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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Framing Maps: Part 1

I have a thing for maps, especially old maps. When I was a kid, my grandparents bought an atlas for us kids to use, and I was hooked.

I knew the capitals of all 50 states by the time I was 8 and forced all of my family members to quiz me before dinner.

Now than I'm an adult working on sharpening my eye for interior design, I really love the look of framed maps. Case in point:

Framed maps are such a great and easy way to display places that are special to you. Naturally I wanted to start with framing a map of good ol' North America, so when Nan and I went to our first estate sale back in October, we scooped up this awesome Rand McNally atlas from the 1960s.

Added bonus: there was a smaller sized leaflet of the continents inside, just begging to be displayed in a pretty frame. Enter this cute little shadow box-type frame that we scored at a local thrift store.

Unfortunately the back looked like this:

I cut the cardboard/paper stuff off with a knife and pulled up the staples holding everything in place. Once I removed the cardboard and the pink flower photo from the inside, I was still left with a pink border. I thought this would be a problem until I placed the map inside. The border actually compliments the pink color in the map!

I'm planning on adding this to the collage I'm slooowwwllyyyy assembling to go above the TV. And we still have a few more maps to frame, so... to be continued...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tis the Season... for reflection

It's December 1, which makes me scratch my head and wonder where the time has gone. How did we make it to the end of 2012 already? As I drive around I'm seeing more and more houses decked out and lit up and I remember the days of my dad and I making a game out of counting the decorated houses while making our way to grandma's house. And I think about how this time of the year is both and blessing and a curse for many people.

Last year something in my brain clicked and I decided to no longer be a humbug around Christmastime, although I thought that I had every reason to be. Using my past to justify the present is something I became very good at when I didn't want to take responsibility for my emotions/actions.

Although it’s still painful to recall, a week before Christmas 2008 I received the worst news of my life that my dad passed away. This December 17 will mark four years since his death, and it’s still difficult to grasp that it’s already been that long without him. Even though I've managed to really come to terms with his death and make peace with it, nothing changes the fact that losing a loved one at any time of the year hurts deeply and is something I will always have to work through.

Last year I had a change of heart. I wanted to really embrace Christmas like I never had before, or more like I had when I was a kid. I wanted to give gifts to everyone. I wanted to sing Christmas songs and watch movies and decorate and be happy and joyful. After all, I was engaged to the love of my life and we were both enjoying living with a special member of the family. Plus we were having one of the warmest winters on record so I had no reason to complain about the weather.

We headed up to Maine to spend Christmas Day with my mom’s side of the family. It didn't take long for alcohol and the absence of an uncle to stir up some hostile feelings which erupted in a shouting match while young cousins watched in horror. And I stood in the middle of the room, begging and pleading for everyone to stop and realize the absurdity of all of this. But hurtful words had already been exchanged and morale was low. At that moment I realized I could no longer play peacekeeper. Unfortunately I had to come to terms with the fact that these people don’t see things the way I do. Maybe someday they will, and I truly hope that happens. But I cannot hold out for that moment. I have to create my own reality.

A year later I’m living in a different part of the country with my husband and our tight knit family and we’re excited for the holidays. Thanksgiving was a success and now Christmas is on the horizon. The incident of last December feels like forever ago and I’m so ready to welcome my mom and grandmother here to celebrate with us. They deserve to be a part of a happy and loving family that has no interest in drama and we are welcoming them with open arms.

On that note, everyone deserves to feel welcomed and loved during the holidays and any day of the year for that matter. If the holidays create stress and anxiety for you, then my suggestion is to take a step back, breathe, and reevaluate. I know that sometimes family members can be pills and the mixing of personalities can be a recipe for drama. But love them anyway. Send out love every chance you get; you just may be surprised in the ways in which it comes back to you.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. What could be better than family and friends gathering to enjoy good food and great company? Throw in 60+ degree weather, sunshine, and homemade sangria and you've got the makings for an awesome holiday.

Spiced Cider Sangria
1 bottle Chianti
1/2 bottle Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
(what can I say? we like rum)
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 liter soda water
Mix in spice mix, cinnamon sticks and sliced fruit
We got crafty a few days before Thanksgiving and made up some cute place settings using pine cones from a local thrift store, craft paper, ribbon and leaf stickers. Total cost of this project: less than $10. And we have extra so we can add more names for next year ;)

Not to mention, they were a great addition to the fabulous table Nan decorated:

We started off the meal with some amazing squash and sweet potato soup. Trust me when I say it was even more delicious thank it looks.

