Monthly Archives: November 2011

Wax Paper Pouf

About two days after ordering my new sofa, I discovered that I had no business doing such a thing. Faced with state budget cuts, my wonderful boss had a choice to either lay off one third of her staff or to cut pay by 10% across the board and reduce the amount she contributes to the cost of our health coverage. She chose door #2. Sooooo, maybe I shouldn’t have just spent $500 on a couch, but I had saved up for it and the deed was done anyway, so no use crying over lovely white sofas already on their way to my door. I did decide, though, that I would try to make my Christmas more cost-effective.

One of the ways I minimized stress and spending last year was by avoiding wrapping paper like…I don’t know, I don’t have a simile here. I used brown craft paper instead and put my energy into adorning each box with a pretty bow. My biggest expense, though, was ribbon, and it did add up. So this year I decided I would only use things I already have. I’ve got some ribbon left over from last year, but I’ll be getting creative in what else I use to pretty up my boxes. Here’s my first endeavor in crafting something pretty out of crap I already had lying around:

I present to you, the wax paper pouf.

Sorry I didn’t take a more glamorous picture of it. I probably should have stuck it on a fake box or something to give you some context. If you can’t tell, it’s about the size of my fist and just purrrfect for adding charm to a brown paper package tied up with string. I added the cat reference there because it would also make a lovely cat toy. Here’s how I made it. First, I gathered my supplies. Wax paper, string, amd scissors. You could use wire instead of string, but the string was handy so I just went with it.

Roll out two roughly square pieces of wax paper.

Cut them each in half.

And in half again, giving you a stack of eight small squares. I had to trim mine a little bit to get it looking more square-ish. No biggie.

Stack your squares neatly and then begin folding them all up together like an accordion.

Then, trim the ends to the shape you desire. You can make them rounded for a softer look, or pointed for something a little more funky. I went with rounded edges.

Tie a bit of string, or twist a bit of wire, around the middle. No need to squish.

With your wire or string holding it all together in the center, start spreading out your folds.

This is the most important part. Carefully peel up one layer of paper on each side. Do a really good job of pulling it up nice and straight because you don’t want the dividing line to be obvious later.

Don’t follow my example here. I should have done a better job of pulling them up all the way, because I had to do some squishing later to camouflage the center.

Then, just keep pulling up layers. I knew I’d be using this on a gift so I kept the back flat, but if you think you might want to make a garland or hang them in the air be sure to distribute your fluffiness evenly all around.

And finally, ta-da! My completed pouf. Took only a few minutes and zero dollars.

There’s a bit of string sticking out the back side that I could tie some fishing line to and hang it up, if I so desired. Or, I could use a needle to thread a bunch on a piece of thread to make a garland. Lots of possibilities here!

Since I’ll be using this on a gift, I’ll probably just stick it on there with a bit of hot glue. And speaking of hot glue, I’ve always struggled with getting tape to adhere well to craft paper in the past, so I’m thinking I may use hot glue this year instead. More money saved, since I have a giant bag of hot glue sticks in my crafting stash and I always have to run out to get tape at the beginning of the holiday season.

I made like five of these in thirty minutes while watching TV. I’ve got a ton more ideas for decorating boxes with stuff I’ve already got, so I’m really excited to see how it all turns out. I’ll probably make more poufs like this out of book pages and tissue paper. I wonder if it would even work with scrap pieces of fabric?

Ektorp In the House!

Look what showed up on Saturday!

Believe it or not, there’s a sofa in there! The smaller box held the slipcover. And remember all that talk about the $60 gift card I’d get thanks to Ikea’s sofa sale? BlueBag, the Ikea delivery company, just took that money right off my invoice total since they can put it towards stuff they purchase for other customers. Turns out, though, that BlueBag has increased their prices since the last time I shopped with them and they now charge an extra sixty bucks to deliver to your house (as opposed to picking up at their showroom in New Orleans). That’s okay with me because I worried before that they might go out of business with their old pricing system. I seriously thought about saving myself the delivery fee by going to New Orleans myself, but I figured I’d spend probably half that just in gas to get there and back, plus nearly three hours of my life would be wasted round trip, and I wasn’t even sure the dang thing would fit in my car. Nick and I decided that since the couch was discounted by the exact amount that delivery would cost it was meant to be. So we spent Saturday puttering around the house and let the delivery guys worry about driving in the rain.

