Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall Decoration Tutorial: Cheap and Easy

Yesterday I went out to apply for a seasonal job. BTW, does anyone know of a seasonal job that starts in January? I'm trying to cover my seasons as a temp worker. :)
While I was out, I wandered into a large store mostly dedicated to home decorations. You know, pillows, knick-knacks, boxes that look like books, pink and purple Christmas trees, all your pressing needs. I almost bought a Christmas ornament, but it occurred to me that I should celebrate the season we are in currently.
I looked for an inexpensive but cute fall decoration, but even the cheap plastic wreath with silk leaves on it cost $15, so I left that store empty handed.
Then I went to Target and wandered into the dollar spot, where I found the supplies to make this super cheap and easy fall swag.
The finished swag. I actually made two of these and a garland, and I still have supplies to make more, for the low low price of $2
Supply 1: A $1 roll of gardening twine. Nice and rustic, perfect for fall.

Supply 2: A $1 package of 50 silk leaves. I've seen nicer, but these were two cents a leaf.
The only other supply you will need is a pair of scissors. I hope you have some of those kicking around.
Step 1: Fold your leaves in half and make a small snip near the top of the leaf. You want the slit to be just big enough to feed the twine through the slit. Twelve leaves should be enough for one swag, but feel free to use less or more, according to your taste.

Step 2: Cut two lengths of twine, with the longest piece twice as long as you want your finished swag to be, probably around four to five feet. Remember that the twine will get slightly shorter as you will be tying a bunch of knots down its length. Lay your twine pieces next to each other, fold them roughly in half and tie a knot in the top. You will have four twine pieces hanging from a central hanger. This looks nice if you purposely make sure that the ends of your twine are uneven.
Step 3: Feed one piece of twine from your bunch through the front side of the leaf. This will help it hang nicely from your swag.
Step 4: Pull the twine through the back of the leaf.
Step 5: Tie a knot in your twine where you would like your leaf to fall. Tie another knot around your first knot to ensure that your leaf doesn't fall off the twine.
Step 6: Repeat steps 3-5 on all four twine pieces, evenly spacing your leaves along each twine piece. Trim any excess twine off the bottom of your swag, and hang your decoration on your door, from a cabinet knob or curtain rod, or at the side of a doorway. Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nine Eleven

(I apologize if this is weird and disjointed. I needed to get this off my chest this morning.)
I slept late this morning. My dear husband worked until midnight last night and I always feel compelled to stay up for him. Then he went to bed before me because he had to be up before God this morning. (He's sleeping again now, so that's good)
When I woke up, I was thinking about everything I need to get accomplished this week. I went to the kitchen, looked at the calender, determined it was Thursday and started a list titled "Goals for 9/10-9/14". After I finished the list, I did the same thing I do every morning. I logged on to check Facebook and e-mail. That's when everything stopped. I had the wrong day. It's not Thursday, it's Friday. And it's not 9/10, it's 9/11.
First, the tears came. I don't know if 9/11 will ever come in my lifetime and I won't feel sorrow for the tragedy of that day. I hope not.
The second thing that happened was I stopped to consider how 9/11 affected me personally. I watched every bit of the news coverage that morning eight years ago, on the coincidence that I was in a place with the morning news playing. And even though I drove around with my boyfriend at the time looking for a place to give blood, that day didn't seriously immediately impact my life. I still interviewed for a job on that very day. I got the job, I moved, I shopped, I went out with friends, I tried to adjust to life outside of college, and I stayed wrapped up in my own little world and the tragedies of my own life.
Now, eight years later, I am married to an American Airman. He enlisted in 2004, and I can't imagine that the events of 9/11 didn't have some impact on that decision. We didn't have a traditional wedding two and a half years ago, instead we were quickly married in a Las Vegas chapel because I wanted to be married before he deployed to Afghanistan. He hasn't gone back since then, but the possibility is always there.
I have had many discussions with people who don't believe in war, with people who believe that soldiers are murderers, and with a few who hold a "kill them all" stance.
War is a tragedy. I knew that before 9/11, but since then, I can't bear to watch TV programs or movies about war at all, they are too real. War has changed for me from an abstract tragedy to a personal one. I could never be a soldier. That said, war is a reality, and some people are able to be soldiers. It is their terrible responsibility and gift to bear and to use. They must fight, not for the desire to see others blood be shed, but so that those who would use violence to repress others through fear are taught that their actions will not stand. War is long, it is difficult, it is terrible, but those who can stand and fight bear the responsibility to fight for those who cannot defend themselves.
Before 9/11, I had known the evilness of men on a smaller level, but 9/11 truly taught me the beauty and necessity of both the soldier and the pacifist.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Ricky!

