Friday, February 22, 2013

A Little Food Love for Friday

Happy Friday!

It’s almost dinner time and I’m finally posting! Whoops!

Brian and I are trying to get a little healthier here in 2013. We aren’t following an actual diet plan yet, but we’ve been absorbing all kinds of interesting information about nutrition, diets, weight loss, and overall health, and we’re taking steps to eat better.

So my kitchen currently looks like this:

lots of fruits and veggies!

Full of vegetables and fruits! (Well, this picture is mostly fruits. But there are tons of veggies in the fridge, which is a real change from what my fridge is normally full of!)

The other night, we had some delicious pseudo-caprese salad for dinner.  I halved grape tomatoes and threw them in a container with some chopped fresh basil, chopped flat-leaf spinach, and minced garlic, then drizzled everything with olive oil and let it sit over night. The next day we ate it with fresh mozzarella.  Doesn’t it look good?

tomatoes, basil, garlic, and fresh mozzarella

It really tasted as good as it looks.  And I was very happy that Brian, who’s usually a meat-eater, found it satisfying as well as yummy for dinner.

Tonight, I’m roasting some red peppers in an attempt to make roasted red pepper soup – with a recipe that I found over at Joyful Abode.

roasting red peppers

Over the weekend, I’m also hoping to try the creamy tomato soup recipe in my America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook.

America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

(I also found a recipe for a creamless creamy version by ATC!)

And sometime soon I want to try Pioneer Woman’s perfect potato soup.  Sounds so yummy!

These recipes aren’t exactly fat free :) but they’re loaded with veggies and are made with fresh (or at least not overly processed) ingredients, which is what we’re going for, at least for now.

What are you cooking up this weekend?

Update: The roasted red pepper soup is fantastic!! Definitely check it out!
(And for those of you who don’t do dairy, once it was all blended up, it was totally great without the cream!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How Should I Refinish This Dresser?

Wow, I’m just asking for all kinds of help lately, aren’t I? But isn’t that what blogging is all about? :)   So, do I paint it or stain it?

sewing dresser
Images from here and here.

Okay, so here’s what’s going on. As a part of the great sewing room organization of 2013, I figured I should actually start working on this dresser I got from my aunt.

sewing room dresser being sanded

See all that junk on top? Yeah, this dresser’s just been sitting here collecting junk, which is pretty much the opposite of its intended function. (The junk is supposed to go inside the dresser, not on top.)

Last year (or longer ago than that?) I got this dresser from my aunt. It used to be my lola’s (Filipino grandma) and it’s just been sitting in my aunt’s garage.

sewing room dresser before

I generally don’t love dressers for sewing room storage – they’re meant to hold clothes, not sewing gear. The drawers are usually too deep, don’t slide easily enough, and the dimensions of the dresser itself is usually all wrong. My dream is to have kitchen-type cabinets of all shallow-ish drawers. (I had something pretty much ideal when I was living at home with my parents, so I’m spoiled!)

But this dresser actually is pretty great. It’s 6 feet long. Yes, 6 feet long. So its proportions are more along the lines of something you’d special order in the kitchen department. And it’s just over 29” tall, which is almost exactly the height of my sewing table – so as an added work surface it’s going to be ideal. The drawers are still a little deeper than I’d like, but they generally slide very well, so I think I can make this piece work.

You can see that the style is such that all the drawers touch. Well, over time, they’ve sort of started to stick to each other, probably from swelling and expanding and whatnot. So I’m getting on sanding and planing down the drawers a bit.

planing and sanding the drawer

I'm using an old planer of my dad’s that I found in the garage. :) Hey it works! I think the blade could use a bit of sharpening, which I’ll get on. I learned all about hand planes from Tommy on Ask This Old House.

planing the drawer

This is my first time using a hand plane, and I’ll admit I’m making a mess of it in some places (from not following Tommy’s advice. Oops!).

