Monthly Archives: May 2011

First Ever Giveaway!

This week marks three months that I’ve been puttering away at my little corner of the blogosphere, and I feel like things have been going swimmingly thus far. Despite all the hours I’ve spent working and writing, y’all are the ones who deserve the credit. The truth is that a blog is nothing without readers, and I’ve been really overwhelmed with the number of people who have subscribed or become regular visitors already. It means so much to me that you take a little time out of your day to check in on what I’ve been up to, and I’m  flattered by each of you who has left a comment or reached out to me personally. To show you how much it means to me, I’ve sprung for a little thank you gift.

One lucky reader will win a $50 gift card to your choice of one of my three favorite stores-Pottery Barn, Z Gallerie, or Crate & Barrel

Here’s how to enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post with the words “You’re Welcome!” (so I can be sure you took my thanks to heart) by 8pm Central on Thursday June 2nd.
  • If you can spare a moment extra, please give me some feedback on how I’m doing so far. Constructive criticism is welcome, and if you’d like to provide your feedback privately you can email me at
  • Check back Friday to see if you’ve won!

My goal here at Living Well on the Cheap is twofold:

  • To provide a creative outlet for myself
  • To inspire others

Am I achieving that goal so far? Is there something I can do to make the site or my posts more accessible, interesting, or useful? Is there something that you’d like to see more often, or less often? I can dream up projects and write about them all I want, but unless I’m inspiring others I’m only halfway there. Y’all are a crucial part of this endeavor, and I’d love to hear your input. Thank you, again, from the bottom of my heart, for being here. Y’all are amazing!

Giveaway will close Thursday, June 2nd at 8pm Central Daylight Time. One entry per email address is permitted. Winner will be selected using and announced on Friday, June 3rd in a separate post.

We Heart Our Lawnmower

My family thought I was crazy when I told them we wanted a reel mower for our new house, but took our word for it and gave it to us as a Christmas gift anyway. I was stoked. This Scotts mower had been sitting in my Amazon shopping cart for months.

There are a couple of reasons why I was lusting after the low-tech reel mower, as opposed to something with a little more va-va-voom:

  • It’s lightweight and easy to store, which is a big plus as we don’t have a garage or shed
  • It’s pretty low maintenance-no worries about gas, oil, air filters, etc.
  • Our property is only .25 acres so there’s really not a whole lot of ground to cover
  • All that mother earth stuff
  • It was less than $100

And since the grass has been growing in South Louisiana for about two months now, here’s what we think of it so far:


  • It’s so quiet! Mowing the lawn is almost meditative with this thing, and Nick can mow first thing in the morning and be done in time to go tailgate for an LSU baseball game without worrying about waking the neighbors.
  • I can easily lift and carry it myself and it cleans up easily, which makes the fact that it lives in a closet a lot less ridiculous


  • If you let the grass/weeds get too high, they’ll just bend down under the mower and pop back up on the other side instead of being cut. We learned this the hard way and had to borrow our neighbor’s gas mower to get things back to normal.
  • Sticks and twigs can easily get lodged in the blade mechanism, stopping the whole operation, but it’s pretty easy to just rock it back and forth a bit, or just reach down and grab the offending object, then move on with your mowing adventures.

Overall, we’re really happy with the reel mower, and would choose it again in a heartbeat. We’ve got an awesome electric blower/mulcher for all the leaves that our oak tree produces and once we add an edger and trimmer to the mix, our cadre of lawn care tools will be complete. For now, let’s hope the neighbors don’t judge our sloppy edges.

P.S. I’ll be taking Monday off from posting to spend Memorial Day relaxing in my pool, but I’ll be back on Tuesday with a very exciting announcement, so be sure to check in!

Bedroom Wall Art

Never before have I stuck to such a limited color palette as I have in our master bedroom, but I’m kind of digging it.

