Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Burning the Midnight Wax

I always notice that I light candles more during the fall and winter than any other time during the year. Maybe I crave the extra warmth or the faux scents of sugar cookies and pine, but nonetheless, I usually have three burning strong. And most of them are in jars or other ceramic containers to enclose the flame so my cats don't walk by and go up in smoke.

This particular candle just burned out before Christmas and I was said to see it go because it fit perfectly in the color decor of my family room. As you can see, it was in a glass jar that gradated from frosted clear to frosted yellow. Since I received it as a gift, I wasn't sure where to buy a replacement so, I used a little trick to remove the remnant wax so that I can reuse it in the room.

First, I made sure that I burnt the candle down as far as possible. (The larger black spot is where the wick used to be.)

Then I stuck that baby in our freezer for two days. Other people say only a couple hours in a freezer are needed but since this was a large candle and the container was an odd shape I wanted to be sure it was completely frozen. By freezing the candle, the wax will shrink leaving a little gap between it and the container.

Then I grabbed my least favorite kitchen knife and attacked it Michael Myers style. Stabbing the wax creates cracks and slowly chips away at the remaining solid mass.

Once the chunks were small enough, I dug them out, leaving a wax free jar.

After removing the labels and a good washing, this puppy can be repurposed as a vase, candy dish, or possibly another candle holder. The possibilities are endless and I kept one more thing from being casted off.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Deck the Dining room

Yesterday, I gave you a peep into our dining room, my favorite of the decorated rooms this year. I realize that not much was revealed in this small glimpse, but that's what a sneak peek is all about!

So, without further ado, here's the dining room with all the halls decked. I love that by positioning our tree off center in the living room, it frames the extended space unsystematically, yet visually it is comfortable.

A shot down the table.

I love the antler that I picked up from the vintage store during our up to the Twin Cities so much, that instead of removing it and clustering candles or ornaments for a centerpiece (as I so often do), I draped it with some beaded garland that I had picked up on mega clearance last year. I love the rustic glam look it has.

My other holiday decorative fallback is wrapping a small length of garland around the chandelier and hanging extra-large ornaments from the light's arms. I also draped the rest of the silver beaded-garland for a slight dash of glam.

The new addition to my holiday decor (bought pre-after-Christmas sales) is this set of stuffed felt trees from CB2. I have thought of so many different ways to spruce them up, since they are essentially large pin cushions, but decided that in their first year in our home they would stay as they are.

Lastly, I popped some extra ornaments in the table settings' bowls and kept the square cuts of kraft paper to break up the white dinnerware.

Hopefully, you see why I am loving our dining room this season and maybe it inspired you to look at your holiday decor in a new way (or gave you some ideas to copy!). Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Tannenbaum

As the days before Christmas dwindle, I am back with photos of my holiday decorations you can find in our living room. I mentioned yesterday that our neighbors (and the odd bystander) can catch a glimpse of our second tree through the large windows in our living room and now you can too! (Though it loses a bit of it's twinkling charm in the photos.)

As you can see, we have yet to paint our insane asylum white room, which means that time hasn't run out to chip in your two cents about which color scheme we should paint the space, or suggest one of your own. On the other hand, the white and silver decorations still work their winterland magic in the space but don't give as much oomph than if the room was a darker color. Oh well, maybe next year!

The deer stocking holders are one of my favorite holiday decorations. I love their uncomplicated silhouettes and that they are heavy enough to hold up a stocking full of gifts.

These next two photos are for my mom, who isn't able to make it out to our house this year, but wants to see pictures of the handed-down garland she gave to me last year. Look at Harley pretending to be a statue, what an attention hog (pun intended).

One last, almost repetitive photo, to share. This one catches a glimpse into our dining room, which is my favorite of the decorated rooms this year. When I look into it, I feel a sudden rush of holiday spirit and I can't wait to share it with you...tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fa-la-la-la-la Family Room

I keep reminding everyone of the Christmas Tree massacre and even gave a tip how to repel your kitties from your favorite evergreen, but today, I am finally sharing photos of the dazzling (and upright) tree in our family room.

This the first year we have been able to put up two trees in our home and we love having the formal one (photos to come) in the front half of our house for the passersby to see, courtesy of the large windows in our living room. And we keep this gem to ourselves in the family room in the back half of the house.

I always have trouble keeping the color flow between our family room, dinette, and kitchen since the family room accent color is orange, which slightly contrasts the dinette and kitchen's red accent. However, last year, I scored bookoo deals on all of the ornaments and other holiday decor for this room by waiting until after Christmas to shop. Fortunately, the red, gold, and burgundy ornaments don't sorely contrast the orange, but rather pull that balance through the room.

