One Room Challenge: The Morning Room

Hey there! Remember me? Sorry for the blogging absence, but I'm back! Nothing brings me out of a blogging hiatus like the One Room Challenge!
If you are unfamiliar with the idea, basically, it was dreamed up by Linda from Calling It Home, as a way to motivate herself & others to finish a room in their homes in six weeks time. Every Wednesday, Linda has invited 20 blogging & designing professionals to give updates on their spaces. Then, on Thursday, everyone else can join in the challenge in the form of a link party. This is always just the kick I need to get my spaces in order! Here are the three other spaces I have completed, all thanks to the One Room Challenge:

Shared kids' bathroom before:

...and after:

See the reveal here.
 The family room before: 

...and 6 weeks later:

See the full reveal here.

My daughter's bedroom before:

...and after:

See the reveal here.

You may have noticed from the photos above that my style tends to gravitate towards neutral spaces with pops of cheerful colors & a mix of modern & traditional elements. Almost all of the public spaces on our main floor meet these requirements, with the exception of two- the kitchen & the morning room. We are not quite ready to take on a kitchen renovation, so I have decided to make some changes in the morning room for this challenge. Let's take a look at it's current state:

Not 100% awful, but there is only one item in the space I would qualify as modern (the light) & there are NO pops of cheerful colors.

Obviously, these are older pictures as evidenced by the family room in the background, & there have been a few slight changes over the year (painted picture frames, new vase for the table, & a new secretary). But, the fact remains, this room needs help.  It really does look like such a sad space in our home with the lack of cheerful pops of color.

So, here are my plans to liven this room up on a seriously tight budget...
The Plans
1. The paint color (Toasted Almond by Olympic) & light will stay the same. Everything else will change in some way.
2. Replace the small "buffet" with a white Ikea Malm dresser.
3. Add trim around the windows. (We are still trying to figure out how to frame an arched window. Any ideas?)
4. Replace the curtains with the ones above, which are neutral, but bring in a fun pattern. (Hopefully I like these because I ordered them over labor day & still haven't opened the box!)
5. Re-finish the table in a darker stain to minimize the "orange-y oak" look.
6. Replace the chairs with two different styles. (I just picked up the side chairs yesterday. They are different than the ones above & are going to need a lot of love!)
7. Give the secretary a makeover in the form of black paint.
8. I still plan on keeping the cake eating pictures, but plan on DIY-ing some food art to fill up more wall space.
9. New lamps & accessories to provide cheerful pops of color.

So, what do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts... and while you're here, be sure to check out my home tour.

Don't forget to snoop on all the other One Room Challenge Guest Participants here!


Tween Boy's Bedroom Reveal

As I mentioned last week, my son's room is finally finished!

In my goals for the year, I was hoping to re-decorate my older kids' bedrooms. After upgrading our growing boy to a full-sized bed, the design was no longer working.

My goal was to create a lighter, brighter, more functional room with plenty of storage for all Zeke's collections, as well as a place for him to get away from his two younger sisters to read or study. I began the process on my son's room right after his eleventh birthday at the beginning of February, by first coming up with a plan & creating a mood board to help me picture the end result.

Other than the desk & chair, I would say the final product is a good reflection of the original plan.  We got started by removing the chair rail & painted over the dark, orange walls with a much lighter, reflective paint color, Toasted Almond.

The dresser was a Craigslist find that I found a few years ago.  I was trying to re-do this room on a very tight budget, so we ended up building the mirror above it, since I couldn't find one big enough in my price range.

I topped the dresser with a cheap tray from Hobby Lobby & some free printables I found online.

In the corner, I placed a Craigslist chair (the pillow is from Ikea) & we made the letter Z marquee & the faux Roman blinds.

To the left of the window, I created a unique gallery wall, featuring a lot of my son's collections (shark teeth, state quarters, rocks, & shells) along with a couple of printables & an owl he made in art class.

The most recent addition to Zeke's bedroom was the DIY rustic, upholstered headboard we built.  I didn't take any pictures of the process, so I will quickly describe it.  Basically, we cut a piece of 3/4 plywood to size (27"x58") & layered 2 pieces of a foam mattress pad on top of it (a couple of inches smaller than the plywood). Then, we covered it with a canvas drop cloth by stapling it in the back.

I stained 3" pine boards Early American color by minwax & we nailed them to the upholstered plywood, flush with the sides.  We made the two side pieces 48" long, so they would screw into the bed frame. We also reinforced the pine boards by screwing them in from the back of the headboard.

The entire process only took a couple of hours & turned out quite nicely if I do say so myself!

Above the bed, we hung a vintage roll-down map I found a few years ago on a local auction site. We flanked it with two Ikea Rast dressers. Links to the bedding can also be found here. The green pillow fabric came from JoAnn's-- I'm not sure what it's called.


We made use of the small wall between the two doors by adding some shelves to hold more of Zeke's things.


  Because of the tight space, we built a pull-down desk and an upholstered stool below the shelves.

