Our 4 Gift Rule and Christmas Traditions

I will be honest, we don’t buy a ton of gifts for our kids at Christmas time. Instead of focusing on how many gifts are under the tree, we focus on making memories with family and friends…with a few gifts sprinkled in (4 plus a gift from Santa to be exact).

Some of my favorite memories involve the small traditions that I love doing with the kids. Over the years, they remind me of the things we need to be doing and that is so reassuring that they love the traditions like I do. I also feel like by having these traditions, it takes some of the emphasis off of gifts and allows us to focus on other fun things.

Wondering what we do?

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After Thanksgiving Tradition – Santa Bags and Elves

Our Santa Bag – A family Tradition

We kick off the season the morning after Thanksgiving when Sam, our Elf on the Shelf, brings a “Santa Bag” for my kids to fill. Basically, it is a large, fabric bag with ribbon and bells on it. You could also DIY one with a red laundry bag and a tag.

They put all the toys that are in good working order that they no longer play with in it and Sam takes the filled bag to Santa’s workshop where the toys can be loved by other kids. In reality, the toys go to our local rescue mission or shelter. I love that we are able to donate things that someone else can use.

Sam, our Elf, also just hides in fun spots, but isn’t the type of Elf to make a mess or destroy things…thankfully, we have enough of that without extra encouragement.

Leading up to Christmas

Some of our favorite traditions include writing Santa letters, watching Sam the Elf move each day, and making holiday treats with our families. I no longer question my tight pants at Christmas, we do way too much baking and eating.

Also, a few days before Christmas, my kids open a box with Christmas pajamas, a Christmas book, and some holiday popcorn. We enjoy watching holiday movies at night leading up to Christmas Eve. It’s so fun to hear them talk about the movies, what they hope they are getting from Santa, etc.

The 4 Gift Rule

We don’t go crazy buying gifts for our kids…and they don’t notice. Between gifts from grandparents, aunts/uncles/cousins, etc, the kids were ending up with so much that they didn’t even know what to play with or where they got certain items. It was too much, we were all overwhelmed.

Then I heard someone say they did the “4 Gift Rule” for gifts in their house and I loved the idea!

Basically, our kids get a gift from Santa and then 4 gifts from us:

  • Something they WANT
  • Something they NEED
  • Something to WEAR
  • Something to READ

This year, the kids are getting some travel items because we are taking a family vacation to Florida and will be visiting Disney. In part, we can go on fun trips or do excursions like waterparks (as well as reward them throughout the year with small things), because we don’t spend thousands of dollars at Christmas time.

As an example, here is what my kids are getting this Christmas just from us:

  • WANT: We picked something off of each kid’s list to get them and tried to keep the dollar amount the same usually around $50
  • NEED: Carry On Suitcases in different colors – when they open them they will find out about Disney
  • WEAR: A custom Disney shirt from Etsy in their favorite color as well as a new bathing suit
  • READ: We picked out a few books based on favorite characters, shows, etc

Christmas Eve Tradition

On Christmas Eve, my parents, my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids generally come over to our house for an early dinner, gift opening, and candle light church. It is one of my favorite traditions.

Also, since the kids only opened a few gifts, they aren’t so upset to leave their new things to go to Church. After church, it is Christmas pajamas and setting out the milk and cookies for Santa then off to bed.

Christmas Day Tradition

Who would have ever thought that you can enjoy Christmas more as an adult than when you were a kid? Seeing my kids wake up with such excitement and wonder is one of the best feelings in the entire world.

Rule of 4 and they couldn’t be happier!

Once everyone is up, we take turns opening gifts. Each kid will have 4 gifts from us and 1 Santa gift under the tree. I love that there aren’t 100 gifts under the tree for them to open. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen kids open something they really want and then not want to open the rest. Thankfully, with only 5 gifts, it isn’t too bad and they appreciate them so much more.

After we open our gifts, we head to my in-laws where the kids get to tell Grandma what Santa brought them and what Mom and Dad picked out. Again, they are really good about going to the next function because they aren’t so overwhelmed gifts. We enjoy the rest of the morning with family while the kids open a few more gifts from grandparents, aunts/unlces/cousins.

