Holiday Decorating: Christmas Mantel

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Happy Holidays!!  I could not wait to start my holiday decorating this year.  Immediately after Thanksgiving I was ready to break out the Christmas boxes and get to decorating, starting with our Christmas mantel.  I don’t know if it is just the fact that I love Christmas or being in our home for the first year, but I was so happy to be decorating for the season.

Holiday mantel stockings

With the freshly painted walls and mantel (more on that here and here), I kept the mantel pretty simple.  First thing I did was dig through the box to see what we were working with.  I had the ornament swag that I made last year for our faux bookshelf mantel.  It was a bit short for the new mantel, but by placing it in the middle and adding a candle to each end, it actually looks pretty good.  And at no cost I gotta love that!  Maybe in a future year I will buy more ornaments and make a longer, dramatic swag.

Snowflake wreath holiday mantel

We still had the stockings from Target last year (Wez & Augie are going to share), but I had two stocking hangers from dollar tree that are hideous.  So after browsing the aisle of Target, we settled on getting 3 unique stocking hangers, the star, the tree and my favorite, the silver deer.  At $10 each, they make the mantel a lot more sophisticated.

Silver reindeer stocking holder

Next up, I did a quick DIY project and made a snowflake wreath for above the mantel.  I will share the tutorial soon.  It only took about 45 minutes to whip up and I love the contrast of stark white on the deep navy walls.

Holiday festive mantel

So there you have it!  Our first real Christmas mantel.  Now to finish decorating the tree, getting up a few more outside lights and enjoying the season :)  After that is is back to finishing the house, like maybe adding curtains to those poor bare windows around the fireplace.

Holiday decorating and festive mantel

Check out more awesome holiday mantels at the Holiday Cheer Link party with Our Fifth House & Ten June and the Holiday Party at Thrifty Decor Chick.

Painting the Mantel

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As I shared last week, we recently painted our dining room navy.  It was originally a light blue/violet color, so once the three main walls were painted with the rich, deep navy color the next step needed was to paint the ceiling and 4th wall (we planned on having it match the rest of the living room and hallways for flow) and to paint the fireplace surround/mantel.  As you can see, the fireplace now looks out of place being light blue/violet with the bold navy walls. In person it stands out even more.

Dining room fireplace- in progress

I really wanted a high contrast look, so we followed through with the plan of a bright white mantel. Long term I would love to figure out a way to re-surface the entire mantel and surround with wood like this, but with the windows so close it would be nearly impossible without demo-ing the current surround for space.  And right now, that is not a priority for us. So in the meantime, the fast and dirty change was simply to pick a bright white and get painting.

White painted mantel
Stay tuned tomorrow and I will share my holiday decorated mantel, now that the paint has dried :)

Holiday Tablescape: Holly & Candlelight

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Thanksgiving it officially in the rear view mirror and it is time to think about Christmas! Alex hates when Christmas encroaches on Thanksgiving, so I make a point to wait as patiently as I can to start the decorating, and with Thanksgiving being so late this year it was a challenge.  So, I have not done my decorating yet, but I had a tablescape for holiday entertaining from last year that I never got around sharing so I figured better late than never! After making this holly wreath for our door last year and having it fall off the door 15 times, I started thinking about what we could do with it indoors instead.  That is when I realized it was the perfect size to fit around our large candle to dress up the table.

Holly Wreath Table Centerpiece

It almost looks like I planned it right?  Amazing when it all comes together and works out. With the few extra sprigs, I continued the holly theme along the length of the table as well.  I also used my beautiful new gold and silver place mats from Cost Plus World Market and did a quick project of making chalkboard holiday wine glasses.

DIY Christmas Chalkboard Glass Tutorial

Simple, easy and festive!

Holiday tablescape with a holly wreath

And it looked great with the overhead light turned off so we could dine by candle light only.

Holly Wreath as a Table Centerpiece

Now to decide on this year’s decorations and get started sprucing up our new home for the holidays!  I can’t wait to start sharing a few fun and simple holiday decorations over he next few weeks.  Plus a few more posts of the rooms changing colors as we finish up painting our house too!

Holiday Tablescape

Looking for some affordable holiday decor items?  I tend to have good luck at Work Market. And if you are shopping around on Cyber Monday, you could get a great deal…20% OFF EVERYTHING!  Use the link below :)

I am linked up to the Dare to DIY link party.


