9.07.2010

Decorating for Gen Z

My incredible niece, Caitlin, just turned 13 and her mom (my sister-in-law) promised her a bedroom redo - lucky girl!  They came to visit us in Arlington in late July and Caitlin, my sister-in-law, and I sneaked away for a couple of hours one morning to do a little shopping for her new room.

My niece really wanted to paint her walls a deep Caribbean blue.  I was a little worried that painting all of the walls the deep color would be a little too dark.  I convinced her (I think) to paint the end wall of her room the darker color and then leave the other walls white or paint them a paler shade of the dark color.  Benjamin Moore Lucerne is a good example of the kind of color saturation Cate is hoping for:
So, we set out looking for things that would go well with her Caribbean blue wall.  We first headed to Marshalls because I had seen a lot dorm decor there earlier in the week which I thought would appeal to her.  After that we hit Home Goods and TJ Maxx.

Here's what we found:

1. We first found this great comforter.  It was marked down to $45 but we got an extra 10% off because of a small spot on the comforter which should easily wash out but which was not super noticeable.  This is a great deal for a comforter, sham, and sheet set!  The quality was very good and the fabric was soft which is unusual for a bed-in-a-bag set.  As a bonus it's reversible to a more understated stripe.  Marshalls is great about giving an extra 10% off if you point out a flaw in something you are buying.  Just another reason why I love that place!


2.  At Home Goods we found a great piece of artwork to hang over her bed.  It will definitely jump off the wall when up against the turquoise.  I recommended that they look for a small orange accent pillow to bring the orange into other parts of the room.  It was about $60 but I think it will be well worth it.

3.  My niece loved the idea of a bulletin board over her desk.  We found this great oversized board at Home Goods.

4.  My niece also loved the idea of a fuzzy blanket to curl up under during those long, cold Massachusetts winters.  We stumbled on this one which matched her color scheme perfectly.

5.  This lamp was a great find at Marshalls for $29.99.  She'll have it for many years to come.  The shape is very modern but the styling is still classic and won't go out of style quickly.  There are about 10 different versions of this at Marshalls and Home Goods if you are looking for something similar.

6 & 7.  I think piles of accent pillows look great and serve a great function in teen rooms.  I can just picture my niece lounging on her bed and hanging out with her friends with these pillows all around.  So fun!

8.  This little canvas wall hanging may be my niece's favorite find of the day!  I think it's so "her" and love that she something that she picked out will look so great in her room.  It's so important the room feel like hers when it's all done.  Another great deal at $14.99.




9.  We found a great sham in a color really close to the color that Cate was hoping for on the walls.  So lucky!  My sister-in-law ended up picking up the coordinating quilt when she got home.  I love the look of a quilt with a comforter folded at the foot of the bed (almost every room in my house has a version of that look!).

 10.  My fashion conscious niece absolutely had to have a floor length mirror.  It will look great hanging behind her door.

11.  We stumbled on this set of coordinating sheets on the clearance shelves at Marshalls.  I find it really helpful to have 2 or 3 sets of sheets for each of my kids' beds, and at least two for each guest room just in case we have some quick turnover.



9.02.2010

Garage Organization Reveal!

Yesterday I posted about how horrific our garage had become over the past year.  We literally threw things in there when we didn't know what to do with them.  It was sad.  I didn't even really know what was in there when I started this project last weekend.  Fortunately, I love to organize stuff - I just need the time to do it. 

Without further ado, here was the before of our scary messy garage -
 

And here's the new and very much improved garage - 


Wow!  We have windows!  It is still a work in progress but at least I don't have to worry about things falling on my kids when they walk in the door.  The large boxes on the left side are our new screen doors which still need to be installed.  Hopefully that will happen this weekend.

Organizing the shelving was practically a project within itself.  Before there was no rhyme or reason to anything on the shelves and there was loads of wasted space.

And now I can actually find my work gloves when I need them and do not have to worry about rock salt falling on me!


Here are some recommended steps for organizing a garage:

1)  Throw out, recycle, donate, sell, or give away anything you no longer need or use. For me that meant finally selling the chairs I had in there and an extra bike.  I also put some old fence parts on the curb and listed them for free on Craigslist.  They were gone within a few hours!  I even cleaned out all of the random containers of the kids' bubbles so the only ones we have left are the ones that actually have bubbles in them!  

