July 30, 2012

A different kind of decorating

I decided to take on a different kind of decorating for a change. I wanted to do something special for my son Nicholas' fourth birthday. We were not having a huge party, but rather inviting in-town family to join us for dinner and a little celebration of sorts. At first I came up with a pool/water theme, since Nico took swimming lessons for the first time this spring, and has already become a braver swimmer. But, having a pool party when you don't actually have a... hmm... POOL {other than a kiddy pool and sprinkler}, is sort of boring. Although I had scrambled together some neat ideas to carry the pool party theme without a lot of literal swimming, I kept searching for ideas before "diving" into it {ha ha ha!}.

Then, it hit me: what is the single type of toy that my son can never get enough of? TOOLS! He is never prouder than when he can carry a tool hooked on his belt or stashed in his pocket, you know, for any spontaneous drilling emergencies that may arise. I already knew he would be getting more tools for his birthday, so why not go with that as an entire theme. I hit the wonderful and inspiring pages of Pinterest, typed in "construction party ideas" and WOW! I found a bunch of inspiration!

My goal was to decorate with a theme, but also to create the decorations myself and keep it all on a tight budget. I love decorating with a theme, but I'd rather make decorations myself than to simply buy them. I feel that it is more personal to put a little bit of effort into it!

For my theme, my colors were bright orange, sunny yellow and a touch of black. I did buy colored plates, napkins, tablecloths and balloons, but the rest I wanted to do myself.

Here was my material list:
-yellow and orange paper
-paper trimmer {borrowed from work}
-brown craft paper

Using a word processing program {I used Microsoft Word}, I created little construction signs with squares, letters and arrows. And it only took a few minutes to complete. I was able to create the following:

Custom construction sign pennant:

I printed the letters with a diamond shape around each on orange paper. When I trimmed them, I left about 3/4" around the shape. I cut my yellow paper a bit larger and glued the orange paper to the yellow paper. Then, I simply affixed them to a long piece of ribbon using tape. Voilà! Huge impact with a tiny price tag, and it really set the theme for the entire decor.

Party hats:

Ok, I did cheat a bit by using a ready-made construction hat for the birthday boy, but I did make the sign. As for the crowns, I thought of this as an alternative to the usual cone-shaped party hats with that painful elastic string, which no kid, or adult for that matter, likes to wear. I simply cut my sheets of orange paper into strips and made little happy face construction signs for the "jewel". Plus my nieces are super girly, so I figured they would appreciate a crown! Mind you no one wore theirs for very long.


I wanted to do more than just hang balloons here and there, and I also did not want to bother getting them filled with helium. So, how do you decorate with regular air filled balloons? How about a balloon initial over the food station:

And what about a cluster of balloons attached to a dump truck:

Wrapping paper:

This idea first came about because I forgot to buy wrapping paper when I was at the party store, but then I wanted paper that would match the theme. I thought "what better way to incorporate a construction theme than with construction PAPER!" I bought a roll of craft paper for about $2. Then, I cut up my little DIY traffic signs and glued them on randomly. Cute and personal!

From plain craft...

To just plain CRAFTY!

Cupcake cake:

I opted to order the cupcake cake because: a) I wanted to save myself some hassle / time / stress {we are in the middle of unpacking after all},  b) they are fun for the kids {and adults} to decorate themselves, c) you can request half of the cupcakes in chocolate and the other half in vanilla, and d) our local grocer does a really good job and they are  super delicious! I did decorate it myself using the tools. I also added a little touch of the theme by serving Nico's cupcake in a dump truck!


Finally, while surfing Pinterest for party ideas, I noticed that a lot of decors included color coordinated snacks and beverages. How easy is that? You have to provide food anyway, why not pick some that matches!? Cue the orange cheese sticks and yellow cheddar popcorn! Throw in some colored gummies and candies, some orange colored mango juice and yellow colored peach juice, and you've good color coordinated food! LOVE it!

Then it was just a matter of throwing it all together. I did not want to clutter the dining table with a ton of stuff, so I opted to just place a tractor and a plate with extra napkins weighed down by a smaller tractor as the centerpiece.

Because there were 8 kids, I set up a separate table for them. I placed the birthday boy's hat and the crowns on that table, and added the little dump truck with balloons. Finally, I placed the gifts from Jon and I on the sideboard behind the table as a backdrop. {I know, we don't have our countertops yet. They've been ordered...Stay tuned for that.)

All in all, everything was great! I decorated the night before when Nico was being babysat at the cottage with my parents, so he came home to this decorated party just for him! The party went well, everyone was happy, and I didn't feel sad about tearing down the decorations because I hadn't spent a fortune on them.

But most importantly, this is what made me happy:
Happy 4th birthday to my Big Boy Nicholas!

