Friday, January 28, 2011

Thoughtful (and inexpensive) Gifts- Part Two

So this week was my younger brother's birthday, and I had a chance to put my "gift-giving" thinking cap back on again!

My brother Iain is awesome. However, he is totally in a different realm from me as far as interests and hobbies go. He's a computer/technology guy. Usually, I will have Josh help me with Iain's gifts, but this time I had to pull it together quickly so I was on my own!

So using some card stock, felt, beads, and a fine-point permanent marker I made this:

I also put it in a nifty little frame that I had on hand.

We also gave him a card with some cash in it because, let's face it, when you've just graduated from college what you really need is $$$. =)

Iain LOVED his gift, and everyone got a huge kick out of the quote. In case you haven't heard this before, it's from a show called Little Britain. Here's a link to a youtube video that will explain it all.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, staying toasty and warm!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It needs... Something.

There's a corner of my living room that was starting to look a little ho-hum. I've been planning to paint this small round table for a while, once the weather gets more balmy, and subsequently this whole space just looked like it was waiting for something.

So, I decided to tackle it yesterday and make it blend a little more with the rest of our living area by bringing some warmth in.

Here it is before:

And now here it is after:

Yup, the changes were pretty small and I am still going for as much of an unfussy, uncluttered look as I can! But, I wanted to bring in a little of the "granny chic" element that I love so dearly, so I framed this tiny needlepoint that I made a while back.

The frame used to be a glossy black, but with a coat of white spray paint it was easily transformed!

Next, I wanted to pull in some of the orangy-red tones I have going on in the rest of the living room, as evidenced below...

So using my trusty color-printer (actually, it's just a cheap printer I got for free and you literally have to feed it pages like a baby for it to work at all), I pulled together one of my favorite quotes on a colorful background.

It's the perfect quote, since a whole lotta reading and tea drinking tend to take place here!

Also- you might have noticed that uber-cool orange vase on the bottom of the table, it was a gift from a fellow-blogger and dear friend Cindy. She read my blog and saw that I was incorporating some orange tones into the living room and she gave it to me. Isn't that great?

So there you have it. A little more cozy, a little less gray all over the place. Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sea-Inspired Mantel

With the freezing weather we've been having here in MN, I have been really inspired lately by the thought of the ocean. Not the arctic-type ocean, but the soothing, warm waves of the Mediterranean.

Seriously, I would give my right pinkie toe in exchange for a vacation to the South of France right about now!

But sadly, that is not going to be happening anytime soon. So instead, I pulled together a beach-inspired "mantel" for the shelf above our couch.

Starting off, I used some twine I had in my craft supplies to wrap around a glass hurricane lamp.

It was really easy to transform the lamp with the twine, I didn't even use glue to hold the twine on there, just tucked in the ends so it can be easily removed when needed. I also found myself wishing I was a master knot-tyer so I could make some fancy design on the glass. Wouldn't that look cool?

I also added another clear vase with some glass filler beads that reminded me of sea glass and a fun round candle.

For the final touch, I attached two mother-of-pearl plates to the wall next to the mirror using double sided mirror-hanging tape. I found the plates at a thrift store for $2 each a few years ago, and have never found the "perfect" spot for them. I'm glad I held on to them though, they ended up being the perfect accoutrement to my sea-themed mantel.

I love how they catch the light, they really have the coolest sheen when the sun hits them.

So, that's how I've been trying to make my way through the first of the "Winter Doldrum" months.

Also- this little fluffball has been a great addition to our lives. Aside from being super cute, she loves to cuddle and is like a personal heater for your lap!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tastefully Arranged

What is it about fruit that is so appealing this time of year? Is it the bright, citrusy pops of color against a bleak winter background? Is it the boost of vitamins that we're craving because of the lack of sunlight?

Whatever the reasons, I'm inextricably drawn to edible centerpieces right now. There is no wax fruit in this house, we use the real deal.

I just love the bright, fresh pop of color that it brings. It makes me smile a little every time I see it!

