Friday, February 28, 2014

Kitchen Organization in the Tiny Apartment

After I was married and moved out to Las Vegas, I came to the realization that I had no clue how to unpack and organize my kitchen. I called my mother immediately. She gave me wonderful advice that I applied to two different kitchens in less than six months (yay moving). The general idea is to place your kitchen items in cabinets near the area you will use them. Before we get into the organization details, let me share with you what all I have packed into my 147 square foot kitchen.

In my mind, the kitchen revolves around the oven and stove so that is where I start when organizing a kitchen. I usually put the pots and pans to the right since I am right handed, but any lower cabinet near your oven will work. I like to put the glassware either by the fridge or by the drying area; it was more convenient in this kitchen to put them above the drying area. That cabinet was also perfect for my bowls and coffee cups. I save the tall cabinets for J's things since I can't reach that high without standing on a chair.

I don't like to waste floor space with a trash can, so we store ours under the sink along with cleaning supplies. I have my nespresso machine out for easy morning access and the pods are stored in the shallow drawer right there. The large cabinet under the drawer is on the outer edge of the kitchen but near prep space and an outlet, so that is where I store my appliances. J and I can just reach into the cabinet and put the appliance directly where we will be using it without taking any steps.

You can see in the picture above that I have stored my flatware in the drawer under the drying area. This allows for convenient "putting up" (J makes fun of that phrase every time I say it). The flatware and glassware are also right next to my casual dishes. Mom says to store your dishes near where you are plating your meal, which means right next to the stove in this tiny kitchen. I have the casual dishes on the right near the drying area since we use those most often, and the formal dishes to the left. The cabinet above the stove is perfect for keeping my empty glass jars since it is a bit high for me to easily access every day.

I am lucky to have two skinny cabinets on either side of my oven. On side is for cutting boards, near my prep space, and the other is for cookie sheets and pizza stones. I keep my cast irons inside the oven.

My main prep area is to the left of the stove. I find it convenient to have my measuring cups, trivets, food storage, and baking stuff all on that side. I keep my kitchen aid out because it is too heavy for me to lift it from a lower cabinet. When I want to bake, I just pull it forward while in use and my baking stuff is right underneath where I need to work. This side of the kitchen has more storage space, so it catches all the random pieces (hence disaster zone).

Having colanders and mixing bowls either near your fridge or prep space makes it easier to get your cooking done quickly. After the meal, the prep space turns into the cleaning up space so I also keep my food storage on that side. And of course, oven mitts near the oven makes perfect sense.

 Here are some closeups of my counter space. I don't like carrying big bags of flour and sugar out of the pantry whenever I want to cook or bake, so I have three canisters (thanks, Melinda!) to keep those two items and rice near my prep space and stove. The knife block stays out, as does the bread basket and produce bowl. I haven't found a home for my dutch oven, mostly because it is so pretty I love to look at it. I will probably put it into the oven if I ever need more prep space, but so far it's placement hasn't gotten in my way.

I keep everything I need for stovetop cooking to the right of the oven (this is a good thing for right handed people). I keep my vinegars, cooking red wine, and olive oil in old wine bottles with pourers. These bottles are better sized for my hands than the containers these things come in. I have canisters for my wooden spoons and other cooking utensils. I also use my jelly container for garlic. It bothers J that the word doesn't match the contents, but I don't mind it. If I need more space, I can put up the second drying mat but usually I don't need to do that.

I do have a small pantry (not pictured) on the other side of the fridge, which allows all my cabinets to be used for kitchen stuff. The space may be small but I have found a way to make it work for my kitchen habits and belongings. I shifted things around slightly after the preliminary unpacking and organizing as I discovered my most common uses of the counters, and you should too. It really doesn't take that much time to totally swap two giant cabinets full of pots/pans/baking stuff. Trust me, I have done it. If you have an kitchen organization tips, share with us!

