Thursday, March 31, 2011

Homemade Soap!

The latest issue of Martha Stewart Living has an article about making soaps using herbs from your garden, which reminded me that I had everything I needed to do this.  If you've never made your own soaps before, you should give it a shot--it's SUPER easy and would be a fun project for kids.

Here's what you need:

Some glycerin (available at any craft store), a microwaveable container, some herbs, and a mold of some sort (could really be anything--I used a square cardboard container).

So, first you microwave the glycerin until it melts completely (microwave about 30 seconds at a time).  Meanwhile, chop the herbs.

Once the glycerin is melted, stire in the herbs.

Pour into your mold of choice.

Let it cool completely, then remove the soap from the container.

Now you're left with one big block of soap and you're free to cut it up as you like.

I chose to simply slice mine into three large slices. 

Have fun!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Orange Bedroom of Deliciousness

So, I'm back.  Kinda.  My brain's kind of all over the place and I'm still having a hard time comprehending what happened.  I feel very...unsettled.  Unsettled and jumpy: my phone rings and I just about come out of my skin.  I'm hoping today will be better.  We're making progress on things, but it's going to be slow going--we're still realizing what's missing and trying to figure out what to do about it all. 

Unfortunately, in the robbers' attempt to steal valuable things, they mistakenly thought that our lock box would contain thousands of dollars of jewels.  It didn't; instead it contained stuff like our mortgage documents, social security cards, car titles, birth certificates, and passports.  We can get it all replaced, but it's just going to take time. 

Anyway, on to happier things.  This weekend I painted the upstairs bedroom.  I'd wanted to do that for awhile and just hadn't gotten to it.  Prior to this weekend it looked like this:

Oh my god, I did just show you that mess.  Sorry.  Bad, huh?

So, it's been a year and we haven't really done anything with this room except move unused things into it.  My dad taped off the baseboards and trim last time he was out here, so I primed (two coats) and painted (two coats) before moving on to the walls:

Then it was time for paint!  The walls got a dose of Martha Stewart's Butterscotch:

I absolutely LOVE it.  The curtains and decor are probably temporary, as I'd like to add cream and navy blue and maybe some brown, but we'll see.  Unfortunately, lots of projects are likely to get slowed down until we get the robbery issue taken care of.

Anyway, because I need some adorableness, here's a Griz:

Kinda out of focus, but she still cracks me up.  She's a trooper.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I came home from work a bit early yesterday afternoon to pick up the cat for a vet appointment and found that our house had been broken into.  There's a lot of stuff missing, most of which is replaceable: tv's, watches, electronic equipment.  My grandmother's ruby ring that was purchased by my great-grandfather in 1939, however, is not.  I'm really, really bummed about that.  Chris had some other items with a lot of sentimental value that were also taken.

Then there's a whole category of things that are replaceable, but a ginormous pain in the ass to deal with:  Social Security cards, passports, marriage licenses, birth certificates, etc.  Not looking forward to dealing with that at all.

As much as this sucks right now, there are two big upsides:  One: I didn't cross paths with the robbers and neither did Chris, so we're safe.  And Grizabella's safe too.  (She's very adorable, but she sucks as a guard cat.)  Two:  our neighbors are awesome.  We really couldn't have moved into a neighborhood with nicer, more caring people.  We have a LOT to be very thankful for.

Today will be spent filing claims, talking with the detective and scouting pawn shops for my ring.  I'll be back with a real post hopefully soon.

If anyone has any helpful advice to give, I'd be happy to hear it. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

One Year: By the Numbers

As of Saturday, it's been a full year since we moved into this house.  And what a year it's been! 

We put the old house on the market in mid-January 2010 and were completely surprised (and totally unprepared) when we had an offer THREE. DAYS. LATER.  You can read all about that fun here.

