Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Home Tour

Happy Saturday!!  Here we are with Christmas just under two weeks away and I can hardly believe it.  It seems like we just went trick or treating with the kids.  Thankfully this Christmas season has not been too terribly stressful when it came to present shopping and just the general busyness of the season.  We knocked out almost all of our Christmas shopping on Black Friday while sitting at home in our pjs, drinking coffee, and hunting down the online deals; which was great.  And this year, I just haven't attempted to fill our schedule with too many things.  We've made gingerbread houses and watched a few Christmas movie favorites. I still want to fit in making cookies with the kids and one night we will all hop in the van, make a stop at Chickfila for peppermint shakes, and drive around and look at Christmas lights, but I don't want to stress out about doing too much.  I want to enjoy the anticipation that comes with this time of year.  I want to be present and aware.  I don't want to be so busy doing that I miss the being.

My favorite thing right now is to get up early in the morning, when it is still dark outside and while the kids are still nestled snuggly in their beds and dreaming of sugarplums, sneak past the kids' bedrooms, plug in the Christmas tree lights and the lights on my mantle, make a cup of coffee and sit with Jesus.  This is where I find peace and hope for my day.  This is when I hear Him whisper to me.

Some months ago, I had gotten out of the habit of getting up early and spending quiet mornings alone with Him. I was getting up right before I had to get the kids up for school. Then after sending them off to school, I would attempt to sit down with my coffee and Jesus, but Hudson was not usually very cooperative during this time and needed my time and attention. I would end up getting frustrated with him for interrupting me. And so it just wasn't the same.  There is grace for mommas in all seasons and I've been in seasons when time alone with Jesus just wasn't happening.  That is okay and there is no rule about having quiet times.  But my heart misses Him when I don't get that alone time with Him.  So then a week or so ago, I told the Lord if He would wake me up early, I would get up and spend the quiet mornings with Him.  And you know what?  He did.  Day after day, He's been waking me up and I love it.  There is something special to me about this time of year and spending the mornings with Him.  I can't explain it.  At night, when I go to bed, I look forward to the next morning. And I even started setting my alarm because I really don't want to miss it.  But He's still been waking me up just before my alarm goes off.  



While I'm here writing and you're here reading, I thought I would give you a little Christmas home tour.  This year, I really wanted to keep the Christmas decorations simple.  I didn't want a lot of red and green decorations sitting around, cluttering up every nook and cranny of my home. There is nothing wrong with that of course, but for me, simple is peaceful; and less is calming.  Too much stuff overwhelming my home gives me anxiety and then I just start going through the house throwing things in the trash.  Seriously.

A few months ago, I read a quote by Nate Berkus that has stuck with me.  He said, "... my goal is to create a feeling for our homes, not a theme."  And that is exactly what I want in my home.  When you walk into my home, I want you to feel warm and cozy.  I want it to feel Christmasy, but not look overly decorated or styled for Christmas.  For me, neutrals, natural elements, candles, and cozy textures make it feel warm, cozy and Christmasy without screaming "Christmas", so that is what I used this year.


 I am hoping that after Christmas, when we toss the trees in the trash, most of the decor will still be versatile enough to just stay up through the winter.  





The pom pom garland is from Anthropologie.  I've seen it all over my Instagram feed and just love the thick, nubby texture of it.  The pom poms remind me of snowballs, but still have a cozy, warm feel to them.  






A simple boxwood wreath from Trader Joes filled a blank spot on my wall.




I'm sure I've mentioned by now how much I love Joanna Gaines and the HGTV show, Fixer Upper that she does with her husband, Chip.  Well, she also has a shop online called Magnolia Market and it is filled with such fun, unique things.  I found these bells in her shop, as well as that cotton wreath.



And a sweet friend, who knows me well, surprised me with a winter candle from her shop.  It makes my house smell so Christmasy. 










Last year, we put our Christmas tree downstairs next to the fireplace instead of upstairs on the main level.  But I really missed smelling the tree during the day and seeing the tree all lit up in the evenings (since we don't hang out much downstairs). So this year, I decided I really wanted a tree upstairs to enjoy.  We had to rearrange a few things to make it work, but I think it was worth it. I kept the decorations very simple.... white lights, burlap ribbon, and a finger crocheted yarn.  Tim got me this leather pouf last month when he went to Morocco. 



Another thoughtful friend saw this woodsy ornament and said it reminded her of me.  It is the only ornament that made it on this tree because it is perfect and I love it.



And I plopped a bird's nest with a wooden owl at the top of the tree in lieu of a star.









