Easy and Inexpensive Summer Floral Arrangements

May 26, 2015




Summertime is party time! Graduations, showers, weddings and seasonal celebrations abound and there's no better way to decorate than with flowers. 

Unfortunately, professional floral arrangements can be pricey. I remember way back when I got married, the florist wanted upwards of $150 per table. Yikes. That was not happening. Plus, the featured looks were just not my style. I am a simple girl and I was looking for something pretty basic. 

After almost an hour of trying to explain what I was going for, she wasn't really getting it. I am sure that she must have thought I was a bit crass, but I finally said, "What's the cheapest thing you've got?"

She rather dismissively responded that she guessed she could throw some tulips in a fishbowl for $25, if I wanted to go "that" route. 

Um. Hello? Tulips! 

Fabulous and done...and now you know where the obsession began. 

My tables were set with the most elegant white linens and white china. In the center of each, surrounded by a few white votives, sat those tulips ~ blooms as large as your fist in a glorious hot pink color. Plus they were low enough that people could actually talk over them. 

What could be better? 

From that day forward, I have always gone the DIY route when it comes to decorating with flowers. The grocery stores have a generous variety for prices that are actually very reasonable and if you plan to mix your purchased posies with ones from your summer garden, even better. 

Now I know that arranging flowers without the help of a professional is not new. Lots of people buy bouquets and plop them in a vase, it's just that when I mention creating your own bouquets to friends, I generally hear skeptical groans and comments like, "They never look the same."

Oh really?

For my nieces' baby shower, her sister put together a few great looks to dress up the tables. She did an awesome job and for those of you who are a bit skeptical about tackling this on your own, she is a twenty-something math teacher...not an artist, not typically a DIYer of any kind. If she can do it, anyone can!

Here are a few tips:

She bought a bonus pack of 18 roses at the local food store. She mixed those with flowers she found in her mom's yard. To dress up the vases, she wrapped the inside of each one with a hydrangea leaf.  She also put roses in almost every vase. 

I think each one is more charming than the next.


This arrangement was a square vase full of roses and a large hydrangea flower. You can see that you don't need a ton of flowers to pack a punch. Just a few gathered together in the proper sized vase makes quite a statement. While the food was lovely (and I promise you, totally delicious), it really was those blooms that made the table sparkle. 


Traditional vases were used in the house as they had a more formal feel. She featured more roses inside, too.



Outside the tables were peppered with more casual flowers. Mason jars were used to hold the stems. Again, large hydrangea leaves, from the garden, were used as a liner. They hid the stems for a more elegant appearance. 


The silver toned bands were left on the jars and a rustic twine bow was tied around each rim.


Then each jar vase was just stuffed with a combination of the store bought roses and the blooms from the yard. The Baby's Breath that came with the roses was also added to the outdoor wildflower arrangements.


This type of centerpiece is very easy and very forgiving. Anything and everything goes, don't be afraid to add a random branch with leaves or frankly, without...a bare twig can add loads of interest to your table. It's all about the unexpected. 

One of the most creative centerpieces I have ever seen was at a backyard beach wedding. It was a fishbowl that contained a few delicate water flowers and an actual goldfish! Awesome. Unexpected and unforgettable. 

So I say, get creative, have fun and make you own rules.


And I guarantee you, it won't cost $150 per table. 

Do you play with flowers? 


Easy Spring and Summer Wreaths

May 22, 2015

Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. It's time to lighten up the look and welcome the warm weather with some fun decor for your front door or entryway. No time, you say? Well, I have a few super simple wreaths that can be whipped up in minutes.

A couple of them are constructed from scratch, a couple are reworked ~ updated with a new look for pennies.

Let's have a look, shall we?

Red Hydrangea Wreath

This one is my favorite. Gee. I wonder if you can guess why?


It makes a super bold statement, it is easy to construct and with a few coupons it came in at a price far less than a catalog would charge. Oh yeah...and it's red! 

Of course, yours can be any color!


This is one of those fun do-overs I was talking about. 


Breathe new life into an older wreath by adding a few painted wooden letters to it. I chose the word summer...or scummer (sometimes you need to get creative people!)...but I could add virtually any word I wanted to create a personalized accessory.


This is another wreath makeover. I bought this beauty for a song, but she needed a little work. I added a few bargain flowers to fill in her bare spots and a colorful ribbon for sparkle. 


So don't turn away from that bedraggled clearance or off season wreath. Even if the base colors are not your cup of tea, adding more of what you want and removing a few duds can be truly transformative!

Patriotic Ribbon Wreath

Memorial Day and July 4th are the traditional harbingers of summer, so add some fireworks to your front door with this super easy ribbon wreath.