Sale Alert: Nespresso Machines for 40% Off

For those of you who don't know, Briana and I are obsessed with our Nespresso machines.  My aunt (aka Briana's mom) introduced me to them when I was down for a visit and Briana got one as a wedding gift.  I came a little bit later to the game and didn't purchase one until this past fall.  Nespresso machines aren't your average coffee pot and they are a bit different from other pod-based systems like the Keurig.  The Nespresso pods come in a variety of strengths which is great for entertaining.  I have one girlfriend who gets a shot of espresso added to her Venti iced Starbucks coffee and then drinks  Clearly, we are not cut from the same cloth as I prefer a high milk to coffee ratio with a ton of cinnamon tossed in.  HOWEVER, because I have the Nespresso, when she comes over for coffee I can give her a Nespresso with a 8 or 9 intensity while I drink my much more mellow 3 or 4 intensity espresso.  I know this is Briana's favorite feature, because people can choose how intense they like their caffeine (I barely like to know that I'm getting hit with mine, I can tell you that!) and she has a big family with lots of different tastes.  You can also pick how much water you use to brew your drink (small amount, larger amount, or even make a custom setting).  Mr. 3 doesn't drink coffee so it's a lot easier to make myself the one cup I drink everyday rather than brewing up a pot of coffee that goes to waste.  I can also make fancy pants drinks with the milk frother that Mr. 3 got me for Christmas like lattes (hot and cold) and cappuccinos.

That said, Nespresso machines are a bit of an investment and range from $150-$700 depending on the model you choose.  That's why I'm happy to report that Williams-Sonoma Outlets are offering 40% off this weekend on all Nespresso Machines!

Nespresso rarely go on sale more than 20%, so this is a great opportunity.  For those of you who aren't located near an outlet, call up the outlet and ask them to ship you one (shipping fees are based on the dollar amount of the purchase - so, the more you buy, the higher the fee).  I bought my Nespresso when Williams-Sonoma outlets were offering 30% off from the Nashville location.  You may also be able buy one that comes bundled with a milk frother (which also rarely go on sale).  

If you want to save even more moo-lah, ask if they have any refurbished machines.  Refurbished products from well-regarded companies are a great way to get what you want at a drastically reduced price (refurbished products are supposed to be restored to factory-line quality and may have only been originally returned for small defects which are corrected at the factory before hitting the shelves again).  I actually wanted a Nespresso Citiz in a cream color which was discontinued and the only place I could locate it was at the Williams-Sonoma outlet.  They had one at the regular price and a refurbished one that was discounted. I decided to go with the refurbished product since Nespresso has such a great reputation and save some money.  I've had absolutely no problems and I'm super happy I got the color I wanted!  Purchasing the refurbished product, at the 30% off price, including all shipping (about $20) and tax, got me the $250 Nespresso Citiz for $165, which saved me about $40-$50 over the non-refurbished Nespresso (shipping would have been much higher).  I should note that this machine will also probably wind up saving me money in the long Starbucks habit has drastically decreased to maybe twice a month (unless it's Pumpkin Spice Latte season, where I can't control myself...but that should be a given).

Briana and I definitely recommend the Nespresso to anyone to upgrade their coffee machine, brides filling out their registries, or those of you who love to entertain.  This is one of those items that we believe it is worth the investment because there is such a big happiness pay off!

*This is not a sponsored post and we aren't receiving any Nespresso or Williams-Sonoma swag (sadly).  All opinions are our own...we simply love love love our Nespresso!  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cleaning Products: Chemicals Vs Vinegar, Baking Soda

It seems everywhere you turn on the internet, someone is advocating natural cleaning supplies, from those hippie blogs to Martha Stewart. Two of the main suggestions is to use vinegar or baking soda. Here are my thoughts after months of testing:

White Vinegar

I'm all for the power of white vinegar. It is great for cleaning the fridge and kitchen counters (food safe) and it makes a great fabric softener in the laundry. It even helps keep my white bed linens white. I have even simmered it to deodorize my apartment after a hidden orange went bad. White vinegar is awesome in so many ways.

However, it is not awesome for cleaning white bathrooms. I have tried scrubbing the shower tiles, grout, and caulk with a mixture of vinegar and water, and then just vinegar. The vinegar worked fine on the tile; the soap scum came off easily. The grout was ok, but it never achieved that sparkling clean look Martha says you need. The caulk, however, was terrible. I could never get the mildew spots to go away by using vinegar.

