Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Instant Art

Add this to the list of projects that anybody could do.  Seriously.  It was so easy it took all of about 5 minutes.

My sister works at a card store, and regularly sends these beautiful, detailed greeting cards just to say hi.  You know, because she's amazing and likes to brighten people's days.  So she sent me this greeting card because it reminded her of me: AKA-I love French/France and wish I had that Audrey Hepburn finesse.  The card was just way too pretty to put in my filing cabinet of special things, so I decided to frame it to enjoy every day.

First, I spray painted an old Goodwill frame.  It started as a honey brown color and I wanted the frame to be crisp white.

In between coats I got my double stick tape, my card, and a paper backing to use as a matting.  I used some cork "paper" that I had leftover from another project, which you can find in the scrapbooking section of any craft store, but I thought gray or off-white would have been pretty too.

I measured out my distance from side to side so the card was centered and level on the paper, and then I taped.  Easy as that.  Double-stick tape is like my new favorite craft weapon.  Some people swear by Frog Tape--I swear by double-sided tape.  :)

Stick it in the frame, and ta da! Instant art.  It currently resides on top of a bookshelf in the office along with a painting of my dad when he was little.  My grandmother's caretaker enjoyed painting as much as my grandmother did, and she painted this picture for my grandmother before she passed.  It's one of a series of 4 school pictures they had taken.  I love art that has sentimental value...it makes the home more collected and special.

xoxo- L.o.L. :)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Five

I'm back with another edition of my 5 favorite things of this week.  I've had a blog post up and ready except for the final pictures and I haven't been able to find the time to take the pictures and finish it up.  Maybe later today.  So without further ado:

01. these shoes
Nice brown flats are not easy to find, but these are a classic.

02. this app

Check to see if your library offers books through mobile devices.  Ours uses OneClickdigital and OverDrive and you can either listen to or read books straight from your phone/tablet/computer.

03. metal roofs
We've recently been getting estimates for a new roof and I would really really LOVE to be able to get a metal roof.  They're more expensive initially, but add so much charm and charisma to a house.  Plus, they're more energy efficient, made from recycled materials, and last from 20-50 years!

04. grumpy cat
What's even better than Grumpy Cat?  Grumpy Cat next to Ron Swanson.

05. this blog
She is this cute, southern interior designer with impeccable taste, and a city garden.  How much more perfect does it get?

xoxo- L.o.L. :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Out with the old, In with the New

I am certainly not an expert at home-related things, nor do I claim to be.  I will be the first to admit that I have no idea how to properly use a saw, or the cleaning effectiveness of microfiber vs. cotton.  Even to the most aloof homeowner, though, it was evident that we were going to have to make some appliance upgrades upon purchasing our house.  Our refrigerator was probably the only remaining model from the 70s, and while it was still cold inside, nothing else about it was functional/appealing.  

Because wheat decals on refrigerator shelving just made sense, apparently.  Could we keep the refrigerator and manage to save some money?  Yes, in the short run.  But this baby didn't have much time left, and we didn't want to be stuck with hundreds of dollars of wasted food and a second delivery charge, when we needed to upgrade the washer and dryer anyway.

Both the washer and the dryer worked, but the washer made a terrible screeching noise when on the spin cycle, and the dryer rattled so much you could hear it across the house.  Also, none of the appliances were energy star approved, and the washer especially used so much water because it was such an old model.  

