One Year Later….

One Year Later….

Okay, here goes, the “Hello 2014″ Post… DSCN8259Here on AIRL, 2013 clearly was the “Year of the Handmade Wedding”, but putting pictures up on my 365 Project page kept me busy posting nearly every day of 2013.  It wasn’t always the easiest thing to keep up with and there were a few times when a week’s worth would have to go up at once, but I stayed disciplined, paid attention and made it to the end.

Day 365

Through it all, I learned a ton not only about composition, photo editing, lighting (good and bad!), time-management, computers, and blogging but more about just noticing the small things that begged for a second look.  Day 257

Sometimes there were “eureka” moments that I knew the shot was the one of the day…day 212

but most times I was surprised by something that just captured the day personally in an undeniable way.

Day 116 (2)

For 2014, I am going even more in the moment and moving that project over to Instagram. You can follow along there if you’d like – click here – artinrealife.

day 263

As 2014 kicks off, capturing more of the awareness that comes from those small random moments is definitely a goal of mine.

day 245

Moments ….


Taking the time, and the risk, to find inspiration and live with more art.

Day 233

The true principle behind Art in Real Life.  

day 155 (2)

In the New Year, my hope is that you will find ways to live with more attention to art in real life…. Take notice. Take some risks. Share what you are doing here in the comments anytime, if you like.

Happy Birthday to AIRL

Happy Birthday to AIRL

December 13, 2013 ,  Art in Real Life’s 2nd Birthday!!!  Woo!  Send in the clowns….NOT!


Art in Real Life so far has been a pretty in-depth study in discipline and perseverance.  Doing the work. Keeping my head in the game.  Following my heart.  Learning what makes me happy.


It has been a way to share a journey to find what happened to my artistic self over the last 25+ years.  What started out all enthusiastic ambition in my younger days got jaded and lost somewhere between art school and here. I lost the connection with that side of myself, and eventually handed over the trust I had in my own creative nature and declared,” I am not really an artist” out of fear of failure or judgement.  Fast forward to 2011 when I rediscovered that passion and started making up for lost time and Art in Real Life was born.


Making a mark, small or large, on canvas, paper, fabric, the internet or at a job, or at home takes a certain amount of bravery. It requires effort and intention and a lot of trust.  What everyone who has taken a risk and put themselves out there knows is that inspiration is in the doing. Which cultivates more creativity which gives one the courage to try something even more. Posting here in this arena about my personal journey back to creativity in real life has been a lesson in discipline, perseverance and bravery for me and hopefully offers a tiny bit of inspiration for anyone who may have given up on that voice.


Art in Real Life 2013 the year of ….

Handmade Weddings:  Wedding planner is not my profession but this was definitely the year of the wedding, no doubt. Our dreams were big but our time frames and budgets tight so we were forced  to look deep and roll up our sleeves.  Creative thinking, faith and a lot of glue took us from a couple of bland banquet halls to romantic colorful spaces filled with personality and meaningful moments.


Project 365: One of my favorite developments from this blog. Many versions of this project exist on the internet.  There is a website that does a good job of explaining why, in this world of instant everything, does it matter to take one photo every single day for a year of your life.  My Project 365 is not a product of any of those just a suggestion by an extremely talented photographer friend . Her level of photography puts me in my place but she inspired me to really take notice of the everyday happenings, no matter how mundane or messy, and pay attention.  I like that.   Sometimes it is just capturing one simple moment brings me back to that day and the back story.  Looking to keep up with that habit and go for Project 365 2014.  Discipline and  perseverance…

Day 307

Design for Real Life: Although 2013 was all about weddings (and cats if you look at my 365 Project!), I am looking forward to being more active in this particular aspect of my creative life in 2014.  Our company, Closet Factory, has the newest cutting edge drawing technology that presents some learning curves (for me!) but  through discipline and perseverance we have been able to offer this incredibly comprehensive tool our company to our clients.  Helping people beautify and organize their homes is another passion that takes a lot of discipline and perseverance on my part.


A.R.T.:  or Acts of Random Talent page is a place that I am using to curate inspiring artists’ work as I find them around the internet.  Hoping to create a collection of unexpected art that has its roots in real life.  People who, even though they may have come to their calling in a non-traditional way, have made the connection to that inner voice and have stepped into being the artists that they were meant to be.  Really, we are all artists.

alexa meade

Gallery: It hasn’t been all weddings and cats but there has been some actual “visual art” happening around here, too. There have been paintings and classes just not so much on the gallery page.Studio renovations as well as house, food, fabric and yard projects have been a big part of the year, too!


Thank you so much for being a reader, (even if you are related to me in some way and just feel obligated!)  I am ever so grateful for your time. I am aware there is a lot of ways to spend your screen time. Thank you for stopping by.  I hope you will leave me a birthday comment if you have a moment.  I would consider it to be a wonderful gift. You could even subscribe and get an update in your inbox when there is something new here if you want…extra special thank you to my “inner circle” of subscribers!  Love you guys!


Here’s to the next 365 days of Art in Real Life!  Do something powerful and creative – be yourself!

Handmade Wedding: I lied!

Handmade Wedding: I lied!

