Monthly Archives: June 2011

Mission: Garage Sale

It’s official. Nick and I are teaming up to have a garage sale with my sister and her man in a few weeks! As an added bonus, since my sis is under contract to buy her first house (!) in about a month there’s built-in accountability for me to get my butt in gear and make this thing happen in a timely manner.

The driveway and parking situation is a little better at her place, so we’ll be holding it there. This makes it über important that all my stuff be organized and easy to transport come d-day. Here’s my plan:

  • figure out a way to distinguish my stuff from Shannon’s check. I got a pack of, like, 1000 fluorescent green stickers to stick on all my stuff. Bonus: I ran a bunch of them through the printer with various denominations printed on them so they can double as pricing stickers.
  • Get boxes to group similar items for transport
  • Collect items to be sold from around the house
  • Organize and price everything
  • Pack everything up to go to the sale
  • Make signs??? No idea what the best way is to go about this
  • Advertise via newspapers and craigslist
I’ve done a bit of googling and have gotten tips suggesting everything from playing music so your shoppers don’t feel awkward to promoting the” multi-family” and “moving” aspects of it to lure people in. I haven’t been on the business end of a garage sale in a looong time, so I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing here. All I know is that the profits from this shebang are 100% home decor dollars and this girl wants a big comfy sofa for her new family room/office/den/whatever I end up calling it. So, any tips from the internet? Horror stories? Do you want to buy my stuff? Let me know.

DIY Burlap Table Runner

I was just all over the dining room this weekend. I dusted everywhere (no small feat in this room full of whatnots), washed the sofa slipcover, and switched out the old, faded, and shrunken tablecloth for a cool burlap runner.

I got some burlap at Hobby Lobby for $4/yard (plus a 40% off coupon). The color was “oyster” and I only needed about two and a half yards for this project. Once I got it home I soaked it in some warm, soapy water to soften it up a bit and then laid it out on the back deck to dry (so it wouldn’t get all fray-ified in the washer and dryer). A freak rainshower came through while it was out there, but when it was finally dry I brought it in and cut it to length and then in half lengthwise. I used my sewing machine to run a big ol’ zigzag stitch across the width about four inches from each end, then folded in the sides about half an inch and stitched a simple hem along each side. The reason for the zigzag stitch on each end was so I could do this:

I strategically unraveled the ends to create a fringed edge. The zigzag stitch makes sure that it doesn’t get frayed any further than I want it to. I pulled out the horizontal fibers one at a time until I got to my line of stitching. I found it easiest to work in short sections, since burlap is really rough and it can be challenging to pull out a 20″ fiber without things getting a little tangled.

With my sides hemmed and my frayed ends protected by a hefty zigzag stitch, I popped this baby in the dryer for a serious de-lint-ification, then spread it out on my dining room table. It’s now soft(ish) and 100% fuzz-free.

I really love the texture that it adds, and the fact that the color relates back to the dropcloth sofa across the room is a nice touch.

Transform an Ugly Sofa with a Dropcloth Slipcover

One extra discotastic but oh-so-comfy sofa


One big ol’ canvas dropcloth


Equals not so ugly anymore

It’s pretty awesome. Just like a nice linen, the dropcloth gets softer every time it’s washed. To arrange it on the sofa, I find the seam that runs all the way down the middle lengthwise and fold the whole thing in half so that the two ends of the seam meet. Then, I plop it on the sofa so that the seam is lined up with the back of the cushions and the folded edge is about in the center of the sofa.

Then I take off the back cushions and unfold the dropcloth, tucking the seam way down behind the seat cushions.

I put the back cushions back on and toss the cover over the back, tucking the excess material on the floor under the sofa and arranging the folds over the arms so that the sides are pretty well covered.

Sometimes I think about trimming some of the excess fabric on the front and back (and maybe adding it to the sides, which are a little skimpy), but I wash this thing all the time and I’d hate for it to shrink even a little and look all high-watery. Besides, it’s so easy to just tuck the fabric underneath since the whole operation sits up on some awesome 80′s caster wheels. I got this sofa from craigslist for $60 and the dropcloth was about $30, so even though it’s not exactly high design this is a great alternative to reupholstery and a budget-friendly way to take a piece of secondhand furniture from “used and abused” to “ready for a new life.” If you’ve got the sewing skills to fashion a tailored slipcover more power to you, but this girl is not good at spatial reasoning so a loose-fit slipcover it is.

