Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Decor on a Budget

Fall officially began a couple of days ago, which means I can now display my Fall decor proudly {without getting the side eye anymore since I've had most of it up for weeks already}. And in a miraculous turn of events, the weather here in Texas actually cooled off by about 40 degrees since the beginning of Fall this week. Sometimes I really do think God has a sense of humor....Like as if he said "Haha it's been 100+ degrees for months but the DAY Fall officially begins I'm gonna drop that sucker down 40 degrees!! That'll get their heads spinning!" Welp, thanks God. I'll take cooler weather, despite the fact that I think you're laughing at us up there.

Anyway, on to the Fall decor! I love decorating for holidays but I don't like to spend a lot of $$$ on it. There are some things you can do to save money on holiday decor.

Use items you already have. For example, in the above photo I decided to pull a Fall-colored cookbook from my collection to put on display. I just love the extra pop of Fall-ness that it gives my little nook on the kitchen counter.

I also pulled that glass vase off of a shelf in my closet where it had been sitting for months. It was actually one of those vases that you get when you receive a flower arrangement {not that I get many of those...love you hubby!} The filler in the vase I found at Tuesday Morning for cheap. I just love this little Fall nook now!

Buy holiday decor out of season. This is hard for me because I don't really get "in the mood" to buy holiday decor until it's the season but I try to still keep my eyes open for anything that's just too incredible of a deal to pass up.

I bought the above Fall leaves table runner {which I adore} on super sale from Crate & Barrel last December for {I think} around $10. The plate I bought for 50% off at Hobby Lobby and the candles I already had. Granted, the table decor definitely is a work in progress but I still like it a lot.

Shop for holiday decor at super cheap places, like the dollar store. I bought the strand of Fall leaves for $1 at the Dollar Tree. {And I'm thinking about going back and buying 4-5 more strands of them for the mantle, dining table. etc.} The pumpkins were gifts from people I think. I got the candle & little wreath {on the lower shelf} from Hobby Lobby on sale last year.
Finally, spread your holiday decor out throughout your house {kitchen, dining, & living room mostly}. Little pops of decor here and there are better than a ton of stuff piled in one place.
Now for a couple of Halloween items:
Dollar Tree find

Dollar Tree "Haunted House" sign & Trick or Treat sign bought from Hobby Lobby on sale.

Dollar Tree "Witches Way" sign

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ugly Ducklings

Recently, I've developed a bit of an obsession with the Dollar Tree. How come no one ever told me all the great finds they have at that store for ONE DOLLAR?!?! I almost feel like I shouldn't tell anyone about how great the Dollar Tree is so I can keep first dibs on everything. Just in the past few weeks I've found everything from Halloween decor to glassware to home improvement supplies. As I was getting ready to check out, these little ugly ducklings (or birdies) caught my eye:

Who would think that sand glued on to them was a good look for these things?!? I mean, really? But I saw the potential and knew they would look great with a coat or two of my secret weapon:

That's right. The ridiculously popular (in blog world, at least) spray paint color called "Heirloom White". Not too white, not too yellow. Just right for a nice creamy color.

I first attempted to sand off the...er...well...sand! But that crap was stuck on there and not budging much so I just decided to paint over it. Here they are with the first coat (notice my super amazing "drop cloth"...also known as an empty bag of dog food):
After a couple more coats and a little drying time they transformed into beautiful swans:
It's really amazing how much cuter they are now! And the paint really brings out the detail on the wings, which I love.

I love my little "nest" that I created for one of them. The glass container was also from Dollar Tree and the moss I already had from a previous project. So total cost for that little bird's nest was less than $3!

This picture is way too dark but you can get the idea. I am in love with my little birds now!! I want to buy more and put them all over the house.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rainy Day {Healthy} Soup

This past weekend, we experienced a monsoon where I live. It rained all weekend...nonstop! Which was good, because we needed it! We were experiencing a bit of a drought. AND that means less watering of the lawn that I had to do. {For what it's worth, lawn watering and maintenance is one of my most hated "husband" jobs that I have to do while he's gone.}

I really *love* rainy weather, provided I can stay on my couch all day long. But rainy weather also really makes me want soup! I found this recipe for White Bean & Sausage Soup in my most recent edition of Food Network Magazine and thought it fit the bill perfectly for a rainy day.