Hot glue, ribbon and a wreath frame set the stage for a giant bow to pop! This one can be whipped up in a jiffy and looks good all season long...especially if you forget to change it out after Memorial Day and it stays on your door until Labor Day. But who would do that? Ahem. 

Certainly not us!




Oops...almost forgot about my tulip filled rain boot! I used a kid's boot and stuffed it with faux dollar store tulips. A bright bow finished the project off in style! You can check out my article in Parade Magazine for the full tutorial.


The Project Pile

May 19, 2015


There are times in life when everything chugs merrily along, perfectly according to plan and schedule. I have found that in my life, those times are precious few and far between. The last several years have actually been filled with one unplanned event or circumstance after another, some good, some not so good, some downright terrible. 

I suppose that is the nature of life and fighting it is futile...or so I have learned, deeply entrenched here in middle age. Like the sign in my kitchen so eloquently says, "It Is What It Is" ~ I may not like it, but now that I am...ahem...older and supposedly wiser, I don't really fight it anymore. I do what I can do and let the rest go, until I can get to it. 

That's just the way it has to be if I would like to remain semi-sane. 

Thus we have The Project Pile.

That is my endearing name for all the pretty little projects, I would love to focus on, if only I had the time. Here are a few on the list. 

If you have been following along for a while, this chair may look familiar to you


It had an unsightly rip in the seat and I was able to repair it with a partial slipcover. It worked like a dream. For a while. I wasn't counting on a new tear in the arm and now I am stumped. I am all about the super easy, quick fix. Nothing short of reupholstering the entire chair (not gonna happen) or making a slipcover for it (also, not gonna happen) comes to my mind. 


I have no brilliant brainstorm for this one. I am totally stumped. If anyone out there has a creative fix for this mess, I would love the suggestion. I don't want to toss it and really want to find a way to bring it new life and cover up that nasty hole. 

My next lady in waiting is this half finished scrap fabric valance. The idea came to me when I replaced the fabric on my glass cabinets. I really liked the fabric, had enough left to piece together for a curtain and got to work. 


It was a problem from the get go. I started without a plan ~ as I very often do ~ and I ran into design difficulties almost immediately.


I was originally working with two fabrics and then decided to add a third to create more interest and a rod pocket. Of course, in classic Kim fashion, I had already stitched the majority of things up, so I had to rip and add. I also had to sew small pieces together. That's ok though, I want a scrappy look and when the fabric is shirred, you'll never see the seams.

However, this project is not cut and dry. I cannot whip this one up with my coat on, in between carpooling. So, it sits. And it waits. In the project pile.

Lastly, I have this lovely chair that I pulled out of the trash years ago. Funny story actually. I'll save it for another day, but let's just say it involves the garbagemen, a bush and a lot of running. Oh boy.


I really want to cover it with this checked fabric, but again, it requires lots of sewing. It will be a time consuming task for someone who has never done this kind of work before. Not a quickie project. Not at all. Did I mention that there is trim and zippers involved. Um, yeah. 

So this is where I am. I am in need of a few large blocks of time to really think my way through these suckers. In the meantime, the fabric sits in a pile on the torn kitchen chair, taunting me. 

From the project pile.

Oh well. It is what it is, right?


Damn sign. 

Do you have a project pile?

Creating A Gift Basket That Really Stands Out

May 14, 2015




Recently, I was asked to put together a gift basket for an auction at church. While I was super happy to oblige, I cringed at the prospect of the actual task. Last year, I donated two baskets, one filled with craft supplies for grown ups and one filled with crafts for kids. They looked beautiful, were easy to put together and they generated a lot of raffle sales. A hit! 

Super.



Doing it again. Ugh. 

I don't mind the donating or the wrapping of the items. I've got that part down. What I find daunting is shopping for a spectacular theme idea, because let's face it, if your basket doesn't have great items in it, no matter how pretty you wrap, who's going to want it...and when the objective is to get people drooling so they open their wallets to bid on it, you want people to really want it. 

Last year's idea was easy, but I needed something different for this raffle. I tried to brainstorm at home, but I came up empty. So I went to the store for some inspiration. It was a great idea, I was actually able to come up with a fabulous theme just from browsing the aisles.

NUMBER ONE: SET A BUDGET before you leave the house

This is probably the most important consideration.  If you don't have a firm number set in mind, it's very easy to overspend. With a firm budget in mind, I was able chose items, fill my cart and then prioritize, keeping only what packed the most punch for my dollar.


NUMBER TWO: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

My basket was going to a fashion show, featuring clothing for women. There would be a few patient men in attendance, but generally speaking, the audience would be women, adult women, most of whom owned homes. I tailored my basket accordingly. 