Anyway, as I’m working on the dresser, I’m finding it’s made of some nice wood. I thought at first that the finish was that really thick plasticky finish that I’d basically have to paint over. I planned on using Valspar’s Pacific Pleasure (color #5009-10) for the body and keep the top nice and white. Something along the lines of this color:

Image from here.

Really gorgeous right?

But like I said, it’s a nice piece of furniture (Thomasville), and I’m finding it’s not hard to sand off the finish down to bare wood. So, then I thought, should I do something like this? And refinish and stain it something gorgeous like Clara’s changing table from Young House Love?


Thoughts, ideas, questions, comments? I’d love your advice! 

The sewing room is painted a neutral gray, and I’m generally trying to keep all work surfaces white. (Don’t want colors clashing or affecting your judgment while you’re working!)  I do have another desk that is blue and I plan on updating with Valspar’s Pacific Pleasure. 

So do I go with two blue and white dressers to keep things cohesive? Or bring in some nice, neutral wood tones? Opinions? Help!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy President's Day!

Maybe you're out shopping for good deals on TVs or just starting a normal work Monday like I am, but in any case, Happy President's Day. :)

I am sort of sad that last year at this time, I was blogging about the presidential artwork that I want to add to my gallery wall...but in that whole year, I've really barely progressed on said gallery wall (except covering my thermostat). Womp womp.

I have been continuing my work on the sewing room (that I started telling you about last week) and should hopefully have a few posts about that soon!

In the meantime, happy Monday and happy President's Day!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Paper-Covered Boxes for Fabric Storage

Last weekend, I spent a lot of time organizing and re-organizing and purging my massive stash of fabric.  And thus begins the great sewing room organization of 2013. :)

What I am doing is not nearly photo ready…I feel like I’m still getting a handle on how I want to really store all this fabric so it’s accessible…but I will share a small project that I did in the midst of this much bigger one!

I covered Bankers Boxes with wrapping paper.

Hahaha. Not the most exciting, but the results are cute and practical.

paper covered bankers boxes with chalkboard labels

A couple of words on cardboard boxes for fabric storage: there are pros and cons of course. The cons are that cardboard isn’t as durable and waterproof as plastic bins. The pros are that these boxes are inexpensive, have nice handles, and are a really great size for being able to see and access what you have.  Bins that are too big can just become a mess.

So, that being said, I got these Bankers Boxes from Costco. They were $18.99 for 10 of them, so a pretty similar price to the ones I saw at Target, but they are much heavier duty. So much better than the other ones I’ve bought before. I am definitely going to Costco for more of these.

bankers boxes from Costco

I found this cute wrapping paper at Old Time Pottery for $1.99.  It’s a little too cutesy for my normal decorating, but I thought it’s perfect for my sewing room where I can be as girly as I want.  And the colors are fantastic.

bankers boxes from Costco and wrapping paper from Old Time Pottery

I took a few boxes out to the garage and covered a work surface with a trusty drop cloth.  I got out some spray adhesive that I got at a deep discount (at Bailey’s Discount Center!) and used a couple of spare pieces of cardboard as masking.

covering bankers boxes with paper, spray adhesive

I roughly measured my boxes overall circumference and the height that I wanted to cover with paper. I was able to cut the length of the wrapping paper in half, which meant I got to cover 2 boxes for every cut of wrapping paper I made.

covering bankers boxes with paper

I lightly sprayed the box with adhesive, carefully wrapped the paper around it, and voila!

covering bankers boxes with wrapping paper

Exciting, right?

I sprayed a little adhesive on the edges of the paper that I needed to keep down, and I used some clear packing tape to reinforce the handles and a couple of spots on the bottom.

I even papered a couple of the lids!  (I left a couple white, ‘cause it was easier and I’m telling myself they coordinate.)

covering bankers boxes with paper

I papered some old boxes, too, with patterned Kraft paper from the dollar store.

lots of bankers boxes decorated with fun paper!

As a final touch, I put some Contact paper chalkboard labels on and used my new favorite thing, my chalk pen, to label them.

paper covered bankers boxes with chalkboard labels

I wish this could be on some gorgeously organized shelves to show you…oh well, one day.