Yes, It’s true…I thought I was done with the wedding posts but nope, got one more in me…

7 a.m., Nov. 15th, I got this Facebook message from a very dear friend who shared with me a couple of months ago that she had found a very special “beau”, “Do you plan to be in town November 30th?”.  I had a feeling what was coming.  She was getting married!  Very excited for her as she deserves every bit of the happiness she has found.  What could I say, other than “Do you need some paper flowers?” wedding2flowers She had two weeks.  I had lots of sticks and flowers (and spreadsheets!)  Let the turbo-planning begin!   Made that four month timeline for the first wedding seem extensive!  Although that quick turnaround presents all kinds of obstacles, there is also a wonderful simplicity in planning and designing a wedding with a tight timeline. Obviously there is stress, but it is not a prolonged stress.  Decisions just have to be made.  You have to work with what you have.  You cannot worry about that which you cannot change.  And for the most part, it turned out absolutely perfect.wedding2back

Starting with the theme of joining hands to become family, we wanted to be sure that we hit the main features that the bride felt were important. Creating an intimate space, just for the two of them, was the most important with a bit of drama and a dash of glamour. Look familiar?


Since the groom was a great friend with their pastor, who also served as the best man, the venue was set. The bride’s four grown children along with her sister formed the bridal party.


A hand blessing read by the matron of honor, sister of the bride, had special meaning for the bride and her family. Gotta love that hooplah!

DSCN7741In order to include the children of the bride in the ceremony and create the family bond, the couple presented each child with a special necklace to commemorate the day.DSCN7760It was a wonderful gesture that along with their family sharing in communion together, symbolized the new oneness of their family.DSCN7762The look on her face here says it all…wedding2toast

There was a sparkling cider toast..(how do you like the giant flowers’ new role? Pretty cool way to fill up wall space.)wedding2cuttingcake….a wedding cake to cut….

wedding2ladies…great food…(I see black and white engineer prints!)DSCN7765friends and family to witness and share it all…wedding2prekiss…and a honeymoon in the mountains.   .

As we were breaking down the wedding decorations in April, some of the helpers( let’s be honest, mostly the menfolk) asked, “What do you want us to do with this stuff? Put it in the dumpster!?!?!”  WHAT!?!? ARE YOU INSANE?!?!  However, truth be told,  we really had no idea what we were going to do with them. They have been in storage ever since. To be able to reimagine and share them with this couple on their special day made the decision to hang on to them a blessing.

Now, who’s next?

Handmade Wedding: Wrapping up the details…AWK!

Handmade Wedding: Wrapping up the details…AWK!

Finally….the day all (three) of you have been waiting for…the last of the Handmade wedding posts!  This wedding and the ripple effect that it had was such a huge factor  this year, both physically and mentally, that I felt it had to be thoroughly documented.  And believe me when I say, I am doing everyone a favor by editing it here.  I have hundreds, possibly a thousand, pictures of everything in every stage of production that I have determined are really just for my benefit and will remain in my vaults. So here goes..

Have I mentioned that there was no shortage of creative ideas for this wedding?  And I am not just tooting my own horn. The groom, despite the fact that he was on another continent except for a couple of weeks at Christmas and the two weeks he had at the time of the wedding, was totally “in” for all aspects of the decisions and contributed his graphic design skills via the internet. From the proposal – recreated here as part of the invitation photo shoot…IMG_2063 2 …to the invitations… DSCN7566 and the program (which included the lyrics of a song the bride had written for the groom as a Christmas gift! How creative is that?)…Program Outside4…to the poster for the elevator lobby to let folks know where to go once they arrived at the venue….DSCN4227and the clever photo boards for the ladies’…    DSCN3858 DSCN3861and mens’ rooms…DSCN3860 …so fun, a guest politely took this one home as a souvenir….    DD7_7967  … to the interior of the cigar box for the ring bearer…note the paper flower inside….wounded warrior…the buffet markers and gift donation cards attached to the sparklers for the guests to light as the couple left after the reception…Groomsmen dock1 …to the t-shirts worn by the groomsmen under their tuxes…Groomsmen dock2Hooo-ah!dog tag start (2) …to the oversized dog tag…  DSCN4001…that he made the day before the wedding as a prop for… group Lindsey …the photo booth – That man was busy!!!  Being involved in all of the creative, and manual labor, was something that he not only wanted to do, but insisted that he be involved. We would have easily given him a pass.  Love that about him! Day 77 A few more projects we felt gave the wedding it’s extra special personal feel were the cake plates and cocktail glasses for the new Mr. and Mrs.  Some paint, stencils, stickers along with a little Mod Podge and we were able to customize them for very few dollars. IMG_4578The Mrs seems happy enough!    DSCN2799We had some of the most fun creating moments in some of the most unseen places – like the men’s bathroom.  This “floral” arrangement was a kick to put together.  Some silver sticks and bamboo, accented with little green Army men hot-glued to bamboo skewers….IMG_4308along with cigars, photos and some mini-bar bottles of “Jack Daniels”.DSCN3965 Actually, we filled them with iced tea so as to not cross any ABC license lines but don’t you know, all of them were empty before the reception even started!!!!  That must have been a disappointing surprise! DSCN2686One of my absolutely favorite transformations has to be the very first spot guests saw when they exited the elevator into the venue space. This is the “before” shot. Actually that was a bare  beige Formica topped table with a chrome pedestal base. The basket and tablecloth were added by us just to get an idea of how it would work.  We knew we wanted to have something dramatic to set the tone as the guests entered.   This was not it!DSCN2784That giant round basket got hit with the silver/chrome spray paint that we used on all of the sticks. Then we placed one of our hot pink napkins along with a round mirror in the center of the basket and added a floral arrangement with all of the bride’s colors. raw monogramsThe new couple’s monogram was our choice for the wall where that tropical painting was hanging. We found these paper mache’ letters at the craft store. They were probably 18 – 24 inches tall and a couple of inches thick. They had a presence. This configuration of the letters in their names actually ends up being the groom’s initials. Thankfully, wedding etiquette dictates that the bride’s name is first in the lineup so it wouldn’t come across like it was all about him! A with black paint After priming them with gesso, a coat of silver paint was added mostly to all of the edges and sides.  monogram 2 Then several coats of flat black paint were applied and allowed to dry. Using some fine sandpaper, the edges were made to look worn as the silver underpainting was revealed. A little added silver paint, a little more black, sanding off, then adding some more and they really ended up looking a lot like aged metal. Didn’t they?  We like to think so.DSCN3060So much so, that we went ahead and added the date as the perfect finishing touch.  The only difference was the numbers were wooden but the same technique.  DSCN3152Again, pretty close to looking like aged metal.DSCN2686 Remember this before?final awkAnd here is the after!  The black and silver with the hot pink and the flowers really made a dramatic statement when the elevator doors opened  It looked much more expensive than it was and we had the ceiling spot directed right at it.  It was a focal point. The basket held cards and gifts were placed around the basket on and around the table on the floor. The proper line-up of the couple’s initials, their monogram, spells “AWK”!  which has now become a family term of endearment.DSCN3096 Last but not least, the get-away vehicle (Colonial Beach is a golf cart community) was decorated using repurposed  fringe from a banner at one of Amy’s bridal showers…  DSCN4275 …as well as a poster that read …”We Be Wed” which is a call back to my wedding at which my dear word-challenged husband misunderstood the officiant and repeated “I be Wed” instead of “I Thee Wed” . Now, a family term of endearment, as well.  The poster was created with the words “Kent loves Amy” repeated in the border around the whole sign inside the black and white checkerboard.  Super cute!IMG_4765 Unfortunately, the pro photographer was long gone by the time the couple were ready to leave and we were all pretty excited - maybe it was the excessive bar tab – as the couple left the reception to “get-away” so we didn’t really get any great pictures with the cool effect of the sparklers and their top-hatted driver.  Here’s our best shot.  Sad but true.DSCN4269Oh well, the next day we made them pose for this parting shot.  Their smiles sum up the joy that the whole event brought to everyone involved.  From all of the gluing and the the planning to the dancing and the blogging, it has been an honor to help them celebrate their love for one another.

