Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lighten My Life: The Pantry

I've been needing to tackle the pantry for a while now, but, I finally made it happen this afternoon. I had a limited time, because I had to get done while Baby A was napping. Besides the need to organize things and get rid of items that are no longer any good, we needed to baby proof in there.  Baby A, who is now called "The Wreaker" around here (as in wreaks havoc), grabs anything in her reach, so we needed to make sure that anything she could reach was safe for her to grab and inevitably, put in her mouth. 

So here's the before of the pantry:
Just like our master closet clean-out, everything had to come out. I emptied out all the shelves first. Knowing my time was limited to naptime, I was prepared to have to put the doors off until later.  There was shelf paper on the shelves when we moved here, and I thought I could just wash it all down, but wow, it was DISGUSTING!! See:
So I yanked it all out and washed everything down really well.  Now it would be great to repaint the shelves, or paint the pantry a fun color, but let's be realistic, there was just no time for that.  I needed to get this done! So clean shelves were going to have to be enough!
My plan was not to change too much - the overall layout was working for me, but I did need to make a few changes.  We have used white bins for a couple years now to group things together and make it easy to pull out a bin & grab what I need.  For example, there is a bin called Soup & Fruit - so if I am looking for a can of mandarin oranges, I can pull out that bin & grab the can - much easier than going through cans to find the right one! So I was definitely keeping my bin system, but I tweaked it a bit.  I got the bins at Big Lots for less than $2 a piece.  I took a picture of the label to share - looks they are designed to wash dishes, but they are perfect for pantry storage!!
Another reason I needed to clean out this pantry - I found duplicates of some things because it had gotten so disorganized - case in point - 2 kosher salts, both opened - nice...Oh, and they're impossible to combine without ripping the boxes open, so I still have 2 kosher salts in the pantry...
So here is my redone Paper/Plastics bin - everything in one place.  SMILE!  This was one of the most important ones for me because, do you see my plastic sandwich bags in ANOTHER plastic bag? That would be because The Wreaker spent some time the other day pulling every plastic bag out of the box one at a time and spread them out all over the floor, and who knows where the box went, I haven't seen it in days!  So I had to get those plastics above her reach! 
Here's the shelves all finished!!

And, just as I finished this, she woke up from her nap!  The bottom shelf is all plastic, so she can pull down either bin and play away.  The floor is all plastics too - so no worries for mama when she's in the kitchen with me! So the doors will have to wait, but the big part is done, and I'm so happy!  I was able to combine a lot and repackage and this was my stack of recycling when all was said & done with the shelves!!
Yay for pantry reorganization!!  Yay for a safe space for the Wreaker! Yay for a lighter pantry!  Next up - the doors and we'll be all done! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011


So now that Valentine's Day is over, I felt compelled to get the hearts down from all over the place.  BUT, it IS still February, so this is kind of a "mantle-in-transition" for right now.  For right now, I have kept the snow in the hurricanes, but when March rolls around, I'll switch out the snow.

 Here are some close-ups of each side.  On the right - I just got these 2 sweet little birds.  I had been hoping to find some little birds for the mantle and was so happy to find these little guys - and for only $11 for both!  I am thinking of spray painting them white or cream, but for the St. Patrick's theme right now, they are perfect in green!

 On the left, I was liking the frame that I had on here from Valentine's Day and I have been loving all the subway art out there in the blogosphere, so I decided to try my hand at making one myself.  I created this in Photoshop in several different fonts & colors of green, and then sized it to fit in my frame.  The green vase belonged to my grandmother and it usually lives on a small table, but I really like to have things in 3's on each side of the mantle, so it was a perfect fit for this space.
And because I like to share, here is the St. Patrick's print I created - just right-click on it and select "save image as" if you'd like to use it too.  It's a square, and I'm not sure how well it will print if you grab it off the site, but if you want to give it a try - knock yourself out!

I'll be updating the mantle again soon, but this was certainly a quick fix!  Oh yes - I mentioned here that I would show you my cute $1 find for St. Patrick's Day at the Dollar Tree for the cookbook cabinet. And here it is:
It's a terrible picture, because it's night-time and the lighting is not great, but I think it's pretty cute for a buck! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lighten My Life: Works in Progress

Several projects are in the works around here.  Our goal this year is to lighten our lives, so we are embarking on projects that specifically lead us to that goal. 

