Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tips for Decorating Your Kitchen

It’s been said that the heart of every home is the kitchen.  Day-to-day family life tends to happen there, so it is no secret that kitchen décor tends to evolve over time as families grow and change.  Click here to get started with a great kitchen makeover.

Picking a central theme
A theme?  In the kitchen?  Believe it.  Deciding on a kitchen theme is the easiest and most budget-friendly way to coordinate colors, accessories and décor; it also provides an ideal way to showcase creativity and personal style.  Kitchen themes can be guided by the existing look of the home (traditional, shabby chic, ultra-modern) or by cultural heritage (Italian, Mexican, Scandinavian).  Some homeowners choose a kitchen theme based on a favorite vacation spot, a favorite color or a single item like a great looking bowl or a treasured antique.

The importance of color
Using color in the kitchen can be tricky business. Consider carefully the color of wall paint, cabinets, and countertops, and the flooring; stick to neutral colors. Accessories in bold colors can then be incorporated (and changed out often) to give the room some pop.  For more adventurous homeowners, some of the most popular kitchen colors are yellow, gray, brown, red and the classic Tuscan palette (burgundy, gold, olive green).  Before committing to a color scheme, remember that the kitchen is probably the most used room in the house so colors should be tested out at various times of day.  Something that looks great in the early morning sunlight could be horrible under artificial lights after dark.

Flooring options
The first rule of kitchen flooring: It’s got to be easy to clean.  Those who have ever had to endure a carpeted kitchen floor (they’re out there) can certainly relate.  Vinyl, tile and linoleum are all pretty traditional kitchen flooring options, but homeowners should not feel limited by these choices.  It’s now possible to match flooring to the overall style of the space - reclaimed hardwood is perfect for a farmhouse kitchen or vintage theme, glazed concrete looks very cool in an industrial kitchen, sustainable bamboo or cork is a great complement to an eco-conscious design.  And, of course, it’s possible to add a punch of color with a few strategically placed area rugs.

More tips and advice for decorating a kitchen
Try a liquid stainless steel finish, self-adhesive metal tiles or a faux steel film to give kitchen surfaces a modern look without the cost of purchasing new appliances.

Get creative with artwork. Collect interesting images from thrift stores, second-hand shops, flea markets, used calendars or vintage books.

Updating drawer and cabinet hardware is a quick and affordable way to make big changes in the look of a kitchen with very little effort.

Don’t underestimate the importance of window treatments in tying a kitchen theme together.

For a healthy dose of visual interest, consider displaying all those great gadgets, serving pieces, whimsical cookie cutters and other treasures that have been hiding in the cupboards.

Add small houseplants or a windowsill herb garden to bring some freshness into the kitchen

Monday, July 30, 2012

A summery wreath

I have been thinking about making a new wreath for our front door since springtime. I have a few things I like that I alternate throughout the year, but nothing that really stands out for spring/summer.

I like my wreaths to be cute and themed, but also somewhat neutral. I need to be able to forget to take it down after the season ends and not have it be totally out of place!

I was extra inspired when I asked my friend Mandy what she wanted for her birthday - and she wanted a summer door hanging. Done and done!

I came across this wreath on my friend Biz's blog and knew it was the right one for both of us. I won't bore you with how I made mine because her instructions are great. I actually went to Hobby Lobby and bought the exact same supplies she did!

It's a pretty simple creation - a wreath from Hobby Lobby, wooden letter painted in whatever color, and some fabric rosettes.

They're pretty easy to make, though be prepared for a glue gun burn or two and it does get kind of tedious to make a lot of them. Biz has the cutest video tutorial if you haven't made them before.

Here's what it looks like on the door. I'm happy with how it turned out!

What do you think? Does it make you want to come inside and visit??

Click HERE to see the blog parties where I'm linking!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Well ma'am....

Conversation from the other day:

Cashier at CVS: "Can I see your ID to buy this wine?"
Me: "Oh, you're sweet that you think I'm that young."
Cashier: "No offense ma'am, but you are also buying glitter nail polish, so I thought it was appropriate to ask."

Yes, I did buy glitter nail polish. It was in the sale bin for $1.99 and it looks like this:

 I'd say it was money well spent.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Olympics!!