 It's not the prettiest thing to look at, but I love how much space it saves & it's functionality.

Overall, this space is much better suited for Zeke.  It offers plenty of storage & fits his personality well, since most of the decor consists of his collections & artwork.  Hopefully, it will last him a long time!

DIY Pull-Down Wall Desk

Seven months ago, I decided it was time to re-decorate my eleven-year-old son's room & immediately sold his metal desk with hopes of replacing it with an X base desk.  Once we installed his full-sized bed, it became obvious I needed to come up with a different solution.  I decided to put my own spin on the Ana White Flip Down Art Desk.

We made ours 30" wide by 18" tall and opted for a magnetic board instead of a chalkboard on the front. We found the sheet metal for about $10 at Lowe's (it was in with the H-vac/conduit stuff).

I would have rather stained all the wood, but we were using leftovers & only had painted trim, so I covered it in black paint. (To be completely honest, I'm not really loving the look...)

We divided the inside in half & added a chain across the left side to hold some of Zeke's notebooks & magazines. On the right side, we added a shelf about 10 inches high to hold smaller items & the bottom shelf holds pencils, chalk, & crayons. I decided to paint the desktop in chalkboard paint for any notes Zeke may need to make.

We used two different types of hinges to keep the desktop at a sturdy 90 degree angle.  This was definitely the biggest struggle in the building process, which may have been user error!

 The roller catch we used keeps the desktop closed securely when not in use.  (You can see the strike on the desktop in the picture above & the catch is on the underside of the top part of the wall piece.) 

We secured the desk to the wall by using small L-brackets in each corner, making sure to get some of them into the studs.

Since we weren't able to give Zeke the X-based desk, we gave him an X-based stool instead.

We used these instructions for building the stool, but changed the size of ours to 19" wide by 12 3/4" deep by 19 1/2" tall (including cushion). We decided to put the wood on all four sides under the cushion, unlike the tutorial which only has it on the sides.  I stained the wood in Minwax Early American & cut two pieces of an old foam mattress topper to cushion the stool, along with some leftover fabric from Zeke's pillows.


After seven months, I am glad to finally have all of Zeke's stuff off the floor & back in his desk! Although I don't really love the aesthetics of this desk, I really do like it's function & space saving design.  Surprisingly, it holds more than my daughter's one-drawer parsons desk.

A Project in Print!

I am so excited to share with you that one of my projects was featured in the July issue of Parents Magazine!  In February, I was contacted by one of the editors, asking if they could use some of my garage storage projects for an upcoming issue on organization.  Um...yes!  The July 2015 issue of Parents Magazine is on newsstands now!

If you are visiting as a result of the article, welcome!  You can find the full garage storage posts here and here.  I would love for you to stick around!  You can read my latest posts by subscribing via email (below my picture on the right side) or through your favorite blog reading service.

While I'm on the topic of garage features, I would also like to thank the following websites for featuring parts of our garage as well:

Thanks for reading!  I hope your week is off to a great start!

Summer Learning Challenge

Several years ago, I tried with no success to have my kids do school work over the summer.  I bought some of those grade level workbooks & planned on having my son do a few pages a day plus some reading.  I wasn't the greatest at following through with this plan & gave up a week or so into summer!

Then, I got lucky!  The summer after my son's third grade year, the school put out a summer reading & math challenge.  Although it was voluntary, it was much easier to get my kids to do it, since it was coming from their teachers, & the school was offering prizes for everyone that completed the work. My kids didn't exactly love doing the work, but they did it without much arguing, which is a win in my books!

After a summer of keeping up his math & reading skills, my son returned to fourth grade & no longer needed reading tutoring.  Not only that, but his grades & test scores improved tremendously!  I give all the credit for his educational gains to the summer reading & math challenge.

Since I am now a big proponent for preventing the "summer slide" through reading & math programs, I was disappointed when I found out his school was ending these programs after two summers.  Wanting to continue what we had been doing the last few summers, I decided to create my own "Summer Learning Challenge".

This past school year, my kids had been given math homework through the online program, TenMarks.  Since they were used to doing this, I was excited to see they were offering a FREE summer math program.  Once you sign your child up, the computer creates an assesment for them for the grade level they just completed.  Then, it will create assignments customized for them, based on the results.  Parents can create prizes that appear when they complete a certain amount of assignments (determined by the parent).  I set my kids rewards for every 5 assignments they complete scoring a 70% or higher.  Since my kids only get 2 hours of screen time per week, I made the rewards 30 extra minutes of screen time, plus ice cream after completing about half of the assignments.  (The kids can also unlock math games after completing 6 assignments.)

