Decking the Halls

This is our first holiday season in our new house and I am beyond thrilled about it!  We never had much space to decorate in our townhouse because our main living area functioned as our living room, media room, play room and entertaining space.  It was jam-packed with furniture which left little room for holiday decor, though we did manage to squeeze a real live tree in there every year!

Anyway, with a whole house to decorate this year, I was in my glory.   I tried not to go overboard in hopes to keep it simple and not break the bank.  I am beyond happy with how it has all turned out.  It’s cheery, bright, and most importantly, kid friendly!  It all feels so festive and celebrating the holidays feels extra special this year.

Here is a glimpse into our home all decked out for the holidays.

These oversized ornaments are hanging in our bow window in the living room.

And here is our mantel all dressed up.

After some hesitation, I bit the bullet on the Potter Barn embroidered stockings.  They were offering free embroidery and shipping so I couldn’t resist.  They first ones they sent I had to send back because the stitching was horrible and one of the stockings had a different color thread.  I’m very happy with them now, the second time around.

My favorite part of the mantel is the little gold light up trees that I found at the Christmas Tree Shop for $2.99 each.  They’re so simple yet so pretty.

And last, but certainly not least, is our tree!

We’ve started a new family tradition of cutting down our own at a tree farm.  I’ve had a real tree all my life and I vow to never have an artificial one.  Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without the smell of a fresh tree in the house and tiny pine needles all over the place!  I really love our tree this year.  It stands high, goes right up to the ceiling and is just a beauty.  It’s full of white lights and colorful ornaments.  There is no theme to it.  The ornaments are all shapes and sizes, some home made and some store bought.  The girls helped us decorate it and I like them to feel like it’s their tree too, not just a decoration.

I’d love to see (or hear) how you’ve decorated hour home for the holidays.  Do you have any special traditions in decorating?  Do you prefer a real or artificial tree?

Hall Closet Makeover

We have a good sized closet in our main hallway.  It’s pretty much been unused since we moved in, mostly because we moved in during nicer weather and didn’t have big coats, hats, gloves, boots, etc to put in there.  Instead, it has become home to some very random things like mops, Pledge, light bulbs, grocery bags and our fire extinguisher.

(click to enlarge)

With the colder weather creeping up on us, I know that we are going to need to use this closet for it’s intended purpose rather than as a catch-all.  So, I decided to tackle it.  It was a very spur-of-the-moment decision.  I took some quick measurements, grabbed the girls, and drove to Lowe’s to buy some supplies.  There were a few things that I definitely wanted to accomplish with the project and the rest just fell into place.  First, since the closet is over a stairway, the floor is slanted upward which means you can’t really put much on the floor of the closet (but somehow that didn’t really seem to stop the clutter from gathering there!).  Then there was the abundance of grocery bags (aka toxic waste-smelling diaper disposal bags).  Even though we use reusable shopping bags 90% of the time, we still seem to end up with tons of these plastic bags.  So, I was determined to find an answer to this problem.  And finally, how do I make the closet not look so cluttered?  I know, I know, it IS a closet after all, but I just hated looking at all of the crap!

Here is how it turned out:

I am completely thrilled with it.  I installed a shelf near the bottom of the closet.  It can be used for shoes or whatever.  I put a small bin on it so the kids can put things away at their own level (ie hats, gloves, scarves).  I put two larger bins on the top shelf.  One of them has the light bulbs and other miscellaneous stuff in it.  The other is empty for now, but will hold Scott’s and my hats, gloves and scarves this winter.  I was able to eliminate two of the mops from the closet.  One was the Swiffer Wet Jet, which we no longer use (we replaced it with a Shark Steam Mop seen in the picture).  The other one was an old school sponge mop that somehow made it’s way to the new house even though we never used it at the condo.

But, I know the biggest question on everyone’s mind right now is “What did she do with all of those grocery bags?!?”  Pretty sweet, huh?!  I’ve seen these type of bag holder/dispenser things before but for some reason never bought one.  Of course today when I was on the hunt for one, it took me forever to find it.  It’s stuck on the right hand wall inside the closet with some adhesive backing (or you could have used screws).  The box says it holds 30 bags but I was able to get at least 45 in there (yes, I was counting!).  I’m very happy about it.

