See You Turkeys Next Week!

This little turkey is leaving the roost!  We are heading back to Ohio for an extended Thanksgiving visit, and will return next week.  I won't have much computer time while I am gone, but in case you do...

...I will leave you with this little tip.  Take yourself over to visit Public Domain Images, a website that has a charming collection of images from days past, like my little turkey above.  A few of the images charge a nominal fee to download, but most that I looked at did not.  The possibilities are endless!  

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of crazy relatives and ridiculous amounts of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie.  See you next Monday when we (officially) get to start the Christmas craftiness!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving Table Tips

Thanksgiving is almost here!  This year we are traveling back to Ohio to visit family for Thanksgiving, so I am off the hook for all that cooking and planning.  Last year, however, we hosted a gathering of 12 family members at our house, and I learned a few tricks that might be helpful for those of you who are in the same spot!  (And don't forget you can click on the photos below to enlarge them!)

First, I went to Joann's and bought a few yards of fall-looking material to serve as a table runner.  I did not sew one single stitch.  Instead, I just ironed the edges of the material under so that they would lay flat, and then laid my "runner" right on top of my tablecloth.  No one ever knew the difference, and it was about $10 for the material instead of spending a fortune for a real table runner!

Next, I just bought a few simple mini-pumpkins and gourds for the center of the table, and, along with candles, they made a pretty centerpiece.  I loved the gorgeous floral arrangements that I saw in magazines, but 1) they were super-expensive and 2) people wouldn't have been able to see over the flowers to talk to each other, so it wasn't worth it!

I also didn't have enough of my fancy china (inherited from my husband's side of the family...not sure where all the pieces ended up).  No big deal, we just interspersed some of my everyday white pieces in with the fancy stuff, and I don't think anyone even noticed!

My favorite thing that we did was make little turkey cookies to use as place cards.  These were just simple sugar cookies, and then I took plastic Ziploc bags, snipped the corners off, and used them to pipe each person's name onto the cookies.  Everyone loved it!  

It was so much fun to plan and execute all these little details, but I must admit, I am happy to take a backseat this time around!  Good luck to all of you who are playing the hostess this year!

Have a great weekend!


What Started It All!

One summer during college, I lived with my dad and his wife (my parents are divorced) in northern Ohio.  The house next door to them had an estate sale, and I scored an old, violently green dresser for $20.  The lady even threw in a matching mirror to hang above it which, thankfully, had not been painted the same shade of green!

I spent all summer stripping that dresser of it's green paint, sanding it, repairing the trim that had been damaged, and finally, adding stain and polyurethane.  I can still remember getting finished with the dresser and racing up to the hardware store to pick out new knobs.  (I didn't have any patience, even then!)

This dresser of mine has traveled with me to college, my first apartment with friends, my first apartment that I lived in all by myself, and finally, to the house(s) I have shared with my husband.  It has been 12 years since I refinished it, and it still sits in my bedroom, though now it holds my husband's socks and t-shirts, rather than my girly stuff.  Over the years I have changed it's knobs, treated it with furniture oil and lectured many professional moving men about it's fragility.  I hope it will become a family piece that one of my kids will inherit someday.

To look at this dresser, it's nothing fancy.  But it was my first big "project," and I couldn't wait to transform it from an ugly basement castoff to a pretty little piece complete with scented drawer liner.

So it will always hold a special little place in my heart.  Do you have a first project like that?


WFMW: Inexpensive Fall Topiary

Today's Works-For-Me-Wednesday tip is about how to make an inexpensive fall topiary, but I first have to mention this: I think we need to establish some kind of workers' comp for bloggers!  I have officially sustained my first injury:

(Please ignore my old lady hands!  They have been that wrinkly since I was born, and now, at the ripe old age of 32, they look positively ancient.)  Let's focus on the large glue gun-induced blister on my finger instead.
I sustained this injury while attempting to create my fall topiary.  I bought one of these green cones at Michael's, spray painted it black (so that the green wouldn't show through if I missed any spots)...

...and gathered my glue gun (nasty little thing) and a few pounds of nuts (2 1/2 lb. to be exact) from the grocery store.  Then I turned on a DVR-ed "Desperate Housewives" during Nina's nap, and about an hour later I had this adorable topiary!

I liked it so much that I went back to the store, bought some more supplies, and made a second topiary.  I figured one day I might have a traditional mantle again, and that I would want one for either end.  Each topiary probably cost a total of about $10.  Works for me!

(And if anyone knows of a good insurance plan that covers glue gun burns, I am open to suggestions!)

