Ready for the Weekend - $10 and 30 second perk-up!

Just a quick Friday post to show how great this $9.99 grocery store bouquet looks in our kitchen.  I love fresh flowers but don't want to make a regular $40 investment in them.  Grocery store bouquets are a great way to freshen up a room before a dinner party, company, or just a lazy weekend at home with the family.  Pop them in a vase when you get home and you are ready for the weekend!  Even the gloomiest winter day can be greatly improved just by looking at some of these beauties.  Of course, it's about 95 here in Arlington so I don't even want to think about winter!

Have a great weekend!


The Nursery: Part I (the big stuff)

After looking through and updating some of the pictures of our house that I have already posted (see link on the right), I realized that I never posted any pictures of my son Alex's room.  This room had been our office before we were expecting our now four year old, Elizabeth.  I cannot seem to find ANY pictures of what the room looked like back then but I did find this oldie of what it looked like when we bought the house but before we moved in.

Check out that light fixture!  They just don't make them like they used to!

Oddly enough, this was the smallest bedroom but had 2 decent closets - the larger rooms had horrible closets - go figure.  Anyway, several years later, Jim built his first set of built-in bookshelves, including a desk under the window, on that back wall.  (Some day I'll dig out those pictures.)  We added a hand-me-down futon and we had a second guest room.

After we found out I was pregnant, this became the obvious nursery.  It was already painted Benjamin Moore Raspberry Truffle (deep red), which we decided to keep since it was a unisex color (we didn't find out the sex of the baby) and we figured the room would go back to being an office some day.

Elizabeth was born in April 2006, and this was became her room - from the first night she was home from the hospital!  

These pictures were taken post renovation when the room got about 3 feet wider and became rectangular instead of its previous awkward L-shape. 

The chair was my dorm room chair from college which I slip-covered in the fun check.  My mom slaved over made the beautiful valence (more on that in a future post), dust ruffle and quilt (on the back of the chair in these pictures).  I made the little curtain covering the lower bookshelf.  The crib was in my parent's condo in Florida when they bought it.  It was perfect (and free!) so they brought it to us. 

The only thing we really added for Alex in 2009 (other than space and a huge closet) was the pine dresser which I found on Craigslist for $50.  Elizabeth's antique dresser is more girly so I decided to keep that in her room (more about that here).  I'll probably paint Alex's dresser at some point but for now it works for what he needs.  The rocking horse was made by Jim's dad for Elizabeth a few years ago.  You can see where Jim inherited his word-working talent!

After our big renovation in 2009 and Alex's birth, this room got a whole lot bigger but it still stayed a nursery - everything we had for a baby already went with the color and we wanted to keep the guest room where it was.  It was really fun to re-think the layout and I had so many more options.  As a reminder, here's the floor plan for the second floor.

As you can see, the glass door you see in the pictures and the floor plan actually connects through our master bedroom closet into our room - very handy for late night calls for Mama and Dada!

Check back next week for more details on our beloved nursery, as well as some new updates!

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Tutti Fruiti Kitchen Centerpiece

I have been thinking about putting together an easy kitchen table centerpiece that we can move quickly when we need to eat there (2-3 times per day).  Since I currently love the look of glasses vases filled with interesting stuff - changeable throughout the year - I decided to head in that direction.

While shopping at Target the other day, I stumbled across some great mini fruit vase filler for only $4.95 for a box.  I then set out to find something to put with it.  I quickly found a great glass vase and a flameless candle - I love flameless candles because they are very safe (especially with kids around), most are now wax so they look realistic, and the LED lights last forever and don't burn up batteries quickly. 

So, here's the final result which just screams summer to me! 

The box of mini fruit included some red cherries and apples but I chose not to include those in the current display - I'll save those for fall.  I also had the placemat already - a previous Target clearance purchase!  For a total of about $20, I think the impact is really great. 

Here's a wider angle view of our eating area for those who didn't follow me for the 6+ months during renovation!

I'll be doing a few centerpiece ideas over the coming weeks so stay tuned!

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Veggie Garden "After"!

I've had some requests to see our veggie garden in its current "crispy" state after my post the other day.  Everything is still alive for the most part but it definitely it's definitely showing the effects of our 40 days of 90+ degree weather (which is crazy even for Virginia). 

So, here's the before (taken in late May) -

And here's the after (now) -

Not pretty at all but amazingly the plant with the most brown (left side) is our grape tomato plant which is pumping out the tomatoes left and right.  Our grape tomato plants look like this every year but we always get a couple of pints of tomatoes from them.  I'm really hoping we get a couple of peppers but I'm not holding my breath.