July 13, 2012

Update, update!

We are officially moved in... but nowhere near settled in. We still have boxes everywhere and sadly, it does not feel like home just yet. Not all projects have been completed yet but we are soooooo close. The kitchen still needs a bit of work, but for the most part, the other spaces are done. I am not sharing more photos just yet {sorry!} cause I would like to give it a good go at decorating and organizing this weekend to give you amazing befores and afters! In the meantime, here is a little list of what we have learned so far from this entire process.

This may or may not be new information to you. But there are certain things that we have learned from our renovation, and most of them we learned the hard way, meaning they cost us either financially or in time. We were able to complete this renovation due to the type of mortgage we received, which allowed us an additional percentage to put towards increasing the value of our home, therefore, our budget was pretty much set in stone. So, here is a short list of pointers for anyone considering undertaking a large reno such as ours:
  • DO prepare for at least an additional 10% of unforeseen costs. Our budget originally did not leave much room for surprise costs, maybe a few hundred dollars. But with a huge renovation like ours, we should have planned a few THOUSAND dollars just for the surprises. But we managed in any case. 
  • DO obtain quotes and shop around for as many quotes as possible before deciding on any purpaches. We visited almost every local provider and business possible for the products we needed. In the end, we picked the products that were better suited for our budget. It's a lot of leg work and time initially, but it is well worth it to get as much bang for your buck.
  • When choosing your products for quotes, DO pick a more expensive product. I know, this seems strange, but we had picked a lower-end casing and baseboard for our quote, but actually ended up going for a much more expensive style for both. A few dollars more per piece may not seem like much at first, but when you consider that we replaced all the casings, baseboards, door jams, etc. for the entire main floor, we more than doubled the cost of our initial quote.
  • DON'T settle. This is our forever home. We will more than likely never undertake another renovation of this size. Therefore, for the more permanent finishes or products like flooring, we made sure to pick the best products, not only for durability, but also products that were more neutral or classic in style. Another example is the floor register covers for the new blown air system. When choosing them, I thought "I'll pick a cheaper one seeing as I have so many to buy" but then it occurred to me that I would never have to buy them again, so why not buy the fancier and sturdier metal ones that will look nicer and last longer? They may have been twice the price, but I'll never have to purchase them again!
  • DO expect something to go wrong. It is best if you are prepared for this. Then delays won't seem so bad. We have had many issues simply because our home is older. Crooked walls make for three or four times the work in some cases. And any time you are opening walls, you have to be ready for a surprise.
  • DON'T stress, it won't make things go any faster or smoother. This reno has gone on for far longer than anyone had hoped or planned for, but stressing about it did not make one bit of difference. In the end, it will be done and it will have been done right, and that is what counts.
  • DO ask for help. We would never have undertaken such a venture on our own, as we would have failed miserably. We are both very fortunate to have fathers who are very knowledgeable and just happen to do incredible and impeccable work. Even just family and friends helping to clean and organize, or watching the kids so Jon and I can work as well, has been such a big help. I know we will never be able to thank all of them enough.
Wether this has informed you a bit or not at all, I just thought I would share.

And because I find posts without pictures oh so boring, here are a few inspiration pics, all from my Pinterest page, just for the heck of it!

Living room layout:
This is the type of feeling I want to achieve with the layout of our living room: comfy, cozy, but not cluttered. I love the built-ins at one end!

Probably the first space I loved about our new house, and not only because you have to go through it to go in the house, is the breezeway. It is an enclosed space between the house and the garage {I'll have to take pictures}. It just screams "MUDROOM". Although it is not fully insulated, I would love to be able to hang our coats and leave our shoes in there for most of the year. This is a perfect portrayal of what I want: built-in bench with a cubby for each family member. I would place a shoe rack in each cubby and hang two hooks per person, ensuring each has plenty of space.

Powder room:
I love several things about this tiny beauty: 1) the size of what is shown in the picture is pretty close to the actual size of my powder room; 2) the use of one large mirror over both the sink and the toilet, 3) the wall gallery, and 4) the skirt around the sink to create hidden storage.

Washroom vanity:
This is the look I want for the future vanity in our main washroom. It doesn't need two sinks but we do have the space for it. I love the look of a piece of furniture. I find it more interesting than a built-in and fixed cabinet.

Painted fireplace:
We have left the fireplace untouched for now but I think we will need to address it sooner rather than later. You see, the hearth of it is quite dangerous and definately not baby proof:
Plus, we managed to get paint on it which makes it look even more unfinished. But it will look nice once updated.

Painted dresser:
I would love to find this type of dresser to repaint and use as a console for the TV in the family room. Anyone looking to get rid of an old dresser?

I won't keep you waiting too long for more pictures. Hopefully sometime next week...