Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Sorry about the lack of posting last week - a lot of stuff is changing in these here parts and I've been super busy.  I'll catch up soon, though - promise.

Here's my son in his homemade mummy costume. 

Let me tell you - he killed.  EVERYONE we passed would comment on his costume.  Which is very nice, but a little bit off-putting for this super adorable good witch standing right next to him.

That's my stepdaughter, Lauren.  Her mom made her costume (good job right? - and she was super smart for using hot glue).  Lauren asked me for some "witchy" make-up.  I'm not sure what that is - but I tried my best.

I regretted the decision to make a costume from about Minute 3 of the project.  I still haven't bust out the sewing machine, so it was entirely done by hand - which is a bitch.  I stitched the strips of cloth (a torn up sheet that I stained with tea) directly onto a pair of pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt so that he could take the costume on and off.  Because he's 4 and usually gives us 30 seconds warning that he has to go to the bathroom "really bad."  (Even if you asked him if he needed to go a minute before.)  Plus, we knew we were doing two nights of trick or treating.  These pictures are from a local mall event where the kids get to go from store to store.  Tonight is the real deal.  The most work came in making sure it looked like he was unravelling, but not letting the strips gap open.

As much as I second-guessed myself of my ability to finish the costume and/or get the look I was going for - as soon as he got the first compliment it was well worth it.  I might be hooked on making his costumes from here on out.

Hope you little ones get lots of candy tonight - because that's the cool part right?  Sending the kids to bed and getting a go at their stash?  Love me some Halloween!

Friday, October 22, 2010


I'm so super excited because:


It's about damn time, right?  I was so tired of seeing all the great deals people get at HomeGoods on other sites and never having set foot in one myself (the nearest was in San Antonio).  The new one is like 6 miles from my house! 

For all Austinites - the Grand Opening is this Sunday, October 24 at 8 am and they're giving away a $1000 shopping spree.  So I'm actually going to get my bottom out of bed to be there.  Check back Monday for my first HomeGoods experience!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Good Shopper = Keen Eye + Right Opportunity

I consider myself a pretty good shopper.  But, most of the time I just have a good eye.  To be a good shopper, I think you have to have that right mix of keen eye and luck.  Because finding what you want for an unbelievable price isn't just knowing where to look or what you want to pay - it's finding someone willing to sell it for less than it is worth.

Take this house for example.

You know how much they wanted for this house?  $46,000. 

Not a typo.  $46,000.

The house was built in 2002.  Is in a decent neighborhood (most of the houses I find at this price level are ex-crack houses next to current crack houses) - located about 15 minutes from downtown Austin.

3 bedrooms.  2 baths.  Obviously a foreclosure - but the price?  Maybe the kitchen is completely gutted.

Nope - still there.  Not my style, but totally functional once you add a fridge.

The only downside of the house was the fact that I found it after it had already been put under contract.  Breaks my heart.  Oh, well.  I just have to believe that our dream house hasn't come along yet.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Old Dining Table

Yesterday, I listed our old dining table on Craigslist - so hopefully the money will come rolling in.

Everything looks off-center because I was trying to hide the gigantic wall of crap on the right.
 My mom got this set several years ago.  It was originally from Ashley Furniture, but she got the entire set for around $300 because of imperfections on the frosted glass top.  Although the set is more contemporary than modern, it was not really her style - so when she decided to change it out she was lovely enough to haul it all the way over from Louisiana for me.  What a great mom.

Yes, this is my half-assed attempt at staging.
 It has been well loved and abused during its stay here.  But I have to make room for the new set.  I do worry about the transition, though.  The old set was easy to clean - glass top and leather chairs.

I'm asking $150 - does that sound reasonable?  I hate trying to price things - I either want too much or too little.  Keep your fingers crossed that I get an offer soon!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Swagbucks Review

Ugh.  I've had a rough weekend.  I was stricken with these terrible stomach pains that haven't all quite gone away.  They hurt so bad I started contemplating how the re-enactment would play out on "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant."  Luckily, things are getting better and there was no surprise baby.  Yay!

Today I want to give a quick review of Swagbucks - in case you've never heard of it or haven't used it and want an honest review.

