Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Rise of Frankendoggie

Margot is my dog-baby.  She weighs 9.6 pounds, cries when I go away, and loves to be snuggled with her head tucked under my chin.  She also knows that I am the alpha dog of the house, and listens to me much more than she listens to my husband.  He's a pushover with her (by his own admission, I'm not calling him out here;)

How can you not love that little baby face?

As a dachshund, we knew that the possibility existed that she could either go paralyzed, or require surgery at some point, as the breed is prone to back problems.  Their long backs sometimes can't support their spinal columns, and issues arise.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because last winter, Margot's back went kaput, she needed surgery, and my husband and I were told that she was NOT ALLOWED TO JUMP ANYMORE.  AT ALL.

Margot did NOT want a picture taken of her stapled back.  Poor Frankendoggie.


All dachshunds do is jump.  Up and down, all around, onto and off of furniture.  Up and down stairs, onto your legs, your laps, your head (if you're sitting on the couch).  Jumping, Jumping, Jumping.  All.  Day. Long.

If she's not jumping, she's snuggled under a blanket.  Margot's favorite place to snuggle is the couch, hands down.  She burrows under a blanket, and there she stays.  In order to keep the jumping to a minimum,  I knew we'd need a dog ramp.  I began my hunt online and in pet stores, but all of the ramps I found were ugly and expensive.  I knew I could make one that would look better than one I could buy.  

I had some wood left in the garage, and began my measurements.  I took a tape measurer and measured from the couch down to the floor to a point that I thought would be both a minimal intrusion into the walking space of my small living room, but also an acceptable incline for Margot to travel up and down.  

I then measured the height of the couch, and used the Pythagorean Theorem (yeah, Geometry class) to create my measurements.  Tell your high school age children to PAY ATTENTION in geometry if they like to DIY and make things themselves.  It'll come in handy.  

Side pieces of ramp.  Please note beautiful asbestos(probably) basement floor tiles.

After cutting the ramp's side pieces, I attached them together using a few smaller strips of wood and wood screws.  I was planning on covering the ramp with fabric, so I didn't worry about making my cuts super neat and pretty.

These were the first two stabilizers- I added two more for strength after taking this picture.

After making sure that my ramp side pieces were nice and secure, I attached the actual ramp to the top with more wood screws.

Notice my pencil lines on the top of this piece.  Remember, measure twice, CUT ONCE.

After I got this far, my ramp sat in half-completed limbo for awhile.  I covered it with a beach towel and put it next to the couch for Margot to use.  It took some training with treats, but Margot got used to it, and probably uses it about 75% of the time when getting on and off the couch.

At this point, I stopped taking pictures of my ramp building process, so you'll have to bear with me and just imagine my instructions in your head.  If I had to have a dog ramp in my living room messing up my room decor, I was going to make it as unobtrusive as possible.  Our couch is from Crate and Barrel, so I stopped into the store to see if I could order some of the fabric our couch was covered in.  Jackpot.  They sell all upholstery fabrics there.  I ordered a yard (make sure you know how much you need, first!!  That fabric ain't cheap, yo.) and waited four weeks for it to come in from the warehouse.  

In the meantime, I made a stop at JoAnn Fabrics and picked up a piece of foam to use on the ramp.  Just covering the ramp in fabric would have made it too slippery, and Margot would have definitely snubbed her nose at it.  No joke.  I ended up just gluing the foam to the ramp before covering it with the fabric.

When the fabric came in, I cut it to the same dimensions that the ramp pieces were built in, plus a few extra inches on each side for seams.  I pinned the whole thing inside out on the ramp, and then took it off to sew.  And my machine broke.  UGH.  Fast forward several months and a new machine (heyyyy Janome) and my slipcover was sewn.  I wasn't worried about needing to take the slipcover off, so out came the staple gun.  I stapled the whole thing to the inside of the ramp base.  

Behold, the finished product:
Margot is a spoiled dog, is she not?

If your doggie needs a ramp, do it yourself!  As much as I love my dog, I was not willing to completely sacrifice a pretty space for complete utility.  I think I found a great happy medium!

What a delicious little dog we have here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


I hope you now have Baby Got Back stuck in your head.  If you don't, allow me to make sure that happens right now before reading the remainder of this post.  Baby Got Back has been out for 21 years, can you believe it??  I feel old now.

Sorry gentlemen (if there are even any men reading this!), but this post isn't about luscious lady lumps.  It's about wall art.  

