Let There be Light!

The chandelier in the foyer is gone and in it’s place is some serious bling!  But, as usual, there were some mis-steps on my part before arriving to the final light fixture.  Here was what was originally in the foyer:


It’s the Belora Chandelier from Pottery Barn and I loved it when I got it but I’m an idiot and didn’t take into account that our ceilings are low, so it ended up hitting anyone in the head who was over 5’9″.  Luckily, my family consists of short people, but when “normal” people came over, we always had to warn them to watch their head.  And in the case of the kids’ piano teacher who comes once a week and who is tall, he hit his head on the thing just about every week even with the warning!

It was also too wide and when we opened the front door, the door banged into the light.  About half the time, the really heavy crystal balls would fall off when that happened and either land on the ground (“whew”) or land on someone’s head (“sorry….”).  What a way to welcome guests into your home, right!  “DUCK and try not to break our chandelier!”


See the heavy, concussion-causing, crystal balls?!

So, I knew that I needed something that was either flush against the ceiling since the ceilings are low, or maybe semi-flush if it didn’t hang down too low.  I went to Lamps Plus online and found a light that I thought might’ve worked, but as my husband ALWAYS points out, I’m really good at getting things right the second time around.  So here’s what didn’t work:


It was super easy to install but I didn’t like it because it didn’t go with the “theme” of the foyer… It was too modern whereas, the foyer, and really the whole house except for my husband’s traditional office, is eclectic.  It was a nice fixture and I liked it but I just didn’t like it in MY house.

I went back to Lamps Plus because their selection is huge , their prices are reasonable, and I knew I’d find something else when I came across this light for about $300:

Chandelier in foyer


It was love at first sight!  It’s a little fancy because of the crystals but it’s also eclectic because of the “cage” around the crystals.  After a quick 20 minute installation, viola!



See how well it goes with the dentil detail in the crown molding?   And, I love how I can see the light from the two mirrors in the living room.  It also puts out major wattage since the bulbs that came with it are halogen so when it’s turned on, the entire foyer is bright, bright, bright!



This is a picture of it looking up which I did a lot the first night I installed it because it was mesmerizing!  Also, when the light’s on, it makes a pattern on the ceiling that is an extra little plus:



Now everyone’s happy, my piano teacher with the soon-to-be lump free head, the kids because they love the pattern the light makes, my husband because of the price, and me because it really is a beautiful light!




Shiny, Happy Mirror

I love to re-purpose, especially if that re-purposing involves spray paint so when we replaced the mirror above our mantel with artwork and the mirror was homeless (poor mirror :() I busted out my spray paint and got busy.  The last we saw of the mirror, it was gold and shiny above the mantle:


But then it got the boot and was replaced with a canvas print that just looked a lot better in the space.


I loved the shape of the mirror but not so much the color so I grabbed some paint from Home Depot and got to sprayin’ that bad boy:


First I covered the mirror with scrap paper that I just shoved between the mirror and the frame.


It actually worked out really well when I sprayed because hardly any paint landed on the mirror and what little bit did, I just scraped off with a razor blade.

Then I spray painted about 10 light coats of Rustoleum Satin Paint in Summer Squash and viola, the finished product:


It makes me happy to see that mirror right when I walk into our house :).  You can see where our front door is from the reflection in the mirror, it really is right when you walk in.  Here’s another pic:


The wall color is Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore (a shade lighter than Revere Pewter) and love how the yellow and gray look together.  I scored the basket on clearance from Target.  I love Target…

The little table is from Ballard Designs and was free because I bought one for the office that was a little off kilter when I put it together (the screw holes wouldn’t line up correctly), so Ballard, being the great company they are, sent me another one for free and told me I could keep the original one since it was almost all put together.  I fixed the original one by breaking out the drill and making the holes bigger then superglueing the screws in the holes- something I didn’t want to do if Ballard wanted me to return the original!

With the addition of the funky gold and coral chair and now the mirror, the foyer is coming along nicely!  Next on the list is replacing our too-low hanging chandelier that always hits people in the head when they walk into our house…  Welcome to our home!  Sorry about the concussion!  More on that later.

