Category: Home

DIY Painted Tray

March 3
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A few weeks ago I purchased a new coffee table for my living room. After setting it all up I realized that it needed a little something to brighten it up. After looking at images on Pinterest and Instagram I decided what I needed was a nice tray to hold the little things and kind of break up the space. Now my coffee table is a nice medium wood tone. Because of this I knew I wanted to go with a tray that was not a wood color. I wanted something light-colored but not metal or glass. What I wanted was a white tray.
I did some hunting for the perfect tray but found nothing until, one day while wondering Target I came across a light wooden tray in their craft section. The thing was only $6.99 and perfect to paint.
I grabbed the tray and brought it home. I knew I was going to want to paint this white and distress it to give it a slight shabby-chic farmhouse look.
To achieve this look I started by staining the tray with a wood stain. Although this worked for me, if I were to do this again I would have purchased a gel stain which would have produced a darker result. After the stain tried I covered the tray with a few coats of chalk paint. I make my chalk paint by combining regular interior house paint with plaster of paris. Find out more here. After a few coats I then grabbed some medium grit sandpaper and sanded a few areas of the tray to give the piece some definition and let the stained wood show through. I distressed with the sandpaper along seams as well as throughout keeping a light hand. When this was all done I went back over the tray with an furniture wax to seal the piece and protect it. I then added felt pads to the bottom corners so that it would not scratch the table.
I am using this tray to hold remotes, a book, a plant and a candle. Just a nice little collection of things that are nice and relaxing. My favorite part of this is that if I need to remove the things from the table I just need to pick up the tray and move it to a side table and my coffee table is free for games or whatever. Nice and simple. How do you store remotes and books? Do you use a coffee table or tray?
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Drinking more water (part 2)

January 6
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A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about tips for drinking more water and I feel like it is time to talk about it again. I have seen a ton of people both in person and online talking about how they want to drink more water this year and I figured I could share more about how I drink 70+ ounces of water a day.

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I get my water consumption in via both “chug sessions” and sipping throughout the day. I know ” chug sessions” sounds weird, but that is just what it is. I fill a glass at the sink with room temp water and chug the entire glass, sometimes two. I know for a lot of people this sounds horrible, but it gives me a chance to get it done. I just stand there and drink. (For those of you wondering, WATER is the only thing I drink this way. I could not chug a beer if my life depended on it.) I like using room temp water as it goes down easy and does not chill my body. I try to do this a few times a day with the most important chug sessions right after I wake up and right before bed.

My second method of drinking (WATER, people) is throughout the day. I like to keep water at my desk at work or near me at home. For me, the key is to have a cup or bottle you really like. What works for you really depends on your needs, but I personally LOVE my $3 reusable Starbucks tumbler. I know it is simple, but it works for me. I can have it at my desk, at home, in the car, or on the go. At 24 ounces I only have to refill a few times a day and I am good to go. Yes, it is sitting next to me right now, and yes, I did just drink some water.

A typical day for me starts with a 10 oz. glass of water from the tap a few minutes after I get up. At work I generally fill my 24 oz. cup twice, sometimes three times. I then drink 10 oz. of water at the sink before dinner, a glass with dinner and the at least one more “chug session” before bed.  No wonder I am in the bathroom so much. (Sorry) Try adding a glass of water at a few of these times if you’re still struggling with getting enough water.

I know a bunch of people carry water with them but still feel like they don’t drink enough. My only real tip for that is to double your sips. If you go in for one sip, take two. Keep going. You will start to get used to drinking more and it will become natural. Hate the taste of water? Check out this post I wrote about making easy infused water with the help of your freezer.

Below are a few water bottle/cup options you might like. The Starbucks one I have is only sold in stores.
water bottle options
1. Like your water cold? This one stays cold all day.
2. Here is a great option if you want glass.
3. Love S’well bottles? Go for it!
4. Want a visual of how much your drinking and when to drink it? Try a motivational bottle.
5. These are super cute. Go for the 24 oz.

Please note: These are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from the link I receive a small commission which helps fund this site.

Oh, and if you need more tips, this post from 2016 is pretty good.

