Sunday, June 26, 2016

DIY Fresh Peppermint Tea

Last year I planted mint and sweet basil in our outdoor garden. Generally I keep herbs indoors on a window ledge, but it seemed like fun to try those two outside.
Alas, the basil did not survive- but my mint is back this year and has FLOURISHED, nearly quadrupling in size.
A friend of mine was staying with us from Germany and suggested that we use this abundance of peppermint leaves for tea, since peppermint tea happens to be my favorite.
She said her parents had a rather large harvest one year, so they snipped the leaves off the plant and allowed them to dry in the sun. Afterwards they bottled them up and used them with an infuser to make tea for a solid year.
This seemed like a perfectly brilliant idea, and something to do toward the fall when they're likely to die off, but I wanted some fresh tea now!
I saw that you can use fresh leaves for mint tea and decided to give it a try.
It's obviously extraordinarily easy, so this will be a super short post.
Snip 5-6 leaves from the plant and give them a nice washing.
Throw them in the bottom of a mug, add boiling water and allow the leaves to steep for a few minutes. If you're feeling so inclined, you can tear them up first or use an infuser or a French Press. This worked well and was super easy. 
Peppermint tea lattes are my FAVORITE in the fall, so I can't wait to try this then (with fresh or dried leaves) as well. I use almond milk, boil it and throw in the tea, but for dairy drinkers, it's probably even more delectable with real milk! 
I grew the peppermint mostly for using to freshen our home naturally, but if you have any great uses for fresh mint, I'd love to hear them!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!
All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

DIY Fairy Garden Inspo

My mom is a creative genius.                                                    She comes up with the most incredible ideas for children, and I've said a million times that she made our childhood magical. So this weekend when she showed up at my house with these beautiful, handcrafted fairy garden pieces it wasn't much of a surprise at all.                                                               I asked for her permission to share them with you, as well as a little explanation of how she did it. Originally she was going to recreate another piece with me for a proper tutorial, but with all the birthday celebrating we just didn't get around to it.                                                                                           For each piece, she used foraged wood- lots of branches and then large straight pieces as well. She connected them with hot glue, but I would suggest using wood glue or something really strong like E6000 for longevity.                                      The pieces were all sawed with a hand held miter saw similar to THIS one.  Please remember to follow all safety guidelines when working with saws and strong adhesives. 
Her fairy fountain includes seashells attached to a branch. The branch was glued to a "base" made from a piece of branch that she sawed a section from. Moss attached with glue as well.
A swingset and table with "chairs".

Fairy dresses were made from the petals of silk flowers. She used floral wire to create hangers for them.
This slide incorporates a piece of curved bark she found, and I think that it would be the hardest to find and recreate. She also has ladder steps going up the slide as well.
Her wheelbarrow is my favorite of the pieces, and the most complex. I included pictures from a couple angles. She drilled a twig sized hole through the center of the "wheel", everything else is still the miter saw and hot glue- but again, I would recommend something other than hot glue.
This table has an acorn bowl, and is a bit different from the other which utilized a cross-section of branch for the table top. This is a section of bark instead. 
Cross section of branch attached to a thicker and shorter piece create the table. The stools  are cross sections of that same branch which was used for the table base. 
And here is her swing set again, which would be the easiest to recreate.
Since she left, she has already made several more things! There's also a candle dipping station, seesaw, park bench and more! The fairies at her house are going to have quite the party.
My nieces (5 and 7) think this is absolutely brilliant and cannot keep themselves away from their grandma's fairy playground. So, I guess my mom's magic has extended to another generation! I hope there's some inside of me for our little ones someday as well.
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

