Saturday, August 30, 2008

If You Build It, They Will Come.

Tammy is a good friend of mine from Amarillo. She moved to Austin a few years before I did and is doing a wonderful job as CEO of Make-A-Wish here. Shortly after I started my new job, she had this to say. "Sandra, you know how in Amarillo, out-of-town friends and relatives would say they'd come visit but never would?" I agreed. She then said, "In Austin, people will tell you they'll come visit, and they do." She was so right!

As you know, we are turning our front room into a guest room, anxiously awaiting the arrival of dear friend, Lisa, in October. Today's the day, hubby, son and I will be moving the behemoth of a computer armoire into our media room. I sure hope no one ruptures anything. Like a disc or a hernia. LOL

I've decided to give up the Ralph Lauren Guinevere in favor of a new look.

What do you think? I wouldn't have even known about it if I hadn't received a Linen Source catalog a few weeks ago. The walls are already a light, beigy neutral, which can stay. I may paint the trim black, but we'll see. See this little desk?

I've already painted it black, and it will stand in as a bedside table.

I think the gate headboard I used in Amarillo will work great, too.

This armoire used to be in our Amarillo master, too. It housed a TV, but we'll rework it to hold hanging clothes.

This little dresser will be the other bedside table.

The room needs doors, and to save on space, I think we're just going to install sliding panel doors like you'd normally see on a closet. We considered French doors but feel they'll swing out too far.

What do you think? Is this a room you'd like to stay in?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Keepin' It Weird

Austin has a slogan -- "Keep Austin Weird." The "weirdness" of Austin had me a bit wary before our move, but I find Austin more quirky than weird, and I like the quirkiness. One of the things (or people, I should say) that makes Austin quirky is Leslie. It's been a while since I've seen him, but my husband sees him frequently. In a thong and on a bike -- Leslie, not my husband. :-) I was surprised to see a CL ad from Leslie.

Leslie YES THE LESLIE is looking for (MUST BE OPEN MINDED)
a place to live in exchange for his handyman services which include tile, landscaping, painting, electrical, dog sitting, house sitting, etc.
So if you have a extra room, vacant house, garage apartment, or a shed,
and this ad interests you please feel free to email me and we can go for there.

We don't have an extra bedroom or a guest house, so we won't be responding to Leslie's ad.

Speaking of weird, today's Michael Jackson's 50th birthday. No commentary needed. Happy Birthday, Michael, and Happy Friday to all!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I've been feeling a little more domestic these days. Perhaps it's because I crave structure, and when school's in session, there's no other way to get around the limited time at home other than to have meals planned out, grocery shopping done, and dinner on time.

I thought I'd share a few tips for planning dinners during a hectic school and work week.

A favorite at our house is grilled chicken. I buy the frozen chicken breasts from WalMart. They're wonderful marinated in bottled Italian dressing and then thrown on the grill. You can serve them on their own, but we like to chop them up and include them in various dishes, such as:

Pasta Alfredo -- any kind of pasta, and if you don't make your own sauce, the bottled versions from Bertoli are pretty great.

Quesadillas -- Kind of like a grilled cheese with flour tortillas, throw on some grated cheddar or cheddar/jack cheese and any kind of veggies (mushrooms, peppers, green chilies, tomatoes, etc.) and even a little bacon, if you want.

King Ranch Casserole -- There are quite a few different versions of this, and I'll post my favorite soon.

Chicken Tettrazini -- Another family favorite recipe, which I'll post soon, if you don't have your own recipe.

Another quick and easy dinner is this yummy Mexican beef casserole. It was a family favorite when I was growing up, and now my kids like it, too.

Brown 2 pounds of ground beef. Drain off fat.
Mix meat with 1 can cream of mushroom soup, a bottle of salsa (or picante sauce)and tortilla chips.
Top with grated cheese and cook for 30-45 mins. at 350.

I didn't have a full jar of salsa, so I added a can of Rotel tomatoes (drained). You could also add red enchilada sauce, a can of chopped green chilies, etc.

Before I start my commute home, I'll have my 12-year-old daughter pop the dish in the oven, and it should be ready right around the time I get home. We'll add a fresh salad and some cantaloupe and have a nice dinner -- on time.

It's not even lunch time, and I'm already getting hungry for dinner!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Home of the Week

Like the rest of the country, there's no shortage of homes for sale in the Austin area. Unfortunately, however, it is difficult to find listings that have lots of pictures, especially good ones. I was delighted when I came across this home and saw that there were quite a few pictures, although it would've been nice to see the master bedroom and bath. (As always, click on pics for larger views).