Baking Soda

Baking soda really works for me when there is a really grimy spot. I put a little bit of baking soda on my scrubbing toothbrush and attack. The baking soda is great for adding a bit more power to your scrub. I found it to be a particularly effective method for cleaning around the sink faucet where things build up.

Baking soda did not improve the mildew spots on the tub caulking. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed, and finally gave up. Perhaps this is a Florida issue; these less harsh cleaning methods may work in less humid climates where Martha lives. I succumbed to the chemical cleaning products


Buy tilex and possibly scrubbing bubbles. You can use the natural solutions like vinegar and baking soda in your kitchen where the grime is less serious, but you will want the chemicals when it comes to the bathroom or any other high humidity space. After spraying my tub and shower down with tilex just once, the mildew spots disappeared. I didn't have to scrub. All I did was spray and walk away, which amusing myself with rhymes apparently.

The caulk is now back to white, as is the grout, thanks to the easy to apply tilex. Scrubbing bubbles makes cleaning the tub much faster than vinegar or baking soda. Since I despise cleaning AND mildew, I will be sticking with my bathroom chemicals.

no mildew! thanks, tilex! go back to the kitchen, vinegar and baking soda!

Do any of y'all use less harsh methods of cleaning? Let us know what works for you! And no, I won't be sharing a picture of my mildew spots; while this is real life here at Posh Purpose, there are certain limits to what we deem appropriate photographic evidence.

We're Lovin: Gap Printed Pointy Flats

I love the smoking loafer trend that is going on right now, but I'm not quite sure it is a shoe style that will enjoy more than a few years of popularity.  I've had my eyes on a few different pairs, but most of them have been on the pricier side ($150+) and I've been holding off on any purchases.  Then I saw these babies:

Printed Pointy Flats
Image Source: Gap
I love love love the print on these flats! The cut across the top suggests smoking loafer, but I think these might be a bit more flattering on us short girls because of the pointed toe which helps to visually elongate your legs.  At $40, these are definitely doable for a shoe that might just be a short lived trend.  I plan on looking for a coupon code, taking advantage of any free shipping offers, shopping through Ebates, and adding these to my shoe collection very shortly so that I can wear them this spring.  I'm hoping I can get these for at least 20% off and get two years of wear out of them.  They will be super cute with capris, pants, and even casual skirts.  If you like the shape, but aren't crazy about the print, Gap has five other prints to choose from.

Anybody else looking forward to spring and summer wardrobe?  I'm about tired of wearing the same sweaters aaaalll the time.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wedding Season

I noticed that our guide to men's wedding band metals that J wrote for us back in 2011 has jumped to our most popular post this week. At first I was surprised; since changing the sidebar to display the most visited posts each week rather than all time, normally we only see more current posts. (You can check this out for yourself by looking at the sidebar for Popular Posts, under our instagram feed.) Although once Melinda and I discussed it, we decided J's post popularity made sense. After all, we just got done with engagement season and are now quickly approaching wedding season.

Posh Purpose is not a wedding blog by any means, but we did start it back when Melinda and I were planning our weddings. If you go back to our 2011 posts, you can see the effects of wedding brain on the topics we chose to write about. We think it might be helpful to readers if we write about wedding related topics that those not planning weddings could benefit from as well.

Current post ideas:
Qualities your photographer should have - important for anyone wanting professional photographs
Tips for buying shower and wedding gifts - Melinda is the expert on high value gifts with a budget
Favorite DIY projects, like my glitter vases - great for anyone decorating for an event

If there is anything you would like to see on the blog, let us know! And now for a round up of our favorite wedding posts from the past:

J's guide to wedding band metals from an engineer's perspective. He explains the properties of all the common metals (platinum, silver, palladium, tungsten carbide, titanium, stainless steel) except gold. J also talks about the pros and cons of each metal when it comes to jewelry you or your husband will wear every day. If you and your fiancé are considering your wedding band options, you will find this guide extremely helpful.

Melinda discusses why she paid for a lot of wedding expenses with a credit card. A great benefit to this approach is all those credit card rewards, but it only counts if you pay the balance every month. Read the full post for more info.

