A Quick Update

Last month I had an extra day off of work and decided to use it to get some things done around the house.  I’m pretty sure I was a domestic goddess.  In the midst of my cleaning, cooking, and laundry, I took notice of a bookshelf in our living room that just kept bothering me.  It simply looked a mess.  But, I wasn’t sure what I could do with it.  Books were neatly arranged on it, but every time my eye wandered over to it, everything just felt amiss.

I wish I had a “before” picture to show you.  Unfortunately, I still haven’t caught on to the need to take such photos.  So, I’ll just have to ask you to trust me on this one.  Anyway, while I was cleaning, I found myself standing in front of the bookshelf and wondering what to do.  And then it hit me.  I had already pinned some inspiration a while back.

I’ve actually got a pinterest board dedicated to my obsession for books – but that’s a post for a whole other day.

So, with my inspiration photo in mind, I got to work. I removed all the books from the shelf and grouped them by color.  I started with basic color groups like black, blue, green, red, yellow, white, etc.  I pretty much started with primary colors.

After I had these main groups organized, I pulled out sub-groups if any emerged.  For instance, in the yellow group, I felt like there were enough beiges and golds that were quite different from the yellow.  So, those colors got their own group.

Finally, I re-shelved the books, according to color, starting with the darkest colors on the bottom and worked my way up to the top.  What I have now, is a bookshelf organized by color but much more pleasing to view.  (This would be a really great moment for a “from this to this” photo.  Argh!)  Check it out:

The completed bookshelf.  Much more pleasing to the eye.

The completed bookshelf. Much more pleasing to the eye.

A close-up of the shelf.  Now, I'm looking for a great piece of art, dominated by light colors to hang on the wall just above it.

A close-up of the shelf. Now, I’m looking for a great piece of art, dominated by light colors to hang on the wall just above it.

I think one of my favorite things about this is that during college I used to work at a bookstore.  On more that one occasion, a customer would come into the store and become infuriated with the staff when we couldn’t help them find a book based on its color. The conversation would go something like this:

Customer: “I’m looking for a book.”
Me: “Great!  What’s it called?”
Customer: “I don’t know, but it has a blue cover.”
Me: “Uh.  Okay.  Who is the author.”
Customer: “I don’t know, but it has a blue cover.”
Me: “Uh. Er. Um. Do you know what it’s about?”
Customer: “A girl. It has a blue cover.  Don’t you know the book?”
Me: “We don’t organize the books by color.”
Customer: “Is there a manager?”

If only that customer could see me now!

What do you think?  Any quick updates or quick fIxes you’ve made lately?


Easy Come

With the passing of the holidays, it was time to take down my Christmas wreath and change it over to something new.  And that something new would be a Valentine’s Day wreath.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything on hand to aid the transformation.  A trip to the craft store was in order (oh, darn).  While there, I was also able to plan ahead for March and April.

For a quick reminder, here’s how the wreath last looked for Christmas.

The Christmas Wreath

The Christmas Wreath

Pretty simple.  For Valentine’s Day, I went a bit further and purchased some big fake flowers and red ribbon to create this monstrosity:

Valentine Wreath

Valentine Wreath

I’m quite proud of it.  I tried to take pictures of my process for you, but the lighting where I was working wasn’t too great and let’s be honest, I was snapping pictures with my phone.  The good news is, I don’t think it took me more than 30 minutes from start to finish and most of that time was engaged in trial and error.  If you’re interested, you can check out my steps below.

Step 1: I wrapped the wreath in tulle (which I had leftover from the wedding).  The tulle provided various folds through which I slid the flower stems.  Remember that my goal is to add decoration to the burlap-wrapped base without using glue.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2: Securing the Flowers

After I arranged the flowers to my liking, I noticed some of them felt a little loose (see figure 1).  So, I devised a plan to secure them using an extra strip of tulle. Starting at one end of the flowers, I tied the tulle around the wreath base to secure it.  Then, I began to wrap the tulle around the wreath and through the flowers.  As I brought the tulle around to the backside of the wreath, I was careful to secure the flower stem beneath the tulle (see figure 2).  The flowers in the front are voluminous enough that this extra piece of tulle cannot be seen.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Step 3: Adding the Ribbon

I completed the wreath by wrapping a spool of Valentine ribbon around the wreath and tying it off in a bow at the bottom.  And the final product again:

Valentine Wreath

Valentine Wreath

So, what do you think?  What do you hang on your door?