On the other hand, my herb garden looks amazing!!  Fortunately the herbs - especially the basil -  thrive on heat and neglect.  I am working on making a huge batch of pesto as a housewarming gift for our new neighbors - more on that to come!

Happy summer!


Stepping in the Right Direction: Dining Room Transformation

Well after becoming somewhat dispirited about my lackluster dining room last week, I set out for HomeGoods for some inspirational changes.  Since it's the biggest missing item in the room, I started with the rug.  I generally find it works well to start with the largest (and often most expensive) items in the room when you are trying to decorate a space.  I already had furniture and curtains which definitely set the overall mood, but it was definitely missing warmth.

So, the first obvious step is to find a rug.  I considered a natural fiber but was a little concerned about the dog and red wine spills - we mostly use our dining room for dinner parties which sometimes go late into the night if you catch my drift...

So, I headed out to find a magic carpet to set the tone for the room.  Honestly, I never though I would find something on one trip to my favorite discount big box store - HomeGoods - but I did.  As I type this, I can practically hear my friends saying "Of course you found something on the first trip, Melissa!"  I looked at this one rug three different times while in the store and kept coming back to it.  I wasn't sure it was exactly what I wanted as far as pattern (I was NOT looking for an oriental) but it had the colors, fabric content (wool/poly blend for easy cleaning and durability), and it was relatively flat.  Plus, it was very reasonably priced for an 8x10 - only $249! Yes, it's probably exactly what everyone expected me to get, but I guess I do know my own style! 

I couldn't even wait for Jim to get home to put it down so I moved all of the furniture myself just to get the rug down to take this picture!

The center is chocolate brown and it has gold, olive and gray-blue in the swirling floral patterns.  It was a bit more traditional than I was planning on getting but I think it works well with the room and especially with the chair fabric and the curtains.  And, I found a great accent color in the process - blue.  It works really well against the gold/brown/neutral tones I already had going.  I think the intense blue/brown combo is a little trendy so I am going to keep the gold tones in the mix with the curtains and other accents.

That's not to say that I didn't debate about it all weekend and ask friends and total strangers off the street what they thought about the rug in the room.  I love to hear everyone's opinions but in the end it's my own that counts the most (sorry Jim).  In the end, it wasn't a huge investment for what it is and it does really work in the room, even if it's not what I originally had in mind.  So, I took the tags off.

One item to check off the list, several more to go but at least I feel like there's a direction now.  Stay tuned!


Dining Room Decorating Inspiration - Where is it?!

Our dining room is giving me the "blahs".  Basically, the same since we moved back into our house 8 years ago with exception of a new-to-us chandelier (my mom's used furniture store find), and some slight furniture rearrangement since the room grew by 2 feet over the course of the renovation.  My dad reupholstered the dining room chair seats for me before the famed house tour.  And, I recently reorganized the glass-fronted china cabinet (read about that here), but the dining room seemed otherwise lackluster.

I think the main problem is the lack of a rug - the room feels cold without it.  We never had a rug in this room pre-renovation because this was our main eating area.  With kids, a nice rug is really not an option in an eating area.  Also, the botanical prints are pretty but not particularly interesting.  So, I'll start a search for some replacement possibilities over the next few weeks. 

In the meantime, I did some browsing online for inspirational dining rooms and I was surprised to find so little.  Do people just not care about dining rooms enough to post about them?  I even checked Martha Stewart and dining rooms are not even an option on the list.  Same goes for BHG (my other go-to).  Finally, I skipped over to HGTV and found some dining room inspiration there

After looking through a bunch of pictures, I was surprised that there are relatively few stand-alone dining rooms pictured - many are now part of the kitchen or great room.  I like this idea generally because I think it makes a tons of sense in most houses.  We rarely use our dining room but I still feel like we need the space for a fairly large group (6+ people) to eat on occasion.  We keep our kitchen table small intentionally so that we do get more use out of our dining room.  But, after looking at pictures of about 300+ dining rooms, I'm stil not feeling very inspired.  Maybe a trip to HomeGoods will help!


A little patch of happiness: The Veggie Garden!

For many years, I have been planting a few tomato and pepper plants in the backyard.  Before the renovation, I had a small garden behind my garage.  The plants loved it back there because it was super sunny and HOT (the garage was brick), and it was also in a low spot in our yard so generally more moist than other places in our otherwise desert like yard.