Melinda also wrote a great post about what she learned from writing all those thank you notes. She is an expert thank you note writer and everyone - not just brides - would benefit from reading her tips. I know I did!

I created a template with google docs for keeping track of your guest list. We had invited over 250 guests to my wedding so I used a spreadsheet with multiple pages to keep all the addresses and RSVPs (among many other things) organized. The template is totally free and is meant to be downloaded and altered according to each bride's needs.

Melinda's post about the differences between engraving and thermography might be the most informative. When we were researching wedding invitations, we couldn't find any thorough comparison of the two types of lettering. So for our own benefit, Melinda wrote one herself. Of course, we both ended up going with letterpress for our wedding invitations but we made the decision fully informed thanks to Melinda's tireless research.

I wrote a mathematician's guide to diamonds because while every online article talked about the four C's, none of the articles actually explained what this meant in life's most important term: sparkliness! A diamond's sparkle comes from the way it reflects light, which is really just math. I explain each C and also tell how it will affect the way the diamond looks while wearing it.

Posh Purpose Recipe: Balsamic Vinegar Spritzer

I recently went to an in-store tasting event at one of my favorite local stores - Under the Olive Tree.  I've blogged about how wonderful their products are before, but they also host a great event with super tasty Mediterranean inspired food.  At their recent party, they made a delicious drink using club soda, lemon white balsamic vinegar, and fresh lemons.  They called it their "non-alcoholic version of lemoncello" and served it in big pitchers.  I asked one of the daughters who works in the store for the recipe and she said they used three cups of vinegar to one two-liter bottle of club soda!  That is a tooooon of vinegar.  I've recreated the recipe for an individual serving.

Posh Purpose Balsamic Vinegar Spritzer

-1 can of club soda
-1/8 of a cup of flavored balsamic vinegar (I suggest fruity flavors like orange or lemon which should be available in most grocery stores.  I've tried mango and fig from Under the Olive Tree.  Next stop, blackberry ginger and pineapple.)

Just mix and enjoy!

I love this sweet/tart drink!  You can adjust your vinegar depending on how tart you like it.  By picking flavored vinegars, they aren't as sour as a traditional plain balsamic vinegar.  I know it's a bit odd to use vinegar to flavor a drink, but it's about 60 calories using this ratio and creates a lot of taste without the artificial sweeteners or sugar.  There are also a number of health benefits that I read about adding vinegar to your diet (here, here, and here) that makes me want to try to find new ways to incorporate it into my diet. If you are trying to cut calories or break off a nasty soda habit, I recommend that you give this a try!  I plan on drinking it a lot this year and also serving it in big pitchers when people come over for dinner.

Give it a go and let us know what you think! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What I'm Reading

I have been making progress in my reading goals for 2014. So far I have read two Sherlock Holmes novels - A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four - and am about half done with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I love a good mystery, and really only watch mystery TV series, so it is a wonder I have never read the Sherlock Holmes series. I am so glad that I decided to start it. The story lines are great and Sherlock never fails to impress. The depiction of women is to be expected considering the time period, but of course it amuses me more than anything else. For those with stronger feminist sentiments, find consolation in that the only character to stump Sherlock in what I have read so far is a woman. I wish I had a glamorous/bookish picture to share with you of my growing pile of read books, but I have been reading via iBooks on my phone and laptop and I just don't think a screenshot would have the same appeal.

Are these stories the highest rated literature I could have chosen? Definitely not. But they are enjoyable and easy to pick up every few evenings. It is a lot of fun to compare my reading imagination's version of Sherlock Holmes to the many current depictions of the character (Elementary, BBC's Sherlock, Robert Downey Jr Sherlock movies). If you share my love of mysteries, I strongly recommend Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Poirot stories. Miss Marple has multiple novels while Poirot is of the short story variety. I personally prefer novels but the TV series with David Suchet playing Poirot are amazing. You should watch them just for the art deco styling and costumes.

The current plan is to continue reading Sherlock Holmes until the end, but I may pick up something else instead. I started For Whom the Bell Tolls on my honeymoon** because I have always thought I would love Hemmingway's style. I was correct in my thinking, but the book never got unpacked from our move back to Florida. I am going to try keeping up with my goodreads profile to track my progress and future reading whims. Feel free to add me! I would love to see what y'all are reading.

