Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

I’ve been excited to share this project with you for MONTHS. No, it hasn’t been done for months, it’s been done for about five minutes. The closing ceremonies are on Sunday, so I kind-of waited until the last minute to actually do this project… but it’s been in my head for months.

Oh gosh, do those wheels make me happy.

As you know, we’ve been working on Kenton’s “big boy” room. It is going to have a cycling theme. So, I’ve been tossing around different ideas using bike parts in the room. I got this idea a while back and Jason initially tried to talk me out of it. Where would I get bike wheels? You’ll have to buy a whole bike (three bikes!) and just use the wheels? This could get expensive, quick. Yikes!

So, imagine my DELIGHT when I stumbled upon these beauties at my local thrift store…

Three bikes. $4.99 each. WHAT?! I know. You know what’s even better? I had a $10 off coupon. So, I got all three bikes for $5. YESITSTRUE. They all happen to be the same brand and size. The gal at the register guessed I was pregnant with triplet girls. I quite enjoyed telling here there was just one baby in my belly and these bikes were about to get stripped for an art project for my son’s room. Yep, she was confused.

I got home and could barely contain my excitement as I showed Jason what I found. He was impressed! You need to understand, Jason is a cyclist. but not only does he ride a bike for exercise and fun – it’s also his main hobby. He loves scouring eBay for deals on bikes and bike parts. Many times, he’s purchased incredible bikes for way below retail, stripped them and re-sold the parts via eBay for a hefty profit. We have an ongoing agreement… I don’t care if he spends $2,000, $3,000 or even $5,000 on a bike if he’s sure he can turn a profit off of it. He always does.

So, I had the right guy on my team to strip these girls down to just what I needed.

bike guts

6th wheel

That, my friends is the 6th wheel. I’m saving her for another fun project in the room – but you can see there the toughest parts to remove (thanks to rusty bolts) – the axel, bearings and cog. Once Jason was able to get those off, there was a ton of grease in that middle hole. We spent a couple of days going through cycles of spraying them down with degreaser, wiping, rinsing, letting them dry – before we felt they were ready for the next step…

The first step, once the wheels are successfully naked from all unnecessary parts, spray them down with primer.

Once they’re dry, which takes no time at all here in Arizona, you’re ready to apply the individual ring colors.

Since the Olympic colors are not colors I’m using anywhere else in this room, I opted for Krylon’s Short Cuts, mini spray paint cans:

Aren’t they cute?

Krylon, by the way, didn’t pay me for this post. I just researched spray paint and thought this product would be best. It worked out well. I had more than enough paint for each wheel. I also shopped around for the best price on these puppies, which I found at Hobby Lobby:

Two of the colors were $3.47 and the other three were $3.27. Not sure why red and yellow were more expensive, but still – that was the best price I found.

So, the obvious next step is to start painting the wheels/rings…

The front/back was easy. The sides, however, were a little tricky. At first, I thought the middle hole would fit over a wine or beer bottle, but they were a little small. So, I jerry-rigged three beer bottles through the spokes to hold the wheels just far enough off the ground that I could spray the entire side in one try.

Bonus – after, you have artsy painted beer bottles (which went straight back into the recycling bin!).

With all sides of the wheels painted…

I let them dry for a few hours. Again, the Arizona summer “dry” heat is fantastic for fast drying. It’s not fantastic for late-term pregnancy, but I digress.

Once they were ready, we did a quick Google image consult to check the proper order… then we simply nailed them to the wall, really close together.

Since Kenton’s big boy room is not ready for these rings yet, they are being temporarily housed in the playroom. Before we move them, we’ll be looking at different methods of hanging. This isn’t necessarily the most secure – especially for a curious little boy! Anyway, here’s what they look like right now in the playroom… so you can see the size….

Yes, that’s my little “Made in the USA” future Olympian down there chasing a ball…

We’re hoping he goes for the gold someday in cycling – but his current obsession with balls may indicate another sport interest. We shall see.

Okay, here’s the budget breakdown for this project:

Bikes = $5 ($4.99 each with a $10 off coupon)

Spray paint primer = Already had

Mini spray paints = $16.75

TOTAL = $21.75

Crazy, right?!

What do you think?! Anybody else do an Olympic-theme DIY project this week?

