28. Three tips for scoring great finds at Goodwill.

Goodwill is probably one of my favorite places to shop.  I know some people would turn their nose up or rather die than walk into a thrift store.  You don’t know what you’re missing, my friend!  If you’ve never shopped at Goodwill, there are a few things you should know that will undoubtedly improve your shopping experience.

Large framed print, $7 @ Goodwill

Large framed print, $7 @ Goodwill

1. If you shop at a Goodwill in a nice neighborhood, chances are the items they sell will be of better quality.

I mainly shop at one Goodwill that’s in a pretty well-to-do area, and I consistently find really nice things.  I’ve bought tons of clothes at this particular store, with labels from places like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor/Ann Taylor Loft, GAP, Old Navy, J. Crew, and a bunch more.  Seriously!  Really good stuff, in good condition.  I’ve even found items that still had the tags attached.  The Goodwill I frequent also buys stuff from the local Target, which means brand new stuff at a great discount.  My Goodwill currently has a bunch of Halloween costumes and accessories for sale, a good majority of which is brand new and still in the packaging.

Fun Machine Organ, $30 @ Goodwill

Fun Machine Organ, $30 @ Goodwill

2. Shopping at Goodwill is often hit or miss, and you have to be willing to sift through duds to find treasure.

There are plenty of times that I go to Goodwill ready to burn a hole in my pocket only to leave empty-handed.  It happens!  I also make sure I have the time to really look through the racks (if I’m shopping for clothes).  My store organizes clothes by type of item, then by size, and then by color.  I usually start with clothes that are my size, but I will often look through the next size up.  I normally wear a size S, but I often find things in a M that fit pretty well.  There will be a hoard of ugly, outdated garments in any thrift store, but if you’re willing to go through everything, I guarantee you’ll find good stuff!  Every once in a while I find superb vintage pieces as well.  Example: I own a fabulous vintage black velvet blazer I found at my favorite Goodwill, and it only cost me $6.  A piece like that would cost MUCH more in a vintage boutique or antiques shop.

Small milk glass vases, $1 @ Goodwill

3. Think outside the box and keep an open mind.  Just because it’s ugly now doesn’t mean it has to stay that way!

I’ve found a lot of great home items at Goodwill that I plan on tweaking to fit my decor style.  Like the piece of art, but hate the frame?  Paint it!  Pretty much anything can be improved with a little glue and paint.

Framed prints, $3 each @ Goodwill (I will be painting the frames to freshen these up!)

Framed prints, $3 each @ Goodwill (I will be painting the frames to freshen these up!)

Items also need not be used for their intended purpose.  For example, I bought a very large wooden magazine rack yesterday, which I plan on painting and distressing for use as a blanket caddy.

Large magazine rack, $10 @ Goodwill

Large magazine rack, $10 @ Goodwill

I also found a cute wire basket that I loved but didn’t immediately have any idea concerning its purpose in our home.  I realized I had no good storage for my belts, so I rolled them up and the basket is now their home.

Rose gold wire basket, $4 @ Goodwill

There you have it!  Those are my three tips for having a great experience while browsing the racks at your local Goodwill.


Happy shopping!


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27. New fabrics and foam are on the way!

Today is payday!  Woohoo!

I made a few purchases today that I’ve been putting off; I’m so excited for the packages to get here so I can finish the projects they belong to!

I ordered two pieces of foam from The Foam Factory.  I’ve priced out a bunch of different online retailers, as well as Joann Fabric, and this company was by far the cheapest…even compared to using a coupon at Joann Fabric!  The best part is you can order exactly the size foam you need for a project, which means I won’t have to cut it down myself.  I’ve done that once before…and it is painstakingly awful.  No thanks!  They also provide free shipping on order over $75.  [On a side note…why is foam so expensive???]

The first piece of foam, 2″x48″x63″, is for the headboard on the upholstered bed we’ve been working on.  It’s finally going to get finished!  The second piece of foam, 4″x24″x48″, will get used for the custom ottoman I’m making.  You know there will be a tutorial in the near future!

I also made a purchase from fabric.com.  I seriously love browsing through all the beautiful options, and I swear I haven’t found prices any better!  I’ve bought from them many times and I’m never disappointed.  Here are the beauties I picked out this time!

