Category Archives: Money Saving

The Gallery Wall

I decided this wall in the great room needed something awesome. The thermostat and air intake just weren’t doing it for us.

DSCN1603I decided I wanted to put up a gallery wall full of fun photos and even items. But I wanted to do it on the cheap. My first step was digging out every picture frame I owned. These went into four piles:

  • Use as is
  • Paint, then use
  • Save for another room
  • Donate

I decided the easiest way to keep this low cost was to use the frames I already had and find art to fit those frames, rather than coming up with a collection of art and then framing that. The bloggers over at http://www.younghouselove.com are veterans of the free/cheap/unique art, so I’ve taken some tips from them and started scouring ads in magazines and even the good ole Internet.

First steps first. Paint up those icky/outdated/un-color-coordinated frames. Some of these are pretty cheaptastic. But I already own them. So they’re free, and low budget is the name of this here game. Also, we all know how much I love to spray paint things that are less than pleasing to the eye. Or at least you’ll soon find out. 🙂

Before their makeover

Time for a new coat of paint

I roughed them all up with a bit of sandpaper, except for a couple that had a lot of detail work on them. Then I ran all of them over with a nice coat of liquid deglosser. I let those dry for about 10 to 15 minutes, then hit them up with some Rustoleum white primer. About half of the frames were metal, and I didn’t want the metal to have an adverse reaction to my paint. Then I hit them up with a few coats of Valspar Gloss Tropical Oasis (ironically the same color used on the stools I mentioned in the post about the great room … hmm … maybe we do need teal stools.) I love Valspar paint. I used it when I painted these lamps a couple years back. The paint goes on nice and smooth (the Rustoleum spray can was a bit … overly enthusiastic … shall we say.) With the lamps I just roughed them up and sprayed on a few good coats of Valspar in Satin Indigo Streamer (another color I adore.) They have held up quite nicely. Some day I might go back and hit them up with a coat of clear gloss, as they can be a bit difficult to dust.

We're halfway there!

I forgot to take a picture when they were all white and clean-slatey. Just imagine them all primed and ready for endless possibilities.

I also painted some tiny pots for a feature on my gallery wall. More on that later. 🙂

Teal-tasticI decided I was going to go with a black, white and teal theme. There are no rules to what can be in the frame, but the frame and/or mat must be black, white or teal. (I was in the garage and it got windy, thus the shoe.)

I had a lot of black frames already, as that was something I asked/registered for when we got married. I had two white shadowboxes. I decided to add a bit more balance by leaving a couple of the frames white. Rather than buying another can of spray paint, I primed them three or four times and then sprayed them with some clear gloss spray paint leftover from this project. The primer is pretty matte, but the gloss makes it look like it was actually a glossy paint. And I didn’t have to buy anything extra! Score. I primed all the frames before deciding which ones I liked in white and which I wanted to be teal.

I left those suckers in the garage for about 20 hours to destink/destickify. After about three hours of drying they were pretty much done with the smelling, but I had time to leave them in the garage, so I did. I also just know that, had I brought them in the house, Tucker would have licked one or all of them. Earlier today he licked a doorframe and then a shelf that was laying on the ground. Nothing is off limits for this dog’s tongue.

Once everything was painted and dry, I started laying them out on the floor. I had a thermostat and an air intake to deal with, so I also decided to make paper templates of all of them and used painter’s tape to lay it out again on the wall. I had to adjust a few things for the air intake, but overall it stayed pretty much the same.

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The next step was marking Xs on the paper where my nails needed to go. I used finishing nails for most of them, but I used drywall anchors for the large shadowbox and the shelf.

Then up on the wall they went!

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A lot of the frames are still empty. So the next step, of course, is filling them up! Inexpensively …

Want to see my inspiration for this project? Check out my Gallery Wall board on Pinterest!

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Buffalo Chicken French Bread Pizzas

This is something I kept seeing on Pinterest and finally decided it was time to try it out.

I sort of used this recipe, but I knew I wanted something a more vegetabley than this recipe, so I kind of added my own twists. I also used boneless skinless chicken thighs rather than breasts. We just like the dark meat better, as it stays moister. It’s also cheaper, which I’m not complaining about. 🙂

My first step was to lightly saute some green peppers and red onion in a bit of vegetable oil.

Green Peppers firstI then added my cubed chicken and continued to saute until the chicken was pretty much done. Once the chicken was sauteed I added buffalo sauce to coat the chicken. I didn’t want it to be soupy, but I knew we wanted it to be good and buffalo flavored, so I added a bit at a time until it was pretty well coated.

