Thursday, January 23, 2014

Girl's Night: Terrarium Party

Earlier this week, my friends Ali and Dyllon decided to host a girl's night party. After admiring some of the terrariums I have around my house, they asked if I could instruct them on how to make their own. Obviously I was delighted to accept. I love DIY projects and getting to share them with a group of wonderful ladies sounded like a blast.

The night involved delicious food, zombie movies, red wine, and 12 terrariums.
That's right. 12 of them. Ali and Dyllon each went to HomeGoods and bought a selection of gorgeous apothecary jars so everyone would be able to fill a couple.

I forgot to bring a drop cloth, so we put down some garbage bags to contain most of the dirt. Then we all sat on the floor, passed the supplies, and made some adorable creations.
My tried and true method for a terrarium is as follows:

Step 1: Add thin layer of perlite. This helps with drainage. Wipe down the inside of the terrarium if any dust gets on the sides.
Step 2: Add a thin layer of charcoal. This keeps the odor down. I actually went to the pet store and bought activated carbon (used in aquarium filters), which is essentially the same thing. Again, wipe down the glass if dust rises up.
Step 3: Add a thin layer of coarse sand (you can also just use small rocks).
Step 4: Spread out about 2 inches of potting soil. This can vary by the type of vessel and the plants you intend to use. Dig small holes where you intend to put your plants.
Step 5: Massage the roots of your plants to help them sit flat. Add extra soil as needed to keep them upright.
Step 6: Add plant cuttings to fill in bare spots. I use rooting hormone to help the cuttings take root.
Step 7: Fill in with moss, rocks, twigs, and figurines to suit your style.
Step 8: Give the whole thing a good watering with a spray bottle. You don't want standing water, but you want the plants, roots, rooting hormone, and moss to be covered in a thin layer of moisture to start things off.
After that, water as needed. Larger containers can go months without needing extra sprays of water. Smaller containers should be checked more often. If the container has an air-tight seal, make sure to take the top off once in a while to let the plants get some fresh air.

After you water your terrarium the first time, it should look like your bathroom mirror after running a hot shower for a few minutes. Humid and a little steamy. You can see what I mean in the picture below.
The best part of having a party to create them was that you could share plants and decorations and get to see some wonderful ideas.

Dyllon picked up the little dragons below and added in some bones and fake skulls from a bracelet that broke.
I brought a little bear figurine and a zombie figurine to share. Ali bought a bag of dinosaurs, and Dyllon brought a turtle-shaped gold ring that used to belong to her grandmother (which looked amazing in the terrarium, btw). So it was fun getting to swap accessories.
Below is one of the dinosaurs that I used in my terrarium. Cute, right? You can see the moss in this picture. It's brown now, but after it holds moisture for a bit it'll turn green. Also, the plant in the foreground is rosemary. We decided to experiment and see if we could get some herbs to grow in them.
Below is the gold turtle ring. It popped even more in person. You can also see how the layers look at the bottom of the terrarium.
Having a terrarium party is also great because when you buy the supplies you need, you really only use a small portion of them. By making a bunch at once, you use up all the materials and it cuts down the cost of making each. Now we all have extras to give as gifts.
Here's a couple figurines I have in my terrariums throughout my house. This little army guy looks at home in the forest.
And it wouldn't be my house without some sort of zombie paraphernalia.
I got this guy on Halloween at Michaels. It was part of a Halloween village. I brought his companion to the party and Ali ended up using it in one of her terrariums.

Don't you love seeing the roots digging into the soil? It usually only takes a couple weeks before you start to see them creeping along.
This rock with our names on it was from a friend's wedding. She used them to assign guests to their tables. So I kept ours and added it to a terrarium for some cute personalization.
Once your terrarium starts growing, you may need to trim it back. I use the cuttings to root and create even more terrariums. Eventually, you get to a point where you can create a whole new terrarium without buying any new plants. Can't beat that!

Anyone else throwing any crafty parties? We're thinking of making this a monthly tradition, but we haven't settled on next month's project. Maybe soap or candle making? Refinishing thrift store furniture? Any suggestions?
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Organizing in 2014

2014 has me in the mood to organize.

