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

Friday, April 20, 2012

Home Tour: Living Room

The second room in my home tour is the living room. It's a relatively large room (for this apartment), so I will present it section by section, starting with the "entertainment center." :)

The TV is new. It's not going anywhere. I have put my foot down on the size of it; it is 32", and I don't see the need for a larger TV--ever. The furniture is a Depression-era buffet/sideboard. It has some very rough, very soft, and very dry wood on it, and I am in the process of painting it. I want to finish painting it white (except the top, which we are going to restain a dark walnut color), then prime it again and repaint it so that it will be less yellowish and more bright in-your-face white. My husband and I have a ton of game consoles inside those buffet drawers and DVD's and CD's inside those cabinet doors, and I want to organize all of those and line the bottoms of the drawers and cabinets with fabric. I do want to declutter a bit (yes, I know the irony behind the "Simplify" sign!); I have found clutter a major drawback of wanting to do all the crafts I do. The easel frame is old and has been scraped up during our many moves; I want to redo it. (Please send any ideas in that regard if you have any.) I want to hide the cords, the Wii Fit Plus step, the Guitar Hero guitar controllers, and the vent. Do you see the gorgeous basket on the right side of the picture? The one with all the pillows in it? I *LOVE* that basket. I bought it from Target in January. It is one of my favorite things in this room. I also really love the milk glass vase (it was a decanter, actually; I just removed the top) and particularly the 1949 law book (I picked it up at the local thrift store for $2).

Next are the recliner and storage cube.

I've had this recliner forever; it was a gift from my dad during the holidays years ago. I really don't want to get rid of it. I do admit, though, that we want another chair. Perhaps a parson's chair or gentry chair upholstered with a brown and yellow fabric! I intended to put flowers in the vase (for St Patrick's Day (!), thus the green), but never did. I should buy some good flowers for it or store it. I also hope to go to the Outer Banks to get some more gorgeous seashells for the other vase (which I think is actually a candle holder, but who cares?). The storage cube has a lot of documents in it, and those should be pulled out, sorted, scanned, shredded, etc. Oh, and the burlap pillow? I covered a ripped pillow with burlap and used stitch witchery to finish it. I'm not impressed. I want to sew it back together. And I'm not even sure it works here in the first place. :/

And then we have what was supposed to be built into a faux fireplace.

We have decided to turn this item back into a twin-size guest bed. We will probably do this task after we return to Florida since we are no longer going to have a guest bedroom starting next month. But in the meantime, I do intend to store all of the items that were going to be inside the fireplace and around the hearth. I also should probably get around to storing the Easter decorations. And the St. Patrick's Day ones, too.

And finally, the couch area (the picture taken at night so that the daylight through the curtains wasn't so overpowering):

My biggest problem here is with the couch: I would like a new one. But in the interest of avoiding waste, I plan to restuff it and recover it at some point. In the meantime, I will just throw some brown and yellow pillows on it. As for the curtains, I really just should iron them for now. When we get to Florida, we will space out the curtain rod hardware a bit more so the curtains better cover the window. I would like to hang more pictures--a gallery wall would be nice--and that cinnamon broom is looking a bit bare. I saw on another blog that a lady simply had hers in a corner, and I may try that placement at some point. Finally, I am not happy with the white on the shutters. When I put Kilz primer on the buffet, I probably will do the same to the shutters.

Our current goals for the living room are these:

