Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Foyer "Mural" Update. So Exciting!

Remember at the beginning of the month when I introduced the foyer "mural" of paint swatches (here if you don't know what I'm talking about) and then another brief update here?  Well, we actually found a paint color (thanks Krista!) that we love and even painted most of the foyer area before our little Christmas party on the 17th.  But before giving you the big reveal, let's take a trip down memory lane, or as I like to call, "paint chip hell," shall we?

Here is our first paint swatch, Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue.  It's a happy, cheerful color but I couldn't quite commit to it in such a large space (foyer, stair area and entire upstairs hallway).  It would be better in a bathroom (my friend Kate has it in hers) or a bedroom.
Enter a few more swatches. BM Timberwolf  is in the middle, BM Silver Lake is on the left, and a combination of the two is on the right. The Timberwolf was too dark, the Silver Lake had too much blue in it, and the combination of the two just enhanced both factors.
Then I became a mad scientist and tried mixing a color of my own.  You can have pretty much anything color matched these days so I figured I'd try to find my own color.  And so this happened:
You can even see the remains of a berry color on the left that I wiped off after it was on the wall for about 30 seconds.  Home Depot was having a $1 sample sale on Glidden paint so I decided to try something radical.  You'd think the disaster would have ended there but nooooo, I had to go and try a couple more paints before finally throwing in the paint brush in absolute frustration.  And yes, your monitor is not playing tricks on you, there's no way of getting around the fact that the color on the left can only be described as...peach.  PEACH! 
Sigh, peach...
It wasn't until I shared my sad tale on Facebook that one of my friends suggested Benjamin Moore's Stonington Gray. 
At this point I wasn't sure if gray was the way to go after the horror that was my foyer wall.  But I was out of options and our party was fast approaching (not like it really matters to any of my friends because they know all too well about the woes of paint color selection), so I did the unthinkable - yes! the UNTHINKABLE - and drove to my local Waters and Brown and bought myself a gallon of Stonington Gray without even sampling it on my wall first.  I did this, of course, after doing a quick Pinterest search and looking at a few rooms that were painted that color.  I had a coupon for $20 off a gallon of paint so I figured I'd get the good stuff since I have a lot of paint and spackle to cover up.  If I hated it, at least I'd have a new fresh surface to destroy again.  Within 48 hours we had cut into and rolled the foyer area two times and I went from desperate and depressed to down right giddy.  These pictures don't really do the color any justice but once we make our way up the stairs and into the hallway, I'll be working with much better light conditions so I can show you what all the fuss is about.  But for now, use your best imagination...
I never thought that me, the queen of color, would be so in love with gray.  When I went into this project I decided to go with a gray because I needed a neutral and I'm not really a beige kind of girl.  I also knew that gray would blend well with my living room and dining room colors.  My dining room is similar in shade but has a lot of blue in it.  It was so hard to find a gray that didn't have any blue but this one has just enough of a stone color in it to offset any blue undertones.  I never thought in a million years that I would ever find a color that would make me so happy and would add so much warmth to our space.  I'm already working on a big project for this wall and yes I know the stairs seriously need some attention.  Thank goodness we have a whole new year to get working on all those projects!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

To-Do-Ta-Da!

Photo: here

I'm tying up some loose ends on the blog this week in preparation for all the wondrous things I have planned for 2012.  Maybe all the eggnog I drank over the weekend is finally getting to my head (just kidding, eggnog is gross) and maybe I'll totally fizzle out when the clock strikes midnight on Saturday, but today I'm riding the motivation wave, so if you dare to join me, here we go...

I thought it would be fun to recap what we've been up to over the last few months by revisiting our Fall "To Do" list that I posted here on 9-13-11.  I mainly focused my list on improving the first floor of our house and if you've been following this blog, you'll know that I've barely mentioned the second floor since I started blogging again over the summer.  That is because aside from changing some bedding every once in a while and tacking up some mis-matched curtains, I've done absolutely nothing on the second floor.  I have four lonely neglected bedrooms that don't know what's going to hit them come 2012.  Just you wait for all the fun to begin...

