Oct 26, 2012

Countdown to Halloween

We are ready for Halloween 'round these parts!  Last year we had a handful of trick-or-treaters, maybe a dozen or so, and we shut things down once the teenagers started coming back for seconds.  I wonder if we'll get more kids this year, now that our house has been steadily occupied for 14 months...?

We don't go all-out for Halloween decorating, but we do try to make our front porch look inviting with some seasonal decorating and spooky lighting.  Just like decorating for fall inside our house, I have an aversion to spending much money on holiday-specific decor (Christmas lights exempt).  Plus, I hated scary stuff when I was a kid (I guess I still do- I can't bear to watch horror movies), so I just try to make things look harvest-y with a little spooky flair.  And I have to put very little effort into it, because the maple tree out front does a great job for me.

Thus begins a month's worth of weekends spent raking leaves.

We mostly used what we had- glass jars, old candles, watering cans.  And we spent about $20 on pumpkins, more candles, and some Halloween-colored glittery filler.  I've got a few mason jars that will light the path on Halloween night (filler plus tealights in mason jars = cheap, easy, cute).  And our front porch will be aglow as well.

House of Horrors?  Not since we started DIYing.

Here's some close-ups of the Halloweeny vibe.  Admittedly not very scary or impressive, but just wait until it's dark out and all the candles are lit.

Ignore the outlets.

I love the glittery filler.  Michael's had bags of black, silver, orange, purple, and green glitter balls on sale for super cheap, so I bought one of each.  Can't wait to see how the candlelight bounces off those babies at night!

I don't know why the watering cans go but they do!

So now our porch is ready for trick-or-treaters!  I am putting a fall wreath on my list for items to buy next year, which will hopefully hang on a new or freshly painted front door.  And can I just say how totally in love I still am with our paint choices for the exterior?  Although Martha's Flagstone tuned out more tan than I anticipated, I still dig it, especially with white trim.  Makes me eager to start some landscaping projects next spring!


Like it's a real word.  The grocery store was indeed good to me and things look sooo much better.

Happy fall, ya'll!

Oct 23, 2012

Decorating for Fall

I know, I know.  Technically it's been fall for over a month.  Two things have prevented me from getting on the fall decor train, though.  I am a teacher, so obviously September and October are not months when I have a surplus of time to keep my house looking exactly the way I want.  And aside from our lightning fast exterior painting weekend in early July, us Western Washingtonians didn't get legit summer weather until August, and that summer weather kindly extended all the way into early October.  As much as I love fall colors and all things snuggly and cozy, I just could not bring myself to decorate for fall until the weather felt like fall (and because every teacher's favorite season is obviously summer).

My decorating has been pretty simple.  I was aiming for a fall feel without spending a lot of money or having things look too theme-y.  So essentially I've decorated the top of the piano and that's it.  But, oh what fun I had decorating the top of that piano!  The last we saw the living room, the piano looked like this:

Let there be light!

We had managed to hang the mirror and Frankensteined a lamp from Ikea (base) and Amazon (shade).  Now things look more like this:

Why yes, that *is* an antler.

Some of what is going on up there are items that are "shopped" from the rest of my house.  The pillar candle wraps I bought through Partylite four years ago and still love.  The stack of vintage hardcover books we inherited from our families or found at garage sales and thrift stores.

Bibliophiles live here (and use books to give height when decorating).

Some of the items were inexpensive finds that I intend to use or re-use across many seasons.  The wheat sheaf came from One Kings Lane.  I got it for about $10 after using my credit from my latest kitchen rug fail, and its twin is hanging out on my dining room table.  I bought the picture frame on sale from a local department store- I love the distressed green and it was $7, I couldn't say no.  And it went perfectly with the free printable I downloaded from the interwebs.

You had me at pumpkin spice.

The only item that really made a dent in our pocketbook was the antler.  It's resin, not real, and it's from Z Gallerie.  I felt like I could justify the purchase because it's manly and rustic (so of course Steve digs it), and it's an interesting focal piece with large scale that will be able to transition well through seasons and compliment a pretty wide range of decor (which made the $40 price tag less intimidating).  Also, I have been lusting after that antler since June, people.  It was time to pull the trigger.


I usually straight up skip decorating for a particular holiday in fall, because I'm lazy.  And because I'd rather save my cash than buy holiday-specific decorations that take up space in my already cramped garage for 11.5 months out of the year.  But now that we've got a lot of the major time- and cash-draining projects in making this house live-able done, I'm happy to bring some fall goodness into our living room (and it'll be able to stay through Thanksgiving).

Although now that I'm looking at the pictures.... I think we have a serious defecit in the pumpkin department.  We'll see if the grocery store fairy has some sales for me tomorrow.

Oct 14, 2012

Easy Dinner: Mexican Shredded Chicken

Steve and I have come a long way in preparing food for ourselves in the almost 10 years that we've been married.  Ten years ago, my repertoire of meals included ramen noodles, boxed macaroni and cheese, and Hot Pockets, and that was the extent of my culinary knowledge.  If I couldn't follow directions on a package, I was at a loss.  A few years into our marriage we discovered that not only was eating mostly pre-packaged foods making a negative impact on our health, it was also squeezing the life out of our checkbook.

Since then Steve has become an accomplished chef- he's the type of guy who just puts things together that seem like they'd make good flavors together and it turns out delicious.  He's a total improviser led by his creativity and taste buds.  I have traveled a more left-brained path.  I've slowly tried recipes, tossed the ones that we didn't love and stashed the ones that we did in my recipe binder.  This process kicked into high gear in the last two years as we've experimented with various methods of low-carb eating (paleo, keto, South Beach) and has accelerated even more with the advent of Pinterest (seriously, I should do advertisements for it, I love it that much).  What has resulted is about a collection of about two dozen road-tested, low cost-per-serving, easy to prepare, super-yummy, not-bad-for-your-health-or-your-waistline recipes.

One of my favorite go-to recipes is for Mexican shredded chicken (I found it here).  It tastes as good as anything you'd order in a Mexican restaurant and the texture is a million times better- it's nice and juicy and you can customize how thin your shred is.  We will make a batch, use some for chicken tacos or chicken taco salad (minus the taco shell for less carbs).  We'll make some extras to take for lunches during the week.  We'll use it to make chicken avocado soup, which is another favorite of ours.  I've been toying with the idea of tying to find a low-carb variation of chicken enchiladas that I could try it with, too (I love me some enchilada sauce!).

The best part of this recipe for me is that it is sooooo easy.  If you can boil water, you can do this.  If you have enough time to order take-out, you have enough time to make this.  Here's how:

Put six thawed chicken breasts in your crockpot.

Nude food.

Sprinkle enough taco seasoning on to completely cover the chicken (one store-bought packet should do it).

Dry rub, minus the rubbing.

Pour about 16 oz. of salsa on top (we are too lazy to make our own salsa so we use the store-bought stuff).


Set your crockpot to cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4.

I do this on a weekday morning on my way out the door.  It takes about 5 minutes to get everything assembled in the crock pot and then I'm done.  When I get home, the house always smells wonderful.  The chicken should be fork tender, so just use a dinner fork and shred those babies (it takes about 2 minutes).

Not Jillian Michaels' meaning of the word "shred."

This night we used the chicken for taco salads.  It took us about 5 minutes to cut the lettuce and slice the avocados, and we had a delicious, low-carb dinner for about $3 per serving.  We packaged some of the leftovers to make two lunches, and about 2/3 of the chicken is left for us to use again (it'll go in the freezer if we decide not to use it right away).

A little bit of taco goodies on a salad.
Steve's version looks like a little bit of salad on taco goodies.

For more ideas, follow my recipe board in Pinterest.

Oct 1, 2012

Master Bedroom: Move-In to Present

The house tour continues!  Our master bedroom has been "mostly finished" since move-in.  Like the office, we knew we'd be spending a lot of time in the bedroom so it was important to us for to make it comfortable ASAP.   We were aiming for a room that felt calm and luxurious.  Let me tell you, we have come a long way from sleeping on a futon (like we did in the early days of our marriage... until I put a knee through it.... long story).

