Wrinkles and Ravens

As a child I loved “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle and I must have read the book 20 times.  It was my favorite book and I would read it under my covers with a flashlight until late into the night .  Reading that book is one of my fondest childhood memories because it triggered my love of books.  So, when I saw the following pin on pinterest, I knew I wanted to celebrate my favorite book by ripping out the pages (gulp), punching heart holes in those ripped pages, and slapping the whole thing into a frame to add to our collage in the family room!  So here’s my pinterest inspiration:

pinterest book project

My Pinterest Inspiration

And here’s my version (with directions):


I started by gathering my supplies: the book, a heart hole punch, double stick tape, dimensional foam tape, colored paper (I used blue), scissors, poster paper, and a frame (I used an empty one that I had hanging in the collage in the family room).

I started by cutting the poster board to the size of the frame insert.  I used the piece of paper that comes with the frame as a template.


Then I ripped a few pages out of the book which I had to admit made my stomach lurch because I’ve never defamed a book before, especially my favorite childhood book!  But, I got through it and  started punching:


I tried to punch out a few pages at once to save some time.  I punched out random phrases for some of the hearts and I punched out chapter titles and the title of the book for some of the hearts.  I wanted the hearts to be in a staggered pattern with one row of hearts upright and the next upside down so for the upside down hearts, I made sure that the words were still upright by punching the hearts out on upside down pages.  Then I started spacing out the hearts.


For the initial arrangement, I made sure to pay attention to spacing but I wasn’t super concerned about how straight each heart was.


After I got the spacing right, I used a pencil to straighten each individual heart before sticking them on with tape.  It worked great because the eraser was able to lightly grab and straighten each piece of paper.


I used double stick tape to adhere the hearts except for the titles which I used foam dimensional tape so that the piece wouldn’t look so flat.  And the grand finale is:


See how some of the hearts pop out?  I put it on the wall of our collage:


Some of the other new additions are:



DSC_0031From a local artist

DSC_0032A temporary piece.  It’s a postcard I got from Etsy.

DSC_0034Also from a local artist.  It’s of downtown Baltimore…

And speaking of Baltimore… GO RAVENS CHAMPIONS!!!  I’m not normally big into football but the rest of my family is and I couldn’t help but get swept up in their excitement yesterday as the Ravens won the Superbowl.  My kids were ecstatic!


Here they are drinking grape RAVENS juice to celebrate.  The tall kid in the middle is Sergio, a family friend.  Trajan is on the left, Sofia is on the right, and Tuscan is crouched in the middle.  GO RAVENS!

A Boring Old Post About Replacing Outlets…

This post is boring…  Seriously, replacing outlets is not exciting, but if you’ve ever wanted to save some cash by doing it yourself and not hiring an electrician then read on!


I don’t know why, but looking at cream/almond outlets in a room offends the eye.  It dates a room like nobody’s business and it’s so easy to replace them with nice, clean white outlets.


You can also make your house more energy-efficient by putting outlet insulation on the inside of the covers.  If you’ve ever taken off a cover on an outlet inside the house but on an exterior wall and put your hand over the outlet in the winter, you’ve felt the draft.  I recently got an energy audit on my house and the auditor said that installing outlet insulation is a cheap way to keep out cold air.


So here’s how to do it:


1.  Gather a few tools: a Phillips screwdriver, a normal sized flat head screwdriver, and (importantly) a little flat head screwdriver.  Go to your favorite hardware store and buy new outlets, outlet covers, and insulation for outlets (see pic below).  If possible, dismantle the outlet (see steps 3 and 4) so that you can bring it to the store to get the same exact style.





Outlet insulation

2.  Turn off the electricity to the outlet you’re working on.  What I do is plug in a hair dryer so that I can hear when the electricity is for sure turned off when I flip the breaker.  You can also use a lamp to do the same thing (that’s what I did this time).




Before flipping the breaker


After flipping the breaker

3.  Unscrew the cover to the outlet.



4.  Unscrew the two screws holding in the outlet.



5.  Pull out the outlet.




6.  Dismantle the wires going into the outlet.  They are typically found in little holes on the sides of the outlet or they are wrapped around a big screw on the side of the outlet.  If they are located in holes, then there is normally a small slit next to the hole that you need to stick a very small flat head screwdriver into to “release” the wire from the hole.  This is tricky because you need to push the screwdriver in as you are pulling the wire out.  If you have trouble with this, get someone to push the screwdriver or pull on the wire.  If the wire is wrapped around a screw, just take a flat head screw driver and loosen the screw and the wire should just pop right off.





