Pura Vida from Costa Rica!


 The Costa Rican tourism website states:

“Costa Rica is more than a vacation destination; it is an interactive sensory experience. The country is bestowed with an intense array of biodiversity and environmental attractions – majestic volcanoes, misty cloud forests, stunning river valleys, and hundreds of beaches along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Costa Rica carries a fascinating ecological story, woven into the history of a peaceful and family-oriented culture.”

Done. Sign me up! Actually, we just returned from a week in Costa Rica, and it did not disappoint!

First, our accomodations. This path led to the main house and the pool which were shared by Jon, Ashley, Nate, Robyn, and us.   

 One of the first things I noticed about Costa Rica (besides the oppressive heat, which I was expecting, and the steep switchbacks, which felt like coming home!) was the butterflies. They were everwhere! They started fluttering the moment we opened the door to our house and flitted over our heads in the pool. Speaking of, look at that pool!   
 We rented the house on AirBnB, which Tony and I used all through Europe last summer. We did have a few issues with this particular rental, but the property manager handled things right away and the owner refunded some of our rental cost, so we were able to just enjoy our week away.

Now on to the adventurous stuff!! We trekked over some pretty rough road (It’s hard to tell here, but Jon dubbed them moguls – quite accurately!)…

  and took a short hike…

 to a beautiful waterfall…

where we played around for a bit!  Then the boys went around to climb to the top of the falls (like manly men do)…  

 and found a secluded little pool…  

  perfect for cliff jumping!  

 We spent another day on a jungle adventure up in the mountains at Buena Vista Adventure Park. It took about an hour and a half to reach our destination, much of which was spent on dirt/rock roads winding (sometimes) slowly upward. The first part of our adventure was ziplining!  

 We all made it safely, with the help of our guides, and we each even went upside down at least once!   

 
After a brief snack, provided by the resort, it was off to the water slide. Unfortunately none of our photos of the slide turned out. It was just too fast for the camera to catch! It was able to catch these howler monkeys though!   

 Lunch was typical Costa Rican fare – flavorful meat, rice, beans, and veggies. It was delicous!     

  After lunch it was time to relax! A ten minute tractor ride brought us to the outdoor “spa.” Step one was a cleansing trip to the volcanic gas heated sauna. Then it was mud-bath time!  

 After a cold shower/spray down, it was nice to just sit in the thermal pools and sip a beverage!  

  It was wonderful to be up in the hills and actually be cold for a little while before returning to the coast! And I was super impressed with Buena Vista. They anticipated everything – from providing the snacks to having towels available after the waterslide to having a truck pick us up within minutes of our tractor (the one that took us the to spa) breaking down! I had no need for the backpack I brought loaded with food, water, and towels. 

Another day was spent on a catamaran out in the Pacific. We even saw some dolphins! These guys swam all around us for about 5 minutes playing and jumping. This picture’s a little blurry, but you can see the dolphin just under the surface at the bow of the boat. 

 We also did some snorkeling and SUP boarding from the catamaran when we stopped for lunch.

 Our last big adventure was a scuba diving trip! Tony went off with some French tourists while Robyn and I stayed with the instructor for a discover dive (since we’re not certified). He snapped one good picture of himself before he busted our underwater camera by going too deep!  

 The highlight of the dive was the shark! I remember my friend, Gemma, going on a shark dive on St. Martin and saying they were too fascinating to be scary when you’re underwater. Now I know what she meant! 

Now, in case you’re worried that we spent too much time being adventurous and not enough time relaxing, don’t be! We built in several days at the beach and evenings in the pool at our rental house. I even got up and did some yoga on the deck a few times. I must say, that is the way to start a morning!   

 And we ate! Boy, did we eat well! Every place we went was delicious, from the fancy resort restaurant in the next bay over to the hole-in-the-wall soda serving traditional (typical) meals. I took pictures of some of the signs to help us rememberr the places we ate.  These are just a few of them:

1

 Costa Rica was a great trip. The people we met were all very friendly, and we always felt safe. It was nice to share this delightful place with friends!

