Exploring Chalk Paint and Milk Paint- Part II

I started exploring Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint and Old Fashioned Milk Paint a week or so ago. It’s been fun, rewarding and sometimes downright aggravating. I’m still working on my original projects that you can see here – they all are almost done, but then I keep adding new projects like the mirror pictured above which you just can’t mess up or painting this credenza that Ashley and I found at Goodwill last weekend for $30.00…

Before: Solid wood base and hideous laminate top. Yes. Chalk paint covers up laminate without priming or sanding.

It isn’t done yet – I need to add a coat of Annie Sloan’s dark wax, but here’s the drawers as I started…

and an almost finished sneak preview…

You also may have seen the container pots I painted for my Herb Garden:

Here’s what you need to know about painting OUTDOOR items with Chalk Paint:

  1. No need to prime, but make sure the surface is clean
  2. Paint 1 coat. Let it dry an hour or so and add another coat if necessary. I didn’t need two coats and in small areas I left a bit of the terracotta exposed for a worn look.
  3. Let dry an hour, than if desired grab a piece of sand paper and distress edges or areas to expose original color below paint.
  4. Let sit for 24 hours before using.

I hope you can handle it. It’s so simple stupid… this Chalk Paint is a dream to use.

You really can’t screw it up and even if like me, you hate have little patience for painting or lack the time or desire often required for the traditional ways of re-finishing a piece of furniture, don’t despair… you may, like me, change your mind once you’ve discovered Chalk Paint.

So that was a quick update. I definitely will share specifics on both products soon along with some simple tutorials, but in the meantime I will say this: I adore, love, am addicted to Chalk Paint. Milk Paint… not so much.  I am keeping an open mind to Milk Paint, but am sold hook, line and sinker on Chalk Paint. It’s done deal where that’s concerned.

Stay tuned and have a great day! xo Amy

P.S. And by the way, I am not being paid or compensated in any way for this post.

Fifty Reasons I’m Happy Today

Fifty seems to be a popular number lately. I’m fifty… that doesn’t really make me happy, but it doesn’t make me sad either. I’ve just finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed… yes, I did love those books, but they’re not the reason I’m happy today. This has to do with something I have been battling since I had the last of my three kids over twenty years  ago… my weight.

I have tried practically every diet out there. I’ve lost weight. Gained weight. Gained more. It’s a vicious, evil thing, but I think I’m finally starting to win the battle. I still want to lose more, but as of today I have lost 50 lbs and because of that, here are the reasons why I’m happy today…

  1. Three years ago I was Pre-Diabetic. Today I am not.
  2. Three years ago I was anemic, today I am not (If you are anemic, I highly recommend Flora Vital).
  3. Three years ago my good cholesterol was low. Today it is normal.
  4. I don’t get out of breath when I walk.
  5. I bought a large instead of an extra-large when shopping the other day.
  6. I can wear my wedding rings again.
  7. I don’t have to add extenders to any of my necklaces.
  8. I am starting to prefer tighter clothes.
  9. I have 10x more energy.
  10. I bought a bathing suit that I actually like. I wore it this weekend. My husband said I looked sexy, although I’m pretty sure he had ulterior motives, haha! For the first time in many years I was not ashamed to be in a swim suit.
  11. I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  12. I ate out  and ordered a gyro. For the first time, I realized I would have rather had a soup and salad.
  13. Several times over the past few months I’ve gained 4 lbs or so, but I didn’t freak out… I just promptly re- lost it each time. This gives me hope.
  14. I am finding healthy recipes are really quite good.
  15. I discovered the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and now crave carrot and green juices – I am thankful for both
  16. My feet aren’t stiff when I wake up. I can walk all day long and they still don’t hurt.
  17. My knee doesn’t hurt. I used to wear a brace. Today I don’t even think about it.
  18. My back doesn’t hurt. Well, today it does, but that’s only because over the weekend I lifted a heavy piece of furniture, so that’s my fault! Normally, it doesn’t hurt like it used to.
  19. I am now buying a size nine shoe instead of a 9 1/2. Mostly because…
  20. My feet don’t swell. Nor do my fingers, ankles, etc. I contribute this to the fact that I don’t drink anything carbonated anymore. No soda and it’s rare that I ever have a beer.
  21. My kids are proud of me. Not that they didn’t love me fat, but they like me healthy.
  22. As my face thins out, I am not getting more wrinkles. That really was a concern, haha! I know, I’m vain.
  23. My husband and anyone I travel with loves this more than me, but I don’t snore anymore… or so they tell me.
  24. When I travel, I have to pull the seat belt tight… by more than several inches. There was a time I worried about getting it buckled.
  25. I don’t have the desire to read any self-help books anymore. I’m ready to live what I’ve read.
  26. I am feeling creative again.
  27. I rarely feel like I need an afternoon nap.
  28. When standing up and looking down, I can see my toes.
  29. I no longer look like I’m pregnant.
  30. I realized the other week that I was crossing my legs while sitting. It dawned on me that I hadn’t done that in years.
  31. I eat almost all fresh vegetables (versus from a can or frozen)  and find that not only are they easy to prepare, but I really do like them.
  32. I can sleep at night without an arm going numb.
  33. I find I like to go out…I am feeling more social.
  34. Dressing fashionably seems possible again.
  35. I am comfortable.
  36. I am more confident.
  37. I am less of an apple shape.
  38. My BMI dropped significantly.
  39. I have more balance. I can easily stand without holding on to anything and put my pants on one leg at a time.
  40. I don’t dread getting on the scale, in fact I semi-look forward to it.
  41. If I eat big one day or even over one weekend, it’s okay. I get back on track the next day.
  42. I don’t feel I’m on a diet, but that I have adapted a new way of eating. Translation: This just might last.
  43. There’s an extra giddy-up in my step that I didn’t know I missing until I got it back.
  44. I don’t even think about looking at plus sizes when shopping.
  45. I think I actually might someday soon get back into my original Calvin Kleins from back in the day. Fingers crossed!
  46. When I go to the market, I find I’m now shopping the perimeter of the store and rarely go down the aisles. That translates into: I’m eating fresh food as opposed to processed foods.
  47. I wore jeans for the first time in over 15 years.
  48. Although I have always sweated a lot, ugh… I sweat much less than I did 50 lbs. ago.
  49. I can wear 3″ heels again.
  50. I find I am much more heat tolerant.
  51. I am not taking any supplements (the benefit of which is now being debated) because I am getting all my nutrition from the food that I eat

