Monday, March 29, 2010

The Bath

Oh, the master bath. It's possibly the worst room in the house. That distinction was likely bestowed on it when we redid the other, also terrible bathroom upstairs.

It's dark, tan, has terrible lighting, ugly window treatments, the vanity top is scratched and discolored, the tub and surround is also discolored. Not the mention the piece of wood randomly running around the room. And like the kitchen and laundry room, somebody fancied themselves a tile layer and effed the floor right on up.

It needs help. And we'd like to give it that help, someday. Unfortunately, that day is not today. And it's not next weekend either. But while the bathroom is waiting on her insurance to approve the major surgery she needs to be beautiful, we can take her out shopping for some pretty dresses and shoes.

So if we're not ready to tile this weekend, instead, we'll be painting the bathroom!

We're using leftover paint from the kitchen, which is by far our favorite color in the house. We can't wait to use it again.

We've also been itching to switch out our bedding for something lighter for the summer, so I'll be on the lookout for some cheap, white bedding to bring in some light.

In fact, light is the name of the game in this mini makeover. Here's the plan:

master suite

Phase 1 is to cover up the currently ugly tan on the walls and hopefully brighten the space. That phase will commence this weekend, unless we're ready to tile this weekend. I'm also hoping to paint an art piece to bring in the bedroom color.

Then we want to bring in lots and lots of white, with some accents of blue gray to brighten up the space. I would love to paint the (currently white) vanity a dove gray to spice it up a little. Then we'll bring in lots of glass accessories and maybe some new lighting to finish the look.


A few weeks ago, we went through that once yearly ritual that millions of Americans do every year. Taxes.

Now, let me get something out. I actually like doing our taxes. I'm a math nerd, so I don't mind doing the relatively simple math by hand in a way that actually affects our lives. I usually do them twice by hand (jointly and separate) and then check it with Turbo Tax. Unfortunately this year we had virtually no refund. As in, I can answer the question "What are you going to buy with your refund?" with "A couple of Diet Dr. Peppers out of the vending machine." But I know this is the best strategy for us.

Tax time is also a great time to look back at the year and see how we're doing financially. We were happy with a couple of areas. Retirement savings and investments are doing great, and our income is coming back up after a major pay cut last year thanks to the recession (we're back to pre-recession levels!). But there's one area that is NOT doing so hot at all.

Our general savings has dwindled. Even with our huge tax refund in 2008, our savings are much lower than they were after we bought the house in March. Of course, buying the house took out a sizeable chunk, but owning the house has taken up just as much. So here it is: the moment of truth:

Our house reno/deco budget has majorly shrunk for 2010. We thought our bonuses would carry us through with the projects we wanted to do. But within days of receiving those, we found out that we needed to some non-fun structural work on the house, and that I needed oral surgery, which would cost me a pretty penny out of pocket. So for now, the plan is to take care of that major work, have the outside trim painted (another thing that desperately needs to be done), and then slow waaaaaaaay down.

So my goal of "finishing" the house this year? Not going to happen. But luckily, we still have plenty of projects that we've planned and bought for, just waiting for some sweat equity.

1. Kitchen backsplash. The tile should arrive sometime this week. Maybe with the long Easter weekend, we can knock this one out soon!

2. Master Bath. No, we're not doing the mini-reno we have our hearts set on just yet. But a quick facelift with some paint we already have will take it from dreary to bright.

3. Sewing. I've got plenty of fabric and materials for various DIY projects. I've already got plans for a roman shade in the kitchen and an orange themed laundry room pick-me-up.

4. The yard. Well, we don't actually have the materials for this one, but it's a priority for us this year. We may not actually be able to get to the prettier stuff, but we'll be fighting the never ending battle with weeds and vines in a poorly maintained back yard. And hopefully prettying up the front yard and porch on the cheap.

We're going back to a strict high savings budget (eerily similar to the one we were on when saving for the house), so there's little room for wiggling in big projects. But you can bet I'll be saving my pennies for additional projects, and asking for paint and hardware gift cards for any and all present related holidays. Maybe we'll end up rid of the pukey tan living room after all.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Are you ready?

