Friday, February 27, 2009

We Now Interrupt Winter for this Virtual Beach Vacation

I'm getting a little weary of winter. It's just gray and drab and cold. So for Julia's Hooked On Friday party I thought I'd highlight our favorite summer vacation...the beach at Lake Michigan! We love to go to southwestern Michigan to the beautiful beaches. They're clean, clear, fresh water, no seaweed, no jellyfish or sharks. Chicago is only 90 minutes away, and we usually add that into the mix (and IKEA, of course!). Last year we actually went to the beach in downtown Chicago!

New Buffalo, Michigan, 2004.

Oh, my heart hurts! Why do they have to grow up so fast?

Chicago beach, 2008. It was really windy and wavy that day.

Chicago, 2008.

And here, just to whet your appetite, is a house that is for sale. It sits on the bluff above the beach in New Buffalo. It has kind of a Tuscan villa feel, and can be yours for only $5.4 million.

The inside is nice enough, and you can see some of it if you click on the link above. But what's really spectacular is what's outside. Look at these views! And beachfront!

Now that's my dream. A beachfront cottage. This one is actually a little high-falutin' for me. I would be happy with an actual traditional cottage. But you've got to admit, this one's a beaut!
Visit Hooked on Houses to see what everyone else is hooked on today.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Today's Menu

Every day when the kids get home from school it's the same old thing; "What's for dinner, Mama?". Sometimes they each ask it multiple times. Haven't they figured out by now that I don't think that far ahead? Ask me at 5:30 when I've got my head stuck in the freezer trying to find the answer to that question.

In an effort to make life easier for all of us, I've tried to start planning my meals a little earlier in the day and writing the menu on my ironstone plate with a dry erase marker. Actually, that's a little misleading...I'd like to say that I do this all the time and no more last minute desperation dinners. In reality, I write it on the plate when I happen to have it planned out ahead of time.

So, that's my little tidbit for the day, in case you didn't know. You can write on china with a dry erase marker and it wipes right off. You probably knew.

And that ironstone? A month ago I stumbled upon a whole set of it at Goodwill. I got 8 dinner plates, 13 salad/dessert plates, 12 bowls, this large platter (they call it a chop plate) and the cream and sugar set for about $45. I hemmed and hawed. I didn't really need it, and I couldn't find out much info on this particular pattern online, other than the basics.

It's called Federalist Ironstone, made in Japan, pattern is Harmony House #4238. It may have come from Sears, and according to Replacements is circa 1968. There seemed to be quite a lot of it available online, but it didn't appear to be in great demand. That was the kicker; if it was selling on ebay for $$$, I would've kept it (there are listings, but no bids).

I returned it all, except for the chop plate and the cream/sugar. At the time I just didn't feel like I could justify spending that much on something I didn't need. I fully expect to find out someday that this pattern is highly collectible and worth ten times what I paid.

And if you know that it is, please don't tell me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WFMW--Lunch Bag Microwave Popcorn

Some time ago I stopped buying microwave popcorn. Mostly because of the unknown junk that makes up the 'natural flavor', but also because for less than a box of 3 microwave bags, you can buy a bag of plain popping corn that will pop up into probably a dozen or more big bowls.

We have an air popper, and that's what we usually use. But did you know that you can also pop it in a lunch bag in the microwave? This is best for times when you just want a personal size serving. First, you will need a paper lunch sack, popping corn, olive oil (or oil of choice), salt, and a stapler. Yep, a stapler.

Dump some corn in the bag. I don't really measure, but I would say about 1/4 cup. Drizzle a little oil over it--2 tsp. maybe--and sprinkle with salt. I've heard that you can do it with no oil, but I've never tried it. Now fold the top of the bag over and put a staple in each corner. I can't tell you why, but I promise you the staples will not cause any problems in your microwave. No sparks, nothin'. However, I can't be held responsible for any issues you may have, and will therefore recommend that you use staples at your own risk, and consider using masking tape instead.

Put the bag in the microwave and nuke on high for about two to three minutes. Listen for the popping to slow down just like with commercial microwave popcorn so you can stop it if necessary.

If you like, get some of these cute popcorn boxes at Dollar Tree to hold your snack, since the bag will be greasy.

It's cheap, it's healthful, it's got lots of fiber, and it Works For Me! Works For Me Wednesday has moved to We Are THAT Family. Go visit the new hostess!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Parade of Homes Part 5: 2001

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

In the fall of 2000, due our financial struggles, we started searching for an existing chiropractic practice to buy. For various reasons, we were focusing our search out of state, and visited several locations in Tennessee and Kentucky, and one in Michigan. We attempted to purchase one in a small town in Kentucky, but the retiring doctor got cold feet and backed out. After that we just laid low for a while, until about February of 2001. The broker contacted us with a large, successful practice that was for sale in a city in Kentucky.