Spring merchandise was everywhere, I was drooling over all the pretty outdoor accessories.  It was a long winter; the fresh colors grabbed my attention and the thought of entertaining alfresco was very appealing. I guessed that if I were smitten, others would be, too.


NUMBER THREE: CHOOSE A USEFUL CONTAINER

A lot of people take the basket in gift basket very literally. Don't. Shake it up and wrap everything up in something that ties in with the theme and is a treasure in and of itself. A dog bed for a pet basket base, a metal tin to use as a cooler for a party basket or in my case, a hanging basket for plants to decorate your patio when dining outside.


NUMBER FOUR: PICK A FEW BIG TICKET ITEMS

Big ticket does not necessarily mean pricey. I just choose two or three larger pieces that really stand out to peak interest. In this case, an outdoor pillow ($9.99) in classic blue and white, pretty patterned outdoor plates ($3.99 each) and bright green placemats ($9.99 for four) make my collection pop. 


NUMBER FIVE: TUCK IN A FEW SURPRISES, WITHIN THE WRAPPING

I make full use of all the space in my basket, stuffing it with the rest of the items I have chosen. When a bidder sees a really full basket, it is very tempting. If they can only catch of glimpse of things, curiosity brews. That is always a good thing!

I stack everything inside, use shrink wrap to seal it, throw on a bow and include a list of items for bidders to see what they will get if they win and hopefully make them dig deep!

Of course, the same principles apply if you are giving the basket as a gift. Excitement is the name of the game.

The hairdryer shrink wrap really gives the finished product a professional look. 

I am very pleased with the way this basket turned out. I actually received a text from a girlfriend who bid heavily on it and did not win. She wanted to know where I got my goodies, so she could go grab a few of the items herself!


Now that's a basket that really stands out!

Are you a basket maker? What are your best tips?

Redecorating....Me!

May 11, 2015


Pinterest


It happens every few years. Suddenly nothing in my closet is right. It all feels dated, looks awkward and makes me want to scream.

This time the catalyst was spring. The trees were blooming, color was beginning to make its way back into my world and the weather was warming up.

Of course, the first day I needed to put on something light, I seriously had nothing to wear. Nothing I liked anyway. Well, let me rephrase that...nothing my kids liked. You see, I have teenage girls. They love their momma, but they are quick to point out when my outfits are not up to par. Which is ironic since I began my college career pursuing fashion design.

But I'll give it to them. Lately, my choices seem to be driven more by comfort than fads. Most days, I go for easy to wear, not best dressed. I don't see many people on a regular weekday, driving and dropping off at school and I think I would look a little silly in a short skirt, midriff baring tank and heels walking through Target to get my laundry detergent. Well, that and the fact that I am 47.

Jeans and t-shirts are my uniform now. On a dressy day, I'll add pearls and a pair of boots, but you get the basic picture. Unfortunately, jeans weather is slowly being phased out as the temperatures rise, so the girls and I hit the mall in pursuit of some fun new outfits. I was thrilled when I entered the dressing room. Less thrilled with the we all came out to the center of the room to show off our picks.

It was eye opening, to say the least.

Now, before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to preface this story with the fact that I am underweight and always have been. Fast metabolism, nervous energy, genetics, whatever you want to call it, I'm thin. Most of the time it's fine, but sometimes, it downright sucks. Over the years, I have been pricked for more thyroid tests than you can imagine. I have had to drink that awful contrast dye and pasty protein shakes on too many occasions and I get lectured every single time I go to a doctor. Yeah, yeah, we get it, I'm thin and because of it, I am not what you'd call hearty stock, but the upside is, that I usually look pretty good in clothes. Usually.

You see, even at 5'8" with a small waist, no one at 47 looks good next to a tanned, toned, teenager. Nobody. I don't care how great you look for your age. Your not 17 anymore. And neither am I.

I stood there in my age appropriate clothes, staring into the mirror, thinking, oh boy,  it's time for a change... again.

You see, every few years, I fall into a style that I think suits me and my decade well. Then a birthday hits and suddenly, I don't feel right in my clothes anymore. They fit, they just don't...fit. I start looking through catalogs, my Pinterest boards fill up with new hairstyles and evening gowns (you know, in case a gala comes up. On my way home from Target). Gowns that look a lot less hot Hollywood starlet and a lot more mother of the bride.

You see, every few years, just like my house, I need to redecorate myself.

I'm not talking major renovations here, just a few tweaks to freshen things (me) up. It's like recovering the pillows or changing out the drapes, adding just enough new to give the place a lift, bring it up to date, make it look contemporary, while maintaining its classic style. Whether we're talking home decor or mommy makeover, I'm not an big overhaul kind of girl.

