Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tastes of My Childhood

I already mentioned that J and I spent 3 1/2 hours baking, cooking and cleaning up after our Sunday night dinner. What I didn't mention is how delicious the end result was, nor did I share with you the details of what exactly we were working on for that long!

First, I decided to use the KitchenAid Stand Mixer again and make some more fresh bread, this time classic white bread. It turned out even better than my French bread last week.

Next, we chopped and chopped vegetables for Paul Prudhomme's Pasta Primavera (something I've been wanting and missing) and a side salad of oil and vinegar slaw (something J had been craving all week).

My dad learned to cook (and boy can he cook!) with Chef Paul Prudhomme's cookbooks, especially Louisiana Kitchen and Fiery Foods That I Love. It began at a time where my parents had three children under five and little money for a babysitter. My parents would put us to bed, pour themselves a glass of wine and crack open the cookbook. This dish quickly became a family favorite, one that I requested for my birthday dinner year after year. It was also the meal I requested as my "last meal," made the night before I moved to Omaha for college.

Pasta Primavera, taken from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen cookbook

For the Seasoning Mix:
2 1/2 teaspoons dried sweet basil leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced carrots, cut on the diagonal

2 cups sliced zucchini

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced

1 cup asparagus tips or 3/4 cup snow peas--
I prefer asparagus but usually buy whatever looks more fresh in the store
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup prosciutto, cut into thin strips

2 cups cauliflower florets

1 pound of spaghetti

Kitchen Supplies:
Large skillet pan
Pasta pan

Combine the seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl (Makes approximately 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoon). Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When oil is very hot, add prosciutto, cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots and zucchini. Add the butter and as it melts, stir in the garlic and all of the seasoning mix. Next, stir in the asparagus tips or snow peas and green onions. Stir well and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about four to five minutes. Stir in the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce has a thickened a bit, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package. Drain and add hot pasta to the skillet. Toss well and serve with hot bread.

I've noticed that my recipe blog posts have been filled with lots of stories along with the usual recipes this week. To me, a recipe is just another keepsake, like scrapbooks or photo albums, that can take you back to a specific time and place or a feeling you had. The smells and tastes in familiar foods always trigger some sort of memory for me, some of which I've shared here! In fact, I think cooking (and eating) has quickly become my favorite way to reminisce.  I hope you try some of these recipes and make new food memories with your family! 

Happy cooking and happy memories everyone!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bedroom Redesign Post #4: Picassa Mi Casa

Forgive the bad pun, but I am back after a brief hiatus (not from blogging, just from posts of the bedroom redesign) to reveal how we repainted several pieces of furniture to better compliment the bedding and bedside table already in the room.

As many of you know, I decided to makeover our bedroom as a surprise for J when he returned from Omaha this summer after being away for 8 weeks. I've already mentioned that I scored this beauty of a dresser for twenty-five dollars at one of my favorite thrift store haunts, Value Village.

And you've most likely seen spoilers of the finished product here, here and here to name a few. Well, here she is in all of her glory!


Here's how I did it. J and I are fortunate to have an unfinished basement (and neighbors willing to put up with my many projects) to use for painting, which definitely came in handy since the humid weather in St. Louis in July is less than ideal for painting. I removed and spray painted the handles yellow, to add a little punch to the drawers. Next, I painted the drawers a slightly darker color in semi-gloss paint. I painted the base of the dresser a complimentary color in a satin finish, to add even more contrast between the two.

After letting it dry for several days, I (with Ashlee's help!) moved the piece back into the bedroom. As Woods has taken to laying out on the dresser, I picked up two place mats to protect the top of it from rambunctious kitties. It has also served as a new game for Woods--run at top speed into the room, leap onto the dresser and watch the mats fly!

Because we have little closet space, I knew I needed to incorporate our other dresser into the new room as well. With some leftover white paint from our telephone table, and the other two colors from the new dresser, Ashlee and I taped off a fun graphic pattern and got to painting. We were really pleased with the end result:

We weren't finished though. We also painted our other nightstand to match, again with a bright graphic pattern.

And that's how, after several marathon painting sessions, we were finally put down the paint brush! We were very happy with the end results. What do you think, friends? Have you taken on any new painting projects? Do you have any tips for anyone else wanting to paint furniture?

