Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! I hope you enjoy some special time with your friends and family during the holiday season.

I'll be back in January.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bathroom Update and New White Towels

The joy of  fluffy white towels! I finally got around to using a $25 gift card to Target I won and purchased some new white bath towels. I had a mix-mash of colors and age of towels we were using in the bath and some were in bad shape. Nothing really went with the black and white retro 50's tile or aqua blue walls.  Now they match, are in good shape and look so pretty! I have already replaced my fuchsia bathmat and multi-colored knobs on my medicine chest with white and silver respectively and cleared off the top of my chest of do-dads. (Nothing escapes my minimizing ways!) I still have a lot to do: replace the black and white zebra shower curtain with a thick white one, install a new towel bar on the door and get rid of a hanging thing attached to the door hinges, install a robe hook, install a new shower head, install a new faucet and tile the sink backsplash. I had two handymen in for quotes for the installation and tile work. Hopefully it will begin shortly. Then my mini bathroom update will be complete. I'm going for a spa look. So crisp and clean. Pictures to follow as the work progresses.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Still Decluttering

I'm still decluttering the condo. I'm on a roll and can't seem to stop. I've decided to streamline my wardrobe to the following colors that I look my best: black, gray, white, blue, green, pink, purple. Good bye warm colors: brown, yellow, red and orange! I've been going through my clothes and donating ones that don't fit this color scheme (assuming that I have enough clothes left so I don't have to purchase anything new). This has allowed me to get rid of the 8 purses that don't go with this new scheme. I still have shoes and jewelry to go through and streamline to coordinating items. I just started on my makeup, face wash and moisturizers. Why do I keep the products that I end up not liking?!  It feels so good to declutter! I keep reading organizing, simplicity and living a minimal life blogs to keep me inspired and moving forward.

Friday, November 5, 2010


I've been feeling weird lately. My stuff is suffocating me. I feel like I have too much. I want to declutter in an extreme way. (Yes, I have been watching too much Hoarders, but it's more than that). My place is small and my decorating style is already pretty minimal. I really want to go bare bones - think stark contemporary - with the focus on just a few beautiful items in the room. I also want to paint all the walls white, get a fluffy white rug in the living room and a white slipcover - but that is another story.

It's weird because I usually want to lighten up and minimize decor in the spring not fall. In the fall I usually want to make my house feel more cozy, I embrace my colorful decor and actually want to purchase and display more "things". I enjoy decorating for winter / Christmas. But right now the thought of adding things to my environment makes my stomach clench.

A dubious friend suggested that I gather all the items that I want to remove and put them on the dining room table until I can get them boxed up and stored in the basement storage locker. She thinks the desire for sparseness will rapidly pass. I'm not so sure. I removed 7 items from the kitchen, 18 from the dining room / china cabinet, 21 from the living room. I added 1 item to my bedroom and removed 3 pillows and a piece of art.

I'm shocked that I have this much stuff. Most of the items were decorative. Or if they were supposed to be functional, they weren't functioning. If the numbers seem high, look around your space and count your items. I think you'll be surprised at how many you have.

After my extreme undecorating my condo looks naked (I'm used to seeing more stuff but this morning it didn't look as weird as it did yesterday when I finished). It feels much better. In the living room I have only 4 decorative items, the clock and 3 framed artwork on the wall, 3 pillows, 1 candle and 7 live plants. In my bedroom I have 2 decorative items, 1 plant, 3 pictures, 1 piece of art on the wall and 1 decorative pillow. My bathroom 1 item. My kitchen 2 decorative items and 2 items on the wall. It still seems like a lot to me. I need to get several boxes to pack away my removed items. I need to live with them gone for awhile before I get rid of them for good - just in case I change my mind.

Have you ever undecorated your house or gone through a really minimal phase? Did it pass or was it something that stuck? The good news - dusting went much faster today!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Decorating - Yes Please!

A week or so ago I wrote that I just don't get into seasonal / fall / Halloween decorating. I also don't decorate for Valentine's day, St. Patrick's day or the 4th of July. Purchasing a new scented candle is my only nod to seasonal changes. I do decorate for Christmas / Winter and enjoy that. Anyway. If I was the type to decorate for fall this is how I would do it.