DIY Attic Bathroom Update

I haven't done a very good job documenting what our old victorian home looked like when we first bought it,  and this bathroom is no exception.
We knew right out of the gate that it was already pretty much done for us- the clawfoot tub was all the showstopper we wanted or needed. So unlike our KITCHEN MAKEOVER, or even the MULTIPURPOSE office, guest and studio room, there wasn't much we needed to do.
And yet, it has taken over a year to "finish". Technically I still want to change out the flooring, but that will be a while.
This bathroom was at one point part of the attic. The wall was knocked out and drywall and shelving were installed. The plumbing was brought up from the bathroom below it. If you're going to turn an attic space into an ensuite, definitely try to make the plumbing easily accessible. Otherwise it may be much more expensive and better off as a closet.
While we love this room and it's full of natural light, as a (not at all professional photographer, not even close) amateur, the room is generally under or overexposed in pictures. So apologies in advance. We knew there were four big issues with the room as is.
First, the color wasn't so great, but that's true for nearly all houses when you move in. The entire house was actually painted in this sea foam green.
Including stair railings.
I also didn't like the main lighting or this giant, clunky vanity. It has a genuine marble top and we felt it was a beautiful piece but it didn't match the bathroom. And it was way too big for us.
Lastly, this little vanity area needed help. The room is a modified attic with tons of storage space, but it's very short and the walls are angled so there isn't space for an actual mirror above the sink.
Right out of the gate we painted over the green using extra valspar paint from our living room. I'm a huge fan of valspar reserve- it really does generally only take one coat to cover up old paint. It was supposed to be a gray but turned out a bit more blue which was perfect for the bathroom.
In this picture the ceiling looks white, but it's the same blue-gray as the walls.

My grandparents have both passed on, but my grandma shared a love for birds with us. From her home, I have a beautiful collection of James Audubon books, and the cover of her favorite was this flamingo print.
To follow the pink bird theme, I added this shot of a gorgeous pink cockatoo from the Cincinnati zoo, but once it was actually on the wall it looked too dark for the room so eventually it will be switched out. Sorry little buddy.
This room has TONS of storage, mostly enclosed, with the exception of this shelving. Considering I lack folding skills, my sanity should be questioned for choosing the open shelving as linen storage. Most of our linens are white, and I wanted them easily accessible. Plus, I used the closed door shelving for our insanely printed beach towels (of which we have many) and other things that would have been even larger eye sores (hair tools, giant vats of nail polish, huge containers of pink french clay...). I have big plans for trying to make this area more beautiful to the eye (including learning how to fold), but for now here we are!
 The vanity area got a few additions to make it more user friendly. an IKEA spice rack, spray painted with metallic silver, holds makeup while I get ready so that I don't constantly have to open the medicine cabinet to get products out.
The scalloped box shelf was a find at a local vintage store.
And a sweet little flamingo from the Cincinnati zoo happily greets me while I dress, bringing remembrances of summer all year long. Yes and amen.
 This little target stool is the perfect height but doesn't quite match with it's gold legs. I've toyed with painting them silver using RUSTOLEUM's insanely effective $4 paint, but for now I carried the gold into the scalloped frame above.
One more shot of the vanity area. This corner is actually a lot happier in person, but was super hard to photograph without being caught in the mirror :) I should mention that the light above the mirror also has electrical hook up so that I can blow-dry  and curl as well. I have a special sleeve for hot tools that can rest on the rack while I'm doing my hair, but an oven mitt would work too.
My goal was to put a chandelier in this room, but I couldn't find any that were short enough. I spent an entire year searching with no luck. I ended up with a sparkling flush mount, which isn't quite the impact I wanted, but still is so much better than the previous lighting!
Lastly, in the end, I couldn't sell this behemoth and buy a new vanity like we had wanted. I put it on several sites, but no one wanted to come haul it away. The marble is gray, taupe and pink so I experimented with just painting the vanity and it worked in the end. Valspar Reserve paint to the rescue, once again! 1 pint was way more than enough to do the entire vanity, but it did need two coats. However, I didn't sand or prime the (very dark) piece at all prior to, so if you do sand (or have a lighter piece) then you may only need one coat.
The built ins above the vanity are much despised. I really hate the towel rack and toothbrush holder there. For starters, we use electric toothbrushes which are too big and know better than to keep them sitting on a counter (have you seen the bacteria stats? Ew.), and the towel rack is no better. It's an awkward size and just an eyesore. But removing them would mean retiling, and we aren't ready for that yet. I attempt to keep the toothbrush holder covered with a pretty little powder.
 In the end, it's a very simple and clean room which is our goal for most rooms. John especially likes simple lines and zero fuss in decor- which will be very obvious when I post about his studio. Since this was our master ensuite (and he let me add pink...) we tried to make this room uncomplicated and calm. In total, we put less than $150 into the bathroom making it our cheapest room yet- but it was also the easiest.
This month I made a series of errors that ended in our main bathroom (with the only shower!) being unusable for 9 days. We couldn't even get ready in there.  So this master bath became our only bath and after getting ready in this space for nine solid days, we made an excellent addition...