Empty Jars: Christmas Edition

As you may remember from this post, we’re saving up empty jars chez Jessen & Hiser for our wedding reception decor.  So far, I think the count is up to 30 – 35 (plus a hefty 50+ baby food jars donated by my good friend Jen – suhweet!).  In addition to saving us beaucoup dollars on decoration costs, I’m finding that having a bunch of empty jars hanging around the house is awesome.  Need somewhere to collect stray pencils and pens?  I’ve got a jar for that!  Need a new toothbrush/paste holder?  There’s a jar for that.  How about a fun candy dish for my desk at work?  You guessed it – jar.

A couple of weeks ago, I put up our Christmas tree and while unpacking everything from last year, I was pleased to find a box full of ornaments we bought in a post-Christmas sale.  Score!  It was like finding a dollar bill in a jacket you haven’t worn in a while.  I had completely forgot about these ornaments.  So, with the tree loaded with these “new” ornaments, I had some extras lying around.  I also found myself with some extra space on the mantel, having removed this DIYed Thanksgiving project.

Of course, I went straight to my reserve of extra jars.  I placed the extra ornaments (which happen to be a smaller size) in the jars and even hung a couple ornaments off the edge of the jars and lined them up on the mantel.  Then, I grabbed an extra string of lights and draped it over the mantel, letting it curl around the jars.  What do you think?

Santa hangs off a trusty jar.

A wider shot of the whole scene. It really warms up the space.

Another close-up of the goods.

The best part about this project is that is was F-R-E-E!  I already owned everything, from the lights, to the ornaments, to the jars.  Also, it only took about 10 – 15 minutes to whip-up and arrange to my liking.  Quite the perfect Christmas decoration, if you ask me.  Especially for a couple who have very little decorations to start.

So, what about you? Have you ever recycled old decorations to make something new? Are you looking to try a new holiday decor project? Share!

Thanks for That

You might remember a few months ago when my favorite blogger at Young House Love put out a call to her readers for a Pinterest challenge and I answered.  Well, it’s that time again.  Last week, Sherry announced round two of the Pinterest challenge and I was all too happy to get involved.  On the surface, the challenge is quite simple – choose something you’ve pinned, try to recreate it putting your own spin on it, and share it with the world.

For a while now, I’ve had my eye on a particular pin that welcomed the Fall spirit and Thanksgiving season and the challenge was just the thing to get me going on this project.  First, check out my inspiration photo:

I loved how warm this up-cycled project looked.

The original creator used recycled root beer bottles and vinyl letters (much easier than the route I took – see below) made on a Cricut machine.  To see her detailed instructions, simply click on the photo above to be taken to the original post at choosetothrive.blogspot.com.

Step #1: Collecting Supplies

The supplies I used were amber colored bottles, painters tape, acrylic paint, Hard Coat Mod Podge, a sponge paint brush, a crafter’s knife, and a selection of dried wheat and other flowers.  The first items to gather were the bottles.  Darrin was all too happy to play his part here.  I was able to collect six Samuel Adams bottles, however, after Darrin brought home a pack of Sierra Nevada pale ale I decided that I liked the shape of the Sierra Nevada bottles better.  I saved the Sam Adams bottles for another Pinterest inspired project down the road.  I found that removing the labels from bottles can be quite easy.  I only had a couple bottles to clean at a time so I would let them soak in hot soapy water while I was doing dishes.  By the time I was done washing all  other dishes, the glue on the bottles was weakened to the point that I could easily peel off the labels.  I then scrubbed any excess glue from the outside of the bottle, rinsed it, and left it to air dry.

Some of my starting supplies: six clean bottles, a craft knife, painters tape, and letters. Notice the clean bottles.

Step #2: Preparing the Stencil

After collecting and cleaning my bottles, I needed to prepare my stencil.  I do not own a Cricut machine so I needed to be able to paint on my letters.  I first chose a font I liked (Harrington) and printed out my letters at my preferred height and width.  Next, I cut out each letter.  Then using painters tape, I taped off a section of the bottle, careful to make sure the area I taped was about the same height on each bottle.

Preparing to trace the letter.

The letter is ready to be cut.

The stencil is complete! Now just five more to go...

I then positioned one of the letters over the taped surface where I wanted it on the bottle; I secured the letter with two small pieces of painters tape (the painters tape worked well because I could reposition it as necessary).  Using a thin marker, I outlined the letter.  When the letter was outlined, I used a craft knife to cut out the letter from the tape on the bottle.  What remained was a stencil of the letter on the bottle.  I repeated each step on every bottle.

Step #3: Painting the Letters

Once I had the stencils completed on all of the bottles I was ready to paint.  I used acrylic paint and mixed a little yellow into white paint to create a light butter color.  I was concerned that plain white might be too bright against the amber of the bottles.  I then mixed in a little Hard Coat Mod Podge to ensure that the paint would stick to my surface over time.  Next, I used a sponge brush to apply the paint to the bottles with a light tapping motion to give it an even coating.

