Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Halloween Door Decor

Well summer pretty much got away from me, but I wanted to share a quick and cheap front door arrangement for Halloween and fall. 

I started with a real pumpkin I picked up at Aldi for $2.99 and added two leaf garlands and some natural and gold ribbon from Michaels. The leaf garlands were $7.99 each and 60% off and the ribbon (which was from the Christmas aisle) was $3.99 and 30% off, so they all came in at $2.79 each. 

My enamel bucket was a thrift find and even though it is trimmed in red, I have no where inside to store it, so I use it in all seasons and just don't worry about it not being absolutely perfect. Inside I turned a flower pot upside down and then put a plastic bowl on top of that to hold the pumpkin at the right height. I stuffed some newspaper in around it to support the leaf garland then just wound one garland around the base. For the second garland, I just loosely wound the ribbon around it, letting it naturally curl as I wound it off the roll and then wound it around the pumpkin on top of the other garland. 

On top of the pumpkin (whose stem wasn't great, the pumpkins were marked down and they  only had a few left and this was the best one) I sat one of my black feather crows (from Michaels a few years ago) and stuck a thumb tack between his toes and down into the pumpkin to hold it. Then I layed a few leaves that had come loose from the garland on top to cover the tack. And voila! Cute, cheap, and fast. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Styling the China Hutch in a Beach Theme for Summer

Recently my neighbor finally got around to taking down her Christmas garland, which in turn inspired me to finally get the fall/winter china out of my hutch. Oh yeah, and the few Easter items I'd stuck in there too.

I restyled it in a beach theme with shell dishes, fish, starfish, shells and a few pieces that reminded me of coral and seaweed without being too literal. Most of the items have been collected over the year during my thrift shopping journeys and there are a few dollar and craft store items thrown in for good measure.

The blue candelabra, which was thrifted but I believe still had its original HomeGoods sticker on the bottom, looked like seaweed to me, so I popped that in along with a resin starfish from Michael's Crafts. The little blue fish is a vase or planter and the dishes are 

The green fish I think is one that is supposed to sit on a sink to hold a sponge or scrubby and he's sitting on my favorite wooden pedestal which I shared in this thrift store shopping post.

The white pedestal bowl has a ruffled edge that reminds me of waves, so I filled it with small shells from Dollar Tree (they're from the vase filler section). The gold chargers add some shine and iridescence (inside of a sea shell anyone?) and take up space and balance out the plates above. 

Oh, ooops, I do have a few retail purchases in here: the green vase was actually a gift and I thought the color and shape worked as a seaweed inspired element. The round candle lantern had a coral or sea urchin vibe. We're not being too literal here, just using what I had on hand.

This little fish plate I thought was cute layered up with another of the resin star fish - I think they came two or three in a pack for $1 or $2 and are reasonably realistic looking.

So there you have it, a bit of a summer remix for the china hutch. Hopefully I'll get this all packed away and Halloween in there before March, because I'm nothing if not predictable 3 years and 5 months behind schedule.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Balcony Makeover: Phase I

Well, it's been a long, rainy time in coming, but I'm finally about done with the first phase of my mini balcony makeover. I pretty much used what I had on hand, rehabbed my old sling chair, made some pillows with some remnant fabric and an old shower curtain I had laying around, spray painted a few small tables, and tossed down some rugs. My color palette is navy blue, green, and coral with a little orange by way of the pillow fabric and terra cotta flower pots (and a certain orange boy-kitty).

It is a small space and gets direct sun all day, so I mostly use it early in the morning or later in the day. The cats like to hang out and sniff the air and look down on the dogs going for walks around the block and I sit out there to either read or eat breakfast or dinner or enjoy a beer.

One side has two (totally cheap-o) plastic chairs - they were "temporary" chairs I bought last year until I can find something I really love - I think they were less than $5/each. The color works and they're low maintenance but I'm certainly not trying to present them as anything great. I made two pillows with a remnant of Richloom's Little Ash Birds in navy blue on the front and a blue and white striped backing made from a thrifted canvas shower curtain. I'm pretty impressed with myself that I actually put zippers in the covers too! Between the chairs is a thrifted metal patio table I paid $3 for and spray painted navy blue. The flower pots were all ones I had on hand and are planted with coral petunias and the one on the floor has mint, catnip and cat grass in it for the you-know-whos so they don't try to eat the other plants.

And here is what it looked like before:

The other side of the balcony has my sling chair which I repaired by filling in weathered areas with wood filler and painted white. The old cover was shot so I made a new one with the blue and white striped shower curtain and the stripes running horizontally. When I laid it on to figure out the length I liked the way it looked with the extra fabric hanging down, so I just left it. I only had a small bit of the bird fabric left, so I used it as the center panel and patched in some of the striped on the sides so it was wide enough, and it is backed with the stripes too.

The little side table was also a $10 thrift store find I spray painted blue - it looks like bamboo, but was not one of the nice brass ones - it had some sort of antiqued looking silver finish that I didn't feel too bad painting over. The top is mirrored, but since it is outside and I didn't want to accidentally blind myself, a kitty, or random passing pilots, I put some frosted shelf liner on it. It needs spray adhesive or something on the back because it gets moisture underneath but otherwise it's not a bad solution.

And here is the before on this side:

The etage in the background is one I used to have inside and was over, it fits well in the space and seems to be holding up well in the weather. The wall pocket was another thrift find I painted coral and stuck some white petunias in. For rugs, I used two green rugs I got on clearance at Target last year and just randomly layered them (you can see where I shifted them around a but and the color has faded a bit unevenly, but I think it will even out again in the sun).

I still need to finish wrapping the old plastic crates in twine and work on a canopy of some sort. I'll get there. Eventually.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Balcony Planning and Progress

I've finally started working on my outdoor space, which consists of an approx. 6' x 10' balcony and after a night spent perusing Pinterest, I'm pretty excited about it. Some of the examples I really loved included the following:

I think the color palette in this example is just lovely. I will incorporate the orange/coral into my space, but have already picked out fabric in a navyish blue. I also like the natural wicker texture and color and may look to eventually replace my chairs with something similar to these low, comfy looking examples if I can find them. I'm working on an idea for a canopy and like the closed in feel it creates and the overhead lighting - saw a cool pendant light from Ikea that runs on solar and wind power.

I have globe lighting similar to this, and think lighting is a big amenity in any outdoor space. I love and use timers so they just go off and on on a schedule. I also really like the low, comfy looking seating in this space - maybe sometime in the future. Of course I'll be accessorizing with a cat or two.

This is another space I really love- the neutral color palette seems so serene and calm and I love the texture of the wooden crates, which is an element I'm envisioning for my space. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for a pair of chairs like these at a thrift too.

I didn't get any true before shots of my space, so let's take a look at the part-way-there pictures. My mini-makeover started with the utility closet door - it had some rusty spots that needed sanding out and the doorknob was antique brass oversprayed with brown - not pretty. Our regulation color is what I like to call "Poo Brown" - when I opened the can it looked more like purple poo, but did dry more on the brown side. Painting is really no fun when you're forced to use a color you hate, but it is what I'm stuck with so will make the best of it. I had a thrifted wall pocket I wanted to use on it - it too was a brown color, which would have been fine on another color door, but obviously wasn't going to work on the brown one, so I picked up a small bottle of coral colored Patio Paint at the craft store - it is like the typical craft paint but said it was OK to use outdoors, so for a few bucks I thought I'd give it a try - spray paint is sometimes tough to find in the exact shade I want and takes up more space in storage too when I just need a little. The pocket still needs a coir liner or some sheet moss so I can plant it - maybe with white petunias or a trailing sweet potato vine (the more of the door I can cover the better).

