Friday, February 8, 2013

Texas-sized Mood Boards


My sister and her husband are about to close on a gorgeous home in Texas. We are all so thrilled for them.

I am particularly thrilled because she asked for my help to create some mood boards for her new place. Yipppeeeeee! Sign me up!

The Dining Room

Dining Room 2

This is how the dining room looked during their house hunt. It’s a nice, big space with lots of natural light and tall ceilings. A great blank slate!

Dining Room, Green Buffet

I decided to start with the dining room because it’s a manageable space and easy to attack. I created a few different rooms to show her and her husband to give them some ideas for their formal eating area.

You can ignore the prices…there’s no way on earth that I would let them pay that type of money to decorate a room! But I wanted to find pieces that would give a certain look and feel. If they like it, then I know that I can find better-priced options.

On this particular board, I love the happy rug, green buffet, curtains, and chairs. The bird art just screams my sister since they have lots of ties to the North Carolina coastline. Luckily, she likes it, too! They also love the table, rug, and buffet. I think that we’re on the right track!

She is really searching for meaningful pieces and not just items to fill a room. I am looking to make each space memorable and meaningful to them. I love finding ways to make it special!

Dining Room, Green Buffet, Updated

On this board, a few can’t-fail items are kept the same. But I changed the dining chairs, curtains, and lighting fixture. I love them all but have learned from personal experience that comfy dining chairs go a long way. (We bought ours at World Market a few years ago and still love their perfect look and cushy feel). I’m just not sure how comfy these chairs would be for a long dinner party.

I really love this light fixture over the table, too. Her style is rustic cottage traditional. I am trying to incorporate her tastes into a space that feels like them without going crazy in any one direction.

Dining Room, Wooden Buffet

Apparently, I’m a little more comfortable with bright colors than she is. I loved these curtains, which had the colors from her desired palette (aqua, yellow, raspberry, moss green, and navy). I even saw them in person last week and liked them even more!

I think that it was a little too busy for her, and that’s OK with me. At least she’s honest so that I know what to do better to make them happy.

I switched out the green buffet to this wooden one, though I think that it is too similar to the table.

She loves big art, and these colors are so pretty. We might do something like it in another room (the family room?). I am tickled that she likes the bird art enough to keep it for the dining area!

The dining chairs were switched again as well. This time, these more-traditional French chairs came into play. I like how they make the room feel more elegant against such casual pieces, but they are still slightly rustic in their finish, too. It wasn’t quite their style, but I wanted them to see several options before they decided!

Micah's Favorite Dining Room

I took all of my favorite elements and made my ideal space. If I was to decorate their dining room using the hints of their style, these would be the choices that I would make!

Of course, it isn’t my house, so I am more than happy to do what they want. She put some color swatches in the mail yesterday to show me the palette for their entire house! It will be fun to shop with them in hand.

The Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

This is how the master looked during the home tour. That ugly blue wall will be the first thing to go before they move in, thank goodness. So I designed a nice, calming space that used a lot of items that they already own.

Master Bedroom

Bright, fun, happy colors combined with lots of calming neutrals and natural textures. I think that this room could easily become the haven that they want. They already own that awesome white bed (we found it on Craigslist and she painted it white), the arm chairs, and the over-the-bed art print from Crate and Barrel.

I will use what they already have to tie in more elements of color and peace. The rug underneath the bed will be big enough to go on both sides and at the foot of the bed. I picked out a his-and-hers nightstands to add even more character to the room.

And those hanging bedside lights? I can totally make those, yo. Then we just add a few colorful accessories and lamps and voila! Done master bedroom!

The Family Room

Living Room 3

It’s been so much fun to design a whole house. I’ve been working on more projects to help them like their new home, but the family room is where we are focusing next. They will spend the bulk of their living time in this area of the home.

Rugs 1, 2, 3Creating a room is so much easier when you have a starting point, like a rug, art print, or curtains, that incorporate a lot of the colors and/or style that you want to see in the rest of the space. So I found some contenders for potential rugs in their family room.

As you can see, I stole #3 to put in the master bedroom above. It is a gorgeous color and pattern but is still soothing and neutral for these sometimes color-shy folks.

Rugs 4, 5, 6

I would have to say that #6 is my favorite out of these three. It’s such a large, bold pattern, but the gray behind it really brings it back to the reality of a nice, soft, family room rug. I like #5, too, but knew that it would probably be too modern for their taste. But the pops of yellow are fun.