  • Before we move to the next apartment:
    • Clean out the storage cube. (Cost: free.)
    • Put away the green vase. (Cost: free.)
    • Declutter. (Cost: free.)
    • Store the Easter items. (Cost: free.)
    • Finish painting the buffet. (Cost: free if the current can of paint lasts that long.)
    • Clean and reattach the buffet's hardware. (Cost: free.)
    • Finish organizing the DVD's. (Cost: $6 for one more set of envelopes.)
    • Obtain more shells. (Cost: free if we go to the beach on our already-budgeted-for vacation.)
  • During our stay in the next apartment:
    • Decorate and scent the cinnamon broom.
    • Sew pillow back together.
    • Prime the buffet with Kilz primer, and repaint the buffet with another coat of White on White paint.
    • Sew new pillows using brown and yellow fabric.
    • Hide the cords.
    • Line the bottoms of the buffet drawers and cabinets with fabric.
    • Redo the easel frame.
    • Attach finials and blocks to the "faux fireplace"; then sand it and paint it white.
    • Replace the gaucho coasters with tile ones.
    • Replace the map clock with a large white clock.
    • Create a key holder, umbrella holder, and coat rack.
    • Create more decor: wreaths, pomander balls, monograms, signs, candle holders, vases, button art, book bundles, old windows, and a jute-wrapped garbage can.
    • Look for antiques with which to decorate: hobnail and other milk glass, apothecary jars, decanters, antique milk bottles, egg crates, etc.
    • Create a family tree / gallery wall.
  • When we return to Florida:
    • Hide the Wii Fit Plus step and hang the Guitar Hero guitar controllers, perhaps in some other room or in a small area behind a bookshelf.
    • Clean the antique iron to use as a door stop.
  • When we have some spare money:
    • Buy a parson's or gentry chair and upholster it in a brown and yellow fabric.
    • Create a stenciled deer head.
  • When we buy a house:
    • Cover switch plates with fabric.
    • Paint the walls a bright (but not too bright!) shade of yellow.
    • Install or restore crown molding.
    • Put a spray-painted "open" mat over any vent we have.
    • Turn the faux fireplace back into a twin-size bed for the guest bedroom.
    • Create bookshelves from crates.
  • When necessary:
    • When the stereo dies, we are going to buy a Bose system.

Our colors in this room are currently brown and white. I want to begin adding pops of yellow, though, and I plan on doing that beginning with some new pillows I will sew using the filling from some that ripped and some fabric I will buy using coupons (and a military discount!) at Hancock Fabrics.

Input? I'm open to constructive--but kind!--criticism. :)

Erin

Home Tour: Dining Room

As I said a few days ago, we are over budget on our home and goals budget for the first three months of this year. In an effort to gain control of the situation, I am going to do my first home tour on this blog. I will outline the goals I have for each room. Most importantly, I will make a notation as to WHEN the projects should be completed so that I don't start tackling projects sooner than should be. Some projects cannot be completed now because we don't have the equipment (a router saw, for example), some cannot be completed now because we don't have the room (a kitchen island is a great example!), and some will not be completed now because for the sake of avoiding waste, we should avoid buying new items until our old ones are no longer usable (a microwave comes to mind!).

Let's start with the smallest room in our 800-square-foot apartment: the dining room (or dining area, really).

The only furniture in this room is a small four-person table that I purchased for about $200 from Kmart three years ago. It has been moved to and from various apartments and a storage unit three times and has been banged up in the process, unfortunately. We currently have nothing on the walls; we are not permitted to attach anything to the wallpaper on the left side of this picture, and we simply have not attached anything on the other wall. And I will be making a trip home soon to see my Florida family, so I have a box of items to take to various family members in the floor.

Our current goals for our dining room are as follows:

  • Before we move to the next apartment:
    • Make burlap place mats. (Cost: free using burlap and paint already owned.)
    • Finish family silverware project. (Cost: unknown. I haven't decided how I am going to display these yet.)
  • During our stay in the next apartment:
    • Create additional centerpieces (lanterns, candle holders, flowers, etc.).
    • Sew a table runner and additional place mats.
  • When we return to Florida:
    • Place the rug from my former office (currently at my parents' house) under the table.
    • Create a permanent "Give Thanks" sign.
  • When we have some spare money:
    • Sell this table and chairs on Craigslist.
    • Have our very large, very nice family heirloom table (and its matching chairs) shipped from Oregon.
  • When we buy a house:
    • Cover switch plates with fabric.
    • Create a DIY curtain rod and sew drapes.
    • Paint the walls, perhaps a white, beige, grey, or yellow color.
    • Have hardwood floors installed or repaired.
    • Have wainscoting--or at least a chair rail--installed or repaired.
    • Install beadboard on the ceiling!
    • Hang a stenciled mirror on the wall.
    • Hang at least one chandelier of some sort.
    • Build closed display shelving.

