Sour Towels.

whitening-dishtowels-with-lemons

I am trying this natural bleach idea for my dish towels tonight and am so excited!  Why am I doing this?  Well, they are looking a little disgustingly dingy, I don’t have (or want to buy) any bleach, and I’m trying out some natural cleaning ideas in an effort to be more green around the home.  I know, I’m late to the game on freaking everything.  The towels are in the dryer right now – I’ll be back with some action shots and results soon.  Fingers crossed for successful bleaching!  #whenlifegivesyoulemons…

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Petals & Pinwheels.

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-pink-orange-pinwheel-centerpieces

Really grainy and yellow shot for this post, but you get the idea where this is going.  And for the record, there was terrible light just before A’s party when I took these shots, and I’m not up to snuff yet on using Photoshop to fully fix things yet…

Anyway, these are some shots of the centerpieces I made for A’s first birthday.  Along with the colorful Gerber daisies my MIL found (they matched the color theme perfectly!). I wanted to share a tutorial in case it’s helpful to anyone else looking to make pinwheel centerpieces in mason jars.  You know, because there are so many of you out there and all.  Actually, there could be a decent amount of you based on some quick googling I just did.  So let’s do it.

The shot below shows the supplies I used.  I had a few on hand already  and picked up the rest for under $25 at A.C.Moore.  You are looking at (from L to R): Paper Pinwheels (made using my own method, which combined a few tutorials found on the Googles), paper filler, floral Styrofoam  two different widths of pink and orange grosgrain ribbon,  a Ball mason jar (I had both quart and pint sizes for decor, only the quarts are used in the shot above for the food table), craft dowels, and extra hot glue gun sticks.

DIY-pinwheel-centerpiece-supplies

The first thing I did was set up the mason jars as a base.  I played around with ribbon before cutting it to see how long of a piece I’d need.  To do that I just wrapped it around the top, tested a bow, etc.  Once I had the right size I cut 3 more so I had 4 in total.  Then I dabbed my hot glue gun onto the rim of the jar from the back all the way around the sides, leaving about and inch and a half to 2 inches open at the front so I could still tie the bow.  Before doing that I let them dry completely.  And if you think this sounds simple, it kinda does, but trust me when I say that I tied and re-tied those darn bows several times to get them just right.  Like so:

DIY-pinwheel-centerpiece-mason-jar

Next I shaved some of the outside of the Styrofoam so the circles were a little smaller and would fit inside the mouth of the jars.  Once I had a piece was nice and settled, I added the paper filler to the jar.  I had to use one of the dowels to poke it down and around the Styrofoam to hide it, which was also kind of tedious, but it made a big difference.  Seeing the Styrofoam is a little JV.  You can see a filled jar in the background of the shot below.

DIY-pinwheel-centerpiece-styrofoam-in-jar

Back to the hot glue gun.  Any project involving a hot glue gun is infinitely more fun.  Even B’s curiosity piques when he sees me bring that thing out.  I cannot wait until A is old enough for arts & crafts days at home.  Literally can’t wait.  I dream about what our arts & crafts projects will be, and about the craft room I’m going to design and build in the big suburban house B buys for me one day…

HA!  Pipe dreams.  Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY want a craft room, but we’re not moving to the ‘burbs any time soon.  We like the city.  And I’ll of course be chipping in on our abode.  I wouldn’t leave B stranded like that.  Teamwork!

But back to crafts…it was now time to assemble the pinwheels.  I hot glue gunned some of my larger paper pinwheels to craft dowels and trimmed the bottoms so they’d be a good height in the jars.  Once those dried my last and final step was the stick the pinwheels in each jar, being sure to get them nice and tight in the Styrofoam at the bottom.  I had to play around with them a little bit to get them just right, but anchoring them was a huge help.  Below is a final shot.  I wasn’t sure how big I wanted the pinwheels to be in the jars, so I had two test sizes for comparison purposes.

And I really have to point out that the pink pinwheels do not look NEARLY this large in person.  It totally dwarfs the jar in this shot, but if you scroll all the way back up you’ll see they worked perfectly.

So there you have it.  An easy and inexpensive way to DIY pink and orange pinwheel centerpieces, if you happen to be in the market for that kind of thing.  But actually you could do a lot with the jars other than this – I can totally see leaving the ribbon and doing other things like tea lights or flowers, etc.  Love all things functional.

DIY-pinwheel-centerpiece-finished

A was 1!

Today is a perfect day for this post for two reasons: 1) we’re getting rocked by Hurricane Sandy so I had some time to sort through (and edit!) the pictures I wanted to use for this post and 2) it’s been exactly one month since A’s birthday and birthday party, the main event for showcasing all these fun decorations!  Happy 13 months to my girl!  (That’s my attempt at putting a positive spin on the fact that it’s taken me a month to get this post together…)

So I already posted a sneak peak of her party here, but I didn’t get into any of the details.  That’s where this post comes in.  We didn’t want one of those huge first birthday parties that are overwhelming and absurd, but with two big families (and with one having LOTS of cousins with kids), it’s kind of hard to avoid a larger party.  So we had to host it at my awesome in-laws house, which works better because they have lots of space for kids to run and play, both indoors and out.