Here's a close-up of the texture of the paint on the bottle.

After a few hours of drying, I very carefully removed the painters tape on the bottle.  There were some areas where the paint on the bottle and the paint on the tape were stuck together.  So, when I tried to pull the tape, the paint on the bottle tried to come off, too.  Since the paint was still soft, I was able to place my finger on the paint on the bottle and pull the tape away.  This worked to separate the paint and made sure that the paint left on the bottle would stick.  The next day, all the paint on the bottle was secure and there was no sign of peeling.

The paint dried nicely with a rustic like finish.

Step #4: Adding Decorative Flowers

The final step of this process was to add the floral decoration.  The inspiration photo used stalks of wheat in each bottle.  However, when I went to the craft store to buy the wheat, I was inspired by the different colors and shapes of dried flowers they had for sale.  All I had to do was trim the stalks to my desired height before inserting into the bottle.

The final product on our mantle.

I’m so proud of how this turned out.  I love the warmth this brings to our mantle, which is naturally cool in tones.  I’m also thinking of bringing this decoration back out for our wedding next year, since it will be an early fall wedding.  I can see this display on the sign-in table or somewhere where our guests can see it so they know we are thankful for their attendance and for sharing in the special day with us.

As far as costs, the only thing I spent money on was the wheat and flowers.  I bought them at Michaels and I used a coupon!  The bottles were recycled, I already had the paint, glue, craft tools, and painters tape.  So, all in all, I’m also quite pleased with the cost of this project.  If someone had access to wheat on their property, I’d think they could pull this project off for close to free.

What do you think?  Do you have any projects you’re working on that you’re particularly proud of?  Share!  Share!

Also, be sure to check out what the pros produced during this round of the challenge.  Visit Young House Love to see Sherry’s homemade Christmas ornaments.  Go to Bower Power to check out Katie’s antiqued window project.  Erin over at House of Earnest made a super cool gold lined lamp.  Finally, super-builder Ana White built a pocket bookshelf for a little girl’s room.

It’s the Little Things

I’m back from a break to show off some small changes to our “breakfast nook.”  The original part of our house was built in 1958 and at that time this little area right off of the kitchen was the only dedicated dining space in the house.  Since some add-ons were made in the 70’s, there (thankfully) is now plenty of room in the house for a proper dining room table.  So, now we have a breakfast nook to play with.  First, let’s take a look at what the space looked like when Darrin first got the keys to the house.

A view of the nook from our great room. If you look carefully at the upper right corner, you can see remnants of the 1980's country wall paper we found.


Just look at that lamp! At let me tell you, it hurt like heck when we bumped our heads on it!


We love these storybook windows. But, those blinds had to go!

So, before we look at what changes have happened to this small area.  Here’s a reminder of what things look like on the opposite side of the kitchen.  We went with some bold blues and greens.  This was the first room we painted and we were tired of dull and dingy and needed something bright.  We got it.

kitchen after 2

We've since rearranged some of the use of the counter space. But we're still so happy with the colors!


And now for the transformation on the other side.

We painted the walls a bright white, removed the dated wall paper, changed the light fixture, and updated the window treatment.


Here's another view of the space looking into the great room. We decided to paint the cross beams to highlight some of the architectural details of the space.


The roman shades (from Cost Plus World Market) were a great find! They tie in the blue and green from our cabinets while bringing in the red from these great club chairs Darrin found years ago while traveling.


While we are certainly pleased with the progress of this space.  It is not over.  Still to do:

  1. Find a permanent light fixture (the current shade was stolen borrowed from Darrin’s night stand)
  2. Buy canister trash and recycling cans to replace our current eyesores.
  3. Buy or build side board to place on blank wall and use for storage (the only place in the house we’re lacking storage, really).
  4. Hang artwork on blank wall.  Right now, I’m leaning towards something with the following concept (without the words):
I love the colors and the idea of hunting around for beautiful plates to complete my collection.
So, what about you?  Do you have any small projects you’ve completed lately that you feel good about?  Share, share!

In Treatment, Part Deux

It seems like ages ago that I wrote this rant post about our efforts to replace the window coverings in our great room.  Well, now I’m back with the results.  After I spent countless hours shopping (both online and in stores), it was Darrin who finally came home with a fabulous find.

We had already purchased bamboo shades at Lowe’s (on clearance even – suh-weet) but they needed a little something extra.  That’s when Darrin came through with some soft blue panels from Big Lots of all places.  And for only $10 a panel, we really couldn’t go wrong.

