Sunday, June 29, 2014

Favorites: Trying to be healthier and craftier

This is a little belated from my usual Friday time of Favorites, but better late then never, right?
Here are some of my favorite items these days:

1. Flatout Soft 100% Whole Wheet flatbread (wraps): I picked some of these up a while ago to try with a Lean Cuisine wrap filler, and the wraps were perfect! They are low calorie (only 100 calories) and make perfect wraps, flatbread pizzas, or tacos!

2. Everbilt Dropcloths: This is the dropcloths I purchased to re-cover my deck bench cushions and make curtains for the deck. They are easy to cut, just enough softness, but nice and thick to cover unsightly patterns. ;) Check out my post on making no-sew dropcloth curtains and no-sew seat cushion covers.

3. Smirnoff Sorbet Light Mango Passion Fruit: While cruising through the Wine & Spirits store to pick up some wine for a friend's party, I came across this lovely bottle. I decided to give it a shot and add it to mixed drinks at home. It is a perfect addition to our bar. We mixed this, mango rum and limeaide- which made an AMAZING margarita (recipe to come later). So good and less calories!

4. V-8 Fusion Energy Orange Pineapple: I tried another V-8 Fusion energy drink a while back when the marketing department at my work had a box of them for people to try. I hated the Pomegrande, but loved the Peach Mango. I was glad to see that they had the Orange Pineapple at my local grocery store, so I gave that one a shot. Was great as well! And so low Weight Watchers points plus for a caffeinated beverage!

5. Lean Cuisine Chicken Pecan: Saw this at my local grocery store too and gave it a shot, as the picture looked good- I had never seen this one before. It was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed the sweetness of the cranberries and apples mixed with the tasty chicken, sweet potatoes and rice. Loved it!

Hope your weekend is going fabulous! Enjoy your day!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Free stuff is always the best stuff

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Thursday! 

So, my neighbors must think I'm a horder or something, but recently I've been loving all the free items they throw away (put out on trash day). In the past month, I've scored some awesome freebies, that I easily updated with a nice coat of paint or fabric. ;) Check out my scores!

Score #1: Two lovely end tables
The one woman down the street from us was throwing away the below tall long table (left). I immediately knew I wanted to dress it up for our front porch with some plants/flowers on it, but I wanted it green. I walked on down with the hubs to pick it up, just as she is coming outside (unbeknown to us)- almost startling us as she opens her front door and says "I have another one that is a little smaller, but same color and similar legs, that I was also getting rid of- just didn't bring it down stairs yet- you want that one too?" "Totally!"
The original tables were purple.

 So we scored 2 free tables! The next day I immiately painted the big one dark green (which that color paint we stocked up on a lot, because it matches the shutters to our house) and it worked out perfect for out front on the porch. I just need to get better plants, as the current ones are looking a little ratty, and the other two that were in the green containers died (so embarrassingly I have just dirt in those, till I get new plants- I'm waiting for some sales on plants to happen- flowers are expensive!)
The front porch currently- with new end table.
Just awaiting some more flowers to dress everything up!
(I might repaint the boots too, as they are fading)
The newly green table (I swapped out floor mats to the brown one after this pic was taken. lol).

The other table- for now is in our bedroom, but might end up changing rooms eventually- once I figure out where I like it.

Score #2: Four patio seat cushions
You might of seen my previous post on my Deck Oasis update, which included adding seat cushions to our hard-butt benches. Again, I found these cushions out by the curb awaiting the trash man. They were in decent condition- just faded all to hell.

Original ugly cushions.

So lightbulb went off and I knew they had to be turned into cushions for the benches. With a single 9 x 15 ft drop cloth ($21) I recovered all 4 cushions, which fit perfect on the deck.
I recovered the cushions with drop cloth...
Now the cushions look almost new!

Score #3: Free wood
Hubs brought home 2 broken picnic tables from his work, which we quickly took apart for various projects. One project is to turn the 2 tops of the tables into a wooden walkway to our pool, along with a little side bench- so you don't have to walk through the grass from the deck/parking space- so not as much grass in the pool. We still have to paint them, but it serves its purpose.

In the process of making this area work and not look so trashy.

 The other project was adding a mini bar to our bare wall on the deck. We used the one seat from the picnic table, added 2 support legs, and tada! Instant bar! Not going to lie- it was one of the smartest things we've done- as it quickly cleared up space on the deck and allowed for more room for food/drinks. Already, it has gotten good use on our grilling days with friends.
New side bar from free wood!