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DIY Anniversary Gift

A few weeks ago, my parents celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary.

with Kenton in Telluride

Do you ever struggle with what to get your parents for their anniversary? I always do. For some reason, that’s usually a tough gift for me to nail down. I usually end up getting a gift certificate to a nice restaurant. In the past, I have ordered a nice bottle of wine to be delivered to their table when I know the time/place of their own celebration. In particularly lean years, I’ve just sent a card with a nice sentiment. This year, I came up with a fun, inexpensive DIY crafty gift that was a big hit.

That is a framed piece I created myself in Photoshop, depicting all of the states my parents have lived in since they were married.

Virginia is for lovers.

My parents met and fell in love while my dad was at VMI and my mom was at Radford College in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. They married in Alexandria and I arrived while they were living in Richmond.

Illinois is where my parents lived when my dad was stationed at Scott Air Force Base, where he did his residency in family medicine. It’s also where my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and became a survivor.

Next, my dad was stationed at Reagan Air Force Base just outside of Washington, DC in Maryland.

When my dad got out of the Air Force, he accepted a position at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. (Go, Blue Devils!) We lived here for many years, formative years for me – 3rd to 8th grade.

The next move was a biggie… all the way across the country to the Pacific Northwest and Olympia, Washington. I went to high school here then took off for sunny California. My parents stayed in the rain through most of the time I was in college, until…

…they themselves moved to a sunnier climate, Arizona. This was another job move for my dad – and they’ve loved it so much here they have not left in 13 years (8 years in their current house!). That’s a record for my nomadic parents!

Photo by O’Grace Photography

For their gift, I used free downloadable state art, that I’ve mentioned before – from this site.

I grabbed a simple image of a hearts made out of maps and tiled it as the background in Photoshop.

I resized the maps and arranged them in order.

Then, I ordered a 16×20 poster from Walmart (not the best quality, but the $14 price-tag was nice!).

I tried to encourage the edges to uncurl for a few days, under heavy candlesticks on my dining room table.

That didn’t really work, so I wound up getting a custom-cut piece of foam that I mounted behind the poster in the frame.

That did the trick!

This gift was a hit – but not a hit on our wallets…


  • $29 = Frame
  • $14 = 16×20 Poster
  • $3 = foam board (20″x30″ original size, cut to 16″x20″ for free at Joann’s)

TOTAL = $46

Nice, right? You could probably save even more by getting a cheaper frame at Ikea or a thrift store – or even using one you already have.

Well, now the pressure is on… Jason’s parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. Still not sure what I’m going to get them… hmm… I can’t do the same thing because (A) they read this blog and (B) they’ve only lived in Maine (and now also spend winters in Arizona).


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If my Pinterest incoming links tell me anything… it’s that my nursery is the most popular thing I’ve ever blogged about.

most popular post!

However… I’m not talking about the nursery today. Because… looking at the latest Pinterest referrals, it seems people are interested in box valances. That’s awesome! We love the box valances we’ve made.

In fact, box valances were the subject of our very first DIY guide waaaay back in October 2009.

note the lack of paint, old door and bully butt 😉

So, in case anyone is searching for a relatively simple, certainly inexpensive window treatment – head on over to our old post for the tutorial.

We think this treatment works so well, we have box valances in our kitchen…

In our family room…

In Kenton’s nursery….

painted those stripes meeself. click on the pic for the post on that.

We even did one for Jason’s parent’s condo

We’re working on a second one for them. We’re also planning to make one for Kenton’s big boy room and one for the playroom. We are also considering them for the living room, but just ordered new blinds for that room (YIPPEE! No more peep shows for the neighbors!) and I want to wait until those are up and then decide.

Do you have DIY box valance window treatments in your home? If so, please share!

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The playroom is still (very much) a work in progress, but it is starting to come together…

I have put very little money into this room, which is awesome. That’s thanks, in part, to some pretty lucky thrifting finds…

I scored that little kid-sized table at Goodwill for less than a latte. Yep! Just a little bit of sanding, primer and paint…

And she was good to go…

I’m still on the hunt for two or three kid-sized chairs to go with it. I’m determined to find wooden ones for cheap… and I’m willing to wait! Which is fine as Kenton is still a bit young to actually sit at the table and do something productive.

