Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sponsored Post: Change Your Oil Challenge!

This post brought to you by Pompeian. All opinions are 100% mine.

Hello to all my chefs out there!  I wanted to share a contest I heard about.  Pompeian (you might know them from their olive oil) and Hungry Girl are sponsoring a contest where the grand prize is an all-expense paid trip to the June7-8 BlogHer Food ’13 in Austin, Texas! 

Going to BlogHer would be awesome, plus you’d get to do some sightseeing in the awesome city of Austin!  They’ll also showcase your award-winning recipe.

All you have to do is challenge yourself to substituting Pompeian’s Grapeseed Oil or OlivExtra Premium Mediterranean Blend in a recipe that typically uses butter or vegetable oil.  Post the recipe and an accompanying image on your blog, then head to the Pompeian’s Time to Change Your Oil Facebook page to share a link to your blog, enter your contact info and click SUBMIT!

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When you submit, you’ll also get a coupon for a free bottle of Pompeian oil (I love freebies).

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grapeseed oil is even more versatile than olive oil due to it’s lighter taste and high smoke point.  This recipe will be my first time ever using it, and I’m pretty intrigued.  Health benefits similar to olive oil without the olivey taste?  Sign me up!

Pompeian is also offering some recipes of their own to try, and this Beef-Stir Fry reicpe sounds pretty yummy.  Maybe I’ll try it out on Tommy next week.

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I’ll be sharing my recipe with you tomorrow, so check back!  If you make something, let me know about it.

Are you intrigued about grapeseed oil?  Comment below on why you'd love to win a trip to Austin!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Sponsored Post: Spring Landscaping

This post brought to you by Scotts Miracle-Gro. All opinions are 100% mine.

You know how busy I've been getting our deck ready for spring - refinishing the patio furniture, painting the swing, and adding pillows and potted plants.  But what about the yard?

Front yard, spring 2013

I was really hoping we'd have some surprise plants come up, but no such luck :(  Almost everything we planted last fall made it, with the exception of the hydrangea Lucky peed on all winter.

You saw my daffodils in the front yard that I planted to close to the azaleas - now that they're past peak, it's time to move them.  I wanted to get to them this past weekend, but other fun projects took up all my time!  Maybe one night after work this week...

Daffodils, too close to azaleas

I need to do it soon, because the azaleas are ready to start showing off!

Azaleas are ready to bloom!

The mums are coming back, and the pansies I planted over the winter have come back to life!  I also transplanted a few daylilies from the back yard that seem to be thriving.

There are some new plants too - alliums that will bloom above the azaleas soon, and dahlias that are working on coming up. 

This is the first year for the redbud tree, and it didn't bloom at all.  I think it's making up for it with cute heart-shaped leaves.  We're expecting a big cicada year, and lady cicadas do a lot of damage to small branches when laying their eggs, so I have plans to protect it soon with netting.

My favorite one to watch has been my peony.  I made a peony bouquet for my wedding, so I picked out this plant to remind me of our wedding.  It was a bare root when I planted it, and I've been questioning its ability to thrive since I planted it.  But it came up a few weeks ago and is looking awesome!  Even though it's Year 1, it looks like I'll get a bloom, too!  I can't wait!

Peony, ready to bloom

What's providing a pretty background for everything is a fresh layer of colored mulch.  We used four bags of Scotts Nature Scapes mulch in Deep Forest Brown.  The bag said the color should last a full year!  Don't know how much to use?  That link earlier in the paragraph takes you to a calculator.

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Seeing all the work my neighbors have been doing in their grass yards, I've been really happy that we decided to go with mulch.  Fertilizer, daily watering, and serious weeding?  No thanks.

Having a mulched yard has so far meant practically zero maintenance.  Aside from the hour to put out the fresh mulch, I spend a few seconds here and there sweeping a few strays off the sidewalk and pulling the spare weed.  Compared to what's been going on in my one neighbor's grass yard (weed city and weekly mowing), my yard is looking spiffy!!!  And I'm also avoiding paying folks to come mow a postage stamp yard every week!

Next year I might try a different mulch from Scott's - they just started offering one made from Florida Eucalyptus, called Scotts Florida Select Natural Eucalyptus Mulch, that's good for sustainable gardening.  Not only is it grown in the USA, but the trees grow four times faster than the cypress that mulch is typically made from.  It's 100% eucalyptus, so it doesn't have bits of scrap wood, like pallets, all mixed in.  I bet it also smells awsome! 

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Curious about my gardening supplies?  My go-to tools are gloves, a spade, a flat shovel, and a tarp!  You really don't need much more than that for a small yard.

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Lighting the Deck

We adore spending time on our deck.  Every time we have dinner outside, we remark how our ambiance beats any restaurant in town.  We watch the ducks in the pond, chat with our neighbors walking by, and listen to the birds.  Until it gets dark, and you can't see a darn thing.

