Christmas Lights By American Dream Home Remodeling

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Tis' the season for all things holiday! Not only did I find myself ordering an enormous 15 foot artificial Christmas tree this year but I also wanted to make sure our holiday cheer spread to the curb appeal of our home. Just one problem, my husband wasn't volunteering to climb up on the roof to install the white Christmas lights I dreamt up in my head. In fact, he was avoiding my holiday nesting all together. You would have thought I had the plague and I clearly wasn't getting up on the roof since I'm pregnant. So I had to get a little creative.

I started to call around to those companies that put up lights professionally and get some quotes. The average quote started at $1000.00. Most of these companies have preset packages and don't have much wiggle room if you are looking to custom your order to get the prices down. However I did find one, and it was a company I have hired in the past to do my driveway pressure cleaning so I was familiar with them. American Dream Home Remodeling installs Christmas lights during the holidays. I had no idea you could call companies like this to help you out and they were a fraction of the price! 

I loved working with them because when Ben came out to give me my quote, everything was line itemed. That way I could pick and choose what I actually wanted to do. I decided on having his company do the roofline and the two big trees in front of our house. I also ended up adding a huge light-up wreath for over my garage because I still had some budget left over. It was perfect, I would have them do the lights and Elena and I would handle the smaller wreaths we hung from each window and the front door. We did a little, they did a lot! 

All in all, I am really pleased with the way our holiday decorations came out. It's our first Christmas in our new home and I wanted it to be special and make a splash in the neighborhood. I think I accomplished both. 


Salt Dough Ornament Recipe

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I love family activities and I know with the kids about to be on Christmas break you will too! This is a fun project to work on with the kids while they are cooped up in the house during the holidays. As much as I would love to take credit for this idea it was our Aupair Elena, who is a former preschool teacher who came up with this one. She is great about creating fun ideas and games for our family to do together.

When I came home from work, Elena asked me if we had flour and salt. My reply to the items most people keep in their household was, “of course we do”.  We followed a simple recipe involving just 3 ingredients.  My son Cash loved helping mix the blend together, squeezing the concoction in his fingers until it turned to dough. Then, he helped roll out the dough and created little trees, gingerbread people and stars to be put in the oven for 2-3 hours.


After they were cool Elena used her artistic skills to paint the most beautiful ornaments to hang on our Christmas tree!

To see the recipe we used watch the YouTube video below:

Baby Strager Is Coming June 2020!

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Talk about a tough secret to keep! I feel like I have been sneaking around long enough. I have lied to everyone close to me, dodging get-togethers and holiday parties to conceal the fact that we are expecting another little bundle of joy this coming June! 

There are multiple reasons a woman keeps this secret. Early pregnancy is a sensitive subject, and as an expecting mom, you want to make sure that everything is okay with the baby before shouting your announcement from the rooftops. This was an especially surprising time for Dallas and I because we were just "pre-family planning" at this point. It took us over a year to get pregnant with Cashton and we were trying so hard then. So, imagine our astonishment after realizing that after only 3 months of being off of birth control that I hadn't had a normal "cycle" in over 40 days. 

Shock, amazement, and excitement flushed over mine and Dallas's faces when I immerged from the bathroom holding a positive drug store pregnancy test. We just kinda stood there staring at each other for a few seconds before the news finally sank in. 

I wasn't sure how we were going to be able to contain this news with so many events on the horizon. After all, October to December is our busiest time of the year for social events. Gravediggers Ball, Friendsgivings, holiday parties, and social get-togethers flood our calendars for the last portion of the year. I knew I would get busted the second I showed up to my first gathering and declined a cocktail. EVERYONE would be onto me! So Dallas and I developed a plan to attend every single bash together until we made our announcement. We would BOTH order drinks and he would drink both of our cocktails on the sly. We would just continuously switch glasses until both drinks were gone. It was a match made in heaven. I had a designated drinker and he had a designated driver!   

We also decided that we wanted to tell our family during our Thanksgiving gathering. We had already planned to host the holiday at our new home this year and since this would be the first time since our wedding (10 years ago) both sides of our family would be together I wanted to tack on a holiday family photoshoot for our Christmas Cards. It all seemed to be coming together. If I could dodge the champagne and smoked Manhattans all weekend we could tell them at the end of the photoshoot and catch their priceless reactions on film. 
   