I decided to write this post because we exercised all the DON'TS when purchasing our new appliances, and I wanted to share what we learned throughout the process so maybe others won't make the same mistakes.

the DOs and DONTs of appliance shopping
  1. Don't go with several other people for their input or expertise.  Only the people using the appliances should be the ones making the decisions, and other people will cloud your thought process, and provide unnecessary stress to the experience.
  2. Know what you want before you leave the house.  Do you want a french door style refrigerator? Front or top loader washer and dryer?  The only things we knew were that we wanted stackable front loaders, and it would have been much less stressful to know all the specifics beforehand.
  3. Do your research.  What brands are highly rated?  I've found the consumer ratings on websites like Lowes.com and BestBuy.com to be pretty accurate.  We learned that some brands can be great one year, and then terrible the next, so it really pays to do your research.
  4. Shop around.  When dealing with appliances, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars by checking ad prices and shopping at a couple of different stores before purchasing.
  5. Measure space allowances, door frames, and existing appliances before you start shopping.  We ended up having to tear apart 2 door frames because our appliances wouldn't fit through the doors.
  6. Think about your needs, and what would be realistic for your family.  I had no clue that refrigerators came in different sizes/capacities, and the refrigerator we decided upon is HUGE.  It is generally only ever 1/2 full, and is too big for our kitchen, and for our needs.
  7. Explore price matching and sale deals.  We purchased our dishwasher from BestBuy, which was not the cheapest retailer, but they price matched for up to a year at the time, and we ended up shaving almost $200 off the cost of it by being diligent about checking the ads.
  8. Explore your rights as a consumer.  Do the stores have a floor model that would be cheaper?  Do any of the appliances have a scratch/ding?  Our delivery guys dropped our washer while moving it, and scratched the front window of the door.  I called the retailer, and they took $200 off the price of it to avoid having to take it back and deliver another one the next day.  We barely notice the scratch, and our washer and dryer are not in a very prominent location in the house, so other people won't see it much either.

We purchased the refrigerator, washer, and dryer from HHGregg (all Samsung brand), and we've been very pleased with them so far.  The stainless on the doors of the refrigerator dents VERY easily, and the freezer already has 2 small dents in it, one from a plastic container(!!).  Also, the shelf spacing is a little weird, and tall items like juice containers, pitchers, and milk only fit in the door, which is convenient for items with lids, but not convenient for items like pitchers of tea.  Like I said before, the size of the refrigerator is much larger than we need, so when we renovate the kitchen we will probably explore Craigslisting it and using the proceeds for a smaller, more manageable size.

The washer and dryer have been phenomenal, and I haven't found a single complaint about them yet.  They were by far the most reasonably priced front loaders, and have turned out to be really great appliances.  I would definitely recommend this particular Samsung model if someone is in the market.

We also purchased this model dishwasher after ours quit working unexpectedly.  We were a little bit more prepared with this purchase, and decided to go with Samsung again so that the stainless finish matched the refrigerator.  This dishwasher was highly recommended by the lady at BestBuy, but only received 3.4 out of 5 stars from consumer reviews.  The dishwasher itself is great.  The items come out clean with minimal pre-washing, and we only have to run something a second time probably once every 10 loads.  The problem we've had is with the seal on the door, and a horrible smell in the dishwasher itself.  For the first year I tried everything from baking soda to vinegar to dishwasher cleaners and hot hot water, but the smell would just not go away.  Then we discovered that the seal on the door traps food and gunk during the wash, and that's what causes the smell.  We cleaned the seal with a paper towel, and left the dishwasher open for 24 hours to dry out, and the smell hasn't been bad since.  We'll probably have to clean the seal again in a month or 2, something you shouldn't have to do with a high-end dishwasher, which is why I assume this model has only 3.4 stars.  

All in all, we've been satisfied with our purchases, but more importantly, have learned so much in the process.  We hopefully won't have to buy any more appliances for awhile, but when we do, we'll be prepared!

xoxo- L.o.L. :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Five

01. this shockingly true diagram
Just a little reminder to stick to your  New Years resolutions

02. our new recycling bin
(sorry for the poor iPhone photo) Our city is starting a new recycling program this week that is not only green, but cost-effective as well.  These new bins hold twice as much as the smaller bins, and there's no need to separate plastics/metals from papers anymore.  I may be a recycling nazi, so this makes me very happy.

03. a combo of my current read, Jean Ralphio, and the electric blanket
The blanket and the kitty were two of the best Christmas gifts, and I decided I needed to read Anna Karenina before I could go see the movie.  It will probably be out in the RedBox before I finish.

04. our new backyard
Yep.  Still soaking up the product of our hard work.

05. everything about this band
Little Boxes will still always be my favorite cover, but the Taylor Swift video is nothing short of amazing.  Complete with a little Lion King.

xoxo- L.o.L.  :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Backyard Before and After

Brian and I decided to forgo the usual Christmas gift exchange, and to instead get each other something we both desperately wanted and needed: SOD.  Aren't we the most romantic couple ever?  #welcometohomeownership.

If you recall from our house tour, our backyard was a jungle when we moved in.  The house was a rental property for over 10 years, so the backyard was a no mow, no maintenance area, which is great for people with no animals or time to care for a yard, but not so great for us.

We started by removing the lower half of the deck and planter, which you can see in the top picture.  We kept the upper half of the deck for now so that we have some place to put our fire pit and outdoor furniture.  We also cleared out all the plants, weeds, roots, and leaves, transplanting some that we wanted to save, and trashing the rest.

After what felt like 400 bags of yard trash, we were left with this:

The yard looked so much larger now that it was open, and the space was instantly more useable and inviting.  As you can tell by the piles of wood and debris along the fence, we still had a lot of work to do before we were ready for sod.

Brian and I worked during our days off for the holidays, and after about a week of raking and leveling, we finally declared the preparation done.  We wanted to make sure that all the roots, weeds, and plant debris were clear before we laid our new sod to give the grass the best possible chance to establish and grow.  We also used the metal rake and "aerated" the soil ourselves so the new roots would have enough oxygen.  We're certainly not experts in the sod-laying industry, but we wanted to make sure our money didn't go to waste, so we followed every recommendation we found through research, which certainly takes more time and effort, but will hopefully pay off in the end.

After calling around and getting pricing from several companies, we hit the jackpot with a recommended company who not only offered the lowest prices, but could deliver the sod the next day.  24 hours later and we were ready for some sod laying.

It was not intentional, but I was in Tampa the day of the delivery, so Brian was on his own for this project.  He tried to stagger the pieces a bit so we wouldn't have grid-like seams, and after an almost full day of laying, we were about 90% done.  

On Saturday we laid the final pieces, and Mrs. H and I spread some mulch and set out some planters in the perimeter along the fence.

We don't have an irrigation system, and didn't think it would be worth the money because our yard is so small, so we are being diligent about turning the sprinkler on every morning for about 20 minutes or so.  We try to do as much as we can on our own, but neither of us feel confident enough to treat and protect our new investment from insects and diseases, so we've hired a company to fertilize and treat our lawn every other month, at least for the first year while it gets established.

This was only phase 1 of many in the backyard.  We still have plans to fill in the perimeter a bit more with some colorful plants, hang some fun colorful things along the fence, install a canopy over the deck, put a shed in the back corner in lieu of a garage, plant an herb and vegetable garden, install a stone walkway, and lay a decking for a grill area by the AC unit.  We still have so much we'd like to do, but for now we're just enjoying the new backyard.  It's such a drastic change from what we started with, right?

xoxo- L.o.L. :)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Five

I can't manage to blog 3 days a week (my goal) but I can certainly share my Friday Five!  And in attempting to not fail at my goal my second week of writing, I will be back later today to share about my lovely little container garden.

01. these dog treats
I forget where I originally found this idea, but 17apart has a simple recipe.  Not necessary to spray the pan, and, bonus: the oven helps warm the house!

02. this girl
Seriously.  Could she get any better?

03. this book
So so funny.  I finished this book while standing in line to vote, and I was seriously that girl laughing out loud while reading.  I couldn't help it.