The blues, whites, and creams are really serene and restful. Even the craiglisted wing chair is more of a blue-ish green. The dark wood floors and bedframe and the few pops of green, yellow, and pink are a nice contrast.

But I worry that the whole thing is starting to tilt a little too sugary-sweet. I want to bring in some edginess. You may have noticed that the area above my armoire is looking pretty bare. I feel like it needs some art that’s large and in charge, and can balance out the oldladyishness of the lace I’ve got draped over the armoire door.

I’m pretty much in love with this peacock print. And when I googled the artist to see more of her work, I about died. Check out her etsy shop. She’s adorable.

Mr. Pavo Real, by Valentina Ramos. Image from here.

It’s sweet, and at the same time a nice contrast to what we’ve got in the room so far. If our bed is looking a little like cotton candy, Mr. Pavo Real is like a fruit salad. He”s fresh and vibrant and I likes it.

And, because I’m obsessed with words, I’d love to creatively display a meaningul phrase. I’m kind of digging these for inspiration:





Once I get my decorating budget for June I’m going to order that peacock print and a frame for it. I’ve already got an 11″x14″ canvas just waiting to be made over, but part of me thinks maybe I should wait until I’ve got the peacock print up to decide exactly which direction I’ll take with it. But seriously, what’s the worst case scenario? I can always paint over it if I want to make a change. I guess we’ll see how inspired I’m feeling this weekend. We all know I’ve got plenty of other projects to keep me busy in the meantime!

Horticultural Homicide

After all the bragging I did yesterday about the awesome, delicious, most gorgeous tomato you ever saw, you might be thinking that I am an awesome gardener. Don’t be fooled. I’m still killing plants left and right.

These plants died before I could even take pictures to show you my genius idea to use galvanized tubs from the paint aisle as planters.

And these dead plants are now the first thing you see when you come over. Awesome.

I think the plants that croaked in the galvanized tub were meant to be in full sun, and I probably read that on the tag and completely ignored it because the flowers were pretty and I’d become arrogant in my gardening ways. Lesson learned. The two pots out front had petunias that were doing pretty well until we entered a bit of a drought and I got lazy about watering them. And, while I didn’t get a picture, the flowers in my hanging baskets aren’t doing so hot either.

Here’s what’s on my mind:

  • I’d like to find some flowers that can tolerate shade and do well in containers. I’ve got herbs and ferns galore but I’d like to add some color.
  • My hanging baskets get no rain and little sun, and it’s a pain for me to reach up that high to water them all the time. I need something very low-maintenance to live there.
  • I feel like those pots flanking the steps are a little puny looking. Maybe I’ll be more inspired to water something carrying more visual weight?
  • OMG I cannot wait to paint the porch floor and steps…and I clearly need to sweep.

So, I stopped by the nursery today and picked up a few little plants, but my May decorating budget is busted so that’s my haircut money being spent. To my hairdresser, Mallory, if you’re reading this, now you know why you haven’t seen me in months. My hair looks like a hot mess but my house is well appointed.

Oh, Tomato, How I Love You So

I harvested my very first tomato this weekend, and it looks like there are many more to come!

I really wanted to leave it on the vine as long as possible, but it was looking pretty red and I just couldn’t bear the idea of a critter getting to it before I did.

I left it on the windowsill for a day just to make sure it had reached the peak of ripeness, then cut it up to serve alongside our chicken and pasta dinner.

Nick is really resistant to eating vegetables and has never once eaten a tomato, but he promised he would give mine a chance.

He thought it was delicious.

I’m ridiculously proud. You would think this tomato had sprang forth from my womb the way I ooohed and aaahed over it. I mentioned in my list of hopes and dreams that I really want to have a vegetable garden, and I’m feeling more confident now that I can make it a reality. I’m hoping to plant some strawberries next. They’re perrenial, reportedly easy to grow, and, like, crazy delicious. There was definitely a time when I couldn’t even keep a houseplant alive, but I’m thinking I may be getting a grip on this whole gardening thing. It’s really very exciting.

