December 10, 2013

Filling Up the Big, Bad Wall

This is a little story about how I finally filled up the huge blank wall in Family Room.  If you are a long time reader I'm hoping you don't remember this terrible situation we started with.

Way back when I tried to fill this wall with a gallery of photos, but the whole thing felt really cluttered and messy.  Back when we remodeled the Family Room we added the wainscoting to try to fill up the wall better.  It helped, but we still had a pretty huge blank wall to deal with.

I have been searching for months to find just the right thing.  Since the  focal point of the room is our sexy new fireplace on the opposite side I didn't want to compete with it by putting too much in there.

I looked for months for a pair of long and skinny abstract paintings that could add a little color, but with the very long length of this wall I just couldn't find anything big enough to fill the space that wouldn't be too tall.

Finally one day I found a little inspiration in my cell phone.  While flipping through family photos that made me smile, I realized that I wanted to feature a lot more of them through out the house.  And where better to hang pics of the family than the Family Room, right?  I didn't want to create a messy gallery again though, so I played around in InDesign until I found a shape and layout I was happy with.  I measured the exact length and height of the wall, as well as the furniture in front of it.  Once I decided that I liked the line of squares, I used the dimensions of these Ikea frames to get the layout just right.

I even placed in the images that I wanted to use to get a feel for composition and balance.  I sent all my photos to Costco to get printed, because if you guys didn't know, Costco prints 12" x 12" prints for just $2.99!  Seriously, compared to every other place I found that charges you to print a poster size and requires you trim the image down to 12 x 12, they not only print this perfect square size but they do it in just one hour, and they look awesome.  Seriously, Costco doesn't know I exist so they're certainly not paying me to say that, I just wanted to tell you all about this amazing deal. 

And then it was go time.  I started by pinning up the paper lining to get the perfect height and width.

 I rocked the four foot level and pencil while my little preschool paparazzi took blurry photos.

As my little trouble machines get bigger, keeping things from getting broken in my house is getting more and more difficult.  I knew I needed something really strong and sturdy to hang these frames, so I whent with 3M picture hanging strips to keep them firmy attached to the wall.   So far so good...

Get that bubble exactly in the middle.

And press firmly for 60 seconds to get that frame to stick.

And just when I got the last one up, in a perfect little level row, this happened.

Pictures go boom.  It was like we were being attacked, two of them went crashing down within 30 seconds of each other.  The wood cracked, the glass shattered, the lamp crashed.  I swept up the adorable little feet in the room and came back with shoes and the vacuum.   I have no idea why the malfunction occurred.  I used twice the number of strips than required by the weight, and held each frame firmly against the wall for twice as long as the instructions recommended.  My wall was clean and flat.... I'm at a loss.  I also lost out in $40 worth of frames thankyouverymuch3M. 

But I rebounded and came back from Ikea with 2 more frames.  This time I installed the provided wire hangers on the back, being careful to place them in the same space on each frame.

This time I got the advice of my friendly Home Depot associate who recomended Deco Screws- which are sort of a screw/anchor/picture hanger in one. They twist in easily with a screw driver and provide a nice safe edge for the picture hanger.  

But I added a set of mounting strips to the back of each frame just incase to keep it firmly against the wall, and my little home distroyers safe.

And finally, here's the wall finally sporting a little artwork.

Oh yeah, did I mention we got a fancy new ottoman to replace the old brown one that didn't fit the room in either size or color?  The Hubs came home from HomeGoods with it one day, and I fell in love with him all over again.  That's right, he was at HomeGoods by himself and came home with a goregous, stone leather, bronze studded ottoman.  Back off ladies, he's mine.

 It was tricky to get the perfect combination of photos that meant something special to us, but had variations of composition and balance.  I didn't want them all to be photos of us just smiling at the camera.  I'm so happy with how they turned out though.  Each of these photos represent an great moment in our little family's life, and whenever I look at these I can feel the moment like it was yesterday.  *tear*

 Tiny little feet...


Sure, I still need a new end table and lamp that fits the space better, but I finally have something up on the wall.  This calls for a celebration.  Good thing for me the wine bar and wet bar are just steps away.


November 14, 2013

Another Take on an Elephant Birthday

I don't want to believe it, but our baby turned one recently.

You may recall that I helped my cousin create a fun little elephant birthday for my God Son awhile back.


I wasn't planning on turning out the same type of party for my little guy, but about 11 months ago when I settled down to take his first monthly photo, I happened to grab a stuffed elephant we had on hand to use in the photo, and it stuck...

With all those great photos on hand for decor, I decided to go with an elephant theme again.  I'm not going to lie, it helped that I already had some decor items designed, so this time all I did was change up the colors a bit.

I created this invite and had it printed at a local print shop.  Simple and sweet.

Ryder insists that a party just isn't a party without "those triangle things', so we whipped up some fun ones for Bo that I just printed on card stock and hung via ribbon.  (I've created a party-planning monster!)


The cake might have been my favorite part.  I'm fully aware that this is a category that I go way overboard.  Trust me, I know I'm crazy.  But I actually really like making these homemade cakes for my boys, and if they look back at photos and see the elaborate cakes that Mom always made for them special on their birthdays, well, there are a lot worse things they could remember about me.  I give myself a lot of time, make the cakes early in the week and freeze them, make the fondant early in the week and let it set, and then ultimately have a little wine and put the whole thing together the night before.   Every time I try I get a little better with fondant, it's basically adult Playdoh.  Besides cutting out my little elephant, this time I attempted to get fancy and make the "1" cake topper.  I just formed it the night before so it had plenty of time to set up and I used a wooden skewer to hold it up tall and firmly to the cake.