For the longest time, I wanted an "Eat" sign, but as I create this list, I really see no reason for one. Everyone knows what the room is for, right? And my family used the table more for playing games and assembling puzzles than for eating anyway. John and I are no different.

Unless I have an extreme change of heart, this room will remain dark brown and white. I will add a few pops of colors with table runners, place mats, centerpieces, etc., but I really hate the idea of changing the color overall.

Please feel free to add some thoughts. I need help here, folks! Erin

Homemade Shampoo

After working through my stockpile for a year, I am nearly finished with my store-bought shampoo. So after the success of using homemade body wash, I decided to work on making homemade shampoo, too. I used a castile soap shampoo recipe I found on The Fat Dollar web site and ultimately used largely the same ingredients for the shampoo that I used for the body wash except that I left out the glycerin and added in some olive oil.

This homemade shampoo definitely cleans my hair. I think it will work better when I start making homemade conditioner to follow it with. I will post an update when I have done just that. As with my warning on the homemade body wash, I will let you know up front that because of the lack of sodium laureth sulfate, you will not get this shampoo to lather as much as your store-bought versions.

Yes, I become a little more "hippie" every day. But I paid around $1 to make two bottles of this shampoo--much better than the $4-5 I was spending on Pantene!

And yes, I know there is some rust on the Mason jar screw band. Long story. :)

Erin

Homemade Body Wash

Via Pinterest, I found this recipe for homemade body wash on the Living, Laughing, Loving, Learning blog. The author's son has eczema and needed something to help soothe his skin problems. Since my husband has some skin issues himself, I decided to try making this particular recipe.

My verdict after using it for a week? I like this stuff. I made a half batch, which filled two bottles and cost about $1.25. I used this vegetable glycerin and Kirk's Castile Soap. I did not include any fragrance of any kind, but I LOVE the smell of the body wash; it reminds me of the homemade soaps for sale in Williamsburg.

My one caution to you, though, that is if you are used to body washes made with sodium lauryl sulfate, you are going to find that this stuff doesn't lather as well as typical store-bought body washes. But if you are trying to get away from chemicals, this is a good first recipe. From what I gather, Dr. Bronner's castile soap is purer than Kirk's, so I may try that soap next time. If so, I will let you know how that batch turns out.

Erin

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Over Budget

I updated our family finances last night. What that means is that I entered the latest receipts in our monthly spreadsheet, determined what budget category each purchase fell into, added the amounts into the budget spent for the month, and determined what is left in the budget for the remaining 12 days of the month.

We've had some great months this year. But this time, the process was a bit scary.

Our (over-the-top and likely unreachable) goals this year were to pay off $10,000 of student loans, to sock away $10,000 in savings or investments, and to give $5,000 to church and charities. We are doing okay on these. Not great, but okay. The Jeep's new tires blew $1,000 out of our savings, although we are working on replacing that monthly. We are also taking money from our home and goals budget to pay for the new television we bought for our upcoming anniversary. (Note: We will also be buying a new pressure canner when our anniversary arrives in May. TV for husband, pressure canner for wife, but both of us will enjoy the use of both items.)

What was truly scary is how much I have spent in the last month or so on our home and goals budget. I am nearly $200 in the hole in this area! And while we made more money than that on the items we sold this year on eBay, the prospect of having spent that much money--even on items to organize this place--is sobering.

I said a while back that until the move was over, I would not be buying extra items or starting new projects that weren't already pending. Overall, I have stuck to that resolution. But now I realize that I need to rework the project list and develop a new vision. I need to take note of the tasks I can do around here that will cost little to nothing (I need to take the stickers off my three-year-old cookbook holder. That wouldn't cost anything, and I keep saying I need to do that!) I also need to realize that, God willing, I have plenty of time to complete many or all of the tasks I want to complete, even if I have to do them after I return to work at the end of this year or beginning of next year.

I covet your prayers that I will show self-control in this area.

Erin

Handling Telemarketers and Spammers

This post is for those of you who have your cell phone service through Sprint.

