Friday, May 4, 2012

Coups for Troops

My husband and I have several coupon mantras: 1) If we don't need it or use it, we don't buy it. 2) If we have to spend money we wouldn't otherwise spend to save on it, we don't buy it. 3) If we don't have room to store or stockpile something, we don't buy it. Because of these mantras, we frequently have coupons expire.

The good news is that military personnel stationed overseas can use expired coupons for up to six months after the expiration date. A host of organizations have popped up on the Internet to collect coupons. I personally use Coups for Troops. Every two months, I gather my expired coupons and send them to the address nearest to us. The process takes very little time, and I figure I may be helping someone out.

While you do have to pay postage to mail the coupons, you do not have to sort them for this particular service, nor do you have to tally the face value of the coupons you send. Just place the expired coupons in an envelope and mail them. This envelope of expired coupons is going out tomorrow:

This is such a simple way to give back to the folks who do so much for us.

Erin

Krylon Glitter Blast . . . and Glittered Pine Cones

After Thanksgiving last year, I bought Krylon Glitter Blast spray to coat some pine cones with glitter for holiday decorating. Unfortunately, my husband and I encountered problems with the spray can, and some of it ended up being wasted. I contacted Krylon, expecting simply to voice my discontent. I was blessed, however, that a customer service representative named Kevin responded and offered to send me another can of the spray paint free of charge. When I had not received the paint a few weeks later, I contacted customer service again to let the company know. Kevin responded again and traced the package. Turns out it was left at my apartment's clubhouse without my knowledge.

I used the second can to finish painting my pine cones. What an easy, sophisticated-looking, and inexpensive holiday decorating idea! I am probably going to fill some large vases with these at Christmas and may even use some to make pine cone garland. And I am so pleased with Krylon and the fact that it stands behind its guarantee.

Erin

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings

I love chicken and dumplings. But until now, I have generally used pre-made dumplings (Mary B's, made in Pensacola, Florida, my hometown).

Then I found this recipe for dumplings at TastyKitchen.com. Fabulous. Just as good as Mary B's and actually easier and perhaps even a tad faster to make.

Obviously, I added a bit of pepper to ours. I love pepper!

Erin

Strawberry Pizza

Now that I am finished with my sad little home tour, I will start posting recipes and such again. :)

I saw this recipe for strawberry pizza on The Farmer's Wife blog a few months ago. I love strawberries and chocolate and cream cheese, so I decided to try the recipe. I didn't slice my strawberries, though, because I like them whole--and with sugar on top of them. :)

This entire dessert pizza was gone in a day. We LOVED it! And I found that cream cheese + vanilla + sugar is good all by itself. Not good for you, but good. :)

Erin

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Home Tour: Kitchen

I have made it to the final room of my home tour!

We currently live in an "unrenovated" apartment at our apartment complex. What this means is that we have 1970's cabinets and 1980's butcher block counters. We will soon have new cabinets and granite counters, but for now, it is what it is. :) We think we have made the best of it.

When we first moved here, I had quite a Coca-Cola collection. I have sold a lot of that collection on eBay the past few months and now have a mainly black and stainless steel kitchen with a few red and Coca-Cola items thrown in for good measure. I intend to keep this color scheme.

Again, our kitchen is fairly large, so I will present it in sections. First, the bar.

Yes, I do love these bar stools, although I really should touch them up a bit. I like those oil bottles, too, although I eventually want to etch the oil "labels" onto the bottles when I get a Silhouette Cameo (probably a long way away!). I also love the Gerber daisies in the Mason jar (though I think more marbles are in order) and the treat stand, although it is begging for some treats to display! I also am quite a fan of my cookbook holder (which holds a monogrammed plate right now rather than a cookbook), though it still has stickers on it placed by the manufacturer.

On to the refrigerator:

I actually decluttered the top of the freezer a couple of months ago, yet the few items still atop it look cluttered, don't they? I should work on organizing those somewhere else. Too, I should get everything off the refrigerator. The items should be filed away in a permanent location or, in the case of our debt snowball, savings, and giving thermometers, redone and laminated and posted on a corkboard somewhere in our home.

