Monogram Canvas Tutorial

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As promised, I have created a little tutorial post about the monogrammed canvas I recently hung in O’s room. Its no secret that I love almost anything monogrammed but this is my first go on making my own.

I like the look of a square canvas so I started with a 24″x24″ square gallery wrapped canvas and painted it with a sample container of beige I had from a friend who had given me samples after deciding on an exterior paint color- jackpot. I have at least 5 Sherwin Williams test quarts of greys, tans and whites.

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I waited a few hours for it to dry well before doing the next steps. Next I traced a large bowl for the circle shape in the middle. Its hard to see in this picture but I just eyeballed the middle and traced. This is where the monogram will go. Then I taped off stripes for the background. I had considered chevron but went with stripes after realizing chevron would be more precise, time consuming and a little more visually busy than I’d like.I didn’t measure the stripes- just too impatient today I guess. Then I gave the stripes 2 coats of a paper bag brown acrylic craft paint… painting around my faint circle mark.

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After the brown dried I peeled the painter’s tape back. Inevitably the paint had bled in a few spots under the tape. Canvas is an uneven surface so I had kind of expected that to happen. I touched up the spots and got to work mixing the pink for the monogram. I used the creamy beige paint from the base coat and a liquid red acrylic craft paint to make the pink so it wouldn’t be bright pink and would instead be a softer almost mauve color. I freehand painted the circle according to my tracing lines and where I had stopped painting the stripes.

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Then I started on the lettering. I highly recommend doodling around with your monogram a ton before deciding the style you want and putting brush to canvas. I had originally really liked the script look but after a bunch of failed attempts on paper plates I knew I just didn’t have it in me. I also realized that we tend to like cleaner lines and more modern designs around here so straight typeface was more our style anyway. Now don’t hate me but I didn’t trace this… I just went for it freehand with the brush. Sometimes I work best under pressure. I started in the middle with O’s last initial and went from there. I had a few smudges as I went but I just touched up afterward with the beige again.

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After an afternoon of painting I had this cute monogram!

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We hung it centered above her bed. We were sure to hang it high enough that she can’t reach it. We also used 3M Command Strips instead of a nail. That way it can’t swing or bump off of the nail. The strips say that 2 should do for a piece this size and weight. I used four- one on each corner. It’s not going anywhere. I have massive faith in the 3M Command Strips. We hung everything in our plaster walled apartment with them. Nothing ever fell off the wall and they were easy to rearrange and came off clean when it was time to move out (5 years later).

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Baby O’s Style

She’s only 18 months but O has quite a personality. From her nonstop chatter and giggles to hand-on-hip attitude and waving her (already) jewelry wearing arms, she’s all girl. When we found out that we were having a girl we were thrilled. I daydreamed of sweet sundresses, hair bows, little bathing suits, baby dolls and more. There was one girl thing I wasn’t up for: nursery decor. I dreaded painting bubblegum pink walls… and worse- repainting over those in a few years when suddenly she loved lavender. Hubby agreed. After several trips to the paint chip wall at the home improvement store, we had settled on going with beige, greige or khaki tones. Boring? We know. But we had a few reasons. First, we had chosen to give O the largest of our bedrooms. It was inevitable that we’d be spending a lot of time in the nursery, so why not the bigger room? And incase nobody tells you, kids come with a lot of stuff. This room was largest and already had a well designed (and fairly modest size) closet. Also, most of our family lives in town so we host only a few overnight visitors a year. We could afford to have a smaller guest room. Second, we wanted to be able to switch O’s room to a boy theme later down the road if needed. We also knew that any of the soft beigy tones could easily lend itself to a big kid room, office or guest room if we decided to do any rearranging. The last reason is that we were painting over bright, gross sunflower pollen yellow. Said yellow was sloppily painted over a light purple color (we could see it through a bunch of spots on the walls). Beige would surely drown out all that nasty visual noise. Or at least thats what we told ourselves. The color we married was Behr Roman Plaster. Why do I say married? Because later on that same color graced the family room wall with stripes and then I took it all the way down our main hallway. Still in love.

I’ve mentioned a tour of her room before… I recently had a few minutes to clean out O’s drawers, organize her books and do a basic clean up of her room. I snapped some shots because I know it won’t stay like this for long.