The creative energy was fueled by our love for the couple and their sweet dedication to not only one another but to our country. They continue to make sacrifices and delay the usual pleasures a newly wed couple enjoy building their new life together in order to serve and protect our freedoms.

For that, I am eternally grateful.

Love you guys!


Handmade Wedding: Rock, Paper, Sticks

Handmade Wedding: Rock, Paper, Sticks

The building blocks of a fashionable yet frugal wedding….


wedding rocks When’s the last time you pulled out your wedding guest book, or any guest book for that matter, and read all of the heartfelt sentiments your guests took the time to leave there? Uh-huh, that’s what I thought.  Guest books are sooooo last century! .wedding rocksThe guests at this wedding were invited to pick a special rock that they liked from our pre-sorted collection and leave their wishes, signature, caricature, whatever, on them.  Some made more sense than others…just saying.  ”Leave each”? “You kids are totes vegates”? I am sure it must mean something incredibly special to the bride and groom.DSCN2837These were just landscaping rocks we purchased by the bag from the Home Depot, cleaned with much TLC and complaining, and placed in a nautically-inspired oyster basket with some fine-line rocks boxGuests then dropped them in a special patriotic themed box in honor of the groom’s military service that will hold them all, along with extra blank rocks and a Sharpie to sit on a credenza for when they entertain at their new home….whenever it is that they finally get to live together as a couple!

Ugly ACSmall white rocks – again, landscaping rocks from Home Depot – in mason jars held down the sticks we used as camo for the u-g-l-y air conditioning units on the roof interrupting our wonderful river view.We did not want that hulk of machinery to be the focus of the ceremony space!!sticks in jars

Not a perfect solution but they kept your eye at the plane of the window and kept you from focusing on the obstruction outside of it so much.

DSCN2922Tumbled rock tile was our hot glue gun trivet as we made our paper flowers and also the base of the black and white photo take-aways.

IMG_2241There is more about them here.



This roll of Costco butcher paper about $15 –  and a hot glue gun were the backbone for our paper flower projects…


Giant paper flowers overhead…


…as well as lots and lots of smaller paper flowers in different sizes to adorn the space in different ways…

DD7_7863…on reserved chairs in the ceremony space…

Banner10 (2)…mixed with book text paper for a vintage feel in the chalkboard bannerbanner9 (2)…along with book text paper mixed with fabric to bring in a punch of color with the vintage.

cigar box

On and in the ring bearer’s ring box …


…paper envelopes from love letters written by the couple for the base of the groom’s cakeIMG_4309…the huge paper engineer print photos everywhere we could think of…DSCN3891…fun fluffy colorful paper pom-poms for the dance floor…( Say that fast 3 times!)buffet tags (2)…down to the menu cards designed by the groom, emailed from Germany and printed on paper cardstock for the buffet line. More of his awesome graphic design work in the next post.