When trying to decide what to hang on our walls, a lot of us are tempted to buy smaller pieces because they are cheaper than large ones.  They are also easier to buy and hang!!  Pins on Pinterest are plentiful that detail how to group photos or small wall art- you almost can't go wrong these days.  While I do have plenty of small and medium sized pieces on my walls, I also have a few large pieces that dominate a few walls.  If you live in a small house, don't be afraid of big wall hangings- they make a statement and can give that WOW factor to a room that sends your room rating from, "Oh, that's nice", to "Wowza"!

When my husband and I were renting a small house after getting out of college, we needed some wall art to warm up the place, stat.  As a former history teacher, I have an affinity for maps, and found a "classic" edition of a world map for $7 at OfficeMax.  I took it to a local shop and had it framed with a simple wood frame and acrylic (glass would have been way too heavy), and we had a huge wall hanging for much cheaper than anything we could have bought otherwise.  When we moved 6 years ago into our current house, the map kept its place above the couch in the living room.  We're constantly on the lookout for a more permanent piece of art (hopefully done by a local artist), especially since the map is now obsolete with the creation of Kosovo and the South Sudan.  I'm a nerd for knowing this, I know.  Its come in handy while watching Jeopardy and other shows, though, as I can be frequently viewed through the front window of the living room standing backwards on the couch staring at the wall.  (I wonder if my neighbors think I'm crazy sometimes...)  

That amazingly straight edge paint line was done BY HAND.  Big ups to my husband for having the steadiest hand with a paintbrush I have ever seen.  As a side note, I am rarely allowed to paint.  I'm not complaining.

Three summers ago, I went to Alaska with my husband for our "deferred honeymoon".  On our last day there, we browsed through some of the galleries in Anchorage, and found an artist we fell in love with.  The colors she used were eye popping, yet not overbearing, and we wanted to get something that would be a great reminder of our trip.  As a side note, there are some pretty amazing artists and artisans in Alaska.  During the cold and dark winter months, a lot of people turn to crafting- they then sell their item in galleries and on the internet.  You can find a lot of amazing stuff, and with the minimal incomes that many Alaskans make, their art usually helps support their families in a big way.  

Alaska is incredible.  Dave took this shot at about 11:30 at night.  Amazing.

We didn't have the room (or money!) to buy one of the pieces we found that day, but we took the artist's card and kept dreamily staring at her art on the internet.  We weren't able to buy a piece that year, but my Christmas present the following year was a huge giclee print of the artist's moose painting.  It was hand numbered and signed, and it went straight onto the very tall wall in the stairwell of my bedroom.  My husband and I had just finished painting the bedroom, and I had purposely painted this wall in a dark grey, dreaming that this print would end up as the centerpiece.  I am totally in love with it.  Here's a link to the artist's webpage if you'd like to check out her wildlife art- she's a talented lady: vrae's Online Art Gallery  Maybe one day I can have an original piece from her.  One day.

What's up, Mildred?

This is an upstairs bungalow bedroom, so the door here goes into the attic eaves and is smaller than a normal door, but I wanted to give a point of reference for the size that Mildred is.  She's amazing.  Have I told you how much I love her?

This last piece isn't a huge art piece, but I have to include it, as it was too funny not to buy.  This past Thanksgiving, my hubby and I traveled to Napa Valley and San Francisco for a "foodie vacation".  If you're not familiar with the term, just think like this:  Make ZERO plans for your vacation except restaurant reservations.  BAM.  Foodie vacation.  On our last night (there seems to be a trend here of finding art on our last nights of vacation), we had a quick dinner at a taqueria in the Mission district of SF, and wandered into a shop called Therapy.  We had had one too many cervesas, and the shop was closing.  The manager let us in while he was closing up on the promise that we weren't going to buy anything since he had already shut the books down.  Dave and I both happened to look up at the wall at the same time, looked at each other, and then at the manager.  The next thing I knew, we had bought a print of a goat, and it was being shipped to our house.  Huh.  Our bedroom is quickly on its way to becoming  a menagerie.  

Greta says hello. Never fear, I'll talk about my chevron-covered chair reupholster in a later post!

So, there you have it.  Don't just fill your walls with common pieces of "art" you can find anywhere.  If it means your walls are bare for a little bit longer than expected, go with it.  Waiting for a big, cool piece of art can be worth it.  The weirder, the better.  Take it from Greta and Mildred.  They won't steer you wrong.

