Christmas Crafty

Final effect - mostly matching wreaths and a couple light up topiaries from Lowes - at least the door is ready for the holidays!

Final effect – mostly matching wreaths and a couple light up topiaries from Lowes – at least the door is ready for the holidays!

I am not really the Martha Stewart type, but after searching online for ages for a couple of front door christmas wreaths I realized I was going to have to take the matter into my own hands….

The base wreath - pretty plain

The base wreath – pretty plain

I had no idea wreaths were so bloody expensive if you want something a bit more stylish that a couple fake pine cones and some red ribbon! You can either order some freshly made, eucalyptus and pine fronds transported lovingly by horse drawn carriage from Maine’s deepest, evergreen forests for an arm and a leg or you can get the fake “designer” kinds that cost eleventy billion dollars. I needed two for my front doors and unless I was willing to sell my kid for medical experiments I couldn’t justify the cost.

My glittery treasure trove before disassembly began

My glittery treasure trove before disassembly began

I checked all my usual low cost places – Target, Home goods – even Lowes and saw nothing that I liked. Finally I just decided It can’t be that hard to make your own.

After pulling them all apart

After pulling them all apart

I found a couple battery operated large green wreaths with nothing more than some clear LED lights at Lowes to use as the base. Then I headed over to Michaels – the mecca of crafty housewives and pot pourri to look for some attractive glittery stuff to glue on

Heres one of the pieces I didn't pull apart - used it as an anchor piece at the bottom

Heres one of the pieces I didn’t pull apart – used it as an anchor piece at the bottom

They have a sea of glittery leaves, berries, fake fruit, flowers – you name it! I hit up the 50% off sale items first and then picked a few other full price things too. I dropped abut $60 on a selection of mostly silver, gold and white leafy stuff because I thought that would look best against my newly painted red doors.

Just insert them in the general direction of the other branches

Just insert them in the general direction of the other branches

When I got home I started pulling them apart. These things are made up up of a lot of smaller pieces on wires that are artfully arranged and then wrapped with paper to create one larger branch like thing. I am trying to imagine that being a job someone has somewhere LOL – you would be constantly covered in glitter!

Gatsby - our new rescue -  helping...

Gatsby – our new rescue – helping…

All you have to do is strip away the paper and you get 5 or 7 smaller pieces for the price of one. I enlisted my teen to help me break it all up then I split my glittery treasure trove  in half so that I didn’t go overboard on one wreath and not have enough for the second.  I laid all the pieces out on the dining room table beside the first wreath and got to work.

The fall apart test - lift it up and shake it to see if everything stays put LOL

The fall apart test – lift it up and shake it to see if everything stays put LOL

It’s really not that difficult – start with some of the larger pieces and jam them in – then you can twist the wires around the wireframe of the base wreath to attach. I had a glue gun but honestly I didn’t use it much  – the twisted wire held just fine. I used a couple larger pieces to anchor the bottom and then a sliver flower to offset the top. Then work around the wreath adding and layering more to your hearts content.

Glittertastic close up

Glittertastic close up

If you are worried about not having a good vision of what you want just keep an inspiration photo handy to refer to. I knew I wanted that winterberry look, instead of holiday baubles so I just kept adding little branches that stuck out around the edges until I was happy with the overall effect.

First one up - not too shabby...

First one up – not too shabby…

Of course after I finished one, I had to do it all over again – so my fingers were a little sore and scraped up from all the wire twisting. It was worth it though, nothing fell off when I hung them on the doors and I think they look pretty good – expensive designer look on the cheap and they are unique – nothing exactly like them anywhere else LOL

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Finally floor repairs

Kitchen damage

Kitchen damage

One of the fixes we have been putting off since we moved in is the floor. The hardwood floors are pretty beat up and tired but since it would be such a huge job to replace or refinish we decided to just live with it. Frankly we have a houseful of dogs that will scratch it up anyway, so why sweat the small stuff…  However there is a difference between the lived in character of a few scratches and severe water damage. There were two spots that we knew would have to be fixed.

