Best Resolution Ever

>> 12.30.2009

Did the post title catch your eye? Okay, so sometimes I exaggerate, but this time I’m serious! In 2009, I single-handedly knocked out* a monster of a resolution that will change the way that I live my life for years and years to come (…and it might be slightly off-topic for this thrifty blog, but it costs absolutely nothing and made so much of an impact on me that I felt like I should share the idea with you as the New Year comes closer).

The year 2008 was most definitely one of the hardest years of my life: someone close to me had died, I decided to leave my former career, ended a long-term relationship, and dealt with debilitating illness. After all of that, I decided it was time to pull myself out of the funk I was in and do something to focus on all of the positives in my life. That was when I decided to jump on board with Project 365, a year-long venture in photography in which one takes one picture for each day of the year. After a quick Google search, I was armed and ready to go with great tips and Flickr groups full of inspiration.

I’m by no means a photographer (it’s a simple Olympus point-and-shoot for me), but by focusing on my purpose for doing the project, came up with images that instantly surface memories of the moments I captured. Can you say that you remember something from each day of the year?

I started off the year with the very first sunrise. (day 1)

Some images bring back feelings~ This one was taken on my way back from my first date with Nate! (Day 30)

 Remembering the feeling of cheering for the marathon to reminds me of why I'm in training for my own. (day 46).

Bringing my camera everywhere with me paid off more times than I can count. (day 108)

I always chose the most memorable images over those with the best quality (day 128)

(day 178)

As a bonus to the whole thing, my photography skills started to improve. (day 208)

The renovations ate up quite a few spots after buying the house. (day 226)

Of course, that boy I love made a few appearances. (day 298)

And this one seemed to be in more than her share of shots. (day 317)

In the end, it was more about the memory of the image than who actually took the picture. (day 334)

And even if 2009 wasn’t the best year of my life, looking back at the large photo collection filled with familiar faces, proud accomplishments, and simple moments I experienced really makes it feel that way.

Did you follow through on any resolutions in 2009?

*okay, I haven’t “finished” it yet… but I’m confident that I can make it these last two days


(Mostly) Loving the Merge

>> 12.29.2009

The boyfriend (aka Nate) is officially living in my house and although the process was pretty painful, I’m loving most of the benefits that come from merging two homes:

Not like any of it is hanging on the walls yet, but the boy brought in a great stack of framed art.

He also came in with some great kitchen items like this Martha (odd, I know) spice rack...

as well as some great pans and appliances that I didn't have (like a food processor).

Not to mention, his TV was much nicer than mine (shocker! ;) ).

Okay, so it’s not all rainbows and sunshine over here; we do have a few issues to overcome… like where to put the rest of his stuff!!

and just when I thought that I had the garage under control...

I almost forgot my favorite part of the merge... collecting that rent check!!

What was your favorite part of merging with your current roommate or spouse? What was the best thing they brought in?


I Reserve My Right to Return

>> 12.28.2009

It was such a great holiday weekend with family, friends, and even snow!! I know that most of you out there probably hate snow at this point but remember, I’m in Texas and seeing snow here is something that definitely does not go unnoticed! Having it on Christmas Eve was enough to get the family instantly out the door and taking pictures…

Here I am with my sister (far right) and younger cousins.

The Christmas gifts were opened, Chinese food was eaten (a family tradition), and a movie was watched (Sherlock Holmes)… but the fun of Christmas wasn’t over yet! I still had my clearance shopping to look forward to! With list in hand, I was up bright and early on the 26th to see what goodies Santa had forgotten to leave for me.

You'll find people lined up outside just to get into Crate & Barrel... talk about a madhouse!

With brightly colored sale signs everywhere I looked, I had to keep my Christmas clearance-shopping tests in mind:

*Can I go DIY for less? Sure, time was running short this year with all of the renovation projects I had going on, but next year should be prime time to glitter and bead everything my heart desires. That’s why I knew I could pass up all of the cheapo wreaths and candles taunting me from the store shelves.

*Does it fit with the theme? My current decorations are all tied together with a modern silver, gold, and red theme so as cute as that rustic brown moose centerpiece was, I knew adding it to my room would just detract from the overall look.

