Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snowflake Curtain: A Craft Project Even I Can Do

photo by Laura (aka Lupin) of Bugs and Fishes by Lupin

I've always enjoyed making paper snowflakes around the holidays, but I never found a really great way to display them, until now. Last week was stressful, to put it mildly, and spending an hour working on the beginnings of my own snowflake curtain was a great way to chill out. I'm sure mine won't look as great as my original inspiration from Bugs and Fishes, but this is a cheap, easy holiday craft anyone can do.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Light It Up

Don't you love finding out about other people's habits and how they live their lives? I know I do, and not just about the big things, but also about minutiae, like, say, lighting habits. Do you ever drive down the street and notice leaves porch lights on all day and night, who has no lights on, who has every light on, etc? I know I do, but then again I'm nibby like that.

I started thinking about lighting again after reading Ana @ Rearranged Design's post Leave a Light On and I wanted to share my lighting habits, especially since they've recently improved.

The Icky Before

The exterior lighting situation has improved a lot in recent years thanks to my handy boyfriend. Now all our exterior lights are the motion detector variety, and use CFL bulbs, including three new, awesome motion detector sconces which turn on when there is movement, but can also be set to stay on continuously. Thanks to these babies I no longer waste electricity, come home to a dark house or forget and leave the light on for 48 hours straight, plus they're on whether I'm home or not. And they're pretty nice looking, which was a bit of a challenge, at least on a budget. *happy sigh*


On the inside I have one light on a timer, which is also awesome, plus we leave a small CFL kitchen light and a basement light on for the cats, who the boyfriend insists cannot see and get scared otherwise. I used to make them live in darkness, but now I feel guilty so the lights stay on.

That's the lighting story around min hus, what's yours?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Deal on Sun Laundry Detergent at Kroger

No, this isn't turning into a deal blog, too many other people do that far better than I ever could, but in the interest of giving back, I wanted to share a deal I found today on Sun detergent at Kroger.

Laundry detergent is one of the things I really hate to buy, so I'm always on the lookout for the cheapest brand that does the job. Lately that's Sun. Today Kroger had Sun detergent on sale for $2.50/32 load bottle, plus there were "buy 2 get 1 free" coupons at the store. In addition I also had a coupon for $0.50 off a bottle of Sun detergent. After coupons, I spent $4.00 for three bottles of Sun laundry detergent, or just $1.33 each, versus the $3.49 each regular price.

If your store has the coupons this deal should be available at least through Sunday.

Black Friday Deals

I'm not much of a Black Friday shopper. I don't like getting up at the crack of dawn, standing in line in the freezing cold, or dealing with all the rude shoppers. There is however one store that manages to get me to leave the house on Black Friday: CVS. While I didn't do quite as good as last year in terms of how much cash I spent, I did get more items we'll actually use and need. I spent around $11 and got $50 worth of items, plus I still have $7.88 in extra care bucks to spend at CVS.

Also, CVS still had plenty of stock on all their deals while I was out this morning, which was nice to see. If you're interested in scoring some deals, you have through Saturday to do so. Find coupon matchups at The Thrifty Mama.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Decluttering Slump

This adequately illustrates the current state of my decluttering efforts

Much like my recent blogging efforts, my decluttering efforts have seriously dwindled to, um, nothing though it might not look like it since I was decluttered way more than an item a day a few weeks ago. Part of this is due to time and focusing on other things right now, and part is due to pain levels since most, but not all of the easy stuff is already gone. Note that I didn't say it's because my house is decluttered, because although there's been some improvement, it decidedly is not.

I've been trying to figure out why it's so hard for me to let go of certain items of clutter. I'm not even talking about items that have sentimental value. So what am I talking about?
  1. Wooden dish drying rack - I haven't used this in at least three years, not since I fixed my dishwasher, and yet, because there is space for it in my cabinet and I "might need it sometime," I can't manage to discard it.

