Cheap, Chic Placemat Wall Art


The space on the wall above our bed was depressingly bare. Since we can’t paint in our apartment, I needed a way to add a splash of color.

I came across some woven green placemats on clearance for $3 at T.J. Maxx. I figured they would come in handy for something – and I’m finally putting them to good use. Along with my eight placemats, I used a picture hanging kit (itty-bitty nails) and a hammer to create my wall art. I set them out first, to decide how I wanted to arrange them.

It could not be easier (or cheaper)!

You could do this with any placemats to match your decor. I love how it brings color and texture to the room. For more apartment solutions check out 5 Ways to Thrive in an Apartment.

How do you put a splash of color in your living space?


Weird Dreams and an Intense Reluctance to Cook Dinner

Have you ever had a really weird dream? I’m always wondering why that happens. Is it stress? Did I have too much sugar before bed? I used to write my dreams down. I came across this one the other day (people have been renamed to save myself embarrassment):

We were at Jason’s house. There was an enormous, rabid mythical monster (horns, and scales, and all that) chasing after us. I was utterly panicked, but Jason was calm.

“My mother always unleashes the beast when she doesn’t want to cook,” Jason said.

Suddenly, I was in the back of my Spanish class, pretending to take notes as usual.

Really? Jason’s mom let loose a maniacal monster instead of cooking?  Actually, sometimes I can sympathize. When I am already

Scary monster! [From Pinterest]

hungry and I’m out of too many ingredients, cooking is torturous. The temptation to get take-out is brutally strong.

I wonder if the monster is really just Jason’s mom, who is hungry and would like someone else to cook for a change. C’mon Jason. Make some grilled cheese.

Have you ever felt like that when it came time to make dinner?

And of course, in normal dream fashion, I end up safely in my Spanish class for no reason whatsoever.

I’m contemplating whether to share another dream record I discovered about being rescued by “Bat Hugh,” (that is, Hugh Jackman as Batman).

My goodness.

Do you have weird dreams like this?

Pinterest Inspiration for Kitchen Organization

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Kitchen organization is incredibly important in a tiny apartment kitchen. Here are a few ideas I’ve collected on Pinterest for kitchen organization. All links on the Haphazardly Ever After Pinterest are the originals. Find more great ideas and pins from all … Continue reading

Near Disaster at the Dog Park

For every five wonderful, uplifting experiences you have at the dog park, you’re bound to have a stressful, agitating one. We had one of those not-so-wonderful experiences the other day.

Sophie was quivering and howling with excitement for us to let her loose in the dog park. We let her acclimate and calm down a little bit in the “holding cell.” When we finally opened the gate she joyously bolted across the park, weaving around the other dogs.

Typically Sophie is the fastest dog in the park. She loves it. The other dogs chase her but they don’t come close to catching her. This time, one spotted dog was able to corner Sophie. Usually this would lead to some good-natured playing until Sophie runs off again. But for some reason, the two dogs had a very snarly exchange that caused Sophie to run back to Riel (her alpha) for protection.

The spotted dog came after Sophie. She seemed intent on asserting herself over Sophie. Riel was brushed by some teeth as he separated the dogs.

Cody and Riel protecting Sophie from the spotted dog that you can see vaguely in the background

Cody and Riel protecting Sophie from the spotted dog that you can see vaguely in the background

The silver lining in this whole scenario was Cody. Cody is a six-year-old Husky. He and his human have been at the dog park every time we’ve come. Cody is laid back and he doesn’t interact a lot with the other dogs, but they all seem to know that the park belongs to him.

When the spotted dog came back and tried to get to Sophie, Cody placed himself resolutely between them. He did not growl, or even bare his teeth, but his presence certainly deterred the spotted dog from trying to get to Sophie.

I love how their tails are wrapped together. It’s a great representation of how calm, cool, and collected Cody is!

I want to be clear that just because the spotted dog had a problem with Sophie doesn’t mean that she is a bad dog. We aren’t sure whether Sophie did something to incite the spotted dog’s behavior (we don’t think so – but we have an obvious bias). Also, the spotted dog was perfectly well behaved toward Riel and I and her owner was very kind and responsible. Like I said, for every 5 great days at the dog park, there’s bound to be one crappy day.

Have you had any out-of-the-ordinary experiences at the dog park?

Surviving Sickness: Planning Ahead

Getting sick ruins your plans. It wreaks havoc on your resolutions, like that new diet or exercise routine. Worst of all, it makes it near impossible to keep up with work, home, and school responsibilities.

In high school illness excuses you from class. In adulthood, a cold is hardly reason to sleep in on a Monday. Sometimes being an adult is so depressing!

The best thing you can do to weather the storm is plan ahead. Planning is probably the main thing that preserved my sanity through this cold!

