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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Are pricey towels worth the $$$?

As I mentioned on my FB page yesterday, my husband has an eagle eye.  You can't hide anything from him (e.g. when the cat knocked over a vase and warped our hardwood, the gouge I made in the hallway wall, when I accidentally spray painted our balcony window, etc).

So - of course he was going to notice that I had been systematically emptying our linen closet of towels and packing them away for a 2nd life in our Montana cabin.  Which meant, I needed to replace them sooner rather than later.

Luckily, Macy's is having a 4th of July sale.  These were the contenders:

After much deliberation and a nudge from the sales associate, I ended up taking the plunge and going with the Hotel Collection towels.  They're super-soft, get great reviews, and the words "hotel collection" make them seem luxurious (darn clever marketing ploy).

However - dropping all that dough on towels made me question if pricey towels truly are worth the $$$.  What do you think?  Would the towels below be just as nice as the expensive ones?

Mainstay Essentials in Gray (Walmart)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Revamped dining room table: Raindrops on Roses

Check out my sister's adventures in revamping her dining room table on her blog: Raindrops on Roses

A reupholstered chair seat using Waverly's Sun n Shade fabric in
Parterre Indigo (tip: indoor/outdoor fabric is super easy to clean)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ravella at Lake Las Vegas

At my sister's suggestion, I booked a Gilt Groupe deal at the Ravella at Lake Las Vegas for the weekend.

At first glance the resort looks a little silly/ostentatious (faux Italian villa), but in comparison to the accommodations on the strip - it's understated.

There were a few really great things about the resort: the friendly/efficient staff (e.g. my sister needed a spoon for my nephew's baby food, and it was delivered to our door in less than 5 minutes), the pool, and the fact we didn't have to deal with drunken yahoos and cigarette smoke.  There is an ample amount of dining options in the village, and tons of activities - including fishing, canoeing, concerts on the lawn, and movies at the pool.

The not so great: general maintenance of the grounds and rooms (e.g. peeling paint, a big stain on the carpet, weeds in the sand traps on the golf course) and maid service (a little slow).

However, it's hard to complain when the room was only $70/night.

My husband and nephew enjoying the pool

You can see more photos here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Rub 'n Buff experiment

I bought a tube of Rub 'n Buff  after exploring a variety of options for turning brass hardware silver (e.g. spray paint, silver leaf, and leafing pens).

In the end, I decided to stick with the original brass hardware on the nightstand I was refinishing, which left me with a tube of untried crafting fun.

Which leads me to the frame I bought at Ross for $3.00.  I didn't initially intend to put a silver accent on it, but I thought "Hey, why not." (note: click on photos to make them larger)



It's not a dramatic difference, but it satisfied my curiosity and demonstrated that the product actually works.

A couple other Rub 'n Buff projects:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

No fuss dinner/lunch (wheat berry salad)

The great thing about grain salads vs. traditional green salads is that they keep really well - which means leftovers from last night's dinner can be lunch at work for a week.

To make the wheat berry salad above you need:
1 c wheat berries (2c water, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for an hour)
1 c white beans
assorted vegetables (I used a green bell pepper and cucumber)

For the vinagrette:
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T white wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
minced shallot (2 T)
1/2 T dijon mustard
1/2 T honey
2 T chopped parsley

This "no fuss" salad made a delicious/healthy dinner, and there was enough leftover for at least a couple lunches (yay!).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Feeling blue (painted laminate nightstand)


The white laminate nightstand pictured above was another one of my Value Village finds - and cost me a whopping $9.99 + tax.

At first glance it didn't look too shabby - but a closer look revealed stains, warped spots, and ingrained dirt.  Also - I didn't get the oversized knob.  I'm sure its supposed to be whimsical/child like, but...
After cleaning and sanding a couple rough spots on the top, I primed the nightstand with Zinsser Cover Stain.  I let the primer dry, then lightly sanded to remove brush strokes and drips before applying two coats of RustOleum American Accents paint in wild flower blue.  Note: Its important to prime laminate before painting, otherwise your paint will eventually bubble.  On a positive note - you don't need to sand before priming.

A crystal knob, purchased at Anthropologie on sale for $2.95, added a lovely finishing touch.


It'll look perfect in one of the guest rooms in our Montana cabin (between two twin beds).  Purchasing a similar night stand brand-new could have cost me as much as $145.00.

 The DIY Show Off

The Shabby Nest

Monday, June 20, 2011

the Walrus and the Carpenter

On Sunday, Ed and I headed to the Walrus and the Carpenter - an oyster bar located in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood (NYT write up here).

Raw oysters, fried oysters, asparagus w/mint, smoked trout, steak tartar, manila clams, medjool dates with olive oil and sea salt, sticky toffee was food heaven.

(one of the yummiest, sweet/salty, desserts I've ever had: toffee pudding)

The decor was also inspiring:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Industrial Lighting

I'm not sure if you'd call the lighting pictured above "industrial" or "modern" or "rustic" - but whatever the style I know for certain it fits in with the theme I'm imagining for our new cabin.  It'll also be a great improvement over the fixtures that were there previously (before the place was gutted by the former owners).

1.  Fisherman Ceiling Fixture, $51.99 at
2.  Firefly Pendant Lamp, $199.00 at
3.  Calhoun Glass Pendant, $149.00 at  
4.  Bronze Pendant, $84.06 at

The "before" shots (I'll post "after" shots once the lights have been installed)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Smoky Mussels and Clams with White Wine Broth

Yes - my husband and I (sometimes) scoff at cooking instructions, as evidenced by the dish above, Smoky Mussels and Clams with White Wine Broth.

Instead of hassling with the grill, we decided to make the dish on the stove top - and it still turned out beautifully.

