Portland, Oregon – locals living like tourists…

This past weekend, Dr. J and I decided to take a break from the usual house projects and took a little respite away from the home in our own fair city of Portland, Oregon.  For the first time we were able to take a little R&R for ourselves and pretend to be tourists!  While we wouldn’t normally be all swanky, we did have a good reason: Dr. J’s big 3-0 birthday!  Shhh….don’t tell him I told you!  But don’t worry, just like my 30th birthday from a few months ago (yes, I robbed the cradle), we made sure that he was well cared for on his birthday…

Happy Birthday from The Nines Hotel

We were obsessed with this corner of our hotel room! The marble topped table, the cascading chandelier, the gorgeous wallpaper....to die for!

Only in Portland :-). These guys were good to me...

Still obsessing over the lighting...

Day 2 had us tasting the wares in the Pearl, including 5 separate breads from The Pearl Bakery

We heart architecture

A study in sustainable architecture...

Portland isn't the greenest city in America for nothing!

So there ya have it!  Obviously this is not a post about homewares or DIY, but we were happy to take a “stay-cation” in our own city and live it up by staying in a hotel, taking a culinary tour of our own city, and enjoying the beautiful weather (while it lasted).  I highly recommend living as a tourist in your own city if you ever get the chance….it’s well worth it!

Mad props and thanks to The Nines Hotel as well as The Urban Farmer Restaurant, a sustainable restaurant in downtown Portland!  If you are ever in town, these are must sees!


Champagne (Art) on a Beer Budget – Cost? FREE!

The last time I tackled a cheap art project, I stayed safely within the confines of my computer so that if I hated it, then I could just blame it on a less-than-stellar computer skillz.  But when we recently decided to tackle our guest bathroom for a mini-makeover, I tried to think outside the (computer) box in terms of art, all while keeping in mind my mantra for design – cheaper is better than expensive, but free is waaaaay better than cheap!

It’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of HGTV (house porn, anyone?).  I get so much inspiration from watching those shows and I’ve incorporated so much of what I see on TV into my own house and whatever is leftover is just stockpiled for future reference.  One of the scariest projects I’ve seen designers tackle on HGTV is taking leftover paint, a piece of scrap wood, and hardly any artistic talent to create something cool-looking when the budgets are a little thin.  Now I’ll be the first to admit I am no artist, I did not study art in school, nor have I studied any kind of art within the past ten years, but I was feeling a little overconfident this past Saturday and thought I’d try my hand at some good ol’ freehand painting.

Since we had taupe-y green tones going on in the bath and bamboo accessories, I started thinking that it would look really great to paint bamboo reeds to sort of tie in the whole theme.  I initially thought this was just going to be a practice run for an eventual wall mural, but decided that I liked the painting so much I just went with it!  I started by taking a piece of scrap wood we had lying around in the garage, primed it, and then painted it the same color as the walls.  This provided me with a good base and a coordinated color scheme right off the bat since it all ties into the same family!  Then this is where I just started wingin’ it…

Fortunately for me, I had about a dozen different colors to work with since part of our color picking process involves picking up 3 testers worth of paint each time!  But I decided to keep things simple and just do 4 colors and do a simple highlight/lowlight detail to make it pop just a wee bit.  It’s not much, but not bad for my second foray into homemade artwork!

Hey, it’s certainly no DaVinci, but it was free, so there ya go!  The plan is to create a white frame for this piece so that it doesn’t completely blend into the wall, but until that time You’Tell Us! What do you think?!?  Do you think you would be able to throw something super simple together like this?  Better yet, if this *does* inspire you to try your hand at some personal artwork, then send us your pics!  We’d love to see them!

Prison Cell Turned Guest Suite!

One of the items on our “Quest” was to finally put together a Guest Suite where people could actually feel welcomed and not “imprisoned”.  While none of our inmates guests have ever told us they have felt behind bars when staying at our house, I feel bad that the last few times my Mom has come to visit, she has had to resort to using her suitcase as a nightstand, we didn’t have any window dressings on the windows, and our walls were as bare as a baby’s behind!  Talk about uninspiring!

