My Favorite Room In Our House


Half the fun of nearly everything, you know, is thinking about it beforehand, or afterward.

-Howard R. Garis

What is your most favorite room in your house?

There are so many to choose from: the kitchen (were you get to eat!), the bedroom (where you get to sleep!), the bathroom–(nevermind!).

For me, it’s our study.

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I love everything about this little space: its coziness, its built-in bookshelves, its funky walls, its own separate entrance.  (Strangely, our house has two front doors.)

Most of all, I love how creative I feel in this room.

In fact, it’s my dream of dreams to set up shop and blog full-time here.

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Of course…I will need a dream desk on which to work.

A dream desk like this one:

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And since our study is a perfect place for enjoying a nice cup of tea, I imagine my work day will include a tea time.

Of course…I can’t finish a whole pot of Earl Grey by myself, so do please come over for a cuppa from time to time!

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Oh dear.

Sorry about that.

Currently, our study is home to the cat tree.

Can you see me now?

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Sigh!

On days when I need an extra dose of faith that dreams do come true, I recall the 9-year-old version of myself who dreamed of one day owning a house with a study.

So thank you, unknown person who built our house, for setting aside a wee space for thought and stillness.

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Now…if only I had a fat, comfy chair to think and be still in.

Poof!

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There!  Perfect.

I tend to get impatient when I think about the life I want to have, but as the quote says above, half the fun of nearly anything is thinking about it beforehand and afterwards.

Perhaps in doing so we will prolong the enjoyment of the good things we want in life?  🙂

So until our study can be my full-time creation station banana-fana-fo-fation, I will continue to drift away in delicious reverie…

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What are your dreams?

I’d love to hear them!

Tackling the Small Stuff


I don’t know what’s more difficult:

a. Tackling the big, expensive projects like replacing flooring and windows, OR

b. Tackling the small, touch-up projects.

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When it comes to screwing on switch plates or painting trim, I tend to think: “Oh, I can finish that anytime.”

Unfortunately, two years have come and gone, and “anytime” just hasn’t happened yet.

As Dave and I head into our third year of home-ownership (August 1st is our house-iversary!), I feel like all those little loose ends will never get tied up if I don’t act NOW.

Therefore, I’m instituting a master plan to tackle the small stuff which I’m calling:

THE MARCH TO AUGUST

Hopefully, with the help of my master plan, I will have completed all of this by August*:

the march2

That’s roughly twelve weeks and 30 projects.

Therefore, I need a very detailed master plan so that I don’t waste time wondering where to start.

Wish me luck!

HAVE A LONG TO-DO LIST…but don’t know where to start?

Developing a detailed plan is half the battle and will help keep you focused and on task.

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A detailed plan should include:

  1. A photo list of projects needing to be completed.
    (Ugly pictures are motivational!)

  2. A specific list of materials needed to complete each project.
    (5 yards of fabric, 1-inch angled paintbrush, etc.)

  3. A list of any preliminary steps.
    (Measure door frames, sand rough surfaces, etc.)

  4. A time frame for each project including prep time.
    (We’re talking minutes and hours: 1 hour to paint trim, 10 hours to reupholster large chair, etc.)

  5. A calendar on which to schedule each project.
    (Click here if you need a pretty calendar to help get you in the mood.)

Here’s to tackling to small stuff!

What’s on your list?

(For perspective on loving our homes despite all the small stuff, check out my friend Rita’s post!)

