goodbye, 2013….

Hello!  I can’t believe that it will be 2014 tomorrow.  This year flew by but when I look back at one year ago, it feels like 3 years ago.  Every year at this time people spend time reflecting on their past year and contemplating the future and so, of course, that’s what I am doing. In short, this year was wonderful and everything I hoped for. I had a really hard time for a long time, and 2012 was downright horrible.  I lost pets, had a car wreck, had to cram a full time law school schedule into a part time one, among so many other things. The highlight of 2012 was getting my dog Ella, but other than that, it was a tough year. This day a year ago I thought, “good riddance, 2012…you sucked…” and also felt an enormous amount of uncertainty and fear before the bar exam.

The earliest post I had in 2013 was here. One day in January after lunch with my boyfriend I sat in his car right outside my office…crying and telling him how enormously fearful I was.  I told him if I don’t pass the bar exam, I could miss opportunities for jobs…I could have to retake it and spend many months more studying, sinking deeper into the exhaustion and edginess I felt, and not moving on with my life….I told him that I just felt this enormous burden because it was all up to me to make this year either an awesome one or another really bad one. I basically had about five very exhausting years and I just wanted it to be over.

I still stop and pinch myself every day now that normalcy has returned. I passed the bar exam…got a job, which has been going great…lost 17 of the 25 pounds I gained in law school…took a vacation, did tons of fun things with friends, got to enjoy my holidays for the first time in years, and got engaged to my boyfriend.  This year was very, very good to me!

I AM very sad the holidays are coming to an end.  Basically from October until now I was fully immersed in them and had a great time.  I started taking my Christmas decor down last night.  To get over that post-holiday sadness, I am thinking about what I’d like to do this winter.  I am really hoping for a VERY snowy winter. I’d like to go snowboarding again…I haven’t gone since January, 2008.  I am also looking forward to the Winter Olympics.  I have this inexplicable obsession with both the summer and winter olympics.  For two glorious weeks I let all my free time outside of work be consumed by televised sporting events.  Whether it’s skiing, iceskating, curling, whatever, I am glued to the TV.  In 2012 after my dog died, I had two weeks of nightly class, but then when it finally ended, I picked up my new puppy Ella…and the next day the Summer Olympics began.  In 2012, after all I had been going through, getting my new dog and playing with her every night while watching the olympics was the first time in many months I felt happy and at ease.

Other than hoping for lots of snow and watching the olympics I really don’t have much planned for this winter.  It might be good to slow down for awhile.

Anyway, I hope you have a great 2014.  Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Christmas decor pt. 3 ~ Stockings

 

 

 

I needed somewhere to put our stockings that looked good and could support the weight, since the stocking hooks on the shelf would not hold up when the stockings had anything in them.

I saw a commercial for 3M Command hooks, which made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of that myself a long time ago – I use those things all the time! So, I headed to Target and got three of them for about $4.50 each.  Done!

They no longer sell the monogram stockings I got at Target for my boyfriend and me, but I wanted a stocking for our doggie, Ella.

Luckily last week Pottery Barn was having a free shipping/free monogramming sale on some stockings, so I got her this Channel Quilted Velvet Stocking.

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Christmas decor, pt. 2 – Living Room decor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of these pics are from before I moves the stockings to a new place.

I have a bunch of my grandmother’s old Christmas cards from as long ago as the late 1930′s, so I put a couple of those in frames on the shelf.  I had real cedar garland last year, which I loved, but I don’t think “real” greenery is my thing.  I think you’re supposed to keep that stuff watered (somehow) so mine got SUPER dried out very quick, and for fear of it being a fire hazard I took it down before Christmas even arrived.  It made a huge mess and was a pain to get in garbage bags.  I left a trail of browned greenery all the way down the hall and in the elevator!

SO this year I just bought cheap garland at michael’s – $6 for 18 feet…bought two strands and doubled them up with a 100-light strand over the sliding door, and took one 18 foot strand and folded it in half and wound it with lights for the 6 ft. shelf. Much easier, cheap, and I can reuse them.  It doesn’t look quote as pretty as the cedar garland looked when I first hung it, but it’ll do.

I also made some name tags.  I found the “Let There Be Peace on Earth” free downloadable name tags here, and then made the National Lampoon Christmas vacation ones myself.  That is my favorite movie, so I wanted some funny ones, too :)

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Christmas decor, pt. 1 ~ “NOEL” banner

Hello everyone! I hope your holiday season has been carrying on merrily.  We have these target stocking hooks that we put on our shelf/mantle every year, but unfortunately, they don’t really seem to hold any weight.  They work fine for empty stockings, but if you try to put anything in the stockings, they flip right off the shelf.  No good.  Anyway, I came up with another spot to hang the stockings, but I figured the hooks would work perfectly for hanging a banner on the shelf.