Even Apartment Therapy is into the look:

Photo credit David Benrud | Image via Apartment Therapy

The room above features Pottery Barn’s Dropcloth Twill Slipcover, which retails for $99 in the sofa size. My dropcloth is significantly larger (which was important since this sofa is long enough for all 6’4″ of my husband to stretch out on for a nap). Now, I love me some Pottery Barn, but I’m pretty proud to have gotten my slipcover and my sofa for less than their slipcover alone. I do like the way theirs falls so nicely around the edges, though. It’s pictures like this that make me want to hem mine. What do y’all think? Should I hem it to nicely graze the floor and risk awkward shrinkage, or keep on truckin’ tuckin’?

Anniversary Flower Pillow

Nick and I are celebrating our second wedding anniversary today! We decided not to give each other gifts and to instead take the day off of work and go to a local water park together. We’ve both been really looking forward to it ever since Nick suggested it a few weeks ago. Even though we won’t be giving gifts to each other, I decided to make myself/our house a little something using items left over from our wedding. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making fabric flowers ever since I saw this tutorial from Emily at Jones Design Company (she has many wonderful and easy to follow tutorials, so be sure to check her out if you love simple and beautiful crafts like me).

I cut two 14″ squares from some scrap linen left over from another project and sewed them into a cover for a really inexpensive Ikea pillow insert (I bought several of them last year with big plans for making pillows for the front porch, which never happened). To sew my pillow cover, I just placed the two pieces right sides together and sewed up three sides on my machine, then left a gap in the middle of the fourth side. I laid it out flat and trimmed the excess fabric from the corners, then turned the whole thing inside out and used a knitting needle to point the corners out so they were nice and crisp. Then, I stuffed my insert inside and carefully folded the edges of the opening inward, then smooshed it through my sewing machine to close it up. p.s. the sew-savvy among you may have noticed that I don’t use seam allowances. I like to live on the edge. Literally.

With my pillow complete, I used Emily’s template to cut “petals” from the cotton skirt of this dress that I changed into at the end of our wedding.

Brian Hursey Photography

I’ve only worn it one other time in the two years since we got married, so it’s nice to find another use for the fabric.

I followed the tutorial’s instructions to cinch the center of each petal with a needle and thread, then layered them on top of each other to create a lovely little flower. The tutorial said to stitch them together at the center, but I was sick of hand sewing so I put it together one petal at a time, using a dab of craft glue between each layer. I embellished the center with a brooch that belonged to my grandmother and that I wore pinned over the bustle on my wedding dress.

I used more craft glue to affix the flower to the center of my linen pillow, then placed it on the sofa in the dining room.

It’s a sweet little reminder of our wedding day. Looking back, I’m so grateful that we had the wedding that we did, and at the same time I’m relieved that I’ll never have to do it again! Sometimes I think we should have used the money to put towards our house or home improvement projects or something else more tangible, but when it comes down to it we are just memory-makin’ kinda people, and it’s more important to us to spend our money on something we can remember than something we can hold in our hands (hence the decision to spend our anniversary running around like kids at a waterpark). I’ve got a great guy and I’m sooooo excited to spend the day zipping down water slides with him.

If you’d like to make a flower like this one, be sure to check out Emily’s tutorial. I used the larger template for this project but a smaller flower would look just lovely as a pin or even stuck in a small picture frame with the glass removed.

p.s. I wasn’t paid or perked for mentioning Emily’s blog or tutorial, I just genuinely think it’s great! Trust me, if I ever start getting paid for this, y’all will know it!

Figuring Out the Fireplace

I’m so glad that I posted about the fireplace yesterday, because for the first time since moving into this house I actually have an idea of what to do with it.

This is what we’re working with:

Leaves and whatnot courtesy of the birds who keep building nests at the top of the chimney, leaving us to pick up the pieces when their homes come crashing down.

This fireplace is a hot mess because it’s coal-burning. What are we supposed to do with that? Even if I knew how to burn coal, I still feel like I’d need to get a professional to check things out before actually using it. You know, to make sure I don’t burn the house down or poison us with CO2 or something.

My friend Caz suggested burning candles in it, and a little bit of internet investigation yielded some ideas for sealing it up, as well. Nick went up on the roof the other day and took a gander down the chimney. He thinks he could just pop a piece of wood in there that would allow birds to continue to nest, but prevent the disastrous death plunge. Once the top of the chimney is sealed off from kamikaze critters, we can roll up some insulation and stuff it in from the bottom, creating an energy-efficient (and completely reversible) barrier between indoors and out.