04. this watch

05. this guy
So. funny.  He was back on Parks and Rec last night.

xoxo-L.o.L. :)

Monday, November 5, 2012


I started writing this post when we first bought the house, and for some reason it's taken me over a year to finish it.  How that for procrastination??  These are just a few things I've realized we can do without, but for some reason think we need to buy on a regular basis.  Marketing and advertising use their sly, sneaky ways to trick us into believing something that isn't true or that is only partially true so they can sell their products and bring home the bacon for the head honchos.  Well here I am, folks, breaking the mold.  Taking a stand against all things (well, 5 things really) that don't make our lives easier.

#1: Paper Towels

First off, paper towels are expensive!!  And not only are they ridiculously expensive, paper towels generate a lot of waste as well.  If you live in a part of the world that has a biodegradable trash option, then your used paper towels decompose with your other food waste, much like a compost.  Paper towels will actually decompose in about the same amount of time as a banana peel, but sadly, the greater of the United States has yet to jump on the biodegradable trash "recycling." Consequently, our used paper towels end up in landfills, where they sit for 20 years or more because of a lack of oxygen and a moist, warm environment.

A life without paper towels seems a little bit unrealistic, but I have been able to cut down our usage to less than 1/2 roll per month, which equals a little less than $0.75 a month for emergency spill clean up.  Instead of reaching for our convenient paper friend, I keep a stockpile of "rags" that we use for everything from cleaning up spills to window washing.  

My mom saves all of her old cotton dishtowels that aren't pretty enough to keep out on display in the kitchen, but still good enough to use for other purposes, so when we moved, I stole borrowed from her stash.  I also purchased a 6-pack of flour sacks awhile ago for a craft project, but they didn't wash as well as I had envisioned (they're a little wrinkly around the edges) so I added those to the stack as well.  One of Brian's old t-shirts ripped and made it's way into the pile also, and voila!  

Just throw them in the wash with a little bleach and we're as good as new.  I know they're not the prettiest things ever, but it brings me a little glimmer of satisfaction every time I can go without using a paper towel.

#2: Cable

I think this one can go without explaining, but to actually have the guts to cut the cord and go cold turkey on the boob tube takes a lot of will power.  Fortunately, for us, it was the summer and there really was nothing good on TV anyways.  Before we moved we decided we were going to forgo cable  because it's just ridiculously expensive, and we couldn't justify the quality of life a few pay channels bring us with the monthly cost of having them.

We have Netflix streaming so we can just watch movies/shows on that if we get the urge, but we didn't have internet for the first month of living here, so we really had to go cold turkey on our TV time.  In addition to that, our DVD player broke just before moving, so if we watched anything at all, it had to be on the computer.  Quelle tragique.

Things have been very different since we cut ties with cable.  After dinner, instead of running strait for the couch, we find other things to do.  We take Addie and Gizmo for walks/runs, enjoy the sights from the front porch, sit and enjoy each others company, and even, I'll take a moment to build a little bit of suspense, READ.  Yes, folks, Brian read a book in the absence of the television.  I can hear the choirs of angels singing their hallelujahs.  Oh wait...that was my own rejoicing.

#3: A Plethora of Closet Space

Our house is a semi-traditional Florida Cracker house, which means it has lots of window, great air-flow, and NO CLOSET SPACE.  Our house has had additions and modifications, and even with the little bit of "modernizing" we still have a grand total of 4 closets in the entire house.  Because of Brian's job, one whole closet (the largest closet in the house) is devoted almost entirely to his uniforms and equipment.  I still complain about the lack of closet space, but it's forced us to be creative with our storage options, and to re-evaluate everything we own that needs to be stored in a closet.  We have pared down our belongings significantly because we simply don't have anywhere to put stuff, which makes me think about how much we live in excess, and how much we have and are grateful for.

#4: Air Fresheners and Plug-Ins

It seems like everyone is so obsessed with having a good smelling home, and the easy, simple solution is to purchase spray or plug-in air fresheners to make your home smell like vanilla cookies or apple cinnamon.  I've never been a fan of the air fresheners, but after living in a home where a plug-in occupied an outlet in every room, I began to re-evaluate the necessity and safety of these chemicals.

