Saturday, August 23, 2014

Home Sweet Home: Floral Grapevine Wreath Tutorial

One of my FAVORITE rooms in our house is our master bathroom!  It's nice and big (the only room in our house with ceilings higher than 8 feet, except the two-story foyer), has a double vanity and a ginormous tub.  But it has been pretty plain up until now - the only decor I'd done was to toss two curtains from our old house over a rod (doubled over instead of with the rod through the pocket, so it didn't hang in the tub).  I love the curtains, and wanted to use them as the palette/inspiration for the rest of the bathroom. 

Our tub sits in a corner, with the window on one wall, and a big empty space on the other.  That blank wall has been!  So I made a wreath.  

This was a super-easy project, and very budget-friendly.  If I had paid full price for all of my supplies, it would have cost me $22.92... but of course with sales and coupons at craft stores, I didn't pay quite that much.  I think the total came to between $15 and $16 :-)  Not bad for a 24-inch wreath that matches my decor perfectly!

If you want to customize your own grapevine wreath, grab these supplies: 

  • A grapevine wreath in whatever size you desire.  Mine is a 24-inch, from Old Time Pottery.  It only cost $6.99, which I think is the lowest price I've ever seen for one this big.
  • Some flowers - I prefer fake, because I worry about colors from dried flowers running down my wall, especially in a humid room like the bathroom.
  • Twine - darker to more closely match the wreath would be great, but it's not going to be all that visible.  Mine is considerably lighter than my wreath, and you can't really tell.
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • Optional: Ribbon, other fun additions.  Fake bird? Sea shells?  Whatever!  You may need to grab a glue gun too, depending on what optional stuff you add. :-) 
Start by laying your flowers and other items on your wreath to figure out how you want it laid out.  Once you're satisfied with the layout, it would be a good idea to snap a picture with your phone so you can refer to it later.  I wish I'd done that ;-)

Set aside the flowers, except for the back-most bunch.  Eyeball where on the wreath the thick part of the stem sits (you know, where it goes from looking like it could possibly be real to obviously being a clump of plastic-covered wire!).  Ease that stem as horizontally as you can between the cords of grapevine.  If you can curve it to stay inside the wreath, that's awesome.  If it's just easier to let it poke out a ways down the curve, totally fine :-)

Do the same with the rest of the stems of flowers on the wreath or in that cluster.  Once they're in place, arrange the smaller branches of the stems and make sure you like the placement and that there won't be any weird gaps.  Grab your twine and cut a piece a few feet long.  Weave it up through the wreath from the bottom, wrap it around the floral stem and pass it back down through the wreath, making sure that part of the stem is secured where you want it to stay.  

Tie a knot in the twine behind the wreath.  If you leave one tail of the knot long, you should be able to secure a few pieces of the stems with one piece of twine.  Don't tie every single bit of the flowers down, or the wreath will look flat and fake-y.  Just use enough that the flowers subtly go the direction you want, and don't fall off the wreath :-)  Also, use the wire inside most of these stems to gently curve some of the pieces in the direction of the wreath - or against it for a more haphazard look - whatever floats your boat!

Once all of your flowers are secured, clip any stems, wires, or twine tails that are poking out of the wreath.  Add your ribbons, bows, etc.  There was already a huge hook in the wall over our tub from the previous owners, and it was perfect for hanging the wreath.  :-)

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Home Sweet Home: Succulent Window Garden

Like just about everyone else on the internet, I am crazy about succulents!  When it comes to houseplants...  I have a very particular set of skills... skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for plants that require regular care and water.  I am the Bryan Mills of house plants.  I will find them... and I will kill them.

Credit: IMDb
But succulents!  They PREFER it if you forget to water them!  And they come in all kinds of varieties... a bunch of colors and color combos, all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Love it!  Also, I'm fascinated by the idea of propagating them (baby anything is on my mind lately, go figure), and I love that one plant (as if you could buy just one) could eventually turn in to a whole garden with its offspring. :-)  

We have this big window ledge-type-thing on the landing of the steps to our basement.  It's big and wide and empty, and it gets quite a bit of light, so I've been daydreaming of filling it with succulents since we moved in here.  I've had a Pinterest board for several months with a bunch of inspiration, as well as information on planting, caring for, and propogating them. 

When we got back from Barbados a few weeks ago, my wonderful inlaws gave us a big planter of several succulents, which really put the bee in my bonnet to fill up that window sill! Then about a week later, the tiny little succulents at Kroger went on sale for $1.79 (and $1.99 for slightly larger plants), and I had to snatch some up.  And by some, I mean... a lot.  Here was my haul from Kroger that day (for under $16!).

