Another Party to Plan

>> 3.31.2010

I've been a bit quiet about my New Year's resolution/ Party Project, but I haven't stopped planning!

Thanks to a comment from myownplace, I decided to check out House Party. After joining the House Party website (free), I began applying to host some of the many sponsored parties. I was rejected by the first couple of parties I applied to, but after a little perseverance, received an email inviting me to host a Nabisco 100 Calorie Pack Party. I set up my party's page and the free party pack was shipped to my house!

They didn't say what exactly was in the box, so Nate and I were really excited to rip off that packing tape and check out the goods!

A detailed letter outlined all of the party pack's goodies and gave a few tips on getting the party started.
"The diva fun is coming soon!"

I was surprised to find that my party pack included 8 boxes of the 100 calorie Fudge Petites (four of each flavor). There were also sixteen $1.00 off coupons for me to pass out to my guests.

The party pack also included other diva-like goodies like this plastic mini martini glass (16 included) to serve the treats in...

...and this magnet frame party favor (16 includsed).
I have no clue what I'm going to do with these.

As the host, I was lucky enough to get a rhinestoned Nabisco mirror compact.

So it looks like I have a Nabisco 100 Calorie party on my hands. I really like the 100 Calorie Packs so I was excited to get accepted into the party in the first place, but not receiving the package until this week made it a little difficult to plan out the party. Still, the party page had some good ideas including links to these yummy recipes so I'm excited to see what I can do with it.

Anyone else ever have a sponsored party through House Party or another website? What was your experience like? 


A Craigslist Find & Why Nate Owes Me Dinner

>> 3.30.2010

I'm sooo excited about my new bronze West Elm Parsons Desk! I found it thanks to my friend Craig... but didn't get the *best* price thanks to my boyfriend Nate...
When it comes to buying things off of Craigslist, I usually have a solid game plan.

My simple strategies for getting great prices on Craigslist:
*Negotiate over phone or email if the price is too high. I usually only do this when I want to knock $50+ off of the price. If the seller doesn't want to budge, I thank them and move on.
*Give the seller a low offer when I go to see the piece. A seller will rarely stay firm on a price when you are thisclose to handing them cash. I simply keep a smile on my face, point out an issue that wasn't pictured in the online ad and knock 20% or so off of the listed price.
*If it's an amazing deal, I rush over and grab it before anyone else does (I'll show you the nightstand I scored by doing this later!).

Here's a wide shot for those of you looking to see more of my decorating style (I suppose I have a thing for elephants). The art is moving to another wall in the office once the room is painted.

I planned on using the second strategy on this purchase. The seller wanted $120, but I felt like I could get them down to $100 by asking in person. For safety reasons, I always bring Nate along for the pick-up, but I sure wish I left him at home this time! When we arrived at the seller's home, she turned out to be Nate's old tennis coach! What are the odds, right?! Needless to say, I wasn't able to use any of my smooth talking and Nate now owes me dinner.

My rule of thumb is to pay half or less of the retail price on a used item. In this case, the list price of $120 was less than half (new West Elm Parsons Desks are $300) so I was okay with the price I ended up paying.

What are your Craigslist buying strategies?


Anthro Necklace Knockoff

>> 3.29.2010

While I waited for stain to dry this weekend, I kept busy with a little thrifty craft action:

Have you seen this necklace before?

I knew I had to make my own after seeing one in the newest Anthropologie catalog:
$48... no thanks!

I created my own version using Dollar Tree flowers ($1), two thrift store chains ($2), scissors, and pliers...
 for a total of $3.

I used the pliers to remove the clasp from the gold chain and attach it to the silver one. The scissors helped me cut apart the petals and create holes to thread through the gold chain.

I was able to get the fuller look by alternating between one hole and two hole petals.
I love the way the gold looks peeking through the white petals.

Don't worry Anthropologie... although I was able to make your $48 necklace for $3, I still love you! I promise to wear it with one of your dresses. I doubt that will be something I'll be able to DIY.

Anyone have a chance to do a knockoff craft lately?

PS I'm linking up with The 27th Penny Pinching Party over at The Thrifty Home.
Make sure you head over and join in on the fun!


I must know...

>> 3.26.2010

Have you finished your taxes yet?

Have I? Nope. I've been waiting on a few documents... and maybe procrastinating a bit.

So, are you a:
 "I finished months ago."
"It's not even April yet!
"I have my CPA/BFF/husband/mother do them for me."
type of person?


Following the Rules

>> 3.25.2010

I ran into a little issue earlier this week when I came across this Target tray:
I became instantly obsessed with the bright turquoise and girly curves. The not so thrifty part of me wanted to throw this sucker in the cart instantly, but thrifty me knew that I had to follow the shopping rules... I couldn't buy it unless I had a need or purpose for it. So, that's when I spent 15 minutes standing in the aisles of Target trying to come up with a way that I could use this tray.

