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Change the Look of Outdated Trim

Posted on Mar 30, 2012 in Home Projects | Comments Off

When we bought our home all the trim was dark and damaged.  Generally I like the look of stained wood trim, but in some cases it is necessary to paint over it.  Changing trim to white (I like the color ‘Alabaster’ by Sherwin Williams) or a glossy black can really change the way your whole room looks.  I spent so many hours redoing ALL the trim in our entire house that cumulatively it was probably a couple weeks of time that I refinished the floor, window, and door trim.

It is important that you use an enamel paint for durability.  I like to work with latex instead of oil based paint.  It’s easier to clean up and you don’t have as many harsh fumes.

What you’ll need:

  • Sandpaper or sanding blocks
  • A good angled paintbrush
  • Painter’s tape
  • Primer
  • Enamel paint, I prefer the look of semi-gloss

Here is an example of the trim before and after.  This is our upstairs hallway.


  1. Sand the trim in order to smooth out the wood and remove any previous shine from polyurethane
  2. Wipe the trim clean with a damp cloth
  3. Use painter’s tape to mask off the end of the trim (if you are painting trim that is on carpeted floors you will need to remove the trim, paint it, and renail it back on the wall)
  4. Apply 1 coat of primer
  5. Apply 1 coat of enamel.  Use a good amount of paint, but make sure it doesn’t drip and run.
  6. Remove the painter’s tape after your 1st coat of enamel.  This will prevent the paint from drying to the tape and then pulling off the trim when you remove the tape. *if paint does dry to tape – take a knife and score along the edge of the trim before removing the tape
  7. After the 1st coat of enamel is dry, apply a 2nd coat. You can be more sparing with it and don’t have to go to the edge (there isn’t tape anymore!)
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How to take amazing night and low light photos

Posted on Mar 30, 2012 in Photography | Comments Off

Night and low light photography can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be amazed how easily stunning shots turn out! Here are some examples of night photography that were taken by the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, MN.  Get out there with your SLR or even your point-and-shoot camera, play around, and get shooting!

  • Using a tripod or placing your camera on a stable surface is a must for taking pictures in low light (turn off the image stabilizer when using a tripod or surface). The shutter of the camera needs to stay open for a long period of time to absorb the necessary amount of light for images to appear.  Hand holding the camera, even with the steadiest of hands, will leave your shots blurry.  The camera barely needs to move and the image will not turn out.
How to take night and low light photos

If using a digital SLR:

  • Use the AV or A (aperature) mode
  • Keep your ISO at 100
  • Set your aperature somewhere between 11 and 22 (whatever makes your shutter speed open long enough)
  • You want to make sure that your shutter stays open long enough to read the necessary amount of light. Make sure it is staying open for at least 15 seconds. The darker the area that you’re shooting, the longer the shutter will need to stay open.

If using a point and shoot camera:

  • Depending on your camera’s model the name of the ‘scene’ or ‘mode’ you’ll need to use may vary for low light photos.  Examples of some settings might be called Candlelight, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Low Light, etc.


-In this photo I used a lazer pointer to ‘write’ the word INSPIRE on a wall of graffiti. The shutter was open for so long that I was able to capture the bright light against the wall as I wrote.

How to take low light photos and 'light paint'

This is a very busy bridge, full of runners and bicyclists.  I had to wait until the sun was down just enough to leave the shutter speed open long enough for people to ‘disappear’ out of the image.  I had the shutter open for 15 seconds, so people that were moving weren’t able to be captured.


Having something in the foreground of a photograph can help give a sense of distance and creates a ‘frame’ for your picture.

Taking advantage of water and the reflection of light is a great way to use evening lighting.


Using these steps to take low light pictures will allow you to catch photos of the moon and stars (light pollution from the city lights doesn’t allow for the stars to appear, so try taking some shots out in the country).

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Amplify your phone or handheld music player with a glass!

Posted on Mar 30, 2012 in Lifestyle | Comments Off

Let’s be honest, the speakers on my iPhone don’t produce the loudest sound.  It isn’t always convenient or possible to have a docking station in order to amplify the music.  I have a set of portable speakers that I can plug into my phone, but the battery doesn’t keep it’s charge forever (I do recommend purchasing a set of these though – mine were reasonably priced from iHome).  What to do when you want louder music?  Set the volume on your phone to medium (so the speakers don’t sound distorted) and set your phone in a medium sized glass.  It works!


