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!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Craigslist Find Gets a Facelift

I found this dresser on Craigslist for a decent price. I didn't love the color/finish, but it was the size and style I was looking for and the fact that it was real wood meant it wouldn't be too difficult to re-finish. And then I realized this about re-finishing furniture: it's not an exact science. It's not like baking where you follow the same steps each time to get the same result. No, you have to make accomodations depending on your particular piece.

I started off this project like a I do most real-wood projects: liquid sandpaper. As I've said before, this product is great because a) you don't have to use a sander or sandpaper and you get the same result (without the dust!) and b) the sanding step can double as a wiping-everything-down-since-paint-won't-stick-to-dirt step. So, yeah - for someone who can be impatient and just want to get a project done, any time I can combine steps, I am happy.

But then that's when things got dicey. First I started with a foam roller, but even after several (several) coats, you could still see lines and the coverage wasn't great. Also, I was using a craft sponge on the drawers and smaller areas where the roller wouldn't fit and the coverage wasn't great there either (even though I had just used a craft sponge when I refinished a chair and it worked great). So there - you have to be ready to make some changes. So, after getting frustrated that this project was going nowhere fast, I took out the fattest, widest paint brush I owned and started spreading the paint in thick layers and - like magic - I was pleased with the result. I was almost to the point where I thought I would need to spray paint the thing (and actually I tested a small area with spray paint), but that proved unnecessary once the paint brush worked out.

The finished product, following a trip to Home Depoot and selecting new hardware:

(We just painted our bedroom. It's called Balmy Seas by Behr. I LOVE it, especially against the white. We are slowly re-doing our bedroom, so hopefully I will some projects to share from that soon.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wondering what to do with all those jars you save?

I was! I love glass jars and usually can't bear to throw them out once we've used up all their contents. So after peeling off the label, I shove them into a cabinet that has become over-run with glass jars of all shapes and sizes. Don't get me wrong - they are definitely useful. In my house, glass jars without lids are a perfect vase for small flowers from the garden or an impromptu votive holder. We use jars with lids to shake up quick vinegarettes and to store leftover sauces (the glass doesn't stain the way plastic does). I few days ago, though, I knew I had to purge our jar cabinet and thought of this great craft to put those jars with lids to good use.

All you need for this project is spray chalkboard paint (I picked mine up at Home Depot), painter's tape (or masking tape), a jar with a lid and chalk. If your lid has a design on it that you don't love or you want something more nuetral, just paint the lid! You could use the chalkboard paint, or a color that goes with your kitchen - spray paint should do the trick. The jars I am using are Fresh Market Jelly jars. We get raspberry, in case you were wondering, but the jar is the same regardless of the flavor. Anyway, I really like the shape of these jars and the fact the lid is plain. They're also a great size for this particular project. I feel like we buy jelly pretty frequently, so we constantly have these jars lying around.

Once I have all my materials, I tape off the section of my jar that I am going to paint like so:
Then I paint the area with the spray paint. I got a little bit of paint on my thumb nail, which I suppose I could then use to write very short, temporary messages to myself in chalk - or just use fingernail polish remover to get it off. You could always wear rubber gloves to keep from getting dirty. Once your area is painted, let it dry. If drying inside, put on a paper towel or paper plate to keep paint off your countertops. It's your choice if you want to do more than one coat - probably a good idea for longevity's sake.

Once all your coats have dried, peel back the tape to reveal your painted area. If any paint got on the jar in an area where you don't want it, just use a utility knife or you ever-available thumb nail to scrape it off. Don't worry if your jars aren't perfect - these are handmade, not a mass-produced piece! Besides, just tell yourself that whatever flaws you see, someone else probably won't even notice AND it just makes it unique! Next, fill the jar with whatever contents your heart desires and label accordingly. I made two to give as a hostess gift. I also had the idea of filling a jar with my family's favorite chicken spice rub to hand out as a last-minute gift.
What would you put in these jars?