Monday, April 28, 2014

Mirror Frame Chalkboard Rehab

Last week there must have been a city wide junk removal.  Tons of people had piles of stuff out on the curb near their trash cans.  Naturally, I had my eyes peeled for goodies and possible projects! 

On the way home, I spotted a huge frame stood up against a tree.  Like, HUGE FRAME.  It is probably six feet tall and has about a six inch frame on it.  Since it was so large, I dropped Mike on the side of the road to carry it around the corner to our house.  Helpful little hubby, he is!

I think this frame used to be for a large mirror that broke.  The frame itself is in fantastic condition and the thought that someone threw it out was mindblowing!  I immediately thought to make it in to a chalkboard, but put out a request for other ideas.  These included, putting fabric inside, using it as a large picture frame, adding chicken wire, corkboard, etc.  All are great ideas and ones you can use!

I decided to stay with my original idea for now, and I can always redo the frame again in the future.  It will likely be a never-ending project, which is exciting for a zero dollar investment!  I did some small sanding on the frame with a fine sandpaper, just to take the snags out of the wood.  I then wiped it down with a wet sponge to clean it up.  EASY.

I headed to Wal-Mart to purchase some chalkboard paint.  I bought the Rust-Oleum Specialty Chalkboard Spray for under $4.  I have been opting for spray paint a little more often lately because it's just EASIER and often takes much less time to dry.  And, okay...I'm lazy.

I also miraculously remembered to buy CHALK!!  Wouldn't that have been a bummer?  I got an awesome pack of Crayola chalk for under $3!  I'm also hoping to jazz up either our driveway or our back patio at some point this summer :)  {Again, we are kids at heart.}

All I did was take the backing of the frame out (just like the backing for a picture frame) and lay it down on my dropcloth.  I sprayed two heavy layers on it in the course of about an hour.  I then let it dry overnight.

The next day, I "primed" the surface by completely coating it with chalk and then wiping it off again (as per instructions on the can).  I have to say, the insert had a few scratches which led to a not-perfect canvas, but I'm all about character!  I took to Pinterest for some quote inspirations and used my non-creative hand to "deck the walls". 

"Listen to Tour Heart, Even if it Takes You to Texas"
This project was extremely quick, easy, and CHEAPCould you ask for anything more to add a large decor piece to your home?  We have it in our dining room right now and I know it will look even better in our future home! 
Don't pass up a little "driveway diving".  People throw out nice things that creative minds can repurpose in to something beatiful!  Eventually, I see myself painting the frame and redoing the center with something a bit more creative.  For now, I am happy with my MASSIVE chalkboard for under TEN DOLLARS!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Celebrating 25 in Las Vegas!

Las Vegas has been on my list since my junior year of college.  After several ideas and never following through, Mike and I treated ourselves to a Sunday-Thursday trip to celebrate my 25th birthday.

Our flights were super cheap because of the days of the week and flying Allegiant Airlines, read about that HERE.  The weather was great and we had an excellent time.  When we first arrived, Mike's Dad's cousin (Tommy) came to pick us up and we got to go to a family dinner with Mike's two cousins and their spouses and children.  I had never met these cousins, so it was great to meet them and to see Ann and Tommy. 

When we arrived back at our hotel, we headed out on the strip for my first time!  Margaritaville was on my list to visit and of course I got a margarita from the casino bar.  MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT!  Turns out it was margarita slush with mango goo as flavoring.  It tasted terrible and made me sick with all the sugar.  Also, that plus a Sam Adams was $17!  Welcome to Vegas...  Maybe the restuarant itself is better, but I would say Margaritaville is a bust. 

We then walked around the area near The Quad and The Linq.  This is a small street that juts east off of the actual strip.  There are several cool little bars and shops down this small road.  There is a Sprinkles Cupcake store, a juicing cocktail bar, YardHouse bar (which we visited), Purple Zebra Daquiri Bar, and this is also where you get access to the High Roller, the new giant ferris wheel in Vegas. 

