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Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas is around the corner! - Part 2

Part 2 - Decorating with Self-Control

I have a serious problem, I love all the beautiful things that come out around the Holidays and I want to walk into every store, give in to the perfect display and buy whatever they are advertising. Needless to say, we can spend a fortune!














(Here are some examples of my current temptations from Ballard Designs.)

So I'm making myself a promise this year, and maybe you can join me. I'm not going to buy anything (Other than a fresh Christmas tree) until after Christmas.

Place your decorations around your home, enjoy them this year. And make a list, if there is an area that is seriously lonely, write down where and if necessary take measurements. Then wait for those After-Christmas steals to get yourself something lovely that you can enjoy for many years to come without busting an already tight December budget.

Christmas is around the corner! - Part 1

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week? Now I know, I know, many of you hate seeing the red & green aisles in October, but I tend to be more plagued with the Come & Gone syndrome. I feel like I'm packing it up before I ever get to enjoy it!

So...here is a short series to help you enjoy this season a little more slowly and be better prepared for next year.

Part 1 - Giving Great Gifts

There are 3 questions we run into each Christmas:

1. What do I get for him/her?
2. Who have I forgotten?
3. How much have I spent?

Remember the binder I keep in my kitchen? Use this year round to be ready for Christmas and within your budget! This is a simple task, have a section for the Holidays and a piece of notebook paper for gifts.

Keep a running list of people you need to buy for as well as a target dollar amount. You can also make notes through the year of things they have mentioned they might like or ideas you have for them.

When you find a great sale (even if it's in April) don't be afraid to buy a great gift and stash it away. Just make sure you notate what you bought and who it is for, and if you are like me, where you hid it away!

Just wait, when the tree goes up you will already have most of your presents to go under the tree and without the week-before-Christmas stress, you'll be able to wrap them and tag them and place them below to look lovely all month.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dinner Made Easy

I just came across this site and thought it was so interesting and helpful, I felt compelled to share. For those of you constantly trying to figure out what to make for dinner, they provide WHOLE MENUS each day - not just a main course, but side dishes as well. They also have a very organized list of what to buy, what to get from your pantry and the tools you need. Then, instead of breaking down the steps like a normal recipe would in a big paragraph, they have each step bulleted and the order in which to do each step so that everything is done at the same time. Genius!

Here is the site: http://www.notakeout.com/

This week their guest contributor is Patricia Wells, who has been very influential to Ina Garten (of Barefoot Contessa fame) and whom I love, so by extension I also love Patricia. One of the most appealing things about this site is they emphasize seasonal, fresh ingredients but in a way that isn't intimidating. You can subscribe to this site for free and each day they will email you a different menu. Obviously no one wants to go to the store each day upon receiving the new recipes, but what a great way to build your recipe collection!

Bon appetite!

Monday, November 16, 2009

DIY Fabric Headboard

As I have mentioned a few times, I have been in the slooow process of re-doing my bedroom. I wanted more color and less drab-ness and, after living in our house for over two years, I thought it was time to address our bedroom instead of ignoring it like I had done previously. When we were first married, we lived in a small apartment and did not have the room for a king-size bed (required) and a headboard or footboard (optional). Now that we have upgraded slightly and enjoy a little more room in our master bedroom, I wanted to have a headboard, but nothing that would push the bed too far out from the wall, as I thought a headboard that was mounted on the bed frame would. Thus, I began the task of researching how to make my own fabric headboard that I could mount directly to the wall.

To begin, I Google'd "DIY Fabric Headboard" and several helpful (and not-so-helpful) links popped up. After looking at several sites, I realized the basic premise was the same: you take a piece of ply wood and cover it with 2" foam, then batting and then fabric. If you want to include buttons on your headboard (which I did), drill holes into the wood prior to attaching your fabrics to the headboard. Once I had an idea of what needed to be done, I started putting together a game plan and gathering my supplies. (WARNING: This project ended up taking waaaay longer than I had originally thought and, for that reason, I did not take as many pictures of the process, just because I started to get tired and annoyed and just wanted the whole project to be OVER. If you have specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask, as I realize this post may not be a sufficient step-by-step guide in assembling an upholstered headboard.)