We weren’t completely off the hook, though. We still had to put it together.

We found the instructions tucked into the springs on the bottom. In traditional Ikea fashion, they were needlessly complicated and unclear. We followed them only halfheartedly.

Really all we had to do was screw on the legs, unfold the main part of the couch (the seat and back were hinged together), and attach the arms. The hardest part was stuffing the cushions into the slipcovers.

Ta-da! But alas, do you notice something missing? There were no back cushions! We called the guys who delivered it to make sure they hadn’t left another box in the truck, but they said that everything should have been in the one box and that is must have been a packaging error on Ikea’s end. They said they’ll talk to Ikea and pick up some back cushions for us on this week’s trip to Ikea Houston.

This room is still a graveyard for unwanted things, like our old dishwasher and that purple end table with the paint peeling off. And I’d be lying if I told you that there isn’t still cardboard strewn everywhere from that giant box. But this couch has given me hope that someday it will be the relaxing and inviting space I’ve been dreaming of.

PS: Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments yesterday! To my complete shock and awe I woke up this morning to find that I’d already sold my first item! It’s shipping out today and I feel like a real life businesslady. Thanks for your support!

Grand Opening: LivingLaVidaVintage

Good morning all! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Mine was delightful. Nick and I went home to spend time with family and friends, then spent the weekend mostly hanging out together around the house. Somewhere in between eating leftovers and watching the Hallmark channel, I finished photographing items for my shop, uploaded and edited the photos, wrote descriptions, and set prices and shipping costs. Whew! I’m glad that I spread it all out over a few days so as not to feel overwhelmed. Just a few minutes ago I logged into etsy and clicked “publish,” effectively opening my shop for all the world to see. Care to take a gander?

Ahhhhh! I’m so excited! Just looking at it makes me want to go out thrifting for more treasures to sell. I know that there are tons of sellers on etsy and it may take a while for me to make a single sale, and that’s okay. I’m proud of myself just for taking the leap of faith. Also, I’m super nervous about being able to ship items quickly and efficiently (seeing as I work full time and all), so I’m okay if it takes a while for me to get to that step.

Thank y’all for being so supportive of me throughout this process. I don’t know if I would have done it if I didn’t have y’all telling me I could (plus the built-in accountability of having announced publicly that today would be d-day kept me from using fear and laziness as an excuse to delay it). Y’all are the best!

If you’re interested, you can check out my shop here. Feedback is welcome, as I’m a total newbie. Thanks again for reading my blog and being so awesome!

The Holidays are Upon Us!

I can’t believe that another year has flown by and the holidays are already here! Over the next week or two I’ll be dragging all my Christmas decor out of storage and decking the halls. For the past two years Nick and I have snapped a family photo in front of the tree and sent out cards to friends and family. I’m really excited about this year’s photo. I’ve learned a lot about photography from this little ‘ol blog and this year’s photo will be taken with an actual camera and a tripod, as opposed to an iPhone and a friend (not that I’m not grateful to you, Cassie, for playing photographer the last two years!). In 2009 I knitted a Santa hat for Harold, complete with little bunny ear holes, and a sweater for Sheila. This was in our rental house with our tiny little fake tree.


By the time last Christmas rolled around we were in our new house and had a new kitten, Pistachio. I was too busy decorating the real, live tree we got (and keeping the cats out of it) to bother with knitting accessories for three animals.


I was considering knitting kitten mittens this year, what do you think? I’m kind of slow at knitting, maybe sewing or crochet would be quicker? And there’s always this for Juliet:


I don’t know. Do you think it’s cruel to dress up pets? Sheila hated that sweater so much that I felt a little guilty, but not enough to stop me from sending a picture to everyone I know.

I’m taking the rest of this week off from posting to be with family. I hope that you are filled with gratitude tomorrow and always, and that your holiday season is kicked off with cheer. Happy Thanksgiving!

