Playing Hard to Get

Posted by Corrie on 10:26 PM in ,
I have a confession to make. I'm in love.

With Darren...yes. But there is another.

This week, I began an unhealthy love affair with Chaing Mai.

I know...Chaing Mai is a little crazy. And has been around the block a few times - for a few years in fact. But I just can't resist.

Courtesy of The Desk of Annie

Courtesy of Caitlin Wilson Design

So complex. So much personality. It was love at first sight.

Courtesy of Yay Decor
Couldn't you just see it making a home as a pillow on my couch?

The seemingly random pattern that's so easy to pair with other patterns. That perfect mix of colors found throughout my house. The piece de resistance of my entire first floor. Oh, the places you'll it'll go!

 Oh, the drama.

.:Sigh:. But I forgot to mention a minor little detail. This is only a visual love affair for now, because I ain't no sugar momma. Think $140 per yard. Ouch.  On top of the price, it's a designer fabric made by Schumacher (whose fabrics I'm obsessed with, by the way) so it's playing hard to get. I've searched Ebay and Etsy but with nothing very reasonable to be found. The best I could find was a pair of pillows made with the fabric (only on one side) for $100. Still way out of my meager DIY budget. And there's nothing comparable that satisfies me.

Soooo for now I suppose I am left to dream. And keep stalking Ebay. And Etsy. And maybe save my pennies. And maybe make some calls to some local fabric/upholstery places to see if they might have any remnants.

And, hey! Any of you out there! Can you help a sister out? Do you or anyone you know have any scraps of this fabric they would be willing to part with? Any idea where I might find some at a bargain price? Chaing Mai in aquamarine. The bane of my existence right now. (Pathetic to say about a piece of fabric, I know. But gosh does it seem so fitting for my house.)

In the meantime, I'm going to focus on finding some orange curtains. Yep, orange. And picking a paint color so we can get our bedroom makeover. It's about to get crazy in here, kids.

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Sweet & Spicy

Posted by Corrie on 11:12 PM in , ,
Happy (now belated) Valentine's Day, loves! I originally started writing this this post as I was waiting for my valentine to arrive home from basketball on Tuesday, but since we didn't get our downtime together until about 10:30pm that night, I was never able to get the pics into the post. (Notice a trend here? Belated holiday greetings...belated Valentine's greetings...sometimes I suck at life.)

I have to admit...I generally don't go crazy over Valentine's Day. As much as I love decorating for holidays (and in general), Valentine's Day isn't something I go ga-ga about. Maybe it's because I (mostly) hate the color pink. Maybe it's because I don't like how the media seems to tell us that if we aren't buying All The Things for our partner that we don't love them enough. Or maybe I'm just a believer in doing the little things that show you care about your loved ones each day, not just on a day that 'designates' you to do so. Regardless, we don't do fancy dinners, or expensive gifts or grand public gestures of appreciation for Valentine's Day. While I love seeing others become joyful over those things, it's just not our style.

So in true DIY, made-with-love form, I raise a toast of cheap champagne (though not because I think cheaply of you) to you and your valentines, and I bring you our Valentine's Day.

The morning started with Darren waking up to find 12 post it notes I wrote out last night with cupid arrows drawn on them, each saying "I love you because..." with a reason underneath each arrow. The picture did not come out clear at all, probably due to the fact that I took it on my dumbphone non-smartphone while it was still dark out. Knowing that D gets up before me and let's the dog out, I left the post it notes around the house last night in each place he wanders in the morning so that he would find them as he got ready for work.  A free and heartfelt way to tell him how much I love the little things he does. Cheesy? Probably. Did he enjoy it? Yes.

I proceeded to indulge myself in chocolate at work, thanks to my lovely coworkers. When Darren picked me up from work, he had a card waiting on the seat for me with an unexpected little gift inside - a Groupon for a wine education class, which we had been eying up last week...and which I didn't have money to buy at the time. We both love wine, but unlike beer, don't know much about it, so it was a great thing for him to gift to both of us. The somewhat-unfortunate twist was that he didn't realize when he bought it last week that the promotional value expired a week later. Meaning, Monday, the day before Valentine's Day. Shady Groupon place and their shady timeline. No big deal though, because the paid amount never expires so we can still use it, but we'll just end up paying the full price when the time comes.

When we got home, we proceeded to make dinner as usual and then Darren ran off to basketball. While he was gone, I decided to take advantage of some leftover dark chocolate we had and make chocolate covered strawberries.

Chocolate covered strawberries are just about one of the easiest desserts you can make. I wanted to jazz them up a little bit by experimenting with some salty/sweet and spicy chocolate combos, so I pulled out some sea salt and cayenne pepper. I dumped a little more than a cup of dark chocolate chunks into a small bowl and heated them in the microwave, stopping to stir every 15 seconds. I know that sounds ridiculous, but if you choose to melt chocolate in the microwave, you must stir it frequently to distribute the heat and keep the chocolate from burning. As long as you obey that rule, microwave melting is much faster than stovetop melting. My plan of attack was to dip a little more than half the strawberries in the regular dark chocolate, then mix the cayenne pepper into the chocolate to do the rest. 