Happy Birthday to my incredible husband!

And, in case you were wondering, yes this was in fact breakfast. Well, first breakfast anyway. We ate cake and then felt bad so I made scrambled eggs, biscuits (the frozen kind), and brown sugar bacon for second breakfast. Then my DH had to go take a nap. He's getting old, you know.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Before and (almost) After

A few years ago, my sister acquired an old china hutch with a houseful of other furniture. She didn't have any spot for it, so when we were moving a U-Haul full of other stuff to Las Vegas with us, it ended up in the truck. I used it to display my collection of pig figurines in a corner of our Vegas apartment, and when it came with us to Illinois, it ended up in our living room. The dark, heavy, dated formality of the piece started to wear on me especially since the piece had such a prominent piece in our house. I was working out with the Wii one day when it hit me. Why not paint it in the colors that I'm hoping to decorate the living room with eventually?
Earlier this month, my sixteen year-old niece came for a visit and I enlisted her help. We dragged the hutch out to the garage, sanded and primed it, put a little brown paint on and then painted the inside of the hutch in a paint called "China White" appropriately enough. The outside was painted in "Aqua Lily" and then the sander was put to use again to rough up the paint job.

Brass mesh screens and hinges were spray painted in a brushed nickel, and new hardware was put on. It's almost done, just one little hitch. The knobs I picked out for the bottom cabinet doors didn't come with long enough screws to attach them to the doors. I just need one more trip to Lowe's and a few screws to attach, and it will be done! My paint job isn't exactly how I imagined it, but I love it so much better than before. Now I just need to get rid of or cover the forest green secondhand couch. Woohoo!

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Friday, June 26, 2009

When Homemade Goes Wrong

I'm going to tell you a story that will embarrass my dear husband. I just want him to know that I am long past the point of being hurt by this, and far into the territory of being amused, so he should be proud to have created a story that I love to tell.
DH and I went to my brother in law's installation as associate pastor last summer. At the reception afterwards there were yummy desserts served, and my DH ate two pieces of one particular dessert, a lemon cake. He raved about that lemon cake.
Two months later, DH's birthday was coming up. I should mention right now that this was DH's second birthday since we were married, but the first we were celebrating together, as he had been in Afghanistan the year before. He was still talking about that lemon cake, so it was settled. I was going to make him a lemon cake for his birthday. I scrounged the internet for recipes, finally coming on one that looked perfect from The recipe had a catch, though. It required a bundt pan and a citrus zester and I had neither. (What kind of self-respecting cook was I? A newly married poor one, that kind). So I went on a shopping trip and assembled all the supplies, then I went to the grocery store to get the right ingredients, fresh lemons, eggs, powdered sugar.
On the day of DH's birthday, he was at work so it was my chance to make this cake for him while he was gone. I measured the ingredients, zested and juiced the lemons, triple sifted the dry ingredients, and mixed everything together. The cake baked up beautifully, and when I took it out of the oven, I set it aside to cool slightly while I made the glaze. I glazed the cake while it was still warm so the glaze could soak in and make a gorgeous crust, and again after it had cooled completely for additional flavor. I don't think I've taken that much time to bake a cake since I was a young 4-Her. The cake looked amazing, and I could have taken a bath in that glaze and died a happy woman. I was so excited to see my husband's reaction to this masterpiece.
That night, DH came home to dinner cooked and this beautiful cake on the kitchen counter. I served him dinner, lit some candles on his cake, and sang Happy Birthday.
I sliced and served the cake and eagerly watched DH take that ever important first bite. He took that bite and said ... nothing.
I had to ask. "Do you like it?"
For as long as I live, I will never forget his response. "I don't like the crunchy top."
I think I might have cried.
Now, I make lemon cake from a box mix and top it with canned icing and my husband loves it. Some times, homemade isn't what they're looking for. That's life.
Seriously though, that cake was great, and I'd love to make it again. I just need someone who will help me eat it. Any volunteers?
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Headband