With the chimney sealed and the firebox cleaned up a bit, I can fill the basket meant for holding coal with candles. Someone recently gifted me a bunch of soy wax and wicks and I’ve already successfully made a lavender-scented candle. I can’t wait to fill a dozen or so mason jars with simple white wax for a charismatic glow this winter.

Image from Pinterest:

None via Charlotte on Pinterest

Keepin it Real + Hopes and Dreams

There are a few rooms in my house that I’ve never posted pictures of before, mostly because we’re a two-person family living in a four-bedroom house and our extra bedrooms have had some trouble discovering their identity. This lack of function has resulted in all three extra bedrooms pretty much becoming a dumping ground for random clutter, unfinished projects, and items that don’t have a home elsewhere.

The front room is one of the best in the house. It’s right off the front porch and living room, has great natural light, and is generously sized. We used to use it as our office, but we had a lot of trouble keeping it warm this winter so we decided to consolidate the office and man cave into a smaller bedroom. This is a good setup because it allows Nick and I to hang out while I write and he plays video games. However, it breaks my heart that this amazing room is just sitting unused, especially now that it’s summertime and I’ve forgotten the perpetual chill that drove me out of there in the first place

Please don’t judge me for the pictures below. This room is just full of junk. I’m hoping to sort it all out and maybe have a garage sale this summer.

It really is my favorite room in the house, and it’s a shame that it’s so full of junk right now. Fortunately, inspiration has struck. I’ve been thinking a lot about babies lately (nope, not preggers, just crazy) and wondering if I’ll have to give up my sharp-edged coffee table and not-so-soft rug in the living room in order to have a place for babies and parents to coexist happily. While I’ve always thought of this room as a bedroom because it’s got a door, it’s technically considered a living room or den because it doesn’t have a closet (and you have to go through another bedroom to get to a bathroom…awkward). So, eureka, why don’t we do something to warm it up and then use it as a den/playroom/family room/office?

Priority #1 is figuring out how to keep it a bit warmer in those blustery Louisiana winters. Here are my ideas.

  • Switch out the muslin curtains for something heavier in the wintertime
  • Pay probably a lot of money to convert the coal-burning fireplace to gas
  • Pay maybe not quite so much money to just get the chimney sealed up so warm air doesn’t escape that way  (we know it’s open at the top because this is the second year in a row that we’ve ended up with traumatized baby birds in our fireplace)

I think the main reason it’s so cold is because it has three exterior walls (all with windows), so maybe just hanging some thermal curtains in the winter could go a long way? We’ll definitely try it before shelling out the cash to make the fireplace usable (as romantic and awesome as a working fireplace would be)

Onto the fun part…figuring out how I’ll outfit it (after saving up my pennies, of course)!

I’ve already got this dining table from Ikea that I use as a desk (and love). Keepin’ it real again here, people. This is what my desk really looks like right now.

Here’s what I’d like to do with the rest of the space:

  • Punchy blue, green, and orange accent colors
  • A family-friendly slipcovered sleeper sectional (say that three times fast!)
  • Super soft faux sheepskin rug
  • Expedit media center for plenty of storage
  • A soft gray-blue on the walls to keep it serene and make the most of the natural light
  • White floating shelves above the desk and in the nook to the right of the fireplace to amp up the storage and function even more
Here’s a not-at-all-to-scale sketch of the potential layout. I did do some real life measuring to make sure I wasn’t completely delusional about what would fit, but I get a little crazy when I start counting all those little squares so I decided to keep my sketch simple.
My handwriting is terrible and the scanner cut off the back of my sofa, but hopefully you get the idea. The desk and shelves make it a functional space for me to get things done, while the cube storage and super-soft rug make it a great play area for mini people (and big people who like to play the Wii every now and again), and the sleeper function of the sofa means it can even function as a guest room in a pinch. Total cost of the sofa, rug, and media console comes to about $1500. Add in a TV and some storage and we’re probably talking about $2000. Not dirt cheap, but not too shabby, either. Especially for a room that’s packed with function. It’ll probably be many moons before I save up enough home decor dollars to make this a reality, but I find that projects like this one are often better when I’m forced to wait. It gives me more time to cultivate my genius.

Staying Fit on the Cheap

And now for a bit of self disclosure.