From the doorway:

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From the closet side:

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And from the corner near the crib:

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And a few little details I enjoy:

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This dresser. It is Hubby’s from his single days. I don’t have a before pic but imagine it DARK. You know, bachelorhood dark. And the cubbies on the right used to have an awkward cabinet door. I vetoed that when I doused it in high gloss white paint. I like the look of the baskets instead. And less places for little fingers to get pinched.I changed out the funky hardware for softer brushed nickel pulls and knobs.

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I added a couple of things to her dresser that were a little more about us. I was given the sculpture of the expectant mother by a dear friend of mine. I used to sit in the glider before she was born and just admire this space and the sculpture. So peaceful! Next to it is a photo from our wedding of Hubby and I kissing in the ocean. A little reminder of our love for O and each other. The lamp is wrapped in a cloth ribbon that happens to match the bedding set and theme.

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What is a baby room without some super sentimental handmade gifts? The pink frame holds a cross stitch that hung in my own nursery made by my Aunt Jackie in 1986. The frame above holds a similar baby cross stitch made for O by Mama Lisa (my friend Molly’s mom).

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I have yet to hang her little coat rack but O’s bookshelf is stocked with books. My mom and sisters gave me gobs of children’s books at each shower. Some are favorites from my own childhood. A few are based on an Olivia the Pig character. I also received books from many friends. My boss gave me a book with girl poems, my friend Chelsea gave me a dozen of her own childhood favorites. My mom even found my old The Giving Tree book. A family friend gave it to me when I was a toddler. He’s no longer with us but I have his loving inscription forever “From one tree lover to another” he wrote. Which will explain my next picture.

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I chose to display pages from the book above O’s dresser. I tried to photo copy my favorite pages for framing but I ended up with low quality images and curved edges. I can’t believe I did this, but I bought a second hand copy of the book and cut pages out of it. I love books. I never dreamt I’d purposely destroy one. Cardinal sin!!! I hope this is worthy enough cause to cut pages from a book. The message of The Giving Tree, the simple illustration and the sentimental value it holds for me made it the perfect choice for nursery wall art.

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My pride and joy: O’s mobile. I made it when she was just weeks old. I was inspired by many pinterest and etsy versions but I ended up making this myself for just $6. You can see the tutorial I made here.

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O received this small handmade globe rattle from some of Hubby’s Japanese business associates. You should know that Japanese culture is based on honor, family, loyalty and honesty. To show this, our Japanese friends arrive with arms full of gifts when they visit. We have gorgeous scarves, art, pottery, dishes, figures and more from them. I don’y know much about this particular piece but I know I love it. In fact, it is already the inspiration for O’s big girl room.

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O’s extensive collection of stuffed animals lives in her bassinet. I felt like I just had to repurpose it since it was only used for a few months.

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O’s monogrammed canvas is the latest addition to the room. I made it just this week. Look for a tutorial on it soon.

Where items in this room came from:

Crib: gifted Bellini crib in “Annie” style

Bedding: CoCalo Daniella bedding set (sans bumper)

Dresser: Hubby’s old one. Refinished.

Glider: Hand-me-down. Which is why it’s blue/purple.

Shelving: Target. This is the closest one I can find like it. I was too pregnant and tired to get my behind up to Ikea for the Expidit cube shelving unit.

Picture frames: Target ages ago.

Curtain rods: Hand-me-downs, Pottery Barn Kids

Curtains: White Sail Cloth Curtains from Target.

Storage bins and changing basket: JJ Cole

Changing pad cover: Target, Circo brand

Diaper bin: Diaper Dekor. I love it (and hate Diaper Genie)

Elephant Humidifier: Target Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist … quiet, easy to clean, safe and cute!

Preschooler Play and Toddler To Do’s

A while back a friend asked me what kinds of things I do with kids on the cheap and with a baby in the house. It is always a challenge to keep older siblings busy while you are strapped to house by baby naps, and forced to be quiet. Cold winter days and rainy spring afternoons only make this harder. Another challenge for many of us is the cost of so many activities, outings and toys. I’ve compiled a list of simple thrills for kids up to 5 years old. Most don’t cost much money… and I really believe in making memories with kids. They won’t remember the stuff and much as they remember doing things together. Kind of like at Christmas… O loved all the wrapping paper and boxes and barely noticed most of the gifts. While diapers are expensive, kids only cost as much at you let them cost.

I mean, look at this face.

