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Category: DIY


gift wrapping ideas

Do you love giving gifts? It’s one of my favorite things about the holidays — I love shopping for gifts that I think my family will love. When I find something that’s just right, I relish wrapping the gift, thinking about how the recipient will (hopefully) enjoy what’s inside. I guess it’s cheesy, but the whole process is such a tangible expression of love, and it brings me joy!

While I’ve always enjoyed shopping, the wrapping process used to be a chore. Over the years I’ve come up with a few tips that make it easier and more fun.

1. Buy all the wrapping paper and supplies at once.

Every November I hit up my favorite stores (Home Goods and Michaels) and buy 8 or so rolls of paper in coordinating colors and patterns. The paper isn’t cheap, but It’s SO much easier when I buy it all at once! I also usually grab some brown Kraft paper, jute twine (my favorite for unfussy gifts), black Sharpies, white chalk markers, and ribbon.

This year I wanted to do a neutral theme, so I chose paper in cream and black. In the teachers’ aisle at Michaels, I found a roll of inexpensive black bulletin-board paper — perfect for wrapping a few gifts in dramatic, black paper.

The big hole punch from Paper Source is a quick, easy way to make gift tags from cardstock paper. If I’m wrapping late at night, the “names” on the tags tend to get pretty silly — all part of the fun.

Similar wood slices available here (affiliate link).

2. If you want to do something creative with the gift wrap, set aside one evening and tackle the project.

I love carving my own stamps from potatoes and stamping designs onto Kraft paper (affiliate link). It’s such a low-cost, low-risk, crazy holiday craft! Kraft paper is pretty cheap, so if it goes badly, no big deal — at least you had fun! While I enjoy all aspects of this project, I tend to go a little overboard (as in all things). This year we had long pieces of paper draped over the couch, dining table, and living room chairs, waiting for the paint to dry. I realized that, for me, it’s fun to do the project once every season. If I do it more often, it starts to feel like work!

if you decide to try this project, remember that the shapes don’t have to be perfect (it’s a potato!), and the paint doesn’t have to be evenly dispersed each time you use the stamp. The shapes also don’t need to be evenly spaced on the paper — you probably won’t be able to see any spacing imperfections after the gifts are wrapped. This is just for fun!

In case you’re curious, here’s the paint I used this year (color: Hauser Medium Green). I cut the potatoes into stars and trees. Some of the tree shapes didn’t turn out well, as you can see in the bottom of the photo, so I kept trying until I got one I liked.

3. Set up a gift-wrapping station for the season.

This is my secret weapon! I gather all my supplies in a big basket and hide it behind the couch in the living room, and I stash rolls of wrapping paper in a corner of the room. Because everything is in one place, it’s easy to pull out the supplies and wrap the gifts as they arrive in the mail. And the gifts don’t pile up, so the task doesn’t feel overwhelming. The wrapped gifts are festive and beautiful and get us in the holiday spirit even before we’ve put up the tree!

Happy shopping and wrapping this holiday season!


4 easy ways to make your home more enjoyable

During the past year and a half, our family has spent so much time in our house. So. Much. Time. And it’s got me thinking about the easy ways we can make our homes more enjoyable. I’ve noticed I feel more relaxed and less anxious when at least one room in the house is put-together and relatively clear of clutter. Anyone else feel that way?

1. fancy soap dispensers

I probably use more soap than anyone else in the house (go figure), and these dispensers (affiliate link) are a silly little thing, but they never fail to make me smile. Plus, this setup with the faux marble tray (affiliate link) was very inexpensive. I gave the same set to my parents and sister for Christmas last year!

2. new drawer hardware

My parents gave us this old lingerie dresser, and I never really took care of it. The top was covered with junk (artfully cropped out of the photo), and the cords were a mess. After a good cleaning and a spiffy upgrade with new handles from CB2, the dresser looks better than ever!

Funny enough, after investing a little time and money in this space, I’ve kept it looking exactly like the photo with minimal effort.

3. gold switch plates

This one feels silly, but I swear it makes our home more enjoyable! We ordered gold switch plates from Home Depot a few months ago, and they make everything feel fancier!

4. plants – real and faux

We have a ton of live plants around the house — they really deserve their own blog post! — but lately I’m finding faux plants to be almost as beautiful (and worry-free). I’m especially partial to displaying plants at varying heights, including hanging baskets from the ceiling and balancing pots on small pedestals or footstools.

These succulents (affiliate link) are faux and were very inexpensive! The container is from World Market a few years ago.

I hope some of these ideas resonated with you! We still have a long way to go, but our house is feeling cozier every day.


DIY chalkboard calendar and command center

A few years ago I made this calendar and command center and installed it in a busy hallway in our house. We still use it every month, except for a long period in 2020 when there wasn’t anything to write on the calendar! And it was incredibly easy to make.

We bought an old window frame at an amazing warehouse of old house parts in Front Royal, Virginia. If you’re in the DC area, I highly recommend taking a day trip out there! Their website is incredibly useful, too, because they’ve catalogued every item in their inventory and included the dimensions and price on their site.

