Two Story Cottage

New Year, New Goals

Dear Friends,

I said I wasn’t doing resolutions this year.   I stand by that statement but am setting a few goals which probably falls in the resolution camp anyway. So much for being cool and counter culture.

Well, maybe I’m going against the grain since it is the 8th of January.   I’m not big on “it has to be January 1st” because I need time to plan and decide.  AND my kids have to be in school.  So there.

2015_chalk

Last year I was epecially motivated and tackled a lot in January.  I did one -drawer-a-day for the whole month and added a nightly push-ups & sit-ups regimen to counterbalance my not-so-regular workout schedule.  I highly recommend one-drawer-a-day if you are looking to get organized.  Some days it took two or three minutes and other days it took twenty.  The idea is to tackle any drawer that needs cleaning out. It really helped with our unexpected move this summer!

This year, I don’t need to organize drawers.  Moving pretty much forces you to do that.  I am going to try and keep up with my push-ups and sit-ups, although I took a 3 week break at the end of the year so starting over has been a drag.  I don’t do those every day but I try to stick with 4-5 days a week.  I do think it is the quickest way to get a teeny little workout in and I’m all about the short-cuts.

chalkboard_art

So, goals.  I’d really like to get a few projects underway this year.  However, I need to decide what and when so that I can start and complete them whether the job is big or small.  I have so many projects in mind that I’m sometimes immobilized (painting, wallpaper, sewing curtains, an accent wood wall, painting furniture, etc) so I need to start small and work my way up.

chalkboard_mirror

I’d also like to focus on the annoying little things that need to get done but aren’t necessarily fun.  Like filling nail holes and actually getting out the touch-up paint.   Yuck, but I want to stay on top of things this time around!

Inspiring, right?  Not so much.

The biggest goal of mine is organizing and cataloging pictures.  I’ve had the same “goal” the last 3-5 years and failed.   I’ve started and abandoned that project on several occasions because it is so overwhelming.  I have thousands of pictures of the kids and pretty much stopped dealing with them when Reid was born.  Not so coincidentally, the blog was born at the same time.  I think that takes more blame than the second kid.  I’m working hard on a system and have declared 2015 the year so I am going to make it happen.  Insert serious, determined, take-no-prisoners face here.  I’m working on one month a day starting with March of 2010.   That is a lot of months to deal with but I’m much better at dealing with things when broken into small increments.   I even made myself a looong checklist with each month for motivation.

Did you notice in the above pictures that I moved the chalkboard?   It looks so much better now that it is horizontal.   Now about those nail holes…

Sigh.

Do you have goals or resolutions for the year?  Or are you content as is?  I won’t judge either way.

-Erin

 

 

 

Party Banner the Easy Way Using Bags

Dear Friends,

Today I was going to show you a few pictures from Reid’s pirate themed birthday party.  It was a simple affair but fun.  However, I’m putting the cart before the horse with a mini banner tutorial from the big day.  It seems that all my party pictures were on my cell phone – you know- the one with the black screen of death.  Therefore, I’m trying to recover them and it is taking some time.  I’m not giving up though!  I was able to get these mantel pictures because I actually took them with my real camera- after the party.

How about a banner that requires zero cutting or crafting?  Sounds like a plan, huh??

pirate_banner_easy

Party banners are the in thing of the decade.  Check out etsy and you will find a ton of amazingly cute ones.  Even Target and the party store are coming on board with their own versions.  I saw some cute ones at Hobby Lobby the other day.  I did not buy or make a banner but wanted to decorate the mantel at the last minute with a pirate theme.

party_bag_banner

I used favor bags, a hole punch, and twine to make the banner.  Not exactly rocket science, but a good tip for my fellow simple people.  I filled in between with 4 by 6 sheets of card stock that I already had.  The card stock looked like it needed something so I added pirate tattoos.

diy_banner_bags

Yep, I tattooed the card stock and a few other things as well.  Those things come in packs of a zillion and you might as well use them.

That mantel will not land me any party planning awards but it did the job.  It said “pirate” and my little Captain Hook loved it.

I love a good short-cut , don’t you?  Wish me luck getting my pictures back.

