Friday, December 6, 2013

Thanksgiving Cards

I made two different Thanksgiving cards which I wanted to show you.

I apologize for the photography and angle. I wanted to take pictures before these got sent in the mail.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Handmade Fall Greeting Cards and Scrapbook Pages

... just Laura: Bella Blvd & Kerri Bradford Studio Team Up: Harvest Party

How should I use this blog?

Time goes fast. Life is a whirlwind. It's been a while since I've posted anything on my blog. I'm wondering how should I use this space? Originally, blogs were used as an online diary. That's so personal. I'm not sure I can share so much of my life to the world--not that my life is so unique.

Young people today are so willing to put it all out there. I'm a little old school when it comes to that. It's easy for me to share the sordid details of my life with my personal friends. But, to the world? I'm not so sure. Somehow, just for the moment, I'm feeling the need to share myself with the world. Where is this coming from? I won't question it for now, at least I won't try. It'll be hard since I tend to be analytical and at times obsessive.

I love the web. You can learn about and explore the world from your seat. You can connect with so many people and maybe share your experiences and encourage one another. That's what I'd like to do. I'd like to encourage someone else. I'd like for them to obtain the peace and joy I've found, even through the trouble I've had in life. It's a weird state of being. It's an oxymoron of sorts. Peace & joy along with a troubled life. How can that be? I don't know, but it is. I guess that's where my faith comes in. It's helped me endure so much while grace and mercy has seen me through to the end and I'm here right now.

I guess that's all of the sharing I'll do for now. I hope to post again soon.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Small Bathroom Remodels on a Budget

Small Bathroom Remodels on a Budget

Update Bland Builder's Cabinets

Update Bland Builder's Cabinets

30 Low-Cost Cabinet Makeovers: Save Money by Painting Your Old, Ugly Kitchen Cabinets

30 Low-Cost Cabinet Makeovers: Save Money by Painting Your Old, Ugly Kitchen Cabinets

A Colorful, Storage-Savvy Kitchen Makeover from Salvaged Finds

A Colorful, Storage-Savvy Kitchen Makeover from Salvaged Finds

BrightNest | Reduce Junk Mail in a Snap with PaperKarma

BrightNest | Reduce Junk Mail in a Snap with PaperKarma

BrightNest | An Organization Powerhouse: IKEA Trones

BrightNest | An Organization Powerhouse: IKEA Trones

BrightNest | Check the Gases in Your House

BrightNest | Check the Gases in Your House

BrightNest | Inspect Your Home's Foundation

BrightNest | Inspect Your Foundation

BrightNest | 10 Ways Vinegar Can Make Your Life Easier

BrightNest | 10 Ways Vinegar Can Make Your Life Easier

Canned Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate – With Home Made Strawberry Daiquiri Mix Recipe Too! | "The Farm" Old World Garden Farms

Canned Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate – With Home Made Strawberry Daiquiri Mix Recipe Too! | "The Farm" Old World Garden Farms

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I'm at a gas station putting air in my tires. (Gone are the days when you were able to get free air. Gone are the days when a gas station attendant checked your tire air pressure as part of the complementary service you received when you bought gas. I had to go into the convenience store to buy something to get 4 quarters for the air machine.) Anyway, a gas truck arrived waiting to fill the underground storage tanks with petroleum. The truck was partially in the street and partially turned into the gas station as he waited.

The fill ports for the tanks were located next to where I was parked. After I filled my tires and was checking the pressure, the petroleum truck pulls all the way into the gas station, blocking me into the space. I ask the driver if I can get out and how long it would take. His response was, "I tried to wait. But you were taking your time. It'll take 30 minutes." I said,  "It takes time to put air in my tires which I had to pay for."

He did not move to let me out. He hadn't even dropped and connected the fill pipes to the tanks. I am stuck for at least 1/2 hour, maybe longer before I can go.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Making Reusable Shopping Bags

I'm making reusable shopping bags using the loads of fabric I have on hand and a super easy and FREE pattern from the Green Bag Lady. She even has a video showing how to make one. Both of these resources are located on the right side bar on her blog.

