5/28/13

Our DIY Retaining Wall

Ever since I moved into my current house, I wanted to add a retaining wall right off our front porch. Our yard slants to the right, and our existing landscape just blended in too much.

Justin and I took the long weekend to finally attack this project and WOW, it was a lot of work. This was the first true landscaping project for both of us, and we just figured it out on our own step by step.

Justin started by deciding what shape he wanted the retaining wall. Although he just eyed this part, using a garden hose to mark the shape can help. He began digging out the line that the first row of pavers would set in.
 Justin dug about 3 inches deep and and about 8 inches wide. Our pavers measured 8''x12'' and are 6'' deep, so this meant that the first row of pavers fit nice and snug and were set in the ground about half way.

As you can see from this pic, we decided on a doing a curved retaining wall.
Once you get your general line of the retaining wall, it is imperative that it is completely level. We did this by using a 8'' tamper. One by one, Justin laid down each paver and made sure it was level.
If this row is not completely level, your entire wall will be off center.This is the most tedious part of the whole project. However, once you get the first row down, than it's just a matter of stacking the rest of the pavers.

First row down. This is the point of the slope that the next row of pavers begins. I'll let the photos show this process.
Justin continued to make sure the pavers remained completely level throughout the whole process. It's much easier to adjust each paver as you go, than it would be to have to remove several bricks and discover where the unevenness begins.

All in all, it took 89 pavers! Mind you, they weigh 22.5lbs each. We had to load them onto our cart at Home Depot, than into our car and then unload once we got home. It took us three trips to Home Depot over 2 days, and we both feel like we ran a marathon this weekend. It was tough work!

Once our wall was built, it was time to fill it up. The first layer consisted of coarse paver sand and we tightly packed the backside of the pavers to prevent them from moving.

After 10 bags of paver sand, we filled the remaining space with 8- 40lb bags of potting soil and then topped it with 5 bags of mulch.
 
So you don't have to scroll back up, here is the before once more-

And now the After-




Justin did such a good job. I love how this turned out.

I should note, that we were carefully supervised the entire time by these two boys :)

A few things to note-
1. We ended up having to cut a few pavers and use a half on each end. Justin was able to get a clean break by using a steel mallet and chisel, like this-
2. You will use more pavers than you think. We thought we'd use 60, we ended up with 89. This was largely due to us deciding that we should do another row after it was built, but we were still short a few in general. Buy extra.
3. It is labor-intensive. The actual building of the wall is fairly simple to figure out. However, carrying 22.5lb pavers all day long in the hot sun and wind took it out of us. Take breaks and don't over do it.

A few more pictures, just because we are so happy with our hard work-


Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!-Suzanne and Justin

5/23/13

Affordable Finds and Loving Your Look for Less

This past weekend, I stopped by the grand opening of the new Kirklands at Independence Center Mall. I was really amazed at how large the store was, and they had loads of items.

I have shared a few of my past finds from Kirklands before, as I have found some great pieces there that resemble items found from higher-end stores but at much more affordable prices. I thought it would be fun to showcase some look-for-less items.

Without further ado, here is What To Buy: Kirklands Edition

1. Large Wall Planter $99



Reminiscent of this planter from Ballard Designs, which retails for $299


2. Kirklands Mirrored Bench for $169

Similar to this one from Horchow for $629
3. Large wall clock on sale for $19.99



Perhaps it was inspired by this Z Gallerie clock for $169

4. Framed Eiffel Tower Print $24.99
 
 
5. Mirrored Dresser $299 ( I LOVE this piece!)

Inspired by Pottery Barn's Park Mirrored Dresser, $799

How about you? Have you found any great knock-off accessories or furniture? Share them with me please!

Have a lovely holiday weekend! -S

*PS- I was not compensated whatsoever by Kirklands for this post. I enjoy the store and was excited to share some of their inspired-by pieces.

5/16/13

Confessions From a 30-Year Old Bride

pic courtesy of WeddBook
 
I titled this Confessions of a Thirty Year Old Bride, not because there is anything wrong with being 30 and walking down the aisle, nor because it is even out of the ordinary. I just feel that perspective is different as a 30+ year old than a 20ish year old bride. Not better, not worse, just different. *Please note, I will be celebrating my second-29th birthday next month. Yikes.

For one thing, by the time people hit their 30th year, they have likely been to 225 weddings, or at least it feels that way between showers, bachelorettes, rehearsals and the actual event. Every wedding is beautiful and special in it's own way, but after attending multiple weddings you have a much better idea of what works and what matters.

pic courtesy of GreyLikesWeddings

Justin and I are largely paying for our wedding ourselves. Although, I am doing everything I can to keep costs down, it still manages to add up quick. I am definitely not the only one that has shared so-called tips and tricks on saving money. There are countless books, articles and magazines that are targeted to budget-minded brides. However, I feel as though they all say the same thing and often their definition of 'inexpensive' is quite different than my own. Plus, it's a much different feeling when you are paying for a wedding yourself, along with a mortgage. Oh the joys of adulthood!

