Wednesday, April 29, 2015

easy (lololol) Instagram wall display.

:: This post contains affiliate links.

So it only took me six weeks to rectify my (latest) Pinterest fail. You know...the one where it turns out I can't screw drawer pulls into a wall? Even if they're pretty, cast-iron butterfly drawer pulls? The upside is that I ended up making a closer replica to my initial inspiration picture. Check it out:

My inspiration picture featured Instagram prints hanging from tree branch discs, which I assumed had been hunted in the wild and then hand-cut. 

from here

When I started this "quick and easy" project in early March, it was balls-cold outside and not worth traipsing through the woods for a branch, drying it out, and then setting up the power saw to cut it. So I dismissed the idea of wood discs, tried and failed to use drawer pulls...and then ended up with strands of pictures hanging by painter's tape in my stairwell. For six weeks.

What? It's so mod. And minimalistic.

BUT! It turns out they sell birch discs...for super cheap...at Michael's. Nice! I found a bag of six discs for, like, $4 or something (plus I used one of those ubiquitous 40% off coupons). YASSSS. (Here's a similar product, if you're looking.) I also found a roll of jute cording hiding in my craft supplies, which meant it was total copycat time.

I had already strung the pictures together with fishing line, spacing them about two inches apart (I just tried to eyeball what would look good in the dimensions I was working with). Instead of taking the fishing line off and re-stringing with the jute cording, I put the cord right on top of the fishing line and taped it to the back of each picture with Scotch tape. I taped the top of the cord to the birch disc with Frog Tape (it stuck better than the Scotch tape), stuck a little Command Strip on the back, and hung all six strands on the stairwell wall.

The view from the top...

And from the bottom. 

Rowan loooooves checking out the pictures whenever we go up the stairs, and they're a helpful distraction when she's protesting going up for a nap/bath/diaper/whatever.

I mentioned this before, but FYI, I printed the Instagram pictures through Social Print Studio. I'll happily use them again. The prints are crisp, vibrant, and exactly what I expected. Plus, I loved their quick turnaround time, and I'm a sucker for their spare but stylish packaging.

This is how the view from the playroom has changed. Different wall color, finished picture display.

And yes, I do see how the newly-gray walls clash with the beige stairwell walls. And also with the blinds in the playroom. And also with the light fixture in the front hall. I CAN'T NOT SEE IT. But I also can't muster the energy to care about that right now, so...instead, I'm just patting myself on the back for finally finishing the Instagram picture project. And for not diving into a full remodel of our upstairs bathroom, even though I really, really, really, reallllly want to. (Slash, need to.) Sticking with cheapie updates for now! (She said, as the leaking sink, crumbling toilet, flaking bathtub, and unfixably-moldy shower caulk laughed in her face, and possibly jeopardized the health and safety of her family.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

backyard music wall!

I did it...I finished one of my hundredty-thousand projects!

Our backyard music wall took less than an hour from start to finish, not including my two trips to the store for materials. Installation basically went like this: bring everything outside; nail everything to fence. 

...And I could just leave it at that and not over-explain every (easy and obvious) step. Yeah, right. Here's how it went: First, I gathered everything together.

All of these items are from the thrift store, except the two xylophones (a friend gave those to me), and some random things from the dollar store - the butterfly wind chime and bamboo wind chime (both towards the bottom left in this picture), two of the three mini-buckets (in the middle), the colorful spinning orb (at the top), and the two hanging butterfly decorations (on the right). At the thrift store, I found various pot lids and pan pieces, wooden utensils, a metal dish-drying rack, a hamster wheel, a flower-shaped photo display thingie, and a muffin tin. Oh, and a huge popcorn tin (not pictured here). It was around $20 total, and I used an assortment of nails and cup hooks from our collection in the basement for hanging.

I cleaned some of the items (and neglected others...possibly a disgusting mistake) and hauled everything outside to pick a section of fence to work with. 

Most of the music wall examples I found online featured items nailed to a freestanding section of fence - one that could be transported or removed if necessary. But what's the point of that, in our situation? We have a wooden fence (as opposed to vinyl or chain link) already installed, and we don't have any child care licensing issues, like many of the online examples, that might require us to move/remove the music wall. I can always just pry everything off if I need to, and I'm sure no one would notice the holes from the nails. So I chose a fence section and started hammering away.

It's not like me to not overthink a project, but with this one, I really just placed each item wherever it fit, and in it went. The hardest part, actually, was finding nails that weren't too long. Even the shortest ones I had on hand (1" roofing nails) were longer than the depth of the vertical pickets, so they'd poke right through. The other side of the fence is still technically our property (not park property for another six feet or so), and it's a tangle of weeds and trees, but I didn't want to worry about any little kids wandering over and scraping themselves on a rusty nail poking through our fence. Whenever I could, I nailed the pieces directly into the horizontal railings, which gave me more leeway with longer nails.