I can’t wait to show you my plans for all this gorgeous fabric!  I’ll make sure to keep posting other cool things in the meantime.

Enjoy your weekend!


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24. Made from Scratch: DIY Feather Wall Art

Happy Labor Day!

I’m at home today, but still working hard.  I’ll be teaching a lecture and lab at Carroll University this semester, and I still have a TON of prep work to do.  Even so, I thought I’d take a much needed break and show you some cool art work I made last week.  I’ll even give you instructions on how to paint these all by yourself!

DIY Feather Wall Art



acrylic paint
2-3 paintbrushes
paper plate (to hold paint)
plastic drop cloth (I used a trash bag laid out flat)
measuring tape
hanging method of your choice (I used Command strips)


1. Unwrap your canvas and place it in the middle of the plastic drop cloth (i.e. garbage bag).  This project would ideally go a lot smoother with an easel, but I don’t have one…so you do what ya gotta do.  I purchased my canvases from Joann on sale for $5/each.  Scoreeeeee.


8″ x 24″ canvas, $5 (sale price)

2. Using your acrylic paint color of choice and a wide paintbrush, coat the entire canvas.  Don’t forget about the sides!  This will be your background color, so pick anything your little heart desires.  I did three canvases in varying shades of blue: Spa Blue, Bahama Blue, and Desert Turquoise.


Americana acrylic paint, $1.39/each


3. Allow the canvas to dry completely.  Since we’re using acrylic paint, this will take about 30 minutes or so.

4. Now come the feathers.  It’s best to use three different shades in the same color family.  This will add dimension to your feathers and give them a realistic quality.  I used Cool White, Bleached Sand and Mississippi Mud.

I think the feathers would look great in varying shades of grays or blues as well.

The base of the feather comes first, and you’ll want to use the darkest of the three shades.  Using a small brush, create a line down the center of the canvas.  Don’t worry about trying to make the line straight; it will actually look much better if there is a slight curve.  Once you have the first line drawn, slightly thicken the bottom 2″ of the line (this will be the “stalk” of the feather).  Finish off the base by using short, quick strokes to fan out the line (see closeup, far right).  Feel free to add extra paint to your brush as needed.


5. Using the same brush, add in the medium color to the feather, starting near the center of the “stalk” and working your way out and up.  You want these strokes to be much longer, with a slight curve upwards.  I added the dark brown to my brush here and there to blend the colors and add depth.  You want both sides of the feather to ALMOST touch in the middle, making sure to let some of the darkest shade to peak through along the center line.


6. Finally, add in the lightest color of the bunch (Cool White in this case).  Use this color a bit more sparingly than the medium shade, but the stroke pattern is pretty much the same as the last step.  Again, I added the medium shade to my brush every now and then to blend the colors a bit.


7.  Let your canvas dry completely, and admire your work!  Feel free to sign your art. 🙂


Hang them using your method of choice.  I used Command strips since these were so lightweight…or should I say “light as a feather”?  Yuk yuk yuk.

All in all, this project cost me about $25.  It would have been closer to $20 if I already had the brushes.  Still a better deal than buying something similar from a big box store!

I love how they turned out, and they look so pretty hanging on our wall.


I hope I’ve inspired you to create some DIY wall art of your own!  Remember, it’s just paint…nothing to be afraid of!  If you don’t like the results or feel like you’ve made too many “mistakes”, you can always paint over them with your base color and start over.


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22. Before and After: Vintage Metal Cabinet

I love vintage stuff.  LOVE it.  Especially when it’s rusted, banged-up, dented, chippy, in-desperate-need-of-a-face-lift vintage.

The thrill of turning something from “yuck” to “yum”?  It just can’t be beat.

In walks this beauty, stage left.


I didn’t take any photos of the inside of the cabinet, but let me assure you…it was nasty!  At some point in time, this poor lady obviously sat in someone’s dark, dank basement, because her bottom was full of rust.  Gross.

I spent hours cleaning this baby up with steel wool and rust remover, and then added a thick coat of rust preventative in primer form.