Rugs 7, 8, 9

And I heart #9. In fact, it might be my favorite out of all these possible rug options for the family room space.

Rugs 10, 11, 12

Trying to please their neutral color desire while adding some texture and a bit of color, all three of these options would work well!

Subtle. Just like highlights.

Rugs 13, 14, 15

I really thought that she would go for the rust-colored beauty of #13, but her favorite out of the whole bunch was #9 and this one, #14. The gold is very pretty and warm.

This whole experience has been fun so far! Rather than designing each room, we are going piece-by-piece from now on until the entire room comes together. It will be more time-consuming but this way will pin-point exactly what they want in the long run. I’m looking forward to the challenge!

Even better…I am headed there for a visit in April to help do some real decorating!

What things do you like so far? Which rug would you choose for the family room?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Patience Pays Off – Colorful Pants Edition


I’ve drooled over colorful pants for years but just couldn’t justify the price tags to get some good ones.

In the home-decorating arena, I can recreate expensive versions for much cheaper than the originals. But you know what? I can’t even sew on a button. So making some fun pants wasn’t in the stars for me!

My pant-less situation changed a few weeks ago when I was wandering through Marshall’s looking for some home goods. I rarely shop for clothes any more but can’t say no to some pillow shopping.

Shopping for pillows never makes me wonder if I look fat in them, you know?


I accidentally found myself in the clothing clearance aisle, and I stumbled upon pure colored-pant bliss.

Even better? They were on clearance and more clearance. When compared to the original store price tag of $59 a piece, I was thrilled to pay $10-20 for each of these beauties from Nine West.

For the price of one full-price pair, I got four.

You can check my Micah Math, but I think that I scored.


So they are ankle-length “skinny” jeans that fit me perfectly. And did I mention that they are pretty colorful?

Purple, emerald green (Pantone color of the year, yo!), sea foam green, and hot pink.

Yes, color.


I have learned time and time again that sometimes it’s worth it to buy the finer things in life. But I refuse to pay full-price. I was in shock in the dressing room when these were so comfortable and perfect!

And on clearance!

So I went back to the rack and found a few more colors in the same style. I can’t believe my luck today.


I haven’t worn the purple or emerald green yet, but the other two were down-right alarmingly beautiful. I am so tickled to add to my wardrobe for such a great price!


My closet has welcomed these four pairs of pants with open arms. It’s so much fun to find the perfect addition to so many shirts in there! I feel amazing when wearing them and was happy to give them a new home.

Maybe I should check that clearance rack more often, huh? The Marshall’s/TJ Maxx family of stores has never let me down.

Have you scored any happy findings lately?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Sweet Catering Experience

Dessert Party Menu

I got a call last week from my sister-in-law. She had been assigned dessert at a fancy party that she and my brother were attending…just a few days later. She needed help, and I just so happened to be in town. She asked for my help (eek!), and I happily obliged!

Of course, “helping” for me meant taking over completely and making a menu for several tasting desserts. There would be fourteen people at this fun party, and we both wanted them to have lots of sweet choices for their after-dinner treat.

This was the menu. I think that we’re in business here!


I started out on Friday evening by making some from-scratch cheesecakes that turned out so perfectly. Baking them a day early allowed them to cool completely so they were ready to be formed into pops and dipped in chocolate on Saturday.

I’ve never made cheesecake from scratch before, but it was easy-peezy and holy smokes delicious. And Hubby ate all of the “failed” pops and couldn’t get enough, so that is saying something for a guy who isn’t crazy about sweets.


The cheesecake took longer to set than I expected, so I ended up forming them into balls and then popping them back into the freezer to set up.

Melting cheesecake doesn’t mix well with warm dipping chocolate, you know?


And only the best would work for a party of this magnitude. This chocolate perfectly cut the sweetness of the cheesecake. Rich, creamy, decadent. I think they will like it!


After being dipped and tapped to get rid of any excess chocolate, the cheesecake pops were rolled in fresh graham cracker crumbs and then placed back in the freezer until transportation time.

They turned out amazing. I guess the whole rustic look is working here, because the party-goers couldn’t get enough of these. They were big on purpose, so each partaker got one to enjoy.

