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    Curbly House Mudroom & Laundry Room
    Not long ago, when we shared our kitchen renovation with you, we left a little something out. When we began planning our new addition, we decided to add a laundry and mud room off the kitchen to create an entry point with storage and give ourselves the luxury of first-floor laundry. This room has absolutely been the best decision we made during our entire house project. It's simple and straight-forward, but it has brought a tremendous amount of organization and simplicity to our daily home routines.       

    Let me begin by telling you that there is nothing overrated about having a mudroom and first floor laundry space. The fact that we have a place to enter the home and store your daily use items has been amazing. We no longer trip over a pile of boots when we enter the house, or have to squeeze everyone on to an entry rug until wet boots and outside layers are removed.

    No, no, my friends, those days are behind us. Our mudroom allows us space to disrobe, especially during the winter months (which last nearly half the year in Minnesota), without worrying about damaging our wood floors. And, its design allows us to store everything in its place. Read on for all the details about the space...

    Cabinetry and Storage

    When you enter the mud room, there is a beautiful bench and locker system that holds everything and makes it easy for our kids to "do" shoes. The storage unit comes from Aristokraft (the same cabinet company we used in our kitchen). We chose a shaker-style cabinet (called "Benton") in a natural finish (called "Fawn") because it hides dirt and grime better than the white cabinets we used throughout the rest of our house. It's also just a really beautiful finish that makes me feel like I'm entering a Scandinavian ski lodge. 

    Wide View of Bench System

    The bench and locker system has ample space to store all of our coats, footwear (we simply store boots and shoes on a rubber tray that fits beneath the bench), and accessories. We use the lockers to store seasonal gear, and the upper cabinets for off-season clothing and accessories. It's a storage dream, and for the first time in our lives it looks like we will not need to store all of our off-season garb in giant plastic bins. 

    Bench Detail

    In the laundry portion of the room, we went with the same Benton cabinets we used in the kitchen in the same finish (called "White Paint"). These cabinets tie into the kitchen beautifully and really make the spaces work together. The lower cabinets hold most of our cleaning supplies and various sundries like trash bags and paper towels. They also house all of our kids' craft supplies in a way that makes them easy to organize and access.

    In addition to the lower cabinets, we included one storage tower in the room. It's here that we store staples (paper towels, light bulbs, etc.), a modest collection of tools, and other small items we want to keep out of kid reach. 

    Storage Tower Close Up

    The true glory of this storage tower is that none of the drawers or cabinets feel overly full. In fact, some of them are still relatively empty. The very thought of this makes me lusty, because really, who doesn't go bananas for extra storage?

    Flooring

    \

    We tiled the entire mudroom floor using 12" x 24" glazed porcelain tiles we ordered from Home Depot (MS International Fiandra Olive). They are easy to clean and we don't ever worry about the water and grime that inevitably sit on them each time we enter the house. 

    Because tile floors can feel cold, especially in the winter, we used carpet tiles from FLOR to fill in the space. We chose the style "Roadside Attraction" in the color "Dew" because we loved the way the lines worked in the space. We also chose to arrange them in an unconventional harlequin pattern to make the space a little more visually interesting. We love these tiles so much because they're durable and easy to clean (and replace, if needed).

    Fixtures

    When it came to the finishing touches like a utility sink, we wanted to incorporate something that was large, functional, and pretty. We found this combination in the Bayview sink from Kohler. The sink is cast iron and comes in a variety of colored finishes. We chose the cashmere color, which happens to complement the color of our tiled floors perfectly. It's like they were made for one another. We love the size and function of this sink; it's sturdy and big enough to hold a chocolate covered toddler, or a big bucket and mop.

    The faucet we selected is the Evoke, also from Kohler. We experimented with a few different faucets and ended up choosing the Evoke because it's hefty, easy to maneuver, and it looks beautiful with the sink.

    Laundry

    After using a beat-up, old, unreliable top-load washer and dryer for months, we knew we wanted to upgrade the appliances in our laundry area. We chose front-loading, energy efficient machines from Whirlpool.

    Above the machines and beside them we installed the same countertops we used in the kitchen (Frosty Carrina from Caesarstone). This counter space has been a spectacular feature in the room because we now have a space to fold laundry and avoid the dreaded "laundry monster" that used to plague us on a weekly basis.

    Note: A "laundry monster" is the creation that emerges when you have an overwhelming amount of clean laundry that sits, unfolded, in baskets for an inappropriately long time. So long, in fact, that you begin to wonder if it's actually clean anymore. 

    AppliancesBelow is a complete source list with all the details you could ever want:

    Bench and Storage System: Aristokraft, Cabinet Style: Benton, Finish: Fawn
    Laundry Cabinetry: Aristokraft, Cabinet Style: Shaker, Finish: White
    Utility Sink: Bayview by Kohler
    Utility Faucet: Evoke by Kohler
    Paint: Sherwin-Williams' Aloof Gray (SW 6197)
    Flor Carpet Squares: Roadside Attraction in Dew
    Countertops: Caesarstone's Frosty Carrina
    Tile: MS International Fiandra Olive
    Washer and Dryer: Whirlpool Duet
    Dryer Balls: Kikkerland Dryer Hedgehog Balls
    Driftwood Bowl: Homegoods
    Artwork: Maps (we cut them out of an atlas, ssshhh, don't tell!) in Target frames

    Do you have a mudroom you're in love with? Are you in the midst of a renovation and thinking about adding a laundry room to the plan? If so, please do it and then tell us about it in the comments!

    This post was sponsored by Aristokraft, but all opinions are mine alone.


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    A roundup of all the components you need to create an awesome DIY photo booth for your next party.
    These days, no party is complete without a photo booth. They're not only a fun addition to any shindig, but they're a great way to capture memories and they create the most meaningful party favors in the world.

    While renting an old-timey booth or hiring a company to run one are both nice options, they cost a pretty penny. The reality is, creating a custom photo booth using the electronics most of us already have around the house (e.g. your computer, digital camera, printer, phone) isn't very complicated. In fact, it's relatively straightforward. And, when you combine the "photo taking device" with some custom photo props or easy DIY backgrounds, your photo booth becomes the life of the party.

    Follow along as we share everything you need to know about creating a custom photo booth for the party of your dreams! 

    Taking the Photos

    Apparently, since we wrote our DIY Photobooth post (four years ago!), the world has caught on and there are now hundreds (thousands?) of results in Google for this sort of thing. Our photo booth seems to work fine on Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7. Newer versions may get glitchy (sorry!).

    Here's the thing; a photo booth is not a person standing there with a camera taking pictures of people in front of a backdrop. But that's what many of the solutions out there offer (like this one, from HGTV, for example). Ideally, what you want is a real photo booth! A "booth" where you press a button, and then the camera takes three or four pictures of you, automatically (and without warning ... that's how you get those fun candid/weird/awkward moments that photo strips are known for). We also think your version of a "booth", should put the photos into a vertical strip, and print them!

    There are a million ways to do this, and if you want to spend some time, you can figure out a way to make your own for free (you could start with our Apple Automator script and see if you can update it). But, honestly, there are some great paid options out there that don't cost much:

    • Sparkbooth - This seems to be the most popular option, and costs $55. It allows you to customize the photo layout, print automatically, and auto-post to Facebook, Flickr, etc. ($55 might seem like a lot, but depending on how you value your time, you'll definitely spend at least that much DIY-ing something like it).
    • DSLR Photo Booth - This looks great for those of you who don't want to use a web cam. The basic version starts at $50, and you can try before you buy!
    • Pocketbooth for iPad, iPhone and Android is only $.99! It can print (via AirPrint) or upload to your social networks. Unfortunately, all of this has to be done manually, so it's not an ideal setup for a party. 
    • And finally, RasterWeb sells a pretty awesome USB button you can hook up to your computer to give your digital photo booth an analog vibe.

    Backdrops to Set the Stage

    Creating a backdrop for your photo booth is essential because it adds a ton of personality to your photos. The best thing about backgrounds is that the possibilities are endless and they are easy to DIY. We recently shared 11 clever backdrop ideas, but here are a few more of our favorites:

    Streamers Backdrop

    DIY Streamers Backdrop from Lovely Indeed: Nothing says par-tay like a boatload of streamers.

    DIY Confetti Backdrop

    DIY Confetti Backdrop from Studio DIY: Confetti + Parties = A match made in party heaven.

