Friday, June 29, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

Let me start this post by saying that I am not a naturalist, environmentalist, ecologist, preservationist, or any other "ist" you can name.  Sure, I do my little part in trying to save the Earth.  I recycle some, turn off lights that I'm not using, and try to save gas by not making unnecessary trips to town.  Well, that's mostly because gas is so expensive, but still.  However, I'm not one of those people who needs things to be "all natural."  I am the type of person, though, that doesn't like her washing machine and clothes to stink!  If you have a front loading washer, you probably know that they can get stinky due to mold/mildew buildup if not cleaned (can I get an amen sister on that?).  If you didn't know that they need cleaned, then your family might be walking around in stinky clothes.   I'm not doing a tutorial on how to clean your washer.  There's tons of advice out on the web already like here and here.  Basically, it all has to do with liquid soap build up in the rubber ring that seals the door and not letting the washer dry out between uses.  In my quest to get a nice smelling washing machine (and clothes!), I found that many people recommended using homemade laundry detergent.  I was desperate because after weeks of using every cleaning tip I could find, my washer still left clothes smelling not too fresh.  I scoured the internet for homemade detergent recipes.  There's a bajillion out there.  Ok, maybe not a bajillion, but a million.  You can also find recipes for both liquid and powder detergents.  I opted for powder.  Basically, I combined different recipes until I got something that works for me.  Here's my recipe:

Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 Cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1 Cup Borax
1 Bar Fels Naptha laundry soap
1/2 Cup Purex Crystals (optional)

The first step and the most difficult part of this whole thing is to grate the Fels Naptha soap.  You can generally find this in the grocery store detergent aisle.  I know HyVee in my town has it, not sure about Wal-Mart.  I've seen other recipes that use Zote or Ivory soap bars.  I forgot to take a picture of the soap bar so you can see what it looks like.  It's a dark yellow color.  Here's what it looks like when grated:

I grate it using the smallest holes.  This process can get old quick if you're just standing at a counter grating away.  I just use a large bowl and grate it in the living room while watching TV.  Before you know it, you're done!  BE CAREFUL!  I've had quite a few scraped knuckles while grating soap!  I generally make a double batch so I grate two bars at one sitting.  

After you're done grating the soap, mix in the Borax, washing soda, and Purex (if you're using it).  The Purex Crystals are to add a bit of fresh scent to the laundry.  Honestly, I can't tell a big difference when I use them so I'm probably going to omit them from now on.  That's it!  You now have your very own homemade laundry detergent.

I store mine, for now, in one of those gallon, plastic ice cream tubs with a lid.  Just one batch lasts quite a long time.  Unfortunately, I haven't kept track of how many loads of laundry I get out of one batch.  I'm going to try to do that with this batch.  I made a double batch last time and it lasted for several months.  Here's possibly the best news....this is cheap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You only use 2 Tablespoons per load.  Let me repeat that... 2 Tablespoons per load!!!!!!  Here's my costs:

Borax (76 oz box) $3.39 at Target
Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (55 oz box) $3.34 at HyVee
Fels Naptha (1 bar) $1.33 at HyVee
Purex Crystals $4.79 at Target

Total:  $12.85 (and everything but the Fels Naptha will make multiple batches!)

I've only purchased 1 box of Borax so far and made about 5 batches.  I still have enough to make probably 1 or 2 more.
I got 4 batches out of the washing soda.  I just bought a new box for this double batch.

I tried to break down the cost per batch and here's what I got:
$2.07 per batch (without the Purex) that will last at least a month - depending on your number of loads of course.  If you use the Purex, that might bump it up to $2.75 or so.  How much is Tide HE?  Like $12 or $13 a bottle?  Speaking of HE, yes this is safe for HE washers as well as regular washers.  The reason you have to buy HE detergent for your front loader is because it's a low suds formula.  These ingredients are low suds as well.  

