I love to toodle.
You might call it browsing: visiting a store and blatantly, unapologetically ogling the merchandise. I’ve called it toodling ever since the Internet took over “browsing.” For me, toodling is a whole process. First, I linger over a display, visually absorbing how items works with other items. Next I manhandle said items, appreciating the craftsmanship (or lack thereof); and ultimately, I replace said items back on the shelf after determining “I could make them for less.”
Best of all, I find that toodling brings balance to my world: my creative DIY side ignites with hopeful possibility, and my cheap side relaxes in the expense of someone else’s air conditioning.
The discount home stores are by far my favorite places to toodle. And right now, my best-loved decor store is aglow with mercury-glass items — vases, pumpkins, candle holders and hanging bottles with jute wrapped necks — all sparkling with that signature reflective, slightly-mottled finish.
Mercury glass is stylish and enhances just about any decor, which makes it perfect for the coming autumn and holiday seasons. And while mercury glass can be pricey, DIYers should rejoice. With a little bit of thrifting and a can of mirror-style spray paint, these mercury-glass treasures can be created at a fraction of the cost.
When my husband and I bought our home, we came upon a (happy) surprise: our old (unattractive) kitchen table was too big for our new home’s kitchen. As goddess of the hearth, the task landed upon me to pick out a replacement. I took the job seriously and after much searching, I naturally fell in love with a gorgeous, pedestal-style kitchen table that could be procured from an upper-end store for a mere $900 (chairs not included).
I adored that table and its high-quality craftsmanship, and imagined all the meals, the card games and the deep philosophical, wine-laden discussions that would take place at it. My life improved just looking the thing. And its chairs were exquisite; sure, they were $250 each, but with care and Scotchguard, I’d never have to recover them.
Fast forward five years to last Saturday afternoon, as I stood staring at the modest knock-off table I actually ended up buying on clearance for $150, and the four chairs it came with. Exquisite is not a word that has ever been applied to these chairs. Current words included stained, worn, unattractive… and several others best left unsaid.
But what did I expect with seven kids, a dog and light fabric? There was no way I was going to plunk down half a semester’s college tuition for that other gorgeous table (and the better life it promised), when those stunning, perfect chairs would clearly have met the same grisly end as my knock-offs had.
And yet I knew, regardless of the ugly I was staring at, my simpler chairs were not at an end. In fact, with the help of an inexpensive trendy table cloth, a pair of scissors and a staple gun, my well-used chairs quickly and easily got a stylish makeover.
Two words: dancing chicken. She may be old, but she’s still got it.
There’s a quote that I see frequently on Pinterest that appeals to my sense of humor and snark, while leaving the feeling my dirty undies are on display.
“If you marry a creative person, know that some days you’ll come home to a spotless house… and some days dinner will be forgotten, the kids will be in PJs and it will look like you were robbed. Find a way to appreciate both because the second will happen much more often than the first.”
Not long ago I made an amazing thrift store haul, which included one genuine diamond in the rough: a badly-tarnished silver platter that I picked up for $3.95. She’s so dingy and sad looking, I’m fairly certain that if my blue tag special could speak, she would just be silently weeping in her tainted, forgotten way.
As an incredibly thrifty individual (READ: cheap), it stands to reason that spending twice as much on a silver polish as I did on my silver platter would be a no-go. Harkening back to earlier days and conversations with my grandmother, I remembered her advice about an inexpensive (READ: dirt cheap) silver-polishing solution: baking soda.
There are a million reasons to trust baking soda with most tough cleaning jobs but the best one yet: just about every cleaning-solution manufacturer touts its greatness on their labels.
And this got me thinking: Why are we buying products with all these chemicals when, in the end, they all use the same magic ingredient available for 97 cents a box in the baking section? What else can this magic little cleaning muscle do?
Anyone in the midst of back-to-school preparations has likely noticed that the face of lunchtime has changed. A quick walk through the school supply section reveals a whole new landscape in the lunch aisle. Gone are the mini-metal, thermos-filled suitcases of yore, replaced now with square, compartmentalized containers in funky, insulated carriers. Gone, too, is the expectation that p, b and j slapped between a couple slices of white bread is healthy.