Right after dipping in the chocolate and giving a little twist to catch any drips, I placed them on top of a freezer bag to cool and reharden. Normally you would put them on wax paper, but I realized after I started melting the chocolate that we were out.  Oops. I gave a little sprinkle of coarsely ground sea salt over the top of some of the dipped strawberries while they were still melty, and left others plain. When I only had about 6 or 8 left to dip, I mixed about 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper into the dark chocolate and proceeded to coat the rest. Then I quickly sprinkled some cayenne over the tops in order to identify the spiced ones from the regular ones. At this point, many had hardened enough that I could remove them from the wax paper freezer bag and put them on a plate in the frig to chill.

Since I was hoping to present them a little more fancily than "oh hey, check out the plate in the frig," I decided to make a little box to put them in. It was as simple as google-ing "paper box template" and picking one of the many options that popped up. The one I used was from mirkwooddesigns.com, and it was fittingly called "candy box." 

When I printed it in it's original size, it looked a bit too small to hold a bunch of strawberries, so I just adjusted my printer settings to 125% and reprinted. It was as simple as tracing the top and bottom pieces on some card stock, cutting them out, folding along the lines, and gluing the corners in place. 

Oh, and then filling with strawberries. I did a row of the salty sweet, a row of regular dark, and a row of cayenne spiced.

Then I made a little tag out of paper scraps (it says...*geek alert*... "you're spicy and sweet <3 " to match the strawberries) and I tied everything up with baker's twine. 

When Darren arrived home, he opened his card and we proceeded to enjoy the strawberries alongside a cheap, half-full bottle of champagne that had been sitting in the frig (yet was still as carbonated and delicious as the day we opened it). Classy, right?

Between the cheesy displays of affection via post it notes, a somewhat expired Groupon gift, and a half bottle of cheap champagne, you probably think we have a dysfunctional relationship. To tell you the truth, it was totally 'us' and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

PS: The strawberries came out great! I loved the salty sweet ones. The spicy ones actually weren't really spicy - you could tell there was a hidden flavor, but the heat didn't really come through. It could just be that we have a good tolerance for spicy food. I might consider adding more cayenne next time, unless I'm feeding them to spice-intolerant friends or family, of course.

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While You Were Out

Posted by Corrie on 6:31 PM

While you were out...er, I mean...while *I* was out -- away from blogland for extended holiday celebrations -- we made a number of exciting upgrades around the house. The main one involved adding additional electrical boxes to our half bath so that we could install a wall mounted light and corresponding switch (more on that later.) We also installed an additional cabinet in the kitchen (more on that to come too).  Lastly, there are a couple things we tweaked in our living room that I'm pretty excited about...and those are what I'm going share with you today! Maybe you won't find them blog-worthy, but I was able to get some good deals and I feel like they've helped brighten up the space a bit.

Last you saw, my living room probably looked like this:

Womp womp. Dark. Mismatched. Unexciting. Even Remy looks depressed about it.

While I am very grateful for our free aka hand-me-down couch, I've never been a fan of it's dark green color and it has become a little worse for wear. As you might have guessed, we don't have money to buy a new one anytime soon, nor is it high on the priority list. The table lamp in the corner with the freakish lighting effects, which was leftover from Darren's college apartment days, has always gotten on my nerves as well. It's our primary light in the living room because we don't have any overhead lights and it's closer to the couch than our floor lamp. Don't be fooled by it's unnatural glow in this picture. The lamp is too small and barely gives off enough light to be able to read at the other end of the couch. Apart from it's lack of function, it's way too modern for my taste. 

Soooo, here's how we fixed things up a bit:

Cue heavenly dream sequence, choir gloriously singing, "ahhhh!"

I had been stalking slipcovers pretty much since the day we moved in, but the average price I was finding for a basic, two-piece/separate seat, fitted slipcover was $120. Regardless of which store/site I ordered it through, I knew that any place would tack on almost $20 to my order in tax and shipping...meaning $140 for the average slipcover. The Sure Fit brand had a lot of good reviews, but despite signing up for email coupons/sales, prices never came to $100 or less with shipping.  Target, Macy's, Amazon, and Overstock all carry the brand, so I was sure to keep an out out online and when I happened to be at the store. The specific slipcovers I had my eye on were the Cotton Duck Cloth 2-piece slipcover and the Twill Supreme 2-piece slipcover. Both offer a separate cover for the seat cushions, which gives more of a custom look, and both are machine washable, which is very important because we have a large dog and do a lot of eating on the couch.