Because I know I am!

For what? SPRING!

Today is the first official day of spring, and I'm so thrilled that it's finally here. Even though the high today was 51 (weird!), I'm going to willfully ignore the freaky weather and worship the fact that sunny days are on the horizon. Even if stepping outside was a reminder that it's not quite flip flop weather, I have a reminder that's doing juuuuust fine.

Brett brought me these gorgeous beauties after my surgery on Thursday, and they've been cheering up our kitchen ever since. He did a not so shabby job arranging them in my favorite pitcher, right?

They're just serving as a gorgeous reminder of one of my favorite parts of spring. The flowers! I love flowers so, so much. Too bad I have the blackest thumb on the planet, right? Regardless of my terrible gardening skills, I'm ridiculously excited for gardening season to start back up.

We've already started with some weed killer for the cool season weeds that are killer around here. And one of our neighbors actually cut their grass last week, so I'm sure it won't be long before I'm pulling out the mower (one chore I surprisingly don't loathe!).

But thanks to the wacky weather we had around here this yer, we'll also have a couple of bigger jobs round here. Our normal weather allows us to have some plants that are normally reserved for tropical locales, like palms, citrus trees, and hibiscus. One of our favorite plants in the yard was the big, beautiful bi-colored hibiscus on the back of our house.

Gorgeous, isn't she? It was blooming well into November, and looking great in December and early January. But then we had three days of hard freezing weather, where the temp never rose above thirty. Which hadn't happened in something like 50 years. And the poor old girl didn't make it. Along with a ton of other hibiscus in our neighborhood. I imagine there will be a shortage in nurseries this spring!

We also lost a banana tree (which we didn't love anyway), but were relatively lucky. But on the docket for this spring?

1. Replace the hibiscus (we haven't decided if we're doing another hibiscus or something different. We definitely want something with color. An azalea maybe, or a hydrangea. No idea if those work with our climate, though)

2. Redo the edging on the front beds. We're tired of the plain green strips of metal, and we're planning on doing red stone.

3. Redo back beds. This will involve getting rid of A LOT of cast iron plants (Seriously, we have SO MUCH it's insane), mulching, edging, and maybe some stone? Maybe? I also want to highlight the gardenia more than it is now. Mmmmmmmmmm, gardenia.

I also would love to do something with the patch of grass between the house and the carport. I'd really love to start a garden, but I think there's not enough light there. I'm also aching for a citrus tree, but have no idea where to put it.

Are you excited for spring? Or would you rather hide under the covers, far away from the lawn mowers and weeds?

Friday, March 19, 2010

No fun

There will be no projects this weekend.

Yesterday morning, Brett drove me to the oral surgeon and I spent a couple of hours blissfully unaware as they cut out my wisdom teeth. The afternoon and today have been mostly spent on the couch/in the bed looking like this.

I'm feeling surprisingly good though. I took a trip to the library for some vegetarian cookbooks (a very new thing in my life that may or may not be long term), and even took 30 minutes to make a red lentil curry. I thought rice + creamy beans would be perfect for my aching mouth, but it's really not. The curry is delicious, but hard to eat.

Still, the rest of the weekend is not looking good for decorating. We'd like to go to garage sales and the farmer's market tomorrow, but it will all depend on how I feel. I'm still hoping to tackle the dreaded space above the fridge Sunday!

Oh, and!!!!! I bought the tile for the backsplash before my surgery Thursday! We went with 3x6" white subway tile and a 2x4" accent stripe in a muddy gray glass called "mink." I can't wait to get it up on the walls. It will be here in 7-10 days, so I'm hoping we'll get to it in about two weeks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Spring is totally here in Louisiana!

This weekend, we had some business to take care of in Thibodaux, Louisiana. After fighting traffic to get home Friday night, we fought more traffic to get out of town and head down to the bayou. It was an adorable little town, home of a small university. Unfortunately, the hotel situation left a little to be desired. We had a "non-smoking" room with multiple ash trays, a hard as nails bed, a non-working phone, a bathroom ceiling with a loose tile. It just sucked. I could have spent $70 in a much better way. And this was supposedly one of the nicest in town.