  2. Gameboy - I haven't played my original gameboy in years and years. But it still works and hey, it might be worth a lot someday to some videogame nut. Regardless, I just can't let it go.

  3. The rest of my fat clothes - I've lost several sizes in the last year, but somehow I can't quite part with all my fat clothes yet. Because what if I gain the weight back? I have managed to part with the clothes that are now three sizes too big, the ones I never wore, and the ones that needed repair or were stained. That still leaves way too many though.

  4. Plastic plates - For all of those dinners outside I never have. I don't even think I've used the darn things.

  5. Books I want to get rid of, after I read them one more time - You know, just in case they suddenly became uncrappy in the last several years. Olivia Jules, I'm looking at you.

  6. Last year's IKEA catalog - I used to keep every IKEA catalog I ever received, which wasn't that many really. I've purged a couple, but still have more than one, which is silly.

  7. Those ugly dark green towels - I bought these for college, which was, I'm not telling you how many years ago. I keep hanging on to these because they are so useful: gym towels, rags, etc. Guess how many times I've used them? Yep, none.

  8. (to be continued)
This is just a sample of course, there is much more stupid crap I'm still hanging on to. So how does one overcome this?
  • Try, try again. Things change and one thing that works for me is persistence and regular decluttering efforts. I've been going through some of the same boxes of mementos for years and I've found that what seemed incredibly important a few years ago, I might be willing to let go over the next time.

  • Limit yourself. Set a limit for how many things you don't use but still want to keep that you're willing to hold on to.

  • Check for substitutes. Check and see if your local library has a copy of a book you don't love but might want to keep, or maybe a neighbor or friend will let you borrow that tool you have but hardly ever use.

  • Write about it. Seriously looking at the list above is making it sink in just how silly some of these things are. While the Gameboy is safe, Olivia is on her way out.
Obviously, I'm still struggling with this myself, so what tips do you have for me?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Conquering the Paper Clutter

I still have the decluttering bug, but it's definitely getting harder to find things I'm willing to let go of easily. One thing that should be easy is paper clutter. We all know the rules, right? Keep tax stuff for seven years (or forever), bank documents and statements for one year, bills for one month to one year, etc. So why is my two drawer file bursting at the seams?

I keep way too much paper just in case. Just in case I want to remember how laughingly small my first paycheck was, or just in case I want to know how much electricity cost two years ago, or in case I finally want to input my expenses electronically (hahaha!). Sure, occasionally I do look up something, but most of it is just taking up space.

Recently it finally sunk in that I can easily clear out a few files by switching to electronic statements. This was first suggested by the teller at my credit union and I was appalled. How long would they be available online? Seven years? That's not forever! I must have those records and I know I won't print them out, so no, they couldn't stop mailing them to me. But I finally checked out their online statements and guess what? They're available as PDFs, so I can keep everything electronically, just in case, and finally ditch the paper. Same thing with credit card statements. And if you pay your bills electronically you may have access to even more.

Now that I can safely save my statements electronically, I can stop having paper copies mailed to my home and save a few trees in the process.

So to recap, here are some quick tips to reduce your paper clutter:
  • Sign up for electronic statements, bills, etc.
  • Save your statements electronically
  • Once you're sure you have a backup, discard the paper files you no longer need

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mini Spruce-Up: Bedroom Edition

Being a stylist is harder than it looks. Yesterday I got out the comforter the boy got me for my birthday and went to work sprucing up the bedroom a bit. Mikko supervised.

As you can see, the bedroom needed a little love.

It took a few tries, but finally I a look I liked.

And it's kitty approved too. I don't know what it is about cats and new things, but they've been laying on the new comforter (and no other part of the bed) since the minute I finished.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Frost is Coming, Are You Ready?

last harvest of 2009

Well, it's officially fall: gloomy, rainy and chilly. And now that the first frost is coming tomorrow night, I can no longer deny that it's the end of a another garden season as well.