7.  Loosen the screw at the bottom of the outlet to release the neutral wire (the copper colored wire).



8.  As you dismantle the wires be sure to bend them to where they go into the outlet.  As you can see from the below picture, I bent the wires to the same sides of where they were in the old outlet so that I know where they go in the new outlet.





In this picture, I’m working with four wires and I bend them in the same way that they were found in the old outlet:



9.  The old outlet should now be completely free of all the wires.  Take the new outlet and either shove the wires in the holes the same way they were in the old one, or, if the wires were folded around the screw, then take the wires (they should be bent into hooks) and hook them onto the screws in the same way as the old one.


In my case, the wires were too big to go into the holes of the outlets I bought, so I had to bend the wires into hooks to hook onto the screw on the sides of the outlet.



You can bend the wires by wrapping the wire around a screwdriver.  It’s a pain in the rear because the wires are thick, but I think it’s the easiest way to do it.

Then I hooked the wires onto the loosened screws on the side of the outlet then tightened the screws to that they had a good grip on the wires.  Be sure to also hook up the neutral wire on the bottom of the outlet.



10. Shove the entire receptacle back into the hole and, using the screws that came with the new outlet, screw in the outlet on the top and bottom to fit into the outlet box (the plastic box around the outlet).  Now, this is important… sometimes the new screws that came with the new outlet are not long enough so in that case, use the old screws.  You won’t see them anyway.  Make sure that the outlet is sticking out from the wall a little, otherwise when you put the cover on, the outlet will either stick out too much or be too recessed.  You can adjust this by either loosening or tightening the screws on the top and bottom of the outlet.  You can also straighten from side to side by adjusting the same screws.






11.   If the receptacle is on an outside wall (i.e. on a wall inside your house but the other side of the wall is outside) then take the insulation and push that onto the receptacle.




9.  Screw the outlet cover on then test your outlet.  It should work!!!



Notes:  When you pick out the new outlets, be sure to get outlets with big holes to push the wires into since just shoving the wires in the holes instead of around the screws is the easiest way to do it.  Sometimes outlet holes are too small for your wires so that you have to use the screw method, but bending those thick wires to fit around the screws are a pain in the rear, so be sure to really look hard for outlets with big holes.

Things I love…

Here are a few things that I love right this minute:

cute blue chair


I found this chair on Dear Lizzy and love it!  I want to paint one just like it for our little desk in the family room except that I might change that baby blue to a pale yellow.  It would be so easy to find a chair like this at a thrift store to rehab; you just have to make sure that you pick out a chair where the legs do not flow into the back of the chair.  There has to be a distinct “top” and “bottom” to the chair.


I recently got this picture of a puggle to put on our collage wall in the family room off of Etsy.  I just got it in the mail today and it is so much more realistic and colorful in real life.  It looks exactly like a cross between our two little guys that I had to get it.  I mean look at the below picture… It looks like my dog sat for the artist doesn’t it!

08.2011-04.2012 Pictures 799

Bandit in the foreground, Butter in the background

July 2011 497

Butter all dressed up (my kids love to make the dogs look ridiculously cute!)

Gilded Bowls

And these are just beautiful little bowls for a nightstand.  You can find them here.  I love anything white and gold.  The colors just look so elegant together.

So that’s it for now.  I’m still working on painting, painting, painting… and will post pictures when I’m finally done (in the year 2023, *sigh*).

Finding Diamonds in the Rough

Every once in a while, I hit up thrift stores to see if I can find any “diamonds in the rough” that I can paint/clean/polish/repurpose to fit in my house.  Shopping in thrift stores is unpredictable because sometimes I get lucky and find a few things in one trip, and sometimes I can’t find anything good for months.  The payoff though is finding something that you would pay a lot for but, hotdog!, it’s sitting right in front of you for $9.99.  My favorite spot is good ole’ Salvation Army.  I’m lucky because the one where I live is huge and has generous furniture and home goods sections.  Honestly, most things are beaters that are beyond “salvation”, but there are some things that could be great if shown a little love.

Lately I haven’t struck gold, but when I went today, I did find some great things:




I like these chairs because the styling is good and the chairs were HEAVY, which means that they were made with good solid wood.  They could easily be painted any color you want or re-stained.




I thought this mirror would look nice painted a funky color (maybe coral or yellow) and hung above a dresser in a little girl’s room.  It would also look nice as a bathroom mirror if it was painted white or black.




I’ve decided (today) to start a milk glass collection after seeing this cute little plate.  And you can’t beat the price, $3.  After I hang it in my kitchen, I’ll be sure to post pictures.




