Thursday, August 25, 2011

Design Star Debacle 2011

 It seems to happen every year.  There's at least one Design Star episode that has such phenomenal failures that it makes you wonder if it was a set-up.  Last year it was the Trump Tower mess.  At least The Donald could afford to redo the apartments.

This year the designers each had a room/rooms to redo in a home a large single family home.  The family had recently moved in, so while it had the previous owners' paint colors, it was basically a blank slate.

The two most glaring bombs were the children's rooms.

Leslie was given 2 yr old Kyan's room.  His parents said he loves to perform and turn lights on and off.  Leslie decided to go with a theater theme.

Perhaps the home owners chose the brownish-eggplant color of the carpet, because it's also in the other boy's room. However it got there, I personally don't care for Leslie's choice of paint colors with that carpet, but maybe it looks better in person.  Also notice how the letters of Kyan's name are hung unevenly.  Nope, it's not an optical illusion.

Below is the stage area that Leslie created.  The curtains hang on a hula-hoop.  Not a bad DIY idea, but not great for someone who's a professional.  I'm also not sure how well it's going to hold up to a two year old.

Overall, the room just looked like a mess, cluttered and kind of disjointed.

Kellie got Mason's room.  Mason is about 6 years old, and had two requests:  bunk beds, and lockers.

Later, Kellie remarked that Mason wanted a "sports room, her worst nightmare" (Mason didn't actually say "sports" unless it was off camera).  She decided to go with a non-literal interpretation of that.

For some unfathomable reason, she really didn't want bunk beds.  Instead, she had her carpenter make a mini-loft bed.  Honestly, I think even I could have screwed together some two-by-fours in this manner.  Not only was the bed not what he wanted, it wasn't even particularly nice.

It had a teeny-tiny play area underneath.  Kellie told Mason it was a "hidey-hole".  I'm not sure even a six year old could sit up underneath there.

She also was not on board with the request for lockers, and this is how she interpreted the idea:
some crates from Pottery Barn mounted on the wall with hooks underneath for "his jersey or whatever".  Now, you know that I like PB, but it seems like kind of an unimaginative place for
 a designer to shop, since they have access to all kinds places the general public doesn't.  Not to mention all the cool non-chain stores in NYC at her disposal.

Up until this point, I have liked Kellie for the most part, but I really was dismayed with her this week.  Not only did she blatantly ignore her client's requests, she actually seemed disdainful of his desires.  She herself is the mother of boys, and I would have expected her to be more in tune with this little boy.  You could tell that he was disappointed at the reveal.

One more comment about this season of Design Star...
I find Tanika Ray's manner of speaking very annoying.  It's totally overdone and unnatural, like a bad actress.
Bring Back Clive!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sell Your Stuff on Ebay

I haven't mentioned it too much lately, but if you've been reading my blog a while, you know that I enjoy shopping at thrift stores.  I also donate my fair share of usable items to the thrift shops.

But what about really good stuff that's worth quite a bit of money?  Depending on the item, I will often attempt to sell it, either on craigslist or ebay.

A couple of weeks ago, I dug out all my old homeschooling stuff, going back as far as kindergarten.  I've listed a lot of it on ebay, and sold quite a bit.  Actually, so far I've sold $550 worth of homeschool books.  That includes last year's curriculum, a Sonlight Core package that I bought used for $330, and sold this year for $300.  That's pretty darn awesome!

So, what am I doing with this money?  It's going to help pay for this year's curriculum (BJU Online 8th grade), and that's pretty great too.  Next year I won't have so much homeschool stuff to sell, but I'm sure I'll sell other types of things throughout the year.

I'm not going to give you a tutorial on how go through the steps of listing an item on ebay;  I'm no expert and just know the basics.  However, I can give you a few tips for selling your stuff in general (this is all my opinion, not hard and fast rules).

1.  Large items, such as furniture, are best sold on craigslist, which is local pick-up only.  

2.  For items which are relatively easy to mail, ebay may be your best bet, as you will have a much larger "audience".

3.  However, you can sell anything (within their rules) on CL, too.  Last year I sold snowpants  on CL, which would have been easy to mail and would have been fine to list on ebay.  And if you want to sell furniture on ebay, you can.  I just don't want to bother with shipping on that kind of thing.

4.  Keep season in mind for either CL or ebay.  I sold the snowpants in October, when people are starting to gear up for winter.  You wouldn't have the same demand for snowpants in May.  Or homeschool books in March.

5.  When I sell or buy something on CL, I like to either make sure Craig is home if they are coming here, meet in a public place such as a busy parking lot, or even have Craig do the pick- up or drop-off.  Safety first.

6.  When you are listing an item, your title should be made up of searchable key words, more than just a description. Let's say you're selling a Pottery Barn slipcovered sofa.  Your title would need to be something like this:  
Pottery Barn PB Sofa Couch with Slip Cover Slipcover
It sounds kind of idiotic, but you won't miss someone who searches "couch" but not "sofa" or "PB" but not "Pottery Barn".
And be sure to spell everything correctly!!

