Oh goodness… I’m embarrassed that I haven’t shared an update with you lately! I took a temporary break from crafting to focus on other projects. Plus, I haven’t come across anything I felt compelled to make.

I’m one of those crazy types who just can’t wait until December to put up my Christmas decorations. Our living room is filled with red, green, blue, brown and yellow accents year-round, so Christmas colors match our decor perfectly.

I’m hoping to buy a few more trinkets within the next few weeks, but decorating can be darn expensive. I may wait until after the holiday to grab several discounted items for next year.

Christmas decor

My favorite new decoration? The branch tree! I purchased a sweater-inspired Target vase and filled it with branches from my parents’ yard. I used metallic spray paint for a frosted feel and added mini tree ornaments to the mix.

Christmas tree, branches

How did you (or how will you) decorate this season? Do you have any tips/tricks for finding affordable Christmas decor? 

I’ve wanted to make and/or buy a pretty little serving tray for a while now (see beautiful examples over at Sand and Sisal or Prudent Baby,) so when I found this rooster-ized tray on clearance at Garden Ridge, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to glam it up.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a good barnyard reference here and there, but this tray didn’t exude the shabby-chic charm I sought. At only $3, I knew I could turn it into something I’d want to display in my home.

I started the project by spray painting the tray’s interior white. It took approximately three coats to cover up the rooster, but it was well worth the effort.

Once the paint dried, I marked my chevron stripes with painter’s tape. Chevron can be a bit tricky; I wish I spent a little more time trying to perfect this. An exacto knife would prove handy during this step.

I painted the entire tray yellow (it took approximately two coats to get the job done) and removed the tape.

It isn’t perfect, but I absolutely love my new tray!  It really brightens up the living room.

Here’s the official before and after shot.

I may lightly sand my tray in the future for a more shabby-chic look, but for now, I’m keeping it as-is.

Have you ever created your own serving tray? How’d you customize it? 

I don’t love fall quite as much as spring and summer, but I’ll take it. Ohio autumns are full of gorgeous changing leaves, pumpkin-flavored coffees (I heart you, PSL) and my personal favorite: Ohio State football! I won’t attend my first 2012 season game until November, but I’m really looking forward to it.

Remember the $2 grape vine wreath I purchased while thrifting a few weeks ago? During a fit of weekend inspiration, I jazzed it up with a few fall flowers.

Here’s how you can make your own! Begin by cutting felt squares into uneven circles. I purchased my felt at Hobby Lobby (4 pieces for $1.)

Cut each felt circle in a spiral pattern (starting at the outside and moving toward the middle.)

Grab the section where you began cutting, and start wrapping the felt around itself. Hot glue the ends, and use a scrap piece to secure the back.

Repeat this process until you create several flowers. Hot glue each felt flower to the wreath.

Ta da! What a simple way to dress up wreaths, lamps and other decor. You could always create felt leaves as well, but I wanted to keep my wreath simple.

What’s your favorite part about this season?

I’m making a conscious effort to reexamine my spending habits. I’m saving up for a few large purchases, so cutting costs serves as a vital step toward reaching my goals. Unfortunately, cutting spending = less pretty shoes, less home decor items and less DIY projects (because let’s face it… DIY isn’t always cheap!)

I’ve been itching for a little retail therapy, especially in the home goods department. A thrifty approach helped fulfill my needs without breaking the budget.

I picked up these great finds at an awesome Columbus thrift store, and I only spent $11!

  • The grape vine wreath cost $2. Once I add a few DIY rosettes, it’ll be the perfect fall accessory. (Stay tuned for the finished product!)
  • I love the frame’s ornate, shabby-chic look. All it needs is a coat of paint and new artwork (no offense, emo 90s girl.)

  • Milk glass makes my heart flutter. At only $2 each, I couldn’t pass these up.
  • Placing small items in clear apothecary jars = every organizational freak’s dream. I think I’ll use this jar to store cotton balls or other bathroom necessities.

Did you complete any clearance shopping/thrifting trips lately? If so, what did you find? 

Months passed since my last Ikea trip, and I’m afraid I may be sinking into withdrawl. I enter that store with a $20 wish list and leave with $80+ worth of Swedish goods every time. The beautifully displayed merchandise and unbelievably affordable prices suck me in time and time again. You’re sneaky, Ikea.