Project 1:
Goal: Lightening the Body
This is something that I've wanted to do since we bought our first house, but we've never made the time to do it, and frankly, we were a bit unsure of our gardening skills.  So we're making some big changes to this nasty area on the side of the house:
Now that we have my father-in-law living with us, and he has quite the green thumb, we are building a vegetable garden!  The guys worked on the frame this weekend:
Now we just need to get it filled in and plant!  Fresh veggies this summer will mean better eating  and trimmer waistlines for sure!

Project 2
Goal: Lighten the colors
I've been wanting to make some changes in my powder room, and I've got a couple paint samples up on the wall.  Still waiting on my free Valspar paint sample to arrive to make the final decision.(Thanks to Lindsay at Living with Lindsay for the heads up there! I think they are still doing the giveaway)  
Sample on the left is a bit more blue (CI191 - Sea Salt Blue) and the right is a bit more green (SR209 - Silver Sea).  But in this picture, they look practically the same.  Trust me, they don't in the room! Many before pictures have been taken, so I'll share more on this project as we move forward. 

I just love having projects in progress, but I'll be much happier when they are done!!  What are you working on right now? 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Expanding My Kitchen

I love anything vintage, especially things with meaning.  But you probably already can tell that from touring my baby's nursery.  I have loads of furniture from my grandparents' and in-law's homes in my house.  I joke that there are only about 5 things in the house that Hubby and I have ever purchased!  Consequently, the house is stuffed, but stuffed with things that mean something and are very loved.

Today I wanted to share a few pieces that came from my grandparents' home that are expanding my kitchen.  My kitchen in my previous home in Georgia was not huge, but had a total of 26 cabinets in the kitchen - amazing storage!  It was laid out really well and fit a lot in to a smaller space.  And I cannot seem to find a picture of it anywhere....When we moved to Texas, we had to buy a home 4 days before Christmas, so there was not a lot to choose from!  We lucked out with this house, because it had been under contract, but had fallen through while were here house hunting, so it was meant to be.  The one hard thing about this kitchen though, was it only has 10 cabinets!   Somehow I had to fit all the stuff from my old kitchen in here, and THAT was a challenge my friends!

So I had to get creative!  My living room is right off the kitchen and is actually quite spacious, so I have used 2 cabinets that came from my grandparent's home to hold less frequently used kitchen items.  Since my living room is currently a complete disaster as Baby A has been playing in here quite a bit this morning, I will spare you a picture of where these 2 cabinets sit in the room - another day....

A moment to tell you about my grandparents house....My family moved every 3-4 years growing up as my father got transferred a lot for his job.  My grandparents though, lived in the same house my whole life.  So this house was the one constant place for me growing up.  It was very hard for me to see the house sold when they were both gone, so I actually got lots of furniture pieces from the house when my mother cleaned it out (she was an only child, so my parents, my brother & I split were able to split everything up). Here's their house (which is just outside Pittsburgh, PA):
It's currently on the market again, and I swear I would buy it if it made any sense at all (which it doesn't...).  So both of the pieces I am using to expand my kitchen actually came from the laundry area in the basement of their house.  Here is how it looks today in the MLS listing (I don't seem to have a picture of it when they lived there):
See that brown cage looking thing?  That is actually the laundry chute that comes from one of the rooms upstairs.  When my grandparents lived there, there was a huge table under that chute that ran back into the room where the rug is in this picture.  And at the end of that table by the laundry chute were 3 cabinets that my grandmother used to keep her laundry supplies etc. in.  I have 2 of those cabinets and my mother has the third.  The yellow walls here are the same as when my grandparents lived there, and all the cabinets were painted that color as well.  Oh - and see that giant sink that is just to the left of the washer?  That is a huge soapstone sink with 2 sections - the water from the washing machine would dump out in to one side of that sink and my brother and I used to play in the warm, soapy water....but I digress.