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*Photo Key

1. Replace doors and install knobs

2. Repair broken (or missing) electrical outlets

3. Caulk and seal around window A.C. units

4. Install A.C. vents

5. Hire electrician to repair staircase lighting

6. Install lighting unit in study

7. Install supplemental shelving in study bookcases

8. Hang curtains in the living room

9. Reupholster green chair #1

10. Reupholster green chair #2

11. Reupholster ottoman #1

12. Reupholster blue chair

13. Swap out dresser in den for a sideboard

14. Finish painting trim & install towel rack in downstairs bathroom

15. Touch up ceiling paint in bathroom and kitchen

16. Rehang doors that don’t shut properly

17. Repair & reupholster ottoman #2

18. Wash & paint and design on living room rug

19. Swap out red rug in den for painted rug

20. Put photos in frames

21. Touch up paint in window seals that were scuffed from window replacement

22. Install switch plates in kitchen and bedroom

23. Touch up around new kitchen lighting units

24. Sand & paint interior of kitchen cabinets

25. Paint & install heating grate in kitchen (it’s currently being held in place by weights)

26. Touch up exteriors of kitchen cabinets.

27. Install towel rack/cubby in master bathroom

28.  Install new lighting & vent in master bathroom

From Placemat to Pillow


Once upon a yard sale, I found this charming yellow place mat.

placemat

It was love at first sight.

The only problem?  There was just one.  (Don’t you hate that?)

Still, I had to have it, and when I brought it home I tossed in my “PILLOW FABRIC” pile.

Shrunken sweaters, scraps of old quilts, hand towels–when a piece of cloth catches my eye, it goes straight into the fabric pile…which just so happens to be right next to my  “MAKE-OVER-PILLOW” pile.

My reasoning behind all this pillow madness is money.  I mean, why spend upwards of $20 on something that is easy enough to make yourself?  (Use that money to pay for something you can’t do easily yourself, like, cut your own hair.)

And so I am always on the hunt for fabric and throw pillows.

The best place to find inexpensive pillows?  Yard sales.  But not just any yard sale.  I only buy throw pillows from people I know very well.  I will not buy a pillow from a stranger because that’s just yuck.  (Unless that stranger seems to have good grooming and housekeeping habits.)

I also save white pillow cases and sheets to use as pillow liners.  (Because sometimes, you just need an extra layer of defense.)

This whole saving-piles-of-this-and-that may seem a bit chaotic, but if you love DIY, you’ll be pleased with the results.

I know I am.

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HOW TO TRANSFORM A PLACE MAT INTO A PILLOW

Step #1: Choose a place mat that has two layers of fabric.

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Step #2: Choose a pillow that will fit relatively snug inside the place mat.

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Step #3: Sew a liner for your pillow.

This step is optional, but it really improves the finished look.  In this case, the pillow I used was hot pink and black; colors that were very noticeable behind the yellow fabric of the place mat.

Making a pillow liner is a cinch, especially if you have an old pillow case (I prefer to use white ones).

-Turn your pillowcase inside out.  Slide your pillow into the corner of the case.  By doing this you will only have to worry about sewing two seams instead of four.

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-To create the other seams, pin the pillow case together along the longest side the pillow. 

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-Remove the pillow from the pillowcase and, with a sewing machine, stitch up the seam you just pinned.  Cut away excess fabric, leaving a half-inch border along the seam.

-Turn pillowcase right-side-out and place pillow back inside.

-Pin the second seam together and neatly stitch it up by hand.  Cut away the excess fabric, leaving a half-inch border along the seam.

And ta-da!  Pillow liner is done.

pillowlined

Step #4: Open up a side seam on your place mat.

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Step #5: Work the pillow into the place mat and smooth out the fabric.  (not shown)

Step #6: Neatly stitch the seam back up.

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And there you have it, a charming pillow that cost you a bit of loose change and a few spare minutes.

Aren’t you clever?  🙂

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Find inspiration for your whole house at Pancakes and French Fries‘ weekly William Morris Project!

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How to Rewire a Lamp


I have a thang for vintage lamps because a.) they are fabulously unique, and b.) they are super cheap.

My obsession with vintage lamps began in college when I stumbled upon a pair of orange-globed wonders at Goodwill for $3 a piece.

(If you are ever in need of a fun, kooky light, go to Goodwill.  Always.)

Even though I take pride in my collection, these older models come with one BIG problem:

NON-POLARIZED PLUGS!!!

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These bad boys have equal-sized prongs that do not distinguish between the hot and neutral wires.

Translation: Greater risk for electrical shock!

Solution: A lamp kit!

lampkit

Lamp kits can be found at almost any hardware store, and they cost around $10–a small price for safety.

Rewiring a lamp is not difficult, but it can be a little cumbersome if you are working with a model that has a lot of odd parts.

