My Accidental Valentine’s Day Mantle

I don’t usually decorate for Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s my post-Christmas need for simplification. Maybe it’s my busy schedule. Most likely it’s laziness. Whatever the reason, this year is different. This year I accidentally created this Valentine’s Day Mantle.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

It started with these arrows my mom sent me for Christmas. I LOVE them and knew immediately I wanted the metallic finish on my “weathered” wood mantle backdrop. (See how I built it HERE.)My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

Then I started searching the house for anything else metallic. I found this sparkly vase (an upcycled glass tea bottle covered with glitter) filled with pink tissue paper flowers from my sister-in-law’s wedding. I raised it up using a couple books wrapped in plain brown paper and a touch of washi tape.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

Next, one more splash of gold thanks to another Christmas gift.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

How adorable is that piece?! My sister-in-law made it based on this photo of my girls. I can’t get over what she can create with a needle and embroidery floss.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

This was the point where I stepped back to take a look and realized I had a Valentine’s Day vibe going on. So I decided to roll with it. A couple more pink flowers, hearts cut out of patterened scrapbook paper, and some candles finished it up.

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

My Accidental Valentine's Day Mantle | laughingabi.com

I didn’t mean to do it, but I really love how it looks when I walk in the front door every day. Can’t ask for more than that.

Have you ever “accidentally” decorated something? Or started a project that ends up completely different than you planned?

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A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Have you ever been on a garden walk that featured the grounds of only one garden? My friends and I went to one last weekend and it was so amazing I had to share it in this “garden crashers” post.

Before I hit you with the pics I have to mention the gracious home owner, Theresa Flamini, and the charitable work she and her family do. In 2004 the Flamini family decided that instead of purchasing gifts for each other they would pool their resources and purchase gifts for children that were spending the holidays in the hospital. This became a family tradition and over time grew into the creation of a non-profit organization, the Flamini Family Foundation. Through this holiday giving and other annual events, like the Summer Garden Walk, the foundation provides donations to over a dozen area hospitals and all of the Ronald McDonald houses of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. Don’t you just love it when people with brains AND money put them together to help others? LOVE it!

So let’s take a walk, shall we? Here’s the end of the driveway where the garden starts.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

And this is the beautiful gate you walk through to enter this slice of paradise. Everything after this is in random order because I kind of lost track of all space and time in the real world. It was partly because of the gardens and partly because of the wine. Did I mention there was a wine booth? More on that in a minute.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I could never capture all the details but here are some of my favorites.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I loved the shape of this tree. If anyone knows what it’s called please let me know.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Sometimes I would see something beautiful like this . . .

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

. . .  then look back after we had passed and see it in an entirely different way.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

This is the patio off the side of the house. So big. So beautiful.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

And I had to share this whimsical sculpture sniffing the flowers.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

At the back of the garden you follow these stepping stones to an opening that looks like it leaves the property. (Does that path look familiar to anyone? Yep, it’s the same style I used here, but on a much larger scale.)

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

But when you pass through the opening you find this.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

It was here that we decided we should sit and share a bottle of wine. Can you think of a better place? So we backtracked to the wine booth I mentioned earlier and Lisa of Aged 2 Perfection hooked us up with a couple bottles of deliciousness. I won’t admit how long we sat in that gazebo but I expected security to round the corner at any minute.

That was how we ended our day but I can’t finish this post without mentioning an incredible glass artist we met. Her name is Kim Jongsma from First Glass Gardens and she creates garden art from upcycled glassware. Here are a few samples of her work.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Did you spot all the different pieces she puts together? My favorite is the salt shaker in the middle of the last photo. If you’re not into flowers she’s got a huge portfolio of other sculptures to choose from and can even create custom items from your old glassware. You can just see one of her birdbaths in the corner of this shot below. Sorry I didn’t get a better pic.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I was just amazed by her creativity. It’s the perfect mix of upcycling, DIY, and garden art. You can see more of her work here.

So that was my perfect Sunday afternoon. Good friends, creative surroundings, delicious wine, and all in support of a children’s charity. Just doesn’t get much better than that.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

I’m a little behind this year (just like Mother Nature it seems) but my front porch is finally ready for spring. As usual I kept things simple, opting for a few hot pops of color rather than a big collection of flowers and “stuff”.

I started with the same rug I painted last spring. You can see it’s faded a bit over the winter but other than that it’s in great shape. No holes or snags or frays. I think this summer I may tape the stripes off again and hit it with a can of black spray paint just to give it a face lift.

