Friday, July 6, 2012

Broken-Hearted Bessie

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You’ve met Bessie in the past. I’ve told you about how wonderful a car she’s been to me. She has lasted through one North Dakota winter, an entire year in Albuquerque, and over five years here in the Valley of the Sun.

Bessie has been such a good little car, and I feel very blessed that my Dad drove her to Grand Forks almost seven years ago to hand me the keys before he retired to Mexico.

Since I was upgrading to this 2002 Ford Taurus from a 1993 Pink Plymouth Sundance, I can’t even begin to describe how luxurious it felt to climb into the leather seats for my first drive. It was pure heaven, even though her tachometer read 194,000 miles!

Bessie now has over 232,000 miles under her belt. And, other than the air conditioner not working at the present moment, she has been a dream machine.

So it was bound to happen eventually that something would happen to her. A few weeks ago, since Hubby swapped me cars thanks to the slightly-noticeable-in-115-degrees lack of air conditioning, he came home to tell me that he had been in the parking lot at work for the past ten minutes trying to get Bessie to start.

The next morning, I took her in for a battery check-up. It was practically dead, but it was also just inside warranty and therefore free to replace! Talk about a great day!

Bessie started up just fine with her fresh, new battery, and I drove her home to swap cars with Hubby once more. I promise the swapping-of-cars was his idea. I’m not that mean, but he insisted. Especially when I insisted that it was time to replace Bessie.

There are lots of things broken on her that we haven’t gotten fixed…all four struts, brakes, and the air conditioner, just to name a few. These repairs would cost over $4,000, but as soon as I do them, the transmission will die. I’m not crazy by thinking it’s time to retire her and make the replacement. She has lived a good life, fought a good fight.

The battery replacement became just a temporary fix. A few weeks later, we were in the same situation. Bessie wouldn’t start. Luckily for us, this time she was in our garage when she decided to not be a contributing member of our family team.

With a referral of a good mechanic from our neighbors, we finally coaxed her into starting. I drove her to the repair shop with the windows down and the Oldies blaring on the radio. I hoped wondered if this would be the last time…

We got a call the next morning. Just like Hubby and I thought, it was the starter motor. And he said there may be more wrong, but replacing the starter would help him diagnose the other problems.

We lucked out when I got the call a few hours later. Bessie was ready, and nothing else had to be replaced! Turns out that the starter motor had impacted with the fly wheel assembly. In over forty years as a mechanic, he had seen such a situation only twice. It was a miracle that she started at all to let us take her in.

I feel honored that Bessie, even when breaking down, did it in a unique and impressive way.

Though I decided a few years back to stop pumping money into a car that could die at any moment, it made sense to spend the $280 for a new starter to squeak out some more time from this wonderful car.

LexusThe downside? My plan to get a used car of my dreams was thwarted. Oh well. There’s always next month! I’m just glad to have Bessie back with us in the meantime.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Games and Grub

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I’m sure that it’s been noticed that I’ve been home from work for a few weeks. Don’t worry, Whick…I’m headed back to work tomorrow, and we will soon have a whole month of airplane pictures to enjoy!

I’m excited to be back on the road to share my experiences with you. It’s going to be a very action-packed and fun month of July!

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Being home has been a wonder. It’s been over five years since I’ve had time at home when I knew I would be home. It afforded some luxuries that I’ve been missing that entire time.

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For instance, it gave us the luxury of inviting some friends over for snacks and board games. This happens to be one of my favorite past times. I love getting together with good friends and eating delicious food.

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As always with the grub-portion of the evening, I got a little carried away.

And, as always, I tried to find fun ways to display normal food. As if anyone needs any more invitation to eat Red Vines than just to open the bag. But I thought putting them inside a flower vase to display them would be an enticing way to eat them all evening.

I was right, unfortunately. These were gone just a few short hours later!

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This is an easy go-to appetizer that is one of my favorite edible things in the world. And, thanks to the $8 investment in a miniature slow cooker, we were able to keep it nice and bubbling-hot all evening long.

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Of course, if you’re going to eat Alton Brown’s Spinach Artichoke Dip, you might as well eat it on soft sourdough baguettes. Man, I should have eaten breakfast before posting today! I’m drooling just thinking about this creamy goodness!

