whiteframe8

 

This might be one of my most favorite projects that I’ve done in awhile.  Now that I am 38 weeks along in my 2nd pregnancy, I’m officially in nesting mode!  I am full term now so baby can be due any day now and of course I left most of the things I’ve wanted to do around the house until the final month of my pregnancy.   I have all these big ideas that will probably never get completed, but these white frames for our living room was a project that I’ve wanted done for awhile and I’m thrilled we got them finished before baby #2 arrives!

When we moved into our home a two and a half years ago, the previous owners left these Crate and Barrel wall candle holders in the living room above where the couch would go.  Since we didn’t have anything else to put up there at the time and Jeff has a strange opposition to putting holes in the walls and I was also in my final month of pregnancy with Zoey, we just left them there for the past 2 years:

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They aren’t bad, in fact, they are really popular decor items. I see the exact same candle holders in staged model homes all the time or on television. They are all over The Bachelor mansion!  I never really loved them though and over the years I’ve just learned to decorate around them and make them my own. During the holidays, I’ve hung our Christmas cards on them and last Valentine’s Day, I blogged about how I decorated them by hanging red heart ornaments:

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Its not that I didn’t like the candle holders, its just that they aren’t really my style and I was ready for a change. I also realized that we take so many photos in front of our couch, so I really wanted something there that was more “US”.  I’ve been wanting to construct white frames to hang above our living room couch but  I knew I couldn’t do it all myself because it would involve some sawing of wood.   After a horrifying table saw accident that left me with 13 stitches on my right index finger and a trip to the ER, I swore off working with any saws of any kind.  I still have nightmares from that incident 3 years ago!   So I had to enlist help.  Originally, I had a contractor who was going to install crown molding come over and give me a quote.  He estimated that he would charge me a whopping $750!  So I had to go with Plan B: Ask Jeff.  I was really hoping to avoid going this route because Jeff’s good at a lot of things but he’s not that handy when it comes to building things. He’s the first to admit that himself. I entered our marriage with more power tools than he did. He didn’t even own a hammer! Or a screwdriver!

The biggest reason, however, is that whenever we tackle a project around the house together, I know that I am setting the stage for a battle.  Our marriage is great but nothing can test it more than a good ‘ol  home improvement project.  An example of this is documented when Jeff and I put up the lantern and light mobile in Zoey’s room - we don’t work well together.  Usually when it comes to home improvement projects, it goes something like this:

1.)  I dream up some big idea, browse Pinterest, research materials and come up with a grand plan which I excitedly present to Jeff.

2.) Jeff immediately rejects the idea (due to cost, resistance to change, declaring it not a necessity, lack of time, being more level-headed or any combination of these).

3.) I pout.  Due to Jeff squashing my dreams (and seemingly ruining my life), I am even more determined to make it happen. I proclaim that I will take on the project myself without his help. I huff around the house.

4.)  After a couple of weeks, Jeff eventually comes around not because he wants to actually work on the project but because he wants to make me happy.  He is a good hubby like that.

5.) We set off to Home Depot to gather supplies, wandering the aisles like lost kids for hours and somehow still returning home missing several essential pieces.  This step is repeated several times every weekend until we finally buy everything we need.

6.) Project commences and we are happily working together.  Outlook is optimistic….for a short while.  Project is abandoned midway because one of us (usually me) has absurdly high standards and is disappointed by how things are progressing or because one of us (usually Jeff) breaks something. We fight.  Someone is accused of being too controlling. Someone is accused of being too clumsy.  Communication is ceased.  Project looks like it will never be completed.  Supplies are left abandoned and scattered around the house.  Outlook is dismal.

7.)  Jeff, because he is a bigger person than I am, comes around and decides to finish off the project after weeks of frosty silence.  I don’t want to seem ungrateful so I offer to help.  We finish the project with marriage intact.  Rejoice!  Years pass before we dare tackle any other home projects.

This is pretty much how the building of these custom frames went.   I really wanted huge square 3′x3′ feet square white frames above our couch.  Jeff didn’t. But he helps me because he knows how important it is to me and wants me to be happy.  And not pay $750 for them.  I also had to promise that we wouldn’t put up any additional holes in the walls.

