Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wall Decor - Part 8: Shadowboxes

And you thought this series was over! No way! After taking some time off to enjoy the holidays, this series is back on!

I think shadowboxes are a really interesting way to display family artifacts that keeps your home clutter-free. We all have those little knick knacks that are important to us or are meaningful to our family - but what to do with them? If you want to display them and they don't easily fit into a standard picture frame, shadowboxes are awesome! And I say they keep your house clutter-free because your objets d' arte are contained behind glass instead of gathering dust on a table or shelf somewhere. Also, shadowboxes let you combine both pictures and 3D objects.

This is a shadowbox I made several years ago after our wedding. We had my husband's boutonniere that had dried really beautifully and a picture of my mom pinning it on him. I combined that with some luggage tags from the reception and a few more pictures and voila! - instant memories.

You could use a shadowbox to display all kinds of things: an abandoned bird's nest you found out on a walk, ticket stubs/photos from a vacation, a bringing home baby outfit with hospital bracelets and photographs - seriously, the possibilities are endless.

Michael's has the best selection of shadowboxes that I have seen, but I've also seen them at Target and Joann's. The one in my picture came with several straight pins that I used to secure the boutonniere to the canvas backing, which was helpful. I used black photo squares to "frame" my pictures in the shadowbox and then attached the photos to the canvas using double-sided tape. Occasionally I have to go in and re-attach a photo square that has fallen off, but I feel like that kind of maintenance is minimal compared to the dusting I would have to do, or the finding a place to store the boutonniere without it getting crushed.

Obviously shadowboxes aren't for everyone - if you're not a big saver and you don't mind pitching family relics and just holding on to a photograph of it, that's fine too! But for those of us who want the Actual Object, I highly recommend shadowboxes!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Breathing New Life into Old Wrapping Paper

I realize that posting this three days before Christmas may not be helpful to anyone, but hopefully you can use this idea for other non-holiday wrapping projects and next year as well!

As I was getting ready to wrap a few presents for Christmas this year, I realized I had paper left over still from years past and decided that, instead of going out and buying new rolls of paper that I probably wouldn't use up completely (thus adding even more to my holiday stash), I was going to use up what I already had and then buy new paper next year.

I decided to go with a rustic sort of look because the paper I had had an old-fashioned feel to it. Instead of using the traditional ribbons and bows, I bought a spool of jute from Joanns and used that as my "ribbon." You could also use twine, which I have seen at hardware stores for $8 or so a spool. The jute (I think that's what the store girl called it) is in the jewelery-making section of Joanns and cost me about $1.70 for the entire spool. The girl who led me to it said that it's cheaper because it is "less refined," which was fine with me because that's the look I was going for anyway!

For gift tags I used (free) paint chips in holiday colors that I picked up on a trip to the hardware store. I have been meaning to write about paint chips for awhile - I love them! I use them on gift tags year-round. They are great because they add a splash of color and fun and, sometimes the color's name somehow relates back to the recipient or to the gift itself. For instance, if I'm giving a gift to someone who I know loves to bake, I might write "happy birthday!" on a paint chip in the color "Wooden Spoon." I think it's a really cute way to add some color and it's unexpected too. I also use paint chips as book marks or I'll have a stack of them and use them to jot quick notes to myself. They are great because I love color, but won't necessarily use a bright orange in my house somewhere, so I still get to enjoy it on a much smaller scale without the commitment of actually painting something in my house that color.

Below is a picture of the finished product. I was pleased with the overall effect and the $1.70 price tag! I look forward to using the jute throughout the year on other packages as well, or perhaps recycling it for next Christmas as well!

Hope your family has a great holiday!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All-Purpose Natural Cleaner

So in my continued quest to use more plant-based, chemical-free cleaning products, I found a recipe* for a homemade all-purpose cleaner online and decided to give it a try. In order to give full credit, you can look at the original recipe that I found online here.

Here is the recipe:

SuperFantastic Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
1. Mix 1 Tbsp Borax and 1 tsp baking soda in 2 cups of warm water.
2. Add 1/2-3/4 tsp tea tree oil.
3. Add 1/2-3/4 tsp liquid Castille soap (like Dr. Bonner's).
4. Pour mixture into a spray bottle.

While some of these items (okay, baking soda) were easy to find, I found the rest of the ingredients somewhat challenging to track down. I found the Borax in the laundry section of Super Wal-Mart and the tea tree oil and Castille soap at the health food store in town in the health/beauty section. The Borax was relatively inexpensive - $2.98 - especially when you consider that you are using 1 tablespoon at a time. It will take you awhile to work your way through an entire box! Also, according to the box, there are a million and one other uses for it that I didn't even realize, so I look forward to getting my money out of it.

However, the tea tree oil and Castille soap caused me a little sticker shock. For half an ounce of tea tree oil I paid $6.49 (it hurts to say it out loud) and the Castille soap was $4.79. The Castille soap also has a ton more uses, but because the font is so small on the bottle, I can't tell you what any of them actually are. The Castille soap also comes in multiple scents, but I got the scent-free, baby formula because I wasn't sure how the other scents would compete with the Borax and tea tree oil. (UPDATE: At Target over the weekend, I saw that the store carries both Borax and Castille soap. The Borax is in the laundry section with the other stain removers and the Castille soap is with the organic cosmetics, near where the Burt's Bees products are. They have several scents available, but not in the small bottle size that I purchased from the health food store.)