**I started the novel after finishing Animal Farm. That's totally normal honeymoon reading, right?

DIY: Painted Jewelry Bowl

I've been trying to get my makeup table together and styled to share on the blog and I wanted to throw in a crafty project to hold my everyday jewelry.  I found a ceramic bowl at World Market for $3.99 and used a 20% off total purchase coupon.  I also bought three Martha Stewart glass paints and a sponge brush from Michael's.  The paints are not food safe so I wouldn't recommend using them in any project where you might serve food (wrapped candy would probably be ok).  I wanted the bowl to have some sheen and color to it, so I picked a gold metallic, a blue fine glitter, and a white fine glitter.


I grabbed a paper grocery bag and opened it up to lay it down to protect the floor and I tested each of the colors to see how much control I would have for decorating the bowl.  I found that I had to use a fair amount of pressure to get the paint to come out, but I got fairly thin lines and I had a lot of control.

I didn't have a real plan for the design, but I decided to do a little at a time and use the details on the bowl to guide me.  I began by making random length gold lines to highlight the details on the edge of the bowl.

I let the bowl dry for one day and then went back in and added blue lines using the same pattern.

After the blue and gold edge had dried, I decided to decorate the rest of the outside of the bowl.  My first attempt, was to put blue paint on the bottom edge of the bowl and spread it around using the sponge brush.  Big fail.  The sponge absorbed the paint and took it off of the bowl leaving just light smears of color.

So, I used the paint tube to apply a thick coat and basically colored it in, which worked much better.

At this point, I was on a roll and decided to add even more decoration.  To keep it from looking too mariachi, I used the white glitter paint to add more subtle decorations with lots of texture.  Again, using the details of the ceramic to guide me, I added a white design with big fat dots.

I also decided I wanted to personalize the bowl, so I added a gold "M" to the inside of the bowl.  You can see on the right side of the paper bag that I practiced two different types of lettering.  I decided to go with the cursive "M", but my first attempt (not pictured) didn't turn out so well.  Luckily, this paint is very forgiving if you tackle your mistakes as you see them.  I simply wiped out the bowl with a damp paper towel, then again with a dry paper towel, and tried again.

Finally, I added some additional dots of white fine glitter to add extra detail.

Here's the final result!  The biggest trick was to let each level of detail dry before moving on to the next so I didn't have to worry about smudging the design.  Originally, I thought I would need to bake the bowl in the oven based on the display that Michael's had for the paints in order to make the paints permanent.  Martha Stewart glass paints don't have a whole lot of instructions on the outside of the tubes, so I looked online for instructions on the temperatures.  According to the online information, the glitter glass paints cannot be baked (there is a wide variety of finishes - satin, metallic, glitter, opaque, etc), so I simply had to wait for the bowl to cure for 21 days.  Luckily, I hadn't been the most productive on this project, so by the time I had gotten around to getting ready to turn on the oven it had already been 21 days.  

The paints for the craft were about $3 or $4 each and I had a 40% off coupon for one of them. So, total cost was about $13.  I have another upcoming craft in store for the glass paints to make some favors for a party I'm throwing in late March, so they will be a good investment!  I think these could be a great way to make shower favors or small Christmas gifts (check out Martha Stewart's Craft Department for more gift inspiration)  World Market has a great selection of white ceramics at cheap prices, but you could also check out Goodwill and Habitat for even cheaper options.  Anyone else tried out any glass paints?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thrift Store Finds

Time for another round of thrift store finds! These items were photographed on two different trips. Mom and I went to Habitat on a Wednesday morning and then J accompanied me to Habitat and the Arc in the next town over on Saturday. I had been to the Arc once before with my thrifting brother-in-law and decided to check it out again in preparation for Melinda's spring break trip. Habitat had a better selection of furniture, but the Arc has more home items. I made a small purchase at both, one of which is a new project! Yes, I know. I purchased something else before making any progress on my current list of projects. It is an illness.

This piece of furniture is so cool. The legs and geometric pattern are very much in style right now. The left side has shelving while the right side has a set of drawers hidden behind the doors. The hardware is awesome, as well. The current price is $75, but there is a downside. The wood smells like smoke. So sad! I don't have space to put this piece, but I decided to research removing cigarette odor from wood.