Yes, I wake up to this staring at me every morning.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Do unto others...

Let's post today about doing nice things for others instead of DIY'ing for yourself, shall we?  Sometimes it's nicer to do a project for somebody else than it is to finish your own project, and that is what we'll focus on today.

My mom has always been an insanely crafty person.  She taught me how to sew, craft, paint, make jewelry, decorate- you name it, she tries it.  When my parents built their house thirteen years ago, my brother was eight.  My mom and I worked together to paint and decorate the hall bath that was next to his room in a style that an eight year old boy would find fun.  Because my hometown is on Lake Ontario, we went with a boat/water/lake theme.  I'm not going to get into the specifics of what/how we completed that DIY, but I'll share a few pictures now:

That rope "chair rail" trim? HOT GLUE GUNNED and nailed to the wall.  Yep.
That's a lot of primary color action going on there.

Fast forward to present day, and we now have a twenty-one year old living in the house during college breaks, with all of his friends in and out of this child-like bath.  Yep, time for a change.  Several years ago, my mom bought this great poster of ship wrecks of Lake Ontario, and wanted to update the bathroom with a more "grown-up, non-kitchy nautical theme".  Get where I'm going here?  She and I went to the store and even picked out new paint on one of my trips home to visit, but then real life got in the way, and the paint and poster sat.  For a very long time.

Every Christmas, we bug, bug, bug my mom for a list of things she might want, and she has never complied.  (Despite the fact that she mandates that we give her lists ourselves!)  I hemmed and hawed over what to get her until I had a brilliant EUREKA!! flash.  Instead of a gift, we were going to redo the bathroom for her.

I enlisted my brother's help, and had him search out the bucket of paint to make sure it was still usable.  He searched high and low, and couldn't find it.  He finally had to come up with a story in order to ask my mom where the paint was, without letting her catch onto the plan.  I then had him measure the room for me, and we made our calculations of what we would need to get the job done.  From afar, my sister found a great shower curtain, and had the kiddos draw pictures for, "Nani's new bathroom".

Don't paint over sponge stamps without sanding it first.  You'll still see the outline.

Our plan was to paint the upper halves of the walls, install bead board on the bottom halves, and finish everything off with some trim.  We worked for two straight days on this, and told mom we were, "Working on a project, but that it was too cold in the garage to get it done in there."  Tools, wood, an air compressor, nail gun, and paint all traipsed back and forth through the house.  Any time Mom was around, we made her turn to the wall, shut her eyes, and yelled at her NOT TO LOOK.  We thought, Surely she knows what's going on at this point!!!  

Cedar tongue and groove planks- smelled heavenly.
(As a side note, I contemplated using the 8'x4' sheets of premade bead board, but that isn't recommended for use in humid/wet areas.  )

By Christmas morning, we got as far as half-finished chair rail molding, but were ready to reveal anyway.  We brought Mom into the bathroom, and yep, she was surprised.  She told us afterwards that she thought we were making picture frames for the family room out of distressed wood.  After living with her new room for a few hours, she decided that while we were at it and the baseboards hadn't been reinstalled yet, that we might as well replace the tile floors, too.  The tiles were uneven in places, and the subfloor underneath was creaking from an accidental flooding mishap the year before.  Whoops.  Along with the floor, she told us, "You know, I've never liked that big builder's grade mirror, either.  Can we put up a new mirror, too?"  We sure can, mom!

Genuine surprise, not reenacted:)

The next day, we picked out new tile for the floor, and hung a mirror to match the spiffiness of the rest of the room.  Mom did hire someone to put in the new floor and finish the trim, and BAM.  A new and beautiful bathroom.  The room grew up into a beautiful, adult version of its former self.

Ooh la la, look at that wood tile!

Our favorite picture of Dad on his sunfish hangs above the boat rope cleat towel bar.
The inspiration for the whole bathroom.

Go work on a DIY project for someone else soon- it'll brighten your day and make you feel good.  Happy Friday!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's yours is mine. No really, it's mine now.

Garage sales and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love the idea of going to garage sales, scouring through the cast-offs of others, and finding new inspiration and use for a piece rejected by its owner.  Once at a garage sale, however, I hate being there.  Owners watch you like a hawk, afraid you're going to walk away with their $1 used hair curlers.  They're either out to haggle with you, or try to push their things on you.  Both situations make me extremely uncomfortable.  Can't there just be a self-checkout option?  