The kids got to decorate the downstairs tree as wild and crazy as they wanted. They used colorful lights and every single ornament we own. I didn't even go back and spread the ornaments out evenly among the branches after they were finished.  I just let it be... perfectly imperfect!  This is progress for me! 




Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bedroom Dresser Makeover

Not long after Tim and I got married, we got tired of our hand-me-down bedroom furniture, so we went out and bought a big matching set of bedroom furniture.  It seemed like the grown-up thing to do at the time.      

A few years later, I had something of an awakening when it came to decorating our home and I realized that our bedroom furniture (as well as everything else in our house) just wasn't my style at all. The bedroom set we bought was big, bulky, and dark.  It completely overwhelmed our space and I didn't see anyway to make it look better. I wish I could find an old picture for you.

I really wanted to start completely over, find pieces that I really loved, and create a room that was lighter and brighter with an eclectic mix of unique pieces.  So after some major convincing on my part, Tim let me sell our bedroom set on Craigslist.

I've learned that finding what I love takes time.  It takes patience, persistence, and it takes not settling.  But after selling our bedroom set, we had no furniture and our clothes were just sitting there all piled up on the floor.  Obviously we needed something immediately to hold it all.  So we went to Ikea and bought two dressers that would hold our things until I found what I really wanted.

That was four years ago.

Over those four years, I've been on the lookout for a dresser.  I've looked on Craigslist, in thrift stores, antique stores, etc...  I knew I wanted a solid wood, vintage piece that I could paint.  I wanted it to have clean, straight lines, so as not to be overly feminine, but also have some interest to it.  And since we moved to a smaller home a few years ago, we now only have space in our room for one dresser, so it needed to be big enough to hold both mine and Tim's folded clothes.

Finding a dresser with all of these qualities was not easy, but I stayed patient.

Then a few weeks ago, my in-laws were here visiting and we were loading up in the Jeep getting ready to go to Target when I got a text from a neighbor alerting me to a "darling long dresser... really unusual... lots of potential" that someone had sat out on the side of the road in our neighborhood for the trash pick-up.  This neighbor knows me and knows my love for painting and making over old furniture.  Obviously I was interested at this point.  So we drove off to find the dresser.  As I pulled up to it, I immediately noticed it's unique vintage look.  It was extra long and had clean, straight lines.  I hopped out to give it a closer inspection. I wanted to check if it was solid wood (yes), to make sure the drawers worked (yes), and that they were in good condition (yes).  

I could see the potential in it and I knew I wanted it.  So Pop Pop stayed back to guard the dresser while Mimi, Hudson, and I went home to get the van (since the dresser was not going to fit in the back of the Jeep).  Within the few minutes we were gone, three people stopped to look at it and the trash truck showed up to take it away in the trash.  We pulled up with the van just as Pop Pop was telling the trash guys we were going to keep the dresser.  This was perfect timing because instead of throwing the dresser in the trash truck, those guys kindly loaded it up in the back of the van for us.  I was so thankful for that because it was such a heavy dresser that we would have had an extremely hard time loading it up ourselves.

Here she is - the before picture:


  

The next day we removed all the hardware and I wiped it down with a liquid sander/de-glosser.  Using the sander/de-glosser wasn't necessary (according to chalk paint directions), but I had some on hand and figured it could only help. Then I got right to work painting it with Annie Sloan pure white chalk paint.  I have always loved her chalk paint because there is no real sanding or priming involved, so you can go straight to painting.  This is perfect for me, as I am always anxious to start seeing the transformation.

But this time, I had problems.  After I painted the main part of the dresser, I noticed that there were several spots on the top that were cracking and peeling as the paint dried.  I had never seen or heard of this before with chalk paint, so I was pretty confused and frustrated.  I hand sanded down those spots and re-painted only to have the same thing happen again.  After googling this, I discovered this does happen sometimes with AS chalk paint and there doesn't seem to be a clear reason why.  It seems to happen most often with the pure white and old white colored chalk paint though. 

My suspicion was that something oily had spilled on the top of the dresser and this was keeping the paint from adhering in those spots.  Through googling, I learned that I could try sanding down the entire top, then putting a layer of shellac down, and then re-painting.  Not fun, but since there didn't seem to be another real option and we didn't have much to lose at this point (except our time and a few bucks for shellac), we decided to give it a try.

BUT.... after sanding the top all the way back down to the wood, I completely fell in love with the overly distressed look and decided not to re-paint it after all.  I just sealed it with the Annie Sloan wax and called it done.  It was a perfectly happy accident.