Building these white frames was a similar process to the framing a mirror tutorial that I blogged a few years ago.  We got about 36 feet of crown molding for $1.33/feet from Home Depot.  Since we didn’t own a miter saw and I am deathly terrified of any type of saws now, we bought a miter box an hand saw for about $15.  Since the crown molding was MDF and not solid wood, it sliced really easily by hand. The measuring and cutting of the molding was Jeff’s job:

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We had the  wood panels for the back of the frames cut to size at the Home Depot so that we didn’t have to cut them at home. Ours were 3′x3′:

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I was able to piece everything together without nails.  I used wood glue to adhere the molding to the edges of the wood panels and clamped them down:whiteframe2

Not in these pictures, but I ended up using a third clamp on the middle section of each edge because the molding typically is slightly bowed.  I let the glue dry overnight:
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Once the wood glue was dry, I filled in the gaps in the corners with wood filler and let dry:
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After sanding down the wood filler and wiping off the surface, it was time to paint!whtieframe6

 

I used Behr’s primer and paint in one in semi-gloss white for this project. It had no VOC which is perfect since I am very pregnant!  Four coats of paint later and these babies were ready to be hung up!

Jeff patched up the holes in the walls and painted over those holes after we took down the wall candle holders.  Because I promised we wouldn’t put any new holes in the walls, we hung up these frames using these Command Picture Hanging Strips. Four sets can hold up to 16lbs of weight, but for extra assurance, we used 6 sets per frame, even though they were at most 5 lbs each. They are very secure and I am not at all worried that they will budge, even with the earthquakes that we have here. Here are the custom frames we built, all hung up:

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I plan to switch up whats in the frames seasonally. I think it’ll be fun to decorate for different holidays and events.  With Valentine’s Day coming up in a few weeks, they currently look like this:

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The I and J floral monograms are from our wedding (tutorial here) and the small red heart was a plate from Target a couple years ago.  Everything is hung up with command strips for easy, non-permanent removal.  I think it’ll be a fun challenge to change up the decor but to do so on a budget.

So glad that we finished these frames!!!  It definitely was a test to our marriage but also a real testament that we can do anything together!

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Total cost for these frames was about $140.  The molding was the most expensive part at about $55 for all of it (we ended up having to go back and buy an extra piece because Jeff accidentally snapped one side in half).  We had to buy a lot of supplies like paint, paint brushes, clamps, wood glue, sandpaper, wood filler, miter box and hand saw and command strips so it could potentially be a lot cheaper if you already had some of those supplies.

Thanks, Jeff, for partnering with me on this project!!  We did it!  And it looks awesome!! (just like I told you it would! :)  )

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hairbows7

 

My cousin recently gave birth to a daughter after having two boys and much to the surprise/delight of our family, her baby girl was born with a full head of thick hair.  This is a rarity in our family as every generation of both boys and girls seem to be born bald.  My twin sister and I were pretty hairless until we were 2 years old and everyone thought that we were a pair of boys.  We still haven’t had to take Zoey in for a haircut yet. Zoey and my niece Rylie are only starting to have enough hair for pigtails and ponytails, which makes dressing them up all the more fun.  Now that we can finally experiment with new hairstyles, I’ve been making grosgrain ribbon hair bows for the little sweet girls in our family.

I used to buy hair bows off of etsy vendors but at $3 or more a pop, they are a bit on the pricey side, especially for something that I could make myself.  We tend to lose hairbows, or “hair clippies” as Zoey calls them, everyday so it was starting to get expensive ordering them.   Whenever Jeff takes Zoey out of the house, she returns hairbowless and usually pantsless, too.  Not sure how every time she leaves the house with her daddy, she comes back without her pants on, but I’m not surprised anymore and I don’t ask questions! I’m just happy whenever the two of them leave the house and I get a few hours to myself!   On one of those rare afternoons, I spent sewing up these hair bows in a rainbow of colors:

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I got all the colorful grosgrain ribbon from Britax Fabrics in San Francisco’s Union Square, which is the mecca for fabric and notions for the sewing-obsessed in the city. Their assortment of ribbons is swoon-worthy!hairbows6

 

For every color, I got ribbon in 2 different widths – ⅜” and 1″.  These were the ribbon parts used to make up one hair bow:

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I won’t do a full tutorial on how I put the hair bows together, because its pretty self-explanatory and there are tons of great tutorials on the web, but here are a few tips:

1.) I found it easier to sew the “bow” part of the hair clip by hand first. Then hot glue the pieces to the clip. I’m not too skilled with the hot glue gun and I found it tricky glue the bow into the “pinched” form.  Then I sewed the bow “tails” piece to the bottom of the bow and sewed the center piece around them.  I couldn’t work fast enough for the glue gun and there would be big globs of dried glue everywhere, burns on my fingers and the glue globs added extra weight to each clip.  It was just too messy to do with the glue gun.  Sewing gave me a lot more control and was a lot easier for me.

