finally cooling off this week, it's definitely starting to feel a little more like fall around here! Might as well look like it too. :)
Except now Ayla and Paxton think Halloween is MUCH closer than it is. They don't really understand that it's still a whole month away...They've been walking around the house carrying little pumpkin bags, knocking on each door and saying "trick or treat" and handing each other toy cars and pretend candy. Silly kids.
A while back, I made myself a jewelry organizer for my closet from a picture frame, wire and fabric. But, after dropping earrings on the floor over and over and over again (because of the fabric backing & wire not having enough space between them) I decided to give it another shot with a new design.
I went digging in my garage and came back with two metal cube panels, several nails and some ribbon.
I liked the idea of the metal cube pieces, because if you face them the right way, the cross-bars leave a natural space between them and the wall that allows the earrings to hang freely. Plus, using the grid means I can easily stagger the earrings so I can see them all well and they won't get tangled up together.
I used ribbon to tie two panels together and secured the top two corners with screws. The bottom is secured with one screw to hold it still.
Since this grid solution didn't work for my necklaces, I simply added some staggered nails directly to the wall.
Let's hope this solution is a little more user-friendly! I'm not the only one looking for a great jewelry organizing solution. Check out these great ideas that I found on pinterest: