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!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Harry Bought a House!

It took him two and a half years.  Harry saved up all his dog money for a down payment on a house with a backyard because the roof deck wasn't cutting it.  Dog money you ask?  Oh yes.  Unbeknownst to the human community, dog money is exchanged between dogs for services, favors, or bets.  Harry's primary source of income is his gambling winnings from racing in the dog park (second is the income from his sexual favors, also given in the dog park--helloooo why do you think dogs hump each other all the time?  Dog money).
Wide stance back legs....awkward
Harry is still a bit shaky walking around his new place, probably because he's realizing how broke he is.  At first his legs were wobbly, then they progressed to just being wide apart as though he needed the extra stability.  More recently he's grown accustomed to the floors and has found a lounging spot where the sunlight hits the living room carpet.  His observation deck is located on the landing between the first and second floor.

Very serious touring pics...wanted to make sure nothing went unsniffed.
Obviously the big ticket item in the house Harry bought is the expansive (for Philly) backyard.  He was cautious at first, but then he couldn't believe it was all his.  He ran a few circles and promptly pooped in it.  Of course there's footage.  Obviously I wasn't expecting him to immediately poop in his brand new yard, but it turned out to be a very special memory.

Harry's new house is still pretty empty and it took a while for us to move all his stuff.  Almost immediately after moving, we went on vacation to San Francisco and Harry spent the week with his cousin Pickle.  While the frequency of blogging died in July, the subject matter should get more fun as we have a ton of upcoming projects - Harry related and not.  Thanks for sticking with us while we were away!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

He's Allergic, Harry Doggy Woggy

All week long I've sang the "Harrified" version of the electric slide.  This time last year Harry started itching, and we visited the vet several times and dosed Harry with a multitude of antihistamines, steroids, and antibiotics.  We then put Harry on a strict hypo-allergenic diet of what looked like corn pops and cost more than our monthly grocery bill.  After a while we introduced new foods to the hypo diet and watched for reactions.  Aside from a horrible explosion after the egg series, Harry didn't react to anything except his former Blue Buffalo dog food and cream cheese.  We went two months on a venison and sweet potato diet which was significantly cheaper than corn pops and at the start of this month Harry started itching again, developing two major hot spots.

Before Harry had a chance to completely inflate with an allergic reaction we reached out to our dermatologist at UPenn.  It seemed as though Harry was displaying strong signs that he had been suffering from environmental allergies all along.  We scheduled a skin test only two days later.  
His bad side (side where he had swelling from itching)
Harry's skin test consisted of him being put under sedation (not completely knocked out, but drugged), shaved in a patch, and pricked with 74 different allergens.  After each allergen was injected, the doctor recorded a reaction.  It only lasted about 20 minutes and we were called to pick Harry up only an hour and a half after we dropped him off.  
Harry's patch and all the dots are his allergy injections :(

Upon arrival we were given a packet of what Harry had gone through and a long list of Harry's allergies.  Harry is highly allergic to grass, yeast, dust, and mites.  But then he's also slightly allergic to a slew of other things, humans included.  My dog is allergic to me.  Here's the list:

On the bright side, we finally figured out what Harry's allergic to.  From now on we have to dose Harry for the rest of his life with allergy drops.  We opted for drops instead of shots because neither of us are comfortable with injections....but the drops are kind of a pain.  Harry doesn't like me sticking anything but treats in his mouth so this is a process he's going to have to get used to.  The first set of drops are diluted so that Harry's body starts to adapt to them.  Then as we move on he'll be put on a stronger solution.  In high season we'll likely have to pair it with a zyrtec.

Only a week or so of steroids left and then we'll see if the drops are working.  I'm so happy we went ahead and did the test.  It was a little expensive but I can't imagine having another year of breakouts, panicking about Harry's health.  If you're thinking about doing this test, I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

DIY Tutorial: Souvenir Style Sign

When the foo and I travel I become a hoarder.  Any paper product be it a ticket, receipt, brochure, or sometimes even a decorative bag I stash it in a corner of my suitcase.  My bag is like the wallet of Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch me if you Can.  Then when we come home the hoarder's pile of paper treasure sits in craft storage until I think of something to do with it.  Our Peru travels inspired me to to decoupage a frame with travel mementos.  It's taken me up until this past weekend to do something with the paper collection from our Eurotrip of September 2013.

On said Eurotrop, foo and I hit up four countries:  England, Netherlands, Belgium, and France.  As you can imagine, I collected a decent amount of "treasures".  I tried to make a point of getting a newspaper from every country, but failed in Belgium.  However, because it was absolutely necessary, we did end up with a map from each country.  I decided to use this as a backdrop for a letter sign that we'll be hanging in our new home (yea more on that later) and also at our upcoming wedding (whattttt).  It just so happened that visiting four countries gave me the perfect number of maps to spell a special four letter word.  

To start, I needed four frames - one for each of my letters.  I bought Ikea RIBBA frames particularly for their ability to stand if set on a table (dual purpose people - wedding & home decor).  I printed out the word LOVE using Arial Bold font in size 350 and used them as a stencil on my maps.

I used the frame matting to make sure I got all map and no ads in my end result.  Most of the maps we got were fo frizzle!  Measuring on all sides of the letters, I ensured I was centered.  Above is Amsterdam.  When I positioned my matting I tried to get some cool landmarks in sight.  Above you'll see Centraal Station in the upper right and in the bottom right is the famous church, Zuiderkerk, known for being a subject in a number of Monet paintings.  The O is surrounded by the many canals of Amsterdam.

Once I got my letters centered I taped them in place.  Using an exacto knife (on top of a cutting mat) I cut out each letter carefully.  Above is letter E, ending the word LOVE and also our Eurotrip as Paris was our final stop and the location of our super romantic engagement on the Ponte de Artes bridge.

Once cutting was complete, I layered the map over white paper and secured it inside the frame.  I actually just flipped the grey paper that came inside the IKEA frame.  

Final product!  It's not hanging on the wall yet, as we're not officially moved in.  Our wedding has a bit of a travel theme in our cocktail hour and I'm hoping we can use this as decor somewhere on site or set up on a table.  I love how each letter is unique but still cohesive.  Also, I'm ecstatic that the letters go in the exact order of our trip.  L is a map of London, O is a map of Amsterdam, V is a map of Brussels, and E is a map of Paris.  Plus Paris has the Eiffel Tower in the bottom right corner.  Once we've got it hanging I'll add more pics.  But for now I'm super jazzed!