What did you think of that wine room? I wouldn't mind opening up a bottle of red zin in that room.

This home is located near Lake Travis and listed at $7,250,000. With 17,046 square feet, there are 10 bedrooms, six full baths, and four half baths. Oh, and it sits on nearly 13 acres. There's even a helipad!

What do you think? Could you see yourself living here?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

Well, today's the day to reveal our teen rooms. Were you up to the challenge? To recap the rules, the budget was $1000 with an additional $200 to spend on things like paint, tools, etc. The room starts with a mattress set, two bed pillows and one set of plain, white sheets. Size of mattress is up to the decorator.

Sharon at Serendipity has completed the challenge. I'm wondering if she'll get to implement that room in real life with her cutie of a daughter, Kathleen.

And without further ado, here is my teen girl's French room with a contemporary flair...

Walls painted black in a satin finish WalMart paint -- $10/gallon x 2 ($20).

Vintage French provincial furniture, includes bed, dresser, chest and two nightstands -- Austin's Craigslist $600. Painted high-gloss white -- WalMart paint $10
Back headboard in hot pink pleather fabric (padded with fiberfill). Fabric -- 2yds. Ebay $22, incl. shipping Fiberfill $5 locally sourced
WalMart comforter and two shams $45 Free shipping if shipped to local store. I will buy two coordinating sheet sets, using the flat sheets for simple curtain panels. $48 WalMart, free shipping to local store.
The ceiling will be painted pearlescent pink to coordinate with the pleather fabric. $10 WalMart paint, $10 pearlescent glaze locally sourced

IKEA flokati rug $35 Austin Craigslist
Unframed B&W photo of Audrey Hepburn, 16"x20" Austin Craigslist $10
Additional items locally sourced include: a curtain rod and a simple bedskirt for an approximate total of $35.
This is the splurge -- A lovely crystal chandelier, Austin Craigslist $350. And I think I'd want to paint it hot pink to really stand out against the black walls.

Grand total -- $1,000! Yes, I had to pare down a few accessories to afford that awesome chandelier and get to an even $1000, but it was worth it. My daughter loves this room. But not so much that she wants it. LOL She'll stick with her original design. Hopefully you'll get to see the real room soon.

It's not too late to participate in the challenge. Just leave a comment, and I'll link your blog to those at the right. And thanks for all who put together their teen/preteen rooms. Lots of great inspiration!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Three Decorator, Four...

A big thank you to all who participated in the Mission Impossible teen room challenge! You've already seen a couple of really great rooms. Since there are others up on blogs, I'll go ahead and post them a bit shy of Monday's deadline. I tell ya, you people are a bunch of real overachievers! LOL

My good friend, Lisa, at Cakes and Cupboards, has put together a teen room for her son. Lisa has a cool software program that allows her to create rooms, so you'll get to see a virtual room, in addition to the wonderful design elements she came up with.

Also, one of my decorating board friends, Mary (aka soccermom), was inspired to create a blog as a result of this challenge, The Secret Life of a Suburban Soccer Mom, as well as decorate a room for her daughter. So many of us used our own kids and kids' rooms as inspiration, but Mary may be the only one (at least, so far) who's implementing her design for real. Her daughter's one lucky girl!

And bear with me, I have one more room to share. My good cyber-friend, Louise, from Arizona doesn't have a blog, and she put together some fun pieces that any teen would love. Pix and prices are below...

Bed -- IKEA $80
Desk -- Cost Plus $170
Ghost chair -- $330
Bookshelves -- WalMart $63

Chocolate brown, faux suede comforter ($40), purple jersey sheet set ($15), shade ($15)
Accessories include:

Louise adds the following notes:
Vintage looking fan 29.99 at It's small but cute. Retro alarm clock 19.99 at Irregular ribbed natural color paper lantern, the largest sixe 24# diameter, $8.00 at There are some GREAT lanterns there! Test tube vase from They are hanging vases so must have some kinda hanging attachment, but if not, coarsely but tightly wrap some jewelry wire around the top. They are only $2.99. I'd want six. Place a single purple daisy in each and hang at little below eye level horizontally along one wall, largst daisy 7" flower, at is $2.29 each. Ikea steel boxes 2 sets of two $6.99 each. Desk lamp is $23.96 at My total so far with the furniture, the linens and these accessories is $815.00 (I rounded up) so that leaves money for paint.

I'd not paint the walls chocolate; it would be a shade of brown between the chocolate comforter and the natural paper shade but leaning towards chocolate. I'd put the storage boxes on the book shelf, bringing the silver of the bed and other accessories over to the bookcase.

