Friday, July 10, 2015

She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

Happy Friday! Any fun plans this weekend? I've been working on a DIY project for the past couple of days that I'm REALLY excited about. I'm really hoping I can show it to you on Monday but whenever I say that something goes wrong and it doesn't happen. So…I'm hoping I can show it to you in a couple weeks. There, now it will get done. 

Today I'm sharing a few hits and misses in our house lately. I love reading about things that work for others and things that don't work. I get excited when I find something new that does what it says it will do.

OK, I almost wrote a whole post just about dish sponges, but I thought that may be going a tad too far with my love for these things. So I'm adding it here. Reel it in Sarah. I found these at Bed Bath and Beyond months ago -- they were at the dangerous check out area that is full of that incredible goodness you MUST HAVE but don't really NEED to have: 

best dish scrubbers

Mine were a pack of three and I have to admit, the cute smiling face kind of sold me. I'm a sucker. I've always used a combo of a sponge on a handle and the Ocelo sponges for washing dishes. I use the latter 90 percent of the time and I was so frustrated at how quickly they got smelly and gross. 

You can get rid of the stink by putting them in the microwave (or I would run them through the dishwasher) but even with doing that they would be back to stinky within a few days. So I saw these and thought I'd give them a try. 

They are pretty rough and stiff in their regular state. If you have tough messes you rinse them in cool water and they will keep that stiffness and you can really clean baked on food well. I love using it this way to clean our grill I use throughout the week to make bacon in the oven. 

It feels so rough but it doesn't scratch! And when you need it it softer to clean glasses or whatever, you rinse it in warm water and it magically loosens up. It's kind of fun, not gonna lie. The really fun part is that you can put silverware through the smiley mouth to clean it. I didn't make that up, they suggest it. I swear. ;) 

They do wear down eventually but they DON'T STINK. Ever! Here's a pic of one I used for a few months (left), one I just started using a couple weeks ago (middle) and a brand new one to show you the difference: 

best scrubbers for dishes

Poor green smiley face is looking a little frightening so he's going in the trash. 

The other great thing is you can scrub like crazy and no little bits of sponge come off. I hate that. The green one started doing it just a little bit but nothing like a regular sponge does. So there…my love of the smiley face sponges. You can find them at Bed Bath or Beyond or Amazon.

Next up on the love category are these down-alternative pillow inserts from Target: 
down fill inserts Target

I'm a big fan of feather inserts for our pillows -- I just love the look and feel more than a harder insert. My absolute favorite place to get feather inserts is IKEA -- they are around $7 each there which is an incredible price, considering they are nearly $20 each at most higher end fabric stores (which is the only other place I can find them, other than online). 

So I saw these at Target awhile back and had to give them a try. They are $8.99 each if I remember right and are super squishy -- almost a little too much so but I like them! They allow for some movement like a feather insert: 

But they still look nice and full -- I used one for the Fourth of July pillow I shared last week: 
blue and white pillows

The problem is I have only found them at one Target. I looked around my local store forever one day and couldn't find them anywhere. I've found them at the other one twice and loaded up last time. :) They are always on an end cap along with initial pillow covers that come in a few different colors. 

They are a great alternative to feather inserts if you are fan of those! It saves me the four hour round trip to IKEA to get them -- not that I would drive there just for those. Or meatballs. 

Finally, I am sharing a cleaning recipe that did not work well for me for many reasons. I'll be honest, I pretty much hated it. I have seen this DIY car upholstery cleaning solution floating around for years now and have always wanted to try it. The before and afters always look AMAZING. 

The recipe is one cup distilled vinegar, one cup club soda and half cup blue Dawn detergent: 

DIY car upholstery solution

I had such high hopes for this one! First of all, it says to mix them up and shake -- don't do that. The club soda will make it overflow and go absolutely everywhere. I know that about club soda but wasn't even thinking. If you do try this mix the other two, shake, then add the soda and stir or lightly swish it around. It says to spray it all over the upholstery, let it sit for five to ten minutes, then scrub with a brush and then wipe up with a wet towel. I did all of that. 