At this point, I loved how it looked, but we discovered that it had a bit of a bug infestation.  Yuck.  So Tim had to take it back outside to spray it down twice with bug killer.  The drawers were also extremely smelly.  I googled this problem too (what would we do without the internet?) and found all kinds of ways to get the smell out.  I tried many of them.  I wiped them out with a vinegar/water mixture, set coffee grounds in cups inside of them, let them air out outside... none of that worked very well, so I ended up polyurethaning the inside of all the drawers.  I'm glad I did because I feel like that sealed up any germs and smells, so they won't get on our clothes, especially since we really don't know where this thing has been or what has been inside of it.

As many issues as this dresser came with though, I absolutely love how it turned out and I think it was totally worth all the extra effort.

Here's the after pictures:





I ordered these brass ring pulls and I really like their classic simplicity.  There is brass on the front feet of the dresser too, so they complement each other nicely. 





I also really like the detailing of the round front edges.  It's not overly fancy or anything, but it adds some extra interest to the piece.




The most fun thing about these projects is seeing the amazing transformation.  It's not quite what I had envisioned when I started this project, but in the end, I love it even more than I originally imagined.

I love that it's unique.  I love that it has a story behind it.  I love that my in-laws were involved in finding it and helping me haul it home.  And I love that Tim and I both worked on it to make it our own.  I hope it will be something that we have and enjoy for a very long time.

What about you?  Have you ever had a project go all wrong, but then end up better than you ever thought?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Decorating on a budget, DIY sweater throw pillows, and stump side tables

I love throw pillows. I also love to switch them up for the different seasons, but it's not always in our budget to pay for brand new pillows. Not to mention that many stores sell the feather pillow inserts separately from the pillow cover.  So not only do you need to buy the pillow cover, but then you also have to factor in the price of the pillow insert.  And since nice feather pillow inserts can run anywhere from $14-$26 at places like Pottery Barn, updating a room with a few new throw pillows can get expensive pretty quickly.

Of course you can buy cheaper pillows at places like Target, but I've decided that I really like the feather pillow inserts so much better than pillows stuffed with polyester filling.  Feather pillows are softer and squishier and they always plump back up very nicely.  They don't lose their shape over time either like cheaper pillows do.  And once you have invested in all the feather inserts you need, you can just switch out the pillow covers seasonally or whenever you're ready for a change.  So I've decided the investment in feather pillow inserts is worth it.  But since I am just beginning to build our feather pillow collection, I needed to find ways to do it within our budget.

I read one day on the Nester's blog that to save money, she buys feather pillow inserts at thrift stores and then just runs them through her washing machine and dryer to sanitize them.  Sounded kind of genius to me, so the last few times I've gone to the thrift store, I searched through the pillows to see if I could score any feather pillow inserts. And what do you know... I've found quite a few.  Yesterday, I found five.  They are only $5 each, so I stocked up.



Since Fall has hit here in northern Virginia, I have really had an itch to get some cozy pillows on our couch.  I've been dreaming about some sweater pillows like these:


But, even on sale, these pillow covers cost more than I want to spend right now.  So since my desires are the mother of my creativity, I decided to try to make my own sweater pillow covers from thrifted sweaters (since I didn't have any old sweaters laying around).  

While I was thrift shopping, I looked for well-made, quality sweaters that were soft and had interesting patterns, textures, or lines in them.  I also checked for stains, holes, pills, etc...  Be picky.  Find something you really like or walk away.  Always keep your end product in mind, because you want to love it when you're done.  It's also important to make sure that the sweater you pick is big enough to cover your entire pillow or you will be sad when you go to make your pillow and it doesn't fit.  


Besides sweaters, I looked through men's plaid shirts and women's skirts for any other fabrics, textures, or designs that I thought might make a good pillow.  In the end, I bought two gray sweaters to use for my sweater pillows and a women's linen skirt that I thought could work for a pillow cover too. 

I'm not going to go into any kind of sewing tutorial for you here because I am not a good sewer.  I just try to cut and sew straight lines.  I sewed three sides of the pillow on the sewing machine, then flipped my pillow right side out, stuffed the pillow insert in, then hand-sewed the final side closed.  Pillows are probably one of the simplest things to make, so if you've never sewn anything before, this would be a great first sewing project.  Give it a shot!

Here are how my two sweater pillows turned out

The first one:




The second one:




Our couch and my swinging chair are instantly cozier now!  I'm pretty happy with them both.  Total cost for each pillow including the feather insert and the sweater was about $13 each.  So I think that's pretty good.  They have at least partially satisfied my desires for sweater pillows.... although I may need to make a few more for our couches in the basement.