I also don't use liquid fabric softener much anymore.  I add vinegar to the softener dispenser.  It helps soften clothes and takes any lingering smells out of clothes (like sweaty gym or work clothes, or towels that teenagers leave in a heap on the floor).  I then put a Bounce sheet in the dryer. 

So, the bottom line is that I use the homemade detergent because it's cheap, keeps my washer clean and fresh, and my clothes smell clean (not moldy, or perfumey - is that a word?)  Oh, and it cleans as well as Tide.  I won't say it cleans better, but it does the same job.  

Whew!  I didn't know this post was going to be this long.  If you have any questions, post a comment, or shoot me an email.  

~Happy Laundry

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Animals, Tacos and Muffins, Oh My!

I was a busy little girl yesterday!  Spent some time at Wildlife Prairie Park on a beautiful, sunny, perfect 80 degree day!  The animals were out and about and I got a few good pictures.

When I got home, it was great to have dinner ready in the crockpot.  I have made this before so I know it's delicious!  Crockpot Chicken Tacos.  I got it off of Pinterest, of course. :)  

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

1 envelope Taco Seasoning
6 pieces Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 16-ounce jar Salsa

Dump everything into a crock pot and give it a little stir to blend the seasoning with the salsa. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. When done, the chicken should shred easily when stirred with a fork.

I follow the recipe, basically.  I do two layers of chicken breasts though and put some seasoning and salsa on each layer.  I cooked it on low for 6 hours.  There is quite a bit of liquid in pot after cooking so I remove the chicken when it's done and shred it in a bowl.  It shreds very easily with a spatula or fork.  Then I dispose of most of the liquid, keeping about 1/2 cup.  Then I put the chicken back in the crockpot with the reserved liquid and keep it warm until it's ready to be served.  

I served it with traditional taco fixings.  I actually like these chicken tacos much better than regular beef tacos now.  :)  My family all says they taste great, too so it's not just me!

So, since I had extra time before dinner because of using the crock pot, I made some brownies, or cookies, or muffins, it's hard to tell! lol!  You'll understand in a minute.  My wonderful friend, Nicole, brought this dessert to our last book club.  She found it on Pinterest, but it's hard to tell who to give the original credit to because the pin doesn't really take you to a website.  I made it for my family yesterday and it seems that it's been a huge success!  I wasn't sure what exactly to call them either because there's not really a title to the pin.  It does say "awesomeness in a pan" but I wasn't sure if that was supposed to be the name.  I originally thought about calling them Crack Muffins because they're that good!  I settled for OMG! Muffins.  So really, if you make them, call them whatever you want.  They are EASY!!!!!!!!  I could basically just show the pictures and I bet you could figure it out. :)

Make sense?  

OMG! Muffins

1 pkg. Pillsbury pull apart chocolate chip cookies
1 pkg. brownie mix (mix according to package directions)
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (24 if you're making that many)

Grease muffin pan
Flatten 1 cookie in bottom of each muffin well
Put one peanut butter cup on top of the cookie dough
Cover peanut butter cup with brownie batter - I used my new Pampered Chef medium scoop to put about 2 tablespoons of batter on top.  

I baked them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until the brownie looked done on top.  It was a little difficult to get some of them out of the pan in tact because the peanut butter cup layer wanted to fall apart.  I have to think though, that even if they came out in one big blob, they'd still taste delicious!  I don't think they turned out too bad though.

At book club, we had them with ice cream.  I ate one last night with a glass of milk.  I highly recommend them either way. :)

You're welcome!


