Master Bedroom Refresh

I've done some quick refresh changes in our master bedroom to try to change things up a little and make it a bit more modern. Here's how it was until recently

Then I made some quick changes and now it looks like this.

It's subtle but actually much more obvious when you're in the room. The mirror is about 30% bigger than the old mirror and really fills the tall wall more. I still need something a bit more but for now, it really helps. I scored the mirror for $30 at a yard sale over the summer. My main tip for yard sale shopping - find the husband/man of the house who may have been dragged into watching the sale while the wife/mom/girlfriend goes inside to find more stuff or drive someone to soccer practice. Offer him 20% less than the price on the tag and he will almost definitely take it, especially if the item is either big or old or both. It works. Try it. This mirror was marked $40 and I offered him $30 - "sure" {grabs my cash and waves good bye}.

The lamp is from HomeGoods (where else?).  The scale and height of the lamp matches the new mirror so much better. The other lamp seemed tiny next to the new mirror. This shade is so need with the swirl pattern which is only visible when the light is on.

If you look in the reflection of the first picture, you can see the television area which is nearing the top of our to do list.


Know your Neighbor: 10 ways to build community

This week I have been thinking a lot about neighborhoods. Primarily because yesterday we attended the funeral for the first neighbor we met before even putting an offer in our house. He was a great man and defined what it is to be neighborly. As I said during his funeral, "He was a great neighbor, and not just because he owned a snowblower."  Several people at the funeral commented on how they don't even know their neighbors and they are jealous of our neighborhood. Guess what, people... you can change that!

We rely on our neighbors for everything: loaning an egg or other missing ingredient, borrowing tools, getting our kids from the bus stop when we're running late, etc. My neighbors are the first ones on my speed dial.

You might be saying, "I want that but it won't happen in my neighborhood. People don't care about other people. They are always running."

Well, maybe your neighbors are thinking the same thing about you. This may seem obvious for some, but here are a few things I wanted to pass along about  making a neighborhood a community.

1) Take walks. Yes, merely walking around your neighborhood will help you get to know your neighbors and you'll burn a few calories in the process. If you have a dog, you can be pretty much guaranteed to at least recognize all of the other dog owners within a week or two. Double bonus if you have kids and you walk to the bus stop instead of driving them to school!

2) Go outside. Many of us spend way too much time inside even when the weather is good. Go outside and you will likely see someone. Sit on your front porch or steps. Even if you don't have a proper front porch (we don't), sit on your front steps in the evening and wave or say hi to neighbors who pass by. Maybe someone will stop and chat.

3) Curb appeal. Even improving your curb appeal will create a reason for conversation. Digging and planting will cause passing neighbors to comment on your work or ask questions about what you're doing. We actually met a lot of neighbors when we dug up our entire front yard the first year we lived here, and we've made an effort to stop and talk to others as they improve their own front yards.

4) Neighborhood yard sale. We do our annual yard sale as a neighborhood event and it is easy to organize. I just post signs a few weeks before. Not everyone sells but a lot of people will walk buy and say hi. My favorite neighbors bring me starbucks (I'm easy to please!).

5) Create a distribution list. This takes time to do but starting with a few email addresses, you can grow a distribution list or a listserv (Yahoo and Google offer these services for free). This allows everyone to ask questions without having to figure out everyone's email address. I admit, I've had mixed success with this and "reply all" seems to work just as well if you have everyone but just having email addresses makes planning things so much easier.

6) Organize a Friday night happy hour. Pretty much self-explanatory. Spread the word by email, word of mouth, notes, or just a sign on a central telephone poll that you are hosting a get-to-know-the-neighbors happy hour on Friday at 5:30 til 7 p.m.. BYOB and snacks to share. I usually supply a couple of cases of water, 6 pack of beer or bottle of wine, coolers and ice, cups, and maybe some snacks to get people started. Very easy and inexpensive. Our last one ended at 11:30 p.m. Encourage others to take up the cause and host another week.

7) Holiday parties. Rallying neighbors around an old fashioned 4th of July or Halloween party takes some work but the benefits will be amazing. It can be easy as ordering pizza and asking everyone to chip in money and BYOB.