So let's talk about what we did do over the last 3-4 months.

Living Room: I'm happy to say that the living room is as done as it's going to be for now.  The room is painted and the hutch was purchased, painted, and put into place (here). A coffee table was acquired for free and a marble table with my two favorite chairs replaced a love seat taking too much attention away from the bay windows (a final post of all the details can be found here). Finally, a bookcase was purchased, spiced up with some wrapping paper, and decorated with all my favorite things here.
Find a paint color for the living room
Start painting living room
Purchase/find a corner media console for TV and electronics and UGLY chords
Finish painting the bay window area of the room
Take town curtains, iron, re-hang (after painting)
Find a coffee table
Paint Hutch, add knobs, and transfer to living room
Assemble IKEA bookcase and determine a good place for it. Line the back of the bookcase with wallpaper or decorative fabric
Select some wall art or photos or mount Lenox chirp plates

Kitchen: The kitchen got a light makeover but is still on my radar for 2012.  I mostly improved our storage situation by adding an IKEA Expedit bookcase-turned-sideboard and a plate rack given to me by Erica and Beth. 
I also added some baseboard here under the dishwasher,
Ryan added a track light, and we re-organized our cabinet space.  We haven't had an electrician come in yet but we plan to do this once we figure out what we need.  I also still have to complete my curtain project which is half-finished and waiting for me to figure out how to sew.
Buy some storage furniture at IKEA to store and display plates, bowls, vases, etc.
Look into finding or buying a cute plate rack/shelf to display my collection of plates and mugs
Take off depressing ceiling lamp and replace with a track light.
• Research good electricians in the area and see if we can install a second light fixture in the kitchen (among a host of other electrical needs).
• Find some window curtains for the kitchen window in a light, cheerful pattern.
Push dishwasher into place and finish with a wood baseboard to match the cabinet baseboard.
Organize cabinets
• Do something fun with chalkboard paint on one section of the wall

Dining Room: Although the dining room is far from being complete, it wins the prize for most versatile this season since we transformed it to fit eight people for Thanksgiving dinner last month and opened up the space this month for our Christmas tree and Christmas party of 20 people.  I'm still on the fence about our table situation.  I was strongly leaning towards getting a round pedestal table, then toyed with the idea of getting a larger rectangle table, and now I have no idea what I want.  I'm hoping, like the hutch, that the perfect table will find me during the months to come.  For now we have a suitable kitchen table and three card tables that we picked up for Thanksgiving if we need the additional eating space.  We did spruce up the space with thick textured curtains and a wool rug here.  More tales of the dining room story will be sure to come in 2012.
• Find/purchase a round table for the center of the room
• Sew a seat cushion for the window seat
Consider wintry curtains for more coverage and protection from the draft
Remove final remnants of wedding paraphernalia that is sitting on the floor without a home
• Reorganize furniture to create both a dining and seating area in the room
Find a better light bulb for the pendant light
Find a rug (possibly round?) that matches the color scheme
Hang wall art/photos/maps on the wall

Aside from that, we also took some time out to celebrate the holidays with our friends and family such as Halloween (see our DIY costumes here), Thanksgiving (see the recap here), and Christmas.

In addition, I spent a lot of time in November focusing on being thankful as I posted a new 30 Days of Thanks page, and this month I focused on spending quality time with Ryan as we worked through a 25 Days of Christmas Activity Calendar.
Whew!  I think that's enough for this post.  I'll be back tomorrow with pictures of the foyer - yes, we finally picked a color - along with some 2012 foreshadowing.  I know, I know, I'm not going to get any sleep tonight either...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

25 Days of Christmas: It's a Wrap!

I'm back on the blog today and hope you all had a wonderful holiday!  This week is all about wrapping up 2011 so I wanted to share one final post about the Advent Activity Calendar and sum up all the activities Ryan and I enjoyed doing together this month.  You can see how I put the calendar together here, and here is a picture of the final result!
To make things simple, here is a list of all the activities that we completed in order:

