Dining Room Reveal and Subtle Halloween Decorating

October 27, 2016

Happy Thursday everyone!  At long last I finally have a dining room reveal for y'all!  We've lived in this 115 year old historic house for 3 months and I can't believe I am just now sharing pics here on the blog.  I've shared quite a few glimpses of it on Instagram but I just hadn't gotten around to taking photos with my camera to share with you all here.  

Speaking of cameras, I just bought a new one yesterday because my old one was ruined when I spilled a bottle of water in my purse.  (So dumb, I know.)  I was bummed at first, and then I immediately became overwhelmed because I had no clue what type of camera to buy.  Camera shopping is intimidating especially when you're a novice and want to upgrade to a better camera.  I guess it was a sign that it was time to finally upgrade to a DSLR camera!  I'll likely do a blog post on the topic later, but the camera I ended up buying was the Canon EOS Rebel T5.  I bought the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM lens as well and I'm absolutely in love!  The camera is a great beginner-level DSLR and I'm already taking better photos than I ever have before.  More on that later...

...and back to the dining room!  As you can see, I've decorated the dining room for Halloween...but ever so subtly.  I love to go over the top for Christmas but with Halloween I keep it a little more low key.  I added some grocery store greenery and pumpkins to the mantel, and I plan on leaving this up once Halloween is over because it will transition well for Thanksgiving. The bat and pompom garland is from the Target Dollar Spot and it's a fun little addition.  The fireplace is non-working so I bought a bunch of different-sized pillar candles from IKEA and put them in there.  Jack likes to try to fish them out so I always have to keep an eye on him...I should probably just remove them to save myself some trouble, but I love how they look!

My favorite part of the room is the plate gallery wall.  This is such a massive wall and I left it blank for the longest time because I had no clue what to put on it.  It needed to be large, but I didn't have any artwork that size and I didn't want to do a traditional gallery wall.  I don't know why it took me so long to come up with the idea of a plate gallery wall, but I'm absolutely in love with how it turned out.  Y'all know I love me some blue and white.  I took step by step photos of my plate hanging process and I'll share a more in-depth blog post on that soon.  

The buffet table was a recent antique store find.  It has some patina to it, which I love, and it's now one of my favorite pieces of furniture in the house.  My mom owns a table that is very similar and I've always loved it...so I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon this one.  I got it for a great price too, which was the cherry on top :)

I placed a tray on the table so that I could set up a bar area, and I Halloween-ed it up by putting all my wine glass charms in a little ghost bowl I bought a few years ago.  Oh and the Pumpkin & Spice candle is from Target and it smells heavenly!  Plus it'll make a cute bowl once the candle is all burned up.

The garden stool is from an antique store, but I found a similar one here.  Doesn't it look festive with the pumpkins plopped on it?  We'll see how long they last before Jack gets to them...

Well I hope you've enjoyed the "tour" or our dining room!  I plan on sharing more home photos over the next few weeks because I finally have a camera that can take good photos in low light!  We are in a duplex and just don't get great natural light.  Stay tuned and Happy Halloween!

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Marathon Update!

October 19, 2016

Hi everyone!  I shared some photos and details about my marathon on Instagram but wanted to share a more thorough update here on the blog.  I started training for the Kansas City Marathon at the end of June and I ran the race this past Saturday.  Boy am I glad it's over!  When I was pregnant I made the goal of running my 5th marathon before Jack turned one.  Well, I made it with 2 weeks to spare.  

As I mentioned in my last marathon training update (here), I missed 3 long runs in 4 weeks and I think that had a big impact on my race.  My goal had been to finish between 3:35 and 3:40 and for the first 21 miles I was able to maintain a pace somewhere between 8:12 and 8:24 (the paces needed for 3:35 and 3:40 marathons, respectively).  I felt light on my feet, my hip wasn't bothering me too much, my stomach felt good...all was going well.  Then the hills came.  And they didn't stop until the race was over.  It honestly felt like the last 8 or so miles were all up hill.  I know they weren't, but it sure felt that way.  I just couldn't keep up the pace and slowly but surely my goal time slipped out of my grasp.  

I finally saw Jack and Tom at mile 24 and their "Go Mommy Go!" sign made me cry!  I've never had anyone cheer for me with a sign before so I had no clue that I would get choked up.  Ever since I was little I knew that one day I wanted to be a strong and healthy momma and a positive example for my children, and this big day finally came and the emotions were pretty overwhelming.  My mother has always been such a wonderful role model for me and it's important for me to be a good role model for Jack and his future sibling(s) too.  I want him to see that hard work pays off, that fitness can be fun and that an active and healthy lifestyle makes everything more enjoyable.  He was asleep in the stroller when I finished the race but I think he was proud of me anyway :)

I ended up finishing the race in 3:43:10 which was 3 minutes slower than my best marathon time of 3:40:12.  It's not exactly the outcome that I had hoped for, but considering that I'm not quite 12 months postpartum yet I'm really happy with my performance.  I also just found out that I got 2nd place in my age group (out of 70), so that's pretty exciting!  Juggling being a new mom (and nursing), moving across the country, and training for a marathon was difficult to say the least, but I'm so proud that I was able to balance it all and accomplish such a big goal.  Now it's time to get back into cross training!