I'm constantly shifting my photography ideas, trying to hit on that one great formula. But for today, here's a picture of a stretchy headband I embellished with a little flower I made. I think it's sort of sweet.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Calm After The Storm

I spent the first 29 years of my life living in central and southeastern Wisconsin, and in those 29 years I thought that I had seen a lot of thunderstorms and bad spring weather. Then I lived for a year and a half in Las Vegas, Nevada. I grew used to very dry weather in those 18 months. Two months ago, my husband and I moved back to the Midwest, this time to southern Illinois. A few hundred miles makes a world of difference in the weather.
There has been a lot of rain since we moved. It's spring, and this area gets a lot of spring rain. Yesterday didn't seem like it was going to be a rainy day. The day was mostly sunny, very warm and humid. A friend of mine from college was driving through the area on her way to Wisconsin for the summer and we decided to meet up for an early dinner. We had a lovely dinner and a long conversation, and when we finally got up to pay the bill and go, the weather had changed from sunny to dark. There was lightening and thunder, but it looked to me just like a small thunderstorm was moving through, nothing to worry about.
My husband and I sprinted out to the car and reached it just in time to avoid a huge downpour of rain. Then things got interesting. We were driving towards the highway when we saw a bunch of stuff swirling through the air. At first, we couldn't even figure out what it was we were seeing, but then I saw a small branch blow by, with all the leaves still attached. I still wasn't concerned, and for some reason, I thought a tree had just been struck by lightening and had exploded. Why that didn't concern me, I have no idea.
We saw other debris in the air, but they were small pieces and hard to identify. We drove home and it looked to me like we were driving out of the storm. When we were almost home, my husband mentioned that it might be a tornado in the sky, and turned on the radio. I was like, "There's no tornado, the weather doesn't seem that extreme." Uh, yeah, right. As soon as we found the emergency weather station, it announced a tornado WARNING for Shiloh, Illinois. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted. And the restaurant we had just left? It is right next to Shiloh.
We arrived at home safely to see the neighbors on the lawn, staring at the sky. I wanted to stop and look at the storm clouds, but right then, a lightening bolt struck very nearby and I didn't feel the need to be outside any longer. We went inside and the power was out. We watched the storm blowing out in our backyard. Trees were blowing in the wind, and not just in one direction. I went and sat in our stairwell, while my husband kept looking out the window, until I made him come and sit with me. After the wind came the hail, and you could hear it hitting the windows. I kept praying that the windows wouldn't break.
Then all of a sudden, the storm died down. The hail and rain stopped, the wind calmed down, and the sun came out. I went outside and looked around. The house was fine, the car was undented, and the only indication of the storm was a bush in our front yard that was a little beat up, some wet ground, and the dark clouds that were moving away from us.
Right then and there, I gave up any ideas about the romance of being a storm chaser.
Instead, I went inside and read until the power came back on.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Furniture Shopping

Last weekend, my husband and I went to a couple of furniture stores. We were looking at sofas and dressers. We weren't really intending to purchase furniture, just look at what we like and price shop. We did find pieces we loved, but we couldn't afford all of them. We did buy two things, though. What did we buy? Well, this is our sofa.
And this is our dresser. What do you think we went for?
It was a scratch and dent clearance piece and we were afraid that it would go away if we didn't buy it right away. We love it! (The couch, not so much).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quick Pic!

Can I say that I love the Blog This! button in Picasa, because I do.

I ran across this fabric in a thrift store and got it because it was cute. After I brought it home, I realized that it was the right color scheme for my little sis' living room. I made two pillow covers for her, one that's mostly plaid and the other that's mostly flowers. I like them, and I have a bunch more of the same material. I might play around with this theme and list these in my etsy shop. What do you think about that?
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Pick a color, any color.

I want to paint one wall in my craft studio. As you can see, I'm leaning toward pink/orange, orangey pink (but not coral!). That, or I'm thinking about just picking up a couple of quarts of mistinted paint and going to town with some crazy stripes. Opinions?
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good For The Earth, Good For Your Wallet, Good For You!