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DIY holiday centerpiece

December 2
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I was at my parent’s house the other day and my mother gave me a few antique kitchen items and one of the items that stuck out to me was this adorable pie tin. You never see pie plates like this anymore and when she gave it to me I knew I had to find a fun way to showcase it.

Fast forward a week and we were decorating our home for the holidays and I saw the pie tin again. It took it over to my dining table and realized it would make a great part of a centerpiece.

I also knew I wanted something a little bigger than the tin, so I took the round tray I was currently using and placed the tin in the tray. I used a few coasters to raise the tin a little higher to give the centerpiece some, but not too much height. You wanna be able to see the person sitting across from you, right?

I added a set of three candles I already owned the middle as they work great in this space. Once I had my base I added some greenery. I found these sprigs with my holiday decor so I went with them. I wouldn’t mind something less glittery, but I am just going to go with the stuff I already have as it is here and simple. I then added a few sprigs of holly berries and some decorative cinnamon sticks and that is it!

This centerpiece was super simple and made from the pie tin plus stuff I just had around the house. I love thinking a little out of the box and creating like this with things I already have. Hopefully this post can inspire you to look around your home and see what you can use to create your own centerpiece or holiday decor.  If you create something, please tag me in a photo, I’d love to see it! I’m on facebook  @_amberdowns on Instagram.

 

 

DIY farmhouse centerpiece from a vintage pie tin. perfect holiday farm decor for your table.

Diy farmhouse centerpiece

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My favorite gifts on Amazon

November 28
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I love Amazon for gifting. I always wait to grab something at the last minute, so with two-day shipping I can get gifts just in the nick of time. Today I am sharing a few of my giftable favorites from Amazon that are perfect for your or a loved one.  Click the link to be directed to my Amazon page where you can see m favorites and what I like about each item.

 

Happy Gifting!

 


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Find these items, as well as my other Amazon favorites here.

 

 

Amazon.con Holiday gift ideas

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DIY Dollar Tree skull lanterns

October 17
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I usually skip halloween decorations in my home. It is not that I don’t love halloween, I just usually do a generic fall decor that I can keep up until Thanksgiving. I’m all about easy decorating.

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But for some reason this fall I decided I needed to add a little bit of spooky. I didn’t want to get too crazy so I decided to just decorate the porch so I wouldn’t spend an arm and a leg.

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Anyways, I  got a lot of my decor at Dollar Tree and while I was there I saw these awesome skulls. This got me thinking. I knew I had some lanterns at home that it would fit in. How cool would that be?

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So I grabbed two skulls and a set of two flickering LED candles and went on my way.img_3020

At home, I cut the bottoms off of the skulls so that my LED candles could shine through. Then I searched the garage (for far too long.) to find these perfect lanterns. I believe these are from the Target Dollar Spot a few years ago for the 4th of July, but I could be wrong. Anyways, I cleaned them up and then added my skulls and candles.

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I love how these make a spooky centerpiece and I only spend $3 on the whole thing.  It pays to think about what you have around the house before you start decorating. Yes, the lanterns have non-spooky stars in them, but who even cares, right?

 

recipe

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Hosting an outdoor summer party

June 12
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Last month I hosted a simple little party with my friends to celebrate the beginning of summer. Generally, my entertaining is pretty simple with bags of chips and beer in a cooler, but for this girls only event I wanted to step it up a notch.

One of the ways I like to make a party or event feel a little classier is by the serving items I use. For this party I purchased galvanized steel trays to match the beverage tub I already owned. Although I saw tons of cute summer themed and printed serving items I stuck to plain ones because I wanted items that could be used for multiple parties throughout the year. I mean I love pineapples, but they would just look strange for Thanksgiving.  I also purchased a large mason jar styled water dispenser to keep my guests hydrated.

For the paper goods I just purchased the slightly nicer versions of things. I bought the clear cups instead of the red solo cups and the matching plates, silverware, and napkins from a line at target. I spent maybe a few dollars more on these, but it is worth it for the overall look and feel of the party.

