Monday, February 16, 2015

How to Marry your Dog in your Kitchen...or DIY Wedding Arch

One of the more intimidating projects for the upcoming nuptials was figuring out our ceremony decor.  Our venue is kind of a blank slate for the ceremony as it's just nature.  Essentially all we really have reserved for our ceremony was chairs, and we need a little bit more to make it look like a wedding beyond a bridal party. 

Being inspired by the natural setting I wanted to have an arch of some sort, but I didn't want to overpower the greenery.  I had a bunch of inspiring examples:

Three Piece Wedding Arch - Chuppa /Birch Poles

And I also found a tutorial at A Practical Wedding that gave a how-to to create a super bohemian one complete with poms and rainbow ribbons.  I followed the step by step guide to create the structure and then decorated to my own style.

You'll need:
3 7 foot Birch poles
Zip ties
PVC pipe
Cement Mix, mixing bucket, and water
2 Silver buckets (about $20 each at Home Depot)
Fake Moss
Decor (use a silk flower garland like I did, or your own idea!)
A stepladder, unless you're not as vertically challenged as me

To start, we had to create a base that would hold the birch poles in place.  I got my birch poles on Etsy  and had to wait until they arrived to buy the supplies for anchoring them so that I could measure the diameter of the pole itself.  Two buckets, a bag of cement mix, and a PVC pipe later, we were ready to start assembling.

Foo was super helpful and hands on setting up a cement mixing station in the basement.  He cut the PVC and set it in the center of the bucket, and then filled the sides in with cement.  After curing the result was a 25 pound bucket.

We topped the cement with decorative moss found at AC Moore and we'll have to turn them backwards so we're not showing the stickers that we can't get off the buckets!  Inside the PVC are wood shims that we'll use to wedge the poles in so that they stand straight.

After setting the poles in their holders, we had to place the third pole across the top.  We screwed two eye hooks into the tops of the side poles, and then used a zip tie to secure the poles.  We're hoping that this kind of assembly is easy to do day of.  Hoping really hard.

Here's an up close shot of how we secured the poles together.  The zip tie is hidden by a tied satin ribbon.

Instead of going nuts with ribbon (I had originally wanted to tie a bunch down the center), I picked up two silk flower garlands at AC Moore (40% off yo!).  I secured them in the middle with floral wire and then again on the sides.  Day of, we'll just have to re-attach the sides after the structure is secured.  The above shot is taken pre-purchase of extra shims and ribbon where we were using a paint mixing stick and my stash of ribbon bits for last minute gifting.  Will you marry Harry?

Excuse the pile of recyclables and focus on the end result here.  I think the flowers look pretty realistic...and our audience will be sitting back a few yards.  Beats paying for a florist to do similar work!  After making the buckets, the assembly and decorating took 20 minutes tops, and that included me mulling over how to cover the zip ties and where to start and end the garland.  We're going to leave the garland secured to the top piece so that assembly is even faster for the ceremony.  

Hoping this helps any other DIY or budget brides hoping to do something similar!  At the end of the day this project cost just about $100 which was mainly the buckets and birch.  A rental of something similar or paying a florist to decorate a rental would be a pretty penny more! 

Monday, February 9, 2015

DIY Wedding Invites (Yes, it's gotten to this)

We took the longest break we've ever taken between September and now.  It's safe to say we're very busy and though we're accomplishing plenty of bloggable things, I've been bad at documenting.

What have I been working on?  Oh just wedding things every single solitary weekend.  Expecting it to be like this til May.  Originally I didn't want to write about this stuff because it's an audience limiter and most of the time I'm ashamed at how excited I get over a wedding craft (mainly because nobody cares except me and Harry and only because I use a really enthusiastic tone of voice when I finish).  But then I realized there is a small margin of people that might benefit from shared information and a lot of the wedding stuff can be duplicated for house stuff or other projects.  So screw it.  I'm going rogue.

The latest project, due at the end of February, is the invitations.  Dear God I learned so much unnecessary information regarding paper in the past month...also about postage.  I also learned how ridiculously expensive invitations are.  For me, invites are a silly place to blow a ton of cash, so even though I created a reasonable budget to start it was my life goal (for like 2 weeks) to come in under.  Way under.  

When I realized how much an invitation suite was going to cost on a site like Minted ($700 before postage and envelopes--for 100 invites) I reconsidered my approach.   Etsy is a great source for invitations, especially for suites.  Shops offer printable invitation suites that you can print yourself, bring to a print shop, or send to an online printer.  The suites go for a flat rate and you have unlimited printing power.  I used Printable Wisdom for their Elizabeth suite and worked with the artist, Ashley, on personalizing the suite.

