Painting Puppies

Last year for Scott’s birthday, I painted him a 5×5 inch portrait of a Boston Terrier on a slab of wood panel.  At the time, we were smitten with those little bundles of love and all their pink-tongue, wet-nosed glory.  Since we couldn’t quite imagine hunkering down and adopting one just yet, I thought a little reminder of our future puppy goal would be the perfect gift.  Take a peek at where it hangs in our entry, the perfect spot as we come and go (the right image is just a head-on view).

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Not only did we end up with our own live pup less than a year later, as it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a fitting gift.  Since we’ve hung the tiny portrait, several house guests and friends have asked for one as well.  Or if you’re one of my closets gal pals, Penina, you hint strongly at how you would love one as a gift.  Her clues began dropping as early as last Fall, and I made a mental note to make sure and whip her up a little piece of art.  Fast forward not quite a year later, and the time came.  Her birthday was July 29th, and using a photo I had taken of her furry canine, Rider, I did exactly as I promised my brain I would.

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Why the pants? I mean, really, pants? We all know that most nicknames don’t make sense, and they usually evolve over time.  In this case: Rider > Rider Fatpants > Pants.  Poor pup never had a choice in the matter, but there it is.  Rider ultimately became Pants, and I knew I had to somehow work that in.  The Pants portrait now hangs happily in Penina’s kitchen, where that innocent grin can be the center of attention.

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

You want it? We had it.  Clothes, media, furniture, decor, bikes, and the list goes on.  Gadgets and gizmos.  Widgets and doodads.  Everything but the kitchen sink.  I told you not too long ago how we love a yard sale, so why not hold one of our own? Here’s the full scoop on that big day.

It was cold that morning.  The coldest in forty two years, according to my morning weather man.  Even still, the majority of our building rolled out of our beds around 7 AM, wrapped ourselves in sweaters and scarves, and began set-up.  Although I thought we were on top of our game – giving ourselves time to spare for the 8 AM grand unveiling, we had some early bird customers anxiously awaiting in their cars since 7:30.  As soon as the clock ticked eight, they immediately began swinging open their car doors, adjusting the room in their trunks, and rummaging through our items.  We were mostly ready.  But hey, we had barely had a sip of coffee yet.  Perhaps next time we’ll have the coffee ready at 7, rather than 8.  Every second counts with caffeine.

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clothesScott re-posted our craigslist ad late the night before our big sale, and again around mid-morning.  Our big pink signs led the way, and we had a pretty constant stream of happy customers, blissfully snagging our smaller ticket items, such as rarely used DVDs and Playstation games.  The hubs also supplied the sleepy condo owners with some sugary doughnuts fron Dunkin’, which came in as a handy bribing tool for undecided passerbyers: “You like that shoe rack? Tell you what, I’ll throw in a fresh yummy treat, too.” Mmm-mmm.

We had a bit of a slump around 10 (the families gathering for breakfast), and again at noon (late-night party goers gathering for breakfast), but the last part of the day was smooth and steady, with a decent flow of those who spotted our online ads, and those who were enticed by the oh-so-pink signage.

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Some of my favorite yard-sale junkies of the day came in tiny, furry packages.  They don’t buy much, let alone have a dollar to their name.  But they sure are curious – and stinkin’ cute to boot:

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Now let me tell ya’, you really start to find your inner salesman around closing time, offering deals too good to pass up and persuading those who are a just a little undecided to see your side.  And at three o’clock, we called it a day.  Our little booth started with five over-flowing boxes of riches, plus miscellaneous furniture goods, small racks, and college-day storage bins.  In the end, we were able to fit everything that didn’t budge into two smaller boxes. Ah, sweet relief.

leftoverMy man and I made two promises to each other before we set up shop that Saturday morning: First, the items that don’t sell will never see the light of day in our home again.  Those babies are being packed in the backseat of our sedan and being shipped off to Goodwill.  Second, any profit we make will go towards a mini vacation of our choosing to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary, coming up this November.  Once we give the vacation fund a little cush, it will be easier to keep building that pile of rocks.  Other than Scott’s one last attempt at selling his untouched Playstation games at the video store (where he actually scored a few bones), we stuck to our word.

