Monday, December 31, 2012

Shades of Grey

For about 18 months, I've focused on every part of my house except the part that guests don't see.  I wouldn't say that I have totally ignored my bedroom because I did buy nice linens but the fact is, it's a mess and it's always been a mess and it drove me crazy every time I thought about it.  The random moments when I would get motivated meant more than one wall in the room looked like this:
For a type-A gal like me, that incompleted blotchy effect was worse than not having any new paint on the walls at all.  So this weekend I decided to finally do something about it...yes, that's right - I spent hours online.  I was comforted/discouraged to learn that apparently finding a correct shade of grey is a universal difficulty.  (Apparently there's a best-selling book about how one lady had to try 50 shades of the color...?!)  I'd already given up hope that the perfect shade for my living room would also work for the bedroom - that gorgeous Graceful Grey turned a rather disheartening shade of greige in the low-light room.  7th House on the Left's perfect shade was way too dark for the room, as well.  One blogger recommended Behr's "Secret Passage" but when I searched for other success stories most bloggers said they'd tried Secret Passage and instead turned to Behr's "Dolphin Fin."  (Sorry I can't credit these blogger color guides because I forgot to keep the websites open...thanks to the many people who spent time sharing their grey struggles with fellow pilgrims like me!)
Dolphins are one of my favorite animals and since I'd already struck out on the "Porpoise" shade from Disney (too purple...and you thought I was kidding when I said I'd tried every shade of grey available!) I was happy for another shot at including the underwater kingdom's greatest resident.  I think the only way I hadn't discovered this before is that there is no "Dolphin Fin" sample at Home's a secret only those dedicated to pouring over tales of strangers' painting tales can uncover, apparently.  The good news: after a full Saturday of painting and making a big mess, it is perfect. 
Not too light, not too dark. Juuuuust right.  And look how beautiful it makes those baseboards look!  There's still a long way to go for this room to be finished, of course.  The biggest project is the wall behind the bed.  I painted it white with intentions of using that gorgeous stencil I won to add pizzazz to the room, but haven't made up my mind about whether or not it's worth the effort.  Until I decide the wall should look like this:
It will continue to look like this:
It doesn't look bad white but I left the corners unfinished as motivation to finish that wall soon by either stencilling it or painting it to match the rest of the walls.  I think the issue is the mental block I get every time I hear the word "stencil" because it still makes me think of the horrid rosebuds-and-ribbons pastel border I tried to paint around my bedroom when I was a teenager.  I'll have to work through that.
Also still on the list: a full-length mirror.  These IKEA mirrors work - and I still like them, despite the numerous times HGTV show hosts mock them - but I'd like to get something more solid.

 And I definitely need a new light.  Thanks to a birthday gift from my friend Lesli I'm closer to getting a gorgeous new overhead gem from Lowe's, but since lighting options are even more complicated than shades of grey that could take awhile.

With all the splotches on the wall covered in smooth, castle-in-a-cloud kind of grey, it's easy to ignore the undone details.  Cheers for starting 2013 with only three small areas in my house still to be painted!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Presents for Free

It's the season to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like the fact that the tree in my front yard that looked like this in March:
Now looks like this:
Though I love just about all the man-made decorations on both indoor and outdoor trees this time of year, I'm pretty sure this one is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen on a tree.
And as if that's not enough, the front yard is going to get another boost free of charge due to my neighbors' charity.  A few weeks ago an online bulletin board post offered over 400 old bricks to the first person willing to come get them.  As I was planning for an after-work truck rental from Home Depot, the neighbor then offered to let me use his old trailer to haul them to my house...and offered to hook the trailer up to his truck.  And did I mention all of this was free of charge?  Bricks are very expensive and that cost was one of the things holding up progress on my landscape design (one of the far-too-many things holding up progress, but an important one!)  Now I'm delighted to have these old bricks piled neatly in my backyard awaiting their time to be transplanted to my front walkway! 
I hope your holiday week is filled with generosity from nature and neighbors!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board

My intentions were so good after my last post, and with motivation high I marched to Michael's to get materials necessary for a neighborhood-specific map ornament similar to this one:
The blogger who created that beautiful ornament used a glass ornament but I couldn't find them at Michael's - these cardboard ornaments for 99 cents seemed even more ideal, though, since Mod Podge can get a bit slippery.

I printed off Google maps of my neighborhood, cut the maps into pieces that could be glued onto the balls, and got this mess.

