Making Memories for Mom’s Birthday: How to DIY Update your Grandmother’s Furniture

Mother’s Day came and went this year and I still didn’t know what to get my mom for her birthday. Her birthday is June 8th so I often know what I’m getting her by mid May and have combined Mother’s Day and birthday gifts together to get one big gift in the past. Then one day her gift fell into my lap (not literally, I did not give her trash that was just floating by in the wind), an aunt figure in my life messaged me to see if I was interested in a table that my grandmother had once given her. She told me that my grandma had given it to her to refinish, but she had never gotten around to it and was now downsizing. I immediately knew that I wanted to refinish it for my mom’s birthday!

Some people think that DIY-ing is really intimidating, but you get better with practice! I’ve refinished other pieces in the past so I was ready to jump right in after I found the time and the materials to get it all done. I also thought this would be a great opportunity to show readers how easy it is to create a thoughtful gift for a reasonable price.

Here is the before and after:

before and after.jpg

This table was left pretty natural, so luckily for me there was very little sanding to do. I barely roughed up the surface and wiped it clean before applying the first coat of paint.

instagram just photo.JPG
Remember to wear your mask when sanding and spray painting!

If you’re working with a piece of furniture that has been painted or stained previously, you will need to do a lot more sanding (I have a hand sander that is very HANDY [pun intended])!

 

I had two options: I could spray paint or brush/roll the paint on. Since I was short on time (with working full time now), I opted for spray paint. I purchased Chalk Paint brand because it has a great reputation (spray and traditional forms) for covering furniture surfaces well so much so that the company often claims that heavy sanding isn’t required! My mom has recently started updating some guest rooms in her house so I already knew that a white accent table would work well with her designs.

Two coats of white spray paint later, I brought the table into the house for a special treatment. The table already had heart cut-outs on the legs so the old-fashioned Golden Girls vibe would live on no matter what updated paint colour I chose to use. I wanted to go with that 90s-Florida-theme and keep my Grandma’s memory alive within the table (weird? Who cares). Plus, my goal is almost always to make my parents tear up with each gift I get them (I’m not always successful, but I have fun trying). To make the table even more special I decided to decoupage the top with a collage of photos of my grandmother.

I’d had a large folder of photos of my grandmother on my laptop from when she had passed two years ago and we made photo boards for her celebration of life. I browsed my collection and chose my favourites, then I arranged them in a word document. I printed the photos in black and white at home on white cardstock (this is important because the heavier paper allows the decoupage to work without ruining your images). I sat and cut each photo out while watching Frasier and then rearranged them into a collage that I was happy with.

This next step is a good one: TAKE A PHOTO OF THE COLLAGE! I referenced this photo multiple times during the Mod Podge stage, like referring back to the box lid of a puzzle.

There are several varieties of Mod Podge finish you can buy, but I’m partial to matte (I also already had some in my craft box). I removed and placed the top layer of photos to the side while I began adhering photos that would be overlapped later. Mod Podging is really easy. You take a foam brush, dip it in the jar, paint it on the furniture surface directly under where you want your image and place the photo on top. You then paint another thin layer of Mod Podge on top of the photo you’ve just place down. After you refer back to your reference collage photo on your phone, you prepare to repeat these steps many times with the remaining photos. I sprayed a clear coat onto the rest of the table (avoiding the collage) and was happy that it was all starting to come together.

Photo 2017-06-07, 5 39 40 PM
Here’s the finished collage!

If I had Mod Podged a piece of fabric or wallpaper that was one large sheet, the table would still be level, but the layered collage made it so that the surface had become slightly uneven. This, and the desire to protect the photos, inspired me to get a small pane of glass cut for the table top.

Most local glass cutting businesses were open from 9-5pm which made things difficult with working during the day, but I managed to find an incredibly accommodating company in Ajax, Ontario called ALL Glass and Mirrors who not only cut a pane for me over the phone, but they cut it for me within fifteen minutes of me phoning and charged half the price of local competitors (SERIOUSLY RECOMMENDED)!

Photo 2017-06-07, 5 41 19 PMThe completed project cost me approximately $50.00 (2 cans of white spray paint, 1 can of clear coat, 1 cut and polished pane of glass).