I love our bar:

I just would like to have a new toaster oven. I intend to buy a four-slice toaster when this one dies. But for now, it's forever old and still going strong.

The sink area:

The rug in the floor is one of two (the other is in front of the refrigerator). Both are starting to look bad--the white in Coca-Cola looks yellow! I am going to discard them. I eventually want to buy anti-fatigue kitchen mats to go in front of the stove and sink. As for the sink, I want to replace the pump on the Mason jar I use to hold my dishwashing liquid. I also want to put the hand sanitizer in a similar Mason jar. Finally, I want to figure out a better storage solution for my brushes and sponges.

Spice rack, knives, and more:

My sister-in-law gave my husband and me the spice rack. I love it. I am going to purchase another to store the tons of other spices in my cabinets (and I'm going to print new labels, too). I am also going to purchase some new knives at some point because these are dull and sharpening them hasn't helped much.

Our current stove is hardly stainless steel, but it works really well. We eventually would like one that is slightly newer. :)

I need to clean the tea kettle. I also would like to make some more candles to fit the candle holders when we have time.

The final portion of the counter:

We want to replace the microwave when it dies, preferably with a black or stainless steel one.

Yes, I'm even showing the garbage and recycling cans:

We want to build a wooden garbage can with hooks inside it and a storage area for the box of bags. We also want to create a better recycling system.

Okay, so I haven't finished it and haven't updated it recently either, but here is our shopping list and calendar.

I really want to finish it in the near future.

And finally, I really, REALLY want to finish the cedar chest hiding under this drop cloth and move it to the bedroom. But that task is on my master bedroom list. :) (Oh, and disregard the shredded paper on the carpet. I turned over the shredder. But I've already vacuumed the resulting mess.)

I have some other random tasks on my list as well. The currently exhaustive list of what we want to do in the kitchen:

  • Before we move to the next apartment:
    • Clean tea kettle. (Cost: free.)
    • Clean cookware with stainless steel cleaner. (Cost: free.)
    • Remove the stickers from the cookbook holder. (Cost: free.)
    • Remove the items from the refrigerator door. (Cost: free.)
    • Touch up paint on bar stools. (Cost: free.)
    • Buy more marbles for Mason jar. (Cost: $1 per pack.)
    • Buy new pump for Mason jar. (Cost: $1.)
    • Move hand sanitizer to a Mason jar with a pump. (Cost: $3.)
    • Finish calendar. (Cost: free with a gift card I have.)
    • Buy another spice rack. (Cost: free with some gift cards I have.)
    • Label spices. (Cost: free.)
  • During our stay in the next apartment:
    • Discard rugs.
    • Make candles for candle holders.
    • Buy more condiment bottles.
    • Figure out a better storage solution for brushes and sponges.
    • Declutter the top of the freezer. Find a nice Coca-Cola crate to put atop the freezer to put candles or flowers in. :)
    • Continue purchasing miscellaneous dishes and glasses at thrift stores.
    • Buy scoops for canisters.
    • Laminate clean thermometers and post them on a corkboard.
    • Buy a used meat freezer, and stock it with meat from Polyvore.
  • When we return to Florida:
    • Make a measuring cup and spoon holder.
    • Create bookends for cookbooks.
  • When we have some spare money:
    • Buy more cooking utensils, appliances, and items: pressure canner, pastry blender, juicer, timer, meat tenderizer, garlic press. griddle
    • Buy another set of ramekins.
    • Buy new knives.
    • Buy anti-fatigue mats to place in front of the stove and sink.
    • Etch the oil labels onto the glass bottles.
    • Replace the (dead) toaster with a four-slice one.
    • Replace the (dead) microwave with a black or stainless steel one.
  • When we buy a house:
    • Create built-in organizers for silverware.
    • Build a kitchen island with towel holders.
Erin

Home Tour: Spare Bedroom

We have one spare bedroom. We use it as a catch-all room. Eventually, I want to use spare bedrooms for their intended purpose, but for now, we use what we have. :)

For the two of you who think I am super organized, this room is going to refute that belief.

