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!