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I also attempted to make a Mexican Black Bean Hummus that I just made up. It was really good, but people preferred that not-so-healthy additions to the buffet. And I can’t say I blame them one bit.

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Since one of our guests tends to lean towards the healthy-eating side, I tried to have things there that could be enjoyed by all. The best part? The men gathered around this vegetable tray and chomped down the entire thing. It was so good with homemade Ranch dip to make everything creamier (and slightly less healthy).

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This is what those unbaked miniature Pigs in a Blanket turned into. Aren’t they stinkin’ cute?! And, since I used turkey sausage cocktail wieners (shhhh…no one even noticed), these were actually kind of healthy, too!

Well, as healthy as miniatures Pigs in a Blanket can be, I guess.

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Of course, when people offered to bring something, I welcomed their efforts. Especially when they came in the form of Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Popcorn.

Yeeeeeeesssssssss, please.

And, to wet our whistles, I made up a Mango Lemonade with Gingerale in our large beverage dispenser. It was ridiculously good, in case you’re needing to know.

It was such a fun evening. Things began around 6:30 PM, and the last guests left around 12:30 AM. I love when people seem to be having such an enjoyable time that leaving doesn’t even cross their minds.

In perhaps the best news of the evening, the girls beat the boys in the Battles of the Sexes championship.

Come on. Do they really stand a chance when half of the “manly” questions asked to the ladies are about airplanes? Why, yes. I do know the name of the airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb during World War II. I can even tell you who flew the giant airplane!

What a great evening. It’s been such a treat to know when I’m home, so we can host events just like this. I’d have a party every week, if I could! NERD ALERT!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Top-Ten List of Reasons to Love Summer

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Living in extreme heat conditions can make me forget about the wonders of summer. This is my sixth summer in the Phoenix area, and I still don’t think I’m used to it. Can one ever get accustomed to such harsh heat? I have to wait a few minutes after I start the car so the steering wheel can be touched without burning my fingers! And if you touch the metal part of the seatbelt, you’re going to feel it. Just letting you know.

I’ll tell you this, though. I would much rather deal with 113-degree temperatures and sunny skies than minus fifty and icy roads in North Dakota. I still don’t know how I did that for four long winters!

I remember as a kid, summer time was such a wonderful three months. I’ll mingle in my childhood reasoning along with some updated ones in my Top-Ten List of Reasons to Love Summer.

10. Pool Pass. Yes, I own a pool now. But owning a pool really stinks. I would much rather use the city pool pass from my childhood to swim all day, every day, with my brother and sister. We played mermaids, dolphins, pirates, hide-and-seek, and Olympic swimmers. And that was all just in the first hour. After a wonderful day of pool time, we then scrounged and scrimped and saved in order to buy some penny candy at Garrett Honda or some tater tots from Reed’s Drive-In across the street before the loooooooong bike ride home at eight o’clock each evening. It’s amazing how tired you get after nine hours of non-stop swimming!

9. Fresh Fruit. I love that the grocery store smells like peaches and cherries and watermelon as soon as I walk in. It makes me crave all that sun-grown goodness. Did I mention avocados? Because those are pretty stinkin’ awesome during the summer, too. I love them year-round, but they’re actually affordable when they’re in season!

8. The Ranch. They were the best two summers of my life, spent with siblings and cousins on a ranch with my grandparents, hours away from any civilization. We didn’t have electricity, we used an outhouse, and our drinking water came from a rusty tank buried in the ground. A tiny amount of Country Time Lemonade was used to tint the flavor so that we wouldn’t notice the rust. It didn’t work, and I still hate lemon in my water as a result! We played, swam in The Crick, ate, worked, swam some more, and simply loved life. I have such special memories of The Ranch and will always love summer because of it.

7. Softball. When I was a kid, I played softball alllllllll summer long. I was in the city’s Little League and couldn’t wait for that magical time each year when I got to don catcher’s gear and swing a bat. Man, I love softball. All of those summers paid off when I made the high school team for four years!

6. Green Grass. Of course, this isn’t a consideration in my present living conditions. We water it and it is green, but it’s way too hot to go outside to enjoy it. Back in the day, however, I loved green grass all summer long. It was especially fun laying on the cool grass under the clouds and pointing out shapes. Ah, the simple pleasures of a television-free childhood.

