April 27, 2012

Creature Comforts

I woke up on Wednesday morning to the sound of tiny feet pitter-pattering near my bed.  It sound like it was coming from inside of our heating vent.  So of course, I immediately pictured this (except less cute and more rabid):

A mouse in my house?!?!  I might be an animal lover, and I do think mice are pretty cute, but I don’t like the thought of my house being infested by any kind of creature.  We’ve never had any rodent problems before, thank goodness, so I figured it was just a stray mouse that had somehow gotten into our vents.  I wasn’t too concerned until I realized that a mouse could cause damage to our heating vents.  But then I did some Googling, and read other stories involving mouse droppings and their terrible odor when the heating or air conditioning is turned on and that’s when I started to freak out!  We bought a mouse trap right away (a no kill trap of course, we got the Victor Live Catch release trap from Home Depot, which doesn’t kill or use painful glue).  But a few days later, we still hadn’t caught anything.

This morning I heard some movement in the vent and was listening closely to it when I heard some chirping.  At first I thought it was just some birds outside, but then I realized they were coming from the same place as the “mouse.”  Then it dawned on me, there is no mouse in the vent!  A family of birds has taken up residence in our dryer vent which is right below our bedroom window.

I went outside and sure enough, there was plenty of bird “evidence” around the vent. 

And this also explained why our sliding glass door, which is directly under the vent, has been “marked” by birds as well.

After a little while, I finally spotted the culprits when I saw a couple of these birds nearby.  They are pretty cool looking with purplish-greenish iridescent looking feathers.

Luckily, I just bought a bird watching book at a garage sale last weekend!  This excited me for two reasons, first, because it meant I could use the book and secondly because I could prove my husband wrong for saying I’d never use that book!  (See, aren’t the illustrations cool, that’s why I bought the book in the first place.)

Sure enough, the book had just the bird I was looking for.  It’s a starling.  I did some more Googling and confirmed that starlings like to make nests in strange places, including dryer vents. 

See the resemblance?


At this point, we’re just going to have to wait for the baby birds to leave and then remove the nest once it’s gone.  I guess we’re going to have to avoid using the dryer in the meanwhile.  After they’re gone, there’s a netting that can be installed on the vent to make sure no other creatures make a home there in the future.

Any other tips for what to do when birds settle into your vents?  Have you had any brushes with nature inside your own home?

April 23, 2012

Yard Sale Trickery

I had another great weekend yard sale shopping...for the most part.   Two nice neighborhoods near me hold a community yard sale each year and they happened to fall on the same day this year.  Although I wasn't looking for anything in particular, I managed to find some cute loot.  But as you’ll see, I was swindled by one purchase.  Luckily, it wasn’t quite as traumatic as my experience at the same community yard sale last year when I got a flat tire!

First, I found a pair of filigree candle holders.  Although I don’t really need another set of candle holders, which is exactly what I said last week when I bought a different set of candle holders, I bought them anyway.  Funny thing is, I rarely burn candles!  But I like how they look, and in my defense, I thought they’d match well with my filigree utensil holder, so maybe I’ll keep them in or near the kitchen.  At a different house, I found a gorgeous photo frame.  I need another photo frame about as much as I need another candle holder, but this one is just beautiful.

At a different yard sale, I picked up a few books.  Two to read for fun and a bird watching book from the 1950s just because I liked the illustrations in it.  Underneath of the books, is what I thought was a very nice tray.  But I was duped!  Lied to, scammed, swindled, I tell you!  See that white patch of missing paint on the left side of the tray?  Well, I didn’t see it when I bought it because it was covered by a price sticker the seller had put on top of it.  Who does that?!  This is a friendly neighborhood yard sale, but the sellers felt it was necessary hide a very noticeable spot on a tray worth only a few dollars and trick someone?  In reality, it’s not a big deal because I was considering repainting the tray anyway, but I’m mad out of principal!  Good thing I only paid half of their asking price for it!

But the day ended on a positive note for me when I found this cute wicker carrier.  I thought it would be a cute and convenient way to put cups holding utensils or condiments in it and carry them onto our patio for barbeques.