Navy Dining Room in Progress

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We have been working non-stop on the house in our free time lately; painting, painting and more painting.  We are starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel with only a couple rooms to go, but let me back up a bit and share some navy dining room progress. Back in September I shared how we removed the wall paper in the arch over the fireplace, which we did immediately, and then nothing changed for a while.

Dining room fireplace before

After going back to view my navy dining room mood board I grabbed a few paint samples and picked the perfect shade of navy; Behr’s Peaceful Night.  And wow, what a difference it makes to this room.

Dining room fireplace- in progress

Before painting we decided to take down the window boxes.  I envision tall white or beige curtains and a more modern feel, so the wooden window boxes were out.  They have been painted over a few times so they did not remove cleanly, but after a quick Spackle job the wall was as good as new.

Prepping dining room for navy paint

Next I quickly taped off the windows and floor board.  We plan on putting in new flooring and in the process also getting new floor boards, but that may be a few months out and I did not want the floor boards to look tacky in the meantime.  We plan on painting the ceiling light grey, so no need to tape it off.

DIning room prepper to paint Navy

Here is the wall after one coat.  As you can see, doing such a dark color required two coats to get the depth of color.  Thanks goodness we opted for paint and primer in one, or this might have been a 3 coat job!

Navy paint needs a second coat in our dining room

I am loving the change in color, so bold but still inviting. And the yellowed map really pops on these walls, so I think it may have found its new home.

Large accent wall in dining room in progress

Still to do:

  • Paint the fireplace white
  • Paint the ceiling gray
  • Re-tile the fireplace
  • Remove carpet and install wood laminate floors
  • Buy a sideboard to replace bookshelf
  • Window coverings
  • Re-paint table (quick fix until we invest in a larger table and plush chairs)
  • New light fixture over table
  • Mirror above fireplace?
  • Artwork on wall
  • Accent wall under bar?  Wood planks? Air Stone?
  • Nice large floor rug
  • Maybe new tall bar bar stools?

Wow….that list was longer than I was thinking it would be!  Quite a ways to go still, but I am loving the progress I see happening.

Painting Our Kitchen Grey

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I am so far behind in posting our home painting progress!!  So far we have worked on the kitchen, guest bath and dining room, but I have yet to post any updates…crazy! So to start off, the first room we tackled with paint after moving in was our kitchen.  We had to decide on the right kitchen paint colors with white cabinets.

Our Kitchen Before

We loved the kitchen from day one and did not plan to do much to it.  The counter tops are beautiful and the white cabinets keep it light and open.  I had always envisioned my kitchen with dark wood cabinets, but more and more I loving the look of white.

Kitchen French Doors Before

I mean just look at that beautiful counter top with the white cabinets!

Kitchen Island Before

To start out with making it feel like our home, we knew that we would want to remove the wall paper back splash border, paint the walls and bring in new cabinet hardware.

Kitchen Before

So tackling the “easiest” project first, we went to work on the hardware. You will understand my sarcasm with using the word easiest soon…

Changing out kitchen knobs and pulls

After a quick trip to Ikea, we were back with new black pulls and knobs.  The knobs were only $4.99 for a pack of two and the pulls were $7.99 for a pack of two; so overall a cheap way to update the look.

New cabinet pulls and knobs from ikea

We quickly went to work removing all the old hardware, simple enough a process to do.

Changing out knobs and pulls

Then it was time to put on the new hardware.  While the knobs went on easily, we ran into a roadblock with the pulls.  Our current pulls were standard English measurements, but the new ones were metric. What does that mean?  Well, it meant that the holes did not quite line up, being off by like 1 centimeter.  So close, but so far.  Plus the screws they came with were too short to go through the cabinet and reach the pulls.  After 5 trips to different hardware stored we were finally able to scrounge up enough metric screws in the right length to work.

black knobs on white cabinets

We debated what to do about the mis-aligned holes, and opted to just use one of the holes as it was and screw in the second side right next to the old hole.  This means that our cabinet pulls are now off center by about 1 centimeter, but we decided that was an evil we can live with.

Updating kitchen knobs and pulls

And yes, there was a few days of debate and searching for screws, leaving us living with half finished cabinetry. During that time we also spent an hour or so removing the wall paper back splash.  I used the same fabric softener treatment to remove the wall paper and again it worked like a charm.

new kitchen knobs and pulls

Once that debacle finally was conquered, it was on to painting.  We decided on a nice neutral gray for the walls and we are planning to add in color in accessories.  I am thinking of citrus inspired colors like yellow, orange and lime green.