-Erin

 

 

Don’t Judge Me: Methods for Crumb Removal

Dear Friends,

One snow day last week, I decided to do a little hard core cleaning of our kitchen table. Technically, it belongs to my in-laws and I was feeling guilty that it looked rather rough.  I decided to use a little elbow grease and try to get the crayon, paint, and glue off of the table.

That was all fine and dandy until I had a nasty surprise and it still gives me the chills.

stuck_on_crumbs

We keep the table leaves in the table but the cracks are visible because of the way it joins.  It just so happens that two years worth of crumbs were hiding in those table leaves.

I wanted to shrivel up and crawl into the corner.  I truly got the nauseous chills feeling that starts in your face and travels to your toes.  I practically had to shove my head between my knees.

crumbs_leaves_die

I had no clue that I was hosting a crumbfest right in my own kitchen.  It is a wonder we don’t have roaches or mice.  Or worse- whatever that would be.

Knock on wood.

decrumb_decrumb

So, to clean dried stuck-on crumbs on table leaves or anything else, I recommend an old credit card and a Magic Eraser.  I had to scrape the crumbs and follow with the Eraser.  They were glued on and it was no joke to get them off.   There were two leaves, so four sides on those, plus the sides of the table.

After de-crumbing for over an hour, I decided that the table needed a little polish.  Not knowing the wood type, I didn’t want to harm it so I went the natural route.

coconut_oil_furniture

Coconut oil is the cure for anything I tell you.  I melted a little and put it on a cloth.  Of course, I waxed on and off, Karate Kid style.  Buffed a little but not really that just sounds like something you should do.  Bascially, I wiped down any streaky spots but it was quick and easy.  Unlike the crumb crusade.

coconut_oil_polish

The dull tone of the wood disappeared and it is all bright and shiny again.

The whole thing is so clean that I would eat right off the bare naked table.   And I’ll be cleaning those leaves at least once a week now thank -you -very -much.

-Erin

 

 

The Best Step Stool Ever

Dear Friends,

You know you are getting older when you start asking for practical gifts for holidays.  My in-laws are very generous and always let me pick out a nice present for myself.  What is better than that, right?  It is one of my favorite treats and so I usually spend a ridiculous amount of time deciding what to buy.  For Christmas, I resisted the typical Anthropologie purchase and ordered a wide step stool for the kitchen.  Not exciting for most people, but oh did I want it.

two_kids_stool

Between June and December, I became an elementary school parent and got a van.  Pretty soon, I’ll be begging for vacuum cleaners and toasters.  Of course, if it was a Dyson it would be justified.  And there are some pretty cool toasters out there.

double_wide_stool

I guess I’m an official grown-up now.   Never mind that I’ve owned three houses, two cars, and have two children.  Practical gifts -by request- tips the scales.

extra_wide_kid_stool

But back to the step stool.  It rocks.  Both kids can fit on it.  They can wash hands.  We can pull it over to the island for baking.  We do a ridiculous amount of cooking around here now because of Reid and I’m tired of him tipping over chairs in an attempt to help.

Of course, two children washing hands at the same time presents all kinds of opportunities for trouble.   They are having way too much fun with the soap and water.  I guess we have to live on the edge when we can.

-Erin

 

 

 

 

2014: Pesky Home Goals + Pretty Pictures

Dear Friends,

I think annual house goals are a somewhat necessary evil.  The idea is to help keep me focused on tasks that need to be taken care of.  I’m hopelessly aimless if I don’t have structure and objectives.  Sigh.  I decided to be a glutton for punishment and bust out the measuring stick to see how I stacked up for last year’s house goals.

I think I was 4 for 8 or something like that.  Perhaps I should have posted my goals somewhere in the house.  Joking aside, I did make a lot of progress on the areas that are not yet complete.

C is for Craft Storage

This is at the top of my list right now.  Our guest room is nearly livable (one of last year’s goals!) but organizing my craft things would complete the cycle.  Of course, they are in a closet as opposed to a room like the space above but it works.  And the guests can keep their stuff in the suitcase.

B is for Boy Room ( A last year goal)

I sort of quit on the boy’s room after the summer.  It is in that 90% done state and just needs a few details to really take it to the next level.  It is MUCH nicer than a year ago though.   Aren’t those airplane prints awesome?

