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I’m back!

I must apologize for my extended period away from CFB. Many life changes have kept me preoccupied and I’m afraid my home improvements and champagne intake has suffered as a result.

Such changes include: a new career in a field completely new and unfamiliar to me, a life commitment to my home design enabler and the occasional victim of my ever evolving champagne taste, and lastly, a computer that requires a 20 minute rest period after every 30 minutes of use (the latter being the true hindrance to my posts).

For the 3½ of you still checking in on a weekly basis, thank you and spread the word – I’m back! My tastes have never beer more champagne, and my budget never more beer, so come back soon – pictures and inspirations will be up before week’s end!

It’s a woman’s prerogative, right?

People used to ask me how the condo was coming along, and my answer almost always seemed to be “Really great, we’re almost done decorating!” I would laugh along when they replied “You’re never really done. And when you are, it’s time to move.” But in my head I would think how every decision I’ve made thus far is beautiful and wonderful and I’ll never grow tired of it.

Apparently never is equivalent to 8 months in the life of a decorator.

I’ve slowed down considerably in the past few months, happy, nay – ecstatic, with the way things were. But now as the holidays have become just a memory and the decorations are stored away in the office closet, I’m charging full force back into condo decor.

Our bedroom has become dull and lifeless.

Our office is lacking a craft space.

 

 

Our bathroom resembles an olive. 

You’re probably shaking your heads, some of you knowing this feeling all too well, some of you bewildered with my seemingly sudden change of heart. But fret not! All these rooms need are a little tweak here, a pop of color there, and I will be back on my honeymoon!

We moved here in May. With the whole summer ahead of us, I was out every night gathering inspiration and creating magic (aka beautiful decor), thanks to the sights and scenes that can be taken in while enjoying outdoor seating at 1 of the many restaurants on our block.

With the winter months upon us, all I want to do is go home and cuddle up on the couch in my snuggie. A boring home makes me sluggish, a sluggish me makes a boring home, what a conundrum! Well Mother Nature can’t get me down! Effective immediately, I will be assigning myself homework and deadlines. Follow me on Twitter or Like me on Facebook to keep up with my daily homework assignments and to offer suggestions for projects.

Viva la Condo!

This is what I get for not being an architect…

Or maybe it’s what I get for not taking measurements. Anyway…

When Chris and I bought our condo the dining room measurements were listed as 8’x8′ on MLS Trend. When we got our condo appraised, the floorplan drawn up in the paperwork also noted the dining room as 8’x8′. When I bought a 16′ piece of wood from Home Depot and had it cut in 2 for the dining room bench, I assumed both pieces were 8′. So when I bought four 8′ pieces of wood for the bench back this week, I assumed they would fit.

Well it turns out our dining room is actually 7’10” x 7’10”.

The wood is still 8′.

Uh oh.

So after 3 trips to Lowe’s in 2 hours Wednesday night, the bench back is secured and upholstered..and standing on its side behind the dining room bench.On the bright side, the bench is reupholstered in this beautiful, more appropriate, more luxurious fabric. The brown pleather was nice in theory, but it was purchased before we painted the room. The red washed out the brown and it just looked cheap. I stapled the new fabric right over the pleather plus another layer of batting, so it’s plusher than ever.The Instructional:

