Let there be light!


Since the day we moved in, I thought it was so weird that our garage didn’t have lights flanking it. I love the polished look lights can give next to a garage, I knew it was just a matter of time before we added some of our own. Not only did I want lights for the aesthetic, we desperately needed more outdoor lighting.IMG_1666

After a little convincing Mike agreed we needed to add some lights. He was brave sweet enough to tackle this project by himself, while watching both kids. IMG_1833First he had to cut holes in the house for the new lights. He also had to run new wires for them. I have no idea how to do electrical work, so I won’t even try to explain. In a nutshell he ran the new wires to an outlet on the garage ceiling. The lights have sensors that turn them on and off so it’s no big deal for them to be plugged in all the time.


After a days work we now have two, new, beautiful, lights flanking our garage.IMG_2049IMG_2051IMG_2052IMG_2054They’ve only been up for a few days, but we are already loving the amount of light it gives off. It adds the perfect glow to make our home more inviting. Plus it offers some much needed light for those evenings we spend outside playing with our girls. It’s win, win if you ask me.


DIY Christmas Card Photoshoot


Recently, as in yesterday, I attended a photography workshop to learn how to REALLY use my camera. Because let’s be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing and my pictures reflect that. I was anxious to try out my newly acquired skills so I dressed my girls up and we had ourselves a little photo shoot.


I had all sorts of grand visions for pictures, but decided to start with the simplest in case it was an epic failure. I didn’t want to put a ton of effort into the background if it was going to be a total flop. I decided to have the girls sit on Anna’s bench in their Christmas jammies. I added some felt ball garland, some pillows, a throw, and a string of lights. As you can see, my skills aren’t quite up to par to capture those lights the way I’d want them captured, so we decided to ditch those. We also ditched the throw half way through.

IMG_1860Next I had Anna sit on the bench so I could get my settings right with the lighting. (I was obviously more concerned about lighting here than I was focusing. It’s a work in process…)

IMG_1887 IMG_1938 IMG_1946 IMG_1961 IMG_1956

With Daddy keeping the girls laughing, I captured some adorable moments.


We settled on these two photos as our favorites. I’m leaning towards the last one because I love a good, candid, closeup, but Mike likes the first. I prefer the gold lettering on the first, but the price difference is significant, so I have a feeling the latter one will be our winner.

If you live in the Gilbert/Chandler AZ area you should check out Jessica Downey Photo for information on attending a workshop.

Message Board Upgrade

We’ve always had a message board in our house. I like things organized and for everything to have it’s place. The one we’ve had did the job, but now that Anna’s in school, and we have papers out the wazoo, it was time to upgrade. Meet our new message board!IMG_1656

SO much better than…



It was too small, too cluttered, no room to write anything… We had officially out grown this little message board (that was actually once a menu board).

Here’s how we got from “small and insufficient” to “new and improved with storage”:


I found this gem of a message board at Home Goods in the clearance section. As you can see, it had some damage to the chalk board, and it wasn’t magnetic.

IMG_1588I thought, “I can fix this. NO problem!”. Originally my plan was to buy some sheet metal, cut it to size, and paint it with chalk paint. Well, the sheet metal that was in stock, in the size I needed, was more expensive than I wanted to pay. I was going to keep up the search, but this particular day I had to run more errands. I ran to Walmart for this, and that, and came across this magnetic calendar. It was the right size, magnetic, and it was $7. YEP! That was going to be my sheet metal. One less place to stop!


First I had to rip off the cheap metal frame around the calendar. Once I got it started, it literally fell off.


I scrounged up some sandpaper from my mouse sander (best sander ever by the way) and roughed up the surface of the calendar so the chalk paint would stick.


Next I painted it with chalkpaint. Nothing to special here other than this: I painted the first coat all in one direction. The next coat I painted in the OPPOSITE direction, and so forth. It took 3 coats to cover completely.


Once it was dry I used hot glue to attach it to the frame.


