Archive for June, 2011

Homemade Gift Wrap Using Stamps

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

For us, summer means lots of birthday parties and presents.  One of my favorite things to do is to decorate my own wrapping paper.  For pennies, I can make a unique and homemade design.

I love using the new clear acrylic blocks and rubber stamps.  The rubber stamps usually come several to a sheet for cost savings over the traditional one per wood block of yesterday.  The clear acrylic blocks also make it so easy to see where you are placing your stamp – no more guess work!  Since I’m only a part-time stamper, a nice multicolor ink pad works for me. 

I wrap the presents in plain drawing paper that I bought in rolls from Ikea.  The rolls are $4.99 each and are 98 feet long. That’s about 5 cents a foot!  Depending on the package, I may wrap the package before I stamp or after.  It’s all up to you and your creativity.

The colorbox stamp pad has “petals” that you can take out to use individually.  All the ink cleans up easily with soap and water.

Add some ribbon and for pennies, you are done!  This was something fun for a kid’s birthday gift.  I have several stamp sheets and can do more intricate and elegant designs, as well as some theme stamps for the fun of it.

Your initial investment for years of stamping fun is probably about $25-$30.  I always buy my stamps on sale or use the 40 and 50% off coupons for Michael’s and AC Moore.  The large acrylic block is $10, but with a coupon is $5.  The stamps range from $2 – $20.  I usually get my sheets for $7 or less with a coupon (and there are always sales on this stuff).  The ink pad was about $5 with a 50% off coupon and has lasted me 4 years so far.

I cannot wait until the kids are old enough to help me decorate.  It will be so much fun to have them stamp their own paper and doodle designs!

Happy 2nd Birthday Oliver

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

My baby is turning 2 this upcoming week.  It feels like yesterday that I wrote about his first birthday.  Since then, he has grown before my eyes and yours too. 

In honor of his love of trains, we threw a Thomas the Train themed party.  Luckily, Thomas is a party favorite for little tots everywhere and Target had a Thomas line of birthday items. 

To save money, we only bought a few Thomas items and supplemented with generic party supplies.   The tablecloth and cake plates screamed Thomas the train.  I brought out some generic red paper plates that I bought at a massive discount after Valentine’s day and plain old napkins and plasticware.  We used up the rest of the helium tank from his first birthday and blew up a few fancy mylar balloons that we had saved from last year.  Did you know you can reuse them year after year? 

For food, we bought a sandwhich platter and then cut up our own fruits and veggies.  Add some chips and dip and you have a party!  I did buy a Thomas cake from Food Lion, but got a discount for ordering it on a Thursday.

The kiddos got little goody bags full of organic snack size packages and an awesome echo microphone that I picked up at Toys-R-Us.  Everything was going great until we brought the cake out. 

Just as we finished singing Happy Birthday, Oliver decided to grab the train off the cake.  At the very last second, his hand swerved and he grabbed the candle wick instead.  Ouch!!! 

After a few minutes, Oliver was a-ok and finally got his train off the cake.

Meanwhile, Evelyn couldn’t wait to get her grubby paws on the cake herself.  One good swipe and she discovered the joys of whipped icing!

Evelyn was right there to gobble up all the wrappings after Oliver opened the gifts.

We had a great time with family and friends and Oliver handled the crowd well.  Evelyn was thrilled to be surrounded by such fancy paper (her favorite snack is paper) and couldn’t wait to eat more cake. 

When everyone went home for the night, he laid down on the floor and put his head in my lap.  A baby no more, but just as precious to his mommy.

Renew House Numbers and Doorbell with Paint

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

One way to kick up your curb appeal is to trade out your worn out house numbers and doorbell for something new.  The 2Pennies way is to give them a fresh look with spray paint.

My old house numbers were a dingy, tarnished, and faded heavy metal (maybe brass?). The doorbell was also grimy and worn from years of dirty finger use.  The first thing to do is to remove them from your house and give them a good scrubbing with soap and water.  Be careful not to soak the doorbell in water.  Next, LIGHTLY rub them with some fine grit sandpaper – 220 or higher.  The point is to take away the sheen or shine.  This helps the spray paint to adhere.

Layer your workspace with newspaper and work in a well ventilated area.  Spray paint has serious fumes.  I elevated my items on some crushed balls of aluminum foil.  This method ensures the paper doesn’t stick to the pieces as they dry and you can spray the sides along with the tops. 

Shake your spray paint the recommended time that is posted on the can and do a few test sprays to make sure the nozzle is clear.  Start the spray away from the object being painted, sweep the can over the object, and end the spray away from the object.  You never want to aim the can directly at the piece and push the nozzle.  The paint will immediately pool and run. 

Make several passes and let the pieces dry.  Spray a second or third time if it needs it.  If the edges of the pieces are not fully covered, don’t despair, we will fix that later on.

For the door bell, use masking tape to tape off the button and/or the ring around the button.  Press it on firmly and use a sharp knife to cut away the excess.

It will take at least 24 hours for the pieces to fully dry and cure with low humidity.  When they are ready, you can now touch up the edges. 

Spray some paint into a little aluminum foil bowl and break the end of a toothpick off to use as a brush. 

Dip the toothpick in the paint and then touch it to the edge of your item.  The paint almost wicks itself off the brush and onto the metal!  Keep dipping and dabbing until all your edges are set.  Be sure to make some new foil balls to set your pieces on to dry.

After a few hours, everything is ready to go!  If you want to further weather proof your stuff , buy some semi-gloss or gloss polyurethane spray and spray on several coats.  My spray paint was already exterior semi-gloss so I did not take this extra step.

We tacked up the new numbers on the front porch post where they would be more visible.  Not to shabby!

The doorbell turned out decent as well.

A new doorbell would have cost $14 and comparable new numbers were $4 bucks each.  Buying new would have cost $30.  Instead, I used a can of spray paint that I already had to pull of this redo for free.  Even if I had to buy a quality can of Rustoleum Interior/Exterior High Gloss Black Spray Paint, it would have only cost me $3.98.

I’m going to break out my trusty toothpick again and touch up the old screwheads with black paint to finish it off.  Not to shabby!

Vinyl Siding Project Finished – Overview

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

After 10 days, the contractors finally finished the vinyl siding on our house.  It cost around 7 grand and took 4 weeks from the time that Lowes gave us an estimate, to ordering and delivering materials, and installing the siding.  Here are some before and after shots.

After several years of drought and massive water restrictions, we created an extensive rainwater collection system.  Our plants loved it, but so did the mosquitos!

After the siding, the house fits into our woodsy lot much better.

The infamous chimney after the woodpecker damage, but before the ant invasion.

Looks totally different!  I am so happy to get rid of the green trim.

The vertical siding always made the front of the house look too large for it’s size.  The green also seemed drab to me.

The horizontal vinyl really brings the house back down to scale.  The white trim makes the house pop!  We added a decorative vent to the front and the back of the house for a little something something and painted the shutters and door a reddish brown.

So what do you think? I like it!

Here are a few things I learned from the experience:

1) Everybody has a job to do and nobody knows what the other person is doing.  The people at Lowes, the installation company and the actual installers themselves all had a different story as to what was going on.  Lowes handled the money and materials.  The install company gave Lowes the material order after a walk through and gave the installers the general plan.  The installers just did their job.  In other words, don’t ask them any questions about the materials or money.  If the installers are doing something that isn’t in the contract, call Lowes right away and don’t argue with the installers.

2) The onsite installers are the only people who know when they will be finished. Lowes said they would start on a Tuesday and be done by Friday (4 days).  The install boss said they would be done the following Tuesday or Wednesday.  The installers laughed and said they would push to be done by the following Thursday (10 days).  The guys onsite know exactly what is going on with your house, what needs to be done, and how long it will take them.