Most of our time in the spare bedroom is spent at the computer.

the books and magazines are for my law office. :) So is the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo, which I use to print postage at home right now, but which will be transferred to my office in the near future. So really, the big project here is to fix the corner of the desk and then to sand and paint the desk and install hardware on the doors. I also want to "clean" the computer by organizing my bookmarks and deleting any unnecessary files and programs. I could probably stand to clean out the cabinets, too, now that I think about it.

Then we have my filing cabinet:

The typewriter is yet another item that will be going to my office. The desk tray will stay in its rightful place atop the filing cabinet. :) I do want to cover the filing cabinet with either wrapping or contact paper.

Beside the desk sits this mess:

If you look closely, you will see albums on the floor; there are cassettes on top of the stereo. I want to convert the songs on the records and the cassettes to mp3 files. The equipment I need to do so is right there atop the Rubbermaid container. Also, the Rubbermaid container on which everything sits is holding a bunch of old pictures that I want to scan and digitally scrapbook. The scanner is sitting here as well. I must get around to these tasks!

My craft table is a mess.

Yeah, I really want to get control of this space again. And I want to paint the craft table with black chalkboard paint.

I have a stack of items in the corner.

The television and a few other items are going to go to my parents' house in Florida until we move back to the Sunshine State. The crate and paperwork beside and under it are all work-related. I want to organize all of these items so that they can be moved into a filing cabinet in my office.

And finally, the closet, organized (no, really!) chaos:

I really do know where everything is in this closet. I do want to finish using our store-bought cleaning supplies and then to organize the homemade ones a bit better. I also want to throw away the boxes for the TV, laptop, desktop, printer, and scanner when we move back to Florida (we intend to pack the individual items in these boxes). I would love a tool shed, but clearly that dream is far in the future. I want to get rid of the unnecessary plastic storage boxes and to organize the candle-making supplies, too.

Okay, so here is the current exhaustive list.

  • Before we move to the next apartment:
    • Take TV and other items to Florida. (Cost: free--not counting the gasoline and such that is already budgeted!)
    • Organize craft table. (Cost: free.)
    • Paint craft table with black chalkboard paint. (Cost: free.)
    • Scan pictures. (Cost: free.)
    • Fix the desk corner. (Cost: $15.)
    • Sand and paint the desk. (Cost: $15.)
    • Attach hardware to the desk doors. (Cost: $15.)
    • Clean out desk cabinets. (Cost: free.)
  • During our stay in the next apartment:
    • Get rid of unnecessary storage boxes.
    • Organize cleaning supplies.
    • Organize candle-making supplies.
    • Cover the filing cabinet with wrapping or contact paper.
    • Organize law office files.
  • When we return to Florida:
    • Throw away boxes for electronics.
  • When we have some spare money:
  • When we buy a house:
    • Build a tool shed.
    • Have a spare bedroom that is used as a spare bedroom. :)
Erin

Today's Verse: May 2, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Matthew 7:7-8 (NKJV)

7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."
8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

Erin

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Home Tour: Bathroom

I have been ill and have been taking a break from the home tour. But I really want to finish this task--today!

We have only one bathroom in our current apartment. But eventually, we want to have two bathrooms: one decorated in black and white and the other decorated in brown and white. Our current bathroom is black and white and looks like this:

I really loved the shower curtain for the first year that I had it. Now, I think it's too busy. I will likely make my own sometime in the future. In the meantime, I want to soak this one in some homemade Oxy. Along the same lines, I really want new towels. As you can see, the ones we have our navy blue (they matched our old bathroom theme). I refuse to get rid of them until they are unusable--unless I can reuse them elsewhere, that is.

The tub looks like this:

As I said previously, I am working on using my store-bought toiletries and replacing them with homemade ones. Along those lines, I intend to make some more bath salts soon. And I want to discard my old sponges. And yes, I want new washcloths, too. I also would like to find a better container to store my homemade bubble bath in. Any ideas?