This awesome cart is from TARGET and is very similar to the super popular Raskog from IKEA. I got it on sale for $24.99 and spray painted it metallic silver, though I wish it were gold now to further tie in the gold chair legs on my vanity seat. It may be redone soon, since it's only a $3 fix :)

Now I keep everything on the cart. Everything.
Shampoo, soap, makeup, hot tools, essential oils, salts... I discovered that the rack wasn't enough for holding a hot straightener while getting ready at my vanity and the ledge on our bathtub was no match for slippery soap! This rolling cart has made getting ready such a breeze. If you would like it in a color that isn't metallic, I always recommend rustoleum ultra cover which comes in various shades.
If you have unused attic space, make it's time to turn that into a bathroom! You'd obviously spend a lot more money, but the space is actually perfect for a master ensuite - or maybe even a closet!
We still have to finish quite a few rooms in the house, and it takes forever, but it feels nice to (mostly) cross another off the list.
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

DIY Home (Ballet) Studio/Guest Room/Office/Playroom Combo

When we bought a house, one of my most exciting endeavors was to create a space for ballet.
Not only was I completely smitten with the idea of a room for me to plie/chasse/jete all day, but I wanted an area where I could begin teaching children ballet in our home. Kind of a way to make back some of the money I've invested into learning the art, as well as fulfill my dream of "discovering" a Prima ;)
Anyway, our house is no mansion and to dedicate an entire room to ballet seemed a bit selfish. We also needed a guest room. And a playroom- our basement is definitely not child friendly. And an office also would be nice.
Since we rarely have overnight guests, it seemed like a great idea to combine all four. That way we could make use of our space wisely and have a room that is daily being used rather than once per month or even less.
And thus a dream was born.
If you follow me on IG (@aunak), you've probably seen a million pictures of this studio. Hopefully there are still a few fresh angles :)
 In order to actually dance, I need wide open space to move across the room. That means that anything else in there has to be compact, leaving only one tiny corner for an office area. I recovered that tiny IKEA DESK from years ago and made it match the color scheme of the room. Stripes are a theme throughout our house, repeated on walls, pillows, blankets and rugs. The walls are filled with lots of happy images, with more room to grow up the side of my desk. Due to all the jumping, every picture is also secured with 3M squares.
In the bookshelf, I have a box of sewing gear, a space for pointe and soft shoes, an i-home (because you can't dance without music...) and some books/journals.
Underneath the desk is a trashcan, an IKEA shelving unit (with stamps, cards, stickers... everything I need for writing letters) and the THREAD HOLDER John's mom gave me.
The chair was inherited from my grandma's house and I'm still deciding if I want to paint it or leave as is. A very small desk area- but from here I can craft, pay bills and work on projects for my day job.
The extra floor space is also awesome for crafting, I have tons of room to spread everything out and create!
 We have three floor to ceiling bookshelves in our home and then another two in our "kids room" (which only contain children's books... I have a sickness). But I wanted to make sure that all of my ballet references, home decor and a few other "specialty" books were close at hand. Since there's a very small area for books, I rotate in what I'm currently using.
