DIY Fall Wreath

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Hi, friends!  I’m so excited that Fall weather has finally graced us in Delaware, and it feels like it’s here to stay for at least a few weeks (fingers crossed).  There is so much to love about this time of year – from the clothes (plaid, sweaters, and scarves? Yes, please!) to warm, nature-inspired hues to soothing mugs of mulled apple cider.  Everything about the Autumn season feels so cozy.

This weekend, I decided it was time to Fall-ready our front porch, so I picked up a cart full of hearty mums in deep shades of yellow, orange, and burgundy, along with a few pumpkins in varying shapes and sizes to line our front steps.  The only thing missing was a big, bountiful Fall wreath to hang on our door.  Although there are a lot of pretty and affordable store-bought wreath options available, I was having trouble finding one in the exact style I wanted – bold and colorful, but not too country or too modern.  I decided a DIY option was my best option (as is so often the case)!

Here is how I assembled my easy DIY Fall wreath:

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To start, I laid out all of my supplies.  The options and variations are endless, but in general, you will need a base wreath of some sort (I used a traditional grapevine wreath that you can pick up at any craft store), artificial foliage, flowers, berries, etc. (you can really use your imagination here and have fun experimenting with colors and textures), a cutting tool to trim the foliage (wire cutters or heavy-duty scissors work best), and floral wire (available at craft stores) to secure stems in place.  It may also be helpful to have a hot glue gun on standby, depending on the size and shape of your accouterments, but I didn’t need to use one, since the stems I chose were larger and could be tucked securely into the grapevine wreath without the aid of an adhesive.

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I started by affixing grassy pieces of wheat around the wreath to serve as a backdrop for the brighter foliage.  My basic plan for the wreath was to have the foliage radiating out from a focal point in the lower right segment of the wreath.  I wanted a look that was random, but controlled (i.e. not a perfectly repeating pattern around the entire circle).  The grapevine wreath was a very user-friendly canvas; most of the stems could be inserted simply by pushing them into the desired area, and they stayed snugly in place as-is, without the need to affix them further.  To secure any stems that felt like they might wiggle around if left to their own devices, I cut a small length of floral wire (about 6 inches) and wrapped it around the stem (photo 1 above) and out the back side of the wreath, pulling the wire taut against the stem to hold it in place (photo 2).  I twisted the ends of the wire together several times (photo 3), cut off the excess, and tucked the end into the back of the wreath.  Below is a photo of the wreath with all of the wheat/grass in place.

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Now, for some color!  I repeated this process several times with varying styles and shades of Fall foliage, trying to keep the arrangement of shapes and colors random in a way that was pleasing to the eye.

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Once all of the foliage was in place, I added groupings of brightly-colored flowers, berries, and wispy orange grasses (a little whimsy here goes a long way to keep the overall arrangement from looking too stuffy).

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For a finishing touch, I tied a long ribbon around the top of the wreath into a loose, cascading bow, and there you have it – a lovely and deceivingly simple DIY Fall wreath.  The best part?  Your neighbors will never know you threw it together in less time than it takes to watch one of your shows on Netflix.  Shhh – we won’t tell! :)

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I hope you all give this DIY a try.  Feel free to tag me in your Instagram photos (@startingoutinstyle) or on Twitter (@StartingOIStyle) – I’d love to see your awesome Fall-fabulous creations!

Happy crafting,

Meg

Crafty Playroom Makeover

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My soon-to-be stepdaughter and all-around awesome kiddo, Aubrey, celebrated her 8th birthday recently, and as my gift to her, I decided to create a fun playroom/craft space in our finished basement.  Until now, the space had been used mostly as storage for her toy overflow and was completely utilitarian.  My goal was to turn the sterile-looking space into a bright, cheerful room where she would be excited to play with her friends, do arts and crafts, and feel like she had a special hangout spot in the house that was truly “hers”.

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{Artwork and Marquee Letter Source: Ross Stores}

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Since one of the main uses of the space would be for arts and crafts, I made sure to fill the room with items that were easy to clean (or inexpensive to replace if needed).  I avoided anything too precious, because let’s be honest, it’s likely that everything will wind up with paint or marker on it at some point.  In real life, kids are messy…and that’s ok!  My goal, though, was to give Aubrey a place to store each type of item (puzzles, crayons, books, etc.), so it would be easier for her to make a habit of keeping things tidy.

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{Sources: coffee table – Ikea (older); party banner, bookshelf, and rug – all from Target; “create” wall decor – JoAnn Fabrics; floor pillows and wooden planter box – Ross Stores; metal magazine rack – Marshalls/Home Goods}

IMG_2920At the center of the room is a smooth-surfaced coffee table that, with the addition of a few fun floor pillows, serves as a perfect spot to draw, paint, and work on craft projects.  A wooden planter box at the center of the table keeps all of Aubrey’s colored pencils, markers, and paint brushes within easy reach.  Larger supplies, such as paints and drawing pads, are tucked away neatly in the bookshelf.

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{Sources: bulletin board – Marshalls/Home Goods; table – local vintage store}

I tucked a small vintage nightstand and bulletin board into a corner of the room to turn this once-wasted space into a spot where Aubrey can display her favorite artwork.  The inside of the nightstand holds larger games and Lego sets and really helps to turn this awkward corner into a functional space.

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On the other side of the doorway, I hung a couple of maps to give the room a little bit of a classroom vibe (which Aubrey loves)!

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{Sources: chairs and striped rug – Target; supplies for wall embroidery hoop DIY – JoAnn Fabrics; Oscar Schmidt ukulele – Musician’s Friend}

On the far side of the room, I created a little seating area featuring two folding circle chairs centered around a colorful striped throw rug where Aubrey (or her grown-ups, for that matter!) can sit and read or watch TV.  The chairs are comfortable but lightweight enough to be moved around as needed, making them a great option for this type of multi-purpose room.

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For some colorful and inexpensive artwork, I created the above wall-hangings in what was one of my favorite and easiest DIY projects ever.  The only supplies needed were: 1) embroidery hoops of varying sizes (these can be purchased at any craft or fabric store); 2) scissors; and 3) fabric.  For an extra thrifty touch, instead of using traditional fabric purchased by the yard, I repurposed the fabric from a reusable shopping bag I picked up for around a dollar at the craft store.  The entire project cost around $5.00 and took me less than 10 minutes (including hanging time!).  I simply affixed the fabric inside the embroidery hoops, trimmed away the excess, and hung them on the wall.  That’s it!  As far as DIY projects go, this one was almost embarrassingly easy, but it adds such a great pop of color to the room and echoes the crafty motif.

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For some equally simple and high impact wall decor, I hung this festive party garland above the TV.  Throughout the entire room, I tried to keep the main wall and furniture colors relatively neutral and rely on accents like throw rugs, pillows, and wall decor to bring fun pops of neon pink, orange, and teal to the room.  This way, as Aubrey’s tastes change (as they inevitably will), it will be easy to swap out pieces and give the space a fresh look without a lot of effort or expense.

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Aubrey loves her new playroom.  Here she is showing off our first masterpieces completed the night of her birthday.  She has already had her friends from the neighborhood over to play in the new space and is enjoying putting little decorating touches on it to really make it her own.  It makes me so happy to see her using and enjoying the space…even if that means we get a little paint on the floor now and then. :)

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I’d love to hear your favorite ideas for decorating kid-friendly spaces and how you keep them looking tidy(ish).  Share your tips in the comments – I look forward to hearing from you!

Happy crafting!

Meg

 

Refreshing Summer Mojitos: Three Ways

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Hey, friends!  I’m sharing a few variations on one of my favorite summertime cocktails: the mojito!  The classic combination of rum, lime, and mint is so refreshing and really hits the spot in the summer months when the sun is hot, but the vibe is chill.  I was inspired to make a few versions of this fun cocktail – traditional mint, citrus-y orange, and cool blueberry – after a trip to my local market, where I scored a gorgeous haul of fresh mint and vibrant, seasonal fruit.

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Here’s what you need to try all three versions: white rum, club soda, fresh mint, limes, oranges, blueberries, and agave nectar or sweetener of choice.  (Full recipes below)

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Each version starts by placing fresh mint leaves and lime wedges in the bottom of a glass (for the orange or blueberry versions, also add orange wedges or blueberries, respectively).  Next, add the desired sweetener – traditionally, white sugar or simple syrup is used, but I love using agave nectar in my cocktails, since it blends so easily and is a healthier alternative to refined sugar.

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Use a cocktail muddler to smash the mint, fruit, and sweetener together, releasing all of the oils and juices.  (If you don’t have a muddler, the end of a wooden spoon works just fine).  Add crushed ice to the glass (side note: am I the only one who always runs out of ice at these crucial junctures?)

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Top off the muddled mixture and ice with the desired amount of rum and club soda; give the contents of the glass a quick stir and add some more fresh mint to garnish – et voila!