As much as I love this retailer, I’m sure you and I can both agree that many of its products are pretty standard. I recently stumbled across Ikea Hackers: a site that allows fans to share how they transformed Ikea items from drab to fab. It’s chock full of inspiring DIY ideas, and many projects include step-by-step instructions, too.

Here’s a few of my favorite hacks:

Nailhead Side Table

Two Lack tables and nailhead trim join in harmony and create one absolutely gorgeous side table. You can view the IKEA Hackers instructions here.

Coffee Table Ottoman

I found this project on the Simply Kelly blog. Kelly purchased a Klubbo coffee table and converted it into a cozy upholstered ottoman. Isn’t it gorgeous? I’d be scared to prop my feet up on that pretty fabric.

Billy Bookcase Upgrade

Ikea’s Billy bookcase received a stylish upgrade thanks to Diane at the In My Own Style blog. She transformed the standard Ikea product into a showcase item with a little cardboard and fabric. I absolutely love this idea, especially since it would be easy to change the fabric panels when you want a new look.

Have you ever “hacked” an Ikea item? If so, how’d it turn out?

I recently read a Wall Street Journal article about how to maintain proper dinner etiquette in a social media-centric world. It discussed several smartphone “mis-manners” (such as texting while eating or leaving phones on the table during dinner parties) and explained how modern-day hosts and hostesses deal with mobile-obsessed guests.

Although the article focused on dinner etiquette, it opened my eyes to how smartphone-dependent my generation has become. Don’t get me wrong: I think smartphones rock. From quirky apps to quick-access searches, the smartphone serves as a gateway drug to interesting (and sometimes educational) conversations. My trusty iPhone can help me share recent photos and videos with long-lost friends. It enables me to offer instant insights: whether I’m bantering about how tall Justin Bieber really is (approximately 5’7″  if you’re curious) or wondering who’s leading the 2012 presidential campaign polls.

Despite the smartphone’s all-encompassing superpowers, I sometimes wonder if being so connected actually disconnects us in the process. I can’t count how many times I’ve met up with a friend, and he/she proceeded to send texts and check Facebook multiple times throughout our hour-long conversation. Although I know my friends mean know harm, it’s disheartening to not have someone’s full attention: especially when you haven’t connected with that individual in quite some time.

It’s as if our generation has a severe case of FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. We can’t even sit down for a half-hour coffee conversation without scrolling through Instagram or sending a few texts.

I fear how this uber-connected mentality will affect our relationships: both personal and professional. Are we really as great at multitasking as we think we are? Will we be able to truly connect face-to-face if we’re too busy catching up on what’s happening in the SoLoMo realm?

I felt compelled to write about this because I’m just as guilty as the next Millennial. I’ve sent non-urgent texts during coffee dates and checked my Facebook feed during dinner one too many times. I need to be held accountable, too. (Disclaimer: I think I checked Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Gmail and Twitter at least twice during the time it took me to write this post.)

So here’s my challenge: Let’s hold each other accountable and remove distractions. Let’s make a conscious effort to put our phones away and give our friends, family and loved ones our undivided, Facebook-free attention. Let’s disconnect so we can finally reconnect.

My parents have kept a garden for decades. I have tons of fond childhood memories watching the veggies grow and helping my grandma (who was a real farmer for years) pick hundreds of green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers. I spent endless summers eating BLTs and enjoying my all-time favorite snack: cucumbers with Italian dressing.

The fam graciously gave me several fresh-picked cucumbers and tomatoes when I visited this month, so I turned the combo into a summer salad. It makes a great lunch and it’s definitely much more sophisticated than my usual cucumber/dressing combo, so I wanted to share the recipe with you!

On a random note: Can we all agree that home-grown veggies taste much better than store-bought ones?

Summer Salad

(Serves 3-4)

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Vinegar (I used a few tablespoons)
  • Olive oil (I used a few tablespoons)

Mix tomatoes, cucumbers, garbanzo beans, basil and feta in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, vinegar and oil to your taste. Chill and enjoy!

Note: If you need more protein in the dish, add a tuna packet. 

Instagram rocks. I’m still not sure if it’s worth the $1 billion Facebook spent, but I’m definitely crushing on its capabilities. The smartphone app provides amazing ways to interact with various audiences through a visual medium.

