Thursday, September 29, 2011

Making Curtains

If you've followed my blog for long, you know that I live in an old house that was built in 1929.......

Photo by Rian Ada Hunter

which means I have 8 and 9.5 foot ceilings 

which also means to dress my windows in curtains means 
BIG, BIG Bucks!

Luckily, I do sew and over time have made all of the curtains that are currently hanging in my house.

I know this seems overwhelming if you are a novice sewer, but please stick with me.  Some of the curtains I made were time consuming and challenging, but many of them were actually quite easy.  I'd like to share a few techniques with you that I hope will inspire you enough to make your own curtains.

Panels require a lot of yardage of fabric.  They also demand much patience to iron the fabric, lay the fabric out, cut it perfectly straight, and sew all that bulk.  In my opinion, if you can find panels you like that are long enough for your windows - buy them.  The cost savings isn't usually enough to put yourself through all of that work - unless you need extra long panels like I do.  Unfortunately, the cost seems to go up dramatically for long panels.  If your heart is set on curtains in a specific fabric however, you're not going to be happy unless you make the panels. 

Valances, on the other hand, are the easiest curtains to make and can save you quite a lot of money.  To illustrate a few very simple techniques, I'm going to share the valance I made for the window over my kitchen sink.

This valance is truly nothing more than a large rectangle.  

Basically, I pieced sections of fabric together to create a finished (after hemming all 4 sides) rectangle about the height of the window, yet 24 inches wider than the window.  It is wider than the window so I could create pleats.

Next, I ironed cabone' ring tape to the back of the curtain. Normally you would sew this - and you should if you will wash the curtains often - but I did not want to see stitching on the front of the curtain.  Instead, I used strips of fusible web tape - made for hemming pants - to attach the cabone' tape.  Follow the instructions on the fusible hem tape to make sure you get a good bond.  

Also, be sure to attach the tape so the top ring is at exactly the same height on each section of curtain.  I ironed 4 lengths of tape on my curtain.

Finally, I stapled the rectangle to a 1x4 board cut to match the width of the window.  I wanted my valance to have pleats, so I created pleats as I stapled.  I will do a tutorial on creating pleats in an upcoming post.  My pleats lined up with where I had ironed the cabone' tape.

To finish, I slipped the cabone' rings onto shower curtain rings, and hung the valance.  A screw on each end did the trick.

See.......that was pretty easy, wasn't it?  The style of my valance may not be your style, but perhaps you can use some of these techniques anyway.  Try only gathering a few of the bottom rings on your valance.  Or maybe try skipping every other ring.  I'd love for you to share what you come up with.

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wicked Chocolate Sauce

Do you like to hostess events at your house?  Or does the thought of this send you into a panic!

I really love to hostess events, but I must admit:  Sometimes I've been a terrible hostess.  Oh, I think the house was clean enough and the food was tasty.  The problem - the hostess was more concerned about making an impression than making her guests comfortable.

Dear Rob and Lori - please forgive me for the time I invited you for a big Chicken Parmesan meal for my two year-old's birthday.  I could sense how bad you felt when I finally collapsed in my chair after all that cooking and said, 
"Whew!  I'm pooped!"

Seriously, who needs to cook Chicken Parmesan 
for a 2 year-old's birthday?

I have since adopted a motto that I try to apply 
to all areas of my life:


Regardless of what I create, how I spend my money, or what I put on this blog - I try to stop and ask myself, "Am I doing this to impress someone.......or to bless them?"

What a freeing way to live
and what a great way to hostess!  

With that in mind, I have a couple of recipes I'd like to share with you over the next few months.  These recipes are easy, super delicious, and can be put together in just a few minutes.  After all, the idea is to spend time with your friends, right?  Not the kitchen!

The first recipe is for a wicked chocolate sauce.  I gave it this name because when I make this sauce, I cannot stop eating it.  It is EVIL!!!!.......but Ohhhh so good.


2 Squares Unsweetened Chocolate
1 Cup Evaporated Milk
1 Stick Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt

Mix the ingredients together in a medium pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for 3 minutes, continuing to stir.

That's It!