I don’t think that I would attempt cheesecake next time, unless it didn’t have to travel. We had to store everything in a cooler on top of some ice to keep them cold. They weren’t very forgiving when it came to travel, but I’m glad that they held up through the party!


I decided to add some mint to the menu through some homemade Oreo cookies with from-scratch cream cheese mint frosting. The cookies were delicious and uniform in size, thanks to my one-inch cookie scoop.

These were deliberately removed from the oven just a little early so that the cookies would stay soft and chewy. After cooling on the pan for a few minutes, they were moved to a wire rack to hang out until ready for some frosting in between.


The frosting got tinted green to let the guests know what to expect when they took a bite.

My sister made a birthday cake once for my brother. It was covered in a beautiful green frosting, and we all got excited for the mint explosion about to ensue. But she was stunned at our expectations…it was just green frosting.

No mint.

I have learned so many lessons from this wise sister…now I know that green frosting = mint, and never bring fruit trays to Christmas Snack Tables.


Next I baked some sugar cookie cups to fill with a sweet cream filling. I piped this into the cups and then topped with beautiful fresh fruit.


The cookie cups were so fragile, but I love how they turned out. They were chewy in texture, and the cream just melted in the mouth. The tart bursts of the berries on top made a nice presentation with the eyes and with the mouth!


These were less than two inches wide, so they were just little guys. But lots of flavor came in little packages. And it’s fruit, right, so it’s healthy!



I made five treats today, thinking that I would still have four back-ups in case one of them didn’t work the way that I wanted. I am thrilled that all five dessert options turned out today…fragile cookie cups included!

It made baking from 7:00 AM nonstop through 4:00 PM a wonderful experience. I have way more fun with this whole catering thing when the goodies turn out well!


You know that I couldn’t really cater a party without having a cupcake offering, right?

For today, I decided to go with Rolo Cupcakes similar to these from My Baking Addiction. I changed the frosting and used melted butter in place of vegetable oil for an even better cupcake.


The cupcakes turned out perfectly plump and not too tall or short. I was relieved.


I’ve always wanted to try a “dripping” chocolate ganache on top, and I am tickled to announce that it worked like a charm!


Kitchen Assistant Hubby had to help me with this step, since the chocolate ganache set up quickly after touching the cooled caramel cream cheese buttercream frosting. So he came right behind my spoonfuls of sugar chocolate ganache with some cut miniature Rolo candies.

I love when people are shown what they can expect to taste. Rolos on top because there was a frozen Rolo baked inside!


Tickled was I at seeing these done cupcakes. They look so dang edible!


My last item to prep for the day was Lemon Drops for some nice tart flavor. I usually make Paula Deen’s Lemon Blossoms, but they always get stuck in the pan regardless of how well the pans are greased. And I couldn’t deal with that potential failure today of all days!

So I decided to try a new recipe from Woman’s Day for Little Lemon Drops, and they worked like a charm. I held my breath when I turned the pan over. They were supposed to just fall out…and they did!

Wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles!


I set them out to cool on a tea towel. To make them look even more professional, I decided to top them with Sugared Cranberries.

Purdy, huh?


They sat in a dissolved-sugar glaze overnight before being tossed in more sugar, so the tart smack was really toned down. They ended up being the perfect topper for pretty little lemon bites of bliss.

Aren’t they fancy?!


After I made a lemon glaze, it was time to dip the little lemon drops and then top them with the cranberries.

Wait for it….wait for iiiiiiiiiitttttt…….


SHAZAM! (Say that in a Gomer Pyle voice, please).


Don’t you just want to pop one (or thirty) of these little guys into your mouth? Of course, for quality-assurance purposes, I did just that.

No, I didn’t count. But I was happy with the party taking place in my mouth!


The glaze actually locks in the moisture from the cakes. I toned down the lemon juice in the glaze because the extreme tartness today came from the sugared cranberry on top.

Aren’t they gorgeous?!


I was really happy with how everything turned out. I feel so blessed that all five attempts at awesome desserts worked well enough to be proud of putting them in front of people to eat.

My brother said that each and every dessert was a hit at the party, and he even managed to hand out some business cards for them to call me again.

I’m OK with that. It must have been the cute Chrome Animal Name Card Holders, huh?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chrome Animals…Best Spray Painting Ever?


So I don’t know if I’m the first to think of it, but little plastic animals would probably make some pretty cute name card holders. Don’t you think?

