December 22, 2014

From My Castle To Yours

Things are always a little very chaotic during the holiday season but this year has been especially challenging for me for a number of reasons and I haven't had the time to commit to my projects or my posts these last few weeks. However, I did want to take a moment to wish a very Happy Christmahanakwanzika to all my readers in this country and overseas. 

I'm taking a little bloggy break, but I'll be back in January - hopefully with a few projects up my sleeve for the New Year.

Happy Holidays y'all!


December 14, 2014

How to: Build a Cat Tree

Two weekends ago, Matt and I ventured out and bought a Christmas tree. I am of the school of thought that a fake tree is a better investment than a real one, simply for the fact that while a real one costs less up front, in the long term it's less hassle and less expensive. Even if I only use a fake tree for 3 years, I've already made back my money (unless you bought this one, in which case, it'll take you justttttt a bit longer). That and the pine needles... and the vacuuming... and the watering... and the potential critters... really dissuades me from pursuing a white pine or a blue spruce from yonder forest - also known as the roadside market.

And I was certain that my normally well-behaved adorable cat-kids would be less inclined to try and climb a fake one and that is what brings us to today's post.

We bought this 7.5' tree from Home Depot, an easy-assembly, non-prelit tree that was 20% off in honor of black Friday weekend. We brought it home and I made Matt stand outside and fake "cut it down" so that I could have the cute photo that everyone else seemed to have on Facebook and Instagram about their "First Tree". And then, naturally, we made the mistake of bringing it inside.

Apparently, my fuzzy-children do not care that the tree is fake, nor do they care that it is comprised of thin, unstable, metal branches. They don't mind one bit that the tree weighs a total of 20 lbs and could easily be knocked over on top of one of them, tragically breaking their little kitty necks. The most frustrating part of this was that I hadn't even decorated it yet: no lights, no skirt, no cat-toy-like ornaments to encourage their curiosity. It was simply the fact that the tree WAS IN THE HOUSE that made them nutty.

So for the last week I have been standing guard in the living room with a pink water bottle, ready to aim and fire at a moment's notice. I should point out here that I'm a terrible shot. And the smaller of the two fluffballs doesn't really mind getting wet anyway. Honestly, it's a wonder that the plastic tree hasn't grown with the amount of water I have dumped on it in my efforts to prevent it's demise.

December 4, 2014

How to: Paint Chip Art

And I'm back! 

Wow, Thanksgiving is over. I can't believe it. I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful holiday. Matt and I took a trip up North to visit my family and I abandoned my blog for the week in an attempt to reach a more pure vacation induced Nirvana. 

I did not reach vacation Nirvana, and naturally it was all a whirlwind, BUT I'm grateful that I was able to take the time off to go home and see some very special people.

Anyway, before I left I was working on a project that got put on the back burner temporarily. I put together the item and then stopped in the middle to redo my bathroom, least my art not match the decor. I took Veterans Day and the following Sunday to scrape the ceiling, prime and paint the guest bathroom in an effort to change it from hideous brown to a perkier green color... which brings us back to my project! 

It's something that I have seen on Pinterest quite a bit that I've been meaning to do: "Paint Chip Art." Over the past months, I have horded paint chips like its my second job. It's a wonder I haven't been kicked out of every Lowes, Home Depot, Benjamin Moore and Ace in town for my collective behavior. Just a small bunch at a time, I have single-handedly wiped clean the "blue" paint chip section of all the local stores. 

To kick off this project I found an old frame out in the garage that was decorative looking, but wasn't too big. It already had some art in it but it was a print that I could do without, so I figured I could use it for this project. I also had some paint laying around left over from other residual DIYs, which I used to fancy up the frame. 

So all in all, this cost me absolutely nothing. 

November 21, 2014

Holiday Cheer

We're less than a week out from Thanksgiving which means that Christmas is just around the corner. I'll admit, I can be a bit of a Scrooge this time of year. This is due in part to Seasonal Affective Disorder and the view that our society (and families in general) have become very materialistic and have lost sight of the true spirit of the season. It's also an end-of-year stress response and the realization that another year of my life is gone in the blink of an eye. Not to mention, at my age, I'm happy just to eat and spend time with family and have the opportunity to watch It's a Wonderful Life and the Jim Carey version of the Grinch once or twice. 

And to top it off, it's the idea that I don't really need anything else but if you buy something for me I'm going to feel obligated to return the favor.

I'd rather not give gifts and it has only a little to do with being frugal. Christmas shopping is not something I am particularly good at. I can buy myself stuff all day long, but come around to buying other people presents that are useful or creative or effortlessly thoughtful? Well, I'm not particularly gifted. Gifted. 

You see what I did there?

It just isn't my forte. I try to be funny or clever with my gifts but sometimes that backfires. I would much rather get someone something they want or is very useful but it seems like "toys" for kids and adults are all well into the hundreds of dollars each and I just don't have the dough in my pocket for those kinds of expenditures.  So I try to make gifts whenever possible. But sometimes I run out of money anyway. Or creative ideas. Or glitter. All occasions are equally sad.

But this post isn't really about all of that. It's actually because there is an exception to this Bah-Humbug mentality that I have and I thought I would share it with all of you, in case you feel this way too. It is the one holiday tradition that is something my current and previous workplaces have done and it's actually a really great concept that even I can appreciate. Here, it's a charity called Families Helping Families and is part of the Palmetto Project Organization in South Carolina. Our office requests to fulfill Christmas for a family in need and this year we've got a doozy (single mom with six sons. SIX. BOYS. Holy wow!). We break up the family unit by assigning each child to a division and buy gifts based on the list that is provided complete with ages and sizes. Normally the kids will ask for a toy or two, but most of them request new clothes or a coat or sneakers and the fact that they may not otherwise get these items motivates me to haul out the holiday-happy.

This year, I offered to purchase a winter coat for one of the boys and in my searching I found a great deal on Amazon for a Full Zip Fleece Jacket from Columbia Sports. As a previous owner of one of these coats, I highly recommend them. They're great if you need a light jacket, but they are also warm enough that you can wear them out in cooler weather. It doesn't get too cold down here, so this jacket seems ideal and is well within my budget. Honestly considering getting one for myself and the women's version has even more color options. 

I don't know why the guy's head is chopped off. 
That's Amazon's fault.

I think that this program has helped renew my faith in Christmas giving a little bit, so I've been perusing potential (affordable) gifts on Smile.Amazon* and Greater Good. Smile.Amazon has all the regular items you would purchase from Amazon, but a portion of eligible sales go to a charity of your choice. They fund everything from Doctor's Without Boarders to World Wildlife Fund to St. Jude's Research Hospital or you can choose your own. 

The Greater Good site donates to causes like World Hunger, Breast Cancer Research, Animal Shelters, Veterans, Literacy, the Rainforest (and others). You can click along the top of the page to change the cause and shop based on whichever you choose. They also have a function that I try to participate in once a day - pressing on the "CLICK HERE" button across the top of the page. Sponsors for the websites donate to the charities based on the number of clicks the site receives and it doesn't cost the consumer anything. Freefreefree and for something good. Who WOULDN'T choose that?

If you're in the Christmas (or Chanukah or Kwanzaa) spirit and are going to do your shopping online, I highly recommend both of these sites. It won't cost you anything extra (not even time) and it's all for a good cause. Even if your family isn't celebrating with gifts for each other, consider "adopting" a family for the holiday season through an agency in your area. [Make sure you do your research because scams: they are a'plenty. Check with your local United Way or Churches in your area for program recommendations.] 

You could make this the best holiday yet for a family in need - and that is certainly something to be cheerful about.

Happy Holidays Y'all. 


*Smile.Amazon is not an affiliate sponsor of CastleDIY.

November 18, 2014

How to: Preserve Acorns & Pine Cones for Decorating

I've seen a number of projects online that utilize pine cones and acorns for the holidays and there are a couple I'd like to try; things that I am certain will inspire future posts. In addition to this, I'm currently working to acquire some birch branches to use on a few crafty things without purchasing them because, as we've all come to recognize, I am in a word: cheap.

Although to be fair, I don't think not wanting to pay for stuff that can be found in nature should be considered stingy. The thing is, I saw a half stack of maybe six birch logs outside a store the other day and they were selling them for $14. What? They're glorified sticks! No, no I will not be buying those.

Anyway, while I await my birch, I decided to kick off the up-and-coming projects by gathering and drying some items which luckily, I was able to procure from my yard for free. I took a handful of pine cones from under the awful tree that we share with our neighbor and a few cups full of acorns and their caps from under our oak tree, which teeters precariously over our roof and chimney (and will be coming down in the next 6 months to a year). If you can't acquire these items in your own yard, come see me. I've got a whole bunch. And you can have them. FOR FREE. 

Doesn't that statement make you tingle inside?

November 13, 2014

Fall Wreath 2.0

A few weeks ago I posted about the wreath that I made for Halloween. Welp, now that one holiday is over, time to quickly move on to the next.

Tis' the season.

I removed all the items that I had used on my first fall wreath and put them into storage (with the exception of the bow). I recently purchased a handful of plastic shoe boxes from the dollar store that are perfect for that kind of thing.

Also from the dollar store are the flowers I chose to use for my Thanksgiving inspired wreath. I just picked up a few that I thought were pretty and might go well together. So for w whopping $5, I was able to make a "second" wreath, and I'd say it came out pretty darn good. If you're wanting to do something similar to update your own or if you recently acquired a grapevine wreath that you just don't know what to do with, head down to your nearest Dollar Tree. 

November 10, 2014

Ye Ole Renaissance Faire

On Saturday, Matt and I got together with our friends Kayley and David and took an afternoon trip up the Charlotte Renaissance Faire. While I have heard of such festivals, and have had friends that have attended in the past, I personally have never been before. We figured at the very least we'd get a bit of exercise while walking the grounds to help burn off the many variations of faire food that we might enjoy.

After a bit of a late start, we drove the two hours to Charlotte, arriving a little later than anticipated but not without enough time to see most of what the faire had to offer. We parked eight million miles away and walked down Ye Old Walking Path #2. We entered through the main gate, where upon entry my ticket-taker, who had previously been discussing football stats with his neighbor in a very southern accent, stepped back into his Renaissance character long enough to say, "G'day M'lady" and usher me onto the grounds.

If you've never been to a Renaissance Faire before, I highly recommend checking one out. Tons of people are in gaudy, extravagant costumes, and by "people", I mean staff and faire-goers alike. We say fantastic representations of some of our favorite Game of Thrones characters, pirates, fairies, gypsies and a very oddly placed - but not unimpressive - Rufio

This guy wins best costume. His sign says:
 "Yes it is & yes you can". Brilliant.
We looked through costume shops and weapon stores. David stopped to have a go at knife throwing (very poor knife throwing I might add - sorry, Glitterbutt) and a measly 2 oz cup of mead. Matt and I got crepes while Kayley settled with hot chocolate, as the afternoon sun was already disappearing behind the many buildings. We got about.... oh.... 50 feet before we had a go at some real food: Kayley with a bread bowl of soup, Matt with a bread bowl of meatballs and David with a highly sought after turkey leg - which he had literally been talking about since the last fair we went to some four weeks earlier.

After stuffing our faces a little bit more, we sauntered over to the jousting arena, which was pretty crowded. But being the last show of the day, the joust was a "fight to the death", complete with fake blood and real insults, which I'll admit was well worth watching. The fellow behind me shouted "huzzah!" more times than I could count and supplied us with the added bonus of his play by play commentary on the jousting abilities of the actors involved. We also got to watch as a bee tried to flirt with David and his turkey leg, and a secondary bee "attacked" (read: buzzed near) a lady on the shoulders of a man in the back row. (All the following pictures are blurry because I couldn't actually see so I kept holding my camera up in the air in hopes to get a good shot.)

