Saturday, March 28, 2009

Curl Up and Purl

Since beginning to learn how to knit, I've had Kate Jacobs' books recommended to me. Her most popular being the Friday Night Knitting Club which was followed by Knit Two. She's also written Comfort Food.

I credit Christine (Jason's sister-in-law) and my aunt Dawn for alerting me to the existence of these books and this author.

While Comfort Food was mediocre, it was the knitting books that perhaps not surprisingly appealed to me most. And while Knit One was great, it was truly Knit Two that made me yearn for a Knit Three!

There are a lot of knitting fiction books out there and so I can imagine it must be difficult to choose which ones to read. Without a doubt, I now highly recommend reading these books. The characters, truly, are lovely, and Knit Two is really surprising and fulfilling. It was a difficult book to put down and while some people I know (cough, cough, Suzanne and Jason :)) can't go to sleep at night whenever they start reading a book at night, I typically do not have that problem. But Knit Two is definitely one of those books, and it was certainly a joy to read. It not only made me want to knit, but it made me want to cook, travel, and write a novel.

I yearn to live at Walker and Daughter and run my fingers over all of the yarns. I want to tell Dakota not to grow up too fast, and I want to see how cute James really is... hehe!

So basically... just read these books! And then tell me what you think of them :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Paint 102: Colors

Once a brand of paint is decided, a color must be picked! To some, that may seem backward. Since there are so many different brands with their own colors, it used to make sense to choose a color first.

But with technology these days, it might make more sense to choose a brand first. Most companies, including Benjamin Moore, can make any color a customer chooses, even if it's not a Benjamin Moore color. Colors can be matched with a paint paper sample, a curtain, a favorite sweater - whatever you want!

The color you pick absolutely does not have to be from the brand company you choose.

Jason and I ended up picking a California Paints color, and the Benjamin Moore staff did a fantastic job of matching the color. In fact, when we picked up the paint, we held up the paint paper sample to the dot of paint on the lid, and it matched perfectly. Once our curtains arrive (they're being shipped right now!), we are going to take the curtains in to BM to get matched to a quart of paint so we can paint our window and the ceiling beam.

In my personal experience, I have found that Pittsburgh Paints and California Paints have the best colors - or at least the colors I like the most! If you want a classic look to your place, Benjamin Moore Paint colors might be a better option. If you're painting a kid's room, Pittsburgh, Disney, or Graham paint colors might be more suitable.

Any home improvement stores carry paint brands and thus, their own paint colors. From all of the different paint brands, there are likely thousands of different shades of browns. And there's likely hundreds of different shades of dark browns.

Before you officially pick a color, bring the paper samples home (they're free, and you can take as many as you want!) and pick the ones you like most from the strip. Cut them out, tape them in the room you're going to paint, and sit and watch. Observe the paint color in all different lighting - at night, early morning with sun, afternoon, evening, lights on, overcast day, etc. That would help to eliminate colors that wouldn't really work in all situations.

Once you choose a color, take that paint color to be mixed in the brand you first chose. Keep in mind, though, if the paint color is not from the brand, it could take up to three days for the store to mix the color since it's custom matching. There's no additional cost for it, but you should plan accordingly so that your painting is not delayed by bad time management!

And also keep in mind that no matter what you do, even if you do all of the steps necessary, you still might not like your paint color! I know of one such person, who shall remain nameless, who absolutely hates the color of a room in that person's house. I completely agree - the color is all wrong. It was "supposed" to be a brown, and it's peach! The store didn't mess up though, the color just looked different than the person expected when the whole room was painted versus viewing a small sample on the wall.

Choose carefully and truly examine the paint colors. That might help in getting a paint color you can happily live with for several years.

Friday, March 20, 2009

How Simple is the Dollar?

Hi guys! My local channels have been out for some time and as a reuslt, I've been watching a lot of DVDs and a lot of cable shows I've never seen before.

