December 17, 2014

The Anatomy of a Holiday Card

Each year for our holiday card, I try to think of something just a little unique.  I want our annual snap shot not only to convey how we looked, but a little bit of what we were like.  Some of my favorite moments of 2014 have been watching the boys read together on the daybed I built in Boden's Nursery, so I decided this year to take that simple nightly ritual and add a Christmas book, Christmas jammies and some holiday decor.  Basically I tempted the holiday card Gods by making the assumption that this would be easy.  But I lived to tell the tale.

I started by adding a string of white lights.  Except I didn't have white wire I had green, which looked terrible.  At least my model looks good.

So I added a piece of garland that I had on hand.  How the heck did the giraffe print get in the photo?

Sheepskin to the rescue.  Now to hide the wire better and get them to read together.  Someone thinks that he's doing a great job.

So I took another dozen photos saying, "Ignore Mommy, just read the book." It was exhausting work.

In the end I think Ryder was getting really concerned with all the red on orange in this room.  Clearly.

So we took a little break and set up a new location.  This is where I screwed up big time and made the ultimate mom mistake- I offered candy for performance.  A little bit of sugar with my kiddos goes a long way.  Things got out of hand.

So I kissed my little sugar fends and called it a night.  No point in taking the merry out of Christmas by forcing an uptight holiday card.  I wanted this to be a snap shot of this moment in our lives after all, and this was certainly us.  Looking through the camera, I had one keeper.

 I created the card with Tiny Prints with a design from their foil stamped collection.

I love how the foil sort of jumps off the page from the soft brushed matte image.  This shot really slows how the light makes these card glitter.

 We have a really big family and I'm grateful that we have a lot of friends we send cards to as well.  But do you know what's not fun about sending 100 holiday cards?  Addressing them.  So once again I borrowed this great idea from Design Finch for these wrap around holiday mailing labels.  I created a new design that matched the back of my cards, imported in all my contacts and printed them onto full sheet sticker.

And used my little paper cutter to cut them all out. The Hubs watched, because he was "helping."

The sticker then wraps around the envelop placing the address on the front, and the return address on the back.  

Which left us with a little family assembly line of stuffing, sealing, address stickering and stamping. Because it's Christmas and we're going to send merry little Christmas card whether you like it or not!

But it was merry actually.  It went really quicklyRyder pointed out the names that he recognized, and we told him about the people he didn't know.  I personally made a wish to spend more time with all these great people in 2015.  And the whole thing is another great memory to add to my kid's lists of holiday magic.  We chop down our own tree, we make and send holiday cards to our friends, we make and decorate Christmas cookies and go to Christmas plays.  Hopefully someday they'll look back on all of it as a fun and magical time of year. 

December 5, 2014

The Not So Fun Stuff

Looking back, 2014 has been an incredible year at our Cabin Up North.  We went from a 2 bedroom to a 3 bedroom, a front entry, a new deck, new flooring throughout, a nearly new kitchen... the change is pretty amazing. But all that doesn't even give you guys a full picture of the work we've accomplished.  As most homeowners know, any renovation combines the fun decor and layout stuff, with the not so fun fixes and upgrades to utility and performance.  So lest you guys think we were lazy and could have gotten much more accomplished this year, here's a list of the not so fun projects we also took on Up North this year.

Our little cabin comes with a 3 foot crawl space underneath, which can be accessed through a trap door in the linen closet.

Unfortunately, this little space looked as though it was treated like a dumping ground for decades.  The space was full of dozens of old pallets, broken insulation, and just trash.  This is actually a "during" photo, that doesn't give you a full picture of how gross this space really was.

Gross and dangerous, as who wants all that flammable trash hiding in piles under their house? So for 2 or 3 solid weekends we devoted to trash removal (more than 15 huge bags!) and clean up.  Which left us with this.

But the point wasn't just to clean up.  There was little-to-no insulation in this space, allowing all the cold air and moisture to raise through the ceiling, making for a really cold cabin floor.  So Super Dad started by covering the floors with a moisture barrier:

And then we had a company come in and spray the walls with insulation.

The change will be pretty massive in our heating bill, but not as fun, as say, new duvets or decor. 

We did the same No Fun Work up in the attic.  Although I spent time up in that godforsaken attic nearly every weekend we visited the cabin this year, I somehow didn't come back with a single photo. No photographic evidence to prove that we installed venting shoots into the eves and then covered the entire attic with new bats of insulation.  You'll just have to take my word for it.  It was expensive, time consuming process, and it was no fun.

