Friday, December 26, 2008

Wreath Update

Christmas may be over, but another of my favorite seasons has just begun -- the after Christmas sale season. Since I got some ornaments for 50% off, I decided it was time to update the old Christmas wreath.

This old standby was fine back in the days when any cheap Christmas decor worked for me, but since I updated the interior Christmas decor this year, I wanted the front door wreath to match as well.

The boy found a plain white lighted wreath for just $5.99 weeks ago, but it sat in its box, waiting for a little lovin'. Today, with the cats' help, I jazzed up the white wreath a bit with ornaments and a little fake silvery greenery.

This little helper contributes to my not wanting to do craft projects.
He's a little too helpful.

Ta da, instant front door improvement. Plus, since I am keeping the ornaments in place with wire, instead of glue, it will be easy to update the wreath next time.

Now if I can just figure out how people manage to plug these things in and shut the storm doors...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God Jul ~ Merry Christmas

The Christmas decorating is officially done now that the presents have been wrapped and placed under the tree. I'm still quite pleased with our new holiday decor. We even opened a few presents tonight, that Moomin book in the shadow box is one of my presents from the boyfriend. He received a new drill which will come in handy for hanging all the pictures that need to go up

Unfortunately it doesn't look we'll be having a white Christmas this year. After several days of arctic-like temperatures, we're back to rain. Still, 40F feels down right balmy after experiencing a few 0F nights and mornings.

As it's officially Christmas Day, I'd like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, God Jul and Hyvää Joulua from everyone here a min hus. And to all a good night!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Decorating is Done!

For once I'm not sick of Christmas before it even begins. Instead of skipping the posts and articles about holiday decor I've been seeking them out. Since the fireplace is white and doesn't make me cringe to look at it now, I wanted Christmas decor that would further enhance the room. I'm so please with how it all turned out. The blue, white and silver colors I ended up with fit the style of the room so much better than the traditional pine green and red I've used in the past.

The tree is definitely kitty approved, Alex loves looking at it and rubbing his face on it. Yes, cats are weird. Luckily all three kitties have been leaving the ornaments alone for the most part.

Bonus question for Hanna: How many gifts from Finland do you spot in this pic? ;)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree!

I'm not done with the Christmas decorating, but my new tree is up! I've been living with the same 2.5 foot Christmas tree since I was a kid. But this year I was ready for something new and different. Something that doesn't fit on the top of the entertainment center.

I originally wanted a white tree, even though that trend is probably on the way out, but after I painted the fireplace white I thought a white tree might blend in too much. Then we spotted this beauty, which looks blue from a distance, but up close has a blend of teal, blue and purple. It sounds hideous, I know, but looks good in my living room with the blue curtains and pillows. The boyfriend convinced me it was too hideous to bring home, then he went out and brought it home. Now he thinks it looks love-er-ly.

I considered getting new silver and white ornaments to decorate the new tree with, but I'd miss all my old ornaments. Some of them were made by my mom, others were made by special people who are long gone, and many were given to me as gifts over the years. And what would Christmas be without fond memories anyway?

Too bad the boyfriend had to add his own fond memories to the tree too, in the form of super hero ornaments. Luckily they blend in pretty well with all the other bright colors.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Deals

I hate everything about black Friday shopping: getting up early, the lines, the crowds, the rudeness, but today I finally had fun shopping on Black Friday at CVS. I started with $11.99 in extra care bucks, spent $1.39 for $60 worth of products and left with $15 in extra care bucks. Hello shoppers' high! I did go to three stores and did four transactions in total to manage this.

If you're new to CVS shopping and want to get in on all the action, learn more from one of the masters, Money Saving Mom. CVS 101 is a good place to start.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

From Fugly to Fabulous: A Fireplace Makeover Story

Finally I could stand it no longer, I had to do something about the hideousness that was my fireplace. I wouldn't paint just any brick fireplace, but this thing was the most hideously fugly red brick fireplace and required drastic action. Words can't even describe it, so I'd better just show you:

I've been loathing this monstrosity for three years. But finally, after being inspired by so many great white fireplaces, I painted the brick (using primer and high gloss enamel) and sprayed the insert a cast-iron aluminum color. I even cleaned out the ash and leftover burnt wood from the firebox first, which was the part I dreaded most. I'll probably paint the mantle white too eventually, but I wanted to try it au natural for a while first.