Our Guest Room a few months ago...

So we had a few odds and ends that needed to be put into this room to just get it “functional”.  The painting and other details are going to have to wait until 2010, unfortunately, otherwise I would call this post a “Before & After Bliss”.  It’s still not blissful, but this is a good start!

The first step was to find a nightstand that loosely matched this piece:

This is a dresser that J found at a garage sale before heading off to college and I remember it was white, chipped, and definitely worse for the wear when we were both in school together.  Then in graduate school he sanded off (by hand – this was before he fell in love with power tools) the crusty white paint, painted it black, changed the hardware, and inspired me to do the same with several other pieces that we owned (namely an old knotty pine bookcase and a knotty pine hutch).  So it’s obviously a piece that is pretty personal to J and after his incredible handiwork it’s really pretty, too, so we definitely wanted to work with it as opposed to buying new.  At first, I thought that this piece from Pottery Barn was in our futures, but the $199 price tag certainly wasn’t what the doctor ordered:

So, it was back to the drawing board to try to figure out what we were going to do.  We knew we wanted something small scale with two tiers, classic lines, and it made no difference if it was white, brown, or chartreuse – we could paint it and bring it back to glam!  Unfortunately, the pickin’s were pretty slim on Craigslist and we weren’t about to shell out close to $200 for an item that was going to reside behind a closed door most of the time, so Ikea came to the rescue once again!  This time with their Hemnes nightsand in black!

It’s almost a total knockoff of the Pottery Barn version (albeit square) and at $59.99, it was well worth taking the extra time to assemble it on our own!  My mom won’t have to put her alarm clock on her suitcase anymore either since we had an extra alarm clock sitting around that we have set up for our guests as well.  I’m actually sort of jealous – it’s one of those “Sunrise” alarm clocks – the numbers are too small for me to read at night, so we decided to treat our guests to a little bit of luxury.  Le sigh…

Since we were at the great Swedish escape, we went ahead and purchased a small table lamp that at $19.99 was a total steal so we don’t feel the least bit guilty about adding a little bit of ambiance for our guests.  So the whole nightstand corner looks a little something like this:

After that, we finally hung some wall decor, like this lovely DIY artwork of our home states, appropriately hung in the room where people are often coming in from out of state:

And since we can’t talk about a Guest Suite without a little bit of “privacy”, we finally shelled out some clams for these lovely Bamboo Blinds from Bed, Bath, & Beyond so that the empty house next door doesn’t feel quite so “imposing”:

And since people coming in from out of town are often looking for things to do, we were sure to include some reading material of some of our favorite places and things just in case they get bored.  After we unpacked all of our books a few weeks back, it was nice to spread some of those books throughout the house:

So there ya have it!  Our Guest Suite is finally starting to feel like a home for somebody – just in time for Christmas!  All we need now are a few towels, some chocolates, and a few willing guests.  Checking in?

PS  This room still needs to be painted and “glammed” up – stay tuned for another 2010 project!


SNAHU: Situation Normal, All Held Up

Agreed, bad pun.  Disagree, Father Time and L-Blogger Extraordinaire.  The hubs has been werkin’ like a dog on a major deadline at work and has been (hold your breath) working 7 days a week since early October with his team to get caught up.  Le sigh.  So there go all of our housing projects until this quiets down, unfortunately.  I’ve been doing my bits here and there, but I have also been busy with other projects such as interviewing for jobs, oddly enough (please don’t ask) and planning for our small Housewarming/Halloween party over the past weekend.  This wouldn’t be a fun DIY blog if we didn’t include DIY costumes!  It all began with this:  


A costume for Maggie, the Mascot Mutt, found at Target for $8 (which we negotiated down from $10 because the hat was missing).  That got me thinking of turtle-y things that we could be in response and I came up with Super Mario Brothers!  Specifically the following:  

mario diycostume


bowser diy costume


koopa dog costume

Koopa Trooper

So after J-man went out and spent some mint on a hot glue gun and supplies (including felt and spikes) from Michael’s, our family became everybody’s favorite video-game-acid-trip:  


Family Power!


J-man as Bowser!


L-blogger as Mario!

Now if we just had a Luigi and a Toadstool, we’d be all set!  Ah well, maybe next year!  

Happy Halloween, everybody!!!

Meet my nemesis, Sir Isaac Newton…

He and I aren’t the best of friends lately.  We’ve been feuding over gravitational pull and house projects.  He is *always* getting in the way.  Our latest decor dilemma left me with some evidence that I would sooner put back where it came from if I could….but let’s make this about Home Stuff and not turn me into an 80 year old Grandma who can only talk about her maladies in a “woe-is-me” fashion.  Though you know this post will end with some sort of lesson learned…

  • Mission:  Inject interest into a boring and looooooong wall (17′ to be precise)
  • Challenge:  Do it on a budget and try to use as many items lying around the house as possible
  • Prediction:  Setbacks will abound – they always do – so deal with them on the fly 😉

The wall in question is in our Family Room opposite the sliding glass doors (17 feet long!!!):


We really didn’t want to have to spend a lot of money to put something on the walls, and since we have no overhead lighting in this room, we thought a good idea would be to bring in a mirror collage to really reflect some of the light back and forth and make the room appear larger.  It’s also *waaaay* more updated than say a floor to ceiling mirror a la our old Condo, which just makes the space look like it’s Marty McFly’n it back to 1985.  Framed mirrors, frameless mirrors, big mirrors, small mirrors, etc.  Put them all together on a wall – instant glam.

But we only had one mirror….d’oh!  So off to Home Goods we went to find more mirrors!  Less than $50 later and we had not one mirror, but three!!!  Honestly, though, one of the mirrors was absolutely hideous, but at $19.99 it was a price we couldn’t pass up:


I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again – Spray Paint is your best friend!!  Since we already had one black framed mirror, we figured we could just spray paint the ugliest of the uglies from Home Goods and get all of our mirrors to match.  Naturally, the round mirror was the only one that didn’t come out of its frame – oh, bother!  So while it took us a long time to tape, it was definitely worth it!


We then sanded the mirror down really quickly to remove the glossy finish and then wiped off the excess before we got our paint on.  And I should mention here for posterity that the next time I do lots of Spray Painting I’m really going to wear a mask because I find myself blowing my nose the next morning and wondering how *that* got up my nose…blech!


The trick to spray painting is to use long quick strokes and constantly keep your hand moving.  Otherwise you will get globby globbersons, which might be good for chocolate sauce, but not for paint.

So after we finished spray painting our mirrors, we waited a day before cleaning them up and hanging.  This, of course, is where Sir Isaac Newton and I differ.  I wanted them up and he wanted them down.  I was hanging a large framed mirror (probably 30 pounds worth) and then it dropped and landed square on my thigh and gave me a little bit of this:


…and then 24 hours later it blossomed into this exciting number…


You shoulda seen the *other* guy.  Ain’t she a beaut?!  But even though Newton left me with a doozie, I prevailed in the end!!!  Setbacks are only temporary, as is pain.  And this is how the story ends:



Conclusion?  Newton was WRONG!  Secondary conclusion?  We need more mirrors….hmmm…Tertiary conclusion?  My leg still hurts…

Before & After Bliss: An Oldie but a Goodie…

This post comes by request of my Mother-in-law and it is definitely an Oldie.  About a year ago I refinished two grody-rific lamps and documented my process (see, I was writing blog entries before I even thought to have one!).  They were the types of lamps that you somehow found yourself in possession of after neither your parents, your siblings, nor your red-headed cousin wanted them and they always ended up at your house – sort of like the ugly casserole dish your Mom is always trying to pawn off as an “expensive antique”, but c’mon – you know it’s really just something she found at a garage sale and now you’re stuck with it!