Of course, what’s a multi-unit yard sale without rummaging through your neighbors’ goods as well?  We scored a nifty little power sander for $5 (I see many, many projects in our future), and I tearfully found a Mario Lemieux figurine in a neighbor’s box of collectibles.  I think he was so shocked at my utter excitement, that he gave me the little guy for nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Those who know me understand this – those who don’t will learn soon enough.  And just for the heck of it, and to jab a little joke into my Detroit Red Wings lovin’ pals: my beloved Pittsburgh Penguins are the 2009 Stanley Cup champs! And the ‘Wings are not.  Simply put.

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To sum it up, it was a pretty rockin’ day.  The weather did warm up after lunch – maybe not a lot, but enough – and when the sun hit our slice of tree lawn, we knew it was time to crack open the frosty beverages.  We made a chunk of change that we will happily spend this Fall, trimmed down the fat in our home, and relaxed with our friends and neighbors for a whole day.   There’s whisperings of a building-wide sale next summer.  But Scott and I made another promise to ourself at the end of that Saturday: we will not accumulate that much junk again in a year.  Give us another two, maybe three years, and then let’s talk.

Prime Patio

Living in Chicago, you learn to appreciate every extra square foot of prime real estate space.  An extra inch here and there in an itty bitty floor plan can easily lead to the happy dance.  Have a random nook in a not-quite square bedroom? Use the space to hide your laundry baskets, hang some coat hooks, or stash the kitty toilet.  And on the top of the oh-so-precious list of must have space? The patio.  If you live in the city and you’re lucky enough to have a strip of green grass in the back, a front porch, or in our case, a petite patio, it’s as if you’ve just struck gold.  Whether you’re in the market to rent or buy, these precious spaces can be a huge selling point.  The night of our second walk through in our now-home, Scott and I stood on the back patio and began dreaming up the possibilities of our own little outdoor oasis.  Measuring in at a whopping 7’x10′, it may not seem like much to brag about.  But in the city, that space is a slammin’ chunk of real estate.

Last sumer, I have to admit that we failed miserably at pimpin’ our patio.  Living on a second floor walk-up in a three story building means little-to-no-sun on our outdoor haven.  Although we bought planters, flowers, and a miniature table, our set-up just didn’t quite work.  We had a too big grill, and our precious space started to look cramped.  Our “no sunlight required” blooms began to whither due to possible over crowding, and a neighborhood squirrel did some serious dirt digging through our pots.  No amount of rain or watering cans could keep our colorful petals alive, and by August, I think we just gave up.  One thing I don’t have is a green thumb, but I can learn from my mistakes.  This year, I’m thinkin’ we may have done things right.

patio11In June, we purchased a significantly less amount of flowers, but due to my lack of a gardening gene, I couldn’t begin to tell you what they are.  I do know that they proudly boasted the need for shade, and we have plenty of that.  As a result, they’ve had their space to grow and flourish, and we couldn’t be more proud of our little blossoms.  See them peeking their little heads over the railing? And they still have a few months to keep on keepin’ on.

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These poppin’ plants put a smile on our face every day.  Scott babies them with songs and water, and one of our many rewards is this view from our bedroom wimdow:

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The generous husband also oiled down our attention starved table, and I added a chic, earthy runner to complete the look.  (Not shown) tucked against our brick siding is a bitty charcoal Weber, which we got with a little grill swaparoo with a fellow friend. This leaves us much more prime real estate, and as a result, the hubs is one happy grill master.

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It’s always a work in progress, and we may add a pretty string of bulbs to make for a romantic outdoor dinner or nighttime gathering.  For now, it’s simple and just our style.    All this just leads me to wonder, when’s the next patio party?

Time to Purge

Oh, how we do love a good yard sale.  Henry can vouch for that (and our penny filled snail bank, too).  We’re holding a bigger than big yard sale in the windy city this Saturday, and the excitement is mounting.  For once, we’re the ones purging our once-treasures and hopefully sneaking in a first peek at our neighbors goods.  Yup, it’s a multi unit sale.  Our little yellow brick building is home to over fifteen units, and more than ten of us are sharing the wealth.