If you'd like to read any of my previous marathon training updates and postpartum fitness posts I've linked to them below:
9 weeks postpartum workout recap
10 weeks postpartum workout recap
11 weeks postpartum workout recap
12 weeks postpartum workout recap
3 months postpartum workout recap
Balancing priorities as a new mom
Recent trip to West Point (half marathon)
The items I never run without
Marathon training as a nursing momma
Marathon training plan and update (week 2 of 16)
Stroller running and marathon training update (week 4 of 16)
My favorite running clothes
Relationships and exercise
Marathon training update (week 15 of 16)

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Furniture Makeovers: Where are They Now?

October 17, 2016

Over the years I’ve shared lots of DIYs and furniture rehabs.  Some have turned out great and others I’ve tired of or realized I should have made better choices.  Below are some of my biggest projects as well as a “where are they now” update including my thoughts on what I would do differently if I could go back and change things.  Be sure to click the headings to see the old blog posts for more details on each project.

1.  Blue Ikat Sofa


After.  Photo of my Arlington, VA apartment from my 2014 home tour on The Everygirl.

I still love my sofa.  The pattern is bold but not so bold that it makes your head hurt.  I've recently been trying to tone things down a bit so figuring out how to do that with a blue ikat sofa is a bit tricky.  I've struggled with finding the perfect neutral rug (because this sofa needs a neutral rug) that is easy to keep clean, is baby friendly and works with the sofa.  I had this jute rug but it was too rough for a baby and shed like crazy so now we have this shag rug and I love it!  It's nice and soft for Jack and it doesn't compete with the sofa.

2.  Greek Key Dining Chairs


After.  At the family beach house on Fripp Island, SC.

I have to admit that I'm not crazy about how these turned out.  The quality of the paint I used wasn't great so there has been a good amount of chipping, the color is too dark, and the fabric choice was not the smartest...it's impossible to eat spaghetti without worrying about ruining the seats!  These are now down at my family's beach house and one day I plan on redoing them.  I'm thinking white paint (my go-to Rustoleum spray paint!) and darker/more durable fabric for the seats.

3.  Chinese Chippendale Dining Chairs

Before.  (How I found them at the thrift store.)

After.  At our 2nd Maryland apartment.

I'm still as crazy about these as I was the day I spotted them at a thrift store!  They turned out better than I could have imagined, but they sure were a lot of work.  Now that Jack is mobile he likes to stand and scratch the seats.  Thankfully the paint is holding up well so far.  I should probably get some cushions made for them but they're pretty comfortable now so I'm in no rush.  Jack has picked at the rattan wraps on one of the chairs and even starting eating one of the pieces of caning (I caught him before he tried to swallow it), so I have to keep an eye on him all the time when he's in the dining room.  Mobile babies are exhausting!

4.  NYC “Trash Chairs”

Before.  (Starting the mile-long walk back to our hotel in Manhattan after finding them in the trash.)

After.  At our family's beach house.

I completely regret my fabric choice on this one.  I thought I could have the fabric applied horizontally, but I couldn't.  Instead of the preppy look I was going for I ended up with more of a "Beetle Juice Chic" look, as one reader called them.  They look neat, but they just don't look like I imagined them.  Plus the stripes are so wide that I'm always anxious that the white part will get dirty.  I don't know what I'm going to do with these, but for now they will stay in our family beach house.  Professional upholstery is expensive so learn from my mistakes and make sure you love the fabric and know how it is going to be applied BEFORE you pay someone to do it.

5.  Pink Wingback Chairs


After.  From my home tour on The Everygirl.

I still really like these chairs, and Tom does too thankfully.  My taste has changed a little bit these past few years though and now I tend to gravitate towards more neutral colors.  Were I to do it all over again I'd get these reupholstered in something more neutral, like a gray or blue pattern.  Now that things aren't quite so cramped in our living room they look better because they're not right up next to the blue sofa, the room is more colorful that I'd prefer though.

6.  Campaign Dresser and Hutch


After.  Photo taken by Sarah Bradshaw for my budget nursery article for USAA.

I LOVE this piece of furniture.  The white paint has held up extremely well and I think it's the perfect piece in a boy's room.  The shelves are wonderful for holding books and decorative objects I don't want Jack to reach, and the three large lower drawers provide ample room for all of his clothes.  I would paint this piece white all over again in a heartbeat.  

