Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bridesmaid Paper Doll Cards

We just got engaged, but no time like the present to jump right into a project!

I wanted a special way to ask my friends to be bridesmaids, so I scoured the internet for a while and found this DIY Paper Doll Bridesmaid Card project that was simply too adorable to pass up!

I've always thought it would be fun to have mismatched yet coordinated dresses, so I made each one from a different paper.  I also personalized each girls hair so their doll would look like them!  (I secretly want a picture just like this taken on the day of!)

I hand wrote a simple card to go along with the paper bridesmaids, and tied everything together with a pink satin ribbon.  This is so cute, they'll just have to say yes!

This was a pretty simple project, and it only took a few hours to get everything put together.  I've never done a paper project before, but this one didn't require much skill or artistic talent, so it was perfect for me!  It was also quite budget-friendly.  For those who dislike DIY, you can buy them on etsy.

This post is about a week late in getting written, but that means I can share the surprise I came home to today in my mailbox!  Looks like I chose great women!!!

she said yes!

What cute ways have you heard of to ask your girls to be bridesmaids?

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Project Wedding!!!

After an eventful weekend, I am happy to say I will have LOTS of upcoming projects to share because ... I got engaged!!!

But don't worry, I still have plenty of non-wedding projects in the works as well!

Friday, August 19, 2011

DIY Blue and White Bouquets and Boutonnieres

In addition to centerpieces, I also made the bouquets and boutonnieres for my friends wedding!

When we were at the flower shop, she had told me how much she loved the artichokes and snapdragons, so I made sure to incorporate those into the bouquets.  I also used eucalyptus, because she's from San Diego, along with roses, lilies, daisies, mums, irises, and other assorted flowers and greens.

My first order of business was prepping all the flowers.  You really want to have the flowers ready to go before you begin assembling the bouquet.  This is different than the centerpieces, where you can prep each flower as you go.  All flowers get all their leaves cut off.  For the roses, I hacked off all the thorns with a knife, then peeled away any ugly petals (which is more than you'd imagine, maybe 8-10 per rose).  I saved the petals, and they ended up being used around the cake and on the seating card table!  The lilies need to have all those brown stamen things removed.  It's best to do this right after the flower blooms because they aren't putting out pollen then.  It's messier if you wait.  For the stems with multiple flowers, I pulled off any ugly flowers.  

I started with 2 flowers and an artichoke that would become the center of the bouquet, and built out from there.  After positioning a few flowers, I would secure the bundle together with floral tape.  This made the bouquets super sturdy and also made them easier to work with.

I tried to vary colors, shapes, textures, and sizes of the flowers - this was the hardest part!  I found that physically assembling the bouquets was easy, it was the artistic part that was tough! 

I continued to build outward, making a rounded bouquet with a few longer bits sticking out.

I started with the bridesmaid bouquets so I could get the hang of the process and practice my design skills.  I made three bridesmaid bouquets, then the bridal bouquet, then the last two bridesmaid ones.

Once all the flowers were arranged, I went over everything again with more floral tape, covering just slightly less of the stems than I wanted to cover with the ribbon.  Then  I went over everything with blue satin ribbon, securing the end with corsage pins.

Bridesmaid bouquet

I bought a few vases on sale at the craft store so I could (safely!) set them in water.  These also proved great for photos!
Bridesmaid Bouquets
The bouquets took more time than I had anticipated because it took me a while to place each flower aesthetically.  Totally worth it though - making the bride's bouquet was my favorite part of this whole project!

Blue and White Bridal Bouquet

Then it was on to the boutonnieres.  I decided to use roses because they hold up really well out of water and through lots of hugs.  I layered a fern behind the rose, and some little green berry looking things in front (this is how you know I'm not a florist, those green things are the most common thing ever and I still don't know the name!).  It was a kind of plain design, but I wanted to err on the side of caution.  The guys got smaller ferns and fewer berries, and the ladies got more foofy ones.

