Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Friday!

I'll be forging ahead and finishing up my Christmas decorating this weekend. Actually, I'll be cleaning up the spare bedroom where all the empty boxes and remnants of Thanksgiving decor landed in heaps! I've just noticed how bright and colorful my page has become as of late. I think it has something to do with this whole winter/no-light/working-in-a-windowless-office thing. Hmm... I'm off to buy a natural light bulb for my desk lamp.

Plate Conundrum: Day 2

Well, I struggle onward. I kid. Really, I secretly get a kick out of having a 'project.' Yesterday my friend and I went to an antique mall on our lunch break. I found six really cute white plates. They were old AND marked Staffordshire England on the back. Not flashy, but still desirable. But, they had no price on them. I happen to know that these plates have been sitting, unsold and unpriced, on that shelf for several months.

Now, I had $6.00 in my wallet and vowed not to pay a penny more than that (snicker). BUT, the lady that ran the antique mall was totally unhelpful, couldn't reach the booth owner on her phone and shrugged her shoulders telling me to 'check back this weekend sometime.' She didn't take my name, or even my phone number. Humph. As my mother in law says, "The consumer is the owner's bread and butter." I guess this woman has never met my mother in law. So, my quest continues.

On the other hand, I shamefully surveyed my cabinets last night. I have so many dishes, a full set of fiesta ware, and a full set of china. I thought SURELY one of them would look good as a Christmas setting. As you can see... the answer is a resounding no.

As I gazed at my dishes, I realized that perhaps this quest is a tad materialistic. I mean, I don't need two sets of dishes, let alone buy more plates. Yet I console myself with the fact that I'm not spending a dime more than that $6.00 in my wallet. OK, and maybe the $3.00 in change in my car cup holder. Yeah, I know, I know. I'm gonna end up with paper plates.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Dishes: To Buy Or Not To Buy

I'll lay this problem out very simply.

1. These are my dishes. I love the color, it's bright, happy and makes me want to eat. But, as you can clearly see, it is not exactly conducive to a Christmas table setting.

2. This is my favorite Christmas tablecloth. I found it in a bargain bin for $5.00 last year. I couldnt belive it, and I was especially excited about the colors, red and turqoise instead of the traditional dark red and dark green.

3. Obviously, these dishes do not look good with this color scheme. On the other hand, I don't like Christmas dishes with little trees and teddy bears on them. Fine for other people, but it's just not my thing. SO... I was pondering buying some plain, cheap, white Corell dishes. The very thought of buying plain white dishes makes me really hesitate (painting white walls, no problem, buying plain white THINGS is a whole other ballgame). But, is it worth it to have an entire set of dishes that I may or may not use once a year? For all other seasons, I have plenty of table linens that look great with my fiestaware.

Then again, I could get some paper plates. Who am I trying to impress?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jumping Off Point

I am trying, slowly and frugally (ha, who am I kidding, you've all seen my recent purchases), to shift my Christmas decor. I decided to go for a 'faux' vintage theme (since as I've complained before, I cant afford and or find the real stuff).

I've watched all the design shows, the ones that tell us to find one object and build around that. Well, I've never done it before, and I'm not sure how well I'm doing it now, but this banner was my jumping off point. Isn't it the cutest thing? I've been thrilled to find these banners, made by Jerusalem. I know I keep going on and on about it, but I get so many compliments on them.

So this is my direction. I have no idea how what I've got will tie together with what's in my head (experience has taught me to dream on), but I'm trying. And isn't the trying part the fun part? To me, pulling everything out of boxes, making a mess on the floor, trying and retrying things in different parts of the house is the real fun of decorating for the holidays. Oh sure, I love it when I get everything ironed out and set up, but it's the 'work' that is really the most fun to me. At least I say that now. Ask me next week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Cutest, Most Perfect Ornaments Ever

My bank account will stand no more frivolous shopping excursions, but that doesn't mean that all of you cant have some fun! I found them here.

It's a Mess Around Here

I started my Christmas decorating last Wednesday. Typically, this process takes me a couple of days, but since I was gone until Sunday night... it's stretching onward. At some point I'm going to slap stuff back into boxes and call it a day.

Mabel, on the other hand, hates Christmas. Any disruption to her little world, whether it's a rearranged room (that happened a few weeks ago) or an ironing board in front of the TV, it makes her vastly unhappy. But above all, she really hates the Christmas tree. I guess I can see her point. It's huge, several stories tall from her perspective. It's odd and sparkly, and has lots of items pinned to it that could possibly fall on her head. Poor baby.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Somebody stop me. I don't need to spend ANY MORE MONEY. Somehow, this always happens around Christmas. I go all year turning things down, staying on a budget, but somehow when the end of November rolls around, BAM. I find item after item that the house really needs. Ha.