My absolute favorite paper project were the floor vases we created out of cardboard concrete forms from Lowe’s for about $4 each, spray painted glossy black and banded by a field of our paper flowers. You can read more about the process of making these here.


branches tape measure

This room needed drama to liven it up and camo to hide those hulking AC units.  Our inspiration was metallic sticks we had seen at a Christmas display with, of course, tiny white lights.  We gathered a truck load of sticks, literally, cut from the woods and then set about measuring and trimming them to the varying heights so that in the end, our window sticks would have the suggestion of a wave pattern, naturally, since we were on the water.

branches smiles

We sawz-alled, trimmed, remeasured, and labeled all of our groups of sticks in the different heights.

branches spray can

Twenty four cans of this metallic silver spray paint later, we had these…

Day 62

Using the chrome metallic spray paint, as opposed to just a normal silver paint, made all of the difference.  These branches almost hurt your eyes reflecting the sun, they were so shiny and metallic.  There was tons of overspray, since the branches are so narrow, so we had some pretty nicely painted metallic cardboard under them all when we were done! If we had a few more ounces of creative energy left, we probably could have come up with a re-purpose for those! DD7_7841

Later, we gathered two huge black yard waste bags full of pine branches, not technically sticks, I suppose, and sprayed them, as well, to prop up the black and white photos in the table centerpieces.


This was the garage, booby-trapped with hanging bicycles, pine boughs, silver sticks, riding lawn mowers and stretched out white lights on load-in day.

truck branches

This was just truckload number one.


It was then up the ramps…


…and into the elevator. Fun stuff!


The poor beer delivery guy got caught holding the door for us with a hand-truck full of beer cases behind him on the elevator.  He was thrilled, to say the least.  That beer was for our reception so we had to be nice and accommodate him!  Actually, he was very nice to us.  It was a win-win.

DSCN3786Then there was this guy, along with his buddy, Obnoxious-Musical- Cotton-Candy-Machine, in the casino entrance lobby, staring and shouting at us every one of our 243 waits for the elevator to come down over the course of about 8 hours. We were all smiling pretty much like that at the end of it all.DSC_0765

Back to the cool floor vases, this glimpse of a shot was taken just as the ceremony was preparing to begin with the entrance of the officiant and the groomsmen. That’s all I have are glimpses of them finished and in place, the result of me wearing too many hats and photographer was not one of them.The two bigger vases were placed on either side of the ceremony space under the draped organza to fill in the corners. 


With a grand total of 17 people in the bridal party facing the guests, it was the only space that needed it up front!


The two smaller floor vases were at the bar and the DJ table filling in some around the glass racks and equipment. DSCN3935Our mason jars filled with white rocks and silver sticks created just enough of an illusion to create a distraction to take your eyes away from the AC units that we were hoping for in the ceremony space.   Wave pattern? Maybe not so much…subtle but still effective.DSC_1032

The illusion only went so far but it didn’t seem to keep anyone from having fun.  There’s that ceremony floor vase in the background.


The caterers ended up canabalizing some of our jars and table branches along with the ceremony chair markers to add to the display for the buffet line….another set of missing photos.  Sigh…next time!  

Rock, Paper, Sticks:  Dependable, flexible, and economical.  What more can you ask for from such basic elements?

NEXT: Wrapping it all up – AWK!




Handmade Wedding: Hooplahs and Jellyfish

Handmade Wedding: Hooplahs and Jellyfish

What do hula-hoops and jellyfish have in common?  I didn’t know either until this wedding.

Creating intimate spaces with big impact looks in a large generic banquet room using handmade personalized elements on a budget pretty much was our design mission statement for this wedding.  Finding creative answers was sometimes easy and sometimes not.  These particular projects were so easy, it was stunning!  They were the answer to what we were looking for at a cost that was next to nothing considering the impact that they made.IMG_4509

Naturally, the bride wanted to have “The Walk” down a long aisle, so we picked a spot in the room that gave her plenty of time for that moment leading to a simple but magical destination. The windows provided a great view for the ceremony backdrop but  what we needed was an intimate atmosphere for the vow exchange. Enter the hula-hoop – or “hooplah” as our finished products came to be known – tiny white lights, plus yards and yards of silky organza and crepe paper.  Nothing ground-breaking here, but extremely easy, effective and inexpensive.

garage hooplahs

Left: ceremony hoop Right: Jellyfish (cake-table) hoop

 A smallish kids’ hula-hoop purchased for $3 spray painted white, with white icicle lights zip-tied on with white zip-ties, formed the base of the ceremonial hoop.  The jellyfish hooplah was a wire wreath frame from a craft store, purchased for about $4, with white in-line string lights draped in big loops and twist-tied on.   Even though we did spray the cake table hoop white as well, we left the green wires as they actually sort of disappeared in the dark center of the jellyfish when we were done.  icicle lights boxThese were a great find at the after-Christmas sales.  Knowing we had this event coming up we stocked up and bought about 30 boxes.  We used them in several different ways throughout the space and the effect was sparkly and magical…gotta love a twinkle light!DSCN2824Of course, precise measurements and advanced mathematical calculations were employed to make sure that the ceremony hoop hung at the right height above the couple’s heads.  Okay, maybe we used some unconventional methods but they worked!DSCN2917

A few yards of organza, a couple of wraps n’ tucks, and the ceremony hooplah was finished. .DSCN3939Easy-peasy and a lot of mood for about $10 and 20 minutes!Day 94 (2)At the venue, we laid out 32 yards of the dreamy white organza ($8 a yard before the 40%off coupon). At first we thought we would be able to wrap it around strands of lights, but we did not have enough of the in-lines in white wire,  most were of the icicle variety. So, in the end, we chucked that idea for the more simple plain fabric drape.DSCN3812Creating the illusion of floating chiffon was as simple as 4 hooks, some fishing line and a couple of poles. The dropped-ceiling grid gave us the perfect center point to hang the hooplah form the grid using hooks we got from a office furniture outfitter.  After that, we just lifted the panels on either side and tucked the ends of the organza in and let the panel weight hold them down. Then, using bamboo “rods” we cut from a neighbor’s yard, with holes drilled in the ends, we threaded fishing line through them, allowing us to loop them onto the dropped-ceiling hooks.   When the hoopah was lit …ceremony hooplah…it created just enough glow to create the most important spot in the room.