I'm pretty much trying to work with what I've got, so this side of the balcony also has my baker's rack which is an indoor piece I'm pretty much over, a sling chair that needs some restoration work, and a new $10 thrift store table in a faux bamboo look, which I will most likely paint a navy-ish blue to go with the blue and white striped fabric I want to use on the sling chair. The baker's rack clearly needs to be styled with plants, maybe a colorful plastic tray or plate, a big jug of water (for the plants), lanterns, etc.

For the sling chair I thrifted a blue and white striped canvas shower curtain and will run the stripes horizontally like this example I pinned which seems to be the less traditional way of doing it, since examples were  hard to come by.

The other side of the balcony will pretty much stay as is, except for spray painting the little $3 thrift store table blue to match the bamboo one. The green plastic chairs are about as cheap as they come, but I like the color and they will do until I find something else. 

I want to figure out a way to cover the plastic record crates with wood to look like old weathered crates, something like the below, rope handles and all (from here) which will then serve as small ottomans or additional seating. 

 I also have a few bright green cotton flat weave rugs that I'll toss out there. A few of the examples I pinned had them just randomly layered, which I like.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'm the Proud New Owner....

...of the world's ugliest lamps. Seriously I don't even think spray paint can help these things. But they do seem to be a knock-off of a pretty pricey ($200+ Yikes) lamp, so maybe I'll clean them up and sell them (for much less).

Seriously, what were they thinking? Or maybe the question is what was I thinking? Oh yeah, the shades were nice and I'd been searching for plain white drum shades since before Christmas (they look like they're a different height here, but one lamp is just further back - remember perspective from elementary art class? Yeah, that's why - I think. I'm going to go measure right now and may have to cancel this post. If you're reading this, yes, my lampshades are the same size and you can stop holding your breath).

Who knew plain 'ol white lampshades would be so hard to find. I tried Marshall's, Home Goods, Big Lots, even Walmart, more than once. Nada. Target did have a pair I bought and returned because they were a little too large and not the same shade of white when they were lit (yeah, I know, I'm nutz). Not only were the starfish shades in perfect, near new condition, the size was perfect, they're a nice linen-y fabric, and although not pure white, I'm OK with their slightly naturalish tone. Oh, and the best part? Lamps and all they were only $10. As an added bonus, the cords are also brand new and since I usually like to replace cords on secondhand lamps I might harvest these.

The shades are for my turquoise urn lamps that I got for $9/pair. Yes, they've been sitting there with naked bulbs since about November. I'm classy like that.

And as soon as I find my Rub 'n Buff to make over the brass parts, I will get together another Thrifty Lamp Make-Over post. I've been looking for that Rub 'n Buff for months now.

Honey, I Shrunk the Drapes....

Sometimes a home project that doesn't turn out the way you hoped ends up being a good thing. This was going to be a post about dying my living room curtains. But instead it is going to be a post about dying my living room curtains, shrinking them in the process, and how I fixed it and got a much cuter result in the end.

First, the dying. I'd been searching for the perfect shade of peacock blue dye for going on two-ish years (yeah, I know, my pickiness is an issue - in a lot of areas). I finally decided "screw it, I'm just going to mix two colors and see what happens." They've been the wrong shade of green for two years, and were faded from hanging in the bright, sunny sliders, so would it be the end of the world if they ended up the wrong shade of blue? No.

I wanted something that would go with the blue fabric I lined the back of my bookcases with (left), the fabric I'm planning to recover some pillows with (right) and the weird green color of my chairs (not shown, but it is close to the middle green in the pillow fabric).

I mixed royal blue and teal green dyes, following all the instructions for machine dying (and for cleaning out the machine afterwards). The good news is I am thrilled with the color. The bad news is, they were 100% cotton panels, dyed in hot water. And they shrank. About 3". I left them hang for a week or so, because they do sometimes lengthen or stretch out just from hanging, but was not very hopeful I'd get my 3" back.

