Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May: Three Things Under $30

Hey there!
Hopefully you enjoyed the nice long weekend! 
We had plenty of sunshine and packed our weekend full of family time, which was awesome.

Without further ado,
here's a look at my favorite finds for the month of May...

I think these numbered jars are *adorable*.

They have that classic mason jar shape, but with a nice latching lid.
And the numbers!  Distressed!
Know what else is cute about them?
The Price: $3.99 at Tuesday Morning.
These will eventually make their way to The Redhead's playroom,
but in the meantime they're chillin on my windowsill and I like 'em.

*       *       *

I *love* Adirondack chairs.  Love their classic shape, their surprising comfy-factor, their ability to finish off just about any outdoor space.

I don't love that they nearly cost you your firstborn.
So, when I saw these guys at Home Depot, my heart skipped a beat.

photo: Home Depot

Made for the true DIYer, these are assemble-yourself, unfinished Adirondack chairs.
For $29.98
I think a couple coats of teak or dark walnut stain will look fantastic on my future patio.
Or maybe a bright pop of color?
I love that these are "choose-your-own-adventure" chairs.

*       *       *

And finally, I have become a hoarder of these bad boys:

Scented filled candles from Target's Room Essentials line - $6.

Yep, just $6!
They come in heavy glass, either square (shown) or a taller rectangle, and in about 7 or 8 different scents/colors.
A nice, homey vanilla is my favorite candle scent, and these deliver! 
I've been impressed with the even burn and the long burn time, and when the candle is gone, you're left with a classic, chic glass votive or vase.
(Coming up I'll show you my trick for cleaning out the wax easily)

It's more than a bargain for just six bucks.

I can't believe another month has flown by already! 
Hope you all enjoyed the holiday weekend... now bring on June!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Secrets: How to Snag Some Swag

Do you swag?

Search & Win
I have been swagging for a while now and I'm more than a little obsessed.
Because I like free stuff.
I like shopping on Amazon.com and not spending a dime.
No really... and it's legit, too.
I'll explain...

Swagbucks says:

Swagbucks “allows web users to earn virtual currency by doing the things they do every day - search the web, shopping at their favorite retailers, and by engaging in other activities such as phone recycling, submitting polls, and completing special offers. Swagbucks.com is the only place on the web to get what you want without ever having to spend a dime.”

I say:
Swagbucks is a search engine friend, with benefits.

 You use it to perform internet searches, just like how you would enter a search term into Google or Yahoo! or Bing.  
But with Swagbucks, you can earn "bucks" just by searching.
They also offer codes via their blog and toolbar that you can enter to rack up bucks.
Bucks add up quickly!

I’ve used swagbucks to purchase household items, decor, books and toys, Christmas presents, birthday gifts and more with the Amazon cards I’ve earned.
(and there are all kinds of things you can cash in your swagbucks for - I just always choose Amazon because I like to shop there).

The more you search, the more you will earn.
For me, this means I do a swagbucks search for just about everything.
Even better… Fridays are Mega Swagbucks Day!
You can earn even more on your searches today.

If you haven’t signed up yet, just click on the icon below:
Search & Win

AND, if you do so before midnight tonight, enter the code MEMORIALDAY when prompted - it'll pad your account with an extra 50 Swag Bucks on top of the 30 that you get just for signing up!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Checking In...


I know I've been absent for several days, but I doubt that's been keeping you up nights ;)

Between 100 graduations,
parties and open houses (you feel me on this one, right?),
work (gotta pay the billz, yo), and wife-ing and mom-ing and all that... something had to give.
And that means I've had a whole lotta nada to show you by way of projects.
So, sorry 'bout that.
But my heart is happy because since I've taken a break,
we've been able to do a lot of this: 

more of this when the weather has cooperated..
(stomp rockets rule) 

Took in some of this... 

While The Redhead also took in this... 

And just reveled in this: 

So, while my current project queue is empty, my heart is full. :)

I'll be back soon with some more stuff to share, but I just wanted to check in.
 I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day and really enjoy the long weekend!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Helpful Hints: "Stronger" Sewing

For years, professionals have used beeswax to lubricate thread for passage through sewing machines.
But you don't have to be a pro working on a big industrial machine to make wax work for you!

When you're stitching by hand, thread your needle, then take the "tail" and run it over/through wax.
You can buy small blocks of raw beeswax at fabric stores for this purpose,

but my trick?  I just use the bottom of an old candle.
No, really!