8) Helping hands. It's sad to say, but tragedy and disaster can really bring a neighborhood together. We've had the misfortune to have two neighbors die in the past year and everyone rallied around to help with meals and other necessities during those tough times. But, on the more fun side of helping out, the husbands in our neighborhood organize a swat team whenever it snows (fortunately not too often in Virginia) to be sure that everyone is plowed out who cannot do it themselves (and even some who can!). During the blizzard of 2009 when we were literally snowed into our neighborhood, one family hosted everyone for a chili night and almost 40 people showed up! The chili was gone quickly but the fun and memories have lasted us for years. Another obvious thing that many of us already do is bake something and bring it to a new neighbor. Who isn't happy to see chocolate chip cookies or pesto arrive at your front door after a long day of unpacking?! Our first neighbors in our first apartment dropped off a 12-pack of beer after spent a full day unpacking a giant truck on a 98 degree day - welcome to Washington in July!

9) Find a cause. Having something to rally around can also help build community in your neighborhood. It can be as simple as getting a crosswalk installed on a busy street, or as complicated as fundraising to build a playground accessible to children with disabilities.

10) Girls Night Out. One of my favorite neighborhood activities is girls' night out. Generally it's very last minute and someone sends an email about heading to a local restaurant for dinner and a drink. Sometimes even on a school night {gasp}! We always have a great time!

Remember, this can all start with you. One person or one family can change a neighborhood.

What kind of neighborhood do you live in? Do you know your neighbors on either side and across the street? What kinds of neighborhood activities do you do in your neighborhood which could be replicated elsewhere?

Now go to do something neighborly.


Behind Door #1

Our little hallway between the kitchen and dining room which now sports the fun wall gallery, also had the feeling of being a hall of doors. It was only two doors but with the mirror, it seemed like 4. Not sure we can ever totally avoid that feeling but I was getting really tired of having people accidentally open the coat closet which is usually stuffed to the gills and hard to close (it's on my to do list!).

I have been looking for a little "WC" sign for a while but hadn't come up with anything at a good price. I finally stumbled on one in the Pottery Barn online clearance. Score! Better yet $4.99 and free shipping!

Here's the new house of doors but with a label to direct people to where they are supposed to go. I wish I had a little sign that says "private" on the other door. Just kidding. Kind of.

The funniest part was explaining to my five year old why they call a bathroom a water closet. She now refers to the powder room as the water closet which is pretty funny. If you're curious, check out this Wikipedia entry.


Going to be a light week

The postings are going to be few and far between this week. I wanted to do some projects this weekend but instead I spent about 8 hours over the course of two days cleaning up my son Alex's room, switching out fall clothes for both kids and shoes for me (clothes will have to come another day!), reorganizing our master bathroom linen closet (again), and unearthing my dining room which looked like this...

And still now only looks mildly better because I have stuff that needs to be mailed, dropped off, etc. to various friends and stores. The good news is that I only have a few more hours of work and our house will be much better off for fall. Now I just have to find those hours somewhere in my schedule...

At least this is a long weekend coming up so I will have some time to work on a few things I hope. I have some great projects in the works but just need the time to either get them started or finish them up!


Wreath Re-Hanging

I revealed my front stoop on Wednesday but it really bugged me that it was hard to see the wreath. This has always been a problem - especially since we added the roof over the porch which makes more of a shadow and reflection over the door.

I "had" to go to the Container Store for some Elfa pieces and I found this.

So cool - 2 strong magnets that hold through glass. No nails, glue, wire, etc.

I love the sun on our house late in the afternoon.

Here's a close-up of how it works.

Wish I had thought of this!

Linking to: Southern Hospitality, Between Naps on the Porch


Fake, Faux, Not Real

Yesterday I revealed my front porch fall updates.


See those pumpkins?

Totally fake. Yup, not a real one in the bunch. I finally gave up on the real pumpkins for purely decorative purposes after the squirrels had a feast of them last year. This year there is supposed to be a shortage because of the heavy rains in the east so it made it a perfect year to "invest" in some fake pumpkins (funkins?). These all came from Michaels although I think two different manufacturers. None of them was over $7 each when I used my coupons (of course). Here's how they looked when I brought them home.