Saturday, Brett had stuff to do and I had a wonderful walk on the university campus. The weather was gorgeous! Then I headed back to the hotel to clean up and check out. I still had a couple of hours before Brett was done, so I took advantage of the beautiful weather. I parked in what I assumed was the downtown area and walked around looking in shops. Unfortunately, a lot of the stores I had scoped out on Google were closed on Saturdays. I did find one open antique store. They had a lot of great stuff, but not a lot that's necessarily our style. And their prices were insane. I saw a Duncan Phyfe dining set for $1400. Maybe they could have convinced me that was reasonable if I hadn't seen the same exact table on Craigslist last week for $75. I don't think the six chairs are worth $1325, dude.

I did pick up (what else?) a plate. A platter actually. It's a teal-y green with some scalloping around the edges. The finish is rubbed off in places, and it has some light cracks in the finish that give it a great, used look. I hung it up today, but I'm waiting for pictures until the light is better.

Once I picked Brett up and we got back into town, I decided to go buy the tile for our backsplash. Well, our first choice store was closed for the day (at 2 pm ?) and our second choice mysteriously raised the price from $4.50/sq ft to $15/sq ft. Noooooo thanks. I'll wait until the first store opens back up Monday.

So it was looking like our weekend was pretty much a big fat decorating fail. Today was filled with laundry and grocery shopping and let's be honest, lazing. But when I took my afternoon walk and saw people washing cars, and cleaning windows, and cleaning gardens, I got inspired. It was time for some Spring cleaning! Brett had to go into work tonight, so I took advantage of the fact that I was bored out of my mind, and set to work on something long overdue.

The closet.

Unfortunately, no before pictures. I had one at one time, but I can't find it. And I was so into the fact that I needed to CLEAR IT OUT immediately, that I forgot in the frenzy.

I started with the hanging clothes. The main impetus was that while I was putting up laundry, we ran out of clothes hangers. As in, more clothes than hangers. And I realized that there were so many clothes taking up hangers that I never touch. Including some that have never even been worn.

I culled with a strict hand. If I hadn't worn it in a year, for the most part it was gone. I did keep some very much loved clothes that are too small. I'm slowly creeping down in size, and I don't want to have to go out and buy new clothes when I already have ones I love dearly. I found that I was hanging on to a lot of clothes I wore in college, that I really didn't have occasions for now. My style has gotten a little more formal and a lot more professional. With the weekends spent in easy dresses and painting clothes, I had no use for the million different tank tops in there.

In the end, I got rid of more clothes than I kept.

Clueless homeowners secret: we don't make our bed everyday! We've heard it's actually healthier not to in a humid climate like ours. Yeah, that's it.

Here's the after on the hanging clothes. If I compress, I can actually take up less than half the available space. This means more room for new clothes. Don't tell Brett!

Then I moved on to the drawers and the closet shelves. I tightened up my shoes (only got rid of three pairs. With the two pairs I bought today I'm pretty much dead even). Then I brought down all of the bins to get rid of a bunch of stuff.

And I did it. I got rid of the shirt.

It was time. I know. But it hurt. Along with another tie-dye shirt I've had since I was 12, it went into the trash pile. It just hit me that I now have no more tie dye shirts. WHAT WILL I DO?

The bins are no longer overflowing! And they're all organized! I use the bins for things that don't get used all the time or don't belong in drawers. Grubby t-shirts used for getting dirty, lingerie (no pictures of that thank you very much), shorts, hats and scarves, bathing suits, and purses. It's nice to take advantage of all the shelves with some extra storage.

My drawers weren't badly organized. Just overstuffed.

That is three dresser drawers and two drawers in the media stand. That doesn't even include my sock drawer in the dresser.

I reduced this by over half. My pajama drawer went from two pairs of pants, four pairs of shorts, and a few tees to a single pair of shorts. The pajamas I actually wear pretty much never hit the drawer, but they'll actually fit in there now!