The floor:

I love my fluffy rug, but bleach drops from my Clorox toilet wand have ruined it; too, it isn't absorbent enough. I also want a new garbage can; I've had this stainless steel one for years, and it's a bit beat up. I still want one that has a lid to it, though! I would like to replace my plunger with a cuter one (and yes, I know how shallow that statement sounds). And the ultimate goal is never to have an ugly sink again. You can't tell from the picture, but the wood on the front of the cabinet is a different color from the particle board on the side of the cabinet. I also would like a larger cabinet--and two vanities would actually be great!

And finally, the sink area looks like this:

Our medicine cabinet is about two inches deep, so storing anything in it is difficult. I'm not sure I would ever choose to have a medicine cabinet, but regardless, I want to find a better way to store toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, contact lenses, etc. I painted the pump and Mason jar lid and screw band white, and I'm not happy with that choice; I want to buy a new pump and paint the lid black. I am looking for a nice decanter to put the mouthwash in. I am trying to devise a cute way to store razors in hydrogen peroxide. And yes, I know I should put a good cleaning on that mirror!

Okay, so one more area: under the sink!

I hate storing anything under the sink. I just cannot shake the thought that whatever is stored there is dirty! For now, I mainly use this area to store cleaners, shopping bags (I use the few that I get for my bathroom garbage can--and I created my own storage container using a coffee can my mother-in-law was kind to send to me) and personal effects. See the antique Listerine bottle in the corner? I have to clean it better before I will use it again.

The exhaustive project list for the bathroom:

  • Before we move to the next apartment:
    • Discard old sponges. (Cost: free.)
    • Make more bath salts. (Cost: free.)
    • Buy a new pump, and paint Mason jar lid black. (Cost: $1.)
    • Find a way to store razors in hydrogen peroxide. (Cost: no idea.)
  • During our stay in the next apartment:
    • Soak shower curtain in homemade Oxy.
    • Clean antique Listerine bottle using denture tablets, and use it as a vase for flowers.
    • Determine another way to store personal effects.
    • Buy a new garbage can.
    • Replace rug.
    • Replace plunger.
    • Find another container to store homemade bubble bath.
    • Find decanter to store mouthwash.
    • Figure out an entirely new way to store cleaners.
    • Buy an antique silver gravy boat and spoon to use for bath salts.
  • When we return to Florida:
    • Finish using store-bought toiletries, and replace them with homemade ones.
    • Figure out a better way to store towels.
  • When we have some spare money:
    • Replace navy blue towels and washcloths.
    • Buy an old bird bath to use as a side table for bath salts, etc.
  • When we buy a house:
    • Have the toilet area entirely separate from the rest of the bathroom.
    • Have cute sinks and fixtures--and preferably double vanities!
    • Have a cute mirror, whether we have to stencil or frame it.
    • Have at least one claw-foot tub!
    • Install French doors leading into the master bath from the master bedroom. Frost the glass. :)
    • Move my make-up board from the bedroom and into the bathroom.
    • Find better ways to store toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.
Erin

21-Day Challenges: Challenge 1

My friend Kay posted "diva challenges" on her Facebook page a couple of months ago. Each challenge was an instruction to DO something to reach out to others. To give you examples of the challenges, one day, she and her nephew took some goodies to the local fire department; on another day, she gave flowers to some widows in the church she attends.

The idea is a fabulous one. Similarly, I am going to start doing some 21-day challenges. I chose 21 days because I've heard all of my life that if you do something for 21 days, that task becomes a habit.

I get irritated very easily with what I perceive are the injustices in society. These include huge issues like domestic violence and small, relatively unimportant issues like the ruining of what was overall a wonderful country music genre with pop music. :) I get irritated with my husband when I have to tell him something twice because he wasn't listening to me the first time I made the statement. I also get irritated with people who drive poorly, whether they are trying intentionally to get ahead of everyone or because someone did not teach them proper driving skills such as using turn signals. These are just a few examples. Clearly, I get irritated a lot.

I got a dose of my own medicine yesterday, and I did not like it--at all! My husband became irritated with me yesterday because I used his coffee grinder to grind mustard seed into dry mustard. And no, I didn't clean it out because the temperatures are in the 80's here and who knew he would want coffee in this heat?! Yet he did want coffee!