I made a few modifications to make it a super-healthy, too! It originally called for escarole but I couldn't find it in my grocery store so I substituted kale, which happens to be a really really healthy cabbage-like green. See the below excerpt from wikipedia for proof:

Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties and is anti-inflammatory.[2] Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium. Because of its high vitamin K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid this food since it increases the vitamin K concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are often attempting to lower. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties.[3]

So on your next rainy day, enjoy a big bowl of this hearty and healthy soup!
Sausage & White Bean Soup

1 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4-6 links of sweet Italian turkey sausages, squeezed out of casings
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3-4 cups chicken broth (depending on how soupy you like it)
1 head of kale, (remove stems and slice up the leaves into bite size pieces)
1 parmesan rind (cut off the end of a parmesan block)
1 can of white cannelini beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup of grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling on top
salt & pepper

Cook the sausage, garlic & red pepper flakes in olive oil, being sure to crumble the sausage with your spoon as it cooks. Add the chicken broth, kale, and the parmesan rind; simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the kale is tender. Add the can of drained beans, 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer until the beans are heated through and then serve. Sprinkle grated parmesan on top of each bowl.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Dresser of a Different Color

This is the story of an old dresser originally purchased from Target that looked like this one:

Photo from Target.com

I'm more of a dark wood kind of girl so I'm really not sure why I even purchased this dresser in such a light color. I bought it when I was in college so maybe I was hungover the day I bought it?? Who knows.

The point is I wasn't feeling it anymore. It was just sitting in my guest room being hated by me. So I decided to paint it and make it purty. Only problem was that this dresser is laminate, not
wood. Can you even paint laminate??

Yes, yes you can. First I removed the hardware {well actually this part happened when my
husband was home on R&R so I made him take off the hardware}. Then I used our palm sander to sand off the top layer, being careful not to sand down too far. You just want to get off the shiny laminate part. I forgot to get a picture of this step...sorry. :(

Then I used a small foam roller brush to paint on a primer that said it was suitable for laminate. {Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer to be exact}. Here's what she looked like after two coats of primer:
The only thing that sucks about this primer that I used is that it needs 7 days to completely dry. SEVEN DAYS?!?! Don't you realize I'm an instant gratification kind of girl???? So, I begrudgingly left the dresser to dry for 7 days {it was torture}. Once the primer is completely dry go back over the primer with sand paper to smooth out any bumps and things.

Then I was finally able to get to the paintin' part. Yahoo!!! I painted it an off-white Kilz color {and again I used a small foam roller brush}. Once it was painted and dried I reattached the hardware and VOILA!
I just love the way it turned out!! I probably should have given it a coat of polyurethane to protect the paint but I was way too impatient for the final product so I skipped it {for now...maybe I'll do it later}.

I love the feeling of a finished project!

Libby's Story

WARNING: This is really a purely selfish post to show off how cute my dog is.
See what I mean?!? Libby is a 4 year old Terrier Mix {a.k.a. mutt...but we don't tell her that}. We adopted Libby from the Houston SPCA a year ago. As I was walking along looking at all the dogs lined up in their cages at the SPCA, I came across Libby who looked totally different from all the Labs, Golden Retrievers, etc. And while all the other dogs were barking like mad and going crazy, Libby was just politely sitting there with a big "smile" on her face. She was the perfect size {about 35 pounds} and I totally fell in love with her when we took her to the "play area" to "meet her". She was so loving and had a really happy air about her.

So, we adopted her! How could we not with a face like this?!?
The details on Libby's previous life are a little sketchy. All we know for sure is that her previous owners gave her up to the SPCA because they were moving, and I guess they couldn't take her with them. I still fail to realize how someone could give up a dog like Libby for such a dumb reason, but I'm glad they did so we could get her!

We also think that Libby was a stray before she was adopted by her previous owners because she has a "tattoo" on her belly that is a female sign with a slash through it. The vet told us the tattoo signifies that she has been spayed and they usually only tattoo dogs with this symbol if they are strays or homeless so that their future owners will know she's already been spayed. So my poor Libby probably had a pretty interesting life before we found her. Another sign that she may have had some abuse in her past was that she was VERY "head shy" when we first adopted her {a.k.a. she always ducked whenever we went to pet her...as if she was scared we were going to hurt her}. I hate to think of what might have happened to her in the past. :-(

But, luckily we found her and now she has a great life. She gets to lounge on furniture and sleeps in the bed with us {spoiled}.

She has a few "quirks" but those are part of what we love about her. When we first got her she had a serious jumping problem but we've been working on that and she's gotten a lot better now.

She also likes to "talk back" to us like the spoiled little brat that she is. For example, if you tell her "No!" she sometimes growls back at you. Not in a vicious way, just in a funny way. Or when you aren't paying enough attention to her she'll growl at you as if she's saying "Pet me or else!"

She also likes to "sing". If you start howling she'll howl right along with you. It's pretty funny.

Finally, her most annoying but also lovable quirk is her licking. One of her nicknames is "Licky" because she never. stops. licking. It's crazy! And she'll lick anything...legs, hands, faces, furniture, the bedspread, the floor, etc. Sometimes she'll even lick so much that her tongue gets "stuck" on the thing she's licking. It's hilarious but you really have to see it to believe it.

But with all her quirks, we really couldn't have asked for a more perfect dog. She came potty trained, she's eager to please, she's not much of a "destroyer", she loves to sleep, she couldn't hurt a fly {good for future little ones} and she's super cute.