Nice and modern. From Happy Mundane via

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

73 Days to Christmas

I was out shopping today and saw my first display of Christmas items. It was full on Christmas - decorated trees, ornaments, stockings, wrapping paper. All the trimmings. Today is October 12th! It's crazy. Oh and the Halloween, Fall, Thanksgiving decor items -- 75% off. Totally crazy.

How can anyone be thinking winter when it is one of the most beautiful fall days: 70's, sunny, blue sky with no clouds, beautiful colored leaves and that "fall" feeling in the air.  Fall is my favorite season and I savor each day. There is plenty of time in the days ahead to think/decorate/blog about winter and Christmas. Just not yet, please.

Happy Birthday Forrest!

It's my wonderful son's 19th birthday today and the first birthday we've ever spent apart (he's away at college in Georgia and I'm in the Chicago area). I sent him a box with a couple presents and a "birthday party in a box" - chocolate cupcakes, a tub of chocolate icing, a can of blue cupcake icing, and a mixed assortments of sprinkles, colored sugar, stars and chocolate and rainbow jimmies. Oh and candles and a bag of balloons. That way he can celebrate with his new friends, have a party and hopefully feel the love from home.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall Decorating - Not

Am I the only person in blogland who doesn't decorate for Halloween or fall? Come on - I can't be.

But it sure seems like it when I read my favorite blogs. They are full of Halloween decorations, desserts and tablescapes, not to mention the fall mantels, candle arrangements and door wreaths. I have nothing against all the decorations and find alot of them beautiful. And when my son was little I did do a little decorating for Halloween. I had pillows for fall, would change out my candles and put little touches here and there around the house. I loved the change in seasons, the crispness in the air and all the beautiful colors and enjoyed celebrating it in my home. It felt warm and cozy.

Since I've downsized and embraced a minimal modern decorating style, decorating for Halloween and fall just doesn't fit with my lifestyle anymore. I still adore the season, I just enjoy it outside not inside. I have a quilted fall door hanging in my pile of projects to finish. And I have some pretty glass acorns mixed in with my Christmas decorations that I always forget to get out. I'll put out a scented fall-ish candle and call it done. I will cook some fall favorites and take advantage of the fruits and vegetables in season - but I do that with every season so its nothing special.

Do any of you not decorate for Halloween or fall or decorate in a minimal way? How do you decorate? (or not)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Silhouette Pillows

For a prior Christmas I made my dachshund owning and loving Brother and Sister-in-law and Father and Step-Mother a set of these pillows. I saw them in a magazine and they were $95 for the set (plus tax and shipping!). I new I could make them way cheaper. I found a picture, enlarged it, and printed it out. I traced it onto fusible web and fused it onto the felt, cut it out and fused it onto pillows I made. I probably spent $15 for the set (mostly for the pillow forms). They were a BIG hit. I trying to come up with an idea for this Christmas that will be so well received.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Avocado Salsa

This yummy dish is one of my favorite snacks! I can eat it straight from the bowl - forget the chips. It's so easy to make.

2 ripened avocados
1 medium tomato
1/2 medium onion
1/2 lime
cilantro - optional

Cut an avocado in half. An easy way to remove the pit is to whack it with a sharp knife. The pit will be stuck to the knife and just gently twist it out. Carefully push the pit off of the knife. Use a spoon and scrape the avocados into a medium bowl. Mash them with the back of a fork. I prefer mine a little chunky. Squeeze 1/2 lime juice over the mashed avocados. Dice your tomato and onion and add to the mix. Mix to combine and salt to taste. A tablespoon of fresh cilantro finely chopped completes the dish. Tastes great with chips, fresh vegetables or just by the spoonful!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Out of Touch

Hi all. I've been absent recently enjoying the last days of summer and getting my son ready to go off to college in Savannah, Georgia. I'll be back posting regularly Wednesday, September 15. I'll still have Cheap Thrills Thursday up. In the meantime why not browse through some of my older posts from when I just started my blog.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wholesome Oat Muffins

 These tasty muffins are so much better than store-bought, you'll want to bake a supply regularly. Make a double batch and freeze half for later.

1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 1/4 cups whole-grain pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup granular brown sugar substitute
1/3 cup canola oil
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 425F. Coat a 12 cup nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper baking cups.

In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and 3/4 cup of the oats. Let soak for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in walnuts.

