Backyard Fire Pit

With it being just the midpoint of unofficial summer (but only being about a week into the actual summer season), I thought I’d share the fire pit area we created.

When we moved in, our backyard consisted of a concrete patio, some bushes, and a fairly large (for the area) nondescript backyard.

IMG_5791 (640x427)

There was a lot of white rock and bushes which cut the patio off from the rest of the backyard. Add to that an unkempt,pretty random rosebush, and a built in non-working gas grill and you can see the previous owner must not have cared too much about her outdoor space.

I’ll cut to the chase – Dan pulled out the bushes, rose bush, and grill, got rid of all the white stones, and planted sod up to the patio.

The fire pit area planning had us leaning toward installing square pieces of concrete, with grass peaking through the squares, rather than pouring a new cement patio. We began looking for big concrete squares, but were surprised to have so much trouble finding any at a reasonable price. Eventually, we ended up going with these from Menard’s for about $10/square. I didn’t love the diamond non-skid pattern, but am actually really liking them now.

Putting them in wasn’t at all an easy or fun task. Full credit for installation goes to Dan. He dug down, removed grass, lined up the squares, and made it look beautiful. Here’s how the backyard looks now.

IMG_7869 (640x427)

I really like the two separate sitting areas. We do use the section with the table and chairs more often, but when we do use the fire pit, I love having the Adirondack chairs there (which Dan made from these plans and I painted) in their own space. Not too long ago, we had some friends over to roast s’mores. Dan got the fire going and I put out the cute outdoor pillows I bought from Target.

0523151959a (640x360)

It’s been super rainy this June, but I’m hoping for better, s’more making weather for the rest of summer.


Sun Tea, Fun Tea

I have been seeing sun tea pop up on pinterest a ton lately. I’ve heard about it, but never made it/tried it/really thought much of it before.

One sunny day, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and decided to make some tea of my own.

I took stock of what kind of tea we had in the house, and decided to make mint raspberry tea.


25 cups of water

20 tea bags (I used 10 plain Lipton tea bags and 10 raspberry tea bags)

1 cup of sugar

A whole lot of sunshine!

I started by getting out my big mason jar drink dispenser. I love that thing. I poured in the water. To make the tea bags easier to fish out at the end of this experiment, Dan suggested I tie them together. Good idea. A quick knot later, the bags went in the jar. At the last minute, and for good measure, I added in a few mint sprigs fresh from the garden.

Now, just let Mother Nature do its thing. I left the jar outside in the sun for about 4-5 hours. When I went to retrieve it, I was surprised at how warm the jar was. There was even some condensation in the jar itself. That tea must have been steeping in hot water for a while. I added half a cup of sugar, stirred, and then added the second half cup. The tea was warm, so the sugar dissolved pretty easily. I wish I would have snapped a photo at this point, but I forgot until later in the day, when a good portion of the tea was gone.


Believe it or not, there is still a whole pitcher’s worth of tea left in the jar. We’ve been drinking it all week.

If I had time, I would have put the jar in the fridge for a while to cool. But, a bowl full of ice seemed to do the trick. Just put a ton of ice in a glass, pour in some tea, and you’re good to go.

Honestly, this was one of the easiest things I’ve ever “made” from pinterest. And it was a complete pinterest success too! I’ll be making this refreshing tea again and again this summer.

Father’s Day Grilled Donut and Ice Cream Dessert

How was your Father’s Day? Ours was really fun. We celebrated with a BBQ with both fathers (mine and Dan’s) in attendance. We ate, we drank, and we played bocce ball.

After my team won in a best of three series, Dan fired up the grill once again to make our dessert – grilled donuts!

0621151946a (640x360)

Grilled donuts with ice cream to be precise.

The donuts are nothing fancy – just an assortment from Dunkin’ Donuts. There were glazed, chocolate glazed, and jelly filled donuts. Once the grill was hot, Dan cooked them just for a minute or so on each side, making sure to get some great grill marks.

We let the donut sit for 30 seconds or so, then served a big scoop of ice cream with it on the side.You can use whatever ice cream you like best. We made ours, but store bought is just as tasty, and way less time consuming.

I quickly stuck a cupcake topper (made with this printable) into the ice cream of each father’s plate.

Our parents were already trading donut halves before I could snap a photo! From that, I gathered that our easier than usual dessert went over well with our parents. We’ll definitely be serving this simple dessert again!

