Monday, April 29, 2013

New Rug

As I've mentioned in my 2013 Goals, I want to make updates to my apartment decor. The idea is to make it more adult and less broke college kid. After all, I've been out of college for 5 years already -such a bitter pill to swallow!

So far this year, I was able to: update my book case, DIY some book ends, purchase a new comforter, and create some wall art

Bookcase Update
DIY Bookends
Shadow Box
You may recall from my quarterly update that I mentioned I was on the hunt for an affordable (i.e. cheap) rug. I've come across a few pins that seemed to go with the aesthetic I was looking for:
The link has broken since I originally pinned it.
They all seemed to be in the $150-$200 which is reasonable but more then I was looking to spend. So I kept on the hunt. Every few days I’d do a quick search hoping I’d come across something more in my price range. Then finally I came across this beauty on which was on sale for $108.

It wasn't exactly what I was looking for (I wanted an all grey geometric print rug- like this) but it fit the color scheme and price range. I took the plunge and bought it.

Here’s what my room used to look like:

I had that rug for the last 5 years.

Here’s how the room looks now:

I’m not sure that I love it, but it works for now. In certain light, the rug looks yellow in other light it looks like gold.  

It’s the same size as my old rug, but I wish I had gotten a smaller size. However, I am not going to bother returning it -I'm way to lazy to ship it back.  What is nice is that the pattern ties in with fabric on the back of the book case!

There’s a few other changes I’d like to make.

I’d like to figure out a way to hide the elliptical. It’s such an eye sore but there’s no other place to keep it.  I haven’t been able to think of a good way to hide it. Maybe hang a grey curtain creatively from the ceiling? Anyone have a better idea? 

I’d also like to update my headboard. The tan doesn't match the color scheme anymore. I’d like to either get a whole new head board so I can change the layout of the room or re-cover it in grey or white. 

I’d also like to add another shadow box or two. They just look so small on the wall as is. 

The last thing I have in mind is to add some type of window treatment. I'll keep you posted on any pinterest inspired updates I make!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bikini Challenge- February/March Update

In the interest of keeping it real, this bikini muu muu ready challenge has been an absolute failure. I haven’t given anything up - in fact I just finished eating some McDonald's fries. Here’s where I stand now:

If you can't read it, it says 145.4. 
Looks like I should start shopping for some muu-muus. Maybe I’ll be able to get in gear for the month of May?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

30 Sucks

I am in denial that in just a couple of weeks I will be turning the big 3-0. I don't know why, I feel like I have been 30 for like 5 years now, but there's just something about moving into the next age bracket. I don't feel confident enough to be 30 - sometimes I still feel like I am faking it as an adult. Anyway, while I still have a couple weeks to claim I am a "20-something", some of my friends have been climbing the hill for the last few months. I am sure you all have seen some variation of the "30 Sucks" lollipop bouquet:

Source: One Dog Woof
Well how could I pass up this adorable little craft? Back in February, I had the opportunity to make a pair of these fun gifts: one for my cousin Katie and the other for our friend Brendan. I hit up Costco for the 100 count box of Blwow Pops figuring I will have another opportunity to make a third sometime in the near future. I got the containers for Christmas Tree Shop and Target I believe. The styrofoam was recycled from a Christmas gift.

I started the first one using only the pin's photo as a reference. I carved up the foam and hot glued it in. I then started sticking the pops in, using the method I learned back in my Flowershop days. Its hard to explain, but you put one in the top sticking straight up, then one in the middle of each side near the container. Next, another 4 go in between the bottom row and top lollipop. Then I just started filling in the holes.

I encountered an issue by not reading the directions: I didn't think to cover the styrofoam before I added the pops. As a result, you could still see it through the sticks.

See the white styrofoam peaking through there?

My solution was to wrap some raffia ribbon I had in and around the sticks to add some texture and sort of distract from the visible foam.

You can still see some of the foam but I think it helped.
Lastly, I printed out some quick labels made powerpoint and used my Creative Memories circle cutters (circa 2001 and still going!) to cut them out. A wooden skewer and some tape and it was done.

A little plastic wrap and some curling ribbon and it was ready to be gifted!

For the second one, I learned my lesson. I wrapped some colorful tissue paper around the styrofoam before inserting all the lollipops.

I also made the label a little smaller on this one (the first one was a little bit obnoxious).

