Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Couch & DIY Pillows

Our apartment finally has a new couch!
About a month ago we finally bit the bullet and decided to finance a new sofa to replace the old, dingy couch I inherited from my parents when I first moved to Michigan. So when an awesome sale was taking place at Art Van (like, every week), we picked out a new couch to have a nicer, newer and more comfortable couch to lounge on.

The downside? We had to special order our new couch (the only color they had available immediately was some weird green-khaki shade), which meant waiting up to eight weeks for it to arrive in-store and be delivered. Bummer.

Lucky us, though, our new couch arrived in about half the estimated time! So now our living room looks like this:

So much better than it looked with the old couch. (By the way, I explained the mirrors earlier this week).

As for the old couch, we opted not to get rid of it immediately and moved it into our second bedroom/office. Plus, we didn't have to lug the old couch out to the dumpster or figure out how to get it to Goodwill (there's no way that beast could fit in a normal car).

But back to our new couch. We love gray, but not that much, so we needed something to bring some life into the color palate. I had some extra fabric lying around that I had picked up from the clearance aisle at Jo-Ann's awhile back, so I used that to whip up some pillows.
This was my first attempt at sewing my own pillows, and it was so incredibly easy. I didn't use any tutorial or a pattern - I just measured out 4 equal pieces of my remaining fabric to make two small pillows. Pretty simple!
I used this tutorial to sew an "invisible" seam to close up the pillows.

The pillows aren't perfect looking, but they're pretty comfortable and add a nice pop of color to our giant gray couch.
Making these pillows gave me more confidence in my ability to sew in a straight line, so now I feel like I'm ready to tackle a more involved project. I definitely have plenty of ideas floating around on my Pinterest boards right now, so I just need to get started!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mirror(s), Mirror(s)

Drew and I have been busy redecorating our living room lately: new couch, DIY pillows and a fun mirror project. I'll get to the couch and pillows later this week, but for now let's talk about the mirrors.

Of course I found inspiration for this project on Pinterest. I found this pin a few months ago, and we've been hoping to implement something similar in our apartment ever since.

We loved that the project used simple back-of-the-door mirrors and would be super cheap, especially compared to a larger mirror that would take up the same amount of space.

Hanging up three mirrors on a wall seems pretty simple, so why did it take us somewhere around 4 months to finally get this project accomplished? Well, we didn't want to hang up plain mirrors. Sure, they look great in the picture and would look great on our walls as well, but we wanted to add a personal touch.

Our second inspiration for our project came from quite a few sources, but the one that helped us out the most was (of course) Bower Power. Katie added a stenciled pattern around a window, and we loved the idea enough to try it on our mirror project.

We like the look of frosted glass stencils, and Katie had nice, thorough instructions for us to follow. We basically did the exact same thing she did with her window with almost the exact same products.

Frost effect paint and stencil sponge brushes by Martha Stewart, purchased at Michaels.
Originally we planned to put the mirrors above the dresser in our bedroom, so we picked up a floral stencil from Michael's that coordinated really well with our bedding. By the time we got around to actually tackling this project, though, we changed our minds and decided to put the mirrors in our living room instead. So the floral stencil had to be replaced.

Drew came up with the awesome idea to use a skyline as our pattern, so he printed out a picture of the London skyline and cut out the image with an exacto knife to create a stencil. (Why London? No real reason, but it is the only foreign city we've both been to - although not at the same time).

The project was super straight-forward after that. We taped the stencil in place and used our stencil brush to lightly layer on the frosted paint (we ended up doing two layers of paint). After the paint dried we peeled off the tape, and were finished!
Well, except for actually hanging up the mirrors, which was a little tougher. A little piece of advice: when using 3M velro strips to hang up a mirror, do not put all of your body weight into the back of the mirror. It will crack, and it will be tragic. Plus, you'll have to delay finishing your project so you can pick up a new mirror at Target. Not that I'd know any of this from experience or anything...

Anyway, we relied on good old trial and error to map out where we wanted our mirrors to hang and where to place the velcro strips. There is probably a simpler way to hang up mirrors in an evenly spaced pattern than using pencil marks, rulers and guessing, but eventually we figured everything out and now have three mirrors hanging next to our brand new couch in the living room.

