DIY: Vintage Map Silhouette.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

With so much traveling and moving this summer, there's been very little time (or unpacked supplies) for DIY projects and I've missed them so. There's a piece of me that just comes alive when I can create, and it's been too long. Today during Liam's nap time, I decided to tackle one from my ever growing list.

I started out wanting a silhouette of Liam with a vintage "paint by number" like one of these in the background. When I actually tried it out, though, it didn't feel quite right. So I switched it up to feature a vintage Nashville map - an ode to Liam's birthplace.

This project involves using Photoshop, but because I know not everyone has access to it, I'll explain how to make one without Photoshop as well.
1. Take and print a profile photo of your subject in black and white on 8.5" x 11" paper (or whatever size you're going for). It doesn't have to be completely clear - I used a slightly blurry phone photo, but one that showed his profile well.
 2. Using a Sharpie, trace the subject's profile.
3a. If using Photoshop, scan the outlined profile into your computer.
3b. If not using Photoshop, cut out the outline of your subject. Find a vintage map on Google images, print it out, and trace the silhouette onto it. Carefully cut out the vintage map in the shape of the silhouette, paste on white paper (double sided tape would work well), and frame.

4. If using Photoshop, I found this tutorial for the next few steps so helpful. Following the steps of the tutorial, you'll go from a scanned photo to a silhouette, as shown below. I found that outlining the subject beforehand helped the magnetic lasso tool grab the correct outline, which is why I started with that.

 5. What you should have after following the steps of the tutorial is this:
 6. If there are any spots you need to fix, use the eraser tool and the paint brush tool to do so. I filled in around his chest area so it wasn't such a ragged line.
 7. Now it's time to fill in the silhouette with an image. Like I said before, I tried a few different things - mostly "paint by number" paintings. While still in Photoshop, open the image you'd like to use as a new layer. Then follow this magical tutorial to make fill in your silhouette with the image.

Here are a few that I tried and wasn't crazy about, mainly because the silhouette image seemed to get a little lost.

I finally settled on this one, a vintage Nashville map: 

8. Print it out in your desired size, frame it, and you're done! Because the background is transparent, it will print as whatever color your paper is (in my case, white). 
Do you recognize that Liam Newby original on the top right? It's from our painting session the other day - his first foray into acrylics. 

First haircut.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We decided while we were in Germany that Liam should get his first ever "real" (not by Mommy and Daddy) haircut. The hairdresser, Charlette, had cut Shawn's hair since he was a little guy, which made it so special. At least to me. Liam? He didn't enjoy it so much.
This watermelon sucker was my best and worst idea. I thought it would keep him distracted, but it quickly got pieces of hair stuck to it, which then went in his mouth, which then led to a total spitting meltdown.
Apparently cutting a toddler's hair requires an entire team: mommy wearing the cape, Charlette the hairdresser snipping what she can, and Gramma "Suzu" keeping him distracted. 
Before we were done, he'd had enough, resorting to kicking the hairdresser. Awesome.
Charlette did a fabulous job, especially with her very wiggly, spitting client who didn't cooperate too well. I have to admit - I miss the wavy mullet - but it's growing back already and it makes this mommy's heart so happy. 

Tips for selling your own home.

Monday, August 18, 2014

When we decided to put our first house on the market a couple months ago, our main reason for doing so was financial. We needed to cut our mortgage to prepare for a second baby, and because of that, a friend suggested we try selling the house without the help of a realtor. "For sale by owner." I was very hesitant at first because I just wanted out of the house as quickly as possible, and we'd never sold a house before. But the more we researched it, the more we felt right about at least trying. We'd save as much as 3% by not having to pay a realtor, so we felt it was worth a shot.

Going in, we decided we'd give it two weeks on the market. If the house didn't sell in two weeks, we'd turn it over to our realtor to show and hopefully sell while we were out of the country.

I should also make this disclaimer: we have several dear friends who are realtors and I definitely don't want to devalue their work. I just think many people (including us) don't even consider trying to sell the house themselves - and in our situation, it ended up being the right option.

If you haven't followed our story, since October 2013, we've now bought two houses and sold one. We definitely didn't plan to do this, but we've learned a whole lot along the way. So if you're thinking of going the "for sale by owner" route, I thought I'd share a few things we learned.

Know the market. First, know whether or not to try selling it yourself. From the outset, we knew the real estate market in our area was extremely active at the time. Just walking out of our house, I was stopped twice by passersby who handed me their information and asked, "If you know anyone who's selling or renting soon, will you give them my information?" We knew there would be plenty of interest in a house that needed no fixing up, was on a dead-end street, and was in a desirable neighborhood near a park and close to downtown. Had we doubted that our house was sellable (i.e. slower market, needed fixing up, etc.), we probably wouldn't have tried to do it ourselves.

Secondly, know how to price your home. We ended up pricing ours quite a bit higher than we'd originally paid, but only after extensively researching comparable houses in our area. We settled on a price and then determined a slightly lower price that was our cut-off - we wouldn't accept anything lower, especially in the first couple weeks on the market.

Declutter and de-personalize. This rings true whether or not you're using a realtor. Our house wasn't cluttered before as we'd lived in it less than a year, but I was still able to box up two full car loads of stuff and bring it to a friend's garage to store. The boxes were full of framed photos of our family and other personal items. You want to make sure that when people walk into your house, they can picture themselves living here - not you. At the time, all of our wall colors were very neutral. Had they been something brighter, we would've repainted to make sure the house appeared move-in ready.

