Category: Projects

Wedding Anniversary Gift Guide: Modern Versions of Traditional Gifts for Years 1-5

My husband and I celebrate our third anniversary today (time sure does fly)!  We have always exchanged anniversary gifts that fit into the traditional wedding anniversary gift categories.  I always find it is fun and challenging to come up with a modern take on the traditional gift category that my husband will love!

For my post today, I thought it would be fun to round up some unique wedding anniversary gifts in the traditional categories for years 1-5.  And if you’re wondering, yes, my husband’s gift is on the third anniversary gift guide!

First Anniversary Gift Guide: Paper

Our first anniversary was affirmation for me that I married exactly the right man.  We had a trip to New York City coming up, so I purchased tickets to the Broadway play Book of Mormon, which we had both been dying to see.

Out of the blue, my husband called me and asked me straight out if I had bought tickets to the show for our anniversary.  He was in the process of purchasing tickets to the same show, when his mom told him to maybe give me a call first.  I could not stop laughing when I found out that we (almost) bought each other the exact same anniversary gift!

He ended up purchasing tickets to a chef’s tasting at an upscale Mexican restaurant instead.  We had a wonderful time at both!

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A Book of the Month Club (or similar book club service through your local bookstore) is a gift that keeps on giving!  Get this for your bookworm spouse and he/she will be thanking you all year long.


All the studies are showing that experiences bring more happiness than material possessions.  Put your money where the science is and get your spouse tickets to something fabulous – plane tickets, show tickets, music festival tickets, whatever y’all are into – and go experience something new together!


While photos on our phones are great, nothing beats the feeling of flipping through a physical book full of memories.  A photo book makes a great anniversary gift that you both will enjoy looking at again and again.


Everyone can use a notebook, whether it’s for jotting down notes from a phone call, meal planning and making grocery lists, or divulging your deepest secrets.  This one is beautiful (but plain old moleskines are great, too!).


One of my most treasured wedding gifts is an antique map of the Bahamas, where my husband and I got engaged.  A map is such a pretty way to commemorate a place that is special to you as a couple.  I love this travel map, in which you scratch the gold foil off the places you’ve been together.

Second Anniversary Gift Guide: Cotton

Our second anniversary was right in the midst of dealing with my shingles outbreak and a colicky newborn, so I was stretched pretty thin.  Fortunately my husband needed a new pair of pants.  He picked them out, I clicked purchase, and USPS delivered.  Sometimes marriage is about giving each other grace, and I am grateful to have a husband who is sweet and supportive when I’m feeling down.

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What says “I love you” more than a cozy blanket to snuggle up in?  One in your favorite color!  I adore this comfy throw in my favorite millennial pink shade.  It’s also available in slate grey, red, and frost blue.


My husband got this soft and stylish cooler as a groomsman gift back in August.  The size is perfect and the style is classic.  Put a cherry on top by filling this up with your spouse’s favorite beverage.


So you’ve been married two years now…  Your wedding registry sheet set has aged a bit….  Wouldn’t it be convenient to have an extra set?  Then, do like my husband did and get your spouse a brand new set of sheets!  This is the exact set he bought me.  They are ridiculously soft and comfortable.

10/10 would buy again.


For the spouse who has everything except for probably this beautiful crochet hammock – the gift everyone wants but can’t come up with a good reason to buy (until now, that is!).


Rather than buying your spouse a flower arrangement, take this category to the literal extreme and give them a cotton arrangement instead.  If Chip & Joanna say it’s cool, it must be cool.

Third Anniversary Gift Guide: Leather

There are so many good leather gifts.  I would certainly include vegan leather in this category, if that’s more your fancy!

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Get your spouse a nice bag!  I’ve been using this tote for years, and it looks as brand new as the day I got it.  The size is perfect, and the mixture of brown and black leathers make it wearable with most any look.


Does your spouse tend to be late?  This beautiful watch with a classic brown leather strap would be a perfect (slightly passive aggressive) reminder.

Is your spouse punctual?  Reward them with this beautiful watch with a classic brown leather strap.


My husband has a wallet/iphone case similar to this one.  It looks great.  It’s practical.  It would make a great gift for your third anniversary.


We’ve seen Birkenstocks come back in fashion time and time again, and for good reason.  These sandals are comfortable and classic for men or women, and as an added bonus, you can wear them with socks!

SPOILER ALERT: I bought these for my husband. 🙂


Another classic item that is fashionable year after year is a leather jacket.  I love this one, which comes in both black and a beautiful blush shade.

Fourth Anniversary Gift Guide: Fruit and Flowers

To me, this category seems random in a list of materials-type anniversary gift categories, but it’s fine.  I can work with it.