If you’ve used chalkpaint before, you know you have to “prime” the board before writing on it. All you do is place a piece of chalk on it’s side and rub it all over the board, then you wipe it off (with something dry), and you’re ready to write with either regular old chalk or a chalk marker (which is erasable. It just has to be wet. I use baby wipes).


I added a clip to the side of the basket to hold Anna’s sight words. I could easily add hooks to the frame, but I think they would make everything look too crowded. IMG_1658

The basket was the perfect size to hold papers, a.k.a. Anna’s homework packet, and a mason jar to hold the chalkboard marker and pens/pencils. IMG_1655 IMG_1649


This was just the upgrade we needed!

Living Room

Let’s talk about Anna’s bench one more time. Shall we?

IMG_1431After Anna’s window bench was built, it was time to dress it with a cushion and some adorable pillows.

(See the bench tutorial here, and see where I purchased everything for Anna’s room here.)

For the cushion I bought some 2 1/2 inch foam from JoAnn’s so the bench would be nice and comfy. That stuff is pricy so make sure you have a coupon, and be ready to “splurge”. I covered it with a simple linen. The cute ladies at JoAnn’s cut the foam with an electric carving knife, but since I don’t have one of those, I used my fabric scissors (probably did some serious damage to them in the process. Time will tell.). Once the foam was cut into shape, I cut 2 pieces of fabric 1/2″ wider than the foam all the way around to allow for the seams. I also cut a 3″ strip (1/2″ extra for the seams) to go around the edge of the cushion. I essentially sewed it like a pillow case. If you only have a basic knowledge of sewing don’t worry! You could sew this. Straight lines the whole way!

IMG_1415Even though everything was measured perfectly, the linen seemed really loose and wrinkly. I decided to add some buttons to make it tufted (Ellie has since pulled off 3 buttons!!! Kids!!).


I bought these buttons at JoAnn’s and covered then with some scrap fabric.


I decided where I wanted each button to be and placed a pin there so I didn’t have to measure 100 times.

IMG_1419To add strength to the tufting, I first placed multiple stitches at each marked spot. I made sure to pull it as tightly as possible. I actually used crochet thread because I was worried regular thread couldn’t handle the job. Once that was done, I sewed the buttons in place.

IMG_1422Voila! Just like that, a tufted bench cushion was born. I added those adorable pillows, and we’ve been ooing and awwing over that bench ever since. I still haven’t figured out the window dressing in there. Still working on that one…I’ll keep you posted!

Glimpses of Fall

I’ve never been one for seasonal decor. Not that I don’t like it, but because I’m SO cheap when it comes to things that don’t stay up in my house all year. Every year I put out a few fall decorations, but nothing crazy, and of course we do the whole Christmas thing. This year, I tackled our mantle with the few fall decor items we had, while little Miss Anna assisted with the rest.

I don’t think we did half bad! My friend Ashley made me the “fall” pennants a few years ago, and we make a point to pull it out year after year. I added some $2 (half off at Hobby Lobby) wheat bundles to some vases I had sitting in the pantry to flank the TV. I tossed in some fabric pumpkins my Mom made a LONG time ago along with some mini pumpkins I picked up at Walmart. I finished it off with a few bows, a crow (found at Hobby Lobby), and a metal pumpkin that was also purchased years ago (can’t remember where). Nothing too fancy, but it works for us.

Now for our outdoor entry.IMG_1555

IMG_1558IMG_1556Anna was THRILLED to be able to help me with all of this, but mostly the pennants that say “HAPPY HALLOWEEN” on our wreath. That girl is like a kid in a candy store when she’s handed scissors. We added a few felt leaves to the pillow on the bench, a sparkly spider under the light (made by Anna), and the saddest little scarecrow you’ve ever seen (that thing has been around awhile…). Even though it’s a little underwhelming, Anna and I had so much fun spending an afternoon together prepping for fall. Hopefully we can step it up a notch for Christmas. Hopefully…

Anna’s room: product list

Did you see something you liked in Anna’s room? Well, search no more! Here’s where I got EVERYTHING!