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Classic Mint Mojito:

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Ingredients:

6-8 fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

4 lime wedges (or about half of a lime)

1-2 tsp. agave nectar (or desired sweetener, such as white sugar, or simple syrup)

1/2 cup – 1 cup crushed ice/ice cubes

1 and 1/2 ounces of white rum

1/2 cup club soda

Directions:

Place mint leaves, lime wedges, and sweetener into a tall glass.  Use a muddler to crush the mint and lime, releasing the mint oils and lime juices.  Fill the glass with ice and add the rum.  Top off the rest of the glass with the club soda and stir gently to incorporate.  Taste and add more sweetener as needed.  Garnish with a mint spring and enjoy.

Fresh Orange Mojito:

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Ingredients:

6-8 fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

3-4 lime wedges (about half of a lime)

2 orange wedges, plus more for garnish

1-2 tsp. agave nectar (or desired sweetener, such as white sugar, or simple syrup)

1/2 cup – 1 cup crushed ice/ice cubes

1 and 1/2 ounces of white rum

1/2 cup club soda

Directions:

Place mint leaves, lime and orange wedges, and sweetener into a tall glass.  Use a muddler to crush the mint and fruit, releasing the oils and juices.  Fill the glass with ice and add the rum.  Top off the rest of the glass with the club soda and stir gently to incorporate.  Taste and add more sweetener as needed.  Garnish with a mint spring and orange wedge.

Cool Blueberry Mojito:

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Ingredients:

6-8 fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

3-4 lime wedges (or about half of a lime)

10-15 blueberries, plus more for garnish (about a palm full)

1-2 tsp. agave nectar (or desired sweetener, such as white sugar, or simple syrup)

1/2 cup – 1 cup crushed ice/ice cubes

1 and 1/2 ounces of white rum

1/2 cup club soda

Directions:

Place mint leaves, lime wedges, blueberries, and sweetener into a tall glass.  Use a muddler to crush the mint and fruit, releasing the oils and juices.  Fill the glass with ice and add the rum.  Top off the rest of the glass with the club soda and stir gently to incorporate.  Taste and add more sweetener as needed.  Garnish with a mint spring and a few more whole blueberries.

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As with most drinks, these mojitos turn out the best when you adjust the proportions of the ingredients (sweetener, rum, and club soda) to suit your individual tastes.  I prefer to make mine on the less-sweet side, so the herb-y mint and natural fruit flavors shine, but for those who are not huge mint-lovers, adding more sweetener would help to mellow the flavors.

I hope you have fun trying out these refreshing mojitos!  Keep cool & summer on!

xo Megan

Here Comes The Sun: My Start of Summer Essentials

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Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, and you know what that means – the unofficial start of Summer is here!  It’s the time for grilling and eating meals outdoors, switching to iced coffee, and whipping neglected flowerbeds into shape; time for impromptu trips to the beach and watching fireflies at dusk from the comfort of a screened porch.  Summer is all about those easy moments, when we can take a collective deep breath and release the stress of a long-endured Winter (say it with me now: ahhhhhhh).  To make this Summer even more special, I’ll be kicking off the season with my 30th (!!!) birthday.  There’s nothing quite like embarking on another decade to put time in perspective, and I’m determined this year to make the most out of the beautiful Summer sunshine while I have it.  To help with that, I’ve put together a list of my go-to Summer essentials.  These are the items – some fun (a cute monogram tote) and some absolute necessities (sunscreen!) – that I’ll be reaching for time and time again this Summer.

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1. Sun Protection.  Let’s start with the #1 item I literally cannot live without during the Summer – sunscreen!  (Ok, so maybe I could literally live without this liquid SPF gold, but my burnt and miserable skin would never forgive me).  For body coverage, I love Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist, SPF 70.  I find spray sunscreens to be the easiest to apply, especially in hard-to-reach areas, and this one in particular provides very sheer, non-greasy, and reliable coverage.  (Note: always apply spray sunscreens in well-ventilated areas to avoid accidental inhalation of chemicals and never spray directly onto the face; spray into your hands and apply).  For the face, I prefer a lightweight, oil-free lotion such as Shiseido ‘Urban Environment’ Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42 that has a matte finish suitable for wearing under makeup. (Kudos to those women who feel confident going sans makeup in the Summer, but alas, I am not one of them).

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2. Swimsuit.  Call me old fashioned, but I am loving the resurgence of modest, retro-inspired swimsuits.  The trick to pulling off a one piece without looking like your mother (no offense to moms – I know some hot mamas!) is to find styles with youthful accents such as bright colors, playful patterns, or cheeky details.  I love this Vintage Boyleg Swimsuit from Boden.  Nautical navy and white stripes are Summer classics, and the polka dot detailing keeps it fresh and fun.

