Saturday, January 30, 2010

Can't Wait For Spring??

If you're anything like me, then you can't wait for Spring to arrive! What better way to cure the Winter Doldrums than to add a burst of color and life to your home with potted flowers?!!

It's as simple as going to your nearest grocery (or even home improvement) store and picking up a few gorgeous, potted blooms. Look for flowers that still have some unopened buds left on them for a longer bloom time in your home. Follow the directions for watering, sit back & enjoy!!!

Even a "Black Thumb" gardener could easily take care of these lovely orchids!

I purchased them at my local home improvement center. They're called "Just Add Ice" orchids, and you do just that -- they get watered once a week (here it's on Sundays) with just 3 ice cubes. How easy is that! Can't over or under water these with such an easy system!

Tulips, hyacinths, orchids, daffodils, paperwhites....they are all beautiful! What do you like?

Here is some more lovely inspiration:

{photo: Country Living}

What a gorgeous potting area! Love all of the vintage goodness in this picture!
This would be beautiful in a sunroom or an enclosed porch.
Don't even get me started on the framed bird prints!

{photo: Country Living}

Makes me want to sit here with a cup of tea and a book full of gardening inspiration!
Can't wait to start planning my new garden!

{photo: Country Living}

Pastel colored flowers in weathered old pots, combined with broken, aged statuary....

One pot is lovely......but grouped in 3's or 5's -- WOW!!!

{photo: Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center}

How cute is this???
Need I say more?!

{photo: Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center}

Wrap some old canvas or burlap around your pots and tie with some ribbon or jute string.
Rustic and elegant at the same time!

So, go out and treat yourself and your family to some (early!) beautiful Spring blooms! They'll last so much longer than a bouquet of cut flowers, and it'll definitely put a smile on your face for weeks to come!

Good-bye Winter Blues.........Hello, Spring Blooms! :)

ps...If you haven't checked out my post from yesterday, I could really use some Disney advice! Thanks :)!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Advice Needed!

I could really use your advice!

You see, I've been super busy getting ready for our 1st family trip (MY 1st trip, too) to Disney World soon!! Yippee!!!

But I'm nervous that I'm packing too much...or leaving something important behind....or will regret only having one pair of shoes....or that my kids will get sick riding something quaint and simple like the "Dumbo" ride....or that we'll miss the fun, "it" things for kids and families...

Let's just say that my imagination gets the better of me sometimes.

I've read books and checked things out online, but I'd really love to hear it straight from you all!

I need to hear from you....

What great tips do you have for me?
What are the best things to have in a backpack for a day in the parks?
Will my kids survive without an autograph book, or will they whine for one?
The best things you brought with you?
What should you have left at home?
Money-saving tips?
Fun things to do with grade-school aged kids?
Your best Disney advice?

Pllleeeeeeeeeeeeeaase let me know!

Thanks so much, I know I can count on y'all! :)

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Winter Garden

My love affair with gardening began when we bought our very first house. The cheery, bright red geraniums that the previous owners had planted immediately tugged at my sentimental heartstrings, and our little fixer-upper felt so "homey" right away. I was smitten!

Since then, I have designed, hard-scaped, and landscaped all of my home's gardens, with Hubby and I doing all of the work ourselves. This spring I'll be ripping out and re-designing garden #4!

I am so passionate about gardening now! I've learned a lot along the way, and would like to share some of my gardening knowledge here with you at The Blessed Nest.

Let's start at the very beginning....
....ok, not at the beginning, but how about where we are right now.
Smack dab in the middle of Winter.
What? You don't think there's much to do with the garden in Wintertime?!

Actually, Wintertime is the perfect time to really study your garden.
There's so much to see! Or, then again, maybe there isn't.
Most people plan their garden for gorgeous blooms in the Spring and Summer, but
give nary a thought to the bare, Winter months!

If you'd like to have some beautiful interest in your own Winter Garden, here are some things that you can do:

  • Add trees with beautiful shape. The bare branches become like a living sculpture!
  • Some trees and plants have lovely bark that either peels attractively (birch trees, for example) or has a pretty color.
  • Some plants have colorful berries and seedheads that also may feed local wildlife, plus give you lots of bird sightings!
  • Tall grasses can take center stage this time of year, even covered with some snow.
  • Evergreen trees and shrubs add year-round life, color and texture, things that are often missing in Northern winter gardens.
  • The architectural framework of your garden is most important. Things like: fences, potting sheds, stone or brick edging, bird houses, bird baths, benches, & arbors, for example, will give your garden year-round structure and interest.