So first thing -- this recipe makes a ton. I didn't even begin to use all of it so you could easily half it. You could keep it to use later but the soda will lose it's fizz. 

At first it seemed like it was working but most of the stains came back after it dried. Some even came back worse than before. Now I have to tell you -- at least one of my seats had some decent stains from a spill. But the other ones were lighter clean up and in general it didn't really do much, or it made it worse by just moving it around. It did seem to brighten up the areas that weren't that bad to begin with, but I wanted it to work on the heavy duty stuff and it didn't. 

And for all that is good…my car stinks so bad. Ugh, I expected the vinegar smell, duh. But it is bad…even after leaving the windows open numerous times it still reeks after a week.

So I'll stick to the more powerful professional machines or the carpet cleaners with a handheld attachment -- those have worked much better for me. And no stink!

Have you tried any of these? Any suggestions for a DIY upholstery cleaner for the car? Have you tried this one and did it work for you? I'm willing to try about anything if it works but I wasn't a fan of this recipe. I know what works well for one doesn't always for others so give me your advice if you've tried it! Have a great weekend! 

*Affiliate link included for your convenience.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My Free Hosta Garden (and How to Get One!)

So years ago when we lived in apartments I would dream of the things I would do in our future house. A lot of those dreams involved plants outside, which I'm sure was mostly because the closest I had ever gotten to that were some potted plants out on my apartment patios or decks. 

I dreamt of clematis vine for one -- so I planted some last year and this year it was absolutely gorgeous!! And then some critter ate ALL of it. Seriously, one day it was full and blooming like crazy, one day it was all GONE. I may have shed a tear. I don't know what animal likes to munch on clematis -- anyone know? 

So that one happened, if only for a couple weeks. Another one was planting a shade garden. I'm one who actually loves dark dreary days, so I think that's why I'm always taken with the photos of beautiful shade gardens filled with dark foliage. Most of those included hostas and I quickly became obsessed with them. 

Fast forward to a couple years ago when a friend moved into a gorgeous house with a beautiful garden -- but the garden was taking up all the lawn space for her kids. So she sent out the word on the Internets and told us all we could come take whatever we wanted. HELLO. That's heaven for a thrifty gardening girl like me. 

I got plants for free that week because I have an awesome friend. But I'll share how you can also get some of these plants for free here in a minute. Awesome friends may be required there too. ;) 

I grabbed a GORGEOUS full peony, even after talking to our landscaper friend who told me they don't transplant well. I could not resist it, duh. But he was right. It died immediately. I also grabbed some huge landscaping rocks to add to ones we already had in our landscaping (you can see those in the garden tour here). 

The best finds were when I walked back there and there were TONS and tons of hostas. Glee! I couldn't believe it. I had always heard hostas were only for full shade and didn't think I had a good spot for them, but hers were huge and booming in full sun to dappled sun. So I dug my little heart out and threw them in the back of my car. I did two trips with the back of my car full of hostas. It was a beautiful day. :) (Thanks Andrea!) 

This is the side of the house I had in mind for most of them: 

Obviously I hadn't done a thing to this area. I didn't even clear the grass when I planted them -- unless you kill it first pulling up grass is seriously one of the worst things EVER. Goodness I hate it:

transplanting hostas

These things are pretty hardy -- they did OK that first season, but it wasn't till last year that they really perked up and started growing like crazy. 

Initially I planned to add more types of plants to this side but I fell in love with them so much (and they got SO big) I just went with it. I added a few more this year, the last of which I planted yesterday: 

hosta garden

I thought hers were huge when I planted them but I had no idea! They are so gorgeous -- I absolutely love their big leaves. Oh and by the way -- I just laid the mulch over the grass. I didn't kill it or anything -- just put a good layer down and it did the job. ;) 

It wasn't till last year that I realized they bloom: 
blooming hostas

It's only for a few weeks of the summer and the storms we had yesterday took off a bunch of them (I had to go out late when it stopped raining, hence the twilight photos). 

I have a thing for purple and red flowers so the blooms fit in perfectly around here: 

hosta bloom

So here's the thing -- I added a few more, as I mentioned. They are the ones with white on the leaves: 
hosta garden by house

But the cool thing about these plants is that they can be split pretty easily. That means you can dig out part of them and replant -- so if you have any nice friends like I have, you too can create your own hosta garden for free. :) 

There's a few tips to it -- you can do it any time, just make sure they are healthy at the time. Spring of fall is best (as with most plants) and spring would be really easy because you can really see where each section is growing. Go for plants that are a few years old at least. The entire plant is made up of a bunch of smaller ones and you just need to separate as many of these as you want: 

splitting hostas

This is really easy if you've purchased a plant -- you can just cut the sections apart then. Many tutorials will tell you to dig up the entire plant to do this, but if you just need a few smaller sections there's no need to do that. You can pretty easy just separate a few of the outer ones while it's in the ground.

Make sure to water both the one that you took from and the new planting well. I haven't split these just yet, but I did split some of my free ones that I planted in the front yard and they are doing fantastic. (I would have gotten a photo but it rained again. And it's raining now. Always, rain.)

I adore these plants! They are so lush and full:
hostas that bloom

A few things about hostas -- in general those with lighter leaves can tolerate more sun -- this spot gets morning sun only and it seems to be perfect for even the darker leaved ones that require more shade. I don't think any do great in hot afternoon sun.

They seem to retain water well so they don't need to be watered nearly as much as say, a hydrangea. I rarely have to water these during the summer. 

Also -- deer like to munch them. :) So if you have deer they may not last. The ones I planted along our back tree line are little nubs most of the season because of them. 

I think they are beautiful addition to landscaping. I love the lights mixed in with them! If you are interested in reading how to install your own landscaping lights like the ones in this post, check the how-to here

how to install landscaping lights

You can really see how much these have grown since then! So many are intimidated by that project and it's one of the easiest I've ever done. I promise!

Because I love those before and afters, I had to show this one -- here is that side a couple summers ago: 

And now with my free hostas and a few more I added in earlier this summer: 

hosta garden on side of house

I still have a plan to hide the utility stuff there -- I have the materials, I just hope I can make it work. :)

Of course you can propagate and split SO many plants! I'll leave that for another post because there's so many that you can use to add to your garden this way. Or take them from a sweet friend. If you bring me a margarita I'd probably share. ;)

Have you done this with any plants? Do you love hostas too?

Monday, July 6, 2015

July 2015 Before and After!

First of all, I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July weekend! It is one of my favorite holidays -- we had so much fun with friends and many times over the weekend I found myself counting my blessings. 

And secondly, holy cats, you guys hit it out of the park at last month's before and after link up. I seriously was so impressed by the projects that were linked up -- it was so hard to pick out just a few to share! So hard that I am sharing more than usual this month, but I think you'll find they are all pretty fantastic. 

I have to say, the renovation that Julie shared looked exactly like one you would see on Fixer Upper -- every bit of it is gorgeous!: 

fixer upper style makeover

This is a must see -- the family room looks amazing, but the real star is that kitchen! 

I love when readers share smaller projects too, and this one was such a great idea. Joan repurposed some old shutters to make a huge (nearly three feet tall!) DIY lantern

DIY lantern

I especially love all the little details she added to it.

Abby shared a beautiful master bedroom redo:

white and navy bedroom

I love how she worked in the navy blue throughout the space. She shares some pretty furniture redos as well. 

Pam's knocked another room out of the park, but my favorite part is this dresser: 

dark gray washed dresser

Just gorgeous! You won't believe what it looked like before! 

And April made over the small IKEA Rast dresser

IKEA rast white with brass

Jenny has some major painting skills -- you should see how she transforms kitchens! I loved her master bedroom makeover

dark gray bathroom vanity

The real star is what you don't see -- all the wallpaper that was there. After that is was a fairly simple redo with paint and lighting. But what a difference!

