Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Invitation

All the women in my family love tea, and we all love tea parties. I figure I should take that as a sign that a Mother's Day tea party is in order for this year. I have some very cool ideas for laying the table and displaying the goodies that I'll share after the fact, but today I wanted to show you the invitations I made.

I was inspired by these Target plates my mom and I found at Goodwill a few years ago. I just love how girly and vintage looking they are. I don't get a chance to use them very often, so they will definitely be put to use for the party. Since I love them so much, I thought I'd design the invitations to match.

I am very good at assembling things and very bad at drawing, so I knew I would need to start with some clip art. I don't have any fancy designer software on my computer, so I used plain old Microsoft Word.

This cute clip art was close enough to the flower design on the plates to make a good starting point. The key to manipulating clip art is a little trick called grouping and ungrouping. It is definitely worth reading the help section in word on grouping to get a good overview of this, but I'll give you the gist.
First insert the clip art in a blank document. Now, on the drawing tool bar at the bottom of the screen you should be able to select ungroup.
This allows you to manipulate every part of the clip art. You can delete elements, move them around, and change the size and color. When you're done, just click on regroup to save the new image.
I took the bee clip art from above and tweaked it to make the two flowers on this invitation.

Then I added two text box borders and matching polka dots to mimic the edge of the plate.
I had to make my own envelopes because I chose to make the invites a bit over sized.
I just folded and glued paper to fit around the invite, then folded and glued the bottom manila envelope style. The top is left open so the invitation can be pulled out by the ribbon. These will be hand delivered on Friday, so they won't have to stand up to the postal service.
So, If any of you are as neurotic as me and would like to match your invitations to your plates, or shoes, or wallpaper, or whatever, now you know how!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More ways to be cheap

Awhile ago I posted some of my favorite cleaning money savers, and today I’m back with some other ways we save money around our house.

- Probably one of the best things we’ve done is figure out what we like and stick with it. We hardly ever buy anything impulsively at the store. That might sound really boring, but we have figured out how to use ingredients in different ways to shake things up. For instance, we might use Trader Joe’s organic marinara sauce one night on whole wheat pasta and another night as the sauce on homemade pizza. I also always look for recipes that call for the herbs and spices I always have on hand. We cook a lot of things with basil, garlic, parsley, cumin, dill, lemon pepper, and cilantro. At this point, I refuse to buy any exotic and expensive ingredients that might only be used once. If a recipe sounds great but calls for something I’ll never use again, I just leave it out or substitute with something else. It’s very freeing to realize you don’t have to follow most recipes to the letter.
- Convenience foods are super expensive and often full of things we don’t want to put in our bodies. We don’t buy pre-packaged pizza, hamburgers, salad, fish, etc. Yes, it sometimes takes a few extra minutes to make something from scratch, but it always tastes better and it’s a lot cheaper. Avoid the frozen dinner aisle!
- A huge way we save money is by not buying much junk food. We never buy soda and we usually only buy one salty thing like pretzels or pita chips and one sweet thing like sherbet or popsicles per grocery visit.
- We try to buy organic or natural products whenever possible. If it has MSG, partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, or a long list of chemical ingredients, it doesn’t go in our cart. I know it seems like it would cost more to buy organic, but Trader Joe’s and Wal-Mart have very good prices on these items. It also helps that real food is much more filling than junk food so you end up buying and eating less.
- When it comes to fruits and veggies, we buy whatever is in season. Sure, I sometimes long for blueberries in the dead of winter, but I’m not willing to pay five bucks for a few handfuls.