 Here you can see a bit of my across the floor space, my portable barre and some mirror action.
When we first moved in, I bought actual studio mirrors to hang on the walls. Unfortunately, the lath and plaster wasn't strong enough to hold them, and I didn't have enough space behind the walls for the necessary anchors.
The mirror situation is absolutely not what I wanted, but it works. I bought a few packs of MIRRORS  from ikea that use 3M stickers to hang on the walls. They're surprisingly sturdy and in the several months they've been up, they've never come loose. I may add more, but while it doesn't seem like much, it actually gives a good view already.
You can also see a set of fairy wings on the wall next to the mirrors.
 I was inspired by this art installment and decided the studio HAD to have fairy wings. They're so whimsical and fun for a playroom as well as the children I'll have in class.
 I cut open a paper bag and taped it to some extra advertisements. Two brown paper bags would be better, but I only had one. The best way to do it is to cut off the very bottom and then it rolls out into a flat sheet.
 I freehanded a set of fairy wings (about four times) before finding one I liked. Once I had it, I cut them out.
 And attached the single wing to the wall using poster putty. I traced the wing and then flipped it over for the other side, ensuring less cutting and perfect symmetry.
 Then I went over the light pencil in white paint and let it dry.
At this point, I started trying to fill in designs with pencil. I hated all of them. So major erasing occurred. I still haven't filled them in, and I may never.
Another view of the mirrors. I thought they would be very distracting with all of the lines, but they work really well considering.
 On the opposite side of the room, I have several portable mirrors and one hanging on a door. This helps me to rearrange the barre and mirrors so that I can see what I'm doing from multiple angles and correct my form quickly.
You can see we have a very boring, flush mount light fixture. Originally this house had a fan in the room, but we removed it. I'm a strong jumper, and the fan was a death sentence for my arms. In the hot summers, this is the one thing I regret most about this room aside from the mirrors. But two setbacks aren't bad!
One final shot of the room.
We've seen it as an office and a studio. I haven't gotten a chance to use it as a playroom aside from with nieces and former charges. However, the wide open expanse makes it perfect for children to play in. There's a nice closet that stores all of my ballet gear and craft supplies. It also has plenty of room for toys. When the day comes, I may add some bins and a roll up rug to complete the playroom aspect.
As for a guest room, we purchased a few double tall air mattresses similar to THIS ONE. They're actually super comfortable, we've used them many times ourselves. The trick is to pad them with tons of blankets underneath the sleeper. This keeps it much more warm and cozy. When we have visitors, we just blow up the mattress (and since it's double tall, it looks like a real bed), remove the extra mirrors and portable barre (basement) and it's ready to rock! We also place a large area rug (8x10) underneath the bed to make it seem more intentional as well.
Like my $600 KITCHEN, there's more to do in this room, including but not limited to this excerpt from Bazaar I want to hang. But perhaps no room is every truly finished?
Hopefully you're inspired to create your own combo-rooms and make better use of an extra room rather than letting it sit and be wasted. I know this has been so helpful for us, and makes our home feel so functional and loved.
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Case for Adopting Adult Dogs