After finalizing the design (final version is not above) I had to order paper products.  Ashley recommended the very affordable site  Their envelopes and high quality papers were the cheapest online, not to mention you could order samples with free shipping.  I was afraid my printer wouldn't be able to handle the recommended 110 lb card stock (yea there's a whole thing about how much paper weighs and the difference of weights between stock types) so I resorted to Staples where I bought 250 pages of 110 lb card stock for $17.99--enough to cover me for all invites and then some.  

Once printed, I had to cut and the paper cutter we have at work was not cutting it...HA.HA.GET-IT?

Anywho I went with the Carl paper cutter from amazon and it does the trick.  It took me about two episodes of Revenge to get through all the cutting and I realized I probably need something to hold all this stuff together....and those things are called belly bands.  I found another thrift-minded person on the interwebs who provided a template which I personalized for my invites.

Another super awesome way to add color and fanciness without adding weight was making envelope liners from wrapping paper.  I followed this awesome guide using a really pretty roll I found at Hallmark.  Papersource had fun wrapping paper but at $7 a sheet that wasn't helping.

This bogus glue was also really helpful and lived up to its reputation of not being a piece of crap.

Briefly -- when it came to minimizing the weight of the invitation as a whole, I opted to eliminate a second large insert identifying all the details of the day and squished this info onto a smaller card.  I also did away with the RSVP stamped envelope which saved on weight and on additional all the time of putting our return address on everything.  Instead we're using a site called which allows you to upload your guest list to your personal URL and when guests rsvp they just search for their name.  It even lets you put a question in like, do you want chicken or fish?  Or what song do you want to hear at the reception?  I like it because it goes straight to my email when someone responds and I can immediately update my psychotic wedding spreadsheet.

So yea, DIY invites are really not that much of a PITA especially if it's freezing outside and there are a ton of Oscar nominated movies to watch pre-awards.  But the best part of the entire thing was that it cost me half (actually even less) of the Minted version, postage included!  Plus I get to keep a sweet paper cutter, address stamp, and have a lot of leftover material for any additional printing needs.  At the end of the day, the only people who are going to hold on to these buggers are yourself, parents, grandparents, and crazy stalkers.  In my opinion, it's not worth spending or stressing over!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dogs in Engagement Photos

House, wedding, house, wedding - right?  Since we're about 8 months away Chris and I have started to dig into the wedding planning.  We've got the big stuff done (all except what we're wearing) and are hoping to chip at the to do list week by week.  Last weekend we crossed off engagement photos and soon we'll be crossing off "send save the dates".
Credit Erin Pitts Photography
When we were first engaged I was mostly excited about thinking about ways to incorporate Harry into the event (see Dogs in Weddings).  I've still got to train him to calmly walk in-between chairs surrounded by the familiar smells of all his people to ensure he can actually be a part of our ceremony, but as a prelude he helped us out in our engagement photos!
Credit Erin Pitts Photography
In an effort to stray from the traditional, Chris and I will be having donuts from our favorite spot in Philly in lieu of a wedding cake.  A well kept Pennsylvania Dutch secret, Beiler's donuts in Reading Terminal Market are donuts on crack.  They're sweet, usually warm, and stuffed with thick sweet cream that will definitely make you sick after half a dozen...but you want to eat half a dozen.  

For our photo shoot I wanted to highlight the donut theme from our wedding (aka I wanted to eat donuts) and I also wanted to include Harry in some shots.  We combined the two to make for a seriously fun shoot.
Credit Erin Pitts Photography

Our pictures were taken by the super talented Erin Pitts of Erin Pitts Photography whom I found through the Philadelphia Improv Theatre (more on that in the future).  She made us feel so comfortable that I didn't feel insecure housing donuts with my dog on the floor of my kitchen.  

Credit Erin Pitts Photography
Credit Erin Pitts Photography
I created our backdrop using crepe paper streamers and painters tape and then used a rolling cart draped in a table cloth to place the donut trays upon.  Our special edible save the date was made using a catering lid and some hot pink Pilsbury frosting that actually came with edible sparkles.  The cake trays are flea market finds that I keep collecting in hopes of using them all on our dessert table spread at the actual they just make regular food look fancy.

I made Harry's bow tie using this great tutorial I found on YouTube.  I amended her ways by using velcro as an attaching device instead of elastic.  Harry had two to choose from for our shoot and chose the green and creme one to match my dress--how thoughtful!

Credit Erin Pitts Photography

Credit Erin Pitts Photography
We had such a great time with our pictures and are so happy with how they turned out.  I highly recommend using Erin for any photography needs be it engagement, family photos, or new baby - she really let us run amuck while providing helpful tips on posing as she found the best angles to get a great picture.

Credit Erin Pitts Photography

Friday, September 26, 2014

DIY Stenciled Closet Renovation

I was hesitant to share my progress of my master closet renovation because it's not 100% done yet.  But I don't think anything in my house will ever be 100% done because like me, the house will continuously evolve...and I'm not superwoman.  First off, I am so grateful to have my very own master closet that I don't have to share with anybody.  From what I've learned in my house-hunting experience, closets in the city are rare creatures.  The fact that we have his & hers in our bedroom is a gift.  A gift from a unicorn.

