DIY Shell Topiaries

A little while ago I was at a fabric and interiors shop and saw this really great shell and starfish topiary by Two’s Company (featured on a website here).  After balking at the $112.00 price tag, my sister Hannah suggested I try to make one myself.  Up to the challenge, I gathered materials and for around $18.00 each, created this pair:

Here is the how-to:

Materials needed (also pictured below):

  • two cardboard cones, found at your local craft store
  • assorted shells (I had collected many over the years, but then bought 2 baskets at the craft store for $1.50 each to supplement)
  • urn base (this was the most expensive part of the project….I found them at Home Depot for $8.99 each)
  • glue gun
  • white spray paint (only 99 cents a can at Home Depot–don’t buy the pricey stuff!)
  • hi-shine glaze (I used Folk Art by Plaid)


  1. Using the glue gun, apply a layer to the base of the cone and place inside the lip of the urn, making sure to hold firm until it dries.

2. Use the glue gun to affix the shells to the cone.  Start at the base and work your way up.  The tiny shells were great for filling in the spaces in between the larger conch, oyster, and scallop shells. I tried to make sure very little cardboard was left showing!3. When you’ve covered the entire cone, it should look similar to these:

4. Since the glue gun dries almost instantly, you can begin spray painting right away.  Use a well-ventilated area to paint, of course….I started outside but then had to move it into the open garage when a breeze picked up.  Spray using even strokes–the topiaries will take many coats because the shells are rather porous.  You may even go through two cans of spray paint like I did!

5. Once you have given the paint ample time to dry, you can follow-up with the clear glaze and allow to dry overnight.  This makes the shells and urn base extra shiny.  It’s a great finishing touch–here’s a close-up on the shells:

Right now I have the topiaries on my dining room table and they are a great focal point.  I think they can even stand on their own at a summer dinner party without having to use really any flowers.  Also would be so great as centerpieces at a beach wedding, don’t you think?


In other news, when we bought our $20 sofa at the barn sale a few weeks ago, this pair of Jonathan Adler pillows were thrown in, free of charge.  I just got them back from the dry cleaner’s and stuffed them back over their pillow forms.  Each pillow has an orange and brown side.  I think they’re pretty neat : )

Have a great Thursday!


Happy Birthdays & Dollar Deals

Yesterday my twin sister and I celebrated our birthday. : )  Here’s a pic of the two of us, taken just a few years ago….

….and now we’re 27. (And my sister is still sassy, even without the hand-on-hip pictured above). My how the years have flown.  Happy Birthday Kate!

We got together with our family for dinner at Rio Grande (our favorite Mexican restaurant) and exchanged gifts.  She got me some great serving pieces for our backyard patio furniture, and this bottle of nail polish–a color I’ve coveted since I saw it on my friend Sarah’s toes : ) It’s called “Lollipop” by Essie, and is a great retro-red.  Can’t wait to give myself a mani!

Running errands yesterday brought me to Home Depot to pick up something for a project.  On my way there, I couldn’t help stopping at the Dollar Tree.  And I’m glad I did!  I found this cute cut-glass nut dish….looks very 50’s I think:

…and these bamboo skewers.  A cute alternative to toothpicks–I’m excited to use them at a cocktail party!

Then I spotted these great disposable serving trays.  Faux silver with a pretty etched design….without picking them up, you could totally mistake them for the real thing! I thought these would be so cute to put an hors d’oeuvre on and bring to a party. I picked up two!

My bday culminated with a nice sushi dinner out (it’s a bit challenging when you’re limited to only the cooked fish)  and an awesome new orange purse from my husband! It was a great birthday, and hard to imagine the last one I’ll celebrate without a child in tow!

DIY Monogrammed Tray

This week while I was in Richmond visiting my family, I decided to get some crafting accomplished!  My two projects: shell topiaries (which are not quite finished yet; I will post the how-to for them as soon as they are), and a monogrammed tray.  I wanted to make a gift for one of Jason’s cousins who graduated from high school and will be heading to UNC in the fall.  A wooden tray at the craft store caught my eye; I thought it would be cute to hand-paint in the school’s colors and add her monogram, maybe to set on a dresser as a small catch-all for jewelry, etc.? I also got one for myself to eventually paint and use as a key tray on a side table just inside our front door.  Here is the finished product:

…and the How-To:

Materials needed to get started:

Small wooden tray, paint colors of choice, small foam brush, paint pens (white Sharpie paint pens are shown here, but I ended up using black for the monogram)

1. Paint the tray in colors of your choice. I used Carolina blue for the bottom and sides of the tray, and antique white for the edges and inside of handles to give it some detail.  The tray required about 2 coats of paint, and I had to use some thinner paint brushes I had on hand to do touch-ups.

2. After allowing the paint to dry (I waited overnight just to make sure), I used carbon copy paper to trace the monogram–my mom had a piece she had kept since high school!–but you can use any sort of copy or tracing paper. I cut the copy paper down to the size of the monogram, placed the monogram on top, and used painter’s tape to secure both in place on the bottom of the tray.