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Stamps and Stickers: A&Z both loved stamping all over a pad of newsprint. I bought a bunch in the clearance bins at Michael’s and the dollar store. Melissa and Doug sell a few little sets too. Also, look for “foamies”… Little foam stickers. Paper isn’t the only place for stickers. I’ve let them decorate their art boxes, shoe boxes and all kids of things with stickers. Its amzing how much time kids can spend with this activity. For younger kids it can be an opportunity to idenify animals, shapes and expand vocabulary. For older kids it provides a creative outlet and can spark a little imagination.

Crayons: Have you seen those Crayola crayon holders for little hands? Huge help to get him going on controlling a crayon. Larger and thicker crayons can be easier for little hands too. Talk about colors, shapes, even start some letter recognition.

Recycled Crayons: Preschoolers love this one. We keep old crayon nubs and broken pieces of crayons around for a while. Eventually we dig them out of the crayon tub and separate them from the useable ones. Then I let the kids make piles of the nubby crayons in a muffin tin (mini muffin tins are best because it doesn’t take as much to fill them and the crayons you make become thicker). The piles don’t have to match or have any of the same colors… you really can’t do this wrong. Then I place the muffin tin in a 250 degree oven and check on them every 5 minutes or so. When the crayons have melted to liquid I slowly remove the tin from the oven… hot liquid wax is dangerous. Then we let them cool for an hour or so and pop out our new recycle crayons! The shape is easy for kids to hold and when they use them they are coloring with a rainbow or tie dye effect. For older kids I ask them to make observations about what might happen before we put them in the oven and the happened after and why they think it. Doesn’t hurt to add a little science to it!

Go Big: Another big hit is a bunch of giant sheets of paper and a long roll of paper I bought from Ikea. Z still loves to have me draw roads and tracks for his cars and trains …and with a roll of paper they can go on forever! We have made signs with giant messages to welcome new cousins to the world and then we took pictures with the kids holding it and sent them in texts or posted them online for family. You can make birthday signs for each person’s birthday to hang in a doorway, or welcome them home from a trip. We also trace hands, toys, do leaf rubbings, and he thinks its way cool that we lay on the floor to draw. The possibilities are endless!

Playdoh: I probably don’t need to tell you that it is amazing. We have tons of it and to be honest you only need a few colors and a couple of the utensils. If you don’t want to buy any try this recipe I posted a while back for homemade dough. Big kids love measuring and making it. And everyone loves playing with it. As far as what to use for utensils: stamps work on playdoh, kitchen utensils like a butter knife or whisk, anything with texture, cups, cookie cutters, ice trays and the list goes on. Playing with dough is great for small motor skills, imagination and sensory development. I actually find it relaxing myself.

Nature Walks: Give kids a bag to “collect” anything he thinks is cool on a walk. Bring them home and talk about all the things he found, the season, animals, rocks… Whatever. This always sparks conversation. “I Spy”, “Follow the Leader” and “Simon Says” are also a fun games for a nature walk. Don’t live near a trail? So what… a walk down the sidewalk or through a park is just as exciting. Even if it’s snowing a 15 minute walk and fresh air can cure cabin fever. I’ve also had older kids help me make a list of things we think we may find and then make it more of a scavenger hunt for them.

Make Wishes: I keep pennies in my car for making wishes in fountains we pass by. Sometimes we make a point of finding a fountain to make a wish in. We count our pennies, observe the years on them, and close our eyes and wish reeeeally hard.

Storytime: You can’t read to a kid enough. Go to the library and get new and unfamiliar books often. Make your own storytime… we cuddle up in a blanket and read all of our books as soon as we get home. And do it again a few times a week. This often suffices as “rest” for kids who no longer nap but still need some chill out time midday. Check your library’s and local bookstore’s schedules. Many of them have regular story time, music play and such for free!

Puzzles: Those wooden ones with pegs are great. Most kids can do some large piece ones, and anything with the alphabet. Use the Go Big method above to make your own puzzles. If your kids get tired of puzzles or have them all memorized consider swapping puzzles with friends for a couple of weeks. Fresh puzzles for everyone!

Play House: Have a “picnic” with pretend food, “cook” and stuff too. Let the kids lead the way. They love being in charge and telling us what to do for once. It’s always interesting to hear their perception of roles in the household too. I”ve heard kids say, “We need to go to Target. Can you be on your best behavior?” or “I’m going to drop the kids at school and go get coffee.” They can do this for hours!