P.S. Want to read about the bedroom makeover from the beginning? Here are parts one, two and three. Next up, I share why J and I were chopping and cooking for 3+ hours!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grandpa's Gazpacho

I wanted to make a soup for J and I to have for lunches this week. I had two qualifications that I was hoping would be met:

1) Soup full of vegetables to help with this resolution
2) Soup that could be served hot or cold since J doesn't always have access to a microwave come lunch time

My grandpa's Gazpacho immediately came to mind. Every summer during our week long stay in Michigan, my Papa makes Gazpacho. To me, a cup of this cold soup tastes like summer. Some of my earliest memories are of Papa sharpening his knives and preparing all of the ingredients for his creation. Some years the kitchen would be our picnic table outside by the pool so that he could take in the Lake Michigan breezes. Other years it was on the worn wooden table in the old farmhouse's kitchen. No matter the location of the "kitchen," the soup was always delicious! A large metal pot always occupied the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so that as uncles, aunts, and cousins came back from town, the golf course or the beach, lunch would be ready and waiting.

In honor of Papa's birthday on Sunday, I've decided to share his recipe with all of you. Enjoy!

A vintage picture of my Grandpa and Dr. Paul cooking

Grandpa's Gazpacho

1 15 oz. can whole tomatoes
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
2 ripe tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped cucumber

1/2 cup sliced green onions

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 cups V8 juice

1 large tablespoon horseradish
cup white wine, such as Chablis

1 tablespoon dried parsley, 2 tablespoons if using fresh
1 can condensed beef bouillion

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can black olives, sliced

Kitchen Supplies:
1 large stock pot
Blender or food processor

Chop tomatoes (whole, Ro-tel and fresh) in the food processor or blender. Pour into large container. Add green pepper, cucumber, zucchini, green onion and garlic. Add remaining ingredients and let chill in refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Serve with herb croutons, if desired.

There is quite a bit of chopping involved and lots of ingredients, but it is so worth it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

So, about those weekend plans...

Woods, "helping" put away groceries yesterday afternoon

I accomplished about half of what I had set out to do this weekend.

I had a great time at Clever Betty's craft show and got a very cute business card case from her to hold all of my cards: debit, credit, gift and otherwise (like this one but with different colors)!

I made some fresh white bread and read some of my new book.

I did not recover the chairs in our dining room, nor did I go on a bike ride.

Instead, J and I shared a spot of tea with some good friends yesterday at the London Tea Room, one of my favorite places here in the Lou.

I made my grandpa's gazpacho (on his birthday no less!) for lunches this week. In fact, I have a bowl of it waiting for me as soon as I finish this post--yum!

We also spent 3 1/2 hours baking, cooking and cleaning up after our Sunday night dinner feast. It was fun but I was exhausted and in bed by 9:30 last night!

How was your weekend, friends? Hopefully a little more successful than mine!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekend Plans

This weekend promises to be a busy but fun one. First, I am heading to the second to the last weekend of the Farmer's Market we love to visit for some fresh fruit and vegetables. I can't believe summer is over!

Then, Ashlee and I are heading to see our friend Lauren over at Clever Betty's booth at Strange Folk Festival. It is the first show of Lauren's we have gotten to go to, so we are both very excited!

I also plan on visiting a fabric store to buy new fabric so I can recover our dining room chairs. While I am there, I will look into buying some fabric to cover the back of our dining room hutch. You see, ever since I got a new circular rug at Target, our chairs just haven't matched like I was hoping they would. Since it's a fast and cheap change, I am going to recover them again. And, like last year, I will probably do it while watching the Notre Dame game!

Sunday plans include making some more fresh bread, reading my new book on Haitian history, and perhaps a bike ride or walk in the park.

What are your plans, friends? Whatever they are, have a happy weekend everyone!


J and I have been watching Aarti Party religiously lately and have been drooling over the wonderful Indian dishes she creates on her show each Sunday. We also watched her rise to stardom on Next Food Network Star earlier this year. Basically we are Food Network junkies.

While we have been loving her show, we have yet to try any of her recipes. It's not that J and I don't like Indian food--we love it and actually have a few favorite places here and in Omaha that we like to frequent! It's that we don't have the spice cabinet necessary to whip up her dishes; that is, until now.