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I’m a sucker for succulents (LOL), and I bet your spouse will be, too, when they see this adorable planter.  Fill it up with cacti from your local plant nursery, water it once a week, and enjoy!

P.S.  I know succulents aren’t technically flowers, but I think this category should extend to plants as well.


Send your spouse some flowers!  Farmgirl Flowers is an American company employing American workers to cut, arrange, and pack beautiful American grown flowers for delivery across the continental United States.  Do it for America (and your spouse, of course!).


There are so many great coffee table books and cookbooks that fit the fruit and flower theme.  I especially love this one, this one, and this one.


I mean, what other opportunity would you ever have to send your spouse a fruit basket?  And bonus: there’s no way they can eat all that on their own!


Technically, wine is grapes, which is fruit.

Fifth Anniversary Gift Guide: Wood

This category was the most fun to browse and the hardest to narrow down.  Here are my favorite wooden anniversary gifts from across the interwebs.

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You probably don’t already have a beautiful wooden organizer shelf.  If you really want to blow your spouse away, hang something special from one of the hooks – a necklace, a leash for a new puppy, keys to a new car.  This gift allows you to get a little more creative than the category material might otherwise imply.


You got married five years ago.  Unless you don’t cook, your wedding registry cutting board is most likely on its last leg.  What a great reason to upgrade!  I love this one from Williams-Sonoma.  It’s hefty enough for slicing and dicing and pretty enough to use as a charcuterie board.


This gorgeous wooden and glass terrarium is unexpected.  Fill it with succulents and watch your spouse’s eyes light up with appreciation.


These rustic wooden editions of classic board games are so much fun!  Get your playful spouse a wooden version of their favorite childhood game.


So, be honest… Are you two still sleeping on your mix and match bedroom suite from college?  Do you even have a headboard?  If reclaimed wood is your aesthetic (and why wouldn’t it be?  It’s gorgeous!), then use this opportunity to get yourselves a new bed.  I love this one, but there are lots of less expensive options available.  Check out antique and consignment shops for beautiful pieces at lower prices.


If you’re anything like us, you have a lot of knick-knacks that need homes.  This pretty wood bowl is a great home for a collection of knick-knacks (or you could always use it for serving as intended).  We have this exact same bowl on our entryway table, and we have filled it with dog leashes.


Stay tuned for another traditional wedding anniversary gift guide in three years, when I start thinking about years 6-10!

Do you stick to the traditional wedding anniversary gift categories? 

Let me know in the comments below!


How To Write Thank You Notes

With Christmas behind us, it is time once again to show our gratitude for all we’ve been given by writing and sending thank you notes.  To me, thank you notes are an important way to show gift-givers your appreciation and a great exercise to reflect on your personal gratitude as well.

Thank you notes don’t have to be long or extremely thought-out – just a simple three to five sentences to let the gift giver know that (1) you received the gift and (2) you are grateful!

Step 1: Keep Track of Gifts

During or right after every event (Christmas, birthday parties, birth of a baby, etc.),  keep a running list of gifts you have received and from who.

I try to make notes about things I might mention in my thank you notes, such as if someone made special effort to stop by and visit, or if they came to a party we hosted, or if they’ll be in town soon.

As soon as possible after the event (within one week is preferable), sit down with your thank you notes list and get to work!

Step 2: Gather Materials

thank you notes materialsAll you really need is paper and a pen, but pretty cards certainly make writing (and receiving) thank you notes a little more special.  My favorite thank you cards are from Emily McDowell Studios, Rifle Paper Co., and Target (of course!).  I am obsessed with Pilot Precise V5 pens and use them for EVERYTHING!

Step 3: Acknowledge Receipt of Gift

thank you notesYour first sentence is simple: “Thank you so much for ______!”

Step 4: Compliment Gift or Gift Giver

thank you notesThe next sentence should be a compliment about the gift or about the gift giver, or if you are feeling extra gracious, then both!

Step 5: Catch Up

thank you notesThis is where the note gets personal.  Use a sentence or two to catch up with the gift giver.  This is where my notes from Step 1 come in handy!

Step 6: Thank the Gift Giver Again

thank you notesEnd with another thank you: “Thank you, again!”  And then sign your name.  And send (ASAP!).

Have you gotten all your thank you notes written already?

Let me know in the comments below!


How to Make Holiday Decorations Using Greenery from Your Yard

I love the smell of fresh greenery in the house, especially around the holidays.  Every year, I purchase a fresh wreath and swag to decorate with each holiday season, like the gorgeous examples below.  This year, however, I decided to get a little more creative (and thrifty) and make fresh holiday decorations using greenery from our yard.  I made a rosemary swag (which I hinted about last Friday) and a magnolia wreath, and they were both so easy and fun to make!