If you’re just tuning in, check out Part 1: Address your Ailments.

2. Plan ahead

Plan Dinners:

As soon as you realize you are coming down with a cold, make a list of possible dinners. You do not want to be hungry, sick, and exhausted with no plan when dinnertime rolls around. Make sure the meals are simple enough for your cold-induced grogginess.  Check that you have the ingredients for those meals.

I chose simple meals: Canned chili & cornbread, Pizza Lasagna, Pancakes, Nachos, Fried Rice, and so on.

Plan for the Next Morning:

Waking up is the single most difficult part of being sick. I got sick right at the start of my 8 A.M. spring classes. That meant that I had to adjust to waking up 3 hours earlier while congested and miserable.

I feel better in the evening than in the morning. I use the evening to figure out breakfast, clothing, medicine, and lunch for the next morning. This saves me a lot of energy and stress in the morning.

Plan to Recover:

Make sure that you have a regimen to bolster your immune system. Mine is simple: Eat, hydrate, sleep, vitamin C. Your meals should provide you all your nutrition – don’t just eat Top Ramen, even though it’s easy. You may have to work extra hard to hydrate if you have a sore throat. As I mentioned in Part 1, you can rely on tea, popsicles, and ice cubes to sooth and hydrate. Sleep shouldn’t be too difficult. If coughing or congestion is keeping you awake, try Nyquil.

You can get your vitamin C from citrus fruits, certain teas, apple cider, apple juice, orange juice, fortified cough drops, Emergen-C, and many other places. Vitamin C is essential to fortifying your immune system. Don’t leave it out of your diet!

You may need to visit the doctor if your cold is serious. I joke that in my family we only visit the doctor after we’re dead. This is partially true, but I would definitely go if I had a cold I couldn’t shake.

What do you do to get rid of a cold?

Cold season is almost over. I wish you luck in avoiding pesky cold germs!


Surviving Sickness: Cures for the Common Cold

Every day this week I’ve had to peel myself out of bed and hop into a steamy shower so that I can breathe. I have a cold. At times, my lips and nose are so dry I feel that if I smile, they’ll bleed. I have not been able to speak above a whisper for three days.

If you are a student, caretaker, or can’t take time off work I’m sure you know that regardless of illness, the show must go on. I’m proud of how well I have been operating while under the weather. I’ve cooked dinner every night, my house is clean, and I’ve made it to all my classes – all while unable to speak or breathe through my nose! One of the reasons I’ve been able to function (albeit quite groggily at times) is by actively fighting my cold symptoms.

My first tactic to defeat a nasty cold is:

#1 Address your Ailments

This may seem obvious, but often the last thing you feel like doing when you’re sick is making soup or taking medicine. You have to take an active role in fighting your cold symptoms.

Sore Throat:

Once you’ve medicated (with an antihistamine like Benadryl), go for the classic cure-all: tea! Tea is really soothing on your throat. There are even teas made specifically to treat a sore throat, though I’ve found that they tend to taste terrible. If you don’t like tea, try Apple Cider. Cider has the added benefit of Vitamin C.

Cough drops are also an indispensable resource – especially to keep from coughing in class or at work. Thankfully, cough drops don’t taste disgusting anymore. I’m a big fan of Halls’ mixed berry cough drops. But if you want to change up the flavor you can also use hard candy, like starlight mints or caramels.

Popsicles are my final go-to for a really bad sore throat. This time around I didn’t have any popsicles on hand – so I sucked on ice cubes. Weird, I know, but it worked well and kept me hydrated.

Be sure to get sugar free varieties of popsicles and cough drops. The last thing you want is to rot your teeth by soaking them in sugar for a week.

As far as meals go, canned soup is your friend. You won’t feel like cooking – but soup is a soothing and delicious option.


You need a decongestant (shocking!) like Sudafed. You will be able to breathe again!

If your throat isn’t hurting you too badly try some culinary decongestants. Horseradish, wasabi, and other spicy foods work wonders. I also like a steamy bowl of soup for decongesting.

When bed time finally comes around, I highly recommend Nyquil. It works better than any other decongestant I’ve tried. It tastes horrible, but it clears out your nasal passage so you can finally get to sleep.

Tender nose and lips:

This product has been discontinued, but you can get it on Amazon (here).

Rose Salve! I discovered this Blueberry Rose Salve on super sale at Bath & Body Works. It’s multipurpose for “face, cuticles, and lips.” I’ve been using it over my dry, irritated nose and lips. It’s amazing! It moisturizes and heals my tissue-rubbed skin.

Unfortunately, I have not yet found any sure-fire way to clear that groggy, fuzzy feeling I often have during a cold. Please let me know if you have any methods – they would be invaluable!

Check back for part 2 of Sickness Survival: Planning ahead to make life easier!