Thanks to a little fabric talk earlier this week, I already had the upcoming office redo on my brain. Somehow I knew that it would fit in perfectly. I would just use a sticky wall mouting strip from my stash (free thanks to a race sponsored by 3M)...

...and hang it up on the wall.
The plastic of the tray might not be so perfect for food, but it's great for using as a dry erase board:

Maybe I'll decide to whip out my Sharpie and create a more permanent dry erase calendar...
I'll probably leave that decision until it's time to tackle the office.

PS You really can't beat this price tag! Now that you have a reason to buy it, go pick one up from the Dollar Spot today :).

Oh, and it wasn't very hard for me to come up with a reason why I needed this cute Liberty of London dress... and it's called "spring."
Hello $25 (after coupon) Easter dress... last in stock and in my size!

Anyone else instantly gravitate towards this tray? Did you get anything from the Liberty of London collection?

In case you're wondering, yes the dry erase marker comes off very easily from the plastic. I even left a test mark on it overnight to make sure that it would work as well as a dry erase board. If there's any haze or residue, Windex should pick it right up.

PS I'm linking this $2.50 Dollar Spot project up with Living With Lindsay's $5 Challenge.


How to Refinish Furniture: The Sanding and Prep

>> 3.24.2010

If you've been reading along, you already know about my struggles with trying to refinish my Craigslist Pottery Barn table. I started off with a positive attitude and a bit of confidence. I had Google and Blog tutorials on my side; what could go wrong?! Everything went wrong. After not one, but TWO failed attempts at getting the beautiful, rich stain that I wanted, I finally came up with a solution to my problem:

Meet Mike, he's a professional carpenter friend of mine who graciously invited me into his shop to learn a few things about how to whip my table into shape. What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't share everything with you...?
As you can see, things were not looking good!

The gunky buildup ruined this piece of sandpaper.

*Decide if your piece is ready for sandpaper. In my first attempt, I (probably wasted) a day's worth of work trying to strip off the existing finish on the table mistake #1. In reality, the existing finish would have sanded down relatively easily. In my next attempt, however, the gunky buildup from the first staining attempt made sanding almost impossible. I (or the Renozilla) probably wasted $5 of sandpaper by trying to sand the thing down mistake #2. On the third attempt, Mike quickly realized that the gunk was becoming a problem so used a wood scraper tool on the portions with heavy buildup and paint thinner to prep the others.

Thinning the existing stain really helped out in the sanding process.

*Take baby steps with the sandpaper. In my first two attempts, I jumped straight from 80 to 220 grit sandpaper mistakes #3 & 4. This resulted (both times) in swirly orbital sander marks all over the table's surface. To prevent this from happening, Mike suggests starting low and then making gradual steps that will slowly smooth out any visible marks. We used 80, 120, and 150 before finally using 220.
Note: Mike said that this was very important in my case because of the type of wood that I was working with (pine), but jumping grits might work if you're blessed with a harder wood. 

(yes, we used two different sanders Mike had on hand)

*Sand within the circle. If you're using a orbital sander and gradually stepping up your grit, it doesn't matter if you sand with the grain. The important thing is to sand each square inch of your surface uniformly so that you avoid creating any dings or dips in the wood mistake #5. To do this, Mike sands in a circular fashion: he circles the outside of the surface twice and then "fills" in the center area. He said that it is common for people to under sand the outer edges

*Don't finish sanding until the piece is consistently smooth. To check if your surface is ready for the next step, shine a light across the horizontal plane and look for uneven portions mistake #6.

*Know your wood. In my case, I wanted to go super dark with a light pine table. It was no surprise to Mike that I ended up with a zebra stripe look when I first attempted to stain it mistake #7. As an expert, he knew that that type of wood sucks up stain color at an uneven rate and by lightening my stain choice and going with a good wood conditioner, I was able to come up with a better product. Here's a quick article that might help you work best with your wood.
This is what my knotty pine looks like sanded and unsanded.

*Invest in some lent-free rags (honestly, not a big expense). This is a mistake that I didn't actually make! When you're wiping down your table, you don't want to ruin the finish with little clumps of dust or debris.

*Condition it correctly. Using a good conditioner can work wonders for producing an evenly toned product (trust me!). The first time I attempted staining I didn't even use conditioner and the second time I went with one that was for water based stains mistakes #8 & 9.... both mistakes led to major spottage on my finish. Mike recommends following the directions on the can and then using a lent free rag to scrub off the remaining residue before staining. This isn't something you can usually do the day before staining (my product recommended to stain within two hours) so only condition the piece that you plan on staining mistake #10.
Oops... I should have gone with oil-based!

Third time IS the charm in my case. I'll reveal my final staining steps and the finished product soon!

Did you make any of the mistakes that I made? Have any other tips that I forgot to mention?

PS Here's how to finish up.


