Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Shenanigans.

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? I somehow lucked out this year and only had to make the green bean casserole. We had one meal around noon with my father-in-law who prepared a turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and two pies! My husband also made ribs. Can you believe that? Then around five o'clock we headed out to Saxonburg, where my husband's step-grandparents live and ate all over again. My mother-in-law made moonshine, which my friend from South Carolina told me is all the rage down south. It was delish! To go with the southern vibe we had some fiddle action. Here's a video of my daughter "playing" her new violin her uncle gave her (Warning: you have to put up with my singing voice- this is no easy task). But Taliila's really into violins for some reason. Any tips on good local music teachers?

So fun and such a great, no stress day. I'm very thankful. Black Friday was a whole different story. I went to two stores, one with a sleeping toddler, and the other with a screaming toddler. Not so fun. Black Friday is so overrated. At least with a two year old. Now onto decorating for Christmas...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Simple DIY Holiday Gift Ideas: Day 2

Custom Framed Art
My husband is an eBay guru. He found this sick Wreck-It Ralph print and happened to nail it for $75 (inc. shipping). This happens to be my {almost} 3 yr. old's favorite movie. We were going to frame it and give it to her for Christmas, but we couldn't wait. Especially since we weren't sure it was actually present-worthy for a 2 1/2 yr old. I'm happy to say we were wrong. This little girl LOVES her "Ref it Ralph pwsent". She even asked me to take a picture of her standing next to it. Thus, the next four pictures I'm showing you. I bought the frame from IKEA for $24.99 (a steal) although I'd been staking out thrift shops for a used poster-sized frame, but just couldn't find the right size. I'm sure I'll find one next time now that I've already bought this one. 
You can find the print here or find out more about artist Tom Whalen here

This is the face she gave me when I told her to smile. :)

So even though this isn't completely a DIY project, I think it's super special to buy original art from artists and frame them for your loved ones. Here are some awesome little prints from a shop called French Prints on etsy that I think are extremely giftable. Wouldn't they be adorable in spray-painted turquoise frames. You could probably find any random, mix-match frames at a thrift store and spray them all the same color. Buy some inexpensive matting, or make your own out of cardboard and you'll have an exquisite, one-of-a-kind, custom gift. Here are a few of my favorites below printed on a page from a vintage, French dictionary. Aren't they great? I think these would also make a fabulous baby shower gift for someone's nursery.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Simple DIY Holiday Gift Ideas: Day 1

Now that the holidays are coming full steam ahead I figured I'd share some simple DIY gift ideas that I've either done in the past or will be attempting this holiday season. Our budget's always really tight right around the Thanksgiving season. My husband's a landscaper and he does snow removal for the winter, so all our costs are up front, and as you know, snow's pretty unpredictable this time of year. Since I can't control the weather, I've taken it upon myself to get creative and budget friendly with gifts.
I'm actually not super crafty, or that creative- I just duplicate things I see based on whether or not I think it's easy enough to attempt. So trust me when I say these are pretty easy, and you don't have to be a super-duper crafter to do these.
Idea uno: Lamp Shade Turned Laundry Basket/Toy Bin
This might actually be a cute thing to give a kid filled with toys, instead of spending money on the wrapping paper or a gift bag.

Step 1: Find an over sized lamp shade. 
I bought this bad boy for $6 at an auction, but thrift stores are packed with retro lamp shades. Make sure you find one big enough and sturdy enough to hold clothes or toys. I really liked how this shade already looked like a basket with the woven wicker and raffia. 

Step 2: Sew a basic pillow case for the insert. 
Next I took fabric from a left over shower curtain (I use curtains for all kinds of reupholstery projects- they're fun and relatively inexpensive). Note: I am not a sewer. This was actually only my second attempt at a sewing machine. To prove it, I'll show you a close up of my lines. 
Not the straightest lines ever, but honestly it doesn't matter because it's hidden. I used the already-sewn hem line of the curtain as the top of my bag so it's a nice, pretty hem when folded over the basket. 
I measured the width of the shade then added a few inches to the width of my bag so it had some room to give and fold when toys or clothes were thrown in. 
Step 3: Insert bag into upside down shade and enjoy!
I tucked mine under a desk in our hallway right outside the bathroom where clothes naturally seem to pile up. When it's laundry time, I just take the bag out and carry it down to the laundry room. If I were good at sewing, maybe I'd add some fancy handles. But this is simple DIY, no handles necessary. 