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Guest Blogger Post: A Guy, A Girl, and a Really NEW House 

Welcome to the Mile High City and to the home of Mike and Monica, fans of A Guy, A Girl, and A Really Old House! A few years ago, we settled in beautiful Denver to raise our family and bought a really old house. We loved our charming 1912 bungalow in the heart of Denver, despite its small footprint and “cozy” feel. It wasn’t until we were blessed with our beautiful daughter, Emily, that we realized that an 800 square foot home with a narrow, steep staircase and exposed earth in the basement was NOT going to work for growing a family.

  
We sold our bungalow and built a brand, spanking new house. 

  
The house is perfect… except that all the décor that fit the walls at the old house looks miniature on the new walls with ten-foot ceilings! Enter, Lindy.  

Lindy arrived early on a Friday morning and stayed through late Monday afternoon. During that time, we completed three big projects and started one more. I was skeptical when Lindy told me we would get through that many projects in one weekend, but she is a miracle worker, and I’m now a believer!

  
We started with the area near the entry from the garage. There were two things I wanted to accomplish here: We needed a place to keep our keys and I wanted an area where we could display Emily’s artwork. The space is challenging because it’s a small wall right next to the patio door. We could not use shelving or anything else that stuck out from the wall because it would obstruct the door. We looked at a couple of options, including finding something metal on which to hang magnets, but we ended up going with a couple of empty picture frames.    

 We started by using teal tempera paint to give the frames a little color. The tempera paint didn’t quite accomplish our goal as it immediately soaked into the frame. We had hoped to have a little more coverage, but the subtle teal tint that we ended up with also looks nice. We turned the large frame into a place to display artwork by hot gluing twine to the backside and adding some mini clothespins.  

  

 

The smaller frame offered a bit more of a challenge. I had hoped to include a chalkboard in our entry display so we could write notes to one another. However, we had some difficulty finding a chalkboard that would fit into the frame. All of the boards we found would either leave a gap or would need to be trimmed. Since we didn’t have access to a saw that was capable of trimming a chalkboard (we do not have the plethora of tools found in the Snethen household!), we had to come up with a different plan. We settled on using a chalkboard placemat that could be cut with scissors. We hot glued the mat into the frame and then filled in the space behind the mat with cardboard in order to create a hard surface to write on. We then added hooks at the bottom of the frame for keys and tied the eraser to the board with twine. The final touch was a place to keep the chalk. We found a drawer pull that, when placed on the frame upside down, acted as a perfect container for the chalk

We added an accent piece that we picked up ready-made from Hobby Lobby and a rustic teal picture frame. All that’s left in this area is to print some family photos and put them in the frame!

   

For our next project, I asked Lindy to step out of her Victorian art comfort zone and into the world of modern art. Our bedroom walls were looking quite bare, and I asked Lindy to help me create some pieces to bring some color to the room. 

  
 This bicycle pillow was the inspiration for the color scheme and some of the art:  

 

We started with the art over the bed after finding a blog (via Pinterest) that had used a piece of fabric with rectangular shapes as the starting point for a piece of wall art we liked so we hunted for some fabric to use for our project. We didn’t find anything we loved, so we decided to go with some blank canvases and see if we couldn’t replicate the fabric art by hand. 

  

As a newbie to freehand painting, I was a little nervous to jump in and start painting. However, once we got going, we realized that the rectangles and squares in various shades of coral, yellow, and grey looked quite nice. It definitely accomplished the original goal of bringing some color to the room!

 

 

Next, we tackled the wall across from the bed. Again, we were inspired by pinterest. We found a piece of art that consisted of nine solid canvases, each in a different color. A swirl of white paint was dripped over the top of all nine canvases so, when placed next to each other, they created one work of art. We painted each canvas and then considered how we were going to accomplish the swirl. We tossed out several ideas, but we just kept going back to the same two problems: We didn’t know what kind of paint we needed to get the swirl to look right, and we weren’t sure how to swirl the paint without creating one gigantic mess.  
 