{This is my old garden in NC. Notice how this little seating area looks in late Spring:}

{and how the same area looks in Winter:}

Thanks to the fence, stone path, bench, evergreens, pretty branches of the rose bushes, and bird feeder (cropped out of winter pic, but it's there!) this seating area looks just as charming covered in snow as it does with blooming flowers surrounding it!

This section of my garden wasn't left bare, there was several things I purposely added there for year-round interest!

If you want to start small this Winter & make a big impact,
then how about planting some evergreen branches, long bare branches & colorful berries in a pot near your front door? Or add one in the back yard where you can see it from a window!

Take notes of your garden now and when Spring comes, you'll know what changes you'd like to add in to make your garden look beautiful all year long!!

I think I'll begin a little weekly series. What do you think? Even if you think you have a "black thumb" now, you can learn some easy & fun things along the way!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PB Rug Look @ Clearance Prices

My Hubby is a good guy. An incredibly good guy, in fact.
And he's also a very very very frugal guy.

So, when I told him last weekend......

that I saw the CUTEST rugs at extra-clearance prices at H*meGoods, and how I know we weren't looking for a rug for the living room yet, because we just spent more than enough on new kitchen cabinets and I know I said we'd only be decorating one room at a time, but they were really great and looked just like they could come from P8ttery Barn and getting one of these rugs now on CLEARANCE, Honey would really really really end up actually saving us money in the long run......

he actually bought it. Literally!


I love my new rug! The 7.5 x 9.5 size fits perfectly in our living room, and the price (only $199!!!!) fit perfectly into our budget! :)
Gotta love that!

Doesn't our new rug (here):

look similar to these:
{below from Pottery Barn}

So, if you're in the market for a rug don't forget to check out inexpensive places for great looks at a bargain price!

(Just to let you know, HomeGoods was having a major clearance on rugs....even better prices than usual!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gettin' Creative With Our Kitchen Makeover

Once you have your goals for a project in place, it's time to start getting creative!

Hubby and I definitely had some creative thinking to do if we wanted to reach our goals for our Kitchen Makeover.

Here's our plan to make our Goals a Reality:

  • Beauty -- We already removed the harsh 1980's florescent light box, and the floral-embossed vertical blinds from the room. We plan to bring in updated lighting fixtures, white cabinets, brushed nickel hardware, and pretty fabric to soften things up! Add in SW Cork Wedge paint color and some really cool original art pieces (wait till you see what I have in mind), and the room gets a whole new look! This also sets the tone for the design style {what I've termed "fresh classic style"} for the rest of the house.
  • Storage -- We really need every available inch that we can get. So that's why we removed the soffits, to take the cabinets all the way up to the ceiling. New 42" cabinets on top will add SO much extra storage, and we are just taking advantage of previously unused space! A few organizational items will really help us get clever storage out of every cabinet. Plus the pantry is getting transformed to not only look beautiful, but be more functional as well.
  • Function -- Keeping "like" items together and having "stations" set up in the kitchen is the key to having this space function as efficiently as possible. This way, multiple cooks won't be in each other's way and it will make it easy to find and put away items too! We are keeping our kitchen table for eating family meals and for homework and games. A vintage wire paper tray will hold important papers, and an organized "junk drawer" below will provide space for pens, checkbook, homework supplies, calendar, phone #'s, etc.
  • Space -- How to make the kitchen seem Bigger & Brighter? Just going from dark, dated oak cabinets to classic, white cabinets was a HUGE start! A few of the cabinets are going to have glass-fronts as well, which will help visually expand the space. Taking new window treatments up to the ceiling will draw the eye up, as will the new, taller cabinets. New lighting fixtures will also be glass, so they won't "stop" the eye. Recessed lights in the "work triangle" shine light into what was once nothing but dark shadows. A cute lamp on the counter adds task lighting and a warm glow. Counters will be mostly clear of all but a few items.
  • Budget -- After much discussion about whether to keep the old cabinets and re-work them, or get new cabinets, in the end we decided to get new. This would help us reach our goals for our Kitchen Makeover the best. But our budget was not very big! So we did a bit of comparison shopping, and got our new cabinets during a huge sale with lots of free extras and a good percentage off. Our budget would only cover new cabinets right now, so updating counters, tile, flooring & appliances will have to wait.