M is for Mud Room (A last year goal)

Our mud area coming in from the garage is tidy now but it still lacks personality.  My wheels are turning on that one.   It will never look like this mud space but a girl can daydream.

O is for Outside Areas

The garage is in dire need of organization.  Our corner porch is also full of kids’ toys so I need to come up with some better solutions.  A bench with storage might do the trick.  I doubt I can talk anyone into outdoor built-ins but they make good use of under the stair space.

T is for Touch-Up

I have so many areas I need to touch-up around here.  Whether it is with the magic eraser or spackle, I need to devote a day or so to a little maintenance.  I get hammer happy sometimes.   Too bad I don’t have a life-sized paintbrush.

Are you asleep yet?  This post was to remind you that I too have areas that need work.  Our house is not perfect and I do not always meet my goals.  My tagline, “work in progress” pretty much sums up life in these parts.

Do you have house goals?  Are you a go-getter or do you lose focus like I do?

-Erin

 

One Drawer A Day Challenge

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!  I’ll admit, I’m giddy for the fresh start.  The house feels clean and I’ve got excitement bubbling under the surface somewhere.   Last year I was “ho hum” but this January I’m ready.   I think I went through a months long decorating and project depression in 2013 because I lacked the desire to do anything around the house.  It was a first for me but it was just a sticky feeling that I couldn’t shake.

I finally realized that I had a lot of other life clutter that was keeping me in the “eh” category.  Getting Reid diagnosed and healthy really lifted a huge load.  Of course, going through all of that was taxing but being on this side feels good.    We also had big decisions to make last year regarding school and job stuff hanging in the balance all of which was resolved.   It was a cloudy year for sure but the sun is rising in the distance.  And the “eh” is gone!

Last January, I implemented a one drawer a day cleaning-out system that actually worked pretty well for a a few weeks.  This year, I’m at it again.  No need to change a good thing.

one_drawer_day

rules_text

*Clean out one drawer a day from any room in the house.

*Do this 5 days a week, for the month of January.

*Drawers can be in any room of the house or in a piece of furniture.

The hard part of “resolutions” is keeping up with them.  Honestly, I have found that I do better with a 5 day a week commitment vs. the full 7.  It allows me to skip on a crazy day or take the weekend off.  I do the same thing with my Bible study, my push-ups and sit-ups, and flossing.  Nope, I’m not kidding about the flossing.  That was a New Year’s resolution 8 years ago and I’m still working it.

I’m semi-organized in general which basically means I’ve got neat areas and the very polar opposite of neat areas.  I’m not going for pretty magazine-style organization because necessity isn’t always sparkly.  I don’t really like to spend money on organizational stuff so the Target dollar aisle makes that easy.  Tin buckets, plastic files, and little holders help camouflage the clutter.

drawer_challenge

I’m starting in the bathroom this year.  I’ve got makeup that needs tossing and hairbrushes that would make my grandmother  shake her finger at me.  The drawer above is a simple, small accessory spot that didn’t need a lot of tweaking.   No organizers or fancy tricks.  I just took everything out, wiped with a baby wipe, and put it back in an orderly manner.

Now, I’ve made it sound so easy.  I’m inviting you to join me.  I’m going to be updating via Facebook and instagram using #onedraweraday.  I fell off the social media wagon in the fall due to my way-too-old computer that had a severe dislike of anything from this decade.

The good news?  Santa brought me a new one.  I’m back in the game.

Join me, friends!

-Erin

P.S.  I consider the beginning of January to be today when everyone is back on a normal routine with school and preschool, not necessarily January 1st.   This week is a good place to start!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Simple Solution Using Washi Tape

Dear Friends,

Confession.  I’m a last minute present-wrapper.  Shake your finger at me all you want but I always seem to be up late on the eve of whatever holiday requires wrapping.  At 11 pm, Thursday night I was staring down 12+ rolls of Christmas gift wrap wondering if a late night Walmart run was in order. Six year old girls don’t appreciate poinsettia gift wrap on their birthdays.  I don’t know how I ran out of birthday paper exactly.  There have been a couple of Lacey-orchestrated stuffed animal birthday parties this summer that may have been the culprit.

I knew a solution was in order because there is no way I was really going errand-running at that hour.  I can thank my procrastination for many light bulb moments in my life, including this one.

Y’all, I turned the Christmas paper inside out and then decorated the presents with washi tape.  I’m not going to lie, it made me feel pretty resourceful.

washi_tape_gift_wrap

I know in the pin-it universe that many have done this before but I’m new to the game so let me bask in my new idea.

I took an iPhone picture at midnight but that isn’t exactly blog beautiful.  Therefore I thought I’d share a few other washi tape present wrapping links that I found while browsing Pinterest today.

xmas-gifts-2

via Little White Whale

Picture 15

via

spotted375_1024x1024

via

washi-tape-party-favors-1024x704

Tiny Prints Blog

SONY DSC

via

If you aren’t familiar with washi tape, it is a decorative masking tape that you can find most anywhere that sells crafts.  Target and Walmart even sell it.  I find I like to keep it in the kitchen drawer as it has many uses!

Lacey had a great birthday by the way.   I won’t be blogging about the party this year because we did it at a local gym.  No decorating necessary!  She loved every minute of it and I didn’t stress about party-mom syndrome like last year.

Are you a washi tape fan?  Any procrastinators out there?

-Erin

 

Hang it on Brick! A Simple Solution

Dear Friends,

For nearly two years, I have had things leaning on the corner porch waiting to be hung. It didn’t really bother me to be honest. Until last week. And suddenly, those things mocked me. The whispers tortured me until I stopped by Lowe’s to figure out how to remedy the situation.

hang_me_brick

Yes, I hear voices.

Yes, I could have drilled into the mortar with the right drill bit.

I was looking for a different solution that wasn’t quite so drastic. After all, I’ve been known to move things and who wants a bunch of holes in their brick?

Enter my solution.  The no-tools required brick clip.

brick_hangers_no_drill

The brick hangers snap in and use gravity to hang anything 30 lbs or less. They fit with any size brick as long as there is close to the standard 1/2 inch between bricks. My brick was tricky. I had to fiddle with the brads to get it to snap in.  On the porch wall, the masonry isn’t very deep which made it harder to wedge in there.  Once I got it though, it was a cinch. The other two went quickly.  It was just a matter of understanding the concept.

brick_clip_lowes_1

1. The brads clip in at an angle but you have to adjust them for your brick.  Mine were at different angles as my brick is uneven.

2. Voila!  You can see the brads wedged in and adjusted at each side.

3. It works!

porch_storage_brick_clips

Those are some cute miniature corn hole boards, huh?  My sister and her husband made those for the kids for Christmas.  They love them!   A bit of storage is convenient on the porch because we play a lot in the backyard.  Making trips to the garage through the house is a pain. Keeping a few things out back works for us.

brick_painting_clip

That table resides on the porch because it had no where else to go.  I haven’t the heart to get rid of it so it has sat in that spot for a while.  I’m thinking about making over a bench to complete the look.  It is handy for setting out food buffet-style.

Do you have any nagging to-do items this summer?

-Erin

 

 

 

 

 

It’s A Quesadilla Monday {Dinner for the Busy & Tired}

Dear Friends,

We have developed a bi-weekly quesadilla habit.  I can’t pinpoint when it began but we usually partake on a Monday.  The first day of the work week involves a lot of running around and multiple activities because we like to punish ourselves rather than ease into the week.   The result is a tired Mama who appreciates a meal that takes 15 minutes or less.

busy_mom_quesadilla

Quesadillas are winners because everyone can eat them yet you can personalize for taste.  I like zesty food versus my husband’s plain Jane palette.

I’m a simple girl.  You will not find these in the Williams Sonoma cookbook but who has time for luxury after driving in circles all day?  I bet the ones in a fancy cookbook would have caramelized onions and goat cheese with chunks of beef tenderloin.

Mine don’t.  Hence the 15 minute deal.

I have done a million variations but the two that rule the roost are Buffalo Chicken and Barbecue Chicken Ranch.

photo 2

Buffalo Chicken:

Tortilla, Shredded Cheese, Chicken, splash of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, dollop of Blue Cheese dressing (or ranch if you prefer)

Barbecue Ranch:

Tortilla, Shredded Cheese, Chicken, a dollop of barbecue sauce, and a splash of Ranch dressing

chicken_buffalo_quesadillas

Shred a chicken breast or two.  We eat chicken on a regular basis so I usually have a leftovers for this purpose.  To save time,  I shred and freeze for future meals.

baked_quesadillas

Mix ingredients in a bowl.  Don’t measure.  Just look at the consistency.  I prefer it thick and not soupy.

photo 4

Line a baking sheet with foil.  Spread the mixture on half of the quesadilla.

photo 1

Fold over the quesadilla. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Make sure they are crunchy as opposed to soggy.

As a healthy-minded Mom, these are not exactly organic superfood.  However, I regularly add shredded spinach which usually goes undetected.  If I do that, I put it in my mini chopper to make sure it is chive-like in size.  Tomato is yummy also.  On my quesadilla, I will experiment with all kinds of things.  I have also started using yogurt-based ranch which helps the nutrition factor.

Sometimes our themes are Jamaican with more of a teriyaki base.  There is a BLT that I will do occasionally.  Pizza is fun for a treat.  Keep it simple but don’t be afraid to experiment.   Wholly Guacamole is often an accompaniment to this meal.

Let them cool for a minute or two before cutting.  Bust out the pizza cutter and smile when everyone says,  quesadillas again? 

Bon Appetit!

-Erin

 

 

Extra-Wide Curtain Rod Solution

Dear Friends,
I hope you had a wonderful Easter!  We had a enjoyable family day.  It was neither warm nor sunny but it wasn’t pouring rain so we were thankful.  I ate and ate some more .  I’m not sure who can put away more food – an NFL player, myself, or Lacey.  Hard to say.   Other than the ridiculous food spread, my favorite part of Easter is the music.  I love the trumpet and organ combination with traditional hymns.  It warms my soul.

curtain_rod_plate

There is no good transition from soul-warming to curtain rods so let’s move on.   What do you do when you have crazy wide windows and no curtain rod on the planet is long enough?  Well, you could have one custom made but that just sounds expensive.  I looked at making one from PVC pipe (popular in the blogging community) but it was too skinny for the look I wanted.

I knew I needed a 14 foot pole of some sort so I browsed Bed, Bath, and Beyond for inspiration.  I thought maybe I could somehow connect an 8 foot wood pole and 6 foot wood pole.  Not exactly genius, but I’ve never claimed Mensa status.

I was brainstorming how to do this when I saw this hanging on a hook in the wood pole section.

Picture 9

Clearly someone had this lightbulb moment before I did.  So much for Shark Tank.  Oh, and this is one of those “duhs” where everyone knew about it but me.  Oops.  I was trying to think WAY outside the box and sometimes staying in the box is a-okay.   I really just want to whine, “why didn’t someone tell me about this two years ago?”   I guess “they” assumed I knew since it isn’t rocket science.

I spent about $75 at Bed, Bath, & Beyond on the two wood poles, a connector pack, and 5 (6 inch) wooden return brackets. It would have been more than that but I used FIVE 20 % off coupons.  Did you know you can use expired coupons there?  And one for each item?  Never, ever throw those away when they come in the mail.  It isn’t fun to spend money on a wood pole but it definitely beats the custom price.

wide_window_pole-003

I waited until Mr. C went out of town to put up this rod in case there was a major window treatment fail just to spare him.  I’m a good wife that way. Well, the curtain rod went up in an hour or less.  It was so easy to install the brackets with the included hardware and the poll just screwed right together with the connector.

photo-004

It is rare for a project to be easier than projected.  Very rare.

Unfortunately, Bed, Bath, & Beyond doesn’t sell these online but I found another retailer for you.  Curtainrods.com has the wood poles, return brackets, and the connector screw.  I didn’t buy finials because I wasn’t crazy about any of them.   Make sure you buy enough brackets to support your pole.  Mine are all hidden by the curtain panels.  Also, you can cut the pole to length pretty easily if you need an odd measurement.  I guess the longest you could go in this case would be 16 feet with two eight foot poles.

white_panels_long_wall

I love the look of the thick wood pole.  It is elegant and designer-like.   I can pretend, right?

Problem solved.  If only everything had such a simple solution.

-Erin

 

Designed by Chena Designs Development and Hosting by Evenpar Solutions