The sauce will have the consistency of chocolate pudding.  To give it a creamier texture, I like to beat it with a hand mixer for about 4 minutes.

This sauce is for a sundae pie where you put ice cream in an oreo crust, layer with this sauce, top with cool whip and then freeze.

In my opinion, however, the sauce is sooo much better on its own or served over ice cream, brownies, warm pieces of get the idea.  

A final thought:  the leftover sauce (if there is any) gets a little sugary.  This can be solved by heating the amount you need in the microwave, or reheating the entire batch in a small sauce pan and stirring frequently.  Just don't stir the crystally stuff high up on the sides of the pan back down into the sauce. 

Or, just simply eat all the sauce in one sitting like we do!  Problem solved.

Thanks for stopping by.......oh, and about that dark ring circling my face, heh, heh.......yes, I guess I did lick the bowl clean!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Favorite Skin Care Products

Two years ago, I started couponing.  I haven't really shared this with you before, because I try to focus this blog more on creative living and not so much buying things.  Besides, there are so many great sites out there to help you coupon, I don't need to be one more.  My favorite is  If you want to coupon and don't know how, this is a great place to start.

Having said that, I want to share a little benefit that has come out of couponing.  When you coupon, you quit being "brand loyal".  This means as a shopper you purchase whatever product (ie: spaghetti sauce) you have coupons for. This encourages you to try new products you wouldn't try otherwise. (Hmmm, you think the manufacturers know this?)

I have always been really picky about what I use on my skin, because I have oily skin that is prone to breakout, yet very sensitive skin.  If I use something for oily/acne skin, my face gets all dry, itchy and red.  If I try to moisturize, even a little, I tend to breakout.  This is especially frustrating when the wrong product produces those large, painful bumps under the skin that take months to go away, and often leave a scar if you mess with them.

When our budget became so tight I could no longer afford my favorite products, I cautiously began to try some of the drug store brands I could get for $1 or so with coupons.  I actually have found a couple of products I really, really like and want to share them with you.

For cleansing, I find this product to do a very nice job.  It gently washes away make-up without severely drying out my skin.   Most cleansers like this tend to break me out, but  I have not had any trouble with this product.

Moisturizers are a big challenge for me, especially if they have sunscreen.  This product gives some lightweight moisture, again without the breakouts.  There is also a pot of gel cream that provides heavier moisture in this line.  It is equally nice and I love how it feels when you apply it.

When I do have breakouts, I use this:

I am so amazed that putting an oil on my skin actually clears it up; trust me it really does.  I can put this on at night and by morning by skin is considerably clearer, without all the dryness.  By the way, tea tree oil is great for all kinds of skin ailments, not just acne

CAUTION:  Tea tree oil smells terrible!  Like a strong, icky vicks type smell.  If you put this on at night there will be no.......well, you know what I mean!  Just carefully follow the directions when using it.  If it seems harsh at first, apply some with a Q-tip and then gently dab off with some witch hazel on a cotton ball.

Speaking of witch hazel, that is my toner of choice.  Cheap, cheap, cheap, but very satisfactory results.

I'm very happy with these products and just wanted to pass this information along in case you are looking for something new.  My opinion doesn't really matter, but it is unbiased and might save you some dried out skin or painful breakouts.

Thanks for stopping by,


Monday, September 26, 2011

A Treasure From My Dad

Have you heard this before 
about the Christmas Story?

What would have happened 
if it had been three Wise Women
instead of three Wise Men?
They would have asked directions,
arrived on time,
(unlike the movies, they didn't really
show up until Jesus was about 2 years old)
helped deliver the baby,
cleaned the stable, 

made a casserole,
and brought practical gifts!

Snicker!  Well, I don't know about this, but I do know that a world without women would be a world void of much thoughtfulness.

Within 6 months of when I lost my mom to breast cancer,  my dad remarried.  She was not a woman he had known at all while my mom was living, but someone he met with the help of my sister.  In all honesty, while I liked her very much, my grief was still so raw and heavy that it was hard to accept her.  However, as I began to see that my dad was such a lonely man who needed a companion - and not this betrayer of my mom's memory - I wanted this relationship for him.  