The decor was pretty simple, but it took me no time to print out a few elephant circles to place on the bowls and vases.  Simple, folded menu cards let our guests know what they were grabbing before they man-handled it.

I've also learned through the years that for me, a key to a good party is making it pretty turn key.  I've made a lot of mistakes along the way.  But now I know that I don't want to spend time grilling hamburgers or refilling hot hors dourves, I want to spend it talking with friends and cuddling my birthday boy, so we make the menu simple.  I had some elephant/circus themed treats- (peanuts, popcorn, animal crackers) as well as pizza.  Because everybody loves pizza.

All in, it was one of our best parties yet.  It was small, manageable and full of the important stuff- like spending time with our little monster.  Who is now ONE... It's just too much guys.  I'm going to go cry into my coffee.

October 31, 2013

Sew a Turtle Costume

Happy Halloween!  This year our little crazy 5 year old had no doubts in his mind- he wanted to be a Ninja Turtle.  So initially we did what we've done the past couple of years, head to Target to find the one piece Ninja Turtle suit.  On the way home, 29 beans lighter, I began having second thoughts.  I mean, what ever happened to the Halloween I grew up with?  Where we needed to use our imagination and work to make a costume?  Looking back, some of my best Halloween memories are about creating the costume. By the time we got home I had already made up my mind, the store bought costume was going back, and Ry and I were going to make a costume together. 

A little inspirational internet search (because it is the twenty first century after all) netted a few disturbing Slutty Ninja Turtles, and thankfully this perfect homemade variety.  Unfortunately there was no pattern or tutorial to accompany the image, so I had to make my own, which I thought I would share with you awesome people.  (You know, just in case you also have a chaotic 5 year old that has never seen an episode but still somehow know all of the Ninja Turtle's names and their weapon of choice.)


Or perhaps you just have a sweet little that munchkin that likes to be just like is big brother, (minus the mask and weaponry.)
The little man's photos are all blurry, because he moves at the speed of light.  I tried friends.

I started at the fabric store, and came back with 3 different kinds of fabric, felt in 2 different color browns, and one super fun brown scaly kind I found on the clearance rack. You could definitely make both sides of the shell just dark brown felt if you prefer.  The amount you need really depends on the size of your child, but I got a yard of each and had more than enough to make both boy's costumes.


Next I measured Captain Chaos' back and got the approximate height and width I wanted the shell to be. Then it was pretty easy to fold the felt in half to cut my shape, and notch out the sides.  I think using felt is key because it is so easy to work with and cut.

I could use my felt back to trace the shell shape onto the scaly fabric as well so they would be a perfect match.

Which gave me these two pieces.

Next I drew the pattern of the turtle shell on the inside of the scaly (outside) fabric.  It doesn't matter if this is exact or if you have to scribble out any lines, as this inside will never been seen.

I looked up "turtle shell" on the interwebs to give me a template to follow.

Once you like your design, sew with your machine along the lines with a thread slightly darker than your fabric.  It will create the subtle shell pattern on the outside of your shell. 

Before you stitch the two pieces of your turtle shell together, attach 2 straps to the top portion to go over the shoulders, and one to the bottom to go between the legs.  I used 2" brown elastic, but I bet you could use strong ribbon too.

I sewed pieces of velcro to each strap to connect to the body of the shell (which you'll see in a second.) The shoulder straps are extra long in case we need to adjust it for larger turtles in the future.

Then I sewed both pieces of the shell together (right sides together), turned right side out and stuffed!  I closed the bottom with a sewing machine stitch, and had this:

 And since we have two little trick-or-treaters, I made a second mini-shell:

Next I cut a piece for the tummy, again getting a general height and width measurement from the kiddo first.  Ryder took his job very seriously.  I traced a simple pattern on the inside of this piece too.

I sewed on my pattern lines with dark brown thread:

And attached velcro pieces to the side:

The hardest part was actually finding the plain green sweatsuits to wear underneath. Stores don't seem to do anything without design anymore, and especially not in kelly green.  After 6 stores and hours of late night internet searches, I finally found the perfect set for Ry at H&M online. Unfortunately the same set didn't come in Lil' Man's sizes, so I had to settle for white and a box of Rit dye. But at the incredible price of just $22 for both kiddo and free shipping, it was a no brainer.

I got a discount on the pants too, but for some reason it isn't included in this photo.
I've learned over the years not to be afraid of dye.  For only $2 (with coupon) and 30 minutes, a box of dye solved my problem I wasted hours on.  I dye in a small dish tub in my laundry tub, and wear an apron just to make sure I don't splash on my clothes.

After the dye was rinsed out I washed my sink quickly with Soft Scrub with Bleach, and it was as good as new.

And with that my littlest turtle was done!

For big bro I added a few "ninja" details, like this ribbon and buckle to the shell body:

I also whipped up a quick pair of knee pads and elbow pads.  I just cut them out of felt (no need to stitch the edges or seams) and attached velcro for easy on/off on the big day.


I swung and missed the first time around on the ninja mask, attempting to cut the eye holes and stitching a clean circle.  It was a disaster.


So instead I took a tip from the shell and simply cut the eye mask out of felt.  Ryder still insisted on the "long ties that fly in the wind," so I found a piece of felt in the same color and stitched the leftover fabric to the edges.

Add a belt made from the 2" elastic and a few $5 ninja weapons and we have our very own Leonardo.  So happy he couldn't even stop smiling for this "tough guy" shot. 

Both the boys love their costumes, and I love that we made them together. 

Turtles gotta hug...

How about you guys?  Any home made costumes this year?  Any matching or coordinating kiddos?  I hope you all enjoy your candy day and get some time to use your imagination with the little ones in your life.  Happy Halloween!