The only problem with edible centerpieces is that they seldom last more than a day in my house...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thoughtful (and inexpensive) Gifts

One of the challenges I am facing with our new budget is how to give great gifts to friends and family members without breaking the bank. Gift-buying is such a touchy subject, and I think too many of us rely on the old "the more you spend, the better the gift" adage.

This week is my Mom's birthday, and she's the first one to fall under our new budget (Sorry Mom, hope that Keurig we bought for you last year is still working). Just kidding. Actually, I'm really excited about the gift we are giving her this year!

My mom loves coffee, and that's one of the first things I usually think about when I buy her something (hence the Keurig). But instead of getting her yet another *bucks giftcard this year, I opted to go the homemade route.

So, to go along with the coffee-theme, I whipped up a batch of Double Chocolate Biscotti. It was fun, easy, and relatively quick to make. And, I know my mom is going to love munching these along with her coffee in the morning.

Also, I'm a huge dork and I LOVE making pretty labels for gifts. Call me weird, but I think it adds the perfect touch to a gift and really shows someone that you care about them.

Especially when it says this:

To go along with the beverage theme, I found a set of four gorgeous pressed-botanical coasters.

These were hard to wrap up and give away (ah, look at the gincko leaves!), but I know my mom will love them.

In case you are wondering about the recipe I used for the biscotti, it's from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. You can find the recipe online here, although I did make some slight changes in my version.

There was even enough biscotti left over to fill my jar to the brim! Delicious.

So there's one thoughtful and inexpensive gift done! I'm looking forward to being creative and coming up with more ideas for gift-giving. What about you? Have you found some fun ways to give gifts without breaking the bank? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Because eating healthy doesn't have to suck...

And because melted cheese makes (just about) everything taste better.

Personal Pizza made using: whole grain flatbread, tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella, salt and pepper.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


So, I was browsing around the internets last week, and ran across something rather ironic.

This pillow, from Pier 1 (priced at $24.95):

Is almost an exact replica of the pillows I made for my couch last year- out of an old sweater from a thrift store that I purchased for $4.99.

Gotta love that feeling of justification you feel when something you make shows up in retail. Not that they copied me or anything...

And of course, my version was WAY cheaper. Just sayin'.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Eating Healthier

Up until about 1 year ago, I used to be the girl that everyone hated because I had a high metabolism. Every morning, my breakfasts consisted of a bagel with cream cheese or a yummy chocolate chip muffin and a latte from Starbucks. YUM. Then shortly after I got married, my metabolism packed it's bags and went on holiday. It never came back.

Like many things in life, I find the whole "dieting, exercising, calorie-counting" lifestyle to be a big, complicated, stress-inducing pain in the rear end.

So how does a lazy girl combat that? I tried counting calories for a while, and just started getting depressed. It's a lot of work to account for every morsel that goes in your mouth (and ends up subsequently on your posterior).

Instead, I've been trying to just live a healthier lifestyle in general.

Starting off, I looked at the kinds of foods that I was eating. Lots and lots of carbalicious goodness. I had bread at almost every meal, and would chow down on bakery goods, pasta, pretty much anything that was chock-full of carbs was on my "eat list."

Needless to say, I had to drastically reduce my intake of those foods. I still eat bread at least once a day (hello, whole grains!) because life without bread is just a depressing thought. But, I don't eat it at every single meal.

After dialing down the carb intake, I started upping the fresh foods intake. Spinach, avocados, fruits, raw veggies, all the things that go bad quickly because they are not injected with near-fatal doses of preservatives.

And you know what? So far it's been working. I dropped 5 pounds in 2 weeks, without so much as lifting a finger to press "play" on my Walk Away the Pounds with Leslie Sansone dvd.

My wonderful mother in law Jody is a nurse, and is always a wealth of information about health. One of her mantras is, "Not everything you eat has to taste amazing." It's true, isn't it? I think it's easy to get caught up in all the delectable edibles we see around us, and forget that sometimes our bodies just need pure, unadulterated food.

