A mini fireplace renovation and Christmas decor

I love the winter holiday season and all of the decorating that comes with it. I was extra excited to decorate our mantel this year because I just completed a mini fireplace reno.

Do you remember this gem of a fireplace that we started with when we moved in?

Before fireplace

This is how we changed our fireplace after we did our family room reno.

fireplace

The difference in the brightness alone is nuts! But something was still missing. The fireplace was outdated with the old metal doors. New doors are so expensive, so I decided to DIY the doors and the inside of the fireplace to complete the three-years-long reno.

Brass doors

To start, I removed the doors and cleaned out the fireplace. Then, I painted the inside of the fireplace black with heat-resistant paint.

Fireplace unpainted

I did two coats of paint on the inside to cover up the soot, and it turned out really nice! I actually contemplated not adding the doors back on, but Brian said he prefered doors to an open fireplace.

Fireplace Brick

Once that was dry, I started to work on the doors. At first, I sprayed the doors with heat-resistant black spray paint. I taped the glass, but didn’t cover all of the panes with newspaper. (Word to the wise — cover the glass! I had to later scrape off paint. Oops.)

Spray painted

The spray paint didn’t hold up so great, so I ended up painting the doors with the same paint I used for the inside of the fireplace. Once that dried, I was able to rehang the doors.

Ready for the big (small?) reveal?

TA DA! Oh, and Christmas decorations :)

fireplace3

Do you love the black doors? It’s taken me a while — I actually hated them at first — but I really like them. I’ll admit that I wish they were new and fancy and not spray painted, but considering we don’t use the fireplace and the doors are rarely opened, this little DIY will work just great for us. Buh-bye brass!

The only downside to the painted doors is the paint does scratch off if nicked in the right way. Other than that, I’m really happy with the new look. I don’t miss the old, dated color at all.

OK, enough reno talk. Check out my Christmas decor! I absolutely love my Christmas mantel.

fireplaceremmy

As you can see, Remmy loves it, too. Really, he just loves to sniff his stocking to see if there’s anything in it yet. Sometimes he cries because he can’t get it down. I think it is hilarious — does that make me a mean doggie mom?

santas

On my mantel I have my collection of Jim Shore Santas. We got one as a wedding gift, and I’ve been in love with them ever since. I can’t wait to see which new Santas I get this year as gifts.

Christmas is the one time of year we do seasonal decorating, so we take it pretty seriously. We have one real Christmas tree, a small fake tree I decorate with flamingo ornaments, a decorated mantel, a decorated TV shelf and a decorate console table. We even decorate by our bar. And, of course, we do lights outside.

How do you all decorate for Christmas? If you have a blog, I’d love to see what you’ve been up to this holiday season. And if you don’t have a blog, no worries… the rest of my house (outside of these photos) is messed up with wrapping paper shreds and stuff I had to move out of the picture frame. It isn’t quite as perfect as it may appear :)

Speaking of perfect, I have not been on the ball this year with holiday cards and gifts. I am looking to get holiday cards a.s.a.p. and I found the most adorable cards on Shutterfly that are in the cutest shapes (i.e. not just rectangles). Some have scalloped edges, some have rounded corners and some look like quatrefoils. They are such a fun twist on normal cards — now I just need a cute photo of me, B and Rem!

I also need to get a kickstart on my gifts. I’ve purchased quite a few things, but there are so many gifts I want to make that I haven’t even started on! Work, class and other life craziness has made this holiday season fly by so far. Where are my elves when I need them?! Luckily, I am fortunate enough to have time off before Christmas, so I’ll be my own elf and make my gifts then.

Are you making gifts this year or tackling any mini makeovers before your relatives come to town this holiday season? I’d love to see your holiday decor, renos and crafts! The holidays really do bring out the most creative and fun ideas.

Thanksgiving 2014

Hi folks! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. I traveled to Ohio to see my dad’s extended family. We have some great family traditions with our Cincinnati family, like drinking UDF milkshakes, walking the Thanksgiving Day Race (… we actually bailed this year… oops), and black friday shopping with the girls. We also have the best food ever! My aunts make mean dishes for Thanksgiving, including cheesy jalapeno rice, strawberry pretzel salad and the yummiest sweet potatoes.