I took a cue from the Pioneer Woman and took a picture of all my ingredients to help you know what you are looking for if you go out searching for these products. Making the mix was not hard at all and it actually made me a little bit eager to clean my bathroom sink, just because I wanted to try it out. Of course, my spray bottle wouldn't work so it ended up being completely anti-climatic, but I had an extra one in the house that I poured the cleaner into and got going. Of course, now I don't have a means of disciplining my cat, not that the spray bottle was all that effective anyway...

I can report that the cleaner worked great. I also used it later that night to clean my kitchen sink and was again pleased with the result. My husband, who usually has an opinion about these things, couldn't pick up on the smell in the bathroom after I cleaned it, so I feel like it's a winner in our household. There is definitely a scent, though, as I found when I was mixing it all together and left the Pirex container on the counter. When my husband came home, he definitely smelled it then! Incidentally, I would recommend the Pirex container to mix up your solution because of the pour spout. Also, don't forget to label your bottle!

If you want to try this out but don't like the idea of spending money on liquid gold - err, I mean tea tree oil - you could always split the costs with a friend so you both can try it out. And you use so little of the Castille soap and tea tree oil in one batch, it will take me awhile to work my way through an entire bottle of either, so I feel like the expense is justified. Also keep in mind that this may ultimately replace all the bottles you keep on hand for cleaning your kitchen and bathroom, so while it may seem like a lot to spend right now, you hopefully won't be replacing those other cleaners once you run out. Again - my own rationalization!

When I originally set out to go more "green" in my cleaning, I thought I would let myself keep a few things that I felt like I HAD to have to get my house really clean, but now I am re-thinking that. For one, I thought I would really want to keep Comet around because it's so good at cleaning toilets and my kitchen sink, but apparently Borax can replace Comet for both of those uses. I also thought I would keep my Soft Scrub, but I realize now that I can either use Borax or even a sprinkle of baking soda to get the same desired result. So I think the only things in my cleaning arsenal now will be my vinegar & water mixture, this new all-purpose cleaner, Bar Keeper's Friend (for cleaning my stainless steel pots and pans), Clorox toilet bowl cleaner (although I might replace with Borax if I can get the same result once I run out of the other) and...I think that's all. I am torn on the Clorox wipes, because they are just so convenient! I will also still keep liquid dish soap and dish detergent as well.

Can I just say, I felt very extra-crunchy granola when I was cleaning last night with my homemade cleaner and homemade cleaning rags!

*Can you call it a recipe when what you're making doesn't involve food?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Coolest Bonus Room Ever - Part 2

We all remember when the spray-paint chalk board came out. And it was cool. It still is cool - but it is dusty. And I don't like dusty.

It was only a matter of time until the next generation creative wall covering surfaced, and it is here! Saw this on one of my favorite blogs, Design Mom.

It is made by a company called Idea Paint and it is paint on dry erase board. Brilliant. I see never ending fun, and maybe a future wall in my bonus room...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas traditions

I LOVE Christmas time, and I have high hopes of having family traditions that my kids look forward to each year and remember when they are grown. Fortunately, they are still little, so I have some time to plan. My son is under 2 and my daughter is a little-bitty so next year we will begin?

I have never been big on decorating cookies, probably I've only done store bought sugar-cookie dough and icing with sprinkles and such. Then I met Kristi. Check out here site: Sweet Celebrations by Kristi. If you are a Tallahassee local, you should seriously consider ordering some of her tasty and gorgeous treats for your next event. I am picturing them as wedding favors (they are individually wrapped) or a tray full for a shower or Christmas party.

They are so pretty and tasty. So that's my plug, Kristi, will you teach me to make pretty cookies so I can do them with my kids for years to come?

What are your family traditions this time of year?

Coolest Bonus Room Ever

So we are getting ready to move, and the house we are buying (*fingers crossed*) if nothing goes wrong has an awesome bonus room. This is super exciting for me! I have two little ones and a living room with lovely, but very hard wood floors.

I love having an elegant living room to host friends and family and bible studies and whomever else would come along. But I also have been dreaming about the perfect situation where I could have a big, carpeted bonus room that would serve as our true family room. And this room will be all FUN.

So the next few posts will be my crazy ideas. I post them here for fear that if I instead run them by my husband he will give me that look, you know the one...the maybe I should rethink buying this house look?

So for starters...from my last post, can't you just see these strung all in a row on the cool Ikea wire and clip mounting system? (too bad for Ikea they don't show the system online, you'll have to check out the store for neat, cheap display ideas.)

What fun, cheap art that is an awesome learning tool as well!

Super Rad Children's art

Found this website today and fell in love. They are called Children Inspire Design and I am inspired. So many lovely things. I want them all.

I just adore this collection of nursery rhyme prints and canvases. Wouldn't a little bitty room just look complete?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas is around the corner! - Part 3

Hosting Friends and Family - Part 1

An empty house just doesn't feel right at Christmas time. I love having a home full of people celebrating the holidays. I even enjoy doing it at my home, but there is not question it can be stressful. The best defense against holiday stress? A good list. (Don't I always say a list?)

The biggest saving grace I have found when doing Christmas at my home is a freezer and a menu.