Did you score any yard sale finds this weekend?  Have you ever been tricked by a purchase like I was?

April 20, 2012

DAP DryDex

After an unfortunate curtain hanging incident that left my kitchen wall with an inordinate amount of holes (don't ask!), I had quite a lot of spackling to do!

That's why I was so happy when DAP reached out to me about a very cool product, DAP DryDex. Sometimes it can be a little tricky to know how long you have to wait after spackling before you can sand and paint over it. This product takes the guess work out of it because it has a dry time indicator - it goes on pink and dries white! Perfect for inpatient people like me who tend to jump into the next step of a project too early.  When it's white you're ready to sand and paint!

DryDex was easy to find at the Home Depot.  The Home Depot near me had two different sized tubs.


If you haven't spackled before, it's very easy to do. I even enjoy doing it, there's just something satisfying about making a hole or crack disappear. First, clean and dry the surface to make sure there isn't any dust or other debris on it. Then mix around your spackle a little bit with a putty knife and then apply about a quarter sized amount onto your putty knife. Push the spackle into the hole or crack you're trying to fill and smooth the spackle on top. That's it! The spackle will dry within one to five hours, and the convenient part about DryDex is that it will change colors from pink to white when it's done! Once dry, larger holes/cracks may need another coat of spackle, but smaller ones may be ready to sand and paint after just one coat.

Dap DryDex is available in the little tubs (like the photo above), in a tube, or as an entire kit that comes with a putty knife, sandpaper, and adhesive patch made for repairing larger holes.

Have you tackled any spackling projects lately?  Or ever had a crazy disaster hanging something that left you with an insane amount of holes in your walls?  No, just me? Ok then, lets pretend that never happened.

Note: This post was sponsored by Dap, but the content of this post and all opinions are entirely mine.

April 16, 2012

Quails & Candle Holders

I am so excited that it is finally garage sale season again!  I love spending Saturday mornings outdoors searching for possible treasures.  I’ve been to a couple of garage sales so far this year.  On a recent trip, I found some cute decorative items, including these quail birds.  From doing some Googling, I believe these birds are from the ‘70s.  I picked them up thinking I’d paint them white, but now I’m thinking they’d look cute in a glossy bright color.  What do you think?


At the same garage sale, I found these turquoise candle holders.  At first I wasn’t sure if I should get them because I have about a billion candle holders, but I bought them because I don’t have any quite like this and I love their color.  (Yes those candles are different heights, but that’s all I could find at home.)


I am SO happy I bought them because I absolutely love how they look in my dining room!


I think the turquoise looks gorgeous next to a bowl full of (faux) colorful citrus fruit.  And they look a little tropical next to natural fiber placemats.


I am just in love with the candle holders and they make me smile every time I walk into the dining room. 
Have you done any garage sale shopping this year?

I'm linking this post to Rhoda's Thrifty Treasures party.

April 12, 2012

My Favorite Projects: March 2012

April is in full swing already, so it’s high time to take a look back at some of my favorite things from last month.  First, here’s a taste of my DIY fun from March:

I shared an easy way to grow your own green onions indoors so you’ll never have to buy them again:

I used vintage pictures of the Jersey shore to make photo coasters:

I made a nautical map pillow from a cloth placemat:

I enjoyed the pretty flowering trees in my backyard- until I saw a big scary bee:

And here’s some of the projects that inspired me online last month:

A beautiful spray painted vase from Thrifty Decor Chick::

Pretty grass candles from Elegant Nest:

Creative citronella torches from wine bottles by Adventures in Creating::

Great ideas, right?  Leave a comment with any favorite projects you worked on or came across recently!

April 09, 2012

Pineapple Flowers

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter.  Since I’ve already shared my Easter decorations and Easter dessert ideas, I thought I’d update y’all on what I ended up making. 

From my Easter dessert inspirations, I decided to make cupcakes topped with pineapple flowers, as I had seen on Pinterest:

It looked really cool so I decided to give it a try.  The site did not have any additional instructions so I had to figure it out some remaining details.  I took a regular pineapple and cut off the top and sides.