I'd still like to embellish it with a wood surround and new mantle someday, but for now, I'm pretty happy.

*Tip: Check the auto-supply store for an even wider range of colors that can withstand high heat than what you'll find at the home-improvement store.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake or Why I'm Not Martha

Yesterday the boy turned the big 3-0! I guess I should stop calling him the boy, since he's old now. Ha ha! Anywho, he mentioned a cake, but not just any cake, a chocolate chip cookie cake from the Great American Cookie Co. I really wasn't looking forward to a trip to the mall, but luckily I remembered that we had both chocolate chip cookie mix and icing (a rarity indeed). So I decided to whip up a homemade chocolate chip cookie cake. Despite the fact that I'd never tried one before and have an uncanny knack for cooking disasters.

Luckily it doesn't get much easier then using a mix, plopping it in a 9" pan and baking until done (around 25 minutes I believe). As you can see, cake decorating is not my thing. First I don't have actual tools, so I used a plastic baggie instead, which sprung a leak. I was also impatient and started icing before the cake completely cooled, the icing looked much better before it melted. Honest.

But despite how it looked, the cake tasted quite good I think. Very rich of course. The boy was rather unimpressed, however, and wants the real thing next year. There's just no pleasing some people. It's a good thing I took pics when I did though, cause this cookie cake is history. Guess it must have been tasty afterall.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nine Days, Endless Possibilities

Ah freedom! I have the next nine days off work. That time stretches before me and seems full of endless possibilities. Everywhere I turn I find more projects to add to my to-do list:
  • deep clean and declutter the house (it's baaad!!!)
  • clean out my closet and put away summer clothes
  • rake the leaves
  • clean up the garden and put away pots
  • finally do that in/out box art project
  • file and weed office papers
  • patch and paint by the new cable plate in the kitchen
  • patch the spot by the fireplace
  • deep cleaning the basement (it's a wreck!)
  • list lots of items on Etsy
  • paint the fireplace (definitely a pipe dream, but oh it would be nice...)
It seems almost doable, except that tomorrow is the boy's birthday and I have a very important, top secret project that will take up the rest of the next day and a half. I also promised my mom I'd help her clean her house before the relatives arrive. Then we'll be tied up for Thanksgiving and some of Black Friday. So that leaves maybe four days for projects. I'm hoping that by posting my to-do list I'll be more likely to finish some of it!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Know It's Freezing When...

Even the kitties won't come out from under the covers. It's turned pretty chilly here.

And it snowed already. Just a dusting but still, I'm not ready. I mean look, I haven't even raked the leaves yet. The darned to-do list just keeps growing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Letting Go

I'm trying to help my mom rid her house of some massive auction clutter in time for Thanksgiving by loading up our Etsy shop as much as possible over the next few weeks. But now I'm having my own problems letting go of some of these vintage treasures. I mean who knew having tons of vintage costume jewelry to choose from could make getting ready for work so much more fun? It's like a whole new world has opened up to me.

Sorry Etsy, these necklaces are stayin' with me!

But that's not to say I'm keeping all the good stuff. I have managed to part with great finds too, which are available now at Two Cs in the Attic.

And even if this stuff doesn't tempt you, you're bound to find something to lust after at Etsy.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Fall Garden

My garden helper and I took a stroll through the garden today on this lovely Indian summer weekend. Even though we've had a couple frosts, including a hard frost or two, a few tough perennials haven't given up for the year yet.

Clockwise from left:
Nigella, English primrose, Malvia, Irish Eyes Rudbeckia, Mums, Coreopsis

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join Green Thumb Sunday every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When Boys Go Grocery Shopping...

You might just end up with 10 large boxes of pop tarts. TEN. BOXES. At least they were on sale. He's a bargain shopper, I'll give him that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No-Cost Decorating

Like most everyone, I feel the need to curb unnecessary spending these days, despite a raging desire to improve, redo, and finish decorating the house. I hit a few thrift stores over the weekend, but as usual I completely struck out. Then I remembered the "rearrange and reuse what you have to freshen your decor without spending money" tip which I've read no less than five times this month. So I decided to try it to see if it would curb my shopping lust. The arrangement on my fireplace mantle is an example of something I've never quite gotten right, so it seemed like a good place to start.