Swagbucks is a search engine that rewards you for using them instead of Google/Yahoo/etc.  I've been using it for about 8 months and have been pretty pleased.

This is the homepage.  First, you create an account.  You can download a special Swagbucks toolbar if you'd like, but I just added the homepage to my favorites toolbar so it's always just a click away. 

Then, whenever you want to search for something, go through Swagbucks and you might win some points.

Here is an example search that I did where I won 10 Swagbucks.  (Does anyone else put "blog" in front of most of their home-related searches?) 

You can then spend those Swag Bucks on various items.  You can use them to enter contests, buy merchandise, etc.  The only thing I've ever used my Swag Bucks on are $5 gift cards.  They cost 450 Swag Bucks.  Once you redeem your points for a gift card, at the end of the month they send you the code for the gift card - which you enter when you check out on Amazon. 

This is not a get-rich-quick deal.  In the 8 months that I've been doing this, I've gotten about 9 or 10 $5 gift cards.  But it's free money.  You get the points for doing something that you'd be doing anyway - searching the internet.  You can save them up to purchase something big, or (what I usually do) buy a used book from the Amazon Marketplace.  It's a nice feeling to get something for free, right?

The biggest issue with Swagbucks are the search results.  When I used "blog dining table redo" as my criteria - here's the first part of the results I was given.

If you can read it, the first 4 results listed are advertisers.  Not real results.  See how it says "Sponsored By" next to the web address? Then you get 2 real results followed by another advertiser.  Compare this to the same search done on Google.

None of the advertisers being pushed in your face.  But you get roughly the same results - only with advertisers thrown in.

There are a few cases where I give up on Swagbucks results and go through Google to find something.  But I usually start with Swagbucks.  You just have to be careful to use the real search results and not click on "Sponsored by" links.

Feel free to chime in with your own Swagbucks experiences if you have them - good or bad.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Vanilla Ice Project

I added another TV show to the DVR Series List:  The Vanilla Ice Project from the DIY Network.  How I would have loved to been the person who pitched this idea.

You probably remember Vanilla Ice like this, right?

Well, who knew that Vanilla Ice is now a house flipper?  And it seems like he's a good one.  Rob (his real name) has been doing it on the side for 10+ years.  Until the real estate market dropped, Rob's business centered more on buying land and building houses.  "Now I can buy a home [for less money] than I can build one, and I don't have to go through that long-term process of building it. I can get these distressed homes, and get some really good deals. Then three or four months later, I can make money. It's very profitable. And it's something I enjoy doing." ( Interview

Although he swears that he's still a rapper, maybe he should stick to what he does best.  His show centers around him flipping this 7,000 sq. ft. mansion in the Versailles community of Palm Beach.

Originally valued at $2.5 million, the house was completely gutted by the previous owners during the foreclosure process.  Rob bought it from the bank on a short sale for around $420,000 and planned on spending $300,000 on the renovation.  Once complete, the house should easily be valued for over $1 million.  This is definitely the case of a house having "good bones" - since there's really nothing else left.

The Versailles community is pretty notorious for being the center of several real estate fraud rings.  People were paid to get a mortgage for a property.  Then, sometimes within hours, the property was resold to another person for a several hundreds of thousands of dollars more.  These owners usually lied on their mortgage applications about their income and assets - most of them claiming they made $40K+ a month, while they were actually living on assistance or on very modest incomes.  (Several of these buyers are now facing jail time.)  The second owner quickly defaulted - costing the banks involved upwards of $40 million dollars.  Not that I necessarily feel bad for the banks - because obviously they shouldn't be handing out million dollar mortgages to just anyone.  But, as well all know from the last couple of years, these issues affect everyone.  The Versailles community, where Rob lives with his family, at one point had more than 50 houses in foreclosure.  So, although he's in it to make money, he's also trying to help the community he lives in.

I was pretty impressed by the first two episodes.  Rob and his crew worked on the landscaping and pool.  Although a lot of the information he gave was very Florida-centric (such as different lifespans of palm trees), he was always eager to step in and do the work himself.  A perfect fit for the DIY channel.

I'll wait to hold judgment on  his renovating style.  The highlight of the backyard is an infiniti pool - achieved by taking down part of a fence blocking the back yard from an alligator-infested lake.  They didn't show a great shot of the house from that angle, so maybe it's impossible for an alligator to find its way into the backyard - but that's not how it looked to me.