Plan for every day people will be at your house, type it, print it and stick it on your fridge. I included not only what the meal was, but what needed to happen (ie. take out X from freezer, place in crock pot) so that I could look at it each day and prepare for the next. Also, it made it easy for guests to help cook. I put the recipes/cooking instructions on a second sheet and when my mom said "let me cook tonight and give you a break," I was able to accept gladly.

For the two weeks before guests arrive, begin your cooking. When you plan well and have time, you don't have to be crazy. Cook a couple of soups and freeze them in zipper bags. Bake some breakfast breads that can be thawed and set out easily each morning. Buy the fish or meats on sale and go ahead and make the marinades so that you can freeze them in it. Make your freeze ahead grocery list and a 'just before arrival' list. And just to be safe that the crazy is kept at bay, make sure to add a pizza night :)

I took this picture from which has some neat Christmas recipes for your winning Christmas menu.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Have you ever thought to clean...

...the door of your refridgerator?

I did this a few weeks ago and whew! - I could stock an entire condiments aisle with the bottles and jars I tossed (err, recycled)! Seriously, how did I let that area get so out of control? You know how people say the dryer eats socks? I think somehow the refridgerator door produces new bottles. At one point, as I pulled another bottle of some substance I never remember buying and have never used, I thought to myself: "Is there any way that these bottles are procreating?" How else would I get White Wine Worchester sauce? (Duh, you combine white cooking wine with Worchester sauce!)

Also, it's 2009. We moved into our house in 2007. I had bottles that expired in 2005. That means we moved expired bottles from one location to another. Maybe this isn't so nuts, since we were only moving across town and at that point I wasn't even paying attention anymore and just tossing stuff into boxes and bags to get it moved. But why would it have taken me Two Additional Years to realize this? Why?

And who knew bottles could get so dirty and leave little rings and drips everywhere? I don't remember ever having spaghetti sauce explode in my refridgerator (hello? husband?), but yet it was on. every. shelf. And how did cat hair get into my refridgerator? Who knew dust could accumulate in a refridgerator? The whole experience was baffling.

Seriously, run to your refridgerator. Open the door. Purge. You will feel so organized and accomplished (and maybe slightly disgusted with what you find)!

Happy cleaning!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas is around the corner! - Part 2

Part 2 - Decorating with Self-Control

I have a serious problem, I love all the beautiful things that come out around the Holidays and I want to walk into every store, give in to the perfect display and buy whatever they are advertising. Needless to say, we can spend a fortune!

(Here are some examples of my current temptations from Ballard Designs.)

So I'm making myself a promise this year, and maybe you can join me. I'm not going to buy anything (Other than a fresh Christmas tree) until after Christmas.

Place your decorations around your home, enjoy them this year. And make a list, if there is an area that is seriously lonely, write down where and if necessary take measurements. Then wait for those After-Christmas steals to get yourself something lovely that you can enjoy for many years to come without busting an already tight December budget.

Christmas is around the corner! - Part 1

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week? Now I know, I know, many of you hate seeing the red & green aisles in October, but I tend to be more plagued with the Come & Gone syndrome. I feel like I'm packing it up before I ever get to enjoy it! is a short series to help you enjoy this season a little more slowly and be better prepared for next year.

Part 1 - Giving Great Gifts

There are 3 questions we run into each Christmas:

1. What do I get for him/her?
2. Who have I forgotten?
3. How much have I spent?

Remember the binder I keep in my kitchen? Use this year round to be ready for Christmas and within your budget! This is a simple task, have a section for the Holidays and a piece of notebook paper for gifts.

Keep a running list of people you need to buy for as well as a target dollar amount. You can also make notes through the year of things they have mentioned they might like or ideas you have for them.

When you find a great sale (even if it's in April) don't be afraid to buy a great gift and stash it away. Just make sure you notate what you bought and who it is for, and if you are like me, where you hid it away!

Just wait, when the tree goes up you will already have most of your presents to go under the tree and without the week-before-Christmas stress, you'll be able to wrap them and tag them and place them below to look lovely all month.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dinner Made Easy

I just came across this site and thought it was so interesting and helpful, I felt compelled to share. For those of you constantly trying to figure out what to make for dinner, they provide WHOLE MENUS each day - not just a main course, but side dishes as well. They also have a very organized list of what to buy, what to get from your pantry and the tools you need. Then, instead of breaking down the steps like a normal recipe would in a big paragraph, they have each step bulleted and the order in which to do each step so that everything is done at the same time. Genius!

Here is the site:

This week their guest contributor is Patricia Wells, who has been very influential to Ina Garten (of Barefoot Contessa fame) and whom I love, so by extension I also love Patricia. One of the most appealing things about this site is they emphasize seasonal, fresh ingredients but in a way that isn't intimidating. You can subscribe to this site for free and each day they will email you a different menu. Obviously no one wants to go to the store each day upon receiving the new recipes, but what a great way to build your recipe collection!

Bon appetite!

Monday, November 16, 2009

DIY Fabric Headboard

As I have mentioned a few times, I have been in the slooow process of re-doing my bedroom. I wanted more color and less drab-ness and, after living in our house for over two years, I thought it was time to address our bedroom instead of ignoring it like I had done previously. When we were first married, we lived in a small apartment and did not have the room for a king-size bed (required) and a headboard or footboard (optional). Now that we have upgraded slightly and enjoy a little more room in our master bedroom, I wanted to have a headboard, but nothing that would push the bed too far out from the wall, as I thought a headboard that was mounted on the bed frame would. Thus, I began the task of researching how to make my own fabric headboard that I could mount directly to the wall.