I saw this and immediately thought of Oscar the Grouch!  It is a little Oscar the Grouch trashcan. 🙂 Honestly I didn’t know exactly what it was for, but I thought it would be great as a compost collector for beside the kitchen sink.


So that wraps up my trip to Salvation Army.  The only thing I got was the little milk glass plate but I love it!

Fun Post!: Shaving Cream Balloons

My son was home sick with the flu today so instead of doing something around the house and blogging about that, we did something a lot more fun…. We made shaving cream balloons with money in them to send to my nephew, Weston.  I got the idea from a post from Candice on She’s Crafty where she explained how to put money in a water balloon filled with air.  I wanted a twist though to hide the money in the balloons and to make it a lot more messy for my poor sister (heeheehee!).  So I decided to add shaving cream to the balloons so that when my nephew pops the balloons to get the money, HELLO MESS (and fun and giggles…)!  So, here’s how I did it:

Gather materials:  I wanted to send $20 so I got 20 one dollar bills along with a bag of water balloons and two cans of shaving cream.

First, put on play clothes… You will get shaving cream ALL over you by the end of this, so don’t wear anything nice (hence the beaten up sweatshirt I am donning 🙂 ).

Then, S-T-R-E-T-C-H the balloon so that it is more receptive to the butt-load (that’s a technical term) of shaving cream you’re going to inject in them:

DSC_0014Next, roll your dollar TIGHT so that it is a narrow little tube.  The tighter the better it is to slip into the balloon.



Then, if you are doing this by yourself, put the dollar in the crook of your knee to hold the roll.  I know that sounds weird, but that’s how I did it because there’s no way you can roll the dollar after you’ve filled the balloon and I was sitting indian style so I just stuck the roll in my leg.  If you’re working with a partner, like I was after a while, one person rolls and the other fills the balloons (it’s easier this way).

Next, fill the balloon by putting the end of the balloon into the shaving cream squirter.  Hold the balloon TIGHT or your shaving cream will squirt out of the sides of the balloon opening.  This took a little practice but after a couple balloons, I was rollin’.

DSC_0005Then, ease the roll inside the balloon.  The balloon can get slippery at this stage and, I not going to lie to you, you have to pinch the snot out of the balloon before and after you get the roll in there and by the end, I had hand cramps.  Like the kind where as I’m writing this post hours later, my fingers hurt and if, by the grace of god, I can move my fingers tomorrow I’m going to be very happy and surprised…  Alright if I haven’t deterred you yet, on to the the next step!

Tie off the balloon by first wiping the tail end of the balloon off to get off the extra shaving cream since you CAN’T tie off a slippery balloon.  Then tie it off and *ta-da* you’re done with balloon one!  Then (in my case), repeat 20 times.

Ahhhh, aren’t they beautiful?!?!?!


Okay, so after doing this little project, I realized that it kind of stunk at the beginning before I got the hang of it, but after I while, I got into the groove and it went pretty fast.  In the beginning I also popped a few balloons (which is why I am covered in shaving cream in some of the pictures).  My son, Tuscan (my little dollar roller), was also covered:


He was pretty happy about it as you can see!  He said, “Wow, I got to stay home from school and I’m having a BLAST!”  I did too after about balloon number 4.

The only other thing left to do was send them off with a little note.  I also included a “balloon popper” (a needle) taped to my note.  My 20 balloons fit comfortably in a smallish Priority Box.


We’ll see if they make it to my nephew without any popped balloons!  I told my sister what I sent today and asked her to record my nephew’s expression when he gets his birthday box.  I’ll be sure to post that (along with the condition of the balloons!).

Dressing a Mantle

After taking down all my Christmas mantle gear, I realized that my mantle was naked!  This was all I had left (I kept the Christmas tree because I thought it could pass for winter and not Christmas… maybe…maybe not).


My mantel needed some love so I headed over to my favorite store for home decorating, Tar-jay!  Yes, that’s right, Target is always my first stop for decorations.  Not furniture (because the quality is not so good), but knick knacks, tchotchkes, you know what I mean.  So, I loaded up my cart with whatever I thought might look good then I headed over to Home Goods and did the same.  I did this HGTV decorators style meaning that I bought way too much knowing that I could just return what I didn’t need.  Here is what I came home with:


My dog, Bandit, in case it isn’t clear, is posing for the camera and is not a decoration!  As you can see, I wanted to stick with a fairly neutral color palette with blue being my one accent color.  I know you can’t see the framed picture in the background because of the glare, but no worries, it didn’t work at all anyway.  So, I moved things around on the mantle according to a great template that I found on Pinterest that came off this site:

how to decorate a mantle

Here are my various combinations:


I knew that the visual weight (#3 in the above diagram) had to be on the left because my fireplace is slanted and there is more wall space on that side; however, this combination is no good because the artwork is not big enough.  When I went to Home Goods this time around, there was nothing to choose from so I grabbed what I thought might work knowing that it probably wouldn’t but you never know, right?  NEXT!