Katie's project was another small one that I thought was pretty brilliant. She took an old file cabinet and added all kinds of character

file cabinet makeover

This has me thinking twice about the old one we hide away in the basement. ;) 

And finally, I LOVE Holly's exterior redo
Philipsburg Blue paint color
They did a few things to update the outside of their home, but the paint color was the biggest impact for sure. So classic and pretty! 

Wow -- that's just a few of the awesome projects linked up last month -- be sure to check out the rest of them

If you'd like to be considered for next month's share, please include a link to TDC in your post or add the html to add this button: 

<div align="center"><a href="" title="TDC Before and After" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="TDC Before and After" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

I can't wait to see what you did last month -- you all set the bar high! ;)

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Easiest DIY Pillows (Ever)

Happy holiday weekend my friends! I hope you have a fun few days planned, even if that means relaxing on the couch and watching TV cause that sounds amazing.

Earlier this week I shared some easy Fourth of July ideas, one of them being a simple holiday pillow idea:

table linen pillows

I have a wee bit of an obsession with pillows. I'd put them up there with throw blankets and magazines in this house -- I have a lot of them. They are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to change up a space! Some of you may have noticed I changed out some of the pillows on the window seat in the kitchen. I loved the blue and green pillows but they weren't working with the rest of the great room. 

So I'm using those in other spots and went a little more neutral with my favorite color, blue. :) I kept the dark blue striped pillows there and added some from Target and a couple I made from my favorite section in the store -- napkins: 

pillows using napkins
I did some research online first and decided on these large striped napkins from West Elm. The bonus was that they were on clearance for $16 for four (in the store) so I was able to make pillows for $8 each! (I had the inserts.)

It's so easy -- no cutting needed, but you do have to have some basic knowledge of a sewing machine. You could also hand stitch these -- it wouldn't take that long to do one.

Some of my favorite pillows are made from fabric that's meant to be on a table. ;) One of my favorite stores (sadly they recently closed their stores) was C. Wonder -- I found the cutest placemats there years ago and filled a couple to make pillows (the green):

placemat pillows

I added a tufted button to this one but it's not needed, I just liked the little detail. You can see how I do the placemat pillows in this old post -- it's incredible easy and only a small bit of hand stitching is needed to close them up. 

I frequently browse the Pottery Barn (and West Elm) table linens to see what they have for pillows. I've used both napkins and placemats from those stores numerous times. It gives you the Pottery Barn look for a lot cheaper: 

pottery barn pillows for less

And I find this to be especially useful when it comes to holidays when you don't want to spend a ton of money for items you'll only have out a short time. I made these placemat pillows last fall

inexpensive seasonal pillows
The best part is the price, but it's also awesome that they are easily cleaned if needed. :) Keep in mind the placemat shape will be longer and skinnier like a lumbar pillow but the napkin size is perfect for an 18x18 insert. 

I've shared this a few times over the years but I love this easy decor trick so much it's worth sharing again! Have you tried this before? Are you obsessed with the table linen aisle like me?

Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend! God Bless America!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Quick and Easy (and Adorable) Fourth Ideas!

I'm so excited about these quick festive Fourth of July projects I threw together for our kitchen the other day! I find great joy in decorating our home but when it happens easily and quickly (and cheaply), I get super giddy. :)

It started with a cute Fourth of July banner in the dollar bin at Target last week. It was three bucks and just adorable. I couldn't pass it up, as with most things in that section. I wasn't sure where I was going to hang it until I opened it up in the kitchen and looked at the bay window:

Fourth of July bunting

It's the absolute perfect size for that spot. It would be easy to make one of these yourself too! You can see the candy corn one I made for fall (and the pennant template I used) here. It would be hard to make it for less than $3 though -- I so wish I had gotten more of these!:

Fourth of July pennants

My second quick project involved an old sweater that I've held on to for years in order to do this project. Literally every year in about September I'll find this in a craft drawer and remember that I meant to do this the previous July. 