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3. Cover-up.  Warm weather calls for easy, laid-back style, and for me, nothing fits the bill quite like a breezy Summer dress that can double as a swim cover-up.  This crochet-trimmed style from Zara is versatile enough to take you from the beach to a lunch date.

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4. Shades.  I wear prescription sunglasses, so as much as I’d love to don the cute, trendy, and inexpensive shades I see everywhere from Target to my local drugstore, I usually splurge on a quality pair that will carry me through several seasons.  I gravitate toward classic styles such as these Tory Burch aviators or Ray Ban wayfarers.

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5. Sun Hat.  In the summer, I never leave the house without a hat in hand.  Wide brimmed and fedora styles keep the sun out of my face and help keep my bangs and long hair in check on especially breezy days.  I have a few go-with-everything hats in rotation, but this classic panama hat from J.Crew is one of my favorites.  I usually have a difficult time finding hats for my (apparently giant!?) head, but luckily this one comes in S/M/L sizing, so I was able to get the proper fit.

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6. Sandals. I know I’m in the minority on this one, but I have never been a huge fan of flip-flops.  They certainly have their place at the beach or by the pool, but there are so many other fun, stylish, and equally easygoing alternatives I prefer for day-to-day wear.  This embellished sandal from Target is chic, comfortable, and wallet friendly at around $22.

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7. Easy Jewelry.  When it’s hot and humid outside, the last thing I want to do is load up on tons of jewelry.  Instead, I’d rather throw on a bold statement piece like these wood tassel bracelets from Gold & Gray.  I love the pop of the bright tassels against the neutral beads – so fun!

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8. Beach Towel.  Yes, beach towels and blankets are made to get wet and sandy, but nothing says they can’t be stylish too!  I love the texture and generous size of this Herringbone Striped Turkish Cotton Towel, and it can even double as a picnic blanket or a casual table topper.

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9. Portable Charger.  I carry this little pocket battery charger in my purse year round, but it especially comes in handy in the Summer months when so much time is spent outdoors (and away from an outlet)!  I use it to charge my cell phone, e-reader, and other mobile devices when I’m on the go, and it does a surprisingly good job for such a little device.  At less than $15, this one is a no-brainer.

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10. E-Reader.  One of the things I most look forward to during the Summer is sitting on the beach or out on the porch with a good book.  I love the feel of a good old-fashioned paperback in my hands, but e-readers are just so darn convenient – especially when you are on vacation and want to bring several books with you but don’t want to weigh down your luggage.  This Kindle Paperwhite is my go-to choice for digital reading and the closest thing I have found to reading actual paper.  The screen performs beautifully in the sun with no glare, and at around $100, it’s not nearly as big of a commitment as it’s flashier tablet cousins.

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11. Water Bottle.  Confession: I am a coffee fiend, and I will never give up my oh-so-delicious habit.  That being said, I do try to stay hydrated and drink as much water as I can throughout the day, especially in the unforgiving Summer heat.  I LOVE the clean styling and simple silicone cap (do you also get annoyed by lids with moving parts, or is that just me???) of this eco-friendly glass water bottle.  Now, the real trick is to force myself to drink at least one of these filled with water for every cup of coffee I have. #healthgoals

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12. Roomy Tote.  Finally, with all of the fun Summer activities on the horizon, I’ll need a big tote bag to carry all of my must-haves.  I have been coveting this monogrammed St. Anne Tote from Barrington Gifts, and I love that you can personalize it with your choice of background fabric, stripe color, and monogram style.  My choice is a straw background (i.e. will go with everything!) with a fun pop of navy and bright green, but there are so many combinations available; it’s hard to choose just one!

So, what’s on your Summer must-have list?

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Wishing everyone a very fun-filled, sunny, and safe Memorial Day Weekend! XO Meg

Falling in Like with Our Sitting Room

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Since moving into our home a little over a year ago, we’ve debated what to do with the awkward little room off of our entryway.  I deemed this room the “sitting room” (though we don’t actually do much sitting here), because that had a nicer ring to it than the “wasted space room”.  It’s too small to use as a proper living or dining room, and since it’s the first thing you see when you enter the house, we’d rather not use it for an office or playroom (i.e. anything likely to greet you with a collection of clutter when you first step through the door).  We need to give the room a dedicated purpose, but I just haven’t loved anything we’ve tried in the space yet.  This past weekend, though, I decided to give the space an early Valentine’s Day treatment, and I think I may have finally stumbled upon a solution to this decorating dilemma that I love like very much.

