Thursday, April 30, 2015

one room challenge // bedroom week 5

Eeep! This is it! Week 5 of the One Room Challenge hosted by Calling It Home. That means that next week is the big reveal! And oh man...we have quite a little bit to finish.

This past week was really full with family visiting and a little birthday party for my youngest, so we hardly got any work done on the bedroom at all!

I finally finished painting the window, and Ryan finished spray painting the drapery rod gold. I was really excited when he got it hung. I decided to hang it super far outside the window frame to make it look like a wall of windows, like in a hotel.

The rod is from cb2, and the drapes and rings (they sell brass ones in the store) are from Target. I am very particular about drapes (so many inexpensive ones just look so cheap), but I'm quite pleased with the quality of these Threshold drapes. They are a nice weight and the texture looks a bit like linen. I even left them somewhat wrinkled after washing them for that linen effect. I have four panels total to hang so they span the entire wall. This picture shows one panel:

The window looks mahoosive with all of them up. I will save the full effect for next week, but what a difference white trim and wide-hung curtains can make! The sad, burgundy-clad window is now a real statement in the room.

The only other thing we got done besides the window was staining some new legs for the bed.

The bed we got has short black tubes for legs- they're stumpy and generic, and it's small details like that that can make the difference between high-end and not-so-high-end furniture. So I found new legs at Menard's for about $2.50 each. I love the style:

After a little wood stain they now look stunning!

Much more refined and classy than black tube stumps. All we know so far though, since the bed hasn't been assembled yet, is that they will fit. They are more slender than the original legs, so I don't know for sure if they'll be the right height & scale. I feel like they should be, but ya never know.

The other detail about the bed that I don't like is that there is a high gap between the bed frame and the bottom of the headboard. I get that manufacturers do that to save a few dollars, since no one sees that gap behind a mattress anyway. But in the case of this bed, the headboard stands up on black poles that are actually visible, and if you forgo a box spring (which I want to, to keep the height low), then the gap is very large. So. Ryan is going to try to hang the headboard directly on the wall with some cleats, instead of keeping it freestanding on its ugly poles. Again, we have no idea how this will look or if it can be done. 

Now that we've finished the window and the center light is close to done (6, 708 trips into the attic and counting...), we're almost able to clean out the construction stuff and have the floor space to assemble the bed frame. Obviously we'll have to sometime in the next 6 days!

Tomorrow I'm finally going to a great vintage store to look for nightstands. The perfect thing has to be there. I'm very insistent that the nightstand has to be vintage- I want this room to really reflect my heart for "Found & Foraged" design. Use what's on hand? Check. Bring nature in? Check. Make something? Check. Shop vintage? Well, I need some more of that. 

I feel like this room could easily feel too new and too out-of-a-box if I'm not careful. When your bed is new from Target, and your drapes and linens are Target and Ikea, you do need to be intentional about pursuing other sources to keep a "gathered" feel in the space. And I'm going to intentionally skip a lot of accessories so the nightstand is really my last opportunity to bring in a piece with character. 

That's a lot up in the air but I feel like it's still doable! Check back next week to see if we pull it off! 

Thanks again for challenging us Linda! I can't wait to see how everyone else is handling crunch time...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

5 ways to simplify your next kid party

This weekend my youngest son turned 3. I won't even get into how impossible that seems. But at his request, we threw a Minion birthday party. (The Minions are those little yellow guys from Despicable Me that are everywhere in stores right now, for those of you who aren't up on your non-English-speaking-banana-eating-fart-gun-shooting-weird-little-creature Kid Lore at the moment).

Warning: The Minion color palette could make your eyes bleed, so tread carefully if it's been a while since your last little kid birthday party.

I tried to keep this party really simple, but I also wanted to honor and celebrate our littlest guy. (You know how easy it would be to skip a big to-do for that poor third child...) I think I was really successful on both accounts, and my husband was even overheard saying, "This was the easiest party we've ever thrown." Trust me, that is music to my ears. (Let's just say that usually the 48 hours before and again after a party aren't always peaceful around here).

Now that it's all said and done, I am sharing the tips I employed to pull together a festive and fun birthday for our little guy, without making myself (or anyone else) insane.