    Sequin Photo Backdrop

    DIY Sequin Backdrop from Oh Happy Day: Adding shimmer and shine to your bash is never a bad idea.

    Balloon Backdrop

    Neon Balloon Backdrop: No party is complete without a bunch of balloons!

    PVC Pipe Frame

    If your party is outdoors or you don't have a wall to dedicate to a backdrop, making a freestanding one out of PVC piping is surprisingly easy to do. Here's a great tutorial!

    Props to Set the Tone

    Photo props are an important addition to your booth because they give people something to do! They are easy to customize to your party's theme, and they are simple to put together using a printer, tape, wooden dowels or party straws. Here is a collection of our favorite free printable props:

    Funky Photo Booth Props

    Funky DIY Props from The Pretty Blog: Mustaches, kissable lips, and spectacles abound in this complete set of downloadable printables.

    Photo Booth Props

    DIY Photo Booth Props from Oh Happy Day: This adorable set features cartoon-y hats and headpieces that are perfect for every age! The super creative Oh Happy Day has several general and themed sets to choose from; take a look at them all!

    Liberty Print

    DIY Liberty Print Props from Le Blog de Madame C: These printable props in a Liberty print are garden-party-gorgeous!

    Disguise Kit

    DIY Disguise Kit: Spies, secret agents, and April-foolsters rejoice; your party is now perfect. It appears the original downloadable file for this is no longer available, but you should be able to expand and print the image using good ol' fashioned trickery.

    Photo Booth Signage to Set the Direction

    Adding a sign to your photo booth is the cherry on top of your booth's sundae. Because, frankly, it makes your booth legit! Here are some free printable signs to point your guests in the right direction:

    Oh Snap

    Oh Snap! Sign from No. 2 Pencil

    Step Right Up

    Step Right Up Sign from Elegance and Enchantment

    For a host of other photo booth ideas, backdrops, and free prop printables, check out my Pinterest board!  


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    Alternative Uses Cheat Sheet

    March is here and in our neck of the woods, Spring arrived like a lion. If you're anything like me, the extra sunlight and climbing temperatures make you want to scrub your house from head to toe.

    To help you feed your spring fever, we've compiled a set of PDFs to help you tend your house using items you have around the house (vinegar, coffee grounds, baking soda, and olive oil). Read on to find out how to download the set!

     1) Sign up for our free, weekly newsletter (you can always unsubscribe, we won't spam you, and you'll get a link to the download after you sign up). Go to our newsletter signup page to get started. (Note: sign up for our newsletter, not for an account on Curbly.com)

    2) Get it from our "Downloads" tab on the Curbly Facebook page: http://crb.li/pdf-downloads (you'll need to become a fan first)

    created at: 03/20/2013

    Stay tuned for more downloads coming up (if you fan us on Facebook or sign up for the newsletter, you'll be able to access the rest of the cheat sheets too!)


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    DIY cleaning solution recipes with free printable labels (PDF download)
    Over the last month I've been experimenting with making my own cleaning solutions. I was skeptical about the effectiveness of a homemade, natural-ish cleaner, but given the amount we were spending each month on 'green' cleaning products, I thought it was worth a go. 

    The good news is that I've discovered four recipes that are easy to put together and good at getting the job done. Below are a collection of recipes. And, pretty cleaning supplies make the scouring process more enjoyable, I've created a set of free printable labels for each solution! 

    Countertop Spray SuppliesCountertop Spray

    1 cup water
    2 tbsp. white vinegar
    1/2 tsp. lemon juice
    5 drops lavender essential oil
    5 drops lemon essential oil  

    Bathroom Cleaner Supplies
    Bathroom Cleaner
    *1 cup white vinegar
    *2 tsp. baking soda 
    1/2 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup liquid dish soap
    1 1/4 cups water
    5 drops tea tree essential oil
    5 drops lavender essential oil
    *Combine first; add remaining ingredients after the reaction has settled.

    Glass Cleaner Supplies
    Glass Cleaner

    1/2 cup water
    1/2 cup white vinegar  
    2 drops liquid dish soap
    3 drops lemon essential oil*
    3 drops litsea essential oil
    NOTE: This spray will work on stainless steel as well!
    * Citrus essential oils like lemon tend to dissipate quickly. If you want your lemon scent to last longer, we recommend anchoring it to another oil like Lemongrass or Litsea.

    Stain Remover Supplies
    Stain Remover

    1/2 cup Dawn Dishwashing Soap
    1 cup Hydrogen Peroxide
    NOTE: This multi-purpose stain remover recipe comes highly recommended from ModernDayMoms.com. While it's not natural like the previous recipes, it is amazingly effective.

    To pretty-up your new cleaning solutions, we created a set of custom labels (recipes are included). 

    DIY Cleaning Recipes & Labels Feature 2

    Printable Labels Close Up

    We recommend printing the labels on a weatherproof label like this one. If you're looking for a set of plastic bottles to house your cleaning solutions, this set has worked great for us. Here's how to get the download:

    1) Sign up for our free, weekly newsletter (you can always unsubscribe, we won't spam you, and you'll get a link to the download after you sign up). Go to our newsletter signup page to get started. (Note: sign up for our newsletter, not for an account on Curbly.com)

    2) Get it from our "Downloads" tab on the Curbly Facebook page: http://crb.li/pdf-downloads (you'll need to become a fan first)

    created at: 03/20/2013

    I hope you enjoy these recipes and custom labels. For more recipes, check out Faith's Roundup of Easy, Affordable Natural Cleaning Products and click through to my "Natural Cleaning Recipes" Pinterest board.


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    Springpad Industrial DIY notebook
    Today we’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with the Springpad team to help you tackle DIY projects and perfect your handiwork skills. Springpad is a popular personal organizer app used by millions to keep track of everything from projects to supply lists. It's free and you can use it on the web, iPhone and iPad, Android, Kindle, and Nook.

    Once you've downloaded Springpad, you can create notebooks to organize your projects and to-do lists to make sure you have the supplies you need. Currently, we have two customized Springpad notebooks that include ideas, recommendations, and projects from us. Below are links to our Springpad notebooks:

    Paint Like a Pro
    Paint like a pro Springpad notebook

    Industrial DIY
    Industrial DIY notebook from Springpad


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    This year we're lucky to be a part of Sherwin-Williams National Painting Week! It's great fun joining a bunch of other awesome bloggers to show off the amazing impact paint has on a home. 

    In the past, we've played it a little safe with our National Painting Week projects, sticking to neutral grays. But this year, our project packed a punch and is anything but safe. Here's a sneak peek of some of the colors we worked with:

    SW National Painting Week Violets

    We're thrilled to be in the company of some of our favorite DIY and design bloggers, including Remodelaholic, Design Crush, Simply Grove, and House of Earnest.   

    Be sure to check back next Friday when we reveal our "not neutral" room on the blog! And, be sure to check out all of the transformations taking place across the Web for National Painting Week!


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    SW National Painting Week Feature

    We are thrilled to be a part of Sherwin-Williams National Painting Week again this year. It's one of our favorite weeks because it involves some of our favorite bloggers doing amazing things with paint! If you haven't had a look at all of the amazing things happening this week, please take a look at Thrifty Decor Chic's walk-in closet makeover and Recycle Consign & Design's chair makeover.

     

    If you're more of the moving-images type, here's a short video of the room makeover:

    Over the last couple years, we've played it safe with our color choices - always selecting neutrals. So, this year, we decided to go BIG (and Alice Walker-style), choosing the color purple! This was an unlikely choice for us, and we knew we needed to find the perfect room to mesh with the bold, beautiful color. Lucky for us, our three-year-old niece and her parents were looking to redo her room; she recently moved out of her toddler bed and into a vintage iron-framed one. Her parents were in the midst of planning out her room when purple came into our lives.

    Our niece loves the color purple, and was pretty excited at the prospect of it gracing her walls. And, her mom, Deborah, happens to be an interior designer with great taste (and not a lot of free time with three little kids), so this project was a fun way for us to connect and create a beautiful room for a little girl we all love.

    Before we show you what we did, let's take a look at where we started:

    SW National Painting Week Before

    SW National Painting Week Before 2

    Good bones, but the room didn't quite say "Three Year Old-Girl". Deborah had purchased a vintage iron bed from Craigslist, and wanted to incorporate it into the design. The main bummer about the bed was the color, a bland off-white. We desperately wanted to paint it a bright color, but we're currently dealing with an obnoxious winter that in completely not conducive to spray painting. The other problem the bed posed was that it took up a huge portion of the room, leaving little floor space for play. 