To improve upon the vintage appeal of the cabinet, I chose a fun retro aqua called “Opal Silk” from Behr.


Source: behr.com

Yep, I just used a latex paint over my primer!  As long as you use the correct primer, you can pretty much paint anything with latex paint.  I just made sure the finish was on the shiny side so you can wipe it down if it gets dirty (satin or gloss, whichever you prefer).

Here is the final product:


Isn’t it amazing what a coat of paint can do?

We originally used this in our kitchen when we lived in Bay View (a Milwaukee neighborhood south of downtown, right on Lake Michigan).  That flat was the upper floor of a duplex built in 1905, which meant basically no cabinet space.  It used to house all of our dishes, wine glasses, and pots and pans.  It fits a LOT of stuff!

After we moved to our new flat, we had no need/room for this cabinet.  The new kitchen has plenty of cabinet space, and there are two built-in china cabinets in the dining room.  This lady, unfortunately, took up residence in a basement yet again.  This one is dry, so no worries of rust, but I still felt bad about neglecting the poor thing.

I decided to sell the cabinet on Craigslist in hopes of finding her a good home, and lo and behold, I did!  She is now sitting pretty in an academic office space in an updated warehouse.  Hooray!

I obviously have a strange attachment to furniture…don’t judge me.

“Before and After” time!


I hope I’ve inspired you to make something old and yucky look new and pretty again!


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21. I have a lot of projects. And plans. (Part 4)

This is the fourth installment of a four-part series.  You can catch up on the plans for our living room, dining room, and master bedroom by clicking the links below.

Part 1: Living Room
Part 2: Dining Room
Part 3: Master Bedroom

Today’s topic: the spare bedroom.  It’s just slightly smaller than the master bedroom, with a decent sized closet and hardwood floors.  The starting color wasn’t actually that bad.


Since our landlords were okay with us changing the wall colors, we decided to go ahead and paint anyway.  The color choice for this room was a really pretty dark gray with blue undertones, “Dark Pewter” by Behr.


Source: behr.com

I love this color on the wall.  I almost wish we had painted our bedroom in this color, but I’m also fond of the dark blue we have in there.  Win-win, I suppose.

This room currently serves as our in-home music studio, complete with vintage organ, various pieces of recording equipment, and Jason’s computer setup.  We’ll probably be living in this flat for the next 3-5 years, and if we decide to have a baby within that time frame (which is completely possible), this room would obviously be converted into a nursery.  This means all music stuffs would have to find a home elsewhere…probably divided between the living and dining rooms.

No baby is in the works yet, so don’t get too excited.  We are spending the first few years of our marriage enjoying our time alone and getting our debt paid down (trust me, there is a LOT of that to take care of).  We are definitely not in a rush, and we’d like to be responsible parents!  Imagine that.

Anyway, one thing I’d really like to add to this room is some sort of sleeping option for overnight guests.  We have a full-size air mattress, but it would be nice to offer out-of-town friends and family a real bed to sleep on.  I’m debating between a full-size bed and a daybed with trundle.  I’m leaning towards the daybed because it would take up less space and is more versatile in terms of sleeping options, especially if we can find the type of trundle that pops up to the same height as the bed.  I like this option from Overstock.com (especially since it looks more like a couch than a bed):

My dad lives down in Florida, and it would be nice to have a separate room for him to sleep in when he comes to visit.  It would also work out well for any other family and friends that visit from New Jersey.

As for the inspiration for this room, I am really at a loss.  Surprising, I know!  I feel like I always have a ton of idea when it comes to decorating, but I’m really not sure what kind of “look” I’m going for in this room.  Maybe something vintage?

I guess you’ll just have to keep reading to find out.



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20. I have a lot of projects. And plans. (Part 3)

This is the third installment of a four-part series.  You can catch up on the plans for our living room and dining room by clicking the links below.

Part 1: Living Room
Part 2: Dining Room

I’ve already told you all about our living room and dining room decor plans, so now it’s time to move on to the room I’m most excited about: the master bedroom.

I’ve thought long and hard about the look I’m going for in this room, and I think I’ve finally settled a color scheme.