I laid down the fabric first, smoothing out all wrinkles. The batting went over that and the wood over that. I utilized Chris to make sure the wood went down in its place in 1 try, as to not snag or fluster the batting. I didn’t think of how I would secure the 4 long pieces until I got home with the wood and realized I would need to lay a thin 1 inch piece perpendicular. This photo shows the 2″ pieces that I purchased as the bench sides, but they were too thick. So began my 1st of 3 journeys to Lowe’s.I purchased three 1″ thick pieces of wood to secure the four 8′ pieces. To ensure a tight fit for the fabric, I stapled the batting and fabric around all 4 sides before screwing on the 3 smaller pieces.Since this couldn’t safely rest on top of the bench, I had to head back out to Lowe’s for a picture hanging kit (This was actually the 3rd trip as the 2nd trip I forgot my wallet…where is my head these days?). I partially hammered the rings in until they were tight enough to screw in (a screwdriver can’t be used with these). After tying the wire through 3 rings it was ready to hang.The kit also included U-brackets to hang the wire upon. Each of these can hold 75 lbs. I used 2, 1 for every 4 feet.Re-upholstering the bench was a breeze. I pulled the bench a foot away from the wall, turned it on its side and laid the batting on top of the pleather.I repeated this step with the fabric and turned the bench on its other side to staple the bottom.Since the back was way too heavy and Chris wasn’t home, it took me about an hour of maneuvering and pivoting until I realized the back was too long. My shoulder muscles ache today just from getting it over the bench to its upright position.Being the optimists that we are, we didn’t let this snafu hinder us from enjoying Chris’ birthday dinner in our dining room. Truffle fries, grilled sausage with carmelized onions, and filet mignon à la Daddy Mims. Delicious!Excuse the lighting..Ambiance isn’t captured well on film.

2011 Resolutions

Is it really possible to leave all that we dislike in 2010 and bring only good things forward? Maybe not. But the point of New Years’ resolutions is to better ourselves over time, right? I like to think that I have the willpower to change bad habits as they occur, but the truth is I like to binge on the unhealthy and inconvenient until I can take no more. So here are my New Years’ resolutions for 2011:

1. Work out more. I am happy to say that I am 4 for 4 in the gym this week. (May be 4 for 5 due to this lazy snow day). You may be thinking “Day 5? Today is January 7th, where is she getting ‘Day 5’ from??” Obviously weekends don’t count when it comes to diet and exercise. This couch sure is looking cozy right about now.

2. Decorate more. As I went through old notebooks, cleaning up my workspace, I came across home plans that I drew up months ago. Some I accomplished halfway and some never got further than the pen hitting the paper.

Among such were dining room drapes. It is true that I bought, hung, and steamed the drapes. However, that is as far as I got. The drapes are still loosely hanging with no drawback. (I taped them back with electrical tape for the photo below. Shame on me). Instead of presenting the dining room like a pretty little package, it resembles the balcony of a beach house with wet, sandy towels drying to a stiff uncomfortableness (only more silky and soft than stiff and uncomfortable). It is also asymmetrical. I’m not encouraging perfect symmetry in every aspect of a home, but the entrance to our dining room is too wide to have only one side dressed.

Also on the list was the dining room bench. With the haste stapling and the lack of foam and batting, I had planned on reupholstering the bench while also adding sides and a back. This will ideally give a more sophisticated-lounge-like feel rather than a playground-picnic-like feel.

Last in the notebook of procrastination was the Master Suite Makeover. I started on my mom’s bedroom a few months back and progressed pretty far during the 2 weekends I spent on it. But with the holidays and my own home plans, the master makeover fell to the back burner. This morning I came across the original plans I had for the room, and while I’ve got to say that the floorplan itself is close to complete, isn’t it really all about accessorizing?

The footboard doesn’t yet exist. The 2 chairs in the ‘seating area’ have become 1 chaise, table yet to be found. The TV is on the opposite wall to the left of the bed. Other than that, this is spot on. But the accessories! The tables need lamps, the seating area needs an area rug, the walls need art, the windows need drapes, etc, etc!

This photo is pre-paint.

3. Take and post photos regardless of progress. In the past, I have hesitated to take photos in the before and during stages. While this may seem shallow and vein, it is really mere forgetfulness (with maybe a dash of vanity). I would clean from top to bottom in preparation of a photo shoot, and regret it later when I am explaining only in words how long and hard I worked on any given project. For example, in 2010 I would have never posted these cringe-worthy photos of our office during laundry day (laundry week).

Stage 1: Wait until clean laundry builds up on the floor and the closets are empty.

Stage 2: Sort laundry into his and mine, foldables and hangables.