How to Make Pumpkin Pie from a Real Pumpkin…

…and how NOT to make a pie crust.

Last month I got some pumpkins to pretty up my porch. Three of them were pie pumpkins. I thought from the very moment I spotted them that maybe, someday, one of them could fulfill a destiny higher than mere decoration. Maybe one of them could become a pie.

Yesterday was that day, my friends. I arrived home from work with an uncanny surge of energy and motivation. First, I scrubbed my kitchen clean. It had been collecting dust and grease and-dare I say it-pet hair, for longer than I care to publicly admit. I showed that magic eraser who was boss and an hour or so later my kitchen was sparkling.

Then, I got down to research. I discovered these very detailed instructions on making pumpkin pie from scratch and felt empowered. My goal was to not have to go to the store, and this recipe offered a substitution for the only ingredient I didn’t have (evaporated milk), as well as instructions for whipping up a pie crust. Sold.

First step: prepare the pumpkin.

I used a serrated knife to saw it in half.

Then an ice cream scoop to scrape out all the seeds and gunk.

I saved the seeds just in case I felt motivated enough to roast them later (spoiler: I didn’t).

With my pumpkin halves reduced to a shell of their former selves, I cut out the stem and sliced the halves up into smaller pieces, then put them in a covered bowl with a bit of water.

The directions said to microwave the pumpkin for  fifteen minutes, so I took this opportunity to get started on the crust. I got out all my baking supplies and apparatus.

Pistachio loves to observe goings-on in the kitchen, but she isn’t allowed on the counters. So she sits in a barstool and watches me work. I think it’s adorable.

The directions were a little manic, but from what I figured I was supposed to combine flour, sugar, and shortening in my food processor, then let ‘er rip for about 15 seconds. I was so proud when this yielded pretty little pea-gravel-looking clumps. I felt like that was exactly what was supposed to happen.

Then the recipe started talking about adding a little water to make a dough, but I was confused because it also called for cold butter but never told me when or how to add it. So I decided to add half a stick or so of cold butter and 1/4 cup of water at the same time to the food processor. If you’ve ever made pie crust before, I feel like you already know that this did not go well. The water made it turn into a giant ball of dough before the butter could be mixed in. I knew I messed up and was so panicked trying to figure out how to fix it that I didn’t even take any pictures. I fished the butter and the dough out of the food processor and started trying to mash it together with my hands on a piece of wax paper. I knew with every squeeze of dough in my fist I was crushing the possibility of words like “light and flaky” ever being used to describe my pie crust, but I felt it had to be done. Once it seemed like the butter was at least sort of incorporated I wrapped the whole thing up in wax paper and stuck it in the freezer. I figured no further harm could come to it in there and I could pretend like the whole thing hadn’t even happened until I needed the crust again later.

Back to the pumpkin…it came out of the microwave looking like this.

It was really easy to use a spoon to scoop the pumpkin flesh right out of the skins. After I got them all scooped out I put the good stuff in the food processor and ended up with the warm, smooth, pumpkiny goodness you see below.

This is where it got easy. As in, where a normal person who bought a crust and a can of pumpkin filling  from a store would be just getting started. I added sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger. The only spice called for by the recipe that I didn’t have was allspice, and I figured it wouldn’t be the end of the world to just leave it out.

Next, I added some regular ‘ol milk, four eggs, and vanilla.

And mixed. Around this time I was looking over at my stand mixer and wondering why I hadn’t just put it to use for the first time in, oh, about six months or so, but I’d already gotten this bowl dirty so I just went with it. It was really runny, but the recipe said that was to be expected.

And at this point I couldn’t ignore the crust situation any longer. I took it out of the freezer and slapped it down on a fresh piece of wax paper. I tried to use my rolling pin to roll it out but it was just too sticky. I resorted instead to patting it out with my hands until it was roughly roundish.

Then I plopped it in a pie dish and shaped it some more with my fingers. I was shocked, shocked to realize that it actually didn’t look all that bad.

I poured my filling into the crust and, as the recipe predicted, had slightly more filling than would fit in the pie. I poured the excess into muffin tins to make crustless mini-pies. I forgot to grease them first, but I figured even if they stuck it was better than letting the filling go to waste.