We were still going back and forth about how to do the swirl when Karen, my mother in-law, suggested that we paint a bicycle on the canvases. We had considered this early on because of the bike on the original pillow, but decided against it because neither one of us felt comfortable drawing a bicycle free hand. However, it didn’t seem that the swirl was going anywhere, so we did some research on how to draw a bike. As it turns out, the basic shape of a bicycle is a combination of a few easily drawn geometric shapes. We took the plunge and tried our hands at the bike. I have to say, I LOVE the way this piece turned out! It is by far my favorite of the weekend.

 
Our last project was left uncompleted only because Hobby Lobby didn’t have enough canvas stretchers in stock. Our house has 22-inch square windows in both the living room and the master bedroom. I love the light and feeling of openness they create as uncovered windows for most of the day. However, there is a one to two hour window late in the afternoon when the sun blares in through those windows. I wanted a temporary, removable solution for covering the windows during those hours without installing permanent window coverings on the windows.

We decided the easiest way to accomplish this was to stretch fabric over 22 inch canvas stretchers and simply place them into the window during the hot hours of the day. This was a quick project aided by the use of a hand-held staple gun. In addition, it solved the problem with the sunshine perfectly! I especially love how the fabric still allows a glow of light to get through so the room doesn’t look dark when the frames are in place

 
I now have some wonderful pieces of art for my walls and our house is starting to feel a little more like home. The best part: I got to spend quality time catching up with a great friend while creating all that beautiful art. Thank you for all your help, Lindy! You are the best! Are you ready to tackle a living room and dining room, next?  

     -Monica

Thanks, Monica, for your guest post, and yes! I’m ready! It was such a blast to spend the long weekend with my dear friends and their precious daughter. Thanks for letting me interrupt your regular routine for a few days!! 

The best part for me, besides spending time with Mike and Mon, was when Monica said, “I could probably do some of this on my own.” DIY home decor is  super fun and totally doable! 

    

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Traditional Bed into Platform

  
While Tony’s been working on the library, I’ve had my own project going. I bought a new bed – a big one! We’ve been talking about getting a new mattress for some time now, and Tony has wanted a King size since the moment I made him give his away (It would never have fit up our townhouse stairs!) I get it – he’s tall and likes to spread out, and we now have a bedroom that can fit a larger bed. So, I planned to take half my Summer School earnings to put toward a new bedroom set, including the mattress. That left a slim budget for the actual furniture. Enter CraigsList!  

 

I’m telling you, this thing is massive! It was in good shape, but not fabulous shape, so I set out to paint this monstrosity. Each layer I added made a big difference, but in all I applied one coat of primer, four coats of white paint, then distressed, and topped it with two clear coats. 

  
Then we had a little problem. We had to get this baby upstairs! Adter some maneuvering, it was clear the only course of action was to take one of the side posts off so we could get around the curve at the bottom of the stairs. That did the trick!

  
The new mattress we were looking at was super tall – a pillow top, so I’d initially been searching CraigsList for a platform bed. I also had some other requirements though, which included some sort of storage built in and a footboard, and I just wasn’t finding anything that had all those things. So I figured, we’ll just convert this one to a platform!  
Tony added two more cross supports to the three that came with the bed. Then he put two pieces of plywood over the top. 

  

I was a little concerned about splinters when I went to make the bed, so we took an old sheet that we had used as a bedskirt on our last bed, spread it out evenly, and tucked it underneath the plywood. Then we each slid underneath and took turns with the staple gun.  

  
 And here’s the finished frame, all ready for the new mattress! 

 

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Library Sneak Peek

Every reader needs a library, and Tony’s been planning his since the first time we set foot in this house. Last fall and winter he installed the cabinets that will serve as the book shelf bases, but the project has been stalled since then. Lately he’s been itching to do some book shopping, and I have been the curmudgeon who says, “Not until you build the shelves.” After all, each of those base cabinets, as well as several boxes in the guest room, are crammed full of books he already owns! With the bathrooms all finished and our entertaining events complete, he’s finally had a chance to get to work on a home for all those books. Here’s a sneak peek: 

 
Sure, I’m a little biased, but I think Tony’s  technique for building these shelves is pretty darn cool. He took several 1×12 common boards (since the shelves were going to be painted, we didn’t need to worry about a particular type of wood) and left three pieces whole to serve as the legs of the structure. Then he cut and attached 1 x 12 shelf support pieces, leaving just enough space between the cut boards for each shelf.  That way the integrity of the exterior boards was left fully intact, but each shelf would be well supported. You can kind of see how everything fits together in this photo:   

 
Tony roughed everything together to make sure it would assemble in real life the way it did in his head, then he roughed it in again on top of the base cabinets. You can never be too careful!  