If you're a noob like me, I'd like to offer some words of wisdom I learned the hard way: don't take the first frost too lightly. It doesn't take much to turn those green tomatoes, veggies and flowers to mush, so if a frost is coming to your area get ready to cover up your delicates or pick them early.

Picking the almost-ripe produce is a no brainer, but what if frost is headed your way and like me your garden is bursting with green tomatoes or other unripe produce? Don't despair, those green tomatoes need not go to waste. Just pick them and either fry them and enjoy, or wrap them in newspaper and place in a cool, dark spot and they'll still ripen. I haven't tried ripening green tomatoes indoors yet because last year I thought the first frost wouldn't hurt and I lost a LOT of tomatoes, but I'll let you know how it goes this year. I've already got some green lovelies tucked in the basement and waiting, just in case, even though the frost won't hit tonight.

Don't forget about annuals or other flowers either. If you want to cover them go ahead, but if not, cut em and bring em inside to enjoy for a little while longer. Afterall winter is coming and it will be a while before we enjoy them again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What a Difference a Rearrange Makes!

It always bothered me that there was no room in my kitchen for my cookbooks, because afterall, what better place for cookbooks to live than in the kitchen? But with no pantry, my cabinet space was filled with food, dinnerware and other necessities.

Then, thanks to some online inspiration and a quick rearrange, I found a way to squeeze my cookbooks into the kitchenNow the corner cabinet is more than just display space, it's functional too.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Garden's Not Done Yet

This hasn't been a good summer for blogging, too much to do too little time, but it's been a great summer for my garden! I didn't want to miss yet another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, so here's a better-late-than-never trip through my September garden.

Pic details: 1) zinnias*, 2) zinnias*, 3) roses, 4) poppies*, 5) snapdragons* 6) globe amarath* 7) lavender 8) Irish-Eyed Rudbeckia* and 9) nasturiums*.

I especially love that most of these flowers were winter-sown (everything marked with an asterisk). Winter-sowing is a super-easy way to get loads of interesting and cheap plants without having to babysit seedlings.

Want to see more blooms? Visit May Dreams Gardens every month on the 15th to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Note to Self, You Can Compost a Lot More!

Thanks to Apartment Therapy's link to this handy list of 75 Things You Can Compost, But Thought You Couldn't on Planet Green, I can start diverting a lot more stuff from the trash to the compost pile. Which is great, because despite composting and recycling, we still produce way, way too much trash. I blame the cats (because I can).

I routinely compost coffee and coffee filters, tea bags, veggie scraps, egg shells and non-weed plant material. But I'm not sure why I never added expired grains, cereal and bread. Also, until the leaves fall I'm low on browns, a need which cardboard can fill nicely. However, I'm not too sure about composting cat food, it's full of meat so I'm afraid it would attract rodents; or used paper towels and tissues, besides being gross what about the bleach and chemicals?

But stuff in the compost, means more nutrient rich brown gold for my garden and more flowers for me, like those yummy Zinnias pictured above. It's a win, win.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Time to Simplify: 365 Days of Decluttering Challenge

Even the good stuff can be overwhelming when there is too much

My years-long obsession with home and decor blogs seems to be waning a bit. Instead, I've been spending more time at blogs that deal with simple living. Blogs like Small Notebook, Simpler Living and Simple Savvy.

Don't get me wrong, I still visit upteen home and decor blogs, but I'm really interested in feeling less like a hamster on a wheel that's moving way too fast. Up until now though, I've just been looking, but min hus has been feeling more and more crowded. Most of the clutter is hidden, but it's impossible to find anything in many drawers and closets around here. But after looking at the 365 days of decluttering challenge, I thought, even I can do that one.

So here's the deal, I want to get rid of at least one thing a day for the next 365 days. I'll probably be doing this on the weekends, rather than daily, but I'm going to keep a list here. I'm not sure how often I'll post about this, it's got to be fairly boring (for all three of my readers), but we'll see.

