Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Campaign Side Table

I've never met a piece of campaign furniture that I didn't like.  They're classic and modern - easy to paint, and easy to sell.  Okay - I don't like the cheap-o particle board/laminate ones.  But if it's wood, and reasonably priced, it's coming home with me.

Last Friday, the boyfriend and I found ourselves childless and commitment-free.  Shockingly, he suggested going thrift store shopping - together.  I was already in the car before he finished the sentence.

We spotted this bad boy at the Salvation Army.  The tag read $30, but there was also a sticker on top that said "As Is $3"!!  We called someone over and he instantly dashed our delight by ripping the tag off and saying, "Oh, this is not right."  But he mended our broken hearts (okay, maybe only my broken heart - I'm sure the boyfriend was fairly neutral about the entire transaction) by offering it to us for $10.  Sold.

Later we stopped by Lowes and I picked up a $3 quart of OOPS paint - a lovely dark charcoal color in semi-gloss.

There were fairly significant gouges where the bottom brass plates were missing, as well as on the top.  While at Lowes, I had also finally picked up wood filler in a tub.  I've been using wood filler in a squeeze tube that I bought when I first started working on furniture.

Talk about a nightmare to use.  The tub is so much easier and faster.  So if you're in the market for some wood filler - get the tub.  I always resort to using my fingers anyway to get a nicely filled gouge, then just sand off the excess after it's dried.  Does anyone else do this?

So after wood filling and sanding, I gave the table three coats of paint.  I took off the brass and polished it with Brasso.  I left off the brass corners since I didn't have the bottom two - hopefully I'll find a piece I can use them on in the future. 

Closest picture to actual color.

I love how the gray looks with the brass.

My lame attempts at styling - you can laugh, I don't mind. (And yes, the lamp in the background is hideous - but it was free and I have yet to replace it or the other three that match even though I haven't liked them since I first got them about 6 years ago.  The downside of free stuff - it's always more expensive to replace.)

Sorry for the super crooked pic.
If I was going to buy this color - It would definitely get it in a satin, not a semigloss, because it hides the brush strokes better.  But I can't really complain for $3.

My total investment so far is $14.08 (after tax).  I listed it on Sunday on Craigslist for $40, but I haven't had any bites yet.  Not sure if it's the piece, or just the fact that it's the end of a very expensive month (end of summer/back to school shopping/high electricity bills).  I won't be heartbroken if it doesn't sell.  I think it would be perfect for my son's room.  But don't tell the boyfriend that.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Restoration Hardware Lighting

Did anyone else receive the massive tome that is Restoration Hardware's Fall 2011 Source Book?  Poor trees - so many killed just to give us 615 pages of industrial meets antique French meets airport hangar furniture.  I'm not a huge Restoration Hardware fan and I'm obviously not their client base since if I had $1745 lying about there is still a 0.00% chance of me being a 8-feet tall replica of the Eiffel Tower.

So it's no surprise that I found the catalogue a bit of snooze.  In fact, it took me 3 separate attempts to get all of the way through it.  After a while I started playing "find the color" in a useless attempt to find anything that wasn't a neutral.

However, I've always had a thing for Restoration Hardware lighting.  Well, not this lighting - I think this is obnoxious.

I was smitten when I stumbled upon the barn light.

Vintage Barn Sconce Bronze
It was love at first sight when I spotted their 1940s Architect's Boom Sconce. 

What - you were distracted by the monstrous Eiffel Tower?

1940s Architect's Boom Sonce

Then I thought it was a little big (which is how I would describe 99% of Restoration Hardware's stuff).  But - lucky me! - it comes in three sizes.  (Unlucky me - the smallest is still $250.)  And unlike most of Restoration Hardware's sconces - these babies are plug-ins.

I kind of have a perfect place for it - a weird corner in the living room where I currently have the Audrey picture (still matless after a year and a half).  Unfortunately, the art is not working there.  I was planning on getting a statement floor lamp - but this multitasker would handle the lighting, wall, and decor situation in one fell swoop.  Which would make the big price tag a bit easier to swallow. 

It will probably be pushed onto the list of "Items I Will One Day Buy When They Are On Sale and Hopefully Before They Get Clearanced Out."  Man, that list is getting long.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Name That Color

I've been obsessing over this picture:

Via Decorpad

I discovered it during a search for the La Fiorentina fabric by Lee Jofa in the wine/magenta colorway - which is by far one of my favorite fabrics ever. 