We painted the table the same color blue as our downstairs bathroom, which is right across the hall from the play room. Also that shade of blue? The diaper storage shelf (former dish display rack) that I picked up for $12 at the Junk in the Trunk Vintage Market:

Remember what that first looked like?

It’s not quite finished either. I’m going to add a colorful fabric with elastic around the bottom shelf to hold those diapers in and add some more color.

The changing table is also a second-hand find.

We found it at a local kid’s consignment store for $30! That is so much cheaper than buying one new and even less than I could find on my local Craig’s List. And it TOTALLY beats the makeshift table we were using for a few weeks:

Pretty bad, no?

You may recall, even some of the fabric used in the embroidery hoop art is from a thrift store…

See this post for more on that.

Finally, I made a really fun find at a thrift store in Del Mar, California last week:

These sweet little mirrors – and elephant and a hippo were just $2 bucks each. We still need to find a special toddler-height spot for them, but I’m sure we will soon.

Also coming soon:

  • Replacing the non-child-safe curtains and blinds with a valance and safe blind
  • New bedding for the daybed (currently, our former guest room queen-sized duvet is making an awkward cover up)
  • Perhaps a fun paint job… (don’t tell Jason!)
  • Area rug (the carpet is taking quite a beating!)
  • DIY coloring book display rack
  • More art/wall hangings

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Living Room STRIPES

Oh my goodness, you guys. I can’t even tell you how happy I am with how this project turned out. And I was worried. Seriously WORRIED… at several pivotal moments.

Aren’t those stripes GORGEOUS? Okay, that’s some serious patting myself on the back, but I can’t help it. I’m so proud of them!

Maybe you’ll understand too when you see what we were working with:

Why, yes! That is, in fact, the most boring living room in America. Bowdoin the Bulldog even mocked it in a video we made pleading for a makeover from West Elm last year:

We didn’t win. (Can you believe that? Even with a talking dog! Psssh.)

So, we were on our own. On Thursday, I’ll share more about how we styled the room. For now, allow me to brag about my beloved STRIPES.

For three years, that room was a boring white. I’m really embarrassed now that we let it go that long. But… no longer!

And by “we” painting, I mean Jason, of course. I am still pregnant, after all. (However, I did cheat and did some painting myself… read on…)

This was a 100% DIY paint job. From the easy stuff… to the make your knees weak vaulted ceiling…

I’m afraid of heights, so it was traumatic for me to be in the same room as Jason and take this picture of him. YIKES! At one point, he actually sat on top of this ladder to stretch and reach one tough-to-paint spot. I’m SO GLAD that part is over.

We followed this tutorial for painting stripes on textured walls. Worked like a charm!

So, we started by painting the two striped walls the lighter of the two shades – Sherwin Williams’ Colony Buff.

Next, we needed to tape off the stripes. DRAMA. This was not nearly as simple as I thought it would be. Not even close.

My first thought was to use a similar method to how we arranged the polka-dots in the nursery. That would entail stringing off sections and taping between them. However, I could not get a straight line to save my life. I even blogged about how frustrated I was and made a plea for help. You see, the wall is about 30 feet long and neither the ceiling nor the floor is 100% straight. So, those were not good bases from which to set a level starting point.  Several people offered some awesome suggestions – which I ended up using a combo of to get those darn lines straight.

 We started by using this $15 laser level from Home Depot for one of the lines. The laser didn’t always go as far as we needed it too – hence the tape pushing it into place.

Once that line was straight and taped off, we used a plumb line to measure the other lines off that one. Since we weren’t sure it was going to work, we didn’t think to take pictures. But basically, a plumb line is a long string that you put two nails on either end of – then snap to reveal a chalk line – which, in theory will be perfect level. We didn’t use chalk though – we just taped along the string and that worked well for us.

I’m certain there are far easier ways to do this – and if you think of any, please add a comment to this post for others who may come along and want to replicate this.

Once our lines were level and taped off, we painted the lighter color on top of the tape where the darker color would eventually go.

We made sure the lighter paint filled in all of the nooks and crannies in the textured wall and sealed that tape in as close as possible – the hope being that we wouldn’t have any bleed over between lines.

