Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Woody and Jessie!

My children are obsessed with Toy Story so this was an ideal costume set this year. I am super proud of how their costumes came out. I found Alex's Disney Store shirt, vest, and sheriff's badge at a local thrift shop for $3.99. The hat and boot covers are compliments of my neighbor Meghan. Elizabeth's shirt is a plain white boys' shirt from Salvation Army. I embellished it with fabric paint (which I already had) to look like Jessie's western style shirt. I sewed the cow print fabric (from JoAnn) onto some old jeans of hers, and the hat was a lucky $1 yard sale find. Total cost for both was less than $15!


Sprinklers in October

Officially tired of dead grass and shrubs so we're installing a sprinkler system. We ended up getting a pretty good deal through a variety of discounts, and we know we want to live in this house for a long time.

So, lawn looked like this for a few hours earlier this week, but it's much better now fortunately.

Now we just have to figure out how to use it!! Of course, the season for watering is now really short so it will likely be winterized in the next couple of weeks.

Happy Friday!


Powder Room Bling: Part 6 - REVEAL

The powder is finally done. Well, for now. I could still use a new rug and maybe a few more accessories but for now I am considering it finished and checked off the to do list.

After stenciling the ceiling and installing crown molding, I hung a few more pieces of art.

The piece on the back wall (over the toilet) is an architectural drawing of the Washington Monument which I bought at the National Building Museum a while back. Incidentally, my dad and I took a Segway tour of D.C. last week and saw the crack in the Washington Monument from the earthquake in August (more about that here). Amazing. Hopefully they can figure out how to fix it quickly so it can be reopened to the public.

I picked up this pen and ink print at a yard sale more than a year ago. The frame is my favorite standard off-the-shelf frame from Michael's which I have used in several instances around the house and for gifts. 

I found this print of the Capitol a few weeks ago at an estate sale. It was marked $15 but I paid $5 since it was the last day of the estate sale and the young woman working the sale clearly could have cared less what she sold things for. The frame needs a little clean-up but it's not in bad condition by any means. I really like the linen mat.

It feels good to be checking some things off the list. 

Handy Hubby is working on a few things including a new bookshelf for Elizabeth's room after last week's disappointment. We sold the other one in only a few hours and made a small profit. Not enough for anyone to quit their day jobs unfortunately!  The good thing is that this one seems to be moving pretty quickly and I think we'll have a new one in only a week or two, especially if my father-in-law comes to visit for Halloween so Handy Hubby has an extra set of hands to order around.

On a final note, we took the kids to get pumpkins yesterday. Always a highlight of fall for me! 

Any weekend projects in your neck of the woods? Fun fall activities?


Halloween Mantel - Spookifying!

I had several versions of my Halloween mantel going but decided that I wanted something a bit more spooky than I've done before which has always been just an amped up fall mantel. Here's where I ended up.


I think the lanterns from our screen porch really add the darkness that I was going for. The only new things are the birds (Michaels) and the twiggy looking things on the tall pillar candles (from our local pharmacy while waiting to get my flu shot!).

This might be my favorite mantel design ever!


Say it isn't so...

Remember the great bookshelf that Handy Hubby was building for our daughter. The good news is that the base is done. The bad news... it doesn't fit in the intended location! Measure twice, cut once, right?!

Looks like we've already sold it though and he'll start on a new one.

I am so bummed.


Getting Our Halloween On

Well, we went for it again. Yes, skeletons are once again scaling the walls of our house. We did the same thing last year (read about it here), but we changed it up a little with a new organization of skeletons. 

Thanks to the tripod, I took some fun night shots. 

Notice the creepy spider. Elizabeth lovingly picked that out at Safeway when she was about 2 years old. She wanted to take it with her into her crib but I convinced her to leave it in the Halloween box.
I also updated the front porch mum/pumpkin combo with some copper jack-o-lanterns. I think I bought these at Michael's but it was a long time ago now.

We added some uplighting to make it even spookier at night. Halloween is all about night time, right? Of course the kids loved helping with the spider webs. my advice is a little goes a long way and you should stretch it as thin as you can so you don't get big clumps.

I also gave my little fall wreath a Halloween update with a $2 thrift store Halloween decoration. You can also see the Martha Stewart spiders the kids added to the door. After the "installation," my 2 year old Alex ran around the house screaming "scary spiders on door" while laughing hysterically. 

One more view.

I'm going to look for some skulls for next year's display during the Halloween clearance sales. If anyone spots a good deal, please let me know!!


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!