To begin, I Google'd "DIY Fabric Headboard" and several helpful (and not-so-helpful) links popped up. After looking at several sites, I realized the basic premise was the same: you take a piece of ply wood and cover it with 2" foam, then batting and then fabric. If you want to include buttons on your headboard (which I did), drill holes into the wood prior to attaching your fabrics to the headboard. Once I had an idea of what needed to be done, I started putting together a game plan and gathering my supplies. (WARNING: This project ended up taking waaaay longer than I had originally thought and, for that reason, I did not take as many pictures of the process, just because I started to get tired and annoyed and just wanted the whole project to be OVER. If you have specific questions, please don't hesitate to ask, as I realize this post may not be a sufficient step-by-step guide in assembling an upholstered headboard.)

First off, I needed to figure out the size of the headboard that I wanted. For this, I went to the Pottery Barn site to see the dimensions of their king-size headboards. All of their measurements for height were from the floor since their headboards were attached to the bedframe, but I was still able to use this measurement because it helped me to figure out how tall my headboard should extend above my actual bed. As you can see in the picture below, I used painter's tape to mark the dimensions of the headboard on my wall, to give me a sufficient visual in imaging the finished product. Once I knew how high I wanted it, I then figured out the width, which was two inches inside the windows on either side. The final dimensions were 72" x 30". On to gathering my supplies...
On the sites that I read about fabric headboards, many of them touted how easy and affordable this project was. For me, I liked the idea of making a headboard myself because it would allow me to get exactly what I wanted at (hopefully) a fraction of the cost. So while a similar fabric headboard from Pottery Barn can cost as much as $900, my headboard probably cost about $150. Still a fraction of the cost, but more than I was expecting. I got lucky because I received a flyer from Joann Fabrics that had a ton of coupons for most of the matierials I would need so I was able to use those to cut down on some of my expenses.

Just to warn you: foam is expensive! I had no idea! When I originally saw the huge piece of 2" foam that I would need, I saw the price tag: $29. Then I read closer: $29 a YARD. Each piece comes in two-and-a-half-yard sections. If you don't need that much, you can always get them to cut it and you can buy exactly what you need, but I needed that much. EXACTLY that much. Luckily, I had a coupon for 40% off foam. Phew. But still - I definitely experienced some sticker shock. One thing to note: while you wrap your batting and fabric around your wood and staple it to the back, the foam just sits on the wood - no wrapping. If you haev one big piece of foam, you can just use the force of the batting and fabric to hold the foam in place. If you're like me and had to piece the foam together, you can use spray adhesive AND the force of the batting fabric to hold the foam in place.

Also at Joann's I bought regular batting, muslin (I used this as a layer between the batting and top fabric, because I was worried the bright green foam would show through, since my fabric was rather light) and a kit to cover buttons. Again - I had coupons for everything, so my total there was about $60. Without the coupons, that would have been the cost of the foam alone. I ordered my fabric from an online source and spent about $45. My wood from Lowe's (which I also had them cut) was about $20. The last thing on my supply list to buy were flush mounts, which ended up being the most elusive thing on my list. At Home Depot and Lowe's I got blank stares from the floor staff, or I was directed to the electrical department because they thought I was talking about lighting fixtures. I also tried Ace Hardware and got a blank stare from them, but then printed a picture of what I was talking about (instead of trying to explain it with my hands) and went back to Ace - bingo! They had exactly what I needed. The very helpful salesperson also set me up with all the screws and anchors that I would need. Little did we know we should have bought several more screws and would have saved me a trip (or two) later in the day :)

Once I had all my supplies gathered, I recruited my husband (this was NOT a one person job) and we picked October 31 (a Saturday) to begin this project. Little did we know this date would prove somewhat ominous. First we set out mounting one half of the flush mounts to the wall. I have them pictured below. They are really genius if you ask me. You attach one mount to the wall and the other to whatever you are hanging and it literally creates a mount that is flush against the wall...perfect! We were extremely careful in this step, as we have a history of rounding up to the nearest millimeter and the whole project getting messed up. I assure you this day was no exception!

Once we had the mounts on the wall, we then went to work attaching them to the wood. I would recommend attaching them to the wood before you start on the fabric step. That way you have clean edges to measure from and ensure your measurements are more accurate. Once we had them attached to the wood, we decided to go ahead and attach the wood to the wall, just to check our measurements. Disaster. I have no idea how, given our painstaking attention to detail, but the thing was crooked! It was after two more trips to Ace for screws and/or anchors that we realized no two measurements were the same, whether we measured from the floor, floor board, ceiling or crown moulding. It was like I was in the Twilight Zone, which is what made the fact it was Halloween seem even more ironic.