2)  Remove things that do not belong in the garage.  I put several hand tools and other items back in the basement where they came from (at some point).

3)  Group like things together - yard tools, lawnmowers and trimmers, bikes, toys, etc.  I keep the lawnmower and trimmer in the back of the garage.  They are (now) easily accessible but far enough away from the main area where the kids play near the front.  The toys and kids' bikes are right up in front where they can get them easily.  

4) Put toys where kids can see them, get to them, and put them away themselves.  I like to put toys in clear boxes, milk crates, or on shelves by themselves so the kids can see them.  I like to put all of the balls in one box because I find they just get lost in the bottoms of other boxes otherwise.  The other toys are all in the other plastic box.  I filled one of our large beach buckets with sidewalk chalk.  It's easy for the kids to pull out the whole bucket to play with the chalk and then put it away themselves. 

5)  Store hazardous chemicals and sharp tools on high shelves where kids cannot reach them.  This seems obvious when you are inside, but be mindful of the same rules when you are organizing your garage.

6)  Expensive garage organizers are cool but probably unnecessary for most people.  I considered some "garage organization systems" before we moved back into the house last year but decided against it since we were bleeding money already.  Our main solution for tool organization was an old school scrap piece of lumber and large nails strategically placed to hold the tools.  Works great for us and cost us pretty much nothing.  


7)  You don't necessarily have to tackle the whole project at once.  I organized the main part of the garage last Sunday but tackled the shelves one evening this week (thus the rather dark pictures).  

8)  Take advantage of any overhead storage, for rarely used items like bulky off-season sporting equipment, sleds, lumber, etc.

Side note:  In case you were wondering why only 2 walls were drywalled, this was required by the building code.  It is supposedly to prevent a fire from spreading to our neighbors' dwellings (god forbid). 

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of our clean garage! I'll keep you updated on additional organization projects. 

9.01.2010

Meet our.... Garage!


When we did our renovation last year, a new garage was near the top of our "must have" list.  We love that our garage matches our house architecturally and looks great from the backyard and the street.  But, we ended up throwing (literally) most of our outdoor stuff (and some indoor stuff) in there when we moved back into the house last summer.  We closed the door and forgot about the mess for winter - except when we had to hunt for snow shovels.  Spring came and went, and the garage clean-out was still on the back burner.  I took these pictures in June to give you an idea of how horrifying it was!

YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually, the shelves got worse in recent months -  UGH!


Something has to change.  I was embarrassed when neighbors and strangers saw how horrible it was.  It was a huge waste of wonderful storage space.  Also, I feared for the lives of my children who play in there all the time!

Stay tuned tomorrow for the big garage clean-out reveal!!

8.31.2010

Alarmingly Handy: Our Home Security System

When we moved into our house, one of the first things we did was install an alarm system.  At that time, the hubby was traveling a lot for work so I thought the alarm would give me peace of mind when I came home alone at night (fortunately those days are over!).  We didn't know our neighbors yet, but we knew the neighborhood was not a high crime area.  It was more about our peace of mind.  I clearly remember an older neighbor asking me why were having it installed because he had never heard of any break-ins on our street for the past 20 years that he has lived here.  I just told him it was for my own peace of mind and that I fully understood that it was a nice neighborhood or we would not have moved here

Our house as it looked in 2002 when we bought it.


Fast forward 7 years later and we were renovating our house.  We call our alarm company, Brinks, which we had been loyal to for the past 7 years and faithfully paying the $30 per month or whatever it was.  We tell them we want to expand the system and include fire/carbon monoxide detection and water bugs (sensors that detect water on the floor) in the basement.  They then quoted us $1500 (!) to expand the system and then told us that our monthly rate would go up to $35!  Ummm....let me think about that....NO.

So, we asked around and got some recommendations for other companies.  We called Slomins Shield and they could rewire our entire house, including two key pads, glass break sensors, door sensors, water bugs near our sump pump in the basement, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for about $600 (the cost of the supplies).  And the monthly fee was about $26 and was guaranteed to NEVER go up.  Score!  Bonus was that they could come the next day which was great since the drywall was going up in about 3 days.  Bye-bye Brinks!

Although I think the burglar alarm is a useful thing, the same deterrence factor could likely be achieved with some well-placed faux alarm company window stickers, the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and the water bugs are probably even more valuable.  The water bug sensor has already prevented one malfunctioning sump pump from flooding our basement. 