So, when two of the cabinets came to me, I painted them a soft white to fit better in to my home.  Here is the smaller cabinet, that is wood.
It sits in a corner of my Living Room and holds all my cookbooks and recipes.  That Love sign is for Valentines Day naturally, but I change things out on that nail occasionally (wait til you see the cute St. Patrick's Day thing I got at the Dollar Tree yesterday to put there next....).  The nail was already there - my grandfather had a calendar hanging there.  The best thing in the world about this cabinet - when I open it, it still smells like their house...even though I painted it.  I love that!

The other cabinet is metal and larger, and sits in a niche to the left of my fireplace.  This holds Christmas dishes, lesser-used dishes, serving pieces, and all the seasonal items I use to decorate my mantle.
I don't know what I'd do without these 2 pieces to expand my little kitchen!  Now I can use what few cabinets I do have to hold the things I use all the time, and other items are hidden away in other rooms, and no one's the wiser....well, until now since I have shared my secret....

Linking up to Cha Cha's Sentimental Sunday again....

Sit Relax and Read

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Little Hands

It's taken me forever to share this with you, but this has been a crazy week!  And right now I only have about 15 minutes before I have to run out the door again....but I wanted to share something new for the nursery.  You'll remember that I said that there was an empty space on the little white shelves on top of Baby A's dresser that was going to get filled - well, it's finally done:
 See that little handprint up there?  I wish I could say that this is an original idea, but it's not....I saw it on the fabulous Becky Higgins blog long before Baby A came along and wished I had thought to do it for K.  But at least I can do it for Baby A, right?!?

This is not rocket science folks, I just went to Michael's with a trusty coupon and got the acrylic paint and canvases.  These are 6"x6" canvases in a pack of 4, and what I especially love about them is that they are 1 inch thick so they look nice and chunky. 

I painted two in a lighter pink, and two in a darker pink - the light pink needed 2 coats of paint and the darker pink needed three coats.  I let each coat dry for day in between to make sure it was well cured. 

Then I corralled the baby and painted her hand with the white paint and pressed, hoping for the best, because she was not a big fan of my crafty project!  I figured if the handprint didn't look great, I could just paint over with the pink and try again, but luckily I was pleased with the first try.  Then I had ordered the Sharpie Poster Paint Pen in white (fine point) from Amazon, and I had been waiting for that to arrive to write the year in the lower right corner.  I debated about writing the year or her age, but decided on the year in the end.  I am very happy with how it turned out! 

The other 3 canvases are ready to go in her closet for the next 3 years!  I'm planning on alternating between the darker and lighter pink each year.  And I'll probably hang them on the wall eventually as she gets older. I still have a couple more projects for the nursery in the works, but at least I can check this off my list!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Nursery on a Shoestring Budget

Sit back & relax - this is a long one....

A few things to know about Baby A's nursery:

1. One month after we found out we were having Baby A, Hubby lost his job.  Not good on so many levels, but w/ respect to this post that meant NO  MONEY for decorating a nursery!
2. We were sure we were having a boy, so I had many plans for a boy's nursery and zero for a girl's - so I was at a loss when we found out a girl was on the way
3. This was my craft room and although I was so happy and thankful that after 9 years of trying, we were finally going to have another sweet baby, I did mourn the loss of my room just a bit.
4. This room didn't actually get done until Baby A was about 5 months old.  I hadn't even started it when she was born - see numbers 1, 2 & 3 above!

So, with no money, I was forced to use what I had to create this room for her, and I love it in the end.  Most everything has meaning or was given to us along the way.  I bought a total of 4 things in here, and spent about $75 total, most of which paid for 2 gallons of paint for the walls.

Here is the before - my craft room in all it's trashed glory!

Pretty isnt' it?!?  Actually, when cleaned up it was a cute space in sand, black & white.  I really loved it....sniff, sniff.....