Last Thursday I visited Penzeys Spices for the first time. We have a big beautiful basket of spices that we were gifted by a dear friend of ours for our wedding from there (the Omaha location) and when I heard there was a St. Louis store, I leaped at the chance to go there myself. Many minutes later I emerged with all the spice ingredients necessary to make Aarti's Baked Samosas (and most of the rest of her food). The price tag was great as well: $10.87! Granted the jars are fairly small (1/4 cup jars) but each of those size jars at the grocery store would have set me back at least double that!

Excuse the picture, my camera hates me...

We also had a few of the other spices she calls for in her recipe on hand such as coriander seeds and black peppercorns, courtesy of our spice rack we received as a gift from our wedding--score!

While we haven't made the samosas yet (and I will be sure to tell you all about it when we do!), we now have the spices to tackle this, and most, of Aarti's amazing meals! Happy cooking!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Easy upgrade

This weekend I made an easy upgrade to our kitchen that was long overdue. J and I have six pounds of penne pasta and ten pounds of long grain rice from Sam's Club that we have been storing somewhat precariously in our pantry. We like to buy these items in bulk for two reasons:

1) It saves us a lot of money and we consume these dried goods on a fairly routine basis.
2) It makes throwing together a quick meal, such as fried rice or fettucine alfredo, almost brainless. This is most helpful when I am exhausted from work and J is brain dead from studying and neither of us feel like cooking. This saves us from going out to eat, which in turn saves us money. A tautology, perhaps, but one that I am completely comfortable with.

Anyway, I digress. The point is we have these extremely large bags of dried goods with nowhere to put them. Until this weekend. I purchased two glass containers from Crate and Barrel, and voila! Instant upgrade!

We have already tapped into these jars twice and I can tell you that it is much easier and faster to access them off of our counter than digging through our pantry to find them. Plus, there is virtually no chance of them spilling all over the floor, which was a real possibility with our previous arrangement. Although, to be honest, Woods could probably figure out some way to spill the jars as well. Here's hoping he leaves them alone!

Psst...if the containers look familiar, it's because they made a cameo appearance in this post earlier this week. Bonus points to you if you noticed them already!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ashlee's Mini Room Makeover

My dear friend Ashlee (the one that helped with the bedroom furniture), her husband Justin and their sheltie Finley recently completed a complete mini makeover of their living room to amazing results! She was kind enough to let me feature it on the blog!

Here is her email:
Justin and I decided to mini makeover our living room because our current rug showed way too much of Finley's dog hair. We went with more neutrals to make the room feel brighter. We moved the red and purple rug into our dining area because the colors complemented our wine theme and moved the purple pillows to be used in another room. We used existing picture frames, figurines, etc but repainted them in order to have a more cohesive look. No waste!

Their adorable Sheltie, Finley


The breakdown:

Almond colored rug: $60.00 (on sale at Lowe's)

White linen curtains: $15.00 (Target)

White Valspar spraypaint: $3.00 (used it to repaint some glass figurines, decor items)

Black glossy craft paint: $3.00 (used it to repaint all the picture frames)

Pillows: $35.00 (Had the green and brown already, the white pillows with the teal, lime and brown flowers were on clearance at Bed Bath and Beyond for $12.00 each, and the brown pillow we just recovered with a $10.00 cover from Bed Bath and Beyond)
Coffee table runner: $4.00 (World Market)
Decorative wine bottles, tray, teal bowl: already had

TOTAL: $120

Isn't that amazing? I love how light and airy the new room looks! That almond rug lightens the whole room, including the existing carpet underneath. I am also in love with the price tag and their "work with what you've got" attitude. Makes me want to makeover our living room. Thanks for sharing Ashlee and Justin and enjoy your serene and fresh new room!

P.S. If anyone else out there has a makeover, mini or otherwise, that they would like to feature on the blog please send me an email at ktrefinishingschool [at]gmail [dot] com.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Books, or My To-Read List

Yesterday I went to the local library and checked out four new books. After I devoured The Time Traveler's Wife this weekend, I realized I should really make more of an effort to read books. With J's busy law school schedule kicking into high gear, it will be a welcome distraction as I get lost in other worlds. Three of the four novels I selected are very different from each other, but I suppose that is why I chose them. Once I finish a novel, I usually like to follow it up with something completely different. Here is what I chose (and a little tidbit about why):

O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell--a twist on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, this novel appealed to me because it reminded me of other modern interpretations of classic works from my childhood that I've loved, like The Wind Done Gone and March, reimaginings of Gone with the Wind and Little Women respectively.