Painting the kitchen grey

For the walls we went with a semi-gloss paint being that the kitchen gets a lot of action. Our paint color of choice for this room was Behr in Dark Granite.  I know, I did my painting a little backwards, rolling the walls and then cutting it.  But it still turned out just fine and you cannot see any overlapping lines.

Painting the kitchen

Look at the difference a coat of paint and some new hardware can make!  It was Alex’s idea to go black on the cabinet hardware and I love it.  Makes it feel a little more modern and less country on the white cabinets.  Next on my list for this room is accessories, new rugs and a new light fixture.  We also changed out the hardware on the french doors to be silver and it looks great.

Newly painted kitchen - Work in progress

We still have some accessory shopping to do so I am using the rugs from our apartment, but with new towels, so it is an eclectic mess.  I will be back with more pictures soon once we get around to finishing it off.  Wezley and Augie don’t seem to mind, all they care about is getting treats while I am cooking our dinners :)

Grey kitchen

Best Air Conditioned Dog House – Part 2

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We are back with part 2 of building our awesome air conditioned dog house!  If you missed part one, you can view it here.  With the pieces pre-built and ready to go from our weekend working on the dog house with my dad, it was time to assemble the dog house in our new back yard.

Dog house ready to be assembled

Alex decided the dog house would fit best on the side of our yard leading into the garden boxes.  I was not sure about it at first, but after setting up the floor and a couple walls, I knew he was right.  Even Wezley agreed that this would be a great place for his new house.

Wezley checking out his new dog house

I mean look at that little face!  This was a costly and time consuming project, but seeing him jump around in it while we worked on building his new house made me sure it was a good idea.

Wezley checking our his new dog house in progress

Once all the walls were securely nailed together, it was time to install the wall air conditioning unit.  One thing we did not really plan for was the space needed to bend the cord to the outside.  Normally a wall ac unit is plugged in inside, but since we are running an extension cord on the outside, we needed the cord to go out the hole, while keeping it snug.

Installing an air conditioner in our dog house

So with some quick chisel skills, my dad notched out a cord size groove that works like a charm!  Now the cord goes to the outside, but it does not leave a large gap to let the weather in.

Installing the ac unit for our dog house

The next step was to finish attaching the ac unit in the wall.

Installing an cooler in our dog house

Looking good!

Putting our dog house together

With the air conditioner in place, we moved on to the window.  My dad started with a line of caulk all around the outside of the window hole.

Building a dog house with a window

Then we held the window in place and he worked his way around nailing it in down.  Once the window was nailed down it was time to go out for a quick lunch and a trip to Home Depot to pick up roof shingles, trim and hinges for the door.

Installing the window in Wezley's dog house

The roof shingles we picked out were simple comp single shingles.  We ended up needing about 20 shingles to complete the roof.

Dog house roofing

Once we got back home we nailed on the trim and the shingles.  We mis-calucated on the trim and will need to come back and finish it out before the rainy season.  We will also need to paint the wood too, but I am still deciding on colors.

Roofing for our dog house

Last but not least we attached the door with the doggie door framed in it.  After adding a bed and some blankets, the house is ready for use.  It has been a few months since we finished this project (still to be painted and finish the trim), and I am happy to report that the boys love it!  We find them coming out of the house each day when we get home from work and sometimes they go lay in there if we are all hanging out in the yard.  I could not be happier with how it turned out and I am glad our pampered pups can stay out in the yard year-round without me having to worry about the weather.

Custom dog house for our pampered pooch

The Most Amazing Air Conditioned Dog House

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I figured it was about time that I share our amazing air conditioned dog house. We built it back in June, but have yet to finish off the trim and paint it. Being that we live in a hot climate in the summer and we wanted the dogs to stay in the yard while we are at work, we decided to build a insulated dog house. It came in quite handy this summer when we had 7 days over 100 degree late June/early July and plenty other hot days throughout the summer.  First things first, we went to work sketching out a plan.

Original dog house plans

The first plan ended up being a little excessive.  After measuring it out on the floor and marking it with tape, we realized that this was going to be a bit too large, especially for our small dog (now dogs).  I really wanted to keep the door in the front for us to be able to access easily, the air conditioner and a window. After talking it over, Alex came up with plan #2.

Revised dog house plans

While similar to our first plan, this one is a bit smaller with the window on a side wall instead of on the front wall. It is still an impressive dog house, but will fit much better in our small yard.  Now that we had a plan, we were off to Home Depot to buy some of the supplies, starting with the air conditioner unit.