DSCN1564In the meantime, I sliced up some french bread, lightly sprayed it with olive oil and lightly toasted  it in the oven. When the bread was toasted, I piled the chicken/pepper mixture on the side that had been down in the oven (the one that was more toasted), sprinkled some mozzarella on top, and put it back in the oven for a few minutes to get the other side of the bread more toasty and the cheese melty.

DSCN1565Once the cheese was melted, I plated the pizzas, drizzled them with ranch and sprinkled sliced green onions on top.

DSCN1566They were delicious! Next time I make them I will probably put more green pepper in them, as they do tend to cook down quite a  bit.

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Chipotle chicken burritos

We love making salmon tacos but we’re always left with half a can of chipotles in adobo sauce and aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Last time we made them, I also had some chicken thighs in the freezer that needed to hit the road and decided that burritos sounded like a great idea. I looked some for a recipe on allrecipes.com, but in the end came up with my own recipe. Here goes!

Slow cooked chipotle chicken

3 chicken thighs
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tequila
2 tbsp lime juice
2 large chipotle peppers in adobo, plus sauce
2 tbsp fresh cilantro

Throw them all in a crock pot and cook on low until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and falls off the bone. Note: This takes a little while. I think I left it in there for about 5 hours, stirring every once in a while.

(Sorry I somehow end up with a lot of photos of raw chicken on this blog)

When the chicken was ready, I sauteed some green peppers and onions.

Next, I added the chicken and some quartered fresh cherry tomatoes to the skillet just until the tomatoes were heated.

Then we layered rice, black beans I had whipped up in the pressure cooker and the chicken/pepper mixture on a tortilla that had been steamed slightly in our rice cooker. Microwaving for a few seconds would work, too. Heating the tortillas makes them stick to themselves a bit better, so when you roll up your burrito, it stays that way.

After we rolled the burrito, we smothered them in green chile sauce and cheese and microwaved them just long enough to melt the cheese.

Then we added a couple dollops of sour cream, some jalapenos and a few more fresh tomatoes, poured ourselves a couple of margaritas, and enjoyed! They were awesome, if I do say so myself. (Paul agreed)

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Living room revamp

I’ve been dreaming for a while now about updating the chairs in our living room. The ones we had weren’t a matching pair, but they were the right color for my living-room-color-scheme and I thought they worked well enough for the room. Especially since we already had them.

Our mismatched-already-had-them living room chairs, very early in our living room set up

They also were comfortable, though we honestly rarely sat in them. We mostly just sat on the couch, and after we got the rug I started to sit on the floor more.

I had kind of been drooling over this guy for a while, but the price tag stopped me from pursuing it. It’s Crate & Barrel’s Klyne collection (http://www.crateandbarrel.com/furniture/chairs/klyne-chair-and-a-half/s237445) The plan was to try to find a similar chair and a half in a similar color. I have been trying to incorporate a burnt orange into the room for a while but haven’t found anything quite right. I also love the couch with chaise in this collection in a lovely gray color, so maybe it’ll stay on the list for future major-living-room-upgrade some time in the future when we can afford to spend money on things like awesome furniture. (Greer and I actually went to Crate and Barrel a while back to check if the thing is actually comfortable, partially in hopes that it wouldn’t be so I could stop pining for it. It’s amazingly comfortable. So now I want it more.)

When Paul’s grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, we went to Wichita. The day after the funeral, we went to his home with a U-Haul and our three families (My parents-in-law, Paul and I and Paul’s brother Keith and his wife Emily) with the goal of taking home a few momentos. While we were there I kind of fell in love with this green velvety chair in his living room, and Emily and I decided it definitely needed to be in my craft room. Turns out, it had a mate in another room, and so one chair that made me happy turned into a total revamp of 4 (yes, 4) rooms in our house.

Most of those rooms are still not ready. In two cases, time is the problem. In the third, I’m just not coming up with a great way to rearrange the furniture that is in there, but I’ll talk more about those later.

For now, here are some shots of our new-and-improved living room.

Changes:

New-to-us green chairs replaced mismatched brown and tan chairs, while also adding a really awesome pop of color which is something I have been craving for quite a while. We already had those brown throw pillows (Mom gave them to us, she had relocated them to her basement then passed them along when they matched our living room.) The brown ottomans came in a set with the longer brown ottoman that used to sit under the window(also from Mom, a Christmas gift). The chairs are in great shape and are really comfortable, especially with an ottoman to prop your feet on! I am thinking about relocating that sewing machine cabinet and plant, but haven’t decided for sure yet. I think the plant for sure has to go elsewhere, just because it is too crowded. We also plan to hang a clock or a shelf with a clock on it above the sewing machine cabinet. My search for a clock has not gone well. I’ve actually been searching for months and haven’t come up with anything quite right.

