Friday, July 29, 2011

A Trip to the (Hillside) Theatre!

Yesterday Charles and I, my mom, stepdad, two brothers and close family friends took a trip to Zilker Park for our annual tradition of swimming in Barton Springs before settling down for the musical of the year. Zilker Hillside Theatre has been putting on productions for the last 53 years and we've been coming for the last ten. This year's show?

The theatre is literally on a hillside - if you don't brace yourself correctly, you slowly start to slide down in your seat (which is usually your butt on a blanket, unless you bring a chair), which only adds to the charm. Everyone comes and starts putting down blankets around 5:00 and the show starts around 8:30, when it starts to get dark.

The cast warming up for the show

You're not supposed to take pictures during the show, but I was a rebel and snuck in a few shots for this post. Don't worry, no flash! I did it all ninja like.

End of Act I

End of Act II - The Finale

I had actually never seen any form of Footloose before, though I did recently see the trailer for the new remake of the movie, so I had a general idea of the plot going into it. For those who don't know, from the Zilker website...

Dancing is not a crime!

When Ren [MacCormack] and his mother move from Chicago to a small farming town, he is prepared for the inevitable adjustment period at his new high school. But, what he isn't prepared for is the town's ban on dancing... instituted by the local preacher. When the reverend's rebellious daughter sets her sights on Ren, her roughneck boyfriend tries to sabotage Ren's reputation, and many of the locals are more than eager to believe the worst about the new kid.
The heartfelt story that emerges centers on a father longing for the son he lost, a young man aching for the father who walked out on him, and celebrates the wisdom of listening to young people... with a warm heart and an open mind.

While is wasn't my favorite musical of all time, it was definitely good fun. What I can't wait for is next year's show - The Sound of Music!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Speaking of Mason Jars...

I recently stumbled upon this post from one of the blogs I follow called Young House Love that chronicles the adventures of Sherry, John and their adorable daughter Clara. I am continually jealous of all of their awesome home improvement projects since most of them I can't yet implement while in an apartment, but they really have some great and inspirational stuff.

One thing I CAN do, however, is this idea that Sherry came up with after seeing something similar in a Pottery Barn catalog. Observe:

Pottery Barn via Young House Love

See those jars over there on the right? They're filled with all sorts of goodies from what we can only assume are far off exotic lands, judging by the labels (you can't see them from this distance, but they're there). So Sherry took that idea and applied it to her own vacations that were, as she admits, a little less exotic but still fun nonetheless. So here is her take on the keepsake jars:

Fun, right? I have a habit of saving every little thing from a trip but it all ends up in a box somewhere and I don't see it again until I'm rummaging for something else and I happen upon a trip down memory lane. But I love this idea - putting small but memorable items into these (insanely cheap) jars to have a visual reminder of all of the places you've been.

In fact, I have a huge bag of stuff that I've been holding onto from our semester in Italy that I originally planned to scrapbook, but maybe I'll try this out instead....Read Sherry's full post here and be sure to poke around the rest of their blog as it is fantabulous.

What would you put in these jars?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sewing Jar DIY Tutorial

After working out some kinks with the new sewing machine, I've finally started on that skirt tutorial that I talked about in my hobby post. It took me forever to figure out the pleats (damn you!) but those are finally pinned and ironed, so I'm about a quarter of the way through. Ish. I'll certainly be posting the final results of that when it's completed, but until then, a small preview...

In the interim, I made something that I've wanted to try out even long before I decided to purchase a sewing machine. See, I have a weak spot for mason jars, as I'm sure many do, and now that I'm sewing, this project makes the perfect easy DIY. May I introduce: The Sewing Jar.

Martha Stewart 2006

I love these jars. They've been around for quite awhile and it seems every other blog offers a tutorial (yes, now including me). The idea is a pincushion/storage container all in one so they're practical and super cute to boot. This project is super quick, easy, and best of all, cheap.


1. Sewing odds and ends. I bought a pre-packaged kit at Hobby Lobby for $5.00 that included Scissors, a Needle Compact, Tape Measure, Pin Wheel, Tracing Wheel, Safety Pins, Thimble, Snap Fasteners, Hook & Eyes, Wool Needle, Needle Threader, Shirt Buttons, Seam Ripper, Dressmaking Pencil, 10 small spools of thread, and a Pin Cushion (no longer needed!) Or if you're a sewing extraordinaire, just use everything you already have on hand.

2. A mason jar of your choice. It can be tall, squat, large, small, whatever, as long as it has the two-piece lid. Just make sure it fits everything you want to throw in there to keep around. Mine was just about 70 cents - half off the original price. Can you really get much better than that?

3. Stuffing of some kind. I put off doing this project for awhile because I thought it was ridiculous to buy a huge bag of filler (I never saw small bags during my trips to the craft store, though to be fair, I didn't look overly hard). Of course, that's exactly what I ended up doing, so now I have enough to make about 300 sewing jars. Or I guess I could keep it around for future projects... After I finished my jar I saw somewhere online that you could use cotton balls, so if you have those around, put them to good use!

4. Fabric (not pictured, ob-v). This is a great time to use any scraps you have lying around and to try out some fun things. I'm using all of my patterned fabric for my skirt, so I used a bit of some nice, heavy duty black fabric I have since I haven't gotten to that "box of scraps" point yet. Not all that exciting, I know. But the great thing is you can change it at any time, so for now it'll do.


Step 1: Draw a circle on your fabric one inch larger than the lid insert. This is a lot simpler to do with a drawing compass, but if you haven't had one of those since middle school (like me), it's pretty easy to freehand it. Cut out the fabric shape.

Step 2: Get a handful of filling ready. This is going to take some trial and error on your part. It depends on how big of a cushion you want on top and how firm you want it. (Note: if you want an extra large cushion bump, make sure to cut out a larger circle of fabric to accommodate the extra filling)

Step 3: Hold the outer ring of the lid upside down and place the fabric circle on top, also upside down (put the side of the fabric that you want to show face down). Then start filling it in, being careful to not let the fabric get pushed out through the hole. If this happens, you have too much filling, so start over and add less.

Step 4: Watch as the bump is pushed out the other side. Keep adding filling until you reach the size you want it to be (again, watch the fabric). Your fabric will probably pucker a bit at the sides (like in the picture) as you work with the filling. To get it smooth, gently pull the ends of the fabric a little at a time until it is smooth around the perimeter.

Step 5: Once the pin cushion is the size you want it to be, take the lid insert and push it back into the outer ring. It should snap back into place, holding the filling at bay. At this point you want to glue the remaining edges of the fabric down so that the top is easy to screw back on the jar. It's best to do this with a glue gun, which I didn't have with me today, so for now mine is hanging out in all its glory!


This whole process took me maybe 20 minutes and I love how it looks! All of my little sewing bits fit perfectly in the jar except the scissors, but that wasn't really a big concern for me. So now I have everything at my disposal in an adorable jar instead of an ugly green plastic case. No offense, Hobby Lobby.

Cost breakdown:
- Sewing kit: $5.00
- Mason jar: $0.70
- Filling: $3.50
TOTAL: $9.20

Friday, July 22, 2011

Craigslist Finds

Every so often I like to browse the furniture category on my local Craigslist site without a real plan to buy anything (though my honest intentions do get me into trouble sometimes, when I find something I just have to have...I'll be posting about that in a bit). The hubs and I live in a one bedroom unit, which means 1. we have absolutely no extra room and 2. we can't afford many bonus purchases that don't really come with a legitimate use. However, I like to window shop because it allows my mind to wander and think of ways that I would refinish a certain piece and how I might decorate a room around it.

Lately my findings have been pretty poor, but today is just full of unique and fun things, so I thought I'd share! When I do a search, I usually put $50 or $100 as the max price, depending how I'm feeling that day, and click the "has image" box (because who, really, would buy a piece of furniture unseen? Why people continue to post their items without visual representation does not make sense to me....). And then I just see what turns up.
Price: $40 (reduced)
I could see these sanded down and painted either a crisp white or some bold, fun color and placed next to a modern couch. They've very unique - it would definitely add something to your decor!

