Monday, March 31, 2014

TUTORIAL: Handmade height chart

What do you do when you move from the house where your baby was born and started growing up?  You can't take that height chart (oh so lovely in Sharpie on the kitchen wall) with you, so you'll have to get creative.  This was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, where it was done much better, but here is my take.

Here was our classy original version.  Even had we been staying at our house, something needed to change...

Here's how we improved upon it, and made it mobile.

Safety pins
Long piece of fabric to hang on wall
Smaller contrasting piece of fabric to cut into rectangles
Marker to write ages

For the chart: I used a navy piece of cotton fabric from my fabric stash, cut to about 5 inches wide (I left room to hem the sides).

For the measurement markings: I used some cool burlap looking fabric that had been the lining of a tie I had taken apart to refashion into a bow tie for Gavin.

I used safety pins to attach the height markers to the chart.

I then cut the burlap-ish fabric into rectangles and added safety pins to each piece.

I taped the column of chart fabric to the wall, with the bottom just touching the floor, so I will know where to line it up and hang it when we move. 

Then I wrote the ages from the wall on to the measurement tags.

I then pinned the tags to the fabric chart at the corresponding height of the wall marking.

I found a somewhat cute bag from my gift wrapping stash (I repurpose everything) that I could use to store the extra measurement markers.  I later pinned the bag to the top of the chart (photo way down below) so I can easily add measurement pins in the future.

Here's how it looks behind Gavin's door.  Now we can take it with us, and it's not distracting to potential home buyers.

Here's where I pinned that bag of extra pins/markers so I can add more measurements without having search for the materials.  (Obviously I do need to iron and hem this!  Today was more about getting the kitchen wall painted - I will finish the height chart off later.)

Kitchen wall - ready for house showings!  No more classy Sharpie height chart.

Friday, March 28, 2014

WHAT I WORE: Volunteer work

My life has a few phases.  While I do really dress up two times a week for our meetings for worship, when I am doing my volunteer teaching work (about 17 hours a week), I wear slightly more casual but skirted outfits, then there are the really casual outfits I wear to run errands with Gavin (and we won't even talk about the lounging clothes I wear at home when I don't plan to go out at all).  Here's a typical daily volunteer ministry outfit for early spring here in Wisconsin.  It was paired with a winter coat!

Clearly still perfecting my outfit picture technique...

Sweater: Tangents via Goodwill
Tee: LOFT outlet (similar, similar)
Skirt: Athleta, old (tell them to bring back the pencil skirt!) (save, similar, similar, splurge)
Boots: Hunter via ebay
Scarf, handmade in Nepal (save, splurge)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

IDEA GAL: Kitchen curtains

Another quick curtain solution.  (Here's my previous, more comprehensive blog about that topic).  I'm not a huge fan of valances (just my personal preference), but besides the look, they're not functional.  I wanted something that would actually cover my window when needed, but would look a bit more structured than a fabric curtain.  Solution?  Three parts:

1) A tension rod between the cabinets (mainly because we couldn't bear to put holes in the new woodwork we had just stained, finished and installed, but it would also be great for a rental home),
 2) clip rings attached to the rod,
3) a wood blind hung sideways.  I removed the hardware and strings and attached what was originally the side of the blind to the clip rings.

I like how it looks, and feel like it was a somewhat creative solution to my curtain challenge. Still working on the solution to my other kitchen window (which is tall and narrow).  I originally hung a matching blind the way it was intended, but when I retrofit the blind with "child-safe" blind cords, it stopped functioning and we had to toss it.  Then I decided I didn't want something with long strings on it due to my son.  So, we're still working on that one!  I'll post as soon as I solve that challenge.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I'm a strong believer in planned design - my motto is "store it where you use it" (whenever possible).  Doesn't it seem like you'll keep your entryway area cleaner and more organized if there is a place for everything you walk in the door that you need to put down?  That's my idea anyway, not that life always works that way...  Here's some of our ideas.

This is a work in progress, but we did get our entryways both relatively whipped into shape in this house (just in time to move...).  But, I learned some of the key elements so the next place will be even better.  Next time, I plan to add a small cabinet to the front entry below the shelf/hooks/mirrors that can store my purse and any items we need to take with us when we leave the house.

Mirror for last minute touch-ups on the way out
Shelf for wallet/phone
Key hooks
Close up view:
Key hooks
Overall view:
Wall hooks for coats/snowpants
Metal wall cabinet (see below)
Rug for shoes/boots
Key hooks

Wall cabinet (Medicine cabinet from IKEA) holds sunglasses:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WHAT I WORE: Thursday night

Outfit photos never look like I feel, but photos don't lie, right?  Anyway, the outfit was still cute, even if I didn't look that cute in it..  Mike said I needed a necklace, but I was trying to make it all about my earrings and bracelets (including my awesome handmade leather cuff which was a gift from a friend).  Maybe he's right?

Blazer: Gap (similar, similar, similar)
Dress: Calvin Klein via Macy's (similar, similar, similar)
Belt: Gap (similar, similar)
Tights: Target (similar)
Shoes BCBG via ebay (similar, similar)

Monday, March 24, 2014

BEFORE and AFTER: Bathroom

We did our bathroom even before we did our kitchen (see that post).  It turned out to be a good learning exercise for how to design and plan, purchase and install - all in a compact space.  We couldn't really get into TOO much trouble in this tiny room, right?  Here's what we were working with - bathtub only with no shower, a wood-framed window in the bathtub area, one hideous added cabinet above the toilet (which was tan and had an elongated seat on a round toilet bowl - lovely), a gross light fixture, an icky brass faucet; a newer pedestal sink, an okay mirrored medicine cabinet and a really ugly linoleum floor (just enumerating in case you can't pick out the pieces for yourself from the photo below).  