The first problem I encountered is that anything I own and like is already on display. I confirmed this suspicion by going through all my boxes in the attic and basement and realizing that yup, there's nothing good hidden away that I forgot about.

First I tried removing the small items. I liked the clean look, but it was a little too minimal, even for me.

Then I tried adding some art that still hasn't made it on the wall in the three short years I've lived here. That felt like too much and was too symmetrical, another compulsion I struggle with.

Finally I tried just one picture, which is the look I settled on, for awhile at least, even though the boy doesn't like it. I think it's am improvement and even a small change like this does make the entire room feel a bit fresher.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Summer That Wouldn't End

It's after 10 p.m. on a mid-October day and I'm sitting here in my living room in short sleeves and shorts, surrounded by open doors and windows and the ceiling fan going. Still, I am a little warm. Outside while the mums decorate the deck, the tomatoes are still growing. The zinnias in the side garden are still growing and some perennials are beginning to rebloom.

This weather is simply amazing! So amazing in fact that I had to officially note it here. So that I can remember this night in a few months when I'm sitting here in layers, shivering. But I also note it because it may never happen again. Or maybe with global warming this will be our new norm? Whatever the reason, I wish the weather would stay this perfect forever. Or at least through another weekend.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beach Vacation

Last month the boy and I traveled south to Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Now that my camera has arrived home after being rudely abandoned in North Carolina by moi, I can show you a glimpse of just how lovely it was.

There are numerous beaches near Wilmington, NC:Wrightsville, Carolina, and Kure. We stayed just three blocks from Carolina Beach (thanks to the boy's sister putting up with us) and this little beach pier bar. But Kure Beach is even nicer and has cute little beach shops, restaurants, the arcade and the quaint Kure Beach pier. September was the perfect time to head to the beach. The weather was warm, but not unbearable and we missed the main tourist season.

So when's the next trip, honey?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Good Mail Day - Marimekko!

Today the mail wasn't just stuffed with political crap (stop the insanity!) and bills for a change. My Marimekko tea towels (Kaiku and Unessa) arrived! I plan to frame these and use them as wall art just like Door Sixteen did. After seeing the towels in person today I'm even more pleased.Since these are 100% linen, they look more like canvases than your typical cotton towel to me.

I've been wanting to use Marimekko fabric as art for ages, but I couldn't decide on one pattern. When I finally settled on Kaiku, I saw that the size of the entire pattern was entirely too big for my space. Then I came across the Door Sixteen post on Apartment Therapy and months later, voila. Now I just need to frame them and finally figure out how I want to do my living room art wall. At the rate I'm going, that shouldn't take more than a few more months.

In the end, I was just pleased to be able to purchase the Kaiku towel. By the time I was ready to buy, I couldn't find anyone who had it in stock. I was cursing myself for procrastinating, when I found Kiitos Marimekko, the online storefront of the Marimekko Concept Store in the Upper East Side of New York. I definitely recommend them, they sent a nice note explaining when my shipment would arrive and the package was nicely wrapped in a Marimekko bag. Kiitos!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Introducing the Side Garden

I'm thrilled with my little side garden, even though it's still very much a work in progress. All the flowers in my side garden were grown last winter as part of my winter sowing project.

My goal in planting them here was to have something pretty to look down on out of my bedroom window. Unlike my other garden beds, I just plunked the tiny seedlings into the small bit of cleared former rock-filled yard. I just love the way it turned out, just like the cottage garden style I'm going for! There's Zinnia, Love in a Mist, Cleome, Brown-Eyed Susans, some mystery purple flowers I've now sure of (the spikey ones, in case anyone can help me out), and even a tomatoes plant or two (thanks to the compost). These plants are so large and healthy too.

See the tiny little white Love in a Mist? I just noticed them today, although those seeds were three years old!

This little side garden has made me a winter sowing convert for life!

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join Green Thumb Sunday every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Gettin' Fall-ified

On Friday I couldn't stand it any longer, I had to have some fall blooms to revive my dying garden and barren-looking deck. Aren't they pretty?

The asters are perennials so they went right into the garden, my first permanent fall flowers. Now it feels like fall.