Then, Jason started rolling on the darker color… Sherwin Williams Oak Barrel.

He got about 75% of the first coat on this wall – and the accent walls in the dining room done when we ran out of paint. That was a huge bummer because he had to leave the next day on a business trip, and preggo over here wasn’t supposed to be painting. But… I did grab another gallon of the darker color, slapped on a mask and finished the job while he was gone. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW I ROLL. Baby in the belly, I hope you still have all of your brain cells.

 Before the second coat of the darker color is dry, you have the moment of truth. The moment of truth involves peeling the tape off and praying that the line didn’t bleed.

I literally leaped with joy when I saw how straight our lines had turned out. They look like decals – so perfect and straight! HAPPINESS.

We painted the long wall that connects the living and dining rooms and the wall that you immediately see when you enter the house…

Those stripes seriously make me smile every time I see them.

Here’s the view from the family room…

(That black table is a leftover ‘stache bash staging area… it’s not there in real life. Okay, it’s still there right now, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s leaving soon. Promise.)

Okay, I’ll be back on Thursday to explain some of the styling in the living room, but for now… here’s one more look…

What do you think? How did we do? Would you do something similar in your house?

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I can’t believe it, but Kenton’s monthly photo project is complete!

He went from a nekkid little bambino to a dapper young pre-toddler in disguise in just 12 short months.

Wow! That went by fast.

Here’s how each month looked… what I added and why…

Our blank little canvas. The rug in the background of every shot is also in the nursery. It was a challenge keeping it clean for a year! I should have bought two just for peace of mind. 🙂 The tie stickers were a gift from a friend, who got them on Etsy.

In addition to the outfit additions, I always took a shot of Kenton in just a plain, white onesie and his tie. So, I always made sure I was fully stocked with Circo brand onesies from Target.

Here’s a shocker… infant-sized boxers are impossible to find. These are the smallest kid size I could find and I snagged them at the Vineyard Vines outlet in Freeport, Maine – during our trip there when Kenton was just a few weeks old. I actually got several of the pieces for this project on that trip. Freeport has some great outlet stores! Anyway, the boxers were obviously way too big – so I just took them in a bit at the waist and tucked the extra material under Kenton for the shot. Apparently, some people thought I put a skirt on him at first – so I guess I didn’t take them in enough!

The socks are just basic black infant socks. I bought one pair in 12 month size – so they started off a bit big, but he grew into them. The only problem with these – they have grippers on the bottom, like most infant socks. However, these grippers are bright white and have a brand name on them. So, I turned them inside out. If you look closely in some of the shots, you can tell.

The khaki pant. I got two pairs of the exact same pants – at the Gymboree outlet, also in Freeport, Maine. I bought six month and 12 month sizes. I was really glad I did that so we had the consistency. These pants were great too – with the cuffs and elastic waist – we could give the illusion of a good fit even if they were a bit big or too snug.

The button-down blue shirt – another classic – comes from The Children’s Place outlet… also in Freeport. (I told you I made the most of that trip!) I only bought one – which I later regretted. It’s a nine month size, which was fine until the last couple of months… if you look close, you’ll see there was a point where we could no longer button the top button!

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to add suspenders in month seven. I looked high and low for infant suspenders. I had friends and family on the lookout for them. Whenever a pair would be spotted, they were usually an obnoxious color or had a loud cartoon character. I really wanted a simple, preppy pair and I was determined to find some – and I did – not where I expected. I wandered into Janie and Jack at the mall one day. A store I normally avoid because (I think) the prices are outrageous. Well, lo and behold, they had suspenders – on CLEARANCE. I about lost it. We were literally days away from shooting this picture and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do if I didn’t find my coveted suspenders. $15 later (yes, that was the clearance price), they were mine! Or, actually, Kenton’s. 🙂

The shoes were a bit anti-climatic because you can barely see them! They are black, velvet (SWANKY!) little Cole Haan numbers. Oh yes, another Freeport outlet purchase! (Later, I splurged on a couple more pairs of Cole Haans during a Zulily sale. They have the CUTEST little boy shoes.) These shoes didn’t fit for long. Around month ten, I ended up cutting a slit in the back of them because they were too small. For month 12, we had to use masking tape to tape them to his socks – as they kept flying off! Grabbing these in two sizes would have been wise!