Here's How We Have Attacked The Wedding Planning Craziness Without Breaking The Bank-

1. First and foremost, identify what is important to you...and what isn't

pic courtesy of ProjectWedding
 
For Justin, a music lover, he was immediately focused on finding a good band. As I look back upon the dozens of weddings I have attended the past few years, the things that stand out to me are whether or not I had a great time. I don't define 'a great time' by the color scheme, the number of bridesmaids or even the food within reason. It typically comes down to whether the DJ was super lame, the band super cheesy or if I danced all night long. Our band was our splurge item.
 
pic courtesy of Burnett'sBoards
 
Our invites and paper goods were not. We decided to forgo sending save-the-dates, as we are having a fairly intimate event between 80-100 guests and everyone already knows the date. . We are forgoing traditional programs and will be placing a single sheet at each seat for the ceremony, which will thank our guests for coming and introduce our small bridal party. I also designing and printing our actual invitations myself, which saves an unbelievable amount of money. I will share all of the details of our DIY invites, once they are completed.


2. Be flexible

We knew we wanted an early-Fall wedding. For one, it's my favorite time of year and for another, the weather is typically nice in KC then. We focused on the month of September but weren't set on a particular day. This helped tremendously. Our dream venue had one opening from August through November, which happened to be a Friday. We thought about this and weighed the options of losing our favorite design space and decided to go with it. Not only was a Friday evening rental several thousand dollars cheaper, we found our band and photographer charged a little less for Fridays too.

pic courtesy of OnceWed

3. Multi-task

Have the ceremony and reception at the same place. Not only is this considerate for your guests so they don't have to travel to different venues, but it also saves money. One venue means your altar flower arrangements can quickly double as center pieces etc. etc. There is typically just a nominal charge for adding ceremony time to your reception.

4. Bring in the booze
pic courtesy of OnceWed
 
Find a venue that allows you to bring in your own food and alcohol. Our venue takes care of the food, but we can bring in our own alcohol. We are buying bottles in bulk at a local liquor store. Costco also allows you to purchase in bulk, plus you can return unopened bottles after the event. You will be amazed at how much this can save you. Speaking of libations, offering a signature cocktail or two can  drastically shrink your bar tab.

5. Google is your friend

So is Etsy, Pinterest and The Knot. BUT...too much of a good thing is not good at all. Visiting a message board on any wedding website can cause you to second guess your decision on your cake, dress, invites, whatever. It can also cause a case of bridezilla-ness. Normally sane women will start over-analyzing the shape of their cake, the shade of the ribbon tying their bouquet together, etc. It's easy to get lost in all the details, but remember to keep your eye on the prize...your sweet hubby-to-be. Use wedding websites to scout out deals and unique ideas but don't forget to step away from the computer every now and again.

6. Do your research before signing any contract

pic courtesy of EtsySellerArtSeed
 
I read vendor reviews like it was my job. I chatted with my girlfriends who are currently engaged or have gotten married in the past few years. I used every resource I could to ensure that A) we were getting the best deal possible and B) we selected reliable vendors. This has given me enormous peace of mind, and I feel very confident that our vendors will deliver on the big day. This also gave me confidence to negotiate with vendors. We got a few hundred dollars off of our venue simply for asking. Our florist came highly recommended as offering gorgeous bouquets but also keeping costs down.

A few general guidelines to keep you sane during wedding planning-

7. Make it your own

It's easy to fall into the cookie-cutter wedding: white dress, black tux, I  do, me too, time to eat cake.
The weddings that have stood out to me are the ones that I felt best represented the couple. The ones with personal touches. I went to a wedding several years ago where the bride wore a short white dress and fun red heels. It was just so her. I loved that she looked like herself and let her strong sense of style show-through.
pic courtesy of DetailsDetails Love that the bride wore a daring black gown
 
I remember when Justin and I were first dating, he brought over a bottle of champagne on a mundane night. We weren't celebrating any milestone, just eating dinner at home. I asked him what the bottle of bubbly was for and he just said, 'we're celebrating being together, in love and enjoying a night in with each other.' This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with this man. He never ceases to surprise me and he has taught me to stop and smell the roses so-to-speak. This memory has become the theme of our wedding. Lots of champagne and celebrating...each other...love...life.
With this in mind, we want guests to know they are in for a true party as soon as they walk in. Guests will be offered champagne or sparkling cider as soon as they enter (pre-ceremony). Music (upbeat, contemporary music) will be playing as well. In lieu of a traditional guest book, we will have a Wish Tree, where guests will write sweet notes that we can cherish forever. We are also planning a few unique surprises during our ceremony, but I will wait to share those until after the big day.

