Oct 31, 2011

Winners Revealed!! Nail Polish Give-Away

Congratulations to our give-away winners:
 Marrion and Peggy!  

These two ladies will get their preferred shade delivered in the mail shortly.  Thanks to all of you who participated, and to all my devoted readers.  You inspire me to keep sharing my words.  We'll do something like this again in the near future....so please stay tuned.

(Marrion and Peggy, I'll be in touch with you soon to get your address for delivery.)


Happy Halloween!  Did you spot the real treat in the bowl?  That's right, not the candy, the beautiful warm-hued Lasting Finish Pro Nail Lacquer from Rimmel London.  These two shades are super hot for Fall this year and (SURPRISE!) you can purchase them at Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Target, and many other drug stores for just around $4 each.  I've tested them out and can vouch that they do last for a week without chipping, which is near impossible for someone like me...I'm the type who refuses to spend money on professional manicures because the polish will chip by the end of the day.  Final praise - before I get to the good stuff - the end of the brush is sculpted in a way that makes it great for easy application.

Oct 30, 2011

Refinish an Old Mirror

I find great satisfaction in going around the house, finding something to change up a bit, and then placing it in another room.  It makes you feel like you got something brand new (for FREE!) because it can look completely different in another space.

Wall-hangings (like pictures, clocks, mirrors, shelves, etc.) are always rotating around our home.  Moving as often as we do, we rarely hang things in the same room in each house.  Layouts and wall space are always different.  Plus, lighting in some rooms requires an extra mirror or two to brighten up the space - as was the case in our living room.  In order to keep the "cave-like" ambiance in check, I decided we needed a mirror to hang above the couch so it could bounce some light around the room.  Mirrors can be expensive so I did a quick spin around the house and found a mirror that used to hang in the nursery in our previous home.

(here is the mirror in the nursery)

I had bought this mirror for a steal at Hobby Lobby about 5 years ago...prior to it's nursery-life, it was in the master bath and before that in a guest room.  I loved the aged pewter finish in all those spaces but that look was not going to work in our living room - it was too formal and pretty for a room we romp around in all day.  So...I took it down into the garage to see what spray paint we had in our stash.

(the before shot)

Oct 27, 2011

Pillow Mixology 101: Combining Colors and Patterns

The mixing and matching of throw pillows is a useful topic that we can all put to use - after all, we all have a couch or a bed somewhere that could use a little pillow coordination.  After reading through the flagship issue of HGTV magazine and viewing Monday's episode of The Nate Berkus Show, I was inspired to do some pillow research of my own.  Nate Berkus had shared that the perfect equation for pillow combinations is one solid pillow to set the color scheme, one larger print pillow, and another smaller print pillow with a pattern 1/2 the scale of the second pillow. Seemed easy enough, so following that equation, I set out to find some pillow combos from popular (and affordable) home decor stores.  All of these pillows can be purchased online, as well.  Click on the pictures to enlarge for better detail!

The first store where I applied the pillow equation was Cost Plus World Market:

Next, I headed over to Pier 1 Imports:

Third stop was Crate and Barrel:

Finally, just in case you're not craving pillow shopping yet, a little pillow math from West Elm:

 (note: these West Elm prices are for pillow covers only, the pillow inserts are an additional $10 per pillow)

A few throw pillow tips:
- While a grouping of 3 is a popular design principle, you can always add a fourth pillow in order to balance things out - just purchase 2 of the solid pillows to add to your mix.
- If you purchase rectangular (or lumbar) pillows for your couch, always do a max of 2.  Make sure to add at least 1 square pillow to the mix.
- Decorating with pillows is a great way to totally change up your home decor.  You can rotate your pillows regularly or change them with the seasons (see the Christmas pillows from Crate and Barrel above).
- I don't think I've ever spent more than $40 on a pillow.  Take these pillow principles with you to some other discount home decor stores: Target, Homegoods, Hobby Lobby, Marshall's, Ross, etc. - you could score some similar (but thriftier) finds.
- When combining pillows, they don't have to come from the same store.  If you have some patience, find an inspiration pillow then look around a while to find the other pillows for your grouping.

Here is the pillow combination I have at home on our living room sofa:

(I was happy to see that I had innately followed the equation before I even knew it existed)

Who knew math could be so fun?  Let me know if you have any questions and I'd be happy to help you out with pillow coordinating.  By the way, there is not an exam at the end of this lesson so enjoy and have some fun with it!  -Kristen

Oct 26, 2011

Felt Owl Craft

By now you know that I'm all about quick and simple crafts.  I love crafting, but I want to be able to do it in a few hours.  From the get-go I need a disclaimer on this one: You name it, anything with a thread and needle scares me because I don't trust that it will turn out looking right.  I always say that I wish I could sew, but the thought of purchasing and using a sewing machine is just so daunting to me.  Thankfully, there are some great craft kits out there that don't require you to have a sewing machine...and you come away with some pretty-darn-cute looking results - like the felt owls below!