2.  Since I was making a large amount of hair bows, I did everything in stages. I first cut all the ribbon pieces at once. Then burned all the ends of the ribbon with a lighter to seal the edges.  Then sewed all the pieces together.  Then wrapped all the metal clips with the ⅜” ribbon. Then glued all the hair bows on top of the clips.  This was all best done in front of the television :)

3. I bought my metal alligator clips from ebay here. Etsy also sells them.  I used 1 3/8″ Mini Single Prong Alligator Clips without claws which was the perfect size for little girls.

4.  Since most girls’ hair are superfine and slippery, I added little grips to the clips to help them stay in.  I used non-slip drawer liner that I got from the contact paper section of Target  (similar to this) to add to the back of the clips:hairbows4

I’m not going to lie. I understand now why similar hair bows like these sell for $3 or more on Etsy! Each bow was a lot of work.   It takes a lot of precision and patience to churn out a perfect, symmetrical bow!  I estimate spending about half an hour on each one.

Totally worth all the work for my sweet, sweet girls:
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I packaged them using card stock, clipping them through holes in the paper:hairbows3
It’s going to be a while before I make any more of these, I’m all bowed out for now. But I love how they turned out!

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I’ve made other types of hair clip over the past few years.  Click on the photos below to see posts on these other hair clippies:

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happy_tray

A few years ago, I built a serving tray out of old cedar wood planks and blogged about it here.  I put it together without nails, just wood glued the pieces together, and its held together really well since then.   Fast forward 3 years, we have moved 2 times, my decor has evolved a bit and it was time for a refresh. We don’t have anything cedar-colored in our home, so I decided to upcycle my already upycled tray into this:

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All it needed was a few coats of white paint and it has a whole new look to it. I bought kitchen door handles from Hobby Lobby to nail onto the ends to use as tray handles, but I ended up leaving them off.  I liked it plain and simple.  For the paint, I used Annie Sloan’s chalk paint in pure white.   I’ve always wanted to experiment with this paint, I’ve heard great things about it around the web and I am contemplating re-painting our media console with it, so I thought this was the perfect project to test it out.  The great thing about chalk paint is that you don’t need to sand, strip or prime the surface before painting, which is great because I am lazy when it comes to those steps.   You can also use it on a lot of different types of surfaces - wood, concrete, metal – and  inside or outside the home.   It’s also great for distressing if you are into the distressed paint look.  The only hard part is purchasing the paint!  Its hard to find a retailer who sells the paint in stores! I ended up buying the paint, wax and paint brushes online from here. It was not cheap, total costed about $100 including shipping, but I have a ton of paint left over that I can use for future projects.

Instead of painting the tray solid white, I decided to write the word “HAPPY” on the bottom of the tray.  To do this, I used my Silhouette machine to cut out the word in vinyl adhesive and stuck the adhesive onto the tray. If you don’t have a cutting machine, I’m sure you can use painters tape or contact paper instead:

 

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Then I painted over the letters with the chalk paint:happy_tray4

This is what it looks like after one coat of paint:happy_tray5

I ended up needing 4 coats of paint to get a pretty solid layer. Luckily, the paint dries fairly quickly and I only had to wait about half an hour between coats. After letting it dry over night, I peeled off the vinyl letters and got a pretty clean image left behind:happy_tray6

Now it was time to wax.  Waxing protects and seals the surface.  I’ve never done this before so I was a little intimidated but its much easier than applying polyurethane over paint.  The wax is soft like crisco and you rub it into the surface with a clean cloth or wax brush in small section, then wipe off the excess. I did 2 layers of wax:happy_tray7

Let the wax cure overnight and it hardens with a subtle sheen to it. I love the finished look!happy_tray8

It’s up on our wall for now, just hanging out, but I can’t wait to use it for future parties!happy_tray9

Click on the photo below to see the original cedar tray post:

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playdouh_title

 

I live in San Francisco where gluten is public enemy #1, the whole city is is seemingly vegetarian/vegan/nut-free/dairy-free, the non-conformists are considered the cool ones and coconut oil reigns as the cure-all for everything.  I had never heard of coconut oil until 2014 and its now become the new superfood, claiming to do everything from promoting weight loss to whitening teeth to strengthening the immune system.  See 101 uses of coconut oil here.  Seriously, is there anything coconut oil CAN’T do?!  I haven’t really jumped into this fad because I’m not a huge coconut person, but I did pick up a jar of coconut oil from Trader Joe’s to use as moisturizer.  Since I had a huge jar of it, I also used it to make Zoey homemade play dough!  I’ve made buckets and buckets of play dough with Zoey before with all sorts of oils, but coconut oil is definitely my favorite because it smells so good and has the added benefit of moisturizing our hands when we play with it.

