In pursuit of a simple, fabulous, imperfect life at home.

Check This Out!

A reader named Kari informed me about Catalog Living.  It's hilarious!  If you haven't already, do check it out! (But be prepared to waste some time giggling at your computer screen.)

A Mini Gift Wrap Station

Did you know that there are people out there who have entire rooms devoted to gift wrap?  I'm not making this up.  I don't know about you, but I don't have any extra rooms.  Or closets.  Or for that matter, square footage at all.

Our gift wrap station is the bottom drawer of our bedroom dresser, because that drawer is broken and can't hold the weight of our clothing. If you don't have a wonky pain-in-the-butt drawer that falls off its tracks every time you put a pair of jeans in it, you could create a gift wrap station in an under-bed storage bin, or cabinet in the laundry room, or just a section of one of your closets.

I lined the drawer with some pretty green shelf paper I already had and I cut and painted a strip of plywood to go the length of the drawer to act as a divider to keep the rolls of wrapping paper from rolling around. 

I bought what I think was probably once a knick-knack shelf from the local thrift store for fifty cents, painted it black and laid it flat in the drawer to hold all my little supplies like bows, tags, tape and stamps.

I keep cards in a basket and ribbons in a repurposed bread pan.

Gift bags are gently bent in half (not creased!) and placed in a wire letter sorting rack (which I also purchased at a thrift store for fifty cents)

I find that wrapping gifts is so much more fun when you have everything you need right at your fingertips!

Some tips for keeping a neat and tidy gift wrap station:
  • Don't keep every gift bag you come across.  Only keep ones that you personally would have bought and are still in perfect condition.  I used to keep every gift bag we were given, but eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that we would never use a dozen wrinkled gift bags with pictures of kittens on them.
  • Arrange everything so that you can see it.  Rummaging through piles of supplies is bound to damage them over time, but also cause you to leave the station untidy when you are in a hurry.
  • Make it pretty.  Pretty spaces are so much easier to keep clean!

How do you store your gift wrapping supplies?

An Organized Pantry

My kitchen has been in chaos for a couple days while I repainted and organized my pantry.  It always amazes me how the contents of one small pantry can fill an entire kitchen!  I told my husband that the pantry is the clown car of the kitchen....he didn't laugh.

I painted the pantry the same color as my kitchen walls and then painted a design on it using this free template from Jones Design Company.  I love it, and am seriously considering doing my coat closet the same way.

I added a shelf for more storage.  I think many shelves close together is far more efficient than precariously stacked cans piled high on fewer shelves.

I created zones.  Sort of.  There is a shelf for baking supplies, a shelf for staples like pasta and beans and a shelf for processed foods.  I put tall things on the bottom of the pantry and less frequently used items on the top shelf.

I left room for flexibility.  I didn't go crazy labeling everything because I don't want my whole system to get thrown off every time my husbands favorite soup goes on sale.

It's not picture perfect.  I would love to have pretty new matching canisters and baskets, but that isn't in the budget right now and quite frankly, never will be. No matter how pretty it would be, there will always be something better for our family to spend money on.  Every time I'm in a thrift store or at a yard sale I keep my eye out for glass canisters with silver or glass lids.  Eventually there might be a pretty canister for everything, without spending a fortune, but in the mean time there are still items stored in their ugly yellow store-brand boxes and bags.

One of my favourite little storage tricks is my garlic jar.

I wanted to store my garlic in this IKEA jar, but i knew it would need some ventilation.  So I asked my husband to put some simple holes in the lid for me.  He disappeared into the basement and returned with this:

He gets me.  He really gets me.

My new pantry makes me smile.  In fact, I haven't closed it's door all day because I just like seeing it!

I'm linking up with:

Cleaning Lampshades

I think I'd been keeping house for about three years before it ever occurred to me to clean a lampshade.  I had less kids back then, so I had time to wander around the house with a vacuum looking for things to clean.  I didn't even realize how dirty the lampshade was until I gave it one swipe with the was like those cleaning product commercials where there is one swipe of clean amidst a whole lot of ick.  How had it not occurred to me to clean this?