Oct 25, 2011

Slow-Cooker Chicken & Dumplings

Friends, get out your slow-cooker...it's that time of year!  And, who doesn't like an already prepared meal once dinner time rolls around???

My family LOVES this super easy recipe for slow-cooker chicken and dumplings.  We got the original recipe from allrecipes.com but we modified it a bit (i.e. took out the unnecessary butter) to fit our tastes.  The recipe is delicious and consists of ingredients that won't break the bank.  Nothing like a hearty and highly-affordable meal!  You'll have lots of left-overs too...

Oct 24, 2011

Design Dilemma and Solution: The dreaded TV wall...

I can't stand it when the TV is the focal point of the family room.  I know, I know...it often is the literal focal point because that's what you're looking at most of the time you're in the room at the end of a long day.  But  can't that wall somehow look nicer???  Often times our builder basic houses have layouts where there are 2 huge blank walls across from each other - one wall for the couch and one wall for the TV stand - and then the other walls are occupied by windows, doors, or walkways to other parts of the house.  It leaves very little flexibility in the layout of furniture, huh?  It can be frustrating, but hey, sometimes we just gotta work with it...especially with our limited budget.

Being in a rental home I have very little leeway when it comes to painting walls or putting holes in the wall.  I refuse to keep my walls entirely bare, but I do have to restrain myself...which is so very hard to do. I have our TV on our (admittedly) cool TV stand pushed up against one of our (very beige) walls in the family room.

Oct 23, 2011

Local Autumn Adventures

This time of year there is so much to go and do outside.  The weather is brisk and there are plenty of seasonal activities to keep you busy (and warm)!  Below are two family field trips we've gone on recently -  I encourage you to go and check out a few local spots with your family.  There are sure to be some great picture taking opportunities...

1) Apple Picking

Depending on which part of the country you live in, you may be able to find several orchards or farms to visit.  Many places hold special events this time of year and offer fun activities like taste-testings, wagon rides, and guided tours.  We visited the Kiyokawa Family Orchards at the base of Mt. Hood in Oregon's gorgeous Hood River Valley.  We were able to pick our own strawberries, apples, and pears.  There is a certain amount of pride involved when you pick your own fruit...it just tastes better and it inspires you to go home and bake!  We made a delicious apple crisp out of some of our hand-picked apples.

We're looking forward to when our tiny tot is bigger and can help us pick!

2) Pumpkin Patch Visit

Now this is a trip you can take no matter where you live!  I don't know why, but there is just something fun about going out and seeing a bunch of pumpkins laying around. :)  I think the fun is more in seeing kids react to it all.  You can see our baby girl was enjoying it.  When my family was in town, we visited the Roloff Family Farm (that's right the Little People, Big World family from TLC!) since it's just a few miles down the road from us.  We went on a wagon ride around the property, then took some great family pictures in the pumpkin patch.

Our baby girl loved running through the pumpkin field with her Go-Pa!

Too FUN!  And, you don't even have to buy any pumpkins...

Hope you get to go out and do something fun with your family before it gets too chilly outside.  Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it!  -Kristen

Oct 21, 2011

Hello, Homemade Headboards!

There are few things that can really complete a bedroom suite like a headboard can.  Often, the headboard ties everything together and really finishes the space.  It's also something you can switch out often for a totally new spin on your bedroom - and you can do it in an affordable fashion by adopting some of these super cool ideas that I gathered from Better Homes and Gardens - Cheap & Chic Headboard Projects post and Kim's To Much Time on My Hands blog (lovin' it).  Enjoy and be inspired!

  pic from bhg.com
This one is my favorite - so I'm posting it first.  The headboard is made of plywood, which has been cut into the perfect headboard shape, then wallpaperd.  All you'd need is the plywood, a jigsaw, some wallpaper adhesive/glue, and the wallpaper.  Bolt the finished product to the wall, and voila you're done.  You could totally do this in one afternoon!

pic from bhg.com
Pick up 2 or 3 wall-hangings like the ones in the picture - check out Homegoods, Marshalls, Ross, Hobby Lobby, Pier 1 etc. - and simply hang them above your bed.  I love the way this looks, adding so much visual interest and a little metallic pop to the space.  Don't be afraid to spray paint whatever you find, to make it go with your room.  That's what spray paint is for!