Stage 3: Rejoice in clean room

 

4. Be more efficient at doing laundry.

 

I hope everyone’s 2011 is off to a great start and I look forward to jumping back into inexpensive elegance now that the hectic holidays are over.

Need a new recipe for your family potluck party?

Its 2 days before Christmas and all my gifts are wrapped and placed safely under the tree for my friends and family. As the story goes, I hit a bump in the road last night while tweaking my sister’s gift (won’t be revealed until next week for her viewing purpose). So I have one more stop on my map tonight to exchange said gift. After that I will fully be in holiday party-mode. I stumbled across this MAGNIFICENT website just last week and have already tested 1 recipe with intentions of trying another one tomorrow:

Believe it or not, this is a jello shot! There’s always room for jello, especially in a cocktail setting. 2 sisters have created an art out of these once only-acceptable-in-college party snacks. I’m obsessed! I made the Blackberry Cosmo Martini Jelly Shots this weekend for friends, and they were a huge hit! I will be making these Candy Cane Martini Jelly Shots this weekend for my family. My aunts will enjoy the throwback, sans the messy fingers.

I refrigerated overnight in a bread pan and cubed them to look like the above photo. They were perfectly gelled, even after sitting out for an hour or 2 while my guests were devouring. The recipe says it will make 24 shots, but I got almost 60 from a single batch and they were 2-bite size. All the ingredients are very inexpensive (under $3 each with the exception of the alcohol. If you’re really on a budget, make them virgin!) but your guests won’t even realize because they will be too busy appreciating your efforts! And isn’t it really the effort that counts here?

I hope everyone has a very happy holiday weekend and if you’re having guests, show off your home with all the deceivingly inexpensive tricks you have learned!

Merry Christmas! I’ll be back next week!

Home Depot Designer Coasters

Coasters are something that you don’t go out specifically to shop for, but instead may remember to look at if you’re already out. We’ve acquired a few of the cheap cardboard bar coasters in our lives, not exactly worthy of my champagne tastes, but have made do for the time being. Well that time has expired. I grew tired of the coaster sticking to my glass every time I went for a sip. I needed heavy duty coasters to protect our hand stained coffee table. To Home Depot!

I know what you’re thinking: huh? Coasters at Home Depot?

Yes! Designer couture coasters!

These are heavy duty floor tiles, $2 each.

With a little glue and a patch of felt ($.49)…

My tables are protected from water marks and my glass can rest comfortably (and fashionably) upon.

If there’s someone you haven’t yet shopped for, or if you want to add a little supplement to the bar-ware you bought your mom, these are perfect. The malls are PACKED this week, but Home Depot is not! This project cost me 5 minutes and $8.50. Wrap some ribbon around the stack and present it beautifully under the tree.

What Happens when I try to be Martha Stewart

This instructional should have been posted weeks ago, but since it didn’t turn out how I had intended, or at all for that matter, I was too bitter to post before now.

Martha had a segment on her show about how to make these magazine Christmas trees, she was selling them for approximately $50 at her annual craft fair. It is a lengthy project and some of you may remember making these in elementary school. It’s something good to do with kids in your family, or while you’re on the couch watching TV. It took me an hour per tree to create these over 2 days.

I started with a rather thin Raymour & Flanigan catalog. I wasn’t about to attempt to fold 500 pages of O Magazine. I broke the spine to make the pages able to fill out all around, once folded.

Then I began folding. Starting with the corner, I folded all top corners down to meet the spine.

It looked like this before I started Step 2:

Then I tucked the folded edges in to meet the spine:

It began to get more robust and a little harder to fold since it refused to lay flat on the table while I folded remaining pages:

But I kept going. The third step is tuck the bottom corner that sticks out into the folds. This part is the most annoying:

The result of all that folding:

With 2 trees complete, I decided to spray paint them a shiny gold color. We set up this station in the hallway to minimize the mess:

But the stench was so powerful, we thought it was smart to take it outside. We were having friends over that night and we didn’t want people passing out from the fumes.