I just make sure it's white or ivory-colored.  Just a couple passes and the thread will have a thin coat of wax - this not only helps lubricate the tread to make it move smoothly through the fabric, but it also helps strengthen the thread so you can pull nice and tight without worrying about breakage.


Monday, May 16, 2011

A Monogram in Minutes

This cute round frame was a thrifted find a while back. 
I was immediately drawn to the nice, moulded edges.

I have nothing against butterflies or being a "Friend to the Planet",
but you know it was only going to take me a nanosecond to
yank that lame cut-from-a-magazine (seriously, it was) picture out of there.

I pulled out the 1970s pocketwatch hanger on the top, replaced the butterfly with a good old-fashioned "V"
(font: Acoustic Bass)
and gave the frame a coat of classic black - again, flat black from Rust-Oleum.


Linking to: A2Z

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spring Cleaning With Shaklee, Part II

Eaerlier this week I showed you how Shaklee's Scour Off product changed my oven's life.

Today I'm sharing my thoughts on the other Wunderkind product from Shaklee Corporation,
the super-concentrated Basic H2.

Mixing different [small] amounts of this stuff with water makes cleaners for windows, an all-purpose cleaner and a degreaser.

The window cleaner forumla - handily printed right on the mixing bottle - takes just a few drops of the concentrate, mixed into a full-sized spray bottle with water.  Nice!

 I decided to attack our glass storm door out front - it definitely needed some help!
This is a terrible Before picture, but hopefully you can see the grimey film of water spots and dust/dirt some recent wind and rain left on the storm door.

 The big streak in the center of the picture is a mark from my finger in the crud.

I used my Basic H mixture and a microfiber cloth, and gave it the old college try.
Here's where I was disappointed:
Big, shiney streaks.  Over the entire window:
I even re-mixed the concentrate to make SURE I got the right ratio in the mix.
No luck.

I'll stick to my tried-and-true-Blue cleaner for my windows.

Basic H was not a total bust!
I made the all-purpose cleaner and the degreaser, and while I don't have any
Before & After pictures using
 these cleaners, I was super happy with the results.
The Basic H cut through the disaster on the counter
that's left behind after one of The Redhead's meals, like a champ.

And the best part?
That is how much of the Basic H concentrate I used to make a FULL BOTTLE of all purpose cleaner:
(my spray bottle on the left, Basic H on the right)

This one bottle of Basic H will keep me from having to buy cleaning spray for a year, I'm guessing.
So I wasn't a huge fan of it on the windows.  But as a mom who's constantly wiping up spills,
cleaning doggy noseprints and fingerprints off the appliances and attempting to control the stuff that magically appears in the rest of the house, I'm 100% happy with Shaklee.

I was not compensated for the content of these reviews by Shaklee Corporation.
I took advantage of a publicly-offered membership promotion and purchased products myself.
My reviews are 100% my opinion and not influenced by the product makers in any way. 


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Cleaning

It finally feels like Spring!

It takes a little bit of sunshine to really get me in the mood to deep clean, but whatever works.

The Redhead "helped" Mr. V. vacuum 


And I gave some new cleaning products a try.

When I had the opportunity to join Shaklee for free, I hopped on it. 
I figured this would be my chance to try the line of eco-friendly wonder-products I've been hearing
so much about. 
Because I'll be honest, without Billy Mays telling me what cleaning products to buy

I've been a little lost.

So when I read a little about the Shaklee Corporation, the safety of their products for 
kids and animals, as well as for the earth, I thought it was at least worth a try.
You won't find me out sqeezing trees in the afternoons or anything,
but I like to give Mama Earth a hand when I can. 

First up in the batter's box was the Scour Off:
With its pretty pink color and fruity-bubblegum smell, I figured if it wouldn't clean my oven,
I could at least eat it.  (OK, not really, but it oddly looked yummy).

This is what my oven looks like from the outside.

But no one would know that on the inside is one of the most embarrassing secrets in our house:
(Mom, avert your eyes.  No seriously.)

I don't like using oven cleaners, because the chemicals are way, WAY too harsh.
And I just hate using the self-cleaning feature because it smells fumey and makes me
nervous, like the oven is going to explode. (strange phobia, I agree).
AND it takes like 2 hours.  No thanks.

Oh yeah, the inside of the window is gnarly, too.

So I got to work with low expectations, and soaped up the inside of the oven according to the Scour Off directions. 

