Pretty Vases

Lately, I’ve been in love with tall vases and tall flower arrangements. They bring so much drama to a space and they really make a statement.

After we finished the tile in the dining room and moved the table and chair back in, I redecorated the table to look like this:

But it wasn’t exciting. It lacked the drama that the previous tall arrangements brought to the room.

So I made a few changes and now I love the set up.

And aside from the new tall arrangement of dahlias, I also replaced the red candles and coffee beans in the shorter vases from Crate and Barrel. I used the coffee beans for the tall center arrangement (which I bought all the supplies for at Target) and then I found raspberry potpourri vase filler (also from Target) that resembles a birds nest. I divided the potpourri into the two vases and added the eggs that came with it for the nests.

It smells great and looks lovely on our table.

If you are wondering what happened to the vases of orchids that used to be in our dining room, they are now located on our kitchen island.

And here a few of the other tall arrangements located around our house. These two sit on top of our fireplace in the living room:

And we have an arrangement of gerbera daisies in the guest bathroom:

And more gerbera daisies in our bedroom:

Do you have any decor that you love right now or you would consider a “go to item” when adding your personal touch on a room?

Have a great weekend!

Updates on the slate tile floor and kitchen pantry

Over the past few months our dining room floor has sat idle, waiting for grout. The cold weather made it difficult to open the windows and let the room air out during the grouting process, so we patiently waited for it warm up again. Spring is officially here and since they are calling for nice weather this weekend, we took the opportunity to get the floor ready to grout.

Before we could start the next step of finishing the floor, we needed to fix a few broken tiles and re-set the tiles that came loose after we set them.

We walked around the floor trying to feel if anything rocked or squirmed under our feet. If we found a tile that was either broken or loose, we marked it with painters/masking tape. The tape served as a way to find the tiles we planned to repair so we wouldn’t spend time walking on every tile each time we fixed one.

After we were sure we found all the tiles to repair, we slowly lifted the loose tiles to make sure we didn’t break anything. Then we used a hammer and chisel to remove the mortar from the concrete. For the broken tiles, they were set a little better so we had to use the chisel to pry them off of the floor. Some tiles were set so well we had to lightly hit them with the hammer a few times to loosen them from the floor. Then we used the chisel and hammer to remove the remaining mortar and tile.

For the broken tiles, we had to replace them with new tiles and throw away the old ones.

We saved a few tiles when we first laid the floor just in case we needed them down the road. We used three of the tiles today and now we have 2 or 3 left if we need them. Once we picked out new tiles from our reserve and cleaned up the dust and mortar pieces, we started replacing the tiles. Before we put the mortar down, we taped off the surrounding tiles to prevent excess mortar splattering on the faces of the clean tiles. Then we spread the thin-set mortar.

For a few of the tiles, we added extra mortar to the low spots to make sure they set.

Then we laid all the tiles and made sure to press them into the mortar to get a strong contact between the mortar and the tile.

It took a few hours to remove the old mortar and set the tiles and during that time, Zoey paid us a few visits. She’s not allowed in the dining room, but she kept coming to supervise and even crossed the threshold to test her limits and run to the open window. She is mischievous!

Now that the broken and loose tiles are repaired, we are ready to fully prep for grout. Our next steps are to seal the tiles again and then wait 24 hours for the tiles we fixed to set up. Then, we grout! Once the grout is finished, we will seal the floor two more times. After we seal, and the floor dries, we can replace the base board. And then, our dining room is finished!

The floor project has gone well so far and although we’re not quite finished, I have a few lessons learned to share with anyone thinking about a DIY slate floor:

1. Do not rush a tile floor. It takes time to do all the associated steps.

2. Make sure you press all the tiles firmly into the mortar. If they are not in the mortar, they will come loose a few days after you are finished.

3. Always take the time to prep the floor before you put tile down. A clean floor is better for the mortar.

4. Make sure you can open the windows when you lay the thin set mortar. It will help keep the overwhelming smell down.

And that’s where we are with the floor. It’s almost ready to grout, we just need to wait for the tiles to set, clean the entire floor and seal it one more time.

More updates to come!