Unfortunately these are the only after shots we have, thanks to the cats and dogs that came raining down from the skies that night. Our better judgment told us to let these dry outside for a few hours. Apparently our judgment has nothing on Al Roker. If you decide to make these for the holiday or any other occasion, I wish you better luck than I had.

Gifts that keep on giving

If you’re looking to save more in the new year but aren’t willing to give up certain luxuries, such as seeing movies, a nice hair cut, or eating to name a few, the following are great gifts to ask for this holiday.

Gift Cards

Some say gift cards are offensive, impersonal, and impractical gifts. They only make more work for the recipient who must go spend it. I wholeheartedly disagree. A gift card is the gift of shopping. Who wouldn’t love that! For those of you who disagree, I would like to present an exception to the impersonal gift card stigma. The salon.

I made a decision a few years back that my hair was an investment I was not willing to scrimp on. I have a thick pile of curls atop this head and the $15 Hair Cuttery trim just wasn’t doing it for me. If you have poker straight hair that only requires a steady pair of scissors and no product, by all means, Hair Cuttery is for you. But my locks require more maintenance. I try to stretch my salon visits to 3 times a year but sometimes it’s not possible. On top of that I purchase salon quality product regularly. This can add up to several hundred dollars a year. Therefore, a gift certificate to my salon would be personal, thoughtful, practical, wonderful, necessary, etc. etc.

Memberships

Along the same lines of a gift card is a membership. A membership still gives the recipient some freedom to choose their own gift, but may not be as broad. A gift card to Macy’s leaves many options. Do I want a jacket, a purse, a sofa, sunglasses… But a membership is 1 thing in a large variety.

ShoeDazzle is a monthly style service available for $39.95/month. You begin your membership by creating a “Style Profile” outlining your taste in fashion and shoes. Based on the results, 5 pairs of shoes, handbags and jewelry are selected by the stylists for you to choose from every month. You are charged only after making a selection and can also choose to skip months without the obligation to pay. Gift cards are available in 1, 2, 3, 6 or 12 months.

A similar service is Beer of the Month Club. With memberships starting at $22.95 a month, beer is chosen for you by a panel of experts and shipped in a 12-bottle variety pack each month. For those of you who don’t like beer, the same organization also offers wine, gourmet chocolates, cigars, cheese, and flowers. You can mix and match to get 2 months of each for a year. I love getting packages in the mail, even if it’s something small that I ordered as a gift for someone else. Just seeing the box below my mailbox gives me a warm feeling of excitement. I can only imagine my delight if it was wine in that box.

Are you a Blockbuster fanatic? If you love to curl up and watch a good movie without paying the $4.99 Comcast fee or a trip to the video store, Netflix is perfect for you. For $9.99 a month you get unlimited movies mailed to your home. That’s the price of 2 movies OnDemand. You can only have 1 movie out at a time so you may not be able to watch 3 movies each week, but 1 movie a week is good leisure time for such a low cost.

If you’re the head of a large household or just like to buy in bulk, a membership to Costco may be a rewarding gift for you. For a $50 annual membership fee, you will save hundreds a year on groceries, jewelry, furniture, electronics, basically everything but an iPad.

Food

If you’re someone who enjoys eating, but you can’t cook, or you’re always too tired to chop up all those vegetables, or you just don’t know any good recipes, there are plenty of gifts out there for you. Since fasting is not really an option to save money on take-out, viable alternatives include cooking lessons or just a few cookbooks. I request cookbooks every year because I like to have them on display in my kitchen, but I also enjoy reading them. I like to challenge myself with new recipes in order to make cooking fun. I look at cooking as a science experiment that you get to eat. I can have fun in the kitchen, toying with different spices and condiments, and I may end up having to order a pizza when all is said and done, but I always learn something. Next time I make a chicken wrap I won’t add french dressing, salsa, AND barbecue sauce.