Please note: I created the monogram in Microsoft Word. If you would like further information on how to do this, please email me and I’ll give you the full directions!

3. Using a pencil, *lightly* trace over the monogram so that it transfers on the bottom of the tray. I say lightly because it really doesn’t take a lot of pressure to transfer, and you don’t want it so dark that it’s hard to paint over.

4. Once the monogram is traced, paint pen away! I used a black paint pen, and then a medium-tip black Sharpie to do some of the finer details.

5. After allowing the paint pen to dry, I sprayed with ClearCote High-Shine glaze to give it a polished look. (Pardon my bare feet; I wanted to make sure I didn’t spray any glaze on my sandals!) 😉

Once dry, you have a lovely little personalized tray!

I had such a nice time in Richmond…lots of great food as always, like these yummy asparagus tarts my mom made:

and the hydrangeas in my parents’ garden were in full bloom.  My absolute favorite flower always makes me smile!

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend….I’m heading to the beach for the week with Jason’s family, and will post more upon my return!

First Anniversary & Fun Correspondence

Photo courtesy of Patricia Lyons Photography

This weekend Jason and I celebrated our first anniversary.  We were married on July 10th of last year, and it’s so hard to believe that a year has already passed, and so much has happened!  Even more difficult to wrap our heads around is that it’s only 1 of upwards of 60 years of marriage!  With a wedding, school year, Jason’s job changes, two moves, and a baby due Jan. 1st, it seems like a whole lot has happened.  All wonderful though. 🙂  And this milestone makes me excited for a few dear friends who will also be celebrating their 1st anniversary soon!

One of the ways we celebrated was by having a slice of our wedding cake topper, which had been kept on ice in my parents’ freezer.  Still looked beautiful! I loved our wedding cake….a basket weave design made of buttercream frosting with a fondant bow on top (which got a tad smushed after being in storage).  The top layer was carrot cake…Jason’s favorite and I thought it would be a cake that would stay on the moister side, since I knew we’d be enjoying it a year later.  I forgot how big the cake was; even the top layer could have served as a large cake by itself!

A year later, it was still delicious!  Now if only we could head back to Bermuda too….

Inexpensive Stationery:

I probably have an unnatural obsession with stationery.  I love cards, invitations, and most of all, sending and receiving both! 🙂  There is a wonderful stationery shop in Richmond called Paper on the Avenue that does beautiful, beautiful work…we had our wedding invitations done through them, and if I had an endless budget they’d help me design every piece of correspondence I sent out!  Alas, being a girl on a budget, I have to get creative at times.  Michaels’ $1 section (usually found near the front of their store) has proven very helpful in this area.  It can be hit or miss of course, but in the recent past I have found cute cards like these:

…and these adorable gift tags (so cute tied on to a bright pink bag):

At $1 for a pack of 8, you can’t beat them!  I have also taken to making some.  I have bought stamps, stamp pads, and blank cards at either Michaels or Ben Franklin Arts and Crafts for a dollar each.  Here is what I have created–each design was super easy.

The last stamp I bought but haven’t done anything with yet…thought it would be so cute on a white invitation with black or navy ink.  The envelopes that the cards come with are on the flimsier side, but when you take into account that they were just $1, it’s a small price to pay for a cute little thank you note.

The next card I made for Christmas thank-yous…I had white card stock on hand and lined each edge with a black Sharpie to create a thin border. I used this adorable stamp I bought at Ben Franklin with red ink, but I think it would be equally cute in another stamp color and used as birthday or shower thank-you notes.

Here is the image closeup:

A ‘pennywise’ way to create chic correspondence!

New House

With the purchase of our first home, I’ve been so excited to decorate and make it our own.  Our home was built in the 50’s and is an end-of-unit townhouse with 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths (thank goodness!), and great hardwood floors.  I fell in love with it the second we walked in with the realtor, and my love for it only continues to grow!  Thankfully, its previous owners had put a lot of TLC into it, and it was move-in ready for us.  We moved from a one-bedroom apartment in Annapolis, and it’s been great fun placing our belongings and decorative items in new places, as well as adding a few new pieces.  Here are a couple things I’ve done so far:

Entertainment Center:

Our entertainment center was purchased at Ikea when we first moved in to our apt. My husband Jason really liked it as a resting place for his big honking TV, but I have been on the fence about it for a while.  Maybe it’s the many odd-shaped open compartments that have proven frustrating, and I h-a-t-e the look of exposed wires.  On a Richmond homes tour with my mom, I fell in love with a look in one room.  They had taken a ceiling-to-floor built-in bookcase and filled it with black and white framed photos, and a zillion books covered in monochromatic kraft paper, something similar to this:

I of course wanted to cover my books in something less neutral, but I loved the impact it had.  That was my plan…but difficulty finding the right shade of paper in bulk, budget, and impatience has tabled that idea for the time being.  Instead I used what I had, spent $4.99 at Michaels (love those 40 and 50% off coupons you can get on their website!), and this is what I came up with:


This frame was made using a glass and particle board frame with metal clips (hand-me-down from my mom I’ve had for years) and a piece of scrapbook paper I had on hand.  Since the frame is meant to be hung, I propped it up against another frame so that it stood.  The adorable elephant teapot is from World Market (I so wish they had one in Baltimore!).