On Monday and Tuesday of our trip we did A LOT OF WALKING.  Down one side, up the other, lah-dee-dah.  Make sure you have comfortable shoes and patience to walk on a sidewalk with lots of people and crazies!  Since it was fairly close, we enjoyed walking around the Miracle Mile shops and Planet Hollywood a few times throughout the week.  Near there, we also visited The Coke Store (get the Around the World Tray for $7) and M&M's World, which turned out to be a bit disappointing to me, but if you have children or LOVE M&M's, you will love it. 

Monday evening we started dinner at Nine Fine Irishmen (in New York, New York) around 5 PM.  We had delicious large portions of bangers and mash and shepard's pie.  I also indulged in my first snakebite (beer and cider).  After, we ended up having to jog to our 7:00 show at The Mirage.  NOTE:  Just because you can see a resort, doesn't mean it won't take you 10-15 minutes to walk there.  This was not a fun experience.  Ambling around Vegas takes a long time because of traffic, pedestrian walkways, and people in general.  Also, Caesar's Palace is GIGANTIC, so if you have to walk past that, plan extra time!  We had to do all of the above and it was exhausting.

We arrived to our seats for Beatles Love Cirque de Soleil with about 4 minutes to spare.  I was hot and with a belly full of food so I sort of felt icky at first.  We enjoyed the show, and the music was great.  My expectations were not met as far as the "cirque" part of it.  This show is rated one of the best in Vegas.  If you LOVE the Beatles, definitely see it.  If you are wanting to see a very circus-y cirque show, I would probably recommend a different show. 

On Tuesday, we got the 24 hour bus pass for $8 each and used that to go to the edges of the strip.  First, we went south to see Excalibur and Luxor and walk around a few other resorts.  We played in the arcade at the Excalibur (the lower level) and had an absolute blast.  I highly recommend using $5 to play a couple fun games and have a friendly little frog racing competition or do some whack-a-mole ~ alien style.  This was one of the most fun things we did on our trip {we like to act like kids}.

After that, we travelled to the north end of the strip and spent several hours at the top of the Stratosphere.  This turned out to be a very fun and relaxing time.  It is $18 for a ticket to the top, but it's worth it if you're willing to spend some time up there.  Fair Warning:  The casino looks pretty dumpy, but I promise, at the top it is very nice, clean, and classy!  We watched daring people go on all of the amusement rides at the top, took in the amazing views, enjoyed the sunshine, and then sat down for happy hour on Level 107.  They had 2-for-1 drinks and half off appetizers (fantastic deal for Vegas!).  We endulged in a white peach margarita and a cucumber cosmopolitan {SO GOOD!}.  We also had an appetizer of calamari, shrimp, peppers, and olives which was light and delectible.  For us, the Stratosphere was one of our highlights. 

Wednesday was a more low key day for us.  We walked across the street to the Bellagio and checked out the conservatory and butterfly garden.  I really enjoyed seeing the flowers and butterflies and it was a bit of refuge from the huge buildings and dirty streets.  After that, we used the last hours on our bus passes to go back to The Mirage and visit The Secret Garden to see dolphins, lions, and tigers.  We followed this adventure with a nap by the pool and delecious burgers at Le Burger Brasserie in Paris.

We had to be up at 2:30 the next morning, and after a flight delay and a bus ride back to our vehicle, we spent the rest of the day lounging in our bedroom and relaxing at home. 

Vegas was such a fun getaway for us as a couple.  We have the same travel brain, so we know when each other wants to eat, sit, sleep, is bored, etc.  Vegas was a blast, but now that I've checked it off my list, I'm ready for something new to be on my adventure list!

Handmade Citrus Lime Mojito

Around a month ago, we stopped at a liquor store and I checked out the clearance bin (DUH).  There was a large bottle of mojito for $10 (liquor included) so I jumped at it.  Turns out, the stuff is great!

Since then, I've been concocting fantastic cocktails at home using fresh ingredients.  Mike even took a stab at a mojito smoothie one weekend.  This Smirnoff mix is worth it, especially if it's on clearance!
Citrus Lime Mojito
One small finger-full of fresh mint
One clementine
Half of one lime
Coconut Water
Mojito mix
Place your mint, clementine, and lime in the bottom of a shaker.  Muddle with sugar if you would like to.  I used the end of a wooden spoon. 