4/5/2013 update: This is also posted at Small Footprint Fridays.Small Footprint Fridays - A sustainable living link-up

I'm blessed with compassionate children

My older daughter decided to buy clothes from Old Navy and donate them to a local organization. I was blown away by her generosity and compassion. I am blessed. Thank you Lord.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Continuing Looking At Properties

Every weekend I've been looking at houses. I even took time off during a workday to see a house mid week. I'm glad I did. My two oldest children accompanied me. It was the perfect one, which, was move-in ready. And, the kids give their seal of approval too This is a rarity. Most of the properties I've looked at need a lot of repairing, updating, and deep cleaning before being habitable.

The asking price for this little gem was a bit more than I was prepared to pay. Could I swing it somehow? I brainstormed ideas for gathering several thousands of dollars in just days. Can I get a signature loan for the difference? Can I ask for an increase on an existing loan? I went home and spent 3 hours to complete my tax returns to see if and how much I would get in refunds. After all of this work, I determined I could just piece together the funds to make this work. I gave my realtor the go to put in an offer.

I was giddy. I couldn't wait to get the response and in a couple hours it comes. The seller accepts another offer that was received earlier than mine. TOTALLY BLOWN. I feel like grieving. After all of this work. After seeing so many unfit homes. After finally finding a gem. I'm back to square one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

I'm Disappointed But I'm Continuing My Search

On November 28, 2012 I put a contract on a nice, little rambler. It needs work. It needs modernization. But, it's at a good price and the seller quickly accepts my offer. Note that this was the third house I placed a contract on; the other two offers weren't accepted.

It was a short sale which, the selling agent said, was pre-approved at the listed price. One of the many addendums to the contract was a 60-day time period to allow for processing to get the selling bank's approval on the sale. Curious. Why would they need 60 days to get approval for something that's supposedly already approved? I'm told it's a standard form; don't worry about it. Okay, I played along.

Near the 60-day mark, I start asking about the status. My inquiries go through the chain from my realtor to their realtor to the title company which is the one dealing directly with the bank, which holds the mortgage on the seller's home. It's bureaucracy at its greatest. I'm told we should hear any moment. Just give us until the weekend. Or, I should get word by Monday. The moments, the weekends, and the Mondays pass by. No word.

I start counting the days to the 60-day time limit. I tell my realtor I want an answer by the date. I also start looking at other properties. I'm feeling a squeeze because my time is short on my lease. My lease ends on April 30, 2013. I have to give a 60-day notice to vacate. I want to move before my lease expires or I have to decide to either go month-to-month or sign another lease. Neither option is appealing. The month-to-month option involves paying a "market" rate which is usually equal to $200 - $300 more than I'm currently paying. The new lease term is usually 1 year. I don't like either. You really don't want to hear what I think of the market rate.

The 60-day time period passes. I'm looking at other houses but none catch my eye. Then the selling agent asks me to sign an extension on the contract or the house will be placed back on the market. Really? You want me to give you more time to get approval on a sale that was already pre-approved by the selling bank at that price? You have a seller who is ready to sell. A buyer who is pre-approved and ready to buy. But, there's this bureaucratic maze that can't unload it's holdings--which loses more everyday--in an efficient manner? I'm supposed to sign up for 30 more days of this torture, which may really mean another 60 days+?

What do you think my response was to this request?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I'm in love!

I stumbled upon on a blog that's about zero waste living. This family was featured on Sunset magazine's website. I love the idea that they can live while producing no waste. This is a lifestyle I can strive for and is in line with my values. To learn more about how this family lives go to To learn more about zero waste living check out

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Striving For Simplicity, Part 1

Several years ago I chose striving for simplicity as my email address. I was going through a time where I was overwhelmed with life. I was doing so many things that didn't improve my life or support my values and goals. It was frustrating and negatively affecting my spiritual and mental health. I felt so out-of-control.

One thing I've learned on my journey is that striving for simplicity is a process and life long goal. I won't arrive at simplicity--total simplicity in my life time. But, I'll make many steps toward that end. For a few years now I've been taking baby steps. But, recently I've been re-energized. I've discovered some blogs and Pinterest posts that helped motivate me to make a big push in my efforts.

Joshua Becker's blog, Becoming Minimalist is a God send. I bought his e-book, Living With Less: An Unexpected Key To Happiness, and started reading is last night. I think it's geared toward young people but the reviews say it's good advice for all ages. It's also a bonus for me that he writes it from a Christian perspective.

