Monday, April 30, 2012

Carriage House Inspiration

On Friday we met a new contractor out at the land to get yet another bid on these carriage houses. We need him to actually make a rather high bid to show the bank that it has more value than the measly amount we are asking for. The bank knows we are putting in some sweat equity and was perfectly fine with it all, but they just want to see that it is worth more. Fine by us! The more equity, the better in the end for the big project.

We have not yet shared our inspiration for these carriage houses. Here is what we based the outside on:


It is surprisingly pretty close to this. Out roofing is a lot more simple and the windows are not as nice, but this is a pretty close rendition of the houses.

Here is roughly what the downstairs will look like: 

We moved the bathroom to under the stairs and made a small mud room where the bathroom currently is. We also took out the bar and put in an island and french doors that lead to the outside. 

We actually changed a lot up here. We made the bathroom much bigger with a shower and a tub and a bigger master closet. The kid's room will have beds built in to the walls along with built in dressers! 

There it is..our inspiration for our new homes! Now it is time to get these things built!! And then comes my favorite part...organizing! Oh the possibilities...Anyone have any good organization ideas for small spaces? We would love to hear them!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

DIY Sesame Street cupcakes!

I think I have mentioned in the past that Courtney thinks that I am crazy. Yes, I did start planning my child's birthday about 6 months prior to and yes, I already have Henry's (who is 3 months old) 1st birthday theme planned out and the general theme for Ada's 3rd birthday. I, however, do not think I am crazy. I just like to think that I am organized. At about 1am on the day before the party, I thought I was crazy. I knew I was going to close my eyes and my one month old was going to wake up to eat because he was on this lovely eat-every-three-hours-or-I-will-die schedule. There I was making cupcakes because "I really want to do them myself Courtney!" She offered to make them - I declined. So here is my tutorial on how to make some sesame street cupcakes.

Stuff you will need:

  • Frosting - so I decided to make my own but any can will work. I would get two of the smaller ones
  • Cupcakes - make your favorite flavor. I used primary color wrapping. Red for Elmo, Blue for Cookie Monster, Yellow for big bird, and white for oscar (who knew green would be so hard to find!?!)
  • Tips: small star, grass, V tip, #2 round 
  • Pastry bags
  • Food coloring
  • Mini chocolate chip cookies
  • Thin mints
  • Fondant
  • Marshmallows
  • Orange candies (M&M or Reese's pieces)
  • Time! These suckers did take a few hours although I had to stop to nurse in the middle.
Hints before we begin...
  • get all your supplies ready prior to
  • Mix all the colors you will need 
  • Give  yourself some time. My biggest problem was the fact that my hand kept heating up the icing and it got too thin. So then I suck in the freezer - too hard. Ideally it is helpful to have two tips going on at the same time so that you can put one in the fridge and start on another. I only had one tip converter so I was stuck with one at a time. 
1. Roll out white fondant and cut out enough eyes for all the cakes.

You can use black fondant (which I did not have) to make the center of the eyes. But I just used some gel icing I had. If you do use the gel icing, go ahead and put that on so that it has time to set

2. Mix a little red fondant together. Get out your marshmallows. Take out the amount you will need for big bird. I made 6. Cut the corner of the marshmallow to make a triangle of sorts. You should then be able to open it rather easily. Put a strip of red fondant in the middle to make the beak:

3. Pick out your orange candies and cut your cookies and thin mints in half. Only pull out the amount you will need. 

4. This is where I have to admit that I was HORRIBLE about taking pictures. I was so tired and just really wanted to get them done, so to get an idea, I have cropped some pics for ya. I started with Elmo, he was the easiest. Put on the star tip and fill your bag with red icing. Pipe from the outside in making sure to get all the way to where it is touching the wrapper. Place two eyes, an orange candy for a nose, and thin mint for the mouth.

