DIY Sand Pit

DIY SandpitSpring was upon us so I started researching ideas for an outdoor playspace. We live in the woods, so there is already a lot for a toddler to play and stay busy with, but I really wanted to have a section of our yard to be a safe area for my son and his friends, cousins, and God-willing, future sibling(s) to play in. I decided the first thing we needed was some sort of sandy area for him to dig in. For the time being, we had a bucket full of sand collected from our creek that he enjoyed, but it was limited enjoyment. I also wanted his play area to blend in with the natural landscape, and not be an eyesore. So, we decided to build our own sandpit using rocks we found around the property as the boundary.

I started by making an outline between two trees, near our hammock, where I envisioned the sandpit. Matt thought it was too big, but I reminded him that it won’t always just be one child playing, and it would be nice for them not to have to play on top of one another. Once the outline was set, we began to dig up the ground to make it level and deep enough for sand to not overflow into the yard.

Sandpit Progress

Sandpit ProgressOnce we had it dug up, Matt found some landscaping cloth and garden staples at Home Depot, that we adhered to the pit before placing any rocks in it. This ensured we wouldn’t lose our sand into the dirt over time. We then searched for and collected rocks of various sizes that we could manage on our own without a machine other than our 4-wheeler and trailer. We made a large pile, and began outlining our pit with the rocks. Matt started by putting the largest ones in the back, which was also the deeper area. Once the rocks got small enough for me to manage, I finished the front half.

Collecting Rocks on the 4-wheelerSandpit Progress

Sandpit Progress

Sandpit Progress

Sandpit ProgressMuscle Shadow

I used leftover fill to back-fill around the rocks, and then cut open each bag of sand to dump into the pit. Of course, we had to go to two different Home Depots to get enough 50lb. bags of play sand, and of course they were by two different companies, therefore two different colors and consistencies. I was really bummed about it, so I tried to mix it up since I much preferred the look of the white sand over the orange-ish sand. As I emptied the bags into the pit, my son stood by the edge and began to throw rocks, acorn tops, and sticks into the sand. I told myself that the sand pit would never be “neat” and I had to get over it right then and there. We bought 40 bags, but I chose not to use the last 4 to save some money, so 36 in total!Sandbags in Sandpit DIY Sandpit

After crushing one finger between two rocks and cutting my finger with the razor blade while opening the sand bags, the sand pit was finally ready to be played in! So, as L stepped onto the sand and realized it was not rock solid ground, he immediately wanted my help getting back out. This past winter he also refused to walk in the snow. While on vacation to the beach in the middle of this project, we learned he also strongly dislikes walking in sand. I am very hopeful he will soon get over his dislike for walking on unsolid ground, and actually use the beautiful sandpit we put so much time, sweat, pain, and love into creating for him. I suppose for now he can just throw random objects into it. Whatever makes your heart content, Big Guy. It’s all for you (and I suppose the chickens too)!

Playing in Sand Standing in front of Sandpit Chickens in Sandpit

DIY Ikea Hemnes Built-In Bookcases

DIY Built-in Bookcases

This post is so long overdue it’s ridiculous.

I feel like I’m constantly apologizing for my tardiness on this site. Going forward, I think it’s safe to say we all just need to assume I work on at least a 3-6 month delay.

Anyways, last spring we started our built-in bookcases project in our living area. We had this blank open canvas of a wall to work with, and we always knew we wanted built-in bookcases. Our builder was going to need to charge us around $3,000.00 to do it, so of course like pretty much every other project in this house, we told him we would just do it ourselves. After some research, we decided to convert Ikea Hemnes bookcases into built-ins. Most people seem to use the Billy Bookcases which turn out beautifully, but Matt insisted on the better quality version using hardwood instead of plywood, and I wasn’t about to argue with something better!

Here was our blank canvas:

Before Built-Ins

Visitors would walk in and go, “So… are the walls white?” IT’S CALLED “CREAM”, PEOPLE! Actually, it probably has an even more beautiful name by Behr. And so what if it was just white? There are plenty of opportunities to add splashes of color and texture to the space, but I was 8 months pregnant with my first baby when we moved in so it’s been a slow going process. Anyways, this is where our built-in bookcases finally come in!