Extreme Nesting Mode

I am still finding little projects around the house to keep me busy!  My sister says I am in extreme nesting mode now that I am only about 12 weeks away from having Baby #2.  That might be true, but I also know (from having Baby #1) that once Baby #2 is born, I will be out of commission, project-wise.  I will probably be proud of myself that I get dressed in the mornings, let alone even attempt to spray paint or Mod Podge anything.  So, let's enjoy this spurt of energy while we can!

I recently bought this little metal basket.  It's pretty sad.  

But I found some scrapbook paper and Mod Podged it until it looked cute enough to hold our takeout menus.  :)

I was at Michael's the other day and saw this little turkey on sale for $2.99.  I thought he was cute enough to come live at our house, but that he needed a makeover.

Here he is with a new coat of brown paint.  He's meant to hold a candle but I kind of liked him with a little pumpkin instead.  

See?  It's all part of my attempt to distract myself from the half dozen Christmas decoration boxes in my basement, screaming to be opened and put to use!


Warming Up the Bathroom

*Updated to add: The color in the bathroom is called "Cloudy Amber" and it is by Valspar.  I got it at Lowes.  Also, someone asked how I hung the wreath.  I just used a little nail in the drywall right above the mirror, so you can't see it as you are standing below.  Easy!

No news is good news, right?  We put an offer in on the house next door...a week ago.  Haven't heard a word about it.  We are competing with another buyer for the house, but the problem is that our offer is contingent upon us selling our current house. 

The "For Sale" sign is in our front yard.  We had one showing over the weekend.  No other developments.  We're not sure how this will all work out, but the one thing we need is time to sell our house so that we will be in a position to, you know, have enough money to buy the new house.  I guess we're still in the game.  But we have no idea what the score is!

So this weekend I spent a little time sprucing up our house for the real estate market.  Our agent recommended that we "warm up" our master bathroom.  It is full of windows, a huge mirror and a shower, with lots of tile.  Very stark.  Here is the "before" shot:  

First I scrounged up a wreath that I have had since college.  It once held a blue floral ribbon intertwined with some baby's breath (Yeah, my roommate and I thought we were awesome decorators in 1996!).  I ripped all that stuff off, added a brown grosgrain ribbon, and here are the results:

Then I grabbed a yellow pitcher that I've had sitting in a kitchen cupboard since we got married.  Added a few decorative sticks (and yes, I did actually pay for sticks, which boggles my husband's mind!) and placed it on the countertop:

I feel like these simple touches really give the bathroom a little more dimension and warmth.  Why didn't I do this before?

Now we just need a buyer with a lot of cash to come fall in love with our house, we need to win the bidding war for the house next door, and we need the timing to work perfectly so that we can pull this big puzzle together.  In other words, a miracle!  It could happen, right?


Getting Me Through To Thanksgiving!

My house has felt a little barren since I took my Halloween decorations down.  I just don't have a lot of Thanksgiving decorations, and there is this one spot above my fireplace that looks particularly sad:

Don't you agree?  Luckily, I was at Michael's recently and their faux pumpkins were 80% off, so I brought a cute white one home for $2.39.  I figured for that price, I could afford to try a new technique on it!  So I picked up some graphite paper for $1.50 or so.

This paper allows you to trace an image onto another surface.  So I found a font I liked, printed out a big "G" (our last name initial) on regular white paper, taped the graphite paper to the pumpkin, and then traced the letter.

When I was done tracing, I was left with a faint but very clear outline of my "G."

Then I just grabbed a black paint marker and colored in the lines!  The paint marker was really great for creating a much smoother line than I would have been able to create with a paintbrush.

I added a little grosgrain ribbon because...well, I add grosgrain ribbons to most everything that will stand still!  What do you think?  I have a few more little Thanksgiving projects that have spruced up my house lately.  I'll be sure to show them to you next week.  

Enjoy your weekend!


Hardware Changes Everything!

As I told you a few days ago, we have been on pins and needles as we attempt to put our house on the market and buy the bigger house next door.  (No news there...just waiting to hear which offer the bank accepts, ours or the other people's.)  To keep busy as we wait, I have been working on little projects, which has been therapeutic for me but is starting to drive my husband crazy!  

Changing the hardware on a couple of our furniture pieces has been a great way to update their look without spending a lot of money.  Here's our coffee table (that I bought a few weeks ago at a garage sale for $40!):

The craftsman look of the handles didn't really match the rest of the furniture, but for $10 I was able to trade them out.  Like the change?