As for the chalkboard paint, on one wall paint a large rectangle, to form a chalkboard (phone numbers, important dates etc can be writing on the board, with purple chalk, of course THAT PURPLE SQUARE is a cube of purple chalks - go to Don't just leave the chalkboad unframed of course, you could paint cheap stock molding from home depot, or I would just paint a free-hand "ornate frame" with silver paint, nothing ornate about it though, I'd just paint long swooping lines and a few swirls or curlyques in a rough childish depiction of a fancy frame, directly on the wall. I can see it in my head, but I'm not describing it well.

We all know a room is never finished, so over time and as budget allows, a nice throw or colorful quilt with lots of purple and brown and other colors would be lovely at the foot of the bed, and a nice framed print, something retroish to go along with the look of the lamp and fan . .

Great job, Louise!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One decorator... Two decorator...

My friend, Linda, over at Lime in the Coconut, has put together her teen room. It's really amazing. Hint: She works in the sectional sofa at the top of this post.

While you're visiting her blog, take some time to read through and take in her beautiful pictures. She always has the best pix.

Thanks, Linda, for participating in Mission Impossible. Heck you came in so far under budget, I may have to make the challenge even harder next time. :-)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blogging ADD

Thank to those who have noticed my blog's new look. I've really just been playing around and am trying out yet another look. I like this one and think I'll stick with it. What do you think?

Decorators on a Mission!

From what I hear, fellow decorators/bloggers are working hard to decorate their teen rooms for the Mission Impossible challenge. I have to say, it was harder than I thought it would be, and I am a budget decorator. I think the hard part was being restricted to just online sources.

Amber at Blue Mango has already completed her challenge, and it's a wonderful room for a teen/pre-teen boy! I love her aesthetics of using ethnic style mixed with funky mod pieces. She definitely set the bar high for the rest of us. Hint: The guitar at the top of this post is the teaser to her teen's room.

It's not too late to participate. Just let me know by Monday, August 25th, so I can link your blog to mine. If you don't have a blog and still want to participate, feel free to e-mail me, so I can post your pics on my blog.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mission Impossible Update

Just a few clarifications for all you daring participants in this week's Mission Impossible. The $1000 includes furniture, bedding, rugs, lighting -- anything you'd need to outfit a teen's room. The room can be for a boy or a girl, and that boy or girl can be real or fictitious.

You can use any online sources, including CL and Ebay, as long as you include pricing and shipping/delivery, if necessary.

I may include my daughter's "real" room along with the room I'd like for her to have.

Have fun creating your virtual room!

Edited to add: A mattress set, two sleep pillows and one set of plain, white sheets are included with your room -- outside the $1000. Included in the $1000: fabric, bedding, window treatments, lighting, furniture, rugs, and accessories. You have an additional $200 to spend on paint, primer, additional bed pillows, drapery hardware, sewing notions, such as trim and pillow inserts (fabric is included in the initial $1000), lamp shade, candles, wood, tools, etc. All of those things can be sourced locally. Will that make things a little easier? I have to say, this is a little harder than I thought it would be, and I'm a girl who decorates on a budget!

Don't forget sources like Overstock, Spiegel, Wal Mart, Sam's, World Market, Penney's, Home Decorators, Lowe's, Home Depot, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Urban Outfitters, and Pier 1.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mission Impossible?

I know I keep teasing about posting pics of my 12-year-old daughter's room, but truth be told, it's not finished. I'm ready to finish the room, but she's wanted a lazy summer. Fine.

When I saw this week's Target ad, my head started swimming with all sorts of fun ideas, and I've decided to open up the ideas to friends and fellow bloggers. This week's mission, should you accept it, is to create a teen/pre-teen room, using only furniture and decor from catalogs and the internet. Your budget is $1000, including shipping. (We won't count tax, since that varies from state to state). If you're in, send me your link by Monday, August 25th to be included. Posts must include pics of your chosen items, as well as prices, including what the shipping would be.

Feel free to share the idea with fellow bloggers. It'll be fun to see what everyone comes up with, and exciting to find out about some internet decor sources we might not already be familiar with!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Roll Call at Chocoholics Anonymous!

I'm Sandra, and I'm a chocoholic. There's no shame in admitting that, is there? I love chocolate candy, chocolate cake, chocolate pie, brownies, ice cream, mousse -- everything chocolate.

