How To Create A Cozy Backyard Fall Fire Pit

 *This post is sponsored by Duraflame. 

During the fall, our weekends revolve around our kids and their "Friday Night Lights". This time of year we miss our weekend trips up to the Blog Cabin. However, we also enjoy every last minute of our football schedules that keep us anchored at home. Last weekend, I decided it was time to bring a little bit of the up north, deep woods, cabin feeling to our neighborhood back yard. With a little help from my friends at Duraflame, I'm going to show you how I threw together a cozy backyard fall fire pit setting with deep woods feels.

Before I get into the details, click on the video below to watch it come together...


My goal was to create a romantic, fall inspired gathering area where my family could meet up at night after the football games and late night practices commenced. I set the scene with comfortable chairs and some indoor elements to bring a sense of comfort and coziness. A couple light throw blankets and soft toss pillows from the living room did the trick.

A stack of large hay bails from my local farmer not only looked "fallish" but made really nice outdoor "end tables". Keeping safety in mind, I kept them far enough away from the fire pit that we wouldn't have to worry. 

I brought out a couple lanterns and filled them with coffee beans, battery operated LED Candles and bright red and orange leaves. A stack of pumpkins, a few small mums and a couple of large kale plants I picked up at the local nursery look so pretty and festive against fallen leaves and the woods in the background. To illuminate the area, I hung a few strands outdoor lights in the trees. 

To keep the fire starting and ending processes nice and simple, I opted for Duraflame's Crackleflame logs as opposed to real wood. After a long week I wanted the fire to start quick and painlessly. The Crackleflame logs gave out plenty of light and heat as you will see in just a moment. They are so easy to work with and the fire usually lasts about three hours. 

After using the Crackleflame logs, I decided I'm a huge fan. The packaging and the logs themselves are small and compact, but the fire is not! It's just right! And, when lit, the logs produce soothing crackling sound that is so authentic.

Take a look at some of the night time shots I snapped...

You can see that the fire was just the right size. It was big enough to keep us toasty warm, but not so big that we couldn't sit close. 

I think the best part about a Duraflame Crackleflame fire is the lack of bellowing smoke that usually accompanies a real wood fire. 

For the next few weeks, until we are able to make it back up to the Blog Cabin, you'll be able to find us in the back yard around the fire pit.

Stop by for a S'more and a glass of wine!

Back to the Design Studio, until the weekend that is! Then, you'll find me in the backyard. 

I currently have openings for new Online Design Projects (E-Design). If you're interested in getting started on a room makeover in your home, please click here to make your reservation.

*I acknowledge that Duraflame is partnering with me to participate in this campaign. As a part of the campaign, I'm receiving compensation and products. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Smart Tiles Peel and Stick Backsplash Reveal

*Today's post is sponsored by The Home Depot.

Today's post is dedicated to a fun DIY project I just completed in my home that turned out even better than I originally expected. I knew it was going to be good, but I wasn't expecting the result to be quite this amazing. You've gotta love it when that happens!

I've been wanting to install a backsplash in our kitchen for a while. I've been holding out because I'm planning to make some changes in our foyer that include a new tile floor. I won't be doing that for a while and I've been hesitant to commit to a new kitchen backsplash until I'm ready to tackle the foyer. They are close in proximity and I'd like the new tiles to coordinate. In the meantime, I've really been missing a backsplash. 

Here is a look at my kitchen without a backsplash...




Recently, I was approached by The Home Depot to try out a new product called The Smart Tiles,  and to write a blog post for The Apron Blog on the installation process. The Smart Tiles are a peel and stick backsplash product that you stick directly to the wall with no glue, grout or special tools needed. I read up on the product and the installation process sounded incredibly simple. I learned that the tiles are completely removable. I decided to give The Smart Tiles a try. I figured it would be a great way to try out a backsplash without committing to a permanent option, and I love to try new and innovative products. Especially when they are Do-It-Yourself friendly!

I didn't waste any time checking out the different colors, patterns and styles that were available. I visited, The Smart Tiles website and then ended up at the store so I could see the options in person. Two styles in particular jumped out at me. They looked almost identical to some glass tiles I was considering as a permanent option. One was a white subway tile style called Metro Blanco and the other was a shiny gray subway tile called Metro Grigio. I taped samples of both styles to the wall to help me decide which one I liked best. The gray subway tile was the winner, I loved the way it looked with my black countertops and my fresh new paint color (Anonymous by Sherwin Williams). 