I'm also not sure if I'll be able to take any great tips away from the show.  When you renovate a mansion, you have to use great finishes and features.  Spending $5,000+ on running gas lines to a couple of tiki torches in the backyard wouldn't fly around here - but those are the kind of details that people with money to burn (literally) appreciate.

The team is going to revamp the master bedroom this week.  Will you be tuning in?  Or did you get "Ice, Ice Baby" stuck in  your head from just reading this post?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Remember a while back when I was so excited about scoring a $700 Land of Nod bed for free off of Craigslist?  Well, this is what happened to the overhead light when I was setting the bed up. 

It's a fairly small room and I was working on my own - so, there's a chance that it could have happened to anyone.  However, the chance was exponentially increased by the fact that I'm a known klutz.  In the version of myself that only exists in my head, I'm very graceful, but in reality I move through life with the elegance of a wounded elephant.  Usually I'm a bit too short to ruin overhead lights - but put a twin mattress in my hands and lookout!

I'm super bummed about the light.  So bummed that I haven't thrown it away yet - even though there is no saving it.  Mostly because it was one of the first things I bought specifically for this house (at Lowe's, on clearance - you know me).  I bought it because it reminded me of this chandelier which is by a famous artist, but I long ago lost the reference so I have no idea.

Looking back at this picture, I don't think I would be drawn to the same light fixture again.  Because my tastes have changed in the three years since I bought the light.  But it did look very pretty in the girls' room - soft and glowy - romantic and girly.

I'm not going in that direction with the new light fixture.  I'm thinking big, flush mounted pendant drum shade. 

Both pictures courtesy of
I want to try and salvage the base part of the light fixture instead of replacing the entire thing.  If I can find a drum shade that is.  Why are lamp shades so expensive?  It has me seriously considering going into the light shade business.  The goal is to find a cheap one that either works well as is, or only needs a little modification, a la Young House Love's Office light re-do.

However, I've had no luck yet.  I've been seriously considering making one from scratch using parts from here and instructions from here.  Only, I'm not really that brave.  Okay, I'm actually just really cheap and can't stand the idea of wasting money on a project that might have a really wonky outcome.

So for now I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for a deal and not dive into the art of custom-made lamp shades.  And I might actually throw away the busted glass.  Because it's good to let go.  Especially if something is potentially harmful.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I love the idea of quilting.

Actually, I love the idea of having a little girl to make cute dresses for - then using the scraps to make cute quilts.

There are a couple of problems with this idea.  First of all, I don't know how to sew.  (I have yet to figure out how to thread my garage sale sewing machine, in case you were dying for an update.)  And secondly, I don't have a little girl.

Technically, we do have a little girl - my stepdaughter Lauren is 7.  But her mom kind of skipped the "little girl" wardrobe phase and went straight to tween.  She always looks adorable - don't get me wrong.  Very fashionista.  But I always love to see a little girl dressed like this:

While my stepdaughter was more likely to be seen dressed like this:

Both outfits are from Gymboree
And now Lauren is getting too old to make cutesy clothes for anyway.  So that ship has sailed.  I'm still trying to wear the boyfriend down on the idea of having another baby - but quite frankly, I'm not even sure if I'm fully on board with the idea anymore.  And since both of my sisters and my best friend seem perfectly happy not to procreate ever, I guess I'm going to have to wait for granddaughters.  But at least I can try and learn to sew first, so I'll be a pro by then.

The idea to learn how to quilt began to blossom when I saw this quilt in a Pottery Barn catalog:

I thought, "Surely, that can't be that hard.  Not $159 worth of hard."

Don't you love my arrogance confidence?

Then Target came out with their own knock-off version, so making one was no longer necessary.

Circo Love & Nature Bedding Collection
 I still liked the idea of me turning out quilts.  Handing them out as presents.  Everyone applauding my homemaking skills... 

Every so often I would find myself perusing Moda's Bake Shop for free patterns, because Moda makes the cutest quilting fabric.  If you haven't looked into quilting lately, you probably still think it's mostly a lot of this:

Not ugly, but definitely more fitting for your grandmother's nursing home than anywhere else. 