Thanks to Sarah's advice, I visited K-Mart. Martha Stewart.. you do not disappoint my friend. I found some fabulous vintage-looking ornaments (I bought three packs with no plan of how to use them). I also found three place mats in a gorgeous red stripe. Even though there weren't four ( and everybody knows you HAVE to have four place mats), I bought them anyway in hopes of using them as a table runner. Or something. I also bought two large plastic mixing bowls, which I can never seem to have too many of. And, a cute little red checked throw. I've got to stop.

It didn't end there. I found three curtain panels at Big Lots that I had to have. I've been searching for white and red curtains for forever. Wouldn't you know there were only three panels left. What is it with me and 3's? Not sure yet of how I'll use them, but I'm still loving the fabric.

It's Official: My Bloodsugar May Never Recover

Thanksgiving was fantastic. A big, raucous, sugar filled four days of fun. Thank goodness it's over, I couldn't have survived much more. I'm convinced that I haven't had that much sugar in the past year combined. As you can see, there was quite a bit of slapping involved.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll be out of the loop for a while, busying myself with helping hubby make home made dressing (our meal contribution). I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and will part from you with a few tokens of wisdom I've gleaned from previous years of experience.

1. If you have members of your family that 'dip' (snuff, tobacco), be wary. DO NOT drink out of an open coke can unless you are absolutely sure it is yours. I wont go into details, but I will say that one year I swallowed a mouth full of 'dip spit.' The diet that followed lasted for several years. *this will probably only apply to those of you living in the southern US, aka, Land'O'Rednecks.

2. When your fun yet eccentric aunt decides that everyone should play a game after dinner, go along with it. Even if it involves drawing pictures, a search for the red painted walnut in the backyard, or paper mache pigs. Unenthusiastic people are uninteresting people (also a lesson learned from said fun/eccentric aunt).

3. Lastly, if you happen to have a family full of females that live for, thrive on, drool over the day after shopping, and you happen to not be one of them, listen up. It will not be explanation enough for you to merely say, "I don't like shopping" or "I don't like the crowds." They will gaze at you in horror and disappointment and say, "You don't know what your saying, come on, you'll like it." To really and truly extract yourself from the obligatory Black Friday, listen up. This works:

"Wow, I've been throwing up since last night. Wait, I'll come with you guys, I just have to clean the cranberry out of my nose."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christmas Theme?

I'm always baffled by people who manage to pull off a Christmas theme. It's impressive really. My mother in law is great at it, but she always manages to evoke more of a 'feeling' than a theme. One year it was snowmen, and white twinkly lights. Very winter-ish. Then one year she had red and white gingham ribbon and Santas, it was very country/cottage.

My usual drill is pulling out the same stuff, year after year, never really giving any thought to a 'theme.' I've been reading Linda's thoughts on this (I recommend this blog to anyone, especially if you're in the mood for some great Christmas tips) and became inspired. I decided to 'revamp' my Christmas style, not by doing away with anything I have (I'm way too sentimental) but by adding to it, so to speak.

I decided that, surprise surprise, I would go vintage. I had visions of 50's style ornaments and a vintage white tree. Simple enough right? I started watching in antique malls and realized, not simple. In fact, impossible. Vintage Christmas fans are die hard collectors, they do this year round. That stuff gets snatched up in a heart beat, and, it ain't cheap.

So, I reassessed, got my game face on and charged into Garden Ridge. It's not vintage, but it makes me happy. I have no idea where or how I'm going to use half of it, but for the first time, I just picked up what I liked and ran with it. I think I'll call this theme "Faux Vintage." Yep, that sounds much better than "Garden Ridge Chic."

Budget Decorating: Kitchen

My kitchen has been a source of great frustration for me. Namely because I tried (for over a year) to talk myself into something I didn't like. When we moved in we had SO much to do that we left the kitchen alone. It was a really bright gold/yellow and had fluorescent lighting. I don't know if anyone knows the extent of how horrible things look under fluorescent lighting, but gold/yellow morphs into a barfy/bluish/yellow. Not good. In addition, the counter tops are grey and the appliances are stainless. It was all just wrong wrong wrong. It was so bad, that I can only find one picture of the yellow/fluorescent beginning. It actually doesn't look that bad here, mostly b/c I kept the overhead light off and used a flash.