That art on the left wall is also something we brought from Wichita. It was done by a Wichita-local artist and has a whole list of shows that it has been in on the back, but we haven’t done much research on the artist herself. The green blanket on the couch is actually a shawl, but it’s the right color.

That radio cabinet (in front of the window, between the green chairs) is also something we brought with us from Wichita. It’s very cool and everything still works, it has a turntable and a radio. Paul and I did a little bit of radio-surgery to fix the tuner, which didn’t work when we brought it home. The string that made the tuner work had broken, and it took a few tries, but we were able to replace it. (We ended up using light blue embroidery thread. The light blue makes no different, the embroidery thread seemed like it would be strong and hold up well. Also, I already had it.)

On top of the radio are a couple of other neat mementos/heirlooms. On the right there is an old handguide for Electrical Engineers (which is what Paul is) that we found in his grandfather’s bookshelf, and on top of it is a tiny spy-cam that we found in a closet. On the left is another very cool old camera. Still not sure if they work.

The vase of flowers is actually something I am very proud of. Those artificial yellow glads were hanging on the posts around the dance floor at our wedding, and I’ve had them in a bag upstairs ever since, hoping to find a good use for them. I thought they would look great in a tall vase, but wasn’t sure where to put them. Once we put that radio under the window I knew that was where I wanted them to go. The vase was a wedding gift from Paul’s aunt and uncle who live near Wichita. The glads were a little too tall, so I cut them down to size and filled the vase with glass marbles (mostly white and clear with a few yellow ones mixed in) so it wouldn’t tip over.

That ottoman that was under the window is now next to the TV(the entrance to the living room is just to the left). The wreath hanging above it was a gift from my parents in memory of Paul’s grandpa. I also added the tiny basket with the yellow liner to the right to wrangle Netflix DVDs and library movies. Also to add some more yellow to the room, since that is supposed to be one of the room’s accent colors and it wasn’t around much.

This is what it looks like standing in the kitchen looking into the living room.
Paul’s grandfather also had some awesome old suitcases in his basement, and they were also in just the right color.

That round white one on top? Guess what it really is.

Think of something crazier


It’s a hairdryer!

This lamp is also something kind of fun that Paul really wanted from his grandpa’s house. It’s actually meant to be hanging, but we couldn’t decide on a good place to hang it, and while we were standing in the living room with Paul holding it up, a light went on! (har har)

Ok. If we’re totally honest I wasn’t completely sold on it at first. But it does look great when it’s lit up (I had only ever seen it off) and he really wanted it. So what was I to do? Part of what was also throwing me was coming up with a place to hang it. In the end, this looks pretty cool, the shelf look pretty awful beforehand and we didn’t have to screw 5 holes in the ceiling to find a stud! (like we did with the pot rack in the kitchen) I would definitely like to have it hanging over an armchair in a cozy little corner someday, but said cozy little corner doesn’t exist in this particular house. Someday! Someday the lamp will have a perfect home, and we’ll be glad to have a little piece of LaVerne around.

An overview of the other half of the room:

So that’s how one room has shaped up! Three more are in the works, including what I was afraid was going to be a super daunting project. Luckily, that project worked out easier than I thought it would, but more on that later!

In the meantime:

Tucker in a t-shirt! (Sorry it's blurry)

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Accesorize!

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I have not had a fully accessorized house/apartment/or even room since I moved out of my parents’ house (unless it was a roomate’s doing). Now that we are settled (our at least more so than for the past 5ish years) I am willing to excited to make a little investment  to have a really put together room. I have finally settled on a color scheme of brown, tan, green, yellow and burnt orange.  Today I went on a living room accessory mission and am extremely happy with the results. And Tucker loves the rug. So much that he won’t get off of it for fear we will take it.

I did this all on somewhat of a budget, and still want to add yellow and orange to the room, but plan to hit up inexpensive stores with frequently rotating inventory (i.e. Home Goods, Big Lots, Overstock.com) until I find something I like for a small enough price.

Green pillows – $15 apiece from TJ Maxx Home Goods

Rug – $60 from Wal-Mart

Curtains – $20 per panel from Target

Slipcover – $30 from Overstock.com

Coffee table (which I have had since Carbondale) – $5 off of Facebook marketplace

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The roasted chicken

A while ago, I got a wild idea that I wanted to roast a whole chicken. Long story short, it was delicious, and is now something I do quite frequently. Whole chickens are fairly inexpensive, and if you pay more than about a dollar a pound, you are probably getting a little ripped off.