    Bed woes aside, we knew a new color would make a dramatic impact on the room, and began searching the Sherwin-Williams' "violet" color group.

    SW Violets

    Our favorite way to keep track and collaborate on these types of projects is to create a pin board on Pinterest. Deborah and I started pinning up a storm and eventually decided that our color palette would be defined by this gorgeous rug:     

       Land of Nod Aztec Support Rug

    The rug helped narrow down our search for the right purple, and after placing several test swatches up on the wall, we found it: Wallflower (SW 6281)!

    Sherwin WIlliams Wildflower

    It's the perfect purple because it's neither too warm nor too cool, and it's mauviness makes it work beautifully with the warmer and cooler purples in the rug. 

    The room is on the small side (8 1/2' x 13 1/2'), with a chimney bump out running along one wall. From the onset, we knew we wanted to accent the bump out with a vibrant color. The beauty of the Wallflower color is that it's flexible; we were able to pair its soft tones with a giant blast of color, Ruby Shade (SW 6572), with nary a quarrel between the two tones.

    Here's a post-paint photo we took on our cell phone after the paint dried:

    Lena's Room Painted SW Wallflower and Ruby Shade

    Can I get a "what, what"? Despite the poor lighting, the difference is astounding. I am continually knocked over by the power of paint. 

    Once our paint colors were sorted out and the rug was in place, we were able to put a bevy of finishing touches on the room. We discovered that by simply turning the bed 90 degrees, the problems of the size of the bed, and it's not so lovely color were solved.

    Sometimes, when dealing with vintage pieces that have a lot of character like the iron bed, it's easy to get pulled into the piece's style. We really wanted to be sure the space felt fresh and new, and put together a mood board to help guide us through this process. 

    Warm Purple Mood Board

    Using a visual aid like this is so helpful because it helps inform every decision you make. It also served as a great reminder - design/style-wise - of what was important. For example, we fell in love with this gold tiered pendant light. And, of course, it was out of stock. After shedding many tears over these tiers, we got it together and decided to do some vintage shopping. In the end, we found an amazing vintage orange pendant light with stunning lines. 

    With all of the color and pattern in the room, we wanted window treatments that were simple and classic. We chose a classic roman shade from Blinds.com in Lexi White. We ordered the cordless version of this shade to make sure the room was safe for our niece. The soft fold style of the shade adds a touch of girly flair and gives the windows a gentle movement.  

    The room turned out beautifully! It's purple perfection, and our sweet niece is in love. Here are all the 'after' photos to inspire you to go paint a room purple: 

    SW National Painting Week Purple Bedroom 1

    SW National Painting Week Purple Bedroom 2

    SW National Painting Week Purple Bedroom 3

    SW National Painting Week Purple Bedroom 3

    And, here's a complete source list for those who love them:

    Wall Color:Sherwin-Williams' Wallflower (SW 6281)
    Accent Wall: Sherwin-Williams' Ruby Shade (SW 6572)
    Roman Shade: Classic Roman Shade in 'Lexi White' (soft fold, cordless) from Blinds.com
    Rug:Aztec Support Rug (purple) from Land of Nod
    Pendant:Vintage find from Succotash
    Artwork: Coco de Paris
    Frames:VIRSERUM from IKEA
    Duvet:In the Mix Duvet (pink) from Land of Nod
    Throw Pillows: A mix from Target and Homegoods
    Book Shelving:RIBBA Ledge from IKEA
    Iron Bed: Craigslist
    Mirror: Homegoods
    Desk:MICKE from IKEA
    Desk Drawer Pulls: Jardin des Plantes Knob from Anthropologie
    Schoolhouse Desk Chair:Vintage find from Hunt & Gather
    Modular Shelving: EXPEDIT from IKEA
    Bedside Lamp: Tripod Metal Table Lamp from Target
    Boxed Display:Geo Wine Rack from Target
    Bench:Threshold Woven Jute Bench from Target
    Basket:Threshold Woven Jute Basket from Target 

    Thanks again to Sherwin-Williams for including us in National Painting Week!  

    This post was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams. All opinions are mine alone.


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    DTC Feature Image
    We've spent the last two years working on the inside of the Curbly House, and it's high time we started focusing some of our energy on the outside. Specifically, the yard - a space that's in shabby shape after months of construction and damage from heavy machinery. We needed a kick in the pants to get going on the landscaping, and are starting small with a vegetable garden project with the help of Duluth Trading Co. 

     
    Before I get into the details of our garden plan, I'm excited to tell you that you too can get a kick in the heinie and finish up any lingering DIY projects you have hanging around the house (or garden). Simply follow this link for the opportunity to win $200 cash and $200 in Duluth Trading Co. gear to help 'er done!

    DTC Kick in the Pants Facebook Contest

    I do not have green thumbs. My parents do, so it should be in my DNA, but it's not. Bruno thumbs are, if anything, black, so it's a miracle we don't kill the water-once-a-week succulents we have inside the house.

    However, our daughter wants nothing more than to grow vegetables and flowers in the summer (that, and Barbies). In fact, she has been begging us to make her a garden from the moment we bought our house. We've had to put off her request for the last couple years because of all the construction and new baby chaos that has been our life, but now that things are settling down, we're excited to start planning a little garden.

    Here's a little peek into what we're planning:

    Raised Bed Garden
    Raised Garden Bed Insipration
    (Images, Clockwise: My. Daily. Randomness // Home Depot // Silver Springs Community)

    We're going to build a frame to house a modest-sized raised bed garden in our backyard. Because the soil near the Southwest corner of our house is rocky and the land is sloped, a raised bed seemed like the best route to take. Ideally, we'd love to create something with a fence or greenhouse-style frame to deter the neighborhood rabbits.

    What We'll (Attempt To) Grow

    Raised Beds Plan

    We've read a lot about what produce will do best in our garden. You can literally read yourself crazy when planning a vegetable garden, and we've decided that given our lack of green thumbness, we're going to keep things simple. Ayla's requests were simple: tomatoes, carrots, peas, and kale (I know, I know, she's an enigma, this kid).

    Our Garden Wardrobe and Gear

    Garden Style Collage

    We're going to construct our "bed" frame as soon as the snow melts and the ground thaws - we're hoping this takes place by May, because, seriously winter, go away.

    We've ordered some sweet garden gear from Duluth Trading Co., because while cute, durable clothing is not absolutely required, it is definitely helpful. Breathable, lightweight shirts, heavy-duty garden gloves, and waterproof boots are going to keep us comfortable in the variable weather and make the gardening experience more enjoyable. Also, I like to look put together whilst digging in the dirt.

    Also, Duluth Trading Company's ads make me chuckle:

    We've gathered a few new garden tools, because at the moment the extent of our lawn tool collection involves a spade and a broken rake. We also rounded up some great, kid-sized utilities so that Ayla can get involved.

    We're clearly still in the planning stages, but so excited for the weather to turn so that we can get our hands in the dirt. If you have any tips for gear, plants, how to make a garden grow, etc., please share them in the comments below!

    This post was sponsored by Duluth Trading Company. All opinions are mine alone.
     


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    How to host a simple wine and cheese party.
    Wine and cheese are like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire - gorgeous together and perfectly suited. But, like any great relationship, they're each complicated and require a little finesse and understanding to work well together.

     

    Bruno and I have long been lovers of the cheese and wine duo. On one of our first dates, Bruno packed a picnic that included Wheat Thins, a block of sharp cheddar, and a bottle of cheap red wine - it was perfect. Though the Wheat Thins in our house are now mostly inhaled by our small children, I attribute our affinity for cheese and wine to him. To this day, at least once a month we put the kids to bed and have a dinner of cheese and wine and several accompaniments.

    Wine & Cheese Party

    We've always wanted to host a party featuring wine and cheese, but we thought it might be fussy and cost a fortune. After a trip to visit Bruno's cousin in France, we were introduced to a very unfussy, lovely way to combine cheese and wine in a casual and delicious way.

    Our French dinner involved simple cheeses and charcuterie, fresh baguettes, and bottles upon bottles of table wine. Everything was wrapped in butcher's paper and baker's twine, and we ate the meal right off the wrapping. The food was simple, but the ingredients were so fresh and thoughtfully combined that the meal has remained one of our all time favorites.