We got together for my mom’s birthday dinner last night and I was so excited to give it to her! We went out for dinner and then when we were leaving I had her stand near our crossover with her eyes closed. I pulled the table out and set the glass on the top and told her to open her eyes. I explained that my aunt May had asked if I was interested in a table grandma had given her and that I refinished it for her. We looked, smiled, and laughed at some of the photos in the collage and she said “I’m going to cry.” She didn’t, but I’ll get another chance someday.

waterboy gif.gifI hope that this project inspires you to DIY your next gift and feel free to ask me any questions! Don’t forget that Pinterest has amazing links to tutorials and you can Google/Youtube just about everything these days! To quote The Waterboy… “You can do ittttt!”

Advertisements

A Festive Front Door Facelift: How to Redo a Wreath

I put our Christmas wreath together a couple of years ago and was happy with it back then, but I knew that I wanted to give it a facelift this year.

This project only cost me $10.00, here is the before and after:

before and after.jpg

I used the existing wreath, gold ribbon, and green sprigs from the first design. I set aside the bronze ribbon to be used when wrapping presents or making ornaments this year. The berries had once been a deep burgundy, collage-onebut over time they faded to purple and chipped so they found their way to the garbage.

After bringing the wreath back to its naked state, I thought about what I might want to do next. I knew that I wanted a more simplistic design with classic colours, but what to actually do? This can be an intimidating question when staring at a blank wreath and lacking confidence in crafting. My biggest recommendation is to just try because practice and making mistakes is how you stumble upon your own creative greatness. To quote the great Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

Here’s how my process went…

I covered my dining room table in a fitted sheet to protect the wood from potential wreath scratches and any ‘shedding.’ I then laid out my new materials, a classic plaid ribbon and some new red berries. An important step is to put on a holiday film in the background to
help you have fun with a more festive atmosphere. If you’re looking for a less cheesy-Christmas-special feel, I recommend the Australian comedy series A Moody Christmas – it has a follow up season called The Moodys that is less holiday oriented too (these can be found on Netflix Canada).

collage-2Like most women in their mid-twenties, I am an active Pinterest user (here is my DIY Holiday board) and had done some research on wreath styles and DIY bows. I decided on a more simplistic bow – the bow tutorial that I took inspiration from can be found on the Mommy Suite site. The only changes that I made to the tutorial were doubling the bow ribbons, my use of pipe cleaners (I recommend using a colour similar to your ribbon [I clearly did not]), I needed to double the length of the bow knot (from 4” to 8”), and a staple for extra support.

After I had completed my bow, I set it to the side while I weaved mini lights through the frame of the wreath. I had already owned these battery-powered mini lights from my DIY wedding earlier this year. I found them for a really great price on Varage Sale! If you’d like to include lights in your wreath facelift I suggest that you hunt on your local buy and sell websites to find deals near you too.

collage-3The pipe cleaners that I used for the bow actually came in handy to keep it secure, I was able to weave another pipe c. Since this is front door decor, I thought that it would be best to make sure gusty winds don’t blow any pieces away! I weaved a pipe cleaner through the back of the bow (under the pseudo knot) and tied it to the metal frame to keep it secure.

The fun part was next! Placing the sprigs and berries around the branches is similar to garnishing a plate of food that you’re going to be proud of! I bought more berries than I needed because I split them into smaller pieces – I ended up only using two bunches. With a ton of leftover material, I plan on having more crafty fun this season.

collage-43

Overall, I am very happy with my updated wreath. I’ve been feeling nostalgic about past Christmases and I love the classic Christmas colours that add to a cozy environment. The wreath will welcome our friends and family into our home during the holidays – now I’m proud of that first impression!

collage-5

I hope this post may have inspired you to do your own overhaul or even start from scratch. If you are thinking about taking a stab at it, here are some more DIY wreaths to fuel your yule!