Add a bit of coconut water (maybe 1/4 cup) and your mojito mix (whatever amount you prefer).  Also add about a 1/4 cup of crushed ice.  Close your shaker and SHAKE IT UP! 
Pour into a lowball glass with a bit of ice.  You could even salt or sugar the rim if you wouldl like to.  Garnish with some more fresh mint and ENJOY your fantastic summer drink that you made yourself at home!!

Our other variations of this drink have included:  leaving out the clementine, using fresh mango and a bit of milk and blending in a blender, adding or subtracting sugar, fresh lime or lime juice, and you could also add lemon juice as well. 
This drink is flexible depending on what you have in your refridgerator.  You could easily include any fruit and shake with any additional liquor that you would enjoy.  We have loved making our "craft cocktails" at home and enjoying them on the patio!  Let me know what you come up with!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Should You Fly Allegiant Airlines?

Allegiant Airlines is a super-budget airline that flies mostly to larger vacation destinations.  Here in Austin, our only destination is Las Vegas, NV.  You can see their routes here.  So...although we can't fly home on the cheap, we could still fulfill our plans to celebrate my 25th birthday in Vegas!

Our flights were about $150 round trip (that included BOTH of us)!  Super-dee-duper cheapo.  So what's the catch?  You pay for everything from your carry-on, to your leg room, to your assigned seat, to your water/refreshments in the air.

We decided to check one large bag (50$), and then you each get a free "personal item" which is NOT a carry-on (you have to pay for those).  We each took a backpack and I made sure there was room for my purse in my back pack.  Also, check in at 24 hours on-the-dot or you will not be seated together.  Unless, of course, you pay to choose your seats when you purchase your tickets.  Lastly, bring your own water and snacks so you have a bit of comfort on the dry, bumpy ride.  

THE NEGATIVES:  the whole process is a bit uncomfortable.  They start boarding a full hour ahead of takeoff.  AKA-it takes forever.  They are pushy about boarding zones, but allowed a passenger in front of us to carry-on a full size suitcase.  Pretty frustrating when you're paying for everything.  On our flight back, they literally had eight employees behind the counter in the airport...figure it out people!  The leg room is MINIMAL!  Mike's knees were pushing in to the seat in front of him.  Luckily for him, the seats DO NOT RECLINE...but it also makes the ride a bit uncomfortable.  They don't have the fans/vents for air on you, so there's no way to cool down.  Everything aboard the plane costs you something.  You will not be served water, drinks, or snacks for free.  BUT, thankfully, the restrooms are free :) !

The flights there and back were also the worst flights I've ever had in terms of turbulence.  We haven't yet figured out if it was because of the windy southwest, the pilots, or the fact that they seated us in the back of the plane.  By the time we landed in Vegas, I had just about thrown up (literally, I had the waves of heat running over me) and could not wait to get off that plane.

The transportation all-in-all cost $299; this included baggage, round-trip shuttle to and from our hotel, fees, and a $24 discount for using a debit card.  You can't really go wrong with that amount for flights to Vegas, BUT if you are a picky traveler, save yourself the frustration and fly with another airline.  ALSO--skip the shuttle, seriously.  First off, it was cheaper by $4 at the airport, AND we had to wait in line for an hour to get on one (more on that in my next post).

Allegiant Airlines is budget in all aspects of the term.  You will save on your flight, but will get nickel-and-dimed along the way.  Be sure to investigate other airline prices, knowing that you may not have to pay for everything if you fly with a different carrier.

Happy Travels!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jute Monogram Letter {At Home}

I had a little craft weekend several months ago and realized I never blogged about it!  I was feeling crafty, made a quick trip to Michael's, and was inspired by many pictures on Pinterest over the years and Mrs. Ali Madsen posting her projects.  I didn't follow any directions, but the project is quite simple to figure out! 

Head to your local craft store (Hobby Lobby, Michael's, etc) and pick up your monogram letter {or your whole name or surname}.  I purchased a thin wood "O" for about $4.99 at Michael's.  It is probably about a foot tall.  While there, I also got the roll of jute cord pictured below.  I believe this was closer to 6-7 dollars.  It was 200 feet and I did have a bit left over.  There is also thicker jute, which I might consider for future projects, as this was about the thickness of yarn and it took a long time to cover my letter.

Once you have your supplies, the project just takes a bit of patience and a somewhat steady hand.  Begin with one end of your cording on the back of your letter.  Secure it with a small dab of hot glue.  From there, I unraveled a LOT of cord and cut it off.  That way I didn't have to shove the whole roll of jute through the middle of the "O" every time.  Depending on what letter you have, this may not be an issue. 
My starting point, in the middle of one of the long sides
My itty-bitty hot glue gun
Ravel, ravel, ravel...Be patient!  If you want your letter smooth, you will have to carefully line up each layer.  If you want it criss-cross-funky, your project will likely go much faster.  I ran in to some issues on the "corners" of the "O", so I got a little creative with covering the letter and actually really like the extra character it adds. 
My funky corners

The finished product!

I added a fun scrapbooking flower I also purchased at Michael's. I love the pop of turquoise and the bit of femininity that it adds!  When completed, I tilted this up against a picture frame on top of an old crate that I got for 8$ out junking.  In our new house, I have hanging it on the wall in our bedroom among my gallery pictures.  I love the shabby feel, the fact that I made it myself, it was less than $10, and that I can change it up/dress it up any time I want. 

This is a very easy project than any beginner craftswoman can make!

My Amazing Husband {A Positive Outlook on Marriage}

In the middle of March, my husband and I checked off six years on our calendar...of dating each other.  In the scope of things, it doesn't mean much, but to me, it's worth noting that we have been together for six years and are still massively in love with each other.  In honor of that, I thought I would do a little love-splurge blog so I can remember how fantastic my husband is when I read this thirty years from now!

The first time I was introduced to my now-husband, I thought he looked a bit nerdy and was not interested in the slightest.  When I saw him again two days later, it was love at second sight.  I was 18 and thinking "I hope he sits by me!".  And he did.  And that's where it all began.

For months, I took my friends along to hang out with him.  We went to parties, hangover breakfasts, and hung out a lot, but never alone.  After a few months, I didn't know what to do (I was already in a two year long serious relationship), my two best friends at the time pulled the tough love card.  It was obvious to them what the right decision was, and after a few agonizing days, I made the decision to end my relationship and start to pursue a different type of relationship with my now husband. 

The short story is:  we started dating, got married a little more than 4 years later, and will celebrate two years of being Mr. & Mrs. this June. 

And it's AMAZING.  My husband truly treats me like a princess.  He will rub my feet any time I need it.  He gives me strong hugs when I need them.  He wipes the toilet seat.  He does the COOKING (I know, I'm super lucky!).  He tells me when I look like a grandma.  He lets me go out with my girlfriends.  He listens to me complain.  He is extremely patient with my sometimes horrible and negative attitude.  He is a techy man guru and can fix anything from a Lola-chewed cord to a squeeky wheel.  My friends love him (and one is waiting on cloning him).  He has a fantastic fashion eye and I love shopping with him.  He loves my curly crazy hair.  He researches the heck out of something before we buy it, and it's always worth it.  He will watch girly movies when necessary.  He loves to try new things and take me out of my comfort zone.  Did I mention he's a great chef?!  He always laughs, despite the fact that I am uber-non-hilarious.  He pushes me to be a better person.  He is not a "gamer".  He co-hosts parties when he would rather be in bed.  He helps fold the laundry.  He's a good driver.  He encourages me.  He is successful and passionate about his work.  He never gets tired of me.

I feel very lucky to have found my man at the age of 18.  I really can't imagine the things I would have done in the past six years without him.  Likely, they would not have been great things and I definitely would not be the person I am today.  I give a lot to our relationship and I love the fact that we can spend a whole weekend together and never get tired of each other.  We can spend a Sunday in bed watching television and eating waffles and enjoy every minute together.  In fact, we generally spend a lot of time together and I still love it!

I am 100% still falling for this guy.  My husband.  I am incredibly satisfied with what my life has become as Mrs. Olson and truly would not trade it for anything!

Make sure you are marrying the man of your dreams.  The man that will always comfort and encourage you.  The man that will do the laundry when you're sick.  The man that will make the kids breakfast so you can sleep in.  The man that will take you to Italy for your birthday.  You get the not settle for someone less than your dream guy.  He is out there, I promise.