The workout drawer is still full, but I can actually ft my sports bras in there! and my undie drawer is much less full, and much better organized.

The media stand drawers hold tees and undershirts. It's been reduced to one barely full drawer. The top drawer only has a few books in it now!

I also emptied my overly full jewelry box and put it in my sock drawer jewelry tray. My most often worn jewelry still sits in my capiz box on the nightstand, but the pieces I wear less often are much better organized, and in my face. Maybe I'll wear them more often now!

I also cleaned up the floor of the closet. The whole thing just makes me feel so good. Like I can breathe again!

Next up: that space above the refrigerator that seems to collect clutter.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blog Love

You may have noticed that I added some links to my favorite blogs over to the right. All of these ladies and gents constantly inspire me to find the time and energy that goes into making our house into a home.

One of my very favorite blogs in the list is The DIY Show Off. Not only does Roeshel do amazing projects in her own home (this powder room makeover is seriously inspiring). She manages to gather amazing, inspiring DIY projects from all around the blogosphere to share with all of us. It's a great way to find others who are struggling (and succeeding) with the same problems we're all facing.

I am so touched that Roeshel decided to feature our plate clock project today. Please head one over (you can click on the button below), click follow, and enjoy the serious DIY eye candy that Roeshel throws your way. You won't regret it one bit.

The DIY Show Off

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

They're multiplying!

I'm starting to worry. I may not stop until every wall in my house is covered in plates.

Last weekend we scored two blue and white plates for $6 at the Trash and Treasure sale. Score!

One of them just happened to be the perfect design to make our long anticipated plate clock.

I'm not going to lie, it was hard. Mostly because I measured wrong and got the wrong size drillbit. And full disclosure, the hard part of this project was done 100% by my wonderful husband, while I sat there and plugged my ears. Drill+china=screeeeeeech.

To make your clock, first you need to find your center. Our plate was a lace work design with an obvious center, yay! Otherwise, measure across the middle in several places and make sure you've got the exact center. This is really really important. You may end up with a plate that's almost completely drilled through before you see the light coming through and realize that's nowhere NEAR the center. This may have happened with our skyline plate. Maybe.

Once you've found your center point, set your plate on a towel with a piece of wood or thick cardboard underneath. You'll need a masonry bit that's slightly larger than the diameter of your clock motion set (this can be picked up at any hobby store). This was my problem.

Because the 1/4" masonry bit we used was slightly smaller than the clock motion parts, we used a combination of the masonry bit, a larger regular bit, and a knife to scrape out the ceramic. Yeah, I told you he was awesome.

Using the regular bit led to a few chips. We didn't mind since the plate is obviously old and used anyway. A masonry bit of the proper size probably wouldn't have chipped the plate (note: the masonry bit did cause some chipping on the back of the plate when it went through. I would suggest drilling from the front).

Plus, you can't really notice it unless you're really looking.

Once you get a big enough hole, put in the clock motion and fasten it down. Then add your hands and set the time.

Not bad for $7, right? Especially considering that you can get a similar version on Etsy for upwards of $40. Or at least, you could. One of the plates she uses is $6 at Pier 1 folks. this is a perfect DIY project if you've got an electric drill.

I would say the key is to go slowly. This is not a five minute project, but it was totally worth the time it took. A totally custom clock for my kitchen makes me so happy. Especially the blue lacework next to the yellow geometric.

I gotta say, I'm really a fan of the plates.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Our First Mood Board Monday!

I've decided to start participating in Mood Board Monday over at Pewter and Sage. This week's challenge gives the choice of two rugs as a jumping off point. I chose a rug I've loved ever since I first saw it: The Andalusia in yellow from West Elm.

I'm thinking about our living room a lot lately, so I decided to do a living room with a mix of modern elements and some traditional patterns (like the one on the rug!).

Let's start with colors. I thought the yellow rug would look great with a barely there blue gray, so I paired it with the color we recently used in the office: Misty from Sherwin Williams. For accent colors, I thought citrus hues would look great with a charcoal gray.

