Living and dining room makeovers! And the curtain swap.

1.28.2016

I put so much thought into decorating our home for after we first moved in. We went without a couch and dining room curtains for ages while I waited to find the right things. Some trial and error went into the dining room curtains, then I found some I liked... I played around with the gallery wall in the dining room, but it was always a little too dark... all in all, we loved our home but we learned a lot in having free reign to decorate it--and I finally decided to do something with that knowledge!

After 3+ years of our home looking like this, I wanted big change, but didn't know what that would be. So I found a totally risk-free, literally free solution. I switched the curtains from the living room (the pink lined ones I made) with the light tan Ikea ones I had hemmed to our 107" length for both rooms. Of course the ikat look zigzag pink/red/turquoise painting had to go with the pink curtains, so we put it in the dining room and were left with a blank wall in the living room.

These simple changes totally transformed the look of the dining room, and gave it a light pink rosy glow and simplicity that feels really calming for eating.

Another change we made in the dining room was I sold the grey nailhead chairs I recovered. It's sad to get rid of something you've made and put time into, but they were just too big for the space with our big table! To replace them, at least temporarily, I found some classic 90's honey oak chairs for $6.99 each at Goodwill--they are totally plain and dated but I actually really like them. The color is actually nice, and the style really is functional for, you know, a chair.

For the living room... putting the tan curtains up on the big window immediately made the room feel calmer and more grown-up. Grey, white, and tan--what's not to like? For above the couch, we hung some special charcoal drawings done by husband's grandpa, who was an art teacher and still is quite the artist.

I really love the calm neutrals in this room now. But I think we might want to add a few colors! Maybe with spring I'll add some bright pillows. (The home body pillow is not going anywhere, though. I love it.) Any other suggestions?

I did bring down the vintage turquoise lamp, which is pretty cool. I'm not sure it really matches, but we wanted a lamp there. I also played around with moving the Louis XV chair I recovered and painted to a more prominent, use-able spot.

Now that the Christmas tree is gone I love the bright, smaller plants around the room!

It's amazing how small, cheap (well, free) changes updated our living space and made such a big difference in how we feel about the space. Those pink curtains were feeling stale in the living room, but now I love them in the dining room! And the living room feels more elegant and relaxed without that painting, but I really like it above the dining room table. Here's to redecorating and doing more with what you have!!

Shimmery blue sort of retro party dress!

1.26.2016

A party is a reason for a new dress, right??

This year my company's winter party was WWII USO-themed, held at a very cool old building at Fort Vancouver, complete with cake walk, air raid sirens (you know, before announcements), and swing dancing. (We even held a bake sale at the office a couple weeks before and raised a ton of money for some local veterans' organizations!)

Now, I'm not going to lie--yes, I was on the winter party committee and yes, I may have suggested the retro theme because it's fun to dress for it. Last year we had a ski theme which everyone got really into and was super fun, but I didn't get a chance to wear a pretty dress!

This year almost everyone got into it again, with lots of red lipstick and several people (me included) attepting victory rolls (see how I actually looked at the party here). I wanted to make a dress that would fit with the theme, but also be something I could wear again later.

Not a lot of careful planning went into the dress--I looked at my fabric stash and found a shimmery blue-purple changeable poly that was actually a massive curtain swag I got at a secondhand shop. Tons of yardage. I had been picturing it as an overlapping bodice, full skirt--I pulled out Butterick B5319 and planned to lengthen the bodice pieces a ton and make the midriff panel into just a waistband.

For the skirt, I wanted something really full and had enough fabric for a circle skirt, so I used the skirt from Butterick B4792, a 50's vintage reprint with the circle skirt with front and back concentrated gather areas. So cute. In the shimmery drapey poly, the skirt doesn't look like the ones on the pattern cover but is still super fun to wear and dance in!! I tried a puffy petticoat underneath but it was too long and too full for my taste. Would have made it more 50's New Look, anyway.

The circle skirt took absolutely forever to hem, but is so fun!!

I realize now that it's done that it doesn't look 40's retro at all, but it doesn't matter. It was pretty and fun to wear. Of course I dressed it up with pearls, red lipstick, a vintage fur shrug, and my attempt at victory rolls in my hair! (See here.) It was perfect for the party!