I finally remembered!: 

holiday pillow from sweater

I cut out the front and the back of it (it had a stain on the front that I was able to avoid), sewed it up super fast and stuffed a pillow inside: 

sweater pillow

Adorable! It only took me five years to remember to do it!! Check out Goodwill for something similar or Target also had some adorable bandanas in the dollar section that would make super cute pillows too. Dang, wish I had thought of that earlier. :) (Those would also be cute to use for a DIY bunting as well.)

Here's the bay window seat all dressed up for the holiday: 

window seat

This last project I saw while scrolling through Facebook -- it was just a photo and didn't have any source unfortunately. I had everything on hand so this one was free and super easy. I grabbed some little flags we had: 

I removed the flags from the sticks, then put a bit of sand in a few mason jars. I dropped an LED candle in each one and wrapped the flags around the back: 
Fourth of July candle ideas

What a great idea for a Fourth cookout! 

I used some LED candles we have on a remote but if you just have the regular ones you may want to pile the sand a little higher. :) I absolutely love these!: 

4th of July easy candle

And finally, I combined white, blue and pink hydrangeas for a festive display in the kitchen: 
red white and pink hydrangeas

You know I had to incorporate them somehow, duh. That pink bloom was so big it barely fit in there! 

There you go -- simple, inexpensive Fourth of July ideas! I don't like to spend a lot on stuff I'll only have out for a week or so and these are perfect. And in total I spent maybe 30 minutes putting it all together. Love!

Do you do any simple Fourth of July projects this time of year? 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Backyard Tour, 2015!

Well hello there! I've got a ton of pics for you today! I figured since it's rained approximately 20 out of the past 22 days, I'd share the backyard garden tour now. Everything is CRAZY lush and full and it's insane how much everything is growing right now. 

I've shared this tour for the past few years and I love showing off our backyard. I've worked crazy hard on it! Gardening is a passion of mine and I love adding to it every year. We picked this lot for the tree line behind the house, but the yard itself had quite a slope to it. The size was great, it's just with the slope it was hard to do much with it. The first thing we did was have a huge deck built on the back about a year after we moved in. 

Then years ago after we paid off our massive debt and had saved up for months, we added our first big project to this house in the form of a stone patio and a fireplace. We live in a neighborhood with houses right next to us on both sides but our backyard feels like a true, private oasis. We absolutely LOVE it. 

The latest addition was just a few weeks ago when we had the pergola built. Other than staining that and the deck later this fall we are done with big projects out here. :) 

The plants were all picked by me and most were planted by me as well. This is the view as you come around the side of our house: 

black mulch in garden

I have to show you how much everything has grown! This was that same view last year: 

backyard garden

If I had waited just another week or so, that hydrangea bush would be blooming like mad again. :)

But do you see how much the maples have grown?? We need to do some serious trimming because between the hydrangea growing bigger than ever and the trees, we can barely walk through there. 

This is what cracks me up about those trees -- they used to sit in the front yard and would NOT grow. They would grow all oompa loompa like with the leaves right up the middle and nothing else. We replaced them a long time ago and had them planted back here and after a year they absolutely shot up. They are huge now -- almost taller than the house. For a lot that's only a little over eleven years old I love having tall trees like these: 

backyard garden dark mulch
Those burning bushes were actually bigger than that a couple years ago, but during a really harsh winter a couple seasons ago, the snow was piled up to the top of them and the bunnies ate them down to the ground. We weren't even sure they would survive. It was insane how much damage they did -- that winter sucked. :)

I found this old pic to show you how different this area looks now: 

The trees have grown ten feet in four years, easy. 

