Two Super Entryway Updates

August 25, 2015   //  Posted in: DIY, DIY Network Projects, Entryway   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

Falling into the realm of “things I’m super happy I got around to this summer,” the door upgrades that I did recently deserve special attention.

Revamping both sides of the front door were tutorials I developed for DIY Network. One, my tried-and-true methodology for painting a front door (AKA ‘out with the plain white,’ AKA I surveyed the neighborhood for color inspiration and realized that 90% of homes have white doors – total snooze, therefore I-must-do-the-opposite); the second tutorial was a complete trial to test how vinyl adhesive wallpaper could be used to transform a door. Both are so perfect and fitting for our home.

Painting a front door a mossy green to coordinate with flagstone facade.

Can we just take an extra moment of pause to remember how dark and dingy the entryway looked when the inside of the door was a natural, dark brown? Paired with the flagstone floor and the maple floors that extend towards the entry, the light wood patterned vinyl self-adhesive wallpaper offers an entirely different look for our home.

Making over an entryway with wallpaper - installed on the back of the door.

One more thing, I owe you info on that radical lockset that we bought. Best knob and deadbolt ever. You’ll want one too.

For more detail surrounding how we chose that spiffy green paint from Sherwin Williams called Edamame, check out this post on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade.

Look Ma, New Camera

August 21, 2015   //  Posted in: Business-y   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

We definitely got our money’s worth out of our last DSLR, a Canon Rebel XS purchased in 2011 as a “starter” camera that I could use to take better photos for the blog, and one to help me understand the basics of manual photography. I learned a lot, I liked that camera.

It took quite a beating while capturing 60-70K photos between project shoots for blog posts, family photos, and accompanying our travels, but it was always pretty reliable. The body of the camera was really starting to look grimy after years of use in various states of construction and lots of time spent sitting open on the tripod in our home–I can’t really say I took the best care of it–so when the 18-55mm lens on the XS started to show signs of break-down (trouble with focusing both manually and auto), I took it as a sign that I deserved an upgrade. Here’s the new Canon Rebel T6i (a.k.a. 750D in markets outside of the USA).

Upgrade to the Canon 750D / T6i.

I’m not a pro photographer, nor am I here to consider perks of one brand over another but if you’ve ever looked into buying a DSLR you’ll know the range in cost is tremendous. I’ve owned several Canon point-and-shoots, and the G12 that Pete bought at the same time as the XS is still working hard for us. I’m comfortable and quick with the settings on my old camera, and I had already purchased a few additional lenses that would fit the new model, so all of that influenced my decision to stay with the Canon line of products. I can’t honestly say that I’m the type to justify spending even $2,000+ on a more superior camera, so I consider this a modest upgrade at ~$900 on Amazon. I’m seeing now that you can get the same product with a smattering of awesome free accessories like a tripod, bag, and SD card, and I’m going to pretend that that wasn’t there last month when I made this purchase without noticing it, omg.

The XS had been an extension of my hand for years, and for that I know it’s strengths and weaknesses well, but a few specific features really make the next-step-up T6i a worthwhile splurge:

  • Great auto focusing (XS wasn’t ad good, and I got really used to exclusively manual focusing using it, but T6i is so good that I’m really enjoying shooting manual with auto-focus)
  • Awesome ISO range for when you need it (up to 12800, vs. the XS which capped me at 1600). The images might still be grainy, but to have the flexibility to use a higher ISO is nice.
  • Rotating touchscreen LED with live viewfinder display
  • 24.2 MP
  • Rad HD movie (haven’t actually tested it yet, will be nice to use someday)
  • Best IG hashtag performance, with 333+ likes on this image, fist bumps. Very random.
  • Wi-fi/bluetooth so I can use my phone to initiate the shutter! I tested it, got distracted, and proceeded to take 180 photos of my home at knee level:

Testing wi-fi capabilities with the Canon T6i / 750D

A better camera does look my house look more wondrous. And I’m not sure how I went so long without a remote for my old camera.

I did eventually get in the shot to experiment with auto-focus and related depth of field. Love it.

Testing depth of field and auto-focus with the Canon T6I / 750D

Any other upgraders have new tech to tout?

That Time We Made A Frog Cake

August 20, 2015   //  Posted in: Casual Celebrations, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

How many of you still make homemade birthday cakes?

Whenever it comes up in conversation, it seems like we’re the only ones, or one of the few families who doesn’t resort to store bought or custom-order. Those custom cakes are fun and cute and I actually know a few people that make beautiful ones, but I like to bake too at the risk of dreaded Pinterest Fail. I like to think that there’s a logical cost-to-perceived value-to-saved time three-way ratio in effect here, but in short, we’ve really enjoyed making our own birthday cakes and treats, especially for the girls, who will undoubtedly be able to reflect upon our bizarre creativity through their adolescence and adulthood.

We’re embarking on the cake to suit Julia’s 9th BD; she decided on an “Under the Sea” theme after having been on a myriad of beach vacations this summer (also because she thought these Octopus cupcakes were hysterical). We’re not making those little octos, but are probably going to spend most of the evening elbow deep in Rice Krispie treats to execute her surprise cake. You see, unlike traditional cake which I think is kinda messy when you’re trying to cut it into various shapes, the Krispies chilled to form make for an excellent dimensional dessert – basically, you can mold it anyway you want. I tested it last year and intend to make Krispie cakes religiously until I find a better idea, or until my kids tell me that they never want another Rice Krispie treat again. (Throwback to yesterday, when I showed the treats for Cody’s birthday.)

Case in point (or “Cake in point”)? Last year we made a crazy toad to match her theme of “Our Backyard.”

A DIY frog cake made from Rice Krispie Treats and homemade fondant.

What could be more theme-appropriate than sculpting a toad and covering it with homemade fondant? If the inside of toads aren’t pink, consider this is a honest factual error because we didn’t do a lot of research, but it was much to the delight of our kid that isn’t squeemish (it did really skeeve out the Grandmas).

If you’re not looking closely, we placed him on a bed of chocolate Krispie treats, and made a few random fondant covered pebbles and rabbit poops for classy effect. Big hit, friends with nature-loving kids.

A DIY frog cake made from Rice Krispie Treats and homemade fondant. Bloody red interior! Gross.

Psst: For more cakes, here’s a Wow Wow Wubbzy design that Pete did a few years ago. He also did a My Little Pony cake (A for effort, but ultimate fail), and that same link includes a photo of his Pachycephalosaurus cake. Once upon a time when we had enough time to celebrate personal achievements with custom desserts, he even surprised me with an M for Merrypad cake.