After years of waiting, the Olympics are finally here! I can't explain what I love so much about them, except that it's literally everything. I cannot wait to watch every event, see the medals, cheer for the athletes, and celebrate the world.

We're heading to a friend's house this weekend, where the plan is to eat, drink, and watch the Olympics. For the entire weekend. And I CANNOT WAIT!

If you need to catch the Olympic spirit, this should help:

Happy Opening Ceremonies!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Real life Pinterest wins and fails

I think pretty much everyone is obsessed with Pinterest at this point. In fact, I was discussing with my sisters last weekend how we ever lived without it! I guess people told each other about new recipes?? Strange....

We've been trying a lot of Pinterest ideas in real life lately, and I wanted to share the verdicts with you in case there's any you're thinking about trying for yourself.

Project: Freshen your house with vanilla in the oven
Verdict: WIN

We are coming to the end of a two week heat wave where we haven't opened a single window and have run the A/C units constantly. Our house just smelled a little stale. A small squirt of vanilla baked in a mug at 300 degrees made our house smell heavenly.

Project: Hang your scissors on a magnet strip
Verdict: WIN

We found the magnet strip at IKEA - it's real purpose is to hang knives. It works wonders in the sewing room - no more wondering where your scissors went or having to store them on the counter. Plus, if you have little hands you want to keep your scissors from, this will do the trick.

Project: Submerge your nails in ice water to dry them
Verdict: FAIL

I was super excited to read that if you put your wet nails in ice water for three minutes, the polish will emerge dry and the extra polish will come off your skin. Guess what? Neither happened. Nails just looked like they'd been smudged, and polish still on skin. Bummer.

Project: Baked Parm Zucchini
Verdict: WIN

This is my new favorite way to eat zucchini. It was so delicious and easy... not to mention a decently healthy way to add more flavor. Yum!

Project: Mini Caprese Salads on a Toothpick
Verdict: FAIL

These tasted fine, but I don't know how the person who made the originals got them to look so pretty. Mine looked ridiculous. Plus, unless you have perfectly round tomatos, which you'd never find, they won't stand up. Cute idea... poor execution.

Project: Dying skewers for a party
Verdict: WIN

I did these for our Mother's Day Brunch and it was adorable. 

Project: Bread in a Dutch Oven
Verdict: WIN

I tried this just a few days ago and it was AWESOME. I've never made bread before and it made me feel all womanly and pioneerish. Plus, the bread was delicious and it took four ingredients I already had in my house (flour, water, yeast, salt).

I feel like this list could go on forever, and there are people who have whole blogs talking about what they try from Pinterest (how do I get that job?). What wins have you had that I'll want to try, and what fails do I need to stay away from??

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I'm still here!

Hi friends! It's been awhile, hasn't it? Life has been a little crazy in these parts. My staycation was wonderful, although it flew by. I felt like I never even had a chance to sit down, but at the same time like I don't have as much to show for it as I'd like. It was a very productive week though, and I'll be sharing some projects with you soon.

My new job started last week, and it is as wonderful as I hoped it would be. The work is interesting and challenging, the organizing is functional and impressive, and the people are supportive. There is so much to learn and I've felt so very welcome. My brain is just fried when I get home every night and I haven't had much energy to blog!

I'm hoping to jump back on the horse, so look for me around these parts a little more often. I've still been following all of my blog friends, but sometimes it's easier to read than to write. I do miss hearing from you in my blog comments, though!

I'll have more to share soon. In the meantime, I've missed you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Etsy is awesome.

I'm having a crazy week with the start of my new job, but I came across this the other day and wanted to share it with you. So cool!

Created by: www.MBAOnline.com

Monday, July 9, 2012

A very crocheted blanket

A few months ago, I was bitten by the crocheting bug. I don't know why, but all of a sudden I just wanted to crochet things. It coincided with the end of school, so it could have been that I wasn't multi-tasking all the time at home so I needed something else to do!

I love crocheting for so many reasons. It's easy, it's fast, and it gives me something to do with my hands while we're just hanging out talking or watching tv. It also makes the time we spend watching a movie or a tv show feel productive, and you know I love to feel productive!