Painted Dresser

A few years ago I bought a matching armoire, chest of drawers, and nightstand for $150 from craigslist. The seller said they were from the 1920′s and had been in his family’s camp forever (which I’m sure is underwater right about now).

—Actually, let me take a side note right here to say that we are really feeling grateful that we aren’t underwater ourselves. We live very near the Mississippi River and were so nervous about it that we cancelled plans to go to an out of town wedding this weekend. Thanks to the opening of the Morganza Spillway it looks like Baton Rouge will be fine, but our hearts go out to those in the Atchafalaya Basin whose sacrifice kept us dry.—

I painted the nightstand using leftover paint from the dining room dresser (see that project here, and a whole post dedicated to this little nightstand here).

I first painted the armoire an awful, awful lilac. I was going for gray with lavender undertones but it went terribly awry. I painted over it with this bold aqua.

I thought it still looked a little “blah,” so I added a piece of lace I’d picked up at the thrift store for flair.

Just enough old-lady-ish-ness to make me smile.

Well, both of those projects were completed long before I started blogging, but until this weekend I still hadn’t gotten around to painting the matching chest of drawers. I call it Nick’s dresser since it’s on his side of the room, but I’ve actually taken over two of the drawers to house my sizeable sweater and cardigan collection, so I guess it’s really “ours.”

I think it’s awesome that you can make guesses about the items that have sat on top based on the discoloration.

I mixed the color for the armoire myself using paint I had on hand, but didn’t have enough left to paint the dresser, so I poured what I did have left over into a mason jar and painted a dab of it onto the lid, then brought the jar to Lowe’s and had it color matched to a quart of interior flat. I also had it matched to a quart of exterior flat, which is what I used to paint the front door, but for some reason it looks much darker there! Just to be sure I wouldn’t end up with a similar situation here, I painted a swatch of the matched paint over an inconspicuous spot on the armoire. It was such a close match that I couldn’t even spot the difference after it had dried, so the darker shade on the front door must have something to do with the light, or maybe the exterior vs. interior formula.

About six months ago, I bought a desk from Ikea that came in a big, flat box. I’ve held onto that piece of cardboard ever since because it’s purrrfect for sliding under whatever I’m painting.

This is what we looked like after removing the hardware and brushing on one extremely thin coat.

And after coat two…

Around this time I decided to break for a peanut butter sandwich and some Nate Berkus on the DVR (he had Carson Kressley on there-so funny and awesome). I came back a bit later and added a quick third coat to the top and front (the areas likely to get the most wear) and touched up only the thin spots on the sides (I love the flexibility afforded by flat paint to never worry about lap marks). I replaced the hardware once it was dry, pushed it back into place, and put all Nick’s clutter-collecting accoutrements back on top (read about that system here).

It’s pretty much impossible to capture both pieces together in the same shot, but they sit directly across from each other and having them painted the same hue really adds a sense of symmetry to the room. Someday soon I am going to do a post that shows more of our bedroom because I’m really proud of the way I’ve layered colors and textures in there so far. But of course, it’s still a work in progress. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Painted the armoire

Reupholstered the hope chest

Brought in new bedding

And painted the chest of drawers

And here’s what I’ve still got left to do:

  • new bedding
  • lamp repair
  • painting a dresser
  • hanging artwork
  • a DIY throw pillow or two

And while this isn’t all that exciting, I also need to SEW MORE CURTAINS!!! I got the most important ones covered up, but there are still a few naked windows in our bedroom and I find myself feeling compelled to crawl along the floor rather than walk past them in an indecent state of dress. One of these days I’m sure I’ll get tired of the inconvenience and sew the 10 panels needed to cover the remaining windows and regain my dignity, but until then I’ll just keep muttering to myself in shame.