Last year, during renovation, my daughter really wanted to plant tomatoes and peppers again.  She is a huge fan of both!  But, we knew/hoped we would be moving out of our rental right in the middle of harvest time.  Jim came up with a great idea for a transportable garden which would give us the vegetation that we needed!

This year, we did a lot of renovation in the backyard so we decided to just reuse the garden from last year in case we needed to move it (we did).   

Here's how the little garden looked in late May.

It's a simple 2' x 6' frame with a piece of plywood nailed to the back.  The tomatoes don't seem to mind the lack of depth, but I think the peppers may do better without a bottom on the garden.

The plants are considerably bigger now (and a little big crispy), and we have already picked a few dozen grape tomatoes (or at least rescued them before little fingers got them and gobbled them up!).  I love our little garden but next year I think we'll go back to a more traditional garden without a bottom so the peppers can root themselves better.

How does your garden look?  Any veggies yet?


FREEography: CSN Giveaway Winner Announcement!

Last week I announced an INCREDIBLE giveaway from CSN Stores for a $50 e-gift certificate to use in ANY of their great online stores! 

Although I continue to covet this lamp, I digress... [sigh!]

Without further ado, random.org pumped out #108, so the winner is.... TXsunlover!!  Congratulations!  TXsunlover is planning to use the winnings towards these great baking dishes by Le Creuset - great choice!  And since these are only $35.95 with free shipping (deal!), you'll even have some money leftover to get something else!

Images courtesty of CSN Stores

If it ain't Baroque...

This is a furniture trend that I cannot understand or get my head around.  I am slightly jealous of people who have spaces big enough to accommodate this furniture but I still HATE IT! 

And it's not just at Restoration Hardware, it's everywhere!

Unfortunately, styles come back so we can see this again in another 50 years or so.  Here's a version from the 1960s in blue velvet no less.

I sincerely hope I did not offend everyone who rushed to Restoration Hardware to buy one of these lovely beauties.  No offense to RH which I LOVE (and which has the world's best towels), but what were you thinking??


Lighting things up: Lamp Updates

Over the past few months, I have been working on getting some new lamps around the house.  Since we moved back into the house last fall, I have realized that our lamp situation was a bit dire.  I had become a bit complacent about some of my old lamps which were dated and mostly hand-me-downs.

So, I set out to make some new lamp purchases.  Some of my purchases have been successful and others have not - and therefore have become returns!   One of my recent REfind purchases was this sweet milk glass looking lamp.  It was less than $25 and I knew it was a versatile piece which just needed a great shade.  Then I found a beautiful shade with a blue-gray coral pattern at Pottery Barn on the summer clearance pile.  I love the result which matches the pale blue accent color that I have used in the room.

I decided to use it on my dresser because the old lamp was not doing anything for the room.  Here's the before -

Here's the after -

I like it so much  more.  Unfortunately now this leads me to think about a new mirror and about the other things that live on my dresser.  It's a vicious cycle!

Don't forget to sign up for the $50 CSN gift certificate giveaway - ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. ET!  Click here!


Ideas for a Little Boy's Room

For some crazy reason, I cannot stop thinking about how I am going to turn our upstairs guest room into Alex's bedroom in a year or two.   I am still not done with Elizabeth's room either - more to come on that shortly.  Although we are still planning to move him when he's out of his crib in probably 2 years, I am starting my idea file now.  I will probably use some sort of loose vintage theme which is easily changeable with accessories and a comforter.  I love red, white, and blue boys' rooms as well.  And, I already have a navy blue plaid upholstered chair ready to live out its final years being used as a trampoline (yes, I have a brother so I know these things).

So I started my usual searching which I'll probably start saving in some sort of folder.  I stumbled on a great site that I have never been to before, called Rosenberry Rooms  which has some great jumping off ideas and you can buy the featured products.  Here is their airplane themed room which they call the "Teddy Bedroom".  I like the basic pieces and the easily changeable accessories for when he gets tired of the theme.  

And here's their Asher Room which has a vintage baseball theme which I really like.  My son is already obsessed with any sort of game that involves a ball.  He's all boy.  I absolute adore the lamp they have with this grouping.  I don't think I would do the brown walls but I love the rest including the red bed.  

And another interesting option, this time from Furniture Fashion, is a boat theme which is one that I have also been thinking about for a while. I love nautical stuff in boys' rooms but, as with decorating with shells, it may seem add since Arlington is not exactly a water-oriented location (the Potomac River does not count).  But, I already have a great map print that we got on our honeymoon in Bermuda which I could use.  Food for thought.
Lots to think about - fortunately I have a lot of time to formulate my ideas and start collecting great stuff.  I collected things for Elizabeth's room for nearly a year before we got back into the house and made her new room.  I can feel a new idea folder growing already!