Then it was grub time. Excuse the mismatched pink cup... I needed lots of water to go along with the heaping mountain of food I consumed.

Once the tryptophan set in we all scattered around the house for a nap, making sure to wake up in time for some football and dessert.

I have to say that overall, this is the best Thanksgiving I can remember. I have many, many fond memories of Thanksgivings past, but this one was very special being the first holiday spent with Evan as a married couple, and with my new family. There was no shortage of gratitude and happy bellies after our amazing meal, and it really set the tone as we look forward to entertaining even more family and friends next month. 


Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Room of Living (Progress)

Cue the holidays and suddenly my days seem to be getting away from me. Well, that and I've been making an effort to work extra shifts at work and lately Nan and I have been immersed in Operation: Finish the Living Room. When we first moved into our little bungalow, this was where we all gathered:

Nan's cute furniture from her previous apartment barely filled this new living space. It's not quite pictured, but the funky red leather-esque chaise made for a comfortable addition to the side of the couch for TV nights when all five of us would gather around for some of our favorite shows, like The Walking Dead and The X Factor. Yep, we're a zombies and bad reality TV kinda family.

Some things about this room that really bothered me/us:

Orange-y wood floors and trim. Once upon a time there was carpet in this room and the owner never quite got around to fixing the baseboard or the million little nails holes that surround the room. But it's not "our" home, so we're living with it.

The weird ceiling/molding that comes about 6-8 inches down the wall. I guess it's a Midwestern thing because I've never seen anything quite like it. Bungalows tend to have such small, cozy spaces to begin with, why make it feel smaller? If the place were ours, we would definitely push the ceiling back up high where it belongs. I'd say we have a good 10 ft. overall so this room could feel much larger.

Fast forward about a month and a half. We brought in the happy turquoise TV dresser, which drastically changed the vibe of the room if I do say so myself. Then we got rid of the sofa and brought in this guy:

Add some new curtains from World Market (one of Nan and I's favorite haunt) and the living room started to become a lot more comfortable and pulled together. Oh, and even though the TV dresser looks pretty junky, I have since purchased some 1x6 planks from Home Depot, had 'em cut to size, and created shelves for the baskets. I just need to stain and snap a new photo.

But first we decided to attack the other awkward side of the room:

The computer desk was a cheap Target buy that worked as a temporary solution when we were all cramped up in a 2-bedroom apartment. Now it's time to introduce a more impressive piece of furniture.

It wasn't a side if the road find, and I did have to slave over vague assembly instructions in a dimly lit room, but I think it was worth it. Looks expensive, huh? No? I thought so...

After browsing Craigslist like a pro to find an accent chair for a reading nook we envisioned for the other corner, I stumbled upon this resin wicker chair:

Yay for more bad iPhone photos. I'm still guilty of not taking out my "real" camera when I want a quick picture. I'm thinking there might be a more compact point-and-shoot in my future. But I figured the chair would be great for the space which we're trying to keep "natural". So far we have woven baskets in the TV dresser and our little burlap elephant that we scored from Home Goods. It's also perfect because Stella can't destroy the top of it with her claws like she's done with other upholstered chairs.

As far as the rest of the corner goes, the table is a $10 find from Thrift Nation (my new favorite place) as is the lamp. The too-small shade, which will be used elsewhere, and the seat cushion is from World Market. The fuzzy blanket is from Marshall's and the vase was a gift. The pillow was included with our couch, and is something we plan to cover with some new fabric or possibly a sweater.

I've officially decided that furnishing and decorating is fun... when I have time. And I'm slowly yet surely making sure to tackle at least one project, big or small, every week. Again I need to remind myself that we have only been living here for just about 2 months and we're feeling very prepared for the upcoming holidays. Let's see if we can stay on track!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Re-purposing Fun: Neglected Dresser turned Entertainment Center

Nearly a month later I'm almost done with our entertainment center, proving that one man's trash is a frugal woman's treasure.

After picking up this dresser with the nice albeit banged up legs I knew it would make a great vintage/antique looking entertainment center with a bright, bold color. Just the thing to add something fun and functional to our otherwise dark and beige living room, and I was eager to finally get my hands on something and release the creativity.