Things I Want to Make and Do

My mind seems to be swimming lately with project ideas faster than I can finance or execute them. Here’s what I’ve been dreaming of lately:

  • A rain barrel made from a heavy-duty trashcan, with guppies or minnows living inside to eat mosquito larvae
  • Something using Lindsay’s fabric knotting technique (maybe a pillow or quilted throw blanket?)
  • A throw pillow adorned with a giant fabric flower made using Emily’s technique
  • A throw blanket for our living room
  • A throw pillow with a painted bunny silhouette, to remember Harold by
  • A chalkboard message area on the side of my bedroom armoire, so I can leave myself inspirational messages that I’ll see first thing in the morning
  • A square-foot vegetable garden
  • A flower cutting garden
  • DIY wire baskets made from hardware cloth
  • A custom shelving system above our washer and dryer
  • Paint the laundry room a vibrant, refreshing blue
  • Paint the kitchen creamy off-white or gray
  • Upper cabinets on the range side of our kitchen
  • A throw pillow painted with a blue chevron pattern
  • Paint the porch floor a moody gray tone
  • Get big burlap bags to store things like potting soil and compost attractively, stencil on labels to identify contents
  • Build a simple potting bench
  • Homemade citronella candles in mason jars
  • A window box, a very tiny tree, and a bunch of aspidistra in our front garden bed
  • Grow moss on a cinderblock and use it as a planter

And that’s just the interesting/reasonable stuff. I’ve got all kinds of ideas for mini remodels and not-so-mini remodels and buying all sorts of things I’ve been thinking of for months (a mantle for the living room, an upholstered storage bench, adirondack chairs, a pedestal coffee table, and a ridiculous variety of plants). This is one of those times that I’m glad Nick enforces a pretty strict monthly decorating and home improvement budget, because my hopes and dreams definitely need a little reigning in right now. I’ve already busted my budget for May so I’ll keep pottling along doing what I can with what I already have on hand, then come June 1 I’ll be figuring out what’s important enough to get financed next. And by the time July rolls around, I’m sure I’ll have a whole new crop of dreams vying for my affection.

Eclectic Chair Nirvana

I’ve finally finished fixing up all six of my mismatched chairs!



In case you were wondering, I don’t even stage Pistachio into these pics. She just has a compulsive need to be the center of attention.

I originally planned to cover the two taller chairs with the same natural linen used on two of the other chair seats, but I just didn’t have enough. I had resigned myself to returning to the fabric store for more when my friend Cassie mentioned that she’s got a bunch of fabulous remnants gifted to her by a former interior designer that I was welcome to choose from. I picked out these coordinating velvet damask squares, which were 100% free and perfectly sized to cover my cushions.

This chair originally had only a thin piece of batting wrapped around the wood seat, so I bought an 18″ square piece of 2″ thick soy foam from the fabric store and used a pair of scissors to trim it to size. It’s super comfy now and I think of sitting there as a little vacay.

I’m so glad I decided to stain this wood chair. I kept thinking the lines of it looked familiar, and when my neighbor Caitlyn told me it looks just like the one in her office at LSU I remembered that there are hundreds just like it strewn across campus. So now it reminds me of my glory days and I smile to think about it. I call it my LSU chair.

The only thing I’ve ever stained before was our deck, which was really a lot more like painting. For this project I picked up a quart of Minwax’s Dark Walnut stain. Starting on the underside so I could practice without any high stakes pressure, I brushed it on in sections, let it sit for maybe a minute or so, then wiped it off with a staining pad left over from my zebra floorcloth project. I got into a pretty good rhythm of staining a section, staining another, wiping the first, staining another, wiping the second, staining another, etc., so things moved pretty quickly and there wasn’t a lot of lag time waiting for the stain to absorb. I could have let it sit as long as 15 minutes for a much darker tone, but I really wanted the beautiful wood grain to show through. You can see here the dramatic difference that even that short time to absorb made.

After the stain had dried I sanded the edges and seat so they were really smooth to the touch.