First off, I needed to figure out the size of the headboard that I wanted. For this, I went to the Pottery Barn site to see the dimensions of their king-size headboards. All of their measurements for height were from the floor since their headboards were attached to the bedframe, but I was still able to use this measurement because it helped me to figure out how tall my headboard should extend above my actual bed. As you can see in the picture below, I used painter's tape to mark the dimensions of the headboard on my wall, to give me a sufficient visual in imaging the finished product. Once I knew how high I wanted it, I then figured out the width, which was two inches inside the windows on either side. The final dimensions were 72" x 30". On to gathering my supplies...
On the sites that I read about fabric headboards, many of them touted how easy and affordable this project was. For me, I liked the idea of making a headboard myself because it would allow me to get exactly what I wanted at (hopefully) a fraction of the cost. So while a similar fabric headboard from Pottery Barn can cost as much as $900, my headboard probably cost about $150. Still a fraction of the cost, but more than I was expecting. I got lucky because I received a flyer from Joann Fabrics that had a ton of coupons for most of the matierials I would need so I was able to use those to cut down on some of my expenses.

Just to warn you: foam is expensive! I had no idea! When I originally saw the huge piece of 2" foam that I would need, I saw the price tag: $29. Then I read closer: $29 a YARD. Each piece comes in two-and-a-half-yard sections. If you don't need that much, you can always get them to cut it and you can buy exactly what you need, but I needed that much. EXACTLY that much. Luckily, I had a coupon for 40% off foam. Phew. But still - I definitely experienced some sticker shock. One thing to note: while you wrap your batting and fabric around your wood and staple it to the back, the foam just sits on the wood - no wrapping. If you haev one big piece of foam, you can just use the force of the batting and fabric to hold the foam in place. If you're like me and had to piece the foam together, you can use spray adhesive AND the force of the batting fabric to hold the foam in place.

Also at Joann's I bought regular batting, muslin (I used this as a layer between the batting and top fabric, because I was worried the bright green foam would show through, since my fabric was rather light) and a kit to cover buttons. Again - I had coupons for everything, so my total there was about $60. Without the coupons, that would have been the cost of the foam alone. I ordered my fabric from an online source and spent about $45. My wood from Lowe's (which I also had them cut) was about $20. The last thing on my supply list to buy were flush mounts, which ended up being the most elusive thing on my list. At Home Depot and Lowe's I got blank stares from the floor staff, or I was directed to the electrical department because they thought I was talking about lighting fixtures. I also tried Ace Hardware and got a blank stare from them, but then printed a picture of what I was talking about (instead of trying to explain it with my hands) and went back to Ace - bingo! They had exactly what I needed. The very helpful salesperson also set me up with all the screws and anchors that I would need. Little did we know we should have bought several more screws and anchors...it would have saved me a trip (or two) later in the day :)

Once I had all my supplies gathered, I recruited my husband (this was NOT a one person job) and we picked October 31 (a Saturday) to begin this project. Little did we know this date would prove somewhat ominous. First we set out mounting one half of the flush mounts to the wall. I have them pictured below. They are really genius if you ask me. You attach one mount to the wall and the other to whatever you are hanging and it literally creates a mount that is flush against the wall...perfect! We were extremely careful in this step, as we have a history of rounding up to the nearest millimeter and the whole project getting messed up. I assure you this day was no exception!