As a side note, I've been wanting a stump side table for quite some time now.  A few weeks ago, a neighbor set a whole bunch of wood out on the road for the trash truck and I spied a good log in the pile that I thought would make a good side table.  After hauling the log over to my house, I peeled off the bark, sanded it smooth, wiped it clean, made sure it was dry and had no bugs in it, and then I painted and distressed it.  Although it's not perfectly flat across the top, it's perfect enough to hold my books and coffee when I'm sitting in my swinging chair.  And the best part ... it was free!!


What about you?  Are there any fun ways you've found to decorate on a budget?   


Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Favorites

Here we are, already in mid-October and the weather is becoming more and more Fall-like each day.  I'm loving it.  We've had windows open and the cool crisp Fall breeze blowing through our home for weeks now, but recently we've had to start closing the windows and turning on the heater because it's getting so chilly outside!   Pumpkin spice coffee has become my morning companion.  Big cozy pillows and nubby crocheted blankets have found a resting place on our couch.  Soups and chili have started showing up on our dinner table. And boots, sweaters, puffy vests, and scarves have entered back into my daily wardrobe.

There are so many reasons to love Fall, but I thought I'd share a few of our family's Fall favorites.

It's been a tradition of ours every year to go pick out a pumpkin for each member of our family (including our dogs!) at a pumpkin patch.  That means seven different pumpkins. The kids love it.  This year, we found a beautiful pumpkin farm with a hillside full of every size, shape, and color pumpkin that you could imagine.  


We had fun hunting for and selecting our favorite pumpkins.  The hardest part was hauling our wagon load of pumpkins back up the hill after picking them!



They look so welcoming and festive sitting on our front porch.


These pumpkin chocolate chip muffins have recently become a Fall favorite.  I just discovered this recipe on Pinterest earlier this year and it's definitely a keeper!  If you're a fan of pumpkins and chocolate chips, you'll love these.  They are delicious!  Go here for the recipe. (Side note: I've never put the full two cups of sugar in that the recipe calls for.  It's plenty sweet with just one cup.)


And if you're a pumpkin pie fan, this pumpkin cheesecake was pretty darn good too!

Another favorite is grabbing a cup of hot coffee (or hot chocolate or hot apple cider) and getting cozy by the fire ... especially if there is a sweet puppy to snuggle up with.



Since our real fireplace is in the basement, we have a fake heater fireplace upstairs so we can stay warm and cozy up there too.  It's kind of the best of both worlds.  If I have the time, I can go downstairs and build a real wood-burning fire to enjoy, but if not, we just push a button and we have an instant faux fire that blows out heat.  So it not only looks real, it feels real too and it's perfect for warming up on cold Fall mornings.



The turning leaves this time of year are definitely a favorite.  I'm from the South and I grew up mostly with just pine trees.  The only thing that happens in the Fall down South is that all the pine needles fall to the ground.  And there's nothing pretty about that.  Fall in the North is sooo much more beautiful.  And we happen to live in a neighborhood that is just full of big gorgeous trees, all changing into a variety of bright reds, oranges, and yellows.  It's so enjoyable to go on walks right now.



A new Fall favorite of ours is taking the kids apple picking.  Last year was the first year that we did this and the kids loved it so much, that it stuck and is now a yearly tradition.  They have so much fun using those long poles to yank down apples that we always end up with way more apples than we could ever eat, because they just don't want to stop picking them.  I guess I just need to find some yummy apple recipes and start baking!












The apple picking poles were so big and heavy that Hudson was happy to let Tyson and Peyton pick the apples and then he would take them out of the little basket and put them in the bag.  But right at the end, he asked if he could try to pick an apple before we left.

It was so cute to watch him try to get those apples with that long pole.



With a little bit of help from Tim, he got his apple!  And boy was he excited!!




And one final favorite of mine is how much the kids are playing outside this time of year.  Every afternoon, they meet outside with the neighborhood kids and just play and play for hours, riding bikes up and down the sidewalks, playing games of hide and seek and tag (with a play bow and arrow that they shoot to "tag" each other), climbing trees, or hitting baseballs.  It's just the way childhood should be...hours spent outside running freely and playing with friends.  My kids have been having so much fun.  And I know in just another few months, winter will set in and they won't be spending as much time outside, so I am loving this season.



Hope you all are having a wonderful Fall.  Stay warm and cozy!!