Product Details

Living with less weaves together several of my ideas and values. My heart yearns for this state. It yearned for it when I decided years ago to simplify Christmas and make it more meaningful. It yearned for it when I research information for simplifying life. It screams at me when I look around my home and see such a mess.

I have too much stuff and stuff needs to be maintained, cleaned, organized, and put away. I don't want to spend time doing those things. I'd rather spend time doing things that speak to my heart such as crafting, gardening, baking, and spending time with family and friends.

Another thing that's spurring this current round of purging is my desire to buy a house. I want a simple, 1,500 square feet homestead to call my own. I've been wanting this for a couple of years since my divorce in 2010.

Events leading to my separation and eventual divorce left me in financial ruins. It wasn't pretty. I didn't think I could ever buy a house of my own any time soon. I prepared myself for a long and hard road to recovery. I was middle aged and starting all over again.

My life began this spiral back in 2002 when my husband and I built our dream home. You can see the sales video of it here.  It was a 5,000 square feet brick front colonial with three levels, five bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms in an upscale neighborhood. I loved that house. It was perfect. We entertained and enjoyed many extended family gatherings there. But, something was not quite right. Something wasn't quite right for years. It finally came to the surface while we were living there and my life unraveled.

As I've learned, things happen for a reason. This was a BIG wake up call for me. I wasn't living an authentic life. I wasn't following God's calling for me. I wasn't happy and I needed to make some changes--BIG changes. My problem is I seem to wait until my pot is boiling over before I take action and that's what happened back in 2008.

One of the things I've learned from that experience is that bigger isn't better. More isn't better. Having lots of things doesn't make you happy. And, ignoring this was detrimental to my health. I was terribly unhappy on so many levels. But, I pushed through. I kept going. I had to maintain for the sake of my family, my children. I did this until I could not function anymore.

I realize this is going to be a long post so I'm ending it here. You can read the second part in Striving For Simplicity, Part 2.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Aloe Vera

I keep an aloe vera plant in my kitchen to treat any burns that may occur while cooking. I don't have any natural light there. But, it seems to thrive under a fluorescent light which is mounted under the cabinet.

For more information on how to use aloe vera, check out the Discovery Channel's article.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Handmade Christmas

For a long time I've felt that Christmas has become too commercial here in the United States. We seemed to forget the reason why we celebrate Christmas--which is celebrate the birth of Christ. 

About 10 years ago, I had a strong urge to put more meaning into the holidays, simplify, and produce less waste. I read several books, including this one

Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays (Elaine St. James Little Books)
which helped me make the transition. I wanted Christmas to be less about things and what the children got as gifts. After some extreme negotiation, I got my husband to agree to scale back the number of gifts we gave our children down to two and some stocking stuffers. We also decided to give gifts only to a few extended family members and close friends.

Fast forward six years...Continuing on my path to make Christmas more meaningful and less commercial, I decided to give my children handmade gifts. I consider myself quite crafty and they seem to appreciate what I make. Last Christmas I gave them custom clipboards with mini calendars which they could use as clipboards or hang on their wall to use as a calendar and memo board. 

My youngest daughter got this one. She's going through a stage where she's determining who she is and her place in the world. Being accepted is important. I wanted her to know that no matter what, she is loved.

My son is a no fuss, no color, no pattern kinda guy. He would have been happy with a plain, solid blue clipboard. But, what fun is that? I tried to keep the design simple so that he could as least tolerate it.

My older daughter is quite the social butterfly. She is also on the cusp of leaving the nest--at least for a few years--to continue her education and journey. This was her gift.
I think they all liked these gifts. (At least they were gracious about it and told me so.) I enjoyed making them and I can't wait to see what I'm inspired to make them for next Christmas.

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Junk Drawer

Right now, I have one junk drawer. Surprisingly, it's organized. Here it is.

What's in your junk drawer?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spice Organizing

I love to cook. I enjoy trying new recipes, including international dishes, many of which require unique spices. So, I have a large collection of spices which I decided to organize. I had spices on the counter top, in a spinning organizer, in three drawers, and on two shelves. (Sorry, I don't have before pictures.) One goal was to clear my counter top. Another goal was to organize them somehow. Finally, I wanted them all in one place.