Steve and I have never had bedroom furniture before.  After the futon, we did upgrade to a queen-size mattress.  It was our first big purchase as a married couple.  For a long time that mattress lived on the floor.  We kept our clothes in mismatched hand-me-down dressers and made do without nightstands.  Then we inherited a very pretty cherry veneer bed frame with two matching nightstands.  We felt so posh!  But after living with those for five years or so, we decided that as long as we were going to move into a new house, we might as well take the plunge and have a real grown-up bedroom, with furniture that matched and a mattress that two tall sleep-thrasers would comfortably fit on.  We drained a large chunk of our savings on a king size bed frame, two nightstands, a tallboy dresser, and a Tempurpedic mattress.  Let me tell you, that mattress is probably the best investment we have ever made.  Worth every last penny.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Here's what things looked like when we first bought the house.  When we first walked in from the hallway, we were excited about how BIG this room was!  Not that it's huge, but it was bigger than any bedroom we'd had before.  There was a sliding door to the small concrete patio in the backyard (which included a view to the aforementioned McChevron).

Blank slate.

And once we were in the room, we turned and saw this:

His and hers.  Oh yeah!

Steve and I were lucky enough to have a walk-in closet in our last house, but we've learned that walk-in closets mean you have to share space with your spouse, and unless your walk in closet is ginormous, that can be tricky.  His and hers closets meant Steve was excited about never having to trip on my shoes again and I was excited to never see a pile of his clothes on the floor again.  I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you it doesn't exactly work out that way all the time, but it's a lot easier for each of us to camouflage our own mess now than it was when we shared a closet.  I offer this photo as proof.

Hidden mess!
You can see three of the only four upgrades we did to the room itself in this photo.  We painted the walls a soft grey-blue called Rising Tide by Valspar in Sherwin Williams' low VOC Harmony line.  I think it's really pretty with the white base trim.  Steve and his dad installed crown moulding, which made a huge difference in making this room feel upscale.  We replaced the white wooden pulls on the bifolds with oil-rubbed bronze ones.  We also switched out the overhead brass boob light with a less obviously boob-ish one in oil-rubbed bronze.

My closet is on the right.  These closets were chock-full with icky looking coated-wire closet systems when we first bought the house (like pretty much every other closet in the house).  Steve ripped them out and built us a sturdy, more traditional shelf and rod closet system.  I've got a box of keepsakes and a box of off-season and off-size clothes above.  Shoes live below and in a hanging organizer that's hidden behind the right bi-fold.

A peek inside my closet.

Steve's also got keepsakes and off-season clothes in the top of his closet and shoes down below.  His closet is a little emptier than mine because he also has total use of the tallboy dresser in the foreground.

A peek inside Steve's closet.
 Since Steve gets to use the tallboy, I use the two storage drawers in the footboard of the bed.  I wish I had a better camera- it's difficult to capture how regal the furniture looks.  The headboard is sleigh-style.  We lucked out with the color scheme- the bedside lamps are tiffany-style hand-me-downs from Steve's parents in blue that go perfectly with the blue and brown that's already going on in the room.  We are still on the hunt for artwork to live above the headboard.  I have a very specific idea of what I want; I just haven't found it yet.

And then there's my quasi-vanity.  I wanted a place for my jewelry to live that wasn't in the bathroom or on my nightstand.  So I morphed a few different ideas I had seen on Pinterest.  I bought some cheap boxes at Target to hold our socks and my odds and ends like belts.  I spray painted an obnoxiously teal cheap-o mirror with oil-rubbed bronze and used a towel rack with shower curtain hooks to hold my necklaces.  I love that I can see everything easily.  Plus it's pretty.


 And thus concludes the master bedroom tour!  Only two more spaces to go before we're up to date, everyone- the master bath and the (eeps!) garage.