I picked up these stocking holders this year and love the shapes. I think the black balances the mantel decor with the rest of the space perfectly.

I bought this metal tree from Urban Outfitters (I still think they sell them) back when I was in college. It was tagged as jewelry stand but I like using it as an element on our mantel. It also gets a dash of glam when I dress it up during the holiday season with mini ornaments.

I went a little crazy with the ornament buying last year (I blame it on the deals) and bought too many. Though, good thing I did since many of them were lost when the tree face-planted less than 24 hours after being put up. After redressing the tree, I stacked medium-sized ornaments in some vases left over from our wedding centerpieces. I have two clusters, a set is here on one end of our mantel and the other sits in the middle of our dinette table as a centerpiece.

This concludes the Fa-la-la-la-la Family Room this year. Check back tomorrow for another room, frosted with holiday cheer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Goodwill Scores

I am a frequent shopper at my local Goodwill (mostly on Sundays), but once in a while I branch out to others in the area looking for my next steal. I'm not sure if this is true for all Goodwills, but Target is one of the big name stores that donates discontinued, slightly damaged, or old items that they can't sell in the store. As far as I have noticed, Minnesota and Illinois are two of the states that reap these amazing benefits. In the past I have picked up numerous pieces of new Target furniture including three bookcases, an entertainment stand, and a counter-height kitchen table. A little while ago, I struck gold in the form of a mid-century twin bed head- and foot-board, a mid-century danish chair, a brand new curtain rod ($45 at Target), and a brand new lamp base ($40 at Target) all for the low, low price of $28.

It's uncanny how similar the headboard is to my dining room chairs, which I also found at Goodwill. The spindles are nearly the exact same.

The chair is a show-stopper. The upholstery is in need of refreshing, but the teak wood will stay just as it is.

When I set out to buy a curtain rod, I am always surprised by how expensive they are. On average, I have spent about $60 per window on the hardware and sometimes it has cost more than the window treatment. Therefore, when I saw this rod for $20, I snatched it up. The packaging was a bit beaten up, but I made sure all pieces were there. When I was checking out, the associate told me my total and I was like "what?" On the day I was shopping, it was half off items with a blue sticker, and my curtain rod was one of those items. Yep, I did a silent victory dance.

This lamp base caught my eye in Target numerous times before I got my hands on my very own. In fact, I recommended these to my brother-in-law for his light-less family room and last I heard, he likes them as much as a single-guy-who-just-bought-his-first-house can. The base looks like woven wood and topped with a simple shade looks awesome in my twin-bed guest room with the upholstered headboard that I made.

Goodwill is a fantastic company that helps challenged people obtain employment. It provides opportunities to people who have barriers restricting their employability. So, every dollar you spend, goes to helping those in need, in addition to offering great deals and affordable necessities. Did I inspire you to visit your Goodwill this weekend?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cats in the Cabinet

Let's be honest, cats are curious animals. They chase each other around, fall asleep in the most interesting positions, and are crazy for catnip and tuna. It is even more fun when you get them when they are kittens because you watch them grow up and see how their personalities develop. Your assumptions, when they are kittens about their adult behaviors, can be spot on or the complete opposite.

We adopted Harley and Benny about three and half years ago. They are brothers from the same litter and act just as that. Surprisingly, Harley was the smallest of the bunch, but if you saw him today, you would be none the wiser. He must of learned the scrappy behaviors before we got him, because he can definitely hold his own. We chose Benny out of the lot because we wanted the calmest of the bunch and he fell asleep in Justin's hands when we visited them around 6 weeks old. From this we assumed Benny would love to be held and sleep in our laps, but only part of that was true. Benny doesn't mind being held and up until recently, was not a lap cat. About a month ago, out of the blue, Benny decided to test Justin's lap out and was happy to stand on his lap while being petted. A few weeks later, Justin reported that not only did Benny lay in his lap, but fell asleep as well.

Another odd change that has occurred is what I call "anything-you-can-do-I-can-do." This pertains to actions as well as following behaviors. Harley must be the big brother between the two, because Benny has become prone to mimicking Harley's behavior, no matter how naughty it is. I believe that the Christmas Tree murder was a team effort.

Last weekend, I was digging through recipes for our New Year's Eve party and in effect left the cupboard door open. So, what does my frisky feline do? He peeks in and decides to test out the cupboard's weight limit. Fortunately, his husky 15 pounds didn't tear it down, but it was funny seeing him jump in face first and smash his head into the back of the cupboard while his rump was not all the way up yet.

And, in the competitive brotherly spirit, Benny was quick to replace him as soon as Harley dismounted his post.