Little did I realize at the time, but dad marrying this lovely lady kept him a part of my life.  My dad was a work-a-holic and I truly believe had it not been for my stepmom, I would have rarely seen him.  She, on the other hand, has no boundaries for loving.  While she already had 5 children of her own, she opened her heart and added 4 more heartbroken, young women to her nest.  Not only did dad need her, but we did too.

One day when dad and Mom Too came for a visit, they brought me the most lovely gift.  They had found this perfect piece of Hull Pottery in a store and purchased it, because I like Hull Pottery and have a small collection of it.   Now you must understand, my father was a practical, work-all-the-time, never-had-much-money, did-not-give-many-gifts kind of dad.  For him to purchase a piece of collectible pottery just for me.......well I was overwhelmed. 

Needless to say, it is one of my greatest earthly treasures. It is so special to me and I keep it on my dresser to remind me of my dad, but also of the woman who kept him in my life. I don't know if it was dad's idea to buy the gift for me or if she nudged him to do it (I certainly have my suspicions), I only know that realizing I was still special as someone's daughter was the real, priceless gift they gave me that day. The vase could be broken tomorrow - and I would be a little sad - but the real gift that was given can never be taken away.

Mom Too and Dad
They had 10 wonderful years together
before Dad also passed away.

Thanks for stopping by,


And can I just say that if Mom Too had been one of the Wise Women, it wouldn't have been no stinkin' casserole.  She would have cooked enough for all the shepherds, the angels, heck the whole town of Bethlehem.......and I can promise you there would have been dessert!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Room Screen From French Doors

Last summer I had my boys working on some painting projects around the house.  My youngest was scraping the loose paint from the outer french doors that open from our dining room, when he yelled,

See the damage just above the "L"?

  "Mom, is the scraper supposed to go through the door?"  

Poor kid.  As he was scraping the peeling paint, wood from the door was coming off too.

"No, sweetie, these doors are rotten and you just got out of a painting project!"

So my husband, Edward, did what any sane person would do and removed the doors, tossing them on our haul off pile.

  But you know me!  

I took one look at the doors on that pile, and the creative side of my brain went into overload.  These doors were original to our house and they were still so beautiful, even if they had some rot.  Of course, I did what all of us insane people do.  I rescued the doors from the pile and started composing with them.

This is where the porte-co'chere was.
Photo by Rian Ada Hunter

It didn't take long for me to realize these doors were the solution to a problem I've had since we moved in.  You see, my garden room was once the porte-co'chere to this house.  A porte-co'chere is a french term mean "carriage porch".  My garden room used to have a half circle drive running through it where you could park and enter the house through a side door.  Long before we moved in, they enclosed the space to be a kids' play room.

Photo by Rian Ada Hunter

It is a great room with a lot of floor space, but it is a bear to decorate.  The eastern wall has an enormous bay window and a fireplace.  The northern wall has a door to the garage. The western wall has one door to the entry and on the opposite end a door to the kitchen.  And finally, the southern wall just has a nice set of windows.  It is also about 11 ft wide by 25 ft long.  A beautiful space with the bay window, but just crazy to place furniture in.  What seems to work the best is to split the room up and create two spaces.  One focused on the bay window, and the other on the fireplace. Yet up until now, everything I had tried blocked too much light from the windows and left the fireplace side unpleasingly dark.

Enter the rotten french doors!

Once I explained to Edward my thoughts, he surprisingly jumped right in and started working on the doors.  After removing the rot, he thought they were going to require too much work and shouldn't be used.  I thought they were perfect and told him not to try to fill in those areas.  Afterall, I'm all about character!

Since they were going to be free standing with a sofa placed against them, we needed a way to secure them.  If I had little kids in the house, I would opt for something a little safer than this, but this method has worked fine for over a year.  First, we turned both doors facing out and hooked them together with their hinges.  

The damage ended up not being too extensive.

Next, we screwed L brackets to a board and then attached it perpendicular to the doors.  We hung it at the height of two columns we already had.  We then secured the board to the top of the columns, creating a narrow table ledge on the backside of the doors.  You would have to slam the front side of the doors fairly hard to knock the screen over; a risk with any screen.