I made a quick trip to Joann's to get fabric for another project, and while trolling through the remnant bin picked up a 3/4-yard piece of burlap printed with keys for $3. I'd seen this fabric, and other cute printed burlaps before, but at $10/yard and with nothing specific in mind for it, didn't want to add to my stash. On the drive home I started to think, "hmmm, I wonder if I could do a cute little border on the curtains to lengthen and accent them?" And that is exactly what I did.

I wanted about a 4 1/2" border, so I cut 10", folded it in half lengthwise and folded a 1/2" hem along both long edges, pressing everything down nice and flat with an iron.

 The fabric width was just a few inches longer than the width of the curtain, so I turned the sides in enough to make them the same width, again pressed with the iron, and then I machine basted the new border onto the curtains, leaving it down enough so that they would skim the floor. I basted because I'm figuring with the sun, these curtains may need to be dyed again, so it will be easier to remove. I didn't bother to stitch the side hems and I did not cut off my existing curtains, the new burlap trim more or less just wraps around the panel from front to back and all the potentially fraying edges are folded up inside. I probably could have done some sort of fringe too, but with the cats, I figured I'd better not tempt fate.

It is virtually impossible to get a decent photograph of these doors because of the light coming through them, but here is one half of my finished result.

Quincy is admiring my handiwork trying to see a squirrel without the squirrel seeing him.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Prozac...Day 5

We visited a new vet this week, and my baby, Chloe, was put on Prozac. For the past five years or so, since Mia died in January, 2008, she's been chewing the fur off her stomach and legs. Our vet at the time (who was fabulous, and still missed) advised we'd need to rule out allergies first before we could consider it behavioral. Apparently cat allergies fall into four main categories: food, flea, seasonal, and dust. Things like dust and pollen that would cause sneezing and congestion in humans cause skin reactions in cats. She was put on a food trial for 12 weeks where she had to eat a special, limited ingredient diet with an unfamiliar protein (I think we went with duck and pea, they also had rabbit, and venison) and none of the traditional grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.). She couldn't have any treats or her regular wet food, just the prescription diet. It didn't help, so then we did a flea trial where she had to have a round of prescription flea meds, even though I don't think she's ever had a flea in her life. That also didn't help. Her symptoms didn't seem seasonal to me (i.e. they didn't get better or worse at different times of the year). If she's allergic to dust, she's sh!t outta luck, as housekeeping isn't my forte. She was put on chlorpheniramine, an antihistamine, to no effect. 

Our regular vet then relocated and a few months later we also moved, so we changed to a different practice. The new vet put her on 5mg of cetirizine (Zyrtec), also an antihistamine  which also didn't help and wanted us to go to a dermatology specialist for allergy testing, which I don't object to in theory, and I believe is also covered by her insurance, but he was about an hour away with a cat who is very stressed by vet visits and car rides. So the decision became was it bad enough to warrant the stress of additional vet visits and lengthy car rides to find out what she was allergic to? I really didn't care what she was allergic to, just give me something to fix it, and I really didn't want steroids (which weren't suggested by any of my vets, but are sometimes used I think). We weren't really getting anywhere - it was probably my fault, in not wanting to see the specialist, she most likely got the impression I wasn't the type to "go over and above" for my animals which is not the case at all. So for a combination of small reasons, this being among them, but not the overriding deciding factor, I decided to give another practice, which also has the benefit of being much closer to us, a try. 

The new office had a lot of dogs running around (staff bring theirs in and they seem to run loose through the back area and play together - cute, but a cat only day would be nice) and a barky patient who arrived at the same time as we did, but otherwise I liked it just fine and the doctor we got seemed great. She listened to what we'd already tried, she spent a lot of time just looking at Chloe's skin, and told me she wasn't seeing any redness or bumpiness, which we've never had, and that allergies usually were accompanied by such symptoms. She then asked if Chloe was an anxious cat. Bingo! Yes, she is. My initial feeling five years ago was that she was stressed from Mia's illness, death, and absence, but we'd been on the allergy bandwagon for so long I never even thought about the alternatives any more. She did blood work to make sure Chloe could safely take fluoxetine (Prozac), and while her one liver value was a little high (it was a few years ago when she had blood work done prior to a dental cleaning too), it wasn't elevated enough to warrant keeping her off it. We were prescribed 5mg a day and sent home with 30 10mg tablets (a 60 day supply) for $6. We were warned she might seem a little "off" or lethargic for a few days and that it would take three or four weeks to see any kind of response to the drug in terms of positive behavioral changes.