Clearly I forgot that not all maps are equal...these online maps lack color and character, and unfortunately I didn't realize that until my craft looked like a messy, wadded up ball of newspaper.  I'll keep the ornament for myself - it can go along with that sheep ornament that was a happy disaster last year - but the neighbors' gifts will have to turn to another idea.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Top 10 Ways to Say "I'm Sorry I'm A Terrible Neighbor"

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the world's greatest neighbor. I work all the time and when I finally get home I'm never the one to join in relaxing sidewalk conversations about kids and weather, and though my front yard has improved immensely it's still not as nice as those around me.  This hasn't come just with home ownership, either - though I knew all the names of the dogs in my last apartment complex, I didn't know a single neighbor, and I'll admit that I once read by flashlight when I lived in a duplex so no one would know I was home during a neighborhood party.  But though I tend to hibernate on those rare days and evenings when I get to relax at home, I do think I have really great neighbors and I want to take this time of year to show that I appreciate them even though the grass in the yard isn't always perfectly maintained.
I think it's safe to assume that I'm not the only one searching for low-cost ways to show those around me that I care, so here it is: Beth's Top Ten Neighborhood Gift Ideas.
#1: Map Ornament
My neighborhood is special and everyone who lives here agrees, so I think they'd appreciate something like this that is made of a map of our part of the world. This exact ornament is for sale at the blogger's Etsy shop for $7, but since I want a specific map I think I'd have to tackle my own.
#2: A Cheesy Snack
This is a little on the pricey side because cheese balls aren't cheap - even when you're ambitious enough to make them like this blogger did.  But I love the idea, and it's one of the few pun-oriented gift tags that didn't make me roll my eyes. (Though there are plenty of those to come...)
#3: Cookie Mix in A Jar
Okay I might actually do this one because it seems like it wouldn't take all least, until I realize how hard it is to pour things into a tiny jar without messing up the layers.  But I do have mason jars that I've been saving so perhaps this is a realistic option.
#4: Whisk You A Merry Christmas
I did warn you that the ridiculous puns were on their way...but this one is funny!
#5: Reindeer Root Beer
This one needs no explanation.  That is FUNNY and a great idea for my neighbors with kids.
#6: Personalized Soap
A little work since peeling labels off is never a simple task for me and I'd have to go get Kinko's to print the new labels but these are really pretty and I could make the labels say something specific about Christmas in my neighborhood.
Another twist on the soap idea is this awesome packaging for hand sanitizer:
#7: 24-Carrot Neighbors
I don't think any of my neighbors understand my sense of humor enough to make this work, but I would love it if I were the recipient - it's awesome!
#8: Extra Dough
This one is safe for any sense of humor, I think.
#9: Fishing A Merry Christmas
This is cute - especially for the kid-friendly neighbors...but given my addiction to goldfish I'm not sure they'd ever make it to my neighbor's doorstep.
#10: Tried and True - Cookies
Even I am capable of making cookies so this is all about the packaging, and these are great ideas.
And because everyone in my neighorhood seems to have at least one dog, it might be nice to include cookies for them too.
To top it all off, here are great printable labels to make every simple box look complicated and thoughtful.
Think any of these good intentions will ever actually happen? Yeah, I don't know either...but I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Bah Humbug Celebration of December

I love Christmas, I really do.  It's just that I'm not sure I agree with the need to have it every year.  Last year I think I used up a decade's worth of enthusiasm for decorating and crafting...this year, I'm skating by on basics and focusing on time with family rather than month-long festivity.  Basically, I'm going to my sister's house because her tree is gorgeous and my nephew's three-year-old enthusiasm about the holiday is contagious. 
Since I can't just move into my sister's house for all of December, though, I did want some Christmas spirit spread around my own house.  I don't have time or energy for the tree so I got more creative...thanks to Pinterest, of course, who provides ideas like this:
Pin     Website
and this:
I had plenty of ornaments since there was no tree, so I gathered my favorites and dug out a roll of white curling ribbon.
I'm not as ambitious as the blogger who inspired the window decorating idea so I only have a few ornaments...but I love the final product!
It even looks pretty at night, though the lights are more noticeable than the ornaments.
Those lights made the second Pinterest-inspired idea prettier, too: I put the extra lights on the strand, along with extra ornaments, into a vase.  Ridiculously easy!
I have great intentions of creating a masterpiece of a wreath for my front door, but for now this lovely snowflake from Target ($5 - thank you, Target!) brings festivity to the porch.
My yard seems to be feeling more festive than I am - my gorgeous tree in the front yard is bursting into amazing pink buds that are sure to be orchids in time for Christmas.  Photos to come as soon as I can get a photograph that looks like flowers and not just a weird silhouette against the wonderful Phoenix blue sky.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mashed and Strudeled

I cheated in order to accomplish my food challenge...I gave a lot of food away.  That's the benefit of having a three-year-old nephew who can't get enough fruits and vegetables and a Thanksgiving with parents who agree that apples make great dessert.  The results:

Yummy Mashed Potatoes
Earlier this week I used up some lettuce, apples and a couple of the oranges in a fancy salad (fancy for someone who normallly thinks tearing a leaf of lettuce requires too much time spent in the kitchen):

Still to go in the challenge: two pears, celery, lettuce, potatoes and a few apples.  I foresee another gourmet salad in my post-Thanksgiving future. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bountiful Challenges

About once a month I sign up for The Food Co-op for the Commitment-Averse, also known as Bountiful Baskets.  Unlike many food co-ops there's no up-front investment required for this - if I want a food basket, I sign up at the beginning of the week and go pick it up that weekend.  I'll get to the great value part soon but let's face it, the most important thing is that it's an adventure.  This isn't a deliberative stroll through the produce aisle; it's the grown-up equivalent of a goody bag that's sealed until you get it home.  Most of the time the fruits and vegetables are recognizable but I like it best when I get something like kale or an unusually-colored melon and I have to turn to Pinterest to find out what it is and what to do with it. 