One of my favorite things to do every day or two is walk around the garden and check out the blooms on the plants. This limelight hydrangea is one of my favorites and I've been watching for blooms: 

limelight hydrangea

I didn't check on it for a few days because of rain and I went out over the weekend to see it -- I couldn't even believe how much it had grown. It is MASSIVE. I literally stood out there and gasped because it had grown about two feet wider. And there are a ton of blooms -- it's going to be gorgeous this year! 

Here's the size of it last month to give you an idea how much it's grown in all this rain: 

The pergola is our pride and joy right now. We didn't build it but it's still our pride and joy. Ha! I did end up changing the design of the outdoor lights: 
pergola on deck
I shared more about the lights and how much we love them here. One of my readers shared how they hung theirs like this and the more I looked at it the more I liked it. It was SO much easier to install this way too -- I just used nails for now (there's a hole on each light for installation). I did some measurements and the two strands covered the beams exactly. This way they'll be much easier to remove when we stain too. 

My peony is done blooming but I always keep the green till next spring. You'll notice a trend as we walk around the garden. Hydrangeas. And more hydrangeas. 

I'm obsessed: 

wood pergola with lights

Another favorite of mine are knock out roses. I was late in pruning this year so this one isn't nearly as big as in years past. I love that they are constantly blooming and giving the backyard color: 

knock out roses

One of my favorite spots is down around the corner behind the fireplace. Years back I planted the two pee gee hydrangea trees and they are my favorite. (I say that about a lot of things back here but I really dig these.) The blooms get absolutely massive. It will be July before we'll see flowers on there: 

hydrangeas in landscaping

They are cone-shaped white blooms that turn the most gorgeous pinkish green in the fall. I adore them. 

I planted a climbing hydrangea years ago and it's never bloomed -- fingers crossed for next year. I love that it creeps up the stone though.

Around the corner from there are…wait for it. Hydrangeas: 

lacecap hydrangeas

I have close to 20 now between the back and front. I can't get enough. Every year it is an ongoing struggle for me -- I want to cut off the blooms and bring them all inside. But they bring me so much joy out here too, even if it's just us that sees them most of the time. 

Here's a view from the bottom of our yard up to the house: 

deck and patio in backyard

I say the bottom because of the slope back there. I think they told us it was like ten feet down from the back of the house. We don't have much to mow but it is a workout with the steep grade. 

Around the corner from the back is the playset and my butterfly garden. :) I started it last year and finished it up last month: 

patio with pergola
I haven't seen many butterflies yet, but at at least it's all growing! 

One of my favorite parts of the backyard are the natural looking stones in the landscaping. A friend of ours did the hardscaping (and the patio) and they did such a beautiful job:
rocks as stepping stones

The fireplace was a splurge -- it is absolutely wonderful on fall evenings: 

stone fireplace outside

We use it throughout the summer on cooler nights too. 

We have a ton of entertaining space out here -- it really is a dream come true to have this beautiful backyard. I use my DIY potting bench all the time for planting, but it's also the perfect spot for food and drinks when we entertain out here: 

DIY potting bench

Some of you wanted to see how the pergola fit in with the rest of the patio and hopefully this helps give you an idea: 

patio with fireplace

This was that view years ago before the patio was built: 

Look at my baby! So little!! Sniff. 

Around the other side I have more knock out bushes and one of my newest favorites -- the lamb's ear: 

Those are growing like mad this year too and for the first time have flowers! I had no idea they flowered -- they are the coolest plants (and great in full sun). 

Well that's the tour for you this year. Whew! I cut this down from well over 100 pics. I kind of love it. :) Every year I add a little more to the landscaping -- this year it was the butterfly garden. I'll have to show you more of that when everything is blooming. I have only purchased ONE hydrangea this year and that is for the front of the house, so be proud of me. :) 

I hope you enjoyed the tour! We are crazy lucky to have this space and thoroughly enjoy it. I'll share the pergola again later in early fall when we are able to stain it: 

pergola on deck

If you have questions about anything please feel free to ask! To see last year's tour of the backyard go here and to see how much it's changed since we had the patio put in four years ago, go here. (Even I was surprised at how different the landscaping looks!)