You can go ahead and Pin this shot as an example of high-quality landscaping. Go on.
#dirt #andpricklyweeds

Here are some close-ups, going from left to right across the length of the music wall...

On the left is a flimsy metal pan and pan bottom; then a hanging butterfly decoration that
doesn't make noise, but added some color; a hamster wheel; a butterfly wind chime;
and a metal dish-drying rack.

Along the top of this little section are xylophone pieces hung on individual nails; a spinning
wire orb thing for decoration; and a muffin tin. In the middle is a cake pan. Along
the bottom is a popcorn tin and three little tin buckets (AKA percussion section).

Next to the muffin tin is a bamboo wood chime; a metal pan with a ripply bottom;
another hanging butterfly decoration; and a weird metal flower thing that I think
was originally meant to function as a photo holder?

And all the way at the end we have our "drumsticks" (a whisk with a wooden handle
and rubber whisk-ers, and four wooden spoons), along with a hollow metal
ring that came from a cake pan.

And here are some close-ups of how certain pieces are installed, since I had trouble figuring out methods on my own - I definitely had to refer back to the example pictures I found!

There are more things I'd love to add - pieces from a stubborn xylophone that I just can't dismantle; longer metal wind chime pieces; and a wider assortment of "drumsticks" - but the great thing is that this can be a dynamic work. We can add to it if we find something cool, or remove pieces that get rusty or broken or gross from being exposed to the elements. For now, though, it's done.

And Rowan digs it.

Her favorites are the big popcorn tin (you can hear her say "LOUUUUD!" in the video as she makes a beeline for it), the butterfly wind chime, and the hamster wheel. And, since I know you're wondering, no, our neighbors don't hate us (not because of the music wall, at least). First of all, believe it or not, it's not actually that loud. Maybe when she gets bigger and has better coordination, she'll get louder, but right now her "music" basically blends in with the general noise from the adjacent park. Second of all, Rowan is only one and a half...her attention span isn't very long. So if that popcorn tin is making your brain rattle, just hang on about five more minutes, and then she'll be (silently) making mud pies in the grassless wasteland that is half of our lawn.

Negligent lawn-tenders though we may be, we're loving transforming our backyard, little by little, into a variety of play pockets. With the park right on the other side of our property, I never thought we'd want or need to do much to our own backyard in the way of adding play places - but sometimes it's nice to be outside with Rowan and still be in our own space, you know?

She's not complaining, that's for sure.

Next up is finishing the slide mound, as soon as I can find time to reacquaint myself with my miter saw when Rowan isn't either right next to me or asleep. So, in about seventeen years.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

nine things keeping me awake right now.

1. This pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream. Yes, I bought it earlier tonight. What?

2. Trying to figure out why all of these items are on the same washcloth. Just when you think you've cracked the code, a nonconforming item appears. Animals? Nope, there's a star and an anchor. Things found in the sea? Nope, there's a star and a squirrel. Things that might possibly be gray? Nope, there's a star. Things that were trendy in 2013 children's textiles, like woodland creatures and pirates? Nope, there's a frog and a turtle. I GIVE UP.

3. 19 Emojis All Thirtysomethings Wish Existed. (And the subsequent Buzzfeed black hole.)

4. The fact that my bed is so far away right now...and the overwhelming prospect of taking out my contacts and brushing my teeth.

5. Realizing I inadvertently threw my shirt from yesterday into the laundry, restarting the vicious cycle of: finding the t-shirt in the back of the closet; rejoicing and feeling smug about being thrifty by "shopping" in my own closet; wearing the shirt all day; looking down during dinner and discovering noticeable hole, which is the reason I hadn't worn it in so long; tossing the shirt in the laundry after forgetting about hole; washing and rehanging shirt; occasionally noticing it and remembering the hole, but neglecting to get rid of the shirt; and, finally, rediscovering the shirt after about a year and thinking, "Omg, THIS shirt! I LOVE this shirt! What's it doing all the way back here?!" Aaaand it starts again.

6. My new harebrained craft venture: making baby mobiles and opening an Etsy store and then POOF I'm a millionaire, suckas! Bahahahahaha.

7. Trying to figure out why Rowan is waking up earlier and earlier, both in the morning and from her naps, which makes both of us tired and cranky.

8. Realizing that #7 suggests I should've gone to bed at least an hour ago.

9. But I've already blown my chance at seven hours of sleep, so...challenge accepted, Buzzfeed: How well do I remember the lyrics to 90s cartoon theme songs

(Seven out of nine, baby.)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

bookshelf dollhouse (aka, random procrastination project).

What to do when you're procrastinating on all the projects you've started and left partially finished inside AND outside of your house? How about start a totally random and unnecessary project?