Patterns: Butterick B5319 (bodice) and Butterick B4792 (skirt)
Modifications: 

  • Made bodice almost full length and made midriff panel into waistband
  • Cut skirt as long as I could from my fabric but it ended up shorter than called for

Green beans with Thai peanut sauce - gluten-free, Paleo-friendly version!

1.20.2016

The other day I came home from a quick trip to the grocery store with a handful of things that inspired me for this recipe. I looked at the counter and had green beans, cashew butter, and carrots. I thought... this reminds me of a Thai restaurant dish.

I looked around online but couldn't find a recipe for green beans with cashew or peanut sauce that I could do. But I knew what flavors I wanted! I made up this recipe and it turned out GREAT!

Use cashew or almond butter if you don't do well with peanuts. I used some gluten-free tamari sauce for the sauce but you could use coconut aminos if you're completely soy-free as well.


Paleo green beans with Thai peanut sauce

Ingredients:


Beans:
  • 1 lb green beans
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp sesame or coconut oil
  • Sprinkle sea salt

Sauce:

Garnish (Optional):
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 1 tbsp roasted peanuts

    Instructions:


    1. Wash green beans and trim ends, cutting beans into 2-3" pieces.
    2. Heat coconut or sesame oil in a large saucepan. Press garlic with a garlic press and saute in the oil till lightly brown.
    3. Add green beans and cook on medium, covered, about 5 minutes till beans soften (they will look steamed). Uncover and cook another 5 minutes on medium, stirring regularly. Beans will turn brown.
    4. Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. It'll be thick, but it'll distribute well on the hot beans.
    5. Toss cooked beans with sauce in pan.
    6. Optional garnish: shave carrot piece with a vegetable peeler. Crush roasted peanuts.
    7. Put in serving dish and top with garnish.

    The flavor combination is so savory and satisfying!

    Taking care of my home!

    1.18.2016

    If I tried, I think I could probably relate every post I write to one of Gretchen Rubin's books. Seriously. The Happiness Project was so important for me, and Happier at Home shared more great simple mantras that shaped my behavior, and now I'm lapping up everything I can about her habits research in her latest book, Better than Before, and her podcast, Happier. On this post, one of her messages from The Happiness Project or Happier at Home (I don't remember which) resonates--"Read the manual." She uses it to mean, take the steps you need to prepare for a task. She cites a new toaster oven or something she had sitting around the house for weeks or months because she never wanted to take the time to sit down, open up the box, read the instructions, and get it working. Once she did, she felt so much better!

    As someone who often rushes through tasks at home... this really stuck with me. For me, "reading the manual" means not trying to carry 50 million things up the stairs at once, or setting my phone down before picking up the laundry basket so I don't drop it. Ha. It means taking the time and steps necessary to care for the things around me.

    This time of year, I think a lot of us have goals or resolutions to keep the house cleaner, get rid of clutter, clean out the fridge... etc. But one thing I hadn't thought about until Sears Home Appliances and Services provided it is annual servicing of the appliances. Appliances are some of the most expensive items in our home, and I know it will make me happier to keep them in good working order so they don't wear out too fast! We haven't had most of them looked at at all in the past 3+ years our house has been here, which made me a little worried about how we're doing keeping them up! (This post is sponsored by Sears Home Appliances and Services, who provided a free bundled maintenance package for my fridge, range, dishwasher, and washer/dryer.)

    As you can see our kitchen appliances are pretty standard--they all came with the place except the fridge, which husband and I carefully picked out after much deliberation. We love it. We did have an issue with the freezer water drain backing up at one point, though, and really could have used a maintenance protection plan! For this post, Sears Home Appliances and Services technicians came out one by one one morning and serviced each of the appliances. They all were friendly and courteous, and explained to me how our appliances were functioning. They gave me some tips for care and use, which made me feel better since I know regular maintenance and upkeep will help with appliance life! Tracking Pixel

    You don't have to own Sears-purchased appliances to get a maintenance package from Sears Home Appliances and Services. They'll look at any age appliance, all major brands. You can learn more about Sears Protection Agreements here--Master Protection Agreement benefits include:

    • Worry-Free Coverage 
    • Replacement Guarantee 
    • Annual Preventative Maintenance 
    • Experienced Service Technicians 
    • No Lemon Guarantee/Replacement
    • Food Loss Reimbursement 
    • Rental Reimbursement up to $50

    If you're thinking about the health of your appliances, it's a great deal to get a Sears maintenance (or repair) package for one or more of them. They're very affordable and convenient--a tech will stop by at a time that works for you and you can pay following the visit. Visit the Sears Maintenance & Tune-Ups to book and get up to $200 off on appliance check-ups between now and 3/31/2016!

    Sears Home Appliances and Services is the leading retailer of home appliances in the U.S., #1 in home services, parts, and protection agreements. They have been a leader in the home services industry for more than 50 years and install 4.5 million appliances and 4 million parts every year. Check out Sears Maintenance & Tune-Ups if your appliances need some TLC!

    Thanks to Sears Home Appliances and Services for sponsoring this post!

    Our simple home fitness setup

    1.12.2016

    For almost 2 years now I've been doing regular strength training, 2 to 4 times per week (I'm talking Olympic lifts, kettlebell training, simple CrossFit WODs, and difficult bodyweight movements) and I love it so much. (Most recently before that husband and I together had been doing some kettlebell workout classes and a six-month CrossFit experiment. Then I decided, I can do this myself--I can pick a few simple strength training workouts to rotate and do them for 8 weeks or so. I can modify as needed and structure my workout sessions however and whenever I need. Not until I made this shift that I start to see serious improvement in my strength and more defined muscle than I've ever had! Also--it was a fantastic confidence boost!)

    For a good part of the first year, I worked out at a small parks and recreation and community center gym that was on my way home from work. That worked out pretty well, but… I'm an introvert, and my favorite days were when there was no one else in the gym. Which was pretty rare at rush hour.

    Taking the home gym plunge!


    So a little over a year ago, husband and I bought ourselves the equipment we needed to set up a gym in our garage. It was kind of our Christmas present to ourselves. The key elements were the weights, which we bought on Craigslist (a whole set that included a bar and nice storage rack for the plates) and the affordable portable squat rack bars, which we did extensive research about and then found on Amazon, after deciding the most basic option was the best. We got a simple bench from my in-laws that Christmas, and found this super cool rubber flooring at the Habitat for Humanity Restore (donated from Nike, which is nearby). All in all we spent less than $400 or $500, so… Equivalent to only a couple months of CrossFit classes for the both of us.

    It does collect leaves, need to sweep soon I guess. We also keep a tiny heater in there for winter evening workouts.

    Everything is portable, so room to move things around and do burpees and Turkish get-ups!

    Since then we've added a couple kettlebells, adjustable jump ropes, and resistance bands which I use for assisted pull-ups. Oh, we also have a pull-up bar mounted outside under our deck, just outside the garage (though unfortunately it's hard to use when it's cold outside, or when it's super hot and I'm working out in my underwear!). And I scored a whole box of small plates and screw-type dumbbells at an estate sale for $8!!!

    Really, we've created what is probably the best possible home gym scenario for us in our townhouse! I don't have to see people, and can work out absolutely whenever I want but definitely a few days a week when I get home before husband and do my work out while listening to my favorite workout time podcast (Happier by Gretchen Rubin), wearing whatever funky outfit I have available, with my home shower and all my stuff right upstairs and even the option to start dinner before getting in the shower.

    Home gym, living room, whatever...


    I do my warm-up upstairs, because I have been incorporating handstands and the handstand wall is in the living room. We also keep foam rollers and lacrosse balls for rolling, more resistance bands, PVC pipes, and a yoga mat upstairs for easy access while watching TV!

    I've gotten used to the fact that we are the kind of people who will sometimes keep our kettlebells in the living room.

    My handstand wall! Won't ever put art there, it's the perfect spot. I've been incorporating handstands into my warm-ups and have improved so much.