Here is how I did it:

Step 1: Remove the old lighting system

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Using wire cutters, cut the electric cord at the bottom of the lamp.  (Some lamps come with a velvet or paper cover at the bottom of the body.  Pull back to expose the cord.)

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Carefully pull lighting system out and discard.

Step 2: Disassemble lamp and TAKE PICTURES!

Carefully disassemble the lamp, making sure to line up all of the pieces in the order they were assembled in.

Now, take a photo of the lamp parts all laid out–you will need this for reference later!

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Step 3: Make any cosmetic adjustments

I decided to give my lamps a make-over with a coat of white paint.

For best results, sand and prime metal parts before painting.

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Step 4: Feed the new lighting cord up through the lamp’s pipe

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Push the cord up through the pipe until it comes out the other end:

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Step 5: Reassemble lamp body and neck

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Here is where those pictures you took earlier will come in handy!!

Step 6: Screw harp base onto the pipe

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Step 7: Disassemble the new socket

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Step 8: Screw the bottom half of the socket onto the pipe and secure

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Step 9: Expose and loosen terminals on the top half of the socket

Gently push up the socket cover to expose the terminals.  These screws are where you will attach the cord’s wires.

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Loosen the terminals to allow room to wrap the wires.

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Step 10: Tie cord into an “electrician’s knot”

An electrician’s knot acts as a buffer against any strain put on the wires once they are attached to the terminals.  For example, if the lamp cord were to get yanked by accident from the bottom, this knot would absorb the tension allowing the wires to remain in place safely around the terminals.  As a result, this knot offers further protection against electrical shock.

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To make the knot, use this photo as a guide:

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Step 11: Locate ribbed wire on the cord and wrap around suggested terminal

Of the two wires that compose the electric cord, locate the one that has a ribbed plastic coating.

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The instructions on your lamp kit will tell you which color terminal to wrap this ribbed wire around.  In my case, I needed to wrap the ribbed wire around the silver terminal.

Step 12: Tighten terminals to secure wires

Make sure the wire is snug and fully wrapped around the base of the terminal.  Carefully tighten into place.  Repeat with other wire.

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Step 13: Snap the top half of the socket onto the bottom half

Double check to see if knot/wires are secured in place.

When all is ready, snap the top half of the socket onto the bottom half.

lamp13

(If for any reason you need to remove the top of the socket, carefully use a flathead screwdriver to pop it out of place.)

Finally, screw in a light bulb, plug the lamp in and let there be light!

Here is how my vintage lamp looked before its makeover:

lampbefore

And here is how it (and it’s twin) look after:

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I am thrilled with the final results.  Now my lamps are prettier and safer for use.  Success!

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For more inspiration on making your home more beautiful and functional, check out Pancakes and French Fries each week!

A Charming DIY Breakfast Tray


What’s better than breakfast in bed?

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Answer: A tray that is large enough to serve breakfast on!

For Christmas this year, Dave and I decided to give each other the gift of sleep by purchasing a new mattress.

mattress

The mattress that suited us the best was a super-firm, spring-coiled Simmon’s Beautyrest Classic in a queen size (a king would not have fit up the staircase).  We have been blissfully snoozing away ever since.

And by “we” I mean us and these two critters:

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Since Dave and I are huge fans of breakfast in bed, I decided that we needed an extra special breakfast tray to compliment our extra special bed.

But instead of going shopping, I went straight to the closet under our staircase and pulled out this old thing:

babydoor

An old door from one of our dumbwaiters fit the bill nicely for an afternoon decoupaging project.

With a little help from Baby Girl, of course.

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Cats.

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If you’ve never decoupaged in your life, no worries.  It’s simple dimple.  Grab yourself some scissors, paper, paint or foam brush and Mod Podge (available at craft stores) and do the following:

Step 1: Using a brush, paint the back side of a piece of paper (newspapers, pages from old books, scrapbook paper, etc.) with Mod Podge.

Step 2: Adhere paper to your item of choice (furniture, picture frame, etc.) and press out any bubbles.

Step 3: Brush a thin layer of Mod Podge over the top of the paper and repeat with more paper until your design is complete. 