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I live in Florida, here summer starts in the middle of March so I wasn’t sure how I was going to tackle the sandwich station. I wanted to have the supplies out, but I did not want to worry about anything going bad. I stressed about this for a little while until I realized I could create a system where the food would rest on a bed of ice. To make this, I purchased two of the same steel trays but filled one with water and froze it. When it came time for the party I placed the tray with the food on top of the frozen tray and the sandwich supplies stayed nice and cool. BONUS: Now I have two steel trays for a future party.

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My favorite part of this setup was the DIY Mimosa station. I’m sure you’ve seen these all over Pinterest, but I love the idea and wanted to try it myself.

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The sign is made from a precut piece of steel at Michaels and I made the vinyl decal with my Silhouette Cameo.  I also made a matching sign for the front door that said “Come on in” so the guests would know to come in and head to the back yard.

For the drinks I purchased orange juice (no pulp), lemonade, and raspberry lemonade. I thought I had three cute bottles to put the drinks in, but the evening before the party I realized I only had two. I was able to find some of the raspberry lemonade in a similar bottle so I used that, but ideally all three bottles would match.  For booze I bought a few bottles of prosecco and a bottle of rosé for anyone who isn’t a fan of mimosas.

In front of the bottles I placed fruit in three cups to be used as garnish. We had oranges, lemons, and strawberries cut and ready to use. For this party I keep those on ice due to the heat, but generally I’d keep them out front.

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Along with these goodies I put out a veggie tray for guests to nibble on during the party. I offered ranch dressing and hummus as dips. Although I love chip and cookies as easy party foods, I wanted to offer my guests a healthy alternative which I think was appreciated.

Overall this was a great little party for myself and my girlfriends. It was nice to do something a little fancier to kick off summer as I’m sure the rest of our summer parties will be much more casual. Hopefully this information can help you get your summer party of to a great start.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!

 

Hosting an outdoor summer party

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Six simple things to do Sunday for a successful week

April 6
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The last few months I have started getting into a great Sunday habit that I feel has really led to better weeks. I am calling it one habit, but my Sunday habit really is a set of six goals that I try to have met each Sunday before I go to bed. Sundays are generally my day off to myself as my husband works them so it is a great time to me to knock out some important errands. Depending on your schedule, you may have another day you do these tasks. Do it when it is best for you. For most of us Sunday is the day before the start of our workweek.

Meal Plan

One of the first things I do Sundays is meal plan. For me, meal planning is picking out dinners for the week as well as ensuring my husband and I have leftovers or other meals for lunches. I like to be realistic so I plan easy meals for busy nights and more elaborate dinners for nights when I am off or actually have time. I also take my husband’s schedule into account so if I know he is working late Thursday night I may make that a leftovers night instead of trying to cook a full meal just for myself. You know you and your family. Make a plan that works for you, but also be flexible with it. Want to grab tacos on Tuesday? Go for it, just make Tuesday’s meal on Wednesday! 

Shopping

After I have my meals I put together my grocery list. I add items for meals as well as check the staples in the pantry and fridge. I also text my husband and get any ideas from him. This is a great time to check the bathrooms and storage as well to ensure you are stocked up on toiletries and paper products. My goal is to have everything for the week purchased so I don’t have to make extra trips to the store during the week. After the list is made I do my shopping and put away my purchases.

Clothing

Next I walk into my closet and plan my outfits for the week. When I tell people I plan my outfits they are usually a little shocked at first, but after I explain my process a little more they get it. Yes, I do plan my work outfits, but I am not super strict about it. I will hang them in an area of my closet in order Monday, Tuesday, ect, but I am very flexible on when I wear what. I also look at my planner to see if I have any important meetings I need to dress up for or any other plans that might affect my wardrobe choices. I also like to glance at the weather as well. This really makes getting ready in the dark in the morning easy. Just grab a set and go.

As I mentioned, these outfits are hung in order in the front of my closet. If camisoles are needed I grab them and put them on the hangers. Going through my drawers looking for the hot pink camisole at 6:30 am is not fun.

Generally my laundry is already done by this point, but if there is an item I need for the week now is the time I’d toss it in the wash and do a load.