In other news, I also worked on the kitchen pantry this week. I acquired more Target gift cards and used them to buy OXO containers. I also reorganized the pantry and it went from this:

To this:

I still need a few more OXO containers for some of my baking supplies and snacks, but it has definitely come a long way from before. There were so many boxes of cans stacked on the floor and now they are easily accessible on the bottom shelf. I also reorganized our food into categories. I tried to keep the breakfast products somewhat together, the baking supplies in one area, the cans on one shelf and the snacks together. Now I can see exactly how many of items we have. And with our snacks in vacuüm sealed containers, they will last longer and I won’t have to throw away stale bags of chips!

That’s all for now! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Spring Forward

Spring is in the air at our house. Despite the snowflake lights still hanging on our banister, I’m in full Spring-mode. Tonight also marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. Don’t forget to set your clocks forward one hour before you go to bed tonight!

I couldn’t be more excited to lose an hour of sleep. Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. I’m looking forward to more daylight for evening walks and bike rides.

Another sign that Spring is on it way is in our flower garden. Check out what’s coming up already:

The hyacinths I planted last year survived! I worried they wouldn’t come back because I bought the flowers fully grown and then planted them around late April when it was still a little chilly out. I’m excited to see that they made it through the winter and now they are coming up and getting ready to bloom.

The tulips that I planted last year are also coming up. I noticed this little guy today while I was checking out the hyacinths.

Another sign that Spring is in the air is my latest organizing project. The first official day of Spring is still over a week away, but I’ve already got a jump-start on my “spring cleaning.” Remember at the beginning of 2012, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to get organized (closets, bathrooms and kitchen pantry)? I finally started on the pantry. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m happy with how it’s turning out so far. I realize that it still looks a little cluttered, but it’s better than it was. I will spare you the “before” photo. It was messy, so use your imagination. 🙂

I would love for our pantry to look like this:

Maybe some day.

In the meantime, I’ve been collecting Target gift cards like crazy lately so that I can buy more OXO vacuum-sealed containers. I love these containers! And no, I’m not getting any endorsements from OXO.

I hope get all of our pantry items (minus canned foods and individually package foods) into OXO containers.

Did you notice our fun star Post-it notes? Okay, they are a little hard to miss. I ran out of paper in our labeler so I’ve used these Post-its to label the containers. I actually think I like them a little better because I can also add the serving size and Weight Watchers Point Plus values.

I’m still collecting Target gift cards, so I will keep you updated on my progress. It will take a while to get our entire pantry into OXO containers, but I will keep buying a few here and there as I get more gift cards. Unfortunately, it seems like they never go on sale.

Once I get the pantry organized, my next room is the laundry room. It’s kinda drab now. This is one of the only rooms in the house that we didn’t paint. As you can tell, this shelf and wall are not very exciting. And the explanation for why there are so many containers of fabric softener; they were on sale. I also got a $5 Target gift card for purchasing two Downy and Tide items, so I stocked up.

You can also see the top of our very old washing machine in this photo. We will probably keep our washer and dryer until they die, so it might be awhile before I can really get this room looking like much. I would like to add a folding table, but that will have to wait until we buy a front-loading washing machine. As most homeowners know, you never run out of things to buy, or projects to do when you own a house. But that means there is always something new and exciting going on!

So before I wrap up this post, I’ll leave you with this photo. I caught Zoey sun-bathing and looking cute this afternoon.

Also, I’m going to try to post more regularly so check back on Tuesdays and Saturdays of every week for new posts!
Have a great weekend everyone!

A year in the making…

One year ago, after a trip to Home Depot, we taped a blue paint chip to our wall. And that paint chip stayed there for a year.

Friends and family came and stayed at our house and still the paint chip stayed on the wall.

Until last weekend, the paint chip seemed like a part of our wall. We even joked that we would go back to Home Depot and get enough paint chips to cover the entire wall. Finally, last weekend we went to Home Depot and bought a gallon of paint instead. After a year of living with our paint chip, we decided to take the leap and paint the wall.

So below is our paint of choice for this project. It’s Behr Premium Plus Interior Eggshell Enamel. We like eggshell paint because it is more durable than a flat, but doesn’t give off any sheen. Our color of choice: Glass Sapphire. The paint chip was actually for paint that included primer. Since our walls were already a light color, we chose to go with the regular interior paint. Because we went for the non-primer paint, they had to color match our chip, which sounds funny, but it turned out perfect.