Somehow by the grace of God, we were able to pull it off. No one knew except Dallas and I. Not Cash. Not Elena. Not even our parents. I kept this secret so tight to the vest that our photographer didn't even know until she showed up. 

I had the whole thing planned to a tee! We would finish our shoot and I would announce that I forgot to include a "Merry Christmas" sign I had made for the photos. I would ask everyone to get together one last time and present my "The More the Merrier. Baby Strager, June 2020" sign instead. Here are some of the amazing photos of everyone's reactions.




Of course, the fun didn't stop there. Genetic testing is something we decided to do at the recommendation of our doctor. Apparently having a baby at 35 years old makes you a "high-risk pregnancy", which is laughable but true. The upside to having this test is that they can tell you the sex of your baby as early as 10 weeks! So we were able to share our gender reveal with our family the same day we told them we were expecting.

However, word to the wise. If YOU do not want to know the sex of your baby have someone else check your test outcome because "Boy" or "Girl" is printed right there on the Myriad results. We wanted to know so we check the test ourselves. This way I could order gender reveal poppers on Amazon and have them ready to go for our fam. 

So, we were excited to announce that we are having a ...



BOY!




Where The Magic Happens

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One of the last rooms in our home to be completed was our master bedroom, and maybe what they say is true. "You save the best for last". My vision for this room was clean and calm. I wanted the colors to be neutral and the vibe to feel like a spa. I chose to work with creams, nudes, and greys to accomplish our relaxing environment.

I used a lot of our old furniture and added some new touches. I kept our Bloomingdale's side tables and dresser, along with our Restoration Hardware tufted bed and bench. I was also able to keep our older Homegoods lamps and Birch Lane wall art. 

Our additions to this room were moderate but large enough to keep this sizeable room from feeling empty. We added a 96" media cabinet from Pottery Barn, along with a 65" TV to keep our longest wall from feeling bare. We also hung a Catrina Earl's family photography gallery on either side of the TV. This is probably my favorite feature of our bedroom because the gallery goes in chronological order, starting with our wedding and ending with our last family photoshoot when we added our Aupair Elena to the mix! 

Homegoods is always great for rugs. It's the first place I go when I have a budget but I want a designer look. I was able to snag this Ralph Lauren 9' x 11' cream and grey area rug which tied our whole room together seamlessly. 

I think the biggest changes we incorporated into our room were our Pottery Barn curtains and our sitting area by the window. These were two of our larger projects because they included seamstresses and reupholstery.

When I originally priced our curtains the price tag was astronomical. However, I quickly realized that the look I was chacing was obtainable by splitting the pannels for HALF of the price. We already had blackout blinds in our room from the previous owners so the curtains were more of a cosmetic feature. We also have five windows in our room so that its self was increasing the cost. I found a great seamstress and by splitting the panels I was able to save hundreds!  

Our sitting area was the real adventure and probably the most fun to create. My mom's boyfriend was getting rid of two traditional high back chairs and an ottoman and when I heard he was just giving them away I jumped at the opportunity. Sure they didn't go with our vision in their current state but what about reupholstering them? I called around and got a few quotes before I decided to go with Midas Reupholstering in Pineville. 

Our Aupair Elena has a design degree from her time spent at University in Italy so I recruited her help for this venture. We went to Midas with our color scheme in mind and found the perfect fabrics and patterns to update our vintage furniture.  Although reupholstering is a longer project to complete (6-8 weeks) now our seating area boasts a modern classic finish that completed our master dwelling flawlessly. 


Welcome To My Paw-ty

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  Wow. What a weekend! Saturday, October 12 was baby Cash's 3rd birthday. Okay, okay, I know he's not a baby anymore but he will always be my baby! Cashton Duke came into the world three years ago and changed my life forever. I would legitimately do anything for this little boy, including pulling out of my comfort zone and spending days and hours blowing up balloons in an attempt to create the perfect balloon garland for his Paw Patrol themed birthday party. (We'll get there in a minute.)

   Even though my husband and professional counterparts all pointed out that this year's party topped all of Cash's previous celebrations I beg to differ. For some reason this year felt easier than ever to plan, but maybe I'm just getting good at this party planning thing. Let me share with you some of my hacks and details from this year's Paw-ty! 