A clear example of the anything-you-can-do-I-can-do mentality of my fur babies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Go Green or Go Home

I try to be as budget-friendly and eco-savy as I can. Part of that means reusing and creating new things from everyday trash and excess. Therefore, when I realized we had almost an entire gallon of the sour-apple-green paint leftover from our dining room project, I convinced Justin that we needed to paint our guest bathroom on a whim one Sunday morning.

In its past state of blandness, I was itching to get some color up, but two things stood in my way 1) I was indecisive about the color and 2) "didn't have time" to paint. Then, a Sunday rolled around that was free of any obligations or plans and I was chomping at the bit. It didn't take much to convince Justin, merely the words "I'll need a little (in a high voice) help from you, but I'll do most of it" and he was signed.

After removing the colorful things that jazzed up the room, it was as bare as the inside of a kleenex box. You can see that we ran out of painter's tape, which increased the production time, but (as I found out) not a necessity. This was my first venture into cutting in/edging without the blue protective barrier, but it was easy-peasy!

The green paint plays with the green stripe on the shower curtain perfectly and balances the ash gray expertly. It'll bring some liveliness to my guests' mornings, that's for sure.

Aside from the juicy wall color, the hippopotamus trash can makes me giggle every time I see him. Won't it be great once this is our kids' bathroom?

All of the accessories, curtain, and towels were accumulated over the course of a year or two and were just as budget friendly as the rest of my home. The paint, as previously mentioned, was left over from another home project. The shower curtain is sold at CB2 for $35 but I snagged mine for $15 at the Crate and Barrel outlet store last summer. The towels were wedding gifts and the fun animal accessories I have picked up here and there and haven't cost me more than $5 per piece. Clearance baby! In fact, the most expensive items were the bath rugs, but at $20 a pop, I couldn't say no to their slate knobbiness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sour Puss

After the Christmas Tree fiasco I did some major googling for ways to kitty-proof your holiday decorations. I found some ok suggestions but the majority of them included major decor upheavals (surround your tree with child gates) or 24/7 surveillance (lock up your cat when you can't watch him), all of which I was not willing to implement. We already shoot them with a water spray bottle whenever they are being naughty, but contrary to some suggestions, they do not learn that being shot with a jet stream of water means NO, even after 4 years.

Then I came across a Cat 101 page that told me cats naturally do not like the smell of oranges, rotten apples, onions, and garlic. How come I have never known this? I've only owned cats my entire life! I continued reading and found out that by inconspicuously placing orange peels (the best smelling of the latter) around off-limit areas, cats will stay away. You can also spray your tree with diluted citronella oil or rub the trunk with oranges. I was weary of spraying or rubbing my tree with anything in case it discolored it, so I picked up a ¢78 orange from the store and sliced it up. Before I went the distance and distributed the slices around our trees, I tested my cats' reactions and was happy to see them crane their necks back and even run away. All systems were a go at that point.

Various sites suggested placing peels around the trees, but since I don't particularly like eating oranges, I left the fruit attached and put them in small ramekins to keep it clean.

Not only are they an unnoticeable fix, but their scent makes my house smell like I just cleaned everything. Bonus!

So far, I have not had another crime scene in my home and while some ornaments get knocked off occasionally, I prefer that to a whole tree face-plant.

Hopefully this helps my fellow feline-lovers out there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bad Impressions

When Justin and I put up our holiday decorations each season, it is inevitable that some furniture will need to be moved around. After sitting in the same spot for at least a year, our various couches, chairs, and media stands leave deep impressions in the lush terrain. To me, these are the equivalent to divots in a perfectly manicured golf course and one of my biggest pet peeves. In addition to being common during the holiday season, I noticed them when touring homes for sale. If you have put all the hard work into properly preparing your home for an open house or tour (including consolidating, organizing, cleaning, and staging) you might as well go the extra mile and rub those little dents out. Unfortunately, it may be easier said than done, which leads me to my tip of how to eliminate carpet impressions.

I originally received this tip in a forwarded email that included a bunch of "old housewives" tips for your home and gave it a go after putting up our decorations a few weeks ago. These blemishes are what I'm talking about:

It may just be me, but the dents scream out, "For 14 months it was my job to hold the couch in place and now look at me! Talk about hazardous working conditions AND you know that means that I and the surrounding area hasn't been thoroughly vacuumed in that time either (wink, wink)."

Anyways, the secret trick to silencing those tattletales is to put ice cubes on the indent, let them melt and when the carpet is still a little damp, rub the mark out. If the impression is especially deep, use a fork, screw driver, or other pointy hand held device to fluff the pile. (It wouldn't be a bad idea to vacuum the area either.)