    Last weekend, we aimed to recreate that menu and feeling for a small group of friends and we want to share all the details with you in the hopes that you're inspired to do the same. 

    Wine & Cheese Party

    Planning

    We began planning the party a few weeks ago, and we certainly did our research (this, admittedly, is a bit fussy). Using our sweet dinner in France as a springboard we knew we wanted our party to include a few cheeses, various breads and crackers, wine a' plenty, and several small side dishes (e.g. meats, fruit, olives).

    I read several foodie and entertainment blogs to build on this inspiration (you can visit many of them by perusing my Pinterest board: Wine & Cheese Pairing Party), but promised myself that I would strive to keep it simple. I also read a couple of great cookbooks. My favorite being, Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo.

    The most helpful step I made during the planning phase was to visit a local wine and cheese shop called Surdyk's. Not only do that have oodles of cheese and wine (they have a separate wine shop and deli), but their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. 

    Prior to visiting the store, I'd read that white wines tend to pair better with cheese because they have lower levels of tannins than reds. This is something the consultants at Surdyk's echoed. In the end, I ended up with several bottles of both red and white wine (10, to be exact - which was about 4 bottles too many for our party of 8). All of the wines paired beautifully with the cheese, but the whites and roses were definitely more complex and delicious.

    I began my trip in the wine shop where we selected a range of very affordable wines (they ranged from $10-18). I then brought my list of wines to the deli, where an incredibly knowledgeable cheese master helped me select 5 cheeses to pair with my wines.  

    Here's the pairing menu we followed (cheese followed by wine):

    • Ossau Iraty (Sheep's Milk) - Pinot Noir, Rosé (Dry)
    • Scharfe Maxx 365 (Cow's Milk) - Vouvray, Rosé (Sweet)
    • Montgomery Cheddar (Cow's Milk) - Malbec, Syrah
    • Brillat Savarin (Cow's Milk) - Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio
    • Bleu des Basques (Sheep's Milk) - All

    Wine & Cheese Party

    Decor
    Once I had a good idea of what to serve, I focused on how to present everything in a simple way. Using a combination of marble and wooden servers I arranged the cheese, crackers, and bread. 

    Serving Ware: We made our own marble servers using marble tiles with furniture pads adhered to the bottom. It's the easiest DIY in the world - here's a great tutorial

    Wine & Cheese Party Arrangement

    Wine & Cheese

    I also ordered these bamboo appetizer plates because I couldn't resist the clever wine glass (or thumb) notch. Frankly, these little plates were the bomb and will get a lot of use.

    Wine & Cheese Plates

    One of the best tricks I learned along the way was to divide dishes up among several serving platters (we used lots of small bowls and ramekins). This makes the food feel special, prevents log jams at favorite dishes, and makes the presentation so pretty. It's like creating little vignettes of deliciousness and repeating them around the table. 

    Wine & Cheese Party Serving

    Wine & Cheese Party Using Small Dishes

    Details: I mixed in a variety of white dinner candles and created simple labels using stock vector images (of cows, sheep, and goats, of course). I made some of the labels using Sculpey clay, and additional ones out of card stock. 

    Cheese Labels

    Cheese Labels

    We made simple polkadot cocktail napkins using fabric paint, the round end of a wine cork, and plain white napkins we had on hand.

    Wine & Cheese Party DIY Napkins

    Menu Board: To help our guests decide how to pair the wine and cheese, we created a big menu board with our recommendations. To make the board I used foam core, chalkboard paint, chalkboard markers and this tutorial. Using a big menu board like this made it easy for everyone to make pairings.

    Wine and Cheese Menu

    We also provided notecards for our guests to record their favorite duos and keep for future reference.

    Pairing Notes

    Wine Notes

    Recipes

    Along with all the wine and cheese we wanted to offer some additional small bites of food that would compliment our pairing menu. We chose a small selection of crudités, olives, fruits, nuts, meats, and desserts.

    For a list of our favorite recipes and combinations, see below:

    Savory:
    Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Bundles
    Marinated Spanish Olives
    Asparagus Crudites with Mayonnaise Verte
    Blackberry Fennel Pizza (we made ours using puff pastry)
    Lentil Pate (Mock Liver)
    Grilled Lamb Riblets
    Radishes
    Marcona Almonds

    Sweet:
    Maple Almonds
    Carmel Apple Grapes 
    Bacon Wrapped Dates
    Glazed Carrots
    Chocolate Caramel Crack(ers)
    Grapes
    Assorted Fruit Preserves and Membrillo

    Crackers & Bread:
    We served fresh baked bread from our favorite neighborhood cafe, and used a variety of crackers; from simple flat bread with sea salt to our very favorite Potter's Crisps.

    The beauty of this kind of party is that the stars of the show are the wine and cheese - two things that require zero cooking or preparation. Supporting the pairing menu with a variety of sides (many of which also require no cooking) was easy to manage and plan. 

    Wine & Cheese Party

    Wine & Cheese Party

    Wine & Cheese Party

    The end result was a party that was as fun to host as it was to attend. Because the menu was simple and easy to prepare in advance, Bruno and I felt like we were guests at our own party, and really, what more can you ask for!


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    How to make a raised-bed boulevard garden
    Last month we told you all about our raised bed garden plans, and today we're back with all the juicy details. In a nutshell, this was a huge project in terms of the research and planning, and the easiest when it came time to actually do it. It was a great lesson in "preparation is everything". We're so grateful to Duluth Trading Co. for giving us a motivational kick in the pants to get this project done.

     

    Before we get down to it, let's revisit our plans, shall we?

    Raised Bed Garden Plans

    We set out to create a set of raised garden beds to create a small-scale vegetable garden. Originally, we planned to place it in our sloped backyard. But, after monitoring the sunlight for a few days (this part of the yard gets about 4 hours of direct sunlight) and talking to neighbors who had experimented with growing veggies under part shade, we decided to relocate the garden to our sun-filled front boulevard, where we believe it'll have the best chance at success.

    We intended to follow these plans from Sunset to DIY our garden beds, but then experienced a spring with monsoon-like weather, followed by some travel that derailed our DIY dreams. In the end, we bought this kit of cedar garden beds and the entire construction process took less than 30 minutes. If you're pinched for time or not very handy, this kit is a great option. We ended up purchasing 4 sets to create three beds (2 - 24" tall beds and 1 - 10" tall bed for the strawberry patch). However, if you have time and a small number of tools, DIYing your garden beds is a simple project that will save you money.

    Easy Raised Garden Bed Kit

    Lining Raised Bed Garden Boxes

    Square Foot Gardening Method

    When it came time to look into the best method for growing our veggies, I spent hours reading, pinning, and visiting a local nursery to get tips. The square foot gardening method came up over and over again.

    Square Foot Gardening Method Gridded Bed

    I have a friend who did square foot gardening last year in her raised garden beds, and she reported that it was an extremely successful method; she felt there was flexibility with the soil mixture, which was like music to my inexperienced gardener's ears.

    According to the square foot method, your soil mixture should contain 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 blended compost. To figure out how much soil mixture we needed we calculated the total cubic footage of our beds (60 cubic feet in all, not counting the strawberry patch), and then divided by three.

    Square Foot Gardening Soil Mix

    The only tricky part we ran into here was that the compost we ordered came in 40 lb. bags, which we figured to be about one square foot. We also learned that vermiculite is expensive and decided to go a little light on it, and a little heavier on the compost blend. This is something the square foot gardening people caution you against, but something that my friend did and she ended up with a bumper crop. So, we're crossing our fingers. Here's what we ended up ordering:

    • 6 - 2-cu. ft. bags of vermiculite - 12 cubic feet total
    • 6 - 3-cu. ft. bags of peat moss - 18 cubic feet total
    • 20 - 40 lb. bags of compost - about 20 cubic feet

    Our method for mixing this soil was to mix a bag of vermiculite, a bag of peat moss, and 2 -3 bags of compost at a time. This takes time and grit, but seemed to be the best way to ensure the soil was well mixed. 

    Mixing Soil - Square Foot Gardening

    Once the soil was mixed, we bracketed 1-inch PVC piping to the four corners of each bed, and made a tent with 1/2-inch PVC pipes. We attached bird netting to the pipes to deter squirrels and other foraging animals. 