We spent the last 45 minutes or so shooting arrows and investigating the shops. Kayley made away with a pink unicorn shield and David won her favor with a bulls-eye strike and a large feather, which he suspected was probably covered in mites. We stopped by the petting zoo (all sheep and a fluffy cow or two), played with swords, touched the merchandise, marveled at the cost of everything, and left just before it got dark (which was a mistake only because we proceeded to sit in traffic forever).

All in all, a pretty awesome day (albeit chilly) with the added bonus of doing something different than the norm. And we stopped at a Chinese buffet on the way home. Delicious.

A few blogs are in the works about the various projects I've been working on so check back a little later in the week for my Fall Wreath update, just in time for Thanksgiving. 


November 3, 2014

How To: Pour a Concrete Driveway Ramp

Scenario: All of my internet friends and I are playing Never Have I Ever. Members of the blogparty start off.


Never have I ever messed up mashed potatoes. 
*CastleDIY takes a shot*


Never have I ever created a cat-free toilet paper cover. 
*CastleDIY takes a second shot*


Never have I ever poured a concrete driveway ramp. 
*CastleDIY is a light weight and is now the drunkest person at her blogparty*

Two weeks Matt and I finally mustered the courage to play with concrete and it wasn't as bad as we thought! I didn't ever actually think that a concrete ramp was something I could list as a DIY project, but it is and I couldn't be happier with the result. 

Since we first purchased the house, Matt's little baby-sized car has been scraping its bottom across the cement every time he enters or backs out of the driveway. This heinous sound and resulting damage can only be prevented if he turns at an insanely wide and difficult-to-accomplish angle. To remedy this, he started looking for solutions. What he found was one of these. It was everything he wanted with the price tag that he didn't (not to mention - what prevents it from being stolen? Won't you need concrete to secure it anyway?). So instead, we started casually researching how to make a permanent one. 

And it is terrifying! Mostly because it's just that: permanent. And we were slightly concerned about whether or not we get in trouble if we did it. Granted it's our driveway, but it isn't "our" street and technically that's town property. We sort of went into it with an "ask for forgiveness, not permission" mentality. And also used our neighbors as scapegoats because a whole lot of them did the same thing.

The hardest part of the whole project was figuring out how much concrete we would need. The distance across the driveway is about 20 feet. Initially we estimated we'd need about 10 bags of concrete, but compensating for the curve in the curb and the realization that we didn't really need the ramp to be the full length of the driveway, we decided on seven 60 lb bags of concrete. Concrete + water = driveway miracle and it's easier than you might think. Here's what you need:

October 28, 2014

Out & About

Before we moved, Matt and I used to take almost daily walks during the week. There were a number of places near by where we could go that had paved paths complete with spectacular views and local wildlife. Now that we're "out in the sticks" as they say, there are only a handful of places to walk nearby that I'm currently aware of. We've started taking walks around the neighborhood, if not to get exercise, than at the very least to scope out the neighbor's houses and decide how to make ours that much cooler.

To break up the monotony, we took the scenic drive over to one of the lakes in our area for a jaunt across the dam. It was a beautiful day, there were plenty of people out and about and it was a nice change of scenery. I always appreciate being on the water, particularly because in my previous life I had free access to waterways of varying sorts - the Long Island sound, the lake, the Connecticut River.  

One of the really neat things about the dam is that there is a fence along the way with locks on it that people have left behind, just like the Pont de l'Archevêché in Paris. I find it oddly romantic and very beautiful, so I took a few pictures.


October 23, 2014

'Hallowee' Carved a Pumpkin & Baked Pumpkin Seed Recipe

'Tis the season for Halloween merriment! One of my favorite things about Fall is all of the pre-holiday festivities: apple picking, corn mazes, state fairs, baking pies and naturally the carving of the seasonal squashes. Matt and I ventured into a corn maze a few weekends ago and "got lost" for a total of 26 minutes at Clinton Sease Farms. Matt had a game plan in place that including only taking left turns and as expected it worked. Next time, I intend for us to race. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a blast.

Pumpkin Checkers - I was losing but an adorable
child interrupted our game by moving a few pieces for us.
Perfect timing.
It seems that apple orchards come far and few between here in South Carolina and that in order to have a fall-time apple experience, we'd have to drive up to North Carolina and this was meant to be more of a morning outing than an all-day adventure. As consolation for this lack of fruit foraging, Matt bought me a 27lb pumpkin. 

My big, strong man. Total babe.

October 22, 2014

Pluggin' Along

Hey, y'all. 

I've joined Bloglovin'! 
Which means that you can now follow me 
via any (or all) of the following:

E-mail Subscription

You're welcome.


October 20, 2014

How To: Inexpensive DIY Candles

Like most ladies of my particular age, I have a fascination with candles (can I get a Fall inspired hallelujah for pumpkin spice?). I've always liked them, but I am particularly fond of the ambiance. There is something I find truly spectacular about the glow of a candle in the evening; that despite the fact that they give off minimal heat, the room is warmer for having them there.

But holy Vanilla Cupcake Scent, Batman, are they expensive!

A few weekends ago, I went to the beach with my HLP (hetero-life-partner), Juliana. It had rained all week and I thought a nice trip to the coast for some sun was in order. Naturally, as is my luck, it rained at the beach all weekend and was sunny and warm at home.

That didn't stop us from having a good time, however, so on Saturday we went for a walk around one of the local outlet malls for some intense window shopping. One of the stores that I begged to stop at was the Yankee Candle. I had a coupon with the offer to buy 2 large candles, get 2 free that I was desperately hoping to take advantage of. I love the scents that Yankee candle has and with their new Fall line out I was eager to sniff out some new favorites. 

But color me flabbergasted when the jars cost $27 EACH. I recently paid that price for some work slacks from Target and could barely prevent my inner cheapskate from freaking out and exiting the store in a very spastic, unladylike manner. Money has been especially tight for me lately, as I am still catching up from my summer travels and unforeseen expenses have been popping up left and right. I could not reasonably justify spending nearly $60 on candles, regardless of how many "free" ones I was getting.

But that doesn't stop me from wanting them and so with frugality and DIYing in mind, I thought I would share with you how ridiculously easy it is to make candles. They're much cheaper than the store-bought counter parts, only require a few materials and some cost upfront, and make great gifts. Not only that, but you can be creative with the scents and colors. [Note: apparently apple and berry scents go well together, but berry and pumpkin do not. You've been warned.] Since Christmas is only 65 days away as someone so kindly reminded me on Facebook the other day, this is a great project to get a jump on in time for the holidays! Here's what you need:

October 15, 2014

How To: Popcorn Ceilings Undone

Hi folks. This one is a doozy. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in. You can even take a break somewhere in the middle. I will understand.

October 13, 2014

How To: Toilet Paper Protector

Somewhat recently, my friend Kayley adopted a curious cat. This adorable lap-cat is that causer of trouble and maker of mischief. Just a few weeks ago, she was out shopping with her boyfriend (aka this blog's Most Avid Reader) when they came home to find the cat stuck in one of her upper kitchen cabinets. My understanding is that the cat had climbed head first into the hollow area, not realizing just how far down he would descend if he climbed in all the way. I wish I had been there to witness the ridiculousness of the scene but since I was not, I only imagine the cat's tail in the air, back feet waving wildly out in the open as he clung on tight for all nine of his little-kitty-lives. It makes me chuckle a little. 

Which brings us to three weeks ago. Kayley had posted on Facebook about whether or not anyone had experienced the misfortune of having a cat who enjoys unraveling the toilet paper roll. I had done a little bit of research on Amazon and found products like this one that she could purchase to protect her TP roll from the kittens claws. But instead of purchasing something, she came up with her own solution. Behold: 

Picture courtesy of Kayley
Giving her major props for this work of art because seriously, who thinks of that? It was a solution to her problem. And free! And so this is how her toilet paper remained...

Until she needed to change the roll.