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Friday, June 22, 2012

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan

It's a keeper!  4 out of 5 stars from Kelin and me (the others weren't available for opinion polling at time of this post).  It's so easy and delicious.  I got the recipe from the Chef in Training blog.  It's actually a pretty good blog with tons of recipes.
Here's the recipe as she has it on the website:

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t kosher salt
1 TBSP olive oil
1 egg, beaten
sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese (I bought a 2 Cup bag of shredded)
favorite jarred marinara sauce

Spread the 1 TBSP of olive oil into the bottom of your crockpot stoneware insert.
Beat the egg with a fork in a separate bowl.
Mix the bread crumbs with the seasonings and the Parmesan cheese in another separate dish.
Dip the chicken into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides with crumbs, cheese and seasonings.
Place the chicken breast pieces in the bottom of the crockpot.
Layer 2-3 slices or 1-2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top, depending on how much cheese you like.
Cover chicken and cheese with entire jar of marinara sauce.
Close lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4.
Serve with your favorite pasta. ( I used bow tie because that's what I had in the cupboard)

I did follow the directions, mostly.  Of course I used a crockpot liner though! L.O.V.E. those things!  I think I had about 8 chicken breasts.  Because of using that much chicken, I had to layer it.  I coated the first three chicken breasts and put them on the bottom.  Then I poured about 1/3 of the marinara sauce over the chicken followed by 1/3 of the shredded mozarella.  I made three layers total ending up with marinara and mozarella on top.  I cooked it on high for about 5 hours but should have turned it off at 4 or 4.5 hours.  (I got busy and forgot about it).  I didn't take pictures because I was busy getting ready for my book club that night.  This is the picture from her website and it basically looks the same.  Mine has more cheese on top though. :)

So if you need a delicious crockpot meal, give this one a go!

Dawn Pin It

Thursday, June 21, 2012

10 Things I Want To Do Before I Die

Do you ever see or hear about something and think, "I want to do that someday?"  After all, don't we all have a bucket list these days?  I've been more places than I ever thought I would and been able to do so many fun and exciting things!  There's always more to do though.  So I guess you could call this my bucket list, in pictures.

         1.  Swim with the dolphins

    2.  Skydive

    3.  Experience class IV/V rapids (I've done class III)

         4.  Visit the west coast (only coast I haven't seen yet)

    5.  Sit in the main grandstand to watch the  Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade

    6.  Kiss my husband at midnight in Times Square (IF I could get him there!)

    7.  See the Egyptian Pyramids

    8.  Take a ride in a hot air balloon

    9.  Learn to play the drums

    10.  Drive through the continental 48 states, on back roads

    ~Peace and love

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Breakfast Omelette Muffins

I have been making this recipe for awhile now but just getting around to adding it to the blog.  I got the recipe from this site but made some minor changes.

Breakfast Omelette Muffins

1lb. Italian sausage (whatever flavor you prefer)
1 Cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
8 large eggs
1/4 Cup milk (or half and half)
1/2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2.  In a large saute pan, brown sausage over medium heat until cooked.  Remove from heat.
3.  Stir in mushrooms (may cook on low for a few minutes to soften mushrooms)
4.  Whisk together eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and baking powder.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
5.  Lightly spray 12 cupcake pan with Pam.  Spoon the sausage and mushroom mixture into each cup, dividing evenly.
6.  Ladle egg mixture over sausage and mushrooms
7.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese
8.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Edges will be slightly browned when done.

They are so easy and so delicious!  They get 5 out of stars from everyone here.  As you can see, I used mushrooms when the original recipe calls for broccoli.  You could add about anything you wanted to in there...bacon, peppers, spinach, different cheeses.  I actually add the parmesan (a handful) to the egg mixture instead of sprinkling on top.  During the school year, I make a batch and keep them in the fridge so Kelin can just pop one in the microwave for a minute (or less) and have a good, but fast, breakfast.  They will last covered in the fridge for several days.  I've even taken them for my lunch on occasion.  I haven't tried freezing them so I don't know how that would work.  Make sure you use a good, non-stick pan to bake them in though.  The first time I made them I used an old cupcake pan.  Even though I sprayed each cup, they stuck like crazy!  I soaked, scrubbed, and washed that pan off and on for over a week and never did get all the egg off of it!  I bought a brand new Wilton pan and it's great!  The muffins pop right out.  Happy eating!