But in all seriousness, we were really happy that the house sold as fast as it did.  We began the house-hunt in earnest and found our dream house about 4 weeks later (with almost all criteria checked off from our ridiculous list), just in time for a March 26 closing date.  Basically, we needed the money from the old house to use as a down payment for this house, so we couldn't move into this house until after we closed on the last house.  And we couldn't close on the old house until everything was moved out of it and it was clean, so that essentially meant that for several hours, EVERYTHING that we owned was on a moving truck.  And in my trunk.  And Chris's trunk.  And my parents car. 

And then, to make matters slightly more stressful, the people that were buying our old house were in the same situation we were in: they needed to be out of their old house so that their buyer could move in.  So pretty much this whole thing relied on this one person getting their financing, so that our buyers could get their financing, so that we could get ours.  Got it?  WHEW!  Oh yeah, and there was this little thing you might have heard of called the CREDIT CRISIS that was making lenders a bit jumpy, so the whole thing could have gone terribly, terribly wrong.  Thankfully, things went mercifully smoothly, save for my car getting hit at the vet's office. 

So, long story short, we moved from our little house of 5 and a half years:

Into this place:

We've had a great year here and although it's far from done, it definitely feels like home.

Anyway, I figured it'd be fun to look at our house by the numbers.

Rooms painted:  8
Rooms left to be painted:  6
Linear Feet of baseboard painted:  415 (there was a whole railing pain-in-the-ass that I didn't count, so I expect the number is actually around 500)
Outlets Chris has replaced:  19
Outlets yet to be replaced:  19
Light switches Chris has replaced:  42 (who has that many light switches?!?!)
Light switches yet to be replaced:  7
Pieces of furniture refinished:  3
Door knobs replaced:  13
Door knobs yet to be replaced:  3
Window sashes replaced:  18 (all done!)
Finished rooms:  2 (dining room and sewing room)

Tomorrow I'll have a Before and After of the NEW ORANGE BEDROOM YAAAAAAAAAAY!

(I'm in an all caps mood today, apparently!  Sorry.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ahhh, weekend!

I'm very much looking forward to this weekend.  No definitive plans, per se, and sometimes that's the best.  There are (of course) a few things that I want to do:

  • Paint the upstairs bedroom.  Orange!!!  Hurray!
  • Bake something.  I'm feeling in a chocolate cake or cupcake mood.
  • Make homemade soap.  Maybe.  There's an article in the new Martha Stewars Living magazine about soap making.  I've done it before and it's easy and fun, so maybe I'll try my hand at it again this weekend.
  • Read. 
  • Maybe plant some pansies? 
That's it and to be honest it sounds perfect to me.  Sunday is our one year anniversary in this house.  I can't believe it!  I'm hoping to have some fun one year anniversary posts for you next week, so be sure to check back!

Tell me--what are your weekend plans?  What's your idea of a perfect weekend?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Want this???*

My former roommate Shey (we were housemates while we studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia) has inherited an awesome table.  Made out of timber from her late grandfather's farm, it has great modern lines that go beautifully with her modern, all white home.  She'll also soon be getting her grandmother's china and wanted help both in finding chairs and finding a way to incorporate the traditional look of the china.

Here's what I came up with for her:

Dwell napkins, $16 for 4; Charger, $4 each; Milkglass compote, $18; Vintage brass pitcher,  $18; Chairs, $150 for 2; Orbit chandelier, $249

How awesome is that table???  And that china is gorgeous!

Her home manages to be very modern and all white, but not stark and cold feeling.  I chose the chandelier to bring in some funky modern shine and the chairs because they're classic.  The chargers and water pitcher also bring in some shine, but in a rustic kind of way to keep things feeling warm.  The geometric napkins add some dimension while mimicking the colors in the china and keep the place setting from feeling too feminine.  And last but not least, the milkglass brings the solid white to the table (and thus looks modern), but helps bridge the gap between old and new.

I think adding an oversized black and white photograph of hers would be the perfect finishing touch.  Check out her site--she's an AMAZING photographer (and how cute is her little boy???).

* Inside joke going back about 10 years now.  :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Look what I found!

I'm going to get two of these for the upstairs bedroom where we'll have two twin beds.  I'm very excited.