I am not going to do a formal DIY post because I cannot take any credit for, nor fully understand or remember how it was done since Matt did all of the work. I just came up with the idea and design, and he did the rest. Here are some photos of the process though:

Matt putting the bookcases together in the middle of our living area with Baby L looking on. Look how little he was!
Matt putting the bookcases together in the middle of our living area with Baby L looking on. Look how little he was!
We set the bookcases up to make sure they were in the right place and the TV would still fit. Matt made sure to spray paint the backing prior to putting everything together.
Spray Painted Yellow Backs of Bookcases
This is what it looked like after building and installing the bookcases, but before adding cabinet doors and baseboards.
Ikea Wardrobe Doors
Since we live in a 2-bedroom with an open living area, more hidden storage is always a necessity. So while Matt was in Ikea, he picked up some doors from one of their wardrobes to use as cabinet doors on our bookcases. He cut the panels down to the size we needed, picked up some hardware from Home Depot, and turned the bottom of our bookcases into cabinets!
After he trimmed the cabinet doors down to size, he used the excess wood to trim the top gap between the doors and the existing shelf.

Installing Cabinet DoorsCaulking Holes in Bookcases

Then he just used caulking to hide any screw holes as well as seams when we put everything together. Again, don’t miss the little helper!

We also scored an electric fireplace on clearance after-season from Home Depot for just $99 that we envisioned building into the cabinetry and trimming with barn beams. Once we decided to host Thanksgiving at our home, it kicked our butts into gear to finally finish the entire project. This is what the original fireplace looked like, except one of the legs was broken, but it didn’t matter because we didn’t plan to use any of the existing mantel in our design:

Hampton Bay Derry Electric Fireplace in Cherry

Here are some photos of the process of building the new mantel:Matt cutting a piece of barn wood on the table saw.

Matt cutting a piece of barn wood on the table saw. You can see the bare fireplace sitting on top his work table.

The front of the electric fireplace wrapped in barn beams without the top on.
The front of the electric fireplace wrapped in barn beams without the top on.
The back of the electric fireplace wrapped in barn beams. Matt just adhered a piece of plywood to the entire back.
The back of the electric fireplace wrapped in barn beams. Matt just adhered a piece of plywood to the entire back.
This is the top of the barn wood fireplace mantel before being installed.
This is the top of the barn wood fireplace mantel before being installed.

And here she is in all her beauty!

DIY Ikea Hemnes Built-In Bookcases

Here is an up-close shot of the fireplace that I took at Christmas after making my own grain sack stockings.

Electric Fireplace with Barn Wood Mantel and Stockings

And because everyone loves a “Before and After”:

builtin bookcase before builtinbookcase after

And after looking at this photo, I just realized we added the sliding vintage door since then too! Here are some shots of that process too:

This is what it looked like closed before we added a secret message.
This is what it looked like closed before we added a secret message.
Matt had the brilliant idea to use stencil letters to put one of his favorite family phrases on the wall, and still allow the door to slide open and close.
Matt had the brilliant idea to use stencil letters to put one of his favorite phrases on the wall, and still allow the door to slide open and close.

Spray Paint Stencil Spray Paint Stencil Halfway Done

L working hard, and playing hard too.
L working hard, and playing hard too.

It feels so good knowing we have completed an entire project that doesn’t still need any final touches or anything! Slowly but surely we are getting there, so thank you for following us on our long journey to building our “dream home”.


DIY Grain Sack Stockings

DIY Grain Sack Stocking

When I was pulling out our Christmas decorations over Thanksgiving weekend, I realized we had these big beautiful crocheted stockings a friend had made us, but no real nice ones for Big Guy or Kona. You may be wondering why I didn’t have this dilemma last year. Well, honestly, I can’t remember why. I am going to assume I just didn’t put stockings up? Cue mommy brain. Big Guy was only 5 months old last year and the fireplace is new this year (a post on that coming soon), so it probably just made more sense in my head this year.