Too bad I'm too poor to own any.  One day...

Anyway, I digress.  The original picture pairs the magenta pillows and neutrals with a bold blue wall.


"Honey, what would you call this color?" I ask the boyfriend one night.


"No, that would be lighter I think.  Electric blue?"


This went on for about five minutes a bit, and nothing seemed to fit.  So the color was stashed away in my brain as "Crazy Blue."  Short for "Crazy Freakin' Awesome Blue" of course.

Today I decided to try and find out the real name for the color.  During my google searches, I luckily stumbled upon a site called Name That Color.  Designed by a guy who admits full ignorance to knowing what lavender, mauve, or indigo look like - you can drag a color wheel and find out a name for that elusive color.  You can also use the drop down menu to search through the alphabetical list of colors.  That was how I found a match.

Deep Cerulean.  Do I get bonus points because I guessed cerulean at some point in our game of "Let's Name Every Color of Blue That We Know"?

I think it's a pretty close match - right?

Just for fun I also tried to match the color at BenjaminMoore.com and came up with Laguna Blue.  It's always hard to tell for sure from a computer screen, but it looks pretty darn close.

Since I can't paint the walls of our rental, the goal is to find a fabric I like in this color - either for a headboard or curtains for the master.  I'm considering this:

Not an exact match, but it's on sale crazy cheap right now and they only have a very limited amount, so that might be the deciding factor.

Or maybe I'll let my job interview this morning be the deciding factor.  Get the job - buy the fabric.  Then we can rename it "Kai's Not So Freaking Poor and Can Actually Buy Stuff for the House Instead of Just Talk About It Blue."  Rolls off the tongue.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Virtual Craigslist Window Shopping: $300 or Less

I've taken a bit of a break from Craigslist the past few weeks.  It's a combination of stress of getting the little man in school (he already has a girlfriend, by the way - after the first day), stress of sending the boyfriend to Atlanta soon (without us - for 10 days - sucks, sucks, sucks), and the stress of having no money.  Oh yeah, and because I have several pieces that I'm supposed to have finished up and sold by now that are just hanging out around the house, but I just can't motivate myself to work on any of them.  I will though, promise.  Real soon.  Maybe.

Anyway, to give myself something to blog about besides school lunches (today's worked out much better, btw - and I learned that you can add 1/2 cup of steamed, pureed cauliflower to boxed mac & cheese without noticing it at all), I decided to check out the local Craigslist with an imaginary budget of $300 and see what I would buy.  In this fantasy I also have a place for these things once I bought them - not much on the buy/rehab/sell front these days.


Love this super long (93 inches!) bench out of a railroad station.  Would look great in one of those large entry/hallways Texas McMansions all seem to have.

It's hard to tell from the spectacular photo - but I'm pretty sure this is a square chinoiserie coffee table.  Great price, custom made, solid wood.  I'm obsessed with this style of coffee table.


The ad says they're chairs, but they look more like barstools.  Either way I'm loving them.


Okay, there are a few fixer-uppers out there.  This could easily bring in a profit if you paint it.  Or even just relist it under the furniture section rather than the antique section.

These chairs are begging for dramatic, large scale fabric.  Maybe painted frames.


Small pendants to classy up your bedside area or around your bathroom mirror.  Do it with modern touches so it doesn't go all frou-frou.


I love the lines on this desk chair - and they're practically giving it away.


Get your Sputnik on.  I don't really know if this is that great of a price or not  - but it looks pretty.


They have a matched pair of these armchairs.  They'd look pretty cool in my living room.  They'd look pretty cool in another fabric down the line.  Love the arms.   Want to buy...  Must resist.


I'm pretty sure someone with fabulous taste could make this chinoiserie couch a showstopper in their house.  I really like the fabric - just needs to be relocated to a modernized setting.  And lose the matching pillows.

Love this apple green color - will do something similar in the future for sure.  (In San Antonio - not Austin)


If you haven't noticed, I love things in pairs.  Good price - paint 'em up, of course.


A very interesting shape on this antique rocker.

Such pretty detailing. 