5. Ute Stampede. Each summer, in the small town in which I was raised, the largest event of the year takes place. The Ute Stampede Rodeo makes the town population quadruple as old and young alike come home to enjoy the three-day event on the second weekend in July. Rodeos, parades, craft fairs, fireworks, carnivals, Texas Tornado Lemonade. You want it, they got it. I always looked forward to the Stampede. It’s been years since I’ve been now. Check out this awesome video of the Stampede made by a school friend’s Hubby, Donny Martin. He’s a pilot, too, so I approve.

4. Ice Cream. But we all know that this is not just a summer treat for me. Somehow, though, it just tastes better when it’s hot outside. If we’re getting specific here, and I’m always fine with specifics when it comes to ice cream, then let’s announce my official favorite summer ice cream as the Schwann’s Silvermint bars. I always want to flag the Schwann guy down when I pass him on the street. Miraculously, this hasn’t happened yet.

3. Fireworks and Hubbys. Four years ago this month, some guy I’d been dating got down on one knee and proposed marriage to me. After a gigantic fireworks display. Pretty cool, huh? I said yes.

2. Family BBQs. Like the one I’m attending today to celebrate the Fourth of July. Swimming in the pool, eating delicious food, and enjoying sweet babies. What more could you ask for on a summer day?

1. Corn on the Cob. My new favorite vegetable. Just make sure there’s plenty of butter, salt, and pepper to go around. Holy smokes.

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How to Throw a 4th of July Party!

So, you’re hosting a party tomorrow to celebrate the founding of this wonderful country. You open up your decorating cupboard (everyone has one, right?) and panic because you have absolutely nothing patriotic with which to host such a shindig.

What do you do?!

Take a deep breath. Eat a bowl of ice cream. And then go to World Market to stock up on all sorts of summer and Independence Day goodies.

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Well, we’re already off to a great start. When you walk into the store and immediately see the color theme that you’re seeking, it’s a good sign.

Isn’t this a cute table setting? They went kind of nautical with their freedom display this year. I’m not much of a nautical-themed fan, as pictures of creepy lighthouses and neon dolphins always come to mind.

But this? Very tasteful. We could easily host a party with this display!

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Especially if we can use some red coral soup spoons. Sure, soup might be impractical on one of the hottest days of the summer. Maybe we’ll make a cold soup this year…

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More proof that I should become a sewing monster? This is pretty cute, but I’m certain that I could make an even better version to celebrate the 4th of July. If I sewed, that is.

Since I don’t sew, we can get a few of these banners to hang behind our food table for the day. It’s kind of a Donny-and-Marie thing going on…the red gingham pattern is a little country, and the blue and white stars are a little rock n’ roll.

Has anyone seen their show in Vegas? I bet it would be great! Man, I’m old.

Where was I?

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Giant jugs, that’s where I was! I love these colorful barrels for drinks. Storing liquids in here for guests is any easy way to keep everyone hydrated with yummy flavors. But while I love these festive colors for Independence Day, it’s a little impractical to not see how much is left inside so you can ensure it full.

People drink a lot when they’re thirsty. It’s a crazy phenomenon.

I’m a fan of getting pieces that last in many situations. These jugs are cool, but I’m glad I have just a plain ‘ol clear one to see what’s going on.

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And who wouldn’t want to show up to your party to eat red, white, and blue tortilla chips? Talk about festive! In a giant white bowl so they really pop? This is a gourmet way to celebrate our country’s freedom, I tell you. Freedom Chips!

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These aren’t edible, but you might as well get dressed up for your 4th of July party. Aren’t these silver earrings pretty? Or the red ones? World Market has a great selection of jewelry from around the world, so you might as well look hot on this great day.

And I don’t mean sweaty hot. I mean smokin’ hot.

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The best part about this necklace is that is can be used for more than just your awesome Fourth celebration! You could wear this pretty necklace out to dinner with your man, or even out for some errands on the town.

Just kidding. In this heat, I avoid necklaces like the plague. But if you live somewhere that metal won’t burn into your skin upon touch, then this could be the perfect addition to your party-throwing outfit!

We’re covering all of the bases here, huh? Don’t you love this store?