Perfect for grilling time. ;)

I also scored a few free pallets from my work (which I've been told, that if I want more, I am welcome to them). Since I work at a newspaper, they use pallets to bring various things. I saw a few out back and asked our maintenance man if I could have them- he said sure, and then added- "You want more? We have a boat load of them on the loading dock." I agreed to take a few- as there is only so much that will fit in the car, but they were perfect. Some were a little broken/beaten up- which we took those to be firewood, but there is a few I hope to turn into easy gardening spaces or bookshelves.

So many pallets!
 We also scored some spare firewood from a friend who didn't need it- so we are starting to stockpile the firewood- which is good, since my hubs and our friends all LOVE the firepit. haha

Score #4: Free flowers
Two of my co-workers/friends just purchased a home recently and have been making their gardening their own. They had a boat-load of these lovely flowers that they didn't want where they were on their property but didn't want to throw them away, as they were nice (but hadn't bloomed yet), so I aquired about 4 stalks. I am happy to say, they finally started to bloom (this was my first time planting these kind of flowers), so I'm so glad all 4 have bloomed! Woo!

Pretty in bloom!

(I ended up putting them in the empty spot between our rose bush/tree and bush by the side.) They are a little taller than I thought they'd be- and might get transplanted again once we finish the fence, but for now- I'm glad they're alive. haha

Score #5: (not free though) Yard sale website drop leaf table
We also scored this lovely drop leaf table (which is what I've been wanting for our dining room since we bought the house) for $25 on a online yard sale site for our area. I also managed to sell our current round table for the same price, so for a new table change- $0 in the end (as we sold our table we previously had for the same price we bought the new one).

The drop leaf table- right after bringing it home.

 It has a few spots we have to work on- going to eventually try and re-stain it as it is a very similar color to our buffet wood, so they match. For now, I'll just throw a table cloth on it, till I can re-stain it.

Other thrifty updates:
Other thrifty updates are taking things we already had around the house, and added a quick update of paint to add a pop of color to the room.
I had an ugly cart in the dining room (was left by the previous owners of the house)- I eventually decided to make into a tea/coffee corner. It looked similar to this one- just without handles and actually has a panel on the back to close the space.

A nice coat of teal (not the same bright teal that our outdoor benches are, but a beautiful darker teal) brightening the ugly thing right up.
Energy station!

Making the cart pretty...
The most beautiful shade of teal- Lagoon (used on coffee cart).
Updated coffee corner.
Eventually I'm going to add some nice knobs on the doors, but for now, it adds a nice bit of color to our very neutral dining room that is slowly getting a makeover.

Another update: I also found these chrome plastic urn thingies a while back at a thrift store (not sure if they are planters or whatnot)- I finally decided to paint them white.


... After

The now hold flags!
 For now they have rocks in them to hold our little flags, but eventually I'd like more flowers.

I also had one spare tv table that we often would use to put spare items on the deck when having parties outside (the other tv tables are in use in the barshed and/or no longer around due to being broken). With a quick coat of teal spray paint- it matches the rest of the deck!

Bright tv table!
So all in all, a LOT of thrifty stuff recently. 

Have you scored some great finds recently? I'd love to see what you've scored- leave links in the comment section!
Have a thrifty Thursday!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Operation Deck Oasis almost complete: Adding Drop Cloth Seat Cushions and Curtains

 Operation Deck Oasis almost complete

After many weekends of people hanging out at our house and in our backyard/deck area, I came to the conclusion of 2 things- 1) The benches are not the most comfortable place to sit on your butt (the back pillows are nice, but your butt starts to hurt on the hard benches after a while) and 2) The deck bench area is STILL so bright and sunny to sit at (even with our makeshift sunshade).
So, I was able to fix these 2 problems easily this past weekend. Firstly, the hubs brought home this HUGE long wooden curtain rod someone was getting rid of at his work- I looked at it and just kept thinking, "Where the hell are we going to use THAT!?" Then light bulb went off- "I wonder if it would work for the deck?" Sure enough, the short side of the deck was a perfect fit. I put off doing much with the thought though, as curtains are costly- especially for the number of panels I wanted to close off the bench spot.
Then, Saturday afternoon I come home and passed by a stack of 4 patio furniture cushions on the side of the road down the street from our house. I walk on down- assess the quality (they weren't in bad shape- just ugly pattern and faded as all hell), so again- lightbulb went off- "I can cover these, and there is just the right amount for the benches!"