This was the damage when we first moved in

This was the damage when we first moved in

In the kitchen, right in front of the dishwasher, there were several boards that were badly damaged from a previous leak.  Although the leak had been fixed, the damaged boards were pretty unsightly and in a highly visible area. It bothered me to see it every day, multiple times a day. After 10 months I was sick looking at it!

Chisel and hammer is slow going

Chisel and hammer is slow going

The second spot was the powder room around the toilet. We had guessed that they must have had a leaking wax ring issue in the past, unfortunately we discovered after we moved in that this problem had not been repaired and the issue was ongoing – so gross!

Power tools go much faster LOL

Power tools go much faster LOL

The floorboards are engineered hardwood glued down to the concrete subfloor which means it is a huge pain in the ass to pull up, which is frankly, the main reason we have put it off so long.  However we have guests coming for the holidays, which is forcing us to get it done.

Sunny helping  - obviously if I put a pillow on the floor it must be for him, right?

Sunny helping – obviously if I put a pillow on the floor it must be for him, right?

Fortunately we found extra matching floorboards in the attic, so this weekend we decided to fix the kitchen.

all boards removed

all boards removed

We started off with chisels and pry bars before remembering the scraper attachment for the reciprocating saw – now that’s working smarter, not harder LOL  After popping off the trim, we set to work on the damaged boards. I wish I could tell you it is an easy job with the right tool, but it is not. Lots of elbow grease is required – the further away from the damage you get the tougher the glue is and you have to try not to damage the good boards while you are at it….

Adding glue

Adding glue

I put masking tape along the seams to help protect the boards we wanted to leave in place and Eric went to work ripping up as much as he could. I went in after and did the edge clean up. In order for the new boards to fit cleanly you have to chisel off the tongue of the good boards and clean away any old glue or splinters that make the surface uneven.

Like new!

Like new!

I recommend dry fitting the new boards before trying to stick anything down. You don’t have much time to work with the glue. I cut all the pieces I needed with my chop saw, checked the fit and then removed and stacked in order. That way once I put down the glue I could move quickly. The glue goes down with a notched trowel much like installing tile.

Little masking tape keep it all together and remind us where not to walk while glue dries

Little masking tape keep it all together and remind us where not to walk while glue dries

After pressing each new board in place like a big jig saw puzzle, I placed masking tape perpendicularly across the new boards. In part to keep them from spreading apart and introducing gaps, but also as a reminder for us where not to walk for a couple days.

Eric goes to town on the powder room - yuck!

Eric goes to town on the powder room – yuck!

While I was working on the kitchen floor, Eric took on the really gross job – the powder room floor.  Once the toilet was removed, many blackened boards had to come up – they were smelly and nasty! We actually put a fan on it overnight to make sure the surface had sufficiently dried out before attempting the install of the new boards. In addition using some chlorine bleach to remove any of the mildewy residue helped make sure the problem wouldn’t continue to grow.

All the damaged boards removed

All the damaged boards removed

Once the surface was completely clean we used the same process to install the new boards. A jig saw is necessary, in addition to the chop saw, for cutting around the toilet.

jig saw for around the toilet - doesn't need to be pretty

jig saw for around the toilet – doesn’t need to be pretty

I highly recommend the gel filled knee pads if you are tackling anything like this – they are lifesavers!

Flip flops and kneepads - Stylish!

Flip flops and kneepads – Stylish!

Some of the areas in the powder room meant removing some of the tongue from the tongue and groove boards to fit into the spaces around the existing boards. It is a little tricky but if you have a laser line on your chop saw it makes it much easier – if you don’t have one of your own you can rent tools like this by the day from Home Depot.

Laser helps when slicing off some of the tongue.

Laser helps when slicing off some of the tongue.

removed just enough tongue to fit into the jigsaw shaped opening

removed just enough tongue to fit into the jigsaw shaped opening

Once everything is glued in place just let it dry for a couple days.

Like a glove!

Like a glove!

All we have left is to replace the trim and the toilet – using a brand new wax seal and we will be done!

No more ugly floors – now on to the next thing on the to do list….