After an hour in the oven, I had this notvery photogenic but extremely delicious-smelling result.

Turns out it didn’t matter that I forgot to grease the muffin tins, because Nick was eating them straight out of the pan with a spoon before the pie had even cooled enough to cut.

We didn’t have any whipped cream on hand, but Nick had the genius idea to eat our pie “à la mode” with frozen yogurt (Blue Bunny Caramel Praline Crunch). It was crazy delicious.

So, I don’t know if a pie pumpkin is any cheaper than a can of pumpkin pie filling, and it certainly didn’t save me any time to do things this way, and I can’t say that this particular pie was, you know, amazingly delicious in comparison to pie made from a can, but it was kind of fun to be able to use a pumpkin for decoration and then turn it into dessert. And even the crust didn’t turn out disgusting or anything. I’m not a big crust person anyway and always leave the last little bit at the back of the slice, but Nick stole that last little piece off my plate and ate it so I guess it couldn’t have been all that bad. My favorite part of this pie is that I made it entirely out of stuff I already had. Can’t beat that.

p.s. if you’d like to try this at home, here’s the recipe I used again

When in Doubt, Outsource it

I’ve had an extra dishwasher sitting in my front room for, like, two weeks. Nick and I decided to try to install it ourselves last weekend, but it was over before it even started when we saw that there was baseboard covering the bottom panel. Nick was doubtful of his ability to successfully switch the appliances out anyway, and the extra challenge of removing and reinstalling baseboard was just too much for him to bear. (read all about it here and here)

Well, lucky for us, my sweet sister read that post and talker her handy dandy boyfriend into helping us out. Thank goodness for family, right? Shannon and Josh came over last night to get ‘er done. And to thank Josh I promised not to post any unflattering pictures of him on the internet.

He started by removing the baseboard and shoe moulding. He made it look so quick and effortless that I didn’t even get a picture before he had already moved on to removing the dishwasher panel!

Once he got everything disconnected down below, he removed the screws securing the dishwasher to a strip of wood below the countertop. Oops, looks like Nick and I forgot to run and empty the dishwasher before they came over!

With everything disconnected, Josh started shimmying it outta there.

This seemed like a good time to empty it, something Nick could help with!

Josh had to do some more shimmying and finagling to get it out. I think things were complicated by our unlevel floors. Also, if you’re trying this at home, you may want to have some towels or a shop vac handy. When Josh disconnected the water line we had some leakage and the little stream of water traveled all the way to the dining room before we could get it under control. Once we had all the water on the floor sucked/sopped up, Josh used the shop vac to suck any remaining water from the line.

He eventually got it out, revealing kelly green walls behind (just like the patch of wall revealed when I removed the cabinets in my laundry room). Why anyone would have painted the walls this color is beyond me.

Nick and Josh hauled the new dishwasher in from across the house and Josh got right to work hooking up all the doodads.

With everything hooked up, he just had to slide her on in. There was some drama with getting everything all lined up and level, but we got it worked out.

Here she is all ready to go! And a sink full of dishes just waiting for their chance to give her a test run.

Our baseboards were still bare, though, and that just wouldn’t do. Josh measured and marked them, then took them outside to make some quick cuts.

And reinstalled them with a nail gun. He made it look so easy. Nick and I probably would’ve gotten a divorce over this. Just kidding. Except not really. It would have been a major undertaking for us.

He cut a scrap piece of wood I had in my stash to size and used it to help get a snug fit. Once I paint it white I’m sure it’ll blend right in. Add that to my list of unfinished projects.


The whole operation took about two hours. Nick and I loaded and ran the dishwasher right after they left and are proud to say that our dishes came out 100% cleaner than before. Seriously, they sparkle. Success! I am so, so thankful that Josh and Shannon came over to help us. There were so many little snags throughout the process, like the leaking water line and the unlevel floors, that would have totally just thrown Nick and I for a loop. We might not have even been speaking to each other anymore by the time we got the old dishwasher out, then we probably would’ve been so frustrated we just left a big empty hole instead of taking on the Herculean task of installing the new one. I told Josh he saved our marriage and was only half kidding.