I had this spinning spice organizer on the counter.


It holds 24 spices, with pre-labeled tops, in 2" glass jars which look like this:

One would think that 24 spice jars were enough. But noooo. I had more than 24 spices. Plus, some of them were in large bottles and others were in packages. I had to find a solution that would work, for the most part, to include different sizes.

While wandering the isles of a store, I impulsively bought this spice rack.

product image

I liked how it would fit different sizes, was compact, and didn't sit on the counter. But, I decided I wanted to save money and use whatever I already had on hand. So, I returned it to the store.

I went through my spices and threw away unidentifiable ones, grouped duplicates, and came up with a strategy. I was going to decant as many spices into the 24 little bottles that came with the spinning spice organizer. Then I would use other little spice bottles for what was leftover. I washed and dried all of the bottles before refilling them.

I decided to store all of the remaining spices in three drawers which are to the left of my stove.

The top drawer is shallow and would fit all of the short bottles. The second and third drawers are deep and can fit the tall, large, and odd-shaped packages.

To fit more bottles in the drawers, I decided to stand them up so that the tops would show and not the labels on front of the jar. This meant that I had to identify the spices that weren't in jars with pre-labeled tops. I also wanted a consistent look for all of the tops.

One thing I have a lot of is paper crafting supplies. I decided to go with a low tech solution using my paper crafting supplies. Here are the supplies I used.

I decided to label all of the jars using white card stock cut into circles that cover the tops. I hand wrote the spice names on the card stock and then adhered it to the tops using Glue Dots. Here is the results.

I keep extra blank labels already cut into circles, a roll of Glue Dots, and a black marker inside the top drawer along side of the bottles.

The middle drawer looks like this.
The bottom drawer isn't organized yet. I ran out of steam after finishing the second drawer. It'll do for now.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sneak Peek

Do you remember the side table I bought from the thrift store?

Well, I was thinking I'd paint it a bright color in a Moroccan-inspired design. It ended up being in a softer color with a kinda-Moroccan design. Here's a sneak peak.
I think it'll be a night stand for my youngest. I'll let you see the rest once it's done. I still want to make a bright, Moroccan table. 

Did I show you the pedestal dining table I bought at the thrift store?

I'm thinking I'll paint this an off-white or the same gray-blue that the base of the side table is painted. I already have dining chairs that are black with white polka dots and solid black in a sleek, modern design similar to this:
Lyle Black Modern Dining Chairs (Set of 2)  by Baxton Studio

but the legs are shiny metal. So, my dining table will be a juxtaposition of modern and traditional. I'm thinking that by painting the table white or some other light, solid color, it'll make it feel a little contemporary. You know the best part? The table only cost me $59.59.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mushroom Ravioli with White Wine Butter Sauce and Asparagus Tips

Today I dined on homemade mushroom ravioli with a white wine sauce and asparagus. This was a two-day effort. I made the ravioli yesterday and then cooked the pasta and sauce today. Here's the results.

I used two different recipes and adapted them to what I had. The ravioli was based upon Cyn's Wild Mushroom Ravioli at Her recipe calls for shitake, oyster, cremini, and white mushrooms. I used just the cremini and white mushrooms. Cyn also made the pasta dough from scratch. I used these instead.

I've read several recipes where people used egg roll wrappers in place of pasta dough for ravioli. I thought I'd give it a try. Also, in keeping with my ovo-lacto vegetarian fast, I used vegetable broth in place of beef broth. Everything else I followed Cyn's recipe.

I chopped the cremini and used pre-sliced white mushrooms. Then they were sauteed in a yummy butter and olive oil mixture.
I pureed the filling mix using my blender. (Sorry, no photo of that step.) Then I assembled my ravioli. I made two per won ton wrapper, sealed them around the edges and down the middle with water, and then used my pizza cutter to cut them apart.

I dried them for an hour on a wire rack.
I got sleepy so I piled them into glass containers until this evening.That was a mistake. They stuck together from the moisture that condensed in the containers. I had to slowly peel each off the stack by grabbing a drier edge and pulling it slowly up. What a hassle.