All Souls' Rising by Madison Smartt Bell--an epic novel about the Haitian revolution, I chose this novel because many websites I read said it is the definitive historical novel about Haiti. I have wanted to learn more about the Western Hemisphere's second democracy and first black republic to declare independence and figured this might be a good place to start. I would be remiss not to say I am very much looking forward to reading Isabel Allende's Island Beneath the Sea! Sadly my library does not yet have a copy.

Mercy by Jodi Picoult--I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I am a Jodi Picoult fiend. I read, no devour, her books. Once I start them I cannot put them down, often times swatting away tears as I read. I have not read some of her earlier works, like Mercy, which is what drew me to this novel. I have a feeling she will not let me down.

Between Friends by Kristy Kiernan--a compelling novel about surrogacy and secrets between friends, it looks both timely and interesting. A Jodi Picoult-esque novel to read in the likely event that Mercy leaves me hungry for more.

I have them on loan for three weeks and would really like to read them all before then. I plan on updating this blog as I finish each one with a slightly more extensive review on the books and what I thought of them.
Woods inspects my new reading list.

Four novels, three weeks. Think I can do it friends? Which book would you start with? Any here that you've read or think I should read based on this list? Do share!

Also, I want to wish a very happy birthday to my baby brother. He is sixteen years old today and probably out terrorizing the roads right now--just kidding buddy!

My brothers and Dad in our pool circa 1996/7.

I love you and wish I could be there to celebrate with you!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weekend Events

This weekend was a busy but happy one. First, we saw two of our good friends get married in a beautiful and very personal outdoor wedding! Their siblings shared readings they selected for the couple which had all of us laughing, smiling and nodding our heads in agreement--the readings fit the couple and their relationship so well! A reception at a yummy local Thai restaurant that followed perfectly capped off the day.

You may kiss the bride!

Yesterday I spent the day reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I know I am a bit behind the curve on reading this book since they have already made a movie about it, but I tried to read it once when it first came out and couldn't get into the novel. This time, I couldn't put it down. Part of the novel is set in the township of South Haven, MI which is where my family has a vacation home. It was so fun to read the novel and recognize places I've grown to know and love, like St. Basil's Church! I started and finished this novel in one day, something I haven't done in a long time and felt oh so good. Her follow-up novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, is likewise haunting and delicious. I strongly recommend them both to you!

I also spent time on Sunday baking French bread, using my KitchenAid Stand Mixer as a bread maker for the first time. It was a smashing success and created a great aroma in the house that I enjoyed while reading my book and drinking some Irish Breakfast tea on our couch.

Fresh bread, anyone?

Overall, it was a very relaxing and beautiful weekend around here. How was your weekend, friends?

Friday, September 17, 2010

August Goals, Revisited

Well since it's halfway through September, I guess I should probably update you all on my August goals and set some new ones through September! You should join with me and if you have a blog or website where you've listed your goals for the month, leave a comment with a link so we can be accountable together!

1) Update rest of personal information with new name. See while I changed my name almost a month ago now (read about it here), I still have some odds and ends that are in my maiden name and need to be changed ASAP. Grade: B; I changed information on my car, my bank accounts, etc. but I still have a few more hanging over my head that I really need to just bite the bullet and fix!

2) Get car re-inspected and licensed. My car had some major health issues (practically non-existent bushings meant the undercarriage could collapse at any moment-yikes) that caused it to fail its last inspection. We now thankfully have that fixed, so now its time to reinspect and get new plates! Grade: A; I now have Missouri plates on the old lady Eleanor (that's my car's name) and plans to use my old California plates in a decor project in the kitchen--stay tuned for details!