Even when it comes time to do a tasting for an upcoming event for the nonprofit I oversee, my bias for chocolate is hard to hide. We're gearing up for a golf tournament, and the night before the tournament, there's a dinner at the Hilton in downtown Austin. (Shameless plug -- their manager is on our board, and they're very, very generous to our chapter).

The Hilton hosted a tasting the other day for the golf dinner, and I just couldn't wait for dessert -- two choices. One was pears in a champagne sauce. That was the one placed in front of me. My manager of special events got the chocolate option. I was insanely jealous, but I never let on. And, honestly, the pears were pretty yummy. We taste-tested each one, though, and there just was no comparison to the chocolate option. I wish I had a picture of the chocolate dish, because the presentation was beautiful and whimsical. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to take a pic of it at the dinner.

We moved into our house right over Christmas, and yes, I mean during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are still some unopened boxes in the garage, and I'm sure there's one that holds a few of my cookbooks, measuring cups and flour sifter. Unfortunately, I've used that as an excuse not to make my "famous" scratch brownies, for which my husband claims he married me.

My 12-year-old daughter has expressed an interest in cooking, so I decided to teach her how to make "my" brownies. Friday night, we worked together and created the best brownies known to man. After one taste, my husband knew they were mine and not from a box. There really is a big difference. And now I'm sharing the recipe with the world. Or at least to those of you who read this blog.

Sandra's Brownies
(Note -- this is a modified version of the fudge brownies in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, circa 1981, and the recipe is doubled, since a single batch never seems to be enough).

1 1/4 C butter (I used unsalted, sweetened, but the salted works, too.)
12 T (or 3/4C) powdered cocoa
2 C sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
Oven 350

Melt butter over low heat. Once melted, turn off heat and add cocoa. Stir thoroughly. Stir in sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat LIGHTLY just till combined (don't overbeat or brownies will rise too high, then fall). Add flour, stirring after every quarter cup to avoid lumps. Pour batter into 9"x13" pan and cook for 35 mins. Cook longer for cakier brownies.

The yummiest way to serve these is right out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla (or WalMart's white russian) ice cream.

Try them, and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I'll be holding down the fort at the CA meetings.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


As you know, I'm turning our front room into a guest room. It'll be great once it's done. Most of the furniture will be existing pieces -- mostly antique. I had originally thought I'd make the room look much like my Amarillo master, which featured Ralph Lauren's Guinevere comforter. I even bought a brand new one off of Ebay, and it wasn't cheap. Now that I've had a little time to think about the room, though, maybe this is an opportunity to go in a completely different direction. Okay, it wasn't thinking about it as much as it was the latest Soft Surroundings catalog that arrived in the mail this week.

I have always had a thing for those wonderful bedspreads/coverlets that had the bedskirt incorporated right into them. If I want to go in a soft and feminine direction, I could go with this:
The catalog's description says: Isn't it romantic...double layered and dreamy! Beautifully antiqued nylon mesh is accented with delicate lace and embroidery, layered over an aged cotton toile and dramatically skirted to the floor. Sham closes in back with delicate pearlized ivory buttons. A generously gathered cotton toile bedskirt is offered to complete the look.

When I first glanced at the pic, I thought the big square pillows were denim. I do liked the idea of denim juxtaposed with the delicate lace. I could order the coverlet and add pillows, etc. from local stores.

I also like this.
Here's the description of the Santorini Collection: Imagine yourself watching the sunset from the balcony of a secluded villa on a Greek island. You can experience that peaceful bliss each night in your own home with our Santorini Bedding Ensemble. The exceptionally soft, 100% cotton skirted coverlet is cut longer than a traditional bed spread to softly puddle on the floor, and features an intricately quilted design created with thousands of hand-guided stitches for the romantic feeling of an antique quilt. The quilting complements the generously gathered, double-layered, attached bed skirt finished with corner aprons and accented by pretty rosettes. The result: complete comfort and contentment every night.

I decided to look into more coverlets that incorporate the bedskirt, and Horchow has several. Of course, their prices are high, and many of these ensembles are very fru-fru, but they're all fun to look at.

I have to say, I do love this. A lot.
Here's the description of Essex: Classic "Essex" bed linens in serene neutrals create a timeless look. White cotton sheet set includes 200-thread-count flat and fitted sheets and pillowcase(s). Imported. Machine wash.
• Gathered flax-colored bedspreads have a 28" drop and may be filled with a polyester insert (sold separately).
• Matching dust skirts have a 22" drop.
The queen bedspread is $349 with a 28" drop. That's not bad, especially, since you're not paying more for a separate bedskirt. Shoot, I might have to get this for MY room, and let the guest room have the all white. Decisions, decisions.