 
And it’s a good thing he did all that, too, because he realized then that the walls were not plumb (at a 90 degree angle from the floor). That in itself is not all that surprising in this house, but the two inch difference from ceiling to base cabinets was! Two inches is enormous for such a short distance (about 6 feet). At this point Tony was understandably discouraged. His vision for his space was not panning out, and he briefly contemplated scratching the whole project. I could not have that! We have boxes and BOXES of books that MUST have a place to live!! Thank the Lord, he was able to figure out a work-around.

  

He ended up violating the cardinal rule of woodworking, and installed the shelf legs at a slight angle, splitting the difference from top to bottom with some shims. If you look carefully and from the right angle, the finished unit does look the tiniest bit crooked, but the chimney and door trim are crooked too so there really was no hope in that department. The shelves themselves are perfectly level though!                

Tony attached the whole thing to the wall by screwing the legs to studs in the wall, and because he had another piece of wood to hold up the shelves, he was able to hide the screws in the gaps. That’s why you don’t see any screws near the top. He wasn’t able to do that at the bottom though, so you see the Kreg-Jig holes he had to drill there.  

Do you like how that outlet is crooked? I do too – about as much as kick in the head. Thanks for nothing, crooked stud!       

The cavity at the top of the shelves was left there for the lighting that will be installed. Tony ran the electrical way back when he installed the base cabinets, but it won’t be all hooked up and functional until the whole room is complete. Crown molding will finish the room off and will hide all the wiring once all four shelving units are installed.    

  

Tony added trim pieces to hide all those joints from attaching the multiple 1 x 12s together. The trim also helped him conceal the not-even-close-to-plumb-walls problem too.  

 He was very patient, waiting a full week to let the paint cure, before he started loading them up!  

In case you’re wondering about the light fixture, it’s an exterior light. I looked and looked for an appropriate light fixture in the interior lighting section, to no avail. All the interior sconces looked like bathroom lights, or they pointed upwards, which would clearly not work for this application. Then I discovered this blog post where a woman detailed her own library installation, and her lights were gorgeous. She went with an exterior light, so I did the same! It is absolutely perfect, and really complements the existing bronze chandelier.  

Our next steps are shelves over the desk, before moving on to the other side of the room. Then, finally, we’ll install that crown molding!  I’m so excited for it to be done!

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Dresser Potting Stand

Many years ago Mom picked up this old dresser for a steal, just sure I’d be able to use it one day as a TV stand or something, and graciously stored it in her basement for me. Well, that was probably 10 years ago now, and I’ve finally found a use for it: a potting table!


You can see this baby has lived a long life… And is well past her prime. Years of use, abuse, and neglect have left this dresser with warped drawers that don’t all close correctly, so it’s not a place you’d want to store clothes or blankets, but they are the perfect place to store lawn bags and gardening tools. The bigger drawers even house some of the scrap wood that used to litter this part of the porch. Yes, I realize it doesn’t all fit, (see right side of the picture) but it helps!

The window that hangs above the dresser was a part of the collection we picked up on the last day of school, just over a year ago. A neighbor of Mom’s was throwing them out. When we pulled up in Mom’s SUV to load them, he came out to help!  I knew a simple coat of paint would jazz this window right up, but I had to wash it down first. A couple years in that guy’s garage and a whole year on our porch had left it pretty nasty. Charlie stepped in to help clean it off.

I just couldn’t stop laughing when he did this and had to pull out my camera! He really went after that water – until he got hit in the face, that is. Anyway, the finished window turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself!


The flowers are painted on with exterior paint using a stencil from Silhouette. I think the window needs a few more flowers, but these were so time consuming, I’m not sure more will happen! To put these on the window I “printed” the stencil onto vinyl with My Machine, then applied the whole stencil to the window. Then I pulled away the actual flower outline, leaving the relief, and sponged the paint on.