I started with some bookcases in the dining room. Chris bought me that adorable owl bookend for Christmas, and I wanted to clear a spot for it. So I took all the books off the shelves, wiped everything down really well and started putting everything back in there in nice groupings. Since I actually use my bookshelves to hold books, they are a bit more cluttered than the pretty displays you'll find on Pinterest. Don't get me wrong, I love the look of a sparse bookshelf with two or three books on each level and a couple pretty trinkets. But I love books more. So this is what I ended up with.
My other bookshelf is a little less jam packed. I'm just happy to have everything dust free and cleaned up. It's amazing how much dust books can accumulate.
My big organizational project was the kitchen cabinets though. As I was replacing the handles, I realized that some of the interiors of my cabinets had gotten a little, well ... disastrous.
I used the same technique as before, removing everything from the cabinets, wiping the cabinets and the items down. I didn't have to worry about dust inside the cabinets, but I did have some other messes to contend with ...
No, there wasn't a horrible murder in my cabinet. Turns out a bottle of red food coloring and tipped over and leaked onto the shelf. It had dried, but when I sprayed it with cleaning spray, this happened. Yuck.

Luckily I was able to get the cabinet clean and put back together. And now I have this lovely, organized sight in my kitchen.
Oreo was on hand to help. And by help I mean throw out expired food and create piles of dishes to donate.
After that I organized the rest of the cabinets that hold our everyday dishware and glasses. I got rid of mismatched mugs, extra souvenir glasses that didn't really hold any sentimental value, and vases I don't use very often. Now there's a lot more room for the dishes that we do use everyday.

I also moved the liquor cabinet closer to the other food cabinets and moved the glasses closer to the fridge, which makes a lot more sense.

Next up was organizing the lower cabinets. I turned the one on the left into a drink and party supply cabinet, and the one of the right is for small appliances and bake ware.
A lot of the bake ware from the last picture had been crammed in this tiny cabinet for some reason, so I had to wrestle every time I needed to get out a cookie sheet or cutting board, which is often. Now I can easily access what I need without having to rearrange the contents to do it.
It makes me happy to know that even when the cabinets are closed, there is neatness and order behind the doors. :-)
Remember my end-of-summer task list? Clearly we've missed the deadline, but I sort of wanted to check in on that and see how much I've done. I guess now it's and end-of-winter task list.

  • Weed and add plants to the front yard garden
  • Weed and divide irises in the side yard gardens
  • Add grass seed to bare spots in the back yard
  • Transplant ferns near the shed
  • Transplant plants that did poorly this year to new locations
  • Do something with that compost bin (never got around to making a veggie garden)
Other Outside Projects
  • Paint the eaves around the garage
  • Finish up the back porch trim
  • Add house numbers to the front door
Furniture I'm Going to Paint/Makeover
  • Black china cabinet with mirrors (new hardware, paint)
  • Pink desk (paint white with gold dip look)
  • Old white chair (reupholster and paint to go with the pink desk's new look)
  • Small bookshelf (paint, maybe shelf paper)
  • Apothecary unit (going to look for new hardware, maybe sand and stain a darker tone)
Other Inside Projects
  • Stuff pillows and hem the sides (mom made two pillow covers from leftover materials)
  • Totally empty the kitchen, clean, and reorganize
  • Finish up the new terrariums
  • Caulk the gaps around the living room's ceiling trim
Not bad! I also need to add "Remove extra set of house numbers from the siding" to the list. I really need to do that still. But overall I'm pretty happy with my list. Maybe in the spring I'll start a new one and add the remaining items to that.

I do think it's important not to beat yourself up if you don't get everything done you want to. Focus on what you did do, and try to plan a time when you'll finish up the remaining tasks at a later date. No stress, just an improved household. :-)
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Can You Handle That?

It's finally done!

For Christmas this year, I asked my friends and family for gift cards so I could purchase new cabinet handles for my entire kitchen. It's crazy how fast the cost can add up when you have 8 drawers and 28 cabinet doors. But happily all those gift cards had it covered and then some!

And they look fabulous.
Here's the kitchen before I got in there.
The old handles were relatively new and in good condition, but the style just wasn't me. It was too ornate, and the darker "antiqued" metal didn't go with any of the other metal finishes in the room. I think I might try to sell them on eBay or Craigslist though. So that may help me recoup some of the cost as well.
My first step was removing the drawer cabinet faces so I could get access to the handles. After wanting to replace these for years, boy was this a happy sight.