So if you'll pardon me, I'm going to go chomp down on some carrots.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Just Dreaming (of Anthropologie)

Do you enjoy window shopping? I'm crazy, I suppose, but I really do. Sometimes I like it even more than actually buying things. Less guilt, less $ spent, and less regrets (why didn't I buy the blue one?).

One of my favorite places to window shop (online usually) is Anthropologie. I just cannot get enough of their fun things! However, their prices can be really appalling (sorry Anthro, but it's true!). I went there once with a $50 giftcard and could barely afford a t-shirt. Seriously.

Oh well, but a girl can dream right? So here's a few things that caught my eye that would blend in seamlessly (or add just the right punch) to my decor:

Starting off with some kitchen-y things, these bowls are SO lovely. I would imagine that ice cream would taste even better in something like this.

Also, these cute glasses would be perfect for holding ice tea or lemonade in the summertime (anyone else dreaming of Summer right now?).

This rug would work really well in our living room, I think! I love the soft gray color and the understated pattern. It would blend easily into a lot of different styles.

I'm thinking this mirror would look lovely over our couch, or even over a cute vintage pedestal sink in a bathroom.

I love the bright, citrus-y tones of this lamp. It would definitely add character wherever you put it, and shines even without the light on!

Finally, I thought this side table was so unique and fun! I love pieces that add visual interest and make a room exciting and different, and I think this little table would definitely pack a punch.

So there's my window shopping/dreaming from Anthro. How about you? What are some of your favorite places to window shop?

(All images from anthropologie dot com).

Side note: I was not compensated in any manner for mentioning Anthropologie or their merchandise. In fact, if you like any of these things I would encourage you to go on a treasure hunt and see if you can find something similar for WAY cheaper. Then email me at and tell me all about it! Cheers!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Day in the Life of Agatha

Agatha is slowly adjusting to life here in the Marx household. And we are slowly adjusting to life with a small furry "child."

When I first met the kitty that I would take home, she was completely silent except for a few angelic little "mew"s. But almost as soon as we got into our house that evening, she started up the most awful racket and has hardly stopped since.

I kid you not. We feed her, we love on her, we try desperately not to kick her as she follows our feet everywhere we go, and yet she CONSTANTLY meows. She has a wide range of meows as well. Some seem to say "I'm here, don't forget I'm here," while others protest against some horrific trial she is undergoing. Like when I go into the bathroom and shut the door so she can't follow me in and start licking the toilet (ew). The other day I went to take a shower, and all I could hear the whole time was her loud wailing at being left alone in the hallway. Poor, abused little kitty.

At night, we put her in the second bedroom (I have some slight allergies, so we try to keep her out of our room at night), and she usually gets up every hour to wail and moan, and stick her paws under the door so she can scratch it from the outside.

And yet, there are times when I will be sitting on the couch, and she will come up and just curl into a little fluffball on my lap and start purring. The cuteness slays me.

I'm looking at this whole experience as mild preparation for having real, skin-covered children someday. At least now, when Aggie wakes me up at 3 am I can put earplugs in and go back to sleep. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Organizing should be FUN!

I do truly believe that organizing should be fun. It's exciting to have a place for everything, especially if it's a pretty storage bin or a cute file folder. I know, I organize like a girl.

Case in point:

I covered a plain ol' 3 ring binder with this adorable, girly, vintage fabric.

As if it wasn't girly enough, I even added a couple surprise bows inside (they double as a place to store extra papers since I covered the old pockets with fabric).

I think this binder is going to become my home decoration/inspiration file. I'm sure there will even be an entire tab dedicated to stylish organization!

There is an abundance of tutorials out there on making these cute binders, so for now I will just redirect you to Jenn's cute blog, Peas and Crayons. Enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Time to Buckle Down

(photo from anne taintor dot com)

As many of you wonderful, faithful reader-friends already know, our household is under some new budget constraints since I recently quit my day job and am slowly building up my own private voice studio.

The hubs and I have always lived pretty frugally, especially when compared to the American "Standard of Living." But I thought it would be fun to share some of our trials and triumphs when it comes to budgeting. Our new budget perfectly coincided with the New Year, so this January is the first month we are really getting down to business.

