Thursday, October 22, 2015

Disney World Inspired Pumpkin Diorama

One of my favorite things about being a mom is all the fun crafty opportunities you don't normally get to do as an otherwise average adult. My oldest kid is only three, but I can't wait until she has to make a solar system from styrofoam or a plant cell out of fuse beads or something. Call me a nerd, but those kinds of projects get me so excited! I remember building a fully furnished shoebox condo for two stuffed lizards as a kid, but once I built it, I never played with it. The creating was the best part for me. So this year, when our daycare announced their fall festival pumpkin decorating contest was open to all ages, I was pumped! This could be my time to shine! 

Originally, I thought I thought about carving or decorating a real pumpkin. I even pinned a few ideas, but nothing was getting my crafty juices flowing. Then I stumbled across this tutorial, and inspiration struck! I loved the quirkiness of the old-school diorama, and I was excited about creating an entire scene inside my pumpkin instead of just a character. 

My daughter's class at daycare is known as "The Jungle," so I originally thought I would create a scene with monkeys and tigers and lots of green leafy trees. But that felt a little too on the nose, and I wasn't crazy about it anyway. So I decided to do what I normally do when I want to be inspired - I zoned out on Facebook ;). It was Fall Break around here, and basically my entire friend list was living it up in Disney World. I was feeling jealous (we haven't been to Disney since our honeymoon eight years ago!), but then the inspiration did hit! Cinderella and her castle IN A PUMPKIN! It's like the dream inside the dream inside the dream from Inception! When I got that buzzy feeling inside my brain that happens when the ideas start bouncing around, I knew my theme was perfect! 

I picked up a carve-able foam pumpkin at Target, and some moss, pebbles, styrofoam shapes, air-dry clay, and tiny trees from Hobby Lobby. Side note: I am in the Hob Lob at least once a week, and I really thought I had the floor plan of that place memorized. But I had no idea they have an entire aisle dedicated to dioramas! This is not good news for me. Tiny cute trees and plants and miniature stuff I can glue to things!? I'll be visiting that aisle again soon.

 I also borrowed a couple of my daughter's Disney figurines to set the scene, and a string of lights (purple per her request). I didn't take any pictures of the process because I just get too in-the-zone to stop and photograph stuff. But after cutting an opening in my pumpkin, I painted the inside a midnight blue. Then, I hot-glued my styrofoam pieces to the bottom, and covered it all in Crayola Air Dry Clay. This gave me a good base to stick all my pieces into. 

The most time-consuming part was sketching and painting Cinderella's castle. I'm not trained at all as an artist, so I just look at a photo and do my best to copy it. After it was painted, I decoupaged the castle to a thin piece of cardboard to make it feel substantial, and used small wooden sticks to push it down into the clay and styrofoam. It was starting to come together! 

I stuck in the trees with floral wire, hot-glued the moss down, then added the pebbles for a cobblestone walkway. I also hot-glued most of my skin in the process. Then Cinderella and Mickey Mouse himself got glued down. The last step was to drill holes for the lights and add details for the fireworks. 

At the last minute, I decided to add the mouse ears to the top to help disguise all the wires from the lights. I'm not 100% crazy about how they look, but they will do. To my surprise, the string lights blink! I think that added to the fireworks effect. 

It's not perfect. Some of the edges are rough, and you can see a lot of glue dots, but this was seriously the most fun I've had doing any kind of project in a long time. Plus my crap photography skills are not doing it justice. It almost makes missing out on the Disney World fun okay (pssh, not really)! Now I'm inspired to make all kinds of Fall-themed dioramas. I'm thinking little forest animals, fall leaves and acorns...the possibilities are endless! 

What do you think about the diorama idea? Have you been to Disney lately? I hope I my kid wins the decorating contest! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Painted Kitchen Cabinets Reveal!

It has been a long, tedious process, but y'all. My cabinets. Are. Done. 

I really wish it didn't take me three weeks to finish. And I really wish I didn't just finish up adding hardware and doing touch ups at 11:00 at night, but we can't have everything we want, can we? I guess unless what we want is a gorgeous white kitchen!

Here is a reminder of the before. 

We have since repainted the walls, painted the table and chairs, replaced the countertops, and painted the cabinets. 

This room is so bright and airy now. I love how it changes the whole feel of the room! And when the afternoon sun hits those gleaming cabinets, they just shine. 

I won't go into a detailed tutorial on how I painted these. There are eleventy billion cabinet painting tutorials on Pinterest. I know, because I read every single one of them before I finally convinced myself to just do it already. I will tell you some things I discovered during the arduous three weeks I worked on them. 