I wanted to take a picture of Shannon and Josh together last night, but Josh said he hadn’t shaved in a week and said I could photograph him working as long as I didn’t show his hairy face. So here’s a picture of them at our wedding two years ago instead.

Aren’t they cute? They’re my DIY guardian angels. Thanks again, Shannon and Josh!

Unfinished Business

I am super good at starting projects, not so great at finishing them.

Did you think that I finished the wing chairs and forgot to tell you? Oh no, they’ve just been sitting like this for the last two months.

And even though I’d done the backs already, they need to be redone. I tried to reuse the original materials but it just didn’t work out. I need to make a cardboard template to use instead.

Remember when I made over all those chairs for my dining room? One of the chairs had a mate that lived in the office, but when I swiped a wooden chair from the table to use at my new sewing desk the twins were reunited. The only problem is that I never finished chair #2. I need more linen for the seat and one of these days I’ll get around to covering those rough edges with trim.

Back in July I added shelves to my laundry room and painted the walls blue. What I didn’t show  you was the complete disregard I had for cutting in.

And I didn’t even bother painting the edges around the washer and dryer. My plan was to repaint all the trim and save myself some energy by only pulling the washer and dryer out once. Ha!

Things are far from perfect around here, as you can see. I think that unfinished projects are worse than the ones that are never started. Some of these things are just so hard for me to finish, though. I really, really hate painting straight edges. I’m terrible at it and I’d rather pull my own teeth out with a pair of pliers. The wing chairs are hard for me to finish because they require teaching myself a number of new and scary things: how to sew piping, construct a box cushion, and insert  a zipper. I got partway through with cushion cover #1 before I pooped myself out. Now I’ve lost my momentum.

I know from experience that it’s incredibly satisfying to finally finish something that you’ve been feeling guilty about for weeks or months. I just need a little push in the right direction to get me started. Or maybe some extra cash to hire someone to paint all those edges.

Holiday Crafts

Hopefully one of these days I’ll pull myself out of my productivity slump in time to crank out some holiday crafts. Maybe getting my decorations out after Thanksgiving will help? Here are some projects I’ve got in mind, if I ever get around to it.

I searched and searched to find out where this image came from. I think it’s from a Spanish magazine. The description on Pinterest said that these are lightbulbs wrapped in twine to look like pears! I’m kind of obsessed with the idea.

Maybe I’ve shown you these letters before. I can’t remember. But I’m sooooo doing them. I’m thinking maybe “Joy” for Christmas? They’re made with wood letters and quarters!


And this! This! Branches sprayed with glitter. I die.


I’m dreaming of a stress-free Christmas, but the only thing I’ve done so far is set a budget. I don’t even have a single gift idea. I’m trying not to panic, but I know that I need to get started. The big day is only 26 days away!

Houston, We Have an Order

Woo to the freakin’ hoo! I ordered my new sofa!

I’m! So! Excited!

I had my personal accountant (aka Nicholas) add up for me how much I’ve saved up, squirreled away, and sold. The verdict: I had $400! You might think that this is just perfect, what with the sofa being $399 and all, but it wasn’t. I still had to pay taxes on the thing and get it here. Do you know how much Ikea wanted to charge me to ship it? $349. That’s almost as much as the sofa itself! No stinkin’ way, Ikea.

Lucky for me, there’s another option. I’ve used Blue Bag a couple of times and been really impressed. They’re a company based out of New Orleans that makes weekly runs to Ikea and delivers items to Louisiana cities along the I-10 corridor. All they ask is 20% of the pre-tax purchase price, which in this case would run me about $80. Approximately $269 cheaper than shipping from Ikea. Sounds like a deal to me.

So how does it work? All I had to do is add the object of my heart’s desire to a shopping list on Ikea’s website and use the little widget to email the list to Blue Bag. They’ll send me an invoice in the next day or so and I’ll have my sofa next week (if I’d ordered it a day earlier, I could have even gotten it this week!). After tax and shipping I think the grand total will be about $500, and Nick agreed that I could borrow that last $100 from next month’s home decor budget.