A bit too perfect, so I had to "real" them up a bit.  I took a rag with some regular minwax stain that we had in the basement, and I just rubbed it on all over the pumpkins. I also took some scissors and jabbed them a bit so they didn't look quite as perfect. Now they are much more realistic.

Have you de-perfected something recently? Tell me about it!!

Linking to: Centsational Girl


Fall Front Stoop

I love decorating our front stoop for fall. No idea why. Maybe it's the trick-or-treat factor, but that's a whole other level.  Although I don't love fall (because winter follows closely behind) I do like fall decorating.

I showed you the family room mantel on Monday and today here's my front stoop decorated for fall.

Honestly, I've gone back and forth with the configuration and landed on this after a bit. It may not stay the same once the jack-o-lanterns join the fray. 

The wreath was from Home Goods (I think) a year or two ago. I'm thinking about hanging it on the storm door but haven't quite figured out how that will work yet. I'll keep you posted.

That gas meter is irking me. So ugly and matte gray against the brick. Hmmmm.

How is your fall decorating going?

Linking to: Thrifty Decor Chick


Fall Mantel 2011

I took advantage of the cold and rainy weather last weekend and dug into my fall decorations. I really need to get them reorganized once I get the Halloween stuff out because fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving are all jumbled together in plastic boxes in the attic and it's not working for me. I use the fall decorations the entire season but I add and subtract the Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations in October and November.

I seem to have an unintentional owl theme going on. That wasn't at all planned, and I had completely forgotten about the white ceramic owl until I opened the box of decorations. The stuffed owl is from HomeGoods this year. I could not resist him when I saw him so he had to come home with me. The natural textured green and brown pumpkin is also from HomeGoods, but everything else is from previous seasons. I love adding books to the mantelscape. They add interest and I can play with the heights of the decorations while still be careful not to block the television!

Things will be moved around once the Halloween stuff comes out in a week or two. Elizabeth is already super excited about Halloween.

I'll hopefully remember to take some pictures of the front stoop in the daylight tomorrow so I can post about our fall curb appeal tomorrow. No promises.

Linking to: The Lettered Cottage


A Break from Built-in Bookshelves

We're taking a brief break from installing built-in bookshelves (although more of those to come!). Jim is working on a freestanding bookshelf for Elizabeth's room. She really needed some improved storage. We bought her current shelves for our combination office/guest room in our second apartment. They have lived in many rooms in our house but this will almost certainly be their last before hitting Craigslist in a few weeks.

We didn't want to build built-ins because we need flexibility in how she wants to arrange her room as she grows and wants a bigger bed, a second dresser, or whatever else she might need.

Our style inspiration was this shelf from Pottery Barn Kids
PBK Catalina Shelf 
I love that it's girly and cottage but also sophisticated enough to last her many years. Maybe she'll use it in her future dorm room?!

Here are the initial pictures of Handy Hubby's hard work.

Here are his faithful helpers...

Lots more to come!

Linking to: Perfectly Imperfect, Primitive & Proper


Ignored Space Becomes a Hallway Gallery

There's a short hallway between our dining room and kitchen which I have basically ignored since our renovation in 2009. I have some grander plans for this space but I'm starting small right now until Handy Hubby finishes some other higher priority projects. It's a hallway we use daily on our way to the powder room, hall closet, front door, and dining room. So, it needed some personalization.

I had a pile of various pictures, paintings and other little things piling up in my dining room and basement guest room waiting for new homes somewhere in the house. Unfortunately the magic places weren't appearing, until I looked at this long empty wall.

Seemed like the perfect place for a gallery wall which would also help to de-emphasize the ugly air intake vent and the doorbell box. I had already painted the vent cover but it didn't help very much.

I admit I have a bit of an obsession with gallery walls. I have several pinned on Pinterest which gave me plenty of inspiration. I already have several gallery walls in my house and I love them. We have this one on our stairwell.

This time around though I wanted something a bit more eclectic and homey. Here's where I ended up.