Oh, and instead of serving the clams and mussels with a side of crusty bread we decided to whip up a side  of boiled shrimp.  We're cooking rebels.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Random Things

$2.50 at Anthropologie - it'll adorn my next furniture project.
(the milk glass dish was purchased at an antique shop)
Packing for a weekend in NYC

Comfy sandals for walking

Beautiful windows in High Line

Ed looking mighty preppy

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gray, gold, and white bedroom

As I mentioned in a previous post (here), the hubby and I bought a vacation home - which means I now have 4 bedrooms to decorate (among other things).

I'm planning to paint one of the bedrooms gray - and a recent Ross purchase (photo below) inspired me to go with a gray, gold, and white theme (inspiration board/details above).

I don't want to spend a ton of money decorating a place that's not our primary residence - so I've been scouring our storage space, thrift, and discount stores for items.  My goal is to keep the decorating budget for this room below $200.00 (I must admit the art ate up 25% the budget, but I couldn't resist).

Other gray & gold inspiration (via Pinterest)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Painted thrift store nightstand

(my cat is so nosy!)

I found the lovely (yet warped/scratched/scruffy) nightstand, pictured above, on a thrifting adventure with my partner in crafting, Leigh.

While it looked like a hot mess - I thought it had potential (solid wood, woohoo!) - so I ponied up $9.99 + tax and took it home.

For my maiden painting voyage I used: Zinsser spray primer (oil-based - needed a primer since it was so damaged), Rust-oleum spray paint in heirloom white (1.5 cans), Minwax water-based poly-acrylic, a mask, a medium grain sanding sponge, and a drop cloth.  I relied heavily on the tutorial here and the FAQ's here - both via Centsational Girl.

"Work in Progress"

If I had a time machine I would do the following differently:  I'd use a brush on primer, which goes on thicker, on the top of the night-stand for durability and to hide blemishes, and I would do a better job sanding my primer drips (it took me a while to perfect my spray paint technique).

I'm going to sew a little runner for the top of the nightstand using the material I bought to re-upholster the chair in a post below.


A couple notes:  I didn't sand all the original finish off, I only sanded enough to rough up the surface of the nightstand and remove any lacquer/debris.  The mask is definitely a MUST when you're sanding and painting (wood particles/fumes).  If I ever paint anything bigger than a nightstand I'm definitely using traditional paint.  The fumes are KILLER (and bad for the environment, I feel a little guilty, but re-using furniture instead of buying new furniture must get me some carbon credits, right?). Finally, re-painting furniture doesn't take a huge time commitment.  My total "active" time on this project was probably an hour.

The DIY Show Off

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Asparagus Frittata

This recipe was the culmination of two of my husband's favorite things (right now): Twitter and our toaster oven.

One of his foodie friends tweeted the recipe (originally from the NYT), and the hubby seized the opportunity to use his favorite kitchen appliance.

The wonderful thing about a toaster oven is that it preheats in a couple of minutes - so as soon as you finish your chopping and whisking you can pop the dish right into the oven.  The wonderful thing about this dish is that healthy (and basically fool proof).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

DIY: easy chair reupholstery


I've been reading a lot of DIY blogs lately (such as Centsational Girl), which has inspired me to try my hand at thrifting and re-finishing/re-upholstering furniture.

I picked up the chair above at Value Village for $5.00.  I loved the look of the wood, but the retro 70's mustard velvet corduroy upholstery was a bit of a turn-off.
To reupholster the seat, I needed: fabric (I picked one from Dwell Studio at Jo-Ann, 50% off) , scissors, a screw driver, and a staple-gun.  

I unscrewed the seat from the chair, used it as a pattern to cut my fabric, and then tightly wrapped the new fabric around the seat - stapling as I went.  I saved the corners for last, and experimented with a few folding techniques until I got the look I wanted.

When I reattached the seat I also tightened the other bolts in the chair.


The chair is going to look fantastic in one of our guestrooms!  Next project: refinishing/painting an old nightstand ($10.00).

Note: I purchased new foam for the chair, but since the old fabric/foam was in good shape, I decided to just put the new fabric over the old.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quick Shrimp Chowder

I had some leftover heavy cream in the fridge, so I decided to try out this super easy recipe for Quick Shrimp Chowder.

It truly is a fast dish to make.  Even though I didn't use a pre-chopped onion & carrot - the dish only took me about twenty-five minutes from start to finish (woohoo!).

Note:  If the soup is too bland for you - simply add a bit of salt/pepper or a dash of your favorite hot sauce.  I put diced avocado on top of my soup for a little extra creaminess (and because I LOVE avocado).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cake mix cookies = minor disaster

Over the weekend I decided to bite the bullet and try making a batch of cake-mix cookies

Based on the reviews for this recipe for Gooey Butter Cookies - I assumed they'd be the easiest/yummiest cookies I've ever made.

That wasn't the case.

The cookies were a piece of cake to prep, but really no easier than any other cookie I've made from scratch.  Also, the baking time really threw me for a loop.  From the reviews I knew I wanted to avoid over-baking at all costs - but when I popped the cookies out of the oven after the allotted baking time, the cookies were a raw/gooey mess.

I ended up baking each batch for about 20 minutes, and the cookies were still a bit too soft - but maybe that's just the nature of gooey butter cookies (?).  

Even though these cookies seemed a bit imperfect to me, the end result was tasty and the cookies went fast.   However, they weren't amazing enough to sell me on cake-mix cookies.

Note: I found the added step of refrigerating the dough before dropping it in the powdered sugar (which some reviewers recommend) to be uneccessary - since I used a cookie scoop and therefore didn't really have to worry about stickiness.  Also, these are incredibly rich cookies!  Eat at your own risk :)