Source: behr.com

Yep.  Navy, coral, tan, and white.  I am super obsessed with this color palette right now!  It’s really classy.  I’m serious, look:

We already have dark blue walls and white dressers, so I’m thinking adding in our natural linen upholstered bed, white linens, and some pretty patterned curtains will look awesome.  I would really love to make some curtains with this stuff:


Source: fabric.com

Remember the initial inspiration board for our master bedroom?  Here’s an updated version with an added pop of coral.


Here’s what needs to happen to have our current bedroom “match” the bedroom above.

1. Find antique/vintage suitcases.
2. Purchase/make shag carpets.
3. Purchase bedding (I’m currently the highest bidder on eBay for a duvet, wish me luck!)
4. Reupholster chair.
5. Finish building platform bed (currently ~50% completed).
6. Make curtains.

Not a terrible list, but it will still be quite a while and a LOT of work.  I know I can do it!

Next time: the spare bedroom!



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19. I have a lot of projects. And plans. (Part 2)

If you missed the first installment of this four-part series, you can catch up here.

Last time, I talked all about my plans for the living room.  It’s time to turn the corner (literally) and take a peek into our dining room.

Here’s how it looked right before we moved in:


I love the built-ins…like, a lot.  (There are actually two, one on either side of the window.)  There is no longer a door to the kitchen, it’s just an open entryway now.  I’m not sure at what point the door went byebye, but it wasn’t there when we moved in.  Again, the color on the walls is staying the way it is…it’s the same color that’s in the living room, and also the same pain in the booty textured walls.  I’m not mentally prepared to deal with something like that.  Nuh uh.

Here’s the progress we’ve made so far:


I am seriously so frickin’ proud of that table!  I love being able to tell people we built it ourselves, especially when they give the compliment before they know.  It’s like a ton of pats on the back.  All at once.  I’m really proud of the deal I got on those chairs, too…I know they were still a pretty significant chunk of money, but I totally did my research and got the very best price I could find ANYWHERE.

Our Expedit bookcase from IKEA is currently housed here as well (it’s out of frame to the left), but that will get a makeover and find a new home in the living room.  Other than that, there are only three things I’d like to add to this room to finish it off.

1. A bench or settee.  I’d love to put it along the right-hand side of the table (i.e. the side next to the window).  It will hopefully be something antique, and it just so happens I found the PERFECT bench on…you guessed it…Craigslist.

081613_2Oh. My. Gawd.  It’s chippy.  And old.  And did I mention it’s exactly the right length and width?  And the EXACT same height as our current chairs?!  I seriously wouldn’t change anything about it, I’d just park it right next to the table and be done with it.  Well, I’d probably sew up a nice cushion to make it more comfy for its patrons, but that’s it.  I am trying not to jump the gun and buy it, but I’m so afraid it will be gone right away!  And I’m not sure I would find something that perfect again.  If you read Victoria’s blog, you know about the raccoon in her head that tells her to buy things (especially awesome things from Craigslist).  I’m pretty sure I suffer from the same affliction.  We should start a support group.  Actually, it would be better to call it an encouragement group.  Anyway, I digress.  Next!

2. A desk/dresser/buffet.  The space currently taken up by the Expedit will be quite bare after it travels to the living room, so it will need to be filled with something else.  I currently don’t have a “desk”, so it might be nice to find something small…just a nice area to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while I write my blog…and do my science thinking, of course.  I know I can just do this at the dining room table, but that means constantly moving my laptop and other stuff to keep the clutter contained, and I’d rather have a designated spot where I can just plop those sort of things down and not move them.

3. Wall art.  I should just go ahead and say that hanging things on the walls is an area of complete naivety to me.  In all of the places we’ve rented (and there have been many), we’ve never bothered to hang anything.  I never had anything hanging in my room growing up either, save a poster of a baby seal on the back of my bedroom door.  I’ve never really known how to hang stuff to make it look good, but I’d LOVE to have some sort of gallery wall.  I think this room would be a great place for it.  I’m thinking above the new desk.

That’s it!  Not a ton of work, really…as long as I can find a bench that’s already perfectly shabby and a desk/dresser/buffet that only needs a new coat of paint.

Make sure to check back soon for the next installment, the master bedroom!


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