As for what’s in the boxes?  I used to have my quilting/crafting cottons sorted by color into boxes like these, but when I started to do less quilting, I threw them all together in one big plastic bin.

But it became a mess.

messy fabric in plastic bin

So I re-sorted the fabric for easier access and visibility.

fabric sorted by color into bankers boxes

I’ll have to get more boxes and keep sorting, but this is a great start.

Have you decorated any plain, ugly things lately to turn them into something easy on the eyes?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Things I Love Thursday: Chalk Pens

So I’m a little late to the chalk pen game. 

Now that I think about it, I must have seen the results of this amazing product everywhere, but just wasn’t thinking about it, or realizing just how glorious it must be. 

Chalk Ink from Amazon

I love chalkboard stuff: paint, labels, you name it, but the chalk, of course, is messy. (There used to be a nice layer of yellow dust under my island where the dogs eat.)  Then I saw this post on Evolution of Style, and when I asked Jenny what she was using to write on her chalkboard labels, she said “chalk pen”!  I was excited.

She got hers at Hobby Lobby, I got mine on Amazon.  And ever since, I have been one happy gal. The chalk pen is inky and wet-erase, so it goes on like a paint marker and doesn’t wipe off as easily as chalk. And your writing is much neater and cleaner.

I shared a little sneak peek of the cute jars my friend Janis got me from Anthropologie: they are much cuter and more practical when written on with a chalk pen.

jars from Anthropologie written in chalk pen

I covered an old Nestle Toll House container (the big one from Costco) with some Contact paper (from Marshalls), cut a Contact paper chalkboard label out on my Cricut, and labeled it with the chalk pen.  Voila, dog treat container!

dog treat containers! one with chalkboard label, one from HomeGoods

You know I love dry erase things, and for some things I still do love dry erase, but in the instance of these jars I have, my labels were just getting erased. The one on the right used to say “raw sugar” and the on the left used to say “hot chocolate” (that label was completely gone!).

jars with erased dry-erase labels

But now, with chalkboard Contact paper and chalk pen, I’ve got this!

blue kitchen jars with chalkboard labels

(The dark blue canisters above still have dry erase labels that have remained in tact!)

And my island! I still have regular old chalk around for when kids (or adults!) come over because it is totally fun to write on the island and erase and start over…but in the meantime, I’ve semi-immortalized (what would that really be? just “extended the life of”?) this cool horse drawing that a friend’s daughter drew and neatened up my “dog’s diner” with the chalk pen! Doesn’t it look nice?

chalkboard island written with chalk pen

I don’t know how those dogs are so messy when they eat/drink, but chalk on that side never lasted! But chalk pen is so far holding up great!

So tell me the truth, am I really the last person to have heard about chalk pens? Are you as excited as I was when I found out? Are you going to go buy one right now? :)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A little bit of love for and from one of my new favorite artists, Katie Daisy.


teach love

love more

Let’s all spread some love and teach some love! Today and every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

What Color Should I Paint This Cat?

Yesterday, in my photos of the living room, you got a sneak peak of my current attempts at mantel styling (oh wait, there were also sneak peeks here and on Facebook).  I’m definitely still working on this one…playing with frames and accessories, thinking of staining this awesome mirror an ash brown…just normal stuff I like to think about :)


But I think the most important question right now is, what color should I paint this cat?


I’ve had it for ages, and while I was always tempted to paint it, until now, white seemed to work wherever I put it. But now it’s just getting lost in all the other white/beige around it. 

I could put something behind it of course…what do you think? Tack a wall hanging up back there?

Or paint it. Opinions? A fun aqua? Some sort of blue? Gray? Oil-rubbed bronze? Some other color entirely?  Give me your thoughts!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Year, New Bookshelf Pictures

My friend, Ashley, mentioned to me that I hadn’t really posted an update to my new bookshelves since I built them last year (though I did post a mini-update with kinda terrible pictures over the summer).  So I thought I’d just post a few pictures.  (Again, since I need to force myself to put together a house tour, this is just fine!)