This is the kitchen after. I've posted these recently, but thought I would show them again since I'm SO proud of the difference. In my dreams, of course, my kitchen would be in an old house with lots of vintage features. This style is perhaps a smidge more modern than I prefer, BUT, I adore it anyway.

I nearly pulled my hair out over a wall color. The space tends to be small, especially when we have people over and everyone stands around in there. I am by nature a fairly claustrophobic person and steer clear of darker colors. In the end, I was almost to the point of throwing up my hands and painting the whole place a blinding white, when my husband saved the day and suggested this pale grey shade. It doesn't show well in the pictures, but it's the perfect neutral and looks great with white cabinets and trim (and stainless appliances). I never really considered grey as a neutral, but I love it now. Someday, I would love to change out the counter tops and back splash. But until then, I'm not complaining.

Paint and Supplies: $80.00
Light Fixture: $35.00
Total: $115.00

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Good Scrubbing

I cleaned this past Saturday. I mean, I really cleaned. I scrubbed the bathrooms, the kitchen, reorganized my office and even crawled up in the attic and cleaned up there. I made myself a promise at the beginning of this month that I wouldn't even THINK about pulling out the Christmas decor/mess in a dirty house. So, down to the wire, I finally got around to it this weekend.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I get a certain satisfaction from cleaning. But certain stars have to line up. For instance, my husband has to be gone. Out of the house. I don't know what it is, but I cant really clean if he's there. Maybe it's because he inevitably finds something interesting to chat about right before I pull out my mop. Or maybe because I'm greedy and like to have the house to myself. Whatever the reason, I need to be alone. Also, I have to light a candle.

It was a perfect Saturday, open windows (it's still pretty warm here), falling leaves, clean house. Sigh. When I stumbled into the bathroom this morning to get ready, I was able to smile at a soap-scum-free tub. It really doesn't take much to make me happy.

Matt and I also rearranged the living room. Again. This time it was Matt's idea, to which I argued vehemently at first. Stupid me. It's the best arrangement ever. I'll show more pictures later. Next mission: Christmas tree. Whew, it's gonna be a busy week.

Grateful Days: Family Heirlooms

This sugar bowl belonged to Margaret Turner, born in 1785. She was my great, great, great, great grandmother. The story was that her mother gave her a set of dishes before she and her new husband packed up an ox cart and moved west to Tennessee. Apparently, she knocked over an entire table full of these dishes, breaking them all. Don't you know she cried? The story has always supposed that perhaps this was a surviving piece. There are no markings on the bottom, I'm supposing that it's at least from the 1700's, and it appears to be hand painted. If anyone has any info on what they think it is.. please let me know.

It has passed down through every generation of the family, each to a Margaret. My mom's name is Margaret, my grandmother's name is just like mine, Margaret Elizabeth. I'm not sure how much of an 'heirloom' this is, since it's obviously cracked and at one time was used as a grease cup (who would do such a thing). But I think it's pretty snazzy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Grateful Days

Hmmm... I'm pretty darn grateful that when I open my magazines, I don't see ads like this. Although, I wouldn't mind buying soap for 10 cents.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who Needs Pottery Barn?

JC Penney is really stepping it up, not bad prices either...

Grateful For: The Little Things That Keep My Sanity

My dear friend Angela and I went walking on our lunch break this past week and I found these words bubbling out of my mouth,
"I don't want to do this anymore."
It felt so good to say it, I don't want to work. Verbalizing it felt wonderful, like barfing and being SO relieved afterward. What felt even better was that she completely understood (Ang is really good at that whole understanding/not judging thing).

I work full time. I wont go into those personal details of what I do, but I'm exhausted. I've had a job since I was 15. I cant remember NOT having a job. While friends were babysitting on the weekend and swimming at the local pool during high school, my friend Carrie and I were waiting tables 30 hours a week for almost three years (and we have the varicose veins to prove it). While my friends were studying overseas during college, I was married with two jobs. I dont mean to sound bitter, I'm really not. I don't regret my choices, but I've reached a point in my life where I wish I could slack off on a few responsiblities, change the pace. Do something creative instead of money related. And I cant.

Boohoo, right? I know. We all have to do things we don't like, everyone alive has some type of cross to bear and I'm grateful that mine is a dependable job that has FABULOUS vacation time. My great grandmother, Granny, was a tremendous lady. She used to say, "If everyone in a room could lay their problems out on a table and swap, you would look around and pick your same old problem back up and go home."

So for this post, I'm going to list the ways I keep my sanity amidst what is usually, a stressful and mind-numbing work week. It's the little things that really help me, keep me from focusing on what I think I need.