I enjoyed making my Thanksgiving banner, and with all the crafty materials I had laying around, including a lot of leftover twine from the last banner, I figured I’d try my hand at a christmas banner.  I might try something more involved in the coming Christmases, but for this year I thought I’d start with something short and simple – “NOEL”.  We also got a printer recently, so instead of stenciling letters, I took a much easier route…I made the banner on Adobe Illustrator and printed them on card stock.

(Sidenote:  Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator can be prohibitively expensive, at several hundred dollars a piece, but once you learn how to use them they are seemingly invaluable.  Luckily now you can get these programs and a bunch of others for a monthly subscription rate rather than paying the full amour for creative suite which is like, a couple thousand bucks….totally worth it in my opinion!).

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I didn’t want the outline to show through so I did a mirror image of the text.  I chose Gill Sans Ultra Bold as my font – I was trying to keep it simple with some thick, block letter text.

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My cutting mat is nowhere to be found so I used a stack of newspaper.  I cut out the letters with an X-acto knife.  Scissors would work, too, but the X-acto knife is MUCH easier.  BAM – there you have it…NOEL! :)

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Then, yes, I cannot seem to get away from glitter – I decided to try my hand at glitter once again.  I sprayed each letter with spray adhesive, let the adhesive get tacky for exactly 2 minutes, and then i covered the letter with glitter.  I tapped the bottom of the tray all over the place until the letter was evenly coated with glitter.  DO NOT touch it! It will totally make it smudged and horrible looking.  I learned this the hard way.

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After they dried, I flipped the letters over on some newspaper and lined them evenly with the twine.

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Then, I took a glue gun and put glue around the entirely of the twine to hold it on…

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IMG_3417There you have it!! I think the letters could use some dimension, and maybe next year I will do a different word/words, different font, or add some extra layers or other trim, but for now, this is a good first try! :)

Thanksgiving decor, pt. 2 & Friendsgiving 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Ok we’ve got a few more days but I got my Thanksgiving started early when we had our first “Friendsgiving” yesterday.  It was a great time.  I think it’s the first time we really had a party at this apartment.  We got to break in our new Ikea table, eat lots of food, play games, and hold a very high-stakes pie contest.

I completed my Thanksgiving decorating prior to Friendsgiving.  First we made and hung the Thanksgiving banner, and then I decorated the “mantle” (i.e. floating shelf over the TV), and table, and some other areas. I got these turkey salt and pepper shakers on sale at Michael’s for a couple dollars.  We certainly did not need any more salt and pepper shakers, and the print was sort of obnoxious, so I decided to cover them in…something.

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Against my good judgment, I decided to cover the first one in gold glitter. As always, that was a messy and frustrating disaster.  I continued down that path until it was all the way covered, but decided to NOT USE GLITTER EVER AGAIN after that (ok, I have said that many times and I cant seem to dump glitter completely, except for all over myself). IMG_3215

I had this gold nail polish I got for free in something, so I decided to cover the second turkey in that.  MUCH better. It took a couple minutes, no mess, and I also think it looks better. Lesson learned.

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Much to my delight, I found two of these concrete Smith and Hawken turkeys at Target in the clearance section for $6 each.  They would be perfect for the table! IMG_3250

I sprayed them with a flat paint to brighten them up a little bit, and then decided to try my hand at gold leaf. I don’t know if it’s because gold leafing is difficult, or because gold leafing an uneven concrete surface is difficult, but I got as far as gold leafing the beaks and gave the hell up. Good enough!

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Then I went to Trader Joe’s where I had previously obtained a whole lot of small pumpkins for my Halloween decor.  Unfortunately, finding pumpkins AFTER halloween is no easy task.  All they had left were some medium-sized “tiger” pumpkins that were cream colored and striped with either green or orange…not exactly matching my decor.  I got some high gloss white spray paint and painted them all and put them in the hurricane. tada!

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The next thing I did was decorate the shelf over our TV.  I also decorated this shelf for Halloween a month earlier. I was kind of at a loss as to what to do, and honestly I have no idea what I am doing with artificial/dried flowers/plants. Michael’s was having a 70% off sale on the fall-themed dried and artificial flowers by late October, so I grabbed a few in yellow, orange, and purple colors and figured I would figure something out.  I also got a 5′ strand of battery operated “Starry String Lights” in amber from Restoration Hardware.  Don’t you just love these?! I may get more in the silver color for Christmas.