While the backsplash/wall tile really was fine (I think it was light tan?), it had to be torn out because we needed to install cement board in place of the drywall in order to install a shower.  So we had to rip EVERYTHING out - sink, toilet, wall tile, and medicine cabinet.  We chose to also replace the light fixture and flooring with more attractive options.  

DECISIONS: To save costs, we decided to re-install the same sink and mirrored cabinet and to keep the bathtub, which was original to the house (from 1953), but was in fine condition.  This affected the choices we made in finished products, to try to blend the new (mostly white) items with the original dark tan colored bathtub (more on that below).  We also re-used the light tan toilet from this bathroom to replace a truly disgusting toilet (from 1953 and apparently never cleaned since then) that was in the downstairs bathroom (Can I just say, UGH?).  That saved some cost (and time, for the tub).


WALLS: We went with basic white subway tile from our big box construction supply superstore, which saved money (it saved hundreds over the quote the fancy tile shop gave us for their subway tile), but decided to add a little extra "bling" with $100 worth of glass tile from the fancy tile shop.  Full disclosure:  I must say I fought this extra cost at the time, but my husband won, and he was right!!  (Yep, I admit it, honey.)  This did add quite a bit more labor time, but since we did the tile work ourselves, it didn't add to our bottom line, just to our timeline.

WINDOW:  We changed out the regular wood-framed window to glass block tile (also from our regional construction superstore), and adjusted the window opening size to fit the blocks.  My husband was able to adjust the siding on the outside of the house to make it work.

FLOOR: We chose a basic (read: cheap) octagon/square pattern white ceramic tile for the floor which came already mounted on one foot square flexible sheets (from the other construction superstore in our area, we used both of them liberally, as we noted each had different strengths for in-stock tile options).  Our little custom tweak here was to custom order a small amount of small square floor tiles that matched the bathtub color from another local tile shop (we shopped around, another tip to achieve a finished product like this).  Then, prior to grouting, we removed a set pattern of a few tiles from the pre-made floor tile grid so we could insert the tan tiles to make it look like the original floor tile pattern included white and tan tile (see finished pictures to explain what I mean).  Our goal was to make it look like the tan tub belonged in the otherwise all-white bathroom.  I think the custom tan tile cost less than $50, and I think it really makes the floor match the tub.  It really didn't add that much installation time for the floor - the only hard part was deciding how many tan tiles we wanted to add, and in what pattern.

PAINTED WALLS: We went with a tan paint color that matched the bathtub, so that the simplified color scheme was just two colors - white (sink, toilet, wall tiles, most floor tiles) and tan (bathtub, a few floor tiles, painted walls/ceiling).  I think it helps the tiny room seem a bit bigger.

PLUMBING:  We did have a plumber professionally install the shower piping, and he came back later to check on and finalize the plumbing fixture installation once the tile work was done.  That was less than $500, and well worth it.

See what you think - I personally love how the bathroom turned out, and I don't think you would guess it cost less than $2000 total.



Extra custom tiles used for the floor were installed around the toilet paper roll holder:

Details of the glass tiles we got from the high end tile shop.  (Worth it, right?):

This adorable shelf and plants was totally Mike's idea.  Target ended up having exactly what he said he wanted - "a white shelf with plants".  Great idea, I can't take credit for that either!

Light fixture (from big box store) ties in with glass tiles

We added this shelf this year, because the tub developed a spot where the paint was peeling about 5 years after we remodeled the bathroom.  This added shelf was our solution (first Mike caulked over the peeling paint on the tub before installing the shelf), since we had pretty much committed to this bathtub once we tiled around it.  Works fine!

Friday, March 21, 2014

SNEAKY STORAGE: Above doorway and above message center

Disclaimer: I cannot take credit for this idea.  I'm not sure who originally came up with the brilliant thought, but I saw it in one of those gorgeous organization booklets that I once uncharacteristically succumbed to at the grocery store checkout.  Here's a photo of the booklet I used, to give full credit to Martha Stewart and her minions:

Anyway, within this lovely volume, I found this grand idea, which we adapted to our home and our needs.  Here's how we did it:


Now we have a spot to store extra rolls of toilet paper, wash cloths and soap, since our bathroom has only a pedestal sink and no storage space (big bathroom redo post coming soon so you'll see what we're dealing with).

Since I am not tall enough to reach this shelf, here's how I access this stored cache:

See the yellowish rod with a red handle hanging on the side of the door?  Here's what it's for:

Now I don't have to do a huge leap every time I need to refill the toilet paper or soap.  I consider this very high design in my house, since we are not always the most perfectly organized.

Here's how we adapted the idea for our kitchen message center:

The message center itself is just a combination of a magnet board from IKEA (left side), a cork board we cut out of a cork board from a thrift shop (upper right) and chalkboard paint wall (lower right). We added the trim around the whole thing to finish it off, and added the extra shelf on top, which holds some pictures, Gavin's magnet letters and numbers for the fridge, and a box with the extra chalk and eraser.  (I think the message center idea also came from that same booklet.)

My husband built these shelves to size and I painted them white.  They are each just 4 pieces of wood nailed together: a rectangle wider shelf part on top attached to a smaller rectangle lower back part and two triangular pieces on the edges for extra shelf support.  He then installed the shelf directly to the wall.

Every little bit of storage helps, right?  Thanks, Martha!