1. Personal Time Outs. I'm grateful for this. If someone had told me in kindergarten (where I was the QUEEN of time outs) that I would voluntarily do it to myself one day, I would have kicked them in the leg and blew a raspberry (told you I was the Queen of time outs). But I love them now. I work in a beautiful place, where if I can break away from my desk, I can sit outside and just relax. I took these pictures last week and felt the stress just fall away. I had my magazines, my camera and sparkly shoes. It was a good day.

2. My morning tea/coffee. Ginger Peach Tea is my absolute favorite thing in the whole world. My commute to work is usually my quiet time, my prep time for the 'game.' I talk to myself, talk to God, and when I get here, have this to look forward to. Plus, drinking tea makes me feel a little less like a 'boring American.' Does that make any sense? Some of you know what I mean.

3. Good books. Reading seems to make all my cares just fall away. It has always been a form of escape. When I read, I literally forget where I am, what I'm doing, and sort of mentally jump into the book. Strange sounding I know, but there is no better way to relax. I've been reading this book, which is just fascinating. I've come to love Antonia Frasier, but then again, I'm a history nut. You might find it boring as beans. :)

4. Sushi. Plain and simple. Once was the day that Matt used to beg, cry and plead to get me into a sushi restaurant. Now, it's the only place I ever want to go. I cant believe I've been converted to this 'bait' as my mom calls it. But I have, and it's wonderful.

I think the key in life is to focus on what I DO have instead of what I don't. I do have a good job. Do I enjoy it? No, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still a good job. I do have a great husband, and after almost seven years of marriage, almost ten years of being together, I cant imagine my life without him. And, it's the little things that really DO count. Turning off the television one night a week to just read a book. Spending the early morning hours in my library at home, writing. Or, like last week, grabbing my stash of magazines from my desk, plopping down beside the fountain outside and forgetting, if only for an hour, that I have a mountain of responsibilities. I'm grateful for the little things.

"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."
Psalms 5:3

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Office Dreaming/Flickr Find

Isn't this little room adorable? I've been so conflicted about my own little office. I have a guest room, but often times it would be nice to sleep an additional person in my office. I have a twin bed in the attic which is ADORABLE, but I have resisted putting it in there. I say to myself in a squeaky whiny little girl voice, "But it's MY office." But, this cute room almost convinces me it would be OK. Although, it's way more ruffly/romantic than I could pull off. My friends who know me would snicker if I had a room this nice and sweet. They would look at me and shrug and say, "What happened?"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Crafting For Dummies

I finally trekked it over to Michael's to inspect this 'craft' line. Holy smokes. Martha Stewart is perhaps taking over the world. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate it. I am not a crafter. I'm a writer/putter-arounder/draw-a-few-things person. Her nice neat little how-to packages are exactly what I need.

However, as I perused my endless choices I found myself on overload. Big fluffy flower balls or a snow village? Fake flower poinsettia wreath or star stamp? This has happened before, but usually in the paint section of Lowes. My head began to spin, I felt a cold sweat break out on my forehead and I just grabbed blindly. A few minutes later I had checked out and was sitting in my car, dizzily inspecting my odd choices. I managed to make it out with two rolls of wrapping paper and some random red ribbon. I had no idea what I was going to do with them. Other than the obvious choice (wrapping presents, which this year is going to be minimal), I was somewhat befuddled at my choices. You see, I'm not a 'wrapping' kind of gal. I love fluffy tissue paper and fun bags, but that is the extent of my gift giving artistry.

I got home last night, fixed myself a solo dinner (Matt worked late) and glared at my shopping choices as I watched HGTV. Determined, I continued to glare at them as I trudged sweatily on my elliptical. Finally, as I settled into my office to work on a project, a small light began to glow in the back of my brain. My office has been in need of a serious cleaning/over-haul for a long time now. It seems to be the dumping grounds for the house, and anything else I cant seem to organize or throw away. My cork boards have been in shambles the past few months, and it seemed that I had an opportunity to make them look a little better.

So, I hauled out my hot glue gun and stapler and got to work As you can see, the floor is obviously Mabel's domain and she presides over it quite pushily (if you look closely you can see HER hairballs in the corner, dont judge, this project was much more important then cleaning). I took down the giant mess of paperwork on my boards and covered them with the wrapping paper. Then I trimmed them with the red ribbon. I'm pretty excited about this, since I'll probably change it seasonally. And anything I can change seasonally makes me HAPPY!