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I decided to use some of my favorite leather-bound books as a backdrop for some V-Day themed decor, and the more I arranged and rearranged the shelves of our little vintage cabinet, the more I liked the idea of using this space as a home library – a cozy (electronic-free) corner of the house to sit and read, enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, and showcase my dear collection of leather-bound classics.  The books you see here are just a small part of a larger collection, so I can envision us eventually replacing the small cabinet with a much larger bookshelf or custom built-ins.  I think we’ll live with the current setup for a while to see if the home library might be the winning solution for our awkward little space, but for now, I am very much in like with the idea.

Here are the details on the current setup, including a quick tutorial on how I made the chalkboard using a reclaimed vintage door:

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For starters, this room is very much a work in progress.  The wall color, carpeting, and window treatments were the previous owners’ choosing, and they are on our list to be updated.  Until then, we’re trying to make the most out of the bland-on-bland color palette.  At the center of the room is a vintage glass-doored cabinet, a $40 Craigslist find that JC and I repaired and then refinished with distressed layers of cottage white and elephant gray paint.  This little piece holds a special place in my heart, since it’s the first DIY project that JC and I worked on together.  That being said, it makes a fitting centerpiece for my V-Day inspired arrangement.

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My goal was to fill the shelves with items that were sentimental or love-inspired without going overboard.  I wanted to give a nod to the holiday without venturing into full-on Hallmark mode.  (It’s a fine line sometimes).  I started by arranging small groupings of books along the shelves.  At first I used only red books but felt I needed some contrast to keep the arrangement from looking too formal (a little maroon leather and gold gilding goes a long way).  I then filled in the remaining space with photos and other decorative items including a pretty soap dish I found to hold chalk and our DIY “date jar” (more details on that another time).  Along the front of the cabinet, I secured two ribbons and used mini clothespins to hang some sweet family photos.

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I brought in a club chair to flank the cabinet, along with a gray storage ottoman to house some less display-worthy books and magazines.  I accented the chair with a pink and gray pillow, a cozy throw blanket, and a couple stuffed animals for a sweet touch.  I can’t wait to have a quiet morning free, so I can cuddle up here with a good book!

Behind the chair and resting against the wall is a chalkboard I made using a vintage reclaimed door I picked up from a local resale shop for $20.  The quote – “Love actually is all around” – is from the movie Love Actually, which is one of our all-time favorites.

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Before painting the door, I gave it a very thorough cleaning, making sure to knock off any chipped or loose paint, so my chalkboard surface would be nice and smooth.  If the door had layers of glossy paint or a very uneven finish, I would have chosen to do more prep work, but because it had a smooth, matte finish, I didn’t feel the need to sand or prime it.  I used Krylon low odor chalkboard paint, so as you can see in the photos above, I was able to paint right in my living room with the door cracked for ventilation.  (It’s freezing this time of year in the Northeast, so I try to avoid working outside or in the garage at all costs!)  Because the inset panels of my door had a nice defined edge, I was able to easily cut in the outside border of paint without the assistance of painter’s tape (bonus!).  Once the outside border was painted, I went back and filled in the center space.  As you can see above, the first coat was very thin.  I ended up needing three coats of chalkboard paint to get the coverage I wanted, making sure to let the paint dry thoroughly between coats.  Remember, your end result will be much more durable if you do several thin coats rather than one thick coat.  Once the final coat was dry, the chalkboard was ready to use – no need to do a seal coat with chalkboard paint (double bonus!).

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I found the above chalk pastels at Target, and they worked really well on my painted chalkboard surface.  I made sure to test the chalk out in an inconspicuous corner to make sure it would erase.  Don’t forget this step!  You don’t want to go to all of the trouble of painting your chalkboard only to have to paint it again, because your chalk won’t wipe off!

I think my first chalkboard design came out ok, but it took me so much time to freehand my lettering.  I have a whole new level of appreciation for my school teachers who were able to write so legibly on the chalkboards day in and day out – it’s not easy!

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The source of the quote, Love Actually, is all about the different types of love to be found – romantic love, the love of a father for a child, the love of a longtime friend – and that felt like the perfect expression for our home and our little family unit made up of me, my boyfriend (and longtime best friend) JC, and his daughter A.

We are still learning to love our house, room by room, as we make it our own.  Some rooms were love at first site, and some, like our little sitting room, we have grown to like more and more over time, with a little trial and error and lot of patience.  The fun is in the process, though, and we couldn’t be happier to be living under this roof – quirky rooms and all – together.

Wishing all of you a love-filled season, from our home to yours.

Xoxo Meg

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