Coconut oil is one of those weird oils that is solid at room temperature, looking a lot like lard, but liquifies when heated up:

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Look at all the pretty colors you can make!

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We go through play dough a lot in our household so making our own homemade version is actually really easy, fast and cheap.  It takes only about 3-5 minutes on the stovetop.  The only downside is that it uses A TON of salt in the recipe, we are constantly running out!  Once I make the dough though, if stored in a sealed container or ziploc bag, it lasts for a long time.  We are still playing with play dough that I made over half a year ago!

Here are the ingredients you need to make one large ball of dough, all things that you can find in your pantry:

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp. cream of tarter
  • 1/3 cup salt (any kind)
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. You can also use 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (pictured) or olive oil
  • food coloring. I use Wilton’s gel food coloring

 

Directions:

In a saucepan combine flour, cream of tart and salt together:playdough6

Turn on your stove to medium heat,  add water and your choice of oil, and stir:

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Add a couple drops of food coloring to the mix and keep stirring:

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The mixture will be lumpy at first but will start congealing quickly, within a matter of minutes, so keep your eye on the stove and keep mixing:playdough9

It’ll thicken up fast and so you want to scrape  the drier dough off the bottom of the pan quickly and keep incorporating it into the wet dough until it starts to dry out like this:playdough10

Remove it from heat immediately when it all balls together and let cool for about half an hour on a piece of wax paper or silpat mat:playdough11

After the dough is cool enough to touch, knead gently with your hands until the dough is smooth:playdough12

 

Time to play!!! Zoey loves playing with all her play dough!!! We have all sorts of animal cookie cutters and these play dough tools. It’ll keep her occupied for awhile.  We have been potty training lately (Lord, help us all!) so play dough has been the perfect indoor activity for us!
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Now go make lots of fun colors!

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Merry Christmas, my friends!!!!!

Here are my family’s Christmas stockings hung up and ready to be stuffed with goodies tonight:

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I bought these white cable knit stockings from Target last year for $14 each but never got a chance to hang them up since we were in San Diego/Vegas last Christmas.  Luckily, I had the foresight to buy four stockings last winter in case we ever had a second child.  Jeff thought I was being a crazy shopoholic for buying stockings last year that we didn’t even use and an extra one for a non-existent person, but I’m so glad I did!  Now our second daughter won’t have a mismatched stocking!  And I finally got to hang them up!

I have been looking for a neutral cable knit stockings for awhile and you can’t beat the Target price.  I wanted to customize them with our names though and thought it’d be cute to embroider our first names with some chunky yarn.  For this project, I used leftover gray wool yarn and bought a tapestry needle :

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The tapestry needles work great because they are larger and thicker than regular sewing needles and have an extra large eye to thread the thick yarn through:embroidered_stockings2

I wished I had a disappearing fabric ink marker so that I could trace out the letters before I sewed them, but mine dried up so I sort of freehand sewed as I went.  The letters turned out sort of wonky but I kind of like that they are imperfect and have that handmade look to them.  It look awhile to finish each name (luckily we all have pretty short first names!) and I was able to sew one stocking a night in front of the tv. We still haven’t decided on a name for baby girl #2 yet, but here are the current three of us:

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Since we don’t have a mantle, the stockings are hung on our media console:embroidered_stockings3

Here is our Christmas card this year!

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See our holiday cards from previous years: 2013, 2012, 2011 & 2010

Jeff’s making his famous Peking duck for us tomorrow!  He’s also brushing up on his guitar skills so that we can sing some Christmas carols.   I’m planning on  making a special pancake breakfast and Zoey and I will bake a birthday cake for baby Jesus.  Then we are off on a short road trip down the central California coast with my family.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!!! Hope this holiday season is a joyful one for you!!!  Wishing you all the best!

Thanks for reading my blog! See you in the new year!

Lots of love, ilene

 

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