At the opposite end of this gigantic room, in a corner, was the cake-cutting table, lonely and  in desperate need of an attention-grabbing something. That’s where the jellyfish hooplah was doing its job but on the way there…DSCN3946…can we take a moment to check out the fabulous overhead effect of the hundreds of white icicle lights over the dance floor.  Complete with a pink mirrored disco ball, paper pom-poms and ribbons in the bride’s favorite colors.DD7_8274

When we lit it up after the ceremony,  It just screamed, “FUN happens here!”.  And it did!

cake hoop stairs paperWhen you write it down on paper, this project does not sound like something you would expect to class-up a wedding, but it really ended up being a show-stopper.Crepe paper streamers – only around $1 a roll – created the drama for the jellyfish hooplah.  That’s right, kiddie birthday party crepe paper streamers.  Sounds kinda tacky, right?  That’s what I thought!cre[e paper rolling deviceWe had to use so much of the darned stuff ,and in such long pieces, that we devised this clever factory assembly line method for measuring and cutting the many, many strips.  The sheer volume of color and paper is what elevated it from cheap to chic.DSCN2864All that was involved in the production, was folding over the strips a couple of inches and stapling them to the frame, alternating the colors all the way around and on all of the sections of the wire wreath frame, creating a depth of layers.  Having a spiral staircase to hang it from was genius!jellyfish closeup

We simply zip-tied some chain from the hardware store on and presto… we had a jellyfish hooplah!  Crazy good!.

DSCN2878How do you store a 10 foot long jellyfish hooplah until you need it?  Go ahead, Google that!  Our method was to put the bottoms in a big black garbage bag…jelly storage…and haul it up to the storage area over the garage to hang from the rafters. Then we took the bag off because we didn’t want to wrinkle the tendrils.  It still puddled on the floor a bit.IMG_4313That’s how we learned once crepe paper gets a wrinkle, it is there.  We considered ironing them all out but then came to our senses and just  pushed the cake table a little closer.DSC_0657Jellyfish hooplah did its job and brought the punch of color to that corner that was needed.DSCN4186When the sun went down, the orange glow was ethereal. Hoops, lights, fabric, crepe paper, a couple of poles and some fishing line and chain.

Big effects.  Little cost.  Easy execution.  Perfection.

Next up: Rock, Paper, Sticks

Handmade Wedding: Black and White with Color All Over

Handmade Wedding: Black and White with Color All Over

There is something about me you should know….. I try to live in the moment.  That being said, I am blogging about things in the past.  It’s a conflict.  I am doing many things – creative and otherwise – at the moment.  I promise (to myself if no one else!) I am going to finish up these wedding posts. It may seem like beating a dead bouquet, but I have several posts started in draft form that I can’t leave unfinished. I guess my “clean plate club” mentality from childhood won’t let me.  It would just  be such a waste of the time I have already spent on them not to release them.  And, I need to move on!! The weather has been so beautiful, our life is full of interesting events, and it’s all good.  Just makes it hard to have blocks of time to sit, edit photos and write.

Especially when moments like  this are going on!!!!!  day 273

Or this!!!!!

day 245

or this…day 260

(for a summary of the last 260 odd days in snapshots go here.)

However, I am nothing if not persistent so here goes….

If you’ve been following along at all, you might recall that the color theme for the wedding was black and white along with pops of bright pink, orange and yellow.  Remember this big empty generic space?ceremony space b4   How do you make those white walls more welcoming and personal without major expense?  Well, Hello, Pinterest!

giant flower ceiling (2)

Black and White Engineer prints from Staples for under $5 each! That’s how! So easy!


We hung them with slip-on plastic binder edges we found on Amazon for a couple of more bucks and hung them with push pins.  Bingo!!  Instant, personal, space-hogging and FUN wall art on the cheap! IMG_4296   Plus, we were able to roll them up, put them in a tube and give them all to the couple.They can use them to mount on wood or use them in a fun drinking-game sometime down the road.

We had the most fun in the Mens’ bathroom….Passport photos from the groomsmens’ Asian tour with their band…. IMG_4309 

The groom’s bachelor party in Baltimore the week before….you can tell he had no idea these were going to end up here.  We were sneaky, gotta admit.   We even had photos from the bachelor party in Germany (over the best man’s shoulder there)


A few Facebook captures for your viewing pleasure while you….well, you know!  (I did wonder how the bride’s dad would appreciate some of these.  Too late now!)IMG_4305

They made or great backgrounds for candid shots during the reception.

stacy lee ann background

Lyrics from a special song the bride had written for the groom, hung in the ceremony space along with the photo of the couple’s hands brought in a very personal touch.IMG_4318

Big format pictures were not the only stars of the show….we had smaller ones on ribbons hung in the bathrooms (our favorite place to spike with a little unexpected fun)…DSCN3066

…class pictures in black and white on a windowsill chronicling their childhoods (some actually had the exact same background even though they were taken in different states!)…IMG_4300

…as well as a collection of black and white photos of loved ones who are no longer with us, except in spirit, but sure would have wanted to be included. (That happens to be my p’s – Miss them!)DSCN3848