This time of year is ripe for garage sales, though- they're everywhere!!  While some people have had great luck finding things at garage sales, and are experts in the art of a deal, I have found something I like much better: estate sales.  All the same stuff, but without the emotional attachment.  They're usually run by an outside company and not family members, which makes it much easier to eye a piece you fancy without wondering if the owner is going to shed a silent tear that you just bought her memories for fifty cents.

I've picked up a few neat pieces at estate sales over the past few years, and thought I'd share.  While none of the pieces I've gotten have been something that needed any DIY love, they were all things that struck my fancy in one way or another, and I knew they needed to come home with me.

I usually bypass the jewelry at estate sales, as they've most likely been priced by a professional, and are not great deals.  Last summer, though, my eye caught a piece that I couldn't pass up.  It was gold plated, heavy, well made, and only five dollars.  Sometimes those great deals do exist!  

Thumbs up to well-made costume jewelry!

Several years ago, I went to an estate sale a few blocks from my house that looked promising.  I ended up with a vintage metal storage cabinet that found a new life as a bedside table in the guest room.  I actually don't even use it for storage, but I love the aesthetics of it.  It's definitely one of those pieces that will find a home in whatever house I own throughout life.  It's too cool not to love!!

I know, it's not next to the bed.  I couldn't get a good picture that way!

At this same estate sale, I also found a rolled up engineering map of my city from 1957.  The paper it was on was yellowed and slightly crinkled, but for less than a dollar, I couldn't pass it up.  It sat in a drawer for three years before I finally had it framed, but I'm so glad I did.  It'll be a nice reminder of our time here if we ever move out of the area!  As a side note, I did splurge on the framing, glass, and matting to get everything in archival/art quality.  For something that is already old, irreplaceable, and hung on a wall facing a window, I wanted to make sure it would hold up to the test of time.  

Should I add a "You are Here" sticker for guests?  Too much?

At another estate sale, the vultures had pretty much picked over the goods, but had left several pieces that I found interesting enough to buy.  I bought two small metal pieces.  The larger of the two was bronze, and had a piece of masking tape stuck to the back that said, "Turkey".  The year was too smudged to make out, but it appears to be a small serving tray that someone had soldered a hanger onto at some point.  The smaller of the pieces is a thinner metal that looks like a decorative piece from the start.  There was also masking tape on the back of this piece that said, "Cairo, 1978" in the same loopy cursive handwriting.  Both pieces now hang in my dining room, tape still stuck on the back as an homage to the woman who must have loved traveling and cataloguing her purchases enough to keep track of everything.  

Anybody want to come buff out the tarnishing on here for me?

Marge must have gone on some interesting trips!

Pieces like these keep me going back to check out what treasures I might find next.  Buying things from estate or garage sales usually mean that you'll have an interesting story to tell about your new belongings.  If you have wall space, shelf space, or just space in general to fill up in your home, estate sales definitely beat the prices and homogeneity of things you'll find at Homegoods, Target, or the like.  Plus, you'll have the added benefit of people walking in your front door, breathing a comforted sigh, and saying, "Oh, it feels so homy in here."  Who could ask for anything better?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pinterest didn't exist, Part II

Happy Anniversary to me (and Dave) today!  Let's jump right back into wedding DIY's, shall we?

Oh don't worry, this one is definitely framed in my living room.

This next DIY was actually used at the ceremony, and wasn't really so much of a DIY as a, "go ahead and do this for me because I don't feel like doing it myself."  Could I have done it?  Yes.  Did I feel like it? Nope.  All of my bridesmaids' dresses came with large shawls that we knew wouldn't be necessary in the middle of July.  My mom and I brainstormed what we could do with all of the fabric, because we obviously weren't going to let them go to waste. As I wasn't interested in spending thousands on flowers that we would look at in church for an hour and then leave there to wilt, we decided to use the fabric as pew decorations.  We gave the shawls to the seamstress who altered my dress, and had her cut them into quarters, run a cream ribbon down the middle, and attach a string to the top to secure them to the church pews.  Simple, beautiful, and it cost a fraction of what we would have paid for flowers or bows.  I even kept a few after the wedding, and I hang one on my front door during the spring months instead of an Easter wreath.  Every time I open the door, I get a happy reminder of a wonderful day.

Bonus!  You get to see my beautiful MIL in her gorgeous dress!

We also made a pocket square for Dave!

