Mini Outdoor Makeovers

I'm on a roll, so one more post -- last weekend, we did a little work outside.  Our mailbox in particular was in need of a little TLC.

The black paint was flaking off and the address was a little hard to read (though I  blurred it out here for privacy purposes).

I removed the mailbox and unsuccessfully tried to scrape some of the letters off.  I did however, tape over the parts I didn't want to paint and temporarily removed the red flag.

A few coats of black spray paint later and voile.

I added a few ("deer-resistant") plants on the driveway side and put mulch down around the post.  I also got some black address numbers and screwed them to the driveway side of the post.  It makes me smile every time I come home :).

I did a few other small projects - like plant this mum in organic potting soil on the deck.

I also turned this galvanized tub into a planter by drilling holes in the bottom for drainage.  The herbs are already looking pretty sad - hopefully they last a little longer.





Valentine's Week: Wedding Design Part 1

To be honest, planning our wedding was one of the most stressful experiences I've endured.  Under ordinary circumstances, I love planning events.  Growing up, my favorite part of  my birthday parties was going to the party store and picking out decorations.  The major problem with our wedding plans was that I was enrolled full time in Architecture school while I was planning.  Anyone who has experienced Architecture School can tell you about how stressful and time consuming the program can be.  Add to that lots of family problems, leadership positions, opinionated soon-to-be relatives, a tight budget, and my own control freak personality -- I was a little overwhelmed.  Though Alex and I were engaged for over 2 years, aside from booking our vendors, I did most of my wedding planning in the two months prior to our wedding. Another major obstacle in my wedding plan was the fact that I love design (as I described in this post yesterday).  I always find it incredibly difficult to make design decisions for myself.  My sisters could have killed me after taking close to a year to actually settle on a color scheme.  I was also overwhelming myself with ideas from blogs like  It wasn't until about a month and half before the wedding when I finally sat down and made some serious decisions about the overall design scheme for the wedding.  I don't advocate for wedding "themes" necessarily (like "Disney Princess" or "Halloween") but I think it's helpful to settle on a style you enjoy (ie: vintage, modern, rustic) or at the very least, a few elements that inspire you.  Given our budget and our desire to incorporate as many eco-friendly elements as possible, our wedding design featured natural elements with a modern twist.

The colors I chose for the wedding were brown and coral - inspired by some fabulous Ferragamo coral peep toe pumps I fell in love with in Italy (unfortunately, they didn't have them in my size and I haven't been able to find them since).  The bridesmaids dresses we bought early on in the planning process when I spotted them on sale for a mere $70 a piece from JCrew.  To coordinate, the groomsmen were in tan suits with brown ties.

The flowers were where most of the color came in.  We used coral zinnias from local farms and supplemented with roses and some greenery from Whole Foods.  We arranged the flowers ourselves and wrapped the bouquets in ribbon.  My bouquet was also wrapped with a piece of antique lace from my grandmother's wedding.

You can see them all here.  Because of the heat (and to save money), I decided to let the groomsmen go without jackets.

The altar flowers were in $6 rectangular vases from Ikea (see them in my kitchen here).  To coordinate with the other wedding details, we added strips of burlap and brown ribbon to the vases.

We decided to incorporate a Unity Candle in our service, representing the joining of our two families.  The unity candle was something we bought from a local eco-shop; it was made of soy wax and was manufactured using solar power (see it in our dining room here).

In the end, this is what our altar looked like.

Another important design element in our wedding was the bird silhouette (I'm obsessed).  It's a popular modern graphic symbol that I love these days and it fit perfectly with the eco-friendly, natural elements we incorporated.  Burlap was the primary fabric for these banners that my sister, Jennifer, made.  We used unbleached burlap and muslin repeatedly in our wedding decor.

To save money, we only hung these banners on the first three pews reserved for close family members.

For our ring bearers (we had two, absolutely adorable, handsome ring bearers), I found some pillows I liked online that incorporated burlap and asked my talented mother-in-law to make copycat versions, one for each ring bearer.

She did an incredible job and even attached pretend wedding rings to each pillow (we gave the real ones to the best man and one of the maids of honor).  One of the boys loved the pillow so much that he "unwrapped" it during the ceremony and used it as a pillow for his head!


For the flower girls, I bought baskets from a rummage store and my sisters spray painted them and stenciled birds on them.  Because we had 5 (gorgeous) flower girls, it would have cost too much to buy "flower girl baskets" from the wedding section at the craft store.  I loved the end product - we filled the baskets with coral, silk rose petals and the girls got to take the baskets home as a gift (see the baskets here).  For the guest book, I decided to make a "family tree."