Finally (FINALLY) we got the thing straight enough that we could live with and moved on to attaching the fabric to the wood. First, though, we had to drill our holes. Of course we did not have a drill bit that would give me the 1"-2" hole I heard was most helpful, so instead my husband did the best he could to give me the biggest hole his biggest drill bit head. He was such a trooper throughout this whole process! Once the three holes were drilled (I just centered them to the height and then spaced them evenly across), I used Elmer's spray adhesive to attach my foam to the wood. While the glue dried, I ironed my fabric. The glue didn't hold the foam PERFECTLY, but it kept it in place long enough for us to get the foam and fabrics attached.
We used a staple gun to first attach the batting and then we attached the muslin and, finally, the fabric. After each step, we went through and cut back all the excess. Also, we made sure to pull each layer really tight, but were careful to not go too tight so it wouldn't pucker the fabric. For each layer we would staple the fabric to either end and then turn it over to check our work. If we were happy with the result, we would finish attaching the fabric on the remaining two sides. This part of the project went the fastest and smoothest.

Finally, I used my new button kit to make three fabric-covered buttons. To attach them, don't try using a standard needle. Trust me. I am now the proud owner of a 5" needle (who even knew those existed?!). After experimenting with regular thread to pull the buttons tight, I switched to embroidery floss since a) it's a little thicker and could withstand the pulling and b) it's meant to be pulled tight. When the buttons still weren't as tight on the headboard as I wanted them to be I thought like MacGyver and nailed thumb tacks next to the holes, wound the thread around the tacks and then nailed the tacks the rest of the way into the wood, thus holding the thread tightly in place.
At last we attached the final product to the wall and - voila! - it stayed in place! At last we were done! You can see the finished product below. This was a long post...I think I want to go lie down in my bed, beneath my new headboard!

Again - I apologize for the lack of step-by-step instructions. Please let me know if you have specific questions and I will do my best to answer them!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Have you ever thought to clean...

...the OUTSIDE of your house?

A few weekends ago, when the weather was nice and I didn't break into a sweat upon stepping outdoors, my husband and I did some much-needed work in our very neglected yard. We raked, pulled weeds, he mowed - we saw so much progress in one afternoon! Something I tackled while we were outside was cleaning the exterior of my house.

Here's what I did: I took a big bucket of warm water and several of the rags I'd made to replace sponges, and got to work cleaning window sills and shutters and dusting off my front door . It almost looked like it had gotten a new coat of paint! There had been so much pollen build-up from the last several springs that I had never wiped away, and what a difference it made to have that stuff gone!

I also took a stack of newspapers and a spray bottle of a water-and-vinegar mixture and cleaned the outside windows on the bottom floor. This made a huge difference too. Lastly I took a broom and swept away any cobwebs that were lurking in the corners of the porch.

It's amazing how dirty the outside of your house can get! You really don't realize what a difference it makes to have all that crud gone until it's actually...gone. Short of renting a pressure washer, this seemed like a great first step towards improving and maintaining my house's exterior. Also, this chore can help you inspect areas of your house that maybe you wouldn't spend a lot of time looking at - I found a few shutters that needed their screws tightened to keep them in place, for example.

Hopefully I can make this an annual event each fall, after all the pollen from the spring and summer has passed!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Nature Nursery

A dear friend of mine posted some pictures of the nursery she is working on for her soon to arrive daughter. It was so gorgeous I am tempted to steal the whole thing and do it for mine. But for now, I'll just steal her pictures so you too can enjoy the eye candy. Just beautiful!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Old College Dresser Gets a Facelift

So in my continued quest to re-do my bedroom on a zero-sum budget, I have re-finished another piece of furniture. This dresser is one I used throughout college and is great condition, except that I didn't LOVE the way that it looked - it was sort of drab and dated to me. Since I already had a new dresser, I decided to give this piece a facelift for my husband (his dresser was one he had used since childhood and when I put clothes away, I had to shove them in a drawer and then quickly close it). It seems like our bedroom was the last room we put much thought in, especially when it came to buying new furniture, which is kind of sad! Here is how to get a great new piece without spending a lot of money. First, here is the before:

I know I said this in my previous post about re-finishing furniture, but it's not an exact science. Because the dresser wasn't really wood, I need to first apply a primer to get the paint to stick. This primer is awesome and sticks to almost anything:

I used the sponge roller to do several coats before going over it with my paint color. If I had been thinking ahead I would have done two things differently:

  1. Had the hardware store tint the primer - why make more work for myself with having to go over white primer with black paint?
  2. When I bought the primer, I would have taken it to the paint section and had them shake it for me in one of their industrial shakers - the primer was sitting on the shelf for so long that it had separated and as much as I shook and stirred, I couldn't get it to the right consistency. Luckily I had saved my receipt and was able to take it back to Home Depot and they shook it up for me.

I was going to use the same paint brush for this project as I had used on the white dresser, but once I started using it, the brush strokes were awful and I realized I needed to use a brand new paint brush to eliminate this. Thankfully I had an extra one in the garage and used lots of paint to cover the entire dresser and the drawers. I did two full coats and a third touch-up coat and that was it - the actual priming/painting only took two days.

The most fun thing to me about re-finishing furniture is you get to make it into a brand new piece. This dresser was so blah to me, but I knew with some hardware I could really add some visual interest. For several years I had been looking at the this dresser, but when I finally studied it, I realized that the top two drawers were smaller than the bottom three, but with the current hardware, you couldn't really tell. So, I decided to use knobs on the top two drawers and pulls on the bottom three - just to emphasize this difference. This meant I had to go through and fill in all the holes, which I did with wood putty, before I began the painting process.