    PVC Piping in Raised Garden Beds

    Planting

    When it came time to plant, the square foot gardening philosophy was extremely helpful. We gridded our beds by sight (16 squares per bed) and followed their planting rules based on the produce we were growing. For example, for tomato plants we planted one plant per square foot. For carrots, we planted 16 per square. 

    Square Foot Garden Planting

    The vegetables we planted included: tomatoes, carrots, arugula, sugar snap peas, asparagus, a variety of peppers, lettuce, and herbs. We also created a small strawberry patch in the lowest bed and wrapped it in wire garden fencing. We began most of our produce from plants, and grew only the carrots and lettuce from seed.

    Garden Gear

    Gardening is certainly an exercise in patience. Not only does it take time to plan and plant a vegetable garden, it takes some sweat and if you're me, tears. Having good gear helps (e.g. gloves, boots, tools), but wearing comfortable, weather-friendly clothes helps a lot too. 

    For this project, we were lucky enough to work with Duluth Trading Co., a company that makes outdoor-friendly attire of the highest quality. Little features like shirts with built-in air vents and pants with a rise that keeps your bum to yourself made us comfortable, protected from the sun, and feeling a little bit fancy in the garden. Here are our his and her uniforms:

    Duluth Trading Co. Gardening Clothing

    Duluth Trading Co. Gardening Attire

    Obviously, garden uniforms aren't required to make your garden grow, but we both really liked feeling comfortable and protected in our garb.

    Our Harvest

    We're clearly in the very beginning phase of what we hope is a vegetable garden-palooza. Once everything is established, we'll update this post to let you know how our garden grew. 

    Tell us all about your summer vegetable and fruit garden plans! What's your favorite thing to grow? Do you have any tips when in comes to planning or planting? Please share your tips in the comments below.

    This post was sponsored by Duluth Trading Company (and they gave us some cool gear to try out while we gardened). However, all opinions are ours alone.


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    The Curbly House has come a long way since we bought it two years ago. From major construction to a whirlwind makeover with the ever-talented Emily Henderson, the interior of the house has been showered with love. But, the outside, not so much.

    This spring, we committed ourselves to begin the process of prettying up the outside of our house and creating some much needed curb appeal. While we have a long road ahead that includes having the house painted, a new sidewalk, and new lighting - we wanted to start with the yard, because it's been neglected for decades.

    Here's a look at the front yard months after we closed on the house:

    Aside from a major shrub trim, nothing has changed. In fact, things may have even gotten worse. The patchy lawn seems to be balding at a rapid pace, the weeds are having a heyday, and there is nary a flower in sight.

    After much thought and planning, we decided to do a DIY mini-yard makeover with these goals in mind:

    1. Repair the lawn, making it more lush.
    2. Extend the garden on the left side of the house to create more visual interest and bring in some much needed texture and color.
    3. Replant the garden on the right side of the house.
    4. Add a planted border to the walkway.
    5. Plant the window box (which up until last week was covered in shingles).
    6. Replace the concrete planters (they don't drain) with something more colorful.

    Although this was a "mini" makeover to us, the goals felt pretty lofty for our inexperienced gardener genes (we have a hard time keeping succulents alive). We knew we'd need the help of some heavy-duty equipment to get this job done and settled on renting a slit seeder to reseed the lawn. We also rented a sod kicker and rototiller to dig up our new garden area, and a power edger to clean up the lawn's craggy edges. Renting equipment is a great way to save money, and the amazing thing is, you can rent just about everything under the sun. For a list of rental companies in your area, visit RentalHQ.

    Operating machinery like this takes some practice, and we got some great tips from our local Reddy Rents. Watching this slit seeder tutorial and this rototiller how-to helped us learn what to expect from the equipment.

    Slit Seeding

    The slit seeder was a bit of a beast to operate, simply because it's heavy and it's not self propelled. So, pushing it and turning it between passes is a bear. You want to be sure you make two complete passes over your lawn when you slit seed to ensure full coverage. Although the machine took a little muscle to operate, a week after using it, our lawn is looking better than ever.

    Sod Kicking and Rototilling

    When it came time to build out the garden to the left of our entrance, we used a sod kicker to define the perimeter of the garden bed, and then ran it in strips until all the grass was removed. Then we tilled the soil to help prepare it for new plants.

    Planting

    After rototilling the area, we edged it with composite plastic edging and covered the garden area with landscape fabric. We then planted the area using a variety of perennials. Because we live in a USDA Hardiness Zone 4 area, we spent a lot of time looking into the best plants to place in our part-sun, part-shade front lawn. We found a great resource on Zone 4 friendly perennials through the University of MN's Extension program.

    We also visited the University's test garden and snapped a few photos for our idea book. Visiting an arboretum or garden site like this is helpful when planning your garden because all of the plants are labeled, and you get inspired to combine plants in beautiful ways.

    We focused on planting perennials that would be visually interesting through all seasons, and carefully chose the following plants:

    Flanking the walk:

    • Catmint
    • Sedum

    Shrubs:

    • Honeysuckle
    • Forsythia

    Side Gardens:

    • Peonies
    • Foamy Bells
    • Coralbells
    • Sedum
    • Ornamental Grass
    • Japanese Painted Ferns
    • Bleeding Hearts
    • Daylilies

    Flower Box and Planters:

    • Snapdragons
    • Lobularias
    • Dusty Miller
    • Geraniums
    • Verbena
    • Asparagus
    • Ornamental Grass

    As we mentioned above, our concrete planters had drainage problems, and although they were lovely, their grey coloring wasn't doing our entrance any favors. We added drainage to one of them and placed it in our garden, and replaced the set with deep blue ceramic planters.

    In addition to planting, we recycled limestone slabs leftover from our house remodel and used them as stepping stones in the garden. We also replaced the willy-nilly, damaged concrete slabs that flanked our boulevard steps with smaller limestone slabs and sedum.

    Though it's still early in the season and the yard needs some time to come into it's own, this project made a dramatic impact on our house's curb appeal.

    We'll continue adding new plants, but want to live with the new landscaping for a little while before we add to our work. We'll update this post with photographs later in the season as we watch our garden grow.

    What's the best tool you've rented in your DIY landscaping adventures? What are your favorite landscaping plants? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

    This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of American Rental Association. The opinions and text are all mine.


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    Creating a home that's both stylish and family-friendly can be a hard balance to strike. But, with some creativity and clever space planning, making your home a place that can be safely enjoyed by the entire family is achievable. We've rounded up a list of nine tips that blend style and function. 

     

    1. Decorate with pieces that will age well. 
      Kids can be hard on a house and its furnishings, so decorating with pieces that can weather kid-storms will save you big dollars. However, this doesn't mean you have to go rustic or shabby with your decor. Materials like weathered metal and wood tend to get better with wear. The round metal coffee tables Emily Henderson chose for our living room and sunroom are a great example of furniture that can easily take on more character (however, the sound these tables make from the incessant pounding they encourage is another story...).
      Curbly House Living Room - Round Metal Coffee Table = Kid Friendly
    2. Make your furniture child resistant...errrr friendly.
      Children are inherent climbers and explorers - equipped with a layer of leftovers and dirt. Rather than working against this characteristic, embracing a certain amount of it will work in your favor. For this reason, leather furniture will be your bestie forever. But if leather is not in your decorating cards, using poufs for kid-friendly seating (and building... and rolling... and jumping, etc.) is a simple solution. Covering sofas and chairs with durable upholstery (or covering bottom cushions with a throw or a few yards of fabric like Oh Joy! did) is another easy way to adapt your current furniture. 
      Create a slip covered sofa cushion for a child-friendly living space.
    3. Use cordless blinds.
      Kids and cords are a terrible and frightening combination with an easy solution. Installing cordless blinds and shades offers the benefits of custom window treatments while keeping your kids safe. We used a cotton soft-fold roman shade in our niece's bedroom makeover; the shades are custom, beautiful, and most importantly, completely safe.
      Cordless custom blinds are beautiful and child safe.
    4. Paint smartly and safely. 
      Paint can transform your home in dramatic ways. Consider using an eggshell or satin paint finish in the rooms where your kids are most drawn to the walls (pun intended - ha!). Painting with a low-VOC paint is more expensive, but its lack of harmful chemicals and fumes make it a no-brainer, especially with kids in the house.

