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    Many of you may have received a puzzle piece in the mail last month. October 9th was my dad's 60th birthday so I had to do something BIG! Thanks to my friend Bri, who saw the idea on another blog and did something similar for her boyfriend's birthday, I got this idea!

STEP 1:
Purchase a Puzzle
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    I purchased my puzzle from Portrait Puzzles because I was able to get the best price for the size puzzle pieces I needed. I wanted each puzzle piece to be large enough for people to write more than just "Happy Birthday! Love, So-and-So" on! The quality was great, shipping was fast, and I upgraded to the metal tin because that's something my dad would appreciate.. if you know him, you get it. See below for a special coupon code for Portrait Puzzles!

STEP 2: Create Your "How To" Sheet
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    I basically copied the formatting from Bri [thanks, girl], and just changed the wording a bit! Not great at formatting and 'graphic design'? I kind of have a business where I get paid to do that, I have reasonable fees, and I'd love to help! *end shameless plug*
    I recommend not printing the "How To" sheets until you're 100% sure on all instructions. I decided last minute to put a piece of cardboard in each envelope to help protect the puzzle pieces from getting bent in the mail so I used a label sheet and placed a sticker at the bottom of each instruction sheet saying, "Leave the cardboard in the envelope to protect the puzzle piece" ..miraculously I still had people not follow that direction.. and I also placed a sticker in each envelope to seal his envelope with so I ended up hand writing on the back of each sticker, "Use me to seal the envelope!" Both of those items could have fit on the "How To" sheet if I'd just waited to print them!

Step 3:
Buy Envelopes and Stamps
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    This is another step I recommend waiting on! The puzzle information said that the piece sizes were approximately 3.5"x3.5" each, so while waiting on the puzzle to arrive I went to my local office supply store to get a head start on addressing and stamping the envelopes. I knew I'd need a larger envelope to fit everything in [the "How To" sheet, the pre-addressed/pre-stamped envelope, the sticker seal, the puzzle piece, and the smaller envelope with the cardboard inside] plus the smaller envelope to hold the cardboard and puzzle piece in. I purchased the "Invitation" and "Photo" envelopes, approx. 4.5"x5.75" and 4.75"x6.5" respectively. I started stamping and return-addressing away until..
    When the puzzle arrived I quickly realized that about 8 of the pieces were too big/awkward to fit in the smaller envelopes. Luckily, the cardboard cutting took so much of my time that I hadn't even gotten to addressing the envelopes so it was an easy fix - for those 8 pieces I used the larger, photo, envelopes as the "small" envelops then went and purchased "Greeting Card" envelopes as the larger, outer, envelopes! Major crisis averted!
    Why wait to purchase stamps? With the "weight" of the puzzle piece and protective cardboard, one stamp wasn't enough - wait until you have a puzzle piece, package one envelope up and take it to your local USPS to find out the exact amount of postage you need! Remember - you'll need the same amount for both the outer and inner envelopes [the "How To" sheet isn't going to remove that much weight!]

Step 4: Stuff Away!
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    By far the longest process if you're a perfectionist. I wanted to ensure everyone had a significant piece of the puzzle; I got my face, my sister got the piece with hers on it, my mom's family got pieces of her and my dad's family got pieces of him and so on.. I know, I'm weird. Ps. Sorry if you're just now realizing where you fell in that priority list!
    An "assembly line" set up works best for this to make sure each envelope gets everything it needs!

Step 5: Mail!

    I sent these out about a week and a half before I wanted them to start mailing them back. In all reality, it doesn't matter if they don't all come before the actual birth-date [or anniversary date] just as long as they start coming before then!

So, If My Dad Had Facebook..