We pulled out the decorative edge scissors and trimmed up a huge pile of candid black & white photos of the couple…photo scissors

…tied them with charms and skinny satin ribbons in the bride’s colors…DSCN3046

and scattered them around the centerpieces on the tables with a note for guests to pick their favorites to take home with them. (Insert picture of bride’s cute little friend holding her colorful bouquet because you can’t find a picture of the centerpieces!)wynter bouquet

In addition to a donation made to the Wounded Warrior Project by the bride and groom in honor of their wedding guests, (the groom designed the graphics for the cards to be attached to sparklers for the send off  and sent them to us from Germany – ain’t technology swell?)…wounded warrior

…these handmade tiles that my decorating partner made, were offered as a take-away to remember the day. tile photo

  For 150 tiles, she cut all of the photos square with a pattern that resembled a torn edge effect,IMG_2241

…then, using tumbled marble tiles, she Mod Podged each square with one of two photos that were used at the wedding on the walls or in the invitation. (Don’t judge – I was busy gluing paper flower petals!)mementos on stands

They were then sealed so they could be used as photo art on a stand or propped up on a shelf, or as a coaster for your coffee!  Brilliant!

The black and white theme punched with bright color worked on every level and the photos were the personal touch that made the day – big and small, ceremony, reception and even back with the guests at home.ceremony hooplah

The couple just celebrated their six month anniversary on Sunday but have really only spent a grand total of less than a month together as husband and wife.  The groom is in Afghanistan for at least another few months, the bride is still living in Maryland but hopefully 2014 will be a different story!  Thank you to them both for their sacrifice at such a special time in their lives.

Let love be the anthem…

Next: Hooplahs and Jellyfish



Handmade Wedding: Chalkboard Banner Tutorial

Handmade Wedding: Chalkboard Banner Tutorial

If a great DIY design project serves its purpose beautifully (and on the cheap!) that’s fantastic, but then if it can be used over and over for many other functions,well, now we are talking project perfection!!  Nothing is more trendier these days  than a photo booth at a wedding, except maybe chalkboard art, and certainly, it was our duty to make sure this wedding did not miss out!  How else would the bride and groom be able to look back on their 10th anniversary and say, “Remember when THAT was popular? What were we thinking?”banner wide (2)This chalkboard pennant banner for our DIY Photobooth was kind of an afterthought.  We had plenty of projects to finish and even though it seemed pretty obvious what this area was intended to be,  it felt like we needed something in this huge room to let guests know that , yes, this was where they needed to be to play in the photo booth.  The  idea came to me and I had to just go for it.  The whole project took less than 3 hours and tied together elements from the theme in a totally different way.  The best part? It cost virtually nothing as I used things I already had on hand! Love that! Here’s what I used:

  • paper – any kind for template
  • canvas
  • chalkboard paint
  • jute twine
  • safety pins – to feed twine through tops of pennants, and to attach some embellishments
  • sewing machine
  • pinking shears
  • embellishments and whatever you want to decorate the spacers withbanner 1 (2) It started with making a paper template to figure out the size (on the Left).  I wanted the pennants to be fairly large to be seen from a distance but not so big they looked ridiculous.  Each pennant ended up being about 11 inches from top to point and that worked.  I just eyeballed the size I thought would work, cut it out and tested it, then made another one and taped them together to use as a pattern. Note my superior cutting skills of the canvas piece on the RIght!  Nice!  Just goes to show you don’t always have to be a perfectionist to get results.banner 2 (2)

The plan was to go with a diamond shape then fold them in half so that they formed a double-sided triangle with a channel at the top for the hanging string to go through. Using the paper template and some canvas I had lying around from another project, I cut out the number of diamonds I needed to spell out “photo booth” plus 3 extra for the ends and one for a spacer in the center. banner3 (2) To give them some rigidity making them easier to write on, I cut used manila file folders I had in a pile (or cardstock) into triangles about 1/2 inch smaller than the face of the pennant and inserted them into the folded over fabric and sewed all around.  banner5 (2) At the top,  I sewed a line about about 3/4 of an inch from the folded top (or center of the diamond) to create the channel  to pull the string through that would hang the banner. banner4 (2) Here’s what they looked like when the sewing was done. chalkboard 1 (2) We had painted one wall in a couple of the kids’ bedrooms with chalkboard paint so I had some on hand. Day 84 (2) I did gesso the pennants first so that the blackboard paint wouldn’t soak into the fabric and saturate the cardstock inside. I decided to leave the 3 spacer pennants gesso white to give some contrast and possibly do something different with them. banner6 (2) At first, I thought I would like the raveled kind of grungy look of the rough edges but not so much. I ended up trimming them all with pinking shears to even them up and stop the raveling.  I liked the fact that it created the look of more triangles….hadn’t thought of that!  banner 11 (2) Then I wanted some way to incorporate our white paper flowers, so I made a smaller version and added a book text center.  Loved it!  Perfect addition of the sort of grungy old fashioned hand made look I was going for but in a subdued way.  Made two of these for the end and the beginning of the banner, each about 8 inches in diameter. I just safety pinned them on so I can change the tone of the banner for a different occasion at another time.DSCN3647 (2) Liked that look so much that I added a few petals of book text on an even smaller flower about 3 inches wide to put on the center “space” pennant. Banner10 (2) I wanted to do something a little different with that one to create a focal point and add some color – the bride’s colors of orange, pink, and yellow – to go along with the black and white of the chalkboard paint and the white paper flowers. I didn’t want anything too bright, however, as it didn’t seem to fit the old fashioned feel the banner was taking on so I opted for some circles traced from a template filled with Pitt Pen in  and some Distress Inks in . banner12 (2) I was on a book-text-loving-roll, so I ripped out some more pages, tore them into 2 inch strips, added some scrap fabric from pillows that I made for the wedding space foyer bench, sewed it all together folding it over as I went along and there you go….grungy ruffle with all of the bride’s colors incorporated in a subtle touch on the banner!  I did hot glue the ruffle to the banner and the flower to the ruffle so this would be a permanent (ish) pennant design.  These were so simple to make that I can see customizing spacer and end pennants for any occasion that I bring the banner out for..banner9 (2) Using a safety pin and my hand Precision Poker Tool (bamboo skewer), I threaded the individual pennants onto jute twine from the tool shed, starting with a blank white pennant, then counting out the number of chalkboard ones I would need to write out “booth” then adding the center “spacer” and the additional chalkboard pennants for “booth” and ending with the last gessoed white pennant.banner13 (2) I used safety pins to attach the bigger white flowers to the white pennants so that if the banner needs to be used for a different theme it can easily be changed.  The whole pennant is interchangeable and easily added on to.  I love it!  Not only perfect for weddings but birthdays, anniversaries, show booths, or even home decor.     photobooth4 (2) The banner literally spelled out what this was this display was all about.  It seems obvious but we needed to make sure that guests knew that this was indeed a place to come get a photo taken and have some fun. You can get as plain or fancy in the lettering as you want.  Add some doodles or attach any kind of embellishment you want.DSCN3959 Judging by the photos from my last post….I think it worked. This banner will be the perfect addition to many occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, welcome home, craft shows, or just an inspirational word or two on the wall – just add chalk. Thanks for stopping in for a look,