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Scott has taken the reigns on this one, including buying out the fuschia posterboard from Target.  Stay tuned as we flip this home upside down and sniff out every last hidden gem.  Our office is slowly beginning to overflow with trinkets aplenty, and we haven’t even looked past our bursting closets yet.  Or the brimming basement storage unit.  Heck, we’ve barely just scraped the surface.

I’ll be dishing all the dirty details after I find my sanity (those who know me well know that I don’t do well with a messy abode).  Any good tips, suggestions, or just plain ol’ motherly wisdom to share? We’d love to hear the 4-1-1 on being the most successful yardies yet.

Paint It Pink

Very few things are perfect straight from the shelves of your favorite shop.  But with a little love and a little thinking-outside-the-box, the world is your oyster.  I’m practically famous for dreaming up the oh-so-perfect gizmo I need, only to find out later that it doesn’t actually exist.  For example, do you ever find yourself in a pickle after deciding you want, say, a simple black dress? You scour the mall, the online stand-bys, even your best friend’s closet.  But you soon realize everything you’ve seen is too long, too short, too beaded, too strappy, and, well…that dress you imagined in your head just isn’t out there in the world.

So what’s my point? I’m not gonna lie.  It’s frustrating, and to be totally honest, a real downer.  But the good news is that there isn’t much a needle and thread, a hot glue gun, some duct tape, or a tube of paint can’t solve.  You don’t like what you’ve found? Then make it your own.

I am going somewhere with this.  So with that in mind, here’s a story.  I recently stumbled upon etsy seller the love shop and was immediately sold on her cheery prints.  I immediately snatched up one for our household, and not-so-patiently waited it for it to arrive.  Not a week had passed when I came home and saw a bright red envelope waiting for me on our kitchen counter.  I very excitedly – but carefully – peeled back the sticky tape and pulled out my new little piece of art.  Next stop? The craft store for the perfect frame.

On my checklist: pink, square, and minimum of 15 inches.  I left with an off-white square frame measuring in at 16×16.  Two of my must-haves were practically handed over.  But off the shelf, the poor frame was screaming for help.  The ivory paint had a rustic faux finish that made Scott cringe, and the inside mat with it’s too-many photo openings for the oh-so-popular family photo collages was less than desireable to the eye.

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I could hardly wait to make it mine.  I eagerly scooped up a super thrifty mat from Frames-By-Mail, which has me sold as a customer for the long haul.  Their outstanding prices and helpful customer service won me over years ago, and the fast shipping is just an added bonus.  Next, I whipped up a batch of barely pink paint using a big dallop of white and a single drop off bright raspberry.  Any simple craft store acrylics will do the trick, and most small tubes will cost you no more than a buck or two.  Not bad for a major makeover.  Ten minutes later it was time to say buh-bye, lil’ sprout and hell-o, gorgeous.

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The love shop has got me feelin’ alright.  These blushing bunnies are another welcome addition to our growing family.

Lighten Up

You’ve seen how FLOR tiles have rocked our world.  In a less-than-spacious abode, they’re the perfect solution for small, sturdy rugs in the bedroom.  We prefer their tough as nails durability over a flimsier, cotton 3×5 store bought variety.  However, I’m not saying that we’re FLOR exclusive.  As much as we love the freedom in the variety of designs and colors, we wanted a cushy, comfy thick wool area rug in the living room.

So back in September, 2007, you can imagine my excitement when I scored a simple-but-classy black border rug from Pier 1.  At the time, I was so sure I had hit the jackpot – the beauty was on sale for a mere 80 bones.  Not bad, eh?  I whipped out the trusty credit card and snapped it up instantly.  We were just a few weeks away from moving into our now-home, and every new purchase to posh our soon-to-be-pad was cause for celebration.  I could hardly wait to unroll the bad guy into place and start livin’.

dark_rug1Our old apartment was rented to a friend as the total package – complete with most of our unwanted furniture.  By finding a new tenant for our landlord, we were able to break the lease a month early, and it was our own sneaky way of finding someone who liked our decor taste and loved our ol’ vibrant wall colors.  As a result, we didn’t have to re-paint the place white, and we only had to worry about moving our bed, clothes, and feline companions.  The best part was starting fresh and finding our own new, grown-up, first-place style.  Immediately, we scoured big retailers, little shops, and of course, our best friend, craig.