I used a chair again like last spring but instead of stealing it from the back porch I used a roadside redo this time . More on it’s transformation in another post but for now behold it’s newly-found beauty.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

And that popping pillow? I made it with a bit of outdoor fabric I scored at Jo-Ann’s for 50% off. (I bought a full yard so you’ll probably see it in some other projects soon.) Oh, and thanks to Josh, it will never blow away in the Chicago wind. He had the great idea to add these ties to the back. That’s why I love him.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

The colors in the pillow inspired me to buy these red and yellow flowers from Lowe’s which I transplanted into a pot I use every year.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

Then I finished up this side of the porch with my favorite cement flower pot and a little plant I can never remember the name of. Is it Creeping Jenny or something like that? Anyone? Bueller?

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

The other side of the porch has to stay small and simple or people can’t get in the door. So I picked up a big hanging basket, cut off the hanger, and put it on a plant stand. Done.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

And that’s it. No muss, no fuss. Just some bright, cheery color and a place to sit and have a drink. What else do you need for spring?

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

Just as a tease, here’s my next project in the front yard. Can’t wait until it stops raining so I can get started.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

What are you getting ready for spring? Any pops of color or roadside redos?

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations

Last week I shared my finished fireplace and mantel and gave you a sneak peek at my spring mantel decorations. Today I’m showing you how I put them all together.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Before we talk birds and flowers we should revisit the aged wood background that everything is hanging on. I made it HERE for about $20 and I love the texture it adds to the room. It seems to be the perfect backdrop, no matter what season it is.

Now for some flowers. Bright yellow Forsythia leaves scream spring so I hit Michael’s during a 50% off sale and grabbed a handful of “fakeys” and a grapevine wreath. All-together I spent $17.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

This is the part where I admit I totally faked it. I have no idea how you’re supposed to make a wreath. All I did was cut off the sprigs with a pair of pliers, jabbed them into the grapevine, and wrapped some floral wire around it in random spots. Does that count as a tutorial? Maybe? No? Either way, I’m happy with how it turned out.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Oh, and as for those empty mason jars, I have a plan for those. How perfect will THIS be in them? I can’t wait to try it. I’ll be sure to post an update.

The gold cage and birds were the most challenging part of this project but they’re also my favorite things on the mantel. I started with a plain artist’s canvas from the craft store. (I had one on hand but you can pick them up at Michael’s or JoAnn’s.) A coat of primer and two coats of Clark + Kensington Blue Jolt paint and it was ready for a cage.

I wish I could offer a stencil or pattern or something but I found THIS clip art online and just sketched it out one night while my daughter was at swim practice. (Sorry for the fuzzy iphone pic.)

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Once my sketch was done I used a gold paint pen to trace the lines and my favorite gold leaf paint from THIS project to fill in the bigger areas. Voila!

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Up next – birds. Here’s how I made them:
1. I started with THIS clip art and enlarged it on my monitor to the size I wanted.
2. I taped a piece of paper to my screen and oh-so-delicately traced the outline.
3. I cut out the bird and then used it as a template to trace the same shape onto a piece of heavy cardstock. This would ensure it was stable enough to stand up to paint.
4. I cut out the cardstock bird and painted it with the same gold leaf paint I used on the cage.

Obviously I did this twice, making the second bird smaller.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Did you notice how the bigger bird is layered in front of the canvas? I tried to give him some depth by gluing a piece of folded cardstock to his back so it created a tab that sticks out perpendicular to the body. I slid that tab between two of the wooden slats and it created the “flying” bird effect. This might have been Josh’s idea but he can never prove it.

The last element was the easiest. A simple frame, a coat of cheery coral paint, and a scrap of fabric leftover from THIS project.

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

Add a gnome candle and an an awkwardly empty vase which I promise to fill it as soon as something blooms around here, and you’ve got a mantel all ready for spring. (You’ll see some votive candles standing in for the mason jars in some of these pics.)

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.com

DIY Spring Mantel Decorations | laughingabi.comI love the bright colors and the look of spring when I walk in the door even though my furnace has been running all day. Sigh.

What are you decorating for spring? Any birds or flowers made their way into your house? Any bright pops of spring color?

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine’s Day Decorations

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

Today I’m sharing a few last minute Valentine’s Day decorating ideas from my entry – in case you’re a last minute kind of gal like me.

Of course I started with my favorite chalkboard. (Here’s how it looked last time you saw it.) I love this simple message for any family and friends who walk through my front door.

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

Next, a few things I “shopped” from around the house. The love bird plate is one from my collection. The vase, a thrift shop score, is filled with paper flowers from my sister-in-law’s wedding. And I stole the candle from another room because I wanted a pop of red.

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

And since I live in Chicagoland I thought it would be appropriate to decorate with some winter gear. (#chicagowinterfromhell) I pieced together some plain black boots and this fleece shirt from a local thrift store.

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

A few snips and a handful of straight pins transformed them into this.