I was actually so excited I got started last night and filled a couple grocery sacks full of trash, several things went to recycling and I filled one shopping bag with clothes and things to donate. The boy unwittingly participated yesterday too while he was cleaning the garage and got rid of four tires and rims, seven (yes, SEVEN) bucket-size kitty litter containers, an old plastic table. He put it all out on the curb and it was gone within an hour. Even all seven kitty litter containers, I'm still amazed someone wanted those.

The dearly decluttered:
  1. Green plastic patio table
  2. White shower curtain that shrunk
  3. White O-N dress shirt (too big)
  4. Black sandals
  5. Red, white and blue knit shirt
  6. Red pj pants
  7. Blue plaid pj pants (week 1, August 23-29)
  8. white t-shirt
  9. white t-shirt
  10. Old space heater (only half-works)
  11. Old vacuum
  12. Green bag
  13. black tote bag
  14. linen drawstring bag (week 2, August 30-Sept. 5)
  15. black purse
  16. Brown sweater
  17. Pink sweater
  18. Cyndi Lauer tape (it's time to let the casettes go)
  19. Smashing Pumpkins tape
  20. Toad the Wet Sprocket tape
  21. Girl's diary (week 3, Sept. 6-12)
  22. Unopened pine candle
  23. Blue tealight holder
  24. Small plastic water bottle
  25. Dental tape
  26. Martha Stewart Living - June 2009
  27. Martha Stewart Living - September 2009
  28. Green flower plate (week 4, Sept. 13-20 )
  29. Kitty foot massager (lame)
  30. Cloth napkins (4)
  31. Partylite candleholder
  32. Plastic tablecloth
  33. Red mug
  34. yellow mug
  35. blue mug (week 5, Sept. 21-27 )
  36. green mug
  37. glass candy dish
  38. pink plastic cup
  39. Book: Smart mobs
  40. Book: Knowing Knowledge
  41. Book: The Three Theban Plays, Sophocles
  42. Votive candles (week 6, Sept. 28-Oct. 4 )
  43. Strawberry candle
  44. Red bead tealight holder
  45. Votive candles
  46. IKEA mail holder
  47. Cinnamon candle
  48. Votive candle holder
  49. Precious moments plate (week 7, Oct. 5-11 )
  50. New black bra
  51. New white bra
  52. Unmentionables
  53. Unmentionables
  54. Brown and black purse (donate)
  55. Blue cloth napkins (donate)
  56. red shirt (week 8, Oct. 12-18 )
  57. blue flowered shirt (donate)
  58. orange t-shirt (donate)
  59. purple clock (donate)
  60. Organic garden magazines (10)
  61. headband (trash)
  62. round brush I never used (trash)
  63. lotion (trash) (week 9, Oct. 19-25)
  64. tan capris (donate)
  65. Navy blue slacks (donate)
  66. Merona black velvet dress (donate)
  67. Jessica Howard dress (donate)
  68. NYC tan linen slacks (donate)
  69. Nine west gray slacks (donate)
  70. Apt. 9 white capris (donate) (week 9, Oct. 25 - Nov. 1)
  71. White short-sleeve sweater (donate)
  72. White sweater (donate)
  73. Old navy flower shirt (donate)
  74. bottle of nail polish (trash)
  75. bottle of nail polish (trash)
  76. Book: Les Miserables (Half-Price Books)
  77. Book: Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (Half-Price Books) (week 10, Nov. 2 - Nov. 8)
  78. Black ODCE bookbag (donate)
  79. Coaster (trash)
  80. Spatula (donate)
  81. Sunglasses (trash)
  82. IKEA 2009 catalog (recycle)
  83. Pink Eddie Bauer sweater (gave away)
  84. Black Eddie Bauer Sweater (gave away) (week 11, Nov. 9 - Nov. 15)
  85. Navy blue Eddie Bauer Sweater (gave away)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fixing the Leaks: How I Got My Living Room Back

During my first two weeks off I spent the vast majority of my time doing projects around the house, mainly a lot of scraping, paint preparation and a little painting. Most of the results wouldn't stand out to the average min hus visitor, but they do make the place look a little brighter and cleaner.