When we moved in, the closets were each just a room with an open doorway.  There weren't any closet structures that we could immediately hang clothes on.  So for a while we had our clothes split amongst bedrooms and Chris actually used a shower curtain rod in the 2nd floor bathroom as his closet.

Having the closets figured out was my number one priority as far as house projects were concerned (of which there is a very long list) so I began researching custom closet solutions and DIYs of closet solutions.  What I found was that building a closet wasn't going to be cheap unless I had an array of power tools and the woodworking skills of Bob Vila OR lots of time.  I had neither although by this summer I think I'll be a mini-Vila so tried to mesh the two methodologies and self install an MDF board closet system from Home Depot.  First I drew up my measurements and an idea of what I had in mind.

Then, using ClosetMaid software I was able to input my closet's measurements and customize their products to fit my design.  Below is what I came up with:

So off to Home Depot we went armed with housewarming gift cards from our parents and extended family and a Lowes coupon (they take competitor ones there).

While I began painting the interior of the closet, Chris put together the pieces that would eventually be installed.  Everything was flat packed so the entire structure had to be assembled and eventually secured to the wall.

For paint, I chose Behr Beluga in flat to be on the wall opposite the doorway and the wall to the right of the doorway.  The other two walls were to be stenciled, as I wanted my closet to have a boutique feel (even though I'm not Mariah Carey).  I feel that bathrooms and closets are the places to really have fun with patterns and colors while living areas I generally play it safe.  

I had some help taping and painting....

And when everything was dry I was able to begin stenciling!  I found a really awesome company, Royal Design Studio, through Etsy.  I chose Moroccan Starry Night as my stencil hoping it would be more geometric than floral looking...I have a weakness for floral prints.  At first it was my intention to do the stencil in both our closets so we matched...but after a week of stenciling that was not going to happen.

I used a light grey on the wall to start so that my lines would be that color in between the stars.  Then I used the same Beluga black, a darker grey, and gold paint for the stars.  The gold is a Ralph Lauren brand of paint from Home Depot -- expensive, but it's hard to find cheap metallic paint in mass quantities.

I spent about two hours a night for a week stenciling with Spotify blasting Beyonce.  My technique used foam brushes instead of typical stencil brushes because I wanted a graphic look.  Had I gone with one color overall, I would've used a roller.  Here's progress...

The pattern is so eye catching and busy that it's hard to find any mistakes at a looks like I did it perfectly when in reality there are little globs here and there mussing up the clean lines.  After I was finished I used a smaller brush to repaint those lines and get my shapes cleaned up.  

When my stenciling was complete (YESSSSSSSSSS!!!!) Chris and I installed the closet structure he was putting together while I painted.  I pretty much jumped around excitedly taking pictures and thanking him profusely while this was going on....

And then it was all done!  We had to cut the MDF boards to fit perfectly -- and had to take them to Chris's Dad (who's the Bob Vila type I aspire to be) for trimming.  

It didn't take long for me to pack all my clothes into my new closet!  After taking careful measurements of the shelves, I went to IKEA and bought boxes that would fit perfectly.  I also returned to Home Depot for shoe cubes to organize the insane amount of shoes I've collected (it's a problem).  Lastly I hung a mirror I had picked up years ago at a flea market opposite my jewelry storage and installed one of my handmade jewelry holders (you can buy on Etsy friendssss) beneath.

There are still some add ons I'd like to do, like above the doorway putting shelving using brackets I got on sale at Anthropologie, eventually installing doors or making a curtain, and changing the light fixture - but this project is finished for now.  

I'm able to see everything I own and making dressing decisions in the morning is a lot faster than it used to be when I was running up and down the stairs to find my clothes.  I've also made a promise to myself to not stock up on a bunch of items just because they're cheap or on sale and to be more thoughtful about the pieces I add to my wardrobe....also I don't think much more can fit in here!
You did it Mom!
Thanks for taking a look at my project!  Hoping to share more accomplishments as we make our way through the house!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DIY Tutorial: Broken Mirror to Chalkboard

This might be the busiest/most exciting year of my life so far.  As I've mentioned in posts previously, Chris and I have moved and we're also planning our wedding that's in less than a year.  Balancing house and wedding priorities is a really great way to completely stress yourself out.  At the moment I've tried to alternate house/wedding/house/wedding...but sometimes the house projects are way more fun.  The best case scenario is when a house project doubles as a wedding project!