So the first 21-day challenge is this, a simple quotation I found via Facebook today:

"Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster. Your life will never be the same again." ~ Og Mandino

My goal for the next 21 days is to keep this quotation in mind and to treat others--family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers even--accordingly.

Join with me if you'd like!

Erin

Truths from Facebook: Part 1

Facebook stresses me. I think it stresses a lot of people, judging by the number of friends I have that have explicitly said that they deactivated their accounts because they no longer want to be subjected to the drama and negativity. And as much as I adore family and friends, sometimes they have way too much drama in their lives. Hey, sometimes I have too much drama in mine, and if you're my Facebook friend, you may think the same thing about me!

So this is a new rant page that I may continue doing periodically. I figure if I am ranting here, I won't rant on Facebook and lose my friends or anger my family members AND I won't complain to my husband, making him a happier person as well.

Truths (or at least truths as I see them) from today's Facebook visit:

  • God didn't want you to have an intimate relationship with someone to whom you are not married for a host of reasons. But if you are going to engage in such a relationship without benefit of marriage, you should ensure that you are willing to marry that person.
  • Marriage is hard, even when you are head over heels in love with your spouse. I have no children, but my guess is that having children makes marriage harder, at least in some aspects. Ensure that you really love and are in love with the person you marry and have children with.
  • If you have been married (especially a very short period of time!) and are having frequent fights, you should seek marriage counseling ASAP. No shame should surround marriage counseling. Frequently people have difficulty resolving conflict within themselves and/or within their relationship and need a little help. Others have difficulty moving from the "I" to the "we." (I did!) Own it.
  • You should live your life so that your mother does not have to spend time trying to convince everyone how wonderful you are.
  • Closely contemplate the people with whom you associate. Because although we are to live in the world, we are not to be of it.
  • Someone's poor decision(s) does not give you the right to judge that person or to be mean to him or her. Two wrongs do not make a right.

And one last truth from a very bright spot in my Facebook feed today. Just because you were born into bad circumstances does not mean that you are destined to fail. You can rise above your beginning and above the things that would weigh so many others down.

Erin

Today's Verse: May 1, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV)

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

Erin

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Home Tour: Master Bedroom

The master bedroom is the room I am least sure about at this point. The window area:

When we move into our new apartment, I want to space the curtain rod hardware farther apart. Eventually, I want to sew new drapes because these were damaged in the washing machine. I also want to sew tie-backs because opening these drapes is a pain because of the thickness of the dowel we used to make the curtain rod.

On one side of the window, we have this area:

The only problems I have with this area (not including the night side table!) are with the (homemade!) clock. The demolition in the next apartment caused the clock to fall off one of the hangers, so we should rehang it. I also should fix the spacing on the numbers and fix the hands so that both of the outward-facing hands are silver. (And yes, I realize that I put letters on the picture below, but I really don't want to change the picture now, and X, V, and I are letters, right?)

The other side of the window:

You can't tell, but the frames on the wall are broken. I have just cleverly disguised the break really well. So when we move, I want to fix those and repaint the frames. (I was doing laundry when these pictures were taken, so please ignore the pile on the bed as reflected in the mirror!)

We have a cheap bookshelf in our bedroom. I am not very fond of it at all.

I should declutter it. I also want to redo it so that it looks a bit nicer. And see that horse atop the bookshelf? We bought him this month. He is the most expensive piece of decor we own. He will eventually go in John's library, but for now, we placed him atop the bookshelf. I probably should pull the tags off him.

Then we have the corner where the TV sits.

Yes, I want to hide that air purifier. I also want to build or buy a table for the TV to sit on so that it's no longer in the floor.

The chest of drawers:

I have found a few spots I should touch up on this furniture. But most of the work to be done here is polishing the silver tray that holds my husband's keys and such and sorting through my own jewelry. Oh, and I forgot to put this on the original task list, but those lamps have stickers inside the shades, and I really want to remove those.

And finally, our bed:

We want to build new bedside tables with drawers. Even before we tackle that task, I want to declutter our tables--especially my husband's. I would like to move the (attempted) gallery wall to the living room. I also would like to build a new bed or at least create a headboard. And my husband hates our current lampshades, so we are looking for inexpensive drum lampshades.