A follow up comment on Facebook stated: 

"Operation Tissue TP was a failure. Removing the tape to change the roll caused severe cabinet damage. Do not try this at home."
Apparently duct (or the cheaper "duck") tape is not faux-wood friendly. The solution to this of course is to purchase the product I listed earlier. Right? WRONG. We make them! $15? How about a big fat NOPE. I can totes make one of those and for much less than $15! So I did. And if any of you crazy cat ladies (or gents) out there have this same problem or just want to jazz up that ugly toilet paper roll to match your bathroom decor, here's a little step by step for you.

October 8, 2014

Butter Chicken Recipe

Matt and I have many similar life principles, especially in consideration of things like finances and whether or not it's OK to watch a full season of House of Cards in one sitting. But one thing that we do not share is our feeling towards chicken. Matt loves chicken is all of its forms: baked, fried, dipped, chopped, roasted, sauteed, marinated, winged, tendered, whatever. I much prefer a lobster or a steak if I have the option and I rarely if ever order chicken at a restaurant.

But in our efforts to eat just a little bit better, I began a life-or-death search for a recipe to use on boneless, skinless chicken. Also, I needed the opportunity to redeem myself after this and this happened, so I started perusing the internet as is the norm because, let's be honest, who even uses cookbooks anymore?

And guys, I'm not kidding, I think I found the best chicken recipe EVER. It's not exactly "healthy" by industry terms, but there were absolutely no leftovers. It was spectacular.

When it comes to eating a chicken dinner, unless they're wings, I will generally cut up the chicken into pieces and push it around my plate to disguise how much I haven't eaten. Yes, I'm a child, I know. I find chicken boring and flavorless unless it's whole roasted or rotisserie and that is probably more of a testament to my cooking and/or Matt's finickiness than chicken as an entrée. But this recipe absolutely takes the cake and it's so easy that I have to, have to, have to tell you about it (horrible camera phone pictures and all). I ate all my chicken, guys. All of it. Every morsel. I didn't even save room for dessert and that's saying something.

So here's what you need:

What You Need

  • 1 cup buttered crackers crumbled (I used Original Ritz because they're my favorite and also because I was trying to save them from going stale. Next time, I will use the whole wheat version). 
  • 1/4 cup salted butter cut into pieces
  • 4 boneless, skinless halved chicken breasts (I only used two because they were huge and I cut them in half - same difference)
  • 1-2 eggs 
  • Seasonings as you see fit (I used garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and a pinch of salt, but you could use paprika or chili powder or some other dry seasoning for more flavor). 

What You Do

1. Preheat oven to 375° F 
2. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels (helps the egg stick!)
3. Whip your egg(s) in a shallow bowl 
4. In a separate shallow bowl, combine your crushed crackers and dry seasonings

5. Cover each piece of chicken in egg and then roll in the cracker mixture to coat

6. Arrange chicken in a shallow baking dish and place butter pieces between the breasts (it seems ridiculous, but trust me)
7. Bake chicken breasts for approximately 40 minutes or until it reaches 160° F internally (or if you do not have a meat thermometer, until it is no longer pink and the juices run clear)

You don't need to flip the chicken, although some people who commented on this recipe said that they did to help with "crisping" the other side. Honestly, I didn't and they came out just fine. Kind of like fried chicken but without all the grease. And if you wanted to make it healthier, you might consider using low-fat, whole wheat, low sodium crackers. Instead of crackers, you might use crushed corn flakes. And instead of butter there is always margarine. I think this will work fairly well regardless of which way you choose. Make it your own to suit your tastes and lifestyle. Isn't that what cooking is about?

It's so super easy and delicious, I highly recommend giving it a try. Be sure to let me know how it works out for you. 

Bon Appétit! 

Original recipe can be found here.

October 4, 2014

How To: Fall Wreath

There are a handful of blogs that I follow, one of which belongs to a lovely lady from my home town, Sarah, over at MakeGrowDo (which you should definitely go check out). Not only does she take absolutely beautiful pictures of her projects, has great recipes and a green thumb, but she's got a whole slew of DIY masterpieces and sometimes I will saunter over there for a little inspiration. 