Here are a few pictures from our fun trip!

Stay tuned for a post on how I decorated my home this holiday season. I love all of the decorations I’ve accumulated through the years and am excited to share them with you!

Refreshed Grain Bin

I bought an old grain bin this spring that’s been moved from wall to wall until it found its home in my dining room. It’s lived in the dining room for months now, in its grungy, dirty state until I got tired of the grime and fixed it up this weekend.

You can see in this photo below the grain bin in its original state on the day I brought it home. It had a white knob and was all scratched up.

IMG_0876

I took off the white knob, which was only drilled partially into the front of the grain bin. It was a pain in the bttt to remove, but I needed to do that before I could clean around it — it was oddly grimy. Yuck.

Grain Bin_Old

I took a few more photos of the piece before getting started on the refinishing. Here’s the beat up top — probably the worst part of the grain bin.

Grain Bin_Old_Top

The front panel of the top of the bin was super scratched, too.

Grain Bin_Old_Front

Since the wood was in super rough face and didn’t look like it ever had much of a stain on it, I was doubtful that my go-to Restor-A-Finish would work. But lo and behold, this might be the best use of the refinishing product yet. To use Restor-A-Finish, simply dab it on a paper towel and rub it on your piece. Let is sit for 20 minutes, then wipe any excess off.

The grain bin was thirstyyyyy, so there wasn’t too much of the finish to wipe off.

Notice any of the scratches or discoloration before?

Grain Bin_Refinished

Nope! Buh bye scratches!

Grain Bin_Refinished_Side

And hello beautiful, shiny top. I mean, seriously, can you believe the difference?

Grain Bin_Refinished_Top

All I needed to do at this point was add a knob back on the front. I grabbed my drill to make a hole through the front panel, then attached an antique0looking crystal knob.

Grain Bin_Refinished_Knob

So charming. Check out the whole thing:

Grain Bin_Refinished_Whole Project1

I bought the grain bin on a whim — basically I just had to buy something at the Barn Sale I went to back in April. Now that it is freshened up, I love this impulse buy and think it totally belongs. It acts as such a nice mini-buffet in the dining room. We usually have our fruit bowl here, but my three apples looked sad and lonely.

Grain Bin_Refinished_Whole Project

Did I mention we store all of our outdoor equipment in it? Volleyballs, badminton racquets…. all sorts of fun stuff. What… don’t you store that sorta thing in your dining room?

Birthday Jeopardy (and the best gift ever)

I love birthdays. I can thank my mother for that. She always made our birthdays wonderful. They are one day a year you get to feel special, or make someone you love feel special. Yesterday was Brian’s birthday, so I came up with a fun way to give him the gifts I’d gotten him.

BIRTHDAY JEOPARDY!

Birthday Jeopardy

I made a full Jeopardy board (Brian loves that show & trivia games) and came up with 31 questions to go with it! I  did one round, plus final jeopardy. Each category had a gift associated with it. My favorite category was: Tina, you “fat” lard. All of the answers had the word “fat” in them. And yes, the next category was Come get some dinner.

Here’s an example:

Tina, you “fat” lard

Watching, thinking of, hearing about or listening to Game of Thrones makes Jess this 8-letter word for tired.

What is ‘fat’igued?

Ding ding ding! For that question, B got the newest Game of Thrones book.

The best category and corresponding gift was in final Jeopardy.

Golden Retrievers

Jess’ three golden retrievers were all named after movie characters. Name the three films.

What are The Land Before Time, Indiana Jones and Ratatouille. 

Buzzzz. B got this wrong (he didn’t know my first dog Sarah was named after Sarah the Triceratops in the Land Before Time. Rookie…. Also, Remmy isn’t really named after the rat in Ratatouille. But it worked so well for the clue!).

Since it was his birthday, he still got his gift.

Birthday Portrait

A custom portrait of Remmy!

So this is basically the best, most amazing, adorable gift ever. As a blogger a super small small smallllll business owner (really, I can’t even claim that.. but whatevs), I always love to share other fantastic small businesses. I bought this print from Kathryn Selbert Illustrations, who has a shop on Etsy. I sent her three pictures of our pup with a few details, and she made this graphic drawing, basically combining all three into one adorable cartoonified Rem. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. I ordered this for B on Nov. 4, originally planning to give this to him for Christmas. But she sent me the file on Sunday (you can opt to print your own or she’ll send you a print) and I had it printed just in time for his birthday! Talk about amazing timing.