5. Cookie Monster: Using the grass tip, pipe "fur" onto the top of the cake. I found the fur to be a little more difficult. You had to squeeze and then almost pull up quickly to get good fur. Add two eyes (make sure they are googly looking!), and place a chips ahoy cookie up like he is biting it

6. Oscar: Using the fur tip, pipe green "fur" onto the top of the cake. Add two eyes and thin mint for the mouth. Pipe brown eyebrows over the eyes. I used the circle tip for this. 

7. Big Bird: Place a small dab of yellow icing where you want the beak. Attach the beak and cover the sides in yellow icing. Using the V tip start on the outside working your way in. Place two eyes and pipe a blue line along the top curve of each eye. 

There you have it! Sesame Street Cupcakes! Not super difficult, but not as easy as they look! Happy Friday Everyone! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We have an Intern!

This Summer we have an intern! We are super excited to welcome Amber Jackson to the team for 10 weeks this Summer. She needs to intern for course credit and chose us to work with. We love an a small business it is hard to hire someone permanently...we don't have enough income to sustain a salary for the entire year but (as all small business owners know) we have enough work to sustain two or more people for many years! Enter our intern....we are having her work on a project that we just don't have time to do, especially right in the middle of wedding season!! It involves doing some market research on our venue and how we should structure our pricing options....there is even a focus group involved! I am very excited about it and I think it will help us develop a great business plan/model for the venue.

It won't be quite this much work

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

House For Sale!

Yes, my blog world friends, Finally!! The house is on the market! It seemed it would never happen....every week it was going to happen the next week and now the "next week" is finally here! I would like to thank the academy  (Cue award music here) my husband! He has single handedly finished this upstairs! Overseeing it from the framing stage (doing some framing himself), installing the electrical, interviewing 1,000 plumbers, doing some plumbing himself, finding a drywaller to actually come out to the house, calling in inspections, painting all 1337 square feet of it, trimming it out, tiling the bathroom, making a vanity, and finding a carpet installer. All of this was done while watching our two children who are at those easy ages of 3 and 1! Hat's off to you honey! You did it!

The front of our low country
While our bank account will be happy to have this house out from under us, it is a little sad seeing all of your visions for your home come true only to turn around and hand it off to another family. I know another family will love it and care for it probably better than we have but there is a little tinge of sadness leaving the home you brought your children home from the hospital to. Dreams aren't without sacrifice!

The GINORMOUS bonus...everyone with toddlers needs an empty room to run around in!
Down to the business end of this post.....WE HAVE A HOUSE FOR SALE!! Any takers???

The Back yard
Our Family Room

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Milk Bottle inspirations

We have a bride whose wedding is Memorial Day weekend (coming up soon!). It is being held in a park in downtown Durham where the Farmer's Market is held and then the guests and wedding party will walk to the reception location (A big warehouse a block or two down from there) She has been collecting glass milk jars for the past couple of years to use them as centerpieces at her wedding and asked us to help her fill and arrange those for her big day..I thought it sounded so cute...a twist on our normal Mason I went to google images for some inspiration. Here is what I found...

What an empty Milk jar looks like
This is from an etsy shop...I liked the holders...these would be a cute addition!
I really liked the look of the white jars here...especially with the Tuilips!
A more wildflower look....

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Inspiration...

Happy Monday! We are still busy over here....all the information gets submitted to the real estate agent today and we should be live on the MLS by Thursday! So has taken A LOT longer than expected to get to this stage...but at least we have arrived. The two extra days should give us enough time to get those last minute details together and the house perfect for our first showing.

We went to our Home group last night and our group prayed for us for a quick sale and a perfect family to take over caring for our house! It was really empowering and gave me peace over the situation....financially it has been a rough week when we realized just how much debt we have incurred getting us to this point! I know it is the right move though...although I will be so relieved to be beyond this point and working on the next step. It reminds me of an earlier post/saying and it still applies to our situation!

I think this will be the mantra for the year...not just the moment!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Still Finishing up!

