Thrifty Longevity: Friday Flowers!

Alstromeria are one of my favorite grocery store flowers.  I think they are technically in the lily family (read more about them here).  Although I ocassionally cut them short and put them in a small square vase, I usually just take the plastic off and pop them in a long tall vase from Crate and Barrel that our friend Abi gave us for our wedding 10 years ago - I still love that vase!.  I usually grab two bunches for around $5 each at Safeway - generally all one color but sometimes I mix them - purple and yellow or pink and yellow are my favorite combinations.

I really love alstromeria because they seem to last forever - 2 weeks easily if you change the water a few times.  I do not add anything to the flower water but I know a lot of people supposedly have tricks for prolonging the life of flowers (particularly roses).  I just do not have time!

If you want to make your grocery store flowers a little more special, here are some great ideas for flower arranging from Real Simple.  It's hard to believe that grocery store flowers could look this good!
Via Real Simple

Happy Friday!  Enjoy the weekend!


Chairs for Sale: Inspiration Free!

Well.... I have these chairs which I used around a table on our screen porch for several years.  My grandmother bought them for me at yard sale before we moved into our "new" house in 2002.  I put the new fabric on them immediately and I loved them.  I think they are cute and Jim thinks they are completely hideous.  Here's what they look like now.  A great "before" picture.

This year, I got new dining chairs for my porch because I really wanted something weatherproof and stackable. Found: Pier 1.  But, now I am left with these cute chair which need some help.

If I had a place for them, I would spray paint them red and put a cute patterned oil cloth on the seat.  I couldn't find anything remotely similar online but I did find these as a little bit of inspiration.

via Pieces
But, I just don't have the energy.  $50 for the set and they are all yours.   No, I am not going to ship them.  Email me if you want to come and get them otherwise they go on Craigslist this weekend.... again.

Come and get 'em!


Support Your Budding Artist:: Kids' Art Supply Storage

My daughter loves to do art projects both at school and at home.  My dad built her a great table for her art work to go with some chairs I found on Craigslist a long time ago.  My mom painted them in a great finish which has an antique look but which is super durable.  We still keep a lot of supplies in clear plastic boxes but I like to keep a few things easily accessible on the table. 

In the office section at HomeGoods, I found this paper organizer and a pen caddy which both worked perfectly for storing the often used art supplies.  The paper organizer even has a place for pictures in the front.  Eventually, I'll convince Elizabeth (or Alex) to make her own pictures to put in there but for now these are the photos she chose to display.

On a side note, the crayons in the red plastic box are made by Melissa and Doug and we love them - incredibly durable! 

How do you keep your own or your kids' art supplies organized? 


Drum Roll Please.... Updated Blog Roll!

I finally got a chance to update my blog roll.  There are several blogs which I read religiously and those are the ones that I have included here.  I pretty frequently add and remove blogs from my reading list but I am much, much slower about updating my blog rolls.  I particularly like blogs that feature a lot of projects that people are doing in their house.  I have been reading some blogs so religiously I feel like I know the authors! 

So here's the new list!  

Hopefully you'll find a new one to add to your daily reading list! 


Let There be Privacy: Sheers in the Family Room

I absolutely love all of the windows in our family room.  It is so bright and sunny during the day which is the opposite of what our living room was before the renovation.  At night, though, I feel like we need a little more privacy and pulling the curtains really does not look good.  When I purchased the curtains (JC Penney), I had always intended there to be sheers behind them for a layered look.  I even bought double rods with that thought in mind.  Unfortunately, the right sheers were not super easy to find.  I bought and returned several options.  I didn't want anything too formal or too plain.  The one impediment to finding something at Target or somewhere similar, is that they needed to be at 94-95" long.  This was not a critical item in the decor so I just kept my eyes out for a good option at a great price. 

One year after moving into the house (almost to the day), I found a great 95" sheer at Target!  It has a woven look which makes it a bit more casual but not plain.  And they are on sale for $17.99.  Of course, I am still looking for one last panel so I may have to travel to another Target beyond the three that I usually frequent.  It's always something, isn't it?