On Sunday morning we got up, ate some breakfast, prepped the paint brushes and rollers and sanded the rough spots in the wall. After we sanded the wall, we wiped it down with a dry cloth.

While we prepped the brushes, rollers and the wall, Zoey came to inspect the paint supplies and supervise.

And to help BJ tape the trim.

After we put the kitten upstairs to enjoy lounging on our bed while we were busy working, we finished taping the trim, laying all the drop cloths, ate some lunch and then painted. So here is the wall sans blue paint:

Then the first coat went on:

And as the sun set Sunday evening, we ate some dinner then painted the second coat and wrapped up our painting project.

We waited over 24 hours before we hung the decorations and curtains back on the wall. After two days, our wall was finished and looked great.

So now the moment you’ve been waiting for: the before and after (from slightly different angles).

Before:

After:

After one year in the making, our big blue accent wall is complete!

Another busy, yet accomplished weekend

These days it seems like every weekend is a busy one. However, this weekend was successful despite our busy schedule. So to catch you up on the past few days, I’ve spent most of the week calling home and working on projects around the house. Here are the highlights of this past week’s happenings:

1. The earthquake on the East Coast.

Since all of my family lives on the East Coast, I spent Tuesday evening sending text messages and calling home to my mom and dad to hear the stories of their experiences during the quake.

2. Hurricane Irene.

It’s been a crazy week for my friends and family on the East Coast. More phone calls home and watching the weather to see the path of the storm.

3. Despite the bad weather on the East Coast, it’s been a beautiful week here in the Midwest.

Although I hoped to get more work done outside in the beautiful weather, I’ve been spending some time indoors trying to get projects done and catch up on some cleaning, etc. Tonight is the first night we’ve opened up the windows since sometime in April or May. Zoey is so excited to see the windows open that she’s been running from room to room.


Yesterday, we got up in the morning, went to breakfast and then headed over to Borders’ going out of business sale. It’s sad to see places like Borders close. I’ve been frequenting the sale over the past few weeks buying up photography, decor and comic books.

In the realm of home decor, I found a couple of great buys for my mom on organizing and a few on home decor and Real Simple’s book on simple solutions:


After our trip to Borders, my husband and I hopped back in the car and headed to Ikea for the afternoon.

Earlier this week I signed up for Ikea Family and wanted to go pick up my new card and check out a few items that are on our project list. Our visit to Ikea was a successful one and we came home with a few new items for our home and even got to enjoy a few frozen yogurt for signing up for Ikea Family!

Our trips to Ikea not only end up with new stuff for our home, but we always leave with a better idea of what we might pick up on our next visit. This time we shopped for couches. Previously, we were set on the idea that we would be buying a different couch then the one we picked out this time. When we walked into the showroom on Saturday, this particular couch caught our eye:

We are looking for something that sits low to the floor (because our entertainment center, which is also from Ikea, has our TV sitting pretty low to the floor) and is large enough that when we have a guests over, everyone can find a place to sit to watch a football game, movie or play video games. Right now with one couch, most of our guest have to curl up on the floor with a pillow.
We really like the charcoal color they had in the showroom and since we have a palette of neutral colors in our home, my plan is to brighten up the couch with brightly colored throw pillows and blankets. I especially love this couch because it is so large and both BJ and I can curl up and watch a movie and be completely comfortable! Now we just need to do some measurements to see if it will fit in our living room. If not, there are plenty of configurations for this couch, so we can go with a smaller option.
And of course, a trip to Ikea isn’t complete without the adventure of figuring out how all of your purchases will fit in the trunk! This time, I thought for sure we would get everything in without a problem. Especially since we didn’t buy as much as we normally do. But, in perfect Ikea trip fashion, there we were standing at the car sweating it out because the shelves I picked out for my office didn’t fit even with the seats folded down. But no worries. We got it all in! And this is how we drove home:
Now that everything we bought is safely at home, here are the finished results of another successful trip to Ikea.
Hallway to garage and utility room before:
Hallway to garage and utility room after:
We also purchased a bench for shoes that we put in the kitchen which allows us to come in the garage door and have a place to sit down and take off our shoes. And it also serves as storage for our shoes. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tripped over my own shoes in that back hallway. I’m glad we now have a place to put them that is out of the path to the laundry room.
And lastly, coming soon will be a post on the finished project of adding shelves to the wall in my office! Look for that post in the future!