3) Sell remaining wedding items (tea bag caddies, cake knives and ribbon) on Ebay or Craigslist. I over-ordered slightly on several items, like tea bags with our monogram and wedding date (not re-usable) and tea cups (completely re-usable and resell-able). I also took on several projects (like individual cakes on each table, hence the cake knives) that I ultimately decided not to pursue. These items are taking up space in my closet and could definitely go to a good home! Grade: F; I didn't even open a listing on either site or take pictures of the items to ready them for sale. This is a high priority for this month. They are sitting in my closet taking up space when they could be gone with money in the bank.

4) Sell my barely used i-Touch on Ebay or Craigslist. I got an i-Touch in October of last year when I got my new Mac laptop. I only used it a few times before getting my iPhone back in February. Grade: A-; I did sell my i-Touch this month, but only because I sold it to J's mom who saw my "listing" on the blog.

5) Blog more. I'd like to blog at least twice a week for the rest of August! Grade: C+; I did do a better job of blogging than the month of July (10 posts versus 3) but still haven't gotten into the swing of a twice a week posting schedule. I also introduced a monthly feature that I am really excited about! My challenge for this month is to try to not only blog twice a week, but be more consistent in the days and times that I post so that you can know when to expect a post from KT.

6) Waste less food. I hope to achieve this goal by planning meals and actually eating them, and also eating the leftovers. J and I did pretty well at this the week before we left for our honeymoon, but I'd like to see us continue this habit throughout August (and beyond)! Grade: B+; J and I did very well on this over the past month. We make weekly menus and I ate the leftovers from the dinners for lunch every day. This past week has been more difficult as we had a visitor which sort of threw off our groove. I would like to continue this into next month, as well as try not to eat out quite as much on the weekends and instead find other things to do with friends that don't always involve going out to dinner!

7) Cancel gym membership. J and I have been running (when its not 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity) together 5-6 times a week. As such, I haven't been using my gym membership and could save a little cash by letting this expense go. Grade: D; While I researched the requirements to cancel my membership, I never did make the call. In the winter months I'm not sure I will be able to keep running outside like we have been doing, so for now I will postpone canceling the membership and simply put a freeze on my account for 3 months (no charge from the gym to do so) until I see how exercise in winter months shapes up!

8) Start plans for my side business. More on this to come but let's just say I am very excited at the prospect! Grade: F; I have been so busy with visitors, work, and friends lately that I have had almost no time to devote to this. I hope to improve this score by several letter grades by next month!

9) Eat more fruits and veggies. J and I have been going to a local farmer's market on Saturdays when we can, but I'd like to see us increase our intake of yummy fruits and vegetables and take advantage of the abundant summer harvest while it's still around! Grade: B+; J and I have gone to the farmer's market a few times this month and have tried to eat at least one fruit or vegetable with each lunch and dinner. For this month, I'd like to try to eat one fruit or vegetable for breakfast, lunch and dinner at least 3 days a week!

10) Take Woods to the vet. Our little kitten is now a year old and needs his yearly check-up, complete with shots. It's not fun, but something that definitely needs to get done this month! Grade: A; We took Woods last week right before my aunt came into town. He was pretty lethargic and stiff the next day from the 3 shots he had to get, but with a visitor to inspect and follow around, he quickly snapped out of it!

Overall, I think my grade for the whole month of August is about C+ or so, which is not bad since we've been pretty busy and had some changes in our schedule in the last month that have sort of thrown a wrench in our plans. I have higher hopes for this month, however, so here are a few new goals for September (or what's left of it)!

1) Work out with J 4 out of the 5 weekdays, plus one day on the weekend. We were better about this in the first part of August, but with school starting back up for J, this has sort of fallen by the wayside. I'd like that to change this month, even throwing some morning workouts (a first for us as a couple!) to make sure we get the job done!

2) Restring my guitar and attend a local bluegrass guitar pick. A local brew house offers Sunday afternoon pick sessions where people of all abilities can play together. I'd like to brush up on my skills and join in on the fun! You see, for 5 years my aunt and I worked in the box office of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and I got to see some great shows and truly develop a love for bluegrass. After reminiscing with her last weekend, I realized how much I miss playing guitar and bluegrass in general, which makes me anxious to get out there and play!

3) Reorganize and slim down my closet. My closet is a mess and I have trouble finding clothes in my closet in the morning, let alone deciding what to wear. I want to clear it out, pare it down to things I actually wear on a regular basis and consign or donate the clothes that don't make the cut!