1. Shop Online

Very shortly after my son declared his party theme was going to be Minions (and I cried inside a little), a company called Party Pail reached out and asked if they could send me some of their party supplies to try. I had never shopped online before for this type of stuff, but as soon as I hit the "solid colors" section of their website, I was like, um yes, yes you can.

I usually wait until the week before the party and grab armloads of random stuff at Wal-Mart or Party City. I can't stand errands, so I wait until the last minute on purpose to do this kind of drudgery. Plus, there's never a good time to get there. I either have to take my kids (which I have learned is not a good plan), or leave the house in the evenings (which is no fun for someone whose strict policy is not to move after 7 pm). And then because nothing at Wal-Mart or Party City ever quite fits the plan in my head, I stay up until all hours trying to tweak and DIY my way to party perfection.

After filling my cart at Party Pail, I quickly realized I've been depriving myself of a wonderful thing all these years: Pajama-Couch Shopping. No going out in the cold after dark, no chugging after heavy shopping carts in tundra-like parking lots, no trying to wait for a free evening, no trying to sneak party favors past the kids. It was glorious!

And they had really cute stuff at really good prices. I got paper napkins, placemats, utensils, cups, paper straws, baking cups (that were adorable - I filled them with bite sized watermelon for the kiddos), TONS of balloons, treat boxes, and paper fans. It was literally a party in a box. And once I got everything open, I went back and ordered more. Sure, you can't be quite as big a procrastinator if you're doing it online, but this was my most favorite party shopping ever.

(Quick tip on the balloons: I was going to buy a disposable helium tank to fill them from Party City. It was $40 and would fill 25 balloons. But then I noticed they rent tanks as well, which fill 55 balloons but still cost just $40. We ended up going with the rented version and it was slick as rain. You pay a refundable deposit and get it for 2 days. It was perfect- and definitely easier than ordering pre-filled and trying to fit that many balloons in your minivan too!) Also yes I have a minivan. Real designers have minivans. Bahaha.

2. Consolidate Decor

My friend Steph recently threw the. most. gorgeous. first birthday party for her youngest son. When I popped over to help her hang some garlands, she totally had an epiphany. She realized that by trying to decorate the entire house and yard, none of her "party zones" would ever make a very big impact. Even though she'd made a boatload of decorations, they didn't feel like a huge quantity because they were spread too thin.

After she said that, we decided to hang ALL of her cupcake garlands in the foyer. She had hit the nail on the head- when you group things that way, the impact is massive and you need less decorations.

I took that lesson to heart when I decorated for my party. Instead of spreading decorations throughout the house, I focused on decorating only our dining space. The mass of balloons wouldn't have been impactful at all if they'd migrated to other rooms, but by keeping them all in a tiny space together, it felt like a mountain of balloons!

The same was true for the photo backdrop. If you hang paper fans by one's and two's all around a house, it doesn't make a statement like one giant wall of them can.

3. Forgo the DIY's

Sometimes it's just not worth it to DIY. I am only a fan of DIY when it saves you HUGE money, and/or when the thing in your head isn't available or isn't available at a price you can afford.

Over the years, I've made more than my fair share of party decorations, including paper pinwheels. They're simple and inexpensive to make so I thought I was coming out ahead. (I've even blogged about how to do it). Then I saw that Party Pail sold them, and for only $2.49 each! Those things take at least 20 minutes a piece to make and cost $2 each in scrapbook paper. So, this was really a no-brainer.

I bought 12 and hung them up, all together, on one wall to make a photo backdrop. Even including many bouts of hysterical laughter catching up with my mom and aunt as I decorated, I did the whole wall in less than the time it takes to DIY one pinwheel. All it took was scotch tape and an occasional sanity-check with a level.

4. Give the Cook a Break

Ahem, the cook would be you. The older I get, the more I realize my passions do not lay in the kitchen. (And I'd like to pause here to say no judgement if you love to throw elaborate parties, enjoy DIY's tremendously, and get massive pleasure from preparing gourmet spreads- go for it! This post is about making yourself happy and not crazy. Do what makes you that).