A few more from the church:  You have to do something with the front doors, right?  People need to know that something special is going to be happening!  We had two wreaths left over from my sister's wedding five years earlier, and all it took was a spool of cream ribbon, five minutes of my time, and DONE.

Sorry to steal your thunder, Mom.  I think you might have wrapped these.

Next up, church programs.  Most people do these themselves, as they are a quick DIY that most anyone can do.  Shoutout to my Aunt MB here for taking the reins and doing this for me.  Cream paper, orange writing, rolled and tied with ribbons.  Stick them in a basket with fabric, and you're good to go.  It's all in the presentation, my friends.

When my sister and I were little girls, we would always play in my mom's old room at my Nana and Papa's.  There were plenty of treasures there to keep us busy for hours.  One thing that sat in her closet for years that we didn't play with was her Just Married sign.  A dear friend had made the sign for her, and it definitely held sentimental value.  When my sister got married 10 years ago, I made a similar sign for her and my brother in law with updated colors to match their wedding.  When it came time for my own wedding, it was sign making time again.  I love that we will all have the special memory of having similar Just Married signs!  If you're artistic at all, paint a sign for someone you know.  They'll love you for it.

This is the only picture I have of all three signs- ignore the messy backdrop, please:)
Nowadays (meaning 5 years ago was forever ago in technological terms), most people create wedding websites that include important information for out of town guests.  I didn't make one.  Instead, I had these handmade packets ready for everyone who checked into the hotels in town.  Places of interest, directions to the hotel and reception site, and good eats were all included on my "treasure map" welcome.  You can make a wedding website and still do this if you want something to physically hand to out of town guests.  They won't refuse a pretty packet!

Enough already with the cream and orange, right?
It wasn't just my family and I that jumped on the DIY bandwagon for my wedding.  I had several "guests" that did as well.  I'll just let their picture speak for itself.

Yep.  Even wedding crashers know to wear orange.
Sigh.  What a great day my wedding was.  Full of great memories, and thankfully, great pictures.  I have to give a shoutout to my photographer Crystal Herry, too.  If you're getting married in the Central New York area, look her up...she did a fantastic job!!  

White men CAN jump.  Well, most of them, anyway.

One last picture to send you off with...

I really lucked out with this one.  The man, not the picture.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pinterest didn't exist when I got married.

Tomorrow is my five year anniversary, so let's chat about wedding DIY, shall we?  Money doesn't grow on trees, and the wedding industry just really sucks you in and plays with your emotions, doesn't it?  Of course you need three wedding dresses, how else will people understand the change in mood between the wedding, cocktail hour, and reception?  And don't forget those hand made silk paper, letterpressed, ink made from the behind of the super rare rosy beetle, tied with the finest ribbon France has ever made invitations that you MUST BUY for fear of RSVP rejection...how did our parents and grandparents ever survive and have memorable weddings without these things?!? (insert typed facetiousness here).

I'm sure my parents appreciated my crafty ideas as they have both always been hands on people, and I appreciated their help in making my visions come true!  Let's take a trip down memory lane and ponder some of my finest DIY pieces, shall we?

The first is my version of a guest book.  I knew I didn't want one, but wanted to have something for our guests to sign, and Voila!  The Guest Apron was born.  I bought a plain canvas apron from a craft store, and secured it to a thin piece of luan board (or maybe cardboard?  Who remembers five years later??), and set in on an easel.  Since my wedding colors were orange and cream, I bought a few fabric markers in orange, and that was that.  Easy peazy.
"Someday" I will frame this and hang it up.

DIY #2 was my wedding favors.  I bought a bunch of small jars off the internet, and had the idea to etch a "D" on the front of the jars.  My dad tried this out for me, though, and the home etching wasn't deep enough to see when you filled the jar with jam.  We resorted to Plan B, which was to use a stencil and white paint to paint on the D.  Worked out just fine.  I then printed off stickers for the tops of the jars that said, "Spread the Love", and wrapped each jar with a ribbon.  If you've got the time, make the jam yourself.  If you don't, buy jam, fill your own jars, and slap a sticker on it (ahem).  

Continuing the orange and cream theme.

I also decided that I wanted big chalkboards at the reception.  Not for people to write on, but to fill with love quotes.  My daddio was on board, and made several 6' tall boards and painted them with chalkboard paint.  I found a few quotes that I liked, and my mom used her lovely and elegant cursive to work some magic.  We used some floor uplights that we had to "set the mood" a bit, and placed them in empty spots around the reception hall.  A friend's relative even used them the next summer for her own wedding, so these babies got double use- yay for reusing!!