Although there’s not much paint on the window, I figured that some of it might be lead paint. I slathered on many coats of polyurethane with the intention of locking in any lead paint so it wouldn’t flake off in our house. (This probably wasn’t the safest plan, but we thought it was reasonable given the ages of our kids and the intended use of this piece.) We took an old piece of plywood, added several coats of chalkboard paint, and nailed it to the back of the frame. Easy peasy!

My mom used a white paint pen to draw squares for the days of the week and wrote the days of the week (with her schoolteacher handwriting!) at the top of each column. Every month or so we use colored chalk to write the calendar dates in each square and add our planned activities. I often make notes at the top of the calendar — for example, our girls wear dress uniforms on certain days and gym uniforms on other days, and I wrote each girl’s uniform schedule at the top of the calendar. We usually print out the school lunch calendar and tape it to the calendar frame. The basket holds colored chalk, magazines and catalogs.

Don’t let the photos fool you — this is often a chaotic, messy part of our house. But having everything written down in one place is essential for me, and it helps the kids anticipate our weekend plans. I expect that I’ll use this for many years to come!

If you’d rather buy a calendar and skip the DIY, Lindsay Letters has some beautiful ones!


painting vases with baking soda to add texture

So many people on Instagram have been experimenting with baking soda and paint, and I had to jump on the bandwagon. Turns out this is a VERY easy way to add texture to vases. The hardest part is washing the clumpy paint out of the paintbrush afterward.

I used primer for the green vase on the right but not the plant pot on the left, and it turns out that primer isn’t really necessary. I had to do two coats of paint for both items anyway.

To mix the paint, I used a ratio of about 1:2 of baking soda to paint. The final result was the consistency of pudding. The video below shows the technique that worked best for adding texture.

And these pictures show the steps along the way. I kept the plant in the pot the whole time!

For the plant pot, I used Alabaster by Sherwin Williams, and for the green vase I used Sage by Jolie. (Jolie paints are amazing for a matte finish on furniture.)

Happy painting!


making art more personal and fun

Over the years I’ve added a lot of fun and wacky art to our home. I’ll frame pretty much anything if it brings me joy!

Much of my art, including the pieces pictured below, comes from one of my favorite charities, Art Enables. The marvelous people who run this nonprofit help developmentally-disabled adults create and sell art. They give people community, a sense of pride, and a small income. I had the pleasure of meeting the artist who made some of the paintings I bought, and he was so gracious and excited about his art.

We’ve also decorated our home with some mementos of the early days of our relationship. The sign pictured below was a gift from me to him on our wedding day, and it reminds us of a song by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. I also framed a postcard of a diner in Richmond that was an important place for us when we started dating. Seeing it always makes me smile.

Along our stairs I hung my daughters’ ballet shoes from when they were teeny. As you can tell, these shoes saw a lot of wear — the younger one in particular went through a time when she wore these shoes every day with a sparkly purple dance outfit, no matter what we were doing. Such sweet memories.

My mom came up with the idea of framing the kids’ art in big, inexpensive frames from Michaels. We took out the paper that came with the frame and flipped it around to make a solid, white surface, and then we used washi tape or scotch tape to affix the kids’ art to the white paper. It’s easy to swap the art every few months, which is awesome.

But my absolute favorite piece of art is a painting by Mike Warren replicating a photo from vacation in August 2019. We captured an awesome shot of all four kids jumping off a dock, and Mike turned it into a beautiful painting. You can read more about that process here.

What are your favorite ways to make art in your home feel more personal? Let me know in the comments!


easy and inexpensive fall decorations

Happy Fall! I finished decorating the front door this week, and the seasonal look makes it feel so festive! I thought it might be helpful to share some quick, easy, and cheap decorating tips I’ve learned over the years.

1. Spray paint plastic plant pots

I bought the mums from Home Depot and painted some of the plastic grow pots with black spray paint I found in our garage. It creates a more unified look, and it’s very fast and easy. I’ve read that mums last a lot longer if you transplant them into better, bigger pots, but I’ve never done that. Which leads to my next tip . . .

2. Try to use mums as perennials.

When the mums have finished blooming, I often move the grow pots to an inconspicuous, sunny part of the backyard and leave them during the spring and summer. I don’t water them or really pay any attention to them at all. And, often, they live through the cold winter and bloom again the following September. (We’re in gardening zone 7A.)

If you do this, it’s best to cut them back in early spring so they don’t get too leggy. And remember that terracotta pots will crack if left outside in very cold weather – I usually leave the mums in the plastic grow pots from the store.

3. Combine several grow pots in a large planter.

We had a big plastic planter in the backyard that was a garish color. I spray painted it black, filled it with styrofoam, and tucked a few plastic grow pots inside it. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the grow pots, but you can’t see them when you’re standing up straight and look down at the planter. Easiest hack ever!

4. Add height and lights.

I bought this log rack in nickel (the only color available at the time) and stacked firewood in it. And I added some of these beautiful battery-operated candles (affiliate link). Such a pretty glow, plus I don’t have to worry about safety, and I can turn them off with a remote control! I tucked one of the candles inside a metal jack-o-lantern from Pottery Barn.