Ooops. That’s fifty-one reasons. I could come up with forty-nine more, but I won’t do that to you…

So there you are. I am not at the end of my journey to getting slim and healthy, but I wanted to share this mile stone with you because it has been such a struggle for me over the years.  If you have the same struggle I want you to know that there is hope. You can do it. It starts with baby steps and it’s more about choosing to embrace a life style change than about starting a diet. For me, it was cutting out sugar, white flour and processed foods. It was adding juicing (fruit and vegetable juices), nuts, beans and vegetable soup. For you, “it” may be Weight Watchers or Counting Calories. Whatever “it” is, I will tell you… there are fifty reasons to say yes to “it”. Every single one is a life changer.

This is really about designing you so you can live it to the fullest. We don’t get any do-overs in life, but we it’s never too late to make changes! Change may seem impossible at times, yet truly it is not. If I can do it, so can you! xo Amy

Easy Banana Avocado “Ice Cream” with Almonds and Chia Seeds

This morning I saw a post by Sarah over at Thrifty Decor Chic with a recipe for Banana Avocado Ice Cream. Really? She swore it was really delicious so, being the trusting person that I am,  I thought I’d try it for myself. Someone commented over on her post that in their country (Australia), they use avocados for sweets such as puddings, frozen treats, etc..  After tasting it, I totally get that! This afternoon I made a double batch and changed it up a bit by adding Chia Seeds and unsalted almonds.

This is sooooo easy! All you need is 5-7  ingredients, ice, a blender and a bit of patience while it freezes. Here’s how to make it…

Banana Avocado Ice Cream with Almonds and Chia Seeds

  • 2 ripe avocado’s (pit removed and scooped out of shell)
  • 2 banana’s (preferably frozen, but not necessary)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup almond vanilla milk, silk  or milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of ice
  • 2 Tbsp Chia Seeds (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of unsalted almonds (optional)

Dump all ingredients into blender and chop/blend until smooth. Taste. Say yum. Then pour into a glass container with lid and freeze.

It really is that good. I’m thinking this will make at least 8 servings. I plugged the ingredients into free Livestrong’s Calorie Counter and it comes out to only 185 calories. It really is delicious! I may try making it with Stevia next time which would make it at less than 120 calories per serving. Below are some photo’s I took as I made it… enjoy

You might already have most or all of this in hand…

You can almost always find a bag of frozen bananas in my freezer. They are perfect for times like this and to make banana smoothies as well…

Once you’ve blended all the ingredients (sorry, I forgot to take a photo of that) pour into a glass dish and freeze for several hours. It took about 4 hours for mine to get pretty solid…

Once frozen grab a melon scoop to dish it out mini balls and serve in a china bowl to make it special. This bowl was my grandmothers – I love to find a reason to use it…

Happy Memorial Day! Be safe, have fun! xo Amy

Weekend Project: A Handy Little Tool to Clean out your Drains

Warning: This is gross. Disgusting really, but something that must be shared. Because you are my friend, I ask that if you are eating, to either finish up before you continue or put your food aside. Food and this post won’t mix well.

I have to admit I’ve really never looked down my drains before. Truth be told, if the shower drain gets clogged I call my husband, but when I was in Florida a few weeks ago Gigi’s drain was slow and she pulled out this handy little tool

It’s called the Zip-It Drain Cleaner. For a whopping $5.13 you can have it shipped to your door. I did and this is where I got mine – Amazon. Today, I found while searching for it on-line that CVS sells it for $3.99 or you could order it on-line from Sears for a whopping $2.24 and pick it up in the store to get free shipping.

If the words fast, inexpensive and instantly rewarding appeal to you, I suggest you try it.

I really didn’t think I had a drain problem, they were draining pretty well, but when my new tool came in the mail I had to try it immediately and look what I found in the first sink I tackled…

Yep. Disgusting. I warned you. The flip side is it feels really good to know that is no longer in my sink. I have 6 bathroom sinks and it took me a total of 30 minutes start to finish to clean them out. Not a bad investment of time!

But wait! On closer look, what is this?

Yep. A long-lost earring from long ago. I have no idea who’s it is and I didn’t bother to clean it up – it was gross and broken, but that was unexpected, haha! This thing works, I’m telling you!

I carried a zip lock bag and paper towels to dispose of the goop along with Clorox spray cleaner and a scrub brush  to clean the bottom of the stopper which was pretty yuk, too. A bottle cleaner would have been nice to clean the top of the drain too, but I didn’t have one on hand and looking back, rubber gloves would be pretty nifty too. When done, I simply cleaned the tool with some Clorox. I see on-line they sell them in bulk, but I don’t see why you need more than one. It’s  still in perfectly good shape after using it.

Now go have some fun this weekend! xo Amy

P.S. I was not paid to write about the Zip-It… I just really liked it 🙂

Light. Delicious. Healthy… Tomatoes Layered with Feta and Basil

This is so delicious, I really think you will want to try this tonight  soon. Ashley stopped by the other night after work for dinner and I tried out a new recipe I’ve been wanting to sample. It was really, really good. I served it with parmesan encrusted tilapia and boiled klondike potatoes. Afterwards, we may or may not have had a very small bowl of haagen dazs salted caramel truffle ice cream for dessert. I really could eat it all by itself for lunch or a snack. Not the ice cream, the tomato… well okay the ice cream too, but that’s not the point.

You can find the original recipe here, but as usual, I made a few tweaks. Here’s my version…

TOMATOES LAYERED WITH FETA AND BASIL

  • 3 tomatoes from the vine
  • 1/4 cup virgin olive oil
  • 1/2  medium shallot
  • 1/2 tsp of ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 Tbsp of balsamic dressing or a Tbsp of Ginger dressing with a dash of white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp (or less) of fresh chopped basil or a teaspoon of ground basil
  • 4-5 oz crumbled feta
  • Tbsp milk

1. Cut off bottom of tomato and discard. Slice remainder of tomato including top into 4 equal slices and spread slices in a shallow dish with sides.

2. Place olive oil, shallot and basil into a blender and puree until shallot is in small pieces.

3. In small bowl mix the ground sea salt, sugar and balsamic or dressing/vinegar. Stir in the mixture from the blender.

4. Spread sauce over tomatoes to coat.

5. In another bowl with fork, mash together the feta and milk. Use hands to form balls and divide into 9 equal parts.

6. On plate lay a larger tomato slice, top with a flattened cheese ball, brush with sauce. Repeat process with two middle layers of tomato and then add the top.

7. Do this for next 2 tomatoes and then brush the tops of each with remaining sauce.

Serve immediately for best presentation. It still tastes yummy 24 hours later, but it will be a bit runny. Amy xo

Here’s some photo’s to help…

I used fresh parsley leaves. You don’t have to pre-chop it before going into blender, but I wasn’t sure how much chopped equaled a Tablespoon, so I did pre-chop it. I used a generous amount of basil, but make sure to add it according to your taste buds! It’s always better to start with less…

I confess, I had to google what a shallot was the first time I cooked with one. This is what they look like if you don’t know…

You could also buy them fresh – they look like giant chives. I couldn’t find the fresh ones.

Here is more about a shallot…

This is the dressing I used… truth-be-told,  I tried it because I ran out of balsamic. It was really good… I loved the slight ginger taste…

Never be afraid to improvise. If I can do it, you can too. It’s empowering to start experimenting when cooking. Big deal, so it doesn’t work out…you don’t know until you try! xo

This is what the mashed feta looks like…

And here are the little feta balls…

And finally, here’s what it looks like as you’re layering…

I hope you try this, it’s yum. xo

A Mini Herb Garden – An Easy Container Project

This is about creating my first herb garden. Well, it’s really just a herb container, but it’s my first experiment with herbs and I think it’s pretty cute. Last year I bought my first tomato plant and this year I’m adding some herbs in containers. I know it’s not much, but it works for me. It was super easy and I’m pretty smitten with the end result.