Price: $15
Looking through Craigslist can sometimes yield a bunch of junk, but you have to keep an eye out for things that might have good bones that could be refinished into a really cool piece. For $15, this nightstand is super cheap and it could make a really cute stand-alone table if refinished correctly. A fresh coat of paint, new drawer/cabinet pulls, and a cool replacement for that wicker (or not, if that's your thing!) could make this piece shine!

This post is selling those two chairs and the table on the right for $25.00. Not each...together. Speaking of good bones, those chairs have a great structure and could easily be reupholstered. And that table is cute, it's round and it could easily go between the chairs as a great set. Just the thought of these three pieces, newly refinished and upholstered, sitting together in front of a wall of windows makes me want to get in my car and go get them. Not to mention it's maybe ten minutes from my apartment....must...resist!

So if you're in the Austin area looking for a project or just want some new (to you), unique furniture, visit the links below the images and have fun! And if you happen to buy the chairs and table, I will be forever jealous. :)

Have you found anything interesting on Craigslist lately?


This is glorious:

Found via Etsy on Facebook

The craftsmanship on this piece is beautiful! I used to love those marble tracks as a kid and this is absolutely brilliant. I love when someone takes a concept for children and re-imagines it for use in an adult world. While a bit distracting as a dining table, I could see this being an arts & crafts table in a game room or something just as fun!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

English Country Style Getaway

The other day I instinctively did a quick calculation of how long Charles and I have been married, and I was surprised to find out that it's already been 9 months. In three months we'll reach our 1 year wedding anniversary! That blows my mind...I suppose as most things go, it doesn't feel like it's been that long.

Charles is eligible for vacation in September at the bank, which coincides perfectly with our anniversary. We haven't made any solid plans, but we have talked briefly about taking a small trip and getting away. Since we're "broke newlyweds" we probably won't be going very far, but it will still be nice to step away from the busyness of life for a little while.

The other day I got a Groupon email that presented five getaway deals and was immediately taken by this English country style house in British Colombia.

How adorable is that?! It looks small from the front, but you can see from the back view that it's actually quite large...

I wouldn't mind eating breakfast with this view! You certainly get what you pay for, at a regular price of C$495 (roughly US$520) per night, though the Groupon deal does bump that down to C$247 (US$260). Nothing that we can begin to afford! I really don't mind - we were quite unique in that we were able to travel around Italy and Europe together before and while we were dating. We still want to go back and visit Italy at some point...maybe for a Five Year Anniversary trip!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's Heeeere....

A big, smiling box from Amazon came for me yesterday...

As Hagrid would say, "Isn' he beaut-i-ful?"

Later I'll read the set up guide and probably dive into the owner's manual as well, but until then I think I'll just sit here and look at it....

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to Make a Weekly Dinner Plan (and Save $$ While Doing It!)

Lately I've been feeling a bit under the weather and haven't been updating this thing as much as I would like, but I have quite a few ideas floating around and I'm planning on completing those soon. In the meantime, I thought I'd share something that has made my life lately a whole lot easier. It looks like a daunting post, but bear with me, it's worth it (and there are freebies at the end)!

I'm a big organizer. I like lists, I like to plan, and I'm never a really big fan of last minute change. But even though these are things I tend to do on a regular basis, sometimes my other half kicks in and I get tired of all the planning and list making, so I throw caution to the wind and fly by the seat of my pants. This usually works for about a week or two and then I panic as the first half kicks back in and says "What are you doing?!" It's a vicious cycle.

When it comes to making dinner, I usually enjoy it. I truly don't mind cooking (and love baking!) and I like trying out new things. But for the majority of the last nine months (since I got married!), I was uncharacteristically lax in planning and usually decided what we were having for dinner while we were walking around the grocery store. The problem with this approach was how much stress it produced. I was never really sure upon leaving the store how many meals we had for the coming week and I always felt like we weren't buying enough food. Not to mention I always felt like we were buying the same things week to week. Pork and chicken. Pork and chicken. As a result, we ended up spending way too much on groceries. It also caused an increase in our eating out habits, because if we didn't have enough food to make a full meal on a particular night, it was a lot easier to just get in the car and pick a restaurant. And now, a demonstration!