Fast forward two years later.  Why did we purchase a black table with a black rug? Why did we pick a leather ottoman with clawed kitties? We still love our tiny art deco chair, and we can’t imagine parting ways with our sleek, beige-fits-all couch.  The coffee table houses our DVD collection, and it’s thin enough for a small room, but wide enough for everyone to set down their frosty drinks.  Hmm.  Time for a mini makeover.  After approval from Scott, he agreed – with some hesitation – that I could propose a few ideas.  I eagerly hit the ground running, and ultimately decided that what we really needed was to lighten up.  Our earlier decor choices felt so heavy, so…well, dark.  With a few switcheroos and less than $150 later, we soon found ourselves in a room that felt airy and bright.  The once hesitant husband was happy again.

light_rug1How did it all break down?  By stealing a cheery pillow from the bedroom, we gained a sunny burst of color for free.  The super soft rug (oh, how great it feels on the toes!) and ottoman were found online at Target, and a few promo codes later (retail-me-not, anyone?), I had clicked my way to retail heaven.  The oversized, fluffy giraffe pillow was a $20 score also from Target, bought on the always perfect gift idea, a Target gift card.

So now that our living room has lost all that new-homebuyers-baby-weight, what’s next? On to the next project, of course.

A Glass A Day…

I have a confession to make.  I have an addiction.  To wine.  It’s true that I like a nice, full glass from time to time, but who doesn’t?  Sometimes one glass can lead to two (or three), and sure, we have to stock up at the liquor stores for the cheaper varieties as to not break the bank.  But what can I say?  There’s just something about that rich, liquid weight in the palm of my hand.  Is it bad that I begin hankering for my first glass at 2 PM?  Can anyone out there vouch for my cravings and openly agree with me?

Call me a wine-o if you will, but even I can admit I’m not exactly that knowledgeable when it comes to delicate finishes, spicy palettes, and full-bodied flavors.  Heck, I even made up that verbiage.  I have my favorite bottles that come in at $3.99, but every now and then, I’ll splurge on the $10 varieties.  I know, I can be a real kook.  But am I right or am I right that any bottle named after a cute animal is usually a good bet?

Tonight, I departed from my usual stand-by choices and snagged two bottles that just looked pretty flippin’ neat.  At just $5.99 a piece, they easily fell within my budget friendly price range.  How fun are these label graphics? These puppies would surely be amusing host(ess) gifts for dinner parties, holidays, or friendly gatherings (hint, hint to my lovely amigos).  Amidst a sea of tall green bottles with muddy labels and too much text, these babies practically leaped off the shelves and into my arms.  Oh, how I can’t wait to pop those tops!

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So let’s all raise a glass.  Here’s to happiness and curiosity.  Drink up.  Because as they say, it’ll keep those doctors away.

Getting Carriaged Away

When our good friend Patti sent us the story of her latest DIY project, we just knew it had to be shared with the blog-o-world.  By re-purposing her old patio carriage lights into planters, she should be rewarded with a shiny gold star for her eco-friendly efforts.  And mother nature isn’t the only one happy for her resourceful achievement.  Her ol’ junk-turned-treasure supplied her with something pretty sweet and useful.  Take a gander at this potential-filled before:

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and it’s new look:

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Now for her inside scoop:

“We had always planned on replacing those carriage lights, which became a must after we screened in the patio. When we do a home improvement project, we like to try to incorporate some part of an original feature if possible. If it’s just not doable, then it becomes fair game for me to recycle; in this case, they were perfect for junk art.

After cleaning the outside, I primed them with Zinsser high adhesive spray primer, then painted with a couple coats of glossy spray paint. I turned them upside down, and [my husband] Ross drilled three holes in each one. They each hang from three 30″ strands of 1/16th inch thick aluminum cable, secured by the matching size ferrules, all from Home Depot.”