I’m also really loving how this upholstered chair came out. I’m crazy about the combination of the fabrics and trim (this kind was called chinese braid at the fabric store). This is the only chair where the upholstered pieces couldn’t be removed to put the staples on the backside, so I had to staple the fabric at the edges and then cover the staples with trim. I think it looks kinda fancy. I just used regular ol’ craft glue to stick the trim on there, since it won’t be going in the washing machine or anything.

You can see all the crap on my kitchen counter in the background. Just keepin’ it real, folks. I love that it’s got a little pop of upholstery on the back.

And, since she was former owner Reina’s favorite, I’ve gotta highlight this little lady. She’s the only other one to get the floral linen thanks to her petite derriere.

Overall, I’m thrilled with how they all came out, but of course there’s always room for improvement. Looking at these pictures I’m wondering if I should strip the honey-wood chair pictured above and stain it darker, and I can see that the chair with an upholstered back sits a bit lower than the rest (awkward!). However, it”s got a matching soulmate who currently lives in the office, so I’ve got long term plans to reunite them elsewhere if I can find a suitable replacement for the table.

Maybe all these lovely chairs will motivate Nicholas and I to eat at the table more often. My family always ate at the table when I was growing up (although I’m fairly certain my parents have abandoned it now that they’re empty nesters), and we I made it our New Years’ Resolution to eat dinner there every evening. Unfortunately, Nicholas thwarted my plans by giving up eating at the table for Lent and it’s been a slippery slope to sofa dining from there (we’re not even Catholic, he was just doing it to spite me).

Mismatched Chairs-We’re Halfway There

Well, we’re more than halfway, I suppose. I was just looking for an excuse to hum Bon Jovi to myself. I’ve got four of the six chairs D-O-N-E done. As you can see, Pistachio’s a fan. I’ve got my mom visiting as I write this post so I’ll keep it short, but I’m hoping to have the last two chairs ready to go ASAP and I can’t wait to share them all!

Before I go, I want to show you this chair that I just couldn’t pass up at Goodwill. Looks like I’ll be learning how to repair that damaged caning.

Sheila and Pistachio are just obsessed with anything novel. Anytime a new item comes into the house they’ve gotta check it out, and Sheila will usually decide it’s her new favorite place to lounge for a few days. I’m thinking, however, that if she attempts a graceful leap into this chair it may end badly for her. Hopefully she noticed the gaping hole during her preliminary investigation.

P.S. If you’ve been playing along, you may have noticed that I strayed from my plan to upholster the two taller chairs in natural linen. It was all in the name of frugality, but I’m pretty pleased with the result. I’ll dish all the details in my big chair post to come.

I Dream of Linen

Our new bedding arrived a day early and I was able to snap a few pics yesterday before the sun went down.

It’s everything I’d hoped it would be. The linen is so soft to the touch and isn’t too stuffy, and the light oatmeal color lends a much airier look than the old brown duvet. I’m loving the color and feel of the blue satin pillowcases, as well. I also think the awesome lines of our four-poster bed “pop” a little bit more with the lighter backdrop.



The two photos of the new bedding above were taken at about 6pm with the lights turned off. Can you believe what great light there is in our room? I love it.

I was so excited to go to bed last night, especially since I’ve got a cold and slept horribly the night before. No amount of soft bedding can cure my stuffy nose, but it sure can make waking up every hour less miserable. I tell you, it was downright delightful.

Next, I’d like to whip up a throw pillow for flair. I’ve got some ideas floating around my head but haven’t come up with a definitive plan just yet. I also need to rewire the two bedside lamps that belonged to my grandmother (they’re technically my sister’s, they’re just living with me for a while). You can see I have one on the left side of the bed with the shade all awry. I’ll be remedying that, as well.

I’m almost done fixing up all my mismatched chairs and am so freakin’ happy with the results. I’m hoping to share them tomorrow or Thursday. In the meantime, I’ll be wishing I could take off of work to spend the day curled up in linen and nursing myself back to health.