   Lastly, I removed each individual petal of the flower. It sounded good in my head, but the actual execution took ages! Maybe I can add some flowers with a simpler design… We’ll see.

Finally, I finished off this pretty potting table with some succulents (since they don’t need much water or sun) in an old electric lantern that no longer worked. My friends at The Depot had these little pots all made up with succulents for $6 or so. All I had to do was finagle the little pot in there!


Now both pieces sit next to the existing teak chairs and door-table to complete the side porch furniture!

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Outdoor Chandelier

Mom and her friend, Nancy, sometimes like to go junk picking. On one such evening they came across several light fixtures that someone no longer wanted and was leaving out on their driveway for trash collection. They grabbed it, knowing I could do something cool! So, I did!   

This project was super easy and quick. Here’s how to make your own:

Materials: chandelier, wire cutters, solar lights (these were $1 each at WalMart), spray paint (optional), stand

Step 1: Acquire your own chandelier. These are available everywhere – goodwill stores, garage sales, or get your own from the side of the road somewhere! This is what mine looked like before I started taking it apart. 

  

Step 2: Remove unwanted wiring. There isn’t an exact science to this. I started by pulling off the shades and twisting off the faux candle sticks. That loosened the base enough that I could get my wire cutters in there. 

  

Step 3: Determine how to secure your solar lights. Inside each of my candle sticks was this 4 inch metal piece which happened to be the perfect diameter to hold my solar lights. This step will probably vary according to the design of each light fixture.

  

Step 4: Attach your solar lights. The lights I picked out had a stake in the bottom meant to be stuck in the ground. When that was removed, the opening was the perfect size to fit over those metal tubes. It took a little twisting and shoving, which meant it would be nice and tight so my lights won’t topple off in a strong wind. 

  

Step 5 (Optional): My original intention was to paint this chandelier, which I still might do at some point, but I really liked the oil rubbed bronze color and the fact that the solar lights blended so well with it. If I do decide to paint it though, I’ll just pop off the light part at the top and spray paint the rest of it all at once. 

Step 6: Time to hang! I would have loved to hang this on our front porch over the window table and door swing, but the solar panels just wouldn’t get enough light to be able to come on at night, so I picked a spot out in the yard. We have an old stump out there that has been decaying for some time, but not long enough that I can plant anything in its place, and I needed something with some height in that flower bed. The chandelier was perfect. 

  

  

Edited 6-1-15: I was asked about a photo of the chandelier at night, so I took one tonight shortly after sunset. The quality isn’t fabulous, as it was taken in the dark, but it shows the amount of light these little guys put out. 

   
 

Please note that we do have a street light on this corner, so it’s never super dark in this spot. 

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Ugly Shed

We have an ugly shed. It’s sort of a given in this part of town. Have an old house? You have an ugly shed, or a decrepit garage, or something like that. But we were supposed to be hosting (providing the venue for) a backyard BBQ Wedding Rehearsal and Dinner. And that eyesore of a shed was going to spoil the celebration! So one weekend Mom and I set out to make the shed a little less ugly. Here’s a before and after:

  
Step 1 to De-Uglify Shed: Paint

Apparently at one point someone thought it would be a great idea to paint this beautiful Victorian home pink. Pink?! That genius was probably the same person who installed the corrugated metal shed in the first place, because they painted it pink too. So when it was time to choose a new paint color, I went with the same color gray that adorns our house now. Painting the shed was not difficult, and I did not do most of the things recommended by The Internet when painting a metal shed, like sand off and prime rust spots. I did spray it down with the hose first – does that count? Then we painted like mad, using exterior paint, because there are lots of scary things that grow (weeds) or grew in the past (spiders) in/on/near the shed and we are fraidy-cats. Most of the shed received one thick coat of paint with the idea that we may be able to avoid a second coat. We did! 