The next no fun project was the boiler covers.  Our cabin has boiler heat, which is really efficient, but the old, cream colored heating element covers were rusty, stained and a huge eye sore once we put in the crisp new white trim and new floors.  We started by removing them all and hosing them down.

Next I had to sand them all down by hand to remove the rust, years of paint drops and dirt.

And finally, I lined them all up and gave them about 7 coats of crisp white spray paint.
This is a before picture, obviously.
But life isn't fair, and some parts of the covers can't be removed from the wall without cutting copper pipes, so some weekend this winter I'll need to spend a little more time painting the rest of the covers, as evidence below.

But check out that color difference already- huh?
The last of our not-so-fun projects was the gutters.  The new configuration of the deck left us with this awkward gutter scenario.

Not only was the placement bad, but these babies were in rough shape.

It wasn't cheap, but my parents invested in nice, new leaf guard gutters, which not only look shinny white and great, but should prevent us from having to climb the roof each weekend to
scoop out thousands of leaves.

So there's our little insight into where the time and money goes when you're working on a big reno.  We're lucky that my Dad has really concerned himself with things that we can do for the long term health of the cabin.  Maybe he doesn't trust my decision making to invest in insulation when I want to buy pillows, (wise man), but he's making sure that for generations to come this cabin is as self sufficient and maintenance free as it can be.  Which means I can buy more pillows.  You know, the important stuff.

November 20, 2014

Make An Animal from the Muppets Costume

I know, it's way past Halloween.  I straight up missed the Halloween boat.  But I couldn't let the year go by without showing you our little Animal.

We decided a few months ago that our littlest man was born to be Animal, but finding a cute costume in his itty bitty size was nearly impossible.  You know how I love a good Halloween DIY (see last year's Infant Turtle and Ninja Turtle here,) so I decided to take on the task myself.  I also made a handy little downloadable template for anyone that wants to try this at home for the Animal in their life.
Download the PDF here.

I swear, the hardest part of any Halloween DIY is finding the blank base pieces.  Last year I struggled to find plain green sweatsuits, and this year the hardest part was finding a plain red hat.  After weeks of searching I settled on this guy, on sale at Target for $9.99.

In a moment of Mom triumph at the store (right in line with a full nights sleep or leaving the house without peanut butter in my hair,) I realized that when reversed, this hat was as plain red as I was going to find.

 Then I picked up five $.29 sheets of felt, a $1.99 small black boa and a spool of yarn that I stumbled across at Micheal's that was just perfect. All in I was under $20 for the hat, because I'm nothing if not cheap.

Using my template I cut out the various pieces out of felt, and then began stitching them onto the hat with an overcast (edging) stitch. It seems tedious, but the process really didn't take me that long, I just stitched a few pieces each evening while watching TV with the Hubs. (The Voice type TV, not Walking Dead type TV that requires all my attention and nervous nail chewing.)   Here's how it looked after the first night:

After the second night I finished the face, and on the third I began randomly attaching the yarn "fur"  around it.  Nailed it!

The rest of the costume I put together pretty quickly one evening with some scores from the clearance fabric bin at Joann's.  We had a orange, fleece jacket, so I just made a pair of pajama pants out of orange fleece material that was a pretty close match.  I used the same pattern to make a pair of shorts out of brown cotton, and then cut the bottoms ragged.  Then I used this pattern to make the yellow vest, just cutting the center of the Tshirt in half, and randomly cut and sewed on the red collar.  All of this sounds like a lot, but I swear it took about $7 and 1 hour's time. I wasn't looking to win quality awards here, and it helped that Animal by nature is supposed to look ragged and torn.

The chain was a last minute addition, but it turned out so perfect and made the outfit.   I found a lightweight, white plastic chain at Home Depot and sprayed with silver spray paint we had on hand.  I connected it to a scrap piece of felt that I used for the collar, with a velcro closure, so if it got caught or anyone pulled on it, it would come right off.  Safety first.

The kid totally loved it, and we could barely stop him for his constant sprinting to get a photo.  This one is my favorite, as it truly shows our little Animal in action.