Finally, in December, Macy's had a big home decor sale, which included their slipcovers. Not only was the Twill Supreme slipcover on sale, but so was a fancier, more expensive version that had Scotchguard in the fabric. The Scotchguard version was normally retailing for $200, but with promo codes and the home decor sale, it was only going to cost me $84.99 before shipping! Not only was that a good price for any 2-piece slipcover, but an AMAZING price for one that has 'stain-proof' fabric!

As you can see, the final amount came to $100.20. It felt like a steal! Shipping only took about a week, and the day I received it, I immediately washed/dried it and put it on the couch. I was giddy with excitement about how much it brightened up our living room (accompanied by the pillow covers I made awhile back)!

Ok, maybe it doesn't look very bright in that picture because I took it at night, but the slipcover is a nice neutral color. After 2 months of living with it, I'm happy to say that any food spills have wiped off without a problem, and the dog hair is easy to vacuum off as well. We haven't had any problems with the slipcover shifting either. 

My other little bonus buy, with the help of a $15 TJMaxx gift card I received for Christmas, was this handsome lamp for $35, which replaced the old modern slacker we had next to the couch. 

Even Target, where I found a similar lamp, couldn't match the price of this one (the lamp bases alone were $35 at Target, and drum-style lampshades were $16). It's much taller, the shade is bigger, and it has so much more interest than the old one. I only wish I had a close up picture of the old one so you can see the comparison. Actually, I'm not all that sad that there isn't a picture. You're not missing much. Darren happened to come home from basketball right as I was making the lamp switch-a-roo,  which meant that he was right in time to witness the 5 minutes of happy dance that ensued when I turned the lamp on. I said, "Aren't you EXCITEDDD, Darren?!" He responded, "I guess I just don't get that excited about lamps." 

You also may have noticed from the pics that we made another upgrade - the rug under the coffee table.   This was another exciting steal-of-a-deal that we got back in July. I wanted something 5'x8', durable, soft and with natural fibers. Plus, I tend toward buying indoor/outdoor rugs because they hold up well to Remy's and our foot traffic, they are durable and easy to clean, and they don't have loops that get caught around Remy's nails when she's playing. Jute was a choice that fit all of these things. However, most 5x8s are around $150 and up. I lucked out and found this guy on Overstock, with great reviews, for $80.99. Thanks to Overstock's cheap shipping, regardless of weight, the rug was still a great deal. 

My favorites things about it, after living with it for over 6 months, are that it's soft, double-sided (meaning we can flip it over for even wear), and that all dirt and most of the dog hair falls right through it. I'm not even kidding. I would have taken a picture when I used the shop vac to sweep underneath it last week, but it would be embarrassing for me to show you how much dirt and dog fur accumulates underneath when the top of the rug looks like it's staying so clean! I'm thinking of replacing the other living room rug, which is patterned, with second jute rug so make the room look more like a unified seating area. As much as I dearly love the patterned one and its cheerful colors, I feel like it breaks up the room too much. What do you think? Here's Remy attempting to model the rugs for you.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, we didn't upgrade Remy. That girl could never be upgraded. Best doggy we could ever ask for. (Her stuffed dog from the first pic, however, has been downgraded to various pieces parts, and most recently, to the trash can.)

And no, we didn't make her lay in essentially-the-same-spot as last time. She did that all by herself. I guess she felt that you needed her in the pic for an accurate comparison to the original living room picture. I'm just sad she didn't cross her front legs like a lady, which is how she usually lays. She mentioned something about not wanting to look like she was trying to hard...

So there you have it. Total cost for new rug, new slipcover and new lamp = $216.19. These items would've cost me around $400 if I had not bought them on sale, or even at other stores. That's almost $200 I saved! Hooray!

Maybe you think it's a little silly that I'm SO EXCITED about these little improvements. But when you don't have much money to spend, when you realize you can't just re-do a room all at one time, but that you will have to prioritize and save piece-by-piece...when you have to wait very impatiently, watching an item for months, hoping the prices will fall...watching sales go by, thinking "gosh, I should just get it already even though it's still more than I want to pay...but it IS on sale!...but what if that's as far on sale as it's going to go?"...well, you end up celebrating each great-deal-on-a-purchase as a little victory. And it seems that each item in your home gains more worth in your eyes because you worked hard to save the money for it. You struggled to make the smart decision by rejecting your credit card and waiting until you could afford it. And you end up not just purchasing a meaningless, yet functional object to put in your home, but gaining an appreciation for everything you've come to own. Not saying that someone who has the money can't appreciate a lamp or slipcover they purchase right when they need it, just that when you are forced to save and budget-shop, there is a whole new level of appreciation for what's in your house and every decor upgrade feels like a little victory. Why not celebrate the little victories? Maybe i'm getting too sentimental about my household objects, but when I am forced save and wait to get something even as silly as a lamp, I feel a greater pride in the things I own, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that!

Any big purchases you've made lately that you're excited about? Maybe even something you've been waiting to get and finally were able to with the help of some holiday gift cards? Do share!

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