Herringbone Slate Entry Pathway

When I left off on this front entry project last time, we had removed the unattractive orange tile, smoothed out the concrete and were searching for a new material for our front walkway.

We mulled over our options, flip-flopping back and forth between painting or tiling the walkway. I was eventually swayed the tile route when I found these inspiration images on Pinterest:

slate tile

I fell for the slate because I thought it was the perfect stone to tie in with the dark grey color of our shutters and front door, plus the idea of natural stone was appealing because this is the first impression of the house and stone is a nice, upgraded material compared to ceramic tile.

Once we knew we wanted slate, we went to our usual flooring store – Floor & Decor – and checked out their slate collection. We looked at all sorts of tile, from large squares to tiny backsplash tiles, but eventually we settled on the 12x24 Multicolor Slate Tile for $1.89/sq. ft. This tile won out because the size and price were right, plus it had a nice texture to it that I thought would guard against slipping issues when the tile is wet from the rain.

This tile comes in a wide variety of colors, but I handpicked 40 pieces to be in the color family I wanted, which was mostly charcoal grey with a hint of brown.

I asked the husband to try a herringbone pattern, even though he'd never done it before. He was hesitant, but I told him we could always do a subway pattern if the herringbone proved too complicated. But of course, nothing is too complicated for my geometry-teacher husband! He figured it out in no time and got to work. The first step was dry fitting the pattern to make sure we liked the concept before he made any cuts.

Once we were happy with that, he started by the door and began making his cuts. I could never do this in a million years, but his math-minded brain worked through the specifics right away. He put down the grey mortar and used 1/4 inch spacers to work his way out from the door.

The first section was pretty straightforward, but it got a bit trickier once the pathway got wider. He had some complicated cuts, but he made it work!

He let that sit overnight and came back the next day with the sanded Pearl Grey grout. The grout was given another day to set, and then he applied some stone enhancer/sealer that was leftover from our travertine project.

We are so happy with how it turned out! The husband really outdid himself on this one.

It's just another element that makes our curb appeal so much better than when we bought the house. What once looked like this...

... now looks like this:
And I feel pretty great about how much better the slate tile looks compared to the orange tile:

Check one more project off the list! Hooray! What projects have you been working on lately?

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DIY Color Dipped Bowls

While the husband was working on our front porch project – which I hope to show you later this week, assuming I can get home before dark to take some decent photos –  I decided to upgrade these simple wooden bowls I recently bought at the thrift store. I mean, aren't they the happiest little bowls you've ever seen?!

I was driving home from work last week when my route was redirected because of construction. I got on an unfamiliar highway, promptly missed my exit and found myself in front of – wouldn't you know it? – my favorite thrift store. Subconscious driving? I don't know. I took it as a sign that I should go in, of course. About 10 minutes later I emerged with two miniature trophy vases and four wooden bowls. "Smalls," as they would call these purchases on American Pickers.

I have a thing for wooden bowls. I have no idea why. My husband thinks this is a really weird item to have "a thing" for, but I don't care. Wooden bowls are classic and one can never have enough!
* cough * Hoarders * cough *

I had a specific vision for these bowls right away. I thought I could instantly modernize them by doing a color dipping treatment with some painter's tape and spray paint. This isn't my first rodeo with the "color dipped" look. We had a long love affair back in 2012 that started when I made these color dipped spoons for my friend's bridal shower. I loved them so much that I made a rainbow version for a wedding gift and even some glittery wooden spoons for myself, which I am still using on a daily basis.

I hand painted all of those wooden utensils, but I thought this project called for some spray paint. So I started off by taping off all of my bowls that only the bottom third was showing.

After a few coats of spray paint and some clear varnish, I had the cutest wooden bowls on the block! There is something so satisfying about pulling off painters' tape to reveal a finished project.

I'm sure you've seen these types of bowls at the thrift store before. I hope I've inspired you to give them another look. I know I'll be on the lookout for more now so I can add to my collection!

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Front Porch Makeover Options

When we were touring this house for the first time, one of the first things I noticed was the tiled path leading to the front door. The tile was orange with grey grout, and I wasn't a big fan.

This photo from our original home tour shows how the orange tile worked with the patio pavers and concrete driveway. Seems like an odd choice of flooring for the front path, right?

We looked past the tile and bought the house anyway, but it's always been something we wanted to change. Once we painted the house, I thought the tile looked even worse.

About a week ago, the husband finally decided he was fed up with the tile. Plus, he was on Christmas break from his job and was dying to have some sort of project. He used a sledgehammer to break up the tile and then a flat shovel to pry up all the tile pieces. (He did this while I was gone, so I don't have any photos.) Once that was finished, we were left with chunks of leftover mortar that was still attached to the concrete.

We knew we needed a smooth surface to work with, so he rented a demolition hammer to chip away at the mortar and then used an angle grinder with a diamond wheel to grind it down into smooth concrete.

This part of the job was incredibly dusty. I happened to be walking by our front door inside the house and saw tons of dust pouring in around the edges and under the weatherstrip. Gross! I immediately grabbed some towels and tried to seal the small openings from the inside, but not before a fine layer of dust covered the formal living and dining room.

Those two tools worked really well, and now we have basic concrete surface to work with. It's already an improvement over the orange tile. It's not really discolored, but in this photo you can see the front part of the walkway is wet from a recent rainstorm.

The question is, what should we do noq? We don't feel like we can stain the concrete because, as you can see with the rain-soaked photos above, some of the old grout lines are still faintly visible. The stain would probably reveal that even more. Plus the bottom half of the path has a different color concrete than the top, so the stain might not apply evenly.

