Monthly Archives: February 2011

Entryway Makeover: Totally free

Hi!  Did you have an awesome weekend?  I hope so.  We got to kick ours off to a great start with a little dinner party Friday night – and yes, we had the house ready in time.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was clean, organized and most of the projects we’d wanted to accomplish got done.  I guess this week will be all about sharing the fruits of our labors.

Let’s start with the “entryway.”  Hit with a sudden burst of inspiration on Tuesday night, I totally transformed the space – using only things I already had in the home.

Both Ryan and I really love it, especially compared to how it looked before.  When we last talked, I wasn’t loving how the wood bookshelf fit in the space. I was reluctant to move it, as my dad had made it especially for that space, at my request.  But you know, sometimes you just don’t realize that a piece isn’t going to work – until you’ve actually made it and put it in a space. I’ve since added a back and sides to it, and will stain and seal it, and use it elsewhere in the house.

But back to the “new” entryway.  Here’s how this new design accidentally happened.

The metamorphosis started when I asked Ryan about hanging my vintage mirror on a different wall.  We crossed wires, and he thought I meant this entryway wall, and enthusiastically said yes.   Once we got on the same page, I realized his idea was better than mine.  We hung the mirror, but then the bookshelf was too tall.  So I tried my vintage record cabinet, whose honey tones and mid-mod lines blended perfectly with the other wooden pieces in the room.

After I moved the record cabinet into place,  I noticed the stack of books and Paperwhite plant sitting next to it.  Because the cabinet was so much smaller than the mirror, a stack of stuff next to it would help to balance the space.  Now I’ve always thought that the whole stack-the-books-on-the-floor design trick was silly, but suddenly I was really digging it.

I braced myself for Ryan’s reaction, because I was sure he would think the stack of books on the floor was ridiculous. But he came out of his office, and immediately said “Wow, babe, that looks really good!”   An impromptu design compliment from Ryan is definitely a good sign.

And with that, I can finally say that I feel our living room looks “finished” enough for now.  Sure, when time and money allow, I still would like to make some box valances for the windows, and some custom pillows, and add a rug, but I really am satisfied with the room as-is.  And that’s a great feeling.

This project was a great reminder to always “shop your house” when decorating.  And the most important lesson (re)learned?  Don’t force yourself to live with a decorating mistake just because you spent the money.  Sometimes you have to admit that you’ve made a mistake, cut your losses, and then assess what you have on hand in order to fix it.  Because at the end of the day, your home should be a place that makes you happy.

If you’re a newer reader, here’s some related posts:

Not Decor Related At All: Ryan’s 30th Birthday

Last weekend Ryan turned 30, so we gathered his best friend & bf’s fiance for a weekend adventure.  First stop, Ryan’s parents’ house, where we did the cake thing.  His mom made dee-licious cupcakes and I made a pac-man cake in honor of the arcades we’d be visiting that weekend.

Why arcades?  Because Ryan chose to celebrate the weekend at in Seaside Heights NJ, of course.  Who wouldn’t want to rock in a new decade at the hometown of the worst reality TV show ever invented?

We discovered that the boardwalk is totally sketchtacular on a cold Saturday night in February.  Seriously, it felt like the perfect location to shoot a beachfront horror flick.

But the arcades were open and heated!

And on Sunday the sun was shining and Marucas Tomato Pies was open, allowing us to stuff ourselves on the best pizza in the entire world.  We also bought a huge one to bring home and freeze.  Yeah, it’s that good.

Then we parted ways with our friends, and set off to another town that is known for it’s abundance of beautifully-revamped 1950’s style hotels and motels.  It rocked.  Photos coming later on.

We came home Sunday night so that we could knock out a quick makeover project start a project that would take 3 nights on Monday (a holiday).

How To ‘Scape the Table

Gah!  Can somebody please silence the voice of Ryan? It pops into my head whenever I try to blog.  I want to talk to you about my coffee “tablescape.”   It’s in ” ” because the second I start to type it, I hear Ryan silently what-the-hell-ing the word.  Of course.  In his opinion, it’s a table. It’s supposed to hold your drinks, appetizers, etc.  Why does it need to be decorated? And with a special word devoted to that practice, no less?

I half agree with him.  When I see photos of beautifully decorated coffee tables, ones which are piled up with books and candles and flowers and knick-knacks, I often wonder where on earth guests are supposed to put their cocktails.  Plus, I’ve always struggled with creating good tablescapes.  That’s why, years ago, I used to resort to a simple  vase of flowers.

Not my current living room.


On the other hand I do feel that the right arrangement on a coffee or dining table can make a room feel more finished.  So I continue to attempt the ever-elusive “perfect tablescape.”

I refuse to weigh down my large glass table with random stacks of books and a scattering of decorative crap (not that I have much of that), but at the same time I want something on it.  After a few years of practice,  I’ve found that my go-to solution is to start with a tray – it helps keep the decor feel contained, while adding some definition and color to the otherwise see-through tabletop.

That’s exactly what I did this time around, as I’m tweaking our newly painted living room for a dinner this Friday.

A small stack of magazines on one side add a little height to the tray.  Next come the decorative items, in varying heights and sizes.  I didn’t have any decorative crap that needed a home, so I used some plants.  They always look good.  I picked up an orchid at the store, and put it in a pot I had laying around.  I also re-potted some random cacti of varying heights into one shallow pot.

The orchid went on the stack of mags, and the cacti went on the other half of the tray.  Finally, I added a small stack of coasters, so that they’d be easily within reach for our guests.

I’m now realizing I left out my favorite part – candles!  So I’ll dig some out of my stash before Friday night rolls around.  I think a few votives or tea lights in glasses would work perfectly.

And that’s my go-to formula for a foolproof tablescape. Bonus?  Because it’s all on a tray, it can be easily whisked off the table when you’re cleaning.  So in conclusion, all you need for a killer tablescape is:

  • Tray
  • Magazines
  • Plants
  • Coasters
  • Tiny candles

Do you have any tips to add?  Do tell!  And in the mean time, I’ve got a few more projects to finish up before Friday.



Kitchen DIY: NOTacos

The closet project saga continued late into last night.  It’s seriously put a dent in our planned-upon project schedule.

I’m so not ready to talk about it.  Instead, in honor of Jenn’s “What I Ate Wednesday” link party, I’ll just share a glimpse of one of our quick-n-tasty homemade dinners here in the abode.  It’s a bit like a taco, except because it’s shell-free we call it:


For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 can black/pinto/white beans
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 head red cabbage
  • Avocado
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Adobo seasoning (or garlic, cumin, and chili powder)
  • Cholula hot sauce

This recipe is just the right size for me and Ryan to share.  NOTacos cost us about $8 (aka $4 per person).  They’re cheaper if you use green pepper, but we prefer the red.  Because they’re so easy and cheap, we eat them several times a week.


1.  Dump the can of beans (juice and all) into a saucepan.  Sprinkle with spices.  Simmer.

2.  Slice the pepper, cabbage and onions into thin slices.

3.  Saute the pepper and onion on medium heat (w/oil)  until partially cooked.  Then add the cabbage.

4.  Chop the avocado and cilantro.

5.  When beans are warm and most of the juice has evaporated, they are ready to go. Put a scoop of beans in a bowl.

6.  Top the beans with a scoop of peppers, onions, cabbage, then sprinkle with chopped cilantro and avocado.

7.  Drizzle the mound of NOTaco-y goodness with Cholula hot sauce.

8.  Top off your glass of wine. (What? You weren’t sipping while cooking?)

Random thought:  I often prefer to sip my glass of wine while cooking, rather than while eating dinner.  Am I the only one?