In a large bowl, stir together brown sugar substitute, oil, egg and vanilla until well blended. Stir in oat mixture. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons oats over muffins. Bake for 11 to 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins to the rack to cool completely.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Be who you are and say what you feel: 
because those who mind don't matter 
and those who matter don't mind. ~ Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Felt Tissue Holder

I'm one of those women who cry at just about anything - happy, sad, sentimental, etc. I'm sensitive and feel things deeply. This is not a trait I'm really happy having. The sensitive thing yes - the crying no. I always carry a hanky but it doesn't stand up to my waterworks and is soon useless. So I carry a little package of tissues with me always. But they are boring looking, so I made this little holder for my purse.

I liked it so much I made a second one for my tote bag!

They are just some felt, pinking scissors, a sewing machine (although you could hand stitch it) and a little hot glue to hold the heart on. I think they look really cute! Oh it cost me $1.00 for two new packs of tissues, I had the felt and glue on hand.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cocoa-Raspberry Shake

Yum! This delicious shake is allowed on my current phase of the South Beach Diet. It's been so hot that I haven't wanted to turn the stove on and cook. So we've been making do with simple stove top cooking (how I wish I had the space for a grill) and salads. I thought we deserved a cool treat!

Blend 1/2 cup fat-free milk, 1/2 cup artificially sweetened nonfat or low-fat raspberry yogurt, 1 packet sugar substitute, and 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder until frothy.

The review: I had to top mine with 1 teaspoon of fat-free frozen topping and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. Mine didn't froth, but I used a stick blender instead of a stand blender, so that might be the difference. Well, believe it or not I couldn't find artificially sweetened raspberry yogurt at the store, so I used cherry, but I like cherry better anyway. There is a hint of the artificial sweetener taste of the yogurt in the drink. Not bad, but noticeable. Next time I'll try a different brand of yogurt. I can only imagine how yummy this would be with sugar sweetened yogurt! (But that defeats the purpose of the South Beach diet). I didn't think 1 teaspoon of cocoa would give it enough of a chocolate taste, but I was wrong. It was nice rich and chocolatey. I also didn't have packets of sugar substitute so I used 1 tablespoon of Splenda. This is a smooth, creamy treat that doesn't taste like I should be eating it! I will definitely make this one again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A ship in harbor is safe -
but that is not what ships are built for.

- John A. Shedd

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Organizing the Craft/Sewing Closet - Before

With my son's permission and help I recently cleared some space out of his 2nd closet for my fabric storage. Now I will have more room and can better organize my craft/sewing closet. I actually started the process of moving the fabric, forgot to take pictures, put everything back and then took pictures. You really need to see the before of my craft closet to appreciate the after.

The closet is so full that I have two kitchen garbage bags of fabric I think I don't want in the basement storage locker to try to sell on Etsy. My sewing machine doesn't fit, neither does my iron and ironing board. Outside the closet I also have a stack of fabric about 2 feet high which is my home dec fabric for current projects that I have no place to put. Not to mention that in cleaning out my son's closet I now have a stack of art supplies to add to my craft closet. I have another piece of foam for a chair project behind the closet door that you can't see. Oh yes, and a large box of sewing notions that I keep out with my sewing machine. Plus my cutting mat, rulers and rotary cutter. Darn, also my glue gun, an old ashtray I use as a stand and extra glue sticks. I think that is about it. Nope, still outside the closet I also have a bunch of polymer clay and a conditioning machine I won as a door prize at the recent Chicago Craft Social. Oh yes, I also have a stack of phone books. When I sit at the dining room table to sew, my chair is too tall and my feet don't touch the floor so I can't run my sewing machine. I stack phone books under the pedal so I can sew and my other foot so I don't sit crooked. Oh yeah, one last thing. I have two sewing/quilting/applique projects started that are sitting under a dresser in my bedroom. Now I really think that's it that's not in the closet. Shoot, no its not. I also have extra pillow forms down in the storage locker. And not that it necessarily has to be in this closet, but I have a bin of upholstery supplies down in the storage locker also. It's a pain to go down and get zippers or cording or my staple gun.