  More thrifty, but fun ideas on the way...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Real Estate Monday: Seattle

Yes, Seattle's a long ways away from Pittsburgh, but let me explain the worm hole that led me to this gem! As I was googling images for kitchen door curtain inspiration, I came across this girl's blog: The Modern Cottage. Scrolling through on my iphone I was really intrigued. She's like my twin on the opposite side of the states- at least I'm going to allow myself the honor of this title, she's where I'd love to be in say, seven years from now- similar back stories to opening a store and repainting furniture, etc. And as I glanced through more of her blog, I saw she does real estate posts, too! I was so excited by this house she posted and by finding this gem of a blog that I just had to share it with you today (even though it is on the other side of the country). I think you'll love it, too!
2406 2nd Ave. W, Seattle, WA 98119
Ever since owning my own Craftsman style house, I'm kind of obsessed with them. 

This looks like a magazine, doesn't it? 

This could be a Pittsburgh house, really. Just paint those panels white, slap some calm, flat grey paint above, and echo that monochromatic color scheme by painting your antique table in a high gloss grey. 

This is literally the same.exact.floorplan as my house, but it (obviously) looks 100% different. It's got my mind going a bajillion miles a minute. It looks professionally designed, but I don't think it's anything too lofty or inaccessible as far as mimicking this look. I love the cool colors, the different textures from the fabrics and rug, and the pop of color in that turquoise velvet chair. 

What a neat den. Those cherry-red hounds-tooth chairs are AWESOME. And did you notice the books on the shelf are color-coordinated? 

Marble counter tops, brass pulls, glass doors, and a farm sink. My dream kitchen. 

Again, is this a magazine, or a real house? I'm not so sure.

Look at that painted dresser! 

That console to the left is a typical Mediterranean style cabinet that Pittsburgh seems to have a million of. You might not recognize it with that high gloss white paint (usually it's dated, dark fruit wood), but that just goes to show what a little paint can do to add some glam. The headboard is a mirror- I'll have to remember that one. 

What a fun rug!
There you have it. What do you think? Thanks for the inspiration, MCC.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

French Provincial Vanity

I found this really pretty vanity today. Correction. It will be really pretty with a little elbow grease. But someone already did the hardest part by sanding all most the paint off the base.

I'm really liking the look of the natural wood (shocker, I know), but unfortunately it has this ugly white laminate veneer on top. I think I'm going to paint stripes (because I can't get enough of stripes) across the top in a grey and tan, keeping it close to the natural looking colors that are running through the wood base. Something like the colors in this fabric:

The white top doesn't look as bad in pics as it does in person, but trust me, the two textures are way off and it just doesn't look like a cohesive piece.

I also need to fix the hardware where the mirror folds down so it sits level, but that shouldn't be too hard. See, I've already primed the top and insides. And here's a little sneak peak at the vintage contact paper I found to line the drawers. I was excited when I found this roll for $2. Nothing finishes off a newly refurbished vanity like some cute lining inside. Stay tuned for the finished product. It'll be listed under the Bedroom Furniture tab for sale when I'm finished.

Also in the French Provincial category we still have this adorable baby blue nightstand. Perfect for any nursery around, boy or girl. It's vintage, but it's been sanded, painted, and waxed to perfection. It measures about 19.5" l x 14"w x 24" h, found under the Bedroom Furniture tab as well. It is possible for me to custom match the vanity to the nightstand so if you're interested in both, please send me an email at

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Art of Collecting Art

I was reading some great articles on how to collect art and it was really inspiring. I love finding original pieces to add to my collection, and yard sales and auctions are a great way to do it if you don't have the dough to drop at a gallery. Whether you think you're a collector or not, the art you choose to display in your home says something about you. This article here tells you a little about choosing pieces that speak to you, and the importance of the collection as a whole, rather than random pieces. Here's a quote I really like:
What makes a great collector great is his or her ability to separate out specific works of art from the millions of pieces already in existence and assemble them in such a way as to increase or advance our understanding of that art in particular or of the evolution of art in general. In any mature collection, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts, the collector comes to be accepted as a respected authority and in exceptional cases, goes on to set the standards, determine the trends and influence the future of collecting for everyone.
I don't think collecting should be intimidating, or have any rhyme or reason beyond the fact that you just like it. Just some fun food for thought before I show you some of my favorite finds, and tips on how we scored them. 
 A pair of antique hunting paintings. 
My husband and I agree these two are our faves!We bought these at an estate sale. They were priced at $80 each. Not that we didn't feel like they were worth that, we just didn't have the money. So we offered $40 for the pair and gave them our name/number. We got a call later that day and picked them up. Tip: most estate sales go to half off at a certain time. You can wait till then and come back, or leave your best offer with the person who runs the sale. Warning: you do run the risk of losing the item, but you might score big if no one else wants it. 
Our stairway collection
Most of my artwork collection was passed down to me from my grandma. Thankfully, I like her most of her art. These three prints were part of a newspaper add she did for a local department store. My aunt has all the originals but was kind enough to make copies of my three favorites.

 The two portraits that have a sepia background were models my grandma sketched, and the other two diagonally are my grandpa when he was in his 20's.