So the dresser sat in the garage for a few days weeks. Per usual, I procrastinated while browsing for a tutorial on refinishing a piece. In the meantime Nan and I made our way to the Depot to decide on a paint color. Behr's Teal Zeal was the winner. We also picked up the necessary supplies, like wood filler and this little guy:

As you can see, the top of the dresser was in tough shape, much like the rest of it. After filling in a few holes and gouges I sanded 'er down, then noticed the wood bubbling around the edges. I decided the top layer was too crappy to salvage, and upon further inspection I realized it could actually be peeled off to reveal the natural wood below.

With putty knife in hand I scraped til I couldn't scrape anymore, then sanded it down one more time. I do realize that I essentially took off a layer of the wood but it worked just fine, revealing a much smoother surface below. The rest of the piece wasn't going to peel as easy at the top so I figured what the hell, I wanted that dark brown to show through the teal a bit to give it a distressed look.

One coat of paint gave me just the look I wanted. Although it still needs some finishing touches like plywood cut to size for the middle and bottom shelf (plus fabric to cover said plywood) and some type of protective covering for the top, here she is in her glory:


I'm making a promise now to take better photos with my real camera once it's complete. Until then I used some crappy little particle board shelves from another trash find that I actually kind of like. I may cut to size and paint the unfinished edges and keep that slat look for the middle. The bottom has already collapsed under the weight of the baskets full of DVDs so a new plywood shelf is needed ASAP.

Breakdown of project cost to date:

  • Dresser: free (found on the side of the road)
  • Baskets: free (purchased with gift cards at Home Goods)
  • Paint: $12
Plus cost of supplies, so no more than $50. 

I'm officially hooked. Let's hope this nearly finished project will inspire me to look for the potential in other unloved pieces. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Favorite Fall Foods: Pumpkin Alfredo

Now that we're in the midst of fall, it's time to start cooking up some hearty comfort food! Nan whipped up this yummy seasonal dish and now we're going to share this easy recipe that will take you no more than 30 minutes to prepare.

Pumpkin Alfredo

First, stock up on the essentials:

1 bag whole wheat penne pasta
1 can of pumpkin pie filling
Stick of butter
½ cup chicken broth
½ quart of cream
2 cloves of chopped garlic
Fresh parmesan cheese
Dash cinnamon
Dash black pepper
Fresh chopped parsley


Boil pasta, rinse and drain
Combine butter, garlic, chicken broth, and cream in a saucepan on medium heat
Add parmesan cheese and stir until sauce thickens
Gradually whisk in spoonfuls of pumpkin pie filling
Add in cinnamon and pepper
Sauce is done when entire mixture is blended and is thick (like alfredo!)
Add pasta to pot and mix

This fed five people, with enough leftover to make a sixth meal. I'm sure you could substitute some ingredients to make this a healthier dish... but why would you want to? It's pasta and pumpkin pie, nothing about that screams health food. We all need to indulge once in a while...

Oh, and if you want to revive your leftovers, Nan says to throw 'em in a saucepan, add a little milk and stir on low heat. You know leftover pasta is the best. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Day in Amish Country

Ev surprised me Thursday night with the news that he had Friday off. This was very special indeed because we haven't had the same day off in a while, so the only times we were seeing each other were during a brief goodbye in the early morning before he heads off to work, or late at night when I get home from work and he's exhausted from a 12-hour day.

Needless to say, we decided to get out of the house on a rather lovely fall day and Ev had just the place in mind.

Amish Country.

Thanks to Ev's truck route, he's already driven through the hills and valleys of central Ohio and knew it would be a nice place to spend an afternoon peeping the autumn colors, enjoying a hearty meal and getting in some quality shopping time.

We pulled in to a town called Charm and enjoyed a couple pumpkin spice lattes and some pie at the Chalet in the Valley. It was a neat little place, complete with waitresses dressed like Swiss milk maids and a shop across the street selling handmade cheeses. 

Then we continued on into the town of Berlin and were greeted by a bustling downtown and all this country goodness:

All this nautical decor was making me yearn for the seashore, and also gave me some ideas for the relaxing cottage chic vibe I'd like to create someday when we have our own home. I'm grateful to be renting the house we're currently in, but we're still limited as to what we can do. The landlord isn't too crazy about us going beyond just painting the walls.

Next we wound our way through the Berlin Antique Mall, which was two floors of pure nostalgia and some pretty awesome furniture that I only wish we had the appropriate vehicle to take it home in. Like this lovely red hutch:

I don't think I'd change a thing, aside from spiffing up the shelves with some paint or decorative wallpaper. I think the speckled paint gives it a really neat look that would be difficult to recreate.