Rosemary Swag Holiday Decoration

During the Christmas season when I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I love to hang a fresh swag holiday decoration on the window above my kitchen sink.  I normally order a balsam or juniper swag, but this year I decided to use fresh rosemary from our garden instead.   It only took about 10 minutes to cut the rosemary and assemble the swag, and it makes my kitchen smell soooo good.

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Step 1: Gather Materialsrosemary swag holiday decoration


  • floral wire
  • fishing line
  • ribbon – I like to use the type with wire on the edges, but any kind is fine.
  • greenery – I used rosemary because that is what I had in the garden, but you could also use fir, spruce, pine, holly, or any other nice looking greenery that has a nice drape to it.

Step 2: Wrap Greenery with Floral Wire

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Bunch your greenery together wherever it looks most pleasing – I bunched mine about 1/4 of the total length down from the clipped end.  I also staggered the ends a little so that it looked more natural.  Wherever you choose, wrap securely with floral wire.  You can shape the ends to your liking at this point.

Step 3: Tie Fishing Line and Ribbon

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Measure the area where you want to hang your swag.  For me, this was from the hook above the window above my sink.  Double this measurement and add a few inches.  Cut this length in fishing line.  Loop the fishing line through the floral wire bunch and knot the two ends of the fishing line securely, making a big fishing line loop.  Next, tie your ribbon into a pretty bow around the floral wire bunch and through the fishing line loop.  I like to leave the ribbon ends loose.  Your swag holiday decoration is ready to hang!

Magnolia Wreath Holiday Decoration

Rather than spending $50+ on a fresh magnolia leaf wreath this year, I spent an hour of my time and only $11 on supplies that I can use year after year.  Not only did I save money by making my own special holiday decoration, I get so much joy from seeing something beautiful I created hanging on my front door!

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Step 1: Gather Materials

magnolia wreath holiday decoration


  • grapevine wreath – I got a 14″ wreath from Hobby Lobby (only $3.99), but you can use whatever size looks best where you want to hang it.  Remember, it will look about 4 inches larger across once you have the leaves on.
  • 80-120 magnolia leaves, depending on the size of your wreath and your preference on fullness – I have two magnolias in my front yard, so I cut the ends off a few low-hanging branches.  If you don’t have a magnolia tree, look for trees around your neighborhood.  One of my neighbors recently trimmed her tree and had branches and branches of leaves by the road waiting for trash pickup.
  • ribbon
  • floral wire
  • hot glue
  • scissors

Step 2: Cut Magnolia Leaves

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Cut each leaf off of the branch, leaving the leaf stems long.  While you cut, be thinking about what sizes you have and which leaves look nice together.  Toss any curled or diseased leaves or any leaves with bugs on them (I had a few with spiderwebs!).  Your hands will smell amazing when you finish this step!

Step 3: Group Leaves with Floral Wire

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Gather magnolia leaves into groups of 4-5 leaves with larger leaves in the back and smaller leaves in the front.  Fan them out a bit so that the leaves aren’t totally overlapping each other.  Tie the stems tightly with floral wire, leaving several inches of floral wire loose on either side of the group.  Leave 10-15 leaves loose to use later.

Step 4: Wrap Leaf Groups Around Wreath

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Wrap the floral wire from your magnolia leaf groups around the grapevine wreath.  To attach the groups securely, weave the floral wire through the grapevine and tie the floral wire together tightly on the back of the wreath.  Continue securing the leaf groups around the wreath such that each new group hides the wire of the previous group.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

When possible, I tucked the leaf stems underneath the grapevine loops to give it a more natural look.

Step 5: Fill Out with Loose Leaves
magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Take a look at your wreath and notice any bald-looking areas and any areas where floral wire is visible, especially around the interior of the wreath.  Using hot glue, adhere your loose leaves in an overlapping pattern consistent with the rest of your wreath.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

For me, the most effective way to glue the leaves in a way that looked natural was by putting hot glue on the stem of each leaf and then fanning out as pictured below.  This pattern secured the leaf to the wreath but left the major portion of the leaf to overlap naturally with the other leaves.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Step 6: Decide Which Way is Up
magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Look at your wreath from several different angles and decide which way you’d like to hang it.  One side of my wreath was naturally fuller than the other, so I decided this would be the bottom.  You may decide to fill out some more areas of the wreath at this point.

Step 7: Add a Bow and Hang your Wreath!

magnolia wreath holiday decorationTie a pretty bow and hot glue it in place.  Hang your wreath on your front door and enjoy!