  As I told you last year, I found a woman who bakes and designs beautiful cakes on the side! She has a corporate job by day but moonlights as a baker on the weekends and she is incredibly reasonable and talented! Her name is Angel and she is just that! 

  We sent photos back and forth for days coming up with the perfect design and after brainstorming together we decided on a two-tiered, half chocolate, half vanilla fondant masterpiece! Angel was so much fun to work with and she even delivered our cake straight to our front door on the day of our party so that I could focus on setting everything up! If you would like to use Angel for an upcoming party please email me here for her information. 



  Ahhh, the balloon garland. This single project could have been the bane of my existence. I called around and started to get quotes on what I thought could be the centerpiece for our party. However, the quotes came back with some sticker shock. In my head, I budgeted for $100 - $150 for this decor, but the quotes I was receiving were more like $250- $300 and I couldn't justify spending my entire decor budget on one thing. 

  Sure, I saved money by having our super creative Aupair Elena design and print labels for the food. I also happen to have a popcorn machine that my over the top mother bought Cash for Christmas after seeing me rent one for his party last year. I found our Paw Patrol backdrop on Amazon for $16 and I paid $5 for someone on Etsy to design our water bottle labels that a friend offered to print for me, but I still had other things that needed my attention and money.  

  After watching countless YouTube videos about how to put together the perfect balloon arch/garland, I put together a plan and decided to go for it! I would order a balloon kit for $15 on Amazon that included balloons, garland line, a balloon tie and "garland glue". After playing with the garland line in a few trial runs I decided that fishing line would be the easier way to go. I grabbed a spool out of the garage. The night before our party I blew all the balloons up and double tied balloons together in twos. I would alternate different sizes and colors so that nothing looked too uniformed. I added to the 100 piece balloon kit from Amazon and probably used somewhere around 150 balloons total.  

  I know what you're are probably thinking right about now... Did you blow all those balloons up by mouth?!?! Hell no! That would have taken all week and more breath than I had. Instead, I opted for the Balloon Buddy from Party City, but you can find cheaper ones on Amazon.  

  The morning of our event, I wound the fishing line around the pairs of balloons we had tied together the night before. I also blew up some smaller single balloons that I could plug into sparse areas of the garland once I had it hung on the Balloon Arch Kit I bought at Party City. I only used one side of the kit but it was a lifesaver! It comes with reusable PVC piping and weights, which are essential, especially if you are working outside. I decided to put my garland up in sections instead of one long piece. Out of all the YouTube videos I've watched, here is the one I found the most helpful! 




  The other moving parts to this party were manageable by time. Friday after work I picked up the cookies I purchased from The Little Baker Company in Huntersville. Ansley is the owner and I worked with her last year as well to create the most perfect and delicious cookies for this year's theme. Ansley is an amazing cookie baker and decorator! She hand paints each cookie to perfection and never disappoints. Her company is local to Charlotte but they also have an Etsy shop that ships nationwide. 


  What can I say about this next piece of decor except... WOW! Alpha Lit Charlotte is like no other. Their company is new to Charlotte but our light up "Cash Is Three" billboard really was the highlight to our bash and the topic of conversation! They are great for weddings, engagements, events and of course parties! The Alpha Lit load-in and out was simple and took less than an hour. They do require two different sources of power for residential parties but that was easy enough to accommodate. Their three-foot-tall letters dazzle and become the ideal backdrop for any photo! This area truly became our "photo booth".  I can't say enough good things about this company and how easy they were to work with!




  Our next feat to tackle was the entertainment. How do you keep a bunch of children under the age of 5 entertained? A bounce house usually does the trick, but let's be honest they are really fun for all ages. This year, I opted to try Funday Party Rentals. They had competitive prices for the bounce house I was looking for. I needed a smaller house around 13 x 13 and they had one available that worked with our color scheme. The cool part about Funday is that they also have (for rent) video game trucks and they are working on releasing a spa day truck too! How adorable for Princess Parties?!?! 

  Again set up and break down was easy and took little to no time. A tech comes to the house to set everything up for you and breaks everything down after your party is through. Funday also provides favors for your guest which is a nice touch of customer service.  