Next is my grandmother's hutch, which you have probably seen a lot if you've been around here for a few months.  As you can tell, the handles were a very dated-looking brass:

I got these inexpensive knobs and handles from Lowe's, and I really like how they make the hutch look a little more up-to-date:

It's amazing to me what a difference the time of day makes out here in Colorado.  I did nothing to the finish of this hutch but it looks totally different in Picture A versus Picture B.  I guess it's the sunlight, and a little bit of the new knobs making their impact.  I love it when small changes pay off!   Next time you are attempting to buy a new house, you should try changing out some hardware...maybe it can help you too!   :)


WFMW: Last Minute Cards for Gifts

Today's Works-For-Me-Wednesday tip is one that has saved me countless times.  I don't know about you, but I always seem to be scrambling at the last minute to get gifts for people.  And cards for those gifts are even harder to remember.  So a few years ago, I got smart and started a stationery collection (all photos have been "doctored" to protect our last name...I hope you can still get the gist of it!).

This first one is a simple card with my daughter's name on it.  Whenever she brings a gift to a little friend's birthday party, we whip these out to use as the birthday card:

Next is a little gift card that has our last name on it.  It reads "The Smiths" (obviously not our real last name)!  These have come in handy for weddings and other occasions when the gift is from the whole family:

These last ones are my favorite.  They are gift tags specifically designed to fit over a bottle of wine!  How many times have you been on the way to a friend's house for dinner and haphazardly grabbed a bottle of wine from your own cupboard to give as a hostess gift?  I totally do that too!  These little cards just make the wine look a little more "finished" and not like you grabbed it on the way out the door (which you totally did):

When I factor in how much money I spend on cards at the grocery store or Target (if I remember to buy them!), it really adds up.  I buy these cards in bulk (anywhere from 25-100 at a time) and it ends up to be about $1-$1.50 each (and I don't know about you, but I easily spend double that per card if I buy them at the last minute).  Personally, I have someone locally who sells these to me, but I have also seen similar cards online at places like Tiny Prints or Doodlebug Dezigns.

This is the perfect little time-and stress-saving trick to keep in my back pocket.  Works for me!

Heaven in a Bowl, or The Best Soup You'll Ever Eat

A big thanks to a few girls who have given me awards lately!  The first is from Carrie of Carrie's Little World.

And the next is from Amy of WhisperWood Cottage:

A huge thank you to both of these ladies for thinking I have anything to contribute to the blogging world!  And, since both awards ask me to list some things that I am thankful for, I thought it would be a great time to share with you something that makes me very, very happy:

This, friends, is the best soup you will ever eat.  I am not kidding.  I have been searching for a tomato soup recipe for years and years (really!) and had yet to find something that would rival my childhood favorite, Campbell's Tomato Soup...until this soup came along.  It is rich and creamy, with a subtle tomato flavor.  It is perfect to serve it to guests if I want, but I can also dip a grilled cheese sandwich in there on a Tuesday night and feel right at home.  Did I mention how much I love this soup?

I will give credit where credit is due and tell you that I originally got this recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  That woman has never steered me wrong and I have loved all her recipes.  But in this case, her recipe makes the soup rather chunky, and I am a firm believer that tomato soup should be perfectly smooth and creamy.  So the recipe I am sharing with you below is with my adjustments, but be sure to visit The Pioneer Woman if you want the original.  You won't be sorry!

Heaven In a Bowl, or The Best Soup You'll Ever Eat
6 T. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 (46 oz.) bottle of tomato juice
2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 T. chicken base (you'll find it near the bullion cubes)
3 T. sugar
1 cup cooking sherry
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large soup pot.  Saute the onions in the butter until they are translucent.  Let cool slightly.  Add sauteed onions and cans of diced tomatoes to a food processor or blender and blend together until smooth.  Put mixture back into soup pan.  Add tomato juice, chicken base and sugar.  Bring to a near boil, then turn off heat.  Add in sherry and cream and stir.  Turn heat back on low.  Add parsley and basil.  Let all the flavors cook and blend together, making sure not to scorch the soup.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

How easy is that?  YUM!  :)

P.S. I wanted to say a big thank you for your comments yesterday about the house next door.  I felt so supported and was so blessed that so many of you said a prayer for me.  It's so humbling!  The latest is that we placed our offer, but are competing with another buyer who also put in an offer yesterday.  So it's a waiting game, unfortunately, and since our offer is contingent upon us selling our house, the odds aren't in our favor.  I was pretty bummed yesterday and of course shed some tears, but let's wait and see what God does.  If this doesn't work, I do believe it's because there's something better out there.  I will keep you posted!


Me In the Front Yard With a Barcalounger?

