Friday, September 28, 2012

Five Things

Okay, I know I just did a "Five Things" on Monday, but I have five more already! 
1. Monogram Website
I found this fun website where you can print out monogram designs for free! Look at all the pretty ones they have:

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You can pick whatever color(s) you want! I fully intend on printing a bunch of these for the fronts of my school binders, frames in my craft room, my Law Review office, etc. So fun! 

2. Tea Cart
I have yet another furniture auction purchase to share with y'all. This time we bought this:

I know, I know... it's not very pretty. Haha. I'm pretty sure all the other bidders thought we were insane for wanting it, and I'm pretty sure the auction guys were totally stoked that we were actually bidding on it. But we had a plan for it, and we got it for super cheap! Here it is, as my new printer station for the craft room!

If you remember, the printer was precariously perched on top of the filing cabinet before:

This is definitely a large improvement. The printer fit perfectly on top, and it has plenty of space for our shredder (which used to live under my desk where the chair goes... SO annoying!) and some other things on the bottom shelf. Perfect! 

3. Ikea Blogging!
Given how excited I am about this one, I should've put it as #1, but guess what... I'm going to be blogging for Ikea! Also known as one of my favorite stores ever. The Ikea Houston store just launched a new website all about "Inspiring Life at Home," and they were looking for Houston-area bloggers who write about home decor, DIY projects, and fun-for-the-family recipes. Um, hello... that's totally me!!! 

So starting in a week or two (I've already sent in my first post), they'll be posting some of my stuff on their website once a month. I still get to post it here too, so nothing will really change, except that I'll get a shiny new Ikea gift card in the mail periodically. :) 

4. Flowers from Jeff
Remember how I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't start decorating for Fall until our holiday decorations storage was all organized? Well, after that I made another deal with myself... I decided that I wouldn't put up the Fall decorations until the whole house was clean. I'm talking all three bathrooms, upstairs and downstairs, the fridge and the microwave and the blinds and everything. I don't know what I was thinking, but now I'm committed (and I've spent every second of free time this week cleaning... so I can decorate this weekend!). Sidenote: to anyone living in a little apartment and dreaming of a big spacious house, just remember that cleaning one bathroom is no fun, but cleaning three bathrooms is three times as annoying (and time-consuming). 

Anyway, Jeff knew I was antsy to get out all the Fall stuff, but he was (of course) in full support of the house being all spic and span, so he brought me some fall flowers to tide me over. Isn't he sweet? So I got to play florist for a little while (one of my favorite things ever), and thanks to a little raffia (and some vases leftover from last year's Law Review banquet and that Mother-Daughter Tea I hosted in college), I now have two pretty little fall arrangements on my counter. LOVE. 

5. "New" Frames in Craft Room
I have a pair of Pottery Barn photo frames that were purchased circa 2004. They lived in my bedroom in high school, then they came with me to college and lived there for a while, and then I just hung onto them and moved them around with me for a few years. I recently realized that they'd be perfect for the craft room, with the exception of the periwinkle-blue mats. 

The craft room is mostly deep purple and gray, and I've been wanting to add a little more color into the room (but not periwinkle... haha), so when I found a big pack of green scrapbook paper at Tuesday Morning (it's a discount store kind of like Ross or Marshall's), I grabbed it. 
To re-do the mats, I used a scrapbooking adhesive roller to lay some stickiness on the mats:

Then, I just stuck a few pieces of scrapbook paper on top! This would've been way easier if the frames were smaller than 10x10 (which would've taken only one piece of paper rather than three), or if I had picked a solid paper (which wouldn't have required me to carefully line up the pattern on the edges where the sheets overlapped). 

After that, I just flipped them over and used a craft knife to cut out the openings. 

Ta-da! "New" frames! 

For now they're just perched on top of the sofa, but eventually I'll get around to hanging them on the wall! 

That's it! Now you can all run off to print yourselves some pretty monograms! Or you can go cover a photo mat with scrapbook paper. Do y'all love Ikea as much as I do? What should I buy with my first gift card? 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baked Parmesan Zucchini Fries

These zucchini fries are delicious, fairly easy to make, and wayyy healthier than regular fries! You can gobble up a handful without feeling guilty about it (woohoo!)!

Yummm. I'm craving some right now! 
Recipe idea from here
1 small zucchini, sliced into thin "fry-like" strips
1 cup flour
3 tsp paprika
6 tsp garlic powder
2 eggs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1. In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1 tsp paprika and 2 tsp garlic powder. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. On a plate or dish, combine the panko crumbs, Parmesan, 2 tsp paprika, and 4 tsp garlic powder.
2. Coat the zucchini strips in the flour mixture, then dip them in the egg, then coat them in the panko mixture.
3. Put the zucchini fries on baking sheet (it's fine if they're close together) and bake at 425 for 20 minutes (flipping them over after the first ten minutes). 
(zucchini sliced)

(flour mixture ingredients)

(panko mixture ingredients)

(finished panko mixture)

(here's my station all set up - flour first, then egg, then panko)

(onto the baking sheet...)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Organizing the Holiday Decorations

I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't put up our Fall decorations until I re-organized my holiday decorations closet. Yeah, I have a holiday decorations closet. Haha. 

Anyway, we keep all the holiday decor in the guest bedroom closet. It gets so hot in Houston that I really don't like to put stuff in the attic (and we don't have basements in Texas), so I try to use our closets (the ones in the upstairs guest bedrooms) as much as possible. But this closet was turning into a giant mess, and now that we're fixing up the guest bedroom it's attached to, I really wanted to clean out the closet as well. As much as I'd love a pretty, matchy-matchy closet with beautiful shelves and matching storage containers, I vowed not to spend a single cent on this project (because it really wasn't necessary), so I worked with what I had. 
Here's what I started with on the left side of the closet:

Stuff everywhere! Teetering stacks of boxes! What you can't see behind that Christmas tree box on the left is a giant mess of wrapping paper, Christmas decor that wouldn't fit in the boxes, and random miscellaneous home decor stuff like candlesticks. Yes, I hid it behind big boxes.