Another bonus: I got this ad in my email inbox last week…

A 15% gift card! That’s, like, sixty buckaroos! I’ve already got ideas about what to put it towards. Maybe a nice cushy rug to go in front of that couch? Or a comfy chair for my desk? Or maybe even a bookcase to display my books and whatnots in style?

I’m going to seriously be counting the days until that pale white dream of sofa goodness arrives at my door. I feel like we’re going to have a long and happy life together.

How to Solve all Your Money Problems

Just kidding. I can’t solve all your problems. But I can tell you how we solved most of ours. Nick and I have very different spending habits. I like to spend, he likes to save. Each of us to a fault. If I were on my own I’d always be living paycheck to paycheck no matter how much I made and would likely also have more than a little bit of credit card debt. If Nick were on his own, he’d have hundreds of thousands squirreled away because he’d probably still be mooching off the free rent at his parents’ house and avoiding paying for anything whenever possible. Together, we’re able to meet somewhere in the middle. Here’s what we do:

1. Respect boundaries We realized pretty early on that we needed to keep some of our money separate from each other. I needed to be able to buy an $8 martini without him blowing a blood vessel and he needed to be able to hoard his money stash without me dreaming up ways to spend it all. So, we each have our own personal checking accounts. Mine is spent down to almost $0 every two weeks and his probably has $3,000 sitting in it. I’m just guessing, as I never look at his account. He looks at mine, though (see #4)

2. Keep bills separate Some things, however, are just joint expenses. Bills, home improvement, etc. So we have a joint account. We added up how much our joint expenses average, added a little fluff for comfort, and divided it by two-giving us the amount that we each contribute to our joint account each month. I have my half moved over automatically when I get paid so I never even see it. Nick, of course, is disciplined enough to move his half over at his convenience.

3. Limit discretionary spending We put limits on discretionary spending out of our joint account. The “home decor budget” is an institution in our household. There’s a set amount I’m allowed to spend out of our joint account each month on stuff for the house-this covers everything from weatherstripping to whatnots. If I want to blow the whole budget the first week of the month, I can (and I have). If I want to save half of it for three months to save up for something big, I can do that too (although I really struggle). Nick, of course, is the one who keeps up with how much I’ve spent and how much I’ve got left. We also pay for food out of this account, and Nick has a pretty iron grip on how much we spend at the grocery store each week. We’ve recently switched to paying for meals out together from our personal accounts. One of has to offer to treat the other or we don’t go out, so it encourages us to eat out less.

4. Play to your strengths I grew up in a house where mom was in charge of the money, so I always assumed that was the role I would take, as well. But after the first year or so of marriage I realized that was stupid for us. Nick is much better at managing money than I am, plus he actually enjoys it. I absolutely hate keeping up with how much money I have and which bills are due before the next paycheck, etc. etc. So I let Nick do it. At first I just let him be in charge of our joint account. He made sure the bills got paid on time and that we didn’t run out of money. But he’s so good at it that I let him look at my account, too. He warns me when I’m running out of money and will even go back and add up for me where it all went.

5. Save for the big stuff For the past few weeks I’ve had an extra $75 automatically moved over from my account to our savings each time I get paid. By the time Christmas rolls around, I’ll have saved up a couple hundred dollars. We do the same thing when we’re planning a vacation or any other big expense. We each give a little from our personal accounts over time and it really adds up. It’s pretty painless and we never have to choose between a mortgage payment and a trip to the beach (not that we would choose a vacay over the mortgage!).

The result of all these changes? We never run out of money in our joint account, our bills are always paid on time, and we have zero credit card debt. We live a modest life but still find ways to make our house pretty, take vacations, and eat great food. I think we’re both better off together than we would have been alone because we’ve found a way to meet in the middle. Even if you don’t have a partner who’s obsessed with counting pennies, figure out what your unique strengths and weaknesses are and adjust your strategy to accommodate them. Maybe you’re really good at planning and not so great at follow-through? Draft a budget and then hire a friend or virtual assistant to track it for you for $15/week. That’s less than I used to spend on credit card interest and overdraft charges. I’m telling you, I was really bad.