~Peace and love

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Epic Fail Dessert

At first, I wasn't even going to post about this recipe because it was so awful.  Then I remembered that one of my goals here was to try recipes and let you, my wonderful readers, know the real scoop on them - good and bad.  So, without further ado, I give you Orange Cream Freezer Dessert.

Orange Cream Freezer Dessert Recipe


  • 4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 3-1/2 quarts vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 2 cans (12 ounces each) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed


  • In a bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar; stir in butter. Set aside 2 cups for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture into two greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. pans. Cover and freeze for at least 10 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine ice cream and orange juice concentrate until smooth. Spoon over crusts (pans will be full). Freeze for 10 minutes or until partially firm.
  • Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture; gently press down. Cover and freeze for up to 2 months. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving. Yield: 2 desserts (24 servings each).
Sounds good in theory.  I LOVE to make Orange Crush floats!  I like orange sherbert.  I even like the orange twist ice cream cones you get some places so it stands to reason that I should like this.  However,  this was pretty nasty tasting.  If you happen to be the originator of this recipe, I'm truly sorry, but it's the truth in my house.  I cut the recipe in half (thank, God!) to just make one pan.  Bottom line:  it was waaaay too orangey (is that word??)!  It was totally inedible.  Lance and tried to choke it down, but no go.  If you really want to try making it, I'd suggest adding the OJ a couple of ounces at a time and tasting as you go.  If you find a combination that works, let me know.  I really wanted to like this recipe.  Oh well, my first crummy recipe.  It was bound to happen sooner or later.


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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Yard Swing Redo

So I had this crappy looking swing in my yard.

The pictures don't even do it justice.  I've had this swing for probably 10 years or so and it was pretty ratty.  I had also repainted the frame when I took this picture.  It was rusty in a few spots so I gave it a little sanding, bought some spray paint and gave it a good two coats.  I wanted to just buy new cushions for it, but I couldn't find any.  No store in this town had bench replacement cushions!  So my inner Martha said, "Go ahead, Dawn.  You can do it.  You can sew some new cushions for that swing."  Sometimes my inner Martha has a pretty big ego that thinks she can do anything crafty.  And sometimes her ego gets kicked in the ass pretty good when she gets in the middle of a project and realizes she absolutely CAN'T do it!  So I was thinking this is one of those times, but what choice did I have?  So the hunt began for new fabric.  There were a couple of fabrics at JoAnn crafts I liked, but I was going to Springfield to visit my niece (and brother and sister-in-law too of course!) and thought I'd look at Hancock Fabrics while I was there.  Isn't my niece adorable???? :)

Anyway, I found some great fabric that was almost exactly what I wanted, and it was on sale for 50% off so I got it for $10/yard!  Score!  Then I had to get some foam insert.  Do you have any idea how freaking expensive foam is???????????  I only got 1 inch thick foam and it was $16.99/yard!!!!!!  Thankfully, I had a 50% off coupon for JoAnn's because I needed 4 yards.  Altogether, I spent around $65 for supplies.  Not real cheap, but it would have been much worse without all the discounts!

Now I was ready to begin...

Inner Martha thinks she's a sewing genius.  She's not.

I can't really provide a tutorial on how I did this because I basically just roughly measured the swing, then fabric, pinned it together, started sewing, and hoped for the best.  I'm not real patient when I sew, but things seem to turn out somehow.  The fabric ended up being looser around the foam than I wanted, but other than that, it actually came out pretty good!

Not too bad, huh?  Inner Martha got all smug when they actually turned out.  I'll have to give her credit this time.  She did pretty good.  They're not professional quality by any means but good enough for my back yard.  I'm most excited about the stripes matching up!  I can't believe they line up so perfect!  I also had a strip of leftover fabric and a big bag of fiberfill from another project so I made two throw pillows. 

I'm totally happy with the results!  It only took me about 2 hours to make the bench cushions from start to finish.  The pillows probably took another 45 minutes or so.  My next sewing project is going to be curtains for the playhouse that cute little niece in the picture has in her back yard.  I'm looking forward to that one!
I think I'll go sit in my swing and enjoy my back yard for awhile.