Multiple websites suggested the following: wipe down all surfaces with white vinegar, then sprinkle baking soda all around the interior. Vacuum out the baking soda regularly and replace with new soda until the odor is gone. You can also use coffee grounds to absorb the smell or place the furniture outside with all the doors opened to allow the odor to dissipate. That last option won't work in Florida where we have high humidity and frequent rains, but it would have been great when I lived in Vegas. Let us know if you have experience removing cigarette smells from furniture. It is so sad to pass up a great piece because of the smell!

Mother bought this small painting for $1.50 at Habitat. The canvas had been signed on the back, but not by anyone we recognized. She has already set it up in the corner her family room on a side table.

This set of four metal coasters is $1 and comes with the charming stand. You can't beat that price.

Habitat had two whole tables of lamps for about $5 each, not including shades. This pink and brass one is so pretty! I didn't buy it but now that I am looking at this picture, I may have to run back and grab it - assuming it is still there.

I wasn't crazy about the color of this green lamp, but the shape is great. Imagine it entirely white or metallic. Fun fun! By the way, Habitat tests all their lamps to make sure the wiring is still functioning. You can see the sticker on the blue lamp in the background.

These chairs are in rough shape, but the legs are great. You could get them recovered and do something about the wood on the arms. For $15 each, you could restore them into something really exciting.

These end tables look like mushrooms according to J. He also said they were made out of cheap material and definitely not wood, which means the $30 for each price tag is a bit high. They have been on the floor since Feb 15, so if you are patient (and don't mind them being swiped by another shopper) you could wait until March and ask for a better price. They need to be a better color. Use them as an opportunity to test out a metallic faux finish with Modern Masters, carried in high end paint stores like mine!

This reminded me of a wheelless bar cart. The gold finish has some scratches on the legs but the glass is in good condition and it seemed pretty stable overall. The price is $35

This is a $250 set that includes the dresser, chest of drawers, mirror, and night stand. The drawers are dovetailed and that hardware is amazing. Those squat legs are also great. Think of the possibilities!

This coat was at the Arc and the collar is real rabbit fur, according to my expert fingers. I couldn't find a price, but the whole thing was in pretty good condition.

This table and six chairs set is $250 at the Arc. That seems like a lot considering the caning needs replacing in three of the chairs and all need reupholstering. The surface of the table is not high quality either. I have never asked for a lower price at the Arc, but it is always worth a try.

The cushions need restuffing and recovering, unless 1970s green/yellow is your thing. However, the wood frame is good even if the surface is a bit rough and the $20 price tag is hard to pass up if you like this style.

This set of eight glasses and a bowl was really cute. Price is $15, as you can see in the picture. The metallic part had some damage, which you can spot if you look closely at the front right cup. It would be a great housewarming or bridal shower gift for your friend who loves old but modern stuff.

Spring Break 2014!

Before I married Mr. 3 and Briana married J, Briana was still in college and was headed home for spring break.  I was working my boring big girl job with no vacation plans in sight and I got a gchat from Briana saying that her mom wanted to bring me down for a week of sunny weather and family visitin' to keep Briana company while she was on her spring break.  I jumped at the chance, put in my request for leave, and two weeks later headed down for a week of 80 degree weather and quality time.  We went sailing in St. Pete (where somehow, despite my intensive sunscreen efforts I still managed to get a light sunburn), sat in the backyard running our mouths and soaking up the sun, ate tons of fresh berries and chocolate (like the good old days when Briana lived on my couch during her summer DC internship), and played our favorite game at the time "Let's Plan a Wedding."  We had

Since then, we've tried to get together every year for "spring break" even though neither one of us is in college anymore.  The year we were engaged we used my shower in North Carolina as our get together and last year I had a wedding in Orlando in May, so I hopped on the train and headed over to Briana to hang out for a week.  This year, I'm super excited to head down for a week in March!  I booked my tickets during one of Jet Blue's super sales and I'm going to be there March 9-16.  Mr. 3 is going to join us a bit later on Thursday and then we are headed to Orlando on Sunday for a mini-vacation for the two of us (no Disney on the agenda, just relaxin' by the pool) for a couple of days.  