Step 4: Allow piece to dry for at least an hour.  Brush on another layer or two of Mod Podge, allowing drying time between each coat.

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I decided not to add handles to this tray because it is large enough for me to grab the sides comfortably.

However, I have three more old cabinet doors that I plan to turn into smaller serving trays, but I think I will just give them a fresh coat of paint and some funky handles.

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Now we have a charming and functional tray for those mornings we want breakfast in bed.

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Meanwhile, some of us would rather sleep in instead….

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If you live in the Abilene area and/or are in desperate need of a great mattress and/or value incredible customer service, head over to Sleeping Giant!

I am not a fan of memory foam or pillow-tops (I wanna feel like I’m sleeping on the floor!), so my salesman, Richard, told me everything I needed to know when purchasing a spring-coil mattress.

6 Tips on Purchasing a Spring-Coil Mattress:

1. Cheap mattresses aren’t worth your time or money.  DON’T BUY THEM!!!!!!!

2. Go with the higher coil count (700-800).  Our bed has 750 coils that pivot in all different directions and support our every curve.  The result: I feel like I’m levitating instead of sinking.

3. Get one that is foam encased.  When I used to sit on the edge of our old mattress, it bowed like a hammock under my weight.  Now when I sit on the edge of our Beautyrest, it’s like I am sitting on a sturdy, supportive chair.  This is because there is a thick frame of high-grade foam surrounding the coils of the mattress.  This border maintains the structure of the mattress and holds the coils in place so that those coils can, in turn, hold me in place.

4. Head, shoulders, knees and toes.  I had begun developing anterior knee pain because our old mattress was not supporting the backs of my knees.  Meanwhile, Dave, the side sleeper, began having neck pain because our old mattress wasn’t supporting his shoulders.  When shopping for a mattress, don’t be afraid to stretch out on a mattress!  Lie on your back--does the mattress support the backs of your knees?  Lie on your side–is your spine aligned or is it wavy from lack of support under your hips and shoulders?

5. Stick to brand names and knowledgeable staff.  When I visited other (mostly discount) furniture stores, the sales people did not even know the coil-count of their mattresses, much less anything else about them.  Meanwhile, Richard was so confident in the product he was selling that he told me to go ahead and shop around at other places to see if I found anything I liked better than the Beautyrest.  (I think he knew I would come running back.  And when I did, he remembered my name.)

6. Always ask for a discount.  Don’t be afraid to offer a lower (but fair) price–you probably will get one since most stores expect this.  How I did it: I asked if the store was offering any Christmas sales since we were on a budget.  No questions asked, Richard offered us the bed frame and mattress cover free of charge, plus sixty percent off of our pillows (we needed new pillows, too).  This seemed more than fair to us and our total price was around $900 for mattress, frame, cover and 2 pillows plus free delivery and free haul off for the old mattress.  On delivery day, we were surprised with an extra pillow free of charge since the one I had originally ordered was no longer in production.

Mattress shopping is such a hassle, but if you find a quality store and are willing to spend the money (A GOOD BED PAYS FOR ITSELF!), you will find that good night’s sleep.

Hope this helps and happy shopping!

My Favorite Halloween Favor


It’s the charming, rustic things that make Halloween so much fun for me.

Take, for example, these favors from Martha Stewart Living:

I spotted these witches brooms in her magazine a few years ago, and for some reason they just tickled my fancy.  Now they are my favoritest favor to stow tricks and treats!

Here’s how to make them:

Materials:

*Brown paper lunch sacks (2 per broom)

*Twine

*9-inch twigs

*Scissors

*Treats for filling

Step 1: Cut about 2 inches off the top of two paper lunch sacks.

Step 2: For a fuller-looking broom top, cut a zigzag pattern along the top of the bags.

Step 3: Taking one bag, pull the bottom down until it looks like this:

Step 4: Cut thin strips along the body of the bag, stopping just at the crease along the bottom:

Step 5: Open up the bag and spread out the fringe:

Step 6: Open up the second bag, place in the center of the fringed bag and fill with treats…

…and a stick.

Step 7: With one hand, gather up the ends.