Most definitely a work in progress but I wanted to explain my general plan or lack of plan. I basically, had a lot of stuff and I started by laying it down on the floor of the living room to get a general idea for how I thought it would look hung up. I included a mix of things that I have collected that we love and many of them have special meaning for us. Then I just started hanging each piece individually so the space between each is relatively tight and the frame sizes and types of hangings are mixed up and not all right next to each other. 

I still plan to add a couple more two-sided glass frames for masterpieces that the kids create. I also want to add a few favorite family photos which have been lying around the house either unframed or framed but put away to reduce clutter. Long term, I hope it reaches floor to ceiling and we change things out and add more things for as long as we live in this house.

Have you created a gallery wall in your house? If so, post your link below!


Customizing Store-Bought Curtains

Last week I posted about my updated master closet. I love the beautiful closet so many other bloggers have revealed but function was still my absolute number one priority so chandeliers and the like were out of the question. (We actually have somewhat fancy closet lights which give off wonderful natural light.) So, I had to turn to my window wall for some fun.

I started with some clearance curtains purchased at Target for $9.99 each. They were 84 inches long so not long enough for this window (I like my curtains to be hung super high.) I had originally bought these for the basement guest room but ultimately decided that I could not spare the inches of space that floor length curtains would take up so I scrapped that idea but held onto the curtains because I liked the fabric.

I started by measuring down about 20" on each curtain and cutting it straight across.

To lengthen the curtains, I decided to add a panel of extra fabric in the middle. I have been hoarding this fabric for probably 8 years. I found it on a remnant table for $3.95 per yard and I think there were almost 2 yards in the piece. To create more interest, I put the fabric in the middle instead of the bottom. I inserted the 15" or so of contrasting fabric, lining up the edges (I hemmed the edge of the insert to match the width of the curtain). Finally, I sewed it "inside out" to both pieces of each curtain, and then ironed all of the seams flat. Sorry, I neglected to take pictures of the whole process!!

It took about an hour and a half total to do both curtains. I am horrible about careful measuring and tend to just fly by the seat of my pants with this stuff. If it doesn't work out, oh well. And in this case, we're talking about a closet that only we see (and all 10 of my regular blog readers!), so I wasn't going to spend 3 evenings working on these drapes!

I seriously love the fabric that I used on both the curtains and the stool. I would love to use some on the

Curtain rod was another clearance find at HomeGoods - $8.99. The packaging had seen better days so it appeared that it was missing some pieces but they were all there. Phew! I was impatient so I hung it myself.  I hope Handy Hubby doesn't look too closely at the bad hanging job I did!!

The final result is really fun though. I still have some more ideas for what else I would like to do here but I am still deciding what's really worth the time and effort since it is our closet!


Sew and Tackle

My sewing box has been an issue for a while. I recently realized I bought a second spool of pink-ish thread not realizing I already had this unusual shade in the bottom of my sewing kit. I've had this sewing box since high school but it was no longer cutting it. I had my sewing machine spare parts all over the place and I had buttons in drawers all over the house for fear of this sewing box eating them.

I can take ZERO credit for this stroke of brilliance from Jen at Rambling Renovators. When I saw her tackle box sewing kit a few weeks ago, I knew I had to do the same. I found my tackle sewing box very similar to Jen's on Amazon.
I think Handy Hubby thought it was going to be for him but no. Sorry, Hon.

Mine came in a slightly different color but I actually prefer the more muted palate.

I opened the box and angels sang.

Nothing like a quick organization project to get the juices flowing. It took me about an hour to sort through everything in my sewing box. I put thread, pins, needles, and scissors on the top of the box so I can make quick repairs without digging below the first layer.

I put my buttons and various sewing machine accessories in the lower trays. At the bottom, a bunch of miscellaneous rick-rack trim, an embroidery hoop and other various stuff.

I even found a ribbon on the bottom of the box which I bought for my wedding. No idea what it was for but I know it closely matched the bridesmaids' dresses.

I wish I had taken a picture of Handy Hubby's face when he saw that little addition to the sewing box. Ha!