This was the end result. Not fabulous, but better. I am sad to admit that if a room isn't pretty, I don't want to be in it. I don't think my office is 'pretty.' Quirky, yes. Packed to the gills, yep. But eventually, I would like to overhaul it with white painted bookshelves and a cheerful color on the walls. Until then, I think my Martha Stewart wrapping paper is going to good use.

Grateful Days: The Old Ball and Chain

I realized I haven't listed the thing I'm most grateful for! Six and half years later, and he's still the apple of my eye. Plus, he can pick me up.

This picture also makes me miss my blond highlights. Sigh.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Budget Decorating: Dining Area

My dream of dreams is to have a formal dining room. I have always wanted one, with a buffet to display all my pottery, quirky curtains, fun paint color. I made concessions when we bought this house. There is no dining room, just a front formal living/dining area. It makes me a little sad at times when I want to host big dinner parties. But, there were too many good things in our house that outweighed a formal dining room (big den, kitchen eating area, large yard, retro pink bath).

My challenge with this space was making it flow with the living room. In other words, I had to hold it down. :) In my minds eye I wish my dining area had the colors in my kitchen, namely my turquoise glassware and Persimmon Fiestaware. But, my living room colors are mostly red (I'm trying for red and turquoise after I slipcover my sage green couch).
This is the dining area as we first saw it. There was something so awful about the gold kitchen and lavender front room. It's not so bad in this picture, and I have nothing against those two colors, but there was something about those particular shades and the layout of the house that was jolting. My husband was so appalled at all the colors that he only agreed to buy the house because I promised him full run of the back den.

The light fixture was too small for the space, and not my style at all. I did save it though, still waiting to spray paint and put in another room somewhere. When we went shopping for light fixtures I hovered near the crystal chandeliers like a light obsessed moth. But, my hubby, brought me back down to earth and suggested something more plain. In the end, I'm pretty happy with it. It isn't very whimsical, a quality I love in light fixtures, but it will help in reselling the house. Plus, it was cheap. Cost: $40.00

I purchases plain white curtains to match the ones on the picture window in the LR area. I've never found curtains I loved enough to change. I've been contemplating some fabric suggestions from Chris, but it's so hard to incorporate red (the dominate color in my LR) and yet still find something that looks good with Persimmon Fiestaware. Plus, I have lots of vintage colorful tablecloths that might not look good next to patterned curtains. I know I know, I'm really over thinking this. Cost: $20.00

The wall lamps are one of my favorite things in the house. I knew I had to get some lighting up on either side of the window, but I also knew I didn't want them hardwired into the wall (mostly b/c again, I'm cheap and I want to take them with me when I move). I found these at a flea market: Cost $24.00.

The wall decor was the same as what I used in the bedroom. I bought all the frames and mats at the same time, so I saved more money. I love these two pictures of my mom when she was little. Cost: $35.00

When we moved into the house, there were a few odds and ends in our back shed left behind by the previous owners/renters. There were two louvered closet doors, brand new and never used. I just took off the hinges and door knobs. I spray painted the doors red (with paint I already had) to match my TV cabinet, propped them on either side of the curtains and called it a day. It's funny how the cheapest things turn out to have the biggest impact. Cost: $0.00

I added a bamboo shade to match the one on my front picture window. Since both windows are in such close vicinity to each other, they really do have to match. Plus, I like the fact that it breaks up all the white (white walls, white curtains, white blinds). These shades were from Lowes, and are the indoor outdoor cheapo kind. Cost: $12.00

Last but not least, the table and chairs. I'm not counting them in the total cost since I bought them three years ago, but I still have to mention them. I looked for dining room furniture for two years. I couldn't find anything in furniture stores, and the prospect of painting and refinishing antique furniture scared me away (since we always lived in rent houses/apartments that were not conducive to giant scale furniture painting projects). I stumbled on these guys at, of all places, Pottery Barn. I generally pride myself on not being a 'Pottery Barn' kind of gal, mostly because I'm cheap. But I just fell in love with these. I loved the black finish b/c of the high contrast with lighter wall colors, which I love. I also loved the farmhouse table paired with modern chairs. The table was on clearance, the chairs were not but were still pretty cheap. I ended getting a no interest credit card, charging everything, and paying it off the next year. It took about 11 months, but I've never regretted it. Total Cost: $1150.00

So, grand total decorating the dining area was $131.00. I have to advise everyone to hang onto their hats if I ever have a formal dining room though! I'll be spending some more money for sure, hopefully starting with an adorable buffet like Jerusalem found. Can you believe how cute that is? It was just too cute not to share.