Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Biggest Month Ever & A Giveaway

If you've ever glanced at my archives, you can see that I've had this little blog since 2009. I posted occasionally in 2009, less in 2010 and twice in 2011. Apparently 2011 was not a blogging year for me!  At the beginning of this year, I decided to make an effort to post more often.

When we started our kitchen renovation in March, I started posting some of the remodel process and finally in July I shared the big reveal of our brand new kitchen. I also featured some projects I did around the house and started customizing Sweeter Still. The biggest change I made was to start sharing my posts through different link parties on some of my favorite blogs. One of the reasons that I love the whole blogging idea is because I think it's amazing that so many people who have never met can share their ideas and experiences.

With all that being said, July was the biggest month ever for page views on Sweeter Still! I got lots of cool comments too. Comments are awesome! Not only does it let you know that someone is actually interested in what you have to say, but it gives you a chance to find awesome blogs written by cool people that you might not have known before. Thank you to all those fabulous folks who left comments! And welcome to my newest followers!

Also because a lot of the traffic came from the amazing blogs that host link parties, I want to recognize my biggest referrers for July.

Thank you to all the fantastic people who stopped by to check things out here at Sweeter Still!! I hope you keep coming back and that you enjoy the visits.

To celebrate my exciting month, I am hosting my very first giveaway!! 

I have been reading The Pleated Poppy pretty much since I started reading blogs. Lindsey is awesome and so creative! Her blog is full of cool ideas (just check out the parties she hosts) and her shop is chock full of fun products.

I wore a white Petal Pusher in my hair during my wedding reception and I have a couple others that I have worn on jackets and scarves.

If I had an ipad I would definitely have one of these cases! Lindsey has a great eye for fun fabric combos.

The school year is right around the corner and this pencil pouch is adorable. Personally I see it holding makeup for mama!


*1 winner will receive a $20 gift card to be used in The Pleated Poppy shop
*Giveaway is open until Saturday, August 4 at 12:01am
*Check out the Pleated Poppy shop and leave a comment using Rafflecopter telling me what you would buy using a $20 gift card!

*As an added bonus Lindsey is offering a 15% discount to all you fabulous readers! Just enter the discount code SWEETERSTILL15 at check out to get 15% off your order! 
(The code will be valid until August 31 at midnight.)

To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Little Pinspiration for Monday

It's Monday and the hubs and I just got back from a weekend wedding getaway last night so I need a little help getting going today! The wedding was in beautiful Steamboat Springs, CO. It was wonderful, but both Friday and Sunday were lonnnggg travel days. It's hard to get home late Sunday night and jump right into the groove on Monday morning. (The kids do not seem to get this.)

I have a lot of fun projects in the works but none of them are happening today! Instead I thought I'd share some of the awesome creations out there that I've pinned for future DIY projects.

Dress Up a Box Spring
Check out this cool tutorial from Urban Nest on how to create a cover for your box spring or even make it look like a faux frame for your bed. We have a giant bed frame but the box spring is still exposed and this would be a cool way to make it a little prettier.

Burlap & Button "Art"
I love the basic idea behind these button letters from Pottery Barn Kids. I like that each letter is in a separate frame so it adds dimension. I like that the burlap and buttons are simple but add texture. You could make this work for so many different rooms. It's a super cute idea for a little girl's room but I'm thinking this might be fun in our bathroom or for the holidays.
Note: As far as I can tell PB Kids doesn't actually sell the button art. It's just part of a room design featured online, which you can see if you click on the link above.

Family Organization Station
I used to have a tolerable spot for our calendar and message area when the side of our fridge was exposed. Now the fridge is enclosed and the doors are non-magnetic stainless steel (plus I like the front of the fridge not to be clean and bare.) We need a new space for all our family business, especially with school starting in a few weeks. I love this space from BH&G.

Sweet Book Decor
I love these paperback books turned cute decor from Simply KellyB. I think they would be awesome for a fall mantel or table-top display. She gives a simple tutorial towards the end of the post so go check it out and see all the other fun ways Kelly uses books and pages.