*Was it on the list? No matter how cheap, I know that I don’t need another tree skirt or nativity scene so having my list of d├ęcor needs keeps me time and again from buying unnecessary junk to cram in my garage (unlike some relatives I know…).

*Do I really like it? This is one of the biggest shopping mistakes I’ve made in the past. Just because that wreath window decal is marked down by 90% does not mean that it is a good deal (remember, window decals are never good deals)

*Can it be returned? I can’t stress enough how important this one is! If it passes all of the above tests I’ll snag it in an instant… IF the store’s return policy will allow me to bring it back once I find an even better sale with an even cuter tree topper in the upcoming weeks. Fifty percent is a great markdown for those must-have items that top your ‘needs’ list (and might be gone by the next day), but expect to see prices drop down to 75-90% off in the next two weeks… I know I’ll be checking back in with my favorite stores!

And because I’m sure you’re wondering, here are a few highlights from Saturday:

These sparkly trees were a good 4 feet each and perfect for flanking my fireplace at $25 total (Marshalls).

I loved the disco ball look of these when I thought that they were ornaments, but squealed with excitement when I realized that it was actually an 8-pack of place card holders for $3.50 (Marshalls)! If I decide to go for it, these would be the perfect way to mark dishes for a New Year’s Eve party.

Thanks to Target's return policy, I can take back this advent calendar ($15) or table runner ($15) if I end up falling out of love in the upcoming few weeks.

After going to Target, Marshalls, Crate & Barrel, T.J. Max, Home Depot, Lowe's, my local grocery store, Pier One, and World Market... I'm going to have to give the 2009 Holiday Clearance Award to Marshalls for selection, lack of crowds, and pricing (probably because they start so low to begin with).  I still haven't hit any craft stores, but I'm sure I'll swing by a few to get great deals on ribbon later this week.
Did anyone find great clearance deals this weekend?

I'm linking this post up with the 14th Penny Pinching Party over at The Thrifty Home.

Head over to join in with the fun!


I'm out!

>> 12.23.2009

I swear, I tried to capture an adorable holiday moment to share with you via virtual card...

...but someone didn't want any part of it!

I did get her to stay still though...
...if only the camera was as exciting as the treat I was holding ;).

Anyways... have a great holiday weekend everyone! You better believe I'll be back next Monday to share my holiday clearance scores and latest house projects along with whatever other thrifty fun comes my way :).

Merry Christmas!!!


Still Have Shopping on the Brain?

>> 12.22.2009

I know I do! I'm suuuch a last minute shopper. Although I do take a risk by leaving my shopping until the last minute, you better believe I take advantage of some of the rewards :). This is actually a great time to do a little shopping for yourself or others: the stores have extended their hours, the strip malls aren't crowded, and many of them have made their final markdowns. That's right, those crazy sales that everyone flocks to the day after Christmas are actually starting up around now.

For example: If I went out and bought these three sweaters a month ago, I would be looking at spending close to $100... with the markdowns and additional 40% off sale at Gap, I left the store last night having spent only $33 on all three!

Going out to grab all of those last minute gifts isn't all the shopping I have on my brain... I'm already making my list for the decor I want to buy for next year (because after this year , I'm going all out!).

*yes, I doodle on everything

The big items I'm looking for on clearance include:
*ribbons (because there are a million ways to use them and they're easy to store)
*LED lights

Have you scored any last minute shopping deals? Where do you go to shop Christmas clearance (you'll usually find me at Crate & Barrel or Target)?


What a weekend!

>> 12.21.2009

Friday was an all night holiday party/ bowling extravaganza then Nate and I spend all day Saturday and part of Sunday clearing out his old (third floor!) apartment just so that we could spend Sunday afternoon grouting the kitchen backsplash. Why were we grouting? In my efforts to keep costs low, I opted to do the demo and grout work and let the guy with the experience and tile saw do the tiling work.

I can’t give you a full tutorial on grouting (because we didn’t know what we were doing), but I can give ‘ya a rundown and a few pointers…

I gathered my supplies and mixed my grout and things seemed to be going smoothly.

*insert image of my ridiculously bad grouting skills...*

...which led to this

...and a whole lot of scrubbing!

What, you don't grout in pink?