Lunches

Back to food again. I know it sounds silly, but having all the meals thought out really does set me up for a better week. I like to pick up my snacks for the week at this time. Granola bars, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs are my current favorites. Usually I eat a small snack in the afternoon at work to tie me over until dinner.  Now is the time I cook any rice, quinoa, or beans my husband or I need for lunches.

The Car

One my last to dos is to check my car. I clean out anything left from the week before and ensure it is gassed up for the next week. Getting gas Monday morning is just not fun.

Straightening

The last thing I do is more of just a generally habit. I like to take a few minutes in the afternoon and just pick up anything around the house or the kitchen. It is great to go into the workweek with a clean house; it really helps me mentally prepare for the week.

I like to have all this done by dinnertime so I can make dinner and enjoy the evening before the workweek. Keep in mind, this system works well for me but please optimize it for your own use. Maybe you don’t pack a lunch or you wear a uniform. Skip those steps and feel free to add anything else you need. Also don’t feel like you need to spend an entire day getting ready for the week. You of course do need to grocery shop every once in a while, but the rest of this is easy stuff that does not take a lot of time. Enjoy your day and plan to have a great week!

 

Six Simple Things

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DIY Painted Kitchen Cart

March 8
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A few months ago my husband ran across this cute little kitchen cart at a yard sale. He knew that I was looking for something like this for a corner of our kitchen/dining room area and so he grabbed it for me. I loved the little cart, but I felt that it was a little lackluster and didn’t go with the room so I decided to fix it up a bit.  I recently got a new teal rug for the dining room so I decided to paint the base teal and use an antiquing wax to give it an interesting look. Our kitchen cabinets are a red oak so I purchased a stain for the top of the cart that matched this color.

Materials:
Minwax stain
Chalk paint
Antiquing wax 
Paint brush (These are supposed to be great)
Polyacrylic
Painter’s tape
Fine sandpaper
Electric sander (Optional, but totally worth the $30 investment if you’re going to be doing a lot of projects)

I purchased my paint and wax from Michaels however for simplicity I have linked to products at Amazon.

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The top of the cart is a butcher block and was a little worn so I went ahead and sanded the top down a little bit.  I used a fine grit sand paper. After sanding I wiped down the piece thoroughly so that it was nice and clean and then followed up with a dry cloth.

I chose to start with the stain as I knew I’d be doing several layers. The stain I used stays on for 15 minutes and then is removed with a cloth. Read the instructions on your can in case it is different. Use painter’s tape (or washi tape in a pinch) to keep the stain off unwanted surfaces.

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After staining I started painting the body of the cart. Originally I wanted the exterior of the drawer to be stained to match, however because the wood was different from the top of the piece the stain did not sink in well so I painted over it. I did two coats of paint and then did some touch up in a few places to make sure it was good.

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I chose to use an antiquing wax on this piece to give it a distressed finish. It also muted the color a bit which fit my room better. I found this YouTube video on how to use the wax very helpful.  Remember to read the instructions on your wax, with mine I went back the day after and buffed the piece to finish it.

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The last step was to apply a clear coat of Polyacrylic to the top. This is a clear water based sealant that will protect the surface. You may want to do two or three coats of this.

Overall this was a great project and a great deal. We spent way less on this piece and the supplies as we would a nicely painted new version of this product and we got it in the color we wanted which looks great in the dining room area.

DIY Calk painted kitchen cart. This piece was stained and waxed with an antiquing wax.

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Early 2017 Faves

February 24
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Hey guys, I know I haven’t been doing regular favorites posts lately but I wanted to jump in and share some things I’ve been crushing on lately.

This is my version of the street tacos

 

If you know me, you know I love Mexican food and of course tacos.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been taking my taco making skills up to the next level with two AMAZING new recipes.  First I made these yummy Beef Street Tacos, and more recently I tried out these Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa.  Spoiler alert: They were both great and I can’t wait to work them into our meal rotation.

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In other news, I’ve been working on my dining room lately. One of the new items I have added is this great teal rug from Walmart. Yes, Walmart! I was in there picking something up the other day and saw it and it was only $80 which was great.  I love the bold color, but if I get sick of it in a few years I can just replace it as I didn’t spend a ton of money on it.  Now that I have that rug in there I am going to be working the rest of the room around those colors.