1) Decorate front porch with Christmas lights
2) Buy a Christmas tree
3) Go to a Christmas party
4) Decorate the tree
5) Hang Christmas stockings
6) Send out Christmas cards
7) Set up the Nativity
8) Made homemade gifts
9) Bake Christmas treats
10) Listen to Christmas music
11) Host a Christmas party
12) Spend time with family
13) Made homemade ornaments
14) Drove around and looked at Christmas lights
15) Went Christmas shopping
16) Watch old movies
17) Take a trip into Boston to see the Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall
18) Go out for a Christmas-time Dinner
19) Give each other a pre-Christmas gift
20) Wrap Christmas presents together
21) Donate food to a food pantry
22) Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service
23) Spend time with Joanna's family
24) Spend time with Ryan's family
25) Spend a part of Christmas day together at home

A couple people have asked if we wrote out these cards before or after we did each activity since sometimes the tense is different on the cards.  That's a great question!  The short answer is: after, and since we were both writing the cards, the tenses just changed depending on who was writing it (and then we both changed, and then changed back).  Since we wanted the calendar to inspire us to do more activities together, we wrote a list of things we wanted to do together at the beginning of the month and then filled out a card each time we did one of the activities.  So instead of having a pre-fixed calendar, we treated it more as an ongoing way to document what we did together.  We added a few activities as we went along and didn't get to some that were on the original list, but that's what next year is for!

Last time I left off with #12 so here are some highlights of some of the other activities we've completed since then:

13) Made homemade ornaments

On Thursday I posted about the bird ornaments we made as gifts for some of our family members.  Here is a picture below and the breakdown of how we made them is here.
17) Take a trip into Boston to see the Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall
18) Go out for a Christmas-time dinner
A lot of our activities were home-based so we decided in a moment of spontaneity to take the commuter rail into Boston last Friday and see the tree in Faneuil Hall and go out for dinner.  It was the perfect thing to do after a day of Christmas shopping, wrapping, and getting ourselves ready for a weekend with our families.  The tree was so beautiful and since it wasn't too cold out, we walked around Quincy Market and the shops in Faneuil Hall before having a feast of food at a nearby restaurant. 
19) Give each other a pre-Christmas gift
During our little walk around Faneuil Hall, I spotted this hat, tried it on, and fell in love.  It was on clearance since obviously very few people found it adorably ugly like I did.  It reminded me of the time Ryan and I went out to buy me a pet and I came home with a hamster we got on clearance because he was so ugly no one else wanted him...(RIP Clive Owen).  Anyways, I tried to play it off like I didn't want the hat but Ryan knew better and bought it for me as an early Christmas present.  We initially thought it was a beaver but after looking at the sales receipt which said, "Sasquatch Hat," I couldn't help but affectionately name him "my Wookie."
Oh and before you go thinking that Ryan got the short end of the deal for #19, fear not, he already got a pre-Christmas present from me at the beginning of the month: this year's LEGO Advent Calendar which happens to be Star Wars theme.  I think these gifts put to rest any question that Ryan and I are absolutely perfect for each other in more ways than we'd like to admit....
22) Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service
23) Spend time with Joanna's family
24) Spend time with Ryan's family
25) Spend a part of Christmas day together at home
After our little Friday night date, Ryan and I jumped right into spending time with our families, juggling our time between both of their houses.  We spent Christmas Eve day with Ryan's family and Christmas Eve with mine.  I gave mom and Carrie their bird ornaments and mom hung hers on her little tree in the living room that also had a nest ornament that I made for her a few years ago. 
I also took a picture of my parents' dining room which looked so festive!
We ate a ton of food, including this delicious Beef Wellington that my brother made using a Gordon Ramsey recipe.  Even though it was our second dinner, it was delicious!
On our way home Ryan and I debated on whether or not to open presents that night or save them for Monday morning.  We were so excited to be home and share our gifts with each other that we decided to go for it and had our own little Christmas together before settling in to watch movies and call it a night.  Here is a picture of the stocking stuffers we gave to each other.  I can't wait to play some Scrabble Slam...