Our afternoon is spend visiting with extended family and eating tons of good food. When we finally get back home, we enjoy watching the kids play with their new favorite things while a Christmas movie plays in the background.

Make your own Christmas Traditions to cherish

I truly believe that the gift of family and friends is what makes the holiday wonderful. It isn’t about the number of presents under the tree or the amount of money spent, it is about the memories made.

Just remember to enjoy your traditions, make great memories, and do Christmas how it works for your family!

How to paint furniture to last!

Dresser updated with black paint and light distressing (handles are coming)

We’ve all seen the posts claiming that you don’t have to prep furniture before you paint it. The truth is, you can, but you may be disappointed in how the finish lasts. Knots can bleed through, it may chip or peel, or it may discolor over time.

I’m a firm believer that prep work is key. I’m not suggesting you sand for hours to remove the original finish, but instead use the proper products to work smarter, not harder.

Supplies to paint furniture and cabinets
***Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.***

To get started, you will need:

Once you have your materials, it’s time to get painting! Actually, it is time for the dreaded prep work that I mentioned, but I promise it won’t be too painful.

The honey oak dresser was in need of a new finish

Step 1) – Clean

To get started, take any doors, drawers, and hardware off. Next use your TSP and a clean rag to wipe all the pieces down. Make sure to follow the directions on your bottle of TSP (there is no rinse TSP and TSP that you need to rinse). Allow the pieces to dry.

Prepping for paint by removing the doors, drawers, and hardware

Step 2) – Degloss

After the grease and grime is off of your piece, it is time to tackle the finish. You do not need to sand the entire finish off, instead you can use the liquid sandpaper or deglosser to break down the finish.

Step 3) – Repair

Now that the piece is clean and the finish is not shiny or slippery, you can see if there are any knicks, scratches, or imperfections that need to be repaired. Apply the wood fill to any imperfections and slightly overfill it. Allow the wood fill to dry and then sand smooth using your sandpaper. If you notice any rough patches, sand with your 120 grit sandpaper and then finish sanding with 220 grit until smooth. You may need to do a second coat and resand if it shrinks a little when it dries.

After cleaning and deglossing, it is time to prime the furniture

Step 4) – Prime

At this point, your piece should be clean, deglossed, and repaired. It is finally time to bust out your paint brush, roller, tray, and primer. When you’re applying primer, it doesn’t need to be perfect and 100% solid coverage. Instead, the piece just needs to be fully covered with a thin smooth layer.

To achieve a smooth finish, work in sections using the brush to get into corners, crevices, etc. Then follow with the roller to smooth out the finish. Allow to fully dry.

**If you are painting over a knotty wood, you may want to seal the knots with shellac before you prime to prevent bleed through. Follow with a stainblocking primer like Kilz 3.**

Step 5) – Sand

If you want a professional finish, do not skip this step. Use your 220 grit sand paper to lightly sand any brushstrokes or raised primer on your furniture piece. After sanding, use a shop vac, air blower, or tack cloth to make sure you have all of the dust and debris off.

Reminder: The primer doesn’t need to look pretty, it just needs to be covering the existing finish and it needs to be smooth.

First coat of paint

Step 6) – Paint your furniture!

Let’s paint! You will use the same process as Step 4. Use your paint brush to cut it, get in grooves and crevices, then immediately follow with your roller to smooth out any brushstrokes. A high quality cabinet/furniture paint like Benjamin Moore Advance is slow drying so that the brushstokes will self-level and smooth out. Allow the first coat to completely dry according to the paint instructions.

If you have any drips or brushstrokes, lightly sand them with the 220 grit sandpaper and clean up the debris before adding your next coat. Apply the second coat the same way as the first coat. Allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours. Two coats of paint is always required, however, if you are painting white or a really dark color, you may want to apply a third coat to make sure the color is consistent.

Benjamin Moore Advance is an alkyd paint so it will dry to a hard, durable finish, so no top coat required.

The final coat of paint is on the drawers and are drying

You did it!!! You just refinished a piece of furniture and the finish will be durable and last a long time! This process can also be used on cabinets, furniture, and other items.

Here are some of the other paint projects we’ve done:

Kitchen painted with this same method and products
Nightstands updated with primer and paint
Makeover using paint and wallpaper

How to make DIY String Light Metal Posts

DIY Poles to hang String Lights

At our last house, we had a great poured patio that needed some lighting.