Peek-A-Boo! Hiding a Flat Panel TV

I have posted multiple times about decorating the top of the new mantle (see those posts here and here).  Although I love our Samsung LCD LED HDTV because it is really skinny (much thinner than a normal LCD TV), there are times when I wish I could just close it off so it's not such an obvious focal point for our family room. Don't get me wrong - we watch our fair share of TV and I am in no way anti-TV, but it's not really an ideal decorating look.

Here's our current look.

I started doing some research on what we could do to cover it.  I am generally looking for something with doors to cover the TV but I may explore the option of just framing out the TV.  All of this may involve recessing the TV under a new header in the wall which I am sure Jim will be SOOOOO happy about (haha).

Here are a few ideas that I found surfing around online.

This one is a little more rustic or "Old World" than I typically like but I think the room is interesting.  

Getting closer... This is more along the lines for what I had in mind for our set-up.

And I really like this one because of the classic styling and the pretty doors (and of course the yellow walls!).

I am actually trying to come up with a "best of both worlds" solution where I get a picture over the fireplace but also the TV. 


Center of Attention: Dining Table Centerpieces

wI finally got around to cleaning up my dining room which had become a dumping ground for a lot of stuff that didn't have a home or needed to be returned to a store (an unfortunate hobby of mine).  Making the table the true focus of the room became a top priority, and a great centerpiece is a great way to do that.  I was inspired by my friend Amie's fun beach-inspired centerpiece with shells and sand (I'm working on getting a picture!).

A few months back, I mentioned a few Crate & Barrel deals in a post that I was about to pounce on.  Here's a refresher on those pieces. This great shell-inspired platter -

And this fun table runner -

I like the platter a lot, but the runner was a little more colorful than what I was picturing for the table.  It ended up working well on the buffet though.  So, now I was off to continue looking for a more neutral runner in a natural fabric (no shiny faux satin damask).  I stopped into...  Crate & Barrel... just to see and bingo - I found this lovely runner which this pictures does no justice for -

It's perfect!  Natural, neutral, but still elegant enough for my crystal chandelier dining room.  So, here's the result!

The addition of the woven charger adds another natural element and creates a dark division between the runner and the centerpiece - allowing the centerpiece to stand out a bit more.

The Simon Pearce candle holders were a wedding gift from our friend Nicole and I scored the candles for a $1 at a yard sale (Crate & Barrel no less).  It's a bit hard to tell but there is a Pottery Barn ceramic conch shell (on clearance) in the mix of assorted orbs from Marshall's.  The bird was a random find on the clearance shelf at Target from their Smith & Hawken line but I think he's kind of a cute and helps the dining room not take itself too seriously since it's main purpose is a racetrack for various toy cars that run better on the floor than on rugs!  Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for me), I'll be slowing the racetrack down with a much needed rug in there very soon.  Stay tuned!


The Mantel Revisited

Over the last few weeks, I've been continuing to work on dressing up the mantel in our family room.  I posted about this a few weeks ago (see that here).  So, here's where things are currently and I actually really like it.

I think I could probably use something to go under the TV but I haven't found just the right thing but I like the summer feel of the other items.  And, yes, that's my house plant - still alive!  I also may swap things out for taller items in the fall but for now, I like these.  Another issues that taller items may interfere with TV viewing from the sides which is important!

I would love to hear what you have on your mantel this summer.  Send me some pictures.


Thoughtful and Useful Housewarming Gift Idea

Many of our friends have moved over the last few years so I feel I am always looking for thoughtful and easy housewarming gifts.  This weekend we went to a friend's new house for dinner.  They are "have everything" type people so I picked up a set of adorable summer themed hand towels (I'm really into orange this year) and fancy kitchen hand soap.  It's a thoughtful but not over-the-top gift, and it looks really cute in a sweet bag with a little bow.  No matter how much great stuff you can have, anyone can appreciate these little gifts.

For a weekend hostess gift or birthday gift, you could amp it up with some fun kitchen spoons, fancy dish soap or counter cleaner, and put it all in a nice basket or small colander.

For some other former neighbors and very good friends (who had the nerve to move a mile away!), I struggled for a while with what to get them.  Fortunately the struggle ended quickly when I saw this Ron Krajewski print on Etsy.  I've seen his work at Eastern Market in DC and always admired it, but I had never seen this Cairn Terrier print.  Our friends have an adorable Cairn Terrier, Albus,who looks very much like the dog in the portrait.  Of course, I snagged one and framed it in a great wood frame.  The finished product was great.  They loved it!