pic from bhg.com
This headboard is a stencil - totally faux and totally beautiful.  If  you're really handy (handier than me, that is) you can make your own stencil, or I found some great wall-decal headboards you can purchase at a cool website called Blik for around $40.  You'll have to check out their website.  Super cool stuff!  

pic from bhg.com
Totally do-able...this headboard is made out of large frames and some decorative paper.  You could use scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, or even wallpaper in the frames.  Change it out every so often to mix it up a bit.

pic from bhg.com
Massive mantel!  You can find a gorgeous architectural piece like this from a flea market, antique store, or on-line off Ebay or Craig's List.  Make sure you really anchor it to the wall, because this would cause quite the headache if it ever fell...

pic from bhg.com
A curtain rod and a few curtain panels is a great way to frame a bed, whether you have a headboard or not.  This idea also works if you have a funky shaped window behind the bed, that you'd like to take attention away from.  If you use it for that, make sure you pick out curtain panels that are well-lined.  This curtain panel has been personalized with some whimsical phrases...you can also use some textured or pattered panels to simplify the project.  Velvet panels would be lovely, adding some richness to the space.

pic from bhg.com
Who knew???  A fireplace screen, as shown above, or a room divider screen can serve as a fantastic headboard.  Spray paint could come in handy on this headboard idea, too...sometimes I think I should buy stock in spray paint.

pic from bhg.com
Love these letters for a more contemporary space, or even a kid's bedroom.  You can find letters like these online, at craft stores, thrift stores, etc.  It may take some time to collect a few but it would be a fun collection to have.  You could do something similar above a living room fireplace mantel or on the wall of a playroom.  Options are limitless with letters.

pic from bhg.com
These headboards are made of doors.  We found some cool vintage doors at a remnant store the other day. They were priced between $20-$100.  You'd have to refinish the older doors, so if you want a paint-and-done option you could try some hollow-core doors from a hardware store or look for some options locally on Craig's list, where some builders try to get rid of extra stuff they don't use.

Last, but definitely not least...this headboard idea was created by the super talented Kim from the delightfully inspiring To Much Time on My Hands blog.  She crafted it out of wooden pallets that she got for FREE on Craig's List.  She then sanded it down very well and applied a stain/glaze and several coats of polyurethane to finish it off.  You'll have to check out the details of her headboard project and more pics on her blog!

Now I just need some beds that need headboards.  Stow these ideas away - like I did - because you know you'll need a headboard someday down the road...

Oct 20, 2011

Great Toddler Toys

I love this new toy brand - B. Toys.  These high quality toys really engage toddlers and make learning fun.  The company supports a great organization called Free the Children with a portion of its profit from each toy sold.  Free the Children's mission is "to free children from poverty and exploitation and free young people from the notion that they are powerless to effect positive change"...sounds pretty good to me.  The organization has built over 650 schools all over the world, educating kids and providing them a way out of poverty.

My first introduction to the brand was when our old friends sent the coolest solid wood play cube (you know, like the ones they have at doctors' offices) as a baby gift for our daughter.

The Zany Zoo cube ($60 at Target) is so colorful and well-made.  I love the design of it too - you could decorate a nursery around it!  Our daughter loves to play with all the different sides.  It's also a great learning tool with the alphabet and a variety of animals on it.

Oct 19, 2011

Refurbished Desk/Accent Table

We came across a sad looking desk that we found just a few miles from us.  This one was in pretty bad shape...chipped paint, missing hardware, dust all over...but it's hard to say no to a solid wood and marble-topped desk with a lot of potential, right???  We liked that it could function as a desk, an entry table/side table, or even a TV stand.  It can perform lots of functions, which you need in a piece of furniture if you move as often as we do!

Here is the before picture - needin' lots of love:

Oct 18, 2011

Gyro Roll

This is a delicious recipe we modified from allrecipes.com.  We tried it out and decided it would become a go-to recipe in our household.  It's quite healthy as well - no butter!

Oct 17, 2011

Framed Vintage Cards

Framing vintage cards is a really simple craft idea that can serve as interesting decor.  It's also a project that makes an inexpensive but very personalized gift.