I'm not going to lie - it got a little dicey at the end when we were installing the new pulls and sometimes our holes didn't match up. Thankfully, though, we made it work and I now have a finished product to show you:

I love it! I think with the wall color it really pops and my husband loves all the drawer space he now has (although now he can never remember where anything is).

Are there old pieces of furniture around your house that you are tired of looking at? Give them a facelift!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grout Stain part 2


I think that says it all. For $20 I transformed my kitchen/hallway tile. See how here.

Ceiling fan makover

I hate having a part of my home that I think ugly things about every time I look at it. I have had 2 years of ugly feelings toward this fan and its partner which hang over my living room.

I thought I had 2 options. Either spend $100+ each to replace them or attempt to take them down (from super high cathedral ceilings!), take it apart (hoping to reassemble correctly), and spray the metal with a wrought iron finish.

Now maybe you understand why I let this go 2 years! But my super-duper mom was visiting and suggested an easier solution.

We simply bought new globes for the lights from Wal-Mart where they were $4 each instead of $6-7 at Lowe's and HD. And a can of high quality flat black spray paint (again cheaper at Wal-Mart) and went to work.

The finished product was well worth the $35 it cost to re-do both fixtures, don't you think?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wall Decor - Part 7: Stationary

And you thought this series was over! Thanks to JI for keeping it going during my absence - a fabulous vacation in a far-off land (okay, Texas) that I will share a few photos from soon.

This is probably my favorite part of this series because I love (LOVE) stationary. It's such an easy, simple and cheap way to add a little something to your walls, but maybe one you have never considered before. In the picture below, this is one a set of notecards I received as a gift that were all of old-fashioned bathing beauties. I already had the frame and mat and, because didn't fit perfectly in the mat, I used brown kraft paper in the background - I don't even think you can notice. This is the perfect touch for the space next to the vanity in the guest bathroom - the colors are perfect and it's just a fun picture.

Next, here are some postcards we got on our honeymoon in St. Lucia. I loved how the pictures looked kind of old and how saturated the colors were. When I originally bought them, I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I knew the colors would look great in our house. Plus, they are historical buildings and areas on the island, so just the sense of history really appealed to me also. If you don't have enough postcards to do a series, just one would be fine, or maybe if you have three you could do three frames in a row. I just recently got frames for these...I don't usually buy things when I don't know how I will use them, but it's not as though I make it down to St. Lucia once a month AND storing postcards doesn't take up a lot of room! As you can see, I haven't yet found the perfect place for these in my house, which is why I have them sitting on a hamper in my hallway for this picture.

Lastly, while this isn't technically wall decor, I wanted to include it just to give you another idea of ways to use paper/stationary in decorating your home. I loved this mother-of-pearl frame the minute I saw it and had to buy it, even though I wasn't sure what I would put in it. (Again, I don't usually buy things when I don't know how they will be used - REALLY - but twice in this post I have contradicted myself! Maybe I have just become too practical in the last few years!) In the frame now is the cover from our wedding programs. The frame was kind of an odd size, but this fit perfectly and I loved the way the colors came together. It looks great on a bookshelf in our guest room and looking at it brings back memories of our wedding. Speaking of weddings, we also have our wedding invitation framed on the entrance table into our home. It was kind of plain, so I found a silver frame will some engraved leaves that really punches it up. I've also known people to frame their invitations in bigger frames with mats. What a great way to display the beginning of your lives together!

I hope you are inspired to start thinking about what to do with those beautiful notecards and postcards you either have lying around or see when you're out shopping. These also make great gifts for people. You can personlize it AND it's so original, anyone would love to receive it!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A favorite tool!

This is a tool I have come to depend on, it has so many great uses! Of course there is the basic window scraping function when you paint, but also for the outside of your windows when they get grimy.

I have a ceramic top flat stove, which I like because it is easier to clean but sometimes food gets cooked on and angry. A flat razor blade takes it right off and leaves it looking brand new!

I also carry it (closed) in my pocket when I mop, it does wonders for stuck on food and such on the tile. But don't use it on your wood floors or you'll be sorry!

I hope this handy $3 tool can make your cleaning easier too!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wall Decor #6

Am I allowed to do #6 if 1-5 weren't my posts? Well...again I was inspired by KM's series and I finally did something with a very naked wall in my living room! Here is said wall BEFORE and AFTER:

So I decided to go the fabric route. Total cost: $17!!!
That's right, $17 bucks.
One yard of fabric: $7 from JoAnn Fabrics
7 poplar sticks 1/2" square, 3 ft long (in the same aisle as dowels at Lowe's.) Don't buy these at the craft store, they are far more expensive than $1.44 ea.

The cool part of this project is you can make it to fit any area with squares or rectangles.

Step 1 - Use paper (I used wrapping paper) and painters tape to determine shape, size and placement of your design
Step 2 - Cut wood pieces accordingly, use wood glue to attach and staples at corners to secure your structures while they dry
Step 3 - Staple your fabric along one side of structure, then opposite
Step 4 - Fold and staple corners like you are wrapping a package
Step 5 - VOILA! Hang in place of your paper. The nicest part is they are very light weight and have a frame so you can just use straight nails. I used a level and put 3 straight nails in a level line for the large piece and 2 for the small. This way I could just scoot them left or right until it was just right.