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I also held on to a few of my Halloween Trader Joe’s pumpkins that were still in ok shape, got a roll of burlap at Michael’s, put some stuff in my apothecary jars and also added the painting I did at Cheers to Art recently.  Do you have a place like this in your city? Basically you and a bunch of your friends go paint a painting according to step-by-step instructions by someone while you drink wine. What a great idea.  Anyway, so the colors sort of matched the decor so I threw it in there, too.

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I am really loving burlap as a “trend” right now.  It’s neutral and cheap and you can use it for a million different things.

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IMG_6951The other day I was wandering around Ikea and saw these little square fall-colored Fyrkantig candles and candleholders at Ikea. 
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I also loved these Thanksgiving Printables from TomKat Studio.  I have Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, so I made my own “Happy Thanksgiving” sign similar to the one they have available, and bought some super-cheap 3- and 4-packs of plastic frames at Big Lots.  IMG_6955 IMG_6960

Much of what I found to decorate the table and the buffet table, just like everything else, was decided based on what I already had and what was cheap and/or on sale at places like Michael’s, Big Lots, Home Goods, Ikea and Target. I just wanted everything to have the black, white, gold, silver, purple, orange and golden yellow colors that I put on the shelf.

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I found these great serving ware dishes at Big Lots for I think maybe $9 each, and three 4-packs of the white placemats for $6 a set.  I also found this burlap runner at Michael’s – a few yards for less than $10…I could cut it to the length of the table and it actually fits, versus all the table runners I found which were upwards of $40, $50+ and not even remotely long enough for the table. NO THANKS! I found the napkin rings and napkins at Homegoods, and got a bread basket at Ikea and used some black and white kitchen towels from Target that I’ve had for a couple years and haven’t ever used for anything.

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I made a couple different deviled eggs recipes and they were pretty good. I got these deviled eggs with goat cheese and proscuitto recipe from Food and Wine magazine (also available online), but took out the sour cornichons.  I got the Paula Deen’s loaded deviled eggs recipe here.  I also got the apples on horseback recipe from Food and Wine (here).  They were really good and super easy! I wrapped 16 slices of Manchego cheese/Fuji apple with panchetta, stuck them on some metal skewers, sprayed some foil with cooking oil and grilled them on the grill for a few minutes on each side.  I wanted appetizers that you could make without using the stove or oven since my boyfriend was busy with the turkey and other things…they were so easy and very good! I took them off the skewers and stuck them with toothpicks.  I got the roasted garlic and rosemary pumpkin hummus recipe here.   I made more labels, also inspired by the TomKat Studio post.

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I got a crockpot mulled cider recipe here.  It was so good and smelled even better! I also found this cute Pilgrim Rum picture online and swapped it out for the Bacardi Gold label…I didn’t want to make the cider alcoholic, so if somebody wanted it to be, they could just add as much rum as they wanted…and had cinnamon sticks as the stirs. :)

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And finally, I bought a couple chargers and a few candles at Michael’s and decorated them with some leftover twine.  My boyfriend really likes to go all out with things (for better or for worse, haha!) so his turkey was no exception.  We got a fresh turkey from the local Tewes Farm and did a dry brine on it for two days.  Then he wrapped it in bacon on Friday night and slow-roasted it at about 225 degrees for over 12 hours.  He had to get up every few hours to baste it.

IMG_3352If you can’t tell from these pics, it definitely turned out delicious. The only problem was that with the bacon fat in the turkey drippings, the homemade gravy didn’t really turn out. It tasted good, but the consistency was sort of clumpy.  When we make the turkey again on Thanksgiving for my family, we’re not doing the bacon!

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Last but not least, we held out First Annual Friendsgiving Pie-Off.  There were five entries.  I attempted to make some gluten-free, low carb “crustless pumpkin pies” in cupcake cups…Ugh! Haha.  I don’t recommend it (not that I thought they’d turn out great).

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We got this medal online for $5 with free engraving, plus shipping. Not bad!! IMG_3293 IMG_6981

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Overall it was really fun.  We are looking forward to doing it all again next year! :)

Thanksgiving decor, pt. 1

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween!  I can’t believe it’s already November. Halloween was uneventful for me this year. There wasn’t a trace of Halloween present in my office, I had no costume, I attended no Halloween events or parties, and did not have one drop of candy. I did, however, decide at about 10 pm that evening to pull my old dog Jenny’s Old Navy bumblebee costume out of storage and put it on my dog Ella just long enough to point and laugh at her and get a picture…it’s so funny how sad and catatonic dogs get when you put them in a costume….lucky for her, she was only in it for a couple of minutes:

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Despite my deep, burning desire for a reclaimed wood dining table, I figured I wasn’t going to throw down $1000 or more on a new dining room table any time soon, but at the same time, our small blonde wood 4-person table was too small for the space, looked a little too yellow in that room, and wouldn’t get us through the holiday season.  I ended up getting the Ikea Bjursta table in black brown.  At $250, and seating for up to ten people with the leaves inserted, it is a bargain.  I also picked up some Ikea Soaré placemats since they are cheap and very fall-ish.