*I get commissions from purchases made through some links in this post.*

Enjoy decorating for the season! We’re getting out the fog machine and the life-size skeleton pretty soon.


decorating a stairwell landing

The landing on our stairwell was a blank slate, so I decided to mix it up a bit!

And here are the before and after pics from this easy project.

We already owned most of this art, which made this a cheap project! Much of it was hanging further down the staircase, and I’d wanted to lighten up that gallery anyway.

I hung this sconce (affiliate link) and used the magic light trick from Nesting with Grace to make the sconce battery-operated. No need to call an electrician!

I installed this small shelf (affiliate link) from Amazon and splurged on a faux plant from Pottery Barn (the “wandering prayer” plant). I’ve had my eye on that one for a while, and it did not disappoint! We also tucked in a red rhinoceros because John loves them–it’s connected to his memories of spending time and laughing with dear friends, and it makes him happy to see this tiny guy hiding under our faux stairwell plant.

*I get commissions from purchases made through some links in this post*

Enjoy the weekend!


DIY pantry door with chicken wire

When we bought our house, the pantry door was heavy, solid wood. The pantry is tiny and inevitably messy and has no interior light. The electrician said it would be tough to wire electricity to the pantry–I forget why–so I wanted to find other ways of letting light in.

And then one of the kids had an accident with the door. Three of them were chasing each other in circles around the main level of the house, and the youngest girl ran into the door and fell down the basement stairs. It was horrible, one of those moments that haunts your dreams for years afterward. Miraculously, she was completely fine. After both of us calmed down, my first step was to take the door off the hinges and put it outside on the curb.

We used the pantry without a door for a while, but it often looked really messy. My dad came to the rescue!

I don’t have many pictures of the process, but it was pretty simple. Dad and I framed the door, as shown above, and added mesh wire to each opening. (The mesh wire comes in a roll, and if you get a low gauge wire you can cut it with scissors instead of a razor knife.) To hide the edges of the wire, we framed it out with some thin wood trim. Then I caulked every joint (being careful not to get any caulk on the wire), lightly sanded, and painted the door Moroccan Red by Sherwin Williams. We added hardware made for screen doors.

For fun, I made a couple of stamps out of potatoes and decorated the inside of the pantry. My inspiration was Elsie’s clementine wall from A Beautiful Mess.

Photo via A Beautiful Mess

My final result didn’t look as good as Elsie’s, but the process was really fun! And now our pantry brings some sunshine to each day.


from photo to painting

Every once in a while you snap a picture that is just awesome, right? Among the thousands of candid shots on my phone there are a handful of really great ones. The picture below is one of those.

In August 2019 we were on vacation with all four kids when I snapped a pic of all of them jumping off a dock. I love so many things about this photo — the carefree image of childhood, the idea of jumping as a group into the unknown, and, of course, my memory of watching overjoyed kids hurl themselves into a freezing alpine lake. This photo makes me so happy.

In fact, both of us loved the photo so much that we wanted to turn it into a painting. After artist Mike Warren was featured on Nesting with Grace, I contacted him and asked him if he would replicate this photo as a painting.

This project was pricey, but after giving it a lot of thought we decided to go for it and use part of our tax return to cover the cost. And the end result was much better than I’d imagined!

We wanted to highlight the painting with light from a sconce, but we didn’t want to run electricity to the sconce because we’re planning to redo the living room soon. Instead, we added a puck light using this tutorial. (The puck lights recommended in the tutorial come with a remote control, which makes it easy to turn the lights on and off.)

I know we’ll always treasure this painting! I’m so glad we took the plunge and reached out to Mike Warren.


renovating an old secretary

My parents recently gave me this antique piece that’s been in my family for decades. Would you call this a hutch or a secretary? We’ve always called it the secretary, but maybe that’s a regional thing.

At any rate, I absolutely love this piece and the memories it carries, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit.

I used Jolie Paint (fantastic paint for furniture!) in Palace White. This paint is sort of a cross between milk paint and chalk paint, and you have a lot of control over the final look. (I’ve used it to create a dappled, textured look and a flat look. This paint is really responsive to brush strokes.) The best part: I didn’t have to use primer!

Removing and polishing the drawer pulls made a big difference here. Those handles were dirty after decades of use!

After the paint dried, my adorable helper applied grasscloth wallpaper (she even helped put on the paste and book it!).

I hung some treasured kids’ art on the wall and slid a desk chair into the space between the secretary and the wall. I can pull the chair around when I want to use the secretary as a desk, plus the chair legs hide the house modem and accompanying cords.

Decorating the shelves was fun! I looked around the house for some of the most meaningful tchotchkes and arranged them in a way that made me happy. I decided to display a copy of our wedding invitation, a photo of my parents, a photo of our wedding location, cards from the kids, and some books I’ve been meaning to read.

I’m really happy with how it turned out! Here’s hoping this setup helps me concentrate during these long days of working remotely . . .

Cheers to the long weekend!