Although we did not opt for this feature, many companies also offer low temperature alarms.  If you live in an area with frequent long stretches of below freezing temps, this feature could save your house.  If your furnace breaks down in below freezing temperatures, you are likely to come home to frozen pipes and a huge mess in your house.  If you have the low temperature sensor, the alarm company is notified if the temperature in your house (or at the sensor) drops below a designated temperature. 

Another bonus is that most insurance companies offer discounts on your home owners insurance for alarm systems, particularly those with smoke detectors.  Be sure to ask your agent when you are installing the system.

If you are thinking about buying an alarm system, think beyond the anti-burglary benefits and consider what other features you would provide you peace of mind when you are both away from home or snug in your own bed.  

8.30.2010

High Chair vs. Booster Seat

Everyone knows that baby gear is generally not the most beautiful thing in the world.  Of course there are exceptions but the standard stuff is really pretty hideous.  I love my kids, but their stuff is just not pretty.  Fortunately, my kids are past the baby swing, bouncer, baby gym stage but we're definitely still in the big ugly toy stage with Alex.  (I'll post at some other point about our toy storage issues.)  So, of course, we try to hide as much stuff as possible, but some things are unavoidable.

I have a thing against high chairs.  I just don't like them.  My apologies to all of the high chair lovers out there.  I have to admit though, that I have been fascinated by the Stokke Trip Trapp but I feel it's something we should have invested in with my daughter when she was young, instead of now when Alex is 15 months already.  It is so cool and versatile though. 

But, I digress.

Instead of a high chair, we chose to go the booster seat route.  We have had the Fisher Price Healthy Care Booster Seat since Elizabeth was born.  This was a good route for us because our dining room was pretty small before the renovation and that was our only eating space.  Now, we have a relatively small eating space in our kitchen and family room so space is still at a premium.  Here is one of our seats in the eating area now. 

Here's Alex enjoying some watermelon in his seat.

We actually have one on the screen porch too (pasta night).  What a face!

I love that the chair is easy to clean - the white top tray is dishwasher safe.  The rest of the chair can be scrubbed completely.  I have been known to take it out to the driveway and hose it down after a particularly messy sauce night (such as in the above picture)!  There is no padding to crack or get crummy.  After 4 years of use, it looks as good as new.

It's also easy to travel with.  We can fit into the car seat travel bag along with Alex's car seat.


To protect the chair it sits on, I use a piece of an old shower curtain.  You can buy chair protectors but I really think that's unnecessary when you can get a shower curtain at the dollar store.

At the counter, we have a Phil & Ted's Me Too Chair which we love.  Alex loves to be right in the middle of the action when I'm cooking or Elizabeth is eating lunch there. 

I would love to hear about your own short cuts with kid gear!

8.26.2010

Opposites Attract: Boy/Girl Bedroom Options

Having kids share a room is an often debated topic among many of my parent friends.  Some people think it is a great way for kids to learn to share space and live in close quarters with someone else.  Others think that it's best for kids to have their own room so they can decorate it however they want and have their own space for quiet time. And, for some it's not a choice but a necessity - small house or apartment, only 2 bedrooms upstairs, etc.  It's not hard to find a theme for a same sex room, but what about a room for children of the opposite sex?
Ebay
Shopping.com
This is the dilemma my friends David and Sarah may face when their second child is born next month.  They have a 2 year old daughter, Amelia, but chose not to find out the sex of the new baby (great choice in my opinion!).  They live in a Cape Code style house with only 2 bedrooms upstairs so the kids will likely share a room for the foreseeable future.  Although, I think they are leaning towards separate themes for each child if the second child is a boy, I am encouraging them to try a more united theme which will suit both kids for many years to come - regardless of whether Amelia gets a baby brother or sister.


Although I have a lot of ideas for what would work well for both kids, I really love the idea of a beach-inspired theme.  Although totally beach themed rooms more than 5 miles from an actual beach make me a little crazy, a loose beach theme could really work well.  And Dave and Sarah got married on the coast of Massachusetts so it seems fitting for them.

So, here's what I came up with for big sister Amelia and her new baby sister or brother.