We obviously weren’t going to find matching stockings, and I’m trying to break out of my Type A tendencies and not always be so matchy-matchy, because even if something doesn’t match, it can still flow together beautifully. It just takes a certain type of balance that I am constantly learning to understand. So anyways, we have a bunch of old grain sacks that my mom had picked up along her antique dealing journey. I plan to one day make pillow covers out of them and sell them on our Etsy store. One day. For now though, I thought they would be the perfect fabric to make stockings out of! I was hoping we had some that were green and red, to “match” our other stockings, and lucky for me, we did! We actually had two different bags, but I liked this one better because of the stars.

DIY Grain Sack Stockings DIY Grain Sack Stockings

First, I flipped the fabric inside-out and personally just hand drew with a pen what I thought a stocking looked like. I am sure there are fancy pattern print-outs out there that you can find on the internet. You won’t find it here though unfortunately! I knew I didn’t want my stockings to hang so low they completely blocked our electric fireplace, and they had to be thin enough to be able to add more in the future. So this is what I came up with.

DIY Grain Sack StockingsAfter I drew my outline, I realized it was the size I actually wanted the stocking, so I cut about 1cm outside my perfectly scientific line to compensate for sewing room. DIY Grain Sack StockingsDIY Grain Sack Stockings I needed to make two stockings, one for Big Guy and one for Kona, so I then placed that stocking on top of more fabric, and cut along the same lines. You could draw it first, but I was feeling dangerous, and scientific, and just cut it.

DIY Grain Sack Stockings

Then, I pinned the two pieces of fabric together (outsides facing together) and sewed a straight line stitch all the way around.

DIY Grain Sack Stockings

Next, I flipped the top edge over about 1cm or so, and sewed the flap down. At this point, you may want to iron your stocking. I did not because I was too lazy to get it all out for these two little stockings.

DIY Grain Sack Stockings

I excitedly flipped the stocking right-side out, and voila! A grain sack stocking! At this point, I realized I needed something for the stocking to hang by and didn’t feel like doing more sewing so I decided I would make a simple loop with some twine we had on hand, and hot glued it to the stocking. Again, this is really fancy scientific stuff over here.

DIY Grain Sack Stockings

Stocking Hook and Loop

Then I needed to have name tags of some sort. Again, I didn’t want to do any more sewing, so I remembered I had some brown card stock paper I could use. I found some fun scissors I came across recently from back in my high school scrap-booking days to cut little rectangular labels out. Then I punched a hole in the upper left corners and wrote our names on them. I took more twine and tied the labels to each of the stockings.

Stocking Name Tags

Aren’t they so cute? Especially so, with all their unscientific imperfections and non matchy-matchiness. Okay, I admit, they match pretty damn well. I honestly wasn’t expecting it though. They are still my personal gentle Christmas reminder to be forgiving of my own and others imperfections and differences.

DIY Grain Sack Stockings

DIY Grain Sack Stockings DIY Grain Sack StockingsDIY Grain Sack Stockings

Oh yea! Remember how in my painted acorns post I said I wanted to paint some pine cones next? Well, I did. And they are awesome. All I had to do was spray paint them and let dry.

Spray Painted Pine ConesSpray Painted Pine Cones Now, on to the next Christmas craft project… a wreath for my front door! I think I have officially entered hibernation mode. Clearly.

DIY How To Paint Acorns – My Autumn Table Centerpiece

How To Paint AcornsI know as someone who writes a blog I probably should have written this post at least two months ago, but it only became relevant in my life less than two weeks ago, and between my scattered Mommy Brain and hosting 21 people for Thanksgiving dinner, it is just not happening until right now. I wish I could be more organized and on top of things and think ahead, but it just doesn’t happen… Especially these days with a testing toddler!