So there you have it! A little pinspiration to get everyone moving on this fine Monday. Tune in tomorrow for a fun surprise!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Love Affair With Books

I love to read. I mean really love. Like in the nerd-girl, emotionally caught up in a book, stay awake until 1am reading when my baby wasn't sleeping through the night type of love. I've always enjoyed reading and I am doing my darnedest to instill that love in both my children.

Books are an escape for me. A place to unwind and detach from all the responsibilities and chores of normal life. The hubs and I are headed out of town this weekend for a wedding and I'm so excited for time in the airport and on the plane to tear into a new book. I told you... this girl loves her books. (Side note: I'm also really looking forward to some time away with my husband just in case you were starting to wonder!)

Here are some of the great reads I've plowed through over the past few months...

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett is the story of a young woman who travels to South America to find out what really happened to her coworker who died in the Amazon. Her search leads her to the jungle to seek out a reclusive doctor in the process of developing a new drug. The story starts slow but the characters are full of a sense of mystery that pulls you in. By the end, I couldn't put it down.

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus is historical fiction loosely based around the late 1800s when the American Indians were being forced off their land and onto reservations by the government. It is written in journal style from the viewpoint of a young woman who takes part in a peace-keeping mission where the government sends white female volunteers to be married to Cheyenne Indians. While the main idea is fictional, the story is full of vivid description of tribe life and graphically depicts the sorrow of the tribes being forced out of their own way of life. While it is painful to read at times, I found the story to be really interesting and quite moving.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton is a blend of history and fiction, with about half the story taking place in WWII England and the rest in early 1990s London. A young woman's mother receives a letter fifty years after it was sent and her reaction sends her daughter on a quest to learn more about her mother's past. In the course of her discovery, she is led to an old castle in rural Kent where her mother was sent as a refugee during the war. This book takes a long time to really reel you in (maybe 100 pages or so) but once it does, the mystery and suspense are wonderful. I really liked this one.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake is my most recent read. I literally finished it Tuesday. Another historical fiction novel set around WWII, bouncing between Cape Cod and Europe, this one wasn't my favorite. The story is vivid and the writing is good, but the end left me dissatisfied. It didn't wrap up as much as I would have liked and that gave me an unsettled feeling when I finished. The author splits the narration between three different women and one man briefly, which actually gives the book more depth, but the end is still weighing on me. I guess I'm the type that likes things all tied up and you don't really get that with this book.

If you are a book nerd too, and particularly if you like historical fiction, these books might be just what you need. It's funny that I tend to read more during the summer even though I don't have schoolwork to keep me busy the rest of the year.

What have you read recently that you enjoyed??

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Customizing Your Blog Header Using PicMonkey

Lately I've been making some changes here on Sweeter Still. I've been adding a few features to customize my blog and trying out some new tricks. One really fun tool I just discovered is PicMonkey, a FREE online photo editing program. 

Today I'll show you how I made my own custom blog header using free resources off the web. It was easy to do and makes my blog feel more personal and inviting.

First I grabbed the free header that corresponds with my background from Shabbyblogs.com. It was just a quick download. Then I opened PicMonkey in a browser window. One big plus for PicMonkey is it works online so you don't have to download a program to use it.

Choose the Edit Photo option on the home page and select the header image from your Download folder. The photo editing window opens with your image ready to be customized.

Next I opened the text editing option (see that P along the side).

Enter the text in the box at the top left and choose a font that you like. I wanted something informal so I chose the "Shadows Into Light Two" font, which you can see highlighted. Click Add and the text box will appear on your image with an editing box.

Originally I saved the image this way and uploaded it to Blogger but it was too small and left this weird blank space at the top of the page. So I re-opened the image and opened the Effects editing tool (the first option on the list).

Click on Resize and you can play with the size and proportions of the image. If you want to stretch it vertically or horizontally, be sure to uncheck the Keep Proportions box.

When you are done editing, just click Save and you are ready to upload it to your blog. So easy right?!