Since I first contracted with Sprint for cell phone services in April 2010, I have had problems with spam texts and with telemarketing phone calls. Part of the problem is that the person who previously had my number clearly gave it out a lot. At any rate, I registered my cell phone number with the Do Not Call web site and even filed online complaints, yet I still received calls and texts a couple of times a week. I even called Sprint and had them block incoming texts from people or entities not on my "list." That solution worked for a while, although as a result I also stopped receiving mobile coupons. Blocking numbers was even less successful because the telemarketers would simply obtain new phone numbers. On my old Android, I was able to create a contact named "Blocked Number"; every time a new number popped up, I would add the number to that contact. I sent callers using those numbers directly to voicemail.

Now I have an iPhone, and sending numbers automatically to voicemail is a feature the iPhone does not have. I still created my "Blocked Number" contact and set a specific ringtone for it, but just hearing the ringtone angered. In the last week, I have started receiving as many as five calls a day from (971) 220-1003 (an Oregon number; when I first answered the phone, I thought perhaps a relative was calling). I was actually semi-cordial to the first caller; I explained to him that I am on the do not call list and that he should remove my number from the list. He hung up on me, and I heard from him again the next day (and I will admit that I was not as nice the second time). I really would like to blow a whistle into the phone, but I'm not sure that's the Christian thing to do. Still, these calls and texts offer me nothing but negativity, something I don't need in my life. (My word of the year for 2012 is calm.)

Fortunately, I discovered an easier way to handle these telemarketers and spammers instead of calling Sprint every couple of days to add a new blocked number. If you are on the Sprint network, you can text the message "Block 5555555555" to 9999. You will receive a (free) Sprint message in response indicating that the number has been blocked from texting you (you will not be able to text that number either). (Note: Just in case I wasn't obvious, insert the phone number with the area code in place of the 5555555555.)

You can block calls using your Sprint account online. After you log in on Sprint's web site, click on "My Preferences." Under "Limits and Permissions," click on "Block voice." Click on the phone you want to block calls to. Click on "Block only the following phone numbers for inbound and outbound calls." Type the phone number with the area code (no hyphens!) in the box, and click "Add number." Then click "Save." The number will be blocked.

As you can see, you can also block data and wireless web. If you prefer to block texts using the Internet rather than using the text method I described above, you can do that as well.

Getting rid of the calls and texts from telemarketers and spammers is going to make me a much happier person. I am always happy to get rid of unnecessary annoyances.

If you have Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or some other cellular service, you may want to contact your carrier to see if they have similar ways for you to block calls and texts from telemarketers and spammers.

Erin

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Drink Sweet Tea at Your Computer

A few months ago, I knocked over a glass of sweet tea onto my (wireless) (DESKTOP) computer keyboard (I never put my glass on the main portion of my desk--just on the keyboard tray). Fortunately, the only part affected was the keypad, but the sticky keys drove me crazy whenever I tried to update our financial spreadsheets.

Some fools never learn, right? I was drinking another glass of sweet tea beside my computer a couple of weeks ago and spilled the tea again--this time on my space bar! I promptly took the batteries out of the wireless keyboard. Then I intentionally spilled an equal amount (it wasn't that much) of rubbing alcohol onto the part of the keyboard that the tea reached (not the best idea, so you really should not try that idea at home). I then grabbed a screwdriver and took apart the keyboard myself. I used rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs to clean every nook and cranny I could reach. I reassembled the keyboard and went to bed, fearing the worst.

The next day, my space bar was a bit sticky, but it still worked. After a day or two of using the keyboard, ALL of my keys were working normally again!

So perhaps intentionally spilling rubbing alcohol onto my keyboard was probably not the greatest idea in the world. And DEFINITELY do not try it if you have a laptop. But if you have a desktop, you might try using a small bit of rubbing alcohol on the end of a cotton swab to clean your keys if you spill a sweet drink. I know I'm thankful that I saved myself the cost of another keyboard!

Of course, the best idea is not to have a drink beside your keyboard. (I have a new spot to place my drinks now, a spot on an entirely different piece of furniture.)