So, I grabbed some 4×4 posts, quikcrete post mix, some cup hooks, string lights and resin planters from the local hardware store.

Wooden String Light Poles
The patio lit up with string lights

They worked well for years, but over time the posts started to warp and twist. We ended up leaving them at our old house when we moved.

We are still building and working on our new yard, but I couldn’t resist my first outdoor DIY…lighting!

This time I decided to use galvanized pipes for a sleeker look and no warping.

Supplies for string light poles

Materials (per Light Post):

Directions:

To get started, I screwed a flange to the each end of the pipe.

On the end where the lights will attach, I screwed the cap to the nipple and then screwed it into one of the flanges. I added a carabiner through one of the flange holes.

Top of the pole assembled

I attached the flange on the bottom to a scrap piece of wood with deck screws and set it in the planter.

Scrap wood helps to stabilize the poles before the Quikrete is added

I added a 50 lb bag of Quikrete to each planter and added a gallon of water to each one.

Light Pole ready to go

I made sure the poles were plumb as they set. Once the concrete was set, I gave the poles two light coats of spray paint.

Hanging the lights was as simple as threading the lights through the carabiner.

Finished String Light Post with Planter

We opted for solar lights since the area these are going doesn’t have power, but plug in lights would work great too. We currently have the solar panels on the pipe but can also attach them to the flange at the top.

It is still cold in Michigan, but flowers will be planted in the planters

There is room in the planters to add rocks and then soil for plants. You could also add small solar ground lights too.

I hope you enjoy this project! Follow my blog for more projects! New patio area coming soon!

How to make a simple Ladder Trellis

Easy Decorative Ladder Trellis

Two years ago, I purchased a building, but I wasn’t in love with the exterior. Not only did it lack curb appeal, it was poorly insulated and the single pane glass windows leaked air and water.

L: The building when we purchased it
R: with the new front

We couldn’t center the new windows the way that I would have liked and I was limited on size due to structural supports. I thought a modern ladder trellis would be perfect to balance the negative space on each side of the windows.

Materials Needed:

  • (4) 2x2x8 pressure treated boards
  • (5) 1x2x8 pressure treated boards
  • wood glue
  • 2″ brad nails

Tools Needed:

  • Saw
  • Nail gun
  • Spacers
(4) 2x2x8 boards and (5) 2x1x8 boards

Directions:

The trellis were super easy to make. It only took 20 minutes to make two of them.

I determined that they needed to be 7ft tall to fit the area where I wanted to place them. Then I cut my (4) 2x2s down to 7 ft and I decided to cut 18 cross pieces out of the 1x2s at a width 23.75″.

I wanted a more modern ladder look, so I decided to do three sections of three boards. I started by lining up my two uprights and putting spacer blocks between them to keep them square.

Use a spacer to keep spacing even

I then put the cross pieces over top of my uprights. I used a second set of spacer blocks to make sure they were evenly spaced.

Nailing the cross pieces in place

I added wood glue and then nailed the pieces in place using my brad nailer.

Finished Trellis

Once all 9 cross pieces were attached, I let the glue dry and then stained it with Briarsmoke stain and sealed it with spar urethane.

The trellis with the planter in front

I left a bigger space towards the bottom so that I could put a planter I front of the trellis.

The front of the building with the trellis

This project was super easy, but really helped to balance the negative space on each side of the windows and I can’t wait to add some solar lights and to vines to them!

Before & After

I hope you’ll try to make one too!

How to build a DIY Stone Fireplace

From a blank wall…to a beautiful focal point

Have you ever looked at a blank space and thought that it needed something more? That was this wall. It was somewhat small with two windows and was the only place for the television to go in the room. So, naturally it seemed like the perfect place to add a fireplace.

The wall before…

The thought of building a fireplace might be intimidating, but if you can build a box, you can build this fireplace!