AC unit for our dog house

Before we went to Home Depot, I did a lot of research on the different models.  We did not need a large unit since the dog house is so small.  I found the GE 6,400 BTU Window Room Air Conditioner on Amazon and knew that was the right option for us.  I was able to find out that it was in stock at Home Depot so we opted to pick it up instead of having it shipped. Next we needed a doggie dog.

All weather dog door for our dog house

We decided to get the Ruff-Weather Pet Door.  It has two flaps to help keep out the elements and is built really well.  It was a bit of a splurge at around $100, but if we are paying to insulate and air condition this dog house, then a quality door makes sense. Last item we bought was a window.

Items for our dog house

The window was also from Home Depot and was a 2 ft x 2 ft bathroom Jeld Wen window and costs about $70.  After we had these supplies on hand I gave my dad a call and made plans to come visit and get working on the dog house.  My mom and dad bought the plywood, framing wood and insulation sheets for us as out house warming present, making this project a bit more affordable.

Materials for our dog house

After going over the plans together, we knew how we were going to get this dog house knocked out.  Our plan was to pre-build the walls, floor and roof and then my parents would come down one weekend and we would assemble it in our new yard.

Dog house plan drawings

With my dad leading the charge, we went to work measuring…

Making our dog house

and cutting out the pieces we would need.

Framing our awesome dog house

I love seeing it start to take shape.  Super exciting to see a vision on paper become reality.  We could not have done it without the expertise of my dad!

Walls for our dog house

Once the pieces we needed were all cut, we moved along to framing out the walls.

Custom dog house

Since they are going the be insulated, they had to be built-out with frames like this.

Dog house walls to insulate

We bought 2 types of insulations.  The first was this insulfoam that was used in the walls.  This foam is good, but for the roof we stepped it up.

Insulated dog house walls

The roof foam is reflective to help keep the heat out even more.

Insulation for our dog house

Alex cut the insulfoam for the walls and stuffed it in just like a puzzle piece.

Building a dog house for Wezley

Once all the walls were insulated, we lightly tacked them together to make sure everything fit together correctly.  It would be quite a bummer to get to our house to assemble and find out a measurement was off this whole time!

Building a dog house with insulation

Next the roof and back wall were built and added on.  Here is a view of the side with the hole for the air conditioning unit.

Awesome insulated dog house

And the larger hole on this side is for the window to fit into.

Building a dog house

Once we were sure that all the pieces were correct, we stacked them up with the other materials to be ready to drive down to our new house and assemble the following week.

Dog house ready to be assembled

Phase one complete!  Click here to read on about how we assembled the house in our new backyard (Part 2 coming soon).

Halloween Decorations: Trick or Treat Yard Sign

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Halloween keeps getting closer and I am not yet done with our Halloween decorations for our house.  Being our first Halloween in the new house I have grand ideas for how amazing the decorating would be…until I spent an hour walking around a party store and realized the price tag to my vision.  Since I don’t want to break the bank (and I figure I can wait and grab Halloween decor half off after the holiday to use for next year), I decided to scale back and try to DIY a few items this time around, starting with a Trick or Treat yard sign.  Besides, homemade almost always comes our cuter and more unique anyways right?

Halloween Decorations: DIY Trick or Treat Yard Sign

So, to get started I took a quick trip over to my homeland, I mean Joann’s, and grabbed a few supplies.  I was being lazy and have not fully unpacked all my crafting supplies so I just grabbed it all including brushes.  What I needed was a few fun paints, 2 longer wood signs, one small wood sign, and wood pole, a wood stick, wood glue and  paint brushes.  I grabbed some googly eyes too, but ended up not using them.

Supplies to make a halloween sign

I did not take any progress pictures as I painted, but basically I painted the front of each sign (multiple coats needed on the glitter paints to get full coverage).  Once dried I painted the black edges to get more consistency among the three pieces.  Next I free-hand painted the letters onto the signs.  I was going for a cute bone look, like one I saw on a sign from Pottery Barn.

Trick or treat sign

One last touch was to outline each letter with glow in the dark paint so that it will pop at night in our yard.  The glow in the dark paint goes on a greenish-white, but dries clear so it did not effect the overall look.

Outlining trick or treat sign with glow in the dark paint

Did anyone else notice the creepy dude photo bombing my last picture?  He was in an ad on the magazine page I was using to keep paint off our table, and I did not even see him until editing the pictures..too funny! Once the sign was done and dry, the final step was to paint the stick black to match and use the wood glue to affix the signs to the stick.