The way I see it, we have two options. We can paint the concrete with an opaque paint or we can tile the entryway with some new tile that matches the house better. Of course, within those two options are even more options: Paint a pattern? Faux stone? What type of tile? What color?

Whatever we choose, it needs to coordinate nicely with both the grey concrete driveway and the multicolored patio pavers. The color scheme should work well with our exterior siding color (Shenandoah Taupe, Benjamin Moore) and the front door (Hematite, Valspar).

This is where I need your help. You can see what we're working with in the photos above. What do you think would look the best? Please leave your suggestions in the comments. We need a great idea because we are stuck!

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Printing & Displaying Instagram Photos

For the first time in what feels like years, I actually printed some photos. Specifically, I printed Instagram photos to hang up in our house.

I love Instagram, and I post photos all the time (@jordang106). And while it's fun to just scan my feed and look back at the fun memories I've captured on camera, it's even more fun to print them out and actually put them up around the house. So I finally took the plunge in what seemed like the easiest way possible: using the Walgreens photo app. It took me about five minutes to download the app and select the photos I wanted to make into 4x4" prints, and I picked them up an hour later.

Of course there are a ton of ways to print Instagrams, but I am a longtime Walgreens photo customer so it was just a default for me to use their app. Plus my local Walgreens offers one-hour printing and is a block from my house. It was a no-brainer for a lazy girl like me!

I printed out about 50 photos, so the next task was to figure out how I wanted to display them in the house. I wanted them to be easy to switch out, so I opted not to frame any prints. Instead I used three similar (but slightly different) methods to show off the photos.

First up, my home office/art studio. There is a lot going on in this room, but I don't care! It's my creative space and I'm all about creative stimulation. I've been carrying around the wire photo display system from Ikea for about four years now, and I'm finally putting it to use. (I checked the Ikea website, but I don't think they sell it anymore.)

We strung it along the top of the wall that I face when I sit at my desk. I chose that placement because 1) these photos remind me of my favorite people and places, so it's fun to see them from where I work, and 2) this wall is the least visible from the rest of the house, so my photo display is not cluttering up the line of sight from any other room.

The other two displays were super simple. I already had this small clothespin photo display (Pier 1) in our kitchen, so I took down all of the coupons and random items I had clipped to it and added the new prints instead.

Then I took the last bunch of photos to the laundry room and strung them in front of our flea market window/dry erase calendar.

The photos are like a little jolt of happy as we head into the new year. Such a simple project, too. Those are the best kind.

Have you ever printed Instagrams? Who is your favorite vendor?

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Happy 2015!

I love the beginning of a new year! It's time for fresh beginnings. 'Tis the season to take down the holiday decorations, clean out your closet, donate your extra junk to the local thrift store, replace the sugary goodness in your fridge with spinach and just generally press "reset" on your daily routine.

I'll be honest – 2014 wasn't my favorite year of all time. Luckily, that makes it easy to bid adieu! I'm ready to welcome a new year ripe with possibility.

The first thing I usually do to start the new year is pick my "word of the year." It's supposed to be a word that encapsulates what you want to focus on in the coming year. In 2012, my word was thankful. In 2013, I chose focus. I never wrote a blog post about it for 2014, but my word was "grateful." That's basically been my special word ever since we got married, and I write it in the condensation of my glass shower door (and even inspired a DIY floor mat) every single day. It's a weird habit that I started a long time ago, but it helps me remember to be grateful for our blessings even when I'm grumpy (which is more often than I'd like to admit). Oops.

After a little introspection, it was pretty easy to think of my word for 2015: hope.

These past couple of years have taught me something about myself: When I'm praying or longing for something that I consider unlikely to happen, I assume it won't happen just to contain my disappointment. It's a coping mechanism. I've always been a "prepare for the worst, hope for the best" type of personality. It helps me keep my emotions in check.

It's hard to put yourself out there when you know it might lead to crushing disappointment, whether it's in a relationship, career, marriage, finances, etc. I'm SO not a risk-taker. And allowing yourself to hope – really, really hope for something – is a risk.

But here's where faith comes in. Hebrews 11:1 reads, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

Reading this verse was a palm-to-forehead moment for me. It occurred to me that every time I try to contain my hopes and dreams because I'm afraid they won't come true, I'm not showing true faith that God knows what is best for me. That His plan is so much better than anything I could ever come up with in a million years. I have wrestled with this for much of the past year, and the conversation inside my own head goes a little something like this:

I want this so badly... but that doesn't mean it will happen. In fact, it probably won't happen. 
 (Puts hope in a box on the shelf.)

But then again, maybe it will. I know God is listening. He can overcome any worldly obstacle.
(Opens up box of hope and holds it up to the sunlight, looking for holes, weaknesses.)

Of course He can. But that doesn't mean He always answers our prayers in the way we planned. We can be as hopeful as possible, but His path for our lives might be different than ours. He never promises we'll get everything we want. 
(Closes the box, puts hope back on the top shelf.)

And round and round I go. Some days I'm happy and hopeful; other days I'm sad and defeated. As someone who has always prided herself on mental stability, I roll my eyes at my own behavior. I apologize to my sweet, loving husband who doesn't know how to fix it – and we all know he is Mr. Fix It.

Long story short, this year is about hope. More specifically, it's about allowing myself to have the purest of hopes, putting my doubts and fears in a box, high up on the shelf where I can't reach them. It's about a willingness to put myself out there and know that if I fall, if the disappointment that I've tried so hard to avoid actually comes closing in, God will see me through it. Because that expression that we've heard before is so true: If God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it.

Hope is a beautiful thing, don't you think?

Enough about me! What's your word of the year for 2015?  

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