Meet with someone who's gone the "For Sale By Owner" route before. We had several friends who had successfully sold their homes without a realtor, and their wealth of knowledge was invaluable through every step of the process. It really helped to get their advice, especially when it came to negotiating a contract. It may also be helpful to have a friend in the real estate field (realtor, closing attorney, etc.) look over your contract to make sure there are no red flags. (And offer to pay them, of course.)

Borrow or rent a lock box. A friend let us borrow a lock box like this one to hang on the front door. This way, we didn't have to be present for each and every showing to let the potential buyers in the door. We could simply give the lock box code to the buyers' realtor, set up a time for them to come, and they would let themselves in and out. Much more convenient, much less awkward for all parties. If you have potential buyers who don't have a realtor (we didn't), I'd definitely suggest staying at the house and letting them in and out yourself.

If you don't feel comfortable staging and photographing your house, ask someone who does. Since Shawn and I both had experience in staging and in real estate photography, this part was fun for us. But just remember that pictures sell houses. Or at least get people in the door, which sells houses. Don't skimp on this part. If you don't know anyone who has a good camera with a wide angle lens, hire someone who does. It will be money well spent.

Put together a brochure. Maybe. I only say "maybe" on this one because I kind of wish I hadn't spend the time and money making one when our house sold so quickly. I had dozens of flyers left. But if you have ideas of where you could post these - or even hand them out to friends who may have friends that are looking - it may be really worth it. There are tons of templates online for professional looking real estate flyers.

Buy an MLS listing. For us, this was absolutely worth it. These run about $200, and whenever you post the listing, it goes up on all the major real estate websites immediately - Zillow, Trulia, etc. We used Select Premium Properties to do this, and they were so helpful to give us a step-by-step of how to go about this. They even had a portal where realtors could request a showing and we could "ok" it from our phones or email.

Know that it will feel like a full-time job. That's why realtors work full-time and often around the clock! There's so much paperwork and so many deadlines that you have to treat it like the main gig in your life. You'll spend lots of time fielding calls, scheduling showings, answering emails, scouring Google with questions, and driving around the neighborhood so your toddler will take a nap while people look at your house.

When all was said and done, we had 7 showings on the first day and 1 offer, and we accepted that offer the following morning. It was as stressful as can be, but very much worth it. And we don't plan to do it again for a very long time.

Yes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

For at least 20 minutes, I'd snuck to the corner of the room unnoticed, quietly painting the built-in bookshelves while Liam played with his trucks and watched Curious George. But as soon as he caught a glimpse of my brush, it was over. He charged toward me, demanding, "Paint! Paaaaint!" Handing him a dry brush to "paint" with just didn't cut it.

In that moment, I could think of at least a hundred reasons to say "no." I said an immediate "no" to his help with the bookshelf, but he remained determined. "Paint, mommy!" as tears welled up in his eyes. In the split second I had to think about it, I realized I'd only said no to him out of convenience. Not because painting something would hurt him or anyone else. Only because it would be a mess, and I am living and breathing mess right now in the form of moving boxes.

I carried him upstairs and hunted around for his watercolors to no avail. All I could find was the acrylic paint. You know, acrylics. The paint that doesn't come out of clothes?

So with a deep breath, I said, "Yes, love. Let's paint!"

Yes. That tiny, but titanic, three-letter word that doesn't feel very natural for the mom of an intensely active 21-month-old boy.

But I said it. And he was thrilled.

"Taaaank you, Mommy!" he yelled as he carefully selected his colors and slathered globs of "yeh-woh" and "boo" on his canvas.

As I watched him, I felt the weight of my yes. In one sense, I'd said yes to the hassles of a paint-covered boy, an extra bath, and ruined socks. But my yes had also opened up my little boy's heart and given me opportunity to lavish on the compliments for his gorgeous work. He glowed.

I don't know what "yes" will look like when Liam is 5 years old or 12 or 16. But today, it meant an impossibly messy art project and a boy who grinned all the way from his toes. I'll take it.

We're alive!

Monday, August 11, 2014

One tired little man, loving his new rug from his Mimi.
Where do I even begin? 

In the past two weeks or so,
we returned from Germany,
conquered jet lag (or something like that),
closed on one house and moved out,
stayed with friends for a few days,
closed on a new house and moved in.

It's been a whole lot, and we are tired. The adrenaline rush that pushed us through these stressful, busy days has begun to subside and now we're just feeling the exhaustion.

At one point, Liam looked around at boxes stacked to the ceiling, ran to the back door and asked pitifully, "Go home?"

"We are home, buddy. It just doesn't look like it quite yet."

And then my Mom volunteered to fly out for a few days to help us dig through boxes and occupy Liam and we jumped at the offer.

That all sounds a little more bleak and desperate than it's been. The upside is that we've landed in a charming house that feels so much more spacious, is much more feasible financially, is a couple minutes closer to Shawn's work (and Trader Joe's, but who's counting?), and gives us reason to breathe. And for all of those things, we are so thankful. We're also deeply grateful for the way we've been lavishly loved over these past few stressful weeks by dozens of friends and church family through this transition, and we can't wait to return the love. And show pictures of our new place. And jump in on a dozen DIY projects I have mulling around in my head. But maybe a nap or two first.
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