So, what did you do this weekend?  Me?  I had a little of this:

And maybe more than a little of this:

And I caught up on these:

And I spent a lot of time staring at this:

Why did I spend a lot of time staring at an ugly purple door?  Well, I'll tell you.

This is the door of the house next door to ours.  It is currently in foreclosure.  We live in a newly built neighborhood, and it seems that the previous owner of this purple door bit off a bit more than he could chew.  What does that mean for us?  Well, basically it means that there is a "smoking deal" (as my husband calls it) sitting with a big "For Sale" sign right next door to us.

Not only would it be a great move for us financially, but it would mean lots more space for our growing family.  As you might imagine, space is foremost in my mind these days since I am less than three months away from having a Baby #2.

So for the past few weeks, we've been meeting with our realtor, our mortgage broker, and talking to various others whose opinion we trust to see if this is a deal we should pursue.  We've also talked to God about it an awful lot.  As of today, Monday morning, we are putting in an offer, with fingers and toes crossed.

Why am I telling you all this?  I suppose it's because I am scared.  I am a woman, as you probably know, and an emotional one at that.  The past few weeks have been so full of emotion, thinking about leaving this house that we love but also thinking about how great it would be for our family to have space to grow into.  Planning to put our house on the market and wondering if we can sell it before someone else sneaks in and buys the house next door.  Watching real estate agents parade other potential buyers through the new house and balancing my expectations on the head of a pin...is today the day that it will work out, or the day we will lose the opportunity?  Having hope but yet not having too much hope, so as not to be disappointed.  For an emotional control freak like me, it's a tough position to be in!

We've prayed a lot about it, and we believe that God is in control, but if you have any spare prayers, I wouldn't object to you shooting them our way.  I will keep you posted. 

Oh, and do you think it's wrong for me to sit in my front yard with an old recliner and grill some meat on  my car's engine, you know, just to scare away any potential buyers from snapping up the house before we do? 


Is It a Spa or a Laundry Room?

It all started with our new washing machine.  

My husband's company is very "green," and every year they offer a lump sum of money to their employees to do something "green" to their house.  We had been in need of a new washing machine, so a few weeks ago the nice men from Best Buy brought me this lovely front load washer:

I had seen so many people around the blogging world make their laundry rooms look more like spas, and I wanted to join in the fun!  First, I took my cork board, which holds some random coupons, calendars and other junk, and moved it to another, less conspicuous, wall.

Then, I found an old lamp in the basement and recovered the lampshade so that it looked sufficiently cute for this space.  Then I just did some good, old-fashioned decluttering.  Let's all take a deep breath as we look at the now clutterless laundry room!

Ahhh...much better!  A while back I blogged about that "Laundry" sign on top of the cabinets, so if you want to see how I made that little guy for so much less than the Ballard Designs catalog, click here.  

Otherwise, have a great weekend!


Five Things I Love About Colorado

I have been tagged by Chris from Just a Girl (She has an amazing blog, by the way!  Such great projects and ideas, be sure to check it out if you haven't already!) to participate in this fun little game.  She wants me to name five reasons why I love my state.  I live in Colorado, so this was pretty easy!

Now, the truth is, I could easily tell you about the mountains, the weather, the absolutely gorgeous summers and snowy winters. I could tell you that I love Colorado because it is sunny 300 days a year. What does that mean? It means that it snows and it is pretty, but then it melts the next day so we aren't looking at gray slush for weeks afterward. (That's a personal shout out to my hometown, Cincinnati, which loves to provide weeks upon weeks of cold, gray, slushy days in a row in February!) But instead I will just sum up the Colorado surroundings by posting this photo, taken of my husband Brent and daughter Nina last Christmas on the bike path behind our house!

I love Colorado, and my little corner of it, because of how family-friendly it is. We regularly attend community parades, festivals, farmers' markets, and holiday celebrations. Here's a shot of us at the Fourth of July parade.  Could we be more Americana?  

I love Colorado because, through a strange twist of circumstances, we have lots of family here.  My aunt, some cousins, and my husband's parents, to name a few.  I am especially thrilled because my sister and her husband live one mile from us.   Lindsay is my only sibling, and she is expecting her first baby in March, a month after me.  My husband and her husband get along really well, and it has been so fun to live so close to them!  Here they are with Nina last summer (she looks so little in this photo!)

You might think me strange, but I love that Colorado is such a football state, and that Denver is a classic football town. You have to remember that I was raised by a die hard Cleveland Browns fan, and I can totally get sentimental when I hear the Sports Center theme song or the comforting (to me) sounds of a football game on TV on a Sunday afternoon.  Here's a shot of Invesco Field at Mile High, home of the Denver Broncos (photo courtesy of denverbroncos.com).