We still have a lot of rearranging/redecorating to do in our living room (and our apartment in general), but we think things are coming together pretty well so far. Our mirrors make the room feel bigger and brighter, and we love how they turned out.

Don't forget to check back later this week for a recap in my adventures in pillow-making.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pinterest Challenge: Felt Coasters

Young House Love and Bower Power issued another Pinterest Challenge last week, and I couldn't resist the chance to tackle another project on my ever-growing DIY inspiration board. (For my previous Pinterest Challenge project entry, click here. Or check out my Pinterest boards for more ideas).

My contribution to this season's challenge: modular felt coasters.
Originally Drew and I planned to tackle a mirror project we've been considering for months, but we opted to spend our weekend loafing about instead of stenciling mirrors, so I'll have to share that project another day.

Getting back to the felt coasters, though, I ran across this tutorial on How About Orange yesterday morning, and knew this was the perfect project. I've been considering making some felt coasters anyway, and these are a quick, no-sew project. Perfect!

The best part about this project is that the finished product looks so much more complicated than it really is, and everything comes together so quickly. Start to finish, I probably spent about 10 minutes making 4 coasters. These would be a great little gift or stocking stuffer since they're easy, quick and cheap to make but still look cute.

For this project, I only needed two sheets of felt to make four coasters. I chose hot pink and gray since we don't plan on using these coasters in our living room and I wanted something fun.

Using the template available on How About Orange, I used my new rotary cutter to cut out eight slotted pieces per coaster.
The pieces all interlock (similar to how you fold the sides of a box over to keep it shut), leaving this:
The final step is to cut each "arrow" at an angle for a cute finished product. See, I said this project was insanely simple!
Of course I can't end this post without a big thanks to How About Orange for the excellent tutorial and template (she also has a template for a larger version here).

So that's my Pinterest challenge project! Hopefully Drew and I will get around to those stenciled mirrors soon so I can have another fun DIY project to post.

Anyone else participate in the Pinterest challenge? What projects are on your to-do list?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Recipe Review: Broccoli-Cheese Soup

A couple weeks ago I made a batch of broccoli-cheese soup, using a recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

Drew and I have been craving broccoli-cheese soup for a while now, so I searched the internet for simple, delicious-looking recipes. I should have known the Pioneer Woman would deliver.

The recipe was super easy to follow and didn't take too long either. I followed her recipe exactly, except I used skim milk in place of whole, frozen broccoli instead of fresh and omitted the nutmeg (can you believe our giant spice rack we got as a wedding gift doesn't have nutmeg in it?).

The steps were pretty simple: chop up an onion, throw it in a pot with a bunch of dairy, add broccoli, simmer, add cheese and eat.
Three cups of cheese is... a lot of cheese.
Somewhere in between "add broccoli" and "eat" things got a little crazy. I don't know if it was the extra water from the skim milk and frozen broccoli, high heat or something else entirely, but the whole mixture just sort of separated. It was not attractive.

Not only that, but we just weren't getting the cheesy taste we wanted. I originally added three cups of cheese according to my measuring cup, but the soup just tasted like cream of broccoli so we doubled the amount of cheese.
According to a handy measurement converter magnet we have, the double amount of cheese was only two cups in ounces. So either we added twice as much cheese as the recipe called for, or not quite enough. Either way, the soup still wasn't as cheesy as we hoped it would be. Does anyone know if you're supposed to measure cheese in ounces or not? Why such a weird discrepancy in amounts?

After all that, we spooned the soup into our blender in batches to chop everything up a bit and try to remedy our separation problem. No such luck on binding things together better, but at least it looked a little nicer (although not nice enough for me to take a picture - I was pretty over this recipe at that point).

The verdict: While the soup still tasted fine (but not great), it looked absolutely disgusting even after blending. I wish I would've read the comments beforehand to see that many people experienced what I did: separated milk and not enough cheesy taste. Unfortunately this recipe is not a keeper for us.

I'll be honest, we're probably not going to eat all of this stuff (we have a bunch of it in our freezer right now). I'm not exactly sure what went wrong with the recipe, since plenty of other commenters said the soup came out perfectly for them. Maybe subbing skim milk for whole made that much of a difference? I don't know. Oh, well. I guess we're just going to have to go with store-bought the next time we want broccoli-cheese soup.

Has anyone else tried any new recipes lately? I need some ideas!