Aren’t they smashin’? We’re loving the cheerful bursts of color with the lush plants.  And with two lights still leftover, we hear Patti has some plans up her sleeve to turn one into a home for all those birds out there looking for a perch.  We can’t wait to see and hear all the dirty details on how she does it.  Keep us posted, Patti.  We’re already craving those before and after snapshots.

A Snail of a Tale

I must admit that I’ve felt a wee bit sluggish lately.  This summer has started off with quite the boom, including everything from in-town house guests and out of town adventures, with a wedding and concert weekend dashed in the mix.  Between the blazing heat outdoors, the too-cool, conditioned air inside, and the seemingly endless work weeks, my body has had enough.  I feel totally run down, lethargic, and just full of pure exhaustion.  Because I don’t have the option to turn back a couple decades and recreate the mid-afternoon nap date, I’ve decided to try and chill out the adult way – with a nice glass (or two) of wine in the evening, and couch snuggle sessions with the hubs.

So it must have been fate that led me to find my perfect mate one appropriately lazy Sunday afternoon.  Scott and I spotted a sprinkling of colorful balloons tied with bows to a big, tired ol’ slab of board caddy-corner from our own little tree lawn.  “Yard Sale” was sprayed onto the board in wide, sloppy strokes, and we figured that anyone who goes the extra mile to tie balloons to their sign must mean business.  We immediately hopped over to the sale, where the organizers were grilling yummy meats, drinking cold beverages, and welcoming us to their little slice of sidewalk.  And just like Henry, there he was.  My new piggy bank.  Correction: my new snail bank.  A sleepy (albeit charming), white ceramic snail.  The little guy and I immediately bonded, and two shiny quarters later, he was ours.  Doesn’t he look handsome on our freshly painted sideboard?

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There’s just something so satisfying about those nifty, unexpected finds.  Call me a sap, but who knew my soon-to-be-dough-filled sluggish sidekick would give me so much joy? The moment we set foot through our front door, I snatched up our old change jar – sans lid due to a booming tumble, no thanks to our always curious felines – to begin the swap.

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Bonus points: since his guts are full of coins aplenty, we just can’t wait to cash him in for a sweet Italian ice on the next dog day of summer.  Our new friend seems to be fitting in just fine.

Holy Smokes, I’m FLORed!

Stop the presses! Could it be? Is it true?

Living in such teeny headquarters has always made us rethink the way we purchase anything – from accessories, to furniture, to quantities of toilet paper (where will the 24 pack go?). Along those same lines, modular goods are a huge bonus. If something can easily be rearranged, repurposed, or swapped out with no hassles, it’s on the wish list. Which is why FLOR carpet tiles are a dream come true to the teeny weeny condo owner. And yes, after rubbing my eyes to make sure I was seeing clearly, it is true – FLOR’s first store has opened it’s doors with welcoming arms to Chicago!

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Their motto that boasts “inspired modular floorcovering” is no joke. With so many textures, patterns, colors, and unique designs, it’s no wonder that FLOR is the carpet of choice in our very own bedroom:

juf_8615As a couple that can never say no to puppy eyes (literally), our bitsy home not only houses the two of us, but also two fluffy cats, Maddie and Libby, and a tireless dog, Jack (not to mention a tank full of fish, but they’re hardly a handful). Between kitty claw sharpenings and house training our newly adopted pup, carpet doesn’t always last as long as you’d think. Which is why FLOR tiles come in so handy for our lifestyle – did the kitty shred that corner? did Jack just lose his lunch? Just peel that tile up and pop in a new baby. And if you find yourself replacing a tile, you might as well grab a new color. Why not? If you’re still undecided, the website hosts a nifty little configurator for a computer screen viewing party before you commit.  With most tiles averaging around $7 for a 19″x19″ square, you’ve got nothing to lose (except maybe tonight’s beer run).

I’m thinking we may need to head over to the new FLOR location ASAP and liven up that bare office hardwood. Hey, I told you yesterday that it’s never really done. Who’s with me?