How to Make a Delicious Latte at Home

After being trained as a barista, I became even more frustrated with my home espresso machine. There are definitely a lot of advantages to those big, industrial espresso machines you see in coffee shops. But making my lattes at home is one of the main ways I save money – so I was determined to make my espresso machine work for me. Here are the tricks I’ve compiled to make delicious lattes on a home espresso machine.


1. Make sure your espresso machine has plenty of water.

The easiest way to break your machine is to run it on empty!

2. Check to see that the machine is fully heated.

Turn on the steam wand (aim it into a hand towel, so it doesn’t burn you).  If your steam wand issues a flood of water, it isn’t ready. If it spews billows of steam (dangerous, burn-causing steam), it’s ready.

3. Steam your milk.

You need to steam milk for your latte before you begin to pull shots. If you don’t have any milk to put your shots in, your shots will expire (more on that later). By milk I mean anything you are using as the base of your latte: non-fat, 1%, 2%, whole milk, half-and-half, almond milk, soy milk, eggnog. They all steam up pretty much the same way.

Pour yourself about ¾ C of milk into a steam pitcher for a 16 oz. latte. Exact amounts will vary by your machine, but expect the milk to nearly double in volume through the steaming process.

Your goal is to get the milk to swirl silently around the steam pitcher. Silently is important. If your machine sounds like a cat getting hit by a train, you will have either no foam or dry foam. Dry foam is made up of large bubbles that look like soap suds. Some people like dry foam for their cappuccinos, but it has no place in your latte. When you’re done, you should have smooth, creamy foam made out of tiny bubbles. 

4. Grind your espresso beans.

There are plenty of great espresso blends out there – try some different roasts to find out what you like. Whatever beans you choose, the most important thing is freshness.

Avoid buying beans in bulk from the grocery store. There is no way to tell how long the beans have been sitting there, exposed to air and light. You want beans that have never (well, not since they were packaged) seen the light of day or experienced the fresh air. Store your beans in an air-tight container away from moisture and light. Sheltered beans will make the best possible shots. If you don’t believe me, leave your coffee beans in a bowl on the counter for a week and see how bitter they make your coffee.

You will have to experiment to figure out how much to grind your beans to suit your machine. More powerful machines can handle a finer grind – which is ideal.

5. Pack your shots.

For two shots, pack about 2 heaping tablespoons (again, you will have to experiment with the perfect amount for your machine and preferences) of ground espresso into your portafilter. Ideally, you should be able to pack the espresso quite firmly (as in 30 lbs of weight) but I’ve found that most home espresso machines aren’t powerful enough to push water through espresso that is packed too tightly – so again, experiment.

6. Select your flavor.

Put about 1 ½ tablespoons into your mug. I prefer DaVinci coffee syrups. You could also use Torani, Ghirardelli, or Hershey’s. Whatever tastes good! Note: sugar-free flavors are much sweeter than regular flavors – you will need to use less.

7. Pull your shots.

If you used a large portafilter you will pull two shots at once (as I did in the picture). Each shot should be one ounce (or two ounces total if you put them in the same glass, like I did). Don’t try to get more than two ounces out of your espresso – it will taste bitter and burnt.

Shots should be a rich, dark color with caramel colored foam on top. This foam is called crema. Good crema is the best signifier of a delicious shot of espresso.

8. Put it all together.

After you pull your shots, place them immediately into your mug along with the syrup you chose. If you let your shots sit, they will “expire,” which is a fancy way to say they will get bitter. Last, add the milk you steamed, using a spoon to ensure that you get all the creamy foam.

Be proud of yourself and enjoy your delicious homemade latte!

What is your favorite coffee beverage? Have you ever tried to make it at home?

Realistic Money Saving Tips: Netflix Instead of Cable

There are some crazy money-saving schemes out there. I’m not going to suggest that you steal ketchup packets from McDonald’s instead of buying a bottle or that you sneak toilet paper from the bathroom at work. These are some of the things we actually do (or are trying to do) to cut back, and hopefully they will be practical and helpful for you too.

If you’re just tuning in, check out the previous posts in this series:

#4 Use Netflix instead of cable

Watch a wide array of top-rated shows and movies whenever you want for $8.75 a month! Netflix frequently uploads new shows and movies for you to watch Instantly on your TV, cell phone, or computer.

I’m going to address the main reasons people still pay for cable instead of subscribing to a service like Netflix:

1.  Live sports.

I consider this to be the main reason to purchase cable. If you watch every game/match of every sport, then you may want to pay for cable. However, if you only follow one or two teams, then you should consider dumping it. You can always go out to watch the game. This football season, Riel and I have been going to different family members’ houses and to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Seahawks games. It’s a lot more fun to watch live sports in a community setting and it saves us at least $80 a month!

2. Watching shows when they premier.

The one thing I have missed out on is watching shows the minute they air on television. This is only an issue with suspenseful shows that have frequent spoilers on social media – like The Walking Dead. In the long run, it’s better to make friends and attend Walking Dead viewing parties instead of wasting money watching the show alone. However, if you have too many shows that you watch right when they air, Netflix may not be for you.

3. New movies on demand.

How will you watch movies fresh out of the box office? Red Box! While Netflix doesn’t have movies until a couple months after they exit theaters, Red Box does – and you can rent them for $1.30 a day and return them to any Red Box. Sweet deal, and convenient.

4. News.

The internet. Duh.

You may have noticed that if all your friends and family followed my advice and got rid of cable you would never be able to watch live sports or television premiers. I suggest that you make friends with a few people who (as described in #1 and #2) are ridiculously into sports or television show premiers and thus cannot part with cable.

Happy Netflixing!

The major down side of Netflix!

The major down side of Netflix!

5 Gifts to Give your Husband for Valentine’s Day

There are a lot of DIY Valentine’s gifts you can make for your hubby. Just look on Pinterest – knitted socks, beautifully decorated cards, and jars of pink and white candy. I appreciate the loving sentiment behind these handmade gifts, but are they things your husband would like? He likes socks with hearts on them?

No. He doesn’t. Though I’m sure he would appreciate the effort (if he knows what’s good for him) you put into knitting him socks, there are some other options that he may enjoy a bit more.

photo source

1. Cook him breakfast. You don’t always need to spend a lot of (or any) money for Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s a slab of bacon or a stack of pancakes, most guys love breakfast foods. I know this is a bit cliché but I’m positive it would make Riel’s day!

2. A manly bouquet. Like a traditional bouquet except it’s filled with whatever he likes: beef jerky, potato chips, and maybe a few scratch tickets (see a few examples I pinned).

3. Take him out. Plan a date especially for him. Mini-golf, bowling, a movie – whatever he would like. It will be nice for the pressure to be off of him for a change.

4. Movie night. What are the movies he loves that you can hardly tolerate? For us they are cheesy sports and Kung-Fu movies. Watch his movies with him! Make sure you have plenty of his favorite snacks. (Check out some ideas to make it special from The Dating Divas)

5. Gear for his hobby. For Riel that would be an Xbox Live subscription or Microsoft Points. Don’t get your husband fishing gear if he doesn’t fish. Don’t get him a watch if he never wears one. Show him that you know what he likes by getting him gear for it. The best gift is one that’s tailored specifically for your unique spouse.

If you’re feeling really adventurous you can check out this idea on East Coast Creative Blog.

Riel and I try not to get too wrapped up in Valentine’s Day consumerism. We make a point to focus on the time spent, instead of the money. Last year we had a romantic dinner at home and went to see the movie Warm Bodies (which we loved). I hate the idea that we would need to stress out and spend a lot of money for a holiday that Hallmark invented to make money (I made that up, but you get my meaning).

We haven’t really decided what we are doing this year, since there are no good Valentine’s date movies in theaters, but there’s no need to stress out. Valentine’s is just an opportunity to spend time together – like any other day.

Do you have any Valentine’s traditions?

A Puppy for Our Apartment

Every kid wants a puppy (or a pony) for Christmas. For Christmas 2012, Riel and I decided to get ourselves a Christmas puppy.

Sophie and the rest of the litter (plus one kitten!)

Sophie and the rest of the litter (plus one kitten!)

We fell in love with a litter of Miniature Australian Shepherd puppies that were born on Halloween. I grew up with an Aussie/Border Collie mix named Sadie and pretty much can’t resist those breeds. We drove 2 hours to examine the pups and potentially choose one.

We narrowed down our choice between two tri-color female pups that had sweet temperaments (we thought – hard to tell since their eyes weren’t open!) and were almost identical. Riel picked Sophie because of her white collar markings. She looked like a little cow/mouse hybrid.

IMGP7460 (2)We paid way too much for Sophie. I mean technically. The owner claimed that she was pure-bred. We met the mother and saw pictures of the father – who both seemed pure-bred. Sophie didn’t come with any papers, but we were in love with her. We paid the ridiculous price and brought her home on Christmas Eve.

Riel gave Sophie her first French fry in the car on the way home.

Now, Sophie is a part of the family. She has gotten into a lot of trouble, which is to be expected for a high-energy Aussie in an apartment, but she has also helped to make our apartment a home (see some other ways we make apartment living work for us).

A more recent picture of Sophie. In case you are wondering, she was not harmed by the wicker in any way

A more recent picture of Sophie. In case you are wondering, she was not harmed by the wicker in any way

How did you meet your furry friends?