Too bad Kellie couldn't find these for this week's Design Star.  Poor girl - the judges say "Don't be so literal." So she tried not to be too literal and they were like "Give the clients exactly what they say they want."  And her handyman built the most dangerous looking platform bed of all time (which she designed, so blame goes both ways).  Luckily my favorites are still in it:  Kellie (nicest on air personality), Meg (most on-trend design taste) and Karl (probably the best designer).  All Mark does is put up a big art piece and fill the room with lots of wood - I have no idea how he's lasted this long.

Any items you'd like?  And what about Design Star - are you still watching?  Who are you rooting for?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten!

It's here!

I admit to having a complete breakdown yesterday, but I didn't cry today (tearing up doesn't count, right?). 

I have been so blessed to have an amazing boyfriend who has worked two jobs, done without, and pinched pennies to let me have my dream of keeping Atticus home until now.  I have no problem with daycares or preschools (I used to teach at one) and know my son would have done great in that environment.  It was a selfish call - and one I've never regretted.  Especially today as he takes his first steps towards independence and away from me.

The boyfriend makes a rare blog appearance and of course his hair is crazytown.
I savored the past five years and truly appreciated what a lucky girl I was to get to enjoy my son's company during those brief years before I had to start sharing him with the entire world.

One of my favorite quotes, which I don't know verbatim, is from Jamie Lee Curtis - "Your main job as a parent is to prepare your child to leave you."  As sad as it made me to walk away from him this morning, I wasn't a complete mess because I was so proud of our confident boy - how ready and eager he was for school. 

I'm on pins and needles waiting to find out how his day went (and it's only 10:00!), but I know it will be great.  He'll be great.

To help divert myself reaching Code Red Anxiety levels, I've been over-planning his packed lunches (can you tell - here and here).  Yet, as much as I agonized, it didn't turn out as great as I had hoped.  When I went to pack it bento-style (artfully crammed into a single box) - it wouldn't gracefully fit and I didn't have enough dividers to keep the wet from the dry.  So I resorted to splitting it up.

At least all the food groups are represented.  The top box is his snack - carrots and crackers.  I put the crackers in a mini-muffin cup.  The next clockwise is a baked chicken chimichanga cut in half and stacked (I'm counting the cheese as his dairy), along with a ramekin of corn.  Then grapes and a Rice Krispies treat (it's his first day - desserts probably won't happen that often).  I am happy about the portion sizes and the quality, but it's a far cry from the cute bentos in my head.  Luckily, I have all year to work on it.

The chimichanga is actually leftover from last night's dinner.  This recipe is one of our favorites and I make it at least once a month.  You can find the recipe here - two thumbs up, five star, totally recommend.  I made it with smaller tortillas so they would be small enough to pack.  And although I didn't send the sauce for lunch (it needs to be warm) - it makes the dish, so don't skip it.  You can leave out the chopped green chilies if you're afraid of spice (I use mild ones and it's just the right kick).

I'm off to figure out what to do with myself without my little shadow.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Last Weekend of Summer

Okay, not technically.  Or even atmospherically here in Austin where the stretch of 100+ degree days probably won't end for a couple of weeks.  But it's the last weekend of summer before school starts for the kids.

Wish we had a great beach trip in the works, but we'll be living it up at the community pool.  By the way, I love this Marilyn Monroe pic.  Three of my favorite Monroe films are Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, and Niagara.  I really recommend Niagara if you enjoy film noir (and want to see a rare one in color) or if you enjoy cool movie sets.

They built "Rainbow Cabins" as a set, so you can't really stay there - a disappointment to pretty much anyone who has seen the film.

I'm trying to watch more of Monroe's films.  Do you have a favorite?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Local Austin Shopping

The boyfriend is sick this week.  The man is health personified, so it always throws our world into a minor uproar when he's the least bit under the weather.  He even took day off to recuperate.  The extra sleeping worked wonders, but it also gave me access to the car.

We're a one-car family.  Mostly because it makes economical sense.  I'm not working (fingers crossed that will change soon), so it was a lot of expense we could easily cut.  However, since the move, we're a lot farther away from the boyfriend's job.  Which means a lot of travelling if I want to use the car for the day.  So I generally keep the errands short, close, and for his days off.  They still generally involve the boyfriend and our kids accompanying me, so a day I can use the car by myself to just drive around is pretty luxurious.

I used this rare opportunity to check out some local Austin businesses I had heard about or noticed, but never dragged the family to before.  Of course, I also stopped by some of my favorite thrifting spots - but they didn't have anything good, so I'll skip them.  And I didn't take pictures.  My cellphone camera sucks, so I would actually have to take out a camera and snap pictures - which seems fairly dorky.  So, this will just be my reviews and some pics I dug up online.

First off was Plush, a fabric store in Cedar Park.

It was like heaven.  I love fabric stores.  Not that I can sew.  I just love fabric.  Despite being about a quarter of the size of my local Hancock Fabric, Plush has about ten times the selection.  In addition to the yardage on hand, the walls are lined four and five deep with fabric books.  Their prices weren't cheap, but fell in line with prices I've seen online.  They had lots of the more affordable designer labels - kind of similar to what Calico Corners must stock I'm guessing (never been to a Calico Corners).  And their service seemed really excellent.  They kept checking on me during my (long) stay - in a nice, helpful way, not a pushy way.  Totally recommend and will definitely be buying from them in the future.

Next, I made my way into town towards Burnet Road - which is a long, but centralized furniture-buying area of Austin.  I love the mix of big chains and small mom-and-pop places.

Interior Fabrics - had a nice selection and good prices (similar to Hancock/JoAnn's).  However, their service was a disappointment.  I was in there for about 20 minutes, at a time when there was roughly an employee for every customer, and I wasn't greeted once.  I'm not the kind of shopper that wants a lot of hand holding as I walk around the store, but even the people at Goodwill tell me hello when I walk in. 

Next-to-New comes highly recommended from various online sources.  It's a thrift store run by St. David's Episcopal Church, so I imagined it would be similar to a St. Vincent de Paul store.  Wrong.  They do a lot of estate sales, and the store kind of felt like an estate sale.  It had lots of really great stuff in good condition, but everything seemed overpriced.  Lots of furniture - so that's a plus.

They have a pricing system that lists the original price, then what it will be about in about a month, and then what it will be a month after that.  So there are the chances of scoring good if you can get it on the right date.  As any thrift store, the contents probably change out a lot, but it definitely seemed geared towards an older, more traditional clientele.  They did have some very unique pieces, so if you are looking for stuff for your house, it's a good choice.  However, I was looking for junk to redo, so I didn't buy anything.

Lastly, I stopped at Second Hand Store.  The clearly used furniture displayed outside held promise.  The owner, Johnny, was busy helping some customers when I arrived, but he greeted me and I was able to look around for a while.  I was excited about the items there - mostly wood furniture that could use some fixing up.  Unfortunately, most of the prices were out of my fix-it-up-and-sell-it budget.  Although, like Next-to-New, if you are planning on buying something for yourself, he had lots to choose from, including some really cool pieces that you don't usually find in Austin thrift stores.

A Project Here...A Project There
I considered buying a set of black bentwood chairs ($35 each) since he had 6, but they would have been for keeps, so I passed.  Then I thought about buying them for resale, but it was such a gamble because I have no idea what they are worth.  I'm still hoping to stumble upon a set for much less at a garage sale.

This store had a very lovely "junk store" feel to it.  The owner seemed happy to negotiate prices (knocking $20 off the total price for the customers before me who bought a couple of items and paying my tax).  His business card has the phone number and "Keep Trying" below it.  Definitely a good place to visit.  I ended up buying a cabinet to refinish for $25 - I'm hoping on turning it into a media console.  But that's a post for another day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kindergarten Lunch Prep

Yes, I'm still alive.  Just busy with getting ready for school and looking for employment.  The kindergarten countdown is only 6 days.  The prospect of him going to school was always a distant, far-off idea.  The finish line tape at the end of a marathon.  Now it's tangible.  We've met the principal and some of the teachers.  His teacher will be coming by the house tomorrow.  It's exciting, but oh, so stressful too.

It is his first time in school - ever.  Although I know he'll be an old hand to it within days, I really want him to feel prepared.  So we've been doing things around the house like eating lunch out of his lunchbox.  That might sound a bit much to you, but trust me when I say that it took him 15 minutes to figure out how to unzip the various sections and get all of his containers open.  Can you imagine his first day if we hadn't practiced?