The Smart Tiles website was a great resource for information. There was a short video for every step in the process showing how simple the installation is. I watched all of the videos before collecting my supplies and diving in to the project. From beginning to end, it took me less than two hours to install The Smart Tiles backsplash in my kitchen. Once I got started, and got used to the process, the installation went very quickly.

Take a look...

To prepare my kitchen, I removed the electrical plates and wiped the walls down with TSP. As the walls were drying, I collected my supplies...A cutting mat, a cutting knife, ruler, tape measure, a pen, straight edge and a level. 

The entire installation process was very simple. The trickiest part was making the cuts around the electrical outlets. I will admit, I made a couple mistakes when I made my cuts for the first outlet, but after that, I had the hang of it and the rest of them were a breeze. I used a ruler to measure the height and width of each box and transferred that measurement to the piece of tile so I could make the appropriate cuts.

After completing my project, someone suggested to me that instead of measuring for the outlet cuts, I could have just used one of the tile backings as a template and then traced the shape of the outlet onto the tile that needed to be cut. Smart! This topic brings up a good point, it is a good idea to purchase enough tile that you have a little extra just in case you do make a measuring or cutting error. 

This is the point in the process where I got a little creative. The way my kitchen is set up, I had to end my tiles in the middle of the wall. This required me to finish off the edges. Smart Tiles sells a finishing edge for this purpose, it's a nice shiny silver strip that can be cut to size and sticks to the wall just like the tiles. However, I decided to customize the look in my kitchen a use decorative wood trim instead. I simply cut the wood to size, mitered the corners on a 45 degree angle and applied them to the wall with a nail gun. Caulk and a coat of paint finished it off perfectly.

Here's a quick video I created to show you how simple this project was...

Now that you've seen how easy it was to install, are you ready to see how the entire kitchen turned out?

Take a look...

As you can see the new backsplash inspired me to bring in some new accessories. I styled the space with some simple, but pretty pieces. I chose things that were light in color to contrast with the new gray tiles and black counter tops. Bringing in the light elements keeps the space feeling light and bright, even though there are some dark design elements. 

I found a gorgeous new rug at, The Cambridge Black and Ivory Round Area Rug. 
What I love about this rug, other than it's good looks, is the forgiving color palette and pattern. This is a great family friendly choice for my busy kitchen. 

I like to keep my cookbooks handy, especially in the fall. I brought them out and stacked them neatly  on the counter along with some faux herbs. I placed the herbs in some pretty, white, textural pots. Using white accessories really helped to make the new backsplash pop. The contrast of light elements against the dark gray tile creating dramatic contrast that I happen to love. 

In the kitchen, I think it's important to "style" the space with practical and useful items. It keeps the look from appearing staged, plus, let's face it, there are certain items we use daily that end up on the countertops anyway. 

When I first signed up to try out The Smart Tiles, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. I felt like the installation process seemed way too simple for this to look as nice and I would like in the end. However, once I started the installation, I immediately fell in love! I think if you are looking for a quick, weekend project, that requires little skill and very basic tools, this would be a good fit for you. 

I feel like the new backsplash has really made a difference in the overall look of my kitchen. It feels much more finished. Although the color of the tile is dark, it makes the space feel brighter. The tiles are very shiny and reflect so much natural light. Our kitchen tends to be dark, but after adding this reflective design element, it really came alive. It almost seems to dance with light. 

The best part of this entire process was how quickly it came together. I was able to give my kitchen a fresh new look in just a few hours. I didn't have to buy a bunch of special tools, and it didn't take multiple trips to the store to gather supplies. My opinion, is that The Smart Tiles backsplash looks quite authentic. Everyone who has visited since the installation has been surprised when I tell them it is a peel and stick tile and not a real glass tile backsplash. It was fun to see my husbands face when he came home from work the day I installed it. He thought somehow I tackled a real, glass, subway tile backsplash, all by myself in just a few hours! 

Thanks for stopping by and letting me share my latest DIY adventure with you. Be sure to check out all of The Smart Tiles style options over at The Home Depot.  For ideas and inspiration, check out The Home Depot Smart Tiles Board on Pinterest! Thanks to The Home Depot for providing me with the Smart Tiles product and compensation in order to facilitate this sponsored post. 