Here are the photos I sent her:

PupPortraitPic1 PupPortraitPic2 PupPortraitPic3

Here’s the illustration she made:

JessicaS_lowres_web_1

Is she talented or what?!? I love that she pulled in Rem’s bandana (which I think has since been destroyed) and that his big ol’ tongue is hanging out. I also love that it looks like a watercolor painting.

Let’s be honest, this was a gift for me just as much as it was a gift for Brian. We both love it. It’s definitely one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever given.

Kathryn has all sorts of other adorable illustrations available in her shop, so you should definitely check them out. She does two-week turnarounds, so there’s still plenty of time left to order your pet portraits before the holidays!

OK, I’m done raving now. Happy day-after-your-birthday to my main squeeze. Glad you liked your birthday game & gifts.

If you want to check out Brian’s other fun birthday “game,” check out my post on his beer scavenger hunt!

 

Winston-Salem Symphony Youth Orchestra’s Fall Extravaganza

Fall Extravaganza

I am excited to share another poster that I recently designed, this time for a different symphony. Winston-Salem Symphony Youth Orchestra is having Fall Extravaganza later this month!

I finished up a hugeeee project at work and am finally getting back to my normal, not exhausted self, which I demonstrated to my husband by tackling THREE projects on Sunday. I refinished a piece of furniture Sunday morning pretty much as soon as I woke up. Brian didn’t even know I’d gone outside to work on it!

Anyway, what I’m getting at, is be prepared to see some fun projects on the blog again! Especially with the holiday season coming up. Can you believe it is getting close to Christmas again!? Holy smokes, I am excited.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

 

Recovering kitchen chairs

A few weekends ago my mother-in-law and I went fabric shopping so we could recover her kitchen chairs. The fabric was stained here and there, and just needed to be freshened up.

Robin's Old Chair

Robin unscrewed the seats, so we grabbed a cushion and went to pick out fabric. She picked a patterned upholstery fabric in a light bluish, greenish gray.

Robin's New Fabric

We got together this weekend to finish the chairs and were able to knock out the set in about an hour. I’ve done a few posts on how to recover chairs, so I won’t go into too much detail. Plus, I didn’t take pictures during since I was too busy hanging out with my awesome mother-in-law. She only almost stapled me once… and it was hilarious.

Here’s one of the finished chairs — it looks so fresh. In person, the fabric is definitely more blue and less neutral. The iphone let me down with color here.

Robin's Finished Chair

And here’s my adorable mother-in-law showing off her new chair and our hard work!

Robin's Finished Chairs

It was so much fun! Recovering a dining set is such an easy, quick and affordable way to make a change in your furniture.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! It’s that time of year again — time to share the poster I designed for Baltimore’s Occasional Symphony. I’ve had the privilege of working with OS for three years now on this creepy poster, and this year’s poster doesn’t disappoint.

Occassional-Symphony_Nosferatu_web

If you are local and need a spooky night out tonight, check it out!

And, if you are curious, here are the posters from past years. I love how eerie they are.

Occasional Symphony Poster

Occassional Symphony_Jekyll_outlines_updated

A weekend of Applesauce

My eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach this weekend. I went to our local market to buy apples for applesauce, and the price was so astonishingly great that I bought two bushels instead of one. Yay apples!

Apples_Bags

I spent all day Sunday (from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) making applesauce — with a little help from my older sister who was in town — and only got through one bushel. Considering it took seven hours, I don’t know when I’ll get to using the next bushel — hopefully one night this week. I think I’ll turn the remainder into apple butter. Yum!

Anyway, if you want to read about how I make applesauce or see one of the few videos I’ve made for A Smith of All Trades, check out my applesauce post from 2012. My dad, little sister and I have made applesauce each year for the past three years. After the first year and a limited supply of sauce, I started doing a batch with the family and a batch on my own. This weekend was my batch and I made 28 jars (24 quarts, 4 pints). Next weekend, the plan is to do it again with my dad. Double the help = half the production time!