Linking To...
Home Stories A2Z

Monday, July 23, 2012

Baby Boy's Room

Recently I changed up my little man's room. It was looking a little unfortunate with not much besides some of the leftover stuff he had inherited from his sister's gender-neutral nursery. My husband kept complaining that our son didn't have a boy's room, but really he just didn't have a room that was his own apart from some new sheets and curtains.

Here are a couple of really old "before" pictures just so you can get the idea (and apparently they're a little blurry!)

The brown curtains were a use-what-you've-got situation and they've long since gone to goodwill.

So those pictures make the old nursery look really sad and empty but it didn't feel that way in reality... okay maybe a little, but let's move on!

The new baby boy room has a definite theme going on but I tried to stay away from the store-bought sports stuff. I did keep it a little cute because he's still just a little guy after all and a mama only has so long before he's not going to want anything remotely cute.

I gathered a handful of old UCLA t-shirts that we had and wrapped them around canvases that I found on sale at Michael's a while ago. I just wrapped them, centered them, and stapled them to the back of the canvas, then trimmed the excess fabric. The little one in the middle is baby brother's first Bruin shirt and the one in the upper left corner was my first. I didn't cut those ones for sentimental reasons and just used clear packing tape to flatten them on the back of the canvas. It was a super easy and cheap project.

The framed pictures are illustrations from a children's book that Coach John Wooden co-authored based on his Pyramid of Success. The book is a great way to teach kids all the qualities that the legendary John Wooden felt led a person to success, which he defined as reaching one's personal best. What a great message for little ones! I just color-copied some of my favorite illustrations and framed them in the dollar store frames that used to hang in the dining room.

So there you have it. A little sporty meets a little bit of cute and makes a fun room for our one year old baby boy. 

Linking to...

Today's Creative Blog
DIY Show Off TDC Before and After

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer Mantel

Yes, I know it's basically the end of July so technically it's a little late for a summer mantel post, but what can I say?? We actually had a 4th of July mantel and I never took pictures so this is it.

Actually the mantel is sort of a new point of struggle for me. When we did our kitchen renovation, we got rid of our giant dinosaur tv and bought a sweet new flatscreen. We put the tv above the fireplace because it's really the only logical spot based on the new arrangement of furniture. Our living room is very open but kind of spatially awkward. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually but right now I'm trying to work with what I have.

The new tv is fun but also pretty darn big. It hangs on a large swivel arm so that it can be extended or turned to face the kitchen. The whole contraption including the tv itself is pretty thin so it sits fairly close to the wall but it still takes up a lot of wall space! Figuring out what to put on the mantel is a challenge because we need to be able to extend the swivel arm. It obviously wouldn't be very convenient if things were always getting knocked over or needed to be moved. 

I picked up a few cheap house plants at Home Depot. My sweet girl helped choose them and insisted on at least one being pink! The little pot was also from the Depot and cost just a few dollars. It looks extra bright in the picture; it's really more of a spring green and adds a nice pop of color. I already had the lantern and I made the book bundle the other day with a few old paperbacks and some paper bags and twine.

The basket came from TJ Maxx and was intended for the guest bath but apparently I was thinking of someone else's bathroom when I was shopping because the colors didn't work at all! I like that the basket fills in this side of the mantel with a little color and also a little texture. I think it was $8. So for about $20, I have a summery and colorful mantel to greet our guests this weekend. 

How would you decorate the mantel while avoiding the tv??

Thanks for visiting!

Linking To...
The Shabby Nest

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Five Ps

Have you ever heard of the Five Ps? It goes a little something like this "Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance" or if you're like my mom, there are actually six Ps "Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance." Either way you go, it's pretty right on, especially when it comes to home projects, sewing, crafts, etc. 

Yesterday was a perfect example of what happens when you don't plan ahead appropriately. I had a babysitter for a few hours and it was a nice day so it seemed like a good time to get a few spray-painting projects done. My little ones are too up in my business still for stuff like that so it's not something that can be done with them playing nearby. It started out as a great plan. I only had two small items from the local thrift store that I wanted to paint.

I actually like the candle-holder as is, but I wanted it for our mantel and the lime green doesn't jive with the rest of the decor so a little paint to the rescue. The jug was super cute but a little too country for me. Again I thought a little paint would do the trick. 

I had just finished priming them and spraying on the first coat when I heard the gardeners in the front yard. Awesome. Quickly I ran to the front yard and told the head gardener not to let anyone use the blower in the back corner of our yard, thinking this would prevent dust from blowing all over my freshly-painted, not yet dry projects. Unfortunately when I got back to my little work station, the lawnmower in the front yard had already kicked up a bunch of dust. Luckily not too much damage was done since the paint had dried pretty quickly. 

The jug turned out very simple but still shows the imprint of the label. 

I like the black on the candle holder even though the lime green was fun. The black definitely works better in our house.

I also turned a few old paperbacks (which were not good in case you're wondering and I am not sure why I kept them or why I have two copies??) into a knock-off Ballard book bundle for the mantel. I'll show the full mantel when it's all done... hopefully before we have guests this weekend ;)

Gotta love Instagram! It turns the most mediocre blah picture into something awesome. I hope you enjoyed the adventures of a spray-painting newbie! 

What's your favorite thing that you've transformed with a little paint?

shabby creek cottage

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dressing Up the Guest Bath

There's nothing like the impending visit of house guests to light a fire under your behind when it comes to those unfinished home projects! All those things I've been putting off or meaning to get to have been flashing before my eyes as I realized that some of the extended family visiting this weekend (on the husband's side) have never seen our home or not for a long time. But I've been tackling lots of last minute tasks so they'll never know that their nephew/cousin/etc. married a giant procrastinator :)

Fortunately no one will be staying overnight so it's just a one-day event. The guest bath could use some sprucing. We did a bathroom renovation the winter before last so luckily it didn't need too much love, just a few extra touches. I had a space on the wall that I just couldn't decide what to do with and so it had been left unfinished for a long time. When I was making the burlap monogram, I knew that it might be just the thing to personalize the guest bath a little.

So here are a few before pictures of the guest bath. It's not in bad shape, just a little bare.

And here is the updated room with a few new additions...

This is the space above the toilet. It's sort of a funny angle but the only way I could show it without huge glare from the glass of the frame. 

At least now my guests won't notice the big empty space that used to be above the toilet. I'd like to do shelves or something useful for storage but that will have to wait for another day.

Thanks for stopping by! Come back tomorrow to learn why you shouldn't plan a spray paint project for the day that the gardeners come :)

Thrifty Decor Chick

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Pinterest Challenge

If you're anything like me, you pin and pin and pin but never do anything but admire all those pretty pins. Kate over at Centsational Girl and a few others decided it was time to stop simply admiring and actually get to work trying out some of those projects. To inspire others to do the same, they started a quarterly Pinterest challenge. All you have to do is find something that you've pinned and actually make it. Simple enough right?? 

You can check out what Kate made and be inspired to be a DIY woodworking guru and then you can see what I made below and feel better about not being a goddess of do-it-yourself projects :)

My inspiration came from Angie at The Country Chic Cottage. She gives a great tutorial with far more detail and effort so you should check it out. I also used a letter H (for our last name) but you could easily adapt this for any letter or number. So here's the version I found on Pinterest a long time ago and am just now recreating...

I love the distressed look but I made mine using an Ikea frame that I had on hand and I'm happy with it for now. Here's mine...

I attached heavy white cardstock to the backing of the frame and used Microsoft Word to print out a large H in the style I wanted. I traced the H with chalk on the burlap and then cut it out. 

I think I'd like to put it in a distressed frame at some point but for an afternoon project, this went together really easily.

Thanks, Angie for an easy and inspiring craft project!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Easiest BBQ Meal Ever

We had a small get-together for the 4th of July and I knew I needed a meal that would be super easy to fix. We were planning to spend part of the afternoon at another friend's house so we didn't have tons of time to prepare a dinner for our own guests. This meal feels homemade but it's quick and takes very little prep-work. Oh and I didn't take any pictures so you'll have to imagine what it looked like, which will be easy once you hear the ingredients.

BBQ Pulled-Chicken Sandwiches (feeds 8-9)
2 pre-cooked rotisserie chickens
2 bottles BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray's)

Shred the chicken off the bone (I don't use the skin) using a fork or your fingers. Put the chicken and about 1 1/2 bottles of bbq sauce in a crockpot and stir. I add a little water so it's not so sticky. Let it sit on low for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally or on high for about an hour. Serve with sandwich buns, cheese and any other condiment you like.

Easy-Peasy Mexican Rice
1 cup cooked rice (I made 2 cups and it was way too much)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 jar salsa

Cook the rice ahead of time and chill in the fridge for a couple hours. Add the black beans and the salsa and stir. That's it. 

We also had grilled corn on the cob and it was really nice to not be slaving away in the kitchen while everyone was hanging out. Since I made way too much rice, we used the leftovers in tacos the next night, and I still ended up freezing a bunch of it. Apparently a little rice goes a long way! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Kitchen Breakdown

After posting the Big Kitchen Reveal, I wanted to share some of my favorite parts and a few of the challenges. As a first-time renovator, I learned a lot along the way, especially when it comes to dealing with contractors and such. Since this kitchen was in no way, shape or form a DIY project, we had a lot of different contributors with a lot of interesting ideas and personalities. In the end, all of them did a great job, but some were more challenging to work with than others. 

I learned first and foremost, do your research! Anyone who has been doing (fill in the blanks) for however long will have an opinion about how you should update your space. Personal opinion can easily come across as expert opinion, but doesn't necessarily make it right. It's up to you to know the difference. For example, my cabinet maker was adamant that the pony wall between the kitchen and dining room be 42 inches tall, which is standard. I wanted it to be 48 inches tall. My husband and I debated long and hard about how to handle the situation and in the end I stuck to my guns and my wall is 48 inches. My rationale to the cabinet maker: "If the stovetop is counter height at 36" and I have a 42" pony wall, that's only 6 inches of backsplash behind the stovetop. If I have an 8" tall pot on the burner, it's going to be taller than the wall behind it and that's not going to work for me." He agreed that he never would have thought of it and that it made perfect sense. The guy doing our counters was horrified that I wanted plain white subway tile for the backsplash with absolutely no color to break it up. While he has years of experience and did a great job on the counters, obviously he doesn't spend much time on Pinterest or he'd see that white subway tile is everywhere! And for the record I love it.

Notice how even at 48 inches the wall doesn't look that high, but visually it creates a barrier from the dining room. When you're sitting at the table, you aren't looking at the mess in the kitchen waiting to be cleaned from dinner prep.

The new range is one of my favorite aspects of the kitchen, both for form and function. We searched and searched for the right range and this one was exactly what we wanted and in our price range. Woot woot! It's a Frigidaire and works like a dream. I adore the gas burners and I'm so glad that we made that a priority. The oven is electric with a convection option and heats up very quickly and cooks evenly. I haven't used the convection option yet but the reviews were all positive.

Another feature in the kitchen that I love is the pendant lighting above the island. I originally found the fixtures at Ballard Designs, but ended up having to buy one of the lights at a different company because of an unfortunate issue with Ballard. I won't go into it but it was a pain in the neck to say the least. At Ballard they call this fixture the Newport Pendant and we bought the large size.

Here's a little close up.

The apron-front farmhouse sink is wonderful. My husband wasn't sure about how it would look when I first showed him some pictures, but in the end he agreed that it was the right choice. I only wish we had this sink when our little ones were babies because it would be awesome for baths in those early days. It's big enough that I can fit the drawers from our refrigerator in the basin for cleaning and they sit flush on the bottom. I love the exposed front with the new cabinetry. The only issue I've had is that it sits just a little lower than counter height and sometimes I accidentally spray over the edge. Other than that it's been fantastic. And just for clarification, it's white, not cream as it sort of looks in the picture. That's just the light.

I have to say we were very fortunate that our renovation went smoothly with only the smallest issues here and there. Our contractor was great and it was done very quickly compared to stories I've heard. I love cooking and entertaining in our new space, and I'm excited to get all the decor arranged so it's truly finished. 
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