DIY Wedding Invitation Ornament

I can’t believe I’ve never shared this craft before. I’ve made these kind of ornaments at least a handful of times, and I’ve started to make them for the newlywed couples of just about every wedding I attend.

IMG_9032 (640x427)

Can you tell what it is? If you thought it was a wedding invitation inside a clear ornament, you’re correct!

I saw the idea on pinterest a long time ago, and finally made one from my own wedding invitation a couple years back. When one of my bridesmaids got married in November 2012, I decided to make her one of these ornaments as a Christmas gift just a month later. She loved it, and so began my tradition of making one to give to every newlywed couple whose wedding I attend.

Making this DIY gift is quite easy. To start, I cut the invitation into strips that are only as wide as the text. The skinnier the strips are, the better the ornament will look. I use a scrapbook paper trimmer, but scissors work just as well. It’s a bit easier to get a straight line with the trimmer though.

0525151411 (640x360)

Next, grab a pen. Wrap each strip around the pen, making as tight a curl as possible. You’ll have a more difficult time with wider strips of paper.

0525151420a (640x360)

You’re ready to fill the ornament! Finding these glass ornament is really easy around Christmas time. I usually buy a couple 4 packs during the holiday season from Michael’s, then store them away until I need them.

I grabbed an ornament from my stash and put the curled paper strips into it, one by one.

0525151419 (640x360)

If it starts seeming full, give the ornament a shake. You want the ornament to be pretty full, but not too full. I tend to put the strips with the most important text in first (like bride’s and groom’s names, wedding date, parents’ names) in case not all the strips fit nicely.

Once all the strips are inside, I put the top of the ornament back on, tie a ribbon to it, and add a little note to the bride and groom.

IMG_9030 (640x427)

I smile as I put my wedding invitation ornament on my tree every year, and I hope the lovely bride and her new groom do the same.


Birthday Postcard Art

I love sending fun little cards in the mail to my friends. I look for cards that are unique, adorn each envelope with fun ink stamps and washi tape, and I make sure that I always have a supply of postage stamps around should the mood strike me to send a card.

When my friend Colleen moved to California, we decided to become pen pals. I’ve so enjoyed receiving little notes in the mail, and I’ve loved finding cute cards (or making some) to send to her. Col’s birthday was coming up, and I wanted to send her something special. I remembered this post about a postcard birthday banner that I had seen a while back, and enlisted Dan to help me make a postcard banner of my own for Col.

from fb (640x480)

One of the postcards got lost in the mail, which is why the bottom left piece is missing. Darn USPS!

To start the project, Dan searched for a fun hand-drawn birthday word graphic. When he found this “Happy Birthday Beautiful” art, I knew it was perfect.

happy-birthday-01 (2) (640x640)

Next came figuring out how big to make the poster, and how many postcards to have. I knew I’d be seeing a bunch of our mutual friends a couple weeks after I had the idea for this, and about a month out before Col’s birthday, so I decided to go for eight postcards.

Dan split the graphic into eight 8 sections, and created another sheet to use as the back of the postcards (the part to write on).

happy birthday postcards 1 (2) (495x640) happy birthday postcards 2 (2) (495x640) happy birthday postcards back (2) (495x640)

I printed the images on thick cardstock, then re-fed the paper into the printer to print on the back of the postcard too.

The post where I got this idea emailed each person their postcard to print, cut out, add a message, and came with instructions on when to send the card. I decided to keep things as simple as possible. At the gathering where all our friends met, I brought the postcards with me, already cut out and ready to go. I asked each person to write their personal birthday note to Colleen, and decorate the front of the postcard in their own way. Some friends used stickers, some used washi tape, and some even used markers.

Originally, I envisioned each person sending their own postcard sometime a couple weeks before Col’s birthday, but many asked if I would mail the postcard for them…so they didn’t forget. I think that actually worked well. I sent one per day over about a week’s time, so Colleen should have gotten a postcard every day or so the following week.

The hardest part for me was not texting her to see if she had received them yet, or if she had put the puzzle together. Finally, on her birthday, I finally broke down and asked if she got anything good in the mail lately. At that point, she was still missing a few postcards. About a week later, she posted the photo above of the (mostly) put together postcard art on facebook, and tagged all the friends who had sent her a card to say thanks. You’re welcome, Colleen! Happy belated!