With just minimal elbow grease and 3 minutes of my time, I was seriously amazed
at the results:

So far, so good.

The Scour Off was a big WIN in our house. 
I also tried it on our shower stall floor in the master bathroom, and it cleaned like a dream.
I'm a fan.

To keep this post from being 9 miles long, I've broken up the "Shaklee Experience" into 2 parts.
This is the happy one.
Tomorrow's isn't all puppies and rainbows, but I'm honest like that.
In the meantime, I'll be in the kitchen, huffing
the yummy Scour Off smell in my oven. :)


Monday, May 9, 2011

What We Learned: Finishing a Basement

You can probably tell, I'm so super happy to have this project complete!
Over the 10+ months it took to finish our basement, we learned a LOT.
Today's will be a long post, but hopefully it will help you out if you're thinking about taking on a similar project.

My best advice:
Get Organized.
- Plan everything out before you order your first 2x4. 
Take inventory of the tools you own or have at your disposal (available to borrow). 
- Price out big things like cabinetry, carpet and bathroom fixtures so you know what to expect (and can budget accordingly). 
- Don't be afraid to shop around.  Big box stores like Lowe's and Home Depot come through in a big way with great prices for hundreds of smaller items and raw materials.  But they can also ding you on other items like carpet.  Check out your local vendors and you may find comparable price but a higher quality product and better service.  You just never know.
- Do your design boarding/planning at this stage, rather than after the drywall is up and it's time to do the flooring. 
Knowing how you want the space to look in the end helps provide a blueprint for all the nuts and bolts that have to go into it prior to all the "fun stuff". :)

Start a Binder. 
Those of you who know me personally are laughing out loud right now, but this system WORKS.  I made binders for planning my wedding, for preparing for my first child, and building our house, and anyone will tell you I was pretty darn organized with all of those things. 
- Save invoices, measurements, paint samples, estimates, plans--Everything related to the project goes in this binder so you eliminate having to search through the trash or all your pants pockets for that one elusive receipt. 
I also used binder pages with old transparent disk holders (who uses disks anymore?  Ha - Recycling! :) ) for all the receipts.  This way, you can file them as you go and they're automatically organized by date for ease of reference.
- Make it mobile.  We also took the binder with us each time we took a trip to Lowe's and it saved us the headache of having to make several trips because we couldn't remember the layout or weren't sure of a measurement.  You'll thank yourself for it! :)

Take Pictures of the "Guts"
-Once you have the electric and the plumbing in place, take pictures of the work. 
For example, this:

is what's behind this:

Take a close up so you can see how things are wired, but also take wide enough shots so that you have perspective as to where that particular pipe or connection is in relation to everything else.
Bathroom plumbing:
- Label the pictures and stick 'em in your binder.
Once the drywall goes up, you'll be thankful you have a reference in case you have an electrical or plumbing issue.  This can help you have to do the least amount of re-work, and that's always a plus!  :)

Have a plan - not just framing and building code. 

- Plan for function:
 How will we really be using this room?  Think about where outlets and light switches will be most convenient based on what you'll be doing there. 
How much room do we have for furniture?  Knowing your allowable square footage may change what pieces you envision in the space.
Realistically, how much time are we going to be spending down here?  We considered this basement to become a real family space, so that guided our choices and helped us decide to upgrade certain things, like the carpeting and the entertainment center/cabinets/bar.  We also knew that this would be a play/relax area, but not a space where guests would be staying (i.e. the "bedroom" would be functioning as a playroom), so we opted to do a 3/4 bathroom with just a shower vs. a full with a tub. 
If it was going to be more for storage and organization, we wouldn't have spent what we did on some of the "extras".  But because we knew what we wanted, we were able to plan ahead and put money for those things away so it didn't catch us by surprise in the end.

Watch a LOT of "Holmes on Homes". 
[source: hgtv.com]
No joke, Mike Holmes is The Man.
Mr.V. used TiVo like the public library for old episodes.  Our Mantra: "What Would Mike Holmes Do?"
And, we are lame.  So take that for what it's worth ;)

I'm sure as time goes on, there will be things that, in hindsight, I might wish I/we had done differently.
But today, enjoying this space that we basically built with our own hands, I don't think I would change a thing. The space is comfortable, Newman and The Redhead have ample place to play, and we have a retreat where we can spend time together and don't even have to leave the house.

If you're planning on finishing a similar space, I hope the above tips can help take some of the stress out of the project for you, and help you create a place you love.