And here is now, from the same angle (from the doorway)
You can see that the shelves are still there, I just painted the black brackets the same color as the wall.  I haven't quite gotten around to painting the shelves themselves, but I keep intending to paint them white.  The wall color is Laura Ashley Pale Apple 1 from Lowe's.  Teen K and I probably had about 50 different paint samples spread out on the floor in here after we emptied out the craft room stuff before we settled on this color.
Here are some more up close pictures and details:

The shelves are full of special things - most all of them have meaning (and a couple of the animals are just cute).
 Top shelf left side: The ballerina picture was from Hubby's sister's room as a child and the cowgirl hat came from her Godmother (Baby A is a born Texan after all!).
Top shelf, right side: The pink dog was a gift from her great-Aunt, the pink platypus Teen K won for her baby sister in one of those machines with the giant mechanical claw at a restaurant, and the bear belonged to Hubby's mother (it's mink!)
Bottom shelf, left side: that's a picture of me, the elephant is just cute, and those are the shoes she wore home from the hospital.

Bottom shelf, right side: The vintage Pooh & Piglet and flowers in the vase were from her baby shower, the picture of the girl w/ the kitten was from my room as a child and the Mickey ears were brought back from Disneyworld for her by a friend.

Beneath the shelves is an ugly bookcase, that I'd love to replace one day, but it's serving a purpose holding books & toys (donated from her Godmother) and diapers etc. in the baskets.  But on top of the bookcase are special things - the photo of her taken in the hospital in a frame that was in Teen K's nursery, the bear also belonged to big sister, the penguin was in her first Easter basket and the photo of my beloved grandparents - because her middle name is their last name.

Hanging from either side of the bookshelves are dresses that were mine as a baby - I have pictures of her in both dresses (which I should probably frame and put on the shelves...) and the Prayer for a Little Girl was also from my room as a child. 
This table & chairs were from my Father-in-Law who painted them for her room.  The quilted tea set on top was from Godmother again (it's SO CUTE and from Lillian Vernon).  There something new coming soon in that space by the table - I'll share when it's done and up in the room!

The crib & changing table are borrowed from a sweet friend who saved the day with those - her youngest was just coming out of the crib, so she gave them to use for Baby A - a real budget saver!  The crib is super simple - I was going to make a longer crib skirt to go under the eyelet skirt that is already there (that is part of Teen K's crib set - one of the few things I had saved), but I liked the simple sweetness (and connection to her big sister) from just using the eyelet skirt, so I stopped there.  Above the crib are one of the few things I bought - vintage flashcards (bought off for $12 and ribbon and little clothespins from Walmart.  The small print of 3 angels over the lightswitch was actually from my room as a child and has my birth announcement on the back.

The "curtain" on the window is actually a flat sheet from my in-laws.  I used regular ole pushpins to attach it to the wall and the eyelet top of the sheet is just flopped over for a valance.  It's tied back w/ some dark pink polka dot ribbon.  Beneath the window is a toy box that was in my childhood room, K's room and now passed on to Baby A.  The dark pink polka dot fabric is actually laying over the top right now - I need to get that stapled on there....

 The dresser belonged to my grandfather and I thought about painting it, but then decided I really loved it the way it was.  On top is a little shelf that I had in my craft room with a box that was given to me by her Godmother, the white fur muff & hat that were mine as a child (we have pictures of me around 2 yrs. old in Rockefeller Center in NYC wearing those), a cute box she received that holds her little hat, onesie & bracelets from the hospital. There's a little empty space on top there that will be filled w/ an upcoming project that I hope to share this coming week....
In front of the changing table is the rocking chair that my grandmother was rocked in as a baby (it's over 100 years old) - my father painted it for K's room, and Baby A and I have spent a lot of time there as well.  Above the changing table are baby pictures of Hubby, K, me and Baby A (in another purchase - frames from the Dollar Tree that were spray painted white).
So that's it - I still have a couple things up my sleeve for her room, but I am happy with it so far.  I love that it's filled with special family treasures and items from beloved friends.

I have been waiting for Cha Cha to do another Sentimental Sunday so I could link up - this whole room is truly sentimental to me....

Sit Relax and Read

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lighten My Life: Two Helpful Tools

Part of Lightening my Life includes lightening my body.  While pregnant with Baby A, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  Along with testing my blood sugar four times a day and giving myself insulin shots, I got to significantly alter my diet and limit and monitor my carb intake.  The result was actually losing weight while I was pregnant instead of gaining!  It was great once I had the baby, but the diet was so constrictive that I felt the need to "indulge" once I was no longer pregnant, and gained back most of the weight that I lost...pretty dumb I know!