4) Take more pictures! This applies to daily activities as well as DIY projects I undertake. I've noticed that when I start to blog about a past project, I am often missing shots like a before picture or a picture documenting the process. I want to be more diligent about taking photos of things other than Woods.

5) Go apple picking and make some yummy goodness out of our harvest!

So there you have it. My somewhat successful attempt to set and achieve goals over the last month or so. Now it's your turn, what are your goals for September?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wedding Class 101: Accessorize Yourself

Today J and I have been married for 3 months, and in acknowledgment of this fact, I have decided to start a new feature here at KT's Refinishing School: Wedding Classes.

Once a month, on our monthiversary--its a word according to Urban Dictionary--I will hold a session featuring some tips (based on my own experience) for wedding planning. If you are not a bride-to-be, do not tune out: most of these tips can also be applied to any type of party so it promises to be an information-rich post for everyone!

This first class will focus on accessories, and how I was able to shower our bridesmaids with gifts without breaking the bank. The key to giving luxurious gifts without the price tag is to shop early and often. As soon as you have the specifics of the event (be it a wedding or favors for a birthday party) such as color, theme, and venue, start thinking (and looking) for accessories that would compliment the event. Keep a running list in your head (or a physical one on your iPhone, Blackberry, Droid, etc) of the types of gifts you are looking for. My list looked something like this:

1) Necklace and earrings that are wedding appropriate, but also something they would truly wear again
3) Something to hold their lip gloss, bobby pins, etc.
4) A just-in-case item such as an umbrella in case (God forbid!) it rained on our June wedding

Our wedding was in Omaha, Nebraska where J and I met and went to school. Most of our wedding party (including us!) were coming in from out of town, so it was really important for me to give them meaningful gifts that truly expressed to them how much it meant to us that they made the journey to be with us! Depending on your budget (and the deals you find) your list may include more or less items! I will also note that J and I were engaged for 20 months, which gave me a long window of time to find those deals.

With these ideas in mind, I began paying attention when I shopped at department stores and old favorites like New York & Company and GAP. I purposefully began looking at jewelry, handbags and accessories at each store I visited just to get an idea of what was out there.

Note: if you do not have 20 months to shop around (which you really won't if you are planning a birthday or dinner party), you may want to spend an afternoon (or several) with the express purpose of checking those items off your list.

After several weeks of looking around, I found the mother of all deals for the girls' necklaces. Double, interlocked rings studded with diamonds from Macy's. That's right, I said diamond necklaces. Sounds expensive, right? Well, check out the price tag: $7.50, marked down from $150.00. I am not kidding. When I saw the deal, I snatched up five for my 'maids immediately. They had been on the floor of Macy's for a while, as evidenced by their price, and were a bit tarnished. However, with a bit of my jewelry cleaner at home (which I got when J and I got with my engagement ring) they were as good as new! The necklaces were a perfect tie-in for what was going to happen in June: the joining of two lives and the exchange of rings! Lesson: Don't be afraid of clearance items just because they are a bit dusty or tarnished. One of the reasons they are on clearance is because they have been sitting on the floor for a while and the store wants to move them!

Because it was around Christmas time when I purchased the necklaces, Macy's also had some great deals on earrings. I was able to get the girls pink pearl earrings for 12.00 dollars each, which complemented our color scheme of champagne, light pink, shamrock green and ivory very well. For those out there who are registered at Macy's, I highly recommend considering opening a Macy's Star Rewards credit card if you do not have one already. In the time before your wedding, you will get five percent back in cash rewards after the wedding for all purchases you make with your card (not to mention a percentage back on all gifts guests purchase off of your registry). I always pay off my balance with my debit card immediately after I make a purchase at the Macy's counter so my card never even carries a balance. Lesson: Make your money work for you, whether through rewards programs like Star Rewards at Macy's or else online with places like Ebates. You are already going to be spending money. Make it work for you!

Note to those who may have be concerned with using a credit card or have CC debt: you may want to consider only using sites like Ebates that allow you to pay with a debit card, as opposed to reward credit cards like Macy's to limit your use of CCs.