The Gift to Thrift: $8507 Wedding Budget Breakdown

(Scroll to the end to see screenshot of my Wedding Wire Budget)

I first started this blog by briefly introducing the internet to my August 2016 wedding. As I said then, my fiancé and I are really proud of how much money we saved by doing the whole thing for $8507.00. Today I thought that I’d breakdown the budget for you and give you some helpful tips when planning your own wedding for under $10,000.

collage-1

Tip #1: Before you start, buy a ‘coupon holder’ from the dollar store.
I used this to organize all of my receipts and the companies’ business cards – it was extremely helpful.

Our wedding was in Brooklin, Ontario Canada. We looked for venues within the Durham Region that weren’t typical wedding venues so that they wouldn’t come with that dreaded wedding price tag. Since our wedding was to host approximately 75 guests, smaller venues were an option and we actually found quite a few that were less than the one we ended up with. We just fell in love with the community centre’s modern architecture and windows.

collage-2
Our venue was the Brooklin Community Centre and Library, multi-purpose room.

wedding-wire-services

Tip #2: Sign up on Wedding Wire’s website.
I actually accidentally got started on the American version of the website rather than the Canadian one, but it worked out fine. Either site is recommended because of how helpful they are. Wedding Wire hosts multiple online services in one place. I personally used the budget tracker, personal wedding website, RSVP counter, and vendor reviews.


Three Highest Costs

The main chunks of our wedding budget went to catering, venue rental, and alcohol.

  • Catering = $3,393.68      
  • Venue Rental + Insurance = $1,215.57    
  • Alcohol = $890.00 (after returns)

Our catering price was actually approximately $2000.00 above what we had initially planned for. Chris and I are pretty laid back and had actually wanted to hire a local pulled pork place and use fancy looking paper plates. Due to ‘objections’ to our super casual dinner plans from both sides of our families we reluctantly upped the budget to get a caterer with better quality serving ware. This is one of the only things that we budged on to please our parents. What I’m saying is, if you’re up for a really casual dinner, you can get yours for about $2000.00 – just do your homework locally!

Our venue rental went through the city of Whitby’s permit coordinating services which was made more difficult by employees switching positions halfway through planning (the first woman was a joy to deal with and the second was not). They provided the tables and chairs without any added price which was great too, our caterer had linens.

We probably bought close to $2000.00 worth of alcohol for the wedding. Chris wanted to be overprepared and if you get help from an LCBO employee that has worked with a bride and groom in the past, they will help you buy the right amount and right size of bottles to help make returns a lot easier. We were very happy that people drank quite a bit, and we didn’t run out of anything. Our bar tender (from the caterer) worked hard that night, yet we still brought back half of what we bought!

DSC06482.jpg

Tip #3: Feel lucky.
Yes, I won my wedding gown, BUT (and this is a big but) someone was going to win and it could be you. The wedding dress doesn’t have to be a big price listed on your wedding budget. You should go to every boring/tiring bridal show you can to enter their contests. Even if you don’t win your gown, there are a ton of other options to save money here. With accessories and alterations, my ‘free’ gown cost me just under $500.00 which was my dress budget before winning anyway.

DSC05758.jpg

I had planned on wearing a gorgeous gown (colourful or not) from an expensive dress store like Melanie Lynn, Laura, BCBG, or The Bay. Do we really need to wear white on our wedding day? I think not. I would have had just as much fun in a bright emerald green dress.

I had also considered buying a used wedding gown – I’ll be selling my own once I get it dry-cleaned. Women only wear these things for one day! ONE DAY – that’s nothing! I wear vintage clothes from the 1960s that have been worn many more times than these gowns that need new homes. Adopt don’t shop applies to both dogs and dresses!


Biggest Cost Savers

Four of our biggest cost savers were using grocery store flowers, not hiring a DJ, having a friend do the photography, and having nimble fingers for DIY projects.

collage 3.jpg

Have you heard of the cost of flowers for a wedding? Too much to spend on things that cannot be reused. I pre-ordered the flowers that I wanted for my wedding from Sobeys to be ready to be picked up on the morning of the wedding. Our flowers cost $158.28 – total, for centrepieces, bridesmaid bouquets, and one bridal bouquet. We arranged them ourselves and the guys really didn’t care about having boutonnieres. It’s all about considering what is actually important to you.

DSC06697bw.jpg
One of my favourite photos from the wedding: Chris and I after the ceremony, walking out to Beat Your Heart Out by The Distillers.