One fix does make a pretty big difference however, and it's the project that pushed me into project overload: fixing the leak damage in the living room. Long story short, the living room has had a moisture problem for, oh, way too long. It was an extremely slow leak, but over time it did some ugly damage.

So why did it take me so friggin' long to fix the leak? Well, it was way above my knowledge level so I turned to family, friends and finally a roofer for help. Multiple quick fixes were tried and failed. Many inspections and estimates were obtained and finally, I hired a roofing company to redo the chimney flashing (in two spots). I'm still shocked they didn't say I need a new roof, let's hear it for honest roofers.

And while I'm still not convinced the roof leak is 100% fixed (call me pessimistic, but if it's not fixed, I'm pretty sure I know the cause and a fix is already planned), I couldn't stand looking at the damage any longer. Really, I can't even guess how much time I've spent glaring, cursing and crying because of that wall. Oi.

So on Wednesday I finally started scraping all the loose paint and whatnot off. The area under the window, which had cracked paint, was the worst. The layers of paint came off pieces so large that I literally got nauseous. Fortunately, feeling nauseous is a common occurrence for me during projects, and it's only since I've survived it several times that I was able to not cry, freak out and call for reinforcements. The damage was so bad in fact that even the boy thought I'd gotten in a little over my head when he came home and saw with the first coat of patching compoun applied.

After a lot of scraping, and a little panicking, I patched the wall, sanded, patched, sanded and finally painted. This took two and a half days (lots of drying time is required of course) and brought me to the end of my project patience, but in the end it was worth it. Yesterday I celebrated by deep cleaning the room and house, doing some small rearrangements and then calling an end to all projects for the rest of the weekend. Aaah!

My patch job isn't perfect, but I'll worry about that after I know that the leak is completely banished. For now I can once again sit in the living room and relax.

Even the scary patch under the window looks good again!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Little Ponies

Last weekend I went to North Carolina to visit family. While there, we went hiking at Grayson Highlands State park in Virginia (the Web site doesn't do it justice). I was ambivalent about going because it was a 45 minute drive and I was sick of being in the car, but once I got there I changed my tune entirely. I can sum up the awesomeness of this park in two words: wild ponies. Yes, you heard me, wild ponies. Once you enter the gate, you never know where the ponies may show up.

Most of the ponies we met were pretty friendly too. This little guy followed us for awhile, probably hoping for handouts. Seriously, how cool is it to hang out with wild ponies?

The hiking wasn't bad either, but bring a jacket and decent shoes. It gets chilly quick and the trails are rocky.

This place must be a big hit with kids (and kids at heart); it would have been my dream destination in my pony-lovin' youth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pink Garden Pom-Poms

My pretty pink peony poppies did not show up in time for my Pink Parade for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, they wanted to make an entrance. And what an entrance it is.

Their stems may be wild and twisted (I wonder if they always grow like this, since this is my first experience with them?), but their blooms are gorgeous pink puffballs that make me smile.

Like so many of my flowers, these poppies were winter-sown and oh, so worth the effort.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kitchen Island inspiration for Tight Spaces

(image: Anastasia Faiella)

I love Anastasia Faiella's renovated kitchen, which was recently profiled on Apartment Therapy. But the most inspiring piece for me is the movable island. I haven't seen one that looks this great and is still on casters. It's definitely something I'm going to keep in mind for my own kitchen reno, where I'll be losing some counter space to make room for a bigger dining table. Something like this just might fit though.

Visit AT to see the dramatic before and afters.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Neverending Summer To-Do List

Restoring nine windows is just one
of the projects on my to-do list.

Thanks to a job change, I'm lucky enough to have some extended time off this summer for traveling and hopefully tackling some of the things on my never-ending to-do list.