Craigslist is my bff and also a big point of contention between Chris and I.  Why would I want to drive all the way out to east jabip to pick up a piece of junk....WHY WOULDN'T I?  Those are the two viewpoints.  When I found a fabulous, HUGE, valuable yet cheap vintage art deco mirror on the Craig for $25 I had to have it, so with heavy feet Chris accompanied me...because hello?  Craigslist Killers.

When the mirror was presented it had a slight flaw that wasn't in its posting pictures.  It had a teeny 4 inch crack in the glass starting from the bottom.  I thought I could fix it with a glass repair kit so I still agreed to take it for a discount.  And it was offered for free!  I couldn't turn down free but my other half saw it as me taking home trash.  As we packed it into the car the crack made its way all the way through the mirror.  Needless to say it wasn't the most pleasant ride home, or the most pleasant Friday night, or the most pleasant Saturday morning.

But hey, stuff happens.  People get angry.  Instead of letting the huge broken in two mirror loom over us for the weekend and instead of that Friday night going to waste, I attempted to turn the mirror into something else completely.  I had seen the same scenario on Little Green Notebook where their gorgeous scroll mirror got damaged in their move to Phoenix.  With some modifications, I adapted their salvage techniques and turned my broken mirror into a fabulous chalkboard.

There she is - my fractured mirror.  I removed the glass very carefully and realized that the backing I expected to be my future chalkboard didn't exist.  Behind the mirror was an open frame.  Quick on my feet I decided to use the glass as a stencil on plywood to create my own chalkboard base.

If you look really closely, you'll see that I'm using two pieces of plywood underneath the mirror.  Having a 4 door sedan means I can't lug home huge products...which is a total bummer because I think this prevents me from getting all the Craigslist things I I had to improvise.  I traced my mirror and then used a jigsaw to cut out the curvy corners.

Voila!  Using another piece of plywood behind the front, I was able to get the two pieces in line with each other by gluing it to the back with wood glue.  Now I had the issue of a gap in the surface of my chalkboard.  And I also have the issue of losing the pics of the next two steps!  So I'll summarize...

I used joint compound aka sheetrock aka spackle all over the surface of the plywood so that the crease was covered and an even surface was made over the entire piece.  Once it dried I sanded it with a sanding block to an even level.

Then, I painted with chalkboard paint on the spackled surface.  After two coats and allowing it to cure overnight I was able to "prime" it with chalk..aka write all over it and erase to leave that chalky base.

The mirror was supposed to live in our entry way being a grand focal point as you entered and left our home.  After it went through trauma, we re purposed it as a chalkboard menu and gave it a home in the kitchen above our table.  (Also I totally realize I left the O out of Chalkboard.  Butttt Harry looks so cute in front of it I couldn't not show this!).

Here's the final product put to good use in our kitchen!  I love how it's both beautiful and functional.  The black and gold pop against the freshly painted Frost white walls.  Just goes to show that you can turn a bad situation around and still create something beautiful.  Now the bad memory of retrieving and breaking the mirror isn't so bad after all!  And did I mention this was FREE?!  To go back to the brief point about wedding and house projects being two stones, we're planning on using this board as signage for the reception likely as a list of the menu.  Love it when my projects serve dual purposes!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dog Beach

My California travels have shown me that the West coast is exceedingly dog friendly.  The city of San Diego especially with its dog friendly bars and dog friendly beaches left me full of envy.  Only in the past year has a dog beach in the Philadelphia/South Jersey region become available to pet owners like myself.  As the summer comes to a close, we took a weekend trip to make sure Harry got to experience the sandy salty fun.

The beach, known as Longport Dog Beach, is located in Somers Point right next to Ocean City, NJ.  Parking is available in a smaller lot preceding the beach.  Make your way through a jungle-like sandy trail and arrive in a puppy paradise swarming with happy go lucky dogs.  Retrievers are usually out in the water enjoying a peaceful swim while other water loving dogs play fetch in the waves.  

Harry's not a big fan of water as I tend to take all my dogs when they are way too young into my parents pool for "swimming with Mommy".  In the past three dogs I've raised, the experiment has always resulted in a water loathing animal.  Naturally Harry is an example of the experiment gone wrong.  He didn't mind trotting through the water following me and the fishy smelling shell I was baiting him with, but he wasn't in awe of the crashing waves or even the slightest sea foam that threatened his paws.

Checkin out the blonde babes...
What was enchanting for Harry was the unlimited opportunity for digging without consequences.  He'd start digging and as he got more voracious he'd smush his face into the cooler damp sand and promptly sneeze, observe, and repeat the process.  A park without boundaries is always a thrill for dogs who spend most of their lives in some form of captivity - home, backyard, dog park, leash.  When there's a huge open area to safely run free, Harry takes full advantage.

Taking Harry to the Longport Dog Beach was one of the highlights of my summer.  I love watching him have fun and of course he was super tired when we got home.  If you need to fill your Labor Day weekend with one last bit of summer, the dog beach is an awesome way to do it!