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join Green Thumb Sunday every Sunday, visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Things No One Warns You About: Foundation Maintenance

If someone had sat me down when I was house shopping and told me EXACTLY how much maintenance is involved with an older home and how much time that would take (or money, which I don't have enough of to hire everything out unfortunately), I would have bought a condo or stayed a renter. I mean who knew how much time staining decks, cleaning gutters, repainting, gardening, caulking, changing filters, and cleaning would take? Too late now though and I've been feeling guilty because I haven't gotten many maintenance projects done this year despite having a long to-do list.

Last Sunday I decided I'd finally do one of the quicker projects on my list: sprucing up the foundation. It would be a simple project I could get done in a day and cross off my list, or so I thought. My foundation is painted, but the paint was dingy and chipping. It didn't take me long to learn that water is the major enemy of structural soundness, and where you have cracks and cold weather, you're going to have water damage. So my plan was simple: patch the chips so I can have a nice, smooth surface to repaint. Easy, right?

But first, there was the little matter of what to patch it with. I knew there are expensive tubes of concrete repair, but with the amount of patching I needed to do, these were above my budget. I searched the net and found several suggestions: concrete, cement patch, hydraulic cement, mortar, and epoxy. I went to the hardware store and after reading some labels came home with hydraulic cement. Then I started scraping the loose parts off the foundation, but the loose parts kept coming. Then I found some spots where mortar was missing. I began to panic and called my stepdad, my entire family's handyman guru, for advice. In the end he and my mom drove an hour to come to my rescue (yet again) to show me some tricks of the masonry trade.

The stepdad was not impressed with the idea of using hydraulic cement at all. He recommended Quickcrete mortar. So I learned how to mix and apply mortar. And I had lots and lots of practice at it while I tried to patch each and every little chip and indent. Having the right tools definitely helps. Undoubtedly it wouldn't have been a much longer and much more frustrating experience without those lessons!

foundation during, after patching

A mere six days, some new Drylock paint, and I don't want to count how many hours later, my foundation looks like this:

Which looks even better in person and gives me a little thrill of self-satisfaction. Until I remember that I have three more walls to go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Get Your House Voyer Fix @ The Love List

I can't get enough home tours. I mean, what's more fun then checking out other people's cribs? Nothing, I tell you, nothing. That's why I was thrilled to find The Love List (thanks for the tip Decor8!), where for the next few weeks Jessica is hosting tours of bloggers' homes. My favorite so far is definitely Erin's Elemental Style.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Design Advice from Nestled In

In July, I profiled the new-to-me blog Nestled In. At the same time, I e-mailed Nestled In's authors and asked a few questions which they kindly and quickly answered, but I embarrassingly didn't get around to sharing until now. So without further ago, here's some design advice and thoughts from Nestled In.

How would you describe your style?
"I guess we're still trying to figure out our style together. We like to mix new and old, thrift store finds and furniture we've 'inherited' from relatives. We love old furniture because it has more character and also because of the ecological aspect of re-using things. We like simple and modern style but not minimalism. And obviously, living in Finland, we're strongly influenced by Scandinavian style of decorating. We also want our home to reflect our personalities. It's important to try to find your own style and, while taking inspiration from around you, not to care too much about trends or other people's opinions."

What is your greatest decorating challenge?
"Decorating with a small budget maybe. And for me (Katja) it's also just having the patience, not expecting everything to be finished and perfect right away."

What is your favorite spot in your home? Why?
"Mine (Katja's) is the dining area in our kitchen. There's a big window there so it gets nice light and we're growing mini-tomato plants on the windowsill (because we don't have a yard or a balcony). I have to say I'm really getting into gardening! Minna's favorite spot in our home is her office space in the hallway.

What about your home do you love the most?
That we're making it together.What do you collect? How do you display/store your collection?
"We don't really have any collections. I (Katja) have a few vintage photographs that are displayed on the hallway wall but that's about it."

What’s your favorite sources of decorating inspiration? "Blogs! decor8, Design*Sponge, Homebug, Design for Mankind and many, many more. Also, going to thrift stores and interesting shops together, art, movies, magazines and books."

And since home just isn't home without a cute kitty, I couldn't resist this pic of Lissu and these chairs. Thanks Katja and Minna!

*All photos courtesy of Nestled In.


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