Okay. Here you go:

I'm not totally ignoring my other projects. We made significant headway on two backyard tasks this weekend - the slide mound:

And the music wall:

The bad news is that we didn't have the time (or...the willpower) to finish either one. The slide mound still needs some steps in the back (hoping to easily cut them from old 2"x4"s from our wood pile) and a couple bags of mulch to hold it together, and the music wall needs a few more items nailed in (namely, the xylophone pieces, which I can't figure out how to dismantle). So they, like every other project in this house right now - the crawl space, the basement reorganization, the playroom, the Instagram display in the stairwell - are three-quarters of the way finished.

Sounds like a great time to cook up a new project, yeah?

Despite its unfinished state, Rowan's been loving the playroom. I haven't gotten around to organizing her toys on the new bookshelves, but I did shove a bunch of her stuff on random shelves, mostly to get it off the floor.

And it turns out that her new favorite place to play in this room is on the second shelf from the bottom of each bookshelf. She's constantly taking little cars, trucks, and people figures and zooming them around those two surfaces. They're the perfect height for her to play on.

I was showing my sister the playroom updates earlier this week and explaining how Rowan loves those two shelves when I trailed off mid-sentence, staring. Totally random flash of inspiration: What if I turned a shelf into a little dollhouse? I bet Rowan would have so much fun with that!

That night, I hunted around Pinterest for dollhouse ideas and did my best not to get sidetracked by elaborate DIY mini-mansions with working electrical circuits. Rowan's only one and a half, after all. She doesn't need a super-fancy setup at this point. In fact, she has a perfectly fine Fisher-Price dollhouse (you can see it in the picture above - bottom shelf on the right)...but I still thought it would be cool to make her a custom one.



I went to Michael's last night (with J.J....during our date night...so romantic for him) and picked out some cheap "wallpaper" for the house. Today during Rowan's nap (and while she was at Gramma's in the late afternoon), I measured and cut out a few pieces of cardboard and slotted them together, creating four "rooms"...

(You can see I added an extra piece of cardboard on each side for support.)
...and then labeled the pieces with room names (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, outside), and removed them so I could put up wallpaper and lay carpeting (with double-sided tape).

Then I cut out some doors and used a whole mess of regular tape to reinforce everything (probably should've used glue, but I hate glue and didn't have non-wood-glue handy). I added "wallpaper" directly to the insides of the bookshelf where there wasn't any cardboard, and "carpeting" for the two bottom rooms directly to the top part of that bottom shelf, again using double-sided tape.

And that was that! Instant bookshelf dollhouse!

In this case, of course, "instant" means during date night, during naptime, during a playdate at Gramma's, and during a tornado warning when I probably should have been in the basement. Still, it only took a couple hours total, and I think she's going to dig it.

I added what little dollhouse furniture and figures we have, with the plan to purchase an inexpensive set that I found online - catch being that you have to assemble it yourself. But for ten bucks, it should be worth it. After all, we need some dressers and toilets up in here.

Bedroom on top, kitchen on bottom
Bathroom on top, backyard on bottom (with GRASS-DESIGN PAPER!)
And then I added some LED tealights for funsies. Yeah, no,
I'm wondering when I turned into this person, too.

Maybe the dollhouse will distract people from the rest of the playroom that I'm ignoring - the weird gap between the tops of the bookshelves and the ceiling, the fact that the gray I chose for the walls is so light it sometimes looks white, the blank walls where I've been too lazy to re-hang art, the empty shelves (or shelves crammed with random toys)...WHO CARES COME TURN ON THE PRETEND FIRE IN THE DOLLHOUSE BACKYARD! WEEEEEE!!

Ahem. Probably working on the boring basement this weekend, with all the new spiders that I'm sure have hatched since the weather started warming up. Or maybe I'll just build dollhouse furniture and ignore everything else, including life-threatening weather warnings. #priorities

Thursday, April 2, 2015

hey, wanna go to the thrift shop with me?

All right. All right all right all right. I am less-than-tentatively stating that winter is OVER. Tulips are pushing through, thunderstorms are in the forecast, I can't find Rowan's snowpants, and there are sand piles in the kitchen from tiny shoes. In other words, time to shift from indoor house updates to outside projects!

I went to a local thrift shop (Value World in Maple Village) this past weekend to find odds and ends for our outdoor music wall. I had to go there twice, actually, because a red wok lid that I really wanted wasn't properly tagged, so they made me come back the next day, once someone had priced it. (Store policy. Which I get, but really? It was a cracked wok with no power cord. I'll give you a buck.) So it took two trips - plus a run to the Dollar Tree next door - but I did find some perfect pieces for the wall...along with so much more. Come see...