So as you can see and hear, my closet has exploded with stuff all over my condo and storage locker with nowhere organized to put it. And remember, this is only my storage closet. I have to take things out, set them up and actually craft on the dining room table. So when its so difficult to get to the supplies and put them away again, I don't craft. And I get grumpy. Something has to be done.  Hopefully strategic organization yet accessibility is the key. This is my biggest organizational challenge yet! I'll be working on it over the next several weeks. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Business Card Holder

I have these cute calling cards that I had made up. They come in very handy when meeting new people and giving them my contact information. Or when I'm talking about my blog to someone and they want to go check it out. My problem has been that I just had them shoved into my wallet. When I would dig them out, all my other wallet items were displayed. I knew I could do better.

I saw a couple tutorials on how to make business card holders here and here. I used the tutorials as a jumping off point and added a 3rd fabric for more color and ended up with this:

I was worried that the cards would fall out and spill all over my purse. Or that I would need some velcro to hold it closed. Although a velcro dot might still be useful. But the fit is snug and they aren't going anywhere. The project was simple and quick. It took me longer to get my sewing stuff out and set up on the dining room table then it did to sew the holder! I just love that fabric color combination.

The project was basically free. The fabrics were scraps from my stash and the interfacing from another project. I'm very pleased with how it turned out!

Linking up to some of these great parties!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sometimes it's the small things

I have a new dog food container! Yippee! (OK, it might seem silly, but read on).

My kitchen is teeny-tiny 12'x6.5' with a door that opens into it leading from the common back stairs and parking (our primary door) and a doorway into the dining room. So really, not much space. Prior to the New Dog Food Container! I had the storage container sitting in front of my black storage shelves next to the refrigerator. It wouldn't fit in the shelves and it really wouldn't fit anyplace else. When you walked in the door (which had just enough clearance not to hit the dog food container) the space felt cramped and messy. The useless space behind the container just gathered clutter. See?

My new container is smaller and fits inside my black storage shelves (it took forever to find one that would fit but hold enough food!). It frees up that little corner when you walk in the door and takes the place of the cluttered spot. Gone with the messy, cluttered feeling as soon as I come home. It would always make me feel grumpy as I walked in the door.

Yes, it is ugly. I'm hoping a few coats of spray paint (primed with a plastic primer, painted on the outside only) will help the ugly factor. While I'm at it I'll also paint the cat food containers to it's right. I'm not sure what color. I would really like pumpkin orange, my accent color, but don't want a black and orange vibe going on in the kitchen. Too Halloween-ish for my comfort. I'd love to find a green spray paint that coordinates with my baskets. I'll probably wait until I paint the walls from the current nice looking milk chocolate (not my choice) to a fresh light aqua first and then see what would work best.

Anyway, sometimes its a small thing like a new dog food container that can make a large impact on how a space feels and functions. I only gained 1'x2' of space, but it made a world of difference. (Doesn't that door look horrible? It will get a crisp coat of white when all the trim and doors are painted later this year).

Have you made any small changes that had a big impact?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bedroom painted!

One of my goals for the month of July was to get my son's bedroom painted. Mission accomplished! with one minor problem. I forgot to take before pictures.  So you don't get to see his room messy with posters on the walls and major dirt smudges on the 10 (I don't really know) year old flat off-white paint. Use your imagination.

Forrest cutting in; first coat

So there is paint on the walls, but much work left to be done. This was the first time painting that my son did the cutting in around the trim and the ceiling. He did a great job and most spots are pretty good, except one wall. Some touch ups are in order with ceiling paint which I hope doesn't lead to painting the ceiling.

My projects tend to move slowly and this bedroom redo will be no exception. My son was anxious to have his room back in order (meaning his computer hooked up and internet back up). So ceiling touch-ups and trim painting will have to happen another day. Along with hanging curtain rods and drapes (which are still being made), hanging art on the walls, upholstering / slipcovering his desk chair and installing some shelving above the desk. Oh and some closet and drawer organization once he leave for college in September.

Right now I'm happy with clean green walls!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Vegetable Quiche Cups to Go

 "This crustless quiche recipe can be used as a base for any combination of vegetables and reduced-fat cheese. Once prepared, the quiches can be frozen individually and reheated in the microwave." Makes 12, 2 per serving. This is page 201 out of the South Beach Diet Supercharged book. Look for my review down below.