Last September we bought a house, which we have been frantically working on ever since- trying to make it a home. Two weeks later- at the very beginning of October, we adopted a dog.
If you've ever wondered about adopting an adult dog from a rescue shelter- this post is for you. To be totally honest- it was NOT a fairy tale from the beginning. And if we didn't have help, we would have given up. I had some unrealistic expectations walking into pet adoption that are worth addressing.
I have only had purebred dogs which we purchased from breeders as puppies. My grandma bred bouviers. Our family loves them. We LOVE them. Therefore, all of my dogs growing up were bouviers. While I thought my dog experience was vast- it was actually quite limited.
John grew up in a pet-free home. I think he had a couple of turtles, but that would be extent of his foray into pet-life. Oh- and he had never been fond of dogs.
Like ever.
So when I started campaigning for a dog about 6 years ago, it didn't go over very well. But eventually John understood my need for a dog and said that once we bought a house, I could have one. So basically as SOON AS we had a closing date set,  I started checking out the pet adoption sites. While John didn't like dogs in general, he did have a silver lab in his life at one point that he actually thought was good company. This gave him a bit of a soft spot for labradors, so when a lab showed up on one of the boards, it seemed like a perfect fit.
#1: Adopt from a reputable shelter
This is a picture last fall, right after we brought Winston home. We were expecting (based on the description),  a slim, well mannered, purebred chocolate lab. What we got? A wild, obese, mixed breed lab.
When we started looking at dogs, I was annoyed how many shelters required applications and personal interviews in order to adopt their dogs. I figured they should be glad that someone wanted  to care for a dog.
Therefore- I thought it was awesome that the place housing Winston required NO application and allowed same day pick up. You could literally waltz in and just take the dog home. Perfect.
You want to adopt from a place that has rules and regulations. A rescue that cares about WHO is adopting their animals will also be honest about the condition of the animal you're adopting and whether or not that animal is a good fit for your home.
To be totally honest- we were not ready for Winston. He probably wasn't a good "first time" adopters dog. He had a bunch of health issues, he was massively obese and he just had zero training. Plus, he was so spastic the first few weeks that we had him home, John - who actually is extremely calm- couldn't handle it.
When I contacted the shelter to talk to them about some issues we were seeing in Winston, the owner's advice was to have him euthanized.
I'm still so angry about that.
Do your homework- adopt from a place you can trust- and who will have resources for you if you need assistance. A quick google search of the rescue we got Winston from showed just how terrible they were. They had a couple of sites even trying to shut them down.
#2: Hire a qualified trainer 
After the advice from his rescue, I realized that was a dead end and we were on our own. Euthanizing Winston was NOT an option. He had done nothing worthy of that! Through a roundabout way, we were put in contact with a fantastic certified trainer who specialized in rescue dogs. Jenn was very quickly able to put our minds at ease and also get Winston into a much more pleasant condition. After the very first hour-long session with her, I already felt 100 times better about our adoption and our ability to keep him. He ended up having one or two more sessions (a very worthwhile investment) and then a round of adult 101 classes.
I've come to the conclusion that unless you're absolutely brilliant with dogs, it's just a good idea to at least invest in one session with a professional. I haven't met many "perfect" dogs, and it's incredible how quickly a good trainer can modify behavior. I often recommend our trainer to people who have had their dogs for years and still deal with an issue. It seems like everyone has a dog who counter surfs, or barks uncontrollably, won't walk on a leash or come when called. Winston had ALL of those things. Jenn helped.
Call a trainer.
This is especially important for anyone who has a dog with aggressive tendencies. Don't try to fix it on your own. The safest thing for your family AND the dog is to have a professional evaluate the situation and come up with a personalized plan.
You can read more about that HERE if you're looking for a certified trainer or help for your dog.
#3: Have realistic expectations 
Dogs really do need an adjustment period after being adopted. It took about 6 weeks to really feel comfortable and in a groove with Winston. He did calm way down after that and learn how our household is run- and we learned his quirks and how to work with him. He was also being trained by that point which helped significantly. If you expect to bring home a perfect dog (like I did) you will be disappointed and frustrated.
Similarly- don't be surprised when issues do arise. The human society lists the inexpensiveness of an adopted dog as a reason to adopt instead of getting a puppy.
If you're thinking of the money you will save- think again! Winston has cost us more in healthcare over the last year than any other dog I've had growing up. That may even be the real reason he was surrendered. Who knows?
To me, adopting a dog because it's cheaper is like becoming a teacher for the summer vacations. The work you put in is not worth that bonus if that is your only motivation.
Be realistic about your adoption and it will go much easier for you when the surprises do pop up!
#4 Have fun!
This isn't advice- I just wanted to say how much we love our dog. I didn't realize we could love an adopted adult dog before we actually did it. He has added so much joy to our lives- not to mention the security of having him.  I really do love dogs and believe they're man's best friend. He is everything I thought he would be and so much more. He's our adventurous buddy and we love having him around for the ride. Our quality of life has gone so far up. My very favorite moments generally occur while John and I are taking Winston for a walk. The time alone, away from phones, to get some exercise and conversation time in alone is so beneficial.
So- if you're thinking of adopting a dog for the first time- GO FOR IT! It may be a bumpy ride at first, but with the proper expectations and resources for help, it will be well worth the rough start.