Erin

Mini Mitts

In the fall of last year, my husband and I ventured into the cookware section of Macy's and found these lovely mini mitts.

My husband bought them for me for Christmas, and I was happy to replace my old fabric KitchenAid oven mitts with these. I have been using them nearly four months, and I am just as happy with them as the day I received them. They are durable (to 500 degrees) and easily washed--you can even throw them in the dishwasher, though I personally hand wash them. They are also easy to store. I hang them on my oven door handle.

Yes, they are a bit spendy, but I highly recommend these. You can order them online from Amazon now, although at the time we purchased them, they were available only through the Martha Stewart line at Macy's.

Erin

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Games Storage

I collected a lot of board and card games before my husband and I were married. My family played games quite a bit when I was a child, so I have a lot of the classics: Checkers, Dominoes, Life, Uno, etc. My husband and I celebrated our first Christmas together in 2008, and I decided that year to start the tradition of buying a new game each Christmas. That year, I bought Yahtzee. Since then, we have acquired Connect 4, Pay Day, Scrabble Slam, and a bunch of miscellaneous card games (Old Maid, Go Fish, Rummy, etc.).

So where to store all of these? Because we have moved so much, I did store them in a few cardboard boxes in the closet. But during the fall of last year, we started playing games more often and wanted somewhere more convenient to store them. Fortunately, we found this faux leather trunk at Walmart for $30 (marked down from around $70) the day after Thanksgiving.

We like it. I wish it weren't faux leather, but the price was right. I hate that it was made in China, too. Eventually, we will probably replace it with a big heavy antique wooden trunk! But for now, it works. It stores the games and allows us to play them atop it if we so choose. It also can function as a table or as an ottoman. So yes, we like it overall. :) It is a relatively attractive way to keep the games out of the way, but still right at our fingertips if we want to use them.

Erin

Cloth Napkins

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am relearning how to sew. To begin, I decided to sew another set of cloth napkins. I used this tutorial from the Dwell on Joy blog.

I made four napkins and relearned four lessons, one per napkin:

  • First napkin: The tension needs to be between four and five; otherwise, your stitches will be loose.
  • Second napkin: You really should backstitch to get the cleanest stitching.
  • Third napkin: You should use the "turnaround" button (the one with the U-turn-looking arrow on it) to backstitch. If you try to use the wheel/knob, you are going to keep breaking your thread.
  • Fourth napkin: Use your presser foot as a guide to ensure that your stitches are straight.

I know you can tell that I am an expert sewer by the very precise sewing terms I used above.

My napkins aren't perfect, but I actually like them a lot better than my store-bought napkins. Those cost me $2 each. These cost less than $5 for all four, and I have fabric left over from the yard I purchased.

I hang these on my oven handle, and we use them to wipe our hands and faces instead of paper towels. I'm all about saving the earth.

Don't you love the paisley print on these? :)

Erin

Paper Towels

My husband and I used to use at least one roll of paper towels every week. Yes, every week--for just the two of us. And since I use only Bounty paper towels, my bill on these was about $5 per month. Then one day, I started thinking about how much these were wasted. From what I gather, a single paper towel takes only a couple of weeks or a month to decompose, but still, why not save that process and some money by converting to cloth napkins?

And that's what we did. Gradually. By the fall of last year, we were using one roll a month. Right now, we can make a single roll last two months and possibly more. Really, we just use paper towels to blot raw chicken (I really don't want to wash a food poisoning hazard) and to wipe up cooking oil (since the warning labels in our unit say you aren't supposed to put anything with oil on it in the washer or dryer). In fact, I have the paper towels hidden in the cabinet so that we aren't even tempted to use them.

This has been a small adjustment for us that has probably not made that big an impact on our pocketbooks or the earth. But we are glad we have made this change nonetheless, partially because it opened the door for other changes that have helped us personally and financially and that potentially have helped our earth as well.