Some of my favorites:

One thing I do hate about cooking is all the supplies needed. I don’t mind stocking up on produce for chicken pot pie, but when I get home and realize I don’t own ramekins in which to bake the pot pie…I get frustrated. That’s why I never leave Home Goods empty handed. I’m always picking up little tools that you don’t think about, a portable slicer, a lettuce saver, salad spinner, etc. I like salads and really wish I could eat more, but in the winter I’m more about soup. So when i buy a bag of lettuce and only have 1 or 2 salads a week, it will be bad before I can have my 3rd. My lettuce saver keeps the lettuce fresh and crisp for upwards of a month.I like to cook with alot of vegetables. Adding a bundle to plain chicken can instantly make a healthy meal. But all the chopping and dicing!This little baby is on Amazon for under $15.

But what to do with all the leftovers? It’s only Chris and me in our household and cooking for 2 can be hard to adjust to. Sure you can freeze it in tupperware and have it for dinner the next night. But when Target sells lunch boxes this cute for adults now, why not eat your chicken soup at work, saving the $7 you would’ve spent on a sandwich, and have fun cooking again tomorrow!All of these gifts will keep on giving throughout the new year and you’ll have more in your bank account as a result. What more from a gift could you possibly want!

Make your own gifts

Be careful, you may want to keep these “gifts” for yourself. The good news is they are so inexpensive and easy to make, you can make one for your friend, and another one for yourself!

Last year Chris and I fermented vodka for a few of our close friends. We bought funky corked bottles at stores like Home Goods and Marshall’s, peeled lemons (no white pith) and placed in vodka along with raspberries. After 2 weeks they tasted like flavored vodka, which some may enjoy, but we prefer fruitier, less stringent drinks. This Limoncello recipe from Learnvest will deliver just the thing:

What you’ll need:

  • 8 lemons
  • 750 ml bottle of 100 proof vodka
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • Funky corked bottles

First combine the lemon peels (no white pith) with the vodka in a jar. Let this sit airtight for 1 week.

When the week is up, boil the 2 cups of sugar with the 3 cups of water and let cool. Strain the peels from the vodka mixture and stir in the sugar mix. Pour the tasty concoction into the funky bottles and add lemons for garnish if you choose. This gift will also go good with a set of martini glasses if you want to go the extra mile.

If you’re looking for something that will last longer, this picture frame tray is a good idea for the entertainer in your group.

I love trays. They’re decorative, keep clutter off the table, easy to hide, and they just add that little touch that a boring coffee table needs. They’re especially handy for the popular upholstered coffee tables that have been taking furniture stores by storm. When I was tray shopping upon move in, I was specifically looking a tray that I could hang on the wall when not in use. I didn’t find it. So when I saw this Picture frame tray at BHG, I knew what my bedside tables would be getting for Christmas.

Remove the glass from the frame and paint a color of your choice (skip this step if the original color is appropriate). Once dry, screw a drawer pull onto each short side of the frame. Place the glass back in with a decorative wallpaper or fabric remnant in the place of a photo. Or for a more personalized touch, keep a photo of something sentimental in the frame(think landmark, page from their favorite book, recipe for the cookie dough you 2 devoured before baking). Pair with these photo coasters from Bed, Bath & Beyond for a full coffee table wardrobe:

If you’re looking for something less sappy for a colleague, MIL or new acquaintance, these Gourmet Spoons from Learnvest will show how thoughtful you are without being a permanent reminder in the home.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of gourmet chocolate chips
  • 20-25 heavy-duty plastic spoons
  • Nuts, small candies, or crushed candy cane bits
  • wax paper
  • Decorative plastic wrap
  • Ribbon

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 2-3 minutes and stir until smooth. Dip the spoons into the chocolate and sprinkle on the candy bits. Refrigerate on wax paper until chocolate hardens. Wrap each spoon separately and tie with the ribbon. Present in a decorative box or tin. These can be savored as a lollipop or used to stir flavor into drinks.