After you have completed the steps, say sayonara to those mini divots and konnichiha to the renewed plush landscape.

Before having any guests over this season, I am going to use this simple trick to rid our house of all the bad carpet impressions so my cleaning habits aren't broadcasted all over our house.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shop Anthropologie

We finally got our first dose of real snow and it is going no where. (The weatherman says the 1/2" we got last Thursday was the official first day but what does he know?) The white mess all over reminds me of the merchandise displays at Anthropologie this season.

All of the displays had a rustic, outdoorsy, travel theme going on. To the right of the main door sat this gigantic stainless steel planter filled with small boulders. Long tree branches protruded from the cracks that the stacked boulders made and attached to those branches are street signs that pointed in all directions. I thought this would be a cool way to display those street signs you stole in college...on second thought, maybe not.

Just inside to the left, the large typographic letters that were used as a backdrop for the window displays were craftily covered with road maps obviously torn out from an atlas. I've been thinking of purchasing a map the size of my office wall to use as a wall paper, but I might try this technique out first.

Above the register area was this massive structure hanging from the ceiling. I would have been a bit nervous for the girl working right below it until I walked up and saw that it was made out of paper. It seems the be various rolls of paper. I'm going to try to do this for the New Year's Eve party Justin and I are throwing because it is genius, packs a big punch, and inexpensive.

Talk about sleeping with the birds! (Or was it fishes?) Literally bringing the outdoors in, the combination of the tree, glass chandelier, chopped wood, and luxurious looking comforter is dream like. The perfect balance between rough and soft textures encourages me to crawl in, right then and there.

Continuing the tree house effect, the built in cabinet alongside the back wall had branches injected into the shelving units. Here you can see they used the  branch as a rod to hang clothes.

But, enough about how the store looked, let's get to the goods! When I stepped through the door, a waft of the most succulent scent filled my nose. To figure out what smelled so good, I followed my sniffer to the source, these beautiful blue candles that are marketed to be from the volcano on Capri Island in Italy. Talk about reminiscent. That stop on our honeymoon in Italy was one of my favorites and is commemorated with a photo on our family room wall.

Sitting next to the candle mound were these etched champagne glasses. I like these because the etching gives, the otherwise basic glasses, a little more oomph. I'm thinking of attempting to recreate these with some inexpensive toasting glasses of my own. You can buy a glass etching kit from any of the major craft stores. Wouldn't these be elegant to clink on New Year's Eve?

Some other items that I adored were these giant magnifying glasses. They looked especially cool in multiples and staggered so the overlapping lenses doubled the magnification of what was behind them.

If you've just picked up the sweetest dresser from your local thrift shop, look no further than Anthropologie for unique handles, door knobs, and hooks. These are three of my select picks.

On the prowl for something special to give to your boss, neighbor, or New Year's Eve host? I think these charming bird houses or feeders would be perfect! They are hung from sturdy rope, which solves the problem of having a tree to put it in or a post to mount it on. Their handmade aesthetic gives them a whimsical feel.

I found this lil beaut shoved behind some items in the clearance section. Isn't it awesome? I imagined it in a super modern bathroom or hung above a table making a perfect vanity station. I just wish I had one of those spaces!

This small mirror could work on a vanity as well, or it could be placed next to your jewelry box as you don yourself with jewels in the morning. The small twig extensions are perfect for hanging your most frequently used necklaces, rings, you name it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Who's the fox? Who's the turkey?

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that this year on Thanksgiving day, before stuffing ourselves silly, Justin and I were going to join the crazies (a.k.a. Justin's dad and my friend Stephanie) and partake in a four mile race along the Fox River in Batavia (a suburb of Chicago).

For your amusement, here's a revelation I had on the way there.

Me: "I wonder who's the fox and who's the turkey in the race today."
Justin: "What?"
Me: "Between us, who is the fox and who is the turkey?"
Justin: Silence (obviously not fully awake yet)
Me: "According to the race's logo, I am the fox and you are the turkey."
Justin: "How's that?"
Me: "The fox is chasing the turkey and since you're a foot taller than me and faster, that makes you the turkey and me the fox."
Justin: Silence (No response, clearly ignoring my immature observations.)
Me: "Well, it's true."

Anywho, this fox finished the race in 35 minutes and 39 seconds and my handsome turkey finished in 31 minutes and 58 seconds. No third place medals this race but I finished 18th and he finished 16th in our respective gender-age groups. Not too shabby for a race in 38ยบ F weather, with a narrow slippery course, and with 999 other runners.

(Stephanie and me before the race. She's in the white knit hat and I'm to the right in the blue jacket.)
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