Wood Burned Modern Family Crest Anniversary Gift

As promised, today I’m sharing what I made for Dan as part of his 5th anniversary gift – a modern family crest.

IMG_9042 (640x427)

I’m actually really happy with the way it turned out. I was really nervous when I started, and didn’t think to buy an extra wooden plaque in case I messed up!

So how did I make it? I’ll start at the beginning.

The wooden plaque is from Michael’s. It was in their wooden section, with all the other wood pieces like letters and birdhouses. I thought the shape was really cool – it certainly wasn’t your standard square or rectangle. The only thing was, the cut made the wood super splintery, so it took quite a bit of time to sand it down as much as I could.

Next, cue the woodburning pen. I imagine you could pick one up at any craft store, but I actually had one from an old Woodburning Kit that I got as a kid.

kit (640x480)

I  thought the pen would be super difficult to use. I didn’t remember having much success with it in childhood. But actually, it wasn’t too bad. I’m sure you could freehand your design, but since I have zero spatial sense and terrible penmanship, I went ahead and used some printed graphics as a guide.

For the T, I just played around with different fonts in Word until I found a font I liked (Corbel, in size 400). I wanted to make the plaque look like a modern style family crest, and when I saw these prints with wreath-like leaves, I knew it would look great.

I wish I took a picture of it (too into the project I guess), but I just cut out the T and the wreath separately and placed them on the plaque until the spacing looked right to me. After using this technique of scribbling pencil on one side of the paper, I used some tape to secure each piece of paper in place to trace out the letter and shapes. Once I had the pencil lines in place, all I had to do was trace with the woodburning pen.

When I finished, I knew the plaque still needed something. That’s when I realized the top was looking pretty bare, I realized I would have to freehand something. Gulp.

I decided to add in the year we got married. So, I took a pencil and, in my best cursive, wrote “est.” I wanted the 2010 to look a little different than the “est.” so I thought I’d put it in block lettering, like the T.  It still wasn’t quite right, so I added in another branch with leaves.

Then, I started tracing over the pencil with the woodburning pen. I didn’t always follow the pencil line exactly, so when I finished burning the wood, I used an eraser to try to hide all my mistakes. Well, as many mistakes as I could. If you look closely, you can see a few places where my woodburning pen got away from me a little bit. I think it just adds charm to the piece. Right?

IMG_9044 (640x427)

I toyed with the idea of painting the sides of the plaque, considering using black or aqua, but neither seemed right to me. The natural blonde wood with the darker woodburning were great contrasts to each other, and bringing in some non-natural color just wouldn’t look right. In the end, I gave it to Dan as it appears above, without paint.

Dan really liked it. I asked him if he wanted me to pain the edges, but he agreed that it just looked best in its natural state. We’re not sure where we’ll hang it yet – maybe in our gallery wall, or maybe upstairs in the hallway – but I’m just so pleased with how it turned out. I really liked woodburning (once I got the hang of it), and I’m looking forward to trying my hand at it again soon.

Fifth Anniversary Gift Ideas

Five years? Dan and I have been married for five years? This was 5 years ago. Wow. Those years have completely flown by. It seems like just yesterday that I became a Mrs., but I guess I’m an old married lady now.

In keeping with past years (see gift options for the second anniversary, third, and fourth), I thought I would share some great gift ideas that I came up with while brainstorming what to get Dan for this, our 5th anniversary, which officially is tomorrow. You know, help those who got married just a little bit behind me come up with an awesome gift idea for your spouse.

The traditional fifth anniversary gift is wood, and in modern days, the gift is silverware. We didn’t really need any silverware, so I stuck to the wood idea. As you might remember, our gifts are typically smaller, and we sometimes even make a part of the gifts we give.

These ideas got my creative juices flowing:

Year 5

1. Is your man (or woman) a smoker? Not a smoker of cigarettes, but a smoker of meets? If so, he/she might love some smoking chips for the smoker. I found  these hickory chips at World Market, but hop online and I’m sure you can find some other great options. Round out the gift with some quality meats and you have yourself a great anniversary gift (and possibly dinner!).

2. Does your other love outdoor lawn games? Maybe it’s just me. But if they do, I think this croquet set from Target would be a huge hit! Once summer arrives, I live outside as much as I can. In fact, for my birthday last year, Dan gave me lawn jenga. If your spouse loves the outdoors too, or just likes unusual games, this gift is a great way to go.