I saw some sweet baby yarn on sale at JoAnn's and bought enough to try this pattern, found on Pinterest, of course. I used Sensations Baby Cuddle yarn.  I loved everything about the yarn except the color selection. I used one skein of each color, and had a little bit left over to make some coordinating baby hats. 

I started crocheting the first week of May. I did it mostly in the evenings after dinner when Zac and I were spending time together. I also took it with me on a girl's night and got a few rows finished while we were gabbing!

In progress

I finished it about four weeks later. I'm not sure exactly how many hours it took, but it never felt long or overwhelming. In fact, it really came together quickly.

The pattern uses an alternating single crochet and double crochet stitch. It's crazy easy. I consider myself an intermediate crocheter, but you could easily tackle this as your very first project. 

The only change I made was to use five colors instead of six (because I couldn't find a sixth that coordinated). On the pattern, I used pink twice (as D and F). 

The blanket feels like it comes together quickly because you can finish a color strip in one sitting. When you finish a section you feel like you're making progress!

The stitch is so pretty and makes the blanket feel heavy yet stretchy. It's the perfect size and weight for a toddler to drag around as a security blanket.

I love the double border - it makes the blanket feel so much more "finished" than others I've seen. 

I'm in love with the whole thing. It doesn't belong to a specific baby yet -- I need a baby girl to be born who I love enough to part with it! I'm working on a boy version next, though admittedly much slower since temperatures have been in the triple digits here lately. 

If you've ever thought about crocheting but haven't known where to start, start here! I promise you won't regret it. If you have any other good crocheting projects to share, let me know. I'm not sure what I'll tackle next!

Click HERE to see the blog parties where I'm linking!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Where does your effort go?

Finishing school has left me with so much extra time and energy - way more than I even expected. And it's wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

One unexpected (or expected if I'm honest with myself) is the amount of self-reflection this new free time has brought to my life, and my family life. Guess I should be honest again - more reflection is being done by me than Zac but he's happy to participate when I ask him to!

We started out with a re-evaluation of our budget. We've been using a budget strictly for almost a year and a half, and it's been such a blessing to us. I say strict because we strictly track our expenses, but it isn't a super strict budget - we have included room for fun things like dinner out, hobbies, and house projects.  Building an emergency fund has meant that car repairs haven't broken us, and when we've needed money unexpectedly, we have it. We sat down last week and realized that we still aren't satisfied with the amount we're saving. Our emergency fund isn't all that full because we seem to keep having "emergencies." Plus, we have some things we'd like to save for - mama needs a new car pretty badly!

One area where we noticed we could cut expenses was to stop having a cleaning lady. When I was in school, we decided that this expense was worth it. Our dirty house drove me crazy but I didn't have any time to clean it, and I just felt like it wasn't fair to ask Zac to pick up yet another thing around our house. It was worth it when I was gone all the time... but now I'm not gone anymore. I have the time to clean our house and I do a better job of it anyway!

This has led me to reflect on where my effort goes. We all have a limited amount of time and effort... where do you choose to put yours?

I'm trying to make where I put my effort a conscious decision. I hate when I get home from work at 5:30 PM, climb into bed at 11:00 PM, and can't figure out where the hours between those went.

Here's what I've learned in the past few weeks of cleaning again, and apologies in advance to those of you who are thinking, "Duh! Tell me something I don't know!"
  • It's worth taking 10 minutes each night to clean your kitchen so you never have to really clean your kitchen
  • Doing one load of laundry each night seems a lot less oppressing than 5 loads on a Saturday
  • It only takes me 30 minutes to vacuum and mop our whole downstairs. That's do able
  • Dusting is a chore that should be delegated to husbands
  • You can make a lot of your own cleaning products via Pinterest or Martha -- or experiment yourself and add vinegar to things and see what they clean
  • When our house is cleaner, we tend to keep it cleaner. Victory
  • The cleaning "schedules" I've found online seem backwards to me. Vacuum on Monday and mop on Thursday? Wouldn't you have to re-vacuum on Thursday, too?
I guess I'm realizing that while I'm consciously redirecting my effort, a small portion of it can be redirected to keeping our house clean and tidy. I'm also realizing that our house must have been disgusting when I wasn't doing this?