    The result is basic fitness equipment and easy locations in my home, my favorite place to be where there's no one to bother me and I can listen to and wear whatever I want! It really keeps me motivated and working out regularly. I do other activities outside of the house, like hiking when the weather's good and using the wider range of equipment at the university gym when my father-in-law works every once in a while, too, but for the usual routine--I love our home setup.

    I know some people need the external motivation and stimulation of a gym or workout class, but I do pretty well with keeping internal expectations and I like to be home as much as possible!, so our home setup is so perfect! (About internal versus external expectations--have you read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin? This is a great time of year to read it and listen to her podcast! You can also take the quiz to see what your tendency is for habit formation. Identifying qualities I have has helped me with strategies for keeping good habit! Which is why I'm writing this post, an ode to the gym I love and have built because it works for me!

    If you're looking to set, change, or keep workout goals this year, I hope this post and Gretchen's work help you! (I should also mention my favorite resource for fitness information and inspiration: Girls Gone Strong. Check it out. :) For example, here's a great post and video on foam rolling for tight muscles.)

    Best wishes in your goals this year, and here's to finding what works for you!




    3 ways to make cooking at home easier - and a Sun Basket meal giveaway!

    1.06.2016

    I love cooking my own food. Something about the combination of control over the quality and type of ingredients, huge savings from ordering takeout, and inevitable health benefit has totally won me over and I cook almost every dinner we eat (usually leftovers for lunch!). I love it!

    But, it is time-consuming. Sometimes when I get home from work the last thing I want to do is put mental energy into coming up with our meal for the evening. Or, if I have it planned ahead of time, sometimes I really don't feel like chopping the vegetables. And, what if I forgot to get out the meat to thaw?? (We order half and whole hog and cow shares from local farms which is great for pricing and health, but it means you have to plan ahead or defrost in the microwave... ugh.)

    This time of year, a lot of us may be resolving to make better food choices and take time for things that are important--giving yourself some ways to make cooking at home easier can really help!! Here are three tips I have for taking the pressure off cooking at home and making it fun and easier to do.

    3 ways to  make cooking at home easier!



    1. Podcasts.


    I have personal faves, of course, but pick any podcast you like and have it keep you company in the kitchen. You could even choose a podcast that you only listen to while cooking! (I do this, the habit formation strategy of "Pairing" (from Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before) and only listen to her podcast Happier while I work out! It makes that time special and I always look forward to it.)

    Some current (a couple longtime) faves of mine:

    Of course, podcasts about food would also be great for the kitchen! NPR has some great ones like America's Test Kitchen Radio and The Splendid Table. (Also check out The Kitchn's list of 10 great food podcasts!)

    2. Great kitchen tools.


    Another Gretchin Rubin reference (this one from The Happiness Project)... I'm an Underbuyer, and I really have a hard time purchasing things for myself until the last minute when I really desperately need them. But I've gotten better recently and know that having good cutting boards, knives, and one or two really great pans makes cooking a lot more pleasant (and easier and more effective). (By the way, The Happiness Project was such a hit that you can buy a copy for $0.01 on Amazon so really, what are you waiting for?? It literally changed my life! I love it!)

    One trick I do and LOVE is I keep one small cutting board that's for garlic/onion only. Nothing worse than cutting cantaloupe and getting a lingering garlicky taste. I love bamboo since it's durable and easy to rinse and naturally antimicrobial, and sets like these are perfect!

    Also, we have this cast iron skillet and use it all. the. time. It's so great.

    As for knives... Global knives are really nice solid handle Japanese knives at a reasonable price point.

    One more thing that may add to your ease and happiness cooking... if you don't have a salad spinner, why are you torturing yourself every time you buy lettuce?? They are so brilliant! (Maybe this sounds like a given but we never had one when I was a kid!) You want the kind with the push-down button, not the crank handle.




    3. A meal/ingredient delivery service.


    I had never tried a mail order meal ingredient delivery before Sun Basket reached out to me. I thought it sounded a little too convenient... maybe not great quality or local food, maybe too expensive, maybe wasteful packaging, maybe not enough choice in the meal options... but when Sun Basket solves all these problems! They offer easy, healthy recipes delivered weekly with organic ingredients from the best West Coast farms. They offer lots of options and you can pick and choose which meals you want! They're different every week.