Recently she posted a DIY Fall Wreath that I thought was a perfect project for me to complete for my own front door. So at her recommendation, I took a little jaunt over to Hobby Lobby after work on Friday to peruse the wreath-making materials. Armed with a 40% off coupon, I walked around the store collecting little items for a handful of projects that I'm working on. I picked up a twig wreath from the floral section that was priced much lower than the pre-made ones I had seen upon my arrival. Ones like this:

Although it is lovely, I can not possibly pay $70 for a wreath. Sheer madness. I will make my own for less than $10, thank you. So I bought my wreath ($4.99). I looked at the flowers and other decor to add to it, and while they did have some reasonably priced options, I had seen similar products at the dollar store the week prior and decided I would get my flowers and whatnot there. However, while at Hobby Lobby, I did pick up a chalk board and some ribbon that I had hoped to incorporate. Here's what I used:

What You Need

  • Ribbon (I got a thin black and a chevron burlap that I liked a lot)
  • Faux flowers/twigs/decorations that you want to add
  • Zip ties, gardener's wire or string
  • A wreath hook
  • Small chalk board (to fit in the center of the wreath)
  • Kitten helper
  • Wire cutters
  • Scissors

What You Do

1. First I used the wire cutters to separate the flowers from the stems that they came on. I got these flowers at the dollar store, so they're not quite as nice as the ones I might have gotten at the craft store, but they were cheap and they suit my purpose.

2. Then, I wove the flower stems into the wreath at varying angels, twisting the ends into to wreath to help them stay. Make sure you have a kitten near by to help you by eating the flowers, wreath, ribbon, and to run off with your zip ties. It's much more fun.

3. I purchased a sparkly spider from the dollar store (I had originally wanted a fluffy owl, but all their beaks were glued on upside down and they looked too ridiculous to use). I used a zip tie to attach the spider to the wreath. I was going to use two, to be safe, but the one seemed to hold in on sturdily enough. 

I attached the zip tie on the second leg and secured it there.
4. After I wove all my flowers and attached my spider, I set the wreath aside and measured and drilled holes into the chalk board. It measured about 8 in. across, so I made to pencil marks at 3 and 5 inches and eyeballed it to make sure they were mostly centered. I then used a 13/64" drill bit to drill two holes. I then strung some thin black ribbon through the holes to hang them from the wreath.

5. I then cut a length of burlap ribbon and tied it to the wreath hook just above the wreath in a bow. And then hung it from my door!

How to make a fall wreath

(It's a little off center, don't worry folks, I fixed it).

Happy with the result! I'm grateful that it distracts from the hideously green door. I can't wait to paint that silly door, but that's a blog for another day. 

And the best part is that the total cost was only about $15. That's almost 80% less than the store bought one. Thank you, frugal living. 

Until next time!

PS: Here's an update on the door! 


September 24, 2014

That Time I Failed At The Easiest Thing

I am not a chef by any sense of the word. I am not particularly gifted in the food preparation department and sometimes I'm grateful for this because people rarely ask me to cook for them. This leaves lots of time for other important things on my to-do list, like Criminal Mind marathons for instance. 

There are occasions when I enjoy cooking, like Thanksgiving, where somehow I magically become capable of timing all the items perfectly so that everything finishes in epic mealtime harmony. But with the exception of holidays and planned get-togethers, cooking tends to be something I loathe the thought of and nightly dinners are the bane of my existence.

I blame this on my lack of creativity in the kitchen and a very picky eater who shall remain nameless. Matt

Lately, we've been trying to eat a little bit healthier - swapping protein shakes for big dinners and choosing chicken over tacos and cheese (sometimes) - and last week we had challenged ourselves to go mostly grain free. Matt doesn't eat vegetables, at least not the ones I cook, and that makes this even more of a evening-time debacle. If you can't have pasta, rice or bread - all staples of his diet - what do you serve with your chicken? More chicken? Ugh.