Ugly, no?  But I had already learned a few important lessons about lamps to know better than to throw them away:

  1. Lamps are expensive!!! Especially if the lamps each weigh 8 lbs apiece, then you *know* they were expensive at one time.  Seriously, these suckers are cast-brass and sooo heavy!  It’s like that line from Jurassic Park, “Are they heavy? Yes! Then they’re expensive, put’em down!”
  2. Lamps immediately can set a “mood” – lighting is key to any good room and lamps are the easiest way to bring in a “mood” to a room in a way that overhead lighting just simply can’t do.
  3. What you don’t like can always be changed! Of course, this doesn’t apply to the lamp below, but if it *is* an expensive import….

ugly lamp

So here’s one lesson that anybody conscious of their style (and budget!!!) should remember; Spray Paint is your best friend and it is cheap, cheap, CHEAP!  Remember how I saved oodles of $$ by spray-painting our knobs and towel racks? Who’s to say you can’t do the same thing with a couple of ugly lamps?  What’s even better is that you could take a few mismatched lamps and immediately tie them all together with the same color spray-paint.  Instant matched set!  But here is one tip I would recommend if you do plan on spray-painting your lamps – be sure to use primer first!!

So about a year ago, I was reading through Budget Decorating Magazine and I ran across a pretty simple technique to give a Mother-of-Pearl Effect to any type of surface (metal plates, picture frames, lamps, candlesticks, etc.).  Since I did not come up with this technique, nor can I find it anywhere online, I will re-produce the materials and techniques here for my readers just to show you how easy it is.  My notes are in italics:


  • Lamp
  • Soft Cloth
  • Flat Paintbrushes (3/4″ wide, 1/2″ wide)


  • All Surface Primer (L’s notes: I used a Spray version from Rust-Oleum)
  • Acrylic Paints: Plaid’s Apple Barrel “Satin Cream”, Plaid’s FolkArt “Metallic Champagne”, Deco Art Dazzling Metallics “Oyster Pearl”, and FolkArt “Metallic Pearl White” (L’s notes: found at Craft Stores and on that amazing invention – the interwebs).
  • Clear Acrylic Spray Sealer and/or Polyurethane Spray Sealer (L’s notes: found at the hardware or craft store)

The Technique:

  1. Remove shade from lamp; wipe lamp with soft cloth. (L’s notes: I would actually clean it with something wet to remove the dust and then let it dry)
  2. Apply Primer to base.  Let dry for 2 hours. (L’s notes:  this goes much smoother if you use a spray primer).
  3. Using 1/2″ brush and horizontal strokes, apply a light coat of Satin Cream paint to lamp base; let dry for two hours
  4. Using diagonal strokes, apply a light coat of Metallic Champagne paint, allowing previous color to show in some areas; let dry for two hours.
  5. Using vertical strokes, apply a coat of Oyster Pearl paint; let dry for two hours.
  6. Mix Oyster Pearl with Metallic Pearl White; use diagonal strokes to apply a coat of the mixed paint.  Using light strokes, apply another layer of mixed paint in some areas to create mottled mother-of-pearl effect.  Let dry for two hours.
  7. Apply one or two light coats of spray sealer to entire lamp base; let dry for at least one hour before replacing shade.

So there ya have it!  Oh, and here is the amazing after!  A pic I took last year with our old camera:

painting an ugly lamp

What a difference, huh?  And nowadays, those lamps sit in our Family Room, providing some much needed light and ambiance.  Who knew that they were DIY?

mother of pearl paint

This is a super easy project, though it does require a little bit of patience to get all completed, but the look is very authentic and expensive looking!  I’ve priced out similar lamps from Lenox and they cost around $400 – yikes!

I hope this was helpful!


The Best $3 you will ever spend!

Do you remember these?


I know, what’s so exceptional about a $3 ice cube tray??  But I’m here to tell ya that there is waaaay more to an ice cube tray than simply just frozen H20.  What’s sad is that they’re actually relatively hard to find nowadays – you used to be able to just run into a grocery store and find them all over the place, but now that everybody has ice-machines, they’ve kind of gone the way of the Dodo Bird (or the Triceratops…whichever you prefer!).  But I want to show you one of my favorite ways to use an ice cube tray and I’m out to show that they really are the best bargain out there in so many different ways.

Coffee!  I love it, and I always have leftovers every morning.  Why throw it away?  And if you’re like me (or Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction), you always buy the good stuff.  So take your leftover coffee and freeze it into ice cubes (wait for it, I’ve got a recipe, but people also like pics, so here’s a little shot of what I’m talkin’ about):

Pre-Pour (and, yes, I make French Press – I can’t use a Coffee Pot to save my life):


Post-Pour and ready for some Freezer-burn.


Waste not, want not, right?  Freeze your little ice cubes and then store them in a bag for later use.  Howwwww do we use it?  I’ll show ya:

L’s Frap-o-cheap-o Coffee

  • About 1 cup of frozen Coffee Cubes
  • 1 cup of milk product (or creamer, Soy Milk, Half n’ Half)
  • Sweeten to taste with Confectioner’s Sugar or if you’re feelin’ fancy and have all the time in the world, then use Simple Syrup**

Frappe in your handy-dandy blender, serve immediately.  (And you can thank me later when you start saving $3 for every time you have a Frappuccino-attack from Starbucks).

**Simple Syrup

  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup water
  • Optional: Flavorings (like Vanilla, Hazlenut, Almond, Cinnamon, Cocoa, the sky’s the limit!  Rather, your favorite coffee flavor is the limit)

Bring to a boil, dissolve sugar, set aside.

This is just the *basic* recipe, but you could switch it up  and add Caramel, even Cocoa Powder, or, heck, if you take your joe black, then skip the sweetener altogether, though you do still need a liquid, so milk is a must!  And the bonus point is that when the coffee cubes melt, they don’t water down your drink – score!

So, do it!  Go out and buy an ice cube tray and start making your own icy drinks.  Though, admittedly, now it’s starting to get cool and it’s really not the best time, but stock-pile this idea away for a hot day.  How else do I use it?

  • Create fun cocktail ice cubes (H2O with citrus zest, fruit juices – how incredibly good would a Cosmo be with a Cranberry Juice Ice cube, huh?).  Remember, though, unless you have Liquid Nitrogen sitting around, there really isn’t a very good way to freeze alcohol.
  • On the topic of drinks – any liquid will do – teas, fruit juices, Coca-Cola, etc.  I’m not a big fan of H2O ice in my drinks (what can I say, I agree with the Europeans) mostly because it waters down the flavor of your drink, so pick your poison and freeze’er up.
  • Though I wouldn’t normally recommend this – you can actually freeze leftover wine, too! Toss the cubes into a Sangria or to cook with later for de-glazing dishes.  Wine is a *terrible* thing to waste, though I wouldn’t recommend “drinking” said cubes.
  • I cook a lot with Chipotles in Adobo, but they come in cans and then I’m left with chipotle cans sitting in my refrigerator for months until I whip up another batch of Chili.  Separate the chipotles and a wee bit of sauce and then freeze them and store in a bag.  When it’s time to cook with them, just chop up the “Chipotle Cube”.  Not only is it easy to cut, but it won’t stain your cutting board and leave Adobo sauce on your hands!
  • Too much Basil in your garden?  Whip up gobs of Pesto, freeze in small ice cube portions, and then store for later.  It’s so easy to put on Pasta, Baked Potatoes, Salad Dressings, etc, etc.  And the best part is?  You can have garden fresh Pesto year round!

Any other fun uses for ice cube trays?  It’s a little unsung hero in your kitchen and if you don’t own one, it’s worth the $3 to go out and buy one!  We can’t resurrect the Dodo Bird, but we can resurrect an Ice Cube Tray!