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.

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!

Hanging a Collage

Happy New Year!  We painted our family room a while back and after sitting back and admiring the paint job, I knew I needed to cover it up…  Well at least some of it up with art or pictures.  The area really in need of some bling was the wall space above the couch.  Our ceilings are vaulted and the wall behind the couch is like 15 feet high so I needed something to fill the space.


I thought about wall art but honestly, I didn’t want to pony up the cash for something large which is what I needed.  The next best thing to art is a wall collage.  I also liked the idea of a collage because our family room is fairly informal and I wanted something laid back and also meaningful and reflective of our crazy family.

If you’re going to have a collage, then there has to be some kind of theme uniting the pieces otherwise the collage turns out very eclectic which is fine if you’re going for that look.  To unite my collage, I chose to use the same type of frame: white with clean lines.  No crown moulding type frames, just frames with straight lines.  Over the next couple weeks, I gathered coupons from Michael’s and Hobby Lobby (because I hate paying full price for frames I know I can get discounted) and gathered my collection.  I chose all sizes of frames with the only constraint is that I needed one big enough to hang the awesome scratch-off map I got from Urban Outfitters.

After getting a whole bunch of frames, I tried different arrangements on the floor to see what would work, then texted them to my sister to get a second opinion.  Here’s one arrangement that I tried that I ended up NOT liking but it’s an example of how I arranged things on the floor:


It was just too busy for me.  So I tried a dozen other arrangements and finally came up with one I liked.  Then I cut out templates of the frames from leftover wrapping paper.  You could also use newspaper but if the frames are large, you have to tape the newspaper together and that’s a pain in the rear.  You don’t have to do that with wrapping paper.  I also marked on the template where the hanger was on the frame.  Then it was time to tape the frames to the wall and hammer in the nails where I marked the hangers on the templates.    All this took about 15 minutes.  Then I hung the actual frames and took a long time straightening and getting the spacing right.

To keep the frames straight, I used 3M hanging strips which worked great.  They not only keep the frames from tilting and moving but it’s another layer of hanging power which is necessary because if one of the frames falls and we’re sitting on the couch, that will leave a mark!  So here is the final product:




I prefer to not have the collage width be wider than the couch so I kept the collage fairly narrow.  We hope to get a big sectional soon and at that point I’ll add on to the collage to make it wider.

I still have to fill in some of the frames with either art or pictures of the family and I want each and every piece to be special to us and not just something I slapped up so I’m taking my time to fill all the frames.  Some of my favorite frames are the scratch off map mentioned above:


The picture that my eight year old son drew of my father in law who recently died is especially meaningful to us.  Every time I look at the drawing it reminds me of him and what a  great, funny person he was.


I also really like the map of Maryland that we got off of Etsy with Columbia marked since that’s where we live.


I love how it turned out and can’t wait to fill in more of the frames and to also add to the collage.  Overall it was a fairly pricy project only because even with the coupons, the frames ended up being about $10 – $20 a piece but it is still a lot cheaper (and more meaningful) than large wall art.

Quick Halloween Garland

Two posts in one day?!?!? Hurricane Sandy has made it a “Why not!” Because of the hurricane, I also put together a quick Halloween garland for our fireplace. The mantle is still ugly white but at least now it’s got some bling!

It was super easy to put this garland together.  I just got some orange rick rack and black pom pom ribbon and stapled it onto our mantle.  I used heavy duty staples and only did that because I know that the mantle is on it’s way out.  Otherwise if the mantle were my “forever mantle” I would have used sticky tape or some other adhesive.  I then covered the staples with bats and black leaves that I had lying around to make the garland look more finished.

Here is a close up of the bats:

Don’t mind the skewed pics… I was experimenting!

Here are more  shots:

I got little glitter balls from Micheal’s and put them in the lanterns that I already had laying around.  I thought that they could work for Christmas too!

Is anyone else doing some last minute Halloween decorating or bracing for Hurricane Sandy?