Here's how it looked before.

And here's how it looks now with the new sheers.

Now a huge change but enough to give the room a more finished look.  I am still considering some woven bamboo cordless blinds behind the sheers which I think would add another layer of dimension but for now, I am really happy with this look. For now.

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Friday Flowers!

It's Friday again, and here are my weekly flowers - sunflowers - which I LOVE.  These were actually a gift from a new neighbor.  I may try to grow some in my hot baked yard next year! 

Can you tell I am loving my new DSLR camera, the Canon T1i!?!

Hope this also serves as a reminder to pick up some flowers today so you can enjoy them all weekend!

Have a great weekend!


Happy Anniversary!

Today, Jim and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.  I am looking forward to another 50 years of house projects with you!  We're just hoping to get a nice, quiet dinner out over the weekend.

As an anniversary present, we got ourselves our first DSLR camera, the Canon T1i.   LOVE! 
We got to do some sightseeing with my in-laws a couple of weekends ago and visited several of the monuments in DC at night which we haven't done in a while.  Such a great thing to do on a warm summer night.  Here is one of my favorite pictures from that adventure!

Washington Monument from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial


Heating up the BBQ! Summer Entertaining Essentials

Although most people have probably already hosted at least one summer BBQ (I think we're on #10 or something!), I thought I would give a quick rundown of my summer BBQ serving essentials.  Most stores have all of their summer stuff on clearance, so now is a great time to stock up for the rest of this summer and many summers in the future.

All of my outdoor duty pieces are plastic of some sort for the durability.  I replaced most of my pieces this year after 7 or 8 years with the last set.  I bought more neutral pieces this time because I feel they'll have more longevity.  I found most of these pieces at HomeGoods fairly early in the season when everything was "full" price but they had a good selection. 

Here are some of my other favorite pieces.

Here's quick rundown of what's in the picture above - 
  1. Large white melamine tray - an absolute essential for carrying condiments, plates, silverware, etc. from inside the house to the screen porch, patio, or grill. (HomeGoods)
  2. Plastic plates (8) - much greener than disposable plates, more durable (holds a lot of corn on the cob) (Target)  -  Note:  I actually have 10 other plastic plates for larger parties.  I use recyclable disposable plates if we have more than 20 guests - my dishwasher isn't big enough!
  3. Large bowls (3) - great for 10 lbs of potato salad, green salads, or bags of chips. (HomeGoods)
  4. Small bowls (2) - perfect for dips, goldfish crackers for the kiddies, or condiments and sauces. (HomeGoods)
  5. Platters (2) - serve up burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, corn on the cob, or brownies. (Christmas Tree Shops - eons ago!)
  6. Ice bucket - critical for cold drinks on hot days! (Target)
  7. Other interesting pieces - the divided dish pictured above works really well for crackers, cheese, condiments, etc.; the elongated bowl platter holds chips, watermelon slices, or a huge pile of cookies! (HomeGoods)
  8. Serving utensils (pictured below) - Not a necessity for outside but really fun and I even use them inside sometimes.  

I also have an assortment of boring clear plastic cups, margarita glasses, and pitchers which are great to have on hand but not very fun to photograph!

What are your favorite outdoor serving pieces?


Tis the Season! Dining Room Centerpieces

I was walking through AC Moore the other day in search of a great frame (found!) and the sales staff was putting out the autumn themed items.  Yikes.  Then I turned a corner and there were... POINSETTIAS!  Seriously?!  It's August, at least leave it until after you take down the back to school gear (which also gives me the shakes).  But, this got me thinking about centerpieces again.  I just cannot stop thinking about the limitless options for my underused dining room.  Here's my most recent iteration - more on that here.

I thought I would share my friend Amie's awesome summer dining room centerpiece for additional inspiration.

I love that table runner and the wicker chargers, but the shells make the table.  I have a feeling that the shells we have collected this summer won't be as pretty as this Pottery Barn collection, but we will have the memories.