Finally, as I wrap this post up, and with it the Christmas holiday of 2011, here is one more picture of our tree now that I'm figuring out the settings on my new camera :)
Oh yeah, and as promised, here is a picture of our Christmas card this year!  I ordered from Picaboo and the photos are from Black Thumb Studio.
All things considered, it was a very memorable month and I'm happy we had the activity calendar to inspire us to get creative, spend time together, and most of all, to have a whole lot of fun.

I'll be back tomorrow to wrap up some more details of 2011!

Friday, December 23, 2011

DIY Bird Ornaments

I had just about convinced myself that making homemade gifts this year did not have to be time consuming and complex. That was all forgotten when I came across a do-it-yourself tutorial on Pinterest that featured the most adorable little bird ornaments.  Let me actually backtrack for a second... Last weekend we spent some time with Ryan's parents and his mom asked me if I was going to make any homemade ornaments this year and commented on how she loves all the ornaments I have given her in past years.  I thought it was the nicest compliment and decided that even though I did not intend to make ornament gifts this year, it wouldn't hurt to see if I could find a simple ornament to make for our mom's and a few other family members to carry on my ornament making and giving tradition.  A few minutes of Pinteresting led me to this site where I fell in love with the featured bird ornaments.  I thought the tutoiral was pretty straight-forward so I went out, bought the supplies, and started to construct my ornaments.  Below is a picture of my supplies minus a can of Elmer's spray adhesive which I bought after the fact.  The only thing I did not use in the picture below was the wire twine on the left.  
I did my best to sculpt the bird shapes using the Sculpey clay that I found at Michael's.  The link above goes into how to make the birds.  The trick is to start with an egg shape and form the tail from the bottom part of the egg and the head part from the top of the egg being careful not to squeeze the middle too much so the bird belly stays nice and round.  Don't expect this to be a quick process.  It took me an episode of House Hunters and two episodes of Glee to construct nine birds.
 Then I took some pictures...
Before sticking them in the oven, I took a long skewer and poked a hole through each bird.  I started at the top and pushed the skewer through until the tip poked out the bottom.  Then I pushed the skewer from the bottom up through the top (to avoid cracking the clay).
I baked them in the oven at 275 degrees for 20 minutes.  Then I turned the oven off and let them sit in the warm oven for another 20 minutes or so.  In the spirit of keeping things real, I should mention that I did not check the oven before preheating and ended up warming up a pan of already baked brownies that were left over from our party.  I couldn't figure out why the kitchen smelled so good while the oven preheated, then saw the pan in there when I went to put the birds in...whoops!  At least I had nice warm brownies to eat while the birds baked.  Then I took them out and let them cool before painting.  Ryan held the bids by poking skewers into both sides of the hole while I painted each bird.
They looked very beautiful just painted but I knew I wanted to add some glitter, so once they were dried, Ryan held each bird again with the skewers while I gave them a generous coat of Elmer's spray adhesive.
Then I rolled each bird in a small tub of glitter.  I made the mistake of re-spraying parts with the adhesive which made a clumpy mess of glitter so I suggest giving them one coat of spray, followed by the glitter, and spot-straying them again if needed once the first coat is dry.
The trick to getting the glitter to stay is to firmly pat the glitter onto the bird, then once they are dried, lightly spray each bird with a top coat of adhesive then let them dry overnight.
To turn the birds into an ornament, take a piece of medium gauge wire used for jewelry making and slip it through a little bead or bell.  I used a bell.
Then wind the wire around itself to secure it to the bell.  I used some pliers to pinch the last piece of the wire.
Then feed the wire up through the bird.
To create a little loop, I wound the wire around a skewer, then pulled the skewer out and wound the remaining wire around itself by the base of the hole.
And pinched off the end with the pliers.
Then I fed a ribbon through the loop and tied it together at the top.  And here is the finished product!
This project took me a while to make since so many steps are involved.  However, the pictures to not do these little ornaments justice.  They are so sparkly and festive that I wish I had time to make nine more.  I think this will be enough for this year but I'll definitely be coming back to this tutorial next year to try some other versions (or maybe some snowmen!).  Anyone else doing some last-minute DIYing?