Here's the new handle on the left and the old one on the right. They fit the same holes (3" center-to-center) but the new ones are a bit longer looking. They're in a gorgeous brushed nickel finish, which goes with the sink and faucets, the lights, and the paper towel holder.
Here's the old handles on the built-in cabinets near the basement door. Super old ladyish.
And here's the new, more modern handles freshening things up a bit.
The kitchen looks like a lot fresher and more modern with these new handles and pulls, right?

I can't say I don't still want to paint those cabinets white, (or the uppers white and the lowers grey) but I feel like since they are in such good condition I should probably just leave them alone.
Wouldn't that Rockport Grey color on my freestanding cabinet look gorgeous on the lower cabinets? It definitely makes the handles pop on the cabinet.

Oreo likes things the way they are though.

Few more close-ups of the new handles.

I love the mix of two different styles of handles that go well together but keep things interesting. You know me. Never one for being too matchy matchy.
So that's my little kitchen refresh. I ended up cleaning all the cabinets as I changed out the handles, so this project ate up the better part of three days. (I'll be back with some pictures of my newly reorganized cabinets soon). But if you were just swapping out the handles you could get 'er done in under two hours.
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Friday, January 10, 2014

Office Bathroom Redesign: Part 3

I know it's been a while since I had an update on the work I've been doing on the bathroom at the office where I work, so let's recap.

In Part 1, I detailed my plan for the outdated bathroom:

  • Remove wallpaper and vinyl baseboards
  • Prime and paint walls in a cool grey shade
  • Paint trim glossy white
  • Install white baseboards
  • Hang a new, prettier mirror above the sink
  • Install toilet paper holder and paper towel holder
  • Replace outlet and light switch covers
  • Create a sink skirt to cover the electric water heater under the sink
  • Hang pretty artwork
... and I discussed ripping the wallpaper off the walls.

In Part 2, we settled on a paint color, primed and painted the walls and installed some baseboards (not pictured below).
And now, today, we're finally ready for the big reveal. We didn't hang any artwork yet, but pretty much everything else is done. So without further ado, I give you, a bathroom:
I would have loved to swap out that plastic trash can for a metal one with a lid, or even a chunky wicker or wood wastebasket, but it's not my bathroom, so hey. I'd say it's still a huge improvement.

Obviously, the biggest change is that sink skirt. JoAnne picked out the fabric and requested something clean lined and simple. So I busted out my sewing machine, put on Love Actually and got down to sewing.
I added white lining to the corners and ironed it all really well so it would look crisp and almost structural. Plus, if the panels get pushed to the side, there is a white liner to block the view of the ugly electric water heater.

The skirt is attached with Velcro. I used two kinds for this job. There is a sticky-back type that I applied directly to the sink, and there is a iron-on kind that I applied to the fabric. I just had to make sure to line up the soft and prickly sides correctly. Tip: I sewed the fabric Velcro in place. It didn't have a great hold when I ironed it on, and with Velcro, you know there's a chance it'll get tugged on. But sewing it did the trick and it's definitely not going to fall off.

I also installed the toilet paper holder. Up until now, both the toilet paper and paper towels sat on top of the white cabinet in the picture below. Not ideal. Definitely too easy to drop the toilet paper on the floor. I don't know about you, but I like to know my toilet paper is in a clean place, never having made contact with the floor or anything else, for that matter.
I installed a paper towel holder next to the sink as well. No more dripping across the room to reach them on the cabinet.
JoAnne did a great job matching up the finishes. It's such a simple but classy room now.
The view as you walk into the bathroom now looks like this. I believe that if they add in some artwork, it will hang on that wall next to the toilet, so it'll really spice up the view when you enter. I recommended a couple graphic prints in white frames with white mats. Just to add a splash of color while tying in all the white in there.
Anyway, it's a far cry from where we started with the pink nightmare.
I'm pretty proud. Let's see another before and after. We went from this:
To this.
Really wish I had pulled that garbage can out of there for the pictures. lol But try not to focus on that. How great does JoAnne's mirror look with that fabric? And now they have some hidden storage for the toilet brush underneath the sink, which helps hide yet another eyesore.

My favorite part is probably those baseboards though. So crisp and white and elegant. Love me some white trim. What about you guys? Any favorite parts? Any suggestions on artwork (or a prettier wastebasket) for the room? Don't you think a dark grey marble or black-and-white tiled floor would have looked fantastic in there?

Sigh. If only budgets were unlimited ...