Anyway, I do not like to cook at all. So coming up with a meal for a crowd is enough to send me into hysterics. Plus, there's so much mess in the kitchen to contend with as you're trying to get everything else ready. So my go-to food plan these days is letting Costco do the cooking. Here are my favorite things to grab for various parties:

- Brussels sprout/ kale shredded salad kit (located in the "cold room")

- Spinach salad/ poppyseed dressing box salad (in the pre-made food cooler toward the back by the deli. It has eggs and grape tomatoes and dried cranberries).

- Pre-made rotisserie chicken salad

- 12 pack of bakery croissants (I do not leave Costco without these. Ever.)

- Food court pizza. You can pre-order one for $10 from the food court. They are huge, delicious, floppy New York style pizzas that that are hot and ready at whatever time you specify. (Just remember the food court only takes cash).

- Baked Mac N' Cheese. This is back in the pre-made section as well. I crumble saltines and stir them with melted butter and sprinkle on top, because this dish isn't caloric enough on its own.

-Rotisserie chicken. A whole chicken for $5. You can't beat that.

- Fruit. Costco has great fruit for a crowd, and if you don't have time to cut watermelon, there are plenty of pre-cut fruit trays.

- Chips, dips, and snacks. Anything. Seriously, any of them.

- Acaia chocolate-covered blueberries. Oh sweet goodness.

(For the record, I don't get ALL of this for the same party, but wanted to share all of my favorite party fare in one place).

This is actually a super fun game I played with someone the other night. We tell each other all of our favorite stuff to buy at Costco. (End of game). Your turn- go!

5. Cheat on the Cake

I cheated on the cake soooo big time. My friend Steph not only knows how to hang a mean garland, but she is the most talented home baker I've ever met. Her cake creations are beyond stunning. So I asked her if she would make the cake for this party (and for the record, all parties I ever have from now on). So yes, this Minion is a cake. Can you even believe it?!

I know!! She's awesome. Obviously, that makes me a total cheater on this list of "ways to simplify" because I'm sure it took her more hours than I want to know about. And because not all of you have a Steph.

But I will tell you how I would cheat on a cake if I didn't have a Steph: Target.

Clearly you aren't going to get this kind of cake at Target. But I learned at my oldest son's 6th birthday party that kids don't care! That year, I ordered a sheet cake at Target for only about $15 and had them add some icing writing in our theme colors (that time it was Ninjago Legos, another lovely palette, ugh!) but told them to leave the top of the cake with a large blank area. Then I loaded it up with his Ninjago toys arranged in a battle scene. No cake has ever been oohed and ahhed over by a group of kids more than that one. It was crowded around, photographed, and fawned over. That's when I realized that kids don't necessarily need a gourmet cake. (Wha?!) Their needs list basically ends at toys and sugar when it comes to birthday parties.

Hopefully this list encourages you that you don't have to be a super mom or exhaust yourself staying up late to DIY in order to throw your kids a cute birthday party. I've done plenty of that, and I'm sure I will again (even as I write this I'm dreaming of curtaining off our entire family room so you can step through a wardrobe into a winter wonderland for the Narnia party my daughter wants this Fall...) but I'm just saying you can give yourself a break and not feel bad about it IF you want to!!

And Happy Happy Birthday to my joy-giving BABY boy...who I can't believe is so old!!!

{As mentioned above, I was gifted product by Party Pail for this occasion. All opinions are 100% my own, and I only recommend companies to you that I would share with my best friends at our weekly playdate.}

Thursday, April 23, 2015

one room challenge // bedroom week 4

YOUGUYSYOUGUYSYOUGUYSYOUGUYS!!! The lights worked!! Last week I was bemoaning how Ryan couldn't drill through the metal sockets of our bedside pendants. He needed to drill them in order to attach rings I decided to add as an afterthought. Well, I still have no idea how he did it (maybe he pressed harder or something) but he was able to make the holes and therefore make the lights!!

And I am soooo excited about them...they're stunning! Oh that wonderful Ryan, I knew he could do it.

Ready to see???

They're so pretty!!! I feel like they're this great blend of so many styles. A bit industrial, modern, glamorous, and minimal. A bit retro. I am so super happy.