Goodbye big empty wall. Hello thrifty, homemade wall art!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Freezer Chicken #2

I was inspired by KM's chicken post to share another suggestion for freezing lots of chicken.
Pre-Assembled Freezer Meals

I am a big proponent of freezing pre-assembled meals. By assembled I mean preparing the ingredients but not cooking the food (examples to follow.) I do this in two cases. One: If you look online and see there is a deal like the $1.99/lb chicken, you can do some pre-planning for your grocery list and plan future meals with that chicken and come home and assemble them. It will certainly take some additional time to do this, but save you time for future meals. Two: When you are cooking a meal anyways, prepare a couple of extra to freeze. Often if I buy meat in larger quantities than necessary for my household, I will buy two packages (6 chicken breasts,) prepare one meal for tonight and two to go in the freezer.

Examples would include freezing pounded, breaded chicken breasts for chicken parmigiana and when you defrost them, all you have to do is bake and add sauce. Or, a simpler option is freezing chicken in a marinade so that by the time it defrosts it is well seasoned. I find it is most helpful for things like fajitas where there is a lot of prep work in cutting up peppers, onions, etc and for small families a whole pepper is unnecessary for a single meal. You can easily get 2-3 meals prepped at one time and cook one, freeze the rest.

Once all your ingredients are together, drop it in a freezer zipper bag, label with cooking instructions, date and freeze. (I stole this picture from a blog called "Bunch of Cooks," because its a great example. The site is full of recipes so if you try any, report back and let us know how it was.) I try to keep a running list of my freezer inventory so I know what I have and don't forget until it's too late!

I was introduced to the site Saving Dinner and they offer "5 for the Freezer" menus/recipes. I don't like the idea of paying for recipes since there is such an abundance online from sites like However, for $2.95, it's not a bad value if you are just getting started with this method. They offer 7 different groups of 5 recipes for chicken breasts. The idea is, buy up chicken, spend an hour or so making up the marinades or what-not and freeze 5 meals that are different and at your fingertips, just defrost and cook! They even provide the shopping list and nutrition information. Check it out.

Here is an example of "5 for the Freezer" for chicken breasts Volume 1:
1. Apple Chicken Breasts
2. Caribbean Chicken
3. Chicken Satay
4. Country Fried Chicken and Peppers
5. Way Easy Chicken Stir Fry

Monday, September 21, 2009

I have A LOT of chicken in my freezer!

Right now Publix has boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale for $1.99 a pound. You can't beat that, people - not even with a stick! Any time chicken breast is on sale, we stock up in our house. And I mean STOCK UP. For the longest time I didn't take advantage of this kind of deal, though, because chicken usually comes three to a pack and we are a two-person household...what to do with that third piece? I know, why was I so stressed about that? But seriously, small details like that can completely overwhelm me.

So, one day my mom and I were somehow on the topic of chicken breast on sale and I told her my dilemma and, like any good mom, she immediately had a tried-and-true solution:

  1. Buy chicken.
  2. When you get chicken home, break it down into two-piece packs, wrapping first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil.
  3. Date and label the contents on the outside of the foil.
  4. Place in freezer.
  5. Take out, thaw and enjoy for dinner.

Seriously, this changed my life. So now I am undaunted with purchasing large amounts of chicken breast. I kind of make it a game - I bought every pack of chicken available that was under $3.50. I left Publix with NINE packs of chicken - that's 27 individual chicken breasts or 13 meals. (I usually buy an even number so then I end up with an even number of packages, but there weren't any left under $3.50 and I wasn't really keeping count.) Plus, I looked down at my receipt and saw that I had saved nearly $40 (CUARENTA DOLLARES) on this trip. It warmed my heart.

Now, if I am the only one home to unload and then unpack the groceries, I usually give myself a one-day grace period to package up all my chicken, but I wouldn't recommend going more than a day. I go ahead tear off all my squares of foil and label them with the contents, quantity and date. Then I start opening up my packages of chicken, ripping off a square of plastic wrap and use tongs to transfer the chicken to its new home. It's a great little system I get into - sometimes I feel like I work at Moe's and am wrapping up burritos.

When I am all done, I transfer them into the freezer and smile at the little packages that mean dinner for what seems like the next 100 years - or until the next time Publix slashes prices on chicken breast!

{Note: You don't need a lot of foil or plastic wrap for this project. My squares are maybe 10"x10", and that's being generous. Plus, you can always find foil (Walgreens sometimes has two for $1) and plastic wrap on sale. Start to finish, I probably worked for about 15 minutes and then had the kitchen cleaned up in under a minute.}

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Decorating by theme

I have learned through observation that I should never claim to 'collect' something, particularly related to decorating or I will receive hundreds of gifts in that vein. We have all visited (or been) this home at one time or another, where the owner has decided to carry a theme through several rooms, be it elephants, palm trees, roosters, etc. and soon everyone is giving her another version. Inevitably, the day comes where she is trying to find a place to display elephant #101 and realizing she secretly has come to despise elephants and fears she'll never be able to return from the theme that took over her home.

But this doesn't mean themes are to be totally rejected. As a matter of fact I love small groupings of themed items. Some are more obvious than others, they can be a gruping of wall items or on a shelf. Here is a combo from my home I really like.

I started with the wall pictures and later found the cage. The frame's bark finish and twig candle were added because they reminded me of a bird's nest.