If you want to try making this change in your household, buy cloth napkins. We bought our first set at Walmart for about $2 each. You can make your own for much cheaper. Or you can do as some have and use bandanas. Seriously! :)

Erin

Laundry Room Boxes

For the past year, I have kept two tins in our laundry area: one for buttons and one for the safety pins we use to pin our socks together before we toss them in the hamper. I had painted the tins, but I was unhappy with the outcome, and I simply was waiting until better organizers came along.

About a month ago, I went looking for a unfinished wooden recipe box at Michaels to use for a Christmas gift for my cousin. I found some with white chicken wire-like covers for $1.99 each, meaning that I could purchase them for approximately $1 with a coupon. In addition to buying a large and more expensive one for my cousin, I bought two smaller ones for myself. I sanded each box, removed its gold hardware, taped off the wire, painted the boxes black, and painted the hardware white before removing the tape and replacing the hardware. As with all of my recent crafts, the result was not perfect, but I am thrilled nonetheless:

Some tips if you purchase any of these boxes and decide to paint the hardware:

  • Place the hardware on a box, and spray paint it. Let it dry COMPLETELY before putting a second coat on it. Turn the hardware over, and spray paint the other side. Again, let the base coat dry completely before putting the top coat on the hardware.
  • Let the hardware dry at least overnight before you reassemble the box with it.
  • Ensure that you have your hinges turned the proper way before you attach them to the box with the screws.

Despite the flaws (that I caused in my hurry to finish them), I love these. I am frequently amazed with how such a small and inexpensive item can make me so happy!

Erin

Canisters

I once used ceramic Coca-Cola canisters to store my flour, sugar, and other staples. But then I figured out that I had a lot of staples to store and not enough canisters. I didn't want to buy additional canisters, though, because frankly, they are a bit spendy! So, as some of you know, I decided to use huge pickle jars as my new canisters. I have been using these (and acquiring new ones) for about a year now, and I like them a lot. They are free (I'm going to buy the pickles anyway), and I'm upcycling something that would otherwise be recycled (reusing trumps recycling, just in case you didn't know).

To convert these jars into food storage canisters, I wash them and let them soak (without the lid on!) overnight in very hot water with Dawn in it. I remove the labels by spraying or rubbing them with vegetable oil, letting them sit overnight, and then simply scraping the label off with a paper towel (I use as few paper towels as possible, but if I clean up or wipe off oil, I use paper towels). Then I wash the jars again, letting them soak overnight one more time. I also ensure that I coat the inside of the lid in Dawn both times that I soak the jars. At that point, I generally have a usable canister. I have a Slice die-cutting machine that I have used to cut labels using vinyl. I also paint my lids (outside only!) with chalkboard paint. The canisters end up looking cute enough for my taste. And you can't beat free!

So far, I have these for my sugar, powdered sugar, all-purpose flour, tea, egg noodles, rice, oats, and grits. I'll have another one in about a week!

Erin

Treat Stand

I have one of those cake stands that has a dome-shaped top and that can also be used as a chip-and-dip server or a punch bowl. When I make treats (cookies, muffins, etc.), I generally store them under the dome of that cake stand. So really, I didn't need a treat stand. But I had seen so many bloggers create them out of thrift store plates and Dollar Tree candle holders that I decided I must make one!

Without intending to, I made mine similar to these DIY cake stands from the vixenMade blog. I used E6000 glue to attach the candle holder to the glass plate. After the glue dried, and I sprayed the bottom of the plate and candle holder with gloss black spray paint (Fusion for plastic, actually). I did *NOT* spray the top of the plate. Although I would realistically use this plate for only items already wrapped or with a liner (like a muffin or a cupcake or something), I really feel better NOT painting the portion of the stand that comes into contact with the food. Sorry, just my opinion. At any rate, the result is still pretty, or so I think.

I really love the way this project turned out, and I expect to make more if I ever actually get to entertain. :)

Erin

Today's Verse: April 17, 2012

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

Psalm 51:1-2 (NKJV)

1 HAVE mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.

Erin

Haze Gray and Underway

My husband is underway again. When my husband and I first married, I was highly dismayed when he went underway; in fact, I dreaded his leaving for days and sometimes weeks in advance. I have since grown to appreciate these underway periods for what they offer me: A chance to work on projects without having anyone underfoot. I don't have to cook, I don't have to do as many dishes or as much laundry, and I can work on projects all night long if I choose.