To clean your lampshades, just vacuum from top to bottom with a brush attachment, giving the shade a slight turn after each swipe.  If you haven't done it in a while it will be very obvious when you get back around to where you started.

Apparently you can bathe your lampshade if need be, assuming it is made of a cloth that can withstand a gentle washing.  Place the shade in your bathtub with some water and some mild laundry detergent.  Wipe the shade from top to bottom with gentle strokes until you've gone all the way around.  Blot with a towel or air dry.   You can use stain removers too, if necessary.  I don't know how exactly one would get stains on their lampshades, but maybe I just have reasonably tame children who aren't flinging spaghetti around the living room.

This is my favorite part: once your shade is clean (and dry), wipe the outside down with a scented dryer sheet.  The heat from the lamp will send that clean fresh smell wafting through your home!

What are you waiting for? ..Go make your lampshades the clean little living room jewels they deserve to be!

A Nursery Mood Board

Yesterday I shared with you my excitement over our imminent twin girls and the nursery they will be sharing with their toddler brother.  And since I'm obsessed and nesting, I got up way before my kids this morning and created a mood board to help me picture my plans for the nursery.  I'm not done planning yet, but I'm really happy with what I've come up with so far.


If you don't know, a mood board is a collection of images that inspire the design of a room.  The items used aren't necessarily things I'm going to run out and buy, but a collection of items that give the feel I want to recreate. You can create your own mood boards for free here.

I've got a bunch of thrifty baby projects planned that I'm really excited about, including some furniture make-overs and a mobile made with *gasp* burlap. (If my sweet hubby is reading this: you'll like it once you see it, I promise!)

What do you think of my nursery plans so far?

Nursery Inspiration from around Blogland

Today I found out that the twins I'm growing are girls!  And I am completely incapable of thinking about anything not baby related today.  So I want to showcase for you some of the most incredible nurseries in blogland.

My new twin girls will be sharing a room with their brother until he is big enough to move into a big boy room.  My two older daughters are finally getting a big girls room to call their own.  Our nursery has to be both feminine and masculine.  I don't want gender-neutral, I want a careful blend of feminine and masculine elements.

I want a nursery that is a little bit glam, a little bit cutesy-wootsy and a whole lot of thrifty. And it needs to be toddler-proof (a.k.a nearly indestructible).  Is that asking too much?

Check out this handsome nursery from Life {Sweet} Life.

And this dreamy one from Lay Baby Lay

This sweet girly room is from The Chasey's.  Isn't that light fixture lovely?

The adorable details in this little boys room at Fresh Poppy Design kind of made my heart swoon. 

This nursery at Bower Power is one of the most creative and incredible baby boy's rooms I've ever seen.  Not only is it adorable now, but it will easily convert to a handsome room for a growing little man.

And check out this girly nursery at Cape 27.

I love  everything about this nursery at Aimee Weaver's blog.   Especially these ruffly burlap bins!

I want to have the nursery ready by the time I am 32 weeks along, which is 12 short weeks away. I've got some serious painting and sewing and bargain hunting to do.  Now excuse me while I go stand in the doorway to our nursery for a while and daydream...

Recipe Organization

About a year ago I bought a cute new recipe binder for really cheap.  The problem is that the sections in this book did NOT work for me.  All the tabs were pre-printed, and there weren't any extra ones for me to add my own sections.  I knew I was going to have to come up with a better system... so I just started stuffing recipes into the book.  Stuffing. 

Awful, ain't it?   Looking up a recipe was a real chore.

This week, Toni @ A bowl full of lemons is challenging people to get their recipes in order.  And I decided it was high time to do just that. I am thrilled with my results.

The first step was to identify what sections I needed.  So I started off by listing the ones I could think of, and then sifting through my recipes to make sure they all had a category to fit in to.  I added a miscellaneous category for things that didn't deserve their own section, such as preserves, since I don't do a lot of preserving.

The sections that work for you could be very different from what works for me, but here are the sections I decided on:
  • Appetizers
  • Soup & Salad
  • Main Dishes
    • beef
    • poultry
    • veggies
    • pasta
  • Side dishes
  • Breads
  • Breakfast (with a sub section for muffins)
  • Dessert (with sub sections for cookies and cakes)
  • Misc.
I made the tab dividers and pages out of scrapbooking paper and cardstock.  I used some little scrapbooking embellishments and do-dads for decoration too.
    Each section tab has a corresponding picture on it.