To get started, you will need:

Materials:

  • (1) 2″ x 12″ x 10′ for the hearth
  • (11) 2″ x 4″ x 10′ for framing
  • 1.5 sheets of 1/2″ thick 4′ x 8′ plywood
  • Silver Travertine Tile (enough to cover your size surface)
  • (9) tubes of Liquid Mortar
  • Oak beam for the mantle
  • Salvaged wood for the hearth
  • Electric Fireplace Insert

Tools:

  • Drill
  • Level
  • Speed Square
  • Circular Saw
  • Tile Saw
  • Caulk Gun for Liquid Mortar

Directions:

Building the base:

To begin, we figured out how much space we wanted between the windows and the new fireplace. In our case, we wanted our fireplace to be 74″ wide (this will vary depending on your space and insert). We subtracted seven inches for the sides to be build out of 2x4s as well as 2 inches for the substrate and tile.

First, we cut two 2x4s down to 64″ long. Then we attached one board horizontally to the wall studs making sure it was level and was at the height that we wanted the mantel to sit on. Next, we attached the second board to the base of the wall making sure it was in line with the first board.

We had mounted our first 2x4s to the wall

Then, we used 2x4s to create two identical rectangles for the sides. We made sure that they were exactly the height of our mounted board. Also, we made sure that the fireplace insert had enough clearance per the instructions. Then, the rectangle boxes were attached to wall and the existing boards to create the sides.

The sides are just rectangles made out of 2×4s

We then built another square out of 2x4s to fit inbetween the sides as a front. Make sure it is square before attaching it.

You should have 3 boxes attached together to form the base frame.

Building the Upper Frame:

The homeowners wanted their fireplace to go all the way to the ceiling. So, we created another box using 2x4s making sure it was securely attached in the ceiling and to the wall studs.

The upper frame

Next, we added some extra supports to make hanging the television easy and solid.

Supports for the television

Framing the Insert:

Finally, it was time to frame in the fireplace insert. Be sure to follow your instructions for your fireplace. We simply attached some 2x4s to create the width we needed. Next, we added cross pieces for the insert to sit on top of.

We added 2x4s to support the fireplace insert on all sides.

Building the Hearth:

We were able to use just one 2×12 to create the hearth. One piece was attached on each end and then the front piece was attached.

The hearth was constructed out of a 2×12

Once the framing was done, it was finally starting to look like a fireplace.

Finished Framing

Finishing:

Now, the next steps really depend on what you want your finished fireplace to look like. At this point you could add shiplap, paneling, etc.

We had to add a backer board since we were using tile. Our particular tile allowed plywood as a substrate. Make sure to follow the recommendations for whichever product you use.

Plywood Wrapped Fireplace

Note: We did not wrap the hearth with plywood since the stone could adhere directly to the 2×12 frame.

We used a tile saw to cut the tile to the lengths we needed and used the caulk gun to apply the liquid mortar to the backs of the tile. This process was faster, cleaner and easier than having to use traditional mortar.

The Stone Tiling Going Up

We sat an old barn beam on the base frame to create a mantle and the hearth top was some reclaimed barnwood that we sanded and stained. They were attached with glue and screws.

Finished Fireplace
Before and After

I love the transformation!!! I hope this gives you the confidence to try it too!

One Room Challenge – Final Reveal!!!

It has been 8 weeks since the beginning of the amazing One Room Challenge!

When I signed up for the ORC, we knew we would eventually be selling our house. What I didn’t plan for was that COVID-19 would hit, life as we knew it would be shutdown, and the ORC would be delayed.

By the time we were able to start the One Room Challenge, we were for sure selling our house, so I needed a plan for a room that could appeal to the masses while also fitting in with the rest of our home.

So, here is what our Master Bedroom looks like now!

Finished Master Suite

In case you forgot what it previously looked like, it was a sea of orange wood and brown tones.

Master Bedroom Before

So what did it all take to complete this transformation?

We started by painting the walls Sherwin Williams Repose Gray. It is a great color since it is a greige and can lean gray or beige. We also painted the ceiling white using Sherwin William CHB paint to hide any imperfections.

Accent Wall

We added an accent wall by using NuWallpaper Loft Brick Peel & Stick Wallpaper from Amazon.

It was my first time ever hanging any form of wallpaper and it was surprisingly easy!

The old boob light needed to go, so we found a cost effective option from Wayfair.