Step 8: With the other hand, bring the fringe up one section at a time and secure the whole package with a 6 to 8-inch piece of twine.

Tie the twine tightly to assure that the stick doesn’t slide out.

Tip: It’s always best to have one of your pets inspect your work for final approval.

And tadaaaa!

I just love the effect of these simple yet festive witch brooms.

Hopefully our trick-or-treaters will enjoy them as much as I do….or else.

The Case of the Ill-Fitting Bra


If Nancy Drew had ever solved The Case of the Ill-Fitting Bra, then I bet more women would strive to avoid such notorious things.  As it were, however, 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size.

Why am I talking about bras?

Well, first of all, it’s October which means it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  And since it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I feel permitted to talk about bras all I want.

Second of all, I just recently learned that I was wearing the wrong bra size, so naturally I feel the urge to spread the gospel of proper-fitting bras.

Before getting properly measured, I thought I was a 38DD because this was the only size that would fit me in department stores.  So when I visited Bra-Te-Da, a local specialty bra shop, I was surprised to discover that I was really a 34G, a size I didn’t even know existed.

I was even more surprised to see so many pretty options in my size.  Wow, something besides tan and black.  How refreshing!

Until my visit to Bra-Te-Da, bra shopping was always an exhausting and frustrating process that would end in me settling for whatever (sort of) fit me the best.  And forget about asking for help.  Most of the sales people at Dillard’s and Victoria’s Secret would just stare at me like a deer in headlights (no pun intended) and direct me to whatever was their largest size.

If your experience has been similar, then I encourage you to visit a specialty bra shop.  Not only will you get properly fitted, you will receive expert service.  Vivi, the attending bra expert, was super helpful in adjusting my straps and fetching different colors and brands for me.  (To anyone who has shopped for lingerie, you know how frustrating it is to constantly undress and then dress each time you need to run out of the dressing room in search of another size or color.)

On top of all this, I was offered a beverage and some light refreshments!

While I sipped my ginger ale, Vivi gave me the following tips:

#1. Which Clasp to Use

A bra band will stretch out with use so in order to extend the life of your bra, use the set of clasps closest to the edge first.  This way, as the band loosens over time, you can move up to the next set of clasps to tighten the fit.  (Seems obvious, but this seriously never occurred to me.)

If using the very last set of clasps on a new bra is the only way to get the band to fit snuggly, you are wearing the wrong size.

#2. Where the REAL Support Comes From

The straps on a bra are NOT the main source of support.  It is the shelf, the part of the bra that rests against the ribs, that holds everything up.  On a properly fitted bra, the middle of the shelf should rest firmly against your breastbone.  If it gapes or hovers over the skin, the bra is most likely the wrong size.

#3. Cup Fit

The cups should fully encapsulate the breast.  This means nothing should be spilling over the top or out of the sides.  Also, the wire on the side of the cup should rest directly behind the breast tissue.

#4. To Minimize or Not to Minimize

I am always on the hunt for a good minimizer bra because, after all, I want to appear smaller.  When I asked Vivi if she could bring me a minimizer, she told me told me this:

“If you are wearing the correct size, you won’t need a minimizer.”

Point taken.

#5. Bra Care

I know never to place a bra in the dryer, but the washing machine can be just as damaging.  (Even in a lingerie bag, my bras get all twisted up.)  The best way to preserve your investment is to soak it for at least 30 minutes in warm (not hot) water with a small amount of Woolite or other gentle detergent.  Rinse with lukewarm to cold water and hang dry.

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By the end of the hour, I had tried on a multitude of bras, but instead of feeling exhausted, I felt refreshed and encouraged…and I wish the same for you.

Whether you are a triple K or a double A (Bra-Te-Da carries these sizes and everything in between) you deserve to wear a bra that fits.  And it’s more than just aesthetics–a good bra can reduce back and shoulder strain and reduce tissue tearing/stretching.

Boobs are a pain in the neck.  Support them well!

A special thanks to Vivi for helping me solve the case of the ill-fitting bra!

If you are in the Abilene area, visit Bra-Te-Da at 3238 South 27th Street or give them a call at (325) 695-2727.