And speaking of creative, the pick-up area closest to my house is at Midwives Rising.  Seriously.  I hoped for dramatic street art and suffragette-style mottos but no such luck - it's a quiet, respectable and respectful medical office in a lovely historic home. 

Now about the great value: I save money.  It's $15 for two laundry baskets full of food - can't beat it.

The problem: I never, ever eat it all.  Even though I get a basket only once a month, I just never make myself eat at home enough to use all the food before it goes bad.  So that's where you come in - guilt!  I'm hoping that by confessing my wasteful, absentminded tendendencies I will be more focused on eating at home and using the food in clever and/or creative ways.

This week's contestants:

Tomatoes, potatoes, celery, apples, oranges, bananas, melon, carrots, pears, pineapple, celery and lettuce.

I should be able to do something with all of this.  Updates to come!

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

For some, it's twinkling red and green lights and Christmas music filling shopping malls.  For others, it's the thrill and adventure of Spring Break.  For me, the most wonderful time of the year is when the Phoenix heat slowly (far too slowly!) dissolves into cool mornings and crisp autumn days that bribe people back onto restaurant patios.  We don't get the autumn beauty that I envy - saguaros don't seem to understand the concept of seasons - but it is definitely, without a doubt, fall here.
Not that I've had time to enjoy it.  As you may have noticed if you care enough to check the posting dates on my blog, I haven't written in awhile.  And unfortunately, that's not because I've been working on big house projects that I'm ready to share with's just because I've been overwhelmingly busy and can't find time to do the laundry, much less jump into big home improvement tasks.  There have been small helped me fix the front door that wouldn't open and the door handle that had decided it never wanted to lock again, there's a great new decorative addition to the kitchen (photos to come), and most of all, there are flowers and pumpkins on my front patio (cheers for post-Halloween sales last year!  I got all these beauties at least 75% off) and a fall wreath on my front door. 

I've been learning to invite friends to visit even though the house has a long way to go - for some reason, there are no rooms that are actually completely finished and everything seems to be a work in progress.  On Halloween we gathered in my front yard to hand out candy to the 250+ kids who wandered by - my favorite (of course!) was this adorable train who was almost as interested in the thrill of ringing the doorbell as he was in digging through the candy.  Almost.

Now that it's nice outside it's time to find time to tackle big things like organizing the garage (how does it get that chaotic in such a short time?!), completing that patio makeover and painting the wall that separates my yard from the sidewalk.  But for now I'll just enjoy times together that make a house a home (cheesy but true) and the fact that it's November and I've managed to keep those geraniums alive for over a month now.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Patio Paradise in Progress

We've reached that wonderful, hopeful point where autumn might really be around the corner in Phoenix.  The temperature still climbs dangerously close to triple digits in the afternoon but mornings are really beautiful...and it's time to update my patio to enjoy it.  Through countless dust storms, rain sprinkles and months of total neglect, the patio is looking pretty rough.
The backyard still holds a challenge I just don't have the energy to tackle right now.  There's too much potential and too much work to achieve it...but the patio is something I want to deal with so I have a place to enjoy those days when it's cool enough to be outside.  Pinterest provides all sorts of inspiration - I love the overall effect of these examples and would like to mirror it in my own space:
Granted, I don't have the pillars and old-growth ivy that it takes to mirror the details but I do have a great space - and it could look something like that last photograph if I worked really hard. 
The first step I tackled this weekend was the patio furniture.  The former homeowner left behind a table and three chairs - very nice of them, though it leaves a lot to be desired.  After researching the high costs of patio furniture, however, my leftover table didn't look so bad.  Certainly it wasn't anything a can - or four - of ORB spray paint can't fix!  The old stained white-ish chairs were stripped of the grosser-than-gross old cushions and went through a good cleaning.
Ignore the weeds...clearly, I do!
Three coats of ORB spray later, I had beautifully updated chairs.

Granted, the patio is still a mess.  The table is still dirty and unpainted, the plants are still dead and the chairs still need cushions.  But it's progress and it makes me happy.
Now the hunt begins for inexpensive chair cushions.  The craigslist options are pretty much limited to this:
And these lovely options from Target are a jaw-dropping $79 each!
 If only everything were easily fixed with a can of spray paint!