Then we came to the door. The ugly shed had a fittingly ugly shed door made from decades old plywood nailed to a 2×4 frame. The top set of hinges was not attached at all, requiring you to lift the door by the almost falling off latch just to get it open. The plywood was peeling and cracked so much that mom didn’t think paint would adhere to it, so we stopped for the day, and the ugly shed looked like this:

  

Step 2 to De-Uglify Shed: Door

Tony and I had previously discussed that shed door and decided not to replace it because we’re hoping to be rid of that shed completely within the next 5 years. We’d like to build a much larger shed, one that could be used for a workshop and motorcycle garage as well as storage, so we want to put as little money into this shed as possible. Mom suggested perhaps I could just resurface the shed door in some way. She had some extra pieces of beadboard from some work she’s had done recently, and I was welcome to them. I picked them up the next morning and set to work so I’d have everything ready to go as soon as Tony got home. (I had wanted to do the whole thing myself, but I couldn’t level the boards while wielding the nail gun, so Tony had to hold them up there for me.) I used the circular saw to cut the wood to the right size (All by myself! For the first time!!), got some kuddos from the neighbor next door for being able to use power tools, then primed and painted two coats of the gray.

The beadboard remnants weren’t quite long enough to cover the whole door, but we found a 1×6 in the shed that filled the space almost perfectly. It also meant that I didn’t have to worry about perfectly lining up the grooves in the two different pieces of beadboard! 


Step 3 to De-Uglify Shed: Decorate

Tony was none too happy with me when I told him the new hose I’d bought was for a  wreath (“That’s silly,” he said. : ) and it was for the shed! Neverless, it’s there on the door! 

 

It rained right after I put this up, so I’m thinking I might might need a different material for the bow.

I also added a new trellis (Thanks Mom!) and there will be a Clematis climbing the rungs very soon. The side of the shed is finished with an old window painted red. I think it’s a good balance of decor to try and detract from the ugliness and trying not to draw too much attention to the thing. 

  

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Operation Curb Appeal

Death, death I say, to the inventor of that supposed weed barrier fabric!  And a curse upon the head of the person who installed not 1, not 2 or 3 or 4 layers, but SIX layers of it all around our house!!


“Lindy,” you might be saying, “where is all this animosity coming from?” Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time landscaping recently, and every time I go to dig a blessed whole I find that *bad word* fabric! It’s been the bane of my existence for the last 6 weeks.

Again, you might question, “But why, Lindy? Isn’t it keeping the weeds away?”

To which I would answer, in our make-believe conversation, “Dear friend, why don’t you tell me? This was our house last summer being reclaimed by nature after our 4 weeks away.”

It’s a good thing Tony’s brother was cutting the grass for us! Those small trees along the front walk there were growing right through the 3 layers of that fabric junk. Weed barrier? My *badword*!


So this Spring it was decided that landscaping had to be a priority. I mean, it’s not like we’ve been lazy bums around here over the last 20 months, but with so much effort expended for indoor projects, the outdoors have been seriously neglected.

I’m horticulturally challenged, to borrow a phrase from an old friend, so Mom has been pretty vital in this endeavor! Also, I have gotten most of the plants from her garden. That’s a really good tip, by the way. If you’re  wanting to do some landscaping yourself, make good friends with a good gardner. Mom’s yard is filled with perennials that need regular splitting and ground cover that she’s been trying to get rid of. I am happy to take her castoffs!

Let’s back up a bit. It all started at the end of March. With the bridal shower set to be held here, I wanted the outside to be presentable at least, so Mom and I went through the existing landscaping to make a plan and determine what needed pruning, killing, and destroying. We did the pruning and weed killing, but left the destroying to Tony and his pickaxe. We had a lot of vines and tree-weed things, (due to lack of care for 2 years, perhaps?) and stumps of plants long past their prime. Once that was all cleared out, we could go get mulch, another thing we didn’t do at all last year.

With so many square yards of flower beds and many places down to the bare dirt, (which did make it easier to remove some of that abhorrent fabric) we had to plan strategically so as not to spend a small fortune (I’m saving for other projects afterall!). One thing we decided to do from the very beginning was to get the free mulch from the city. I was totally prepared for it to be chunky and gross, but we loaded up one Saturday morning anyway with our scoop shovel.

It was great, and we ended up dispersing three truck loads of mulch that day!