The mood lighting looked much better when the sun went down.  Promise.

The next DIY was done as a solution to needing a space divider.  The bar area opened up into the dining area at the reception hall, and I needed some type of separator between the two.  I decided to make black and white copies of photos of Dave and I as children, as well as photos of us throughout our years together (11 years before getting married is a looooong time to collect photos!).  I then glued the photos back to back, with fishing line strung between them.  And yes, I went into the garage, took the fishing line off of my dad's pole, and never returned it.  Whoops.  

Weren't we cute?

As I've been writing this, I realized that I have too many DIY's for just one post, so I'll make  a Part II tomorrow.  After reading this, I also don't want to hear from any of you that you can't do something like this too.  None of these DIY pieces requires any sort of special skill- even Lowe's will cut board for you to your specifications if you want to make your own chalkboards.  There's no excuse not to DIY!!

For today, I'll leave you with one of my most treasured pictures from my wedding...simply because it includes my two most favorite men who both loved me from the moment they laid eyes on me.  How lucky am I?!?

Dave might tell you he had just cut an onion, but he'd be lying.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Peeping Tom

I’m a magazine page tearer-outer.  When I see an idea I like, or something that inspires me, I tear that sucker out and toss the magazine.  (Please see my first post’s aversion to countertop clutter).  Before moving into our house, I saw an ad for Sherwin Williams, and LOVED the color of the walls.  I kept the ad for quite awhile after moving in, just waiting for the room worthy of this magical color.

What wasn’t so magic?  The name.  I often find a personal connection with paint names, which is why my living room is painted in “Mexican Sand”- coincidentally the same color as my sister’s living room, painted within weeks of each other, and with no communication between the two of us.  The color really beefs up our miniscule percentage of Mexican heritage, you know?

This ad color that I loved, which looked like a rich terracotta, was named Brandywine.  BRANDYWINE.  What the…??  The name still irks me, six years later.  Despite the name, I decided that this would be the color of my dining room, as places where you prepare and eat food should be painted in warm tones.  Thanks HGTV, for furthering the obesity of America by telling us that in order to fill our bellies even more, all we need is a warm tone to our wall colors. 

I carried the paint chip in my purse for weeks, looking for curtains or fabric that would “go” with the paint.  I would have settled on buying ready-made curtains, but nothing really felt right.  I finally ended up finding a great striped Christopher Lowell fabric at the Super! JoAnn’s, and geared up for my first foray into curtain making. If you’re a first time curtain maker, I really suggest buying a fabric with a clear linear pattern.  They are so much easier to cut and sew straight lines into!! 

Christopher Lowell fabric

At the time, there was a warehouse fabric outlet about 15 minutes from my house, and I went there to buy white fabric to line the curtains with.  All of their fabrics were three dollars a yard, and they all came in 60” widths.  Please make sure you get lining fabric if you’re considering making curtains for your house.  From the outside, your windows should look uniform (at least floor by floor)- no baby blue curtains in the living room window and purple and red flowered drapes peeking out from the office windows.  It just doesn’t GO.

Double rod...thought I might hang shears behind the curtains...nope. 

For my curtains, I decided to make them floor length, as I do not have high ceilings.  The higher on the wall you hang your curtains, and the closer to the floor they go will give the illusion of higher ceilings.  In a small house, it almost doesn’t make sense NOT to fill your house with floor to ceiling curtains.  Plus, they just look prettier!  Because I like to make things difficult for myself, I also decided that these curtains should be hung by grommets.  Yep.  Why wouldn’t I take the chance that beautifully lined curtains might be completely ruined once I cut through them to force small plastic circles to snap through the 1,000 layers of thick upholstery fabric?  I’m still not sure how the curtains survived without severe bloodshed.

Grommets. Of course NOW JoAnn's has them in every color under the sun after I'm forced to buy black ones.

I’m not going to take you through the step by step process of making these curtains, as I don’t have pictures to accompany it.  I’ll save that for a later post with curtains I actually DID take pictures of.  If you decide to make curtains yourself, though, I really suggest buying upholstery fabric that comes on 60” rolls, instead of your normal fabric that comes in 45” widths.  For a regular window, you can zip the fabric in half lengthwise, and still end up with two long panels that actually close and aren’t just pretty drapes for show. 