So far, we've made plans to make the rounds on the thrift store furniture (yay Habitat runs!), head to the local farm so I can pick up some more tupelo honey and eat tons of citrus, eat yummy Mexican and Cuban food, and go to zumba classes that Briana's sister/my cousin teaches.  I'm sure there will also be lots of sitting in the backyard running our mouths and soaking up the sun and playing our new favorite game "Let's Make a Dream Home" and stalking Trulia and Zillow for inspiration/laughs.  I'm hoping I can convince Briana to branch out to a few other thrift stores and maybe work on some of her furniture projects.  I'm also really looking forward to spending time with the family baby, my aunt and uncle, and all my cousins.

If only I could convince Briana of the necessity of a "fall break"...I keep trying to woo her with promises of pretty leaves and hot cider.

PS - Thanks for sticking with us readers during the past week when I was on my sickbed.  Glad to be feeling better!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cheap DIY Vases with Big Impact

I am very particular, which meant I did a lot of DIY for my wedding even though I am not an intentionally crafty person. One of my favorite projects from the wedding was the glitter vase. This project is perfect for any event where you need a lot of vases without spending a ton of money. Mercury glass adds up, y'all. So if you are hosting a bridal or baby shower, princess themed birthday party, or even an anniversary party you should definitely consider glittering some vases. Or you can use this project as inspiration for Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter, Halloween, etc. And remember, glitter is always appropriate for the occasion regardless of what others may tell you. Special thanks goes to my mother who figured out most of the logistics for completing this project. She is very thorough in her planning.

looking at my flower choices at the local florist shop

I bought all the larger vases at the dollar tree, for a dollar each (of course), and the smaller vases at Michaels, which were $1.17 each. Mom mixed two shades of Martha Stewart glitter (amethyst and sapphire) to get the shade of purple we wanted. Make sure you use 50% off coupons if you buy the glitter from Michaels! This project also require rubbing alcohol, mod podge, a sponge brush, and some patience. As you can see in the picture below, it is best to have a large work space covered in newspaper (so you can easily clean up the glitter mess). Mom and I did not want to contaminate our mod podge with glitter, so we poured it into old tea cups as we went.

A note about dollar tree shopping: you can order bulk quantities of dollar tree merchandise on the website and have it shipped for free to your local store. Each item is still $1. We never needed to do this for my wedding vases because my store had plenty in stock, but it is always a good option when planning larger scale projects.

mod podge gets glittery fast
Before you get started, you have to rub the vases down with rubbing alcohol. We found that the mod podge didn't stick as well if we did not do this first step. Once they are dry, you can get to glittering! If you want full glitter coverage like on my vases, you do not want to mix the glitter into the mod podge before brushing it on. Instead, what you do is paint the top half of the vase with mod podge. Then hold the vase over a paper plate (to catch the loose glitter) and then pour your glitter directly onto the wet glue, rotating and pouring until the section is totally covered. As you can see in my picture below, you want to leave some unglittered mod podge in this step. The reason for this is that when you paint your second swath of mod podge, you dont want to mess up the beautifully poured glitter with brush marks.

Continue the steps above until you have totally covered the outside of the vase in modpodge and glitter. Once you are done with that part, you need to grab another paper plate (very important that it is a separate plate) and gently bang the vase onto that plate. This will get rid of the excess glitter that will otherwise fall all over your house. You want to do this on a separate plate because you will get traces of mod podge on the plate and you don't want to glue up your main glitter catching plate. All of the glitter that falls off can be reused on another vase. Save your glitter, people!

In the back left corner of the picture above, you can see an already glittered vase drying. I let my vases dry overnight and then gently knocked off more excess glitter. Occasionally there would be glitterless splotches, but those are very easy to fix. Just paint more mod podge and pour more glitter on the bare spots. This project is not like painting nails; you can go over your work without it being obvious that you only did a sporadic second coat.