The classic blue blazer was actually hard to find! At a good price, anyway. Finally, Target had some pre-Easter and around the time Kenton was dedicated. So, that worked out really well. Also, it still fits – so we’re getting some good use out of it.

The suspenders and fedora were the hardest things to find. Actually, the fedora we used is not what I originally envisioned. I really wanted a classic, wool fedora. However, I searched for months and never found one. I finally got this one – which is more of a summer hat – at Nordstrom… again, with just days to spare before the shoot. Now that the photos are done and the hat no longer needs to be preserved, I’m going to make Kenton wear it all summer. It is ADORABLE on him.

The sunglasses were yet another Freeport outlet purchase – this time, from LL Bean. It’s a good thing my husband enjoys shopping because I really dragged him from store to store that day! Originally, the sunglasses were going to be for month 12. I was going to add a handkerchief to the blazer pocket in month 10, but ultimately decided that was a bit weak and I could be more creative. So, I scratched the hankie, moved everything up a month and prayed inspiration would come to me for month 12.

I tossed around so many ideas for month 12 – a briefcase, a mini-Starbucks cup, put him on a bike, have him rip his shirt open and show off a Superman logo… then, I thought I should see if there was any way to connect the last “add” to a birthday party theme – and the mustache idea was born. I thought that was such a cute birthday party theme for boy and it was the PERFECT last addition to our photo project. Now, actually getting him to wear a mustache was challenging! First, I taped it to a pacifier, dipped the pacifier in chocolate – which he had never tasted… and got a million shots of that… since he was so distracted by the new taste in his mouth, he didn’t think to be annoyed by the mustache OR sunglasses!

Once I knew I had that shot, I took a chance and stuck the mustache on his face and was able to get “the” shot before he pulled it off. 🙂 And… voila! We’ve got our 12 month collection:
So, some tips if you’re thinking about replicating this project with your wee one:

  • Pick a neutral background that you’ll have access to for the whole year – and stick with it.
  • Try to shoot the photos in the same room, at the same time of day, with as much natural light as possible. (I didn’t always do this, and it shows – unfortunately.)
  • Write a list of the clothing items you’ll be adding and always have it with you so you can reference it if you find the perfect addition while out shopping. (I kept my list in a note on my iPhone.)
  • Share your list of additions with a few close family/friends, so they can also be on the lookout for you.
  • Buy multiple sizes of items added in the first six months that will remain visible to the end.
  • After each monthly shoot, put all of the clothing items away, together, in the same spot so you don’t misplace them!
  • Give yourself plenty of time to shoot each photo and be patient. Babies are wiggly!

There you have it! I cannot believe this project is ovah. Done. Put a fork in it. Yes, I’ll keep taking monthly shots of our little man – but I’m pretty sure there’s nothing else I can add now! 🙂 Now, I just have to figure out what creative monthly photo idea I’ll use for baby #2!

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Kenton’s big birthday partay is tomorrow afternoon! Here’s a look at the invites…

My friend, Danielle designed them – using a photo I shot – and inspired by the Pinterest Valentine’s Day project every one and their mom did this year.

Here’s the shot I used…
And Danielle’s design for the card itself…
She came up with the language on the back too. Too cute!
The Pinterest project instructs you to cut a hole in the photo to put the lollipop – or mustache on a stick in my case. However, the invite language on the back prevented me from doing that… so I used rubber cement to glue on the mustache sticks, but still leave them relatively easy to pull off.

I applied a small dot of rubber cement on Kenton’s hand, set the stick in the right spot, and then used a glass to hold it in place while it dried. Worked like a charm!

The mustaches, by the way, I also made myself – using a tutorial that Vancouver, BC blogger, Hillary with 2 L’s (please) sent me. (She’s awesome, by the way. Read her blog and follow her on Twitter.) She actually sells the mustaches, but sent me the DIY version out of the goodness of her heart – so I’ll save the secret formula. 🙂

In the end, I think they turned out great! Plus, our guests got a gift in the mail with the invite – and I’ve heard that some kids have already had a lot of fun with them, which was exactly the point!

I’ve got to run do 572 more things for the party on Saturday. I’ll be back on Monday with a recap!

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