Like any social platform, users can get lost in the hype and push best practices to the wayside. Whether you’re new to Instagram (available via iPhone and Android, by the way) or a seasoned pro, check out these commandments to avoid pitfalls:

Thou shalt offer variety.

It’s totally cliche, but it’s true: Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Want to show off your drool-worthy lunch, throwing your Instagram followers into a pit of jealousy? Fine. Want your followers to squeal over pictures of your miniature schnauzer? Awesome. Just make sure you offer followers variety. 

Instagram is all about giving users a glimpse at your life and the sights that catch your eye. Your day-to-day life is multidimensional, so reflect that in what you choose to post! Sharing too much of the same thing (food photos, pet photos, etc) may bore your audience. Let’s keep it fresh by switching things up.

Thou shalt not take copious amounts of self portraits.

I don’t see anything wrong with Instagramming (is that a word?) a self portrait or two, but seriously: Keep your headshots to a minimum. If you’re snapping these shots to highlight something particular (a new outfit, a new lip color, an updated hairdo,  your new eyebrow piercing, etc,) that’s ideal. But if you’re taking photos of yourself just because you’re bored, you should reevaluate your Instagram usage. (Think about it. Do you really believe followers want to see what you look like while driving in your car or laying in your bed?)

Thou shalt not abuse hashtags.

In the social media realm, hashtags serve as powerful little tools. They help us track conversation threads on Twitter, identify keywords and categorize messages.

The “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing” rule applies here, too. Hashtags are most useful when associated with a particular contest or topic (such as #ootd) that requires them.

If you’re tagging a food photo with “#steak #yummy #foodinmytummy #delish #food #latergram,” you’re probably doing it wrong.

Thou shalt not overshare via other social networks. 

I’m a cross-pollination advocate (aka sharing content from one social network on another social network,) but some users take this concept to the extreme. Be selective about the Instagram photos you share via Facebook, Twitter or other social networks. Keep your audience in mind each time you post.

What commandments would you add to the list?

Seriously… where the heck did June go? As one of those weird human beings who loves humidity and always complains about being cold, I’m always sad to see summer disappear before my eyes.

Words can’t fully describe how wonderfully June treated me, so I’ll paint a picture through photos instead.



Top left: I’m hopelessly addicted to Harvest Pizzeria. I think I’d eat lunch there every day if my wallet and metabolism allowed it.

Top right: Columbus Commons does an amazing job providing food and entertainment for Cbus residents. I took advantage of the free Saturday a.m. fitness classes this month, and I plan to attend some in July, too.

Middle left: Columbus Clippers games rock, even if you don’t love baseball. Huntington Park is a gorgeous ballpark.

Middle right: I’m trying to exercise my green thumb this summer. Zinnias make a great addition to my front porch.

Bottom left and right: I explored Chicago with some of my favorite ladies earlier this month. What an incredible city!

My roommate and I were pumped when we realized our new place offered a concrete patio and small gardening space. It’s definitely one of the luxuries of living in a townhome instead of a more traditional apartment complex.

Throughout the past month or two, I’ve been trying to transform the dull, dingy patio into a fun, usable space. I must admit that I don’t love gardening (sorry mom and dad; I clearly didn’t acquire your love for horticulture,) so this transformation is taking way longer than expected.

Here’s what the patio area looked like in late spring. The daffodils were done blooming, and weeds were growing like… well, weeds.

My first step was to clean up the concrete, pull the weeds, tie the daffodils (so I could cut them down) and add a little color. I purchased a begonia hanging basket and a rockin’ World Market outdoor rug. I discovered World Market when I moved to Columbus two years ago, and my life will never be the same. The prices are awesome, and the offering is so unique. Not many stores can say they sell fabulous accent pillows and hoards of German chocolate. And can you believe my rug was only $20?

Several weeks later, I cut the daffodils, planted a few veggies/herbs and added patio furniture.

It still needs a bit more TLC, but the patio is finally looking party-ready!  I need to get motivated and plant a few more flowers/ferns before I mark this project complete.  The patio faces east and is also shaded by a tree throughout the day, so it’s difficult to choose shade-loving plants that would thrive in the space.

Do you possess a green thumb? What are your favorite shade-loving flowers to plant? 

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