They'll go perfectly with the house's color scheme.  The walls will be Butterscotch and I'll bring in some Hummingbird blue and Claret red accents.  The adjoining bonus room is Chinchilla gray and will also tie in nicely.  In case you're having a hard time envisioning orange walls (I don't blame you), try this on for size:

See?  It can work.

I'm really hoping to be able to paint that upstairs room soon (maybe even this weekend?).  Once we get our tax refund, we're going to get two twin beds for that room.  Can't wait to get started!  It's really the only room that hasn't been touched since we've moved in and it looks like hell right now. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

That's what I'm here for, I guess!

So, as you know, over the past few weeks we've been working on improving the looks of our home's exterior.  Long story short, but the previous owners had apparently kept the yard looking spectacular.  Then after a nasty divorce, the woman moved out and the man lived in the house by himself for a year while the house was on the market.  Clearly, yard maintenance wasn't his thing and the yard slowly declined with overgrown bushes, a dead dogwood, and a shit-ton of crabgrass.  Several weeks ago, it looked like this: 

A little blah, but not horrible.  Just needs a little work, right?

Then I spent what felt like a freaking ETERNITY painting the front door.  Four or five coats later, it looked like this:

And the front of the house looked like this:

A little better, no?  Certainly a bit brighter and cheerier.

Well, then sometime last week I decided that in order to really improve things, a little mulch was in order.  I figured spending some time and money upfront would be totally worthwhile if it meant fewer weekends in July spent weeding and getting eaten alive by mosquitos. 

I'd never ordered mulch before, so I did a small amount of research and called a few local places to find the best prices.  And here's where I'll help you out:  if you've never ordered mulch before, it's sold in "yards" and a standard yard is enough to cover a 10' x 10' area about 3" deep.  The nursery I spoke to over the phone suggested that I walk along the perimeter of the areas I wanted to mulch to estimate the square footage.  I estimated about 800 square feet would be needed in the front (8 yards) and decided to up our order to 10 yards to get free delivery, figuring the other two yards could go in the backyard.

Now, here's where I really help you.  This...this is what 10 yards looks like:

Ohhhhhhhhhhh shit.  My first clue that we ordered too much was when a DUMP TRUCK pulled up to the driveway, as opposed to a pickup truck like I had been expecting.

And did we have a wheel barrow?  OF COURSE NOT!!!  Chris moved a huge chunk of this enormous pile by lugging it across the yard one trash barrel at a time.  Then on Sunday our delightful neighbors gave us their old wheel barrow and the project instantly got exponentially easier. 

I later found out that while we had ordered 10 yards, most (sane) people normally order about 3-4 yards at a time.  Should you ever decide to mulch, start small (smaller than we did at least) or split the load with a neighbor.  Your back (and arms and abs and glutes) will thank you.

By Sunday afternoon we had used up almost all of the yardage and what remained we let a neighbor haul away for their yard.

Here's what the front yard looked like yesterday afternoon:

I love how the green grass and shrubs just seem to pop now.  Oh, and the big patch of straw?  New grass is growing there--it had been a huge patch of crabgrass up until recently when I PULLED IT ALL OUT BY HAND.  (Yes, that is all caps because sometimes I'm infuriated with my own stubborn-ness I  and it makes me all shouty.)

I'm totally tickled with how good things are starting to look.  We'll paint the shutters black in the next few weeks and then add in some big black urn planters with some pretty flowers.  We'll have this place back to its prime in no time!

In other news, it's springtime here.  On Sunday morning, the dogwoods had buds on them and by Sunday afternoon, this:

Any idea what this is?

So, that was how most of our weekend was spent.  Good times!  I have to say, while it was completely daunting and pretty much a huge pain in the ass, it was incredibly satisfying and I'm thrilled with how it all looks.   

Monday, March 21, 2011

Marbelized Paper

I'm not sure if I ever blogged about my secretary desk before, but here it is:

I bought it shortly after we moved in for a total steal. The wood has some water damage, but otherwise it's in great shape. I was originally thinking I'd paint it, but decided that it'd be a bit beyond my painting skillz, so I decided to leave it as is.  The more I've lived with it though, the more I've thought that it needs some pizazz, you know?