My mother-in-law had also been rooting some cuttings from one of her Christmas cacti, so I picked those up.  I had a few vases and other glass things I'd been hoarding to be succulent planters, so I grabbed some cactus dirt fom Lowe's (about $4-5), and two little bags of river rocks from the Dollar Tree ($1 each), and got to work.  I put a layer of river rocks in the bottom of each bowl/vase for better drainage (since none of my planters have holes in the bottom) and put a nice loose layer of cactus dirt on top. I gently pulled each succulent out of the pots they came in and shook off the (notoriously low-quality) dirt as gently as I could before repotting them in the fun, clear containers I'd prepared.  

The Christmas cactus cuttings are in a vase that I used to use when Ethan picked up flowers on the way home from work.  It was pretty crowded for even a modest bouquet, BUT I recently dug out the larger vase that we had full of glads on the altar at our wedding and promoted it to "because he loves me" flower holder.  My aloe still doesn't have a permanent home, but as soon as I can find the low square vases that held our reception centerpieces, it will live in one of those :-)  Some of the other containers came from clearance racks, Goodwill, and the Dollar Tree.  This was a really fairly inexpensive project - AND one of the succulents in the planter from my inlaws had already "had a baby" that I was able to fish out from under it... one of the ones from Kroger had THREE tiny babies that are currently in my succulent nursery, and some of the plants from the planter had leaves that were ready to remove and propagate, so I'm waiting to see how they do.  I love that my sweet little plants are already starting to "give back."  :-)

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

5th Anniversary Date - Atlantis Submarines Barbados

Ethan's and my 5th wedding anniversary was July 11, 4 days after my egg retrieval.  We went out for dinner that night, to a delicious restaurant called "Tapas" that was right at the end of the alley our cottage was on - just a stone's throw, since I wasn't up to much that day.  Dinner was great, and the ambience was stellar - sheltered, but kind of outdoors, right on the boardwalk, so we could watch the waves crash in and people strolling and jogging by.  It was exactly the change of pace we needed from the several days we spent more-or-less confined to the cottage.  :-)

But our big anniversary date was the night before we flew home, and it was EPIC!!

We went on a night-time submarine tour of some of the reefs off the coast of Barbados, with Atlantis Submarines.  Coolest. Date. EVER!!  

A shuttle picked us up from right in front of our hotel, and took us to the dock.  We gathered in the gift shop/reception area, then Ethan and I got to go to the transfer boat ahead of the crowd, since we had paid for a VIP upgrade.  I am NOT a big fan of water, typically, so the boat ride was a tiny bit nerve-wracking for me.  :-)  Because of our VIP status, we got to be the first to board the submarine, too.  So we walked across a little bridge between two rocking watercraft, and I was TERRIFIED!  Once across, we had to fight some pretty strong breezes to make it to the hatch with the ladder down into the sub... may I recommend, if you ever take an excursion like this, that you do NOT wear a breezy skirt?  Your modesty will thank you.  

The inside of the sub was smaller than I expected, and there was one long plastic bench down the middle, with molded seats on either side, facing porthole on each side of the sub.  Ethan and I had the front seats, so we could see out both sides, as well as the captain's viewport.  Best seats in the house!

We saw several kinds of coral and sponges, some cool fish (including one that wears snot pajamas!), a couple of sea turtles (I spotted the first one!), and even a (purposely) sunken ship!  :-)  Our lowest depth was 152 feet... it was surreal and incredible!  On our way back to the surface, the captain turned off all of the lights, and we experienced how dark the ocean is, even at that relatively shallow depth... then we saw the bioluminescent plankton glowing all around us... they looked like a billion tiny stars, but almost close enough to touch, streaking past our porthole.  Kind of like jumping to hyperspace in Star Wars. ;-)  On the ride back to the dock on the transfer boat, we were both awed and peaceful... very romantic!  The sub followed us back in, so we got some neat pictures of it.  

We both would highly recommend taking the night cruise with Atlantis Submarines.  Someday, when we're back on the island, we'd love to take the day cruise and see more of the critters that weren't out at night.  It was an amazing date - despite the few terrifying moments - that I am so glad we had the opportunity to take!  
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Friday, August 1, 2014

Recipe Review: Lazy Day Lasagna (Picky Eater Approved!)

So, funny story...  I hate lasagna.  I mean, I think I do.  Or I did.  