And since this is a mostly decorating blog, I have to mention the great shopping I have found in Colorado. Here's a photo of one of my favorite thrift stores (It's the Littleton/Highlands Ranch Goodwill, for those Denver girls out there!).  I always find fantastic deals on things like furniture, home decor and lots of other little items that I can "rehab."  (Photo courtesy of denvergoodwill.org

So there are my Five Things!  Hope you enjoyed this little tour of Colorado!


WFMW: A Toy Worth Buying (For Babies)!

Today's Works-For-Me-Wednesday is a themed one: the Toys Worth Buying edition!  It just so happens that I went to a baby shower over the weekend and used this idea, but it would work just as well as a Christmas gift.  In my case, the mom-to-be is having twins, one boy and one girl.  A few friends and I wanted to get something that she could use for both babies, regardless of gender.  Look what we came up with!

We bought a simple basket from Michael's, added some green grosgrain ribbon (green is nice and gender neutral, you know!), and then splurged on a ton of board books to fill the basket.  I remembered that, before I had my daughter, I always wondered how people collected such extensive libraries for their kids.  I knew I wanted to teach my daughter the love of reading, but seriously, who has the money to buy stacks of books when there are cribs and strollers to buy?

Everyone at the shower commented on the basket, and we felt very virtuous because we have contributed to the babies' literary education.  Plus, just look how stinkin' cute the basket is!

An easy, gender-neutral and charming gift for babies (and new parents!).  Works For Me!

Candy Corn Cookies

It's still Fall, and although it is seriously hard to resist the adorable Christmas decorations that are popping up everywhere, I am determined to hold out.  Now, don't ask me if I have listened to Christmas music already, because that's a whole different story!  (And yes, I have.  Just a little bit.  Barely enough to count.)

Last week I hosted our monthly book club and it was a great chance to whip up some fall cookies.  However, I wanted to have a pretty little platter to put the cookies on, and alas, I never registered for one when I got married.  But, I had seen how people created cake platters out of a candlestick and a simple plate (I am sorry, I can't remember where I saw this idea, but it has been floating around!).  Here is what I was able to figure out with a $2 glass plate and 88 cent candlestick from Big Lots (along with some super glue):

How cute did it turn out?  It is not perfect, but when you put little cookies on top, no one is looking for the imperfections!  I shamelessly used Tidy Mom's idea to create candy corn cookies, and I think they turned out so well, along with my pumpkin cookies!

All my Halloween decorations and BOO pumpkins have been put away until next year, but I think these simple fall cookies would be charming through Thanksgiving.  And wait till you see what I did last Thanksgiving with a turkey cookie cutter!  We can hold out, girls!  We don't need to put up the Christmas lights just yet!

P.S. I had someone ask me how I made the cake stand.  It was so easy!  I got some super glue (anything that says it is good to use on glass).  I turned the glass plate upside down, found the exact center with a ruler, and then put glue in that spot.  Then I turned the candlestick upside down too, and stuck it to the plate.  That's it!  I gave it a full 24 hours to dry without moving it, and made sure that I cleaned up any drips before they dried.  I wouldn't run this thing through the dishwasher or anything, but it seems pretty sturdy for holding little cookies and cakes!  


Halloween Wrap Up

Hey all!  How was your weekend?  I don't know about you, but I am all Halloweened out.  So much fun, but so exhausting!

I started my weekend on Thursday by having lunch with my very first blogging friend, Lisa.  She has a private blog that she invited me to visit a few months ago, and we've gotten to know each other since then, because we are both in the Denver area.  It was so much fun!  We met for lunch, and we just clicked right away!  Don't you just love it when you meet people and it feels so easy to be friends?  We didn't think to take any photos to show you, but maybe next time!

By Friday, my little two-year-old spitfire was ready for Halloween to officially begin!  We kicked it off by carving our pumpkin...

...and then we all put on our costumes!  Nina was a Cleveland Browns cheerleader, Brent was a referee, and I was the football player.  (My husband thought I would make a good linebacker with my, um, rather large stomach.  Thanks honey.)

Then Nina ran around for awhile.  Cheerleaders have a lot of energy, you know.

But she did pause long enough to wonder why the Browns don't have a winning record this season.  She didn't come up with anything.

Finally Nina got out for some good, old-fashioned trick-or-treating.  We now have enough candy in our house that anyone could look 6 months pregnant if they wanted to.

We had a ball!  How was your Halloween?