Making the Most of a Small Piece of Artwork

For my birthday, my mom got me a woodcarving of New Orleans from, my new favorite store.  My husband and I met in New Orleans our first year of law school so the city has special meaning for us. When I got the piece though, it was waaaaay smaller than I thought it would be.  (P.S. If you email, they’ll make this in a bigger size for you, but I had already framed mine up before knowing this.)

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The size is 11.5 x 9 inches.  Hand to piece ratio = not good!


Although I still liked it a lot, it was too small for the wall that I wanted it to go so I racked my brain to come up with a way to make the piece seem bigger while still showcasing it.  A frame with a big ol’ mat wouldn’t work because you’d be focused on the dead space (mat) around the wood carving instead of the actual wood carving.  And then I thought, duh!, a shadow box would do the trick and it did (with some modifications).  Here’s what I came up with:




Even though this is a shadow box where typically items are supposed to lie inside the depths of the box, I propped up the woodcarving to have it lie really close to the glass so that you could see the detail of the carving.  I did that by taking a couple small canvases and gluing them together using spray adhesive and then I glued them to the back of the box.




I used double-sided foam squares to stick the piece to the glued canvases since I didn’t want to damage the wood carving by using glue and viola, the carving stood out from the black background of the shadow box so that you could see the carvings.



Sorry about the terrible reflection but this is where the carving now lives and the size is perfect for the space.

Here’s one more with the wood carving in the background:


Now, on to replacing those almond colored blinds and painting the kitchen cabinets, but one thing at a time!

Pin Art Welcome Sign

I needed some cheap art after just spending on ton on new flooring (more on that soon)…  So, I stalked Pinterest and found some really awesome pin and string art.  Here are some that I really liked:




relax and unwind




Here is my version with instructions and tips below although, I have to admit that it did not turn out as well as I hoped, but after doing it, I know what mistakes to avoid!  Spoiler: Don’t use patterned fabric!!!

Welcome Sign with arrows

Okay, first gather all your supplies which would be:

  • White Foam Board
  • Fabric (I would use a nice, neutral, fabric with no print!)
  • Spray Adhesive
  • Map pins
  • Gold Spray paint (or whatever color you want your pins to be)
  • Crochet Thread
  • Ruler
  • Copy paper (or if you want to make your life easier, use tracing paper)


Next, figure out what you want your sign to say or what image you want.  I did a google image search for “Welcome,” found one that I liked, then made it BIG on my computer screen and traced it on paper:




This is the sign that I used as a template.


I used Picasa to copy it and then blow it up so that I could trace it off my monitor.  I’m sure there are easier ways to do this, but this worked best for me.

When you have your template, lay it on the foam board where you want it and if you need to, cut your foam board the size you need.  I wanted even spacing all around the image and used a razor blade to cut the excess off the board.

Then, cut your fabric to fit over the board with about a two inch overhang on all sides.  Spray your board with spray adhesive, then carefully smooth your fabric over the board being careful to get out all creases.  Spray the back of the board, then tuck the ends of the fabric under being careful to pull the corners fairly tight.  Okay, because I used a patterned fabric, it was a pain in the rear to get the fabric to line up straight, but if you’re using a plain fabric, you shouldn’t have this problem.

You should also spray paint your map pins if want them to be a different color.  Mine were multicolored and I wanted them to all be gold so I pinned them on the leftover board piece that I cut off and started spraying.


Okay, so now you should have a board with your fabric covering it and spray painted pins.  Place your image on the board then start pinning away.


  • When you’re done pinning the outline of the image, carefully tear away the paper.  Here is where tracing paper comes in handy because it’s thin so it’s easier to tear away.  I used regular copy paper and it was a bugger trying to tear it away.  You also need to pin all around the frame so that your thread goes from the image to the outside of the board.
  • Next, tie the string to one of the pins and start threading the string from the image pins to the outside pins.  There is no right or wrong way to do this.  I kept telling myself that this is pin art, not fine art!  I found it helpful to outline the image in my string first so that it stood out more (e.g. take the string and wind it around all the pins in the image).
  • When you’re done, tie it off on a pin and sit back and admire!
  • Okay, so if it isn’t completely obvious, the reason why I thought it was a bad move on my part to use patterned fabric is because it makes it harder to see the outlined “Welcome.”  In hindsight, I would’ve used a plain fabric and a multicolored crochet fabric, but sera sera, I still like my little project.  I hung it on the wall right next to the garage door so that when our good friends come in through the garage door (as they often do :)), they see the sign.  That’s also the door that we normally use, so we get to see it a lot.
  • FYI: Total cost for the project was about $15.  Not bad!