I know I’ve got valentines colors in here, I’m working on that.

 

Both January and February found me visiting Antique Extravaganza at the Rennigers Flea Market here in the Orlando area.  First of all, (as I am sure you are wondering) yes, it is big enough of an event to be called an extravaganza. Anyways, I picked up two new cute home decor pieces; a window and a dough bowl.  I know these are both trend items and the bowl is reproduction, but I think they are super cute and really work in my dining room. (Which, as you recall, I am working on.)

 


I think it must be the early nightfall or the cool air, but I have just been loving curling up on the sofa after work with a good book and reading until bed. When I get out of the  habit of reading physical books I don’t miss it, but once I start back up I swear they are as addictive as coffee and Publix cookies. (Oatmeal Raisin of course.)
Not a favorite yet, but I am considering trying Lipsense. Have you tried it? Do you like it? I am looking for an Orlando area consultant so I can try it before I buy it. Not sure what Lipsense is? It is a long wear lipstick that appears to really stay for 18 hours. It is only sold via direct sales so ask around in your area for a consultant.

 

Anyway, I hope you liked this collection of a few random things I am enjoying.  Loving anything awesome? Share it with me in the comments! Want to see more things I love? Follow me on Instagram!

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Weekly planning with my spouse

October 26
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One of the aspects of my planer experience that I get asked about often is how I incorporate my spouse into the planning process. Because we both have work schedules that vary and evenings activities to be aware of, I find that it is critical for my husband and I to get together before the week begins to sit down and line up our schedules. We write down each other’s work schedules, activities, events, and plan out meals. We also make it a priority to carve out time to spend together.

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Generally at the beginning of each month we mark our days off in our personal planners on the monthly pages. This way I can plan ahead for parties and events even if we haven’t gotten to that week. Generally these are just little tick marks or X’s to mark the days.  With this, if a friend asks if we can get together on a Friday at then end of the month I can quickly get a tentative answer. (I would then confirm this with my husband and then add to both of our planners.)

 

Around the middle of the month we glance at the following month to see if there are any days we need to request off in advance. We can then get this information to his boss for his schedule and I can work it into mine.

Alright, on to the week at hand.

When it comes down to the week ahead, first we confirm shift times. We should know the days that both of us work, but we both sometimes have different hours or evening work commitments. We record these as well and if we have holidays of other weird days. In my planner I just write down my husband’s initials next to his work schedule. Generally, I do not write down my schedule because I know it. I do write down if I have an important meeting, something that I need to bring in from home, or an unusual schedule change.. This way I see it before I go in to work.

Next we see if we want to add any plans to the week. A date night? Game night with friends? Trip to the beach? Now that we have out week put together we can see what time we have together and how we want to use it.

After we have our days down we pick meals. Generally, before we sit down I have a list of the meals that I plan to make and then we can write down which days we will have what. Due to our evening events we do not have dinner together at home every night, but we do like to have a plan for the nights we are home.  In the morning when I get up I check the evening’s meal plan and take out whatever is needed for that dinner. This is not a strict plan, but instead a guideline so that we don’t get home hungry with nothing thawed out. We do not write down lunch plans but do prep meals ahead for the week. Often these are just leftovers.

At this point we have a pretty solid plan for the week. I then take this information and fill in my personal tasks around our plans. I schedule my office hours for blogging and household tasks. One way to set yourself up for failure is to give yourself a massive to do list on a day you are booked for 15 hours. It’s just not possible and will leave you upset and defeated. Place those tasks on a shorter day or, better yet, spread them out over the week.

Lastly, I want to leave you with the reminder that this is all flexible. The plans we make change often, and we just have to roll with the punches. Having a basic idea for the week really helps me keep everything in sight, but you know what, some plans are meant to be broken.

My planner: Enjoy the Little Things Happy Planner

Charlie’s planner: An undated kit similar to this one.

We use the Happy Planner punch to add pages and notes to our planners.

Charlie’s stickers are all made by me using my Silhouette Cameo and sticker paper.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission.  This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!

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