So, I ended up spending about $40 at Lowe’s on the shelf, hardware, bins and the grocery bag holder.  I know it probably seems silly that I’m so excited about a closet makeover, but I know it’s going to make our lives so much easier once we’re wearing heavy coats and winter accessories.

Evolution of a home – living room.

One of the benefits of buying a home that is For Sale By Owner (FSBO) is that you get to know the owner/seller.  I realize that some people may not view this as a benefit, but it our case it was a huge plus.  They were extremely helpful and very informative through the entire process.  They answered every single question that we had to the best of their knowledge.  As the new owners of the home it’s great to be able to get in touch with them if we have any questions (and we have).  They moved out of state but they’re the type of people where if they’re ever back to visit, we’d love to have them over for dinner!

Anyway, another added bonus of “knowing” them is that they were gracious enough to share with us pictures of how the home looked when they purchased it.  This was very neat to us.  It has also allowed us to see how the home has evolved over the years.  It’s quite awesome.  As I mentioned before, our house was built in the late 1960′s so even though it’s new to us, it’s not really new.  The previous owners had the glorious job of removing all of the old wallpaper and painting all of the wood trim white.  Both of which I am extremely grateful for!  When we moved in, most of what we did was cosmetic.

I’m going to share with you bits and pieces of the house as it has evolved through the years.  First we’ll visit the living room.  I call this room the conversation room.  It’s attached to the dining room and off of the kitchen.  We don’t have a TV in this room and it’s used more for sitting and talking or reading.  Our computer nook is also here though our laptop floats around the house with us most of the time.  Anyway, here is what the room looked like, sans furniture, when the previous owners first purchased it a little over five years ago:

It was carpeted, had dingy walls and the window casing appears to be beige.  What you can see is that the bay (or is it bow) window is a huge focal point.  What you can’t see is that there is a beautiful fireplace on the wall to the right of the window.  Otherwise, pretty basic and boring.

Here are the pictures of the same room from when the previous owners lived here:

Here you can see the work that the previous owners put into the room.  They put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, painted the trim and window casing white, removed the carpet and refinished the hardwood floors.  They did an amazing job!  You can also see that fireplace that I was talking about.  And notice how the window lets in a TON of natural light?!  I love it!

When we moved in, we originally had our sectional in this room.  It didn’t fit and was too overbearing here.  We intended for it to go in the family room, but that room was a work in progress and we needed a couch somewhere!  Once the family room was finished, we moved the sectional down there and were left with an empty space.  The girls loved it because it meant more room for them to run around in and create a mess, but we knew it was temporary.  Eventually we purchased furniture for the room and I’m happy with how it’s coming along.  Here are pictures of how the room currently looks:

I took these pictures at night so there’s no sun coming in through the window but you get the idea.  We’re planning to paint the wall behind the love seat and the wall where the fireplace is a lighter shade of green.  We are also currently looking for a new, larger area rug.  I’m sure I’ll put some pictures or something on the mantle eventually and I have to do some decorating in the desk area (pictures/cork board/etc).  Oh and we need to get a more beefy looking curtain rod.  The one that is there looks a bit too wimpy for the window.  Other than that, I’m pretty happy with how it’s coming along!  What do you think?

The visitor

One day last week I was out in the yard with Brinley.  She was beating the heat by lounging in the pool and I was soaking up some sun in a law chair.  It was nearly 100 degrees out and extremely humid.  At one point I went over to the garage to throw something away.  When I got back Brinley said to me, “Mom, I just saw a shadow back in the woods.  It had a black and white tail.”  Now Brinley has a very vivid imagination and often makes up stories pretends silly and unusual things happen.  Since I’m familiar with her grand imagination, I often play along.  So, I replied, “Oh really, was it a skunk?  I bet he’s trying to keep cool under the trees.”  She just looked at me and then said, “No, mom, I think it was a raccoon because it had a long, skinny tail.”  I said, “Oh yea, you’re right, it probably was a raccoon.”