To get ready for the party I had several lists going: guest list, food, decor, supplies needed for decor, etc.  At one point I decided that was ridiculous so I consolidated onto one sticky note on my desktop:

first-birthday-party-planning-lists

Let’s start with food.  A’s party was from 12-2 (her best time of day – smack in the middle of naps), so we served lunch, but we wanted it to be easy so we ordered hoagies for pick-up that morning (it was on a Saturday).  We did PB&J for kids and a salad, a side of mac and cheese since it’s A’s absolute favorite, and chips.  Fruit, cupcakes, and birthday cake rounded out the day.  After settling on the menu I divvied up a few items between A’s ever-helpful grandma’s, and figured out a timetable for everything (what needed to be bought/ordered, when to make things, when to pick up, etc.).

Deciding on what kind of decor I wanted to do was trickier.  I pinned a ton of ideas, but eventually settled on a pink and orange pinwheel theme since A loves watching the pinwheels our neighbors have in their window boxes.  And pink and orange are just super cute colors for a girl’s party.  As for what to make, I decided I really wanted to do something with A’s monthly photos I took all year so a monthly photo banner was definitely a must!  I also thought that with the supplies for that banner, a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner wouldn’t bee too difficult to make as well.  Lastly I wanted to make pinwheel centerpieces for some of the tables and for the food table, and use some of the materials to make pinwheels for hanging/decorating.  Oh – and pom-poms!  I wanted to make those too since they are pretty darn cute.

Here are shots of the 2 banners (with pom-poms on the spark guard!):

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-monthly-photo-banner

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-pink-orange-pinwheels-banner

For both banners I used scrapbooking card stock as the background/base.  For the photo banner I did add an extra layer of card stock for more contrast before gluing down the pictures.  I downloaded fonts from Scraptivity for the birthday banner, printed them in a very large size and in a fun color and glued them on top.  I punched holes in the two top right corners of each letter/photo, and strung them on satin ribbon picked up from the craft store.

Oh – one additional thing I did for the party, which you can kind of see in the background in the pic above, was make a kids art table.  I covered a folding table with craft paper and since it’s fall we had mini pumpkins (also following the orange theme!), with markers for the kids to decorate them.  Then I bought a few mini boxes of crayons of scattered them around for drawing.  It turned out to be a big hit – with the adults!  Definitely going to be a stable at future parties we have.  Here is a better shot:

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-kids-drawing-table

For the pom-poms, I used this tutorial, and they were super easy.  Another item that will be a party staple in years to come!  Here they are hanging in the doorway that leads from my in-laws’ den to their dining room and formal living room.  You can see other pom-poms hanging on the fireplace in that room too.

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-pink-orange-pinwheel-decorations

And the focal point of that shot is the centerpiece.  You can see my pinwheels in mason jars, alternating with brightly colored gerber daisies that my mother in law spotted and grabbed for me.  Don’t they match perfectly?!  It was uncanny.  Here is the last shot I have for the party decor, a little closer up of the main table, with the paper goods set out.  The food went all around the other sides of the table.

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-pink-orange-pinwheel-decorations

I got the paper goods from PartyPail.com – they had every color you could possibly want, and free shipping over $50.  I was a little shy of that total with my order, so I was browsing for a $5ish item to toss in (I refuse to pay shipping), and found that cute little felt “1” hat in the background.  Sure I could have made something, but I was running out of time, it wouldn’t have looked as good, and it saved me shipping costs.  Deal.

The centerpieces were probably the most time-consuming of all the decorations so I snapped some shots along the way and will share a separate tutorial.  Depending on if we still have power tomorrow and if A cooperates, I’ll get that post up in the evening.

But these shots should give you a good feel for how things looked.  I was very pleased.  And it really wasn’t expensive or taxing to throw it all together.  With adequate planning, of course.  I was all over supplies early in the month, and then I worked on things slowly here and there at night after work.  And it all came together.  That’s what a good list (or ten) can do for you…

One.

pink-orange-pinwheel-1st-birthday-party

This past Saturday, we celebrated our little A’s first birthday.  I know, I can’t believe it either.  The shot above is a sneak peak of the setup at her party we threw over the weekend at her Gammy & Pop-Pop’s house.  The theme was pink and orange and pinwheels, and yes, yours truly made all the decorations.  It’s been a few really busy weeks with work, marathon training, and getting ready for the party, so I haven’t been able to blog about the party planning process at all, but don’t worry – it’s coming.  I had multiple lists going, most of which had their own lists.  It was list-making bliss.

One of my favorite decorations from the day was a banner showcasing the monthly photos we’ve taken of A since she was born.  It’s amazing to look back at the pictures of that little newborn, with a full head of black hair (where did that come from anyway?!), the tiniest most delicate little fingers and toes, and that sleepy little face.  And then that little six month old sitting up perfectly straight with her kissable round cheeks, smiling face and big blue eyes.  Now I look at the real life A in front of me and it’s amazing.  She’s sweet and playful and curious and funny.  She loves to dance (and by dance I mean roll her shoulders and shake her little butt…), and is dying to start walking (although truthfully I could wait for that day – thinking about her toddling around our 13 foot wide house with hardwood floors, and super steep steps puts my stomach in my throat!).