Chalkboard Message Board

I am a website moron.  I built this website about a year ago and had no idea how to do graphics, but I just learned last week, so yea!, and here’s a very informative graphic that will tell you all you want to know about this post (pretend you haven’t read the title):


I used the Rhonna Designs app on my phone then emailed the graphic to myself so that I could post it.  You can get the app from the App Store.  There are lots of ways to use it and Shelley of House of Smiths has some amazing shots she took and dolled up with the app.  I’d like to find something that I can use directly on my Mac, but like a said, I’m a novice…

Okay, back to my little project.  I am a pretty laid back person and don’t like to be too scheduled (hence the lack of postings lately, ha!).  But, my kids are getting older and doing their own things, like starting a lawn service (Trajan), making more and more friends at her new school (Sofia), and planning his own playdates (Tuscan).  My old system consisted of writing down phone messages for the kids on scrap paper then taping them to the wall in the kitchen.  Messy, messy!

So, I decided to harness my inner type A personality (I had to dig deep people), and make a message board.  Luckily, the project involved lots of paint, so it was right up my alley.  First, I took a trip to Goodwill and found a framed picture that I could re-purpose:


Please ignore the fact that the frame is not fully in the pic… My husband thought it would be more important to have me in the pic than the project I am working on!  I picked this beauty because it was fairly cheap ($20), it was big, and the drawing of the urn was posted on a piece of raised foam board and I thought having some dimension to the message board would be good.

Now came the not-so-fun part…  I wasn’t too sure what color I wanted for the frame and I though that white would be perfect until I painted the entire frame with 3 coats and then decided that the color wasn’t right.  I did the same thing with coral, blue, cream, and yellow.  Sigh.  Nothing looked good until I painted the frame yellow and sanded the frame lightly to expose the other thousand colors underneath.


See the different colors peeking through?


When I finished painting the frame, I painted the inside with black chalkboard paint.  I used a foam roller instead of spray paint just because I didn’t want to tape my newly painted frame and risk the paint peeling off.  Here is the finished product:


Yes, we need vitamins and it’s a happy Wednesday!  It was an easy project and fairly low-budget especially since I posted on Freecycle that I wanted some chalkboard paint and someone came through with some from a project she just finished.  So, the grand total was about $30 for the frame and the couple cans of spray paint I bought that I didn’t already have.  Now I can write the kids notes and feel like I’m much more organized than I really am!

Layered Window Treatment in the Living Room

After a couple years of no privacy in the living room, I finally installed blinds.  No more dashing by the window in my PJs at night or feeling self-conscious that I was being “watched” while lying on the sofa to read at night.  Now I can just pull down the shades and viola, nekkid dancing in the living room time anytime I want… Just kidding :).   I don’t dance.

The reason why it took so long to install blinds is that I didn’t want to shell out another $6oo for blinds like we did in the office.  The office bay window is the same exact size as the living room window and I paid waaaaay too much for the office blinds at Home Depot.  Well, when I was shopping for blinds for Sofia’s room, I came across some at J.C. Penney that were exactly what I was looking for at an awesome price.


Here is what the living room window looked before the blinds:



 (Don’t mind the lack of curtain on the right.  The dry cleaners washed it in water instead of dry cleaning it, ruined it, and are paying for another.  I’m just waiting for it to come in.)


And here’s the after:







Yay, privacy!

Cheap Powder Room Makeover

A few posts ago, I talked about remodeling our old-ish house in a way that makes all the rooms livable and presentable before tackling the nit-picky details of each room.  In keeping with that theme, I slightly remodeled the powder room on the main level since it gave me the heebie jeebies going in there before.  It was bland and dirty (no matter how hard I scrubbed, the walls looked dirty!).  The prior homeowners hired a painting company who, I swear, watered down the paint because when I scrub the walls even lightly, the paint rubs off.   And I HAVE to scrub because they also used matte paint and with three kids, matte paint doesn’t work!