This beautiful sunflower mirror from Pier 1 brings a metal element to the room, and it's a steal at only $39.98! I want this. Bad.

For the windows, these beautiful tone on tone velvet drapes from West Elm would almost disappear against the walls, but would bring some wonderful texture to the room.

That gorgeous acid green floor lamp is the Bauhaus Arc Floor Lamp from CB2. The color is gorgeous, but the realy beauty is the functionality. Its' large arch allows it to service the couch, the chair, or anywhere in between.

And how about that gorgeous couch? I've had my eye on this beauty for months. It's the Karlstad sofa from Ikea in Sivik dark gray. This particular one is a sleeper, which is perfect for those of us with smaller houses and little space for guests.

One the sofa are a couple of pillows from CB2. The Colossal Cables Throw from Anthropologie is just the thing for cuddling up on cold nights.

The stunner of an armchair is the Lulu Chair in Flourish Smoke from Urban Outfitters. I love the modern shape, the gray print, and the tufted back. It's wonderful.

The Pod Table from Urban Outfitters is a great pop of color in an unexpected shape. On top of the table, how about this gorgeous Bell Jar lamp from West Elm and the always adorable ceramic lion from Jonathan Adler.

This room may be a bit out of my budget, but I could totally hang out here. Could you?

P.S.: If you're visiting for the first time from Pewter and Sage, welcome! I hope you enjoy reading about us making our first house into a home. This is my first mood board, so any comments or pointers are more than welcome!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Whoo Hoo!

Finally, A Sunday night I can be proud of.

We got so much accomplished this weekend, and I'm a very happy girl.

Friday, we went to the Rotary's Trash and Treasure Sale. I picked up 5 brass candlesticks and a couple of plates for the kitchen wall (one of which will be turned into a clock) for a grand total of nine bucks. We also spotted a little sewing table for $40 that I wanted to turn into a vanity for the powder room. Brett wasn't totally sold on it, so we left without it.

Saturday morning I walked the Race for the Cure with a friend, and then came home and rested my barking dogs before making a trip to Hobby Lobby for plate hangers and candles. On a whim, I picked up some fabric to make cloth napkins for my next sewing project. I spent the rest of the night reading and resting, prepping for a busy Sunday.

Then today, I finally finished the reading challenge I've been working on since the beginning of the year. I finished early enough to do a little fun shopping at Target. My purchases, along with my new old candlesticks, make a fun centerpiece for our dining room.

Then I popped back into the Trash and Treasure sale for half price today. And our little sewing table was still there! At $20, it was a no brainer. Even if our plan doesn't work out, we're not out that much, right?

And then I managed to finish the office curtains before Brett got home. Then it was time for lunch and a break from work. We headed to the zoo where we saw Zuri the baby rhino.

And some pretty adorable elephants.

Once we got home, we were refreshed and ready to hang up the curtains.

I can't believe my first ever sewing project turned out so well. There were a few mistakes, but nothing noticeable unless you're me.

I love the gray, black, and two shades of deep orange against the barely blue walls.

They really liven up the space! I can't wait to really decorate the office in earnest.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sew Sew Sew!

One of my goals this year is to learn how to sew. I'm not planning on making all of my clothes or anything, but I'd love to be able to whip out some curtains and pillows. A few weeks ago my mom brought me this.

And last night she gave me my first lesson.

I learned how to thread it (I think), how to get started, and how not to let the straight pin heads get in the foot.

I learned that even if the belt looks like this

it will still sew!

And I made this!

It's.....a square of fabric!

Actually, it's a mini curtain panel. I hemmed it on four sides, and then made a rod pocket at the top and a cuffed hem on the bottom. And it looks pretty swell!

It can also be used as a cat dress/cape (if it's a boy cat).

They even fought over it!

Now I just have to make this about 500 times bigger.

We also got the office in workable condition last night. Including lights!

We still need to make curtains and hang up all the art. Plus there's the matter of new bookshelves, tv stand, computer/printer storage, and something for seating. But that will all be long term.

I also added the new plates to the collage. It keeps growing and growing.