Home Decor Guilty Obsession #1: Crate and Barrel

It’s hasn’t been that long since I discovered Crate and Barrel and fell in love. After living in a small town for most of my life, I never came across a Crate and Barrel store. Not even in my trips to multiple big cities. Now I live only 45 minutes from Crate and Barrel and sometimes it takes serious willpower not to drive there and spend endless amounts of money. I love their modern yet comfortable furniture and their classic homewares. We have several accessories from there including vases, coasters, glass fish and picture frames. We also have kitchenwares such as beer mugs, champagne glasses, stemless martini glasses, pitcher and ice cube trays. BJ and I can go into a Crate and Barrel and spend hours just browsing the store. One of our favorite things to do is to look at all the fun toys on the kitchen gadget wall. We also browse the furniture upstairs and sit on nearly every couch in the store! Each time we go there, we usually come home with another decor piece or kitchen gadget. I would buy nearly everything in the Crate and Barrel store and that is why they made my list for Home Decor Guilty Obsessions.

Here are a few of my favorite Crate and Barrel finds:

These beautiful champagne glasses were given to us as a gift for our wedding.

The pitcher in the middle was also a wedding gift and the dark blue stemless martini glasses we found on sale during one of our visits to Crate and Barrel!

The heart-shaped bowl below was a gift from Crate and Barrel for creating our wedding registry there!
Crate and Barrel is also a great go-to place for wedding and Christmas gifts! I love buying gifts for friends and family. They also wrap the gifts in store in their fun white boxes.
There are Crate and Barrel stores all over, but my favorite one is definitely the store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. One year, we went to Chicago to do some Christmas shopping and several of our gifts came from this very store! (It’s also down the street from where get got engaged! We went shopping there the same day BJ popped the question!)
Keep in an eye on future posts for more of my home decor guilty obsessions!

The kitchen island and a home for my wrapping paper photo frames

After we moved into our house and began unpacking all of our existing kitchen dishes and appliances and then added all of our wedding gifts on top of that, we quickly filled up every existing storage space in our kitchen. We had things crammed in our cabinets and we were constantly digging around and stuffing to get everything to fit. Most people would consider getting rid of some of their items, but not us. Our solution: build more storage so our appliances and dishes could be spread out around the kitchen. The result: our fabulous kitchen island, built by us! Well, all of the pieces are from Ikea and we designed and assembled the whole thing.

Our goal with the island was to not only increase our existing storage space, built also to have a big workspace for preparing meals and a place to entertain guests in our kitchen while we prepare meals. We also wanted a place where we could eat dinner in our kitchen, but we weren’t interested in the traditional dinette table. The unit is also freestanding which will allow us to take it with us if or when we move out (some disassembly required).

The color choice of the island, which is different from our existing cherry kitchen cabinets was to create a contrast between the dark wood and the white cabinets. We also wanted to brighten up the kitchen. The dark cabinet and dark floor needed something that would pop against them! We chose the butcher block counters for a couple of reasons. First, they look really nice with the white cabinets and second, they were much more cost effective then the granite countertops we originally picked out. Because the bar and the work surface were two different pieces, the cost of granite skyrocketed.

Here’s our progress as we put the island together:


Zoey was also very helpful during the assembly. She supervised the entire project.

Some of the other fun features of the island include, the hidden trash can…
The book shelve for cookbooks and decorations…
And the cabinets to display our drink ware (with lights installed!):
So lastly, you might have noticed the new home for my Beating the Heat DIY project. I was originally planning to hang the frames in the kitchen on the backsplash, but I changed my mind after tapping the frames up to see how they would look. I’m happy to report that they still look great in the kitchen. I placed them on a few of the counters and I really like how they look. I think they’ve found their new home… for awhile at least!
They really brighten up the kitchen!