- I think my number one clothes rule is, “NEVER buy anything you haven’t tried on!” I am a very serious about trying things on. I take forever in the dressing room. I won’t let myself buy anything, no matter how good a deal it is, unless I’m comfortable in it. I practice walking, sitting and bending and if I have to tug down, pull up, or adjust anything I don’t buy it. I have also learned the hard way never to buy anything hoping it will shrink or I will. This also goes for shoes. If they pinch a little tiny bit in the store, imagine how they’ll feel after eight hours.
- If you have to say, “I just need…” don’t buy it. You know how this goes. You find a great pair of pants but you just need to find the perfect heels to make them work.
- If you’re not sure about something, walk around the store with it for about ten minutes. If you’re still in love with it, and it meets the above criteria, then go ahead and buy it. If you’re not that attached then let it go. This also works really well for home d├ęcor items. Sometimes we just need to feel like something is ours for a few minutes.
- Bring a friend who will be truthful. You need someone to say, “You know, I think you are way cuter than that shirt makes you look. Why don’t you try this one.” Or “Don’t you already have three green sweaters?”
- Shop your closet. I pack away all my out of season clothes, so that when the weather changes I feel like I have a bunch of new things. I love going, “I forgot all about that cute tank top!”
- Think about the total cost of something before you buy it. This is one of my favorite things. If a pair of pants is $50 then the first time you wear them the cost is $50. The second time costs $25. The third time costs $12.50, etc. The goal is to only buy things if you know you’ll get the cost down to 0. This keeps me from buying things so trendy that I know I’ll only wear them a couple of times. It also helps me justify buying things when I’m feeling cheap. If I know I’ll wear the $50 pants at least a dozen times in a season, then it keeps me from buying the $25 pants that aren’t exactly right.
- Last, but not least, I regularly check out thrift stores (I’ve bought so many things with the original tags still attached!) and discount stores like Rugged Warehouse.

So, there you have my money saving tips for two more categories. I’ll be back with some more soon! Do you have any to add to the list?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A freebie and tutorial in one

I have recently become obsessed with making pop-up cards for birthdays, holidays, or just to say, "hi!" They are super easy to make, but look really classy and impressive.

In case you don't have the time or supplies to make one of these cuties, I'm going to give away the card featured in this tutorial, plus a little extra surprise. Because is this is my first try at a freebie, I'm going to limit it to those living in the US. To enter, post a comment telling me the best thing you ever received in the mail by Sunday, April 26. I'll draw a winner out of a hat on Monday. Hopefully, more than three people will enter!

Now, for some pop-up instructions!

First gather the following:
-two folded sheets of paper in your desired size. One will make the outside of your card and the other will make the inside.
-glue stick or double sided tape
-pen or marker
-assorted scrapbook goodies such as brads, ribbon, stickers, etc.

Take the inside sheet and fold it in half so the side that will be glued to the outside sheet is facing the inside of the fold.

You will need to cut tabs for each letter or picture you would like to pop-up. To make these tabs, cut to parallel lines through the folded edge of the paper. It's important that your cuts do not go more than half way across the sheet.

Now fold each tab towards the unfolded edge and crease well with your fingernail for a bone folder. It is super important to crease very well.

Turn the sheet over and repeat on the other side. Again, crease very well.

Now, fold the tabs down so the sheet is flat again.
Carefully, open the sheet and fold it back the other way.
Use your fingers to pop or pull out your tabs.
Fold the sheet in half, making sure the tabs are pulled towards the inside. Crease the fold well.
Now when you open the sheet, the tabs should pop up.
At this point, it's time to go crazy adding stickers and other embellishments to your tabs. Once you are happy with your pop-ups, go ahead and glue your inside sheet to your outside sheet. Make sure you do not glue your tabs to the outside sheet!
Of course you will also want to decorate the outside sheet as well.

I left the front label blank for the give away card, so you will be able to add any name or message you wish.
This card comes with a matching blue envelope. If you make your own, keep the envelope size in mind, or just make one.
Good luck on the give away! If you do make one of these yourself, I'd love to see pictures or hear how it went :-)

Just hangin' around

The weekend gave me the chance to finish up my new kitchen art project by hanging my tea bag wrapper pop art. I apologize ahead of time for the not too awesome pictures. I tried with and without flash, shades open and closed, but the light falling through the stained glass window was determined to cause reflections and bright spots. Still, I think it gives you an idea of the new look.
Brad liked the frame better without the mat, and I also like how this look echoes the framed flour sack, but I saved the mat in case I ever change my mind.
I made another minor change by leaning the flour sack frame against the wall, rather than keeping it hanging on a nail. It's a little more casual and I like it better that way for some unknown reason!
I hope y'all also had a great weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Flowers

Because this is National Library Week, my co-librarian and I were each given a beautiful bouquet of flowers by the faculty at our school. I've enjoyed seeing the flowers at work all week, aren't they pretty?