Build A Fort: This is a great exercise for problem solving, imagination and creativity. Building the fort is a blast and using it is fun too. Consider reading books, doing puzzles or “hiding out” in the fort. Kids think I’m a genius when we do this.

Inside Picnics: We eat lunch somewhere besides the kitchen table. We have done it in a fort, at the coffee table, under the kitchen table, with his stuffed animals, on the front porch, in the tailgate of my SUV. Anywhere.

PJ Day: Let the kids wear their PJ’s all day. Even go to the grocery store with them on. They think its so silly and funny. On this day we also do breakfast for lunch. Pancakes for lunch is always a hit!

Make Noise: (Ok- not too much). Have concerts with paper towel and toilet paper tubes, tissue boxes. Filling baby food jars or pop bottles with beans, rice and pasta makes great “instruments”. None of them make too much noise though.

Scavenger Hunt in a Bottle: Fill a clear soda bottle about halfway with rice. Drop in random objects to “find” in the rice. Think crayons, beads, paperclips, pennies, bouncy ball… anything that will fit in the hole and you won’t miss. The more rice in the bottle, the harder it is to find the objects. Seal the bottle (I always add super glue to avoid disasters) and start searching. Kids can roll the bottle every which way to find the objects.

Pipe Cleaners: The possibilities are endless! String large wooden beads on them (more motor skills!), or make a macaroni necklace, build a house (in my case a Bat Cave for Batman), bracelets,

Penne Picasso: Glue pasta on paper. So simple- he can’t mess it up, there is no paint and its inexpensive! Use pasta to make necklaces on yarn to to decorate a shoe box.

Ball Pit: Ikea, Target and other big box stores sell those plastic balls for ball pits. Put them in a pack n play or crib for an instant ball party. This never gets old. And when he’s done he can help you clean them up. For bigger kids let them fill as small room.

Cooking and Baking: Let kids help prepare their meals. From choosing a plate and utensils and setting the table to letting them stir and teaching them to measure. You’ll be surprised how happy they are to help. They really do like a little responsibility! And preparing food together makes time for a good little conversation. It’s often the only way I can get the “What did you do at school today?” question answered. You can also teach them about their food and where it comes from along with encouraging trying new foods and making them aware of a having healthy diet.

Sink or Float: Gather some household items to see if they sink or float. Use a baby pool or bucket outside or use the bathroom tub. Have kids guess which will happen and why. A fun one is a Diet Coke can vs a Coke can. Apples are heavier and most kids think it will sink but they float. Try to stump each other!

Gallery Wall Breakdown

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As promised, a gallery wall breakdown. What we chose, how we chose, how we (mostly I) made it. I love love love gallery walls. In fact, this isn’t our first gallery wall. Its at least the third. And third time is a charm my friends. But it IS the first gallery wall (and probably only one for a while) in our own grown-up house. I’ll do my best to go left to right with some up and down in between… don’t get dizzy now!

First up:

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The top left item is a small canvas I painted ages ago when I was dreaming of filling O’s wall with the alphabet. The idea for her room evolved (I guess I should post about her adorable room one day?) so I was left with a bunch of canvases of letters. I painted over most of them but I saved the A (for our last name) and waited for the right spot to hang it.

Below that is a Chinese paper art cut-out of an ox. I received a book full of paper art and cut outs from one of my father’s Chinese business associates. I framed this one because it had a great composition and the most bold colors of them all. It once lived on our hallway wall in our first apartment but it fits right in here.

The largest piece is a large print of our wedding announcement. We eloped in secret to Jamaica and had my mom send these out from “Loveland, Ohio” on the day we wed. Our good friend Erica made it. The entire thing is a water color treasure map depicting our engagement at the Cincinnati Zoo and our surprise Jamaican wedding. There is even a pirate ship and a treasure chest with our wedding rings. I think Erica and I came up with the rhyme together and she did all of that calligraphy by hand. Gorgeous work and one of my most prized possessions. Here is a closer look at it.

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Seriously one of my favorite things in the world.

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Closest to the door is a print of a photo I took of driftwood on one of our trips to the lake ages ago. The frame had a traumatic move but I plan on patching it with wood filler and giving it a fresh coat of paint. You can also see a little more of the Chinese ox in this picture.