Here's the breakdown -


1.  Wall Color - Benjamin Moore Turqoise Powder 2057-50.
I love this color and it works great with lots of pinks, yellows, greens, deep blues, oranges, etc.  Whatever you like.  If the baby is a boy, they could lean towards yellows and oranges with splashes of pink for Amelia.  If it's a girl - bring on the pink and yellow!

2.  Duvet Cover - Pottery Barn Kids.
I think Amelia will love this duvet cover.  Duvet covers are especially great for little kids because they are poofy, cozy, and fun to lay on, but also can be easily washed.

3.  Convertible Crib - Young America
This is Amelia's current crib which will become the baby's crib in a few short months.

4.  Bed - Young America
I am still hemming and hawing with myself over what the best "big girl" bed would be for big sister Amelia.  This one is very practical and Sarah and Dave could buy another one and bunk them down the road if they needed to.  Kids LOVE bunk beds (just ask them).  Another alternative which I also love is this great headboard from JC Penney, or you could make one like I did (read more about that here).  Dave is really handy (and an engineer) so I know he could handle the challenge (haha). 

Several great fabric options but I think I like these two the best:

5.  Breathable Crib bumper from Toys R Us
Although I have always used a traditional crib bumper, there has been a big movement towards the breathable variety.  I think they still look good and they have an airy look which in this room would look especially nice - particularly since the furniture is dark. 

6.  Bolster Pillow - Little MissMatched from JC Penney
I just love this little accent pillow which could be used on a chair or on the bed.

7.  Bureau - Young America.
Dave and Sarah already own this as well as a dresser in the same style.  I hope they can fit all of this furniture in the room with a crib and bed as well!

8.  Jeep Print - momsblankies on Etsy
Found this adorable little print on Etsy.  Definitely adds a bit of whimsy and a little bit more of a masculine touch in case the little one is a boy. David is all about trains, planes, boats and automobiles!

9.  Customized Surf Board Wall Art - Sunday Treasures on Etsy
These little surf boards are just adorable and would add a great personalized touch to the kids' room.

10. Upcycled Lamp - Eden Cove Treasures on Etsy
This makes me want to run out to Goodwill this afternoon and find a great base lamp and paint it up.   LOVE this!
 
11.  White Curtains - Target
Simple, easy, very inexpensive.  These curtains will work in the room for many, many years to come.  They could be customized by adding some simple turquoise trim or seam binding tape to the edges.

12.  Crib Sheet - 2 options - Multi Dot or Large Dot
If you are having a baby, here's a tip - don't buy a crib quilt unless you want to use it for something other than the crib - on the chair, wall, etc.  You will NEVER use it and you'll pay a bunch for it (or someone else will).  Just get a crib bumper, and some cute sheets, and call it a day.  These sheets are just two of many possibilities.  I have several different crib sheets although most of them are plain old white since our nursery is quite busy.


13.  Rug - Target
The simple graphic pattern and the turquoise and yellow colors make it the perfect addition to this room.  If you are looking for a fun new rug, now is the time to look with all of the dorm stuff available for super cheap!


Hope you enjoyed this.  I would love to hear your ideas for other great room ideas for shared rooms!

8.25.2010

We're Back!

It seems that everyone has left the DC area to enjoy the last bits of summer.  We just got back from Ocean City, NJ where we have vacationed with my family for over 25 years.  I'll be back with some regular blog posts shortly but here's an indirect sunset shot that I took the other night on the way down the boardwalk with my family on our last night. 

I'm looking forward to enjoying every last minute of summer!

8.20.2010

Thrifty Longevity: Friday Flowers!

Alstromeria are one of my favorite grocery store flowers.  I think they are technically in the lily family (read more about them here).  Although I ocassionally cut them short and put them in a small square vase, I usually just take the plastic off and pop them in a long tall vase from Crate and Barrel that our friend Abi gave us for our wedding 10 years ago - I still love that vase!.  I usually grab two bunches for around $5 each at Safeway - generally all one color but sometimes I mix them - purple and yellow or pink and yellow are my favorite combinations.
  

I really love alstromeria because they seem to last forever - 2 weeks easily if you change the water a few times.  I do not add anything to the flower water but I know a lot of people supposedly have tricks for prolonging the life of flowers (particularly roses).  I just do not have time!

If you want to make your grocery store flowers a little more special, here are some great ideas for flower arranging from Real Simple.  It's hard to believe that grocery store flowers could look this good!
Via Real Simple

Happy Friday!  Enjoy the weekend!