I have not personally tested these DIY gifts yet but plan on doing so next week. Check back for my experience and review.

Christmas Decor

This may surprise some, but I’m not one to decorate seasonally. It took me 6 months to decorate our 850 sq. ft. condo. Imagine if I had to change it every 3 months! Granted, only a few accents should be replaced to make a home “in season,” but I’m still in the honeymoon stage with my condo as it is. Adding a few leaf motifs would just seem…cheap. And there’s a difference between fashionably frugal and cheap.

However, Christmas is the exception. I LOVE decorating for Christmas. I love all things sparkly, from wet snowflakes to sequins to diamonds. (I’ve been known to cause temporary blindness with my NYE wardrobe selections).

There are several different approaches to holiday decorating. Some choose to have their home professionally decorated. This is great for people who love to entertain and/or live in a large house. Decorating the 18 foot tree in your 2 story foyer can prove dangerous without professional help. When having office colleagues over for dinner, the bright green penguin towels in the bathroom may not suit the corporate image one is going for. It may even be as simple as getting bored with the same ornaments and the same centerpiece and the same mantle decor year after year and wanting some fresh ideas. All of these are reasons interior design is a successful profession.

To the other extreme, some openly believe that when it comes to Christmas decor, the tackier the better. If it can’t be seen from space and it doesn’t give you a massive headache upon plug-in, it’s just not Christmas. Forget the gifts, the entire Christmas allowance is put toward the astronomical electrical bill.

There is no pattern or technique for these displays (well maybe the car owner started out with some sort of idea in mind). They basically resemble what the North Pole would look like after a terrible earthquake. But to some, that is what Christmas is about. It’s a traditional holiday and there are many different traditions honored around the globe.

Not to say that massive amounts of lights and exterior figures are always tacky. A beautiful light display can bring local fame and make your home a traditional landmark for all ages.

In the middle of those extremes lie people like me. I like to make my house appear professionally decorated for the price of a few tacky stuffed animals. The only constants in my Christmas decor are a well decorated tree and stockings. Everything else changes year to year. With so many creative ideas out there, why stick to the same centerpiece year after year? Especially when you can make a tradition out of creating new decor. I like to spend the month of December doing arts & crafts. Each night I warm up my hot chocolate, slip into my slippers, and settle down in front of the glitter and paint.

Here is some great inspiration to get your house looking DIY beautiful:This is a very easy way to spruce up your coffee table. Just place some ornaments in a bowl for instant Christmas decor. BHG used multi-colored ornaments of similar sizes but this project has many different looks. Use 1 color of the same size for a simpler look, or 2 colors of 2 different sizes: large green globes with small gold globes.

This look is more fitting for a formal dinner party. Place overgrown branches in a wide vase and weigh them down with metallic glass stones. Once secure, place clear glass ornaments on the branches as if it were a Christmas tree. The candlelight balls shown on the branches can be found at Crate & Barrel, but you can achieve a similar look for less with various sized candles places around the vase. If you still have room on your table, place a few glass ornaments on a mirrored vase.

These candles will make any room in your home feel like Christmas. Buy the candle in a Christmas scent like Sugar Cookie or Christmas Tree and surround it in a large vase with cranberries. Place a few in the bathroom so you don’t have to go the way of the green penguin towels.

I love this ornament chandelier. Tie ribbon of different lengths to metallic ornaments and hang from a chandelier or ceiling fan (only if you’re not using the fan this time of year). This would look great over your dinner table, bed or center stage in the living room. If you’ve already placed the ornament centerpiece bowl on your coffee table, I would suggest hanging the ornament chandelier in another room.

Check back later in the week for a how-to for mantle decor, pictures of my own Christmas tree, and DIY gifts.

Pictures from top to bottom:

1. – 3. Redesign + more

4. & 6. Design Crisis

5. Lori…Lovin’ Life!

7. & 8. Dobbies

9. & 10. Better Homes & Gardens

11. & 12. Learnvest

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