I will add this disclaimer: roasting a whole chicken has its gross moments and so those who are faint of heart or stomach may not want to attempt  this without a stronger stomached assistant. Also, this post contains photos of raw, whole chickens. Just saying.

I also suggest having an empty dishwasher (or slightly full of dirty dishes) before starting this process. Of course, I never do this, I just realized halfway through that it would be nice if I could put those chickeny dishes straight into the dishwasher. Instead, I put them into the sink, which means I have to touch them again.

First, make sure the chicken is thawed and take out all the extras inside. They may be in a bag or just loose in there. Put those in the bottom of the roasting pan.

The first thing I do is stuff the chicken. I always always ALWAYS stuff the chicken with an onion. First of all, yum. Second of all, it adds a nice moisture. You don’t eat the onions at the end. Well, I guess you could if you really wanted to, but we never have. I also add at least three cloves of crushed fresh garlic. This time, I added a few sprigs of thyme, too.

Flavor ready to go in the chicken.

This chicken is full! Some places suggest tying the legs together. You can if you want, but I can't ever seem to find kitchen string so I don't do it.

Next, you rub the outside of the chicken. This time, I rubbed it with softened butter mixed with thyme, parsley and oregano but you can add any combination of herbs that sounds good to you. Some recipes say you should rub the chicken and then let it flavor through over night. This is a good idea, but the last time I did it I forgot and it still turned out well. Be sure to rub your seasoning all over the chicken and between the skin and breast meat of the chicken. Check out my original recipe (mentioned below) for a really savory, unexpected combination of flavors.

Homemade herb butter

The original recipe I used didn’t call for anything in the bottom of the pan. The one I use when I roast potatoes with it does. This time I added 1.5 cups of chicken stock and a touch of white zinfandel (which someone had left at our place. We don’t really drink sweet wines, so it therefore becomes cooking wine) The little bit of the moisture in the bottom a) helps keep the chicken moist, b) gives you a nice start for some gravy and c) can sometimes keep the bottom of the pan from getting too burnt.

Next, grease your v-rack if you are using one and put the chicken in the V breast side down. I put it breast side down because that’s the way I did it the first time. I know there are other schools of thought. That’s the way I did it the first time. It worked great. That’s the way I do it. I also do not tress the chicken.

When your chicken is all ready to go, it’s time to bake it!

Chicken, ready for the oven

I LOVE this cooking method. It requires you to pay attention, but I generally am working diligently on side dishes when I roast a chicken anyway so it isn’t a big deal. I think that this cooking method is really the key to a successfully roasted, deliciously juicy and flavorful chicken.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Put the chicken in for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 450 and roast an additional 15 minutes.

Ohhhhh, we're halfway there, whooooaaaa, roasting on a prayer

Next you baste the chicken. The recipe I used the first time said to use the pan drippings. Well, there were only a few tablespoons of drippings and I burnt myself trying to get them out (I do not have a basting syringe thingy.) So I just melted half a stick of butter and poured it over that sucker. Delicious. This time I basted with a mixture of melted butter and wine.

Put the chicken back in the oven, reduce the heat to 425 and roast for an addition 30 minutes or until an internal temperature of 160 degrees. The first time I did it, I roasted to 165, waited 15 minutes for it to cool, sliced in and it was still totally pink. So back into the oven. It’s kind of hard to know if it really is done, so I suggest testing the temperature in a few places. The tip of your thermometer should be deep in the meat but NOT touching a bone. Once I baked the chicken to 190 internal temperature, then freaked out and whined about how it was going to be dry the whole way to the Thanksgiving party I had made it for. It was perfect. Sometimes it is just hard to know, and more often than not, it will turn out fine. (Also, make gravy. That way if it is dry your guests can help it out a smidge)

Voila, a chicken masterpiece!

Some side dishes I enjoy with whole roasted chickens:

Potatoes roasted in the bottom of the pan in some white wine

Mashed potatoes (I especially like this recipe with goat cheese. One amendment, I just mixed the goat cheese in instead of putting little pats on top.)

Fresh green beans, prepared this way

Roasted broccoli and cauliflower. I always use the precut kind, but you don’t have to. Mix flourettes of broccoli and cauliflower with olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon juice and some herbs. I like to use oregano, garlic and some cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Put in the oven in a casserole (I suggest lining it with parchment paper) and bake for 30 to 45 minutes around 450 degrees.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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