    I was inspired by the recipe clippings books of old.   I wanted an eclectic gathered together look that would complement the various additions and food splatters it will acquire over the years.

    Each section includes a page protector labeled "Recipes To Try" so i can clip recipes and put them somewhere without having to commit them to a permanent spot in the book until i know that they are keepers.

    Now finding the recipe I need is easy.  And pretty too.

    Swing by A bowl full of lemons to see more articles on creating a functional and beautiful recipe binder.

    The Five Stages of Housework

    My sink needs a bailout
    photo by Darkstream via Flickr CC

    1. Denial: My house isn't dirty, it's lived in.

    2. Anger: You peed on your sheets on purpose, Didn't you?  Didn't you?

    3. Bargaining: Maybe if i put this laundry basket in the hallway, the clothes will actually make it to the laundry basket...

    4. Depression: Make the bed?  Why?  I'm just going to mess it up again later....

    5. Acceptance: Well, nobody else is going to do it...

    Cinnamon Buns

    WARNING: The following recipe is so good it will make you completely forget that copious amounts of butter are not good for you. 

    I love Cinnamon buns in the morning.  But I HATE mornings.  So my favorite thing about this recipe is that you can make and assemble everything the night before, pop them in the fridge overnight, and bake them in the morning.  Your house will be filling with the comforting smell of cinnamon as you sip your morning coffee. What is better than that?

    For the dough:
    • 1 scant Tbsp yeast (I use quick-rise instant yeast and then cut both of the rising times listed below in half)
    • 1/2 cup of milk
    • 1/2 cup of boiling water
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1/3 cup butter, melted
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 egg
    • 3 1/2 cups flour
    Put yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer with a pinch of sugar.  Combine the milk and boiling water and pour the warm mixture over the yeast.  Wait a few minutes for yeast to grow and bubble.

    To the yeast mixture, add sugar, melted butter, salt and egg.  Add 2 cups of flour.  Beat until smooth.

    Add remaining flour.  Using your stand mixer's dough hook (or your hands, on a floured countertop)  knead the dough until it is smooth and sticky.  Cover dough and let rise for 1 hour. 

    Punch down the dough and roll out on a floured counter until it is a 1/4 inch thick rectangle.  Spread with:
    • 1/4 cup melted butter
    and then sprinkle with,
    • 1/2 cup sugar mixed with 4 tsp cinnamon
     Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough away from you, creating a long log filled with yummy-ness.  Seal the seam by wetting your finger tips and pinching the dough closed.

    Coat your baking pan with 1/4 cup of melted butter and then sprinkle that butter with 2 Tbsp of sugar.

    Slice your cinnamon log into one and a half inch slices.  Place spirals in greased and sugared pan, with ample room around each spiral so it can rise some more (no two cinnamon buns should be touching at this point).

    Let rise another 45 minutes.

    ***At this point you can cover the pan with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, take them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature while the oven preheats.***

    Bake @ 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes until slightly browned and dough is cooked through.  Remove to a wire rack as soon as they are cool enough to touch. (but not completely cooled!)

    Place wire rack over a piece of wax paper (to catch the drips) and top cinnamon buns with a glaze made by combining:
    • 1/3 cup melted butter
    • 2 cups icing sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • enough hot water to create desired consistency

    Eat one warm before the rest of the family knows they are ready or else you might not get one at all...

    14 Thrifty Ways to Date your Husband

    candle light dinner
    Photo Credit: extranoise via flickr cc

    It's valentines day, and just in case you think you are too poor to celebrate it, here are some date night ideas that can be done on the cheap.  Many of them can even be enjoyed at home after the kiddos go to babysitter necessary! 

    1. Dress up in your fancy clothes and go for coffee.

    2. Play a board game together after the kids go to bed. Watch for good two-player games at yard sales and thrift stores.

    3. Make a board game together. Get a large piece of paper or bristol board and design your own game. Use dice and game pieces from games you already own.