PS – Now I am not the first, nor the last to make one of these things. Here is another version of a chalkboard banner, using a totally different material and method.  I love that!  It does make me realize, however,what  good  blog photos are supposed to look like!  Thanks Delia!  (I do think I am going to try her little pocket idea.)

Handmade Wedding: Photo booth

Handmade Wedding: Photo booth

When you are planning a DIY wedding, or any wedding for that matter, you have to prioritize where to spend your budget and decide what you can get the most value from with your dollars. Personally, my advice to brides is to focus on the atmosphere, the ring and the photographs – they will be with you the longest.  That’s not to say everything else should be skimped on, but let’s face it, 10 years later, even one year later the decorations will be trashed and your memory blurred, you will most likely never wear the dress again, the flowers will be dust, the food will be ….well you know… but get the overall mood of the event right, the perfect ring along with professional high resolution photographs and memories of perfection will be with you forever.


In that spirit,  a photo booth is a fun way to capture some of the sweeter and sillier moments of the day.  They have been become very popular at weddings in recent years and our bride definitely wanted to include one at their event. But commercial photo booths can be pricey…

A stand-alone photo booth with some digital background options rents somewhere in the neighborhood of around $700. for 4 hours  PLUS delivery and set-up – can only imagine how much that would have been as we were an hour from the nearest vendor – but who’s got time for THAT!!?   We knew this was a place to be inventive and create our own.

wide photo booth (2)What our room lacked in warmth, it had in space. It is used as a multi-functional all purpose meeting space/venue several times a month as an auction house, for weddings, family reunions, meetings, etc. Just sitting back in the corner, being very plain and quiet, was a storage area for the items not in use during a particular event.

Storage area for extra chairs and catering supplies

Storage area for extra chairs and catering supplies

 The space was created by suspending black curtains on rods from the drop ceiling and it was exactly what we would need for the perfect backdrop in a photo booth.  Done!


Being at the beach with a military groom we decided to use two backdrops reflecting those aspects of the wedding as our backdrop themes.


The American flag we used was bought with a donation to the USO, the groom has signed it (along the left edge there) and it has hung  at the front of my house in his honor since his enlistment last year and will hang until his return when I can present it  to him for his new home. I love the idea of creating a history for special things like that.

dog tag start (2)

We had some military props – jacket, wooden rifle, hats, etc. as well as an over-sized dog tag that was made by the groom.

photobooth2 (2)

The beach background was a simple striped beach towel in the bride’s colors and the props did the rest – small beachy signs, a pool float, hats, sunglasses, etc. . And just for fun, words, symbols, masks and colorful feather boas the bride picked out just for the fun of it!

stashes (2)

Of course, we had the requisite mustaches & such(cut out by my girl out of black craft foam), hot glued to bamboo skewers. 

photobooth4 (2)

Artfully arranged with a small white board and the instructions to write a word or two of advice for the couple as they go forth in their new life.  Great plan! We were ready.  My girl was the “official” photographer.  She was available to take the photo in front of your background of choice, with your chosen props and your words of advice.  Sounds good…but we all know what happens to the best laid plans!  Let’s just say, the results were sometimes spontaneous and off center, but always, always perfection and the greatest memories of the day.  Shall we?

bridesmaids gun couple with out rifle couple with rifle dog tag boys group Lindsey howard carol jen paul jim katherine backs kent fan couple green matt girls2 relaxing Sam Lindsey stacy lee2 swimmer   steve photobooth (2)

you think this is a game amber jazz fah andrew la jayben flip me over2 girls with beak group baby lauren gun couple

lee lindsey JIM who ordered troube

latb photobooth (2)

Of course, once things got “flowing” at the wedding and the bar, the props did not stay at the photo booth but the photo opps followed the props…. it’s pretty evident the bride enjoyed the day.  



sam moustache eyebrow (2)

bride in red



So fun! Photos – whether professional, photo booths, candids by friends…it’s these moments that keep the mood of the day alive and enables the memories to be so vivid many many months and years later.