1. This project will destroy the rest of your house. 
Maybe not literally, but in some ways, yes. See, I chose to work on these cabinets as I had the time, and I did them all by myself because I'm a control freak thorough. I work in the salon at least three days a week, and I have a busy three-year-old and a new baby. That means weekends when they were home with me were not an option. So my off days (and baby was home with me those days!) and late nights were when I powered through the big stuff. I did everything in sections and that meant that, for three weeks, every surface in my kitchen was covered with half-painted cabinet doors or drawers. I felt like it was futile to do much cleaning when everything was perpetually wrecked. I think my floors didn't get swept once in three weeks, and my counters barely got wiped down. Gross. It made me crazy, but I had to focus all my attention on the cabinets so I could GET THEM DONE. I had to be okay with the state of the rest of the house suffering for a short while for the sake of the project. 

2. Take your time with the primer coat. 
I am an impatient perfectionist, which is a terrible combination. I chose to use an oil-based primer for its durability and stain resistance, but I haaate working with it. It's usually smelly and impossible to clean up. Due to my impatience, I'm just not the kind of girl who is going to scrub oil-based paint out of a brush, so I pretty much threw away every one I used. That meant I used a cheapo brush for my primer coats, and I think that was a bad choice. Your top coat is only as good as your primer coat, and even though I used a high quality foam roller and Wooster brush for the top coat, I had more brush marks and uneven places from the primer. This bothers the perfectionist in me. I did sand between coats as needed, but that didn't fix every spot. I either should have primed everything at once, or just sucked it up and bought several high-quality brushes made for oil-based paint. 

3. Floetrol is your friend. 
Floetrol is a paint conditioner you can add to water-based paints (they make Penetrol for oil-based) that slows down the drying time so that it's easier to go back and smooth out those brush and roller marks, plus catch drips before they're dried. When I mentioned using Floetrol to my favorite paint guy, he was impressed with my insider knowledge. According to him, most people don't know about this little product, so I'm telling you all about it. You add about eight ounces to a gallon of paint, and it's perfect for a project like this, or when you're painting furniture, and want the smoothest finish possible when using a brush. 

4. Let go of perfection. 
This was, and still is, the hardest for me. I'm all about living an imperfect life, but that doesn't mean it's always easy for me. I notice all the little drips and every brush mark. But you know what? I'm not a professional painter, and I don't live inside Pinterest. I'm a real girl with little kids, and I did the best I could. I doubt the painted cabinet police is going to come by and inspect my work and give me a bad grade. I think they look pretty all right. 

5. Just do it. 
If you've been wanting to paint your cabinets but you're nervous/afraid/unsure, I am giving you permission to just do it! Don't worry about that your grandmother thinks you should never paint wood. Your grandmother (probably) doesn't live in your house. Also don't worry about what the future buyers of your house will think of your choice. They also don't live in your house. If you walk into your kitchen every day wishing it looked different, then change it. It was time-consuming work, but truthfully anyone can do it, and it's one of the least expensive updates you can do in a kitchen. I spent around $200 (including the new hardware) and it was so worth it.

You could choose to use a paint sprayer if you're comfortable with that. I didn't because I don't have a good place to spray outside (I was worried about dust and dirt settling in the paint out in the garage), and I don't live the kind of life where I can tape and mask off every corner of my kitchen. I also chose not to sand beforehand, and I think only time will tell if that was a good decision. The doors have tons of grooves and raised sections, so sanding them would've been difficult anyway. I used two coats of the primer and sanded as needed in between coats. 

The paint color I chose is Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace in semi-gloss. It's a pretty cool white with some gray undertones. Since my walls are that minty blue, I didn't want to go too warm with the cabinet color. Plus, this room gets mostly afternoon sun, which tends to be warmer in tone (think about the light coming from a sunset), and I didn't want that to affect the look of the cabinet color too much. I did two to three coats of paint. 

Previously, our cabinets had no hardware at all (builder's grade cheap), so I bought these knobs and these cup pulls from D. Lawless Hardware. Shipping was free, so for all my doors and drawers, I only spent $60! I went with the oil rubbed bronze to tie in the black from the appliances and light fixture, but mainly because I like it :). 

I've also recently gotten some questions about the material we chose for our countertops. It is Silestone Quartz in White Arabesque, and we got it from Home Depot. Quartz is super hard and durable, and looks and feels like granite or marble. However, it's non-porous, and therefore anti-bacterial. It's so low maintenance and easy to clean. You don't have to use any special products, and you never have to seal it or do anything fancy to it! It's scratch and scorch resistant, and we love it so much. I know I sound like a commercial, but seriously. If you need some countertops, and you love the look of Carrara marble but not the price or necessary upkeep, get you some of these. They have a huge variety of colors and textures, and it's genuinely beautiful in person. 