My rookie grouting tips:
*Watch those YouTube demo videos at least 5 times each.
*Do a test patch.
*Use a tube of actual toothpaste for comparison with the texture of your grout mixture (I made mine too thick).
*Don’t grout too large of an area before sponging off the excess.
*The dried grout is not going to come back to life with water.

Things ended up working out, but we'll leave the big reveal for later :).
Oh, and did I mention that afterwards, I had to run 15 miles? And so, after one heck of a hectic weekend, I want to add on to my not-so-holly-jolly Christmas equation… Renovations + boyfriend moving in + Christmas + marathon training= never again.

In kitchen related news, last week Danielle commented asking me if my base cabinets were black (they’re a dark green) and a lightbulb went off~ not only would black instantly conceal the slightly dated cabinets (remember the difference it made in my bathroom vanity?), but could continue that hotel-chic vibe I’m looking for when paired with the white of the backsplash and upper cabinets. What do you all think of the idea?


My First Video (and a little tile update)

>> 12.18.2009

After posting about my super cheap brown paper wrappings yesterday, I received some comments on my Sharpie doodle designs. I thought this would be the perfect chance to: 1. Show how quick and easy it is to do a DIY embellishment. 2. Get my first crack at posting a video. *Sorry about the poor quality (and weird humming that I seem to do).


Piece of cake, right?!
The tile is going slowly, but surely. Remember all of those holes I knocked into the wall when removing the tile? Henry (tile guy) went ahead and put up new drywall to remedy that situation. Rain and other jobs have delayed him further, but *fingers crossed* it will be finished today.You guessed it, I went with subway tile again! After loving it so much in my bathroom, I just couldn't resist having the classic look (and price) in my kitchen as well. I'm loving the way that the white tile looks next to the new black granite!

Oh, and remember how I got Mario (to paint for me) for Christmas? Well, I still haven't seen the guy. He was supposed to come on Monday and never showed then didn't return my calls. So that situation is still "to be continued..."


Brown Paper Packages...

>> 12.17.2009

Don't you love the contrast between plain brown packing paper and the sparkles off of a fancy velvet ribbon or ornament off of the tree? I do! So that's why I might have fibbed a bit in my holiday dollar store deals and duds list. There is one wrapping paper that you'll always catch me grabbing for a measly $1:

Luckily, the $1 brown paper is usually the only thing I needed to buy to wrap my gifts. With a little creativity, I can create fun wrappings using that plus my stash of post holiday clearance finds and random craft tools.

Remember the fishing wire/ bead trimmings I made for my tree?

With the help from those beads and blue curling ribbon, this package gets an icy theme. {always double up when you're using the cheapo curling ribbon- it makes for a much more expensive look}

 All it takes are some scissors and a hole punch and a blank index card turns into a gift tag.

I took a little inspiration from my tree skirt and a red sharpie out of my tool box to add a little interest to the brown paper

Oh, and that fancy red velvet ribbon? A total DIY out of a spool of clearance ribbon from last year.

How do you wrap your gifts? Do you throw in all the bells and whistles or just cover the gifts with paper and tape then call it a day (like some boyfriends I know...).


Adventures in (De)Tiling

>> 12.16.2009

You know I love to do demolition (aka create large holes in my walls) supposedly it’s to save money… but sometimes it ends up costing me in wall repairs. Demo-ing the laminate kitchen countertops was such a success ($300 saved!) that I thought I would be able to take care of removing the kitchen tile backsplash as well. Last night as I chiseled away at the tile backsplash in my kitchen until midnight, I think that the only thing that I was saving myself from was sleep.

Nate: Would you like me to help?
Me: Yes, that would be really nice.

Nate: They’re not coming down.
Me: I’ll Google a better way to do this., I think this is it?

Me: Ugh, I just made a giant hole in the drywall… maybe I should be more careful.

Nate: Can I go to bed now?

Me: I’ll just rip it down; I’m sure the tile guy can fix it later.

Three hours and a ridiculous number of tools later, the kitchen is de-tiled and re-destroyed. The tile guy is coming today so we’ll see how much repairing my destruction will cost this time…

We all need our little moments of destruction, right? Okay, it's possible that I was still taking out a little of my anger from the counter situatuion.


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