So here we are, five days in. The first two or so days she definitely seemed dazed and a little out of it. Not sleeping really, just kind of sitting and staring like she wasn't quite sure where she was. Her appetite has been greatly reduced, and this is a cat who not only loves to eat, but has made a career out of developing annoying behaviors aimed at getting food and treats. She's the smartest cat I've ever known but manipulative and also very sensitive. In some ways, the personality changes have been positive: I've inadvertently reinforced her negative behaviors - scratching door frames, pushing things off the dresser or nightstand, banging at pictures or mirrors - by getting up and giving her what she wants (food, treats) because I can't stand the noise. On the Prozac she's stopped most of this, but also some of her cuter behaviors (flopping on the floor and rolling over on command to get a treat, tapping at me to get her head scratched). For the first four days she didn't seem like my cat and I had to convince myself we were in "try it and see" mode; I don't like the idea at all of squishing her personality down with drugs, but also feel like if in addition to the over grooming problem this might also work to deal with her weight issues it is worth trying out for awhile.Now that we're on day five I do feel like she's getting back to more of herself - she's sitting on my lap as I type; she patted at me earlier when she wanted a taste of my hummus; and she just seems more engaged with me again but without the incessant begging and whining. Her appetite still isn't what it was (not necessarily a bad thing) but she is eating, so I think we're OK there too.

What I think is that she is/has always been very anxious about where her next meal is coming from. Why I don't know - I've had her since she was about 5 weeks old and she was with her Momma cat before that, so she's never gone hungry. She was feral born and not weaned properly (I more or less grabbed her when I could, so it was abrupt and too early). She was never taught "cat things" like hunting or how to get along with other cats. More or less she's always been dependent on me for her next meal and therefore wants to control her environment and me and know she can get fed whenever she wants because she's never felt the self-sufficiency of being able to go out and catch a mouse or a bird whenever she wants to (she's an inside only cat anyway, but I think having that ability, even if she doesn't have the ability to use it, provides a sense of security that she can meet her own needs). It's still too early to tell if the Prozac will solve the over grooming problem, and I don't know what the long term plan is: I hope this isn't something she has to be on forever, although it's cheap and she's easy to pill (thank you Pill Pockets people). I'm hoping we can break what is most likely at this point some bad habits and move on from there.

We'll be checking in again as this unfolds. Please know I'm not a vet or an expert on cat behavior. I'm putting out there what I've been told as I understand it and my own experiences. I like to think of myself as a "cat whisperer" in terms of understanding my cats' thoughts and behaviors, but this is more than likely my own delusions, as any cat will tell you they're complex and mysterious creatures not meant to be understood by inferior human minds. Please consult your own vet about what is best for your cat and your situation.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Macklemore Thrift Store Challenge - Sort Of

So last Friday YHL issued a challenge inspired by some rap song to take $20 to the TS to see what you could find. I loooove thrifting, so challenge accepted. Except then I hurt myself and stayed home in bed for 5 days. So challenge aborted. However I had been meaning to pull together another Thrifty Finds post, like I did here and here, so consider this my Sort of Macklemore Thrift Store Challenge post.

So what exactly does $20 buy you at the thrift store?

Total = $19.10 + tax = $20.25 (OK, so I had to run out to the car and root around under the seats for that extra quarter.)

Even though I'm a cat person, I couldn't resist this little dog's sweet face. I think he's perfect the way he is so he just sits on my living room built-ins atop a stack of plates and looks handsome.