    4. Have a bubble bath together.

    5. Play hide and seek. Seriously!

    6. Pick up an ethnic cook book at the library and cook dinner together.

    7. Have a chocolate fondue. In a saucepan, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1/2 cup of evaporated milk and a few marshmallows. When everything is melted, transfer to a small fondue pot and use cookies, cakes, pineapple, grapes and strawberries as dippers.

    8.  Have a theme movie night.  Maybe rent the scariest movies either of have ever seen?  Or movies from the years you were born?  Or the movies you saw when you were first dating?

    9. Remember when a mixed tape was the ultimate sign of affection? Put together a selection of songs that were popular when you first started dating. Go for a drive and enjoy the memories.

    10.  Rent a foreign language movie.  Turn off the subtitles.  Make up the plot.  Mute it and speak on behalf of the characters.

    11. Go to an amateur theater production. Churches and high schools often put on productions that are nearly free and often very good.

    12. Volunteer together. Often couples have their own interests and volunteer at separate venues, but seeing each other in action at the local soup kitchen or after school program could really bring you closer together.

    13.  Go for a hike.  Take along a field guide and try to identify some animal tracks or plant species.

    14. Watch a sports game together.  Kiss whenever somebody scores a goal.  Bet on the outcome of the game.  (I'm not talking about betting with money....use your imagination!)

    Romance In the Little Things

    I just want to share with you all this awesome post from Passionate Homemaking. 12 Ways to Love your Hubby without Saying A Word.  Check it out! 

    A Buy Nothing Project {a jewelery holder!}

    It's winter, so we're broke.

    My husband works in construction, so this is normal in our house.  And God always provides.

    But here's the catch....

    It's winter, so I want to buy stuff.

    Something about being stuck inside, compounded by the regular nesting instincts of pregnancy makes me want to craft and create stuff.  But creating can so easily cost money.  Money better spent on heating bills.

    So I decided to take on a series of pretty projects that use only things I have around the house.  Here's what I've created.

    Step 1.  I had broken the glass in one of these frames and had kept them around for a project like this.   I covered the cardboard backing with 2 layers of burlap.

    Step 2:  I looted the basement for a variety of knobs and hooks I had laying around and attached them with screws to the cardboard.

    Step 3: I Dropped the finished product on the floor and subsequently spent the afternoon gluing it back together.  You can skip this step if you're not a clumsy dork like me.

    I hung them behind my bedroom door.

    I hang my earrings through the holes in the burlap.

    What does it say about me if I have more miscellaneous knobs than jewelery to hang on them?

     Okay, it is your turn.  What can you make without buying a single thing?  Anything goes, as long as your project only uses things you already had around the house or acquired for free.  Link up your Buy-Nothing-Projects below.  Be sure to link back to my blog, either in your post or on the sidebar of your blog. I am so excited to see what you ladies can do!

    And if you don't have a blog, you can still join in by commenting and letting us know what you can make without spending a dime!

    EDIT: The linky party was causing my blog not to load properly, so today's linky party has been canceled. I know that sucks. Sorry!

    Some Real-Life Homes I *LOVE*

    I posted recently about how dangerous it can be to define our sense of what a home should be based on staged magazine photos. Today I want to follow that up by showing you some of the most beautiful rooms in blog land. 

    These homes aren't perfect.  They were decorated with real-world budgets and real-world time frames.  They meet the needs of the families who live in them everyday.  And if you went to these houses today, I bet you'd find that these rooms look much like they do in the following photos, except maybe, ahem, a little bit less clean.

    Please go to these blogs and leave a comment  for these lovely ladies who have worked so hard to make their homes into havens for their family.  To go to the specific posts that contain the rooms I'm talking about, click on the actual photos below.  And don't forget that decorating our homes in a way that works for our families is a slow and beautiful evolution of sorts.  Embrace the process.  And before you even think about picking up a paint roller or a nail gun, choose to be content with the house you are sitting in right now.  Without further ado....

    I adore this master bedroom  over at The Yellow Cape Cod.  Isn't it dreamy?

    While you're there, check out her bathroom too!