We have one flood light for the deck, but it's blinding and unflattering.  We needed some better light!

I had bought cafe lights for the deck at our wedding reception.  I'm not sure why, but they never got used and came home still in the packaging.  I'm a use-what-you-got kind of gal, so we tried to come up with a way to put them to use.

We don't have any trees nearby we could hang the lights from, and nothing we could string them up with so make them shine from overhead.

Instead, we improvised, and stapled them directly to the handrail of the deck.  They're tucked underneath, so they don't get in the way of setting things on top, and they're enough under the edge to prevent stuff from bumping into them and breaking them.

Better yet, since they're hidden by the railing, nobody can complain that we have lights strung on our house year-round.

They create an awesome soft glow at night, and allow us to enjoy even more hours on the the deck!

I've heard these cafe lights can be really fragile.  We broke a few putting them up, so you do need to be pretty careful not to bang them into stuff.  That said, we haven't broken a single one since we installed them.  We had one strand leftover from the project, so we're saving it to harvest lightbulbs from, should any break in the future.

I think the lights were about $20 a strand originally, and we used three strands (plus another for extra bulbs), so doing this project would cost about $80.  Since we already had the lights, I see it more as $0, and another instance of reusing stuff from our wedding.  Regardless, an outdoor light fixture runs you $30 - $300, depending on how pretty you want it to be, so I think we came in OK.

It took Tommy a little over an hour to staple them all up.

We're glad to have tackled this project!  It's like the icing on the cake for our deck experience!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Ribbon Wands

This is the last Wedding Wednesday post!  Next week I'll wrap up the series, and the week after that, I'll share our whole wedding.

But this week it's ribbon wands!

We went through a number of ideas for an exit, from sparklers (illegal) to glow necklaces to grits!  We settled on ribbon wands, an idea I stole from Megan and Sam (hi guys!)

My parents prepped everything, and my Mom's family assembled them the week before the wedding (thank you!!!).

They used 1/2" wooden dowels.  They come four feet long, and my Dad cut them into four pieces, each a foot long with PVC pipe cutters.  I bet you could also use a saw or even garden snips.

We considered staining or painting them, but it was so close to the wedding that we decided not to worry about it.

My Aunt Cathy and cousins cut 1/2" ribbons the length of the dining table they were working at (about four feet long), and tied a pair of mismatched ribbons to the end of each dowel.  They secured the ribbon with a dot of glue.

At the church, they arranged the ribbon wands in cool flower vases at the back of the church.  My lovely bridesmaids handed them out to guests as they exited the church after the ceremony.

Everyone lined up, and got ready for us to come out!

When we came out, it was so amazing.  There was this tunnel of people we loved, cheering and waving these ribbons.  Then we turned the corner, and there was another whole tunnel of loved ones!  Then there was another turn, and even more friends and family.  It was one of our favorite moments of the entire day, to see everyone we love cheering us on.

Thanks to everyone for their help with the ribbon wands, and a very special thanks to everyone waving them moments after our vows!

They also made an appearance in our photo booth!

Monday, April 22, 2013

What's Up Granola Bar?

Weird title?  Not to me!  When Tommy and I first started dating, I was the "crunchiest" person he knew - mainly because I recycled regularly and liked to pick my own blueberries from local farms.

"Crunchy granola" led to "granola bar", and he adopted the nickname for me.  Every time he'd call me, he'd open with, "What's up, granola bar?"

I loved it!  In fact, I was so smitten that three years later I married him.

Fast forward to present day, and I've been wanting to hang a piece of art in the kitchen.  Photographs seem weird in our kitchen, and none of our current art seems to fit the space, so I started considering typography.  Typography is essentially words written pretty and used as art (not the real definition, but how I'm using it here).

Granola bars are food, and food comes from the kitchen, so the idea of framing "what's up granola bar?" seemed like a fun idea.

I typed some stuff up, added lots of fun color, and threw it in an IKEA frame.

Tommy hated it.

He had in mind a more loopy font - one that at first glance wouldn't look like words.  He was also in favor of a single color.  He has pretty good taste, so I trusted him on this one.

I went back to the drawing board (i.e., powerpoint).  I downloaded about a dozen loopy fonts, and tried them all our with the text.  The winner was a font called Roskrift Clean.

Regular ol' computer paper looked junky once framed, so I used some higher-quality paper left over from when we made our wedding booklets.

I loved it on the first print-out, so I put it in the IKEA frame and hung it up.  Perfect!

Some of our visitors don't get it, but that's OK with me.  99% of days, we're the only ones who see it, and it makes us happy to remember those early days of our courtship.