Back to the Design Studio!

I currently have openings for new Online Design Projects (E-Design). If you're interested in getting started on a room makeover in your home, please click here to make your reservation.

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with me to participate in this Smart Tiles Program (the “Program”). As a part of the Program, I am receiving compensation in the form of products and services, for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

My Elegantly Spooky Halloween Decor And a Giveaway!

*This post is sponsored by Balsam Hill. 
Don't forget to leave a comment to enter my Halloween Decor Giveaway before you leave! 

Every year, on Halloween Night, we have a party. My kids' friends and their parents gather in our home for dinner, drinks and Trick or Treating. It's one of our favorite days of the year, so I usually go "all out" when it comes to decorations.  I got a head start this year thanks to my friends at Balsam Hill who invited me to join their Tricks and Treats Blog Hop.  

This year, my goal was to keep the look fun and whimsical and to capture the spooky essence of the season. But, I wanted to do it in an enchanting and elegant way. I wanted my Halloween decor to complement our everyday home decor. In other words, I was going for a look that appealed to me as much as it does the kids. "Elegantly Spooky" is what I call this years' theme. I brought in some beautiful foliage, candles and decor from Balsam Hill to capture this look in a few areas of my home. 

On the Mantel...

I began in the Living Room on the mantel. I often joke that ever since I painted my fireplace black, it lives for Halloween decor. The Halloween Night Wreath and Swag from Balsam Hill's new line of foliage was the perfect adornment and proved this theory true. This lightly flocked, blossoming foliage features large, black, dahlias and magnolias against dark needles and twigs. Entwined throughout the swag and the wreath are warm, glowing, orange, battery operated lights that create a magical ambience at night. The lights happen to be my kids favorite feature. 

To hold the swag in place while our house is rocking with 30+ kids, I anchored it with some antler stocking holders from my Christmas stash. Antlers are often found around here in the fall, so I figured they "worked" with my theme and also lent a little whimsy. I loved the way the white antlers popped against the black foliage so much that I took the look a little further and added some white pumpkins. To soften the high contrast palette and to give the mantle some of that "pretty factor", I added a large bow and loops made from decorators wire ribbon to the swag and the wreath. The gray tone of the ribbon picks up on the gray leaves found in the swag and wreath. The graphic pattern complements my living room rug and other room decor.

I removed the glass globes and white candles that usually rest on my iron sconces and replaced them with Halloween Night Candle Rings from Balsam Hill that coordinate with the Swag and Wreath. I finished the look off with chalky, black, Balsam Hill Miracle Flame LED Wax Fall Candles. 

In addition to being the perfect companions to the black foliage, these candles feature a no-worry, battery operated LED flame. This will allow us to enjoy the warm glow and flicker of candles without the worry of having real flames so close to the pretty foliage. 

On the Coffee Table...

During our annual party, we use the coffee table to serve snacks to our guests. I thought it would be nice to add something pretty here, but didn't want to take up any valuable serving space. When I saw these Halloween Glitter Globes, I knew they'd be perfect. Nothing says "Elegantly Spooky" like a black cat, a haunted house and a raven being swirled in black glitter. These globes are pretty enough to be in the center of the room, tall enough to command attention, but slim enough that they still leave plenty of room for a big bowl of cheese puffs. 

In the Breakfast Nook...

Speaking of snacks, we have a tradition in our home during the Halloween season of making our favorite Peanut Butter Cupcakes and keeping them by the dozens in the freezer (I'll be sharing the recipe with you in just a moment). This year these yummy treats are moving up in ranks, they're coming out of the freezer to be featured in a table centerpiece. 

I'm placing the cupcakes on a pretty cake plate covered with a vintage bird cage along with a stack party supplies and Balsam Hill Miracle Flame Fall Candles surrounded by their Halloween Nights Candle Rings on the table top.

These Miracle Flam LED Candles have become a family favorite in our home. My kids love them, because they look so real, it gives them a chance to fake out their friends. My husband loves them because they come with a remote control (which is extremely handy, I must also admit). The remote allows you to control the brightness and flicker speed of the flame! You certainly can't do that with a real candle. I love them mostly because they give me freedom to decorate with candles wherever I want, whenever I want, with no worries. 