20130312-114312.jpgOne of my favorite DIY wall art techniques is to take simple items and display them in an interesting way. Here I have done that with keys. I collect keys. I don’t know why but I have a shoe box full of them. So last time we did a gallery wall at our old place I grabbed our old car keys… Hubby had his beloved Volvo and I had my dream car Wanda the Wrangler. (Yes, I name my cars. My current ride is a 2012 charcoal Honda Pilot. She’s dark and boxy and looks like a Rhino so I named her Rhina). Enough about keys… The point is that all I did was paint a small canvas and hot glued my keys on. Then we each signed out names. The keys above are also on a canvas that I painted a coordinated chevron pattern on and glued some replica skeleton keys to it.

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This is our old apartment key and you guessed it- I painted a canvas and glued on a key. Then I used a sharpie to label it “Our First Apartment” and the address. I like it because it is sentimental and it ties in with a few other items on the wall. I chose orange to add a little color and pick up some of the vibrant colors from the Chinese ox.

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The next picture is of Hubby kissing O when she was just a day old. I especially love it in black and white with the silver frame.  It is a daily reminder for me of why I’m here doing what I’m doing each day.

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Above that is a smaller picture of me with O on the same day. I can’t believe she was ever so small.

And next to that is another driftwood picture that I took at the lake. Hubby and I used to stare at this picture and talk about what we see. I see an old man’s face. What do you see?

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Ah, and then there is a giant print of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. Hubby and I have agreed that she is only a placeholder for something else… should we ever find anything more fantastic than her.

The red frame holds corks. Its another free art piece I made with an everyday item for our old gallery wall. I even left the wire cage on the champagne cork in true Hilda style. Can you tell I like wine and corks? Because I posted about them here, here and here.

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Next is a framed sepia row boat print purchased from The Market in Charleston.

And then there is an adorable little Baby O foot print in plaster and a copy of her Valentine’s Day themed birth announcement. The natural wood frame is nice but the rest of the frames on the wall are black, white or silver so I think it may eventually get painted to give it more cohesion with the rest of the wall.

The last piece is a typography print of an eye exam chart but it says “I love you past forever and longer than always” instead of the alphabet. I bought it on Etsy as a valentines day gift for Hubby years ago. I wish I could remember which shop it came from.

So I that’s the novel version of our gallery wall. It is actually the second time I’ve written it… apparently WordPress ate my last post so I did this all over again. That’s love people. I love you! I didn’t mean for it to be so long but each piece has a story. The stories are what is starting to make our house a home. What makes your home?

$6 Baby Mobile

I feel like a bad mom. Baby O is nearly 8 months and I’ve just gotten around to making her mobile. I’ve seen cool mobiles that I adore on Pinterest and Etsy for $40-$90. But I knew I could make one. I mean, I am still paying for my incomplete degree in fine arts…. this ain’t my first rodeo. I think I can handle a mobile. (and Jana, I’m using literary license with “ain’t”… we all know I don’t actually say that. Do I? I guess only if I’m rapping to Eminem, And I’m a damn good rapper.)

I bought scrap paper in a pink/tan/brown color scheme. A solid brown piece of thick paper was a buck I think. Then I found striped/flowered patterned paper that was more expensive because it was double sided. I went to find a cross-stitch hoop but those were surprisingly expensive so I found a particle board wreath base in the floral section of Michael’s for $3 and it already had holes in it! I had fishing line (thanks to Hubby), crimps and beads from my beading addiction. I left the wreath base brown because it matched my color scheme.

I used a scrapbook “punch” thingy (my terms are so technical) by Fiskars that I borrowed from my scrapbook savvy aunt who also leant a Martha Stewart hole punch to me. I punched out tons of those 2.5 inch circles from the scrapbook paper,  poked a hole on each end (think: North and South Poles) and ran fishing line through each one.

I made each strand a different length because I liked the look and it was one less step to measure. Then I weighted each strand on one end with a pink bead (I had heavy tumbled Rose Quartz and raspberry colored Swarovski beads left from a previous project) and crimped them onto the fishing line. The other end of each strand went through a hole on the wreath base and was also crimped in place. I repeated this until I filled the mobile.

I hung it from a hook in Baby O’s room and she is mesmorized by it.

This took me one evening of Madmen on Netflix and two glasses of wine. And I saved a ton of money by doing it myself!