I have an extensive list of tasks I want to complete while my husband is underway this time. Let's hope I will be able to get many of the items on the list finished, especially since many of these tasks are things that need to be handled before we move. I will blog as much as I can about the tasks I complete--and the new recipes I make while my husband is gone.

Erin

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Today's Verse: April 12, 2012

I haven't been posting daily verses lately because all of the posts published here have been scheduled in advance. Last week, a situation in my extended family required some introspection within my own family. This week, my Internet was down for a few days.

But I'm back to it today. Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Romans 12:9-10 (NKJV)

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another[.]

These are good verses for me today. I have a temper, and I battle it daily. This day is no exception. Let me remember that I can control only my own actions and that I must control my own actions rather than judging the actions of others.

Erin

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gerber Daisies in Mason Jars

My sister-in-law sent my husband a box of items from Whole Foods about a year ago. We have used the pasta sauce that was included, but I kept the really nice Mason jar it was in.

I have been looking for some faux flowers to put inside the jar. Finally, I found some for less than a dollar each on sale at Michaels. Aren't these Gerber daisies beautiful?

Never underestimate what a great vase and even faux flowers can do in a room.

Oh, and if you happen to eat this particular pasta sauce and have a jar or two you don't want, feel free to save them for me. I am looking for two more--one to paint white and one to paint black. :)

Erin

Make-Up Magnet Board

Perhaps you've seen the make-up magnet board that everyone has raved about on Pinterest. If not, click here to check out the make-up magnet board at the Laura Thoughts blog.

I myself saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it was a terrific one. My make-up was stored in a hard-shell carrying case I had received a bunch of "generic" make-up in years ago at Christmas. I wanted something a bit more handy and a lot more attractive, so I decided to make this board.

I found the frame for less than $5 at a thrift store. The frame was hideously colored, but had gorgeous details. I used a leftover can of black glossy spray paint to paint the frame. Then my husband bought a piece of metal and some tin snips (those have already come in handy a few times!) and cut the metal to fit the frame. We placed the metal in the frame (ours fit perfectly without glue, but you might have to use glue if you try this craft at home), and he cut some non-sticky vinyl contact paper to fit over the metal. I found some magnets for less than $3 at Office Depot and attached one to each make-up compact or other item that would go on the board. I also found three cups at Dollar Tree and hot glued three magnets to each of the three cups (the magnets are self-stick, but I found that the cups are too heavy for the self-stick to stick well). I placed my lip liners and lipstick and brushes and eye liner and such in the cups. Then I had my husband mount the frame on the wall. Isn't it gorgeous?!

I sent the old make-up case to the thrift store.

I love this idea. The blogger who originally came up with the idea did sell these for $30 to $50. She no longer does. But you can make your own for about half the price, depending on how cheap you can find a thrift store frame, whether you can get a hardware store to cut your metal for you, whether you have leftover fabric or vinyl to cover the metal, whether you have some magnets lying around, and whether you decide to reuse a cup or cups you already have at home to hold your brushes.

Erin

Bar Stools

Last year, when my husband and I began planning and budgeting for decorations for our home, we first contemplated purchasing bar stools. We initially planned on spending around $150 for two. But I couldn't bear to spend that kind of money on bar stools at this point, so I never ordered the ones we were looking at. Since then, we have been searching thrift stores for some relatively inexpensive ones. I have been dismayed to find that the thrift stores here frequently ask a price of $30 for the ones that Walmart sells for $24.99.

But not this past Saturday. We found some horribly filthy wooden bar stools at the thrift store up the street. They were $9.99 each, and we also got an additional Easter discount of 10% off both. This is what they looked like when we placed them at our bar.

They did not look that way for long. My husband had to work on Easter, so I spent the afternoon cleaning scrubbing them with vinegar and old socks, sanding them with 120 grit sandpaper, and painting them. Look at them now!

I love these bar stools so much--especially since we purchased them for so little and made something so fabulous out of something so dingy.