My bridesmaid, Elizabeth, who happens to be an incredibly talented, professional artist, painted a tree trunk and branches on a piece of artist quality paper.

Our guests then stamped their thumb print on the tree and signed their name.  We provided ink pads, hand wipes, and pens and our good friend, Meg, helped explain the process to our guests.  It's now framed and hanging in our apartment (much better than a silly old book in my opinion).

Finally, the programs.  I actually designed these myself (with a little help from Evan, the best man).  Of course, they have birds on them.  They also included maps to the reception and information about the bus that we provided.  I had them printed at a local print shop and cut and assembled them with help from my bridesmaid, Elizabeth.  They were intended for use as fans at the reception.

In the end, by sitting down and sketching out all of the elements, I was able to coordinate the design details and felt much better about the event design as a whole.  All together, the elements not only coordinated in color, fabric, and theme, but they were each individually meaningful and budget friendly.  I hope to share some more details of our reception with you soon.

All photos courtesy of Ben Hallissy.

Humorous Hand Dipped Candles

On Thursday, one of my best friends from high school, Dan, came down to visit one last time before he makes the big move to San Francisco.  Amongst our adventures of the day, we decided to try making candles to put in my beautiful new candelabra: this Manzanita Candelabra from West Elm.

I had been admiring this piece in the West Elm catalog ever since it arrived in my mailbox but the price was outrageous ($99).  There was no way I was going to spend that much on a candle holder.  I wondered for awhile if there was some way that I could make one myself with a tree branch and some spray paint but I couldn't think of a good way to secure the candles.  Plus, I thought it would be somewhat of a fire hazard to use a real wood tree branch (the Manzanita is made of nickel and aluminum).  So in the midst of the after-Christmas sales, I happened to log on to and much to my surprise, found the candelabra on the clearance page for nearly 50% off!  Add to that the 20% off coupon code I had and I snagged it.  It's a good thing I did because later that day, it was completely out of stock.  The only problem was that the "mini taper candles" intended for use in the candelabra were already sold out when I placed my order.  At the time, I thought that I could just go to Michael's and buy some of their 6" taper candles...until I actually got the candelabra.  The candle holders are only .3 inches in diameter -- definitely not a standard candle size.  After shopping around for usable candles, I was at a loss.  That's when my sister suggested I should look for hand dipped candles.  So I thought, why not make them?

Thursday afternoon, Dan and I took another trip to Michael's and picked up some candlemaking supplies - 1 lb. of soy wax chips and 6 ft. of wick material.  After we checked out behind lead singer of Parachute and Charlottesville native, Will Anderson (who was very cleverly "disguised" in black skinny rockstar jeans, pointy boots, and black sunglasses), we headed back to the apartment to start the candle making process.  We looked up some directions online, grabbed a pot, an old soup can, and some wax paper and got to work.

Step 1 was melting the wax in a double boiler-type setup in the old soup can, letting the wax cool a bit, and coating the wicks.  No big deal. 

The hardest part was trying to keep the wicks straight.  We found that the easiest way to do this at this stage was just to lay the wicks down on some wax paper and pull them before they dried completely.

The next step was actually dipping the candles.  This is where we ran in trouble.  Problem #1 - Though we were attempting to monitor the temperature of the wax with a thermometer, it took us an embarrasingly long time to realize that even though the burner was on the lowest setting, the wax was still too hot (by embarrasingly long time, I mean probably over an hour and after dipping the candles over 50 times with minimal results).  Once we finally had enough sense to turn the burner off and let the wax cool, we saw some serious progress.  Problem #2 - Because we were too impatient to actually let the wax dry, we started dipping the candles in ice water to help them cool.  For some reason, during our initial dipping phase, we started seeing wax accumulation on the areas on the wick that were touching the ice...and only those areas.

The end result was some oddly lumpy (and pretty crooked)candles.  These were certainly not what we remembered our hand-dipped candles looking like on Colonial Day in the fourth grade...

In the end, we had to do some creative widdling and shove the candles into their holders...but they fit.  The result wasn't exactly what I was hoping for but somehow the handmade candles are sort of appropriate.  The "organic" shapes that the candles took not only speak to our candlemaking process but they also mimic the organic style of the candelabra itself.  They're far from perfect but it was a pretty fun experiment.  For the record, I'll definitely consider buying finished candles next time.