When I brought them home today, I decided that as much as I like one big bouquet, I would like a bunch of little bouquets even better.

I took the whole thing apart and separated the blooms by color so I could see what I had to work with.
Because I can't seem to get enough yellow in the kitchen, I put this one together for the white pitcher. The trick to getting a bouquet to stay together nicely inside a big container like this, is to actually place the blooms in a smaller water-filled glass set inside.
I'm not super crazy about purple, but I kind of like the way the irises look against the blue and green glass bottles.
These mini carnations just screamed to be in a little vase all on their own.
I backed up so you could see all of my entryway. Even though it's not technically a room, and I only spend a few seconds here a day, it's still one of my favorite places in the house.

I've never had flowers on my nightstand before, It feels so decadent and ritzy! I didn't have a another little vase, so I just stuck these in an Ikea drinking glass. I think it works just fine!
For the living room, I had to make something to show off my vintage typewriter table. I really love how all the colors are meshing!
A little close-up action!

This is not flower related, but this evening Brad and I were treated to the view of 14 fawns chowing down in our field. The picture isn't the greatest because we had to take it through the screen, but these little cuties were only about 100 feet from our house.
These are the nights when I love being a country girl!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cheap-o DIY Art

OK, so I admit to having a big, empty white space in my kitchen that I've been mostly cropping out of photos. There it is, right above the white pitcher. Not only is it a sort of awkward empty space, but the wall also has a weird crease in it.

So, I've been working on a solution, and the odd assortment of items below provided everything I needed to create a cute and punchy little piece of art.

I've always liked Andy Warhol's soup cans and thought it would be cute to recreate the look using real soup labels. It turns out that the healthy soup can labels lack the great graphic look of the iconic originals. I'm way too thrifty to buy the not-so-healthy regular soup just for the labels, so I looked around the kitchen for a new inspiration.
As much tea as I drink (3 cups a day!) I'm surprised it didn't occur to me sooner to use my dragon tea bag wrappers. The have a great red and white color are printed with the phrase, "Enjoy life - Enjoy tea."
I bought a shadow box frame at Ikea last week, so all I needed to do to create a little homemade pop-art was use double sided tape to attach the wrappers to a white background.
I have two options for display, with mat or without.

Which do you like better? As soon as I decide, this baby is going on the wall and I can say, "so-long!" to my empty space.
Do you have any ideas for easy, cheap art?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring Break Mission Accomplished-ish

Even though this spring break hasn't gone exactly as planned with all the cold, wind, rain, and family stuff, we still managed to get almost everything done on the 'ol to-do list. The biggest accomplishment is our newly painted kitchen table and chairs. When it turned out to be too windy to spray paint, Brad picked up a paint brush and joined me in the kitchen. Three coats and four paint-splattered arms later, and . . .


It's overcast and rainy today, so these pictures aren't the best, but you get the idea.

See that little microwave cabinet in the corner? Oh yes, that is next up for a paint job and some new hardware.

Woohoo! I love how crisp and fresh the table looks. I promise it is not as glowing white as the harsh flash makes it appear.

I picked up the cute little lemon basket in the center for about a quarter at Goodwill today. So, if you count the fact that we already had the paint leftover from another project, and that I found the tablecloth at Goodwill a few years ago, this whole new look cost us about a buck.

Suddenly, I love it even more!


New purse!

What girl doesn't love a new purse, especially if that new purse is free? Since I was 15, all I've paid for my purses is the cost of a little duct tape and ribbon. I just finished a new yellow and brown number for spring.
I usually just make a form from cardboard and cover it in tape, but I wanted something a little sqishy-er and bigger this time around. I took an old freebie bag from a library conference, similar in shape in texture to a reusable grocery bag, and cut it down to the size I wanted.
I covered the whole deal with tape and added rivets and ribbon for straps. It's big enough to throw in a book and a snack, so I'm ready for summer!
Once again, duct tape proves that it is good for it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Color Inspiration

Over two years ago, when the roost underwent a little surface remodeling, I got to choose the interior paint colors. I knew I wanted a soft yellow for the living room, but it had to be the right yellow - no Big Bird living room for me! I found my color inspiration in the most unlikely place, a book cover.