If you count my time searching for fonts, this project took about two hours.  If you already have cute fonts, it would take about 15 minutes.  The paper and ink were essentially free, and the frame was $10.  So for $10 and two hours, I have new art in the kitchen that makes me smile.  Sounds like a good project to me :)

PS: Does anyone know why IKEA makes a white frame with an off-white mat inside?  It bugs me a little to have different whites next to each other, so I'm considering taking some water colors to the mat.  Think it would help?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Painted porch swing

I went for it!  Painted the porch swing!

We've really been enjoying the porch swing since we hung it last weekend.  But it was a little on the boring side.  It also needed a coat of paint or stain to protect it from the elements.

I initially decided on yellow, but the helpful folks at Sherwin Williams warned me that yellow pigments degrade in sunlight.  My second choice was turquoise, which apparently lasts longer, so I went with that!

They also warned me that even though exterior paints hold up well outdoors, they don't always hold up well to the wear and tear you'd get from sitting on it.  They suggested using a floor paint instead - since it holds up to being walked on, it should also hold up to being sat on.  I ended up using Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor Enamel in Slick Blue.

I started by giving the swing a good sanding, and used the leaf blower to get all the dust off.

I applied two coats of paint, being sure to cover every last crevice for the best durability.  That's it!  I love painting stuff because you get a lot of bang for your buck, and it's pretty hard to do wrong!

All in all, this project cost about $20 for the paint and about four total hours of time.  100% worth it!

The swing is so much more fun now and really jazzes up the bottom deck.  There's still more tweaking needed to get the deck prettied up, but this is a great start!

If you've been thinking about a painting project, this is the weekend to get started!  Sherwin Williams is offering 40% off paints and stains, and 30% off painting supplies.  The sale is April 19 - 22.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Pennants

When dreaming about my wedding (pre-engagement), I imaged a rustic affair, maybe even set on our farm in Alabama.  For a whole variety of reasons, that never came to be, but I made sure I still got some of the touches!  Like pennants!

I've said it once and I'll say it again - I didn't want to be throwing away a bunch of stuff after the wedding.  I wanted to make choices in a way that things could be reused afterwards.

Pennants are so whimsical and fun, I just love them.  Better yet, my Mom thought they were cool too, and offered to make them!  I'm guessing she never realized she would make 400 feet of them...

She was super nice and took great photos along the way so I'd be able to share a wedding pennants tutorial with you :)

Together we collected a ton of different coral fabrics - all cottons.  Keeping them cotton meant that we could eventually take them apart and make them into something cute, like a quilt.  I think we had 35 fabrics altogether.  She also saved remnants from the cloth napkins to use.

Mom pressed all the fabrics to make them easy to work with. 

Check out her crazy iron with pop-out feet!
She started by cutting strips of fabric 8" wide, with smooth edges.

Then, from those strips, she cut the triangles using a rotary cutter with a wavy blade.  You can't use it with a ruler like you normally would, so she had to measure the cuts and do her best to keep them straight.  For the double-sided pennants, she laid fabrics back to back and cut them together so the scallops would match up.  Wavy edges prevent fraying, so she didn't have to hem all those edges.

The triangles measured 8" tall by 6" wide.  

She tucked the top of each triangle between the folds of extra-wide double-fold bias tape and stitched the layers together.  She didn't leave any space between the triangles.  She used white tape for most of the pennants, but used a coral pink for the ones destined for the cake table and seating card table - guests would be up close and personal with them so we wanted them as pretty as possible.

To avoid ironing them on wedding day, she carefully folded the pennant chains so the triangles all stacked up.  She sandwiched them between two pieces of cardboard cut into triangles, and wrapped the whole bunch in cling wrap, making sure to label the length.  To the front, I attached a diagram of where they were supposed to be hung at the reception.

I had given her specific measurements for all the lengths we required, and whether they should be one or two sided.  She added an extra 10% of length to allow them to hang down in pretty swoops.  Then she added another few feet just in case.  Because they're made of fabric, any extra length could just be snipped off and tossed aside if need be.

They came out PERFECT!  They were exactly how I had imagined them, and gave the plain white space a really fun and festive feel.  The venue was pretty plain, so we used them everywhere - cake table, escort card table, bar, dock, rafters, photo booth - you name it!

Pennants made a cute photo booth backdrop

The day after the wedding, my Mom, bridesmaids, and aunts (thanks guys!) helped me straighten them all out and fold them up nice.

Don't forget to fold them up nice after the wedding!

I have plans to hang some in my craft room, keep a few for a little girls room one day, make some into a quilt, and who knows what else! 

I sent a strand to some of my best friends for their little girls room.  And I just lent the rest of the collection to a friend to use in her wedding!  Needless to say, I'm definitely making good on that re-use idea.

Reuse wedding pennants in a little girls room