Post a link to your blg so we can see your mini-collections!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Finding the time - Part 3 - The Insatiable "To Be Filed" Pile

Over the last 6 years I have sat down to file my "to be filed" pile approximately 3 times. I'm sure you can see the problem with this. Generally we are pushed to this point when we need a seriously important document that we are embarrassed to admit is in the mile deep pile...somewhere.

If you don't have this problem, please, share how you avoid it in the comments to save poor souls like myself who are drowning! In January 2009 I made a new year's resolution that I have actually kept (this may well be the first and last!) - my files are under control. Along with this system came the added bonus of bills paid on time and a more regular grasp on the state of our budget.

Part of my problem was my huge, unmovable file cabinet was on the opposite side of the house from where I pay bills and in a room I tend not to spend much time in. So I would allow my file pile to grow and then I would drop it in the drawer.

I happened to have one of these nifty portable file boxes. You can pick one up for $14 dollars at Office Depot or others for less. Mine even has a slot to a separate compartment where I immediately drop all bills and statements when I bring in the mail each day. The added bonus is, it fits neatly under my desk (a project from a previous post) and out of view.

I made files for all of the bills and statements that come every month or quarterly and titled them 09-"Name of bill", grouped them appropriately in hanging files, and added a few other topics such as "Medical records" with folders for each of our family members.

I also chose a day of the week that I put on my calendar as bill day. I make sure to sit down, pay all bills, file them in my nifty box, balance my checkbook (I use and love Quicken,) and finally take a look at where we are to date for our monthly budget.

Once I started doing this weekly, it became a breeze.

I can't wait until December when I get to spend a few minutes duplicating folders for 2010 and simply transfer over my wonderfully filed and organized hanging folders into the filing cabinet!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Finding the time - Part 2 - My trusty binder

Let me start by saying two things about my self:

1- I am by nature a methodical and system driven person. I like lists, I think they are cool. Yes really.
2- I have just had my second baby and in the process of learning to be a mother of two have rediscovered the severity of my need for order and processes to get me there.

Glad we got that out of the way, with it said, I want to share with you over the next few weeks a few of the methods that have helped me get my life under control. I know some people are more organized or systematic in nature than others, but I don't think this means we can't gain something from using tools that aren't totally natural to us. So as I share some of mine, please share some of yours!

These topics will span from finding time for chores and keeping appointments, making room for exercise and studying the Bible. Even deliberately carving out time or occasion for something special with our spouse.

Today? My trusty binder. I started keeping it a little over 2 years ago, when I moved to working part time from home and began preparing for my first child to arrive. Before then most of my 'planning' activities were work related and kept by computer on my blackberry and outlook, dinner was eaten out often and frankly, I was less forgetful.

(This one is a Russell and Hazel binder that is much prettier than my plain black, but any will do!)

This is a binder I keep in my kitchen at all times. It began with simply a to-do list in one section and a grocery/dinner section. I began stashing coupons here, recipes I planned to make this week and my master grocery list. The joy and convenience was it was all together.

The number of sections have grown since then to include a family calendar, my gym's schedule of classes, a section for babysitters that has my children's schedules as well as emergency contact info.

I try to put in here things that I need to always have at my fingertips in an organized and simple way. Simple enough that my husband can find what I am looking for if I call! What would you add?

I have mentioned Flylady before, and she suggests something similar called a "Control Journal." She even walks step by step through creating one of your own with different sections, check it out!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Finding the time - Part 1

All of us have met a super-mom, one of those amazing women who always have a smile on their face, a kind word to speak, with lovely homes and well behaved children, not to mention home cooked meals. And this is not a bad thing, it gives us something to aspire to, after all, God gave us the Proverbs 31 woman and heavens knows no one can truly do all those things! But I do believe we are capable of carving out more time and ordering our lives to be able to prioritize what is important to each of us.

Speaking of this magic woman, I love what the Bible says about her:

Pro 31:27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.

At its core, I think this means she attends to their well-being, but I also see a deliberation about the way she lives. She is thoughtful and purposeful in attaining good things for her family, and it doesn't happen if she sits around idle.

So for this series I would like to look at some tools, tips, methods, etc. that we use in our own homes to order our time and multiply our productivity. I would LOVE your input and ideas so let the comments roll in!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wall Decor - Part 5: Mirrors

I think decorating with mirrors is pretty fool-proof. For one, who doesn't enjoy a well-placed mirror to check their hair/outfit/face before running out the door or answering the door when the bell rings? Also - it is almost like a window that you can place wherever you want. You don't have to worry about it "matching" anything and can even make a room look bigger because it bounces around the lights and colors of the room.

Below is my friend Shannon's gorgeous living room. These mirrors are perfect - I love how each is different and it looks like a collection she compiled over time. I think details like these are what add "layers" to any room - instead of a room looking like you went to a furniture store, picked out a room where everything matched and brought it home, decorating in layers takes time, but also gives a room so much depth.

When I first wanted to post about mirrors, I realized I only had one such example in my own house (hence hijacking Shannon's living room for the purpose of this post). These mirrors I found at a great home/antique shop in town. I have heard you should always display items in odd numbers, so I purchased three and used ribbon to hang them in our guest bathroom (notice my new train rack reflecting!). If you have a collection of small hand mirrors that don't match - even better!

Again, I love decorating with mirrors because you can't go wrong. How easy is that?! And thanks to Shannon for letting me borrow her mirrored wall...she has a great house, so I may post more pictures from her house soon!