 The chunky wooden candlesticks I first considered painting a bright color, like I did with Smurfy, but the finish was in good shape and their wooden tones seemed to go well with the colors in my hall bathroom shower curtain, so I styled them up on the back of the toilet tank along with a carved wooden box I've had, quite literally, forever (I think it was my mom's when she was little).

The forsythia yellow vase is currently on my pantry shelves holding the wooden skewers I was always stabbing myself with when they were in my kitchen utensil drawer, but I think they'd look sweet with bright fuchsia or orange flowers in them too or maybe just some twigs, green stuff, pussy willow branches or forsythia even.

The brass dish is solid brass and could use a little polish, but I love anything with an organic shape. It's currently in my hutch with other gold and white and brown winterish stuff.

The ginger jar lamps are on my buffet (also scored for just $20 over the summer). I'm still searching for cheap white drum shades (had a pair from Target but they were slightly different shades when lit at night and it bugged me, so they were returned). I'd like to maybe edge the shades (once I find a pair) in gold to match the ugly brass bases bases I'll redo with gold Rub 'n Buff as soon as I find the tube I know I have around here somewhere.

Most of the other stuff on the buffet is thrifted too.

When I first spied this wooden candelabra I was so disappointed because it was missing an arm. I continued on my way through the store when it dawned on me - they wouldn't have put it out missing an obvious piece like that (this is a pretty classy thrift) so I went back to scour the shelves for the missing arm and sure enough I found it! Fit it right back in and glued it when I got it home. There is a little seam that I'm sure I can fix with stain or a restore-a-finish type product. I used it in my Thanksgiving tablescape.

And finally the wooden coaster set, made by Gailstyn-Sutton, which is a division of Towle. I don't know why, but I've been really attracted to wooden items lately and I thought these had a pretty finish and were practical. The clerk had already finished ringing me up when she realized she'd missed these, so just threw them in because I was spending a lot that day (it was an inventory shopping day). I think they were supposed to be .75. They can be used as intended: under a frosty cold one, or as candle coasters for one of my million battery operated fake candles.

So those are a bunch of my more recent thrifty finds. It really is amazing how far $20 will go when you consider what cool housewares cost at even an inexpensive place like Target or Home Goods. You'd be lucky to walk out with one or two items for that.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wildlife Tree

Who doesn't love a good recycling project, and one of my favorites is turning my indoor Christmas tree into an outdoor tree for the birds and the squirrels to feast on. Bonus points because it is entertaining to my indoor-only cats.

I used this list from the Fish and Wildlife Service for ideas on what to put on my tree, and picked up a pack of cranberries on sale at Aldi's for .99 and a box of their version of Cheerios.

Stringing them was easy, but took me two tries to figure out the best way. My initial plan was to tape the twine to a wooden skewer and just thread with that, like a big needle, as you can see in the photo. But the tape and twine were too thick to go through. So I separated the twine (it was 2-ply) into two individual single-ply threads by untwisting it, and made a loop and knot in one end. I used the skewer to pierce the cranberries, then I just pushed the twine through. I keep twisting the end of the twine to keep it "sharp" so it would go through. I tried wrapping clear packing tape around it so it would be hard (like the end of a shoelace) and that worked OK, but really it was better to just keep retwisting the end. A few times, if I couldn't get it through, I just pushed it through with the skewer, but mostly it was pretty easy. When I was down to the last few inches, I made another loop and knotted it, and those loops were easy to just hook over the branches of the tree.

I also pulled an egg carton from my recycling and cut apart the individual cups, rounding them off at the top so they'd look a little neater. I put cracked corn in these and just sat them in the dense branches of the tree - I could have also hole punched them and make little twine handles.

As you can see, the kitties enjoyed the entire process,

although we're still waiting for the wildlife to show up. We had a squirrel, but he got wind of his observer before he found the tree and when I looked this morning, the snow on the railing had been disturbed, and one of the garlands looked like it had been tugged on, so word should be spreading.

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