Anyway, here’s the bathroom before:




The space looks a lot like the kids’ bathroom that we recently remodeled.  Beige walls, beige sink, outdated vanity, and lots of wood.  The only new thing in the bathroom is the toilet that I replaced a few months ago when it was running 24/7 and driving us crazy.  So, that’s new, but that’s it!


I didn’t want to do a whole lot to the bathroom because I wanted the remodel to be manageable.  In my pie-in-the-sky remodel, I would rip out the vanity and replace it with a pedestal sink, rip out the floors (marble baby!), and also have a half wall of marble tile all around the room and a cute little glass shelf above the toilet.  But, in the interest in just making it presentable, here’s the low-cost remodel:




I replaced the dated, frameless mirror with a mirror that I got from Home Goods which is my favorite place to find bathroom mirrors of any size.  They’re cheap and well made.  Even if you need a huge bathroom mirror, you can buy one of their full length mirrors and just hang it horizontally.  I bought a wood colored mirror that for now goes with the wood floors and wood vanity, but I expect to paint it white when phase II is ready to go.


I also replaced the light fixture from that ’80s bar light to this glass and chrome one.  It made a huge difference!  And of course, I painted the walls.  I love painting small rooms a crazy or dark color since there’s not a lot of space for your eyes to get overwhelmed.  Imagine this color in a huge room….  Too much!  The color I used was Wrought Iron my Martha Stewart at Home Depot.


Here’s the breakdown for the cost of the room re-do:


Mirror:                $40

Paint:                  $20

Light fixture:   $120


Total:  $180


More pics:







It’s a small makeover but the paint really makes a difference and now the walls are CLEAN!  I still have a big list of to-dos for this room but it will have to wait until our other “getting the house up to snuff” are finished.  Patience… sigh…

Pantry Challenge

I wanted to paint and organize my pantry and when I took a peek inside to decide on a paint color, I saw that holy crap (!), there’s a lot of stuff in there that I bought a while ago that has been forgotten.  Dried figs, a giant bag of sesame seeds, half a box of barley, various half bags of dried fruit, and the list goes on.  So, this vegetarian family is going on a “Pantry Challenge.”  There’s been lots of blog posts written on pantry challenges, but the basic premise is to use the food in your cupboards, in your pantry, and in your freezer first before heading to the grocery store to purchase food.  If your house is like mine, you could live off of the stuff in your pantry for a couple months without having to spend money at the grocery store, but I’ve just been too lazy to use the more “exotic” items and they’ve been sitting there staring at me.  The goal of the challenge is not to eat tasteless garbage food but it’s to save some cash by not going to the store (hold out as long as possible!) and to come up with some creative recipes that you wouldn’t normally think of to make.


If you’re going to do a pantry challenge, you’ve got to fit it to your lifestyle so that’s what we’re doing.  We’re vegetarian (me and the kids, and mostly my husband) so we NEED our fruits and veggies every week and because of that, I have to buy those weekly.  I’m also going to buy necessities (soymilk=necessity, brownies=not so much!) but everything else that we eat will come from what we already have in the house.


Some people who do this like to take an inventory of what they’ve got in the pantry that needs to be used.  I am not that organized!  I just pull out a few things that I could make a menu around and put them on the counter and stare at them until inspiration comes (or I just plug in the ingredients into  For example, I really wanted to get rid of a half a box of barley and some mushrooms that I had no plans for and that were on the downslide so mushroom barley soup is what we’re having tomorrow for dinner.  I haven’t made that in a long time and it’s tasty and easy to make.  My kind of dinner!


I will try to post the recipes that turned out the best.  I’m busy and also a lazy cook so the recipes will be easy and quick!  I always work off of a base recipe that I find in a cookbook or online, but I modify it to maximize the amount of stuff I can use in my pantry.


First recipe of the challenge:




Super Easy Mushroom Barley Soup


1 cup barley (I used quick cooking barley but you could use slow cooking too)

6 cups veggie broth

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, thinly sliced

2 (10 ounce) packages sliced mushrooms

2 cups of any veggies that are about to go bad! (I did half a green

pepper, parsley, some thinly cut spinach, and a few diced squash)

1 cup of sherry or white wine

Salt and pepper to taste


1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stir in the onions, carrots, and the rest of the veggies MINUS the mushrooms; cook and stir until the veggies have softened and turned translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more.