This brings up a topic I struggle with almost every weekend, do I spend free time doing projects, planning for proiects, relaxing and having fun or trying to squeeze in all three? I'm not good at balance; instead I have a bad habit of becoming singularly focused on big projects and work myself ragged until it's done. All of which makes for a very unfun and tiring vacation, weekend, etc. Then I'm not able to find the motivation to do another project for a long time.

This time, I'd really like to strike a balance between getting things done, and still having fun even when I'm home. Anyone who has tips on how to do that, please share! So far I'm thinking: take some time off during the day to do things I don't have time to do when I'm working (eating some breakfasts and lunches out, making a nice lunch for the Boy and I, going to a movie during the day, going swimming, etc.).

But without further ado, here's my list. I'm sure there's still more on it than I can possibly accomplish, even though we've started a few things already and even finished one or two.


  • Pick out a new AC
  • Fix living room walls and repaint (Done!, but it almost killed me)

  • Fix bedroom ceiling and paint
  • Finish patch in kitchen
  • Touch-up bathroom paint and paint window
  • Patch and paint bathroom door
  • Hem bedroom curtains
  • Frame and hang art in living room

  • Stain deck, see it here!
  • Paint/restore three or four windows and storms (two will have to do)
  • Paint front door and shutters (Done!)
  • Paint awnings (or at least fix the horrid rusty one!)
  • Paint garage doors
  • Remove hideous bushes by driveway(done! thanks to the Boy)
  • Patch and seal driveway (The Boy said he'd do this one on his break, yay!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've Been Deprived

As the boy will be the first to tell you, I'm no chef. I've never loved cooking; I only do it to save money and eat healthier. Lately, however I'm trying new recipes and liking the results (usually). The other day I was faced with too many blueberries and no desire to eat them, I saw a blueberry recipe and it hit me, make blueberry crisp!

So, using this recipe, that's exactly what I did, I made my first crisp. And let me tell you fellow non-chefs, sisters who hate to cook, it was so simple to make and yet it tastes devine. It's also an easy way to please a dessert-loving man. My crisp didn't live through the night, we gobbled it up so fast. What I'm saying is, crisps are the new black. You heard it here first.

My first bite of blueberry crisp was delicious. I suddenly felt several things, pride, satisfaction and great sadness. What, sadness you say? Yup, I was totally bummed. Why? Because I've wasted 30 years of my life not eating crisps. What kind of crap is that?

In fact, the only reason I thought to make a crisp and knew it's wonders was because last year Jared's sister made a tasty apple crisp while we were visiting. Without her, I'd still be clueless to this day. And you know who I blame for this don't you? That's right, I blame my mother.

I mean come on, how could she deprive me of this quick, easy and extremely tasty dessert? It's even healthy, what with all the fruit and all. Crisps are like a mother's dream. Sure, she was a bit busy what with holding down a full-time job, raising me (but I was a dream child, or so I've been told), going to school and taking care of the house. But still, crisps are so quick and easy, even the most busy of moms can squeeze them in. I demand an explanation!

Parents of the world, let this be a lesson to you, don't deprive your kids of an important experience, bake a crisp today!

Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for the state crisps may have on your waistlines. Proceed with caution and only make them when there's a big group around to minimize temptation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Pink Parade for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

My little city garden is overflowing with pretty pink blooms this month, and I couldn't be more delighted. Come on in, let me show you around.

There are zinnias galore in several shades of pink, coneflowers, poppies and gladiolas, just to name a few.

Other blooms in my garden:
  • Balloon flower
  • Brown-Eyed Susans
  • Cerinthe
  • Cleome
  • Coreopsis
  • Cosmos
  • Dianthus
  • Daisies
  • Liatris
  • Nasturiums
  • Petunias
  • Roses
  • Scabiosa
  • Verbena
And most of them were winter-sown!

Want to see more blooms? Visit May Dreams Gardens every month on the 15th to see what's blooming in gardens around the world.


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