  Our entertainment didn't stop there. I mean what is a Paw Patrol party with out Chase? My mom was all over this one. Remember how I said she was a little over the top? Well I guess I know where I get it from because she set this surprise up for Cashton. I have never seen a bigger smile on my sons face than when Chase came strutting into the party to the Paw Patrol theme song. Cash immediately stopped what he was doing and sprinted in Chase's direction. He stopped a few feet short to check out the life sized figure, but once he knew all was good the high fives and hugs started flowing. 

  My mom set up this sweet gift through the nation wide company, Party Characters for Kids (Globe Party Inc). 






  With an amazing day of fun behind us I have so many people to thank for showering my son with love. Thank you to my Mom and Elena for helping us set up. Thank you to Alpha Lit Charlotte, Funday Party Rentals, The Little Baker Company, Angel, and of course a special thank you to Juan from de la Torre Visuals for capturing all of this memorable day on camera.

The Bar

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       Before we moved into our new home this room was being used as a home office. If you read my blog you know, I love my husband but he is not the tidiest person ever. Thus, there was NO WAY I was going to let his messy cluttered desk be the first thing you see when you walk through our front door. Sure we could have put French doors on this room but what I loved about our new house was how open our floor plan is and I didn't want to stunt the flow of our new airy design. 

I have always wanted a "parlor" or bar room and it wasn't hard to get Dallas on board with my idea of making this room our own personal saloon. When we bought this property, this particular room was simple with plain beige walls that felt unimaginative. My idea was to dress this space up in classy contemporary duds that felt both manly yet soft and feminine to keep with the tide of the house. 

Here are our before pictures of this room:




I wanted this room to be the best of both worlds, spotlighting each of our personalities, individually and as a couple. I used six principal pieces from our previous home to launch my creative style in the right direction. I wanted to play with textures in this room. I repurposed our old Pottery Barn Bar and Bar Sign, along with our Homegoods metal Strager "S" and linen chair. I pulled our old gray linen living room curtain into this room as well. They seemed to compliment the metals I was gravitating towards. (Budget hack: I took my two curtains and had a seamstress cut them into four. Saved me a ton!) Although none of these pieces worked together in the past, in this moment, it was the construction of this room that pulled all of my misfit furnishings together. 

Our contractor Gus of The Levi Group helped me design an elegant room with intricate molding and sleek glossy white walls. I told him "Before I put any furniture in here, I want this room to be beautiful on its own." Gus heard me loud and clear. I remember walking into our construction zone to roll out my new Homegoods rug as the finishing touches were being painted. I stopped dead in my tracks and said out loud, "God I can't wait to have a smoked Manhattan in this room!"

Another hurdle I needed to overcome in this room was the lack of light.  I had to have our contractor bring in an electrician to install wiring overhead and through the walls for sconces.

I REALLY wanted to use my old Pottery Barn wine glass chandelier that I saved from our old house but rod iron wasn't the right metal and Pottery doesn't make that fixture anymore. I looked high and low for another manufacture that might carry the same design but I kept coming up empty. Then someone suggested I refinish the piece myself. Now, let me just say I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into, but I did document this experiment if anyone is interested in refinishing one yourself. (Video below) 



Once the room was complete and furniture was placed it was time for the details. Our old "Bar" sign was constructed of silver metal and once we hung the centerpiece for the room I realized it needed to be gold. I had some leftover paint from refinishing our chandelier and our aupair Elena (Who has a design degree) offered to help paint the gold brush strokes through the once silver words. I found a silver and bronze cocktail tray from the Hearth and Hand collection at Target along with a bronze hammered corner barrel to displace wine on. I filled an empty vase with old champagne corks and ordered a bourbon smoker from William Sonoma. 

The room was almost complete. However, it was missing something I couldn't put my finger on and one day, while I was scrolling through Instagram, an ad came up for a "Press For Champagne" sign. Damn it Instagram, it's like you were reading my mind! (Or listening to my conversations, which we know you do.) I clicked the link and the moment I read the words "it really rings" I was all in! TAKE MY MONEY! 

With the missing piece in place, I walked behind the bar and made myself the best smoked Manhattan I had ever tasted. It tasted like success. I kicked back in my big linen chair and savored every sip. 



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