So in the end, our kitchen will go from this:

to this:
(a little sneak peek for ya!)

{above light pendants from Pottery Barn}

Hope you liked the "preview" of our Kitchen Makeover! :)
I just love sharing all of this with you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kitchen Makeover: Decisions, Decisions!

Whew, what a whirlwind of a week!  I have so much to catch y'all up on!

We've made quite a bit of progress on our kitchen makeover.  As you know, when you are decorating sometimes just making some of the decisions involved in a project can take the most time and energy.  This week of making decision after decision was no exception! 

One thing that has made planning this project so much easier has been to:
1)  Have set goals.
2)  Have a general design plan.

Our Goals for the Kitchen Makeover:

  • Beauty --  Since the kitchen is literally right in the "heart" (the central hub) of our home, we need a beautiful space that sets the "tone" for the decor of the rest of our home.  Not to mention, makes the kitchen so lovely that size doesn't enter people's minds!
  • Storage --  There isn't much in the way of storage space in this small kitchen.  We need to make the best use out of every square inch of space that we can.  Making trips up from the basement with items such as serving platters, and cookie trays isn't much fun. 
  • Function --  We're a family that cooks and bakes on a daily basis, often with more than one "chef" in the kitchen at a time.  We need space for family meals, homework, and a "planning center" for me to keep track of the family schedule and important papers.
  • Space -- We knew that we couldn't afford to expand the kitchen footprint in any way, so what to do when you want a Bigger & Brighter kitchen?
  • Budget --   Keeping this project affordable is a must!  What should we improve now, and what can wait until later?

Tomorrow I'll share with you how we're planning to
Reach Our Goals!

{and give you a preview of the design!}

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chalkboard Plate Project

{above, The Blessed Nest}

I just had to show you all this *too cute* project that a reader sent me!

Ms. Carli of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
saw an old post of mine that showed this platter (above) that I had the artist Jan Dutcher paint for me.

I first saw Jan's work in a magazine article and fell in love with the style of her work. Then I saw her work again, featured in a shop that was showcased in a different magazine. When I called the shop to ask about purchasing the platter I had fallen in love with, the piece had already been sold, :( but I convinced them to ask the artist to paint another "Family" art platter for me! :) The words perfectly describe our family! This is a piece that we display and love!!

So imagine my delight to see how Carli has made this plate her own by coming up with this cute project!

{this pic: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made}

Carli took an old round platter/plate that she already had and transformed it with a favorite product here in bloggyland : Chalkboard Paint!

Then she added wording that describes HER family values perfectly!

I love this project SO much!!
Thanks for sharing with us, Carli!

Be sure to check out Fearfully and Wonderfully Made....she's got some fun projects and a great eye for trash to treasure transformations!

Let me know if a project or post here at The Blessed Nest has inspired you! I'd love to post a picture about it :)!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Making my House a Home

Okay. I have a confession to make.

When we first moved back to Chicagoland at the end of July, I sounded a bit more optimistic about our "new" house here on the blog than I felt in real life.

Let's just say that downsizing from a big, brand new home that you built yourself into a MUCH smaller, older, more expensive (thanks to the difference in the housing markets between NC and Chicago) home sounds so charming and "can-do" in theory. Since we've moved A LOT before and fixed up several other older homes, I figured it would be a pretty easy transition. It really wasn't as easy as I expected in reality though.

Do you remember that Hubby picked out the house himself? An early 1980's english tudor split-level, to be exact. (SO NOT what I ever pictured myself living in!) All I saw were pictures on the internet until the day we closed on the house. So when I first walked through the house, I was doing pretty good thinking, "Well, this room is smaller, but it will work fine...I can fix this...We can re-do that....",

that is until I quickly reached the kitchen.