Last week at Ikea I found these oversized terra-cotta pots with saucers for $5.99 – gotta love that deal! I didn’t have room in my cart or I would have grabbed more. So dumb. I’m going to have to go back this week  but I’m thinking they are probably gone…

The other night I started my adventure with chalk paint  and the more I painted, the more I looked for things to paint and I saw those pots…

I am IN LOVE with chalk paint, but that is another story. Here’s tip number one for chalk paint: Do NOT use a cheap brush. See that bristle in the photo above? ughhhh. Any how, painting the posts took no time…

I even threw in an old candle holder that I had in my garage. I’m planning on turning that into a bird feeder – but that’s for another day!

While the paint dried I decided to make some markers for the organic potted herbs I found at Walmart for $2.98 ea. I’m starting with parsley, mint and oregano…

I already had everything I needed. A black sharpie, three wine corks…

and three wooden skewers for making shish kabobs. The point on the end of the skewers is perfect for pushing it into the cork…

Write the name of the plant on the cork, insert the skewer into one end and voila!…

Cute, yes? I suggest you practice writing first. The printed the first two, but wasn’t happy with them – I found I liked them in cursive better!

I was planning on putting two coats of paint on the pots, but found that one was perfectly fine – I like seeing the original color of the pot peeping through. It took less than an hour for the paint to dry and then I pulled out some stencils I had from years ago…

I just needed a brush, paint and a plastic plate , all of which I had too.  I prefer using a plastic plate because it’s non-absorbent…

It took less than a half an hour – I love the imperfection….

 A quick note of advice: If stenciling on a rim, remember to leave room for letters like g, y, j, etc… I did not. A lesson learned. The second pot was going to say vegetables. After I stenciled the v I thought about the “g” and said “oh crap”… or something like that 🙂  Do you know how hard it is to think of a cute saying that doesn’t involve one of those letters? For now the second one says alive, delish & fresh. Next time I pull out the chalk paint it’s going to be a do-over. I think it’ll say live, love eat. Or maybe tomatoes. I don’t know… any suggestions?

Anyway… I really do love the end result…

Now I’m going to have to go find some new recipes so I can try out my fresh herbs…

Happy Monday! Amy xo

Halved Avocado Topped with Goodies and Raspberry Vinaigrette

I threw this together in less than 10 minutes last weekend and really like it so I thought I’d share! Be creative and change up the cheese, dried fruit, add olives etc… I don’t think you can mess this up!

HALVED AVOCADO TOPPED WITH GOODIES AND RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE

  • Halved ripe avocado’s
  • Cherry tomatoes halved lengthwise
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Dried cranberries
  • Crumbled walnuts
  • Salt and pepper
  • Raspberry or any other vinaigrette
  • Optional: Herbs De Provence or other seasonings
Note: Amounts will be determined by many you are making.
  1. Cut Avocado’s in half and remove pit.
  2. Place on individual serving plates or together on large platter.
  3. Sprinkle each halved avocado with tomatoes, blue cheese, cranberries, walnuts.
  4. Salt/pepper to taste and top with any other spices or herbs you’d like to add.
  5. Drizzle with Raspberry Vinaigrette and serve

Enjoy! Amy xo

Weekend Project: Gardener’s Sugar Hand Scrub

My friend Robyn stopped by the other day and brought me this adorable mini mason jar wrapped with twine. She filled it with a wonderful Gardener’s Scrub she made from a recipe she found on Pinterest –  I do love that site!  I’ve been planting flowers this week and oh boy, did I need it!

I love the Sugar Scrub I make for my face and body – you can find that recipe here, but this scrub is different because it’s mixed with detergent to get your hands squeaky clean. I didn’t have her recipe, but I found several on-line and decided to create my own version to both soften and clean your hands so I could share it with you! Here it is…

GARDENER’S SUGAR HAND SCRUB

  • 1 small glass container – 4- or 5 oz (I used a 4 oz jelly jar)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup of Dishwashing Detergent (I used 1/4 cup of Lemon Dawn)
  • 1 tbsp of Sunflower Oil (can also use safflower, grapeseed or olive oil)
  • Optional: 3-4 drops of essential oil (I used mint)

Simply mix ingredients, put into decorative jar or small dish, add a small spoon and keep at sink next to your handsoap!

Voila! It’s easy to do and you probably have ingredients on hand to make it right now!

Grab a small mixing bowl and dump in a 1/2 cup of sugar…

Add an 1/8 or 1/4 cup of dishwashing detergent. I used 1/4 cup – I wanted more detergent because my hands get pretty dirty since I don’t often use gloves…

Use whatever detergent you have on hand! I used Lemon Dawn.

Next add a tbsp of Sunflower Oil…

This is what I have on hand for my face/body scrub, but since this is for your hands you could substitute olive oil, safflower oil or grapeseed oil…

add a few drops of essential oil if you have it…

I used Peppermint with Lemon Dawn detergent because that’s what I had, but I’m thinking Lemon Dawn with Orange essential oil would be really good too!