Erin

Monday, April 9, 2012

Couponing

My mother was a big fan of coupons. I did not understand the fascination with them until about a year ago when I left my employment as a attorney to with my husband full-time. Around that time, I began using more and more coupons. We do not get the newspaper and thus do not get the weekly inserts, but I printed a lot of coupons online, and I requested and received a lot of them through the mail. I was saving $1.00 on five boxes of Hamburger Helper. Or saving $0.75 on cake mix and canned frosting. Or maybe $0.40 on Pillsbury pizza crust.

Today, I don't get the fascination. I still clip coupons for soy sauce, baking soda, cornstarch--items that I purchase. But I have actually discovered that in many cases, buying or making the staples to prepare food is cheaper than using coupons. In other cases, using a coupon doesn't make sense if you just take some time to comparison shop. For example, I saw a coupon this evening for $0.75 on sliced bread. (Yes, I could make my own bread, but let's just say we are going to purchase it for the sake of argument.) Sliced bread at our commissary runs between $2.25 and $2.50 per loaf. But if I drive a mile down the road to the bread store, I can get whole wheat bread with whole grains for $0.99 per loaf. Yes, I spend a bit more in gas money, but I usually go that way once a month anyway, and then I buy three loaves and freezer the other two until I need them.

Be smart in using coupons. Yes, they can be very beneficial. But they can also defeat your purpose if you are not careful.

Erin

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Relearning to Sew

I learned to sew in middle school when I took home economics with Ms. Norris. Years later when I was in college, I bought my own sewing machine. Unfortunately, I never really used it. In fact, my mother used it quite a bit, so I let her keep it until recently. But now I want to learn to sew again, so I have brought it home (I offered to buy her a new one, so I'm not a total meanie).

I remember little to nothing about sewing, so I've had to learn all over again. I remembered how to wind a bobbin, but if you know nothing about it, you may find this video helpful. I used the video to double check myself.

Then I had to thread the needle. I remembered most of the steps, but I used this video to check--and correct--myself.

That video helped me a lot! Also, since I was just practicing, I used black thread on the spool and white thread in the bobbin so that I could see when I picked up the bobbin thread.

Did I mention that I discovered that my needle had broken? This video helped me remember how to change needles.

So I wouldn't say that sewing is like riding a bike, but I did pick it up again fairly quickly. Tomorrow: cloth napkins! I have some already, but they are thin, and they cost me like $2.00 each. With a coupon, I can totally beat that price and get to pick my own gorgeous fabric!

Erin

He Is Risen Sign

I saw these He Is Risen! signs over at Signs by Andrea a few weeks ago. I bought some wood from Lowe's (and had them cut it into sign-sized pieces), sanded it, taped off a cross with painter's tape, stained the rest of the sign in Dark Walnut, colored in the cross with a black Sharpie marker, and applied some white vinyl letters made with my Slice machine. The result:

Yes, I know. Andrea's signs look better. (My Slice does not connect letters, so anything in cursive just doesn't look as good as it would if I were to do a true stencil with an X-Acto knife or to use a Cricut or Silhouette.) Her signs are so gorgeous. You can buy one of her signs from her web site.

Erin

Easter Printables

A few months ago, I saw this burlap rosette frame on the Laughter and Grace blog. My husband bought me 50 burlap coffee sacks last year, so I have tons of burlap. I was able to find a nice frame at the thrift store for $0.69 plus tax minus a military discount of 20%. So I made a similar frame. My only problem? My rosettes are a bit thicker than the one Jennifer made. But I still like the frame.

I finished the frame a few weeks ago, and since Easter was nearing, I printed this Easter printable from That Village House blog to put inside it. This particular printable contains the lyrics to "Christ Arose."

But then later I saw another printable online. I fell absolutely in LOVE with this one from the One Dog Woof blog. So I replaced the lyrics to "Christ Arose."

Which one do you prefer? I think next year I am going to use both of them on the mantel, but I do think I am going to look for fancier semi-matching frames.

Or I guess I could just make another burlap rosette frame. But probably not. That frame took me about 10-15 hours to make. Seriously!

Erin