Photo via Ron Krajewski

I love putting together gifts like these because they are thoughtful and useful.  What are your favorite housewarming gifts to give and receive?


FREEography! CSN Stores $50 Gift Certificate Giveaway!!

This week's FREEography giveaway is for a $50 e-gift certificate for CSN Stores!  Yes, you can use it in any of their stores - Home Improvement, Lighting, Rugs, Baby and Kids, etc. - for anything from dining room tables to a kitchen sink!

To get you even more excited about this one, here are some great things that I would buy with a $50 CSN Stores gift certificate!!

This lamp would look really great in my soon to be restyled living room.

I can think of about 10 places in my house where this mirror would be gorgeous.  Love it!

I love these prints.  No idea where I would put them but I am sure I could find a place pretty quickly.  The price is amazing!

And because our toaster oven is about to die...

Rules, Rules, Rules

TO ENTER, submit a comment below saying "Pick Me" and tell us what you plan to use your gift certificate for!  Be sure you sign in before leaving the comment or leave your email address in your comment so we can contact you if, and only if, you win.

The contest ends on Tuesday, July 20th at 11:59 p.m. ET.  One entry per email address.  The winner will be chosen randomly using random.org.  Must be a US or Canadian resident at least 18 years of age.  The winner will receive an electronic gift certificate directly by email from CSN.  Winner will be announced on or about Wednesday, July 21st.  Good luck!

Vacation: Cabin-tastic

Over the 4th of July weekend we had a great opportunity to visit a wonderful cabin near Sperryville, VA owned by our friends Susan Raines and Jim Duffy.  Although we have visited many times before, it has been a while since we visited in the height of summer.  It always feels about 10 degrees cooler there than in Washington (only 1.5 hours away) and we feel instantly relaxed once the road turns to dirt about 2 miles before we arrive at their driveway gate.  Here's a picture of the cabin almost completely obscured by trees. 

Jim and Susan have a lovely small pond on their property, completely with lily pads and frogs, perfect for fishing and floating around on a hot day. 
As you can see, the A-frame log structure is charming before you even get inside.  Here's the "front" door, although I generally think of this as the back of the cabin because it's on the opposite side of the pond. 

Once inside the cabin, you walk through a short hallway into the kitchen and great room.  The cathedral ceilings (with skylights) and the overall openness of the room make the room airy and welcoming despite hte dark wood logs.  The beautiful blue wood stove helps heat the building in the winter.  Duffy is an amateur lumberjack and spends a lot of time cutting up fallen trees and splitting firewood throughout the year! 
Knowing we were coming with the kids, Susan did us a huge favor and put away all of the small, breakable, and hazardous decorations that she usually has around the house.  As a result, the pictures show a pared down version of the usual decor.  Still, it's beautiful and rustic all at the same time.  She has an amazing collection of handmade pottery which I wish I had photographed.  I always spend a lot of time ooing and ahhing over it.

I love the artwork they have collected both for the cabin and even before they had the cabin which works so well.  In addition to the great decor, the cabin has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a finished basement with a combination family room and guest bedroom - perfect for a great weekend with friends and family.

Isn't that claw foot tub amazing?  Makes you think about climbing in after a long hike on a cool fall day... except it was 90 degrees when we were there last week!  Here are a few pictures of the master bedroom on the main floor.  I love the views out the windows of the pond and the beautiful ferns which surround the cabin.
Susan and Jim recently finished renovating their basement to include a family room, an additional guest sleeping area, full bathroom, and a laundry/work room.  Jim is a serious LSU football fan so it's critical that he not have to worry about missing any games while spending beautiful fall weekends at the cabin!  They also needed the extra sleeping space for extended family visits. 

I love the simplicity and modernity of the family room which is in sharp contrast to the upstairs rooms.  But, we don't go to the cabin to watch TV (although it's a great distraction for tired kids), we go to sit on the deck and watch the day go by.

Yes, I took a nap on that sofa soon after arriving in the early afternoon.  They also have a beautiful garden on the sunny side of the pond a few hundred feet from the cabin.  It's practically a full time job keeping the deer from eating the plants but it seems worth the effort when you experience the space. 
The view of the cabin from the garden.

Thanks Susan and Jim for letting us borrow the cabin again!  Hope everyone enjoyed seeing this amazing little spot of heaven.