So now, I am much more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes and to fight that, I need to lose that weight....AGAIN.  I could beat myself up here about how ridiculous it was of me to put the weight back on after I had suffered to lose it, but what's the point - it's back and it needs to go...again!

I am using two tools right now to help me on my goal to lighten my body: Weight Watchers and E-Mealz.

I had great success with Weight Watchers about 8 years ago, so I knew if I could just get back on track with the program, it would work.  Today is my day to weigh in, but since we're having a snow day here in Central Texas, I just weighed at home - down 6.8 pounds so far since the beginning of the year.  This makes me happy - and LIGHTER!!  I'm sure Weight Watchers is not for everyone, but it really helps me to track what I am eating and be thoughtful about what I am choosing to put in my body each day.  It helps me make better choices, and also allows me to treat myself and "spend" my points on what is important to me - like the peppermint mocha creamer in my coffee each morning. (So happy that this is going to be offered year-round!!)  This time around, I am using the e-tools and also have the app loaded on my ipod touch to help keep me on track during the day. 

Of course, one of the struggles with changing the way I eat, is that I have a family to feed, and they won't eat salad day in and day out!  So that's where the E-mealz comes in.  I have to say, this has been more helpful than I can possibly explain here.  Hubby and I had gotten SO TIRED of the "what do you want to have for dinner?" conversation every day.  I forget where I learned about E-mealz, but I'm sure it was on a blog somewhere, and it has saved the day!  They provide 7 dinners with grocery lists and recipes, so worrying about dinner is a thing of the past.  There are family programs and even menus for 2 people. 

And the best part? They are also designed to REDUCE your grocery bills!  Dave Ramsey endorses the program because it really does save you money.  Their menus work in conjunction with the grocery store sales, and in a lot of cases, the same ingredients are used throughout the week to maximize your grocery trips.  Our grocery bills have gone down about $25 per week since we signed up last summer.  We used to use the Low Fat Any Store (because our grocery store is not included - imagine what we could save if it was!), but have switched to the Weight Watchers Points Plus Any Store plan since I started back w/ Weight Watchers.  So this menu helps to lighten not only my body, but also my attitude, because the stress of grocery shopping and deciding what's for dinner are gone.  The recipes are easy to prepare, and good too - we've only found a couple things that we didn't like.  Plus they include side dishes that are simple and healthy. 

So as I progress in Lightening My Life this year, I am thankful that I have these 2 tools to help me out along the way - it's not something I can do on my own!! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year: 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit: According to Chinese tradition, the Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves.  It is a time for negotiation.  Don't try to force issues, because if you do you will ultimately fail.  To gain the greatest benefits from this time, focus on home, family, security, diplomacy, and your relationships with women and children.   Make it a goal to create a safe, peaceful lifestyle, so you will be able to calmly deal with any problem that may arise.

So glad a friend sent me the above today - this really speaks to my goals for this year!  I was already looking forward to this year, and this just adds to it!  Yay for the Year of the Rabbit!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy House Anniversary!

Six years ago today, we closed on our house & moved in.  It was freezing cold (much as it is today) and rainy, but we were happy to move in and begin to settle in to our life here in Texas.  We have made many changes to the house since moving in, but not nearly as many as I'd like to make.  Our plans are to stay here at least until K graduates from high school, so there's still time!  Here's what the house looked like when we bought it in 2005:

Obviously the before was not taken in February, but the home had been on the market for a while, so I would guess it was taken in the early fall since the grass is actually green. And here is the picture I took of it today. 
The tree is so much bigger out front!  Plus we have totally redone the front bed (it looks pretty pitiful at the moment, but come on, it's February!!), & painted the exterior.  And, if you know me, you know I HAD to have the front door painted black!  It was so strange to me that here in Texas, the front door is usually the same color as the house - any siding, trim, garage doors and front door are usually all the same color - can you say BLAH!?! Painted front doors are finally starting to catch on here, but I had mine painted in the first year - SO. MUCH. BETTER!!

I have so many more things I'd like to do - like put slate tile on the little front porch & walkway.  But we can only do a little at a time, so at least I have a lot of DIY to look forward to!