Next, mix it all up…

Pour into a small jar – I used a small 4 oz Jelly Jar and added a stainless steel teaspoon…

This summer you will always find a jar of this good stuff next to my dish soap on top of my sink…

Enjoy! Amy xo

Exploring Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Old Fashioned Milk Paint – Part I

I’ve been hearing so much recently about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Old Fashioned Milk Paint, I’ve gotten a creative itch to try them both out. I was actually going to try the Milk Paint first, but on a whim last week, I  stopped by The Miss Enlaineous Studio ran by the adorable Lainie Discepoli and her four-legged friend…

Check-out that sweet innocent face as he realizes he’s just been caught in the act chewing up some paper, haha! Our mutual friend Julie Phillippi Whitney has been talking about introducing Laine and I for several years and now I know why – she’s fabulous! I’m hoping we can do some things together in the future and I’m definitely going to take a class or two of hers in the future!  PS. If you ever need a PR Guru – Julie’s your gal!

Laine stocks Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint along with her Soft Wax and by the end of my visit I walked out loving Laine and a with bag on my arm full of this…

A few days later I stopped by Woodcraft and came home with this…

The salesman was very helpful and gave me lots of tips about painting with Milk Paint, including the fact that I should use a natural brush to apply the paint.

Miss Mustard Seed (who is coming out with her own line of Milk Paint soon) has a great comparison of the two products which you can read  here: Milk Paint versus Chalk Paint. I’ll throw in my two cents once I finish my three projects…

One project is this Lane coffee table I’ve had for years – I like the style, but the top has some water damage and I’d like it a bit darker…

Sanding/re-staining the top is not an option since it’s a wood veneer and warped. I actually like the color of the legs, but I’m not crazy about the shine. My plan is to use chocolate-brown milk paint on the top and a creamy white on the base; using sandpaper to add a distressed look to both. I’m not quite sure about the brown, but if I don’t like it I’ll paint over it with milky cream and distress it so the brown shows through. That’s the beauty of milk paint – you can just keep playing until you love it.

The second project is a large table in my home office that I use for projects…

There’s really nothing exceptional about it, but I love the  size – 32″ x 48″.  It’s currently stained a dark brown and here’s my plan…

Add my favorite casters from Ikea so I can move it easily around the room…

These sweet things run $9.99 for a pair:

or $9.99 for 4 of the smaller version:

I bought the larger version for this project – they go better proportionately and have a stop on each wheel which is really nice. If you’ve ever priced casters, you know this is a GREAT deal.

For paint, I’m going to go with a pastel blue by Annie Sloan called Duck Egg and  I’ll also add goodies from a new line of hardware at Ikea as well…

I’m thinking about keeping the top as-is and painting the bottom. The jury is still out on that.

The third project is this old cabinet with a single drawer (not shown) that has been sitting in my garage forever…

I think it will make a great portable cabinet for my copier. I’m going to also finish it in Duck Egg and will put 4 of the smaller wheels from Ikea on the bottom.

While I’m at it, I may also paint a few photo frames as well anything else I think of along the way…

Stay tuned! I’ve added the casters already – now I need to get painting!

Last night I got around to planting some flowers I purchased over the weekend and this time I saved the markers so I can tell you what kind I used – I forgot to do that last year, oops! I’ll post about that in the next few days, but here’s a sneak preview…

If you have any tips to share on Chalk or Milk paint – I’d love to hear them! Amy xo

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mothers Day everyone!  I’m counting my blessings today – thankful I’m a mom to three perfect children… well, perfect for me, anyway and so grateful that my mom will be over later to celebrate being moms together!

The husband is out fishing for the morning – I do love some quiet time, but he’ll be back soon. While he’s gone, on TV via DVD I’m listening/watching/singing/jamming to Adele in Concert Live at The Royal  Albert Hall…

It comes with a CD as well, but the concert DVD is fabulous – I highly recommend it! It’s $14.99 on Amazon – a great deal.

Later this afternoon our home will be less quiet.  My oldest son Michael, his girlfriend Ashley, my daughter Ashley and my parents will be stopping by for dinner.  Some good friends may stop by as well, along with my aunt and uncle. Tyler (our youngest) and his girlfriend Jaimie are in NYC and Ashley’s fiance Greg is at the firehouse – we will definitely be missing them. Hopefully, we’ll get some FaceTime in tonight!

As I listen to Adele, I’m busy cleaning and cooking. Yes, I know it’s Mother’s day, but there’s really nothing I would rather be doing than cooking for my family because that means we are all together. Cleaning? Okay, well that’s a different matter… I’m lightly cleaning, but my mother told me something once as I stressed over getting my house ready for a party. She said…

In the end, people won’t remember you for how clean your house is, but the time that you spent with them.

I think that is one of the best pieces of advice she ever gave me… it’s so true, don’t you think? What advice did your mom give you that you’ll pass on to your children someday?

It’s funny how things change. When my kids were younger, I would have given anything to go out to eat and get out of cooking, but now I treasure it. Today I’m making a new rule:  Clean-up happens after everyone leaves. Sometimes I find I’m so wrapped up in getting the kitchen back in order after dinner, that by the time I finish cleaning, everyone is ready to leave. Today, I’m going to sit down and chat with everyone – I’ve been trying to do this lately and it’s so much more enjoyable. After all, it really is about spending time with those you love – not getting things cleaned up!