She continued swimming and I continued sitting on my ass lounging in the chair.  Seconds later I heard a rustling sound coming from the woods.  When I say woods I’m referring to the tree area part of our yard that separates us from our neighbors to the back.  It’s not a deep forest or anything.  Anywho, after a minute or two of the rusting, which I assumed was just a squirrel or chipmunk, I turned to see a freaking raccoon emerging from the woods.  In shock, I stood up from my chair, but then quickly stood still afraid that it would attack me.  I mean it was during broad daylight.  The thing must have been rabid, right?  I didn’t want to scare Brinley so I didn’t tell her what I saw.  I didn’t want her to freak out and cause the raccoon to go nuts and bite us.  Ok, I guess I sound a little paranoid here.

Well, the raccoon was looking me right in the eyes and it slowly walked into our back yard, around to the side yard, continuing toward the front of the house.  When I lost sight of it, I tried to walk over to the side of the house to see where it went, but I lost it.  So I went back over to where Brinley was figuring it just went into the woods or across the street.  Just as I was sitting back down I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  It was the raccoon!!  I was now in the driveway walking by Scott’s car.  It kept going past the drive way and over the small, tree filled hilly area and into our neighbors yard where  I again lost sight of it.

I know I probably sound like a freak for being so afraid of the raccoon, but for some reason it just seemed strange to me that it would so casually walk through our yard in the middle of the day.  I’m almost 100% sure that there are other raccoons that live in our woods and it doesn’t alarm me one bit as long as I don’t see them.  I mean they’re nocturnal, right?  So why should I see them unless they’re rabid!  I should probably do some raccoon research before I keep making these claims.  Our little visitor seemed completely innocent and didn’t bother us in the least.

It shouldn’t be sew hard.

Why is it so hard to find decent curtains and valances? We have a lot more windows in our new house than we did in our townhouse. And it’s just different here so I don’t want to just put up some of the old ones we had. We found so great sheers for pretty cheap for Brinley’s room and I love the way they look.

Nora only has one window in her room so I decided to try my hand at sewing, and made her valance out of her crib skirt. With the style of the crib that she has, the skirt barely showed through anyway. Since her bedding set came with it, I figured I could cut it up and try to sew a valance. If it came out horrible, then the only thing I’d really have lost was the time it took me to make it. So, I called up my mom to see if she still had her sewing machine kicking around (she used to make lots of stuff back in the day, including dresses for my sister and I). I was in luck, she still had it.

Last week I busted it out and went to work. I haven’t touched a sewing machine since 8th grade Home Economics class. However, by some miracle, it all came back to me. I even remembered how to refill and empty bobbin! This was a pretty easy project though because most of the hems were already sewn since it was a crib skirt. I just cut off the longest sides of the skirt and sort of overlapped them and made a rod pocket. A few pins and stitches later and ta-dah! I had made a valance! It’s nothing fancy or special but it does the job and cost me nothing. It doesn’t bunch up as much as I would have liked since the window is really big and the length of fabric wasn’t very long, but I like it and I’m happy with how it turned out. (I will put up some pictures once things are finalized in the room.)

So now I’m left with a double window in the dining room, a bathroom window, a kitchen window and a door that are still left bare. I know I’m putting too much pressure on myself since we just moved in a little over two weeks ago, but I just can’t stand the sight of it looking so unfinished. I reused the scarf valance thing we had over our living room window in the townhouse in our bay window in our new living room and I hate the way it looks, it’s not long enough. So that will be replaced too at some point. It works for now.

For some reason though, I am just having terrible luck finding anything that I like. I’ve looked at Target, WalMart, JC Penny, Bed Bath & Beyond,, Sears and just about everywhere that I can think of that sells curtains and valances. I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, but they don’t have to be super cheap either. It just seems like all I can find for kitchens is stuff with fat chefs, wine bottles, or fruit on them. If I had more time (and patience – since I totally sucked at making a straight line) I’d sew some more myself but it would be easier for me to just buy them (and I’ know they’d look nicer).

So, help me out here. Where can I find some decent window treatments without breaking the bank?

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