Apples_Cans

In my 2012 post I shared a bunch of different add-ins for the applesauce. It is a family tradition to doctor the applesauce with things like vanilla, cinnamon red hots, brandy, candy canes — all sorts of stuff! This year, I added in fireball whisky. I’d never had it before, but our family friend suggested the cinnamon flavor would taste great in applesauce. Well, he was right. It might be my new favorite thing to add in!

Gray painted dresser

I have a (bad) habit of taking any and all furniture that people don’t want. So when my mom and stepdad cleared out their laundry room to make way for some nicer storage, I happily took the dresser they’d been using for years downstairs.

Our family friend painted this for my older sister — in fact, she had a whole matching set at one point! I kept it as is for a while, knowing at some point I’d want to update it.

Painted Dresser_BeforeTo update this dresser, I opted for paint. Since it was already painted — and rather nicely, too — I didn’t want to go through the hassle of stripping and sanding it down.

I splurged on paint, buying Satin Impervo Benjamin Moore paint, which is made for kitchen cabinets. It’s an oil-based paint that cures, not dries.

Painted Dresser_Satin Ipervo

And you know what else? It is stinkyyyyy. Holy smokes, is it stinky.

Painted Dresser_Mask

I wore this bad boy the whole time I used it, which I should be doing anyway when I paint… but it was way necessary this time.

Before I could start painting, I sanded the whole dresser down.

Painted Dresser_Sanded Drawers

Then, I filled the wholes and sanded down again. This ended up being an unnecessary step because I ended up using the holes anyway. Oh well!

With everything sanded, I started to paint.

Painted Dresser_Drawers

I let the paint dry for days (I think 4) before doing a second coat. I was worried because the paint seemed to be tacky for the longest time, but the more I researched I learned that the paint cures, not dries (I know I said this earlier). That’s really important though, because you can’t add your second coat until the first cures completely.

When the first coat cured, I added a second. And then I let that cure, too.

When everything was dried and hard to the touch, I added back the hardware. I chose black cup pulls and I love them. Seriously, they are fabulous.

Painted Dresser_Finished Product

The cup handles are fabulous, the paint is fabulous. I mean, just look at the top and how smooth it is!

Painted Dresser_Angled

The paint, while expensive ($25/quart), was worth it in the end. Much better than anything else I’ve used. We’ll see how it holds up over time, but at least right now I am so super pleased with how it turned out.

Quite a difference from before, huh?

BEFORE:

Painted Dresser_Before

AFTER:

Painted Dresser_Final

On an unrelated note, happy birthday to my neighbor Allie and her twin Shelly :)

Crate Coffee Table, part 2

Earlier this year I found a crate on my local Freecycle listserv that I scooped up, added some caster to and turned into a coffee table.

Crate Coffee Table

The crate sat as is for a while, but the wood was rough around the edges and the crate had been written on and scuffed up. I decided to take on the coffee table crate project for a second time, this time opting to stain the crate and make the piece a little more polished — well, as polished as an old wood crate can look.

The side of the crate was painted a dark, charcoal gray. I decided to stain the crate a gray to pull out the charcoal-colored sides.

Before I could start staining, I had to sand the hell outta the crate. The top was covered in nicks, scuffs, sharpie, old sticker goo…. It wasn’t pretty.

Crate

It looked like someone had kept score on the crate, or attempted math? Who knows. But the sharpie had to go.

CrateTop

Once the whole crate was sanded down, I applied a gray stain to the whole thing, including the painted sides. Since some of the paint was scuffed off, I wanted to make sure the exposed wood was gray, too.

CrateStained

The wood soaked up the stain lie crazy, turning the whole crate a charcoal gray with wood grain popping through. I love the color mixed with the natural wood peeping through.

Once it dried, I coated the whole thing in a polyurethane.

CrateGray

The finished product is still a roughed up, old crate — but a much nicer looking old crate. I like the gray a lot and how it tied the sides and the rest of the piece together. I also like the lack of graffiti on my furniture. That’s a plus for sure.

Crate iside

We aren’t currently using the crate as a coffee table, so I’m not sure what we’ll do with it. But I really like the cleaned up look for this neat old piece.