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Friday, June 15, 2012

Pineapple Lemonade Punch

I had a little partaaaaay here a couple of nights ago.  Thanks to my girlfriends for spending a fun evening on our patio!  For drinks, I made a Pineapple Lemonade Punch that I had pinned awhile back and the Pampered Chef Cucumber Mojitos.  I know!  Cucumber?  They are seriously good though!  However, I'm focusing this post on the punch.  The recipe is from this blog.  I made it as directed below, but ended up adding 2 more cans of Sprite and a few tablespoons more lemonade mix to make it go a little farther.  It was delicious and I got several compliments on it!  I even added a small shot of Barcardi rum to a glass and that made it all the better! :)  I totally forgot to take any pictures of it though!  Must remember to do that next time!  It looked pretty much like it does on the website except for the ice cubes.  I made the punch several hours ahead of time and then froze some of it in a round silicon mold similar to this one.  When it was time for the party to start I popped the frozen punch cubes out of the mold and put them in the punch.    If you're looking for a great summer drink for a party (either with our without rum), I highly recommend this recipe!

Pineapple Lemonade Punch

1 Cup Countrytime Lemonade mix (or whatever brand you like)
2 Cups cold water
1 can chilled pineapple juice (46 oz.)
2 cans chilled Sprite (or any other brand)

Put it all in a punch bowl and mix.  Slice up a lemon to dress it up a bit.  That's it!  Simple and delicious!  If you'd like a more grown up version, I would suggest adding Barcardi Rum starting with 1 cup, tasting, and adding more as you like.  Be careful not to test too much before your party starts though! :)


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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

10 Things I've Tried to Teach My Boys

I have the most wonderful sons ever!  They're kind, considerate, responsible, and of course handsome! :)  I hope I've taught them well and raised them right.  There are many things I hope they've learn through the years but here's just some of wisdom I've tried to pass on...

1.  Manners.  Use them!

2.  The kitchen isn't just for girls.

3.  And neither is laundry.

4.  Open doors for strangers.

5.  Home is a safe place both physically and emotionally.

6.  For God's sake, use a condom!

7.  Do what is right for you, not what other's want you to do.

8.  Treat women with respect.  Always.

9.  Know (or learn) how to do things for yourself around the house.

10.  I will always love you, no matter what!


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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

10 Things I'd Save If My House Were On Fire

Here's my latest installment of "Lists of 10."  This list will exclude people simply because saving lives is not even comparable to saving stuff.  Obviously, there is not one thing in my house that I would save before the precious lives of my husband and kids!  These are the things that, given 5 minutes, I would rush back into my house to save in a fire.  I didn't put them in any particular order.  All of these items have special meaning to me.

1.  All the scrapbooks that I have spent countless hours compiling.  Not sure I could even get these all out of the house in 5 minutes!

2.  My grandma's prayer book.

3.  Kenny and Kelin's baby boxes. Technically, that's 2 items, but how could I save one and not the other???

4.  Box of cards and special letters I've gotten over the years.

5.  My great grandma's heart shaped perfume pin.

6.  My mom's charm bracelet.

7.  Lance's wedding ring.  He doesn't wear it because of his job.  Almost tore his finger off once so that was the end of that.

8.  Lance's dad's watch.

9.  Little Bo Peep book that I had when I was a little girl.

10.  My dresser because it came from my grandma's house.



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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Grilled Potatoes and Zucchini

I have found a new favorite for the grill!  This was so easy and it turned out delicious.  You could do it on the grill or in the oven.  We didn't want to heat up the house with the oven so we opted for the grill.  I used a link that I pinned, but it didn't really have the full recipe so I improvised.

2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into large pieces
2 lbs small red potatoes, cut into chunks
2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and put in a foil pan and cover that with foil.  Cook on the grill for about 45 min.    That's it! Everyone thought they tasted great.

Looks good already

Hot off the grill!