    If my dad had Facebook, he would use it to post a status saying how grateful he was for all of the time and effort each and every single one of his friends and family members put into his birthday gift. Almost everyone went above and beyond just writing, "Happy Birthday! You're OLD!" and you all blew him away with your kind words. His status might say something like the text he sent me:
"Thank you very much for the puzzle. It was a very wonderful gift. The entire process was well thought out and nicely done. I was deeply touched by all of the effort and love that went into this birthday present."
    I'm sure on my dad's Facebook "wall" he'd have a "Joke of the Day," his thoughts on Ebola from a doctor's standpoint, countless "Happy Birthday" messages on October 9th, I'd hope he'd have plenty of "Thanks for all you do" notes, I know he'd have a million and one photos of his beloved dogs [seriously, who could blame him? Have you seen how cute they are?!], and this week, he would have posted a picture in remembrance of his father who passed away a year ago; the man who influenced my dad to be the amazing man he is.
    Now for a video of dad opening his favorite puzzle piece [sorry to my mom, sister, and myself, but this piece took us out of the competition.. not that there was one]! Disclaimer: My dad will have my head for putting this up because he'd already taken his dress shirt off and only has an undershirt on. Oops, sorry dad! But I had to post it to show how much he truly loved his gift! The heart-felt words you all sent were so wonderful! Also, you will want to cry in the middle but you will die laughing at the end.. maybe a puzzle wasn't the best gift?!
    Thanks again to everyone who participated and made this the best birthday present ever! Thanks to the original blogger who gave Bri the idea so I could copy, and thanks to Portrait Puzzles for the amazing puzzle! Want a puzzle of your own? Portrait Puzzles has graciously offered a $2.00 off promo code to my readers! Use code pporder06 at checkout!
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    Last weekend was our first weekend as homeowners and we started the process of tackling projects! Our first major project: storage and organization! Other than the master closet, the two other bedroom closets are fairly small and there are no coat or linen closets in the home. Just off of the laundry room was a rather large [5'x4'] "closet" with a blank slate:
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    ..the builder recommended it could be used as a small office, which we did consider, but with no window, no air conditioning vent, and our need for coat and linen storage, we nixed that and decided to make it a closet! Inspiration? Every California Closet I've ever seen, and this beauty from the Pottery Barn catalog:
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    ..after seeing that, I knew we could do something fun with the space so we decided to check out the closet section at Ikea. We fell in love. And we turned the empty space into this:
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    We used the Pax System from Ikea and could not be happier with the results. There's a space for everything we need it for and then some!
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Top shelf storage for bins with candles, light bulbs, batteries, etc.
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Pull-outs for hats, umbrellas, sports bags, and purses!
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Coats, extra linens, cleaning supplies, and shoes!
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Handy pull-out tray to use as a folding table or use with a mini ironing board for quick touch-ups!
    The best part about the Pax System is that you design it to fit your needs - originally I had a shelf where the folding table is now but I loved the accessibility of the shoe tray so I returned the shelf and purchased the pull-out tray. Although you can choose to have everything delivered and installed for an added fee, we chose to do the building ourselves to stay on budget. Speaking of budget, everything seen here was just under $525 total. That's both units, all clothes rails, drawers, trays, shelves, and pull outs. In my opinion, putting it together wasn't terribly difficult. As with any Ikea project, it's important to have patience and really look at the word-less directions or you could end up putting a small wooden dowel in a larger screw hole and not be able to get it out - points finger at husband.
    We're so content with our Pax System that we're thinking of biting the bullet and doing something similar in the master closet to provide that built-in look with more structure and organization:
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    Maybe that will be a "Weekend Warrior" project in the near future? Regardless, the fluorescent light has got to go! Happy Friday! Enjoy the weekend! Need something to do? I highly recommend the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
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    Probably the easiest DIY ever with pretty results!

1. Collect.

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    Choose pinecones with minimal damage! My mother-in-law and I collected these from around North Lake Tahoe but I'm sure you can find some in your own back yard or local park! What I wish I had done: I wanted all of the huge, full-bodied pinecones - now I wish I had chosen some more variety in shapes, sizes, and height!

2. Spray.

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    I used the same gold metallic spray I used in my last DIY - I also used white for "snow"! I wanted the pinecones to look like snow-covered trees so I sprayed primarily from the top with a few spritzes down diagonally, making sure that the top was the heaviest.
    I created 3 different colors: white, gold, and a mixture! For the mixture I started with white, then sprayed gold, then dusted white on top again. Really happy with how they turned out!:
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3. Decorate.

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    I used mine to complete my Winter Wonderland Forest scene [as seen in my previous Winter Decor post]. Now I just need a few LED tea lights to intermix and light it up a bit more! The extras found a spot by the snowman my mom got me last year for Christmas:
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    Another fun idea would be to add glitter to them - but I'm pretty sure my husband has banned glitter from our house! Happy DIY-ing!
 