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Decorating with Found Items

Posted on Mar 29, 2012 in Design & Decorating | Comments Off

I love mixing old and new pieces to decorate my home; I think it adds a bit of interest. I appreciate antiques, but generally don’t use them to decorate my house.  I do, however, enjoy looking through an antique store, consignment shop, and even rummage sales occasionally for something that jumps out at me.  Below are a few items that I have found this way.

-I found these letters at an antique shop and are old newspaper press letters.  I looked through the variety of letters that were for sale to find mismatched fonts – to add a little interest.  They are sitting on our mantel and spell out our last name.

Use old paperpress letters to spell your name or other words

-This doorknob plate and key I found at 2 different consignment shops.  I bought the knob plate about a year ago and then stumbled upon the key recently.  They are placed on a small wall in between 2 doors in our hallway.

-There are 2 of these sconces- one flanking each side of a window in our guest room.  They were cheap and fake gold and at a garage sale, but I liked the shape of them.  I painted them with a little spray paint and I think they look fairly modern and cool now.

 -I was in a clothing consignment shop and I saw this piece of art hanging in the dressing room.  I had been looking for something that was this size to fit in a small rectangular space above our headboard.  The size and colors were perfect.  The traditional feel of this piece balances out the modern print that it is on our bedding.

 -I found this side table at an antique store.  It was damaged with chipped and scratched red paint.  I sanded it and put a couple coats of white enamel on it (leftover paint from painting the trim in our home).  It fits perfectly next to the rocking chair in my daughter’s nursery.

 -This wood vase was found at a garage sale.


-These canvases and frames I found at an antique store (going out of business and I got all 3 for super cheap).  To buy this size of canvas and frames new you would normally spend quite a bit of money. They originally had crazy jellyfish painted on them, but I took some acrylic paints and made three simple swirl paintings.  They are over our sofa in the basement family room.

 -I found this clock at a consignment store.  It was like new and from Pottery Barn, but I got it for about 1/4 the cost.  It’s on a shelf in our guest room.

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How to make tissue paper poms / tissue flowers

Posted on Mar 27, 2012 in DIY & Crafts | Comments Off

I love tissue poms.  They are such an inexpensive and easy way to decorate and really make a room festive.  The nice thing about using tissue flowers as decoration is that tissue paper comes in a ton of colors and it goes a long way.  You can glue them onto sticks and make arrangements in vases, you can string them up across a room or tree, or you can tape or tie them to almost any surface.

You will need:

  • Tissue paper, a scissor, floral wire, and a wire cutter

1.Depending on the size you want the tissue flowers to be you will vary how small you cut the tissue paper (if you cut it at all).  For small to medium size poms I recommend 9-12 sheets of paper.  For larger poms I recommend more sheets of tissue in order to keep them looking full.

2. Fold the tissue, accordion style (you don’t need to put a hard crease on the fold) and cut a piece of wire (about 5 inches seems to work well).

3. Twist the wire around the middle of the folded paper

4. Cut the ends of the tissue.  Cutting the ends in various ways will change the look of the finished tissue flowers.

5. Carefully pull apart the tissue.  To prevent and reduce tearing, I recommend separating by a few sheets at a time and then pull apart individual pieces.

*You can save the scraps that you cut from the ends of the poms to use as confetti or to fill glass votives or jars for extra decorations.

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Create a Double-Rod for your Window Treatments

Posted on Mar 27, 2012 in Design & Decorating | Comments Off

This idea was inspired when I was going to purchase double-rods for our drapes.  I looked at Pottery Barn and was not about to pay $200 per window for hardware (I had 9 windows to cover!). Hardware for windows is not cheap.  I was able to ‘make’ double-rods for about $35 per window and get the same function as the expensive rods.

I like having sheers on some of my windows.  They add a nice amount of privacy and romance without blocking light.  In fact, light that is filtered through sheers can give your room a beautiful glow. Below are a couple windows in my living room using two separate rods to create the same look as expensive double-rods.

You will need to purchase two size rods that are the same in finish: a larger one for the front rod and a smaller one for the back sheer rod.  Install the larger rod first and then just on the inside of that bracket install the smaller rod’s bracket.  Easy peazy!