What do you do with the shells or other vacation mementos that you collect on your travels?


Lighting Things Up: Easy Chandelier Upgrade

I truly love our chandelier which my mom found years ago in a used furniture store for us.  But as I started working on updating our dining room, I started having second thoughts about the fit in our new dining room.  Also, the bare lightbulbs seemed too harsh and inconsistent.  I am also considering getting some CFL chandelier bulbs and they would look really bad bare and exposed. 

I like the look of these types of fixtures and I have seen several DIY versions in the blogosphere, but I just didn't think it was the right fit for our house - too contemporary... maybe.  Definitely not ruling out the idea in the longer term. 

So, the interim solution was just to find some chandelier shades.  I needed 8 shades so I did not want to spend $10 per shade and that seemed to be the going rate.  I shopped the discount stores (of course) but most didn't have any or they had really ugly ones.  I wanted plain cream or maybe chocolate brown (or even a pattern).

After several weeks of on and off looking, I stopped in at Tuesday Morning last week and found these great cream shades for $3.99 each!  Woohoo!

Here's the result -

I love it - much softer and inviting.  Also, covering the bare lightbulbs make the room feel warmer.  

What do you think?  Stay tuned for the full before and after in our dining room!


Roomba - How I love thee!

I HATE vacuuming and pretty much all cleaning for that matter.  So, I do absolutely anything I can to avoid it - which is pretty hard with two kids and a dog.  Also, I worry about the hardwood finish when I don't vacuum or sweep regularly (or at least more often than my cleaning service comes).  So, other than handing my 4 year old a Swiffer and telling her to have fun (she does actually love that), my next best alternative is the iRobot Roomba.  Although I always thought it was just a gadgety thing that didn't really do much, we went for it when we found a refurb on Woot about a year ago.  I don't buy much on Woot but they do have some cool things occasionally which I'll jump at.

I seriously love this thing.  Right now, I'm blogging and vacuuming which would just not be possible otherwise!

Almost everyone who sees ours says they have thought about getting one.  So, in case you are on the fence, here are the awesome things about it:
  • Goes under beds, couches, tables, etc. where a regular vacuum cannot easily go.
  • Senses ledges so you don't have to worry about stairs.  
  • Goes back to it's charging station on its own.
  • If it gets caught on something, it will stop.
  • Does not get caught on rug fringe.
  • Takes about 30 seconds to empty the dust bin and clean the brushes.
  • Comes with a separate piece that stops it from going into rooms that you don't want to vacuum.
  • Picks up a lot of dog hair.
So, if you're thinking about it, jump on it - even a refurbished one.  And no, iRobot did not pay me to write this (although maybe they should!) - I just love this crazy gadget!

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Welcome to the Neighborhood!

We are so happy to welcome several new families to our neighborhood.  One family just moved in next door by way of Washington state - they are slowly adjusting to the temperature differential!  Another family just bought a house across the street.  We are really looking forward to getting to know them.

Although I usually bake something for new neighbors, I have finally realized that baking is not a skill I was blessed with (fortunately, Jim is an excellent baker).   I switched to something more my speed - cooking.  

To welcome our new neighbors, I used some of the basil from my crazy huge plants in my herb gardens to make some great super fresh pesto.

I love the Cook's Illustrated recipe for pesto and it takes about 20 minutes to make.  It's a great way to use some excess basil and parsley, and you can easily double or triple the recipe depending on how large your basil grew in the July heat.  The basil will keep in the fridge for at least 5 days (maybe even a week).  Be sure to cover it with plastic and then put a lid on the container to keep it from turning brown. 

I wrapped up some gourmet dried pasta and a bottle of red wine for a quick and easy dinner.  I'm sure I could have found a better container for the basil but these disposable varieties are a good option and can be reused again and again, and the gift bag was really cute.

For our newly transplanted west coast neighbors, I also put together a list of local doctors, dentists, parks, favorite restaurants, shopping areas, etc. so they have a starting point as they prepare for back-to-school appointments and finding a good pizza delivery spot while they get their kitchen unpacked.