There has been a conscious movement among many parents to move away from sodium- or sugar-laden processed foods, hoping to control what goes down junior’s gullet with home-packed options. But this movement has highlighted another potential problem: You can lead a kid to a carrot stick, but you can’t make him eat it. Which is to say, you can pack a healthy lunch, but what good is it if it ends up in the trash or traded away?
That’s where these Bento-style containers and a little creativity come into play. With a few cookie cutters and a bit of forethought, providing a delicious, healthy lunch can be all that and a bag of chips. Except without the bag of chips.
The start of school always forces me to assess the chaos brought on by two months of life without strict timetables. My leisurely after-work evenings spent sipping wine, watching baseball and preparing late-evening meals will soon revert to taxiing kids to and fro, helping with homework and juggling their various activities. I can’t rely on having time for those belated, after-work trips to the grocery.
But everyone still needs to eat. And as I’m the cook, the menu planning falls on my plate, so to speak.
My solution to this dilemma: I’ve found that if I carve out 30 minutes on the weekend to plan out meals, I can save several hours of panic and last-minute grocery store scuttling.
Click here for our downloadable meal planner.
Dear Expert Dog People,
I appreciate that you know everything there is to know about dogs. Not just dogs in general, not just specific dog breeds, but every single individual dog on the planet.
I appreciate that you ask me if you can pet my dog before you pet it.
I appreciate that, after I tell you “No, please do not pet my dog as she is intensely protective and does not like to be touched by strangers,” you smile and nod patronizingly.
I appreciate how you insist upon your deep and detailed understanding of dogs and reiterate your pet-whispering brilliance: How you love dogs. How you were practically raised in a pack since birth. Or how you work with them in some capacity.
I appreciate that you stand up for your expertise.
I appreciate it when you tell me — despite my reasoned answer — that it’s OK for you to touch my dog anyway.
But if we’re being completely honest? Mostly, I appreciate your wide eyes and startled gasp after moving your hand quickly from my dog’s snapping growl.
Deep down, in my heart of hearts, I appreciate that my dog has just added a specific note to your dog brilliance: always listen to the dog’s owner.
The summers of my childhood are defined by scorched feet, icy swimming pools, gulps of sweet water from the garden hose, salty potato chips and the barest, whimsical tinkling of what could be — wait, might be — is that music? YES. RUN FOR IT: the ice cream truck. And my favorite treat? The push pop: tangy frozen yogurt served in a plastic container that I continued to slurp on long after the icy confection had disappeared.
Fast forward to now, and the pleasant discovery that empty push pop containers are available in the baking aisles of most craft stores. And these days, home bakers fill the adorable (and reusable) contraptions will all kinds of clever desserts: layered fruit and yogurt; pudding and whipped cream; and, as I recently tried, small slices of cake and icing. The push pop concept has evolved into something a bit more elegant — but just as fun.
Office workers know how easy it is for time to fly by as we spend our summer days indoors. Sure, sitting in a windowless cubicle before the phosphorescent glow of a computer screen for eight hours is glamorous, but do you ever find yourself wishing you were in a meadow somewhere chasing butterflies?
Who says the office can’t be your own special meadow?
Next time you’re stuck with a late-night deadline, instead of cursing friends and coworkers enjoying themselves at the beer garden — you can format those TPS reports in the midst of your own cubicle butterfly garden. This project is not only cathartic, it’s simple! Even young kids can help.
So you think you’re the biggest Star Wars fan ever? You’re not alone. Apparently, Stephen Colbert and John Stewart think they are, too. (But they’re misguided as CLEARLY they haven’t come up against uber fan, Rick Bentley.)
Disney is offering mega fans the opportunity to be in Star Wars: Episode VII via a donation contest in support of UNICEF.
THE BASICS: Go here, donate money, and be entered to win a spot in the film. The more you donate, the more entries you get, the larger your chances of winning.
Regardless, check out the viral vid below.