Other Natural Holiday Decoration Ideas

Depending on what kind of plants you have in your yard, the possibilities for homemade holiday decorations are endless.  Here are some other ideas:

Pinecone Bowls

I don’t have any coniferous pine trees in my yard, but if I did I would put heaps of pine cones in textured bowls all over the house, like the beautiful shot below from Tracy’s Trinket’s and Treasures.

pinecone holiday decorations

Berry Garland

If I had any crochet skills, I would love to put together a gorgeous crochet berry garland like Freya Dowson‘s beautiful holiday decoration pictured below.

crochet berry garland holiday decorations

Mistletoe Ball

If I had mistletoe in my yard, I would put together a mistletoe kissing ball like Martha Stewart‘s, pictured below.

mistletoe ball holiday decoration

Have you ever used greenery from your yard to make holiday decorations?  Did you try one of the projects from this post? 

Let me know how it turned out in the comments!


hello marilu signature holiday decorations



Kitchen Remodel: Before and After

When we were house shopping several years ago, we had narrowed our choices down to two options.  Both houses had similar locations and price-points, and both were built around 1980.  One house had been recently renovated with wood floors, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances – the works.  BUT the other house, although it had ugly carpets and dated features, had beautiful old oak trees all over the yard, a gorgeous backyard view, and a sense of character and warmth that I could not stop thinking about.  If you know us at all, you know we went with the oak tree house.

One of the benefits of remodeling an older home yourself is that you can choose the new finishes to satisfy your personal tastes.  The downside is you must wait to fix things up as you can afford it… Last year, we pulled up all of our old, ugly carpeting and had engineered hardwood installed in its place.  This year, it was finally time for the kitchen to get some love and attention.  I mentioned awhile back that we were planning to replace our fake-granite laminate counter tops with white recycled glass quartz.  This project snowballed into new appliances and a backsplash installation as well, so I thought I’d update you on the entire remodel!

Here is a “before” photo.

I love the look of open shelving, but if you were to open our cabinets to see the haphazard mishmash inside, you would quickly see why that look would not work for us.  I like white cabinets, and since white cabinets are what we have, we just worked with what we’ve got!  We may end up adding hardware at some point, but I like the simple look without hardware just fine.

I have wanted to get rid of these faux-granite laminate counters since the moment I laid eyes on them.  I had always wanted butcher block counter tops, but after doing more research, I learned that they are more expensive and require more maintenance than some of the other options out there.  We went to Home Depot and looked at granite and quartz samples and settled on Silestone White Diamond, a white quartz with recycled glass pieces throughout.  I liked that it was a recycled product with a unique look, and I also liked that Home Depot was running a sale on it the week of Memorial Day.  We ordered the materials through Home Depot and then had Stone Interiors do the work.  The company included an undermounted stainless steel sink as part of the installation.  I had originally wanted a farmhouse sink but learned that installing one requires a specialist to come cut into the cabinets, so we went with the less expensive, more convenient undermount option instead.

Here is a photo of the White Diamond sample on top of our old laminate countertop.

For the backsplash, I had originally wanted a glass subway tile look like the Glazzio samples pictured below.  Chatham did not like these as much as I did, and once we looked at some samples together in our kitchen, I agreed.  The glass subway tile backsplash is a beautiful look, but we wanted something a little less modern.  We settled on a more rustic looking bluish-green glossy tile from The Winchester Tile Company and used a local company Tile Temptations to do the installation.

We did not have natural gas running to our house when we purchased our home, but Chatham did some research and learned that our local natural gas provider could run a gas line over from across the street, and it wouldn’t be nearly as much of an expense as we had imagined.  We both had always wanted a gas range, so this was a no-brainer for us.  Once the gas had been installed, we went back to Home Depot for their Independence Day week appliance sale.  We chose Kitchen-Aide stainless steel range, vent, and refrigerator, because we liked the look, feel, and performance.  I had always wanted a French door refrigerator, and the one we went with includes special drawers for produce and meat, too, which is great if you like to keep those items separate like we do.

“After” photos are below.  I am so, so happy with the results!

Rather than re-installing our old chrome sink faucet, we upgraded to a stainless steel faucet that I am loving the look and feel of.  It is all in one piece and the sprayer pulls out and hooks back magnetically.  There is a button on the spray head to switch from standard flow to shower flow.

To complete the remodel, I splurged on a few little extras from Williams-Sonoma – scrub brushes, a wire caddy to contain the scrub brushes, and a clear jar to hold all of my wooden spoons.  Their scrub brushes are great quality and worth the price.  And I of course had to add a hanging plant!

I am so glad to have our remodel complete!  I learned a lot in the process and have been thoroughly enjoying spending time in our new kitchen.

Have you done any kitchen renovations lately? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


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