2.    Pour in sherry or white wine and cook for a couple more minutes.

3.    Pour in the veggie broth, and bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat, then stir in the barley and continue simmering until the barley is soft.  Season with salt and pepper before serving.


I’m serving this with the three half eaten boxes of crackers that I found in the pantry.  With this recipe, I got rid of the mushrooms, the half box of barley, the veggies that I had in the fridge that were half eaten/used, and a few half eaten boxes of crackers.  Not bad for one recipe!


My goal after a month is to save some cash and to have a more minimized pantry so that when I do paint and organize, I’m not throwing away a bunch of perfectly good food to make room for my OCD organization!


Here is my pantry before the challenge:





It’s almost too embarrassing to post!  But, there it is in all its messy glory.  I’m really hoping that by the end of this challenge, it’s much more minimized and organized!

Knock-off Designer Living Room: Layers

When we moved into our house from the townhouse, I realized that there were a few extra rooms that we were gaining that I didn’t have in the townhouse.  A formal living room was one.  So, I started buying a few pieces here and there and storing it in the townhouse.  There wasn’t a lot of room in the townhouse to begin with so you can imagine I was looking forward to moving ASAP to get the extra furniture in their proper rooms and out of our way (there were a lot of bruised hips and toes for a couple months).  Our formal living room is one of the first rooms I started designing in my head, and buying a few pieces for, even before moving.


I wanted to have an eclectic living room and I really liked the below living room designed by Elaine Griffin published in Better Homes and Gardens:

Living Room Inspiration

Using my inspiration photo I came up with this living room arrangement, which seeing them side by side, I realize that they are very different, but I think the flavor is similar.  I’d like to take down the wallpaper that came with the house and paint the walls either a soft blue or soft green.


I used a lot of layering in this arrangement mirrors, stool, chair, side table.  Everything is layered.  I think that’s important when you have a small room that is essentially just a rectangle with no real architectural features except for the bay window.


The piano occupies the other side of the living room.


Side couch view


Close up of the side of couch


Coffee table objects


Pics of the kids above the piano (I still have to put a photo into the gold frame)


And finally the teal dresser that the website is named after!

     There’s a space next to the piano that I need to fill with a comfy chair, but I haven’t seen one that I like for the right price.  In addition to tearing down the wallpaper and painting, I’d also love to replace the carpet with hardwoods and find a beautiful area rug to add even more color.

     Creating this room was a lot cheaper than the designer room that I based the room off of.  The teal dresser was a free piece of furniture that a friend was going to throw away.  It was sort of an eyesore since it was old (it belonged to her grandfather) and it was dusty, but it was well built so I asked her to have it and a few coats of paint later, it was fit for the living room.

     Most of the knick-knacks were from Target, Pottery Barn or West Elm (when I had a coupon), or Michaels with a coupon (the vases on the teal dresser) so I saved money there.  I got the two light blue chairs with a Groupon for a furniture store in my area and the mirrors were either from Home Goods (the large brownish mirror) or from my childhood (the gold mirror).  The end tables and little bee stool near the mirrors were from Ballard Designs (it was one of their “Bring Home Ballard” deals).

     Curtains were from Pottery Barn (again on sale).  The only truly costly items were the couch (Ethan Allan) because I wanted it to last a long time and I knew it could withstand the stomp of our family since it was in the “formal” living room which is used a whole lot less than the family room.  The piano also cost a boatload but my kids all take piano lessons weekly and Sofia has a “gift for piano” (her instructor’s words, not mine… I don’t know diddly squat about playing piano) so I wanted them to have a nice instrument that they could grow with.  Our first piano I got from Salvation Army for $100 because I didn’t know if the kids would be interested enough to stick with piano but then we upgraded when I saw the motivation kick in.  So, oddly enough, our current piano is actually the most expensive piece of furniture in the house which doesn’t say a lot!  Good luck truckin’ off with that robbers!

     Still working on what color to paint Sofia’s room.  She’s thinking green and purple.  I’m thinking not… but it’s her room.  We’re off to look at paint samples after school today and hopefully it will be painted in the next few days.