7.  When you are listing on ebay, keep the cost of packing materials and postage in mind.  I use the USPS postage calculator, but for some reason I'm not very good at it and I have several times spent way more on postage than I charged, and that eats into my profit.

8.  When listing an item on ebay, do some research.  Are there twenty already listed, but no bids?  You might not want to bother.   Are items like yours selling?  If so, for how much?  Use the advanced search and click on "completed listings" to find out, and use that to help you figure out a starting price and what you might expect to ultimately sell it for.

Like I said, I'm no expert at this.  If you are, and have more tips, please share them in the comments.

Some previous posts you might find helpful:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gel Manicure

A while ago I used a gift certificate to treat myself to some spa time.  The nail tech talked me into a gel manicure.  I had just read about this new procedure a few days prior, and it's supposed to last a couple of weeks, so I gave it a try.

The polish itself looked kind of gummy; if it had been regular nail polish you would have thrown it out because it was too old.  The cool thing is that immediately after the polish is applied, you put your hand in a little ultraviolet thingy for a about a minute, and the the polish is completely dry!  No waiting, no tackiness, no need to have the tech get your keys out of your purse for you.

While I was getting the manicure I asked her if it removed with regular acetone remover, and she said yes...well, you have to soak it, she said.

After about six days, my manicure started getting cracks.  This could be because I so rarely polish my fingernails that I tend to mess with them when I do, and then I couldn't help but start picking at the cracks.  Regardless, it didn't last anywhere near two weeks.

So I decided to take it off.  Acetone and a lot of rubbing with a cotton ball didn't touch it.

That's when I got online and found several suggestions that you have to saturate a cotton ball for each finger, and wrap foil around that and let it sit for like 20 minutes.

After all that, it still didn't totally come off!  It kind of partially did, and I could scrape off some of it, but it didn't seem like that was too good for my nails.  I had remnants of the gel manicure on my nails for a couple weeks after I "removed" it.  Fortunately, it was a French manicure, so it was pretty much clear an unnoticeable to anyone else.

So, have you had a gel manicure?  How did you like it?  Was I doing something wrong?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Professional" Family Photos

A while back, I purchased a $16 Groupon for a package at that photo place that was very popular about a decade ago and was in every mall, but now there's only one in our whole metropolitan area.  I'll call them Foto Folks.  It had been a long time since we had a family picture taken, so I figured this would force me to get it done, without costing an arm and a leg.  Our appointment was last night.

I went to a lot of trouble to figure out what we were going to wear.  I looked at photographer websites that had What to Wear ideas.  There's obviously some place that supplies these images to photographers, because a lot of them had the same Gap/Old Navy/Piper Lime montages (hmm, maybe the Gap parent company supplies them).

The images were fresh, modern, cool, coordinating without being matchy-matchy.  I wouldn't characterize my family as being any of those, but that's what I wanted our photo to look like.  We've done the khaki and white, and the black and jeans.  I decided on blues for the guys and pinks for us girls.

We had most of the necessary pieces, but for the rest I went to a lot of stores:  thrift stores, Target, Kohls, shoe stores, etc.  I actually didn't spend too much money, as I found two shirts at the thrift store, and one on clearance at Kohls, and Pinkerbelle's cute sandals were cheap at Kmart.

Our photo session was about what I expected...fairly unimaginative, which is kind of funny because the reason this place was so popular when it came out was that it was so fun and different.  My package was for one pose only; of course, I could have purchased more but none were so great that I even wanted to.

In the end, we chose the photo in which everyone's facial expression was good.  The pose itself could have been better, and you can't even get the full effect of all my careful clothing coordination.

It's not too bad, though.  I definitely got my $16's worth.

When's the last time you had a family photo taken?  How did it turn out?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer Fun: A Final Hurrah

I can't believe that this is the last Friday of summer for us!  That was fast.

Here's a fun, quick project for you and your kids; I'll call it Ziploc Ice Cream.

1.  Fill a gallon ziploc bag with ice about halfway, add 6 tablespoons of rock salt, or regular salt (we used regular).

2.  Mix 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a pint size ziploc and seal it.

3.  Put the small bag inside the large bag and seal the large bag.

4.  Shake.

5.  Keep shaking.

6.  After about 5 minutes of shaking, the mixture will turn to ice cream!

7.  Dig in and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Book Depot

Nearly everyone in my family is a book maniac to some degree.  When we are together, we usually end up at some type of bookstore, especially us sisters.  Laurie happens to have the best bookstore ever not far from home.

The Book Depot is a converted factory.  It looks cool on the outside...

...and on the inside is row upon row of discounted books.

Every kind and genre of book imaginable is available, all at bargain prices.  Below is just a small section of the home/decorating section.

There's a large section of deeply discounted books, and as it happened, the week we were there those books were even further marked down to just $2 each.
These were my $2 purchases; I wish I had thought to get several of the cookbooks to keep on hand for wedding gifts.