I lost twenty pounds in the year before our wedding, taking my BMI from 27 (overweight) to 23 (normal range):

Summer 2008

Summer 2009

And Nick lost 50 pounds in the year after.

Summer 2010

This time last year I was pretty much the same weight as I was at the time of our wedding, but as our second anniversary approaches it’s apparent that I’ve gained about 10 pounds. I’m teetering dangerously close to “overweight” again. I think it’s due to a number of factors, including a job I started last August which requires me to eat on the road pretty much every day, as well as giving up cigarettes in November and a general love of food and lounging.

I don’t feel good when I’m overweight. My clothes don’t fit well and I feel self conscious. I’ve decided to whip myself into shape before things get out of hand and I start getting lectures from my doctor again. Here’s how I did it before, and how I’ll do it again:

I count calories and that’s about it. If I start stressing about carbs, etc., I just get overwhelmed and quit. I like the flexibility that tracking calories allows me to splurge in some areas and cut back in others.

Nothing that I’ve ever spent money on has helped me lose weight. Ever. No gym membership, no workout video, no diet plan. The best exercise for me is walking or jogging in my neighborhood, which is 100% free, supplemented by some simple exercises at home in front of the TV. I’ve discovered ten minute pilates workouts on my cable provider’s on demand service, but I also do crunches or lift 5lb weights while hanging out with Nick watching TV in the evening. It’s been really hot in Louisiana lately, so I either walk first thing in the morning (on weekends) or just before dusk after work. I hate jogging, but it worked for me before, so if I don’t start seeing results from walking I may have to start again. Maybe it won’t be so bad now that I’ve quit smoking.

Nick and I eat at home more often than not and prepare simple foods with minimal fuss. Our main staples are beans, rice, pasta, chicken, pork, eggs, and cereal. With all the tomatoes coming out of our backyard we’ve been eating plenty of those, as well. I would really like to add more fresh produce to our diet, but it’s a process for Nick. He’s working on developing a more adventurous palate.

Basically, my weight loss philosophy is to consume about 1500 calories per day and exercise for 30 minutes 3-5 times per week. Slow and steady wins the race. No special foods or fancy gym membership required.

The problem I’ve got is that I still eat lunch on the road most days. My car is my office and I’m usually about 30 minutes from home. It’s hard to be motivated to pack a lunch every day, and even when I do pack something I’m limited to what’s palatable with no refrigeration and no reheating. A girl can only eat so many sandwiches. I start craving a hot meal and next thing you know Whopper Jr. here I come. Any suggestions for simple, easy to prepare lunches that don’t require reheating? It’s been so hot lately that I can toss some pasta with olive oil and diced tomatoes in the morning and it’s still warm for me by lunchtime and that’s pretty delicious, but any additional suggestions are welcome. In return, I’ll keep y’all posted on any simple and inexpensive health tips I discover. Being healthy is a big part of living well (and living cheap, as well, as healthcare can be a major expense). I’m hoping to get my BMI back under 24 by September. wish me luck!

Paint it Black

After posting about my failed attempt to stain the paned mirror last week, I gave it some deep consideration and decided to paint it black. My first time ever using black paint. I might become an addict. Maybe black will be the new blue.


Pathetic staining:

Painted black:

Love it. I used black acrylic craft paint mixed with a little water. The finish is a little rough and uneven, which is okay with me because the other frame it’s hung with is also like that. p.s. that giant empty frame was snagged on clearance at Hobby Lobby a few years ago. It was a custom frame that they built to the wrong size. Woulda been $150 bucks for the person who ordered it but I got it for $29.

This is what the whole operation looked like with the old mirror (which now lives with my sister).

And this is what it looks like now that I’ve hung the new mirror:

It’s a subtle change, but I’m happy with it. I think the new mirror is a little bit more proportional to the larger frame and the finish is a better fit for the space. Looking at the picture above, I do kind of miss the old mirror. It was a good mirror, and I liked the scalloped edges, but the reddish tones just weren’t quite right for me and I thought the uneven surface would be difficult to paint.

It makes sense that I would like to paint stuff black, since I love using black picture frames and am totally down with black furniture (like the coffee table you see here and the floating shelves and dining table on the other side of the room). I don’t know why it took me this long to try it out.

See that little green dish on the coffee table? It’s my new favorite thing. 99 cents at Goodwill. Love that place. Green colored glass and silver are two of my favorite things and both are abundantly available at thrift stores everywhere. I was made for Goodwill. And Goodwill was made for me.