I'm sorry this was so long, but it was many weeks in the making! My next project for the kitchen is to add a subway tile backsplash, and I will keep you posted on that. I hope you have enjoyed our kitchen reveal! Please say some prayers that the three-year-old doesn't get after these fresh cabinets with the crayons! 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Custom Portrait Painting

When I was in college, I met all sorts of people. I made friends from all over the country and the world. In the years since graduation, those people are doing all kinds of exciting things. I know world travelers who have lived in Europe and South America and New York City. I know writers who have published novels and entrepreneurs that have opened coffee shops and pizzerias. My friends are nurses, teachers, soldiers, actors, social workers, and artists. So when my friend Shannon, an artist living in Italy, opened her Etsy shop Pine and Poppy Art, I knew I had to have one of her custom portraits! 

Last year, I had the pleasure of doing Shannon's hair and makeup at her wedding to her college sweetheart, Tommaso. They got married in the little college town where we went to school, and now they live just outside Rome, Italy. In addition to being a crazy-talented artist, Shannon works as a tour guide at The Vatican and The Sistine Chapel (how cool is that?!)

When I commissioned (that sounds so fancy) our portrait, I thought about having one done of the whole family, but at that time, I didn't have a good one of all four of us looking put together and well, worthy of a painting. I ended up choosing this photo of Chad and me from last fall. I was about six weeks pregnant with our littlest little, and I've always imagined I could see that special pregnancy glow in my eyes. 

I'm so glad she didn't include my brown hairstylist's fingernails in the finished painting! 
She emailed me many times to customize everything from the flowers and the banner to the colors of our shirts, and I am so thrilled with the results! 

The frame is from Hobby Lobby, and it's 11x14. I'm not 100% sure where this little gem will end up permanently, but I've enjoyed styling it in different ways around the house. 

Here it is in the living room next to our custom cake topper and some wedding photos. I think it's clear from our wedding cake that we have always been lovers of color!

I was surprised by how much I loved it in our bedroom. I chose all the colors of the flowers and details so that the painting would look at home in any room of the house, but this spot really seems to be working for me! I think it pops against our navy accent wall.

The last place I tried it out was on our DIY industrial shelf in our gallery wall stairwell. This is a dark area, so I like how it brings some color to this spot. What's your favorite place for our painting? I can't decide where it should live! 

If you'd like to see more of Shannon's work, follow her on Instagram or visit her Etsy shop to get your own custom portrait! 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Colorful Fall Decor

Happy Monday, friends! Today I'm sharing my colorful fall decor for my front porch. Fall in Alabama is tricky. You can start off the morning wearing scarves and boots and flannel but have the air conditioning blasting by lunch time. Over the weekend, we enjoyed some fall-like temps, but today, the sun is out and I was a sweaty mess putting out all my little pumpkins! Sometimes you gotta fake it till you make it.

I am not a huge seasonal decorator. We sometimes host a Halloween party for our college pals at our house, but this year someone else is hosting. I chose to go generic "fall decor" so I can leave it out until it's time to decorate for Christmas. Plus, I hate finding a home for all the leftover decorations when the seasons have passed. Storage is always an issue! For that reason, I prefer to use natural decor like flowers and gourds, then repurpose items from other places in the house. 

Most of our springtime flowers are still growing strong, so I added in a few affordable and colorful potted mums and good old pumpkins (mine were $2.88 at Aldi! Score!). 

I bought this crate at Wal-mart and stained it with Minwax Early American stain. When I bring it back inside, we can repurpose it to hold toys or extra blankets. 

I did have fun making this open frame wreath. I bought the frame on clearance at Hobby Lobby months ago, and gave it a coat of Krylon spray paint in the chalky white finish. I scuffed it up a little with fine grit sandpaper, and added the "Gather" banner made from jute twine and scrapbook paper. The scrapbook paper was covered with a layer of polyurethane to make it more suitable for the outdoors. The faux pinecones and acorns got a light coat of spray paint, and I stippled on bronze acrylic paint. Last, I made the flower from an awesome wood grain fabric and added that sweet little bird nest. I'm so tickled with how it turned out! Added bonus: I won't have to move it until Christmas time!!

I also whipped up this little painting to hang on our old painted louvre door. I was inspired by a print at Hobby Lobby, but I had fun personalizing it with our last name and fave color scheme. It's hard to tell in this photo, but the border is stained with the same Early American stain as our wood crate. This will be easy to later repurpose inside too! 

Seasonal decorating doesn't have to be overwhelming or expensive. Add your flowers, gourds, and a cozy blanket or throw, and you're good to go! 

I hope you've enjoyed our colorful front porch. Here's hoping it will soon truly feel like fall outside so we can enjoy it and not melt in this tropical Alabama heat! 

How do you decorate for fall? Is it still sweltering at your house?

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