8.19.2010

Chairs for Sale: Inspiration Free!

Well.... I have these chairs which I used around a table on our screen porch for several years.  My grandmother bought them for me at yard sale before we moved into our "new" house in 2002.  I put the new fabric on them immediately and I loved them.  I think they are cute and Jim thinks they are completely hideous.  Here's what they look like now.  A great "before" picture.

This year, I got new dining chairs for my porch because I really wanted something weatherproof and stackable. Found: Pier 1.  But, now I am left with these cute chair which need some help.

If I had a place for them, I would spray paint them red and put a cute patterned oil cloth on the seat.  I couldn't find anything remotely similar online but I did find these as a little bit of inspiration.

via Pieces
But, I just don't have the energy.  $50 for the set and they are all yours.   No, I am not going to ship them.  Email me if you want to come and get them otherwise they go on Craigslist this weekend.... again.

Come and get 'em!

8.18.2010

Support Your Budding Artist:: Kids' Art Supply Storage

My daughter loves to do art projects both at school and at home.  My dad built her a great table for her art work to go with some chairs I found on Craigslist a long time ago.  My mom painted them in a great finish which has an antique look but which is super durable.  We still keep a lot of supplies in clear plastic boxes but I like to keep a few things easily accessible on the table. 



In the office section at HomeGoods, I found this paper organizer and a pen caddy which both worked perfectly for storing the often used art supplies.  The paper organizer even has a place for pictures in the front.  Eventually, I'll convince Elizabeth (or Alex) to make her own pictures to put in there but for now these are the photos she chose to display.

On a side note, the crayons in the red plastic box are made by Melissa and Doug and we love them - incredibly durable! 


How do you keep your own or your kids' art supplies organized? 

8.17.2010

Drum Roll Please.... Updated Blog Roll!

I finally got a chance to update my blog roll.  There are several blogs which I read religiously and those are the ones that I have included here.  I pretty frequently add and remove blogs from my reading list but I am much, much slower about updating my blog rolls.  I particularly like blogs that feature a lot of projects that people are doing in their house.  I have been reading some blogs so religiously I feel like I know the authors! 

So here's the new list!  

Hopefully you'll find a new one to add to your daily reading list! 

8.16.2010

Let There be Privacy: Sheers in the Family Room

I absolutely love all of the windows in our family room.  It is so bright and sunny during the day which is the opposite of what our living room was before the renovation.  At night, though, I feel like we need a little more privacy and pulling the curtains really does not look good.  When I purchased the curtains (JC Penney), I had always intended there to be sheers behind them for a layered look.  I even bought double rods with that thought in mind.  Unfortunately, the right sheers were not super easy to find.  I bought and returned several options.  I didn't want anything too formal or too plain.  The one impediment to finding something at Target or somewhere similar, is that they needed to be at 94-95" long.  This was not a critical item in the decor so I just kept my eyes out for a good option at a great price. 

One year after moving into the house (almost to the day), I found a great 95" sheer at Target!  It has a woven look which makes it a bit more casual but not plain.  And they are on sale for $17.99.  Of course, I am still looking for one last panel so I may have to travel to another Target beyond the three that I usually frequent.  It's always something, isn't it?

Here's how it looked before.


And here's how it looks now with the new sheers.

Now a huge change but enough to give the room a more finished look.  I am still considering some woven bamboo cordless blinds behind the sheers which I think would add another layer of dimension but for now, I am really happy with this look. For now.

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8.13.2010

Friday Flowers!

It's Friday again, and here are my weekly flowers - sunflowers - which I LOVE.  These were actually a gift from a new neighbor.  I may try to grow some in my hot baked yard next year! 



Can you tell I am loving my new DSLR camera, the Canon T1i!?!


Hope this also serves as a reminder to pick up some flowers today so you can enjoy them all weekend!

Have a great weekend!

8.12.2010

Happy Anniversary!

Today, Jim and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.  I am looking forward to another 50 years of house projects with you!  We're just hoping to get a nice, quiet dinner out over the weekend.

As an anniversary present, we got ourselves our first DSLR camera, the Canon T1i.   LOVE! 
We got to do some sightseeing with my in-laws a couple of weekends ago and visited several of the monuments in DC at night which we haven't done in a while.  Such a great thing to do on a warm summer night.  Here is one of my favorite pictures from that adventure!

Washington Monument from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial