Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Neighborhood Entrance

We moved into our home in March of 2009. It was still cold and needless to say there wasn't much growth on the trees or bushes. The entrance to the subdivision looked kind of like the entrance to a state park. I was certain that would change once spring was here. I was confident there would be a spring cleanup and flowers would be blooming and it would be amazing.

W R O N G!

It turns out that this particular entrance to our subdivision has been neglected for years. There were actually many good reasons it was neglected as the HOA had to deal with many issues with the township. (I mean... it probably didn't need to take as long as it did, but whatevs) 

Of course I don't have a good "before" picture, but I was able to pull an old shot off of google maps. This pic shows how ugly it was but it doesn’t truly depict how over grown everything was before it was redone.

I did manage to get a shot of the state park looking sign. 

After attending many HOA Meetings, I offered to cleanup and plant the entrance myself.

BIG Mistake! BIG BIG Mistake!

The grounds were littered with garbage, bottles, and doggie waste bags. And the ground was so hard it was like digging into cement. To make matters worse, once I finally got everything cleaned up and planted, I found out there was no functioning water source. UGH!!! So I had to lug water from my house to keep the mums alive. The finished product looked better when I was done, but it was still mediocre at best.

Below are pictures taken before the mums were in full bloom. 

As I mentioned above, there were some good reasons why the entrance had not been addressed. Some that had to do with the neighborhood, but most had to do with limitations from the township.

I could make a long story longer, but I won't get into all of the details. Basically the major challenges were:

The sign had to be easily removed if necessary and the distance to the road was important so that meant we could not build a permanent structure and current sign could not be moved from its current location.

The size of the island and the distance to the road meant no sign in the island.

Property owned by the hospital meant no landscaping on the right side of the entrance

Although there were several things going against a proper entrance, I knew we could still make it nice so I pitched an idea to the HOA. All of my suggestions took the above challenges into consideration. I suggested we paint the existing sign and build columns out of stack-able stones on each side. This way they could be easily removed should the township need to access the pipes and other things located under the sign.

I also pitched landscaping ideas. My original pitch included full color pictures that I literally cut and pasted together to provide a visual. Admittedly, I had some grand plans originally. My plan included a million more flats of annual flowers, but planting that amount of flats every year comes at a cost. All 4 entrances have to be evenly and fairly maintained.

Another priority was to select trees that would help conceal the yard of the home behind the entrance.

The president of the HOA was able to work with the township and they agreed to let us paint the sign and add removable stone columns. HUGE WIN! Of course there was a small catch. We could not move the sign from its current location. UGH! But OK, we can work with that.

The HOA let me pick materials and select plantings for the entrance and I loved every second of the process!

Then, the HOA took a leap of faith and let me paint the sign!!! They don't really know me. They don't know what I am capable of doing. But they trusted me! I mean... I was cheap. I only charged the cost of supplies, so how could they pass up that deal?

I wanted to gold leaf the letters and paint the sign black. I was prepared for the time-consuming task of gold leafing, but then I ran into my neighbor Lou who said, "ya know they make liquid gold leaf". WHAT??? They do??? Once I found that out, liquid gold leaf it was! And it turns out it is so much more affordable and easier to apply.

Check out this beauty!

I started by scraping the loose paint, filling cracks with wood filler and a lot of sanding. I painted the letters a base of yellow paint before the gold leaf paint. 

After getting everything taped and painted, I finished it with what seemed like  a million coats of water-based polyurethane. 

After the sign was done the landscapers built the columns, placed the sign and planted. It was fall of 2016 and although it looked nice, it wasn't until this year that I appreciated how beautiful it really is! The flowers are in full bloom and I am so happy every time I turn into into my sub. There were a ton reasons why this shouldn't have ended up as nice as it did, but it is beautiful!  I can only imagine how beautiful it will be when all of the plants mature. 

BTW... I do not claim to be a photographer! LOL


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Monday, May 8, 2017

Ribbon Rack

I have a lot of ribbon. So much ribbon I didn't know what to do with it. Who needs this much ribbon? Ummm...nobody! However, I've had a little bit of a thing for ribbon, especially when it is on sale!

I've always had a ribbon stash, but I never really had a great way to organize it. I’ve had it arranged in shallow boxes on a shelf, which was ok, but not the best because it took up too much space. I loaded all of the spools on dowel rods that I hung below shelves. I thought this would be the best way to store them, I was wrong… it was the worst. It was awful because when the spool runs out, you have to take every spool of ribbon off the rod in order to get the empty one off. I didn’t want to take them all off so I ended up having a bunch of empty spools on the rod. I even tried stacking them, but not surprisingly this didn't work because they just got knocked over.

It's no secret I spend a fair amount of time on Pinterest and I came across this tutorial for a stand-alone ribbon rack. http://nicholeheady.typepad.com/capture_the_moment/studio-ribbon-storage.html
Now we're talking!

This type of storage is ideal, but I wanted my shelves mounted to the wall and I wanted it to be a lot bigger. All of the storage for our house is located behind 2 closets in my sewing room. The space between the closet doors was perfect for the ribbons.

I showed Mike Richardson the ribbon storage that I liked. He took a few measurements, we headed to Home Depot for supplies, and by that evening I had ribbon storage!!!

I planned on painting it to match the closet doors, but the natural wood is the same color as the floors and I think I like it as is.

Believe it or not, it ended up being way more storage than I had ribbons. 

The size ended up being perfect because now I had room for all my rolls of tulle, all-purpose thread (embroidery thread is a whole other story) and best of all, my collection of beads. I found these great flip-top containers at Dollar Tree by the seasonal plastic plates and picnic-ware. They were 3 for a dollar and fit great on the shelves. 

 I am so in love with this rack!!!

I mean, come on, do I have a great rack or what????


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Saturday, December 17, 2016

DIY Christmas Throw Pillows

I bought a new bench for the basement and it just sat there all by itself. Lonely and sad. I had to give it some life and I knew throw pillows would do the trick. There was no way I was going to spend money on new pillows so I rifled through my fabric stash and found an old cream-colored canvas drapery panel from 17 years ago. These drapes hung in the living room of the house we rented with our friends Brian & Krista in Mississauga, ON. Back then Mike and I went in the woods and cut down the perfect branch that served as a unique drapery rod.  It was well before the rustic-chic movement, I must have been on the cutting edge of design! Okay, maybe I was just resourceful and on the tightest budget ever.
So... why do I still have them??? I'm glad I do!

I cut 4 squares of the canvas panel into 16" x 16" pieces. 

Then I printed off a pattern of a deer head and of a Christmas tree. (The deer head pattern is actually a picture of a deer head pillow).

My daughter Mikayla has a bunch of old dance costumes stored in her closet. One of those costumes was entirely made out of gold sequin which I used for my deer head. I purchased 1/4 yard of red sequin for the tree.That is way more than I needed for this project, but who knows what I will need it for in the future.

Next, I ironed HeatBond to the backside of both the gold & red sequin fabric.

Once cooled I was ready to place my pattern on the front side of the fabric and cut. I originally thought I was going to make 2 deer pillows, but decided against it later.

Here the patterns are cut out and ready to be ironed onto the canvas.

I removed the HeatBond paper off the back of the cut-outs and placed in the middle of the pillow. I used a pressing cloth to protect the sequin when I ironed the cut-out to the fabric. 

Next a zig-zag stitch to give a finished look.

I sewed the pillow front and back together and stuffed with fiberfill I had on hand. The fiberfill was leftover from Boo Day at work last year. It played the part of fake snow in Candy Land for Halloween. I was happy to to take the leftover. That stuff isn't cheap!

Here is the finished product. Looks plain though right? What can I do?

I found 4 cloth Christmas napkins that I have been meaning to use one year for dinner. I've had them for years, but just moved them from one Christmas box to another. I finally used them! I sewed them together and filled them with fiberfill and viola, more throw pillows!

This was a super quick and fun project! 


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Friday, June 24, 2016

Julia's Emoji-cal Birthday Party

We had a great time celebrating Julia's 10th birthday. TEN! 10 years old! How is my baby double digits???

Thanks to Pinterest we quickly determined that Julia wanted an Emoji themed party. We found some great ideas online and added some of our own ideas too. And of course, we did this whole party on a dime. :)

Everyone knows I love the Dollar Tree, so I started there by picking up a bunch of yellow poster board. I used assorted pots and pans as my template for the yellow circles, cut out the faces out of colored paper and used a glue stick to adhere the faces to the circles.

Did you know that you can order items at www.dollartree.com that are not regularly stocked at the store and have it shipped for to the store for pick up? I needed paper plates and the only yellow they had at the store was a lemon yellow. I checked online to see if they had more of an emoji yellow and sure enough they did! I ordered cups and plates in the exact color for the low low deal of $1 a pack. I had to order a minimum of 4 packs each which was a little more than I needed, but who doesn't need extra plates and cups? And it was still less expensive than if I were to have gone to one of the popular party stores. I also found this fun garland made out of ribbon and tissue paper that just so happened to be the perfect color. And finally the Dollar Tree had yellow dinner plates that I used for the brownie cupcakes.

I am no baker that's for sure! And I am definitely not a cake decorator, however, I gave it my best shot and the cupcakes turned out great. First we made smiling piles of poo! Poo is always funny!!! Mikayla helped make brownie cupcakes and I piped a twist of chocolate frosting on top. I used grocery store frosting and man is that stuff thick! It doesn't pipe as well as I thought it would, but it was fine. We added some edible googly eyes and there we had it... edible poo! (always funny:) Next we made yellow cupcakes and armed with more edible googly eyes, heart shaped sprinkles and a black gel decorating tube, I went to town creating emoji's. Some may or may not be legit emoji's but whatevs they were fine. Definitely not a professional job, but cute and Julia loved them. Julia had the idea of placing them in the shape of a "J" on the table and they looked great! Good idea Julia!!!

For the beverages, I found a yellow container at Five and Below and what better drink to fill it with than lemonade? Yes, I did spend $5 on this item, BUT, I will get a lot of use out of this container. As we speak, Julia is using it for her lemonade stand. I also made some emoji water bottle labels to add a little more of a personal touch. 

Once all of the girls arrived we split them up in to two groups, one group went with Mikayla to make emoji cookies and the other group came with me to make emoji t-shirts. I really wish I would have been able to watch the cookie decorating because this group of girls are creative! Mikayla put a dollop of yellow frosting on their cookie and the girls took it from there. I provided the same items I used to decorate the cupcakes and I thought we would see a lot of the heart eyes emoji cookies. Nope! It turns out that the googly-eye tongue emoji (not sure of the actual name) is super popular so to improvise, some of the girls used a heart sprinkle upside down as the tongue. So cute! I'm bummed I didn't get pictures of the finished products. They did such a great job! 

Thanks to my friend Michelle Q, I scored a huge deal at JoAnn Fabrics on t-shirts. They had a one day only coupon for 5 t-shirts for $10. What a deal!! I ran out on my lunch hour that day and picked up 20 shirts. AND the best part was that is was a pleasant experience! There was a limit of 10 on the coupon, but the lady helping me, was awesome! She didn't give me a hassle about buying more than 10, she didn't refuse my coupon, she didn't make me come back the next day. She let me spend my money on the t-shirts and get a deal. Can you believe it?? A hassle free that shopping experience! Such a novel idea.  

Before the birthday party, I ironed HeatBond to yellow, black, red, white and blue felt. Next I pre-cut circles and face parts for four different types of emojis (4 sunglasses, 4 heart eyes, 4 laughing tear drops & 4 googly-eye tongue). I put the face parts into sandwich bags and stacked them on the table by type. The girls selected a t-shirt, a yellow circle and a sandwich bag of face parts. Once they picked their emoji, they came into my sewing room, placed their emoji the way they wanted it on the t-shirt and I ironed it for them.

 As soon as the t-shirts cooled off, every girl couldn't wait to put the t-shirt on. 

I made the birthday girl's t-shirt the night before and a little bit different than the rest. She got the number 10 on her shirt with the blow kiss emoji. 

The t-shirt making process took longer than the cookie making process, so that left a fair amount of girls with nothing to do. That didn't last long! As I am ironing in my sewing room, I see that they are all sitting in a circle and the next thing I hear is " concentration, what's your number". How great is that??? They totally occupied themselves while they waited for the rest of their friends to complete their shirts. What a great group of girls! 

Next up, games!

We headed outside to play Musical Squares. Mike numbered the squares 1 thru 4, Mikayla started the music and when the music stopped, we picked a number and whoever was standing in that square was out. We kept doing that until we had one girl standing. She was the winner of a yellow kickball with the sunglasses emoji on it that I bought at Five and Below. We played another round and the next winner received a smiling pile of poo emoji pillow, also purchased from Five and Below (and still funny).

Back inside, we played Pin the Tongue on the Emoji. I made an extra large googly-eye tongue emoji and used painters tape on the back of the tongue so each girl could easily stick and remove the tongue.The winner of this game received a round yellow pool float with the sunglasses emoji on it, also from Five and Below.

Julia had an absolute blast at this party and I think all of the girls did too! The t-shirts were such a big hit that the girls wore them to school the next day.

Julia took some poo brownies to school for her teachers, principal and vice principal. She laughed so hard when she told me she stopped Mr. Clarke in the hallway and asked him if he wanted some poo. I bet he wasn't expecting that!!

An emoji-cal time was had by all!! 

 A huge thank you to all of these girls and their parents for making Julia's 10th birthday a great one!


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Friday, August 28, 2015

Graduation Gifts for Smarty Pants

Turns out the Butler girls are a bunch of smarty pants! 2015 brought three high school graduates to the family all of whom are going to some pretty great colleges in the fall. I was lucky enough to be invited to the grad parties and I wanted to give them each a really good gift. Since we opened the restaurant, funds have been pretty tight so I was on a strict budget. I would have loved to have written a check to each of them (they would have probably loved that too), but I had to get creative and make the gifts affordable.

What to do? What to do? I was waiting for inspiration to strike, but it never did. Not a single idea. So I polled my girls Julie and Kim for suggestions. Kim Sage (the world's greatest, most thoughtful gift-giver ever) suggested a shower caddy filled with items for the dorm. Yes! That was it! I was inspired! I thought I could make a really great gift if I personalized it to each girl and to the school they will attend. A little school spirit is just what I needed for a theme.

First up, my cousin Eileen's daughter Maura. (Actually a Sparty pants---- ahh ha ...I slay me)

Maura is attending Michigan State University this fall and will be staying in the dorm. I decided to take the shower kit idea and run with it. I found a great shower bag at Bed Bath and Beyond and used a coupon for a little extra discount. I was happy to find a fabric bag, because I wanted to embroider her name on the bag. Who doesn't like their name on stuff?

I embroidered her name on green grosgrain ribbon I had on hand then stitched it to the top edge of the bag.

I embroidered her name on a cute polka dot lanyard I found. It's kind of hard to see it in the picture below, but it was cute.

I bought a multi-pack of washcloths at Wal-Mart, pulled out all of the white ones and embroidered her first initial. At first I was a little worried as a State fan would never EVER want to see an M on anything they own, but because this is her first initial, I think it was okay.  

Total contents of the Spartan Gift Basket: 
  • Shower caddy (Bed Bath and Beyond) with embroidered name 
  • Spartan bath towel (Target) with embroidered name  
  • Three washcloths (Walmart) with embroidered initial 
  • Polka dot lanyard (Five and Below) with embroidered name
  • Lotion, gel and body spray (Bath and Body Works)
  • Spartan shower flip flops (Five and Below)
  • Car magnet (Five and Below)
  • Bath Sponge (Walmart)
  • Small toothpaste and mouthwash (Dr. Richard Land -yep I had a dentist appointment that week) 

My cousin emailed me the very next day to tell me that Maura loved the gift AND told me that a few of her friends were there when she opened it and they loved it too! Yes! Success!

Next was my cousin Colleen's daughter Katie. This gift was tricky as Katie will be commuting to U of M instead of living on campus. Honestly, I did not know what to do. Originally, I thought I would personalize a nice Michigan sweatshirt, but that would eat the entire budget. Then I thought I would get her a bunch of stuff for her car, but everything I came up with seemed masculine and, quite frankly, lame. Then I thought of a laptop backpack stuffed with goodies. I was kind of set on doing that until I was shopping at Target and I came across a great plush backrest pillow in the perfect shade of blue. And it was on sale! So very quickly this became a "Study in Comfort" gift.