This is what’s on the menu today…

  • Grilled burgers, brats, metts and falafel Burgers
  • Grilled yellow and white corn on the cob
  • Crock pot potatoes with onion and parmesan
  • Halved avocados topped with goodies
  • Chocolate cheesecake brownies with hot fudge icing, whipped cream and a cherry

The last three are new recipes I’ve changed up a bit, so if good, I’ll make sure to share this week!

I was planning on planting flowers today, but the rain nixed that plan. Hopefully, I can do that tomorrow night and share some photos this week.

Another project on the to-do-list this week is experimenting with chalk paint and milk paint – look for posts on that this week! I can’t wait to try them!

In the meantime, have a GREAT mothers day! xo Amy

Fabulous Outdoor Projects with Inexpensive Netting

I love the look of netting – it creates instant softness and ambiance. Romance, whimsy, fun… netting adds a touch of all three, don’t you think? Typically, you’ll find it indoors over a bed as a canopy like the one I saw over at Interior Design Trends

It’s lovely, but what about using netting for outside your home?

Gigi has a backyard project-in-progress…

It’s a combination zip-line/slide/swinging chair/star-gazing platform. Last year when I was visiting there was a huge meteor show and we “camped out” on top with our ipad to watch. Did you know there’s an app for stargazing? It’s called SkyWatch – it’s really pretty cool. As you point your ipad to the sky, it identifies what you’re looking at. It was lots of fun until we fell asleep and woke up freezing to death.

Last week I was perusing Pinterest and saw this awesome star-gazing deck

It immediately made me think of GiGi’s and I couldn’t wait to show it to her. Of course she L-O-V-E-D it and our brains started working in over-time. Our first thought was Ikea’s beautiful ready-to-hang pair of netted drapery panels that sell for a really great price. They’re easy to trim to your desired length and cost a whopping $4.99. Yes. Four dollars and ninety-nine cents. That’s $2.50 per panel. They’re 98″ long and 110″ wide. Amazing. Here’s a photo…

Of course Miss “Ask Me and I Probably Have It” – AKA GiGi, had 5+ pair  (actually 10 pair)  lying around along with some inexpensive spring-rods from Wal-Mart like these…

And today we did this…

Well, really she did it, I helped at the end! Look at it from the side…

Don’t you just love it? Here’s a side view of the swinging chair inside…

This project took a pair of scissors, five sets of panels and 5 tension rods. She trimmed the bottoms and used the extra material for the tie-backs. She’s planning on using fishing sinkers to weigh down the bottoms. This way when you shut the panels they won’t blow in the wind and those nasty little mosquitoes will stay out.

Apparently this is a pretty romantic spot, because bunches of love-bugs moved in…

See how the bottom two are attached? Yep. That’s how most of them fly around all day… like little love-birds bugs.

Last year GiGi helped her daughter – Lisa of PickMeYard, throw a Princess Tea Party for her daughter Loring’s Birthday. Loring is GiGi’s granddaughter. You can read all about the amazing details here, but below is a sneak preview…

I want a princess Tea Party. I think this would just be plain awesome to have in your backyard. She had a wrought iron gazebo and used white and purple sheer netting panels from Ikea along with a spool of wire. She strung the netting onto the wire and hung it around the perimeter. How fun would it be to have your friends over for lunch and tea in this beauty?

I have a deck with a partial patio underneath that I plan to make a weekend project this summer – I’ll share it when it’s complete, but in the meantime I found this great under-the-deck area that was transformed into a clubhouse for kids…

I love the green fabric hanging from the underside of the deck… I’m thinking netting would look awesome for a more sophisticated area.

I’m definitely going to incorporate netting in my next outdoor project – are you? xo Amy

Weekend Recipe: GiGi’s Vegetable Soup

I’m here in Florida for a few more days and thought I’d share a recipe for something we eat every single day – it’s GiGi’s version of the soup from the Cabbage Soup diet. Remember that Diet? GiGi adds lots more veggies and spices to the soup and has been steadily losing weight.  It’s really more like a vegetable soup or even a stew. We love it just as it is with a dollop of yogurt, but you can also add it to the top of a baked potato or a 1/2 cup of rice. Another option is to add pasta to the pot or even chicken or beans for protein. GiGi is a vegetarian, so the chicken is not happening in this house.  The recipe is plenty filling and personally, I find you really don’t need to add anything else. We both are at our lowest point on the scale since we’ve been eating healthy. Yay!

GiGi makes a great big batch every few weeks. Some of it she puts in the refrigerator, some she freezes for future use and she always has a container for Dr. Nune. Lisa over at PickMeYard tried it the other night and loved it! She couldn’t get enough. It’s a low-calorie, healthy, satisfying bowl of goodness. I love that you can make it over the weekend and have something to grab for lunch or dinner all week! It’s perfect to store in mason jars for carrying to work and to heat in the microwave.