I hope you and your family all had a great Halloween.  We've still got 2 huge buckets full of candy that we'll never eat, and I'm secretly taking large handfuls out of the buckets occasionally to trick the kids into thinking that they ate it. Which leads me to my favorite part of Halloween- Jimmy Kimmel.  You're welcome.

November 12, 2014

Tips for Decorating a Room on a Budget

I'm like a kid at Christmas you guys, we now have three new bedrooms up at the cabin that are all waiting to be decorated!  It's a super fun project that I can't wait to take on, but let's be realistic, decorating three full bedrooms can drain a wallet pretty quickly.  At least now we have a plan for each room, and I thought I'd start with a few details in the Knots Room.

When you don't have a big budget to work with, I find it helps to focus on a few items that will make a big impact. The biggest impact you can make quickly, I think, is in window treatments, so we started by giving these boring pull down shades the adios.

I had leftover white sheers at my house, so I brought them up and paired them with dark bronze curtain rods and textured woven shades.  Both were hung up higher and wider than the actual window so that they didn't take away from any of the view or light.  It makes the window look a whole lot more substantial. 
(In progress tool pile on the bed)
 The space is a little tighter on this wall, but the window now looks so much more finished.

Speaking of finished, the next biggest impact I think that you can make in a room is wall art.  The most affordable way to put art on the walls? Make it yourself! I love the way this set of sailor knot illustrations that I made turned out. 

I wanted these prints to have depth and texture, as well as feel uniform and crisp, so I had them printed on canvas by Tiny Prints.  There's nothing worse than uploading your art for print and then crossing your fingers that it will turn out right, but thankfully these turned out exactly how I wanted them to. One less thing for this Type A'er to obsess about.

The set of three coordinating pieces is a nice way to fill up a long space, (i.e. the dreaded 'above the couch' and 'above the bed' dead walls!) Although looking at my set now in pictures I might spread them out just a bit more.

My third tip for decorating on a budget is to apply a punch of color.  You don't need a lot of quantity of items, if you have bold, bright items that really fill up a space visually.  My plan is to make a punch with coral, navy and white pillows on the bed like these from my mood board.

Unfortunately, even though I felt like I couldn't go anywhere this past spring and summer without tripping over coastal inspired home decor, the season has past and it's now impossible to find.  Which leads me to tip #4- if you're going for a particular look or color scheme, wait for the right season and stock up.  I remember back in my first home I would always buy home decor in the fall, as that's when I found the biggest selection and lowest prices on the rust, caramel and brown colors that filled my home at the time.  That means I may have to be patient with the cabin decor and wait until next spring and summer when the beachy items and styles hit the shelves again.  (Not a strong suit of mine, but worth the wait.)

In the mean time, another tip for decorating on a budget is to work with what you have.  The bed in this room came with an old, glossy, gold head board that looked cheap and worn.

Spray paint is often one of the cheapest tools to make a big change in a room.  It took us about 7 light and even coats of oil rubbed bronze to transform our eyesore.

Who said those old plywood window valences weren't good for something?

 And now it looks aged and classy. 

We also dug through a bunch of old decor items to see what we could make work in this room.  Now admittedly, this "make it work" technique is a lot easier for us as we try to achieve an antique and well-lived vibe, and would be much harder for a modern or mid century approach. But even I was surprised with some of the old, antique items that we had laying around that actually work in this setting.  (I'm talking to you Wooden Fish.)

This oil lantern came with the cabin, and is a great example of decor that can look good but also provide functionality.  I know where right where to go if the cabin ever loses power and we're sitting in the dark.  A favorite snapshot of my parents as teenagers in a weathered frame completes the rustic look.

So the rest of the room was sort of coming together, but I was still left with this pretty boring blank wall on the left. 

The lamp and night stand in the corner helps a bit to bring height.  I love the rustic, old base of this lamp that came with the cabin.  I'm not sure that I'll keep the shade, but to replace it I'll have to find a new one with this height, or even taller.

To help fill my blank space, I went with one of my favorite tips for decorating on a budget, decorate with items that aren't traditionally decor.   I found a pair of old, wooden pullies that we had in the garage and some rope.  They were pretty heavy, so I removed a pair of old brass hooks I found in the closet to hang them.  It's not perfect, but it's gives an old an vintage feel, and it certainly works with the knots vibe.  I'll bring up some different rope to add to it on my next trip.

So here we are.  Definitely not done yet, but for very little money we've made a pretty big impact in the room.

And it's certainly better than where we started, no?