It’s cliche to say, but the time has flown by.  The days felt long sometimes, but the weeks were short.  And the months were like nano-months.  And now I have a one year old.  Wow.

Happy 1st Birthday, Pumpkin Face!

A Sign of Things to Bloom.

Thai Basil Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

A DIY Chalkboard Sign, to be exact, for my herb-an garden that I started last month on our patio.  I finished the signs a few weeks ago and was finally able to snap a few shots of them keeping my blooms nicely labeled and organized.  It was a really quick and easy project: it required only 3 materials, costing just under $14 all-in.  I ended up making just 5 signs but I have enough materials for 10 more and for many other chalkboard paint-related projects for years to come.  So that’s a pretty good investment, especially considering I’ve seen signs like these retailing for $25-$35 on various websites.  I really like the fun touch it adds to the potted plants, and the look goes well with our half brick, half stucco back patio wall.  I’d love to say this look was intentional (we’ve gotten so many comments over the years), but it’s not.  It’s just nature doing its thing to an old layer of stucco that was never well-adhered to the brick wall it tried to cover.

Here is a tutorial for making the signs, along with a cost breakdown.  I assure you it’s like the easiest outdoor project ever, even though it looks like lengthy steps.  I just like to talk.

What I used:

Wood for signs and/or stands. (I chose to use basic shims from our local hardware store as the base for my signs, but you could really use any scrap wood you had on hand.  Depending on the shape of wood you might need to make a stand for the sign, but extra BBQ/shish kabob skewers could probably solve that for you). Shims: $2.79 for 15.

Chalkboard paint. (I find spray paint to be easier for any quick painting project so I went with Rustoleum Chalkboard Spray Paint, also found at our local hardware store). Chalkboard Spray Paint: $9.99

Chalk. (Good old fashioned Crayola, found at the Rite Aid down the block from me). Box of Chalk: $1.03

Total Cost of Materials: $13.81; most are pictured below:

Materials for Chalkboard Herb Garden Signs

What I did:

Step 1: Spray paint shims.  I laid them out on extra newspaper first, and did this outside so I didn’t breathe in the fumes.  I did not bother with primer for this paint job.  Instead I sprayed several coats of paint, keeping the nozzle about a foot away and using long, level strokes.  This made for thin and even layers that dried well.  I did 3 coats on one side, aiming for about 20-30 minutes in between.  We were in and out of the house that day so I did my best to do a quick coat whenever I could.  I let them dry overnight (both days were dry and sunny) and did the same to the back.  I let them dry out another 2 days so they were nice and cured.  Here they are drying after their last coat.  Ignore the popsicle sticks that are also in this pic, I was experimenting using another base surface but didn’t like how they turned out.

Chalkboard Paint on Shims

Here are the signs after drying for about 2 days:

Finished Painted Herb Garden Signs

Step 2: “Condition” the signs.  This was actually one of the instructions on the back of the spray paint can and I’m not exactly sure of the purpose, but basically once the surface had time to for a few days I rubbed chalk all over and then wiped it off.  Here are the signs before I wiped the chalk off:

Rub Chalk on Chalkboard Paint to Set

Step 3: Use the signs!  I labeled them for my herbs, and placed them in the pots accordingly.  I had to move them around a bit so they wouldn’t be in the way when I watered the plants, otherwise the chalk would wash off.  I’m also contemplating buying one of these chalkboard markers to make more permanent signs.  But for now these work well and look great!

Here are the signs inside before I placed them in their more permanent potted homes: 

Labeled Chalkboard Signs for Herb Garden

 And here are glimpses of the final product.  See how much my Peppermint has grown?!  It smells great, and I’ve found it to be a very refreshing addition to tea and ice water.

Peppermint Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

And here is my Thai Basil.  It’s started to flower which makes it look pretty, and the shape of the pot allows for the chalkboard sign to be off to the side a bit and really stand out:

Thai Basil Chalkboard Herb Garden Sign

Ignore the glass jars in the background cluttering up this shot.   (We’ve established that along with having a black thumb, I’m also a terrible photographer).    After my big outdoor furniture refinishing project is complete I’ll fill them up with fun flowers to give the patio some color.  I’m still chipping away at that project though.  It takes good weather and a full weekend of being home during A’s naps to work on it, and we’ve been traveling a lot recently.  So hopefully soon.

In the meantime I’ll be enjoying my new chalkboard signs, which were a great quick fix to spruce up the herb garden.  And I’m now completely addicted to chalkboard spray paint.  I’ve been daydreaming about the next thing I can turn into a chalkboard.  I’m thinking a menu board in the kitchen would be fun, or maybe a big framed family calendar/planner.  You know, because we have so many social engagements to attend to these days.  But there I go again creating another project for myself.  I really have to stop doing that.