It was bigger, and therefore way more $$$ than we had been looking for, and also we had been looking for a small town and home/office combination, but with a lot of advice, professional and otherwise, and lots and lots of prayers, we went for it. There were many hurdles to get over, including a small business loan, and it took months. In July, we went ahead and made the move, before the deal was even finalized.

The house we rented was on a street lined with trees and charming old Cape Cod-style houses. Our house was one story, no basement, three bedrooms, two baths, with a beautiful yard and a detached garage.

The whole back of the house was an addition that the owner, who was a contractor, had built when he lived in the house. There was a beautiful shaded patio surrounded with flower beds that the wife still came and tended to. From this view, on the right with the large windows was the dining area of the kitchen. The left, bumped out portion was the master bedroom.

Once the deal closed, the practice would enable us to immediately pull a salary three times what we had been. In anticipation of that, we bought patio furniture and a swing set for the boys before we even moved.

There was a pretty gravel path from the house to the oversized one-car garage. All of our stuff that had previously been stored in the basement had to be stored in the attic of the garage.

The original part of the house was a fairly small living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom, and a small galley kitchen. The house used to end right about at the end of this counter.

If you stood right at the end of the counter and turned around, you were now looking into the addition the owner had built. We bought the table and chairs a few weeks after we moved in.

After the dumpy, dark little houses we had lived in for the last six or seven years, I can't describe to you the feeling of moving into this fresh, clean, pretty house. Even though the house was small, this back part with its vaulted ceilings and skylights and big windows was so bright and just...lovely. I remember moving into this house, along with the promising new practice, felt so liberating, like a heavy cloud had lifted both from my surroundings and my soul. I felt happy and hopeful again.

The dining area had this big display shelf, which seemed like a really cool feature, but I never figured out what to put up there. The open door below it is the laundry room.

Off the dining room was the big new master bedroom with attached full bath. These are really the only pictures I could find of it, but it also had the high vaulted ceiling, and light colored berber carpet. It was a big contrast to our previous bedrooms and dark brown carpet.

I guess someone was fooling around with this photo. About a month after we moved in, my sisters came to visit and help me decorate. Here, my sister and I are trying to figure out how to slipcover the floral chair in the above photo.

In the front of the house, the two bedrooms had pretty hardwood floors. We gave Firstborn a full mattress, so guests could stay in his room when they visited. I made the valance to coordinate with his new quilt (see how it echoes the triangle edging on the quilt?) and used an oar to hang it.

Skippy's room was right next door, and was probably the original 'master' bedroom. I found this whole coordinated set of room decor on clearance at Target. I loved those vinyl wall stickers; they were kind of a new idea at the time. I soon did away with the foam mat and replaced it with a rug.

About six weeks after we moved in was 9/11. I remember being glued to the TV for days. This house was near a small airport, and I also remember the eerie silence in the air for the few days that all flights were grounded.

Other than that, though, this was a very happy house for me. The relief of having our financial burdens lifted was enormous. I was able to put Firstborn in preschool and Skippy in mother's day out, something I could never have afforded before. I felt like we were suddenly a normal young family, instead of struggling poor people. I'm not saying that was accurate, or how I should have felt, but I did. Right now as I write, I can feel the relief I felt then, and it almost makes me want to cry. I really felt like this whole thing was an answer to prayer.

With our new-found 'success', though, came the itch to buy our own house. Well, I had always wanted to buy our own place, but it was never even remotely a possibility before. Only I was itchy, really; Craig was perfectly satisfied. But I began my search, and in the end, we only lived in this house for five months.

To be continued...

Monday, February 23, 2009

10-Minute Makeover of My 10-Minute Makeover

If you read my 10-minute living room makeover, you may recall that I mentioned hanging the drapes high, causing them to dangle a good foot above the floor. It was sort of hidden behind the couch, but obviously at some angles it was visible. If my house floods, at least my drapes will be safe, but aesthetically, not so great.

Then in my Target post , I hinted at an upcoming project with the bargain valances that I picked up. Perhaps you can see where this is going. The valances are 15" long, just right to add to the panels and make them the perfect length.

I decided to attach them at the top so the pattern is visible and not hidden behind the couch. I could've just as easily put them on the bottom. The valances, of course, have their own casing for a curtain rod, the edges are all finished, it's perfect. Nothing could be easier.