We saw so many of these old beverage crates, each one between $12-20. In hindsight I think these could be used in the dresser/entertainment center piece that I'm still working on, or as organizers in our hall closet. But I passed them up, not wanting to bring home items that I didn't yet have a use for. I suppose we can always go back once we have a better idea of how we want to organize.

Of course I made Ev take a picture of me practicing my scales on this Baby Grand. I totally would have bought this if I had a small child who happened to be musically inclined. Maybe someday...

Not to worry, we didn't leave empty handed. I've been dreaming up a wall collage for some time now, and wanted to find something funky to mix in with what will predominantly be picture frames. After looking through tons of old Ohio license plates, we stumbled upon this guy:

The only Massachusetts license plate in the whole place. We I was excited because I'm a dork and I thought it was special to find a cool old vintage thing that reminded me of where I came from. 

Amish Country reminded me of New England... rolling hills, narrow streets, beautiful foliage. On the way back home we stopped in a town called Hudson and I felt like I had teleported back to a street in Newburyport. 

We stopped inside this small, local tavern for a quick beer before winding down closer to home at the Cornerstone Brewery in Berea. By then it was dark and rainy so we shacked up inside, ate some dinner and tossed back a few more brews before calling it a night.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Pink Lady

Our bathroom is a lovely shade of pink.

Yes, we were fortunate enough to stumble upon a cute bungalow with an unfortunate pink tiled bathroom. Can anyone tell me why pink bathrooms were such a trend in the 60s?

The other unfortunate thing is this is the only bathroom in the house (unless you call the random shower and mirror in the laundry room a bathroom). So we either hate it or we embrace it. We’re attempting to go with the latter.

Please, try to restrain your envy for this beautiful faux-marble PINK vanity.

Trust me, if we owned this house the bathroom would likely already be gutted and ready for an overhaul. But we’re merely renters at this point in the game so we’re going to work with what we have and be damn grateful we have anything at all.

It started with the mirror.

Nan attacked the greenish-hued trim with a sponge brush and some white paint which made quite a noticeable difference.

In an effort to “bring out” the grey color in the “marbleized” vanity (I said we’re working with what we have, okay?) we got to painting.

Nan mixed her own color: a very light grey in an effort to offset the pinkness.

Now, this is my first time painting walls ever. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of doing ever since I discovered the world of DIY and blogging. I figured NBD because this is a tiny room and as long as we have the tools (paint, a roller and an edger) I’d be a natural. Since I’m so artistic and all.

It’s not that we didn’t whip this together in no time (we did) but DAMN were my arms and back sore. I’m slightly nervous to attack our bedroom which is about 6 times the size of the bathroom but I know this is only the beginning…

Anywho, here is how the Pink Lady looked when we finished:

And yes these are craptastic iPhone photos so the lighting isn't the greatest. I've also noticed that the color tends to look slightly purple at different times of the day. But we still think grey/purple and pink is an improvement over dirty white and pink.

Poor Ev, not only is he the only man in a house of four women, he also has to shave and shower in bathroom I now refer to as the Pink Lady. Hopefully the new hue will help him feel manlier.

Other stuff on the bathroom to-do list:
  • Add shelving above toilet
  • Add window treatment
  • Get shower caddies

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Time for Change

The transition from steamy summer to chilly fall seemed to happen without warning. It's not like I'm disappointed or anything... I truly enjoy this time of the year. Autumn is a time for change, and boy have things changed. It's kind of crazy that we've been here for just over a month now. What a whirlwind the past 38 days have been. I really thought the move from MA to OH would be easy, and I'm happy to say that in many ways, it has.

Speaking for myself, it was only during the first week or two that I had mixed feelings. Ev and I were sleeping on a constantly deflating air mattress in a cramped 2-bedroom apartment with a busy road outside our window and no employment. There was a little dose of drama that got me questioning just how this would all work out. It's not easy for five people with different personalities to live together in a small space and get along. Realistically we won't always be on the same page, and that's something that I was willing to work with. We all want to love and support each other and work together to achieve a more comfortable life for everyone, but what would that really take? Did we bite off more than we could chew? Will we all be able to deal with the stresses that inevitability come?