 The inside was just a bit blah and so I punched it up a bit.  For one, I got a new frame for this awesome picture:

Who are those two cuties?  That's me and my bff when we were in pre-school.  We dressed up after pre-school one day and here we are about 26 years later and still bff's.  Pretty awesome, right?  Anyway, I decided that a little more than a new frame was needed and that's where this marbelized paper comes in.  I got it for less than $4 per sheet last week at Jerry's Art-a-rama.

So I measured the height and width of each shelf and cut the paper to fit:

Then I added some clear mounting squares (so I could easily remove the paper if/when I get tired of it):

In less than 10 minutes, the secretary desk looked like this!  Ta da!

I added my knick-knacks and we're back in business!

Better, right?  Just a bit more interesting without being overpowering. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Finally! A Before and After

Last weekend, Chris and I headed to a local antique shop to see if we could find a little piece of furniture for the dining room.  Ta da!  We did.  It's a cool antique place--it's a big warehouse and all of their unfinished furniture has two prices on it: the as-is price, and the finished price.  We spent more than we should have on this little piece, but it was perfect for the space so I'm okay with it.

Before:  The piece was a charming Pepto-Bismol pink, chipping really really badly, and was missing the knobs on the drawer.  Despite all of that, the cabinet was actually in good shape: sturdy and well-built with no major dings or scratches.

Lots of peeling paint

In about 5 minutes with the help of a chisel and scraper, I had the entire top stripped of pink paint.  The sides, drawers, and doors took another TWO HOURS though.  UGH.

After all the peeling paint was removed and the entire piece was sanded, I primed it:

Then it was time for paint.  I used Behr Ultra in Martha Stewart's Heavy Cream (the same color as the living room).  I was completely exhaused at this point (I had painted the dining room the day before and removed 8 bags of yard waste from the yard), so I sent Chris off to pick up some hardware.  He did good too and picked out just what I wanted!

Then it was time to paint the door and side insets with the same color as the dining room walls (MS Thunderhead).  Ta da!!! 

Here's the After:

I'd still like to line the drawer with some pretty paper and then we'll store some of our china and dining room stuff in it. 

What do you think?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I promise a Before and After tomorrow

Right now, all I'm giving you is the Before:

Awwwwwwwwesome, right?

I still have a teensy bit of work to do on it to make the doors close properly, but I'll have the During and After for you tomorrow.  You'll love it.  Promise.

Oh yeah, and Happy St. Patty's Day.  Have a green beer and some weird green food!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Want another slow cooker recipe?

(Correct answer: Yes)

From this cookbook, The Easiest Beef Short Ribs

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs

1.  In a small skillet, heat the butter over medium heat until melted, then cook the onion, stirring until softened and golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, stir until smooth, and heat for 5 minutes.

2.  While making the sauce, place the short ribs on a broiler pan and broil until well browned.  Arrange the ribs in the slow cooker.  Pour over the sauce, distributing the onions over all the ribs.  Cover and cook on low until dender and the meat starts to separate from the bone, 7 to 8 hours.

3.  Transfer the ribs to a platter.  Let the sauce cool a bit, then spoon the liquid fat off the surface and discard.  Pour the sauce over the ribs and serve immediately.

I made this recipe on Sunday, froze most of it and had some of it for dinner last night and it was delicious.  Based on the ingredients, I thought the sauce would be more barbeque-y, but it's actually more pot-roast-y.  Totally, totally delicious and super simple. 

Also, we have a pile o' cat parts:

That's all I got today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A stupidly easy project

Inspired by this post, I decided to basically copy it verbatim.  So, a geode that I recently got from Home Goods for $15 just got a coat of gold paint.

I might try to see if I can remove the gold base.  Otherwise I'll just paint that gold too.  The wood just isn't doing it for me. 

It's similar to this pair of geode bookends that retails for $1,900. 

My project cost about $20, so the question is, now that I've saved $1,880 what am I going to do with all that money?!?!?  Oh, the possibilities!
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