Let me tell you, friends, this kitchen is small. As in small. And awkwardly laid out. Not good for a family that cooks and bakes together every day (thanks to my Gluten-Free diet) and entertains frequently. So small that I may have gotten a bit teary when I first saw it. Small enough that visitors have actually said, "Whoa!" upon entering the room. THAT kind of small.

So, after wallowing in a small-kitchen-pity-party for awhile, I determined that no tiny kitchen was gonna stop me! This kitchen might be small and weird, but it's OUR kitchen. Time to make it work for our family!

Then, guess what happened? The more I started embracing my new house's good qualities, the more it felt like home. Things like built-in bookshelves, or an upstairs landing, or a beautifully finished basement with room for a craft studio (!) and playroom, or lots of windows looking out over a backyard just made for entertaining....these were things that I focused on.

Beautiful colors started going up on the walls, pictures were hung, family memories started being made. It felt less like a place we were visiting and more comfortable....more us. Before I knew it.....

....we were HOME.

Is this our "dream home"? Well, maybe not. Then again, maybe. Because whether a house is big and gorgeous, or small and in need of a makeover,

a house is just a house until you CHOOSE to MAKE IT A HOME.

And this girl is definitely having fun now DREAMing about ways to make this house a HOME!!!

{So today we're taking a step to make our house feel more like home by working on our "Kitchen Makeover"! I put together an inspiration board for the kitchen and we're going to visit some home improvement stores today to get an idea for pricing. I'll be sharing more of these steps with you next week!}

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Winner, Winner!

Congratulations !!!!!

to the Winner of the Lisa Leonard Designs Giveaway:

(based on Number Generator #52)

Amy Jo from Texas Mommys Ramblings!!!

Amy Jo:) said...
Wow, she has beautiful jewelery! But I really do love the necklace you have, with the two initials and the pearl. I have two boys, so that would be neat to have their initials. I also have a sister that passed away, my only sibling, it would be neat to have her initial on there keep her close to my heart :)

Congratulations Amy Jo! I hope you enjoy your new Teenie-Tiny Initials necklace!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Launch of Our Kitchen Makeover

Announcing the:

Official Launch of The Blessed Nest's Kitchen Makeover!!!

{Whoo-hoo! Cheers! Applause!}

When we moved in here this past July, I just knew that I had my work cut out for me when I saw our kitchen. It's definitely NOT my "dream kitchen", to put it mildly! How to make a kitchen that is this small and in need of storage, function, light, and beauty live large has taken some major dreaming and scheming!!!

Let me tell you, friends, this kitchen is small. Small and in serious need of a makeover!

We've been making a few changes in here over the past couple of months, but now things are in full gear! Check out the Kitchen Makeover List over in my sidebar.

This is how the kitchen looked before we moved in:

Still stuck in 1983. Yikes.
And Small.

The good news:
Lots of natural light. And a deep pantry. Wanting your kitchen to be the "heart of the home"?--This is it, right in the central part of the house!

The bad news: Pretty much everything else. Very little counter space. Florescent overhead light fixture. A teeny-tiny sink. Unusual looking cabinets. Can't have more than 2 cooks in the kitchen (not good for a family who cooks and entertains a LOT). Not much in the way of an eating area. And keeping the same general floorplan. We are on a budget, you know! Hmmmm.....

"Cozy" is how most visitors end up describing our home!
I'm choosing to embrace "cozy"!!

(Our pantry below)

First things first:

Doing demo on the soffits above the cabinets.
Time to open things up!

(Did this demo in the fall)


Having an electrician come to re-wire the funky switches and move some wiring from the soffit area up into the attic. Also, "buh-bye" Mr. Ugly Florescent Light Box Thingy (see him on the counter?). You have been replaced with 4 5inch recessed lights, which are much brighter and warmer than your icky "glow".
I will not miss you.

Next on the list?

Coming up with Plans A, B, C, & D for cabinets.
Yup, you heard me....4 plans.
It all depends on various pricing of new cabinets vs. re-working the old in some creative way, or a combination of both.

I have plans....Big plans, see? ;)

And I'll be sharing all of it with you along our kitchen makeover journey!

ps: Don't forget that today is the last day to sign up for the Lisa Leonard GIVEAWAY I have going on!!! You have until Midnight tonight!