    While we're looking at bedrooms, what about this one from Maillardville Manor?  If I understand correctly, the blog owner has since moved from this house and is now beautifully decorating another home.  Although I think if my bedroom looked like this I would never ever be able to move away.

    Go see this beautiful girly bathroom at the House of Smith's!

    Lastly, there is this sweet nursery over at Scissors and Spatulas.  It may be the pregnancy hormones to blame, but I almost cried when i saw this room!

    So, are there any decorating projects going on around your house?

    Also, you may be interested to know that I'm hosting a blog party tomorrow featuring buy-nothing projects.  Any project that used only items you already had around the house is fair game.  So swing back tomorrow and link up.  I haven't decided yet whether to make it a weekly thing or not, so stay posted. 

    A Bird Themed Baby Shower

    This past weekend I had the privilege of throwing a baby shower for a good friend of mine who is expecting her first child.  I've never planned a baby shower before, but I had great fun doing it.  Let me show you some of the ideas I came up with!

    The Menu:
    • phyllo wrapped asparagus with roasted red pepper and artichoke dip
    • mini spinach quiche
    • assorted melon on skewers
    • chocolate fondue served with strawberries, pretzels and chocolate wafers
    • bird's nest cupcakes

    My oldest daughter got to be my helper for the day.  Here she is eating one of the birds nest cupcakes.  I made vanilla cupcakes with butter cream icing and then dipped them in toasted coconut to make the nest.  I then placed three candy eggs in the center of each cupcake.  I can't believe I didn't think to take a close-up picture before we all started eating them!

     I got the idea for these candles from Home Decor Budgetista.  I got the fancy letter images from The wedding Chicks.

    For one of the games I created this human scavenger hunt.  It led to some very interesting pregnancy and birth stories!

    The prizes for the games were this cute little bags of candy.  I got the image for the tags from Christy at Peace, Love and Scrappiness!

    And here is the beautiful mom-to-be.  Doesn't she just glow?

    Today I'm linking up with:

    handmade projects

    32 Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs

    Right now the snow in my yard is knee deep and my sweet husband is digging his car out of the driveway.  Winter is in full swing, and after all the excitement of Christmas and the initial peacefulness of the post Christmas lull, all we are left with is gray skies and sub-zero temperatures.  And cabin fever.

    Here are some simple and fun activities to help you cheer up and beat the winter blues.

    1. Rearrange the furniture.  Sometimes a change of scenery indoors can make everything seem new again.

    2. Cook some comfort food.

    3. Invite some neighbors over for pie.

    4. Create a vignette outside one of your windows that will remind you of warmer days to come.  Use a winter hardy chair and some decorative items to create a charming change of scenery.

    5. Throw a party.  Invite all your favorite people over for a night of charades and hot cocoa.  (Spike the cocoa if you and your friends are so inclined.)

    6.  Take a long bubble bath.

    7. Paint your nails a fun color.

    8. Watch the weather for a clear day with above zero temperatures.  Hang your bedding out to dry.

    9. Spend an afternoon reorganizing a room or a cupboard or a drawer.

    10. Plan your garden for spring.

    11. Make cheese with your kids. 

    12. Build a funny snow man.

    13. Light some candles and listen to some jazz.

    14. Learn a new craft.  One winter I made a braided rug.... okay, more like a doormat.

    15. Convince your husband to BBQ.

    16. Organize your photo albums.  Notice which ones make you smile and put those ones on display, especially if they are silly.

    17. Sponsor a child.

    18. Volunteer at a homeless shelter.

    19. Count your blessings.

    20. Bake bread.

    21. Shovel your neighbors driveway.

    22. Start a blog.

    23. Take a photography course.

    24. Buy yourself some pretty flowers.

    25. Help your children grow seedlings in a window sill.

    26. Buy fabulous smelling hand cream for your dry wintery skin

    27. Memorize a poem.  Or a proverb.  Or a whole book of the bible.

    28. Enjoy a cup of tea and a favorite book.

    29. Wear something colorful.

    30. Try a new hair color.

    31. Bundle up and go for a walk.

    32. Put the Christmas mistletoe back up and see what happens.

    What did I miss?  How do you stay motivated this time of year?
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