And the right side of the room... 

More teetering boxes! That cardboard one was dangerously close to the edge in order to avoid smushing the Fall wreath above, and the grey boxes were definitely not balancing well on the edge of that clear box, which meant that chaos would ensue every time I tried to retrieve any of the boxes. 

Wreaths in danger of toppling to the ground or being squished by boxes! Random stuff on the shelf! 

In the interest of full disclosure, this is actually a lot better than it once was. Everything used to be in assorted sizes of old cardboard boxes and shoe boxes and shopping bags (if only I had a picture of that!). For the last year or so I've been buying plastic bins for our holiday decorations and switching them from the cardboard boxes to the plastic bins when I put them away. So that part was already done (so technically I did spend a few dollars each on the bins, but they were all on sale at either Home Depot or Target). 

My first priority was to create a better solution for storing wreaths. I hammered some long nails into the back wall of the closet, and I hung the wreaths (and one felt placement that I use for all sorts of things) up on the nails. Easy peasy. Storing them hanging gets them out of the way, plus they look kind of pretty! There's plenty of space for more on that wall as well, so I'll be able to add wreaths as I make more for various seasons! 

My second priority was to make better use of the bins. I used to store a lot of ornaments, decorations, etc. in their original boxes, and everything just took up too much space. Once I got rid of the boxes and re-packed everything with just packing paper, everything easily fit into the plastic bins. 

Here's the right side of the closet now: 

Yay pretty bins! 

By re-organizing, I was able to completely free up the shelf on the right side of the closet. I filled it to the brim with all my porcelain dolls from my grandma, as well as my childhood Bitty Baby doll (and her clothes/bassinet), which I'm saving for future generations. :) Prior to doing this, I thought they'd have to go in the attic for storage, so I'm really glad we can keep them in here out of the Texas heat. 

I printed some labels for the cardboard boxes so I know what's in them... "Porcelain Dolls" on the left and "Bitty Baby Doll" on the right. 

I printed labels for all of the decor bins as well. I just designed them in PowerPoint, printed them on our inkjet printer, and affixed them to the bins with clear packing tape to make them durable. Easy and free! I printed three labels for each bin so I could put them on the front, side, and top. That way they're easy to identify from all directions! 

This is one of my new favorite fonts - "Sail"

One box of Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day decor, and one box of Spring/Easter decor

I changed the colors of the labels to make them go with the seasons a little. :) 

I used to pack my wreath hangers in the boxes -- one with the Christmas stuff and one with the Fall stuff, but I was always digging for them when I happened to need one for some other wreath-using occasion, so now the two hangers are hanging in closet for super-easy access! 

The left side of the closet is where all my Christmas decorations are now. I got all the miscellaneous stuff off the floor, and now everything is contained in the plastic bins. They're all pretty full, so I figure I'll probably need to buy another green bin eventually. There's a nice space for one more on top of that one in the front though, so I have some room to expand! Our two Christmas trees are on the right side, in their original boxes (that seems to be the easiest way to store them), along with my Aggie Santa pillow (which couldn't quite fit into a plastic bin). 

Of course, the Christmas stuff got a little label as well:

I had this little three-drawer cart in my craft room before we started the big craft room re-do. I don't need it in there anymore, so it found a new home in this closet. It fits perfectly on the shelf (a convenient surprise!)! I don't have many decorations for July 4th and New Year's, so those holidays each got a drawer. The top drawer holds some candlesticks and other things that I use year-round for lots of holidays (but don't use in the house on an everyday basis). 

Here's the shelf on the left side of the closet:

The best part of this whole job is this next picture -- there's space on the floor to walk in!! 

Now I can walk in there and turn to one side or the other and easily find what I'm looking for, and I'll actually have space to pull the bins out without bumping into stuff and sending wreaths flying toward the ground! 

Now everything in the closet has a place, and nothing is in danger of falling/getting squished/being broken. For zero dollars and an hour or two of work, I'd stay it was well worth it! 

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Farfalle with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Italian Chicken Sausage

Sometimes you just need an easy dinner that's pretty much impossible to mess up. This recipe will totally work for that. It's really forgiving... you can mess with the ingredients to work with what you have in the fridge/pantry, and it always turns out great. Just adjust the spices and veggies to make it perfect for your taste buds! 

12 oz farfalle pasta (or you know, 1/2 farfalle and 1/2 rotini, or whatever you have in the pantry)
1/2 of a 10 oz bag of baby spinach
1 lb Italian chicken sausage (or regular Italian sausage, or ground beef, or whatever)
8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 to 1 jar red pasta sauce, depending on how saucy you like it!
Freshly shredded Parmesan, to taste

1. Boil the pasta according to package directions. Add in the spinach for the last three minutes. Drain and return to pot. 
2. Remove sausage from casing (or, if it's just the ground kind, don't worry about it). In a skillet, crumble the sausage and cook over medium heat until cooked through. Add in the mushrooms and garlic for the last 5 minutes or so of cook time. 
3. Add the sausage & mushrooms to the pasta and spinach. Add in the Italian seasoning, thyme, oregano, pepper, and pasta sauce and stir to combine. 
4. Top with shredded Parmesan and serve! 

(pasta and spinach)

(Kroger's italian chicken sausage)

(removing from casing)

(cooking sausage)

(adding garlic and mushrooms)

(sausage-mushroom mixture is done!)

(adding it to the pasta and spinach)

(adding in the pasta sauce and herbs)

(topped with Parmesan cheese, yumm!)

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