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Turn on some Barry White and light these puppies up! We might as well add some atmosphere on the dinner table with some pretty hurricanes and candles. These candles even have a nice, beachy scent.

Your festive guests will appreciate your futile attempts to keep mosquitos at bay.

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This small couch just screams “Sit on me during this party!”

Of course, it might have something to do with the fun patriotic pillows being displayed. These will make any party you’re throwing more fun, so you might as well stock up. If people see these on your couch, they’ll know that they are celebrating in the correct place.

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If you want more of a low-key approach to summer, this pillow fits the bill. I love the big buttons but wonder if it would wrinkle easily because it’s made of linen.

“Don’t touch that! It will wrinkle! But I’m glad you made it to our Fourth party.”

Ahhhhhh. Soda. In multiple flavors. I absolutely love having bottled soda in an ice bucket for any party, but especially for a party celebrating our breakup with Mother England. Don’t you think that your guests deserve to have a pig in hand during your fun evening?

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Oh, sorry. This is what I meant when I said pig in hand. No, it’s not necessary to have live pigs running around during your planned festivities. Unless you like that kind of thing.

I’ve heard that pigs eat firecrackers, anyway. Just drink your pigs instead, to play it safe.

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It’s time for more table decorations! Imagine with me, if you will, that each of these glass jars is filled with a different color of M&Ms. Red, white, and blue, of course. Cute, huh?

If this is attempted, might I recommend keeping them indoors? M&Ms do melt in your hand, and in glass apothecary jars, despite Mars’ suggesting otherwise. Giants clumps of melted M&Ms are still edible, mind you, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to eat them as individual pieces.

Should I lie and tell you that I wouldn’t know from experience?

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Man, I’m so easy to get distracted in here. We’re planning a 4th of July party for tomorrow, remember?

So providing seating for your lucky guests is never a bad thing. And please take note how wonderful these plastic wicker chairs could be on your patio for the party!

I love that they are cushioned, since chairs tend to get hard after a while. Especially if you’ve gotten a few pigs in you as the evening progresses…

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Luckily, our patio is covered. But if you’re hiding from the sun during your Independence Party, you might as well do it in style with this gigantic sun umbrella for over your patio table. If you look at this while squinting, it almost looks like it could pass for red, white, and blue.

Maybe the yellow spots are just the fireworks that evening?

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Well, if we’re going all out, and we probably are thanks to panicking about our last-minute party preparations, we might as well pick up a few of these metal side tables in patriotic colors.

Your guests can place their burgers and sodas on these while they visit and marvel at your keen decorating skills. And, worse-case scenario, you’ll be able to use the tables year-round!

I like the blue ones in particular. Surprised?

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You know how I love me some white dishes, too. I know that it seems boring, but these guys go with any party theme! You can jazz things up with a bright tablecloth, patriotic napkins, and festive napkin rings. Don’t forget that your centerpieces can be colorful and full of pizazz.

But owning some plain, classic white dishes to serve your guests will allow you to be set for every party forever!

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And if you always have crowds over, and if your Hubby is willing to do the dishes, then these buffet plates in sets of twelve would be a great addition to your pantry. You can easily store them away when not needed for entertaining, but how nice is it to have enough plates on hand for this, your greatest party of the year (so far)?

They have dinner and salad plates, bowls, and mugs in these sets. Perfect!

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Speaking of drinking (we were, weren’t we?), they have every glass that your party could possibly need. If you want to make virgin margaritas, this could be a great starting point. Or maybe we will serve strawberry lemonade out of those festive jugs? Glasses for just such an occasion can be found here!

If someone complains about the lack of selection in World Market’s drink ware section, we need to worry about their expectations in life.

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Oh my heck. I want these. Perfect dishes for fruit, desserts, or sorbet. I would only serve one of those three at my Fourth party, but I bet you can guess which one.

And I love little things, so these guys are perfect. Alas, they did not find their way into my cart. I didn’t get a cart, just in case I found something like this.

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How about baking a fruit tart brownie sundae in one of these ramekins? You can find any size and shape and color that you would possible want! I especially like the little green, yellow, blue, and white ones on the lower right. So fun!