8. Don't forget the reason for the wedding
pic courtesy of Pinterest
 
I have had a few moments of getting caught up in wedding planning stress. The 'You meant to tell me you STILL haven't put together your side of the guest list,' moments. This will happen to even the most mellow of brides. Just don't let your stress affect your relationship. Because once the wedding is done (and it will go by quick!), you will be married...to the person you are currently screaming at. You don't want wedding stress to cause the beginning of your marriage to be strained.

9. Know that everyone has an opinion but yours and your fiance's is the one that matters most

Weddings seem to bring out the best and the worst in people. Some people prefer sit-down dinners, when you love buffets or suggest a DJ after you've booked a band. Just smile, acknowledge their suggestion and remain confident in your choice. Weddings can also bring up old family feuds. Aunt Susie isn't speaking to Aunt Carol or your second-cousin Mary is upset that you didn't invite her 7 kids. Whatever it is, you can't let that impact your day.
pic courtesy of JuneBugWeddings
 
However, do accept help when offered. You may think you can handle assembling 150 invitations, envelopes, programs, menu cards and place cards yourself, but I can assure you that's it's a lot of work. Invite your bridesmaids, friends, mom over for some wine and wedding crafts. (Which reminds me- Meghan, Sarah, Meryl and Linda: I'll be calling you soon:).

10. If at the end of the day you married your best friend, than your wedding was a success

pic courtesy of TheKnot

Even the most well-planned events can go wrong. It may be a windy, rainy grey day. Your veil may tear (a 'la Pam from The Office). Your cake may melt (which actually happened to my future in-laws who have been happily married for well over 40 years now). It's these types of things that can make for some funny memories later on. Don't let a minor incident put a damper on your day.
 

With less than 4 months to go until our big day, we are getting excited! I wrote this post as much for myself as for other future brides and grooms:)
pic courtesy of WantThatWedding
 
What was your favorite part of the wedding planning process?
xoxo, Suzanne

5/15/13

Pretty and Peaceful Nursery for Baby Girl #2

I have mentioned my dear friend, Jessica, on here before. (Click HERE to see her thrifted dresser makeover)You know, the girl that is a dead ringer for Jessica Alba and who makes pregnancy look gorgeous, stylish and effortless. Her keen sense of style and shared passion for up cycling goods extends beyond her closet and into her decor.

Jes is currently expecting her second daughter this July and just finished the final touches on the new nursery. This pretty space just put my baby fever in overdrive.

I love nurseries that are soft and pretty and without any cheesy themes, like this one. I think Jes did a great job picking beautiful, neutral pieces and adding in just the right mix of textures and patterns to keep it interesting.
 
Jessica said that about 95% of this room was upcycled, which goes to show that beautiful rooms don't have to cost a fortune.
This armoire was a lucky Craigslist score!

Aren't little girl nurseries the sweetest rooms ever?

Thank you Jessica for letting me share another one of your fabulous projects. I can't wait to meet your new baby girl in a few short weeks! Love you!

Hope you all are having a great week! -Suzanne

5/13/13

Spring-ified

The weather was FINALLY nice this weekend, so Justin and I did some much needed yard maintenance. It felt so nice to enjoy the sunshine, while making the exterior of our home look better. Flowers just breathe nice life onto our porch.

After a long winter, our porch looked a little bare-

Thanks to those copper planters that adorned our porch last Summer, we were left with terrible stains on our concrete:( I tried everything to remove/fade these stains but nothing worked. To remedy this and prevent future stains, we covered the spots up with 16x16 slabs. At less than $2 each, it was a quick and cheap fix.

After a trip to Home Depot, we got to work.

I then added new planters from Target. These large bad-boys measure 21inches wide and make a pretty dramatic impact. We loved them instantly.

Quick tip- I purchase hanging flower baskets for my planters. It was super quick to transport the hanging basket to the planter and it filled up the container perfectly.

This year, I fell in love with ferns. Something about them makes me think of wild, carefree curly hair. We added a hanging fern basket to our front porch and I am digging the texture. Here Justin is drilling a hole for the hook to hang the basket.

One last addition to our front porch was this iron scroll from Old Time Pottery. It wasn't exactly what I was trying to find, but it was close enough. I think it helps define the porch area and breaks up that long, plain wall.

Here's some pictures of our front exterior taken this evening-

Our next step is to add shutters to our 2 second-story windows. We are picking the shutters up this week. We're just trying to figure out how to install them, because the window above the garage is WAY up there and makes me super nervous. We will see...

Have you been doing Spring yard work? Any exterior projects coming up?

Have a great week! xoxo, S