These screen captions are from an online tool called Mint, which makes looking at your spending habits a breeze.

These are the last three months expenses in terms of food and dining, back when I was winging it. Interestingly the smallest grocery bill is in May, but due to our high restaurant total, May has the highest overall total out of all three months. Just goes to show that you might feel like you're saving money by spending less on groceries but then you forget to account for all of the eating out you do.

The beginning of July is when I started planning out all of our meals. For a brief second I considered using one of those online services where they pick your meals and make your grocery lists, but then I remembered that a big point to this was save money and it also didn't seem like a complicated process. Turns out, I was right - it's actually very simple and super easy. I sit down every Saturday or Sunday and plan out five meals for the week. Why don't I plan seven meals? For a couple of reasons. We have a standing dinner date at my Dad's house every Sunday night, which knocks one meal off the list. I also leave off one more meal because inevitably something will come up during the week (my Mom invites us out/over to dinner, we have something going on at night and eat something super quick and simple in place of a big meal, etc) and that way we just shift the meals by a day and we're not left with extra food that goes uneaten. Even if we eat all five meals during the week, Saturday is a good day to make use of leftovers.

I usually do a mix of family favorites with one or two new things thrown in. Sometimes the new recipes work out, and sometimes they don't. The newest one that was a hit:
From Rachel Ray's Book of 10
So delicious. Charles loved the soup and actually ate most of the salad with the chicken - bonus! Our meals usually range from baked chicken, pot roast, tacos (or anything that resembles tex mex, including quesadillas), pasta and a few others. Since there's only two of us, I don't make huge side dishes or have too many components to the meal plan. Dinner usually consists of the main dish, a vegetable (corn on the cob, green beans and broccoli are the ones we most frequent), fruit, and rolls, if the main dish isn't too starchy.

Once I decide on five different meals, I assign them to each day of the week, taking into account any evening plans we need to work around and making any needed changes. For instance, we take a Financial Peace University class on Mondays from 7pm-9pm. Since Charles doesn't get home until 6:30, we don't have time to eat prior to leaving, so a pot roast is a great choice for us because it's ready as soon as we get home. I also make a grocery list at this point, including only what the recipes call for, enough fruit & veggies for the week, and any other staples we might be out of (bread, milk, etc).

This method suddenly makes grocery shopping 1. much quicker, 2. much less stressful, and 3. not the once dreaded errand of the week. Added bonus: I no longer forget to buy things since I'm following a specific list, which cuts down on extra trips to the store. While our cart might look a bit empty upon checkout, I'm at ease because I know we have enough food to carry us through all our dinners, lunches and snacks. And the best part? It's so much cheaper. We cut our fast food bill this month down to $30 (I caved and dragged the husband to Chipotle when I was having a foul day) and have so far only spent $150 on groceries. Since it's not quite the end of July, we do have one more shopping trip to make to finish out this month's meals. Based on the past two grocery trips, which were each under $75, worst case we top out at $215 on groceries, plus the $30 in fast food (I'm making sure that won't increase & hopefully it won't even be a category next month!), which brings us to a grand total of...


That's $154 less than June, $210 less than April and $232 less than May! I love how being a nerd can actually help me save money. Power to the planners! For the future, I'll be happy with $300/month or less, which is $75/ week in groceries and no eating out. If we come in under that budget, then I'll feel much better about treating ourselves to a dinner out with the extra cash. No stress, no guilty feelings and continually saving money is the. best. ever.