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And finally, what party would be complete without seating for adults and kids alike? You’ll have a hard time getting people to leave after the fireworks if your place looks this good, so choose these Adirondack chairs carefully.

Now you’re ready for tomorrow! You can plan an entire party around the selections in this store. Now…when do I show up?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Store Crashing – World Market Home Edition

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By now you’ve probably guessed that I am a fan of window shopping. I love wandering stores for no apparent reason then leaving completely empty-handed. It sounds silly…who would love not buying something? Perhaps I glean some personal satisfaction in seeing wonderful things but having the self-control to not purchase them for myself?

In any event, I wandered around World Market last week with the intention of showing you around. And I didn’t buy a single thing. Yippee!

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First off, you have an incredible selection of art for any d├ęcor. And they are fairly reasonably-priced, too. I’ve seen versions on this wall of much more expensive pieces. However, since a lot of these hover around $80-$100, I still don’t buy much art here. I’d prefer to make my own and save more money!

Next we have a soap bar in the personal care section. In an embarrassing admission, I hate bar soap. I hate how it leaves a film behind in the shower (because Hubby insists on being Zestfully clean), and I can’t stand how it makes my skin feel afterwards. For some reason, bar soap makes me feel like I didn’t get any dirt off my hands but managed to add some gross film on top of everything.

Maybe I’m alone out there in my soap bar sentiments. I’m a loofa-body-wash-type of gal. Film-free, that’s me!

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Random rantings-about-soap-for-no-reason aside, I love how pretty World Market’s soap selection can be. And standing in this general area smells really good, too.

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These were yummy. Can you imagine how great spearmint and rosemary would be in a soap? So fresh! I also liked the packaging here, too. It’s a good thing that I don’t buy soap, if at all possible.

This is an area of the store for which World Market is famous. Lots of furniture revampers come here to find cute knobs and handles and pulls for repurposed furniture found in dumpsters. It’s amazing how a little fairly-affordable bling can really make a piece shine!

They have a nice eclectic selection of knobs here. I like to look but have yet to buy. Rude!

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I love little things, as you found out when we crashed Target last week. And these bowls just made my heart go pitter-pat. I love the size and shape, but the crazy colors I think would wear me out eventually. And the fact that they go together but don’t completely match each other might be more work than it’s worth.

So I put them back down. But they’re cute, huh?

Shower curtains galore in this place! They have nice window curtains, too, but for some reason I didn’t take a picture to prove that. The curtains from our living room came from this exact store, so I can vouch for their curtain quality and selection.

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I love these chairs but think they are just a little too fanshy for my house. We like clean, mid-century lines here, and these two chairs are rather ornate. But I liked them. I even liked the bright fabrics, too.

In between the chairs, however, was this beautiful table on sale for 50% off. I think $99 is still a little much to pay for tiny tables, regardless of how cool they are. This would be a great side table in a reading nook or even outside on a patio!

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Have I mentioned that World Market has pillows? Well, they do. In fact, I’m sure that they give the pillow purchasers free reign and half the budget when it comes to bringing in beautiful fabrics from all over the world. I love these happy, fun colors for a happy, fun living room. I am on the hunt for new couch pillows but didn’t want to spend any money today.

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They also have rugs in this fine establishment. I’m very particular when it comes to rugs and think that they should be something that bare feet would crave. These itchy sisal rugs, though rugged and very in-style right now, would be too painful to keep around my digs.

My feet deserve better than rough, I guess is what I’m saying.

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I loved this wooden drafting desk for an office. I had a cool drafting desk in high school because I liked to draw and work on large projects. Mine wasn’t wooden or fancy-pants like this one, but I doubt we paid $279 for it, either!

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I am also still on the hunt for some lighting in the corner of our living room. I am leaning towards a giant chandelier that I can modernize with a fun, bright color and maybe some cool-looking light bulbs. I haven’t found anything close to what I have in mind, so I will continue admiring other lighting solutions until mine presents itself.

These tin cutout lamps were pretty nifty, in my opinion.

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Even this trio of burlap lights would be cool in my corner. I love the added texture and the soft glow. And I’m pretty sure that this awesome price of $59 is for all three lights! What a great deal! I guess this can be my fall-back option if the chandelier idea falls through.