At the time, I worked in a public library in Maryland. Part of my job was unpacking the new books as they came in. As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew I had found my living room colors.

This yellow was the perfect shade because of how well it blended with the other colors. I
could visualize my cherry red lamp shades, the dark laminate floors, and the blue sofa all popping against soft, sunny walls.

I checked the book out, and carted it home on my next trip back to Virginia. My mom and I were fully prepared to take the book into Home Depot for a custom mix, but luckily, Martha Stewart Corn Silk Yellow was a perfect match.

It just goes to show that you really have to keep your eyes open, because your next big design inspiration could be anywhere - even waiting for you on a library shelf.

Oh, and the book was a wonderful story as well as color swatch!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spring Break update - day one

Spring break is off to a pretty good start. I decided to begin checking off my to-do list with the thing I've been putting off the longest - cleaning out the fridge.

As you can see from the before photo, the doors were the worst problem. I had way too much crammed in there, and it was pretty common to be hit on the toe by a rouge salad dressing bottle every time time I opened the door. My goals were to:
1. Get everything out so I could wipe down all of the surfaces with a natural all purpose cleaner, including the sticky spots I new lurked in the back.
2. Throw out everything past it's expiration date or that I hadn't used since Christmas.
3. Arrange things so that like items were closer together.
Ta-da! My new clean and organized fridge. I would encourage everyone to take the time to at least pitch out everything past the use-by date. I had no idea how much expired food was taking up space in my fridge. I found old mayo, dressing, jam, cream cheese, etc. Taking the time to note what types of food didn't get used up before they expired is a great way to save money in the future. For instance, we really only use some foods and condiments, such as ketchup, seasonally. Today I discovered that our giant ketchup bottle from last summer was only 1/3 empty, but way past the use-by date. Now I know that buying the small bottle this summer will save us money, even though it cost a bit more per ounce.
Last night we started on our other big spring break project - painting the kitchen table and chairs. I nearly had a break down in Lowe's when we discovered that they no longer sell Rust-oleum Americana spray paint. They had other types of Rust-oleum, but none of them looked familiar. I waffled for a minute, but decided to check Home Depot before we bought anything. Over at Home Depot they also didn't have the Americana line, (maybe it's been discontinued, which is a shame because half of our furniture is painted Americana Blossom White) but they did have the Rust-oleum Painter's Touch line in Heirloom White, which we used last summer to paint a dresser. We loaded up on spray primer, paint, and sealer, so we are ready to go when the weather cooperates.
Here is the table we are planning to paint,
I keep it covered because the bare top looks like this.
This morning I sanded it down so everything will stick better and so the scratches are even with the rest of the surface.
Now, we just need a nice sunny day with no wind!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The red in the roost - the kitchen

As you know if you've read my profile, The Little Red Roost is so named because it is painted red, but also because I have a passion for all things red. There is something so vibrant and cheerful about red. If energy and enthusiasm were a color, they would be red. So, in honor of my favorite color, let's take a tour of all the little splashes of red I have around the roost.
I thought I should start with the kitchen, because saying it has a splash of red is something of an understatement. Some people would probably say I've gone overboard, but standing in my kitchen, looking at all the cute, vintage red items, makes me feel happy and inspired.

When you turn the corner from the front door to the kitchen, this is the view you see if you look to your left.
The graphic cookie jar was half price after Christmas and Wal-Mart! My Mix Master and red cow creamer are two of my very favorite things in the kitchen.

Now, take a step forward and look straight ahead.
Little red table from Class and Trash

Ok, now turn to your right
Another piece from Class and Trash. My mom convinced me that framing this empty flour sack would make a great piece of artwork for the kitchen - she was right!

And to your right again.

Turn right one more time and head out of the kitchen
Because the modern gift for a first anniversary is a clock, my parents found this awesome kitty-kat clock for us. The tail even wags!
So there ya have it - a little taste of my red kitchen!
Which room should be next - bedroom or living room?