I swap out just enough to find the pretty again and truth be told, I've already been renovated, a number of times actually.

I have had braces. Twice. Apparently, my teeth like their original position best and while I am not pleased, I don't have the energy or motivation to fight them a third time. I was born a blond and I intend to stay that way.  I did go red once and, while my husband thought it was awesome, I had no idea who that woman in the mirror was...which after a decade of marriage is probably precisely the reason my husband liked it so much.

I'm not particularly fond of my droopy skin and like Nora Ephron once said, I don't like my neck. More renovations I am not going to tackle. I don't like knives, needles or even Novocain, so as much as I hate those lines and sags, I'm afraid they're here to stay.

Funny lady, great book. I highly recommend. Pinterest source

I don't like to advertise it, but there are a few structural issues here too. My hip gets stiff if I sit too long and my back is not what it once was. Those three inch heels in the closet should be donated, because I will never wear them again. Sad, because in my opinion, there is truly nothing sexier than a pair of long legs parked in a fabulous set of spikes, but I am in no way willing to undergo spinal surgery for the sake my of haughty heels.

Yes, these really are my shoes. 
No. I'll readjust my couture sensibilities instead. I'll find kitten heels, wear scarves and get bangs. I'll shop for a brighter lipstick and whitening toothpaste. Change out the lighting and update the paint. You get the picture.

With a little rearranging and a few new accessories, I'll find my new style and fall in love with me again.

Me at 47.

Shopping alone.

Do you redecorate you?

The Results Are In

May 7, 2015




Last week, I asked you all to play a little game and answer a few questions about my blog. I won't keep you in suspense any longer, I know that you have been waiting for the results of that survey with baited breath.

No? Not really? Huh. Ok, maybe that was just me. Probably.

Well, either way, the results are in and I am going to share them with you...well, because I want to and as one lovely respondent stated, I "should just share what I want." I love that answer, by the way, and I do want to please my audience, so here goes.

It's the official, Exquisitely Unremarkable survey results, 2015 edition. Actually, there is no other edition, but it just looked more important that way.

For most of the questions I gave multiple choice options and included the dreaded other category, with the chance to enter your own ideas. I wanted people to be able to answer freely, after all, I may not have anticipated your particular response and real insight is what I was going for. Of course, other can be a dangerous proposition, but I was willing to take a hit for the sake of self improvement and turns out those insert your answer here boxes truly were the most eye opening.

First off, I asked who you were. "Isn't this the eternal question, lol", wrote one participant. Love that. Love you, whoever you are, and yes, it is and now I have a post idea for another day, thank you!

For those of you who colored in the lines, I was very surprised to find out that over 65% of you are not bloggers! That number shocked me. I mean, I do dig into my analytics every now and again, but I interact with so many lovely bloggers on a regular basis, who comment and email, that I just figured bloggers represented the lion's share of my reading audience. Not so, and good to know!

I have to keep reminding myself that just because people don't comment (apparently, the silent majority of you), doesn't mean you're not reading. Point taken. Thank you.

The big question I wanted answered, was number two, why do you read Exquisitely Unremarkable. I was never sure if the crafters and DIYers among you enjoyed my thoughtful tangents, silly or serious. Looks like it's all good. Everyone loves an embarrassing tale. I've got plenty of those, so we're all set. I will share more. I may have to move or change my name to protect my kids, but you know, that's the price of fame...

...and actually, my kids are teenagers and already completely embarrassed of me. I don't think moving is going to change that.

Speaking of teenagers, only one person listed "too lazy to unsubscribe" as their reason for reading and yet they took the time to answer all of the questions and thoughtfully so. Seems like a lot of effort for someone too lazy to unsubscribe. There was also only one "sympathetic friend or family member." I am thinking that this lazy, family member is one in the same ~ and by the way~ you're grounded.

The rest of the answers were a mix of continued surprise (50% of you follow via email) and relief (you want a lot more of the same content). The best of the replies were the thoughts shared at the end, where I asked if there was anything else you'd like to let me in on.

So many people said so many nice things. I was totally humbled by your answers. The fact that so very many of you took the time to play along and leave so many kind words, was genuinely touching. As a writer and a teacher, to hear that people are enjoying your work, learning, connecting to you and your words and being entertained, is such a gift. Thank you so much.

I was also given some very helpful constructive ideas. The overwhelming majority would like to see posts twice a week. Someone asked for an archives tab. I added it. Someone asked for more home tours. I have a few lined up. I received several requests for additional sewing tutorials. Done. There are projects in the works. This information was extremely helpful. It gives me direction in my content offering. So again, I thank you.