I love silver frames, but wanted to keep things inexpensive…I had some wooden and black metal frames (think “1 Spot” at Target) that I spray painted with a can of Krylon Original Chrome spray paint.  This instantly gave them a faux silver makeover.  Not all the frames have been filled with personal pictures yet, including one with the picture of the family I’ve apparently adopted (that was my one $4.99 purchase at Michaels).  Jason and I are feeling very narcissistic lately, as all the pics in our home seem to be of the two of us from our wedding.  We were anxious to get some developed, and are now reeling it back in and waiting til we find some good portrait-layout ones of at us with at least some friends/props in the background :).

Apart from that, I used items I’ve collected over the years…cool Chinoiserie-style bookends I purchased for $9.99 at Homegoods, paperback books and albums in colors that matched our living room, gifts from friends, and small blue and white pieces from when my family lived in Okinawa (I was in 2nd grade at the time but still managed to buy a few keepsakes!)

The end result is something I can enjoy looking at in the meantime–while I try to ignore those few wires that still peek out until we can hit up Radio Shack and buy longer ones!


This pair of chairs was purchased from a roadside flea market by my parents years ago, and then given to me when I moved into my first apartment out of college.  They still had their original *icky* tweed-like seat covers, and were in desperate need of an update, so that we could actually feel comfortable sitting on them!  So I finally got around to doing this once we moved in.  I purchased a yard of this cute orange and cream floral print on sale for just $9.99 at Jo-Ann Fabrics, and a yard of 2 in. high density foam which with a coupon came to just $18.00.  Here are the steps  I took to giving the chairs a new look:

1. Remove the old fabric (which in my case was covering up an equally lovely green pleather seat cover) and nails from the wooden seat form. You might need a heavy duty screw driver and pliers to help pry & remove the staples and nails.

2. Trace the wooden seat form on the foam to get the exact measurement needed, then cut the foam to size.

3. Place the foam on top of the seat cover.  Wrap the foam in thin batting (if you want to give it extra cushioning), and then wrap the fabric tautly on top of the foam and batting.

4. Staple gun the fabric to the underside of the seat cover.

5. Replace the new seat and attach to chair with screws (you might need long screws depending on the thickness of batting and fabric used.

I love this pair, and currently have one in our living room and one in the dining room…they will be great for extra seating in both. I might decide to paint/refinish the wood eventually, but for right now I really like the dark brown wood with a bit of distressing.


This was purchased at a yard sale for $20…I really like the detail and drawer pulls (shown below).  Eventually our plan is to paint it black, but it needed to be functional in our basement asap, so for now it will be this funky blue color–not too bad! If you look closely I think it’s been a few colors in its past life–pink, white….

I wiped out the drawers and lined them with Contact paper.  I know Contact paper is nothing new under the sun, but I love its forgiving nature…it always takes me a few tries to get it lined up just right and smooth all the bubbles out.

Here is the (semi) finished product:


This past Saturday, my husband and I got wind of a “barn sale” taking place in nearby Ruxton.  We met a very nice couple trying to clear out their barn and home of some no longer needed items.  Among them was a Crate and Barrel sofabed (stone colored with cream piping), and the wife took a liking to us newlyweds and sold it to us for $20!  We got several other items for quite a steal, which I will share later, but right now, the sofabed.

I was anxious to bring the sofabed home to our basement in an effort to replace Jason’s sofa which he insisted on bringing from his bachelor days, living with 3 other guys for 5 years, and the sofa was older than that to begin with. Don’t even get me started.  At this point I would’ve brought home a taxidermied animal as a replacement for his sofa. But when we brought the couch out of the barn and into the light of day, and then subsequently struggled yanking it down the stairs into the basement, we began to wonder if we had made a colossal $20 mistake.  The sofa was f-i-l-t-h-y.  It had been residing in a barn for goodness’ sake! I won’t go into the details, but just be thankful that I didn’t snap a “before” picture.  Hoping against hope, we pulled all the cushion covers and frame slipcover off and I used OxyClean to spot treat every surface area within an inch of its life.  Thank goodness for the “sanitize” cycle on our new front-loading washer (we had to buy both a washer & dryer when we moved in). Four loads later, after letting each cover dry in the sun, then ironing, lint rolling, and steaming the fabric, we stuffed each cushion back into its cover.  More steaming (I am loving our portable steamer) and a last overall spritz of Febreze, and voila:

(like) new! Trust me, it was an unbelievable transformation.  So our worries turned to a deep pride in ourselves for not shying away from a little hard work….not bad for $20, huh?