Wall color: Benjamin Moore’s Woodlawn Blue

Door color: Valspar’s Amber Rose

Wrought Iron Bed: Amazon (siimilar here)

Quilt, Euro Sham, and owl pillow: Made by yours truly! (I used Amy Butler Fabrics)

Gingham pillows: Ikea

Butterfly pillow: Ikea (sold in stores only apparently)

Lumbar Dot Pillow: West Elm (sold out)

Other Pillows: Bead and Reel

Lamp: Ikea (see this post for tutorial)

Mirror: Hobby Lobby

End table Decor: thrifted

End table: My neighbors yardsale. $8!!!! Painted with ASCP Provence

Wall frames: Ikea

Butterfly prints: Ikea

Doll House: Thrifted (see how it got a makeover here)

And in case you missed it, here’s how we made Anna’s awesome window bench!

That about sums it up. I still have a fun project in mind for the wall opposite the bed, but I think we’ll leave it with this for awhile.

Ikea Hack: Kallax Shelf turned Window Bench (Anna’s room phase 2)

After much anticipation, and delay, thanks to technical difficulties, Anna’s bench reveal is finally here!


First off, a huge thanks to my old man for being a HUGE help on this project. Thanks Dad!!

Here’s how we did it:


First I built the Kallax shelf and drawer inserts that I purchased from Ikea. (The shelf and drawers are sold separately. You can also purchase a variety of bins and baskets if you’d rather go that route.)

Once that was put together it was time to start the fun stuff.


We figured out what we needed and headed to Home Depot. All of the wood you see on the right was free. We simply asked an employee if they had any scrap wood that comes in with their pallets. We’ve used it before and knew it was the perfect thickness for the base of our bench. We purchased enough moulding to frame out the bench, closet door, and bedroom door. We didn’t have to purchase anything for the top of the bench, or the side panels, because I had some scraps sitting around my garage. (A few that I got for free at Home Depot! All you have to do is ask people!)


Once that was done, we built a simple frame for the Kallax shelf to sit on. We wanted to raise the height a little bit, and we also needed some support for the side panels that we needed to add.


Once it was level, we screwed the frame into the wall.


As you can see, we had to remove a few baseboards for the shelf (now bench) to fit perfectly in the bay window. We used the old baseboards as supports for the side panels, and some more free wood for the bench top. I love when we can make use of scraps!


Once our supports were in place. we used a protractor to figure out the angle of the bench top.


We measured, cut, tweaked (the corners had to be rounded a little), until it fit perfectly. Then we nailed that puppy down. *There’s the old man, hard at work!

After that it was a matter of framing everything out to be pretty.


I used simple door casing to frame up the sides of the bay window, and also on the top and bottom of the bench. The top casing on the bench sticks up about 3/4″ above the bench top to help hold the cushion in place. For the side panels we used the back of some left over beadboard from Anna’s Room Phase 1. The other moulding is left over from my DIY Picture Frame Moulding. (Any small, round, moulding would do the trick.)


To finish off the top we added the same topper we’ve added to all of my doors and windows (Thanks Dad! YES! My dad really IS cooler than your Dad. Insert tongue sticking out here.)


We started by nailing the door stop to the bottom of the 5″ flat board. (Ours actually had a rounded edge on one side, but we put that towards the wall.) We measured it so the door stop would hang over the edge of the door casing, and flat board, 1/2″. Once that was attached, we nailed the board into place on the wall.


After the board was secured into the studs, we added the crown moulding to finish it off.

After a lot of caulking, spackle, and paint (see how I tackle this here), this is the almost finished product!

IMG_1427 IMG_1435 IMG_1432

IMG_1431 IMG_1433

What’s left you ask? Well, we are getting new windows installed this week (Hooray!! It’s been months and months of window drama.), so those blinds will NOT be returning. We’re also going to lose the 2 smaller arches (I know. Sad…), and I have a fun plan for some book storage.

Check out these before and afters!

Anna's Room3

What a drastic change from the mls listing of our house.

Anna's Room2

See where this post parties: