Thursday, March 28, 2013

March Play House Update: Band Camp

It's official.  I LOVE making these play house visions a reality for our kiddos.  This month's edition was very low key on the DIY front and was very intense on the shopping front.  And when I say intense, I mean there was some serious Target toy clearance stalking going on in January:).  I'll explain more in a moment.  Without further ado, Band Camp:

Bill made the campfire using stiff felt and staples.  I may go back and actually sew it.  He also made a 'rock' fire pit ring with newspaper balls covered in aluminum foil.  Clever, no?  We put a battery operated LED lantern in the middle of the fire pit, and the way the light reflects off the felt makes it feel sort of like a real campfire.

I made and stuffed some felt logs.

Bill made marshmallow sticks with the kiddos with dowels and white felt.

Here is our new drum set, compliments of a super clearance score.  It was just over $20.

The piano was a Christmas sale purchase from Walmart for about $25.  It didn't arrive on time for Christmas, so we saved it.

The guitar was about $12 or so from the Target clearance section.

I loaded the former grocery store shelves with musical instruments that we already had.

The band was named 'The Lucky Charms'.

This may be Lucky and Charm's favorite set up yet.  Whenever we have free time they ask to play downstairs!!

As for now, I'm dreaming up next month's set up, and I'm getting very excited to get some stain on this play house.  It won't be long now until we can open our windows and enjoy some fresh air!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Magazine Inspiration

When I returned from Florida, I had these magazines waiting for me:

I was only gone for one week!!  I'm pretty sure all my monthly magazines are released within a week of one another, so it shouldn't have been that big of a surprise.  It was just that receiving them all at once was like a huge present for a magazine lover like myself.  Pinterest is great and all, but there is something extra special about holding a magazine and reading the articles.  A few of these subscriptions I purchase for myself, but most are either gifts (from my sweet Mom who knows how much I love my magazines:)!!) or free from deals I find on Hip2Save like this one.  (You just have to be careful not to sign up for automatic renewal, because then it will get expensive fast.)

Also, if you shop at a site like , and you link through a rebates website like ShopAtHome who frequently offer 30-50% cash back for shopping at, you can find really good deals on magazines.  It is very easy to open an account with ShopAtHome, and there is no catch.  You literally receive checks in the mail just for shopping online.  Anytime Bill or I make any purchase online, we check both ShopAtHome and Ebates to see which site offers the higher percentage for the store we are buying from.  It's hard to beat 'free' money!

Magazine subscriptions aside, I realized this week, that I have never shared my method for organizing the inspiration I find every month in my favorite magazines.  It'd be nice to save the magazines in their entirety and go back and re-look at them when I felt like it, but the reality is that I barely have time to go through them the first time.  My solution is simple: I'm a magazine page ripper:).  Here are the pages I've ripped out thus far from this month's HGTV magazine:

I rip out pages that speak to me.  It might be for a paint color that I like, or a product I'd like to try.  It might be a potential DIY project or just a beautiful overall space!

After I 'finish' a magazine, I put the ripped out pages into this basket in our kitchen:

 It's the bottom basket on our rainbow bookshelf:

And then I recycle the rest of the magazine.

After my basket fills, I sort the pages into DIY projects, 'Eye Candy' (that's where the beautiful spaces go) or recipes.  I then put the pages into binders where they serve as a reference for meal planning and room planning!

It's especially fun to look through my binders every now and then to remember project ideas I may have forgotten, or even to see how my style is evolving over time:).

I often mark the images so I know what caught my eye initially:

And with that, you now know how to score a cheap or free magazine subscription, and you also know how I keep the best ideas from the magazines I love without filling our house to the brim with the full magazine copies!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hello Culligan Man!!

Ever since we moved into our home three years ago, we've been meaning to do something about our water.  The former owners of the house had removed a whole house reverse osmosis filtration system prior to foreclosing, and we always felt like we should probably address the issue ourselves, but we just put a small charcoal filter under our kitchen sink and called it good.

Fast forward a few years and a melanoma diagnosis later, and it's safe to say we're I'm more than a little paranoid about the chemicals that are entering our bodies, especially when it comes to our drinking water.  I decided to investigate a bit further, and I called over the experts for a little chat.  Our Culligan Man was 100% prepared to handle the third degree I gave him regarding our drinking water.  In the end, we decided to purchase an under the counter filtration system that not only includes a reverse osmosis filter, but also a special filter to remove specific chemicals that have popped up in our city water thanks to a little chemical waste issue that took place years ago:(.  With our new filtration system, you can't get purer water.  That makes me so happy!!

Since it was installed a few days before my birthday, Bill is calling it my birthday present.  Love it!  Thank you dear.  (He also called our trip to Florida my birthday present since we left a few days after my birthday. And then there was this giraffe that showed up:)....more on that later.  It was pretty much the best birthday ever.)

Back to the water filter.  Here it is taking up an enormous amount of under sink space:

And here's how it looks from above:

The brushed nickel faucet is new (they didn't have an oil rubbed bronze option available....insert sad face here), and from it pours our cleaner than clean water.  We noticed a taste difference immediately, and now our ice cubes are clear!!  (We had it attached to the water line that feeds our freezer ice maker as well.)  Additionally, it's super easy to use the filtered water for rinsing our fruits and veggies and for cooking too.

Now because it wouldn't be practical to attach these filters to every faucet in our house that we might drink water from (bathroom faucets and basement wet bar sink included), I developed an extremely high tech way to distribute 'clean' water throughout the house:).

I found these bottles on clearance at Target for $2.98 each about a month ago, and I stocked up on them:).

I filled up three of them for our basement refrigerator that's in our wet bar:

Here's the bottle we're using in our master bathroom:

For the kids bathroom, I just filled a stainless steel bottle because a glass bottle in a kids bathroom is just asking to get broken.  Lucky is very good about filling a cup for her and Charm after they are done brushing their teeth.  It's like a big sister's duty or something.  It's just one of the 1 million things I love about that girl.

We have had the filter in our house for about two weeks now, and we could not be happier.  Love it.  Love it.  Love it.  It's probably the best house update we've made yet!!

Goodbye Old Water!  Hello Culligan Man:)!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Florida Wishlist

One of the items on my 'Things To Do in Florida' wishlist was to attend an art show.  February and March are prime times for attending art shows in Florida since the weather is suitable for an outdoor event.

The show overall was fantastic with extremely high quality works of art.  It was huge, so it was a lot to take in, but here were my favorite artists:

Robert Ewell
This artist grew up near the Saratoga Race Track in New York.  He does beautiful watercolors of horses and people and horse races.  He had one small painting of a little blond haired girl looking up at a horse in a stable that literally brought me to tears.  I don't know why it happened.  I wasn't feeling extra emotional that day or anything.  It just really touched me.  Never has a piece of art brought me to tears before.  It was $200, and if I wasn't so frugal, I would have found a way to get it home safely.

Jeannie Maddox
It is seriously hard to believe these images are not photographs.  The detail is amazing.  So beautiful!!  I had a hard time leaving her booth.

Jennifer Ivory
This image does not do her work justice.  She makes and arranges amazingly realistic bugs out of paper and ink!!

Abby Warman
I love this impressionistic artwork.  What I'd really love is to commission her to do a piece with our family as the subjects:).

Russell Fullone

This man is amazing.  He makes wood toys that are heirloom quality and are very reasonably priced in my opinion, and he backs them with a lifetime guarantee!!  He also uses no stains or toxic chemicals on the toys.  The wood is absolutely gorgeous!  Charm has been working extra chores around the house to earn money for....another firetruck, so Bill and I picked this one up for $22 and we'll give it to Charm once he reaches the twenty-two dollar mark.

For scale reference, I added a box of crayons to the picture:

The crayons were actually included with this crayon truck that we also bought for $22 (He has a smaller size crayon truck for $12 or a larger size for $32.):

I linked above to his website, Heirloom Toys, and he is happy to take and ship orders, just as an FYI:).  Personally, I had a hard time leaving this 5 car train behind.  At $59 for the set, it sure beats a plastic train set any day of the week:)!

P.S. In case you're interested, other items on my Florida to do list were to eat a Vanilla Angel donut (from my birthday list).  Mr. Donut was apparently bought by Dunkin Donuts who still make the highly sought after Vanilla Angel.  Since there are Dunkin Donuts on every corner in Florida (and none in Minnesota), I thought it was worth a try to sneak a donut stop in there.  We succeeded.  Thank you Bill!!

Also, Lucky and I wanted to have pancakes on the beach and thanks to Grandpa Ron, that happened.  There is nothing quite like having breakfast on the beach:)!!

Charm and I wanted to drink coconut water straight from a fresh coconut, so we went to a local farmer's market and struck out on the coconut front.  (I did find a stand with air plants which was exciting, because I've had my eyes out for them for awhile.  I bought one and gave it to Oma.)  Oma and Opa came through for us on our last night when they met us for dinner bearing a coconut.  We all had fun with a drill and a hammer to get it opened that night:).  Thanks Oma and Opa!!


I also wanted a real conch shell, and even though I didn't find one on the beach, I inherited one from my mother's aunt or something like that.  I forget the exact story, but I have a conch shell in our bathroom now, and I love it.  Thanks Oma!

I wanted to eat seafood and lots of it.  This was very easy to accomplish.  One especially fun meal was with my father-in-law and Bill at Seasons 52, which is my new favorite restaurant, by the way.  All the meals are gourmet and delicious and under 475 calories.  If you are in a city that has a Seasons 52, go to it!!  You can thank me later:).  The food and conversation that night were marvelous!!  Thank you for the birthday dinner, Ron:)!!

Disney World!  I posted about all we did to prepare for Disney here, and Disney did not disappoint.  It was crowded and crazy, but fun nonetheless.  A highlight was having lunch at Cinderella's Table in the Magic Kingdom.  Lucky was floating on air all throughout the meal as she met princess after princess.  Another highlight was having a date night around the world:).  My in-laws watched the kids for us one night, while Bill and I went to Epcot and grabbed beer and pretzels in Germany, wine in France, a taco in Mexico, and a coffee float in the US of A.  We watched the fireworks and had a wonderful time!!  Thanks for babysitting, Ron and Gail:)!!

Lucky loved meeting princesses:

Charm loved his dessert:

And maybe the princesses wore off on him a little too:

And lastly, I really wanted some reading time while on vacation.  Thanks to well behaved kids on the plane rides and the car trips to Orlando and back, I finished two books, including Clean, which was a birthday gift from my Aunt,  (Thank you Judi!) and Let's Pretend this Never Happened, which was a bday gift from my bro!  (Thanks D.B.!)

We had a marvelous trip, and we can't wait to go back!!