I also count our walk-in closet as part of our bedroom, so I will include it on the home tour.

Our closet looks a lot better than it used to. We still should discard a few things, and we also should have a LOT of clothes mended (or mend them ourselves!). The purchase of swivel-head velvet hangers from Dollar Tree helped us use a lot less room in this area (and that fact will be helpful when we move into the smaller apartment). I want to continue buying these hangers and migrating our clothing from the old bulky plastic hangers to these new skinny hangers. I also want to finish labeling the Sterlite shoe boxes. Finally, we keep some of our linens in the closet, and I want to move those to a cedar chest.

We organized our accessories earlier this year. These are still organized!

My only problem here is that some of the hardware on these is in the middle of the board while some is on the outer edges of the wood. I want to make them uniform. (Just in case you haven't figured it out yet, I have OCD.)

I also store everything that would generally be in a (larger) bathroom. Like my hair appliances and mani-pedi stuff:

I should organize all of that stuff. I also should discard the high school and college clothes in that box--you know, the ones that will likely never fit again. I also would like to buy new luggage eventually. Okay, so that doesn't have anything to do with how our home looks, but it's a future project anyway.

If I store my hair appliances in the closet, you know I store my extra toiletries there, too, right?

I am currently getting rid of most of my store-bought toiletries and replacing them with homemade ones. As I do that, I will certainly have fewer toiletries to organize. But yes, I should organize them a bit better.

And finally (in this regard), I have the "laundry area." This area includes the hampers, which I am not showing.

For now, I just want to organize these items where they look a little bit more organized.

The current exhaustive project list for this room is as follows:

  • Before we move to the next apartment:
    • Take tags off horse. (Cost: free.)
    • Declutter bookshelf. (Cost: free.)
    • Declutter bedside tables. (Cost: free.)
    • Discard clothing that is no longer used. (Cost: free.)
    • Finish migrating clothes from bulky (ugly) plastic hangers to swivel-head velvet hangers. (Cost: $1.00 per two hangers.)
    • Finish labeling shoe boxes. (Cost: Less than $5 for a new pack of Avery labels.)
    • Polish silver that holds husband's keys. (Cost: free.)
    • Sort through jewelry (and sell unwanted gold while we're at it). (Cost: free.)
    • Hide the air purifier. (Cost: free.)
    • Remove stickers from lampshades. (Cost: free.)
    • Have clothing mended. (Cost: no idea, but we should get the clothes mended and put in their appropriate places in the closet!)
    • Sew tie-backs for the curtains. (Cost: less than $10 for fabric.)
    • Fix clock numbers and hands. (Cost: free.)
    • Touch up spots on chest of drawers. (Cost: free.)
    • Continue using store-bought toiletries and replacing them with homemade ones. (Cost: no idea!)
  • During our stay in the next apartment:
    • Make the hardware on the peg boards uniform before hanging them in the closet.
    • Move and redo gallery wall.
    • Consider replacing pictures with black and white or sepia photos.
    • Space the curtain rod hardware farther apart.
    • Fix and repaint picture frames.
    • Make reusable dryer sheets.
    • Organize hair appliances and mani-pedi items.
    • Redo bookshelf.
    • Build a table for the TV.
    • Make more throw pillows for the bed.
    • Buy drum lampshades.
    • Build new bedside tables with drawers.
    • Build a headboard.
    • Organize laundry items.
  • When we return to Florida:
    • Buy our own washer and dryer for wherever we live. (Cost: lots! Effect on my sanity and well-being: priceless!) :)
    • Make homemade laundry detergent, and store it in glass jars.
    • Create a closet sign like this one from The Creative Imperative blog.
    • Build a better bed.
    • Build an upholstered parson's chair.
  • When we have some spare money:
    • Sew new drapes.
  • When we buy a house:
    • Ensure that the water heater is not in the closet.
    • Cover switch plates with fabric.
    • Paint our laundry room a color akin to Tiffany blue.
    • Install or restore hardwood floors.
    • Place a large rug under the bed.
    • Build a vanity area complete with an upholstered vanity stool.
Erin