Punched Paper Garland

Happy Monday! I got myself into a few little projects this weekend that I’m looking forward to sharing, the first of which was inspired by this image:

A Little Glass Box

My arm has been twisted. I’m jumping on the decorative garland bandwagon. I decided to craft mine using patterned scrapbook paper and a circle punch.


  • patterned paper
  • decorative circle punch (mine has scalloped edges and cost about $8 at Hobby Lobby)
  • spray adhesive
  • sewing machine

I got some paper in colors that I thought would complement my blue dresser nicely.

My first attempt went terribly awry. I made several mistakes, not the least of which was allowing Pistachio to watch as I tied the garland onto the dresser, little paper rounds bobbing and dancing in a most tempting way to the feline among us. I can’t say I blame her for making that fateful leap which ripped my garland right down the middle. At first I was furious, but once I’d allowed my anger to cool I realized this was an opportunity to correct my earlier mistakes and discover a better method. Technique 2.0 Post-Pistachio-Destruction is what I’ll be sharing here today.

First, I folded my paper in half, trimming off any areas left unusable by my first attempt.

Then used spray adhesive (purchased at the craft store) to stick the two sides together. This gave me double-sided paper rounds in my final product, a detail I’d originally overlooked.

Next, I used my decorative circle punch ($8 at Hobby Lobby) to punch some holes out. Try not to overlap your circles like I did on accident here.

Repeat this process with each of your pieces of paper, then figure out approximately how long you want your garland to be and lay out an arrangement. It’s good to punch more rounds than you’ll need to give you a little wiggle room in arranging them.

I flipped each one over to make sure nothing looked stupid on the backside.

If everything looks good, bring them over to your sewing machine and stitch them together, leaving a long tail on each end and a little bit of space between the rounds.

Sewing them was my favorite part. I don’t know why but I really enjoyed watching each one get pulled under the presser foot and through to the other side. A delight I tell you.

Tie each end to a drawer pull or whatever other apparatus you’re adorning and step back to admire your creation!

I think it adds a little whimsy to that corner, and since I rarely open the second drawer of the dresser it shouldn’t be a big deal that the garland hangs down a little lower than I’d intended. I think a garland like this would be really cool hanging vertically, but I’m pretty sure my cats would destroy it in 2.5 seconds. It’d be sweet for a baby mobile or something like that, though.

Do you see the College World Series on in the living room? Is LSU in the CWS this year? No. Must we still watch every game?  Yes. Should my husband write a sports blog so he’ll stop yapping to me about it? Yes. I have no idea what he’s talking about half the time.

This Paned Mirror is Such a Pain

Those who have been with me from the very beginning may remember this mirror that I scored at the Goodwill for a mere 14 bucks back in March.

My idea was to maybe paint it or stain it dark and hang it up above my mantel when I finally got one, but since I went with the reclaimed wood ledge I just don’t think it would be a good fit.

So then I thought maybe I could use it to replace the mirror in our dining room, which has red undertones and is really not my style.

I didn’t think white paint would look good in contrast to the larger frame, which I planned to keep, so I decided to stain it dark using stain leftover from my LSU chair. I started by taping off the edges of the glass and placing it on a large piece of cardboard.

Then I brushed on my Minwax stain in Dark Walnut and let it sit for almost 15 whole minutes to get a nice, dark finish.

Well, it was dark, but not nice. When I wiped the stain off (using paper towels) the finish was ugly and uneven.

For some reason that area on the bottom took the stain much more seriously than the rest of the piece, which did not take it seriously at all. Now that I’m paying attention, it does feel more rough to the touch in that area, as if it’s been sanded and the rest of the piece has not. This may be a lesson I need to learn about staining vs. painting. I pretty much never sand or pay any attention whatsoever to the original surface when painting. In my opinion, flat paint forgives all sins. Stain is perhaps not quite so forgiving.

But what do I do now that this has happened? Sand the whole thing down and start over? Give up and bring it back to Goodwill? Toss it? I guess the worst case scenario is that I can paint over the wonky stain and use it somewhere else in the house, but I’m kind of not in love with that idea anymore. I could paint it black and use it in the dining room as intended, but I’ve never used black paint before and it seems kind of morbid. What say you, internet? Should I…

a) sand it down and stain it again (I gagged a little just thinking about sanding)

b) paint it white or grey and use it somewhere else (but where?)

c) paint it black and use it in the dining room

d) bring it back to Goodwill