Just as the doubt started creeping in, I realized that this too shall pass. Ev and I both started making a steady income and as a family we found and settled into our little bungalow. I feel like the relationship I have with my new family is already growing in a positive direction. I feel close to everyone, to my mother-in-law and to the sisters that I never had. Ev and I are accepting our responsibility as young and able working adults who will support our family and our household. We will do this so the girls may work towards their goals in achieving higher education and so Nan can slowly work less for a paycheck and more for herself and her family. And so we can provide a happy and healthy foundation for future little ones... don't worry, we're not quite there yet!

There's many things on our to-do list (and there always will be) not only for the house, but for ourselves and for the purpose of keeping quality family time a priority. All I can say is as we move forward in this daily dance called life, it becomes clearer. Embrace change and life opens itself up to you.

Cheers to my beautiful family... here in Ohio and where everything started in New England!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nice Legs

I just have to say that so far the pickings in Ohio far surpass anything I've seen at a yard sale or on the side of the road in Mass. Reason? Beats me. Perhaps the amount of old people per square mile is more in this area, and old people = vintage goodies.

Case in point, this free dresser we scored today that was left out for the trash:

Nan and I were out cruising for garage sales and were feeling slightly disappointed at the lack thereof on this sunny fall morning.

Then we see this baby on the side of the road and banged a U-ey (disclaimer: no one was injured by my Bostonian driving skills in the acquisition of this piece of furniture). Honestly I saw the legs before the whole dresser.

I'm in love. Just what we've been looking for. The media area in our living room is in serious need of a revamping and I've been searching Craigslist for a dresser-like piece since we moved in. This baby was FREE so that's a win. I could see this easily going for $50+ on the ol' CL based on the fact that it's solid wood and a funky vintage style.

We chose to leave the drawers because our plan is to cut some plywood to size for shelving and use baskets as the bottom "drawers". The top two spaces will be used for the cable box and DVD player.

Nan and I are psyched about our find and can't wait to get to work. Hoping to have this little lady refinished and re-purposed by next weekend.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Food Post AKA My Mother-In-Law can COOK!

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the lovely and talented Nan:

Since Ev and I showed up at Nan's doorstep, we've been eating very well.

I've mentioned it already and now I feel that her fabulous cooking/baking/magic and the meals we get to enjoy are worthy of a permanent place on the world wide web. The woman knows her food, knows how to "make it work" with what you have (especially when the only refrigerator in the house is broken, kind of like ours right now), and knows that what she whips together is always good. Not because she uses expensive ingredients or has the most high tech kitchen equipment; because she makes it with love. And passion. A passion that I've never encountered in anyone else.

She is a survivor of some tough circumstances and creating delicious food for her family to enjoy together is of the utmost importance to her. Nan's food makes people happy and brings them together, I've already been fortunate enough to experience this.

Behind the wall (and the iPhone) there's three more eager people awaiting our first course.
I haven't done Nan's food any justice at all considering it's all been documented on my iPhone and not much else. I love the Nikon that I bought last year, which I needed specifically for taking beautiful pictures with. But I admit my new iPhone is so much handier... I'll do better, I promise!

Look, pistachio cake!

After a trip to one of our favorite places, the World Market, we came home with this stuff:

Again, lousy iPhone picture but yes, that's red velvet pancake mix. Nan wanted to make crepes with some fresh fruit, her own whipped cream and her favorite ingredient: chocolate. We decided to skip dinner and enjoy this deliciousness that night:

I told Nan that I wanted to start seriously documenting the whole process of brainstorming ideas, creating a menu, buying ingredients, and putting it all together for a family to enjoy. She loved the idea, so we decided to go to the local Farmers Market to pick up some produce and support locally grown food.

We picked up 8 peppers and a rather large eggplant for a grand total of $3! We're bumming that it's late in the season so this was the second to last market day. Not to mention lots of farms out here in the Midwest area suffered this year due to drought. Hoping next year will bring a better growing season for all, especially since we are determined to start our own garden.

Naturally we enjoyed those peppers that night. Nan hollowed and stuffed them with some ground beef and rice and did some other amazing things before letting the peppers slow cook for a few hours. Once our fridge is fixed that eggplant will make for a nice ingredient in another home cooked meal, and we're all eager.

I can't help thinking that this is why we came here. We've managed to find a nice place to call home and settle in as a family in such a short amount of time that I'm convinced it's Nan's amazing food and the memories we're already creating around the dinner table that has made it all possible.