On the last day of my high school internship, I attended our senior scholarship banquet, which was a LOVELY evening of food, family, and celebrating good ol' fashioned academic achievement.  I was so proud to have been part of the school community that nurtured these kids, even if it was only for a couple of months.  But I digress.

We worked hard all day, ironing out logistics of this first-ever event at a facilty none of us were familiar with, and schlepping heavy stuff all over the place.  So when dinner time rolled around, I was HUNGRY!  And the only choices: lasagna or starve.  So I ate the lasagna.  And it was the best thing I think I'd ever tasted!  I came home gushing to Ethan about how it wasn't gritty and weird, and he said that they must've used cottage cheese instead of ricotta.  I'd never heard of this, but I put it on my mental to-do list to find a recipe like it.

Then, in Barbados, while I was dealing with OHSS and eating, like, 300 calories a day, the cravings started hitting.  (Because each of my 35+ follicles started releasing progesterone, and my trigger shot was hCG, these hormones mimicked early pregnancy symptoms. Like, all of them.  I almost hurled when Ethan brought scrambled eggs - one of my favorites - into the room where I was.  Food aversions are weird.)  Lasagna was one of my top cravings, but we didn't want to chance a frozen version that would've cost an arm and a leg there, and may have been gritty... plus, I couldn't have eaten more than a few bites of it.  But my wonderful husband scoured the internet until he found a simple recipe using cottage cheese... I made it about a week after we got home.  :-)

So, check out this recipe from "Life in my Kitchen...and beyond", especially if you have picky eaters in your house!  Odds are pretty good that I'm pickier than they are ;-)  I can't stand tomato chunks, so we picked a jar of relatively smooth spaghetti sauce, and I used extra meat. The recipe is a little strange, in that it calls for 1.5C browned ground beef, instead of a specific weight.  I browned 2 pounds, and it was definitely more than 1.5C... I didn't measure it, but I'm guessing it came out to to somewhere between 2.5 and 3C.  So, maybe try browning a pound, if you'd rather err on the side of less meaty, or a pound and a half if you like a meatier lasagna.  The tons of extra we used was delicious, but JUST barely fit in the pan.  :-)   I also topped it with more shredded cheese when it was fresh out of the oven, because there's no such thing as too much cheese!  

This recipe DEFINITELY earned a spot on my "Recipes I Love" Pinterest board!  Hop on over and follow that board (or all of them!) to see what else is making the cut in this picky-eater's kitchen :-)  
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BarBABYdos: The Aftermath

Ethan and I have been home from Barbados for a couple of weeks now.  He went back to work (and I went back to housewifing) a week ago today... life is mostly transitioning back to normal.

While in the middle of OHSS, we were told that everything would be better when my period started, and we fortunately found this to be very true.  However, the second full day was a bloodbath.  Seriously... terrifying, horrifying, slasher-film stuff!  Emotionally, it was pretty brutal, too.  A large part of that was probably hormones, because my emotions swung wildly and without warning.  But another part was definitely that we had to go buy pads.  I had all but run my supply out with my last pre-IVF period, blissfully thinking that it was perfect timing - I wouldn't have to store them for a whole pregnancy!  It hurt... a lot... to pick a pack up off the shelf at Kroger.  I'm actually lucky I got the kind I wanted, because I could barely bring myself to look at them enough to make sure they were the right ones!  Just grabbed them, tossed them in the cart, and started daydreaming about chocolate chip cookies. ;-)

Leaving Barbados was heart-rending.  I cried like a baby on takeoff, until the island disappeared from sight.  When we landed there, we were so full... of eggs, of hope, of confidence... as we were leaving, I felt so empty of all those same things. Now, we're focusing on our return trip in a couple of months.  There's a little less planning and logistics involved, but still enough to keep us busy and mostly distracted ;-)  

I'm back on BCPs (birth control pills) for our FET cycle, and as usual, they're making my moods swing a little worse than usual.  I haven't noticed weight gain again yet, but it's only been about a week ;-)  I think that week of not being able to hold more than a few bites of food every several hours helped get rid of some of the old BCP weight... not that that is a pleasant/safe/advisable way to diet at ALL, but hey - silver linings. :-)

In other non-fertility news, we're keeping my in-laws' pup, Dixie, for a week.  She is SUCH a funny little critter, so we're having a blast.  It IS an interesting glimpse into life with a baby and a toddler, though... I'm thinking we'll try to space our future FETs out a bit... ;-)

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