I suggest you sample as you go and add the spices according to your taste. When I’m in town GiGi gives me my own pot to spice so it is perfect for me! All the veggies may make you gassy your stomach rumble if you are not used to them, but five or so drops of beano in your bowl will take care of that!

If you are curious about how the Cabbage Soup Diet is working for her  – she’s lost 25# so far, I’ll post about that next week or so, along with some of her tips, if you’d like to know more.

Here’s her recipe…

GIGI’S VEGETABLE SOUP

  •  1 large bottle V-8 whatever flavor or style you like. Regular is good.
  •  4-5 cans of diced tomatoes.  I mix them – Fire-roasted, basil, oregano, garlic etc.
  •  At least one box of fresh sliced mushrooms, can add more
  •  3-4 scallions chopped right to the end
  •  1/2 half large onion chopped
  •  At least one bag of small organic carrots, no need to chop
  •  1 bag Marketside (WalMart) green beans (not the giant bag)
  •  1 small bag Marketside butternut squash
  •  1 medium bag Marketside mixed veg – cauliflower, broccoli, carrots
  •  1 large zucchini chopped
  •  1 large summer squash chopped (yellow)
  •  About 4 sticks celery sliced thinly
  •  Green, yellow, orange pepper- 1 or all 3 chopped
  •  White  cabbage, at least half of a large chopped. Can also add 1/4 or 1/2 of a purple cabbage.

 Herbs and seasonings. Be  very generous. More rather than less:

  •  Garlic – fresh or from jar chopped 2 tbsp or so
  •  Cumin – ground 1 tbsp
  •  Turmeric – 1-2 tbsp
  •  Cinnamon – sticks: about 3 or ground 1 tbsp
  •  Oregano – 1 tbsp
  •  Caraway seeds – 3 tbsp
  •  Chia seeds – (Bob’s Red Mill – $10/pk). Store in Mason jar. Add to fruit smoothies on fruit day too.
  •  Flax seeds – golden or red (Bob’s Red Mill) 3 tbsp (Mason jar)
  •  Cardamom seeds.  Break open about 10 pods  and empty each pod into pot. Smash the tip of the pod on the counter. It breaks the pod open. Empty all the seeds into the pot.
  •  Herbs de Provence- 2 tbsp – not essential but tasty
  •  Vogue Cuisine Instant VegeBase (Whole foods, smallish round jar – Whole Foods-maybe Publix)  3-4 tbsp
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Pepper

I (GiGi talking) start by emptying tomatoes and V-8 into a large stock pot stir and then pour some into a medium stock pot with heat on medium high…

Start chopping and adding the veggies…

Add them to the pots in no particular order.

Next toss in the herbs and seasoning… By the time I get to this step, the soup is almost done.

When all is in the pot, turn heat to low, cover and simmer 20 more minutes or so…

Stir occasionally, making sure to lift vegetables from the bottom of the pot to the top of the mixture when stirring. Cook until the carrots are tender.

Note: If you want a brothier soup, add some V-8 when you heat up a serving.

Top soup with  a few dots of Earth Balance (Whole Foods, maybe Publix) Soy free Natural Buttery  Spread and/or a dollop of plain probiotic or homemade. (End of GiGi talking)

Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Too bad, you don’t know Dr. Nune! She swaps homemade yogurt with GiGi for soup! It’s sooooooo good! If you ever want to try to make your own from scratch, I posted a recipe for it a few years ago – here’s a link!

Enjoy and have a great weekend… make sure to do something fun!  xo Amy

Ask a Decorating Question: Can I use a Queen Headboard with a King Bed?

Courtesy of Anthropologie

I’m looking forward to answering design questions from readers each week. The question below from Brett has been on my mind. I’ll tell you why in a bit, but first, let’s start with the question…

My wife and I have a 4 month old who is taking up too much of our queen bed. I would like to get a king bed but we have a fairly new bedroom set. Would it look weird if we used the same headboard? The bed would stick out 5 inches on either side.

I always say there are no rules to decorating, just rules of thumb. When it comes to headboards, the rule of thumb is they should not be narrower than the bed frame. Is there an exception to that rule? I don’t think so. Why? Good design is all about scale and proportion. A bed is typically the focal point of the room – the headboard is the foundation for a beautiful bed. A headboard that is smaller than a bed is simply going to look wrong. It will be out of proportion. If it’s going to bug me…it’s going to bug you.

So what to do? I have three possible solutions.

1. Come up with a DIY solution to convert the queen headboard into a king headboard. I do believe that anything is possible with a bit of creativity. I  don’t know what your headboard looks like, but I am sure there is a creative way to extend the headboard by adding on at the ends or adding a panel in the middle. BUT, you would have to be a DIY’er and it would have to be fabulous. If you do decide to try it, here is a link I found for hardware you can use to attach the headboard to a king bed frame.