The last note I want to leave you with is regarding comments. Commenting, answering comments, returning comments, it sounds like it should be pretty straightforward, but it's tricky business here in the land of blogs. There are a lot of different opinions regarding what's proper. Here's my take.

If you comment on my blog, I will always visit you and comment back. I also email you a response, if your email is available and I post that same answer on the blog for others to read. I have received some grief about this from time to time.

There are a lot of people who feel that if you comment back on your blog, you're just trying to inflate your numbers for advertisers. Others assume you are not emailing or visiting. None of that is true for me. I do not have advertisers. I write freelance for businesses, other bloggers and publications, none of whom care about my comment numbers.

I do it because, as proven by the survey, many of you are not bloggers. You do not comment, but you may gleam something of value from someone else's comment and my answer, so I display it all publicly.

Perhaps you wanted to comment the same thing, but you are shy, do not have an account or can't log in. Maybe it's about one of my DIY's and the comment is a question about the project and my answer will clarify the process for others.

That is why I do what I do. The fact that I received many responses from people thanking me for answering the comments in plain sight is reason enough for me to continue in this manner.

Well, that's that. That's all the information I have to share with you. If you didn't participate in the survey and would like to, you can find it here. I am always eager to hear what you have to say. You can leave a comment or email me if you have other requests, too. I adore reader input!

Unless you're one of those grounded teens.

Then I would advise you to just keep it to yourself.



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Easy DIY Mother's Day Gift Ideas

May 4, 2015


Mother's Day may be just around the corner, but there's still time to spoil a mom in your life with a personal gift you can make on your own.

I'm a huge fan of DIY, that is a well known fact. What may not be as well known is that I love to get handmade items, just as much as I love to make them. There's something heartfelt about a present that has been crafted rather than purchased. 

Of course, not everyone feels this way, but if your mom is like me and you're looking for a last minute idea to wow her, I have a bunch of simple ideas for you....and every one of them is guaranteed to come out looking fabulous no matter your skill level. 

Scouts honor. It's the Exquisitely Unremarkable way.

Ok, I haven't been a scout for decades but I'm sure it still counts. 

Mother's Day Food Scrub



I received this gift from my own children last year and I LOVE it! They mixed 1 cup brown sugar, with a 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (you can use olive oil) and 1 tablespoon of vanilla together and put it in a mason jar. They raided my ribbon stash to add a simple bow and wrote the loveliest poem about me and framed it. Seriously, this was one of the best gifts I ever received. Sweet words and soft feet rate high in my book. 

I promise, you can't mess this one up and if you throw in a few coupons to rub mom's feet with the scrub, um, you can totally secure your place as #1 kid. Just don't tell my kids I said that. 



Keep mom organized with this elegant whiteboard made from a large paint sample and a bargain frame. We adorned the frame with a necklace ~ a little extra bling for the board and mom's neck. 



Why not give mom some flowers she can enjoy all year long? Follow the ridiculously easy instructions for this elegant project that involves little more than deconstructing dollar store stems. 



Is mom a magazine fan? Well place an order for her favorite read and make this simple hanger so she has a spot to display her pretty new subscription. Decoupage old book page scraps to a wooden hanger and voila! Instant fabulous for the home decor fan. 

Tea Cup Favor


Have a tea party with mom, just like the old days! Pick up a few cups, on sale or at thrift stores, fill them with her favorite blend and spend the day sipping...or better yet, take mom out shopping for the day and find a cup that suits her. The tea cup will serve as a memento of your precious time spent together and after all, that's a mom's best gift! 



So you're really more of a cook than a crafter, huh? Ok, no problem. How about making mom a meal she won't forget. Try my mom's really easy (I'm not kidding, I can barely cook and I am awesome at this) recipe for Chicken Pizziola. You will not be disappointed and neither will mom...but remember, you have to clean up, too. I mean it is Mother's Day.



So you've read all the ideas, carefully pondered your choices, thought about which one mom would  prefer....and....and you've decided that you really just want to buy her something and be done with it.

Ok, no problem, I say go with tulips. They are super cheap at the grocery store (mom wouldn't want you to spend a lot), look good in any container, from a crystal vase to a tin bucket, and if they come attached to you and with a big hug, they're bound to be a hit. Mom approved.

Well, that's it, that's all I've got for you today. I hope you've found some thrifty gift-y inspiration or maybe stumbled across an idea you'd like to make for yourself.

They're easy enough and there's nothing wrong with giving yourself a little gift every now and then.

Just ask your mom.

Happy Mother's Day!

Are you a homemade giver?


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