One night last week, I pulled out a seasoned pork loin which thankfully, requires no effort on my part. I decided that while we were technically going "grain free" we weren't necessarily going "carb free" and some sour cream mashed potatoes had been on my mind lately. Matt did the dinner prep, preheating the over for the loin and cutting the potatoes up for my mashed delights. I had him turn the water on the potatoes down to low so that they would simmer for the full term of the loin's cooking time (around 45-55 minutes). And then... I walked away.

Let me preface this next part by stating something very important that you should know: I have never ever, in all my years of cooking things, messed up mashed potatoes.

However, on this night, I did the unthinkable - something I actually did not know could be done. I messed up the mashed potatoes. I MESSED THEM UP. THE POTATOES. THE THINGS THAT YOU CANNOT MESS UP.

This is worse than the chicken incident.

Because the thing is: all you have to do is boil them! And even though I turned up the temperature on the burner for the last ten minutes of cooking, I somehow misinterpreted the signs of the potatoes' level of done-ness and drained them too early. And before really checking them out, I added (all of) my sour cream to the batch. It wasn't until I started using my beater on them that I realized the catastrophe of my mashed-potato-inspired-hubris.

TLDR ("Too Long, Didn't Read") for those of you that are tired of my ramblings: I messed up the easiest thing you can cook from scratch and ruined an entire batch of potatoes while simultaneously using up all of my sour cream so that I could not have a second go at them. I don't know that I've ever been so embarrassed. Not even more humiliated than the time I tried to be cute by doing Matt's laundry, accidentally bleaching his blue sheets back when we first started dating. Or more than the time I burnt the pancakes AND the bacon. Both were pretty high up on the scale, but this? This tops them all. 

So what did I have with my pork loin you ask? More pork loin. Ugh.

September 22, 2014

Two Minute Scarf Solution

Over the years, through only some fault of my own, I have acquired a scarf collection that numbers in the thousands hundreds (barely) tens. Actually, to my knowledge I have 23 scarves and I am in the process of making one (because I like round numbers...and also because I messed up a sewing project, so "scarf" was deemed the appropriate item to create with my hacked-up-fabric).

Up until yesterday, my scarves sat scrunched up and crammed into a plastic zipper bag and I only ever picked from the top because: lazy. So many scarves left untouched. Poor things. Feeling all left out and what not. 

Recovering from a very trying day. Being adorable is hard work.
Now that I've moved to warmer climates, my scarves get much less wear than they previously did when we all lived in Connecticut. Understandably, they're feeling neglected. So much so in fact, that they ripped the bag they were in, rolled off the shelf in protest and nearly crushed one of the small, devious, fluffy-kids in my house. 

Shower Hooks
$1 = Win
So in an effort to wear more of them in a shorter time span and also because it's the first official week of Fall, I celebrated by making my way over to the dollar store this weekend for supplies for a DIY scarf organization project. If you have an abundance of scarves as I do, I highly recommend this or some version of this. Here's what you need:

What You Need

Scarves (obviously)
Round, plastic shower hooks (the super cheap kind - I bought two sets) 
A hanger or two (wood ones work best, but I used plastic)

What You Do

1. Attach shower hooks to your hangers. Unattached hooks and reattach them a second time when you realize you need more than one hanger to support the weight of your ridiculous scarf collection.

Scarves. And a hat. Perhaps a few fluffy socks and possibly a cat.
2. Gather your scarves in an unsightly heap on the bed and begin stringing them through the hooks.

3. Optional - Fight off helpful disruptive cats with a spray bottle.

4. Hang up and admire your handiwork!  

I used Matt as my display because it was too dark to see in my closet. He's so helpful.
At Matt's suggestion, I looped my shower hooks over two hangers because the weight was more than one sad little hanger could bear. I will probable invest in some wood ones in the future, but for the time being this works just fine.

Now I can see all my scarves and they're all within reach. This project cost me $2 and 2 minutes of my time. Totally worth it.

Happy First Day of Fall, Y'all!



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