The kids each got several big hardcover coffee-table type books on topics such as the sea, skyscrapers, and dogs.  I'd estimate that we got $200-300 worth of books for about $20.

If you're a book lover, and you're ever in the Niagara region, be sure to visit The Book Depot.  If you'd like to shop the Book Depot online, you can do that too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Alma Mater

My sister Laurie and her husband live and work at a Christian boarding school in Ontario, Canada.  My dad went to this school in the 1950s, and worked there in the 1970s.  All of us kids, except my younger brother, also attended.  I graduated in 1988.

When we were in Canada, we stayed on campus.  I thought it would be neat to give you a little tour.

Laurie and Wayne live in this house on campus.  When my dad worked at the school, we lived in this same house, and I went to kindergarten in town.

This is the main school building.  It's pretty much the same as it was when I was in school.

This boys' dorm was built about eight years ago.  It is a vast improvement on the old boys' dorm, which is basically just storage now.  Craig and I and the kids stayed in the new dorm while we were there.  

The girls' dorm is this awesome huge stone house that was built by a Canadian senator in the late 1800s.  When my dad was a student in the beginnings of the school, this is where classes were held.

An older photo, before it was owned by the school.

We had our big family birthday dinner in the dorm's sitting room, which was the original dining room.  There is a butler's pantry between the kitchen and the dining room, and a "secret" back staircase from the kitchen up to what was the servants' quarters.

The original stained glass windows still flank the fireplace.

I had several different rooms when I lived in the dorm.  This was one of them, with a marble fireplace.  I'd say the ceilings are at least 12 feet, and the baseboards 15".

I love that there's so much history here, and lots of my own family history.  In fact, my dad, Laurie, and my oldest niece Lacey were the first three-generation family to have all graduated from the school.

Thanks for taking the tour with me!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Something Nice and Something a Little Crazy

Recently my bloggy friend Paula of Sweetpea had a giveaway for homemade herbal soap, and I was the lucky winner!  The soap arrived charmingly packaged in ticking stripe fabric tied with twine.  They smell so good, especially the rosemary mint!

I have been using rosemary lemon at the kitchen sink and I'm really enjoying it.  It leaves my hands smelling fresh.  If you'd like to try making your own soap, check out how Paula did it.  I'm thinking it sounds like a nice teacher gift.

On a totally unrelated topic, here's where things get a little crazy...for me, anyway.  First, some background.  My sister Laurie and her four daughters have matching tattoos.  It's five ichthus (Christian fish) in the shape of a flower, representing each of them and their faith.

While we were there, my nieces suggested that my sisters and I should get matching tattoos as well.  Laurie and I were totally on board (although I must admit I was a little nervous about it), but Wendy was a flat-out "no".

Wendy, me, Laurie

Back home, Craig and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary this weekend.  (That makes me sound so old!)  A few years ago on our anniversary I had tried to convince Craig that we should get matching tattoos, but he was against it.  This year, with tattoos still on my mind, I brought it up again.

While still not a big fan for his own sake, he was willing to do it this time.  Seriously, that's how much he loves me!
Long story shorter, we now have matching infinity tattoos.  They are small and simple, because for all my big talk, it was really a huge leap for me to even set foot in a tattoo shop, never mind actually sit down and let somebody inject ink into my skin!

For me, that's pretty crazy!

Monday, August 1, 2011


The main reason for going to Canada was for my brother's wedding.  Dave and Audrey met on 
e harmony.  I told them they need to apply to be in a commercial.

One of the nice things about weddings is that you usually get to see people that you might not have otherwise.  In this case, it was my whole family.  It's not often that we are all together at the same time.  All of my siblings were there.  In this photo, clockwise from left (numbers are birth order):  my sister Laurie (1)  my brother David (2), his new wife Audrey, my younger brother Andy (5), sister Wendy (3), our dad, me (4), and our step-mom.  

We stayed with Laurie and my bil Wayne at their home.  They have four grown daughters, two of whom are married with three children each.  Most days there was anywhere from 15-20 people in my sister's house, usually eating.  My oldest niece and her family live just a few houses down from my sister, so we got to see them every day.  Her oldest daughter (my great-niece) though she is a few years younger, really hit it off with Pinkerbelle.  They actually share the same nickname, so they went by Pinkerbelle J (my daughter's middle initial) and Pinkerbelle May (her last name).

Pinkerbelle May's baby sister shares my name!  It took me a while to remember that when somebody said "Holly!" in a sing-songy voice, they were talking to the baby and not me.

Skippy's 11th birthday was last Monday the 25th, and my dad's birthday is July 30, so we celebrated both with a big family dinner.  Again, something we don't usually get to do.

I also got to meet my youngest niece's BFF Lucy, her husband, and their adorable daughter.  My niece introduced us through our blogs, and Lucy and I have emailed back and forth for the last couple of years.  Check out her blog here.

More to come...stay tuned!