Working on my trick or treat halloween sign

The stick ended up being too flimsy on it’s own to keep the sign up in the yard.  After a few minutes it started to bend and eventually fell over.  We plan to reinforce it with the large wooden dowel tonight and hopefully that helps to hold up the weight of the sign.  I will let you know how it goes when I share the rest of our Halloween decorations next week :)

Sharing is at: Design, Dining & Diapers, Craftberry Bush

Fall Leaves are Upon Us!

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Ahhh fall.  I love it!  While I still think Summer is my favorite season, Fall is a very close second.  The other night when I got home from work, I could not help but stop and enjoy the beautiful color in our front yard.  With this being our first year in our first home, it is exciting and new and delightful to see that seasons change and learn what that brings.  This big tree near our front door has been full of green leaves since we moved in, and it seems like over night they all turned this brilliant yellow and started to fall.  The light was just right as the sun was starting to lower in the sky, and I was able to capture this great picture that I shared on instagram.

Beautiful fall colors

While I love the beauty of this tree, it sure does drop a lot of leaves!  I can see that this is going to be an ongoing battle for the next few weeks.  Endlessly sweeping and raking leaves, cleaning out the gutters and trying to brush them off the roof.  After just a few days, you can barely see the path to the house!

Beautiful fall colors, lots of fall leaves

But, an hour or so later with our handy vacuum mulch-er thing that Alex bought at Home Depot, a rake and a broom and we are good as new…until a nice breeze comes along at least!

Keeping fall leaves cleaned up

Curious by what I meant when I said vacuum mulch-er thing?  We bought the Toro 51609 Ultra 12 amp Variable-Speed (up to 235) Electric Blower/Vacuum with Metal Impeller.  It is great because it has an attachment that vacuums up the leaves, then grinds them up into the attached bag.  Once the bag gets full you just go over to a green waste can, open the zipper side and empty it out.  Pretty convenient versus bending over again and  again to scoop up the leave by hand.  Now that the yard it all cleaned up again it is time to start putting up the Halloween decor.  I am getting pretty excited to share more…so here is one quick teaser…

Sneak peek halloween sign

Bamboo Privacy Fencing

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After moving into our new house, we decided on a quick and fairly cheap project that we could do immediately in the yard.  Being that we moved in at the end of June, we wanted to make the backyard feel like ours so we can eat outside, play with the pups and finally enjoy a yard of our our after years of apartment living. So, we hopped in the car and went to our new favorite store to look for some bamboo, and ahhh what a difference it makes!

Install Bamboo Privacy Fencing

My Uncle had some bamboo privacy screening along one of the fences and we really liked that it blocked some of the view between the fence boards. It was weathered and faded, so we bought enough bamboo to cover both side fence lines (the back of our yard is a brick wall, so that side looks great already).  We found the basic 6ft x 16ft rolls here and bought 3 of them to have enough coverage.  We also picked up a staple gun and staples.

Privacy Bamboo Fencing

Before getting started with the bamboo, Alex walked around the fence looking for loose spots that a 15 pound chihuahua might fit through to make sure the yard would be secure for the dogs.  We found a few scrap pieces of wood in the garage and a couple random screws for the minor fixes we needed to make.

Quick repairs to loose boards before privacy bamboo is installed

This was a quick fix and since we were covering the fence with the bamboo, we did not take the time to make it pretty underneath, just functional.

Quick repair to loose boards before privacy bamboo is installed

Alex then rolled out the bamboo along the fence and got to stapling.  We had a few frustrating moments with the new staple gun not firing, but overall it was a success.

How to Install Bamboo Privacy Fencing

It was easy to overlap the seam when we ran out of one roll to start the next without it being very obvious.  The bamboo was held together with wire strips every 6 inches or so, making it easy to cut the size we needed to finish the fence line without it unraveling.

Installing Bamboo Privacy Fencing

Just a few quick clips down the length with our cutters and boom, two pieces.  We stapled it up first to make it easy to just cut off the loose side and move on the other side of the fence.

Bamboo Privacy Fencing-A cheap way to dress up an old fence

And there you have it, a super simple way to spruce up a old fence.  Kinda looks like we should have a tropical themed party and sip on a cocktail out of a pineapple now right?!?!

Privacy Bamboo Fencing to cover old fencing

Bamboo Privacy Fencing- a low cost way to dress up an old fence