Can you believe the paving bricks in the picture below were already there? They were buried under old mulch/dirt and the grass was growing over them, so I dug them out, along with a bunch more of that awful black fabric, widened the flower bed along that walk, and replaced the stones.

Mom’s on the email list for a local nursery and they were giving a presentation on perennials, so we went. Perennials just make sense to me. Buy them once and they come back every year? Deal. The woman presenting really knew her stuff and anytime she said “impossible to kill” or “likes to be neglected” our ears perked right up! We walked out of the presentation with two Buy Two Get One Free coupons, which meant I got to have some plants to greet guests arriving for the bridal shower!

Since then, we’ve been blessed with a simply gorgeous Spring, so I’ve been adding more and more plants to get ready for the rehearsal dinner for our friends’ wedding, which was also being held at our house! Here’s the same view from above taken today.


And the front walk.


I’ve been trying really hard to learn the names for all these plants, and I must say, I’m doing pretty well! On the left side we have Salvia (that’s what I got with my Buy Two coupons from the nursery) and a Peony. On the right are Stella de’Oro Lillies, a Wild Rose which was the one existing plant we kept here, more Peonies, and a Clematis. The Dahlia and Kiss Me Over the Garden Gates are still too small to see, but they’re back there.

Check out my fairy garden on that old chair!

  
These things could easily become addicting!


Around the side of the house, the round Sedums were already there, but we added the Phlox, Jacob’s Ladders, and Lillies of the Valley all from Mom’s house, as well as the stone path winding through the middle.


The painted crate sits atop a rotting stump, and it will look awesome when that Sweet Potato Vine starts spilling over the side.

I was psyched to find this beautiful pitcher at the Goodwill store, but I dropped it right as I got out of the car! Fortunately, it broke in just the right spot to make it a perfect garden accent piece.


The view from the curb is definitely looking better these days! And it was a great locale for the Rehearsal and Dinner!

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Processed with Moldiv

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Tray Chic

My most recent decor-related obsession has been decorative trays. Months and months ago I had made this one from an old picture frame and some scrap fabric. It was a great way to complete the look in the dining room.   

 

Then I made the coffee table ottoman, and all the sudden we actually needed trays to put our drinks… and let’s be honest here, our dinners, on. We had received one of those generic blond wood framed white plasticy trays for our wedding, and it was just sitting between the microwave cart and the deep freeze, so I gave it a little makeover. It looked great on the coffee table/ottoman and I liked that the plexiglass I put over the top let me display some of our favorite photos.    

  

But over time, and lots of drink spills a la Charlie, it just wasn’t working anymore. So I began to brainstorm other options. Then we went to an estate sale. Cue angel choir, “Ahhh.”

Tony likes to go to estate sales on the last day. Usually there’s just junk left by that point, but if you do find something special, it’s probably marked half off. My something special was this old cabinet door. 

  

At the time I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d use this old door for, but I knew I should snap it up. As my affection for decorative trays grew toward obsession, the door’s true purpose was revealed. And now it looks like this: 
  
Yes, it’s giant and fabulous and you can write on it with chalk!! But most importantly, it can easily hold two dinners, two drinks, and a bowl of fresh fruit (or ice cream)!

Meanwhile the old tray got a second makeover and a new job holding my “generations” picture frame. One year for Christmas I snuck into my Mom’s photo boxes when she wasn’t home and made some copies. Those pics go all the way back to my Great Great Grandmother. When I put Mom’s frame together I also did one for myself!   

Recently Mom cleaned out their finished basement and was getting rid of a lot of the furniture. She gave me an end table that I’ve always loved. It actually works perfectly in our living room, because the table I had there (one of my first furniture overhauls) was kind of delicate and 70lb. Charlie would run right into it and knock off whatever was on top. This end table from Mom is much more solid and sturdy and can stand up to the puppy  sliding across the wood floor. However, 15 years in a basement had left the creamy painted top a little yellowed. My plan was to paint it, but I really liked the color it was, and I knew it would never quite be the same. Enter, tray!  