Not only are store-bought air fresheners ridiculously expensive, most of them contain phthalates and formaldehyde, two potentially dangerous chemicals.  Phthalates are commonly found in plastics, and have been widely thought to affect hormonal regulations.  California and Washington state have banned the sale of children's toys containing phthalates, and many health organizations advise that you minimize your contact with phthalate containing products.  I've made switches in our home to help  minimize the phthalates, so I certainly don't want to bring something else into our home that contains them or formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. 

So what do you do to freshen up a musty room?  First, get rid of whatever is causing your home to smell less-than-fabulous.  Then, use a spray bottle with a few drops of essential oil and water.  I use lavender essential oil, but you could use whatever strikes your fancy.  A few drops is all it takes, fill the rest of the squirt bottle with water, and your home will be healthy AND delightful smelling. And it's WAY cheaper than store bought sprays, and lasts longer too.

#5: Store bought laundry detergent and fabric softener:

Okay, so making my own doesn't exactly make life easier, but it's definitely not an inconvenience.  And laundry detergent is so dang expensive!  Plus, laundry detergents are laced with chemicals, and the "green" detergent I did use is no longer sold at Target. And if anyone knows me, if it ain't sold at Target, it ain't worth having (mainly because the closest Wal-Mart to us is about 20 minutes away, and not in a nice area of town).  I started using this recipe for making my own detergent, that I originally found on Pinterest, and it took me about 15 minutes from start to finish.

Now that I've been making this for about a year, I wish I could say I have suggestions or recommendations, but it's really so easy that it's all self-explanatory.  The recipe calls for 3 cups of each: Borax, washing soda, and grated Fels-Naptha.  Grating the Fels-Naptha is the most tedious process, but still only takes about 10 minutes, tops.  It does only yield about 1.5 cups of grated soap, though, so I just approximate and add about 1.5-2 cups of the other soaps and call it a day.  I don't think I've ever actually measured everything, but you can't mess it up.  Trust me.  Also, while we're on the topic, did you know that a bar of Fels-Naptha is probably the best stain remover out there?  And it's like $1.00 a bar.  This stuff gets out grease stains, pit stains, grass and mud stains, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  Just wet a brush, scrub it on the bar of soap a bit, and then scrub the stain.  Put it in the wash, and your life will never be the same.

I know some people forgo the fabric softener all together, but because my homemade laundry detergent is practically fragrance free, I like to add a bit of smell-goods in with my wash, just to freshen things up a bit.  I've played around with a couple different recipes for fabric softener, and this one is my favorite, though I do alter it a bit.

Again, this is so easy it's self-explanatory, but here's what I do:

First, it's easiest to get 6 cups of water hot in a pot on the stove, so I just mix everything in one pot right there on the stove.  Turn the burner on med-high, pour in about 6 cups of water, add 3 cups of vinegar, and 1 bottle of conditioner.  I use Suave Professionals because it's cheap and has no parabens, a chemical that has been linked to breast cancer.  In order to follow the directions exactly, you'd have to use 1.5 bottles of conditioner, or measure out 2 cups with a measuring cup, and that is just making things super complicated/messy.  I just add 1 bottle of conditioner, and then a few drops of essential oil, whatever fragrance will go with your conditioner.  I generally use Suave Professionals Rosemary and Mint, with a few drops of lavender essential oil and it smells lovely, but use what you've got on hand.  Stir your ingredients until the conditioner has fully mixed with the water and vinegar.  It should take you about 5 minutes.  Let your softener cool, and use a funnel to pour into a container for easy usage.  I just use an old Downy bottle, but, again, use what you've got.

So there you have it folks.  5 ways to cut down consumerism and help green your home at the same time.  What other things have you guys found you can live without?

:) xoxo- L.o.L.