We asked one of our best friends to help us coordinate the music that I had carefully downloaded for the night. We used our iPad to have a dinner music playlist, a dance playlist, and separate areas for important cued songs including those used during the ceremony, first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dances, etc. My only suggestion here is that you use a computer with iTunes instead of the iPad. The tablet device didn’t provide the option to fade into songs which as a perfectionist bothered me. Our closest friends and family enjoyed themselves and danced a bunch! My step-mom was actually impressed enough to ask me to provide the music for her parent’s 50th anniversary this past October.

DSC06858.jpg
This is a personal favourite of mine

When we started looking for photography I wanted to ask people that I knew first. Amazingly, after asking my friend Caitlin Currie how much she would charge, she offered her services to me for free out of kindness and friendship. She did us a massive favour and we love our photos, we wanted to give her at least a little something though so we gave her $200.00. What we love most about our photos is how candid some of them are or the way that they look real compared to how overly Photoshopped some wedding photos are these days. They are us and she did a wonderful job.

Things that I did myself/with the help of friends and family:

collage-4DSC05577.jpg

  • Cut and assembled paper decorations (bunting and paper airplanes on yarn)
  • Made our cake topper (Dollar store dinos with crafty clothes)
  • Partially personalized bridesmaid gifts (hangers and embroidered makeup bags)
  • Invitations and Guest Coaster favours (Used an easy editing site called PicMonkey.com and then used my own designs when ordering them off of Vista Print’s website when they were half price)
  • Candy Bar bags (bought brown paper bags from the dollar store and stamped 100 of them with mom)
  • Grey table runners with iron on hems (Thank you Heather Luckhart for holding the scary iron)
  • My makeup

 

Tip #4: Thrift shops, thrift shops, and more thrift shops.
When I say this, I don’t only mean storefronts, but also wonderful resale apps like Kijiji and Varagesale. I bought so many of our decorations used and for half or less of their original price. Varagesale became a personal favourite of mine because of their glorious Holidays-Wedding category in which users consistently posted barely used decorations from their own weddings. Often times, you have a large gap between getting engaged and getting married, the key is to always be on the lookout for deals and to convince your fiancé that a wedding item storage room is necessary (half of our office was dedicated to this).

So with a ton of hard work on not only my part, but the efforts put forth by my friends and family, we were able to keep our wedding under $10,000! We loved our special day without spending the price of a house down payment and are happier for it!

collage-5

 

Last bunch of Tips:
#5: Don’t have one set image of how your wedding should be.

#6: Things don’t have to match to work – we used an assortment of different sized glass vases for flowers.

#7: Pinterest and budget blogs are your best friend for DIY ideas, have confidence in yourself.

#8: What matters is that you enjoy your wedding, stop trying to impress people by going big.

#9: Let parental figures have the occasional win, but this is your wedding, they already had theirs and I bet they wanted it their way too.

#10: Have fun. Things will never be perfect, that doesn’t exist. Your attitude is really important in creating one of the happiest days of your life.

 


Finally, here is a screenshot of my Wedding Wire Budget page:

screenshot-pt-1screenshot-pt-2screenshot-pt-3screenshot-pt-4

How-To-Halloween: Cut Costs on Costumes with Creativity

It’s just about mid-October and you might be trying to think about what costume to wear to a party or while you walk the neighbourhood with your kids. I thought that I would share some of my past costumes over the last few years and maybe it would fuel your creative minds and help you decide what to be this year.

I LOVE dressing up in costumes which is one of the many reasons why Halloween is one of my favourite holidays! Since 2013, I have actually worn two different costumes per year for different Halloween celebrations because I love challenging myself creatively.

I don’t have anything against store-bought-costumes (SBCs), but they are often quite a bit more money than I want to spend. If you do love wearing SBCs I recommend that you try to see if any of your Facebook friends want to trade, check Varage Sale, Kijiji, or your local thrift shop to get them for a much better price.