The end result is a window “treatment” we’re quite pleased with.  The blue of the curtain plays nicely with the blue in our kitchen, which can be seen from the great room, without being too matchy-matchy (yes, that’s a real thing).  The bamboo starts to bring in the ultimate theme we’re going for in that room – a kind of colonial outpost (more on that later).

Here’s a sneak peek at the end result on one of the windows.  I’ll share more photos later as more of the room comes together.  First, take a look at a before picture.  Notice the nasty white blinds.  Oh and check out those super clean walls and awesome grey carpet.

Before the window received treatment.

And now, here’s a look at that same window with curtains.

Perfect blue curtains thanks to Darrin's super shopping skills. They do need to be ironed, though.

We love the way the blue curtains look with the bamboo shades. And the shades let in some great light, while maintaining privacy.


It felt so good to get this project done!  What completed projects do you want to brag about?


Empty Jars

Darrin and I have made very few plans for the wedding.  We haven’t even picked a date.  We know that we want the big day to take place some time next fall.  We also know that the reception will be held at my sister’s house (thank you sister!).  And, aside from the general sentiment (we want it festive and full of love – a big love-fest, if you will) that’s about it on the decisions.

Except for one other thing.  About a month back I saw the picture below on Pinterest and I fell in love.  How soft!  How romantic!  How simple!

Beautiful DIY table setting found at Chelle Paperie.

I quickly decided that this was a route I wanted to take for my own wedding.  So, I started saving every jar from salsa or Trader Joe’s tikka masala sauce or Thai green curry sauce (Darrin’s favorite).  I also put my family on notice to start saving jars from pickles, and jams, and peanut butter – as long as it’s glass, I want it.

Soon, I found I had a sweet little collection of empty jars.  And I recently decided to put them to use, instead of boxing them up in storage for the next year and a half.

First, I bought a small and inexpensive bouquet of hydrangeas.  I then separated the flowers, trimmed them down, and popped them  into their own glass jar.  I think they look kind of sweet.  I love the comparison of the robust bloom of the flower with the simple, stout jar.

The simple arrangement helped breathe some life into our rock fireplace.

For the rest of the jars, I decided to try out their candle-holding skills.  I placed a tea light in each jar, et voila.  I did find, however, that some of the jars have a little inverted hump at the bottom.  This caused the tea light to sort of slip around the bottom of the jar.  If I were to use a larger candle, I think I would need to try putting some sand or rocks in the bottom of the glass to help stabilize the candle.

My new up-cycled mini-candle garden.

Here's a view of both projects on the mantel.

So what do you think?  What other creative ways can I make use of our new collection of jars?  What items have you “up-cycled” that you’re proud about and want to share?

Top picture found at Chelle Paperie’s blog.

Letters! We Get Letters!

I don’t know if it’s the whole “living with a graphics guy” thing or if I’m reverting back to my Sesame Street days.  But, lately I am in love with letters.  I’m specifically referring to individual letters of the alphabet, as opposed to a letter that one writes and sends through the mail (though I love those, too).  I love seeing the different type/font – whatever you want to call it (I’m sure there’s a technical term that Darrin will school me on later).  And I’m seeing letters all over the place.  As I mentioned in this recent post, I even added letters to our engagement open house invitations.  Here’s a very short tour around the web of some of my favorite letters.

Industrial Stencil Letters from Urban Outfitters. Only $8.

Urban Outfitters has a number of really cool looking letters right now.  Including this one, and this one.  And all for pretty reasonable prices.

This gem found at Little Bits of Lovely.

I love the simplicity of this large letter and the way it offsets the artwork.  The color also really pops off the wall.

Ideas from Better Homes and Gardens.

This is a great example of incorporating different fonts and types into one space in a simple, yet elegant way.  I like how they’re leaning over on one another, too – like they’re just resting or taking a little nap.  It’s a perfect pose for the letters “N” or “Z”.

This creative headboard found at ModHomeEc.

I love the boldness of this installment.  It would be fun to pick letters and numbers that had special meaning – the initials of family members or anniversary dates – and incorporate them into the design.

Using letters in a child's room from Design Sponge.

For all the moms and dads out there, here’s an example of a fun way to use letters in the kid’s room.  You can start teaching the alphabet while bringing some bright colors and cool shapes into the space.  I love that the “O” is a mirror.

Finally, here’s a teaser of the first letters we’re bringing into our home.  We ordered them from Urban Outfitters.  But, alas Darrin’s “H” is on backorder.  Whaddya think?

So, what about you?  Are any of you letter obsessed?  What other trends are you going crazy for at the moment?

Note: pictures found at Little Bits of Lovely, Better Homes and Gardens, ModHomeEc, Design Sponge, and Urban Outfitters.