I don't remember how many vases I did in total, but it was over 100. What I do know is that the whole process was not unpleasant. I would set up my laptop to play an episode of Poirot (love those mysteries) and get about 25 vases done in that hour. To sum up the numbers, it takes about an hour of your time plus $40 pre-tax to get 25 vases done which averages to $1.60 per vase. That glitter goes farther than 25 vases, so the more you do the more you spread the money out.

The great thing about glittering is that it hides a lot of imperfections. The ridged vase above is from the dollar tree and is particularly ugly in its original state. The dollar tree vases are not known for perfectly smooth surfaces and often they have visible seams in the glass. None of these issue were visible after coating them with a thick coat of glitter. Glitter is magical.

It is important to consider the rest of your decor scheme when using lots of glitter. You don't want everything competing for your guests' attention. I chose to go with primarily white flowers with a variety of textures for a relaxed garden feel, however there were some purples and blush pinks tossed into the mix.

Photography by Justin DeMutiis

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Big City vs. Small Town

Reading Melinda's Valentines Day plans in D.C. and writing up my plans in our small town got me thinking about the pros and cons of each situation. I even made a very pink image to summarize these differences to practice using photoshop.

One major annoyance that I experienced while living in Boston was extremely limited parking. Even if you were happy to pay for parking, finding an open spot was still challenging. Now that I live in my hometown, parking is never an issue. The spots on the street in front of our restaurant on Valentines Day were taken, but there was an entirely empty parking lot less than a block away. Yay small towns!

D.C. has a ton of really exciting options for special occasions, from things to go see to interesting foods. Small towns tend to have a small number of restaurants and entertainment venues, which means your choices are few. Usually, those restaurants are more regional and less likely to have exciting ethnic foods like North African or grape leaves of all varieties. Boston has both.

And of course, cost is very different depending on your location. J and I spent less than $30 on our Valentine's Day meal. That includes two entrees and an appetizer but not drinks because their coke machine was making flat soda, so we switched them out for water. If J had ordered a beer and I had kept my coke, it would still have been less than $35. Melinda opted to dine in and go out for dessert to avoid the high prix fixe menus that start at $75 per person. J and I never had prix fixe menus in Boston or Las Vegas for Valentine's Day, but we also never had a $35 date at a real restaurant.

Both big cities and small towns have their pros and cons. Big cities are more expensive and difficult, but the attractions make it worth fighting for a cab or parking while spending more money. Small towns are more easy going and you can get a really good meal without spending a ton or waiting forever in lines because you didn't call four weeks in advance to make your reservation. Regardless of your situation, Melinda and I believe that it is best to focus on the positives (Melinda with her Ritz chocolate after dining in and me with my delicious and reasonably priced hamburger) rather than pining after what you don't have. That being said, I really do miss my Boston grape leaves!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hoover Dam

It was about a year ago that J and I started discussing the next city in which we would live. We were currently in Las Vegas, and the company where J worked was strongly considering moving to San Francisco. I am a Florida girl 100% so the idea of moving even farther away from my family was not very appealing. I didn't care much for Vegas, either, but I figured we should make the most of it while we were still out west. Here are a few of our pictures from the Hoover Dam, which was conveniently located about 20 minutes outside Las Vegas. Excuse my lack of photography skills, this is all done via iPhone and very little patience on my part.

This is a picture of the bridge that now goes over the Hoover Dam. We later drove over that bridge on our way to Phoenix to visit family. I took this picture while standing on the Arizona side of the dam.

Each side of the bridge has these towers that you can see below. One has the clock for Nevada time and the other has the clock for Arizona time. The architecture for the whole dam structure is just so cool. Everything is very art deco, which is one of my favorite styles.

Being the daughter of a civil engineer and the wife of a mechanical engineer, I spent a lot of time looking at this overflow thing. As you can see from the different colored stone, the water levels haven't been high enough for the overflow mechanism to be used for quite some time.

 This giant hole was near the overflow thing above. I have no idea what it does, but the hole is HUGE.

I heard the bathrooms were original so I had to check them out. This picture below is the entrance, but you have to climb the stairs to get to the real bathroom area. I just loved it all.

And this is the floor of the room I just showed you. Isn't it wonderful?

Melinda is sick so she will be taking a break from blogging to get some rest. Feel better soon, lovely cousin!