But there are lots of great, modern designs being put out right now.  And they're released in coordinated collections, so you don't have to worry about everything going together.  In fact, you can buy pre-cut quilt pieces - so basically all you have to do is sew.

Easy, right?

In case you know differently (you know, from experience and not just fantasies in your own mind), just keep it to yourself for the time being.  Because look what I just won on Ebay.

Two charm packs of Moda's Fandango.  Charm packs are the smallest of the pre-cut quilt sets.  Instead of spending hundreds buying yards of fabric - you buy just a little and get one of all the different prints in a line.  The charm packs are made up of 42 5-inch squares.  Here's a bigger look at the collection.

Totally cute, right?

I scored both of them for $8.99 plus $2.50 for shipping (or $11.49 total) - which I think is a good deal because they retail individually for $9.50 each.

Yes, it might have been a bit of an impulse shopping, spurred on by the fact that I had almost that exact amount leftover in my PayPal account.  But I'd rather think of it as my first baby step into the amazing world of sewing.  The goal is to make a quilt.  Whether or not it will be nice enough to gift or will end up hidden in the back of a closet, we're just going to have to wait and see.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Online Fabric Shopping

I still haven't decided on a fabric for the dining room chairs.

Here's what they looked like when I first got them.

I finished painting them this weekend - LOVE!  They're now a beautiful satin black and look like a million bucks.  Well, they at least look like $200 bucks - which is $150 more than I paid.

The fabric looks more red in the picture, but it's actually a bright burnt orange.  And although I could make excuses that it works for Halloween, or that we're big UT fans, I want to change them ASAP.

I finally found a fabric that I really like.  A Waverly Sun N Shade fabric called Suva in Black. 

However, there is a problem.  I haven't seen it in person.  And while I was scouring the internet trying to find the best deal - I found that the color varies a lot from site to site. 

Here it is on ($7.08/yard if bought as a remnant piece):

That is the colorway I want.  The tan, brown and black would work really well in the space.  But here is the same fabric at ($10.98/yard):


We're back to a more tan color at Hancock's of Paducah ($9.58/yard):

However, at, it is more green again. ($9.25/yard)

As much as I love buying fabric online because of the great prices, it's always best to see a sample before falling in love.  The color is so subjective to the lighting, camera, monitor settings, etc. 

I bought a sample from ($1 a sample - no shipping).  So I'm waiting for it to arrive.  The sample is also good because this is an outdoor fabric - but I don't want it to feel too stiff or scratchy. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Only 20 More Days Until Halloween!

I started work on my son's Halloween costume this weekend.  He wants to be a mummy.

Actually, at first he wanted to be the drummer from Kiss (his favorite band - heavily influenced by the boyfriend's love of said band - I'm a Beatles girl myself).  So I started sketching ideas.  Pricing wigs and silver lame.  Looking for rocker boots in a toddler size. 

Then he decided to be a mummy.  Much easier.  Sigh of relief.

Then he wamted to be a vampire.  Which I nixed.  Because he's too young to wear the teeth - and without the teeth you're really just a creepy guy in a cape.

He was a little disappointed about not getting to be a vampire, so I decided to start the mummy costume and get him in on the process so he'd stop griping (he gripes a lot for a 4 year old - no idea where he gets that from).

I found this video online and I'm using it as my jumping off point.  So far we've got the strips ripped (sacrificed an old king top sheet we were no longer using - after trying a t-shirt sheet and discovering it wouldnt' work at all), dyed and dried.  Now I have to find him a white outfit to go underneath and pick up some spooky make-up. 

Mummy Makeup -
I like this look from Martha Stewart - but figure it would dry way too hard for a 4 year old to put up with - and it doesn't say anything about what to use to get glued paper towels off your face (including eyebrows) without taking half of your face off with it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Tale of Two Paintbrushes

I'm a big girl and all, but I have to admit that my mommy still buys my paintbrushes for me.

My mom, Queen of Bargain Hunting, is constantly finding high quality paint brushes for around 50 cents.  One time she had to pay 80 cents, and she almost didn't buy them (true story).  Since I paint a lot (way more than is normal), she always picks me up a handful. 