Once we had the mounts on the wall, we then went to work attaching them to the wood. I would recommend attaching them to the wood before you start on the fabric step. That way you have clean edges to measure from and ensure your measurements are more accurate. Once we had them attached to the wood, we decided to go ahead and attach the wood to the wall, just to check our measurements. Disaster. I have no idea how, given our painstaking attention to detail, but the thing was crooked! It was after two more trips to Ace for screws and/or anchors that we realized no two measurements were the same, whether we measured from the floor, floor board, ceiling or crown moulding. It was like I was in the Twilight Zone, which is what made the fact it was Halloween seem even more ironic.

Finally (FINALLY) we got the thing straight enough that we could live with and moved on to attaching the fabric to the wood. First, though, we had to drill our holes. Of course we did not have a drill bit that would give me the 1"-2" hole I heard was most helpful, so instead my husband did the best he could to give me the biggest hole his biggest drill bit head. He was such a trooper throughout this whole process! Once the three holes were drilled (I just centered them to the height and then spaced them evenly across), I used Elmer's spray adhesive to attach my foam to the wood. While the glue dried, I ironed my fabric. The glue didn't hold the foam PERFECTLY, but it kept it in place long enough for us to get the foam and fabrics attached.
We used a staple gun to first attach the batting and then we attached the muslin and, finally, the fabric. After each step, we went through and cut back all the excess. Also, we made sure to pull each layer really tight, but were careful to not go too tight so it wouldn't pucker the fabric. For each layer we would staple the fabric to either end and then turn it over to check our work. If we were happy with the result, we would finish attaching the fabric on the remaining two sides. This part of the project went the fastest and smoothest.

Finally, I used my new button kit to make three fabric-covered buttons. To attach them, don't try using a standard needle. Trust me. I am now the proud owner of a 5" needle (who even knew those existed?!). After experimenting with regular thread to pull the buttons tight, I switched to embroidery floss since a) it's a little thicker and could withstand the pulling and b) it's meant to be pulled tight. When the buttons still weren't as tight on the headboard as I wanted them to be I thought like MacGyver and nailed thumb tacks next to the holes, wound the thread around the tacks and then nailed the tacks the rest of the way into the wood, thus holding the thread tightly in place.
At last we attached the final product to the wall and - voila! - it stayed in place! At last we were done! You can see the finished product below. This was a long post...I think I want to go lie down in my bed, beneath my new headboard!

Again - I apologize for the lack of step-by-step instructions. Please let me know if you have specific questions and I will do my best to answer them!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Have you ever thought to clean...

...the OUTSIDE of your house?

A few weekends ago, when the weather was nice and I didn't break into a sweat upon stepping outdoors, my husband and I did some much-needed work in our very neglected yard. We raked, pulled weeds, he mowed - we saw so much progress in one afternoon! Something I tackled while we were outside was cleaning the exterior of my house.

Here's what I did: I took a big bucket of warm water and several of the rags I'd made to replace sponges, and got to work cleaning window sills and shutters and dusting off my front door . It almost looked like it had gotten a new coat of paint! There had been so much pollen build-up from the last several springs that I had never wiped away, and what a difference it made to have that stuff gone!

I also took a stack of newspapers and a spray bottle of a water-and-vinegar mixture and cleaned the outside windows on the bottom floor. This made a huge difference too. Lastly I took a broom and swept away any cobwebs that were lurking in the corners of the porch.

It's amazing how dirty the outside of your house can get! You really don't realize what a difference it makes to have all that crud gone until it's actually...gone. Short of renting a pressure washer, this seemed like a great first step towards improving and maintaining my house's exterior. Also, this chore can help you inspect areas of your house that maybe you wouldn't spend a lot of time looking at - I found a few shutters that needed their screws tightened to keep them in place, for example.

Hopefully I can make this an annual event each fall, after all the pollen from the spring and summer has passed!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Nature Nursery

A dear friend of mine posted some pictures of the nursery she is working on for her soon to arrive daughter. It was so gorgeous I am tempted to steal the whole thing and do it for mine. But for now, I'll just steal her pictures so you too can enjoy the eye candy. Just beautiful!