      Kid-friendly paint.
    5. Intall runners on stairwells.
      This tip is so simple and so effective. Using runners on your stairs will make them less slippery and therefore, much safer. And guess what? DIYing a stair runner is very doable (here's a great tutorial).
      Stairwell runners prevent slips and falls.
    6. Make space for your kids.
      Play rooms are a luxury most of us can't afford. However, creating a nook for your kids to play in is easy. Setting up a play table and chairs in a family room instantly makes the room family friendly.
      Carve out \
    7. Be clever with storage.
      Children come with an unbelievable amount of stuff. To avoid LEGO trails and mountains of mermaids (a real thing in our house), use shelving and bins to take care of business. Baskets work wonders and make for beautiful storage. While having "a place for everything, and everything in its place" is a nice idea, it's a challenging reality. In our house, we settle for "a bin for all of it, and all of it in a bin."
      Store toys on shelves and in vintage bins with castors.
    8. Incorporate child-created artwork into your collection.
      The creativity and artistry abundant in children is inspiring. If I had an ounce of the creativity (and production!) my five-year-old harbors, I'd open an art gallery and call it a day. Incorporating your child's artwork into your set creates a more personal collection and sends them a lovely and important message.
      Mix kid created artwork into your collection.
    9. Be smart about flooring.
      White shag rugs will work beautifully when you retire in your seaside condo. In the meantime, stick with hard surface flooring, durable sisal or wool rugs, or patterned outdoor rugs (these work well under the dining table). Sisal and wool are natural fibers that are easy to clean. If you're looking to introduce something a bit more colorful, there are some beautiful indoor/outdoor rugs that are comfortable underfoot. 
      Use outdoor rugs indoors for high traffic, kid-friendly areas.

    Do you have a favorite design or styling tip with kids in mind? Share your ideas in the comments below!
     


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    Packing the Perfect Picnic + A DIY Picnic Blanket

    The dog days of summer are here and it's only matter of time before the heat becomes a distant memory. This time of year is fleeting, and we've been taking advantage of the sunlit evenings by eating almost all of our dinner picnic-style.

    Picnics are a great way to enjoy the outdoors; they're easy to pack, and even easier to clean up. We're rounded up a few tips and recipes to inspire your next picnic in the park. Read on for our guide to the perfect picnic.

     
    The Blanket

    We like to keep our outdoor meals simple, and we eat the ol' fashioned way - on a blanket. We DIYed this patterned picnic blanket using a canvas drop cloth (4x5 feet), some shimmery gold fabric paint, and a bottle top (for the circle shape).

    DIY Hand-Stamped Picnic Blanket

    The hardest part about this project is waiting for the paint to dry. It's really easy, and the heavy canvas makes the blanket extremely durable and hefty. 

    The Basket

    Poppy Talk Picnic Basket // Packing the Perfect Picnic

    There are so many beautiful picnic baskets to choose from, but it's important not to get caught up in aesthetics. In most cases, your basket needs to do more than look pretty; it needs to keep your food cool and contained. For everyday picnics at our neighborhood park, we pack everything into our "pretty" $25 basket (currently available through Poppytalk's adorable line at Target). For bigger picnics at the beach or destinations that require a drive, we use our deluxe picnic cooler (here's the one we have in a different print). 

    While the picnic cooler is a little less quaint than our basket, this bad boy means business, holds everything we need, and comes with a full set of dinnerware and wine glasses. For real.

    The Food

    Easy Picnic Recipes // Packing the Perfect Picnic

    Once you have your blanket situation sorted out, it's time to pack your picnic. We like to keep the menu straightforward, sticking with basic sandwiches, veggies, fruit, a bottle of wine and lemonade, and a simple dessert. 

    Here are our favorite picnic recipes:

    Packing Tips

    Packing the Perfect Picnic

    We wrap sandwiches in parchment paper and seal them with food picks. We also use durable jelly jars for glasses, and get by with a reusable set of bamboo plates. We favor doing the food preparation at home, and routinely only bring along a bread knife, cutting board, and a corkscrew. 

    Packing the Perfect Picnic

    Once you're packed and ready to go, all you need to do is find the perfect picnic spot, which is the best part of the whole process. Do you have a favorite picnic tip or destination? Please share in the comments below!


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    Our little boy was born two weeks before we moved into the Curbly House, and for the last two years - with the exception of a few pictures on the wall, his bedroom has remained untouched. For the most part, this has been intentional, because we wanted to hold off creating a space for him until we knew more about him. And, frankly, we be tired, and adding another room to our makeover list was just not in our cards... until now.

    We're currently in the process of creating an inspiration board for his room, which alongside the final room reveal is my favorite part of the process. It's full of potential and different outcomes, and I love dreaming up the possibilities.



    But, if history has taught me anything, it's that the endless possibilities can run wild and become overwhelming, so I decided to play out one of my favorite themes for his room: Mountains - on a small scale.

    Using pillow covers and Clorox Bleach, I decided to create a pillow that featured a geometric mountain design. After selecting my pillow cover (this light blue one), I got to work.

    • Clorox Bleach Pen (or you can make your own using this recipe and Clorox Bleach)
    • Pillow Cover+ Insert (Make sure your pillow cover is 100% cotton; ours was 100% cotton velvet)
    • Painter's Tape + Foam Brush (We recommend using an extra adhesive tape, like an exterior one, so that your lines stay sharp)
    • Gloves (to protect your hands during the rinsing step)

    How-To

    1. Create a template. I drew out some different designs on paper and then created a larger version of my favorite design using painter's tape (I used the "exterior" version of this tape because it's more adhesive).
      Creating a Mountain Template
      Painter's Tape Mountain Stencil
    2. Use bleach gel to trace the lines of the template. I wanted the design to have a hand drawn feel, so I used the tape lines as a guide, but didn't worry much about the lines being perfectly straight. I first did a pass with the Bleach Pen and then used a foam brush to spread the bleach.
      Using Bleach Marker to Draw Design
      Brushing bleach design
    3. Allow bleach to set in. I let the bleach soak into the fabric for about 10 minutes. The longer it sits, the white your design becomes. You can see the beaching process, which allows you to preserve color in some areas and go white in others.
    4. Rinse with cold water. Once you're happy with the look of your design, rinse your pillow covers in cold water to stop the beaching process. Wear those gloves for this step.
      Cold water rinse to stop bleaching
    5. Wash your pillow covers. You can wash them on the delicate cycle or by hand.

    Let me digress for just a moment and suggest that if you have stained or damaged fabric (denim, cotton tablecloths, old tee-shirts) lying around, this is the perfect project for you. It'll give your old cotton goods new life and you'll stop cursing the stain that ruined your favorite tee-shirt.

    Once the front of my pillow cover was designed and washed, I let it air dry and ironed it. Then I stuffed the pillow insert inside and called it a day. The end result was the perfect mountain scene for our tiny adventurer.

    DIY Bleach Pillow Cover

    This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Clorox. The opinions and text are all mine.


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    The inside of the Curbly House has received a whole lot of love over the last couple years, while the backyard has been ignored with a capital "I".

    We partnered with Lowe's to make some small improvements to the backyard and ended up with a mini makeover that improved the area tenfold. Read on for all the details.

     

    When we moved into the Curbly house, the yard was overgrown, neglected, and not a space anyone wanted to spend any time. These traits coupled with months of major construction (that involved lots of heavy machinery), left our yard a hot, jungle-y mess.
     

    In the jungle, the mighty jungle.

    Our house borders our alleyway, and we are fenceless, which means our entire backyard is on display as our neighbors exit and enter their homes each day. While many of them have been kind and patient as we've worked to improve our house, the eyesore that is our backyard is hard to overlook.

    As much as I wish I was a person who didn't care about the look of the yard, I am, and coming up with a solution to its many problems has been quite the conundrum. I knew we needed to make some improvements to the yard for the sake of aesthetics, function, and my piece of mind. 

    In addition to being unsightly, a major thing we were lacking in our backyard is a proper garage. While a place to store our vehicles would be nice, we desperately needed a place to store all of our outdoor tools, bikes, strollers, and equipment. Since our future round of home improvements includes a new garage, we decided a garden shed was the ticket, because it would dramatically improve our storage situation.