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar or Jack cheese
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced onion
3 drops hot pepper sauce (optional)

Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

Place spinach in a microwaveable container and cook in the microwave on high power for 2.5 minutes. Drain excess liquid.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, cheese, egg, bell pepper, onion and pepper sauce, if using. Mix well. Divide evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Review:  I used 4 eggs instead of the egg substitute. When using eggs instead of egg substitute, first beat the eggs with a fork, then add the spinach, onion, cheese and green pepper. This went together fast and easy. I used frozen chopped onion and green pepper which made it even quicker. Even though I used cooking spray, they tended to stick in the pan. Next time I'd use a heavy coating of spray in each muffin cup, especially up the sides. Needs salt. My spinach wasn't squeezed out enough. When I bit into them, they tasted a little watery.  Next time I'll use a sieve and push out the water. I just used a fork against the side of the pan. They are thin, about half the height of a normal muffin, so a serving size of 2 is pretty small. I was still hungry after breakfast. They are very vegetable-y. Next time I'll add a couple more eggs to increase the egg to vegetable ratio and to make them a little bigger.

They tasted good. I liked the green pepper and hot sauce, in fact I'd a little more. I liked how easy they were to make. I could see making this in a double batch and having them in the freezer for a quick, healthy breakfast. My son's review: "I don't really like it". Why not? "Too vegetable-y" (obviously his grammar is picked up from me). Getting green vegetables into that child is a major feat so I wasn't too surprised. Mmmm... more for me.

They recipe would be yummy with ham and swiss with mushrooms, onions and broccoli. Or add some crab and garlic to this recipe.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lazy, lazy girl
Get up and do something now!
Summer sun shining.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

10 Great Declutter Tips

I had a small bit of a clean out the other day in my living room when I was feeling kind of blue. The rearranged and decluttered, now more minimal and monochromatic accessories lifted my spirits. And if you believe in such things, moving the items around eliminated stagnant pools of bad or stale energy allowing good fresh energy to flow throughout the room, which is what perked me up. Either way it feels good to give a room a bit of a declutter.

Clutter is to "fill with things in a disorderly manner" or "a state of confusion". I think we all know it when we see it. If you struggle with clutter (and really - who doesn't have a little clutter tucked away somewhere?) here are some tips to make clearing it out easier.

  1. Declutter for 15 minutes every day. It's amazing what you can accomplish in small increments.
  2. Declutter during TV commercials. You don't need to watch the commercials and want new items. Get up and spend a minute or two decluttering a surface, drawer or basket.
  3. Don't allow new things in the house in the first place. Whether you’ve begun decluttering, or you’ve just completed it, stop bringing in new stuff NOW. This way, when you do get to decluttering the existing stuff, you’ve already stopped making it worse. 
  4. Use the "one in two out" rule.  For serious clutter busting, when you bring in a new item, two items have to leave.  A new decorating accessory in - two back to Goodwill. 
  5. Reduce your storage space. If you have lots of storage you can have lots of clutter.  Clutter will fill up whatever space you let it. Eliminate extra storage barns, lockers, rented space, etc. and stop it's creeping presence.
  6. Clothing Rule - if you haven't worn an item in 2 seasons (e.g. last summer and this summer) or it doesn't fit donate it
  7. Donate the stuff you are decluttering  This way you won't feel like you're wasting things. Besides donating can help someone else out and keep things out of the landfills.
  8. Declutter one room at a time (including desk drawers, closets, etc.) It will feel so good to be in that room that it will help motivate you to keep going.
  9. Declutter in layers. You won't get all the clutter on your first pass around a room. Start at the door and go around the room. First get the superficial stuff (the surfaces and piles), then open drawers and doors on the next pass around the room. Then when you think you are done, revisit the room in several weeks or months and give it another pass. You'll be amazed at what you now see and are now willing to part with. Decluttering is like housework. You might "finish" but you have to do it again next week because, well, it keeps getting dirty!
  10. The One-Year Box. Take all your items that you are unsure about getting rid of (e.g. “I might need this someday…”), put them in a box, seal it and date it for 1 year in the future. When the date comes, and you still didn’t need to open it to get anything, donate the box WITHOUT OPENING IT. You probably won’t even remember what there was in the box (don't label the box - that's cheating).
I'm off to take a look at what's lurking in my china hutch. I have an abundance of table linens, candles, and "picnic dishes" (Its been 4-5 years since my last picnic). The doors are barely closing so its time to reduce some clutter!

If you want to revisit an early post of mine on the emotional aspects of clutter go here.

How's your clutter? Mild, Medium, Get the Bulldozer? Do tell!