I'm really terrible about taking care of my brushes.  I usually designate one per paint color and only keep them if they're in really good condition.  And if I use oil-based paint - forget about it.  The rumor is you can use mineral spirits to clean your brushes after oil paint (says so right on the can), but I can't be bothered to test that theory out.  Not for 50 cents (or, technically, free) brushes.

However, with all the painting I've been doing lately, I ran out of stock.  So I braced myself and headed to pick up some paint brushes.

The key to a good paint job (especially on furniture) is in the quality of the brush.  That's why people spend $15-20 on a brush.  But I'll let you in on my paintbrush source and you'll never feel the need to spend that much.

That's right.  Big Lots.

I'm not a HUGE Big Lots fan.  Like most other stores, they have their good points and their bad points.  Just because it's there, don't automatically believe it's a great deal - because a lot of times their prices are higher than regular stores.  But I have gotten good deals there - like my Kodak EasyShare.  It was not refurbished (like a lot of Big Lots electronics) and was $15 cheaper than everywhere else I looked.  Sure, it can't take a decent picture in my cave of a house, but it takes great action kid shots.

Anyway, they have a paintbrush selection that is super cheap.  I've used their paintbrushes in the past and been pleased, so I had no issue with going straight there on the search for cheap paintbrushes for my dining table project.  I'm using oil-based paint for super durability, but since I don't clean them - there's no way I was going to spend $15 a brush.

The oil paint I am using suggested that I use a natural bristle paintbrush.  That's something I've never tried - so I had no idea what I was looking for.  I found this 3-pack for $2.  It said it had "Pure Bristles" which I guess means the same thing.  For only $2, I figured I could afford to give them a whirl.

Not surprisingly, these brushes were crap.  They shed like crazy, got terrible coverage, and left very prominent brushstrokes.

No more "Pure Bristles" for me.  Luckily, I had also tossed one of these in my basket.

I used this brand before and been pleased with the results.  It's called Painter's Essentials - and it might be a Big Lots brand for all I know.  I've never seen it anywhere else and they always seem to have them stocked.  I bought the 1 1/2" angled because of the detail on the chairs I was working on - $2.20.

My new, slightly less cheap, brush, worked wonders.  Smooth, even coverage - very few brushstrokes.  I went back yesterday and bought a couple of more to finish up the project.  The 2" brush sells for $2.50 at my Big Lots - in case you were curious.

So, before you run out and spend $15+ dollars on a paint brush, check out Big Lots.  You might get a bargain.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Craigslist Finds

I was very good this week and didn't buy anything off of Craigslist.  But I still like looking.

For a while, right around school starting, Craigslist here in Austin was overloaded with overpriced ugly furniture.  It's a smart thing to do - people are desperate, moving into new apartments, etc. - but it made my virtual shopping habit a little boring.

Thankfully things have picked up.  Here are a few beauties I found:

These were 2 chairs for sale for $30.  The only reason I didn't buy them was because there weren't actually in Austin - but in a small town about an hour away.  Otherwise I would be sitting in one right now.  Because I've been saving  this picture in my design folder for ages (under the name "lovelovelovelovelove.bmp"):

How I wish I had an office that looked like that.  Instead I have an office whose only decor can be called "wood tone" - varying shades from the wood paneling (!) to the wood desk (actually very nice) to the faux wood craft table and laminate wood filing cabinet.  You're jealous, right?

Then there was this beaten up dresser for $30:

Which would look lovely re-done shabby chic style - distressed white, maybe a stained top, bin pulls.  You know, the "blog" look.

Red Hen Home
 This solid oak table has been for sale for quite a while, so the owner has knocked the price down to only $25.  Good thing I just bought my own oak dining set.

I love the bottom detailing.

I think it would look great as a desk.  Because I love a place to prop up my feet.

And lastly, there's this cool chair.  It's a Swedish antique from the 1910s-20s (according to the seller).  $50. 

Which, of course, needs an Anthropologie-inspired redo.

And yes, I realize that this Anthropolgie chair is at least 2 years old.  But have you seen their new chairs?  I'm sorry, but this is ugly.

So is this.

And this.

It looks like the Cosby Sweater Collection. 

So save yourself about a thousand dollars and pick up something from Craigslist.