Roman Blind Project

Final result - love it!  - My fingers hurt LOL

Final result – love it! – My fingers hurt LOL

Every time you move into a new house you have to consider what to do about the windows – unless you like the idea of living in a goldfish bowl you have to put up some sort of blinds or curtains for privacy –  both for you and your neighbors sake!

In our new house we don’t have neighbors right on top of us any more – one of the benefits of living on acreage but you still need some window treatments. Luckily the previous homeowner went with Roman shades, which I love – timeless style.

Original blinds - cream tone on tone jacquard - not my style

Original blinds – cream tone on tone jacquard – not my style

The dining room blinds can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the main living area. I had always planned to cover them up with a nice printed grey and white fabric to match the rest of the ling room decor but –  lets face it –  it was a daunting project. I knew it would take a lot of effort so I kept putting it off  However once the giant blank wall was banished, the cream blinds started to look dingy and really out of place.

new fabric or $20 curtain panel - Yum!

new fabric or $20 curtain panel – Yum!

I needed 95″ of fabric for each blind – there were 4 of them depending on the width of fabric I bought, I was looking at anywhere between 6 -12 yards. Most of the fabrics I liked where priced between $30 -60 a yard – Yikes!

use a stitch ripper to open up hem allowance top and bottom

use a stitch ripper to open up hem allowance top and bottom

Instead, I started looking at curtain panels and as luck would have it I found the perfect thing at Target for only $20 a panel. They were only 84 inches long and I really would have preferred 95 inches – but since I didn’t want to pay an extra $10 per panel and have to wait and order them online I figured that the hem allowance top and bottom would probably be close enough 🙂

Two panels cut each in half lengthwise was just enough to cover the four blinds. Forty bucks was so much better than closer to $500 at the fabric store!

My big plan was to use iron on fusing tape to make it quick and easy since I was never going to be able to get these blinds and the attached hardware through the sewing machine…. Yeah well best laid plans of mice and men etc

back of blinds - the stings are held on with little clips that you should pop off, then reattach

back of blinds – the stings are held on with little clips that you should pop off, then reattach

I took down the blinds and laid each one flat – if you can pop off the strings so much the better. I laid a line of fusing tape along each crease or pleat and all around the outside edge. After ironing the new fabric, I rolled it out carefully in place  on top of the old blind and fusing tape. I pinned on either end of each pleat to stop things shifting. Then I steam ironed like crazy 🙂

Once clips are popped off blinds will lay completely flat. Adding fusing tape and new fabric

Once clips are popped off blinds will lay completely flat. Adding fusing tape and new fabric

Although the tape did a reasonable job I just didn’t trust the bond to hold around the edges and I didn’t want my new pretty fabric to peel off like banana skins after baking in the Florida sun so reluctantly I hand stitched each outer edge of the blinds – just to provide the extra strength and my own peace of mind. Of course that meant it took forever and swallowed my weekend whole. Oh well – if it’s worth doing, its worth doing right.

One done - looks much better

One done – looks much better

The final touch was using some scrap grey fabric to cover the little valances at the top of each blind. Despite achy crampy fingers after all that hand stitching, I am really pleased with the end result. A whole new look for those tired blinds for only $40

Once I recover from the hand sewing induced carpal tunnel, I will do the same to the blinds in my office 🙂

Dining room art challenge

The formal dining room in the new house was going to be an easy one – I already had furniture I liked and a great rug I bought when I was in India years ago.  I figured a lick of paint and we would be good to go – no problem. Of course like many of the projects around here it has been happening in stages

Before - Old light fixture and paint - I know its blurry - it was 2am on moving day or something LOL

Before – Old light fixture and paint – I know its blurry – it was 2am on moving day or something LOL

The first thing I had to get rid of when we first moved in was the old light fixture – not my style at all – I wanted something more modern and contemporary. The light fixture I fell in love with turned out to be Italian and $26k – never going to happen!

New Dining Room Light

New Dining Room Light

So I scoured the interwebs looking for something in my budget that captured the same feel and finally found it – on sale I might add – yay me! Buying it was the easy part – installing it not so much….