2. Store or sell the queen size headboard and get one that complements your furniture. The key here is to get one that is not wood – a wood headboard may fight with your furniture. An upholstered or woven headboard would work quite nicely with any style of furniture. You can find them in many price ranges. Here are a few  headboards/beds I found:

Target has a great selection on-line of reasonably priced headboards. A  king is less than $250.00:

I found this king seagrass headboard on amazon for $549.00.  I love the texture …

Ballard’s has this great leather headboard with nailhead trim for under $800.00:

Macy’s has this gorgeous bed with a price tag right under $2,000.00:

Pottery Barn’s slip-covered headboard+bed has a sticker price ranging from $719.00 – $2,249.00. Isn’t it lovely?

So this brings us to number three. I know that sleeping with an infant is something some parents do. Brett, I am sure you have researched this and made a decision that is right for your family, but here are my thoughts…

A. Regardless of the size of the bed, there are always dangers when sleeping with an infant. Of course, you may be using an Infant Sleep By My Side like this…

Blogger Danielle wrote a great article on Co – Sleeping which I think is worth a read. And check this out from HowToBeADAd

These are some funny, funny guys! You really ought to check out their blog! If co-sleeping is your choice, you are definitely going to need that king size bed.

Let’s move on to B and C…

B. Sleep is a good.  There is no doubt that sleeping with an infant causes you to lose sleep. A rested parent is a better parent. Yes, you don’t get much sleep with a baby in the home, but my guess is you get even less when their in your bed. And let’s just throw this out there… sex.

C. I raised three children. I was a stay at home mom, breastfed them and understand how exhausting it can be. I slept in their bed more than once when they were young and they climbed into our bed more than once.  But, always, they had their own bed and place to grow. It was a win-win for everyone.

You probably guessed what three is…

3. Keep the queen sized bed. Put the baby in their own room, Let him/her sleep in a crib within your room or use a co-sleeper next to your bed like the one below…

The co-sleeper arrangement gives you the best of both worlds.

That is my long winded answer – get a new headboard, find your creative side or keep your queen sized bed. The bottom line is  make a decision based on what is best for you and your family. We’d love to know what you decide to do! Readers…what do you think? xo Amy

She said Yes… Now What? Five Questions to Answer ASAP

So he asked and she said yes. Ashley and Greg are engaged. Now what? Of course there are hugs, photo’s, the story of how he proposed and the showing of ring, but then what?

We quickly discovered 5 questions we needed to answer sooner than later…

1) What is the date or a set of possible dates for the wedding? We started looking at churches and reception venues in February 2012.  The wedding was approximately 17 months away and yet to our shock, we found some places were already booked. I couldn’t believe it! Ashley and Greg were tossing around the idea of a Friday wedding and were torn until they found their possible Friday date was the wedding anniversary of both her grandparents AND his grandparents. Needless to say, Friday it is. How perfect is that?

2)What is your budget? Mike and I came up with a lump sum to give Ashley and Greg for their wedding to use any way they wanted. Anything above and beyond that would be their responsibility. Greg’s parents also told them what they would help with. Having a budget defined at the beginning was crucial because will affect all of the decisions they’ll make.

 3) How many guests will attend your wedding and reception? Several things come into play here. How many friends and family members do you wish to invite? How many friends and family can you afford to invite? Is it more important to have a lavish dream wedding with a smaller group of friends and family or to have a larger wedding on a tighter budget and be surrounded by lots of friends and family? Ashley and Greg agreed was better to have everyone that is important to them at the wedding. This means finding a venue that will hold 275 to 300 people. They found a great place across the river and booked it! I can’t wait to meet with the planner there. The goal, for me, is to help Ashley create the wedding she’s dreamed of since she was a little girl and keep it within the budget.

4) Will it be an Indoor or Outdoor Wedding? Ashley really, really wanted an outdoor tented wedding. The problem was two-fold… Cincinnati Weather is totally unpredictable and a tented wedding with everything they wanted for 300 people was not realistically in their budget.  It was possible- but there would have been so many variables, lots of work to pull it off and so many unknowns. In the end, they decided it wasn’t worth the stress. They settled for an indoor location they both really loved.

5) What kind of ceremony will you have and where? It’s really important to Greg that they get married in a Catholic Church. Because it’s important to Greg, it is just as important to Ashley.  She isn’t Catholic, but they often go to church together. They’ll get married in a Catholic ceremony – Ashley’s only wish is that it’s a traditional, beautiful church with a long gorgeous aisle. I think the place they want is a go and I love it! It is downtown, steeped in history and absolutely stunning.  Turns out, time is of the essence when booking a church too… who knew?

Being thrown into the world of wedding planning made me realize there needed to be some rules of engagement for both Ashley and I if our relationship was going to survive this process. I’m not worried about our relationship surviving, but I do want to make sure it is FUN. I want good memories of planning this special day with my only daughter. We don’t really need rules, but we do need boundaries. Okay, I need boundaries because it is her day! More about that next week. xo Amy