3) The installers will remove anything attached to your house (ie. light fixtures, door bells, house numbers, shutters) and will help you put them back on if you ask.  Some things they have to do per contract (ie. remove and reinstall the light fixture and doorbell), but others they will do if you ask nicely.  When I told them on the first day that I was going to paint the shutters, doorbell, and numbers, they removed those first so I could get to it.  They also installed a brand new porch light straight out of the box for us.  At the end, they reinstalled everything no problem and even suggested a new location for the house numbers on the porch post.

4) Work with your installers to ensure a smooth project from start to finish.  Talk to your installers on the first day to find out what they will do and when.  Share any ideas, wants, and desires with them.  They will do their best to work with you.  For example, I told them that I was going to paint the front porch and back deck floors.  They suggested that I paint a 12 inch border on the floor wherever the vinyl would touch it well in advance of them working on it.  After I painted and they installed the starter strip, we had a nice clean edge where the vinyl rested on the floor.  Other things they did for us:  They worked on the opposite side of the house when my kids had their afternoon naps.  They took our bug sprayer to the top of the chimney and killed an ant colony before putting up the vinyl siding.  They moved all the materials out of the yard where Lowes had dropped it and over to the driveway so our grass wouldn’t die.

5) Show your appreciation for a job well done.  I wouldn’t have thought to do this if my mother inlaw hadn’t suggested it, but I gave each guy a $40 tip when the job was done.  These guys worked diligently through 90+ degree weather on a 12 sided house with a 4 gabled roof, and two covered porch/deck.  They never complained, were always friendly, and did alot of little extras for us like working with the naps, killing the bugs, and hanging my stuff back up.  I put each tip in a little thank you card and wrote a little note expressing my appreciation.  They seemed to be very grateful and were a bit happier when they left.

7 Months So Soon

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

My baby is 7 months old already!  I can’t believe it.  We took her in for some pics this past weekend.

She sits up very well and rocks on her hands and knees all the time.  She scoots and squirms all over the floor and can get from point A to point B in no time at all.  I half expect her to take off crawling any minute and want to put little bells on her feet.  She is a very happy baby and loves to be around people.  I wish I could keep her this size for another year or two!

The blog is a little behind as of 6-12-2011.  These past 3 weeks have been extremely busy for us.  Our little house has been full with visits from my inlaws, my parents, and a birthday party for Oliver.  Speaking of growing up, my little man recently turned 2!  We’ve also been dealing with contractors and realtors and fixing up our house during spare minutes in between.  I have a series of posts that I will back date so we can stay in order.  Lots to talk about from the vinyl siding job, real estate, do it yourself projects, new counter tops, and family fun!

This post was written on June 12, but is being inserted at June 2 until I catch up with my back posts.  I will put it back in on June 12 when I am done…

Vinyl Siding Update: Day 8

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

It’s been over a week since the contractors have been working on our house.  They had the 3 day weekend off and they are pretty sure they will be finished tomorrow.  I sure hope so.  All the pounding and the mess is getting to me.  I have a ton of things to do and I can’t get to them with all that’s going on.

The big project today was the chimney.  The wood has been rotting for some time and we’ve been battling one ant infestation after another.  When they started pulling off the rotted wood, we saw that the ants had burrowed into the insulation.  They were living in the blue stuff and eating away at all the wet wood.

The dude was surprised at how much wood had to come off.  We told him the entire chimney had to be rebuilt!  Luckily, the framing underneath was 100% solid.  Before he put up the OSB, he took our bug sprayer up there and doused remaining ants. 

The other guy kept on keeping on with the soffits and trim.  He said that our house was as much work as 2 houses due to the design.  Most houses have 4 sides and 2 roof peaks.  Ours has 12 sides and 4 roof peaks.  Not to mention, we have a covered porch and a covered deck that they have to work with as well.

I can’t wait for tomorrow to come!  They will be hanging the shutters that I painted, the house numbers, and the doorbell.  They’ll also wrap all the trim around the doors with metal and finish up the chimney and soffits.  It will be done in time for our big party this weekend.  YAY!

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