I topped mine off with a little shredded Parmesan! Yum! 

The only thing I might change is to keep the zucchini out and add it 20 minutes  after the potatoes started cooking.  They were a little too done for my taste.  They were the perfect compliment to our t-bone steak! :)


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Friday, June 1, 2012

Laundry Room Redo!

I am starting an exciting new project for the summer!!!!!  After living here for about 22 years, I'm finally going to redo the laundry room!  Even when we completely gutted and remodeled this house in 2000 we didn't touch the front entry/laundry room.  No one uses the front door and we're the only ones who see the laundry room (well, I certainly see the laundry room daily - don't know about the rest of the family!).  The space was originally just a closed in front porch with windows across the whole front.  In about 1993, we closed off all the windows, except 2, and moved the washer and dryer up from the basement.  The next change we made was to add a wall and break the space up into an entry way for the front door and a laundry/storage room in the back.  I made a lame attempt to redo the spaces once or twice, but failed miserably as you will soon see.  So now I've got the itch and I'm ready to update and redecorate!  I've decided that if I'm going to do most of the laundry, I want a nice place to do it in.  Besides, the space is completely wasted!  There could be so much more storage than we have now.  It's basically a blank slate right now.  I have some ideas and am working on a plan.  I'm expecting this to take all summer and I'll update as I go.  So, it's time to get started....

Before I show you these pictures, just know that I never clean this room.  Maybe once a year I'll straighten it up and sweep it, but that's about it.  I also didn't tidy it up for the pictures.  I wanted you to get the full effect.  Well, I did take down my bras that had been hanging to dry.  No one needs their bras hanging out on the internet.  They're mostly utilitarian anyway and not real pretty to look at.  No more fancy lace and satin numbers around here.  (sorry, honey!)

You can see in the picture above that we did hang some drywall on one of the walls and the ceiling at one time.  We never finished it though.  The other two walls are still the old wood siding that's been on the house forever.  We put down the subflooring a couple of years ago so at least that's already done.

This corner is totally wasted space!  There are some shelves back there, but still not being used well.  As you can see, we also have a large upright freezer that takes up a lot of space.  It currently has about 500 lbs. of frozen meat in it, too.  Not sure how we're going to move that thing around right now!

There are only two windows.  This also shows another poorly utilized corner.

There's the wall Lance put up.  We never finished it either.  In this picture, you can see a window on the left. There's another one behind that shelf in the back corner.  These windows originally went into our living and dining rooms inside the house until we did the remodel in 2000.  The builders were supposed to remove them.  We all forgot about it and didn't realize it until about a year after the remodel was done.  So they're still there.  We're going to have to get them covered or something.  We have to be careful though because the only thing on the other side of the window pane is the drywall in our living room.  I really don't want to have to pay someone to fix our living room drywall!!!!!

I do have some ideas.  If you're on Pinterest, I have a laundry room board that I've been adding to.  Here's things I know I want:

counter top
more storage
bead board walls
fun colors!
un-stack the washer and dryer

I won't be spending a fortune on this redo.  Hoping to get it all done for less than $1,000.  I do want it to look nice, but in reality, it is still a laundry/storage room and there's no point in getting crazy.  So, I plan to use more inexpensive materials and find bargains (I hope!).  Besides, anything would be an improvement over what it is now!

I have some color ideas and I'm trying to narrow it down...

I love these colors.  They seem a little retro to me and are like nothing else I have in my home.  I'm actually beginning to loathe all my home decor.  It's too dark.  I want to go lighter.  Hopefully a living room redo is in the near future, too.  Anyway, I'm thinking seafoam for the walls and coral/khaki for accents.  I had pretty much settled on these colors when I found this color combo at Sherwin Williams.  Scroll down to see the swatches.  Maybe watery on the walls and gray/yellow/begonia for accents.  I like the swatch I have better than how they look online.  

Whew!  That's enough for now.  I'll let you know when I take the first big step and get started.  Thanks for reading this enormously long post! :)


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