In addition to the online math program, I am also having the kids read for at least 15 minutes per day.  I have signed them up for free reading programs through the local library, Barnes & Noble, & Half Price Books, which will hopefully earn them a few rewards once they fill out the reading logs.  Then, once a week, I have them write for about 15 minutes.  I have come up with twelve writing prompts that should last the summer:

Week 1- What do you want to do over summer break?  Tell me all your plans!
Week 2- If you could have any pet (even a giraffe) what would it be?  Why would you choose it?
Week 3- Write a letter to your grandparents.
Week 4- If you could wish for anything, what would it be? Why?
Week 5- Write a review of the last book you finished.  How many stars would you rate it? (5 stars = a great book)
Week 6- Write a letter to your aunt.
Week 7- What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
Week 8- Write a story about finding a buried treasure in our backyard.  Where was it? What was it? Did you tell anyone or keep it a secret?
Week 9- If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why would you choose it? What would you use it for?
Week 10- We watched several movies this summer.  Which one was your favorite? Why? How many stars would you rate it? (5 stars= a great movie)
Week 11- Write a letter to your cousins.
Week 12- What was your favorite part of summer break? Tell me about it.

Once they finish their reading, math, & writing they check it off of their summer learning chart (first picture).  We keep these, along with the writing prompts & mystery envelope on the refrigerator.

What is the mystery envelope, you ask?  It contains the big reward my kids get when they check off their daily math & reading & weekly writing for the entire summer!  They don't know what the reward is, which makes it even more exciting.  Since they don't read this blog, I'll share the contents of the envelope!  It is a hotel stay in Dayton, Ohio, about an hour away from us in Cincinnati.  The plan is to go to to several museums & a working 1800's farm.  I think one of the big differences between my first attempt at summer learning & now is that my kids have something special to work towards!

In addition to the above, I tore out the unused pages from their school math workbooks & handwriting books (for my daughter) & put them in a drawer in the kitchen.  Then, they are given 5 minutes of screen time for each page they complete.  

So, have you attempted a summer learning challenge?  I'd love to hear how it went!

Making Special Memories on the Last Day of School

A few special memories I have of my childhood were the fun things my parents did to celebrate the last day of school.  One year they put together an entire awards ceremony just for my sister & I!  I remember my sister getting a can of hair mousse & the reward had to do with how much time she spent fixing her hair in the morning!  (I wish I could remember the other awards…)  Other years it was just a silly string fight on the back patio & one year we got new bikes (if your kids need bikes, may as well make it count for something…).  We have started a few traditions on the last day of school that my kids really seem to enjoy.  You know it’s special to them when they start asking about it a few weeks before school gets out for fear of disappointment!   

I always try to make sure my kids look decent on the last day of school, since I like to take pictures to commemorate their last day of ____ grade (fill in the blank) & we usually take pictures of them with their teachers.

Speaking of teachers, the last few years we have made them these candygram letters using mainly school supplies.  We added a Dairy Queen gift card at the bottom this year.

It says:

“Dear Mrs. B,
I just wanted to send a quick (note- we used post-it notes) to say how much you (mint) to me this year!  There are too many things to (highlight- highlighter) from our year, but they made a (permanent mark- permanent marker) on me that can’t be (erased- eraser).  You are an (extra- gum) special teacher & I am a (smartie) because of you!
P.S. Celebrate the end of a great school year with some (DQ- gift card)!”

Even though this is a pretty inexpensive gift, the teachers really do seem to get a kick out of it.  My son’s teacher teared up & said she wasn't going to take anything off of it & that she would glue the gift card back on after she used it!

I like to make their lunch extra special on the last day, so I have started wrapping it like a present!  The past couple of years I have just purchased Lunchables, because they are easy to wrap & are also a special treat for the kids on the last day.  I had an epiphany this year & decided this would also be a great idea for when my kids’ birthdays fall on a school day.

The fun celebrations begin once school is out & they return home.  In the past, we have hidden behind the house with water guns, water balloons, & even the hose & soaked them as they come in.  We try to change it up a little each year, so this year we locked the garage door & all the doors to the house.  

We posted this note on the front door:

It reads:

Dear (Zeke) & (Elie),
We are so proud of the (Smarties) you have become this school year & are (bursting- starbursts) with happiness to have some (Extra- gum) time with you over summer break!  We can’t wait to enjoy (popsicles) on the back deck, family (game- You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me!) night, (movies- Redbox codes), & relaxing over the (glow- glow sticks) of the fire pit.  There are sure to be lots of (Snickers- candy bar)!  We love you to (pieces- Reese’s Pieces)!
(Mommy & Daddy)

(I left extra goodies in a gift bag inside, so my kids would each have their own, except for the Redbox codes & the game & the rest of the popsicles were in the freezer so they could enjoy them right away!)

We stood right inside the door & waited for them to come to the front door to read the sign.  Then, we opened the front door & covered them in silly string!  After a few years of getting soaked with water, I definitely don’t think they were expecting that!

We also try to take the kids out for some family fun on the last day of school.  We have gone to Kings Island Amusement Park, Laser Tag, & this year we played mini golf.  (Can you believe we have never taken our kids to a legitimate miniature golf place?)

I know some parents dread the last day of school, but I do really enjoy having my kids home for the summer.  Here are our plans for making the most of our time together:

I’ll be back next week to explain how we plan on preventing summer learning loss, while making it fun & rewarding for the kiddos!


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