So, for this one, I switched out the artwork for my existing mirror and also switched out the light blue vase for the emerald one.  Emerald is the “IT” color this season, but I wasn’t feeling “IT.”  It was too bold for me and the shape was too traditional.  NEXT!


This one is better but I didn’t like the white candles up front because it felt too busy so… NEXT!


This one is too sparse and there’s not enough layering and dimension.  My mantle is on the narrow side so it’s hard to layer but this version was definitely out.  NEXT!


Okay, so here’s the keeper for now…  This feels visually symmetrical on both sides and not too busy or too sparse.  I would like to change out the mirror for some art work eventually but I’m not in a hurry to get that.  Also, I ordered a couple wood like sculptures from Joss and Main that I will use to replace the gold Christmas tree to give the mantle some “movement” (#2 on the above diagram).  They look like:

sculpture sculpture 2

I think that they play well with the color of the mantle and they also darken things up a bit and will also add some heft (they’re pretty tall, although one is about 10″ taller than the other).  Is anyone else working on decorating a mantle?  Where do you go to shop for mantle decorations and art work?

Running Lists…

So now that the family room is looking more presentable, some things still need to be done to complete the room:

The first few are all about lighting since the room desperately needs some.  For now there’s only  one skylight, why only one, I don’t know!  There’s also one window and a set of french doors that look out to the covered porch and because the porch backs up to woods, no light.  So here’s the list:

1.  Two skylights.  Although I like to DIY as much as possible since I have such a long list of items that I want done in the house, I’m not touching skylights!  I don’t do windows or skylights since if installed incorrectly, they could leak and if that happens if professionally installed, I can just call the installers out to fix it and any damage the leak caused.  The contractors that we’ve been using for 12 years (they are awesome!) already gave us a quote of $1,100 for both skylights.

2.  A couple extra tall windows with seats underneath on either side of the fireplace since it would be great to look out at the woods from the family room and also get more light in the room.  Again we’re going with a contractor on this one but this is more pricy at about $3,500, so we’re waiting.

3.  Recessed or pot lights since now we only have one floor lamp lighting the entire room at night.  I don’t know how to do recessed lighting and since it’s a fairly inexpensive project for a contractor to do, I’ll let them take care of this one.


4.  A new sectional couch!  Ours is 10 years old and has gone through 3 small kids and two dogs so it needs to be replaced.  I want something like this one from Crate and Barrel:


I like the clean lines on the couch and the fact that it can seat so many people.  I think family rooms should always be cozy and comfortable, so if at all possible, get a sectional rather than a straight couch.

5.  A storage ottoman to serve as our coffee table.  There’s hardly any storage in the family room so although I’d like a more traditional coffee table, a storage ottoman works better for our family and it’s also more comfortable for putting your feet up.  It also serves as extra seating in a pinch.  I haven’t found a good place to get a nice big storage ottoman so I’m still searching.

6.  A chair for the corner near the fireplace like this one but not this one.  I want something with arms and with a pattern that’s not as dark.  I do like the clean lines on this piece though.  This is from West Elm.


As far as furniture goes, these are some of the stores I hit:

1.  Crate and Barrel (they can be pricy but they do have sales)

2.  Ethan Allen (I only shop here for “fancy” furniture like furniture I’d put in my formal living room because EA is expensive.  BUT, the furniture is very well made so the cost is worth it.  However, for everyday furniture for our family room that I know will take a beating, I normally get inexpensive furniture since I’d rather replace inexpensive furniture when it gets kid grime and dog smell on it, than expensive furniture that I’d be more apt to keep around for longer even though it should get the boot!).

3.  Thomasville (more traditional and expensive so I stick with these pieces in seldom used parts of the house).

4.  West Elm (I like the modern lines of this furniture).

5.  Macy’s (Macy’s has surprisingly good furniture at reasonable prices).

6.  Ikea (I haven’t bought furniture from Ikea yet but I know people who have and they seem happy enough especially considering that Ikea’s prices are so cheap).

7.  Bassett

I know that there are tons more stores out there, but so far, I’ve always been able to find what I want from the above stores.  Does anyone buy furniture from other stores that should be on my list???