Ooops!  Guess I should paint the underside.

The french doors have proven to be a perfect solution.  They look like they were made for the garden room, and they allow lots of light to filter through.  There is even the bonus of an extra little surface to decorate.  The best part - I am so thrilled we did not have to haul them off.

Our view as we come in from the garage.

I'm a crazy lady, I know, but life is so much more fun this way!

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Shameful, Shallow Wife's Christmas Tale

Years ago when Edward and I had only been married a year or two, Edward accidentally broke one of my favorite vases. This was not a special vase for sentimental reasons, it was just unique and very pretty.  It was tall and slender like a cylinder, but then bulb shaped on the bottom.  While it was just clear glass, it was etched with butterflies and flowers around the bulb then extending up the sides.

On Thanksgiving night of that year, having just stood and washed all the dishes, I decided to leave the pitcher on the counter and put it away in the morning.  I knew I would be the first one up, so no problem.  Well.....then one of those moments took place where you know what's going to happen, but you can’t get the words out fast enough to stop it in time.  As Edward walked through the kitchen in the dark saying, "I'm going to check the back door,".......I braced myself for the crash.  Yep, that's exactly what happened.  Needless to say, I was very sad.......and he felt terrible!  He knew I was always so careful with that vase, and he hated that he broke it.

Now fast forward about two weeks.  Edward and I had agreed to spend only about $40 on each other for Christmas since money had been very tight.  With so little to spend, I hoped Edward would go for something sentimental and thoughtful, and not just a cheap kitchen appliance or ugly sweater.  Remember what sweaters looked like in the early nineties?  You see my point.

Anyway, one day Edward came in beaming from ear to ear with a present under his arm.  A beautiful, little present wrapped in decorative brown paper and adorned with a perfectly tied green and red fabric ribbon, and tiny wooden mustard spoon.  He was sooo excited and went on and on about how much I was going to love what was inside the box. I was pretty sure I loved it already.

That year we traveled over several states to spend Christmas with my parents.  As we passed out the presents, Edward held my gift back and made a point to my parents that he wanted me to open it last.  "Oh my goodness, this is going to be awesome.  What could he have done with $40?"

With trembling fingers, I carefully untied the perfect green and red ribbon, admiring the little mustard spoon as I went. Not wanting to steal any of the my husband's joy, I painstakingly removed the brown paper from the gift.  Then as Edward sat with the camera focused on me and everyone in the room dying to see what was in the box, I lifted the lid.......

And saw this!

Oh, the camera did not hide my surprise!

As I took the chicken out of the box, I turned it this way and that, overwhelmed by it's.......everything!

I thought to myself, "I wouldn't give 25 cents for this at a garage sale, and this is what Edward has been going on about?"  Then I thought, "I get it, there is something tickets to a show.......or jewelry.......or just anything else!

Nope!  This was my present.  A chicken pitcher with dragons and a big turquoise flower painted on it’s belly.  A chicken pitcher that you poured water in it's comb and out it's beak.  Later in the kitchen, my mom grabbed me and said, "Is that what you wanted for Christmas?!!!"  I know, Mom.  My thoughts exactly.

Sadly, I allowed that stupid chicken to ruin my Christmas. Rather than look at my sweet husband's gesture in trying to replace my pitcher, I thought ugly things instead, like

"How could you look at a hideous chicken and think of me?"

"When we have no money, this is my special husband gift?"

"You think this should replace my beautiful etched glass pitcher?"

"Should my Christmas gift be a replacement for something you broke?"

Yes, Lavendears, my heart went to a  very ugly place.  And then my mouth followed.  It still hurts me to think of how I wounded Edward.  What else could the man do but send the pitcher back?  And so he did.

But there is a happy ending to this story.

I asked Edward to forgive me for my shallowness and told him how sorry I was that he had felt the need to send the pitcher back.  In truth, after some time, I was very sad that it was gone.  As I thought about my husband and his goodness, I knew that that chicken was an act of love whether I chose to interpret it that way or not.