The sauce is from the Ravioli with White Wine and Asparagus Tips recipe on Again, I generally followed the recipe substituting shallots with red onions, eliminating fresh thyme (since I didn't have it), and used Yellow Tail Moscato wine which I opened last night. Another mistake. The sauce ended up sweet since Moscato is sweet. DUH. I also used baby asparagus which I probably could have left whole instead of cutting them as instructed in the recipe.

Instead of using a large pot to cook the asparagus and pasta in, I used a too small 4-quart one because I was being lazy and water conscience. That meant I could only cook 4 raviolis at a time. Third mistake.

My final mistake was making the ravioli so large. When they cooked, they expanded and ended up being jumbo ravioli. They were REALLY BIG ones!

Even with all of these mistakes, I enjoyed my dinner and I would definitely make it again after correcting my mistakes. Next time I would probably top them with roasted pine nuts to add some crunch and maybe red pepper flakes or something else red to add color.

I felt like such a gourmet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I'm under the weather....

...and have to take a short blogging break.

My First Furniture Find

This is the first piece of furniture I bought from the thrift store. It cost $49. Unfortunately, I don't have a before picture.

It originally had a lighter brown finish with ornate handles. The color and the handles were similar to the lighter dresser shown below.

I refinished the dresser in an espresso color, using the Rustoleum kit below. I replaced the knobs with brushed nickel. The most challenging part of this project was trying to find the bar handles. They are 4" and the local hardware and home improvement stores didn't stock this size for months.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Shhhh, don't tell anyone

I have an obsession with clocks and calendars. I can never have enough of both. Maybe this is a subliminal sign of some inner dysfunction associated with the passage of time? Who knows? I don't care, really. I just laugh at it as one of my many quirks.

I found these clocks, at two different thrift stores.

I *think* the little one was 50% off  of $1.90 and the larger one was 33% off of $4.94. They both have a few dings, which I won't change. Thankfully, the distressed look is still in style.

The small clock reminds me of a console TV our family had in the 1960s. Designs from that time is now in vogue. It's now called mid-century modern. I call it "when I was a child".

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pampered Chef Small Batter Bowl With Lid

I bought this 1 quart mixing bowl with lid at the thrift store.

I know Pampered Chef has good quality stuff which is expensive. I wanted to replace this measuring cup, which is in good condition but

I can't read the measurement lines with ease any more. I bake a lot and measuring is key to success. So, I'm donating the much loved, still usable, barely readable measuring cup now that I have a more functional replacement.

Pampered Chef doesn't sell this size batter bowl anymore. However, I did find this used comparable for sell on eBay for $34.99. My price from the thrift store was $3.93. Unfortunately, it wasn't on sale that day. But, I was okay paying "full" price and saving more than 88% compared to eBay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Broyhill End Table

This is the end table I talked about in a previous post

It's made by Broyhill, is solid pine, and has dovetail joints. Lovely. The single drawer is missing its knob, which can easily be replaced with something else. 

I started by sanding the surfaces. You can see in this post sanding photo below, that there are quite a few gouges on the top. I'm not sure if this was intentional distressing by the manufacturer. Or, was this inflicted by a previous owner? 

Either way, I don't mind the distressed look for this project. It'll add character, so I hope.

After sanding, I wiped the table down with a tack cloth and then painted it with a coat of primer using a synthetic brush. The sales person at Home Depot recommended I use Kilz 2 Latex Primer Sealer Stainblocker.

Here is what it looked like after one coat. I let that dry overnight and then painted a second coat.

Here you can see what the second coat looks like (on the left) on top of the first coat.

I finished the second coat and will let it dry overnight again. While it's drying, I'm going to research and try some design ideas before proceeding to the next step.

I stopped by JoAnn's on the way home from work to look at some stencils. I'm thinking about using stencils to create the patterned design on the table top.

While I had the Kilz out, I primed some other wooden pieces I bought from the thrift store. If you haven't notice, I've been on a thrift store shopping spree lately.

I looked for my end table on the internet to compare prices. I found two similar tables. There was this one
Bryson End Table

a Broyhill Bryson end table retailing for $299, currently on sale for $182 at Economy Furniture. Then there was this one

 Broyhill Yorkshire end table. A pair is selling for $316 at StillGoode Consignments. So, taking an average from the two sources, I came up with a cost of $170 for one end table. Guess what I paid for mine? $9.90! I love the thrift store.