Not a lot of time to blog today...still putting the final details on the house so we can list it this week! I am soooo ready to have this stage behind us! Hope you are having a productive Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Birthday Par-tay!

You would think that since we plan weddings and parties all the time that by the time we get to our own children's birthdays we would either go all out or not at all. Well seeing how there is a 50/50 chance, we are split right down the middle. I, Dana, LOVE to throw parties and I really love to throw a great b-day party for my baby girl (and next year I will have 2 to throw!) I knew Henry was going to be about a month old when Ada turned 2, so I started planning and purchasing items for her party back in July. 1 - it spreads the cost out so the hubs really has no idea how much it actually cost and 2- all I had to do was execute all the plans and not stress over the favor bags, food, etc the week of the party. Courtney, on the other hand, does not like to throw parties. She does the quick, have a few friends, no formal invite, kind of party. To each their own right? To be fair, it is a hectic 5 months for us all. Mason's B-day is October, then there is Thanksgiving, then Nora's B-day, then Christmas, then New Years, then Henry's birthday (new addition this year), then Ada's Birthday. So we are always celebrating over here and add weddings on top - it gets a little hectic!

Total side note: it is slightly ironic that I am the one that throws the party because Courtney's kiddos are sooo social and LOVE parties. Ada however does not. In fact, she is petrified of the Happy Birthday song. We did not sing it this year and will maybe try next year.

This year I picked a Sesame Street theme for Ms. Ada. She LOVES Sesame Street. I thought she loved Elmo the most, but Abby and Super Grover are kind of high on her list as well. I found some inspiration via Pinterest and Annie's Eats.

Here is her invite - So I am super cheap and did not want to pay for someone to make mine and I could not find anything that was good enough, so I made it on publisher. I actually ordered these the same time I ordered the baby shower invites. I had a coupon from for 60% off. I got both sets of invites, stamped and addressed AND shipped for $15!! A steal I tell ya!

This obviously had RSVP info and my address on it - but we don't need to share that with the world  :)
Prior to the party, Ada and I made Thank you cards for all the guests, I wrote Thank you for coming and celebrating and she colored it and put on stickers. We decided to donate all her gifts this year (we do every year since her bday is so close to Christmas. We donated to Ronald McDonald House in Durham this year. So we wanted to Thank everyone for coming and for donating!).

Doing some coloring!
Here are some decor pictures:

Birthday Banner I made Ada. This will be a future DIY when I make Henry's! 

Each year I put the theme on the back - last year was ladybug's.

favor bags for the kiddos - they had sesame street coloring books, crayons, sesame street tattoos, beaded necklaces, fun sunglasses, and a party horn. All items were purchased at the dollar store.

Fireplace Garland. The party was brought to you by the letter A and the number 2!
Party Table

I got all the characters - minus Elmo from craigslist! 

Elmo loves his goldfish!

I made signs to explain the food choices incorporating the characters. We tried to stick to as many self-serve  items with throw away cups as possible

Yes I made these, and No they were not  the easiest thing to make for someone who has never used  tips and bags for icing. But I think they turned out quite well!

Jucice boxes and Abby's Magic Fruit wands!

another cupcake shot and big bird's bird seed aka trail mix

Cookies! They had not arrived yet - that was Courtney's job :)
People enjoying the party:

We made party hats! I used this template here, I had them cut out and  ready to decorate with ribbon already attached. I made each kid a separate baggie with 4-5 markers, 2 sheets of stickers and a pom for the top. The kids loved them!

Party Horns

Deciding what cupcake she wants

One happy birthday girl!

Me and My favorite baby girl! 
I loved this party! Sam made a special brew just for the event and everyone seemed to have a great time. Ada did surprisingly well and talked about her party for weeks and all the "friends that came over." And because I am so crazy (according to Courtney) I already have Henry's 1 year party theme picked out and Ada's as well. I just can't help myself, it is a sickness! 

Any great birthday parties you have attended or thrown lately? Share your ideas here!