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

A side note: I searched and searched for boots like these during the holidays. I wanted to make something like THIS. I never found them (for less than $20) so I moved on. Then a few weeks after Christmas my neighbor stopped by and handed these to me. “Someone gave them to me but they don’t fit. Can you wear them?” Really?! I don’t even know what else to say about that.

The pink boots are just a pair I found in my kid’s closet. They were too small so I claimed them.

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

That’s it for my Valentine’s decor. Super cheap. Super simple. Super sweet.

Simple, Sweet, Last Minute Valentine's Day Decorations | laughingabi.com

Do you decorate for Valentine’s Day? Or are you still trying to get the Christmas boxes back up in the attic?

Cheap spring porch makeover with a DIY painted rug

Spring has finally arrived in Chicagoland and since we have a huge project coming up this summer in the back yard my top priority for the front porch makeover was CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP!

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Two things you should know before we go any further. One, this is what the porch looked like before I started.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Two, my house is very traditional on the outside – two story, box shaped, white with black shutters. It’s a pretty place but it doesn’t look much like the bizarro family living in it. So besides cheap, I wanted it to be more “us”. I wanted people to giggle a little when they stepped up to knock.

My first idea was to dig around the garage and see what I already had. I scored this chair, pillow, plant stand and concrete planter. I picked up a black plastic planter at Home Depot ($2.70) and filled it with a sweet potato vine ($3.60) and red petunia ($1.00). Total spent so far: $7.30 (The other petunia you see is included in the price. It was a three-pack I split up into different pots.)

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Now for the other side of the porch. Things I already owned: a bright green planter, a fake stone with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on it, and some cobblestones from another project. What I bought: another petunia plant ($3.60) and a “Be Happy” flag ($13.00). Total spent so far: $23.90. 

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

STOP. I have to take a minute to tell you how much I love that little flag. Usually these things fall into the cheesy-fru-fru category for me but this one has bright, modern colors and a message that’s perfect for our front door. And what a happy coincidence that the green color on the letters matches the planter I already owned.

With all those pieces in place I went searching for an outdoor rug to tie it all together. Holy crap. Do you guys know how much those things cost? I had no idea. The cheapest one I could find was $60 and it was ugly. So I was scrounging around Menard’s and found this number for $10. Total spent so far: $33.90.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Not much to look at but I had an idea. (Insert The Hubs rubbing his temples and shaking his head.) I could just cut the cheapo rug down to size, pick up one of those sample size cans of paint for $3, and paint my own design. Easy squeezy.

Confession time. This idea was an epic fail. Actually, I love the way it looks but the budget was a hot mess. The problem is the rug soaked up soooo much paint. Here’s how far the little $3 can of paint got me.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

I couldn’t even get all the way around the rug. So I went back and bought a quart of paint for $16.65. It was still cheaper than the $60 option. Right? Total spent so far: $50.55.

Here’s how far that quart of paint got me.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

One. Stripe. Left. I’m not gonna lie. I said some very inappropriate words at this point. Really, really bad ones. Then I went and bought another quart of paint. ($16.65) Total spent so far: $67.20.

And finally . . .

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

And a night shot, just for fun.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Some notes in case you want to give this a try.
1.If you’re working with a porous fabric like I was, buy more paint than you think you will need. I could have saved some money by buying a gallon of paint in the beginning but who knew 11 little stripes would take over a quart of paint?
2. Use green Frog Tape to tape off your design. It really does do a better job of sealing the edges and keeping the paint from seeping underneath.
3. Make sure you rub the edges of your tape down before you start painting.
4. PUT NEWSPAPER UNDER YOUR RUG FIRST. My paint bled through to the porch.

So altogether I spent just over $67. Not bad for a 3.5′ x 9′ porch but still $30 more than I planned to spend. Sigh. The good news is, I love the way it turned out. It is happy and fun and colorful and modern. It is not traditional or stuffy or fru-fru or boring. Mission accomplished.

This post is part of the Spring Pinterest Challenge going on over at Young House Love. Make sure you click over and see the amazing projects being linked up. Here are some of the pins that inspired me.

tatertots and jello cottage porch

What spring projects are you working on? Any that turned out different than you planned? Are you still happy with the results? Did you overspend?

 

Outdoor Halloween decorations – Part 2

I thought I was done. After this post I really thought there was nothing else I could “Halloweenify” in my yard. I was wrong. While the hubs and I were outside last weekend he casually moved a bench from the patio to the yard to rake some leaves. I looked up, saw the old, leaning thing (the bench, not the hubs) surrounded by fall color and knew what I had to do.

We have a big circle of trees in our front yard that’s been screaming for a sculpture or some sort of center focal point for years. What’s more perfect than an old, wooden bench sitting under the trees on a blanket of fallen leaves? Here’s how it came out. Totally my favorite decoration of the entire season.

outdoor Halloween decorations

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