 This black and white landscape we picked up at another estate sale for $75. A splurge for us. It's huge though, and I'm a sucker for oil paintings especially seascapes.
 And finally, the squirrels complete our stairway collection adding a bit of humor. These were drawn by artist Ryan Berkley. We're big fans of animal heads on people's bodies in this family. Our house is laced with personified animal characters and Ryan Berkley's art started this obsession.
Lastly, I give you "David". My grandma's specialty was nudes. Which I find kind of funny because my dad grew up with this artsy mom, and married my mom, who comes from the most conservative family ever. David hangs in the entry way to our stairs and sparks many inside jokes in our family, but you can't argue how amazingly life-like this picture is. And if you've ever tried to draw people, you'll know how difficult a task this was. If our house ever caught on fire, I'd be grabbing this piece on my way out (assuming my husband and kid were already safe, of course). 

My grandma Vera is the second from the right standing next to one of her paintings.
Isn't she groovy? 
So do you collect art? I'd love to see some of your favorite pieces. Feel free to email me pics here and maybe I can throw together some sort of collage of everyone's favorites.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Real Estate Monday: Deutschtown Condo

Welcome back. Today we're heading to the historic Deutschtown part of Pittsburgh. Nestled right next to the Short North, it's a newly revitalized area that's a short walk to lots of fun; my personal favorite- Bistro To Go. Every time my husband and I go to a Pirates game we park on E. Ohio street (because it's free!), eat at the delectable Bistro's (yum!), hop across the street to the old school ice cream shop (sorry I don't know the actual name, but it's cheap and good), then walk down to PNC park. How's that for a date night? So now that you know I'm a fan of this location, let me also preface city living is not for the faint of heart. There's still a lot of rawness that happens in these areas, but I'm a city girl at heart so here goes: 
602 Lockhart Street #8: 3 bedroom/1.5 bath condo/townhouse. This condo is as cute as can be. Although, I'm pretty sure by the looks of the pictures it's not a true 3 bedroom, but rather they're counting the loft/den as a third room since it's huge. I could be wrong though, so if this is your house or if you've seen it in person, correct me, please. 

Awesome vaulted ceilings- gives the illusion of more space.

This home owner has some serious style with that farm table and metal cafe chairs.
 I like. 

Nice color scheme here. I love the white on top, again adding the illusion of space.

Great modern bathroom, with updated trough sink. 

Probably the master. 

This is a really fun loft space continued with the picture below.

Other side of the loft with half bath attached. 
There you have it. An adorable condo with city living at it's best. And dropping $150k for a renovated condo ain't bad when you check the comps in the area. Happy Monday! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Driftwood Special Tribute

Short Story: I've recently acquired a nice collection of driftwood. It's great for making awesome home decorations. I'll be creating a separate tab with info on prices. Email me with questions or shipping quotes.

Long Sentimental Story: Back when I first moved to the 'burg one of my parent's friends from Jacksonville called me. He asked if I'd be interested in helping out around his elderly mother's house once a week who happened to live down the road from me. Since I was doing a bunch of part time odd jobs, this fit into my schedule quite nicely. Grandma Strathmann (96 years young, and sharp as a tac at the time) was quite the collector. She had pieces dating back to the Egyptians, and everything had pieces of paper taped to the back with the history of each piece. The next person who received them would certainly know exactly what kind of treasure they were getting. She'd been living in her house for over 70 years. She had tight curly, white hair and squinty, little eyes that she'd close as she'd tell you a story. She had lived through the Great Depression, was a nurse, and, boy did that woman have some great stories to tell. I've never met a woman more in love with Jesus and unabashedly pray over every person who walked into her house. Even repair men. And they let her get away with it because who's going to tell a 96 yr. old any differently. I loved her for it, and I got to know her well over the next year. We even ended up buying the house for sale right behind her, which she claimed was nothing short of a miracle when we told her. My husband and I took a trip to Ethiopia the summer of 2010, and I was 6 months pregnant when we got back. Eventually I could no longer help out around her house. I'd check in on her now and then, and in 2012 Veronica Strathmann passed away at age 98. For only knowing someone for two years, she made a very big impact on my life, and I can only hope I'm as pleasant and caring as she was when I'm that age.
I didn't mean for this to be quite so sentimental, but I feel like I owe her this much.
This driftwood was in her basement and her family graciously allowed me to have it for some projects for my business. I had no idea she had this much, and when her son called me to say he left it all on her back porch, I ended up having to use a sled to make three trips back and forth between our yards. I'll be keeping a few pieces for myself, but there will be some for sale under the driftwood tab. I will ship if interested and don't live in the Pittsburgh area, or you can set up an appointment with me to come see them. I have little knowledge about the types of wood, but I'll do my best to describe them if need be. I'll also be posting next on some great DIY ideas you can do with driftwood. Although, I think I like the simplicity of laying a few pieces on a table and lacing them with little candles. Very rustic chic.


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