As a young teenager, I would occasionally have the duty of mowing our large lawn with a gas powered push mower. I would put on my bathing suit, go outside (barefoot!), and fire up the mower. By the time I was done, I had a deeper tan, and numb hands from the mower vibrations. And when my mother found out that I mowed the lawn barefoot, I also had a lecture on mower safety. Today, I think a lecture on skin cancer might also be included. Then I left home for college, and for the last number of years I've lived in places where the landscaping duties belonged to someone else.
This spring, my husband and I moved into a neighborhood where we have a tiny backyard and the delightful duty of taking care of our own lawn. For the first time in our lives, we had to contemplate buying a mower.

This is the mower we chose. It's a reel mower, you know, the "old-fashioned" kind of mower. My mother used a mower like this when she was a child. I called her before we bought this mower to ask her how hard it was to mow the lawn without the assistance of electricity or gas.

Our lawn was super long as we started to mow (a lot of rain + a low-lying lawn = well watered grass that takes a while to dry out). Getting started was a little difficult, but once we got going, our little lawn didn't take too long to finish. Now that we have the first mow of the season in, I'm sure it will be easier to upkeep our lawn with this mower.
This reel mower has so many great advantages. It uses the ultimate in renewable energy for propulsion, it is the most economical option of all mowers, it offers a good way to get some excercise, and my favorite, it's quiet and it doesn't vibrate like crazy under your hands!
I recommend that anyone who is shopping for a new lawnmower consider buying a reel mower. Even if you only use it to supplement your electric or gas mower, you can't go wrong!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Pillows, New Pictures!

I'm testing out possibilities for new picture taking spots. The new place is filled with natural light, but I'm not sure if it is quite enough for good pics. I certainly would love to be able to take my pictures inside so I don't have to lug all my stuff in and out of the house every time I feel a photo session coming on. What do you think of what I have so far?

I love these new throw pillow covers, too. They are very neutral in color, but have so much interest in texture and pattern.

I love playing with these vintage textiles!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Eating Chili, Yum!

I just had to throw these last two pictures of my chili making/picture taking adventure in. I always throw a little more chili powder into my serving before I eat it because I like to add just a little bit more heat. Some shredded cheese on top is great, too.
And I love this cup. It's so pretty, and it's from the dollar store. The boxes in the background will find a home eventually. That reminds me, I should do a little more unpacking.

How I Made Chili Last Tuesday, Part 2

Ok, I better get crack-a-lackin' and finish this post on chili. Writing this is taking way longer than actually making the chili.
While my meat was searing, I chopped up a medium onion and took the skins off of three cloves of garlic. Thank you Food Network for helping me with my technique!
Ooh, and I got to use my garlic press, a lovely Christmas present from my friend Nichole and really the only way to get a decent minced garlic, at least for me. I hate trying to mince garlic with a knife!

The onions and garlic went into the hot pot and picked up all the lovely seasonings and flavor from the bottom of the pot, yum! I didn't spend too much time sauteing the aromatics, I got them a little softer and released some of the smell, but I was mostly interested in heating them slightly and combing them with all the flavor on the bottom of the pot.
Aren't sauteed onions pretty? Or is it just me? I hope it's not just me.

Then it was time to add all the cans of tomatoes and beans. Normally I use stewed tomatoes only. I LOVE stewed tomatoes. They good warmed up over pasta or chicken for a simple and quick meal, and they're equally great in chili. The tomatoes have a great texture and really great tomato flavor. I decided to throw this can of fire roasted diced tomatoes in this pot of chili to try to get my husband to maybe eat a bowl. No such luck so far. The fire roasted tomatoes were a delicious addition though, so I might use them again.
The diced tomatoes came in a great pop top can, too. I love it, even though I had to bust out the can opener for the other four cans. Yea, I don't have a fancy electric can opener, it's manual all the way here.

After all the tomatoes and beans were in the pot, the meat went back in and it's time for the long simmer. Well, I did give into my the strong impulse of my youth and I used a small amount of water to rinse out each of the cans of tomatoes and beans and poured that water into the chili. It would be a shame to let any stray tomato piece or bean go to waste, you know. And the water will cook off during the simmering process. Yep, I am a frugal beast at heart.

After an hour with the chili simmering on medium heat, I knew that I would be giving in to that great smell and eating a bowl of chili before long. I had been intending to make the chili and letting it sit for a day before eating it, but I should know better. I can never resist the smell of chili in the air. Oh, by the way, this entire huge pot of chili cost less than $10 to make. Tons of good for very little dough. Awesome.