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We are having a “Friendsgiving” on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and then having some of my family over for Thanksgiving, so a decent table was a must.  We had 6 chairs already that matched our small table, so we’re holding on to those for the time being.  The cost of chairs can add up, especially when you want 6-10. We also really can’t decide on a style of chair…SO, in the mean time, we will just use the ones we have.

I’ve also been picking up a few decor items at Homegoods lately. AHHH I love that store! Everything is so cheap. I got a couple leaf dishes and apothecary jars on my last visit. I really don’t know why you’d go to a department store and buy an apothecary jar for $35 when they always have the exact same ones at Homegoods for $12.   This is my first year accumulating fall/Thanksgiving decor…hopefully in a few years I’ll have enough for a decently decorated house!

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One thing I’ve seen a lot of on the PInterestsphere is fall and Thanksgiving-themed banners, such as these and this one and this one.  Back in the day when I thought that I might possibly enjoy scrapbooking, I accumulated quite a bit of crafty stuff – papers, lettering, etc.  I went to Michael’s and got some large letter stencils, glue sticks and some jute twine and for just a few dollars made a banner (well, banners) with the items I already had.

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It was fun and easy to make! I was having flashbacks to Kindergarten with my construction paper and glue sticks.  I made a template from some green card stock and pretty much went from there.  I chose the colors, layout and size based on whatever I had lying around.

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THE “Holiday Season” and Modern Halloween Decor

I am back!!! Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve posted.  Summer was fun and busy, yet devoid of any notable shopping purchases or interiors projects – so no posts.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Summer!

So first off let me start by telling you how special this “Holiday Season” is to me.  BTW, I defined “Holiday Season” as pretty much October 1 through January 1 – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve – we’ve also got Hanukkah, Kwanzaa….and if you’re silly and love Seinfeld like me, let’s go ahead and throw Festivus in there :) OH and for my Italian family we cannot forget the Feast of Saint Martin (November 11th – a.k.a. Veteran’s Day) and my boyfriend and me will be celebrating our birthday on November 1 (four years!!).  Some shopping enthusiasts at this point may even consider Black Friday a holiday by its own rite.

To make a long story short, there are a lot of holidays and things to be celebrated during this period. What makes it even more special for me is that this is the first time in many years that it will be a relaxed, fun, and happy time for me.  2007 wasn’t fun for many reason. By 2008, I was in law school, so this time of year, every year, was marked by classes really ramping up, the beginning of buckling down on papers I had to write and exams I had to study for, and exams…this past year, none of December was a break, as I finished my class stuff by Thanksgiving (managed to schedule classes in the fall that didn’t have exams, only papers) and by the day after Thanksgiving I hit the ground running from then until the end of February with studying for the bar exam.  On Christmas Day last year, I went out for a brief period for dinner but ended up spending most of the day by myself studying. Since I was working full time in a situation where most people study for the bar exam full time, I needed all the free time I could get. It sucked!

Since I haven’t had a holiday season with no school or other big stressors since 2006 (7 years!!!), I am pretty excited about this one. This time of year in Ohio is time to switch to wearing scarves and boots and break out all the smelly candles I can handle – decorate the apartment and keep the Food Network running constantly. I don’t know why, but fall and winter make me want to cook and eat and think about cooking all the time.

I decided to celebrate my freedom this season by decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I’ve got my Holidays Board on Pinterest, and a Michael’s just opened by my house. Whoop!  Ideally some day I will have a fireplace with a mantel, but for now I do not.  My boyfriend hung an Ikea Lack floating wall shelf in our living room above the TV as the main focal point, and for the time being it’s our makeshift fireplace mantel. Since we’re 16 stories up, carving pumpkins to put outside wasn’t really a great idea, so I got some artificial pumpkins at Michael’s.  I don’t know who this “Michael” fellow is, but my god he loves glitter…I got a few shades of Martha Stewart glitter as well. Why? I wasn’t sure when I got it but I do love me some glitter.

I also got some black feather boa’s to use as Halloween “garland” and a few other items such as a ceramic owl (I AM OBSESSED WITH OWLS!!) and some resin skeleton parts.  I tried to stick with all reusable items so I can start to build a collection of Halloween decorations to use from year to year.  It doesn’t take more than one measly trip to Michael’s to realize you have only started to collect decor but have already spent $150 or more dollars.  I DID give in a little – I got some tiny pumpkins from Trader Joe’s for 69 cents a piece.

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