Between having a new home to decorate and feeling the need to do something creative with my life, I actually wanted to have at least some autumn decor this year. I bought a wreath for my front door, even though I hoped to make one, but it was 50% off at Hobby Lobby post-Halloween so I gave myself a break. I also bought some pumpkins to put out front to add some color to our brown landscaping, thanks to Snowvember. I have been trying to figure out a centerpiece for our dining table to leave up year-round, so I figured I might as well figure out a Thanksgiving one. My friend told me she came across painted acorns on Pinterest and I loved the idea. Especially since it was hard to walk around our backyard in the fall without fear of getting hit on the head by a falling acorn! I ended up following this simple tutorial.

First, I scrounged around for acorns. Since it was already late in the season, a lot of the tops had unfortunately fallen off so it wasn’t quite as easy as I had hoped. I put them in a plastic bag as I went, and Big Guy took them out. After a couple of weeks I finally got around to baking the acorns to kill any bugs that may be living in them. I baked them in the oven on an aluminum foiled baking tray for 2 hours at 170 degrees. Then they sat on my island staring at us all and taking up valuable counter space for a few more days.

Oven Baked Acorns

I expected some of the tops to fall off, but I think because my acorns were already so old, about half of them fell off. I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to hot glue them all on, but Matt somehow motivated me to just do it. I’m glad I did. I also read it is easier to glue them back on before painting, so that’s what I did, and I agree!

Hot Glued Acorns

Then I could finally start painting them! I chose to use earthy tones that match our home decor but still represent autumn. I went with teal, blue, mustard, and orange acrylic paint. I painted with the grain of the acorn and then just laid them on the newspaper to dry, not worrying too much about the flat spot leaving a very noticeable mark.

Painted Acorns Drying

Once I collected all the painted acorns, some more tops fell off so I needed to hot glue some more. I definitely recommend doing this project early on in the acorn-falling season to alleviate this issue. In the end, it really wasn’t that big of a deal anyways because THEY LOOK AWESOME.

Painted Acorns Painted Acorns

I kept them in a wooden bowl I picked up during our missions trip to Guatemala, and then scattered them along the burlap table runner we used for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Centerpiece Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time for a Christmas centerpiece. Maybe this holiday I will finish it earlier than the week before. I’m thinking of painting some pine cones I have on hand. We shall see…

DIY Paper Mache Deer Head

DIY Paper Mache Deer HeadThis past winter was pretty brutal with not only living in the snowiest city in the country, but having below freezing temperatures as well. It wasn’t very conducive to being outdoors or leaving the house at all. There were a few weeks where I went to church on Sunday morning, and I didn’t leave the house again until the following Sunday. When you have a young baby, it just didn’t make much sense to risk our lives by driving somewhere without a really good reason. I figured if we died on the way to church, then it was really in God’s plan, right?

Since we live in the middle of the woods we don’t get too many visitors, so for about 3 straight months, it was just Big Guy, Kona, and me cooped up in our little 2-bedroom bungalow carriage house above our garage. And people wonder why he’s “such a mommy’s boy”… I’d be concerned if he wasn’t! Anyways, Big Guy was super content playing independently on the floor but not yet mobile, so I was able to do some fun DIY projects like make my own baby leggings and make some fun artwork for his room. Since we moved in just two months before he was born, I didn’t really have it decorated much but my goal has been to have it finished by his first birthday. Well that’s less than a month away, so we shall see if I make my goal or not. I envisioned real deer antlers as part of a collage over his floor bed, but hadn’t come across any so I figured I might as well make my own deer head. Why not, right?

I followed excellent tutorials by lil blue boo and bhg, but kind of combined them to come up with my own version.

First, we don’t get the newspaper but we do get those annoying magazine mailings, so I crumpled up a bunch to form large, medium, and small balls. I placed the small on top the medium, and the medium on top the large, to form what I thought somewhat resembled a deer head. Then I taped them all in place. You could also tape each ball, and then tape the three balls together if you prefer.

Paper Mache Deer Head Step One

Next, I crumpled up a bunch more to form the deer neck and taped it to the deer head. At this point, I also cut out an oval shape on thin cardboard and taped it to the bottom of the neck so I would have something solid to adhere the mount to when finished, and it would help give it a finished off look at the end.