Then I sliced the pineapple, sprinkled it with sugar, and placed it on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  The pineapple needed to be sliced thicker than I originally imagined, because they shrink a lot while baking.


I baked the pineapple at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.  Next, I put the pineapple slices in a muffin tin, to create the curved flower shape, and baking for about 15-20 minutes more (I forgot to take a picture of this step).  I had the pineapple in the oven while my cupcakes were baking so luckily I didn’t have to run my oven too much extra.

Once baked, I used the dried pineapple to top the cupcakes I had made.


Too be honest, I’m not crazy with how it looked, so I decided to make them a little more flower like but topping the pineapple with a cherry to act like the center of a flower.


Since I like to be transparent with you guys, I’ll say that I thought the pineapple flowers looked cute, but weren’t cute enough to justify the extra time and half a pineapple they took up.  I was a little disappointed I couldn’t get mine to look as flower-y as the original photo, but I wanted to share how mine turned out since I posted the inspiration photo last week. The actual cupcakes were delicious though, I used Bakerella’s recipe for mini-cheesecakes which is a big favorite of mine.

What do you think of the pineapple flowers? Worth the trouble of trying again?  How was your Easter?  What did you end up making?

April 06, 2012

Easter Wind Up

I don’t go too crazy seasonally decorating for holidays other than Christmas, but I did put out a couple of little Easter decorations this year.

My hubby has a few wind-up Easter toys from his childhood which I put out in our living room.  Look at this super cute tin bunny on a bike.  It still winds up and drives around in circles.


He also has a windup bunny that walks up and down a little ladder.  I would lie and say these toys are so cool because they are “vintage” but the truth is, who doesn’t love a wind up bunny!


Since I recently learned how to make an animated GIF (thanks to Rhoda and Kate), I thought I’d share this adorable little bunny toy so you can see how it looks when it’s wound up:


Super cute, right?  I’m afraid I might start animating all of my photos now that I know how to do it!

But in much less animated d├ęcor, I also hung up this Easter wreath that I made a few years ago.  (You can check out the Easter wreath tutorial here.)


That’s what Easter looks like around here.  Do you decorate for Easter?  Or share my love for wind-up toys?

I hope everyone has a happy Easter!  And for those of you celebrating Passover this week, I hope that’s wonderful too!

April 05, 2012

Shocking Twist & Delicious Seitan Recipe

If this blog was a soap opera, this post would be the shocking twist where you find out that I had an evil twin or that John Black was really Roman Brady with amnesia.  I’m being dramatic, but I’m about to tell you something I’ve never shared on this blog before.  I don’t eat meat.

I’m sure y’all fell off your chairs with that one.  Okay, maybe not, but I warned you I was feeling dramatic today.  No, I am not a hippie, nor am I starving, nor do I only eat lettuce.  I’m just a regular gal who happily hasn’t eaten meat in four years.  Someday, I want to share a longer post about my reasons and the misconceptions I’ve encountered, but for now I just want to share a really delicious recipe.

I made seitan for the first time.  Seitan is the protein part of wheat.  It’s made by washing wheat flour until the starch dissolves and all that’s left is the gluten protein.  And despite common misconceptions, there’s no reason for the majority of people to avoid gluten.  Gluten-free is not the same thing as carb-free and seitan is actually very healthy and is low in carbs, low in fat, and high in protein- a great diet food!

Now onto the recipe, we purchased pre-seasoned seitan from Whole Foods.  You can actually make seitan yourself, but from what I understand it is a laborious process and I haven’t tried it yet.


It came in a tofu-looking package, but inside the container it looked much different.  To be honest, it didn’t look too appetizing to me uncooked, but it did resemble chicken.  Seitan is often used as “vegetarian chicken” in meatless dishes.


I put the seitan in a warmed up and oiled frying pan and added Trader Joe’s Soyaki sauce (similar to teriyaki sauce and I’m sure you can add any sauce of your choice).


I added sliced baby portobello mushrooms, scallions, and frozen green beans to my stir fry and cooked until the seitan was browned.  I also added some some black sesame seeds for fun towards the end.


So easy, right?  Once cooked, I served it on top of some pasta.  Rice or quinoa probably would have gone better with the seitan stir fry, but I was in the mood for pasta and had finally found whole wheat elbow macaroni at the store and really wanted it (why do only some pasta shapes come in whole wheat?!)
And let me tell you, it was absolutely delicious!  Even my husband who still eats meat from time to time thought seitan was absolutely delicious!  He has been calling it his new favorite food since this dinner.  Sorry for the at-night photos, but it was dinner time and I was too hungry to mess with taking photos!


So that’s my shocking twist and seitan recipe.  It was so quick and easy, I can barely call this a recipe, but it was too tasty not to share.  Have you ever tried seitan ?  Are there any other part-time or full-time meatless eaters out there?

April 03, 2012

Easter Dessert Ideas

I don’t know how Easter manages to sneak up on me every year, but somehow it does.  Easter is in just a few days so I’ve been thinking of some Easter desserts I could make, as I do every year.  But first, a look at some of the spring and Easter desserts I’ve made in the past:

Easter Bunny Cupcakes: These were a hit when I made them last year.

easter-bunny-cupcakeMy sister’s Easter Bunny Cupcakes which inspired the ones I made above.

edible-arrangement-fruitEdible Fruit Arrangement Bouquet: I originally made this for Mother’s Day, but think it would be a perfect Easter dessert too.

Those cute little bunny cupcakes are going to be hard to top this year, so I’ve been on the hunt for some new cute Easter dessert ideas.

pineapple-flower-cupcakeThe pretty flower is actually edible and made from pineapple!
(source: duitang.com)

carrot-cupcakeThese carrot cupcakes are decorated with M&Ms. 
Looks tasty and not too complicated to make.
(source: Squidoo.com)

easter-bunny-cream-puffsInstead of cupcakes, I love these adorable Easter bunny cream puffs.
(source LandOLakes.com)

Although these Carrot and Zucchini bars aren’t “Easter shaped”
they sound like a delicious Spring dessert.
(source RealMomKitchen.com)

I just love making holiday desserts.  Can you guess which one of the above desserts I’m thinking about making for this Easter?  Do you have any Easter desserts planned for this year?

April 02, 2012

My Dream House

I’ve got some bad news.  I did NOT win the $640 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot on Friday.  Total bummer.  Even though I didn’t win, I had some fun waiting for my winning numbers to be drawn and dreaming about what I would do with all that moolah (besides my initial act of rolling in it and throwing it into the air to make it rain, gangsta style).  Of course I would give a ton of money away to my family, friends, charities, and travel around the world, but I also fantasized about what my dream house would look like. 

I’m thinking I’d want my dream house to be on a tropical beach somewhere with a big wrap around porch and some swinging or rocking chairs to enjoy the view.



I’d love to have a big bright kitchen with white cabinets, a huge island, and lots of windows.



And since this is my dream kitchen, it needs a big butlers pantry where I could prep and store food so it would be out of the way while entertaining in the kitchen (even in my wildest dreams I think practically)

I’d love to wake up and go to bed to the sound of the ocean, so I dream of a bedroom with a big balcony with sweeping views.  And maybe it would have a window seat where I could look out and count my lucky stars too.



Since my dream house is in a beautiful tropical place, I think it needs an outdoor shower and bath.


And of course the dream house needs some entertainment space.  How about an outdoor movie theatre (although my practical self wonders how to enjoy a movie while avoiding mosquitos and other critters- my dream house would have to be in a bug free zone).


I’d want to stay active, so basketball and tennis courts in the backyard would be amazing.  I know they’d be on my hubby’s dream list too.


And I wouldn’t want to give up gardening.  I think I’d like a big garden where I could grow flowers and my own fruits and veggies.


And chickens.  I’ve always wanted to raise my own egg laying hens.


Of course, no dream home would be complete without a pool in the backyard.  I think I’d want one with palm trees and a waterfall.  Who am I kidding, it would need to have a water slide too.




Ah, it’s nice to dream isn’t it?  So I didn’t win the lottery, but it was fun to find photos of these amazing homes.  What would your dream home look like if you won the lottery?  Would it be on a beach like mine?