I grouped the three stems together and secured them with floral tape.  Then I wrapped a thin satin ribbon around the floral tape to cover it, and tied the ends up under the fern.

I made a few extras (because you know how guys are).  One of the ushers told me later that he alone had destroyed three boutonnieres!

The groom had planned on wearing a white jacket, and I didn't want the white roses to blend in, so I made him a special boutonniere out of an iris.  I wasn't sure how it would hold up, so I made a little vase for it, and an extra rose boutonniere just in case.

These went quickly once I got my assembly line all set up.   If you're going to do any of your own flowers, boutonnieres are where it's at.  A few ferns, a dozen roses, and a hour, and you've saved a bundle!

I was running short on time, so Tommy delivered the bouquets and boutonnieres to the church for me.  In return, he got a date who had time to shower, put on makeup, and drink a glass of wine!

My only complaint for the finished product was that my corsage pins were too long.  It kept poking me when I wore my corsage, so I ended up taking it off halfway through dinner. Also, the stems that poked out of the bouquets kind of shook as the girls walked down the aisle.  It didn't bother me, but something to consider.

It was fun to be known as the "flower girl" for the evening, and I got lots of compliments!  Best of all, they were exactly what my friend wanted, and they were made for her with love.

Me and my date (altered slightly upon request)

Cheers to the happy couple, we love you guys!!!

blue and white bridal bouquet

Monday, August 15, 2011

DIY Blue and White Wedding Centerpieces

One of my close friends got married recently, and I did all the florals for her wedding!  That means 20 centerpieces, 6 bouquets, and 18 boutonnieres!

I ordered 32 bunches of flowers from fiftyflowers.com - 16 white and 16 blue.  I pretty much just guessed and hoped that would be enough for everything.  I'd never done any of this before, so I definitely had my fingers crossed that it would work out!

I teleworked the Thursday before the wedding so I could take delivery of the flowers.  The delivery guy showed up late, and only dropped off one box of flowers.  I opened it up, and it was only the blue ones!  I frantically called the company to see about the white ones, and made double sure they wouldn't say anything to my bride.

Turns out the white flowers got stuck in Indiana.  No biggie, because I didn't want to start the centerpieces till Friday anyways.

Friday morning I left my house at 6am to drive up to Potomac Floral, a wholesale flower shop in Silver Spring.  They told me to get there when they open at 7am for the very best selection.  It's a huge shop, with a big refrigerated room with most of the flowers, another room with just greenery, another (warmer) cooler with orchids, and a whole store room full of glassware.  It's nuts.  Even at 7 in the morning, there were people running around everywhere getting shipments together.

Flower room at Potomac Floral
I spent about an hour there and picked out beautiful flowers, mostly for the bouquets.  I got white roses, artichokes, snap dragons (by request of the bride), eucalyptus (she's from San Diego), ferns for the centerpieces, and other assorted greens and prettiness.

Eucalyptus, snap dragons, roses, artichokes, and more!
The white flowers arrived just after I got home, and looked... TERRIBLE.  They must have been left on the tarmac in the heat or something, because they were essentially unusable.  More calls to fifty flowers ensued.  They were actually really nice about it, and after I sent them photos as evidence, agreed to refund the money for the order and not to tell my bride.

Obviously, these just weren't going to do!

But then I didn't have ANY white flowers!!!  So I drove back up to Silver Spring, pouted to the sales guys, and came home with even more bucketloads of beautiful flowers!

Altogether I had ten 5-gallon buckets STUFFED with flowers and greenery.  I cooled my house down to about 72 to keep everything as fresh as possible, then bundled up in jeans and fleece to keep warm.

Thankfully I had prepped the vases with tape weeks prior to the wedding, and had assembled all the ferns earlier in the morning, so I was ready to get started arranging flowers as soon as I got back from Silver Spring.

Creating a grid with narrow tape makes a good base for building the arrangement.

Stuffing the grid with ferns makes it so any other flowers you add won't move around
I did two centerpieces at a time.  I used one bunch of blue flower for every two arrangements, then added in white flowers and extra greenery to spruce them up.

Ta Da!

It was at about this point that I realized that even if you know the mechanics of how to assemble a centerpiece, you may not know how to do it, shall we say, aesthetically.  It took a while to get the first two right.

But once I got the hang of it, the other centerpieces came together pretty smoothly.  If you can imagine throwing a flower shop through a wood chipper, that is more or less what my kitchen looked like by midafternoon, save for the table of beautiful centerpieces growing in my living room (thank you for the table, Tommy!).

I was really worried about using too many of the flowers in the centerpieces and not having enough for the bouquets, so I was very conservative in my use of flowers.  However, after finishing the bouquets on Saturday I went back and used up as much of the extras as possible to really punch up the bouquets.

Tommy, bless his heart, left in the middle of his Saturday morning golf game to help me deliver the centerpieces to Seqouia.  Shockingly, they all fit in the Fit!  We delivered them with no trouble at all (the extras I made in case I had a whoops just got to grace the hostess stand).
The Fit never fails me
In a lovely twist of fate, Sequoia has these dangly blue art installations hanging from the ceiling that perfectly coordinated with my centerpieces.

All in all, making 20 centerpieces took me about 20 hours, if you count shopping, prepping the vases, going to Silver Spring twice, arranging the flowers, and delivery.

So was it worth it?  Absolutely!  I had a blast, and I was so glad to be such an integral part of my friends wedding. Would I use fifty flowers again?  Maybe.  The blue flowers were inexpensive, beautiful, and came in the mail just as expected.  The debacle with the white flowers was remedied to my satisfaction.  However, the customer service, pricing, and quality from Potomac Floral was a lifesaver.

At least it's a beautiful mess!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Updating the Condo

I was recently in South Carolina to work on the condo I bought while in grad school and now rent out.  My renters are changing over, so I wanted to inspect for damages, clean, and if I had any spare time, do some updates!

I did extensive remodeling to the condo while I lived in it, replacing the floors, cabinets, counters, and blinds, installing new lighting, and painting every last surface I could find.  However, a few things took a back burner, and I've been wanting to get to them as I have the time and money.

Thankfully my last tenants were great, and I didn't have much work to do at all as far as cleaning/repairs go!  I touched up some paint scuffs here and there, recaulked the bathtubs, and did some light cleaning, but overall I was very pleased with what I found.

This gave me the opportunity to work on some improvement projects!!!

Whoever hung the bathroom mirrors back in the 80's used a glue that ate through the finish of the mirrors, leaving big ugly spots like you see below.  Yuck.

Don't worry, that's not your face...just a gross glue job

I decided to replace them, but I was really worried about tearing up the walls.  I called the building handyman, and he told me he'd had luck replacing them in other units.  He gave me lots of great tips about the project, like:
  • Be sure to tape the mirror well so that if it breaks the glass won't go all over
  • Try your best not to damage the wall
  • After removing the mirror, spackle the wall to fill in holes or fill over any residual glue
I've worked on many a project with this guy, and he's always been very supportive, telling me that I can, in fact, install a dishwasher or replace flooring when I don't even know how to use a saw.

So I taped the mirror really well.  I slipped a 5-in-1 tool behind it to pry it off, and it just popped off!  Wayyy too easily!  There was a lot of glue still stuck to the wall, so I chipped that off and sanded the wall down.  I didn't have any holes, but I did spackle over the glue spots to smooth them out.  Two quick coats of paint, and I was ready for installation!

The mirrors I bought had a wide frame around them, with two hooks on the back.  Of course the hooks weren't even, so I had to do a lot of precise measurements.  I used wall anchors that didn't require an electric drill (because I didn't pack one in my suitcase), and I would really recommend them - they were so much easier to use than your typical drywall anchors.
These babies are AWESOME
So, for $180 and 4 hours of work, I think this was a pretty good project!  I think my tenants will appreciate the upgrade and it will make my condo more valuable should I choose to sell it.

Before                                                        After

My second project was replacing the doorknobs.  Also 80's vintage, these brass babies were just not up to snuff to remain in the condo.

These gotta go!

I bought non-locking ones for the closets, twist-locking doorknobs for the bathrooms, and key locking doorknobs for the bedrooms.  I know this sounds weird, but after having several tenants replace them with key locking doorknobs anyways, I figured I'd just save them the trouble.  Plus I'd actually get an extra key, just in case!

Removing the old knobs was easy, and it allowed me to (finally!!!) finish painting the doors properly.  Again, I had to wait around for paint to dry (this more or less defined my work day).  Installing the new ones was a cinch, too!  All in all, about $60 and 2 hours of work for all new (antimicrobial) doorknobs!  Can we say UPGRADE?

Much better!

These were fun, easy, low-risk projects, and I would definitely recommend them, even to apartment dwellers.  I never even used a power tool!  Just a screwdriver, 5-in-1 tool, measuring tape, level, paintbrush, and a putty knife.  I've been eying the doorknobs and mirror in my apartment ever since I got home...

What easy upgrades have you tried lately?  Please share!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Installing a Programmable Thermostat

Note: This was one of my most worthwhile projects ever, whether viewed from the time/money aspect, the green aspect, or the pure joy aspect.  If you have a screwdriver and $35, please treat yourself with this project!

Best. Project. Ever.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve your life while saving money is to install a programmable thermostat.  It took me about 6 weeks of suffering through getting out of bed in a cold house (yep, too cheap to run the heat at night!) before I looked into this. 

It turns out that you can get a decent programmable thermostat for about $35.  If you do the math, that's about 25 cents a day to be able to wake up in a warm house every day for one winter.  So worth it!  And that's not even counting the savings on your electric/gas bill!!!

I chose one with a 5/1/1 setting, meaning that I can program Monday through Friday to do one thing, Saturday to do something different, and Sunday can be different again!

Taking the old thermostat off was easy, and I labeled all the wires as I disconnected them (mine had 5, but some systems have more).  The colors weren't quite what the directions had promised they might be, but I figured it out.

Maybe another 10 minutes of work got the new thermostat installed.  I turned it on and... the screen was messed up.  So of course even the seemingly simplest of projects required a second trip to the hardware store!  Now I'm doubly pro at installing thermostats, since I got to do it twice.

In the months since I installed it, I think I've been saving a good 20% on my electric bills.  Plus, it's really luxurious to have my apartment the right temperature when I get out of bed, when I'm at work, when I get home, and when I go to bed again.  Now I'll just have to decide if I'm going to leave it in my apartment for the next people once I move out!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eye Spy Baby Quilt

My very best friends Richard and Lisa are imminently expecting their first child, a baby girl!  To celebrate her birth I made her an "eye-spy" quilt.

 The quilt goes perfect in her new bedroom!

These are really fun because not only are they beautiful and whimsical, they're educational too!  You can play the eye-spy game, practice matching and counting, learn about colors and animals, and tell stories about the pictures.  This is the kind of keepsake that someone keeps forever, and I was so happy to get to make it for her!

I chose celery green to match her new bedroom.  The coordinating border with birds and flowers reminded me of her parents, and everything else just sort of came together around it. 

Quilts aren't as challenging as they might seem at first - they're really just sewing a bunch of straight lines.  Baby quilts are a great size to start with because they come together quickly. 

I would call a quilt like this one "intermediate" because the hexagons are a little more challenging than squares.  All told, it took about 20 hours start to finish to make this quilt.

I made the mistake of cutting the border on the bias (not square to the fabric, but the fabric looked soooo much cuter this way)...it made it all bunchy around the edges and when I went to sew the binding on it was a complete disaster.  I had to "pin the crap out of it" to make it lay flat. 

LOTS of pins!

While I'm making a gift, I spend a lot of time thinking about the recipient.  It made me so happy to think about this little girl and all the people who love her so much.  I can't wait to meet her and get to know her!