One such show I'm completely in love with is 18 Kids and Counting. It's likely most of you have heard about this family - Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from Arkansas who just gave birth to their 18th child!

One show I saw within the last couple of weeks as how the family lives and survives financially. Can you imagine a grocery bill for 20 people? The family reportedly spends about $3,000 a month on groceries alone. Good gracious!

One thing the Duggar family does to save on money is make their own laundry detergent. I was able to watch a couple of the Duggar girls do this and I've been thinking about it ever since then. Today, I googled making laundry detergent and found a recipe that is extremely similar, if not identical.

Please visit The Simple Dollar web site and this link in particular to view the recipe and how to make your own laundry detergent:
http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/04/09/making-your-own-laundry-detergent-a-detailed-visual-guide/

Please note the cost of ingredients and how many gallons/cups the entire ingredients would make. I went to Sam's today and perhaps unfortunately bought a huge bottle of Tide.
However, while I was there, I also checked out the bars of soap. I don't remember the exact prices to the number of bars, but they were really cheap and probably an even better deal than that guy got!

I think making laundry detergent would be a great way to not only save on costs, but take an active role in your life. How much more fulfilling laundry could be knowing that you yourself produced the very detergent you're making. I'm very excited to try this out, although like I said, I just bought Tide today so it's likely that I won't need to make any for quite some time!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paint 101

Hi all! It's been quite a while! One reason is because Jason and I are redoing our living room, and it's been more of a project than I even thought it would be.

The whole thing kind of started because we have blue carpet. Then, it kind of escalated into a full-out project and war. Needless to say, we have now repainted our living room and are awaiting our new carpet!

Jason and I painted together once before, and I have to say it did not go well. We had no idea what we were doing and since we wanted this place to really look amazing, we chose to fully immerse ourselves in learning about paint and painting.

Learning about paint was fairly easy since Benjamin Moore is one of STN's clients. I read about paint all day long! While Benjamin Moore is only one brand of paint, I felt confident that Benjamin Moore Aura was the best paint to use (at the time of this blog, though, Natura is their newest paint and probably better). Aura has low VOCs which means it has little to no smell. I remember when Jason and I painted together, it felt like we were dying because all we could smell were paint fumes.

Aura also dries quickly which was important. We live in a small space, and we didn't want to keep Preston cooped up for hours. We also were enlisting my parents to help, and we didn't want them to have to spend all day here.

It's fairly expensive as far as paints go, but it's also a self-primer! We did a lot of spackling, and Aura worked perfectly. The color is consistent everywhere (we also primed, but that's a whole other story). For newly constructed walls, they must be primed so I would absolutely tell anyone with newly constructed walls to buy Aura to save time and money from buying primer.

So after all of that, Jason and I were certainly anxious to try using Aura paint. It exceeded my expectations. There was very little paint smell, and by little, I truly mean little. We couldn't smell it at all until the second coat of paint. And only then, it was very subtle. The paint was dry in about 45 minutes, and after two coats, the walls looked amazing.

Later this week, I'll post on how to paint properly! But I hope everyone considers Aura since it is not only environmentally friendly (low VOCs) but economically friendly, too. Having to paint less and prime less is a great thing for the environment and your wallet :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mac and Brocheese

Hi all! Tonight's recipe is courtesy of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine.

First, here's the link to the recipe (complete with a picture!):
http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/baked-macaroni-and-cheddar/article.html

But I have some adjustments I make to the recipe that I personally think makes it better!

Instead of one bunch of broccoli, I use two. I never use shallots, and I also just skip the whole microwave part. I just don't do any of that part.

Instead of just using cheddar cheese, I use mozzarella and cheddar cheese.

I typically use a 9 x 13 pan for the mac and brocheese, and that has worked quite well for me. Baking a whole pan of it lasts Jason and I practically a week as it is very filling.

One thing that's great about this recipe verus others is that it's economical to make - making one batch could feed many people or two people several times. So it's less expensive overall.

Happy cooking!