Step 2

Then, on that same piece of thin cardboard, I cut out little ears and taped them to the deer head.

Step 3 IMG_6501

Now comes the really fun part – paper mache! I made my own mixture of 1 part flour to 4 parts water. I let it come to a boil, stirring constantly, until it was soupy. I then transfered it to a bowl to cool just enough for me to be able to touch it. I must admit here, all I had on hand was organic sprouted whole wheat flour. Note to self: buy some white flour for arts-n-crafts. The “healthy mixture” was grainy and took a long time to dry.

Paper Mache

I ended up coming across a couple newspaper type mailings so I cut them up, dipped them in the mixture, and applied them all over the deer head until it was completely covered. I set it up to dry on ready-to-be-recycled plastic containers to keep it from sticking to the newspaper. It should only take one night to dry. My “healthy mixture” took a couple days.

Paper Mache IMG_6602

My mother gave me the brilliant idea of using some old piano sheet music as my final covering. I cut up a bunch of pieces, used a foam brush to slather on some mod podge to both sides of the paper, applied them all over the form, and let set to dry. This is what it looked like after drying.

Paper Mache Deer Head

While this was going on, or probably while I was waiting for my “healthy mixture” to dry, my husband went out to our brush pile, found some twigs to cut, and made some antlers for me. Then we drilled two holes in the top of the form near the ears where antlers would normally be and inserted the twig antlers in the holes. You could put super glue inside first if you wanted, but our holes were small enough that the twigs didn’t move much once inserted.


I picked up this pre-cut wood plaque at Hobby Lobby for like $3.00 and then spray painted it turquoise.


We could have then just stapled the form onto the plaque but my husband insisted in drilling screws through the back of the plaque into the form to make it hold. Regardless, this was the outcome!

DIY Paper Mache Deer Head

DIY Paper Mache Deer HeadWhen I finally finish decorating Big Guy’s room, I promise I’ll share photos of the entire collage. For now, this bad boy is taking up all the attention on the wall!

DIY Pillow Cover – My Master Bedroom Decor

DIY Pillow Covers

Since moving into our new home last May, (I can’t believe it has been almost 1 year already!) I made a pretty extensive “to-do” list of projects and/or wishful items. Some were for me to do, some were for Hubster to do, and some were for both of us to tackle together. Also, in thanks to being on a majorly tight budget these days, we made most of the gifts given to friends or family for various occasions throughout the year. Hubster has definitely checked more off the list than I have. In all fairness, I have been learning for the first time how to keep alive a precious human being dependent on me for all his basic needs, and in the most respectful way possible!

Anywho, one of the projects on my list was to get several different throw pillows for the bed and chair in the master bedroom, Big Guy’s bed and chair, and the couch and chair in the living room. That’s 12 pillow covers. Since pretty pillows can be pricey, most of the pillow covers will have to be handmade. I’m going to be making pillow covers for days.

I finally made it a point to travel to Hobby Lobby and find fabric that could work first as pillowcases for throw pillows on our bed. My mind, especially these days with mommy brain, can really only focus on one thing at a time, so I figured I’d start in room at a time. I already had two matching 16″x16″ pillow forms from our first home, a one-bedroom in a high-rise condominium, in the NYC area. That was a time before I had any sense of interior design, therefore we either sold before we moved, or plan to completely transform, pretty much everything from that space.

This is the current state of our bed:

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It presents well, but has a long way to go. Definitely missing accent pieces and wall decor. My mother picked up that beautiful oriental rug at an auction for only $18! I found that gold throw blanket at Marshall’s, and the lamps are from my father-in-law’s old home that we (and I mean he) spray painted yellow. We (yes, I helped) made our headboard from an old door two years ago. The lighting makes it hard to see the bedside table on the right is actually an old wooden crate inherited from Hubster’s grandmother after we helped clean out her home before she moved into a retirement living center. He then had a piece of custom glass made to go on top. The bedside table on the left is an ornate, yet cheaply made, table that my mom’s friend had picked up and quickly painted to “re-vamp”. Don’t mind the clutter on top of both tables. I am trying to “be real” here folks. We got the bamboo roman shades on sale (yay!) and just installed them this past weekend (double yay!). Oh, and how could I forget that beautiful antique chandelier my mother also picked up at an auction for just $80. Happy dance!