The past few weeks of focusing on our house has also made me feel a little better about not being able to do a great job of it when I was in school. I just didn't have the time - and it takes quite a bit of time to maintain a house!

Do you have any tricks to share that help you keep your house cleaner without spending a million hours on it?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Staycation all I ever wanted...

I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July yesterday! We went to Dayton to spend the day with my family. It was relaxing and pool filled and overall just wonderful. I hope that you celebrated America's birthday in a similar fashion.

Tomorrow is my last day of work, and then comes my amazing staycation. Every time I think about my staycation next week, I hear this in my head:

I've never had a staycation before, and I can't wait. I usually take the week between Christmas and New Year's off, which is wonderful for spending time with family and friends, but negative wonderful for getting any projects done. 

I have been day dreaming about this glorious week ever since I found out it was going to happen. I have so. many. projects that I just can't wait to tackle!

Here are a few of the things I'm thinking about doing:

Making homemade laundry detergent. This recipe is for an HE version. My friend makes it and swears by it, and it's soooo much cheaper than buying it!

Monogrammed throw pillows for our bed. Once I make these, I think our bedroom is officially finished!

I bought the fabric to make this skirt two years ago. It's about time I actually do it.

This hat is made out of an old t-shirt. I have all the supplies to make this too - just need to do it!

I'm also planning to visit a friend, have lunch with my mom, clean, clean some more, finish organizing my sewing room, find some new curtains for our dining room, exercise, prepare for my new job, read a few books, and oh yes, relax.

I guess I probably won't get to everything, but hopefully I'll get to a good chunk. Any other ideas for things I should tackle?? If you've ever had a staycation, let me know if you have any advice for how to make the best of it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Organizing your craft ideas

Like pretty much everyone else in this world, I'm obsessed with Pinterest. That's where I store all of my online crafting to-dos, among other things. I love how easy it is to organize and view ideas, and how easy it is to find ideas later.

Problem, though. I have craft ideas and patterns that aren't online. How do I organize them? Like most other people, I had a huge stack of papers and patterns a few feet high - and I couldn't find a single thing in that stack. I sat down for an hour with some basic supplies and created a system that lets me find the projects I want to make, view them for inspiration, and keep everything neat and tidy!

I started with a simple binder - but make sure you get a big one. Mine is 4 inches, and it's already pretty full! 

Next, you'll want some dividers. I recycled ones that had been given to me in a training binder. I just used my label maker to create new labels! You can see from the picture how I divided my categories, but of course, you can do it any way that makes sense to you.

I bought a giant pack of page protectors from Sam's Club for about $12. Filling this entire binder has only used about half of the package, so I'm in good shape to have many, many more ideas. The page protectors make it easy to flip pages and will help you keep the patterns together.

The right side of each page is the image of the finished product. All of the other relevant parts and information are tucked behind it.

I also tucked full patterns in here, which makes it so much easier to find them later!

A lot of the projects in my binder came from quilting magazines. You just can't forget to rip out the pattern pages too!

This is also a great place to store patterns that come in kits. This is one from Connecting Threads. I made this wall hanging already, but that doesn't mean I couldn't make it again with different fabrics! All of the pattern pieces are tucked in this pocket in case I want to make one for someone else.

Last but not least are applique shapes. When I have to find a shape for an applique, I stick it in here in case I ever need it again. No sense in re-inventing the wheel.

So there you have it - a way to organize the craft ideas and patterns you have that you can't keep on Pinterest! Do you like the cover of my book? You can have it too! Just click here to download it.

Click HERE to see the blog parties where I'm linking!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today is my parent's 29th wedding anniversary! They are an incredible couple - loving, fun, supportive, and joyful. They have been the most tremendous model of a loving marriage for their children, and I'm so grateful to have grown up with parents who made their marriage a priority.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! We love you so much!

Today is another anniversary of sorts, also. A year ago today, this little booger came to live with us...

I've told you before that I'm not a dog person.... but folks, I get it now. I get why people are dog people. Derby brings so much love to our house - I can't imagine coming home now without a puppy over the moon to see me. I don't think there's anyone in this world who loves us as much as this dog does, and we love him right back. 

Happy living-with-us-anniversary, bud. We love you tons and we're glad you're in our family. 

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