It wouldn't be very nice of me to brag about these candles without giving you a chance to score them at a discount, would it? So...

By using coupon code BOOCNDL you can get 20% off on Balsam Hill's new Miracle Flame LED Wax Pillar Candles and Outdoor Miracle Flame Pillar Candles now through October 31 2017!

Skeleton cupcake foils gave our Peanut Butter Cupcakes whimsical Halloween flavor, while my transfer ware dishes, carved wooden chargers and pretty table linens will keep the table styling classy and sophisticated. 

I love the way the candle and candle ring look perched on the gray cake plate next to my bird cage cupcake centerpiece. One of my favorite things to collect are cake plates and serving pieces. Not only do they come in handy while entertaining, but they are also fun to decorate with. I find a lot of cake plates at thrift shops and discount home stores. I keep them stacked in my ladder shelf where they are easily accessible. 

In The Powder Room...

 In our Powder Room, the paint color is dark which naturally gives it a moody feel. I'm playing that up this year by turning off the lights and adding a warm, dark, enchanting glow with candles placed inside these Black Pumpkin Halloween Luminaries. These luminaries work great outside, as well as indoors. I placed some on our Front Porch steps as well as here, in our Powder Room.  

On The Porch...

The last stop in my "Elegantly Spooky" Halloween tour is our front porch. I wanted to show how cool these Pumpkin Luminaries look at night...

These guys look so cool with the warm glow of a real candle or an LED battery operated candle. The outside is black and the inside is orange, the contrast is amplified once they are lit. 

What I really love about them is they are nice and substantial. They are much more practical than a light weight, paper bag luminary. They can withstand the elements on our Michigan porch much better. The only one in our home who is a little unsure of these is Murphie. He keeps a good eye on them. 

Now, as promised, I'm going to share our top secret cupcake recipe. First, I need to warn you that these cupcakes may be the most amazing thing you've ever tasted. I came about this recipe years ago, completely by experimentation one day while baking with my young nephew.  Ever since that magical day, we've kept this recipe close to the chest. I decided after many years of keeping it a secret that I should share it here on the blog so you can enjoy these little pieces of Heaven also. 

Here's what you will need:

1 Yellow Box Cake Mix
1 Can of Vanilla Frosting
Smooth Peanut Butter

The first step is to prepare the cake mix as directed on the box. Before pouring the batter into your cupcake tins, add a blog glop of Creamy Peanut Butter to the batter and mix well. (We determined a "big glop" is approximately the equivalent of 1/3 cup). Bake the Cupcakes as directed on the cake mix packaging and allow them to cool in the pan. Before frosting them, add a medium glop of Peanut Butter to the can of frosting and stir well. (A "medium glop" is approximately 1/4 cup).

 Once you have the cupcakes frosted, place the entire pan of cupcakes into the freezer and allow them to sit for a few hours, until frozen. Once they have hardened, you can then remove them from the pan and toss them in a freezer zip lock bag where you will be storing them in the freezer until it's time to enjoy them.

The reason for freezing these cupcakes is two fold. First, the obvious, freezing them allows you to plan way ahead. You can make them when you have time, keep them fresh in the freezer and pull them out just before a party. The second reason I freeze these cupcakes is to make them stiff enough to toss in my kids lunch bag. By the time lunch rolls around, they are thawed out perfectly for eating, but not so soft that they've been smooshed in their backpacks. 

Thanks for stopping by today. For more elegantly spooky decor ideas shown in "real home" settings, (using gorgeous Balsam Hill decor), check out French Country Cottage, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia,  Simply Designing and The Balsam Hill Blog. 

Giveaway Time!

I'm giving away one of my FAVORITE Balsam Hill Halloween items. One lucky reader will win this fantastic, vintage inspired, Spider Candy Bowl. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post with your name and email address and share a quick Halloween tradition or memory. One winner will be selected randomly and notified by email on Monday, October 16th. 

This large scale bowl filled with candy would make an adorable table centerpiece or buffet accent!

For gorgeous Holiday Decor ideas for any season, be sure to stop by the Balsam Hill Blog. 
You can also follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. 

We currently have openings for new Online Design Projects (E-Design). If you're interested in getting started on a room makeover in your home, please click here to make your reservation.

*This post is sponsored by Balsam Hill. 

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