I still absolutely love these curtains, and when the time comes for us to move from our lovely little bungalow, I will be SO SAD to part with them.  I WILL be making stipulations in the sale agreement that if the new owners don’t want my curtains or any other fun DIY things that are bolted to the walls, that I will be taking them with me.  It gives me heart palpitations to think of someone tossing my hard work in the Salvation Army donation pile.  And now you know what keeps me up at night- visions of non-existent new homeowners tossing my masterpieces to the side.  First world problems….sigh. 
Say hello to the neighbors!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Trapped in a Dutch Oven

If you didn't snicker even a little bit at that title post, I think it's about time you acquaint yourself with a little website called Urban Dictionary.  Try typing in your first name and see what kind of person the world really thinks you are...  But I digress.  This isn't about dutch ovens, it's about soup.

It's July- the PERFECT time to be writing about soup, no?  Well, it's gray, it's cold(by my standards), and it's been raining on and off for DAYS ON END.  I think the all caps are necessary to make you understand how much I really detest rain.  Especially when I'm trying to wear flip flops.  Wet, cold feet- is there really anything worse?  Save your comments if you want to pipe up right now and tell me that, yes, in fact, there are things much worse than wet feet, like perhaps my overuse of the comma in this sentence and definite improper use of it.  I'm not an English teacher, and I really don't give two hoots.

If you know me, you know how much I ABSOLUTELY LOVE POTATOES.  Preferably in the form of french fries, but I'll take them anywhichwayexceptraw.  I even had a french fry bar at my wedding, which raised some eyebrows from the venue staff, but they pulled it off for me in a very big way- thanks, Bayshore!  

So, when the weather gets cold, and there's not much left in my fridge, I know I can pull out a few potatoes, some frozen bacon, and have a lovely and comforting bowl of soup curled up in front of my fireplace. If I had a fireplace.  Hmm.  Oh well, the next house perhaps.

When I make soup, or really anything for that matter, I'm not really a rule/recipe follower.  I don't like directions- they're really more of a guide, aren't they??  So, a handful of this here, a plop of that there, and voila!  Most of the time it works, and sometimes we end up eating cereal for dinner.  Live and learn.  Any form of potato soup is my favorite thing to make, though- it really doesn't require a recipe.  If I have some cream cheese in the fridge, I'll throw in a dollop of that.  It gives a nice, creamy, cheesy texture and flavor without having to empty half a bag of shredded cheese into the pot.

If you love to make soup and don't have a dutch oven (yep, we're back to that), I really suggest you get one.  Most people think of le Creuset when they think of enameled cast iron pots, but you really can buy any kind.  Mine is the Lodge brand, which is less than half the price of a le Creuset, and has held up just fine.  They work great to brown meats and make a lovely roux to thicken your sauces, too.  

Another thing I like to do when making soup or dishes with bacon is to cook the bacon in the oven.  I just started doing this earlier in the year, and am so mad at myself for not knowing to do this sooner- it would have saved so many grease splatter cleanups!!!  Just throw your bacon on a cookie sheet with a lip all the way around (does this have a different name that I don't know?  I'm not a baker.), throw it in a cold oven, and turn up the heat.  Ten minutes later, your bacon is cooked to perfection, and you have zero cleanup!  Please take note from my lovely iphone photo that the inside of my oven has not been cleaned ONCE since moving into my house six years ago.  Any volunteers to come do that?  I'm not interested in doing it.  EVER.

Once the potatoes are soft, give them a quick buzz with an immersion blender (again, if you don't have one, get one.  It makes making soup a breeze!!).  Throw in your bacon, cream cheese, and anything else you have left in the fridge or freezer- corn, peas, whatever.  Sop it up with some bread, or leftover pita that you stole from the mediterranean restaurant last week after a family style luncheon/baby shower, and you're good to go.  (What, you don't do the same thing?  They're just going to throw it out anyway!!)
Picture proof that I wasn't kidding about the pita.  I don't joke about free food.

Bon appetit!

PS:  If you're wondering what this post has to do with "The Regular House", and are thinking to yourself that this blog would be about DIY and such, please take note of the unedited and non-spruced up version of the only useable counterspace I have to work with in my tiny kitchen.  I'll probably complain about it in a later post.  Cheers to small spaces!
No, the picture isn't stretched.  I have an abnormally long stove.  It's weird.