I made the above grouping of cards for about $15 out of the following materials from a local craft store:
1. Few sheets of scrap book paper, construction paper, butcher block paper...to use as the background (I used 2 elongated sheets of scrap book paper)
2. Frame that fits selected cards - an old frame you have lying around would make the project even cheaper!
3. Padded double-side tape (I used Scotch-tape brand)
4. Pack of cards - these vintage-looking alphabet flash cards were on sale for 99 cents

Oct 16, 2011

Stacked Wood Mantel

A few months ago I saw an Antonio Treatment episode on HGTV that involved a super cool wall-piece/mantel made out of multi-colored stacked wood.  I looked everywhere trying to find pictures of it to add to my folder for future projects and couldn't find one anywhere online, so I gave up... Then, I came across this beautiful stacked wood mantel on Rachel Meeks' Small Notebook blog the other day and fell in love with it.  Not only is it relatively simple to construct (instructions for building your own can be found here), but it's also built on a plain wall - that's right, it can be built as a faux mantel. No fireplace required!

This looks amazing with natural-colored stain finishes, but it would also look great with painted wood or colored stains.  The version by Antonio was done with reclaimed/salvaged wood that was painted and stained a variety of colors - purple, red, blue, yellow, green, you name it.

Here is a picture of Rachel's mantel decorated for Christmas:

They have small kids so you can see how they safely anchored the mantel to the wall.

Rachel, thanks for the inspiration.  It makes me want to start stacking wood - oh, and start decorating for Christmas - myself!  -Kristen

Oct 13, 2011

Travel Idea...Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

A few years ago my husband and I decided to stay close to home for Thanksgiving and opted to take a bus from Baltimore to New York City for a couple days during Thanksgiving.  As kids we had both often watched Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and admitted to each other that we had always kinda wanted to see the spectacle in person - why not?!?!  It's actually a great time to visit NYC.  The weather is not too cold yet and the hotel prices were surprisingly affordable since it was pre-Christmas shopping and New Year's Eve Times Square craziness.  A few recommendations for the trip based on our great experience, if it's something that tickles your fancy...

(Times Square)

1. Stay in a hotel close to the parade route, but not right on the parade route.  They change the route every few years but they always post the route far in advance here. We stayed at Dream NY - a chic boutique hotel between Times Square and Central Park.  The hotel was in the PERFECT location!  The room was small with a simple Euro-style bath but the decor was rather hip and cool...made us feel way more swank than we are.  They also have a really cool top-floor bar we splurged on for one evening.

(exterior of Dream NYC)

(interior of our room at Dream NYC)

2. Walk to the parade route in the morning and find a restaurant with big windows that is serving breakfast during the parade.  We slipped into the famous Stage Deli and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of pancakes and eggs while we watched the entire parade from a table right up against the window.  Talk about perfect - we stayed warm and sipped OJ in peace while soaking in the sights.  Everyone outside was cold and lost in the crowd.  We were shocked that more people didn't do this - there were only 3 families in the whole restaurant that morning.  We ate and watched alongside the owner and his family.

  (the Stage Deli on 7th Ave)

(our view from inside the Stage Deli...perfect)

3. One night while you're there, go see a Broadway play.  The ticket price is worth it because nowhere else on earth has the theaters and casts that NYC has.  We opted to see Phantom of the Opera, since it's a good classic with beautiful music.  It was divine!

4.  Take a carriage ride at night around Times Square.  Yes, it screams "I'm a tourist" but it's something you just gotta do!  The lights, the sounds, the craziness - a great way to sit back and take it all in.

(our carriage ride with dear friends from Baltimore)

5. Stroll through Central Park.  It's NYC's (natural) heart and soul.

6. Take the ferry over to Ellis Island.  You can get off the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty but we chose to take pictures of her from the ferry (the best view) and spend more time in the Immigration Museum at Ellis Island instead.  The exhibits are very well put together and there is something mystical about walking through the grand hall where they processed so many immigrants.  You can perform computer searches for your ancestors while you're there. 

(Lady Liberty)

(Immigration Museum on Ellis Island)

7. Take in the view from the top of the Empire State Building.  DO NOT but a "bargain" ticket from the vendors swarming around the base of the building, claiming they can get you in a faster line to the top...it's practically a scam and you get stuck watching a cheesy NYC movie with a voice-over by Kevin Bacon.  It's not worth your money and you won't get through the line any faster.  Visit the Empire State Building ticket booth and purchase your tickets direct there.  The views really are spectacular!

(us at the base of the Empire State Building)

8.  A must do is a visit to the 9/11 Memorial - we were there while all the construction was going on but it was still worth a trip.  After viewing the unveiling on TV this last September, it made us want to go do this whole trip all over again so we can see the finished product in person.  It's someplace every American should visit, lest we never forget that fateful day that has drastically changed us all.

Hopefully this idea inspires you to maybe take a similar trip yourselves.  I know we'll do it again sometime soon now that we have a little girl who would love to see the parade in person! -Kristen
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