Monday, April 16, 2012


Happy Monday! It is tired Monday over here! We had two weddings this weekend and so we are exhausted! The Saturday wedding was Korean/Pakistani and the Sunday wedding was a Mexican/American wedding. Both were so much fun! I decided that other cultures really know how to seems like we lost that somewhere with the pilgrims floating over here ...and meanwhile other cultures cornered the market on partying!

On our Saturday wedding, all of the matriarchs of the families were dressed in their traditional ceremonial attire and looked so gorgeous! It made for the most beautiful photos. They don't let that fancy attire stop them though because they danced right up until the end of the night...and by they I mean EVERYBODY. It was a 130 person wedding and their were like 120 left for the sparkler send off. It made me think...why didn't I marry a Pakistani...if only for the partying!

What all the Aunts were wearing from the Korean side

Pakistani Side

On Sunday we had another dancing/partying crowd as well. We cleared the dance floor after dinner and it was on! One neat tradition they have is the dollar dance....and it should really be called the 20 - 100 dollar dance. They actually pin the money on the dress with safety pins and then dance a few seconds with the bride and groom. Boy did they make out! They could have paid for that whole wedding with that one dance (probably not...but there were several 100 dollar bills pinned to each of them) The DJ (Ross with just music) kept the party going and ended the night with several Mexican songs. Those people could have danced until 2 am if he just kept the music going! Thank goodness we had to be out of there by 11!

Something like this.....

All in all it was a fun weekend and we learned that we were born into the wrong culture! It was truly inspiring though and fun to be a part of, if only for the night!

Friday, April 13, 2012

DIY: Wedding Centerpieces

So this seems like a no brainer, but we see so many rookie mistakes from a bride that does her own centerpieces.

Mistake number 1: Going too simple.

I love Callas and they can really look dynamic, but here, on a typical 60" (5ft) wedding table, with no place settings, it is much too sparse. It looks undone, and not finished, like swiper (insert nerdy momma joke know swiper from Dora who keeps taking things...) came by and took the rest of the decor for the wedding. Here is a fix to that problem..

Pick your focal point. In the first picture, it was the callas in water. Add some bud vases around it. They will cost you roughly 2-3 a vase, but make such a difference! In the above picture we did a trio of flowers in water with bud vases in the nooks where they joined. Here, the bud vases look like a part of the focal point. 

If you want a more spread out look, you can put them around the focal point and then put tea lights in between. It is hard to see the tealight holders here because they are clear, but this table had 4 bud vases and 4 holders in an alternating pattern. It was very dynamic.

Another example of some added bud vases..We contracted a florist for the topiary and added the bud vases ourselves to save the bride a little bit of money.

Candles make a great focal point! They are beautiful and very easy. Make sue to add a pop of color with some bud vases - it will make all the difference!

So, Simple is good - we love simple. But make it look finished and dynamic enough for a large table. The first example would have been perfect with banquet style seating and having 2 or 3 down the middle. Not the best for such a large round table. 

Mistake number 2: Not being mindful of the space

We saw somethign similar to this on a cocktail table! Yes, it took the entire table and it could not be used for what it was rented for...cocktails! Here is a great and simple cocktail idea.

With cocktail centerpieces you want to keep them low. The purpose of these tables are for conversations and  for people to gather around and hang out. If you have an obnoxious centerpiece, it will just deter your guests from going near the table. 

And last but not least, number 3: Keeping it generic. I don't have a "bad" picture for you, but I LOVE it when a centerpiece is meaningful to the couple. Example:

The bride loved blue hydrangea and the couple was crazy about some mario. We incorporated both into a unique and fun centerpiece. 


This couple was super nerdy..but in a good way! He was an astrophysicist and she was a doctoral candidate for biogenetics. They loved books and math! Their table numbers were various math symbols and they had books as the focal point for their centerpiece. Love it! 

There you have it - a DIY on how to make a fantastic table centerpiece! Any ideas you have seen recently and just loved?!?! Share them here! Inspire someone!