If you want me to make you some fresh pesto, buy this house in our neighborhood.

What's your favorite new neighbor gift either to give or receive?

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Fast and Easy Closet Door Spruce Up!

First, I hit 4,000 visits and 10,000 page views yesterday - pretty good for only 3 months of regular blogging!  Tell your friends and family, and become a follower by clicking on the links on the right side!  Now, down to blog business...

One of our major non-negotiable goals with the renovation was more closet space in our bedrooms.  Our old closets were unbelievably small (like most 1940s era houses).  Our closets did have beautiful doors but with the big wide reach-in closets, those doors were no longer usable (I sold them on Craigslist).  We replaced them with standard bifold raised panel doors.  Although I love the look of solid doors which open straight out, they were not practical for our small-ish rooms and I wanted to maximize the furniture arrangement possibilities. 

But, unfortunately, these doors come with these lovely brown plastic handles -
I think I would prefer NO handles to these handles.  So, I decided to upgrade them with something metal which coordinates with the antiqued brass handles we had on our other regular doors (interior and exterior).  Fortunately, you can use standard cabinet hardware to replace these pull so you have nearly limitless possibilities for the change-out.  You may need to get some longer screws though.  I found these great handles at Home Depot.  And PRESTO - much more stylish closet doors. 

In my daughter Elizabeth's room, I decided to have more fun.  Her newly cleaned up and organized closet needed to make a little bit more of a statement on the outside (click here to read about that).  She originally chose this cute knob from Lowe's which served the purpose but didn't make any sort of statement.
But, I wanted to have more fun with it so I found this great knob at Anthropologie (on the same day I got the other knobs to upgrade the nightstands mini makeover).
They no longer have the exact one online but this one is similar.  Cute, right?

I cannot think of a quicker way to upgrade some boring closet doors.  I'd love to hear about your closet door upgrades by commenting below or sending me an email.

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Another Closet Clean-out! Elizabeth's Closet

Until last week, Elizabeth's closet was an absolute disaster.  Every time I opened the door, I became frustrated and shaky - I hate disorganized closets.  Here are some BEFORE pictures -

Over the weekend, I decided to take 30 minutes to really clean it out and reorganize.  The general lay-out stayed the same and I did not have move any of our Elfa shelves (although that is an easy task), but I did remove a lot of stuff that she has outgrown.

I generally sort outgrown kids' clothing into 3 categories:
  • Keep - Birthday dresses, my favorite holiday dresses, and some other things that I can't part with just yet for sentimental reasons.  This stuff goes in the attic much to Jim's horror.
  • Give Away - The cutest, highest quality stuff that still has a lot of life left.  Fortunately I have several friends with kids a year or two younger than mine who happily (I think!) take hand-me-downs.
  • Sell - All of the rest of the stuff I sell in our annual yard sale (more on that here).  We donate whatever is leftover after that advanture.
So, I started the organization process by sorting out piles of outgrown clothing which had accumulated on the floor of the closet and took down things that were still hanging but no longer needed to be in her closet.  After that, I took pretty much everything else out and sorted out some trash and other yard sale worthy items (which I store in plastic bins in a closet in my basement under the stairs).  Finally, I reorganized all of the out of season clothes, refolded them, and repacked them in larger clear plastic boxes that I had on hand.

The whole project ended up taking more like an hour but it was worth it.  Everything fits and it's easy for Elizabeth to put her clothes in the hamper, and find her dress-up dresses which hang on a low rail in the closet.

Here's the after -

Her shoes are organized in a hanging sweater organizer that I found at HomeGoods last year.  The small basket underneath holds her dress-up shoes!

For future outgrown clothes, I put a couple of paper bags in the back so I can toss in whatever is outgrown.  Hopefully this will keep the discarded items off the floor, and easier to hand off when I'm ready to part with things.

Another closet organization project conquered!