I am grateful you stopped by.  See you next time…



Handmade Wedding: The Groooom’s Cake

Handmade Wedding: The Groooom’s Cake

Grooms’ cakes can be a whole lot of fun…this one was no exception!  Traditionally, the cake is a gift from the bride to the groom and in this case it was a gift from my family to the bride to give to the groom. (Did I mention that the groom was stationed in Germany and the bride was traveling 5 hours back and forth from her home to a graduate internship the whole time we were planning this wedding?)


Well-loved photo of the groom from basic training taped to his mom’s dashboard

bridal shower1 (2)

The bride and her future sister-in-law. So cute, right?

We wanted to reflect the groom’s interests, of course, as that is the purpose. The bride and I sat and talked and came up with basically four themes: the Army, music, Jack Daniels and BACON!!! (Not necessarily in that order)

So, we started with that.  We had all kinds of ideas….

  • Army men surfing on bacon surfboards on Jack Daniels flowing out of a bottle holding music notes.  Scratch.
  • Glasses of  Jack Daniels with Army men in them eating bacon all sitting atop sheet music.  Scratch.  
  • Then we thought –  Army men, guarding bacon roses (Pinterest!) around a giant Jack Daniels bottle with a custom label reflecting all of the groom’s musical and Army career highlights all sitting on atop envelopes from the letters they had written to one another when he was in basic training that ultimately led to his proposal during a visit at Ft. Benning.  Bingo!  Now, who to make it?!!?

It turns out, through my husband’s work in the restaurant business, he had someone in mind who does some pretty awesome cakes.  Mill Steet Sweets is part of Charley’s Waterfront Cafe’ in Farmville, VA. Charley’s is a great place to have lunch when you are in town to shop at Greenfront Furniture or visiting Longwood College.  Whoa!  I should work for the Farmville Chamber of Commerce!

All we really needed was the bottle with the label, that was the hard part. We could take care of the rest.

Bacon Roses, you say?  Easy.  Take a mini-muffin pan and drill a pretty good sized hole in the center of each cup.  This allows the copious amounts of bacon grease to drain out.  Take a pound of bacon( or more) and begin by rolling one strip at a time from the end into a flower shape.  Use your imagination…it will take some finessing but nothing too technical.

bacon rose 1

Place each “rose” into a cup in the pan and set the whole thing on top of a broiler pan with the base attached, again, to capture the copious amounts of bacon grease associated with this project. (It’s not that bad but really, you want to do it this way.)

bacon rose 2

Place in a 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 mins.then check them.  I found that they were looking pretty good on top but the bottoms were still pretty raw.  Not appealing.

baconrose 3

I just flipped them over and placed them back in the oven for another 10 mins or so. Actually, I ended up flipping them again and making sure the tops were nice and browned for another 5 or 10 mins. If you make them, you will have to judge how long you want to belabor the point.


Although my camera flash made these appear to be almost neon and no means of editing could help, they really did come out perfectly.


Kent is a cavalry scout and this guy just seemed like he was calling in to tell someone he had spotted something GOOD!!


This guy was just standing there whistling trying to hide the fact that he had just had a teeny weeny little green finger full of fondant.  Move along.  The leaves are bamboo in remembrance of the groom’s great grandmother who had tons of it growing in her yard and every important event has to have some bamboo somewhere.


“Stand Down!  Put the fork down and back away from the roses, ma’am.”


The baker nailed the label.   (Please forgive the little bit of smushing of his last name.  That was our fault trying to get it out of the ginormaous box it was in all taped and perfect. The baker did it perfectly.)Kent was the bass player in a band called Fools and Horses and that is their logo on the neck of the bottle.  Both Kent and Amy lived in Maryland before Kent shipped off to the Army but the wedding was in Virginia, where his family is from.  In fact, the venue was on the water in Maryland but you entered the front door from Virginia. They actually had to go outside after their ceremony to get married for real on the beach in Virginia because the officiant was not authorized to conduct a wedding in Maryland! 


Speaking of ginourmous, did I mention that this cake is at least 2 feet long and probably 10 – 12 inches wide?  Those army men are 4 inches tall!  It weighed a good 20 pounds. It was massive. Of course, it had to feed 40 people, which it did beautifully..


How about the attention to detail on the bottom of the bottle, I mean cake?


I had the bride and groom each fill out an envelope using the addresses where they lived during their correspondence while Kent was in basic training.  Then had photocopies made and we cut them out and had them all around the base of the cake.


Not only did it say it all…..

grooms cake bite with rose

…it was DELICIOUS!  Super moist yellow sponge cake smeared with raspberry preserves & filled with French vanilla butter cream. YUM!  The groom’s favorite flavors.  (Awful picture, sorry!  Hard to eat, drink and be merry while holding a clipboard and a camera!)


It looks like someone is helping themselves with a spoon!  And the Army men, well, they are just overcome.  There was very little cake left at the end of the night.  Hmmmm…..

528424_10151565784623024_1338588521_nAND all of the Army men were AWOL by the time we packed up, by the way. I know they have found new assignments as I have seen glimpses of them from time to time on Facebook.  Carry on.

A perfect tribute to the groom and a great ending to a fun rehearsal dinner.

Thanks for checking it out…..