So back to the point of this post, I needed throw pillows! I ended up finding these two fun fabrics:

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Of all the things Hubster and I have made ourselves over the years, I was honestly surprised this was my first time ever making a pillowcase! I am not a seasoned seamstress so I referenced this tutorial to make a removable pillow cover. I didn’t think to pick up a cheaper solid colored fabric to go on the backside of the pillowcases, so I just used the same fabric I bought since I had bought a 1/2 yard of each design anyway. I’ll explain how I did the first one, since I did the second one just the same.

Like I said before, my pillow forms measured 16″x16″, so in order to make the back overlapping pieces that make the cover removable, I measured and cut two 12″x16″ pieces of fabric. I subtracted 4″ from the original length of 16″ in order to get the proper length for the back flaps that make removing the pillow cover easy, which is where the 12″ came from. So if you have a different sized pillow, all you need to do is subtract 4″ from the longest side of your pillow to get the correct measurement. Side note: Eek! My ironing board cover looks like it could really use a wash. I definitely got that as a college freshman over 10 years ago. I think it’s about time.

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Then I measured and cut one 16″x16″ piece of fabric.

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Next, I took one of the 12″x16″ pieces of fabric, and folded the edge of one of the longer sides about 1/2 inch and ironed it. Then I folded it another 1/2 inch and ironed it again. I did not pin it close because I was lazy, or forgot, or both, but I suggest doing it to make your life easier overall. Then I repeated that step with the other piece of 12″x16″ fabric.

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I then sewed along the fold with a straight stitch on my sewing machine. Garden of Life vitamins anyone?

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After sewing the hem on both 12″x16″ back-flap pieces, I laid them face down against the front 16″x16″ piece. Just make sure the presentable side of the fabric that you will see in the end is facing inwards. This time I did use pins all around the edges.

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After sewing all 4 sides together, I trimmed the fabric from each corner so it would make a better point once turned inside out. You probably could cut even closer to the hems, but I got scared that my sewing wasn’t strong enough.

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Finally, I was able to turn it inside out and voila! A removable pillow cover. It looks like it could have used some ironing, but I figured once the pillow form was stuffed it wouldn’t be as noticeable.

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Here is the back side.

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And here is the beautiful finished product in all it’s glory. Happy dance!

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I did the same exact thing with the other fabric, so here are the two beauties together.

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I originally would have liked some green and red (like the oriental rug) in the fabric choices, but this was the best I could find. I’m thinking maybe a smaller rectangular pillow should go in front to complete the look, and add in the green and red colors there. I don’t want it to look too Christmas-y though, so color tones will be crucial. What are your thoughts? Does the bedding need green and/or red to pull it all together?


How Not to Pose for Your Passport Photo

We’re preparing for our missions trip to Guatemala this spring, and Big Guy needs his first passport. Instead of paying up to $15 to get his photo taken elsewhere, I figured like most things around this household, I could easily do it myself. All I needed was a white or off-white background. What I didn’t realize was how difficult it would be to get a photo of him with a neutral facial expression!

I took a bunch of photos, and thought I had the perfect one. I went to upload it to the travel site to make sure I had the correct dimensions and positioning, and realized he was not supposed to be smiling, and we didn’t have enough time to risk it getting rejected. So alas, we had to keep trying until it was “perfect”. This morning when filing the application, the really nice clerk at the Post Office told us, and I paraphrase, they would have accepted a photo of him smiling, they are usually more lenient with children. I am surprised at what they let slide and what they don’t though. One time this little girl took the cutest photo, but because her head was tilted to the side, they rejected it.

Yea, I’m still glad I didn’t risk it.

The “out-takes” were just too sweet not to share though. How not to pose for your passport photo…

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