It’s still a work in progress, but here are my lovely bookshelves.


I’ve got a few organizational/container/basket things to work on and of course, a little styling, but I’m overall so happy with the look and function!


I’m currently trying to figure out a fun dog bed that actually looks like it belongs in the room and is nice to look at. :)


Mmmmm…..makes me so happy!

And just for kicks, here are some more shots of the living room.

living room with bookshelves in progress

Definitely need to work on finishing those bookshelves! Boo!  And recovering that little ottoman…and actually getting up some curtains and throw pillows…

living room with fireplace in progress

Never mind the Christmas wrapping paper that’s still in frames either. :)  I’m working on it all, though, and it’s so fun. And that’s what this is all about, right?

I am clearly fine with projects in progress.  Are you happy with things in progress or do you want them all to be done right now?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Our Hole in the Floor

This is not going to be an exciting post, but it’s exciting to me.

So, I just posted about how we created a nice, larger opening in between our kitchen and living room. Unfortunately, a result of that was a cold air return stuck in the middle of our floor.

opening from living room to kitchen

See that nice ol’ hole in the floor right in the walkway?

I tried a few different register covers on it, but all of them presented a tripping hazard in one way or another. They bent when you walked on them, or you stubbed your toe ‘cause they stood up too high.  I mean, it wasn’t surprising since most register covers are made to be out of the way, not right in the middle of where you walk.

Most of the time, Brian and I were completely fine walking around the hole, but the real problem came when we had family over or parties.  First of all, people don’t expect to find a hole in your floor,  and secondly, when there are a lot of people around, it’s just much harder to avoid said hole.

So after about 3 years, we finally fixed it.  We moved the cold air return to over by the bar (it took some time for Grandpa and me to figure out a convenient place to relocate it – but with lots of coffee and several trips to the basement, we worked it out) so that we were able to just cover up the hole with some leftover hardwood that I pre-finished with Waterlox to make our job easier.


No more hole!

Isn’t that the least exciting picture ever?  But I love to walk across it. For fun. Because I can.

Even though I prefinished the hardwood, there were some installation issues (that’s the nice way of putting it) resulting in the need to touch up the finish.  To keep the dogs and cat (and us) from walking over my wet finish, I created a little Stonehenge of paint cans to protect the area. We lived like this for days. It was silly.)


Have you done any little, boring projects lately that have made a big difference to you? Even if no one else notices, your heart still sings, right? :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Opening

In my attempts to create my house tour, let me go back and tell you about some of the things we’ve already done to the house.

Less than 24 hours after we got the keys to our house, we began knocking out the wall between the kitchen and living room.

It started out like this, with a regular sized doorway between the two rooms.

our kitchen at the home inspection
(This picture was from the home inspection.)

To make the house feel more open, we decided to enlarge that opening to be 8’ wide.

Now it looks like this:

the opening into the living room
(These pictures are a tad bit old, but you get the idea.)

opening from living room to kitchen

(See that hole in the floor? That’s where a cold air return used to be in the wall, and was therefore in our floor. I will post about fixing that later!)

It was our absolute first project when we bought the house. Brian got started right away.

Brandon's first blow into the wall
(Don’t you love the lawn chair d├ęcor?)

You see a lot of sledge-hammer-full demos on TV, but in reality, demolition is so messy that you try to keep things as neat as possible. So we used a variety of saws to cut the drywall out in throw-away sized pieces.

demo: cutting out the drywall

We were doing a lot of work, so I didn’t get a lot of pictures, but once we got the wall down, Brian put up some new jack and king studs and a nice, new 2x10 header.

our new opening!

As messy as everything was, it was so nice to feel the new openness.

We got to fixing the drywall right away. Working on this house was like Grandpa’s and my full time job.

drywalling the opening

Clearly at this point, we had a long way to go, but eventually, we got this.

our opening from the kitchen to the living room

What a difference! I can’t even imagine our house without our great big opening, and you know, I even talk about making it bigger and more open!

Have you had any single changes that made your house feel so different?

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