With earrings and necklaces checked off my list, next up were some sort of purse or clutch for the 'maids to carry their cell phone, ID, lip gloss, etc. on our wedding day. On a visit to one of my favorite stores, New York & Company, I found camel and brown wristlets perfect for the task. Even better was their price tag. Right off the bat, the wristlets were half off. I also had a New York & Company coupon that also took twenty dollars off when I spent fifty dollars or more. Because I was shopping for clothes already (including an outfit for our honeymoon and the dress I wore to our wedding rehearsal) I was able to get the wristlets for 5.00 each, when their original price was 15.00! Lesson: double coupons and sales are your friend. Keep an eye out for great sales and don't be afraid to buy them months ahead of when you will actually use them!

Finally, I decided instead of a parasol or umbrella, a pashmina wrap who be best for inclement weather: chilly, rainy or sunny! When shopping with J's stepmom for his sister's flower girl dress, I came across yet another great deal: $9 pashmina wraps in the perfect light pink color! I quickly snapped some up, just in case! Considering I had seen others at shopping mall kiosks for $10 a piece, I felt better knowing that I was saving $6 total by getting them at a department store. The weather ended up being perfect for our wedding, but the wraps added a great little pop of color when the girls used them as shawls at the reception. Lesson: Small savings can really add up when you are purchasing more than 2-3 of the item!

So that's how, with a little hard work and diligence, we were able to shower our bridesmaids with gifts without breaking the bank. What do you think? Do you have any money saving tips or recent scores? As they say on YHL, share and share alike!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


We have had a few visitors around here lately, including the best man from our wedding last weekend, and my aunt will be visiting us this weekend. We have a lot planned: cocktails tonight at the restaurant my cousin works at, dinner at another cousin's house tomorrow night, farmer's market Saturday morning before the Nebraska and Notre Dame games, the later of which will include a large viewing party again at my cousin's home. I usually have to watch Notre Dame games alone or at least with not very enthusiastic fans, J and Woods. J is too much of a Big Red fan to ever truly root for Notre Dame. Woods just gets confused when I yell and cheer loudly at the TV. No matter this weekend, as I will be surrounded by fans, family and love.

Visitors can be tricky around here. We have a pull-out couch, but it is the living room which has three major drawbacks:

1) Noise. Our apartment is right off of a fairly busy street and while we cannot hear traffic (except for the occasional fire truck) from our bedroom, the noise is quite a bit louder in the living room.

2) Light. We do not have curtains in the living room currently and while we have blinds, the light from street lamps makes for a less than ideal sleeping room.

3) Woods. Woods is very territorial over what he deems as his couch, and has been known to bite over this perceived invasion of his property, as has been documented earlier on this blog. We have never tried an overnight guest on that couch, but can only imagine what he might do in the middle of the night if the mood strikes. I fear that it may be somewhat like his torture of J and I the first few months we had him, in which we got little sleep and were covered in scratches and bites on a daily basis.
Woods attacking his tail.
You would not want this terror turned on you, trust me!

Now we do have a second bedroom, but as this houses two desks, we do not currently have a guest bed. As I have said before, I hope in the future is to get a new bed (a girl can dream) and move the current bed into the guest room. Luckily, our friends Justin and Ashlee came to our rescue and not only let us borrow their queen size air mattress, but also lent us their lovely sheets and comforter. Our guests over the last two weekends have stayed with us in style.
This week, I decided to spiff up our guest room space a bit with a small folding table and a few personal touches. I placed a small Tiffany-style lamp that normally is housed on my desk, a few new magazines including the newest Vanity Fair and New Yorker for some light and interesting reading, a glass for water, some hand lotion, and a small dish for her rings, watch and other accessories.
I also wrote up a little note (on the backside of some left over Thank You notes from our wedding) for her. The finishing touch, a frame, (which my aunt gifted us) with a picture of the two of us from our wedding a few months ago. Along the lines of YHL, I would like to swap out the current photo for others of us with our future guests when they come to visit us.
I finished it off with a few pillows from our room (which compliment Justin and Ashlee's bedding perfectly) and some fresh towels. Our office is now guestroom ready! What do you think? What are your weekend plans, friends?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Look familiar?

I was looking through old YHL mood boards when I found something that looked very familiar.

Yep, that's our duvet cover, way before we even found it at Urban Outfitters. I think it looks great in our room and the reader's room, don't you think?!

Woods certainly approves!