Oh and Libby loves playing dress up...Pretty in Pink Libby

Patriotic Bikini Libby

Rocker Mohawk Libby

Princess Libby

{Libby would like to thank her "Aunt" Andrea for most of these dress-up ideas. She misses having her Aunt around!}

I would like to encourage everyone to adopt their pets instead of buying them from pet stores or backyard breeders. It's usually cheaper to adopt and they come spayed or neutered and usually with all their shots already. www.petfinder.com is a great website to use to find dogs up for adoption. You can even search by the breed if you're only interested in a certain breed!

If you can't adopt a dog right now but you want to help out, I recommend volunteering at your local animal shelter. Or donate food, money or supplies to the shelter! They can ALWAYS use extra hands and/or supplies.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just Finished Reading...not-so-intellectual novels

It's been a while since I've posted anything about books and I've managed to read quite a few in that time frame. However, if you're looking for thought-provoking, intelligent books, please stop reading right now. None of these books are that. They are all very Twilight-esque books. Purely for entertainment value.

Betrayed is the second book in the "House of Night" series. I'm not gonna lie here, this series is basically just a cheap, teeny-bopper knock-off of Twilight but I am still enjoying it. My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Dead Until Dark and Living Dead in Dallas are the first and second books in the Sookie Stackhouse series, aka the books the hugely popular True Blood TV series is based on. They are also about vampires but they're not just cheap Twilight knock offs. Definitely geared towards a more mature audience. My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Summoning is also part of a series (geesh...what is with me and series lately?!?). This is the first book in the "Darkest Powers" series about a teenage girl who can see dead people. A little "Sixth Sense"-ish but still enjoyable. My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I'm honestly a little embarrassed about the caliber of books I've been reading lately. But it was summer and some of these were beach reads while we were on vacation. Don't worry though, I'm redeeming myself with the book I'm reading now. It's much more "legit". :)

A Little Frame Makeover

My great aunt Ellabeth was quite a crafter when she was alive, and she also had a knack for painting. I was lucky enough to acquire one of her paintings that I love but unfortunately I was no longer loving the bronzey-gold frame holding it. However, the frame has great detail to it so I figured just a couple coats of spray paint would work wonders. Here she is all taped off and ready for spray paint. All I did pre-painting was wipe off the dust and grime that had accumulated on the frame. I didn't bother with sanding it or anything {lazy}. Then away I went with a couple coats of Dover White spray paint and voila!
{Please ignore the dog body in the background and the fact that the frame is resting on an ironing board}

I'm happy with the way it turned out and I think the white frame really makes the painting pop now! Also, although you can't tell in the photo, the paint job has an "antique" look to it where some of the spray paint didn't completely get into some of the nooks and crannies {aka I didn't spray it properly}....and I really like it that way! Sometimes laziness pays off people...I'm just sayin'.

So thanks, Ellabeth, for providing me with a one-of-a-kind painting that looks beautiful hanging in my living room. I miss you!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Coming Down Off the R&R High

Hello loyal readers!!

I apologize for my absence the past couple of weeks...but I have a good excuse! My husband came home for his 2 weeks of Rest & Relaxation from deployment! Annnddddd it was AMAZING!!! I know that word is an overused adjective these days but I really think it fits.

It started out a bit rocky with several frustrating flight delays. I ended up picking him up at the DFW airport at 4am three days later than was originally planned. However, in the end it all worked out perfectly and I really didn't care about anything else once I set eyes on him in person for the first time in 7.5 months.

In an effort not to bore you, I will just share some of the highlights from our R&R:
  • Alex's first dinner back in the states at the ever-popular Texas Roadhouse
  • Spending our 2nd anniversary in Austin staying at the beautiful and historic Driskill Hotel (and getting a free upgrade to the Bridal Suite)
  • Spending time with Alex's parents as well as my crazy extended family
  • A 4 night trip to CANCUN!! We stayed at an all-inclusive and couldn't have had a better trip.
  • But most of all, just spending time at home, alone, just like a "normal" couple...cooking dinner, watching movies, snuggling on the couch, and doing dishes. It's weird how much you miss the simple things.
As cheesy as this may sound, I fell in love with my husband all over again. Not that I had ever fallen out of love with him (or even come close to it), but I think I had just blocked out a lot of the things that I love about him most in an effort to not miss him as much while he was gone. Sort of a defensive action, I guess?

But anyway, I LOVE MY HUSBAND!!! He's loving, caring, funny, helpful, patient and so many more wonderful things.

The only thing that seriously sucks about having such an amazing R&R is that it really, really sucks when he has to go back. He left to go back this past Monday and I just haven't really been able to get over the slight funk I've been in since then (hence the lack of blog updates). I just miss him.

BUT, the good news is we are well into the downhill slide of this deployment now. Woohoo!! AND, I have freaking fabulous Army Wife friends who are there for me through all of my deployment funks. :)