 
     Have you ever gone into a store, seen something overpriced, and thought to yourself, "I could make that!"? While things didn't turn out well for me trying to re-create the Mercury Glass Pottery Barn Pumpkins, these Mini Gold Corns are a different story!

Inspiration:

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Mini Gold Corn, Pottery Barn Fall 2013
$19.95ish for a pack of 6

Step 1:

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    Purchase mini corn from the local grocery store - At my grocery store it was $1.89 for a pack of 3. I purchased several sets of 3 and separated them by color. Some of them had such beautiful color as-is and I couldn't bear to paint them! I used the dull ones for this project, and the rest went into my hurricane vases in the dining room as seen below and in my previous post: "A Festive Feast"
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Step 2:

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    Spray! I chose the Metallic gold spray paint by Krylon [$7 - but it will last for more than just this project!]. I've always had good luck with the Krylon spray paints. In store I was debating between three different gold spray paints mostly because I was hesitant to choose this one [the lid is SO bright!]. The sales lady informed me that if the item you're painting is porous, it will dull the shine a bit [i.e. you should not expect this to shine if you are painting wood!].
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    I used an old shipping box to spray the corn, placing the husks under one of the flaps at the bottom and spraying from behind that flap in one direction to try to keep paint off of the husks. If you've seen the PB ones, they appear dipped and there is some paint on the husks - so while I was trying to be careful, it didn't have to be perfect!
    Using the box also helps to keep paint off of other surfaces and after I would finish each coat, I would close the top flaps to prevent leaves from falling on the fresh paint! [The leaves in the picture are from leaving the box out overnight!]
    I flipped the corn about 3x to ensure full coverage, then checked each one for spots that didn't get sprayed. If I noticed a small spot, I just held the corn by the husk and did a quick touch-up spray.

Step 3:

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Decorate! I simply chose to stagger mine against a pumpkin, on a platter in the center of my table.
    Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Pottery Barn. I am also a firm believer in, "you get what you pay for," so there are some things at Pottery Barn that I am perfectly willing to pay full price for.. but a $20 set of six Gold Mini Corns are not one of those things! For just under $20, I was able to buy the materials to make 9 of my own mini gold corns for my Thanksgiving centerpiece, I had enough corn leftover for my two hurricane vases, and I still have half a bottle of spray paint. Win!
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    Hopefully everyone had a Happy Halloween! And for all of the Ohioans - have fun passing out candy and Trick-or-Treating with your babies tonight! In the "spirit" of Halloween, I'm sharing my very scary Pinterest fail from last Halloween and how I fixed it this year!

The Original Inspiration:
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Gorgeous mercury glass pumpkins from Pottery Barn. I couldn't find the exact ones on the website any more because they've switched to Christmas.. but I believe the smallest one was at least $35.
Steps to recreating a budget-friendly version of these beautiful pumpkins according to Pinterest. 1. Buy dollar store pumpkins. 2. Buy Krylon "Looking Glass" Spray Paint. 3. Spray the pumpkins. 4. Enjoy. All in all, the project was under $15. Not bad considering the price of the Pottery Barn pumpkins.

Here's what I got:
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I believe the saying is, "Nailed It." And that's actually a "decent" photo of them. My husband laughed and I told him I was going to fix them, to which he "replied" by placing them in the fireplace. I salvaged the poor pumpkins and stored them for this year, waiting for inspiration to hit, and it did.

Inspiration Part II:
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As I was looking through fall decor, I came across this spider pumpkin and instantly knew what I wanted to do with my Pinterest failures from last year. I already had white spray paint, so I sprayed the silver away and waited for them to dry. Using a Sharpie, I traced down the lines of the pumpkin then drew the crossing lines as the "webbing." I also used the Sharpie for the spiders. The last step was to use black paint I already had to paint the stem.

TADA!:
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So. My spiders aren't perfect, but I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. Major plus: my husband said they were cool - without being asked! Now I'm ready for next Halloween!

Yes, I realize spider pumpkins are nothing like glamorous mercury glass pumpkins.. but I needed actual "Halloween" decor anyway!

If you're feeling really talented, here's another pumpkin DIY that can easily be done following the same steps!:
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