    We selected a modest sized (6x9 foot) cedar garden shed that we ordered directly from Lowes.com (it's the Cedarshed Rancher 6x9 model). We chose a panelized shed, which means it comes flat-packed on a pallet and you just screw it together. Delivery was $80 and they left it right in the back yard:

    Next, we set to work planning out the best way to use it in our yard. We decided to place it in the southwest corner of our yard, where an old garage once sat (we discovered the old foundation as we prepared the space). We decided on this corner because it helped balance out the yard and was an easy area for us to access.

    Prior to building the shed, Bruno poured a concrete slab with help from a friend and a modest cement delivery. While you can place sheds like this on a variety of foundations (wood, poured cement footings, etc.) we decided to go with a solid concrete slab, for the sake of longevity.

    Brush cleared, we prepared the concrete molds and got ready to pour!

    The shed arrived prefabricated, and our charge was to puzzle the pieces together with the help of a lengthy instruction manual. Assembling the shed was a great adventure, but the quality of the pieces was outstanding, making it easy to work with. All told, the shed was put together in a day. We had two people working on it at all times, which made the process of piecing it together more efficient.

    Once the shed was together, we added a few plants around it (we purchased a few and transplanted several from the overgrown garden area of the yard). We then created a walkway from our house to the shed using mulch flanked with limestone leftover from a foundation wall that we removed during our addition. 

    The result is a back yard we're no longer afraid to look at. Have a look!

    Our plantings were mostly moved from other spots in the back yard. They should fill in a little more next spring.

    And here's a shot with the doors open to give you a sense for what we're able to fit inside (remember this is a 6'x9' shed):

    That's three adult bikes, one child tag-along bike, two kids' bikes, a snow blower, a bike trailer, a weed whacker, and some other assorted stuff. Plus room to spare!

    Since we didn't use the cedar floor system that comes with the shed, Bruno decided to re-purpose the lumber. He built this handy little tool storage locker on the alley side of the shed:

    Not entirely beautiful, but it gets all those tall yard tools out of the way nicely.

    We're choosing not to stain or seal our shed. The cedar will weather over time and take on a grayish/silver appearance, which we like 'cause it'll match the color of our house! 

    So if you're short on storage space and have room in your yard, I'd strongly recommend you look at adding a shed. It's pretty easy to do, and has a huge impact on the yard. Now I'm off to do some gardening!

    Thanks to Lowe's for sponsoring this post. All opinions are mine alone.


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    How to Host an All-Out Backyard Barbecue // ManMadeDIY

    Curbly's Editor and ManMadeDIY extraordinaire, Chris, recently hosted an all-out backyard barbecue, and he's got all of the details - including clever tips, delicious wine, and recipes - on ManMadeDIY.
     

    You can check out the whole series by following the links below:

    How to Host an All-Out Backyard Barbecue, Part I: The Plan

    How to Host an All-Out Backyard Barbecue, Part II: The Food and Drinks

    How to Host an All-Out Backyard Barbecue, Part III: Bringing it All Together - The Big Reveal

    How to Host an All-Out Backyard Barbecue // ManMadeDIY

    How to Host an All-Out Backyard Barbecue


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    This house tour is a long time coming. We've officially been in our "finished" house for one year, and we thought we'd celebrate with a big old fashioned house tour. So we're going to show you the super-clean, polished, sparkly version of The Curbly House...which looked like this exactly once, before we, you know, started living in it again!

    Of course, no tour would be complete without a nod to one's roots, so we're posting the 'before' photos of every room, because it's important to acknowledge the past and - in our case - never repeat it. Here we go!

    The Living Room

    Before: Oh, sad, dark, dreary Edward Hopper-esque room, you were depressing and needed to lighten up a little.

    Curbly House Tour // Living Room - Before
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    After: Hello, gorgeous, feather-light room! You are so lovely and inviting; our very own watercolor.

    We were fortunate to work with the super-fun, super-talented, queen of design, Ms. Emily Henderson, on this room and several others (namely: the master bedroom, sun room, and dining room). Many hugs and high-fives go out to this gorgeous gal!

    Curbly House Tour // Living Room - After
    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Curbly House Tour // Living Room - After
    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Living Room Resource List:

    The Sun Room

    Before: This was the room of 99 problems; falling ceiling tiles and chewed mullion windows were among them. But, ample natural light wasn't.

    Curbly House Tour // Sun Room - Before
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    After: New windows, new paint, new ceiling, new walls, new bench, and a reconfigured space completely transformed this sunny nook.

    Curbly House Tour // Sun Room - After
    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Sun Room Resource List:

    Dining Room

    Before: This tiny cramped room was begging to be opened up so that it could breathe a little bit.

    Curbly House Tour // Dining Room - Before
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein


    After: We now eat dinner in this room almost ever night. It's a family space. The gallery wall of family photos is the heart of the room, and the entire downstairs.

    Also, because we get asked about the practicality of a rug underneath a table where small children eat, the truth is: it's great! The wool has proven to win every food battle thus far.

    Curbly House Tour // Dining Room - After
    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Dining Room Resource List:

    Kitchen

    Before: I get a little teary thinking about this old, decrepit kitchen. And, not for sentimental reasons. I loathed this room for its lack of appliances (no oven, no stove, and one 10amp outlet that required a trip to the fuse box every time we ran the microwave). I don't miss its color and mysterious animal smells either.

    Curbly House Tour // Kitchen - Before
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein


    After: This is the room in the house that makes me pinch myself every time I walk into it. It's a kitchen, a family room, the place people congregate whenever we host guests. It's the most used and most loved room in the house.

    Curbly House Tour // Kitchen - After
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Curbly House Tour // Kitchen - After
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Curbly House Tour // Kitchen - After
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Kitchen Resource List:

    Mudroom and Downstairs Bath

    After: These two things are true about these two rooms: 1. There is nothing overrated about a mudroom. 2. Here's a joke that's no joke: We were really urine-ing for a half-bathroom on the first floor; now that we have one we feel a great sense of relief. Technically, there's no 'Before" here because the mudroom and half-bath were born out of our addition.

    Apologies for the absence of 'After' photos of the half-bathroom; they are forthcoming. 

    Curbly House Tour // Mud Room - After
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Curbly House Tour // Mudroom - After
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Curbly House Tour // Mudroom - After
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Mudroom & Laundry Resource List:

    Master Bedroom

    Before: Prior to being our bedroom, our master bedroom was a storage room. And by storage room, I mean, junk room. And, by junk room, I mean the room that could have landed us on an episode of Hoarders. Here's the empty room the first time we walked through the house (please excuse the gritty phone picture):

    Curbly House Tour // Master Bedroom Before

    After: In my dreamiest of dreams, I never believed I would sleep in a bedroom so beautiful. And, there's a chandelier! And, if you must know, I sing Sia's "Chandelier" every time I enter the room.

    Curbly House Tour // Master Bedroom - After
    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Curbly House Tour // Master Bedroom - After
    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Curbly House Tour // Master Bedroom
    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Photo: Melissa Oholendt

    Bedroom Resource List:

    Nursery

    Before: The day we closed on the house two rows of acoustic ceiling tiles fell from the ceiling of this room. It was clearly begging for change.

    Curbly House Tour // Nursery - Before
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein


    After (Still a work in progress...): We've yet to completely re-do this room, but its current state poses no threat of Chicken Little-like disasters.

    Photo: Alicia Lacy

    Child's Bedroom

    Before: The day we closed on the house, the daughter of the woman who previously owned the house told us that she once sat in this room and cried because it was her birthday and none of the children she invited came to her party. She told us that, for her, the house was full of sad memories. I panicked and feared we had made a terrible mistake purchasing a house full of sorrow. I then bought sage smudge in bulk and paraded through the house. I also placed little bowls of sea salt in all the corners to absorb the sadness (this, admittedly was a little cray-cray). If you look closely, you can see one of my sadness-trapping bowls in the picture.

    Curbly House Tour // Child's Room - Before
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein


    After: This sweet, little bedroom is just like our daughter: joyful and bright. And, so far we're batting 1000 as far as birthday parties go.

    Photo: Alicia Lacy

    Photo: Alicia Lacy

    Photo: Alicia Lacy

    Photo: Alicia Lacy

    Child's Bedroom Resource List:

    Storage Room

    Before: This former bedroom was drab, bright yellow, and filled with thousands of bobby pins. Seriously, a truckload of bobby pins.


     

    After: There's not much to boast here. This room went from 'drab' to 'improved' and then we filled it with a zillion plastic storage bins, miscellaneous decor, and a train table. Once our basement is in order, we'll move everything down there for permanent storage and make the room a play room. So, consider this room another work in progress.