This would be a simple solution for that living room corner, but I am really hoping for a ceiling light to drop down. However, a giant arc lamp with a giant shade would also work well, since we wouldn’t have to drill into the ceiling to wire for a hanging light.

And where would I put my Christmas tree if I hung a chandelier in that corner?! At least this lamp is portable and can be moved when move-important items, like lit fake Christmas trees, need a home for a month.

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I actually love the giant yellow shade, but they have other options as well. Don’t let color chase you away from these lamps! By the way, all of their lighting is 20% off right, so find a store if you’re looking for a sweet deal!

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I loved these cool wire mesh storage carts for an office, but I also think that they would add some pretty nifty dimension to a pantry. Wouldn’t this be a cool way to store potatoes and fruits and veggies? It’s a good thing that I am only now realizing it and not while I’m at the store.

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I got all excited when I saw the starting price point for these awesome baskets. Talk about an easy way to add lots of texture and interest to a room!

We could put this by the fireplace and fill it will logs that will never be used. Or we could put it in the living room and fill it with comfy throws and a toss pillow for added warmth in the winter. Or, again, it could add some pretty nature in a pantry to store bags of chips!

I just love baskets like these and am surprised that I don’t have one. Or nine. The small one was only $4.99 while the bigger one was $24.99. I love them both.

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Speaking of things that I love, this pillow caught my eye. I love the embroidery and the soft colors. It has lots of color but in a muted tone, which adds to a toned-down look. I think, anyway. But what do I know?!

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World Market has a section in the back with hard-to-find exotic foods and treats. Each one of these little bins is filled with a wonder from another part of the world. It’s fun to look at things, but I don’t think I would ever dare purchase a block of pepper jack cheese that was shelf-stable!

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Well, hello little owl! I thought this little timer was a cute way to be reminded of cooking times. Luckily, I hate unnecessary items on my countertop and simply use the microwave for my baking timer. But this little guy was pretty fun, for an owl timer.

World Market always has a wonderful selection of vases and displays for flowers. This selection often rotates, so it feels like there is always something new to find. Talk about an easy and colorful way to accessorize a room!

Speaking of perfect, I love their fake flower selection. They look real but don’t require water to survive. So they might actually last in my house, is what I’m trying to say. I think any single one of these flowers here would look wonderful bunched up in a pretty vase!

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These were my only temptation in the store today…something that I almost took home. I love these blue plastic footed glasses for outside entertaining. I don’t like paying full-price for anything if I can help it, so maybe I will check back in a month when these will all be on clearance.

I don’t know that I need these to survive, but they could be a pretty addition to our patio table at night!

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The only thing that I use mugs for is hot chocolate, and I certainly don’t want any of the hot-drink bidness this time of year! And if I didn’t already have my twelve mugs in white-that-goes-with-everything color, then I would snatch up a few of these pretty yellow butterfly mugs from which to sip my hot chocolate.

In seven months when it starts cooling down.

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Oddly enough, we can vouch for their furniture quality as well. We bought our dining chairs here almost two years ago, and they literally still look brand-new despite lots of love and abuse from us.

World Market always has an awesome selection of tables and chairs. We bought our table next door at Pier One because it was a huge size without the bother of a leaf. But World Market is a great place to find dining furniture for a nice price.

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These should look familiar to you, since we have six of the Sophia Leather Chairs in brown around our dining table. They are soft and easy to clean and look so nice! I am really happy with our purchase, and even happier that I got them for around $80 a piece with sales and coupons.

Just for the record, I wanted the green ones to the right. I got out-voted from that decision, even by people who don’t live in my house! But I would still love to have the green ones instead. I will just have to find other ways to add color to my kitchen and dining room.

Fraidy-cats of color.

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I don’t know if you know this, either, but I dream of updating our laminate countertops someday. And, when that blessed day takes place, I would like to add an overhang to create some stool seating on the opposite side of my prep space.

Wouldn't these industrial stools look cool there? We go for comfort in addition to looks, so maybe these wouldn’t be comfortable enough to fit the bill. But I sure love how they look!

So there you have it! A house tour of the wonders at World Market, one of my favorite window-shopping stores. Tomorrow, I will show you some fun things for the 4th of July from the same store, so make sure you grab some popcorn and tune in then!

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