7.  Campaign Dresser

Before.  (How I found it at the thrift store.)

After.  As my TV stand in my 2nd Maryland apartment.

The drawers of this dresser are still musty and a bit stinky, so it will always have to be in a non-bedroom room.  I regret painting it blue and wish I had painted it white.  It's serving as our tv table now and it's a wonderful piece with lots of great storage space, but I wish I had painted it white.  If I get the time I'll likely repaint it (meaning I'll paint it in like 10 years).  As I mentioned in #5 above, our living room is a bit colorful for my current taste so I think white would help to tone the room down a little.

8.  Faux Bamboo Tray Coffee Table

After.  Not a great photo but it looks much better in white.

I think this table looks so much better white than it did originally.  Unfortunately though, Jack would probably kill himself on it so it's now living in Tom's office and holding all of his papers.  Such a sad end state for such a beautiful and unique piece, but that's our reality right now.  One day once Jack is older I'll pull it out again.  I think it could also look really cute paired with the two pink wingback chairs in my office.  My knowledge of painting furniture was pretty limited when I did this piece so if I painted it now I think I would have done a much better job.  I did a poor job of sanding the faux bamboo joints and they look a little funky if you look closely.  A good sanding job really is so important, and I wish I had sanded this one better.

9.  Faux Bamboo Bench


After.  In our current bedroom.

I'm glad I didn't paint this bench because the dark wood is so pretty and in such great condition.  I think the banana palm fabric is fun but it doesn't play well with all the blue and pink in the house.  I really need to learn to not work in a vacuum and actually think about how pieces will look all together in the same room.  The cushion wasn't very expensive to have made, and it's removable, so I could easily get another one made in a more neutral fabric.  For now though, I think the bench looks well in our neutral bedroom so I don't plan on getting a new cushion any time soon.

Well that's it!  What do you guys think about these pieces and what would you have done differently?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!  The good thing about quality furniture is that you can always paint or reupholster it, so even if you do make a mistake you're not stuck with it forever.  If you have a piece that you've been afraid to work on just go for it!  It's intimidating when you first start refinishing furniture but you learn something every time you do it and you get better at it too.

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Faux Bamboo Vanity Makeover

October 12, 2016

It's before and after time on the blog again!  This time I'm sharing the makeover of one of my favorite thrift store finds: a Henry Link Bali Hai faux bamboo vanity.  I blogged about the piece when I first found it when we were living in Columbia, MD (see the post here) but it's taken me months to get to work on it.

Here is what it looked like before:

The piece was in fantastic condition, it just needed a fresh coat of paint and the hardware needed some polishing.  

I sanded the entire piece with 60 grit sandpaper to rough up the smooth top layer of paint.  I used my Dewalt orbital sander on the top and sides of the vanity, and sanded the legs and faux bamboo details by hand.  I then switched to 120 grit sandpaper to make everything nice and smooth.  I paid close attention to the faux bamboo details and the places where paint had chipped.  A piece like this is made to look smooth and chic, and nothing detracts from that look like a rough sanding job.

After I finished sanding I wiped the piece down with a wet microfiber cloth.  Microfiber is great when you're painting because it doesn't leave little pieces of fuzz on the furniture.  I followed up with a dry microfiber cloth.

I spray painted the piece using Rust-Oleum Universal Paint and Primer in One in White Gloss.  I applied 3 coats of paint and waited about 10 minutes between coats.  This and the satin version are my go-to spray paints and I've used them on multiple pieces in our home (see my campaign chest and Chinese Chippendale dining chairs makeovers).  The gloss version is shinier than the satin version so it was perfect for this piece.  I then used 2 coats of Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch in Gloss Clear as a protective top coat.  I use a comfort grip when I apply the top coat because it makes it much more comfortable.  I really recommend getting one if your spray paint has the traditional push-button nozzle.

After I finished painting the vanity I got to work on the hardware.  There was paint on it so I heated up a pot of water on the stove (on low) and soaked the hardware in the pot on the stove for a few hours.  Then I took out each piece one by one and plunged them in a bowl of ice water.  Then I quickly pulled them out and scrubbed them with an old tooth brush.  This removed almost all of the paint and it was really easy.  Next, I polished each piece with Bar Keeper's Friend and a soft sponge.  I like this product better than Brasso and use it whenever I need to polish brass.

Here is a photo of the hardware before I worked on it:

The top 4 pieces in this next photo have had the paint removed, and the bottom 4 pieces have had the paint removed and they have also been polished:

And here is what the vanity looks like now!

As you can see, I'm using it as our entry table rather than as a vanity...and I LOVE it!  The white paint is so crisp looking and it goes really well with the formal nature of our historic home.  It truly is amazing what a little spray paint can do!

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