Last week a few of you were so sweet to comment and leave a link to a tutorial showing how to make some just like this. Unfortunately we had already gone way too far down the path to use that tutorial, but I will share it in case anyone else wants to make lights like this, so as to save you from the headaches we endured!

Check out Vintage Revivals DIY Wood & Brass Hoop Lights.

Her version looks much easier than what we did. Just goes to show that one should consult the blogosphere first! Ours are so jerry-rigged I doubt I could explain how we did it if I tried. (There are some photos below that will give you the general idea).

And now we've turned that corner where I don't want to show you any more of the room, because it's starting to come together and I don't want to ruin the ending! But then I'm too excited about it to not share. So here's how it's lookin':

In other good news, my bed came! Happy surprise! It was so random. The ship date still says mid-May, but one box showed up yesterday...

And another today! (Thank goodness because I was a little perplexed as to how a whole king-size bed had fit in that first skinny box...)

We have yet to open it beyond just a peek, but I can tell you the fabric looks perfect!! It's a soft grey and a beautiful linen. Just right. YES.

Here are some behind the scenes of our work over the past week. Spray painting pendant hoops and drapery brackets:

Drilling hoop holes in the sockets:

Threading the hoop:


Shoving the ring back through:

Spray painting curtain rods:

Utterly trashing our kitchen (but who cares because we have lights!!):

Things are definitely looking up from where we were last week. I think this is our list of what's left:

- Last coat of paint on the window
- Nail extra wood to the top of the window & paint it so the drapery rod can be hung
- Hang the rod & drapes
- Find a second nightstand
- Build bed (including replacing the legs and hanging the headboard on the wall, if possible, instead of using the cheap-looking metal bars it is supposed to stand on)
- Style & shoot!

Nothing to it right? Two weeks to go...

I'm off to Linda's to check on everyone else's progress! This challenge has been so fun and I'm so grateful she created it!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

shopping for glasses with warby parker

This is one of those posts that's a departure from the norm, as I don't usually write too much about fashion (or whatever you call the stuff I wear). However, I've had it in the hopper for almost a year now and I kinda feel like it's a public service announcement that needs to be, um, announced. 

I had a friend ask me about glasses shopping last week, and after watching me and everyone I know get ripped off by the glasses industry, I felt like shouting at him to listen to me and just go to Warby Parker. Right after that, Warby Parker emailed me to introduce their upcoming Spring Collection. I decided it was a sign I needed to finally finish this post.

The short (ok not short) version of the story is this. I needed new glasses and sunglasses. I went to a Big Store (which shall remain nameless) and got my eye exam and then started to peruse their selection of frames. I was all set to purchase one pair of eye glasses and one pair of sunglasses when I was presented with the total: $203.99 and $159.99, respectively. That was after the costs my insurance covered. 

I was a little taken aback because I was supposedly eligible for two new pairs under my insurance plan. But then I figured, I was probably choosing the most expensive frames in the store (since it's me we're talking about here) and after all, that's what glasses cost right? I called my husband to run it by him before I handed over my card, and he had a mini panic attack at the total. We decided to think it over for 24 hours before pulling the trigger.

Interestingly, at that point I asked the person helping me if she could just print out the specs we had decided upon so that I could bring it back and order another day. She said, "Oh, it'll just be all here in the computer when you're ready. I don't have a way to give it to you. But if you're worried about price there are some ways we can bring it down." 

Wait, wha? She then proceeded to tell me she had put special coating, anti-reflective stuff, and some sort of magic bean spread on the lenses, which we could take off to bring the cost down. Turns out, she had added on over $100 in upgrades to my lenses without even telling me. The basic version of the glasses I wanted was only $91.99. (Again, that's out of pocket after the portion my insurance would cover).

At this point I was definitely not going to make any decisions, so I asked her again for all the different price options to be printed out for the lenses I wanted, so I could show them to my husband. She said all she could do was write them on a sticky note. Here is what I took home:

Yeah, I have no idea what it says either. (On the plus side, I did have fun taking duck-face selfies in giant sunglasses with my daughter while we were there).