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It's all in the Details: The Nursery Part 2

Last Thursday, I blogged about my son Alex's nursery (click here if you missed that) - formerly Elizabeth's nursery, and our home office before that.  I love that we spent almost nothing for the furniture in this room - just $50 for the dresser and that's it.  When it was Elizabeth's nursery, we used a hand-me-down dresser from Jim's family (more on that dresser here).  My mom bought the fabric and made the window valance, quilt, and adorable crib skirt. I'm so happy that we were able to get use out of the set for both kids. 

My mom and I found the fabric at a Waverly fabric outlet in northwestern Massachusetts.  We spent about 5 hours there on a cold Saturday during one of my visits to upstate New York before Elizabeth was born.  My mom then worked days and nights to finish the crib skirt, valence, and quilt before the baby came. 

Here's a close-up of the crib skirt.

The crib skirt is probably my favorite part of the set.  I love crib skirts for two reasons - (1) they add a little extra style to the crib which is otherwise an out-of-the-box piece of furniture; and (2) from a practical standpoint, it's a great storage area.  You can store lots of ugly stuff (diaper boxes, extra wipes, etc.) under cribs.  My dog, Angus, likes to hang out under there too.  Ours is long enough to hang to the floor even when the crib is on the top height setting.  When we put the crib down, I just fold over the top and pin it at the top to the base fabric with large safety pins. 

The window valance coordinates perfectly with the crib skirt.  I always get loads of compliments on this.  Before the renovation, this room had 2 windows but we replaced the back window with the glass door in the course of the renovation.

The valance is actually stapled to a strip of wood which is the width of the window and about 2"x2".  My mom stapled the side "panels" to the top piece of wood first and then placed the center piece over the side panels and stapled it at the top.  We also found the adorable coordinating fringe trim at the same fabric outlet. 

The chair was my own personal project.  This rocking swivel chair came to me via a used furniture store before I went to college.  I think my mom paid about $40 it.  The original fabric has definitely seen better days - a now sickly pale yellow velor - but with a slipcover, it really doesn't look that bad and it's still really comfortable.  I love that I have had this chair for over 15 years and it is still putting in its time.  I had originally slip-covered the chair in a tropical floral sort of fabric about 7 years before (don't ask me why), but I taught myself the basics during that process and put those skills to use on this version.

The personalized pillow is from one of my favorite Etsy sellers.  This is also one of my go-to baby gifts for second (or 3rd, 4th, or 5th) children.  I wish I had the time to learn how to make these!  Maybe some day...

I also did a quick project to cover some open shelving at the bottom of the bookcase behind the chair.  

This is just a simple rod-pocket curtain which took me about 30 minutes to make - and I am not a good seamstress.  Fortunately keeping the machine straight (my biggest sewing problem) was not difficult because of the fabric pattern!  I hung it with a $5 tension rod from Target.  This area was especially handy when we did not have much closet space because I needed more storage for extra trash bags, blankets, burp cloths, and other baby junk.  I do still keep some stuff under there but it's not nearly as packed as it used to be!

The final feature that I love is the changing table under the window.  Remember, this used to be our home office so the changing area was built to be a desk.  It actually still has pens and notebooks in the drawers underneath - we just never got to clean it out before Elizabeth was born or before the renovation.

Finally, I am sure there are a million safety reasons not to have a changing table in front of a window, but it works for us.  This is just a standard changing pad with a Pottery Barn Kids cover but it just fit perfectly and I was even able to wedge a basket in next to it to hold all sorts of baby necessities - diaper cream, nail clippers, comb, nasal aspirator, etc.  The diapers are on the shelf to the right in a little decorative wagon received as a baby gift.  I stored Elizabeth's diapers in a white wicker basket which is now the kids' toy basket in our master bedroom (yup, you heard that right - the toys are officially everywhere in our house).

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Alex's room!  Although I am excited about the prospect of working on a new room for him in another year or two (more on that here), I will definitely be sad to let this beautiful nursery slip back into a boring home office and guest room.

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Linking to: All Things Bright and Beautiful