3. Would your significant other happen to be a baker? If so, then they may love this embossing rolling pin on etsy. I think this would be such a cool baking tool to have in my kitchen. Sugar cookies would no longer be boring! And you can get the rolling pin customized to say whatever you want on your cookies. I think it would be really fun to have a Christmas message on the baking pin, since I bake cookies every holiday season.

4. Maybe your guy/gal is into wine or spirits. Don’t forget, wines and whiskeys are aged in barrels! That totally counts as staying with the wooden theme. Buy a bottle of your spouse’s favorite drink, and include these neighborhood coasters from Uncommon Goods, which are made of wood. They have twelve different cities you can choose from. It doesn’t have to be the city where you live now, but maybe where you enjoyed a great trip together, where you got married, where you met, etc.

5. Can your spouse keep plants alive? Do they enjoy doing it? Personally, my answers to those questions are no and no, but I wish I could respond in the affirmative. If yours would, these pocket geometric wooden planters are just too cute! They’re handmade and look absolutely darling with an air plant in them. Bring them to the office or display them at home for a great gift.

6. Is your husband/wife into creating art? They may love this watercolor pencils set from Blick. Pair the pencils with watercolor paper, a paintbrush, their favorite music to paint to, and tickets to your local art museum for a gift that includes a true art experience.

7. Are your wedding photos still just sitting on the CD you got from your photographer? If so, stun your spouse by having some of those photos printed onto wood to hang on your walls. This four piece art gallery set from Shutterfly would look great anywhere in your home, and you would get to relive your wedding day every time you looked at the photos.

8. Would your partner enjoy a nice bath at the end of a long day? If they really like to linger in the tub, this bathtub caddy from Anthropologie would be a great way to keep their magazines, books, candles, and wine out of the water while they soak. Pair the caddy with some fancy bath salts and a bottle of vino for a fun gift.

9. And finally, is your person a tea drinker? If they are a tea shop regular, or they work in a lab, then they would certainly enjoy this tea tube from CB2. Sure it’s mostly glass, but the top part is beechwood. Give the tea tube with some loose leaf tea and a new book you think they will enjoy and you have a cozy gift that anyone will love.

If none of those gifts sound quite right, check out my Pinterest page for even more ideas (including some DIY gifts!).

So what did I get Dan? Well, I can’t tell you just yet. We’ll give each other our gifts tonight, and since I know he’s an avid reader of my blog, I can’t divulge that information just yet or it will ruin the surprise. I promise to share that with you next week. In the meantime, I’ll be off celebrating 5 years of wedded bliss.

DIY Bridal Emergency Kit

Last weekend, I went out of town with a bunch of friends for a bachelorette party. I knew many of the ladies would be giving the bride lingerie as a gift, so I thought I’d go a different route.

For my wedding, my Maid of Honor put together a bridal emergency kit that was really helpful. It contained little items that you might not think you would need, but are really useful if you do. Ever since then, I’ve helped put together little emergency kits for most of my bride friends. I thought this would be a perfect gift to give.

IMG_9036 (640x427)

To start with, I bought a small travel-sized make up bag. I got my hands on one from the Lilly Pulitzer collection from Target in the bride’s favorite color – green. Then, I picked up items for the kit as I would find them/think of them while out shopping. The following made it into the kit: band-aids, alcohol swabs, disinfectant wipes, cough drops, an emergency sewing kit, Eos lotion, gum, Kleenex, deodorant, bobby pins, hair ties, and a piece of white chalk. Yes, chalk. in a pinch, you can use it should anything spill on your dress. Chalk won’t remove the stain, but it will cover it pretty well for photos.

Some other items you could include would be a nail file, clear nail polish, pain reliever, double sided fabric tape (to keep dresses in place). Really, you could include whatever you think the bride would find helpful on her big day. Include a pack of her favorite candy or her go-to snack. Anything goes.

I couldn’t find a cute bachelorette party bag or card, so I improvised and made my own. I found some cute pink girly stickers at Michael’s and stuck them to a plain black bag. For the card, I found a pack of blank cards with a hot pink stilletto on them at Homegoods.

I highly recommend making this for any bride friend. It’s one less thing she has to worry about for her big day, and she’ll be able to enjoy the make up bag on her honeymoon and all her trips to come.