2011
Daq and I posing as the white swan and black swan.

 

 

Another reason why I haven’t had a SBC in five years is because I’m obsessed with pop culture characters who may not actually be that popular. Costume stores frequently cater to mainstream audiences or when they do feature the characters that I like, I tend to think that their versions are a bit lacklustre. For example, in 2011 I fell in love with the movie The Black Swan with Natalie Portman (I watched it about ten times) and decided that I would dress as the white swan for Halloween.

This costume took a lot of effort and probably cost about the same as the SBC (approximately $80), but I was much happier with the way mine turned out and definitely proud of my glue-gunning skills. I bought a top from Value Village and bedazzled it with feathers and fake jewels to go along with a glue-gun altered tutu and some handmade hair pieces.

2011-1
Myself performing at the 2011 Broken Arts show with Tom Helliwell from Viva Mars. Photo taken by Meghan Wels (The Chronicle Vol. XXXVIII

 

collage-one
Top to bottom: my friend Harley and I dressed in Day of the Dead garb; myself as a fox, Lori Anne as a lady/darling taking a bath; myself as a skeleton and my friend Natalie as a cute banana.

In 2012, I was a member of the local not-for-profit group Broken Arts and we had collectively decided to dress according to a Day of the Dead theme. I found a vintage wedding dress at Value Village for $15.00 and did sugar skull makeup.

I went to two different parties in 2013, one with one of my best friends Lori Anne (we sing together in Darling and the Fox) and another by myself to meet some friends from university. My fox costume took a lot of time since I don’t know how to use a sewing machine. I bought the materials from Fabricland and hand sewed a fox tail and some ears. For my second costume I borrowed a friend’s skeleton bodysuit and had fun with makeup – which means this outfit only cost me about $5.00 for makeup!

We hosted Chris’ 30th birthday party at Halloween in 2014 so that we could do both while he was home. Together we dressed as Clark Kent and Lois Lane for a combined total of approximately $10. I had everything for my part of the costume and made my reporter badge. For Chris we bought a Superman shirt (mine wouldn’t fit him), some suspenders and some eyeglasses that we popped the lenses out of from value village.

2014
Chris and I as Clark Kent and Lois Lane.

 

 

 

Our neighbours had a Halloween party in 2014 as well, Chris and I went as Moss from The IT Crowd and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We reused the Clark Kent glasses, but we bought a plaid shirt, large tie, and our wigs

collage-2-5
Chris as Moss and myself as Buffy. Plus a photo of Moss because he is awesome.
2015
My Saria costume at CassyCon.

from Value Village. I Had Chris sit in a chair while I cut and gelled an Afro to look like Moss’ signature hair, we stuck a printed out photo of Moss’ face to one of our mugs, and I used an X-acto knife to ‘whittle’ a stick I got from the woods nearby to make my Mr. Pointy. These costumes had a combined total of approximately $25.00.

 

Last year, for Halloween 2015, I decided to throw CassyCon which was a combination of an early birthday party for myself and a convention with costumes encouraged. I went as Saria from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I made a top and some shorts pretty terribly, but they didn’t look that bad when I managed to get them on! I drew and cut out rough patterns on some fabric that I got from Value Village and glue gunned them together, I also used leftover fabric to cover an old headband! With the addition of elf ears, a green belt, a green wig, and a dark green turtle neck I was all set for about $30.00.

For our neighbours’ Halloween party my costume cost $5.00. I had all the clothes already (who doesn’t own a black and white striped shirt?), I bought some cheap black gloves from Shoppers Drug Mart, wore Chris’s black hat, borrowed his toy gun from his Grand Theft Auto Costume and drew a money symbol on a white garbage bag filled with other garbage bags! So that I didn’t have to wear an uncomfortable mask I used face paint to make my own mask. Not only was this costume cute and affordable, but I was also probably the comfiest girl at the party!

2015.5.JPG
My simple bank robber costume.

This year we were almost going to go as Bob and Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, but decided to go another direction. I’ll post photos from our party on Instagram so stay tuned!

What will you be this year? Let me know in the comment section and maybe I can help you come up with some ideas of how to make it yourself!

Need more inspiration? Check out these amazing Stranger Things Costumes!

collage-3
Some photos of Daq last Halloween in her Triceratops costume and sitting with Yoda the pumpkin! Miss her, she loved dressing up too because it meant more attention!