What to do with these hideous things...

After much debate, I came across a Pinterest post on no-sew cushion covers using painters drop cloths and safety pins. I decided this was the way to go for me, since I am leery about sewing drop cloth on my sewing machine (it being thick and all) and wanting something I can simply change if I didn't like it. I decided to go with the drop cloths, since they were a neutral light solid color (since my pillows are so crazy colors) and they are cheap for the amount of fabric you get.

Supplies for the day

 Sunday afternoon I took my two 9ft x 15 ft drop cloths, a box of safety pins and scissors and went to town.
For the cushions, I basically "wrapped them like presents" then safety pinned into place on the bottom. Since no one sees the bottom, this was easy and cheap to do.

Gift Wrapping the cushions in fabric

Safety Pin in place!
Cushions all done. Notice the one is slightly too big- but its ok, as that's the best corner to have extra cushioning and the back pillows cover it up.

For the curtains, I installed hooks on the sunshade support beams, added a middle beam just for the curtains (since I didn't have a rod big enough for the longer side of the bench area, so I made it into 2 smaller rods). I cut holes in the tops of the cloth curtains, and added strips of funky black and white fabric I had laying around (leftover from remnants of what I covered my bar cart with), which I tied to the curtain rods.
poke a hole...
... add a tie...
Simple shade made!
Instant Curtains!

Since I already had the curtain rods and acquired the big one for free, had the black fabric and safety pins already, and got the cushions for free, literally the only thing I had to buy was the 2 drop cloths to do both these projects. Score!
The sun shade dips down a little bit on the right side, but that's ok. Still shady now!
I'm so happy how it turned out..
And the tire table is still holding up strong, even after many bad rain.
Full view of the deck...
What the neighbors see when I'm hiding in the spot..

When it was all done, it was PERFECT. Finally, the place is fully shaded, a little quieter, more comfortable and overall becoming my little oasis. Sunday afternoon after I finished up, I sat down with my Diet Ginger Ale and Mango Chutney/Cream Cheese dip and chips, and enjoyed the afternoon on my ipad. I can certainly see myself hanging out here more- and it is now perfect for a bbq we are hosting this coming Friday for a going away party.
My favorite corner now.

I was so tired after doing all of this though.
 I also made sure the curtain rods could be easily taken down and put in the shed when the weather stinks, so overall, easy as pie project! I now know why everyone raves over using drop cloths to cover everything! haha

So, for a refresher- here is the before and after:
Before the curtains and cushions.

We still are trying to fixup our little walkway to our mini pool, then the backyard is pretty well done. ;)
Little walkway awaiting paint and being pushed down a little bit. Possibly a little bench made on side.

Do you have your own little oasis at home?
Anyways, Hope you're having a great day- I sure had a blast making this project a reality. ;)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Super Quick Summer Dip: Peach Mango Chutney with Cream Cheese

So a few weeks ago a friend had made this AWESOME dip to go with pita chips. I begged her for the recipe and she told me the simple truth- Mango Chutney over cream cheese. "That's it?" "Yep."
Well- I just HAD to go make my own, and this is what I did:

So, super simple way to make this dip:
1) Soften some cream cheese in a dish (I did a bowl, as I couldn't find my shallow dip dish anywhere at the time- but a shallow dish is better so you can spread things out)
2) Then pour a jar of Mango Chutney (I used a Peach-Mango Chutney for mine, but my friend used Major Grey Mango Chutney) over the top of the cream cheese.
Tada! Serve with Pita Chips and you are good to go! Tastes great warm and chilled.

This dip is great with pita chips, as the pita chips are stronger and don't break as easily in this thick dip, like chips would. Again, I suggest using a more shallow dish than I used (as doing it a standard bowl makes the cream cheese and chutney very thick to dip in- if it is shallow and wide, better for dipping).

I've been eating it all weekend, as I was enjoying my newly dressed up deck (will show pics later) and hanging out with friends.
Give this simple dip a shot, you won't regret it!
Have a great day!

P.S. Update: I heated up the portion of dip that was leftover and wow! I think it tastes even better warm! Just and FYI. ;)