    Second Floor Bathroom

    Before: This bathroom was full of problems, and they were all hidden beneath the raised floor that we tripped over every single time we entered the room.

    Curbly House Tour // Bathroom - Before
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Curbly House Tour // Bathroom (Step) - Before
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein


    After: Every single wall, floor, pipe, tile, chimney stack, etc. was removed from the old bathroom to make way for the new one!

    Curbly House Tour // Bathroom - After
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Curbly House Tour // Bathroom - After
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    Bathroom Resource List:

    Thanks for sticking with us this far. If you have questions about products, designs, or DIYs, please let me know in the comments! For more on the process of re-doing our house, check out the entire Curbly House Section!

    A tremendous bouquet of thanks goes out to the wonderful, stunningly-talented photographer, Melissa Oholendt, who makes magic with her camera. 


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    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    This year, a group of Curbly contributors and editors got together to create an series of DIY decor and entertaining projects using that iconic symbol of the season: the pumpkin. We'll be sharing our creations for the Curbly Pumpkin Challenge each day this week. Happy Fall.

    The best school assignment in the world is the diorama. It's an indisputable fact: Gathering tiny objects and assembling them into a scene is delightfully gratifying.  

    For our Halloween pumpkin challenge, we decided to do a take on the diorama after being inspired by this die-o-rama from The Art of Doing Stuff, and this terrarium by The Paper Mama.

    We bought a family set of foam pumpkins from our local craft shop and decided to make a distinct scene in each one. Our themes were: Fairies (our 5-year-old daughter's brainchild), Space, and the Arctic.

    Here's what we used to create our pumpkin scenes:

    • Foam Craft Pumpkins (4)
    • Acrylic Craft Paint + Brushes (for painting the interiors of the pumpkins)
    • TOOB Figurines (Fairies, Space, Arctic)
    • Knick-knacks and Paddy-whacks to enhance your scene (e.g. moss, silk flowers, stickers, lights, etc.)
    • LED candles to light your scene

    Here's what we did to make our scenes:

    1. Trace a circle on a craft pumpkin to help guide your cut.

      Making a Pumpkin Diorama // Curbly.com

      Making a Pumpkin Diorama // Curbly.com
    2. Cut out the shape using an X-acto knife. Note: The interior of the pumpkin smells a lot like a jar of Maraschino cherries.
      Making a Pumpkin Diorama // Curbly.com
    3. Paint the interior of pumpkin. Note: Ours took the better part of a day to fully dry.
      Making a Pumpkin Diorama // Curbly.com
      Making a Pumpkin Diorama // Curbly.com
    4. Place your pumpkin fillers inside. We found that using toothpicks and wire to hold figures in place works well with the foam pumpkin.

      Making a Pumpkin Diorama // Curbly.com

      Making a Pumpkin Diorama // Curbly.com
    5. Light your scene using LED candles. Note: We used battery powered string lights to light our space scene. To do this we simply drilled holes into the pumpkin and threaded a light through each hole.

    And here are close-ups of our finished pumpkins!

    The best part of this project was the fact that it was virtually mess-free; no pumpkin guts, no kid burn out. The end results are also pretty magical - we can't wait to adorn our front stoop with these pumpkin dioramas on Halloween night! 

    Don't forget to check out all the other entries in the Curbly Pumpkin Challenge!


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    DIY Wood Block & Test Tube Advent Village
    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    It's advent calendar time! As I write this post, the Midwest is being walloped by a snow storm. Nothing inspires holiday decorating like many inches of snow, and to stave off decking all the halls, I created a little advent village for our children. Read on for the full tutorial.

    Using blocks of wood and test tubes, I assembled a village full of tiny treasures to help our family celebrate the season. The great thing about using test tubes is that it ensures each day's surprise is small.

    Creating your own advent village is simple. We originally created 24 houses for this project, but the result was overwhelming, so we scaled back to a set of seven houses (to represent each week leading up to Christmas). 

    Wood block advent village

    Materials for DIY wood block advent calendar

    Supplies:

    • Wood: We used Basswood carving blocks.
    • 24 Test Tubes + Cork Stoppers
    • Drill + 3/4" Forstner Bit
    • Miter Saw
    • Acrylic Paint: We used gold and white.
    • A set of number stickers.
    • Tiny treats to fill your tiny test tubes.

    How to:

    1. Cut your wood to size. Our houses ranged in size from 3.5" to 6" tall, and were about 2" thick. 
    2. Drill your holes into the blocks of wood. We used a 3/4" bit. It's important to drill the holes before you create your angled roofs because it's much easier to keep your holes plumb this way.
    3. Cut angled roofs on your houses. I think it works best to create a variety of peaks, slants, angles. Because, you know, houses come in all shapes and sizes.
    4. Lightly sand your houses.
    5. Using painter's tape, mark off the areas you'd like to paint on each house.
    6. Paint your houses. We used white paint on the faces of the houses and gold paint on the rooftops.
    7. Fill your test tubes and place them in their homes!

    I used a variety of small treats to fill my tubes, and I'll share some of my favorites with you because it was a challenge to find goodies small enough to fit inside a standard test tube. 

    Tiny Treats for Test Tubes

    • Edible Treats: Candy like M&Ms work well. Hot cocoa with marshmallows is another winner.
    • Crafts: I filled many tubes with beads and ribbons that came in $1 craft store sets. Some of these sets were too big to fit the test tube, so I placed only a part of them in the test tube (e.g. mini colored pencils).
    • Notes: In a few tubes, I placed a note indicating a special thing we'd do together as a family (e.g. "Bake cookies.", "Wrap presents.", "Take an evening drive to look at holiday lights."). Notes are also a great way to incorporate a service component into your calendar (e.g. "Shop for gifts for children and donate them to Toys for Tots"). I filled the tubes containing notes with confetti to make them more festive.

    The final result is a sweet village to help us count down the days until Christmas.

    If you like this how-to, do us a favor and share it on Pinterest:

    Pin this! DIY Wood Advent Calendar Village
    Thanks for helping us share this project on Pinterest!


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    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein


    Halloween is behind us, Thanksgiving is upon us, and Christmas is less than 6 weeks away! While it may still be too early to deck all the halls, now is the perfect time to start thinking about some simple, beautiful holiday DIYs to try this winter. 

    The undisputed queen of beautiful holiday decor is Martha Stewart, and we've partnered with her team to complete easy, festive DIY projects that anyone can do. 

    We created two projects using products from the Martha Stewart line at The Home Depot. Our first project is a lighted sign. There are three festive light designs available to print out (Joy, Peace, and Noel), but we decided to create our own word and template because we wanted something that captured the holidays in our house. We chose the word "flurry" because of it's perfect double meaning (a tiled template for "flurry" is available for download here!). There are several holiday how-to projects with easy to follow videos - check them out here!

    To create a sign of your own, you'll need the following materials:

    • Plywood - We used a 2'x3' (1/2 inch depth) piece of plywood that we cut in the store.
    • Globe Lights - 3 strands of the 50 LED set, available in stores (Or, 5 strands of the 30 LED set, available online): Martha Stewart Living Battery Operated LED Globe Lights
    • "Flurry" Word Template  
    • Transfer paper + Ball point pen
    • Tape
    • Drill
    • 27/64th Drill bit (this size bit will allow your lights to fit )
    • Sand paper - Medium grain
    • Acrylic Paint
    • Paintbrush
    • Brackets and Additional Wood - If you'd like to create a frame to hide the string lights on the back of your sign, we recommend using boards that are 3" deep by 1/2" wide. 


    Here's the step-by-step:

    Attach your transfer paper to your board and tile your word over it.


    Mark each dot of your word with an X to help guide your drill holes.


    Drill through each hole and sand the rough edges of the holes with a medium-grain sand paper.


    Outline your word with a pencil and paint.


    Feed lights through the holes on your sign. Remove each bulb from the light strand and reattach the globe to hold the light in place.


    Rub a coat of danish wood oil all over your plywood (to protect the wood and highlight the grain of the wood).


    Optional: Add a 3" frame to the sides of your board to hide the cords.

    Attach hanger to the back of the board, take a step back, and enjoy!

    Photo: Bruno Bornsztein

    I partnered with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. for this holiday series. All words, opinions, and experiences are my own.


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