  

This little beauty was a Hobby Lobby jackpot find! It was all white when I bought it, which was just lovely, but it made the table top’s yellowy-ness stand out even more instead of hiding it. So, I painted it blue and sanded it a bit so the white would just peek through. Then things got cool, because I found out you can print onto wax paper to transfer an image. How cool is that?! So that’s exactly what I did. I found this image online for free, inserted it into a word document, and printed it onto wax paper cut down to 8 1/2 by 11. Then I used my Pampered Chef stone scraper to really push all that ink onto the tray. Voila!

  

Don’t worry, I have a couple extra trays as well for parties and things! They’re hanging out on the picture ledge in the half bath. Since you can’t really tell it’s a bathroom when you’re looking from the kitchen, I like to think the trays make it look like a butler’s pantry. 

  

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Faux Etched Glass

  
One project I wanted to tackle almost immediately after we moved into this house a year and a half ago was to etch the glass on our front door. The previous owners had placed a heavy red curtain over the door’s big window which combined with the deep red wall going up the stairs and the oppressive gold wallpaper to make for a very dark entry space. So the curtain went away immediately, and the fabric makeover in the front hall made a dramatic difference in the amount of light in the hallway, which I loved! The downside to looking OUT and seeing all that light coming into the house was it felt like other’s eyes could see IN as well. 

  
So I continued to dream of etched glass. I’ve had a little experience with DIY etched glass. I made that window that hangs on the porch, which turned out beautifully, and I had great luck with the etched wine glasses I made for Christmas, but I still hadn’t tackled the door… until recently, that is.

Is it etched? No. I got scared. And I don’t get scared very often! At least not scared enough to leave something be. I will etch it, at some point… especially after I realized that the glass isn’t even original and it has all these ugly scratch marks from some past painter who got sloppy with a razor blade.   

In the meantime, though, I have the next best thing – faux etching! 

  
I used My Machine, as I’ve begun to call my Silhouette cutting machine, to design and cut three pieces to put on the door. I wanted a lot of that light to come through, and I still wanted to be able to see out the front window, but I wanted just a little more privacy than we had before. This design achieved all those aims. 

And what is the material that I cut? Clear contact paper. No, I’m not kidding. That’s contact paper! 

  
That’s not to say there weren’t problems. The center piece cut beautifully, but for a couple weeks that was all I had. The side pieces would cut about 90% of the way, but the machine would finish and the final 10% of the cuts would never have been made. I began to wonder if maybe the machine couldn’t cut something that long, or that detailed, or both. Then it dawned on me. Our computer goes to sleep after several minutes of inactivity. It must be going to sleep part way through the cutting process, stopping the blade from finishing its work, and ruining my piece of contact paper! I tried cutting it again, but I stayed in the room so I could move the mouse every few minutes. It worked! I loosely stuck the whole two foot strip of contact paper to the glass, then peeled away the outer edges, leaving only the beautiful swirl. 

The best thing about this project is that it’s so easy. Anyone could do it! Other bonuses are that it’s cheap and temporary. Contact paper is usually less than $10 a roll and you’ll have tons of extra paper, so if you want a different look down the road, it would be easy to change out the design. 

Thinking you may want to try this? Follow these steps:

Step 1 – Choose and cut your design. I wanted a swirly, fancy design because I have a swirly design kind of house… and I had a machine capable of cutting said design. However, if I didn’t have a Silhouette, I would have done a much simpler (and larger) medallion or quatrefoil design that I could trace and cut out by hand. This blog has a great explanation of how she added some privacy to her kitchen door, and she cut and placed her pieces by hand. 

Step 2 – Peel and stick your design. I found it easiest to peel off the top two inches or so of the whole piece of contact paper and level it on the window before separating the part of the design I wanted to keep from the part that would be thrown away. This required some patience with a door that is clearly not hung straight anymore! I’m not much of a measurer, and eyeballing it worked pretty well. If I were piecing together individual pieces like the woman whose blog is linked above, it would make sense to start in the middle and work outward from there.

Step 3 – Enjoy! The clear contact paper is actually very translucent when placed on a window. The light comes through just fine, but it prevents prying eyes from seeing into your home.

Where could you use some privacy? Give this simple project a try!

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