It took four of us to get the thing up –  two of us on ladders – every bubble had to be painstakingly screwed together and hung in place – after all the sweating and cursing – we all stood back and just loved it – so dramatic 🙂

Before shot

Before shot

Maybe a month later I tackled the walls I found a great wallpaper that was tone on tone black that I put up under the chair rail. Hey, its a formal dining room – needs some drama right? Then I painted the walls 3 shades of grey to pick out some of the architectural details in the arches and niche.

After - Niche or alcove - you say potato, I say potato...

After – Niche or alcove – you say potato, I say potato…

A touch more of the awesome wallpaper and a great fractal mirror from Pier 1 to set off my Thai Angel. I love her she is the first thing I bring into every new house I have bought in the past 15 years. I think she brings me luck 🙂

Shiny happy people with my bargain mirror

Shiny happy people with my bargain mirror

I found a great mirrored cabinet online and later an awesome round mirror to hang above it. The mirror arrived broken so the company refunded my money but I was able to have the broken glass replaced at a local store for only $20 – Score!

I love shiny things!

I love shiny things!

I love mercury glass – I have used a ton of it as a repeating element to dress up the built in bookshelves in the living room so I used it again here.

My blank Wall

My blank Wall

It was all coming together except for the big wall…. the big blank wall. Originally I had purchased a great 7ft tall leaning mirror from Z Gallerie that was going to anchor that wall. But I hadn’t taken into account the 14ft ceilings – it looked tiny and lost.  Like the scene in This is Spinal Tap when they design this big Stonehenge prop for their stage show but it was built according to the scale on a napkin sketch and when it arrived it was only up to their knees LOL I was similarly underwhelmed….

Dwarfed mirror looks sad :(

Dwarfed mirror looks sad 😦

So I moved it into the master bedroom where it looks much better  –  but that still  left me the problem of the giant wall. I couldn’t find a mirror big enough that didn’t cost eleventy billion dollars. I thought about buying glass and making my own frame – but how many leaning mirrors does one house need and how the hell would I move a piece of glass that size? That would be just asking for 7 years of bad luck LOL

So 8 months later, I was still staring at that blank wall when I decided it was way past time to figure it out. I toyed with the idea of several mirrors hung in a grid, maybe a giant painting – but to be honest painting in large scale does not come easy to me – I am too detail oriented – it would likely take me a year to finish a painting of that size and that blank wall could not wait that long.

Ruby Beach WA

Ruby Beach WA

Finally, I was browsing through my photos when I came upon a trip we took to Ruby Beach back in Washington. We had taken a drive out with Jon and the dogs –  I had forgotten about all the landscape photos I had taken trying to capture the mist rolling over the bluff. I chose one with a couple tiny fishermen out on a rock and converted it to black & white – everyone knows that a black & white photo is way more artsy LOL

My guys walking the dogs

My guys walking the dogs

I thought it would make a perfect triptych. So, I went online and found Canvas on Demand – they take your photo and print it on canvas in custom sizes. I needed 60 x 90 inches – which means each third of the triptych would be 60 x 30. I choose to have the edges gallery wrapped in black  – which I think is a crisp, contemporary detail and if you like them on Facebook they give you a 30% discount which saved me a ton of money!

Close up on the wall

Close up on the wall

I waited anxiously for a couple weeks to get the final product, hoping I would like it in real life as much as I liked the idea of it. Of course nothing goes smoothly – when it arrived it was split horizontally instead of vertically – Aaaaarrrrrghhhh! I called them right away and they fixed it but I had to wait again for another couple weeks – I hate waiting…

This weekend it arrived – split the right way and it was perfect 🙂 We used a laser level to make sure we got it all lined up right which was a huge time saver.

Empty wall banished

Empty wall banished – (binds are different too but thats another post LOL)

Being able to use your own photo, a memory of a happy day spent with my family and our dogs, a photo from the state we lived in for 18 years, the state my husband and I met and married in, seemed like a fitting thing to hang on the wall in our new home and new state of Florida.

It successfully fills that giant blank wall, is unique and personal to us and I finally get to put one of my gazillion photos to good use 🙂