Most of the things we are doing are pretty much no-brainers, but I've noticed that even though some things seem to be common sense, people tend to do the opposite and get themselves in a lot of financial trouble (Hello, College-Age Version of Myself).

1. Pay down debt. Josh and I finally paid off my car loan this past Summer (after 1 year of making $1,000 car payments every month. I know. Insanity). And let me tell you, it's the best feeling ever to get out of debt. Now, the only debt we have is student loan debt and our mortgage. I wish we could annihilate the loans just like we did with the car, but right now it feels more like we're hacking at an iceberg with a butter knife.

2. Stay away from MORE debt. We do use a credit card to keep track of purchases, but we pay it off every month. In college, I learned the hard way that when you buy something on credit because you lack the funds to pay for it out-of-pocket, you end up paying way more. I bought a coat on credit for $120, and took about 6 months to pay it off. Since I didn't have a great credit score (it was my first card), my interest rate was somewhere around 17 %. Let's just say, I could have bought a Versace for that price. Or maybe 1/4 of one.

3. Keep housing/mortgage expenses within our budget. When we were deciding what we wanted to spend on housing, we most definitely did not go by the bank's standard. The bank would have easily approved us for a mortgage that was actually way out of our price range. Our town-home is pretty outdated (oh, how I often bemoan the 80's era builder grade houses. ugh.), but our mortgage + association fees are actually less than what a 1-bedroom apartment would cost in this area. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true! And we don't live in a "bad" area, we actually live in one of the nicer suburbs of the Twin Cities.

4. Save. Save. Save. Before I met Josh, I had no clue what it was like to not live from paycheck to paycheck. Part of this was due to a painful experience with my old car (all I will say is, don't make the mistake of replacing your transmission without checking to make sure your engine is in working order. Ouch). When you're living from paycheck to measly paycheck, what happens when a financial emergency hits and you don't have cash saved up? You "borrow" from your credit card, and you also end up paying more than you bargained for. Thanks to my Hubby's awesome savings skills, we were able to pay for our wedding out of pocket, and now we have a nice savings account should anything go awry.

When it comes to finances, I am NOT perfect. I'm more like that chick in the top picture who thinks "Frugal is such an UGLY word." Josh tends to be overly frugal, whereas I tend to enjoy spending money (Let's go buy some shoes!!! Props to whoever know where that came from!).

It's hard for me to resist buying things, but I'm learning how much more important it is to save and pay down debt primarily. Not only does it give you security financially, but it definitely adds to your sense of peace and security in life in general.

How about you? Are you a newbie to being financially responsible like me, or do you have some financial tips to share? I would love to hear all about it!

The Desk- A Long-Overdue Post

Well, I promised pictures of this project a while ago, but just couldn't seem to catch the right light to take pictures in. One of the reasons why winters in MN are SO frustrating.

But, it's about time I shared the finished project in it's entirety, bad pictures or not. So here it is:

I stripped the 3-4 layers of paint off the top of the desk, and brought the original wood back to it's former glory with some wood stain. The rest of the desk got a good sand down and was painted in a nice, soft white gloss paint.

Now, the desk sits behind our loveseat in the living room, and it's the perfect place to catch up on my favorite blog reading and send off emails. For the longest time, we had the computer in the living room, usually on the coffee table. It was getting to be a pain in the rear end! I'm so glad the computer has it's own space now, out of the general living room area.

The shelves on the side are one of my favorite parts! I love being able to display a few things on there, as well as have some storage space. The little owl figurine is vintage, bought at a sale this past Fall.

The 2nd shelf has a vintage egg basket, some pretty dried flowers, and (shocking, I know), another cute owl. This one was a gift from a friend.

I LOVE this basket that I picked up from Tarjay on clearance. It was under $5 and holds miscellaneous paperwork and other things that would otherwise just clutter up the small desk.

The only thing that remains to be done is find a cute handle for the drawer, or just refinish the existing one. I haven't decided what I want to do yet! But, there you have it. The desk, finished. Hallelujah.


Related Posts with Thumbnails