Up until now I've just been writing my lists/meal plans on notebook paper. For this post though, and also for me from now on, I quickly came up with two formatted sheets - one dinner plan and one grocery list, which I'll post here and you can download for your own use, should you be so inclined. They're much more fun :)

Download the Dinner Plan here and the Grocery List here! They're pretty straightforward and I even included Saturday and Sunday options on the dinner plan in case anyone wants to plan for those days as well. Once you fill out the meal planner, pin it up on the fridge for easy access and for a quick and easy look at what's for dinner that night. It's also nice because the husband can take a look, since I have a bad habit of not actually telling him what I've been planning for the week!

And finally we've reached the end...props if you made it all the way through (and many thanks!). I'll leave you with a few tips that I've discovered through doing this for a few weeks:

  • Try to alternate same-meat dishes (or meals with a common component) so that you aren't having chicken three nights in a row
  • Don't be afraid to move things around to fit your sporadic schedule (or your food cravings), even if you've already written them down for specific days
  • If you're feeling adventurous, plan out two weeks of meals in the same day so that you can take a week off. Just make sure to look over your grocery list before you go the second week and amend it with anything you've run out of in the mean time
  • If you're considering multiple dishes that use a couple of the same ingredients that might go bad after a week (chicken broth, fresh herbs, etc), be sure to schedule them close together to get the most out of your groceries
  • Check the dates on the meat you buy - if it expires before the day you've scheduled to cook it, make sure to freeze it until you need it (I made this mistake with $9 baby back ribs...not fun!)
As I continue to do this, I might post an update post in a few months to report on the progress we've made, any subsequent tips I've picked up, and - hopefully - how much we continue to save with this method of preparing meals. Until then, I hope you find this as useful as I have!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Day in the Corn Fields

A couple of weeks ago, my photographer friend Amanda and I set out early on a Saturday morning to find this mini ghost town called Old Corn Hill between Georgetown and Jarrell to have a photo shoot. I didn't come as prepared with the location as I thought I did, and after driving around fruitlessly for two hours looking for this place (and stopping twice to ask people to no avail), we gave up for the day. However, during our drive along these lovely county roads, we came across a huge field full of dead corn stalks. I think that's when they're the most beautiful, having all taken on a golden yellow color. So to take a break from our search, we pulled over and decided to play :) Here are a few of my favorites...

Isn't she gorgeous?!

This was taken at an abandoned house along the highway that we stopped at on the way back

The kicker about our great search that day is that when I got home I did more in depth sleuthing and found out the precise location of the ghost town: exactly one exit past the place where we turned around to go home for the day. &#^@%! So I now have very specific instructions and a map ready to go, so that the next time we venture out we'll head right for it.

Oh and that picture of me at the top of the page was taken by Amanda during our outing. She's super talented, not to mention about the sweetest person I've ever met. Check out more of her work here!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Dream of Peonies

It's hot here in Texas! The kind of hot that makes you want to jump into a vat of ice water the second you walk outside. In fact, we're one of the 23 states currently being plagued by a heat wave, according to CNN. All of the suffocating heat makes me wish we were back in Spring when we had more rain and cooler weather. And what else is abundant in Spring? Flowers, of course.

Though I didn't grow up a particularly girly girl, I've always had a soft spot for flowers. I love getting them for the random occasion, but I've never really given one flower more thought than another (except Carnations. Not a big fan of carnations). Lately, however, I've been drawn in by one flower in particular and I can't get enough of them:

I adore this bouquet featured over on Kiss the Groom

They just have this way about them that's irresistible. They're very full but at the same time extremely delicate and to me just seem to embody peace and happiness. The peonies have me smitten! Double peonies, more specifically. What I didn't realize prior to my research were the many different forms that peonies take. In addition to double peonies, there are also Single Peonies, Japanese Peonies, Semi-Double and Bomb Double.


While all have their own uniqueness, there's just something about the double peony that keeps me coming back. July is unfortunately one month too late to find them at the florist, so to tide myself over to next spring, I'm instead going to share some of my favorite double peony finds from Etsy. Enjoy!

11x14 print by TessJPhoto
I love this set of postcards from HilaryUpton
'Pretty in Pink' 8x10 fine art photograph from LyndaNaranjo

P.S. What's your favorite flower?