Create the function of expensive double rods for cheap!

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Proscuitto, Fig, and Cheese Pinwheel Appetizer

Posted on Mar 27, 2012 in Recipes | Comments Off

This is one of the favorite recipes that I created.  They’re easy to make, there aren’t many ingredients, and everyone who tries these gooey sweet-n-salty delights loves them!  15 minutes prep time, 20 minutes cook time.  Makes about 16.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup softened cream cheese (I like to use whipped)
  • 1/3 cup fig preserves
  • 1 package (4 ounces) proscuitto
  • 1 1/2 cups parmesan (using a mix of parmesan and mozzarella is good too)


  1. Preheat oven to 420 degrees
  2. Roll or spread out puff pastry onto a cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper or tin foil for easy clean up – sprayed with non-stick if you want).
  3. Melt the cream cheese in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to soften it and then spread it on the puff pastry
  4. Layer the proscuitto, fig preserves, and shredded cheese
  5. Roll it up and cut into 1 inch slices
  6. Lay them out on the pan and bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is puffy
  7. Eat your heart out
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The Southern Coast of Maine

Posted on Mar 27, 2012 in Lifestyle | Comments Off

The first week of November Nick and I took a trip out east and absolutely fell in love with Maine.  I highly recommend a trip to the Ogunquit/Kennebunkport area of Maine as either a family trip in the summer or a romantic get-a-way in the spring or fall.  We lucked out by having gorgeous and unseasonably warm weather and were able to enjoy the outdoors.

We stayed in Ogunquit at a cozy inn called Terrace by the Sea.  Our room had a huge front porch on it and massive fireplace….it was perfect for relaxing and listening to the ocean.  The hotel was right in town, but also overlooking the coast, as is most of the businesses and hotels in this area.  The great thing about this area, even in the off-season, is that you don’t have to have anything planned to enjoy yourself.  Walking around and stopping in various shops and restaurants is easy to do.  I would even recommend taking a drive and just getting ‘lost’ in the beauty of the area.  We spent a couple hours one day just looking at amazing homes and landscapes.

During our drive one day we went into Kennebunkport.  This is another quaint town just north of where we stayed.  We spent the afternoon looking at more amazing homes and walking around the town.  We sampled some various foods by having a cup of chowder here and splitting a fish sandwich there.  At one point we pulled over to the side of the road and were walking around boulders at the sea’s edge when another car with tourists stopped and asked if ‘that’ was President Bush’s home across the water.  Well, it was and we hadn’t realized we had been hanging out near it (luckily we must not have looked too much like intruders trying to make our way in!).

Bush's Home

Beautiful coastline, ports, and forests provide tons to see and do in the area.  I do plan to revisit Maine with my family in the summer when the beach and area is in full swing.  There really is something for everyone – great restaurants, fresh seafood, hiking, shopping, swimming, etc.  I highly recommend the area!

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Create a colorful 1st birthday party!

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 in Entertaining | Comments Off

My daughter turned one in February and we had a medium sized get-together at our home.  Immediate family and friends with children came to help celebrate.  I made kid-friendly food (see Recipes) and my mom made the cakes (one for everyone and a mini cake for Lauren). Click on images to enlarge.

I took a picture of her every month of her 1st year. I liked to put her in an outfit that was extra cute or special, to also document the insane wardrobe this baby had (better than mine).  I displayed them across the room during her party.  It’s fun to see how a baby changes so much!

Knowing there would be numerous kids around I removed frames and other breakables from the sofa table and set up a candy bar (including suckers that said ‘Lauren’s 1st Birthday’ from Oriental Trading Company) and bags of party favors.

I think making tissue poms/flowers is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to really make a room look festive!  Look in the ‘DIY & Craft Projects page’ or type in “Tissue Paper” in the ‘search this site’ tab at the top of this website for directions on how to make them.

I wanted Lauren to have a special little cake, so I found mini cake tins at the craft store (about 3-4 inches in diameter) and my mom, who makes the best cake ever, made an adorable 2 layer mini cake.

I covered the TV with some fabric and cut a ’1′ out of some pretty paper.  This way Lauren was the center of attention and there wasn’t a way for anyone to turn on the tv (in my opinion the worst thing to have on during a party).  The party was a great success and we have many wonderful memories of this very special day!

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