Both Katie and Brendan seemed to enjoy them. They were pretty easy to make and fun to give. You could definitely dress them up some more, maybe with some colorful pipe cleaners curled up and added in between the lollipops. Or add some lottery tickets tucked in there. Anyone else out there have any creative 30th birthday gifts? I think Joe could use some help since every time he asks me what I want I change the subject - denial in full force!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mold Removal –Attempt 2

This weekend I gave that pesky bathtub mold a second shot. I followed the same steps I did last time (soaked some cotton balls in beach and pressed them against the mold). This time I left the beach on for a little over 4 hours – I’m way too impatient to wait any longer. I want to see results right away!

Anyway here’s how it looked after the second attempt:

There is definitely a bit of an improvement but still not where I want it to be. I actually noticed that some of the grout came up with the cotton balls (whoops!).

You can see in the picture above that the grout is completely missing in that one section.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the bathroom tile was all painted over and I think they did a poor job. The same goes with the grout. So I wouldn't be too worried about trying this in your own bathrooms. I suspect the grout in my bathroom would have come off with or with out the bleach.

I think if I left it overnight I would have gotten even better results. But to be honest, it’s a rental and I only have one more year left living here so I’m not going to put anymore effort into getting rid of the mold.

Now I need to try and get rid of the hard water stains on the faucet!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Office Progress: A Confession

As I have mentioned before, when Joe and I purchased this house, it was a bit of a fixer-upper. It had a great layout, plenty of closets, and way more space than we needed. Structurally it was fine, just very dated. I think we purchased from the original owners and they hadn't updated much. We got to work right away, getting new siding and windows within the first month we moved in. We painted the kitchen cabinets, put down some new flooring, painted miles of yellow oak trim and eventually moved onto refinishing the floors and updating two of the three bathrooms a couple years later. Here is just a taste of some of the originals:

Not the same exact view but close - the family room before and current. So much panelling!

Part of the kitchen before and current.
Sometimes, looking back, I wonder why we bought this house in the first place! Anyway, in the past 4+ years, we have done at least something to every room in the house. In some cases it was just paint, some places we added carpet and a couple rooms were gutted. The only room that remained untouched was our office. What could be a lovely fourth bedroom, den, craft room, or office, became a dumping ground for bills, paperwork, video games, craft supplies, endless computer cords/cables, magazines, baby stuff, etc.

The room when we moved in was a white box with yellow oak trim, and this awesome little built in desk tucked in the corner. I am afraid this may be one of the only "before" pics I have and its super embarrassing:

Told you - dumping ground.

We had high hopes for the room, and even bought a Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation Kit the summer before JJ was born thinking it was one of those things that "needs to get done before the baby arrives". I had seen lots of reviews about it online, and it looked like the perfect solution to the ugly yellow oak:
Source: Newly Wife Review
Well, the kit sat in the box for more than a year. Finally, a couple weeks ago, Joe got bite by the reno bug and we (by we I mean Joe) got moving on some office updates.

I am going to be real with you here and let you know that our projects take a long time (our half bath reno took like 3 months and the thing is like 6 SF). They take even longer now that we have a very active toddler. So I figured instead of waiting until the room is done to post about it (which very well may never happen), I would post in real time. So this is a little intro to the room and the little progress so far.

I am pretty sure the desk was meant to for a child because it used to have another set of drawers to the right, but we took them out when our legs kept hitting them. That was the only "improvement" made in over 4 years. To get things started, Joe cut the middle support near the desk top to open it up and allow us to have double monitors. Then he busted out the kit to test out the color on one of the shelves:

We went with "Espresso"
I was a little afraid it might be too dark, but we went with it anyway. After maybe 10ish hours of work (stretched out over a couple weekends), he followed the steps: de-gloss, 2 bond coats, then the sealant.

The top of the shelves after one coat.

The desk itself after one coat.

While I am thrilled with the results and think the kit was great, Joe might have a differing opinion. He was the one to do the grunt work, and his hand and back cramped up a couple times trying to get every crevice. I think having to do the underside of each shelf and the back of the cabinet doors made it a little more time consuming. Remembering back to painting our kitchen cabinets though, I definitely think the kit is the way to go. We spent days in the basement sanding those doors, and with the kit, there's no sanding involved. I will say, though, that some of the top sealant coat is a little streaky. Joe thinks it because the kit sat so long and he might not have mixed it well enough. It's really not that noticeable though so it doesn't really bother me.