Another One

>> 3.23.2010

Two posts in one day?! I know, but I'm not here without a few good reasons:

First, I'm lucky enough to be featured on Remodelaholic today! If you haven't been to that blog yet, make sure to check out this and this. Oh, and don't miss out on the Remodelaholics parties that Cassity hosts every Friday.

Next, I have to give a shout out to my new BFFs, Erin at Slipcover Your Life, (aka the first one who sided with me in the great fabric fight) and chacha (who even pointed me towards a couple thriftier sources). Nate said that we could go off and live in an 1980's beach house together. What do you think, maybe somewhere in Key West? I'm not sure how we can get back to the 80's... do you happen to have a hot tub time machine?

Finally, it looks like Nate's going to win this fabric fight. He vetoed Mrs. Chic's cute and affordable suggestion and came back with a few fabric selections that were "okay" by his terms:

Yep, he's all about the black and white. Nope, I can't believe that he liked the first one! Still, it seems a bit formal for my space. I'd really like a fun, girly fabric for my desk chair so if you have any suggestions for fabrics that come in a black/white/grey pattern and a more girly pink option... please let me know!

...and if that whole hot tub time machine thing doesn't work out I think I'm still going to buy the fabric. Maybe I'll make a cute bag out of it:


The Fabric Fight

First, I have to say that I did spend this weekend redoing the table and, in Nate's words, "it looks a hundred times better!" I'm not finished with it yet, but look out for a post outlining the many, many mistakes that I made when refinishing it and all of the tips I learned when I went over to my friend's professional wood shop on Saturday.

Now, on to the important stuff! I could use a little advice when it comes to recovering the seats of the dining chairs. When I first made the dining room plan, it looked a little like this:

Now, since the inspiration fabric was a lot out of my budget (about $40/yd), I had a little shopping to do. A chic friend of mine led me over to where I fell in love with a beautiful and affordable ($13/yd) option for my desk chair.

I swear, this image of a gorgeous Domino office (source) is actually on topic... you see, my dining room table came with six chairs, but we're planning on using two of them up in the office when we aren't having fabulous dinner parties (so... most of the time). For the two office chairs, I want to go with a more exciting color or pattern that will pop against the white furniture and walls (like the pink of the chair above). That's why the fabric I fell in love with was absolutely perfect:

I would get the girly pink and Nate would have the navy option:

then, the dining room chairs could get a coordinating grey version:

Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised when Nate didn't quite go for the plan. I thought that he would at least go for the pink/ navy office chair idea, especially because the fabric was made to look like a stack of books. Didn't he know that it could have been worse?! I fell in love with a millon other girly patterns, but didn't actually suggest them because I knew that they would get the instant veto:

So I think my new argument will be to offer to go with all white for the dining room chairs to trade for the option of using the girly pink and navy prints for the office.

So currently, Nate's stance is: "I don't care what you do as long as you don't use that fabric." He thinks the blue print looks 1980's beach house. Do you think that the fabric is worth fighting for or should I go for something less gender-specific like a geometric pattern?


Quick and Thrifty Spring Projects

>> 3.19.2010

After Nate finished puppy-proofing the garden by adding chicken wire, I knew I needed to grab him to do one more tiny project.

I know, I'm getting more and more exciting with my pictures every day. Can you tell what that is?

It's the air vent that releases the hot air from the clothes dryer. With ten minutes, a little chicken wire, and his staple gun, Nate added a little bird proofing to our precious vent. *Note: You don't need to use chicken wire to do this; any material that keeps birds out and lets air pass will do the trick. We'll probably add another layer of chicken wire just to make sure the birds can't fit in.

If you're anything like me, this little step could save you big time. A few years ago, I called my landlord to tell her that the dryer had stopped working. After shelling out a good bit of cash just for a repairman to tell her that the dryer was fine, we realized what the real issue was. Oops... the 'broken dryer' was actually a bird's nest lodged in the air vent. The warm air and secluded location made for a perfect nesting spot for an expectant bird mother. Guard your vents this weekend so that you don't need to worry about de-homing any bird families or calling out any expensive reinforcements!

Already bird-proofed? Why not tackle one or two other quick and thrifty projects this weekend:
*Replace those smoke alarm batteries... I'm sure you did that last weekend ;)
*Swap out your air filters. I'd rather not have the extra dust in my lungs or expensive air conditioner, thank you!
*Replace your old light switches. Can we say fire hazard?

*Keep Fido clean. I'm sure all of our pets are squeaky clean, but don't forget your pup's bowl, bed, collar, and toys! A healthy dog makes for a happy dog... and fewer vet visits!

*Organize your supplies. I know we all have a half page list of DIY projects to tackle this spring. Get organized now so that you don't end up buying those unnecessary paintbrushes, tape measurers, or screwdrivers.

What other quick and thrifty projects do you like to do this time of year?


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