A couple of years ago I made a super cute burp cloth with the baby's family name and a U of M helmet I cut from fleece fabric. That fabric has a variety of U of M logos and pictures on it. I happen to have some leftover to use for this project.   

Let's look at how cute that burp cloth was...

So cute! 

OK... back to Katie's gift...

First, I took the stuffing out of the pillow, stitched the logo on the front of the pillow, embroidered Katie's name and re-stuffed it. 

I was going to put Katie's name on this awesome throw blanket I bought on sale at Target, but decided it didn't need it. It was perfect the way it was. 

I covered off the comfort part of this gift with the pillow and blanket, now all I needed was something for her to drink out of and of course something sweet. This M cup came from Five and Below and I filled it with Lemonhead candy.  

The total contents of the U of M gift:
  • Plush backrest pillow (Target) with stitched logo and embroidered name
  • Super soft U of M throw blanket (Target).
  •  Drawstring backpack (Five and Below)
  • "M" cup filled with Lemonhead candy (Five and Below)
  • Car magnet (Five and below)

I am so happy with the way this gift turned out! Both my daughters want a pillow for their bed.

Last but not least, my niece Maureen who will attend Notre Dame. Not only is this kid smart, she is beautiful and an all-round great person. She is an idol to my two girls.
I loved the plush pillow so much that I wanted to make one for my niece as well. Maureen's gift basket was a combo of the shower caddy gift and the comfort gift. 

This time I found the shower caddy at Target for about a 1/3 of the price. What a steal! I embroidered her name on grosgrain ribbon that I already had on hand and stitched it to the top edge. 

Unlike the U of M and State gifts, I couldn't find a lot of Notre Dame items locally. If I were a little more prepared, I would have ordered spirit wear online, but we all know that I have to wait until the last minute to start a project. I still wanted everything to be Notre Dame specific so I just needed to improvise and make it myself. 

First, I found navy flip flops at Target and I stitched little felt shamrock buttons on with gold thread. Cute! 

On a trip to Wal-Mart, I picked up a navy blue tank top on sale for $3! I pulled up the Notre Dame logo online and traced it right off the computer screen. (Of course my printer was out of ink; otherwise I would have printed a pattern). I wanted the gold to be metallic. I didn't want to cop-out and use a golden yellow fabric. I knew the logo had to be shiny like the Notre Dame football helmets, and I found the perfect soft metallic gold fabric at Jo-Ann Fabric. I ironed the fabric to HeatNBond adhesive and then cut the pattern out. Then I ironed the logo to the center of the tank top.  

After it cooled down, I stitched around the whole logo and added a little shamrock button to the center.

I bought a dark navy bath towel from Target and added the same logo to both the towel and the pillow along with Maureen's name. I also added some shamrocks to the towel. 

I found a metallic gold striped cup at Target too and it was perfect for this gift. 

I don't know how or why I ended up with so much stuff from Target. I kind of hate shopping there now. I used to love it and I used to find amazing deals, but then I didn't, so I stopped. I'm glad I gave it another shot, maybe I should start shopping there a little more often.

Total contents of the Notre Dame Gift: 
  • Plush backrest pillow (Target) with logo and embroidered name
  • Bath towel (Target) with logo and embroidered name
  • Flip Flops (Walmart) with shamrock felt buttons (Jo-Ann Fabric)
  • Navy tank top (Walmart) with logo and shamrock
  • Gold cup with metallic stripes (Target)
  • Shower gel, lotion and body spray (Bath and Body Works)
  • Shower caddy (Target)
  • Bath sponge (Walmart)
  • Manicure kit, hand mirror, toothpicks, hair ties, travel toothpaste with toothbrush and Blistex (Dollar Tree)
  • Toothpaste and mouth wash (Dr. Richard Land -kids had a dentist appointment too)

I was there when my niece opened her gift and her reaction was priceless! She seemed to genuinely like everything in the gift. I also received messages from both my brother and my sister-in-law thanking me for the gift. They loved it and showed some of their family and friends who loved it too. 

I am so happy with the way these gifts turned out! 

I think I know what all future grad gifts from me will look like! 

Congrats to you three smarty pants!! I hope you have an amazing experience at school! 


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