I don't really have a good pic of the finished product as we just put the countertop back on to set the computer up (so I could actually type this post). But I will tease you with these terrible iphone pics since you sat through this super long and wordy post:

I will get some more finished pics soon, as well as details on some other modifications Joe made to accomodate wires and a vent for the computer tower. Next time, though, I am going to talk about the challenge of the desktop (which is clearly done) and hopefully soon we will have some more non-desk-related progress ... like trim painted, color on the walls, and maybe even some decorating! Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Better Small Product Photography

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite bloggers –Katie Bower, posted a how-to on small product photography. I think her intended audience is for those who sell products online (like etsy). I don't sell anything but I figured some of the tips might be helpful for blog photos.

I immediately pinned the post so I could remember to go back and give her tips a try one day. Well that day was last Sunday.
Before I show you how it went, I have to say, Grace is the one with the nice camera and Photoshop. I just have a cheap point & shoot camera from Target. The small amount of editing I do (i.e. cropping) is done with Microsoft Office Picture Manager.

I took two poster boards and set them up as Katie showed on her blog.

The poster board was sliding and not staying in place so I used some books to hold it in place.

To hold the vertical board up, I used a jar.

I used a starfish as my test subject. Here’s how it would look normally if I was taking a picture of it.

Look at that ugly rug! I've found a few new rugs that I like but haven't been able to bite the bullet and spend the money on one.

Unfortunately it was a cloudy day so I don’t think the pictures came out as great as they could have. Here’s how it looked on the poster board.

I made sure that any light was behind me.

I think they the all white background makes whatever you photographing look crispier.

You may have noticed that I used this technique when capturing my Oreo Truffle Brownies.

I see a small improvement but I am definitely going to keep trying to better my photography skills.  Katie provides a great deal of tips in her blog post – be sure to check it out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Oreo Truffle Brownies

Yesterday, the baking bug hit me and I decided to try something new from my Recipes to Try board on Pinterest. I went with Oreo Truffle Brownies.

The original pin is from Chef in Training.

Chef in Training
The recipe is basically taking the Oreo Truffles I've made in the past and spreading them over some brownies.  

I gathered my supplies…

The original pin gives directions on how to make brownies from scratch. I decided to take a short cut and used the boxed stuff. Not only is it easier, but I've tried making brownies from scratch before and they never turn out as good as the box mix. However, I did decide to try a different brand of brownie mix. Usually I go with Betty Crocker but this time I gave Duncan Hines a shot.

I whipped up the brownies as directed on the box. While they were cooling, I got the truffle layer together. You just take softened cream cheese and mix it with finely crushed Oreos. I threw the mixture on top of the cooled brownies.

It was a little challenging to spread out the mixture on top of the brownies. I found that using a small spatula was the easiest way to do it.

Once the cheese cream mixture was spread on top, I melted some chocolate…

Sorry it's blurry
And evenly spread it on top.

Right after spreading the chocolate on top, I poured some crushed Oreos on top to garnish.

Then I covered the brownies and threw them in the fridge for 2 hours so the chocolate could harden.

Then enjoy!

The Verdict: These are delicious and very rich. In addition, they were super easy to make. I will say that when I was slicing the brownies, a few of them had the truffle layer separate from the brownie layer.

Things to Consider/Change: I wouldn't really change anything with this recipe. Perhaps if I were to make these again, I would bake the brownies in a smaller dish so the brownie layer turned out a bit thicker.

Oreo Truffle Brownies
adapted from Chef inTraining

1 box of brownie mix
Ingredients for brownie mix (eggs, oil, water)
1 package of Double Stuff Oreos
4 oz of softened cream cheese
10 oz of dipping chocolate

  • Bake brownies as directed on the box. Allow to cool.
  • Crush Oreos in food processor or in a zip lock bag with rolling pin. Using your hands, mash softened cream cheese and crushed Oreos until well combined. Start with 4oz of cream cheese and add more if desired.
  • Spread layer of Oreo truffle on top of cooled brownies.
  • Melt chocolate and pour on top of the Oreo truffle layer.
  • Sprinkle additional crushed Oreos on top of the chocolate.
  • Cover and put into the fridge until set.
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