    Sun Basket is a new healthy meal kit service that delivers organic ingredients and delicious, easy-to-make recipes for cooking at home. Sun Basket makes it easy to cook healthy, with Paleo, Gluten-free and Vegetarian options, plus healthy breakfasts. Get 3 recipes per week for 2, 4 or 6 people, delivered to your door in recyclable packaging that can be shipped back - free- for reuse.

    Sun Basket was founded in San Francisco in 2014. Recipes are created by Executive Chef Justine Kelly, formerly head chef at James Beard award-winning restaurant The Slanted Door in San Francisco. Chef Justine has a talent for combining the best seasonal produce with globally inspired flavors to create nourishing meals that are balanced, healthy and delicious.

    We tried a week of Sun Basket and it was great! I really enjoyed having three meals for husband and me, with all the ingredients in one place! Everything was super delicious, and definitely fancier and more interesting than I sometimes come up with. I loved the spice blends and dressings, all pre-mixed, so much more flavorful and complex than I come up with on my own most nights.

    The instructions were really easy to follow, too, with separate instructions for each element of the dish.

    Of course I also love the options for our dietary restrictions, too, and that the food comes from organic farms in and around California.

    Good news for you is, Sun Basket is offering my readers a chance to win 3 free Sun Basket meals for two people!

    Only readers (or their recipients) in Western states are eligible: California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. If you don't live in one of those states, you can still enter, and gift to someone who lives in one of those states if you win!

    Earn additional entries by checking out Sun Basket on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. a Rafflecopter giveaway
    And you don't have to wait to see if you won to try out Sun Basket for a week! You can get $30 off your Sun Basket order by clicking this link! The promo code will be entered automatically when you process your order. A little more about the company...

    Sun Basket food:
    • Organic non-GMO produce from the best West Coast farms
    • Sustainably sourced, hormone-free meats and seafood
    • Easy, healthy 30-minute recipes designed for minimal cleanup
    • Recipes developed by an award-winning San Francisco chef
    • All recipes are approved by in-house nutritionist

    Sun Basket meal plans:
    • Healthy meal plans including Paleo-friendly, Gluten-free and Vegetarian options, plus breakfast
    • 3 recipes per week, with meal plans for 2, 4, or 6 people
    • Choose any meals you like each week. You can even double or triple up on a recipe
    • Currently shipping to CA, OR, WA, CO, UT, AZ, NV, and ID

    Sun Basket packaging:
    • Carefully packaged to stay fresh in the box for 8 hours after delivery
    • 100% recyclable packaging
    • Free delivery and free return shipping so they can recycle and reuse the materials

    Good luck and enjoy the $30 off your Sun Basket order!

    Thanks to Sun Basket for the trial basket with three delicious Paleo meals! I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are my own.

    A very pretty DIY! Pearl bead square knot necklace tutorial

    1.04.2016

    Out of the blue, I got inspired for a jewelry project! I saw a necklace like this in a magazine photo and thought, 1, that's very pretty! and 2, I could totally make that and it's a shame I almost never do jewelry projects. I love the classic pearl look, preppy knot style, and more modern multi-strand composition!

    If you want a very pretty project to work on some quiet winter day, try this necklace! And make a couple while you're at it since they'd be great gifts!!!

    (I made mine over the holiday break while watching several ancient Friends episodes. It was a nice afternoon. ;) )

    Very rarely do I pull out my jewelry-making supplies and so I don't have good stores of most of them on-hand. It took me two shopping trips to get the supplies I needed for this necklace! I should have just ordered them online.

    DIY Pearl bead knot necklace tutorial


    You will need:




    Instructions:


    1. String 1/4 of the beads onto the jewelry wire. Using crimp beads to secure, loop and seal both ends onto the loop side of the clasp.

    Repeat with another 1/4 of the beads.
     

    2. String other half of beads onto two other pieces of wire, securing only one side onto the peg end of the clasp. Secure other ends of bead strands with tape.

    3. Braid bead strands into square knot shape before securing taped ends with crimp beads on peg end of clasp.

    Wear proudly!

    The finished necklace is about 17.5" long.

    I just love it!!

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