For those that are curious… an update on my hatchlings…
Animals grow quickly. I’m sad to say that the very short period of the ‘Chick pic of the day’ has ended, as the little balls of fluff have grown into large, feathered, somewhat gawky things. They’re still small and technically still chicks, but at almost 7 weeks old, they are more like awkward preteens than sweet downy babies.
Sadly, one of the chicks had a very rough hatch (as in, from the egg), and passed at barely 2 weeks of age. The other two are quirky and growing beards and are, by all appearances, girls.
This is such a big deal, I had to announce it in CAPS. We’ve all been preparing for months, planning, waiting, dreaming of National Chocolate Day and it’s finally here! In fact, we’re all celebrating this national holiday by…
Huh. You’d think when you give a major food group its own holiday you’d have scores of retailers supporting its inherent goodness. Sales of chocolate should be through the roof. Every home should have some kind of sculpture created out of and in honor of the blessed stuff. One would expect Starbucks to create a special drink for this day, at the very least.
But it’s not turning out to be the type of holiday I expected. Granted, I’d only learned about 2-hours ago that National Chocolate Day existed at all, and this via some obscure very reliable tweet. But when I went to verify the veracity of this info, a quick internet “National Chocolate Day” search revealed some incredibly troubling information, indeed. First, my search uncovered merely two whopping news stories announcing the day — followed by several links that were wholly unrelated. And second, it gets worse.
UPDATE: The winner of the Grizzlies ticket vouchers has been randomly selected. Congratulations, Charity! Thank you to all who submitted recipes. I will be trying out a few of them, for sure.
I don’t want to shock anybody, but prepare for this punch in the face: July 4th is right around the corner. Literally, just over 2-weeks away.
Having the strong holiday associations that I do, for me, the fourth is about some kind of barbecued something or other slathered in sauce, corn on the cob, ice cold lemonade, my mom’s potato salad (which is the GREATEST ever) and homemade strawberry ice cream. (And then something about fireworks and ‘Merica. And baseball.)
I can explain away the barbecued goods, the corn, even the lemonade — but I have no idea where my July 4th/strawberry ice cream association came from. I just know it exists.
For years I have attempted to perfect a strawberry ice cream recipe: searching for the just-right combination of berries and cream, a recipe that churns out a concoction that is silky, smooth and sweet.
I’ve never once done it. Having failed miserably for a good 20 consecutive years now, I’d be happy to just end up with an edible batch of the stuff.
NO! Not this year! I’m asking for your help. Does somebody, ANYBODY, have a good strawberry ice cream recipe?
Here’s the deal:
Want to win a family 4-pack of vouchers good for almost any Fresno Grizzlies game of the season?
Dreaming of the beach…
I see what you did there.
Congratulations to all the grads out there.
It’s Father’s Day this weekend, which I believe I have previously touched on as the worst holiday EVER. My exhaustive list as to WHY this holiday is so stupid:
- I am terrible at giving Father’s Day gifts.
And there you have it. I’m horrible. No matter how much thought or effort or energy that goes into it, I invariably end up doing the exact WRONG thing. So I share with you some helpful hints — a list of “What not to do,” if you will — to help mold your day into a triumph.
It’s Monday: The day where you lay in bed continually repeating the mantra, “…just two more minutes… ”
It’s Friday night, baby! Celebrate like it’s a Wednesday. (The rest of the weekend, take Josh’s advice.)
Nothing screams “WEEKEND!” like wine, chocolate and TV.
A chick’s gotta eat.
Good morning, sunshine.
For your Monday.
… Deep in the heart of suburbia in a smallish backyard designed for more suitable and acceptable hobbies like barbecuing and ping pong and only the occasionally well-mannered dog, resides a woman with a dual identity. By day, she’s a mild-mannered DIY writer, who spends her time crafting and desk surfing, guiding readers in intriguing intellectual pursuits — such as, “Learn how to straighten out that wobbly table using a turnip!” or “How to redecorate your entire home with beer caps!” But by night, she’s an obsessed wanna-be chickener, reading all she can about raising her own small flock in Outer Urbia — the land of tract homes and concrete and crabby neighbors.