We talked about what items should go back in the lunchbox (please bring my containers home, please!) and which items should be trashed.  I'm still doing a bento version of lunch like I talked about here.  I did a lot of online shopping for special bento boxes and filled up my amazon cart a couple of times.  In the end, however, I decided to go for an economical mix of different containers according to whatever food I'm sending that day.

Jamka Food Saver

I bought these cute round containers at Ikea but learned during our lunchbox trials that they are too hard for him to open.  They're a great size for lunch and only $1.49 for 3.
Pruta 17-piece Set

While I was there I picked up this set of 17 containers for $3.99.  The two upper-left ones are the perfect size for a sandwich and some sides (bento style).  I love the smaller ones for dips or moist sides that need to be kept separate.  I've been using the bigger ones in the kitchen and have been pleased (although I have yet to put them in the microwave).  They're BPA free and dishwasher safe.  A 5 year old can open them - yay! - and they're cheap enough that I won't cry if they don't make it home.

These Lock & Lock boxes are my favorite lunch container purchase.  I got a set of them at TJ Maxx or Ross (sorry, don't remember) for under $7.  They're the perfect size.  They are easy for him to open and close.  They're leak-proof and great for packing pastas, etc. because he puts them on the table to open (instead of holding them in his hands and risking getting sauce all over his clothes).  I am a little worried about whether or not they'll make it home - so he'll be sporting the cheaper Ikea stuff until I'm more confident.

Although I won't be making the notoriously elaborate bento lunches, I have been picking up a few items to make his lunches cuter.  He was thrilled with this dinosaur sandwich cutter.  He pretended he was a T-Rex and then used his apple slices to represent blood.  I'm sure the teachers will love that.

Heart and Star Molds

Fish and Car Molds
 I also bought these egg molds from Amazon.  I was super excited when they arrived and went straight to the kitchen to try them out.  Unfortunately, my eggs were too small and just looked like weird blobs.  And I keep forgetting to buy the bigger eggs at the store, so I haven't had a chance to perfect them yet.  They'll be a nice surprise if I can figure them out.

I've been going through my recipes looking for healthy, packable options.  I especially like the ones that can be made in big batches and frozen.  I'll share any great ones that I come across.  I'm also trying out recipes from Deceptively Delicious - which I bought ages ago when my stepdaughter was such a picky eater (oh, that's right - she still is), but never really used much.  (So far the recipes are hit and miss - the chocolate chip cookies with garbanzo beans tasted great, but stayed a little too gooey, for example.)

Anyway, that's a pretty long post for anyone who isn't overthinking packed lunches.  I'll have more decor-related posts coming soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gifted Plants

I love plants and flowers.  Unfortunately, they don't seem to love me as much.

I get seed catalogs in the mail and spend an obscene amount of time going through them and planning out a pretend gorgeous garden.  I never pull the trigger, though, because all evidence is pointing to me having a black thumb.  All previous attempts to cultivate the earth have been almost complete disasters.  (I did have a little success growing lilies from bulbs last year.)  I can't blame the plants, it's more my negligent treatment of them.  After all, plants grow naturally, so I have a hard time remembering that they need stuff like fertilizer, plant food, etc. 

Even hardy plants are not safe around me.  We inherited a beautiful nightshade plant with our current house.  It seemed to be thriving on the heat.  Until we woke up one morning to discover it had been devoured by a gigantic caterpillar.  A good gardener would have seen that coming.  Now I'm left looking at the carnage everytime we go out the front door.

So, imagine my surprise that I have (so far) managed not to kill my latest victim plant.

I received it as a gift when I was in the hospital - so I have somehow managed to keep it alive for over a month.  Without even trying!  I stuck him in a (not particularly bright) corner when I got home and about once a week I remember to water it.

I'm not super crazy about its looks, and didn't want to get too attached since I knew it would shortly die.  But as the weeks passed and it turned out to be so resilient, I decided to find out a little bit about my amazing, kill-proof plant.

Turns out it is called an Elephant-Ear's Plant, or Alocasia.  They are great for houseplants because they don't need a lot of light (one site described it as "enough to comfortably read a newspaper") or water.  In fact, too much of either will kill it.  Basically, it's a perfect plant for me.

While we're on the subject of indoor plants, I wanted to share pics of the beautiful boquet the boyfriend brought home this week

Gladliolus and ? - no idea.

There's nothing like a big showstopper arrangement.