I actually used my sewing machine for this. It was just one straight seam. Both the panel and the valance are 54" wide, it says so right on the packages. A perfect match. This will be a breeze! I am a lazy seamstress and didn't even pin it, just held them together and sewed it right up.

Huh. That's weird. The panel is a good 2" wider than the valance. Somebody can't measure...oh, made in China. Well. That's what I get for not pinning. Okay, well it's a good thing that I used the biggest basting stitch with the idea that I may want to take these apart and use them separately one day.

No problem, I can fix this. I ripped out the seam, folded the two pieces in half to find the middle and matched them up at that point. This time I pinned. There was still a discrepancy at the edges, so I just folded the panel in and caught that fold in the seam.

Here they are hanging up. You can hardly tell in this picture, but the subtle pattern at the top is a nice touch. There's still a big blank space on the wall in between, but I have something I think I can use.

I've had this carved wooden clock for a while, but haven't been using it in this house.

I popped the clock out and took off the hooks, which were broken anyway. Then I printed out our initial and hot-glued it to the back.

And here is the whole package! I think the carved piece looks pretty good there. It may be a little small, but it'll do. Maybe I'll eventually find something that will work better. Misti emailed me and suggested plates. That would be pretty--I'll keep my eye out.

Oh, and I just must tell you, that floor lamp that I got brand new at Goodwill for $19.99? It currently sells at Target for $69.99! Oh yeah.

P.S. I should probably iron the curtains, huh? And clean my camera lens.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Giveaway, and Awards

Mandi at Miss(es) Canadian Pie is having a giveaway for her 100th post...go congratulate her and enter to win a really nice prize. Including an awesome sketch of a sparrow that she did! P.S. It's also her birthday today!

I'm very excited to have received two awards from Sheryl at My Joyful Home ! Thank you, Sheryl! She's been doing quite a few sprucing up projects lately...go see what she's up to!

I think I'm supposed to pass these on, so I'm going to give them to Erin of Welcome Home and Mo of Our Slice of Paradise because they both recently signed up as followers of my blog, and anybody who cares that much about what I say is my friend!

I just realized that I used a lot! of! exclamation! points! in! this! post!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Target ROCKS!

I'm adding a preface here: last night Craig "helped me" by adding the share button and in the process he lost my entire blog! Gone! I was not happy. He is fairly computer savvy, unlike me, and was able to recover most of it...he was really sweatin' it! However my blogroll was lost. I'm trying to rebuild it, but I just wanted to let you know that I didn't purposely delete anybody!

Yesterday I hit the Target clearance again...score! For years I have been walking the perimeter of the aisles, scouting the clearance endcaps, and I've found some great bargains. But yesterday was quite possibly my biggest and best one-day haul.
  • On the top left, two valances. They had no tag, but similar items sell for between $15 and $20; I paid $3.74 each. More about those later.
  • Top middle, three shower curtains. Originally $19.49 for $4.87 each. There's a story about these, too.
  • Top right, 400 thread count cotton sheet set, originally $64.99 for $16.24.
  • Bottom left, two 84" denim panels, for one of the boys' rooms, originally $19.99, $4.98 each.
  • Bottom middle, pack of three dishcloths, originally $5.99 for $1.48. Several of my dishcloths are a decade old--nasty! So these will replace them.
  • Bottom right, eight placemats, originally $3.99 each, for $.98 each. Craig had complained about our ugly placemats, which you can catch a glimpse of on some of my Souper Saturday posts.
  • The ceramic lotion/soap pumps and cup were marked as originally $1.10 each, and I got them for $.27 each. Should've got more.
I'm a nerd like this and like to add up the totals. I got $206.65 worth of stuff for $58.06!

The above valance (I got two) will be involved in an update on my living room makeover. Check back on Monday for that!

And now the shower curtain story. I know you're dying to hear it!

A couple of weeks ago I bought three of these, on clearance for about $9 each. I just liked the fabric and thought I might be able use them to make curtain panels for my bedroom. Turns out I didn't like them for that, and I ended up returning them. Then yesterday on Melissa's bathroom makeover, she had the shower curtain, it looked so good, and she got it for $4.87. I wanted mine back! Searched the Target website, and it's out of stock online and at every Target within a 20 mile radius except one!

That's where I headed, and got the last three of the shower curtains for half of what I paid the first time. Sometimes it pays to be indecisive! I'm planning to try something a little different with at least one, and the others, well, I don't know. If I don't use them, I might ebay them, or maybe even a future giveaway!

So I've got a couple of projects with my finds coming up next week. I hope you'll come back to see what I'm going to cook up!