I’ve kept an eye out for some plastic animals in various stores that I like to visit (cough cough Target cough). No luck…until I stopped at Party City to see if they had any for favors.

Eek! They did! And for just thirty-five cents a piece?!

Lion, Seal, Giraffe

Of course, I got carried away. I dug through the bins to find every possible animal that was in stock. I ended up with an entire army of various jungle animals!

Like lions, and tigers, and…seals?

Elephant, Polar Bear, Moose

I fell in love with the elephant instantly. And I think we already know that this moose has a special place in my heart, so he made his way into my sweaty little shaking-from-excitement hands to bring home.

Cheetah, Gorilla, Liger

And, of course, several large cats received representation today as well. And a gorilla, which would shortly become a silver-back gorilla.

Who knew that they aged so quickly?!


This poor guy ended up being the guinea pig today, simply because I grabbed a few extra rhinos. I tried to boil them and then saw them while soft. But that didn’t work.

Thanks for nothing, Internet.


So I had to patiently wait for my manual labor to get home from his real job. He dug up a utility knife to conduct surgery on the back of each animal.

I wanted a slit in the back to hold a name card, or place card, or business card. But the slit needed to be stable enough to hold the card in place, too.


I should have known that he would be good at sawing plastic animals…he’s good at everything else! Why not this?


It’s so nice to have Hubby’s help with these projects. He usually thinks through every option, where as I sometimes get impatient and just want to see the end result.

I appreciate the rhinoceroses giving their lives in the name of science arts and crafts today.


Here is the gorilla getting a test run with a business card to see if the fit was working.


We tried the fit with all of them before taking them outside. I am already loving how adorable these are, but I don’t like the red eyes on half of the sweet, little, cuddly animals.

Sweet, little, cuddly animals don’t usually have red eyes, you see. At least they don’t in my book.

You know what will fix that? Spray paint.


Hubby helped me set up these little guys for their first coat on the bottom. To hold them in place, we used little finishing nails in cardboard.

Even upside-down, they are so cute! Can you tell already how great this is going to be?!

Man, I need to get out more.


And, of course, ever since he got it for Christmas, I have faithfully used the tall turkey fryer box as my professional spray painting booth.


Soon, these little beasts (ha! literally!) were ready for some painting. This is my favorite-favorite part, if we’re being honest here.

I really love spray painting things. Or have I mentioned that already?


A few weeks ago, I discovered how incredibly awesome chrome paint is on lamps. So I knew immediately what paint finish these little animals would be getting this beautiful afternoon!

The Ace Hardware paint has cheap little spray nozzles, but buying this clip-on gun makes them purr like kittens! The paint comes out even and fine…and it allows me to buy any paint and not just Rustoleum with its perfect spray nozzle.


Several light coats are better than one thick coat. This is where patience would probably come in handy, I’m assuming.


Once their bellies were dry, it was time to turn them over for a spray on top. Aren’t they oh-so cute already!?


This hippo is my favorite of the bunch. Isn’t he wonderful? Imagine him holding your name card at a dinner party! Eek!


And the giraffe is looking pretty good, too. Once these get some paint on top, I let them dry for a whole two nights before I use them for a party that I catered!

Eek! More on that to come tomorrow!


Consider these puppies jungle animals sprayed! And they look really great. Of course, I was pretty elated by now. The hard part was letting them dry so that I could see them with a card in place.

I waited, though. Can you believe that?


Oh my goodness. I really love this little elephant, too. Look at his textured skin! Not too shabby for a third of a dollar, huh?


And a few days later…here we are!

Even better? These are the name cards that I used for the party that I catered. Wouldn’t you want to eat a bunch of desserts if they came presented in such a cute manner?

IMG_7661      IMG_7662

Hello, Lion! You look rather sharp when you’re all chromed up. And I still heart this little elephant.


Can it get any cuter than a giraffe holding a Mint Oreos name card?!


And it’s only appropriate that Lemon Drops should be displayed from one of my favorites…the little moose.


But the hippo is still my most favorite. I love his open mouth and fat wrinkles. It’s almost like he’s opening wide for some Rolo Cupcake goodness!

I had way too much fun with this project, but it was cheap and easy and turned out just how I hoped. They will last me a long time and be useful for many different reasons around my house.

Most chromed animals are useful around my house, after all.

I had good help (thanks, Hubby!), and I am thrilled with the end results. What do you think of these shiny little buddies?

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