Skip ahead now - about 7 years.  Life was crazy busy with two preschool boys, a young teen, and Edward traveling frequently with his job.  One day Edward walked in from a business trip to New York with a sheepish little grin on his face, and a pretty William Sonoma sack in his hand......

"I got you a little something."

"Really?  You had time to shop for me?"  

"Yes, and I think you’ll like it."

Very excited at the prospect of him bringing me any kind of gift from his travels,  I squeeled like a child as I opened the package.......
and then I saw this

and I was in love!

This chicken pitcher will forever be in my kitchen for it is a reminder of the love that Edward and I continue to grow for each other.  It is not an etched glass pitcher that you have to handle with kid gloves, but a vibrant, colorful, sometimes quirky, everyday love that is real.  I treasure it, because I treasure the man who was forgiving, loving, and brave enough to give me this gift - twice!  

Thanks for stopping by.


On a funny note, my spice rack is my all-time most popular post.  How wonderful that my chicken could be part of that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

$5 Shell Chair

Are you getting tired of seeing my garage sale junk finds? I'm so sorry.  Here's the thing though; since I started working I haven't quite found my groove for getting things accomplished.  I'm talking the basic things - like buying groceries.  Unfortunately, that means projects are having to take a back seat, for now.  I know, right!  

Anyway, here is an amazing shell chair I discovered at a yard sale and was able to get for $5!!!  I'm honestly amazed at how many great buys I've come across this summer.  

You probably have me pegged for one of those people who hits every garage sale and drives a hard bargain.  The truth is I only go for about 2-3 hours a week, and the only bargaining I do is to simply ask, "Is this your best price?" Furthermore, I don't ask on everything, and if someone says it already is their best price, I do not push them further.   I find with older items - especially if they have a tear or stain - people are just interested in getting rid of the stuff.  Well I dearly love older pieces because I know they have a story, and I usually don't mind a tear or stain as long as the piece is in pretty good condition.

This chair is actually vinyl and has a few chunks missing.  I don't like vinyl much, but the chair is very sturdy and the back and the wood is still in perfect shape.  I know it will be gorgeous one day when I get it recovered, but I'm not sure what I want to do just yet.  Thankfully this vinyl has a pretty pattern, and it actually looks really great with the chair I painted.  If you missed that post, you can read how I painted a fabric chair, here.

For me the enjoyment is not as much about getting an item for a steal, but instead giving something that is passed over a new purpose in life.  By draping an old lace tablecloth on this chair and adding a pillow, she becomes a Cinderella.

Look how lovely she looks next to the fireplace in my bedroom!  Hmmm.......what an appropriate place for a Cinderella.

Thanks for stopping by,


Monday, September 19, 2011

Finger-Lickin Chickin

I have a really yummy chicken recipe to share with you today. I think my mom found this recipe in a Campbell soup freebie cookbook back in the '70's.  I don't think it could be classified as very healthy, but it is a great recipe that could be doubled to feed a lot of people.  It's also wonderful for company because it is super simple and very, very tasty. 


1 Chicken, cut up
I like to use 6-8 skinless boneless chicken breasts, instead
Flour that has been salted and peppered, perhaps 1 Cup
1 Large Onion, chopped
2 Cans Cream of Chicken Soup
1    4 oz. Can Mushrooms
1    2 oz. Jar Pimentos
1 Stick Butter
Possibly additional Butter for cooking.

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a 9 x 13 pan.  Melt the stick of butter and pour over the chicken.  (Consider holding back some of the butter to saute your onions, if you are concerned about calories.) Bake at 400F degrees for 30 minutes, uncovered.

In a large skillet, saute the chopped onions.  When tender, add the cans of undiluted soup, the mushrooms, and pimento. When the chicken has baked for 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and pour the sauce over the chicken pieces. Return the pan to the oven and bake covered for an additional 35 minutes.

That is it!  This is one of those recipes my kids beg for.   I like to serve this with rice and some bright colored vegetables.  Also, should there be any leftovers, this dish reheats easily and tastes just as good as when it was freshly made.

I'd love to hear what your family thinks.

Thanks for stopping by,


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wedding Ideas - Part 2 - Flowers

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

Flowers add so much beauty to a wedding.  If cost was not a concern, I would have them everywhere for I dearly love flowers.  Unfortunately, cost is a concern and flowers will eat up your wedding dollars very quickly.

Celosia grown in my garden was used in the corsages and boutonnieres.

For Baby Girl's wedding we saved quite a bit on flowers by purchasing buckets of roses from a flower market, and by using flowers grown in my garden.  We kept the bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres very simple.

All of the greenery was collected from my garden.
Copyright Kim Arington Photography

Rather than concerning ourselves with fancy floral design, we opted to just gather gorgeous flowers.  The results were stunning and elegant.  We were fortunate enough to have two family members who had worked in floral shops in the past, and they assembled all of the flowers for us.  

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

I do not recommend that the bride or mother of the bride be the ones putting together the fresh floral arrangements. There is too much to do the last day or two before the wedding.  Instead, accept the help of friends and family who are offering.  Just give them very clear, step-by-step instructions and keep it simple.  If the bride and/or mom are going to make arrangements, use artificial flowers and make them weeks ahead.  You can get beautiful artificials at Michaels or Hobby Lobby when they are on sale.  If fresh is still important to you, consider creating artificial designs and adding some key fresh flowers to the arrangements on the wedding day.  We did this as well.

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

Baby Girl was married at the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, AK.  Since this is a popular wedding destination, we only had 1 1/2 total hours for decorating, the ceremony, and pictures.  We decided to decorate with only 2 urns of flowers.  Time was of the essence, but more importantly the chapel does not need anything to enhance it's beauty.  It is gorgeous on it's own.

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

Whether it is little boutonnieres or large arrangements, be sure to take time weeks before the wedding to practice the design or to make the artificial arrangements.  Waiting until the end will just add pressure and distract from what the wedding is all about.  And remember, if your heart is set on a particular arrangement or bouquet - then choose that as one of the areas you spend your budget.

Baby Girl when she first saw her bouquet.
Copyright Kim Arington Photography

These are great tips to for holiday decorating, as well.  Keep designs simple and try making artificial arrangements then adding  fresh materials.  It's a great time saver.

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wedding Ideas - Part 1

I have a sweet little friend who is just getting started with her wedding planning.  To help her, and anyone one else who needs a few money saving ideas, I thought a would share some of the things we did for my daughter's wedding.

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

My first piece of advice is to determine your budget.  I don't know anyone who has enough money to spend any amount they want on a wedding.  I'm sure there are those who can, but not in my circle of friends.  

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

Once you know how much you have to spend, make a list of the things you would like to have as part of your wedding, and then prioritize them.  The reason for this is that there may be some things that are non-negotiable and must be part of your celebration.  You will quickly realize there are many, many things that add to your wedding, but could be accomplished using less expensive options.  If a bride has her heart set on a specific dress, spend the money on the dress and save on the less important things.  I think this will vary with each bride.  Just take the time to decide what is really, really important, and what is not.

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

For my daughter, her dress was extremely important and there was no room for compromise.  Fair enough.  For her bridesmaids, however, we saved quite a bit by making some of the dresses.  This is especially nice when you consider that fabric colors and choices are almost unlimited, while off-the-rack bridesmaid dresses are quite limited.  We used 40% off coupons to purchase all of her satin at Hobby Lobby.  I sewed the brown bridesmaid dresses and the flower girl's dress. 

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

I also made tablecloths for the head table

and pieced fabric for this backdrop.  
The brown sheer fabric came off the $1 table at Wal-Mart.

Since her wedding was a destination wedding, we did not have much time to set-up and take-down.  Edward and I engineered this backdrop to go up in a jiffy.  I will give you more details in a later post.

The fabrics we used were a good value adding a lot of rich color at an affordable price.  Honestly, do you think the look would have improved greatly by using $16/yard fabric versus $3/yard fabric?

Copyright Kim Arington Photography

Fabric is just one tip.  We have several more to share with you over the next few days.  Please think about these tips in terms of your home decorating too!  The same ideas apply.

Copyright Kim Arington Photography
Pictured:  Bird and Baby Girl

Thanks for stopping by.  Hope you will drop in again tomorrow for more ideas!