The floor was the biggest change in the room. We went from brown bubbled carpet to a beautiful chevron pattern floor. The floor is Mannington Restoration Collection floor in the color Stone. With the help of my hubby, we were able to lay the floor ourselves and save quite a bit of money.

After the floors were in, we were able to put down a beautiful new rug from Rugs USA.

Then it was onto the pretty things. Since in person shopping was limited, I ordered my bedding from Wayfair, Target, and Amazon.

I found great black metal brackets on Amazon and added a piece of stained wood to create a shelf. It was styled completely from things I already owned.

Metal and Wood Shelf

I also created a little reading nook for me (or a spot for my husband to put on his socks). I love this chair from Walmart!

It is crazy to me how much bigger, brighter, and cleaner the room seems!

I’m a little sad that we waited until we were moving to do this project!

We decided to show our house last weekend and within 48 hours had 6 offers at or above our asking price. Im positive this space had something to do with it!

I just can’t get over how it turned out!

Before
After

Thanks for following along on this journey! Don’t forget to check out the other designers on the ORC!

ORC Week 7 – Sneak Peek

Last week, I shared all the things that I still needed to do in our Master Bedroom for the One Room Challenge. Being so close to the finish line, you would have thought that I would have had a productive week.

To be honest, I was able to hang the light fixture, hang the curtains, and finalize the bedding, but the rest of the progress was slow due to deciding to sell our house.

I also did put in our new chair and a small side table for a reading area. It fits perfectly in the corner by the patio door.

So that’s the sneak peek! The final room reveal will be this week including a special custom build!

Stay tuned and don’t forget to check out thr other designers on the ORC!

Week 6 – One Room Challenge – Accent Wall

Well, I had high hopes of getting a lot more done on our Master Bedroom for the One Room Challenge, but it just didn’t happen.

We did make a little progress and when I look at where we are…

Compared to where we started…

So far we have:

  • Painted the walls and ceiling
  • Added a wallpaper accent wall
  • Painted the trim
  • Tore out the old flooring
  • Installed a chevron pattern floor
  • Added a new rug
  • Assembled and stained new nightstands
  • Upgraded our bed to a king size

Things we still need to do are:

  • Hang new light fixture
  • Build new headboard/footboard
  • Add hardware to dressers and nightstands
  • Hang new curtains
  • Build shelves
  • Add finishing touches

I am loving how much bigger, cleaner, and brighter our room is.

Closeup of the Wall Pops NuWallpaper

Stay tuned for more progress! Don’t forget to check out the other designers on the ORC!

Week 4 – ORC – Baby Steps Forward

This week my One Room Challenge progress was really slow with Memorial Weekend and spending time with my family.

New King size bed

But, we did manage to finish the floor, put in the rug, and assemble our new bed!

The Mannington Restoration Collection floor turned out beautifully! It was better than I could have hoped!

Mannington Restoration Collection Flooring

This upcoming week, I will be building a headboard and footboard…hopefully.

Ready to finish nightstands

The nightstands that we picked also need to be finished. They are solid wood with 3 drawers. They will be getting stained and new matte black hardware added.

Our room seems so much bigger and brighter already!

Don’t forget to check out the other ORC rooms!

Week 3 – ORC – Flooring

It’s Week 3 of the ORC! If you’ve been checking out the other designers and guests, their rooms are taking shape and are so inspiring!

This week we focused on installing new flooring and I love it!

New Chevron Floors

When we decided to redo our master bedroom, my hardest decision was what to do for flooring.

Our old flooring was bubbled brown carpet

We have beautiful tobacco brown wood floors in the hallway leading to the master bedroom and the master bath is tile. Since there is a patio door in the room, we really didn’t want to do carpet again. But with our existing hallway flooring discontinued, we had to find something else.

Then I saw a greige chevron floor that I thought had just enough brown to tie into the hallway without competing with it and enough gray/beige to tie into the tile.

Mannington Restoration Collection Flooring

The part I liked about the floor was that the chevron pattern came in planks instead of trying to calculate angles.

Installing the floor (poor nighttime lighting)

I’ve laid about half the floor and am hoping to get the rest done this weekend!

UPDATE: The floor is in!

The new chevron flooring in the daylight
Another angle of the chevron floor
The finished floor

Thanks for following me and the ORC!

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