At some point in the process, I posted a photo of Big Store's glasses to Instagram, and said something about how I was getting new glasses, woohoo, and all that. Almost immediately, my friend Linda commented that I should check out Warby Parker. Then another friend said the same, and another.

Normally I ignore good counsel, but that was some pretty incessant hounding, so I checked out WP's Instagram and then website. I decided to spend some time and look around.

The Virtual Try-On

Naturally if I'd had any sense that I'd be blogging about this later, I would have worn make up. Their website is pretty fun. You can take a picture of yourself with your webcam and see how the glasses look on you. It's surprisingly accurate. If only my daughter would have been awake at the time, the duck faces would have been off the charts.

The Home Try-On:

I pretty quickly decided to take them up on their "Home Try-On" offer. They let you choose 5 pairs of glasses, for free, to try on at home. I picked my five and ordered them, piece of cake. I must admit, getting that box was a lot of fun.

I will definitely spare you the overabundance of mirror selfies I sent to my friend Laura during this decision making process. Suffice it to say, it was not easy to choose! One fun thing is you can post photos to Twitter or Instagram (if you are so brave, which I am not) and tag #WarbyHomeTryOn - you might get a few strangers' opinions. Which could be helpful! Or horrible, depending on how it goes.

When you're done, you just send them back- free shipping both ways.


I settled on the Haskell in Burnt Lemon Tortoise and I do love them so. They were $95 total for the lenses and frames. (And now they come in clear! I want them so bad...I could finally fulfill my lifelong dream of being Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. Not a joke).

I also got the Cliff sunglasses in Striped Olive. They too were $95 total for the lenses and frames.

It's very easy to order. You have a few ways you can upload your prescription information. They have free shipping and free returns.

There were no add-ons offered, because they already come standard with all that stuff that's normally an upcharge: Impact resistance, UV coating, scratch-resistance, and anti-reflective coating. There was also no talk of face measurements. (I swear when my husband ordered from Zenni Optical he had to measure his ears or something, which was super comical to watch). Ordering was basic, easy, and totally uncomplicated.


My glasses came quickly and without noteworthy incident. The quality seems excellent. Like I said, this review is coming a year later and they still look great. They proved perfect for when I was dressing up as a serious professional (aka fraudulent adult)...

Or when I was dressing up as a not-so-serious professional...

Or when I was posing for photo-ops during party styling, looking perfectly calm and collected when internally I was freaking out that my branch backdrop was going to crash down on our heads any second.

Key takeaway: Really good glasses distract people from stress-induced crazy eyes. (Thanks, Ellen Swalley, for that photo).

Insurance Reimbursement

Our only glitch came when it was time to be reimbursed for the glasses by our insurance company. Warby Parker sells the glasses (frames and lenses) as a single unit for a single price. But the insurance company wanted an itemized receipt showing lenses and frames separately. We called WP and asked if they could provide that, but they could not. (Definitely the nicest "no" we've ever received, but a "no" nonetheless).

My husband went around and around with insurance and argued his way to getting reimbursed for one pair, but not both. So, be prepared up front that could be an issue for you as well.

We were able to pay for the glasses with our HSA card, so that was good. And even with the insurance fail, we still paid less out of pocket than we would have if we'd bought from the Big Store, even with insurance covering their full portion of the Big Store glasses.

Now the only thing left to do was take pictures of my glasses on various desks and counters! I couldn't resist having a little photo fun, inspired by the cutest little glasses jotter my friend Traci made. Now the real question is, how many apps does it take to make a picture like this? Hmmm...let's see. First I used vsco, then Brush Stroke, then pic Collage, then vsco again. Only 3- not bad. I'm definitely thinking it needs to be wrapping paper or wall paper or something, right?! Seriously I'd buy these glasses again just for the styling I can do with them. (Is it wrong that I buy a lot of stuff for that reason?)

I hope this was helpful information for any of you looking around at glasses! If you do check out Warby Parker, I'd love to hear what you think. And definitely let me know if you have other companies that are also trying to change the tide of the industry.

This post is not sponsored by, or affiliated with, Warby Parker. All opinions I share on this blog are 100% my own, and are what I would tell my best friends at our weekly playdate. 

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