Oh, hey, you three. First thing I ran across at the shop - these folks just chilling together in a plastic bag, representing what can only be described as the world's most awkward threesome. The dude on the right is trying to mask his bougie upbringing (see: Day on the Yacht striped shirt and capris, both from JCrew's summer line) with some hipster touches (see: goatee, jean jacket). He's stoked to gain bragging rights for hooking up with post-Prince-Eric Ariel (see: legs), although the threesome is actually his cover so he can get with Ariel's boyfriend, Mr. Shimmerpants on the left there. Shimmerpants is increasingly bitter because Ariel keeps threatening to turn back into a mermaid if they don't have a threesome with Bougie Hipster, whom she's clearly crushing on. No one wins in this plastic bag threesome, people. No one.

Ah, a Twilight lunchbox! I mean - why is this even at a thrift shop? Who doesn't want an Edward Cullen metal lunchbox?! Oh, wait...I think I see the issue:

It's only approved for AGES 14 & UP. Some poor fourteen-year-old out there was torn between finally being old enough to be trusted with a metal lunchbox (um?), only to realize she was also too old to be seen in public with a metal lunchbox (and not yet old enough for it be considered ironic). Girl, all I can say is that I feel your pain, because soon I ran across this:

The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery Game!! I was obsessed with the Baby-Sitters Club growing up - owned nearly every single book in the series, plus Specials and Mysteries and Little Sisters and whatever other genius spinoffs Ann M. Martin churned out. (I was a Mallory who deluded myself into thinking I was a Dawn, which was just so Mallory of me, don't you think?) This game came out right around the time I graduated from middle school, which was also when all of my BSC-smitten friends declared that they were officially too mature to read those loser baby-sitting books, let alone play the game. So I never played it, never got to spin the mystery wheel or move my Stacey game piece around Stoneybrook. (But I KNOW you bitches were still reading those books when we were in high school. "Oh my god, you guys, a Baby-Sitters Club book! How babyish. I'm just going to see how dumb this new one is. It's so dumb. Yeah...it's really...babyish...and...LAY OFF ME, I'M READING.") Oh, Baby-Sitters Club Mystery Game: the Twilight metal lunchbox of the 90s.

Moving on.

You can just go ahead and file this treasure under Things I'd Never Buy From A Thrift Shop, Or Even Just Take For Free, Actually: a torn lifejacket that's missing a buckle on one side. "Dude, this was only a dollar twenty! Score!" Yeah, $1.20 + your LIFE.

Please, please, someone tell me what this is. Because if there's actually a machine out there that turns jellybeans into a smoothie? Well. Let's just say I can cross that life goal off the list.

It was here that my maiden voyage to Value World was cut short...mostly because I already had everything I needed for the music wall (a hodge-podge of pots, pans, and hamster wheels), and I couldn't justify lingering in the aisles taking photos of creepy doll threesomes. But I really wanted that red wok that had been improperly tagged, so I drove back the next day. Spoiler alert: They ended up pricing the wok at $4.21, which was about $4.19 more than it was worth. I passed on it. I could've just left the store then, but that's the lure of thrift shops...there's always the possibility - nay, probability - of as-yet-discovered awesomeness. 

For example:

Super-dirty stuffed jellyfish the size of a couch cushion, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Check out this 90s-tastic Draw 'n' Fax toy - with real working lights, sounds, and motor drive!! Actually, I guess it might've been fun for playing office...it's just sad that the company was so psyched about the toy's ultra-modern features: Push button to automatically advance paper! 6 dial tone sounds! Safe-play battery operated! Kids these days would wonder what the hell a fax machine even is. And a dial tone.

I actually kind of loved this Cookie Jug. Found it in my pictures and am now really regretting not picking it up. Might be time for Thrift Shop: Take Three pretty soon here - also because I need to follow the continuing saga of these three, who showed up in a completely different bin on the opposite side of the store during my second trip:

Their positions, just like their relationships, had shifted over time. Bougie Hipster (whose dress shoes I'm only now noticing) fell for Post-Prince-Eric Ariel when her hair fell away from her face, revealing that she was probably not even Ariel at all. They're moving to Boulder and plan to start homesteading after Bougie Hipster's parents shell out for his graduate degree. Shimmerpants was disgusted by his willingness to do something he didn't feel comfortable with and is hiding his face in shame. Or maybe one of them pulled the ultimate Dutch Oven, and his upturned collar is an act of self-preservation. The world may never know.

All in all, my thrift shop ventures yielded tons of treasures for our music wall - and the few things I still wanted (wind chimes, mostly), I found at the dollar store next door.

Yeah, I know, my neighbors are going to haaaate me. Hopefully Rowan will feel most inclined to make "music" while they're at work all day. Oh, I also scored a vintage wooden baby doll high chair and doll cradle, and an old Magna-Doodle that Rowan will love. Total cost? Around $20. Making Macklemore proud...and making me so so so excited for the sweet weather on the horizon.

P.S. You're always welcome to come to Target with me, too. If I'm good enough for Lorde...


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