Archive | December, 2011

A little more holiday

27 Dec

Carrie and I have been having such a good time with family and friends during these holiday festivities…so much so that we are extending our little vacation.  Two Friends Two Cities will be back with renewed vigor and many new exciting DIY projects after the holidays.

Thanks so much for your patience.  We love crafts and our blog but we’ve been having such a good time relaxing and spending time with our loved ones.  (And… the after-Christmas shopping is becoming another big distraction!!)

We hope your holidays have been very special and we’ll see you back very soon.

 

 

 

Guest Post :: PB&J Stories

21 Dec

Come visit us at PB&J Stories today!  Our sweet friend, Pamela, is flying with a 3 year old to visit her family for the Christmas.  Pamela’s husband is currently deployed and we are so happy she’ll be home for the holidays!  And…her sweet baby boy will get some SNOW for Christmas!

Stop by and say HI!!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Angie and Carrie

Happy Holidays!!

19 Dec

Happy Holidays Friends!

Carrie and I are taking a small Christmas break to enjoy time with our families.. and stuff our faces with turkey and lots of carbs.

We will be back next Monday to resume our DIY and design obsessions with you.  We hope you have a perfect holiday time with your families and friends and sharing lots of memories and laughter.

 

Be back soon! :)

 

 

 

DIY :: Simple Stockings

16 Dec

Am I the only person that got a late start decorating for the holidays?  Everyone else already seems to have their house fully decked out with Christmas bling and I am barely getting started.  There are only 10 days until Christmas and I am about to get in high gear to make sure our house is all blinged out too.

Today I started the project of dressing up our fireplace and and began with these easy to make stockings. These have to be the simplest stockings ever made.  No liner, no hem.  They even have exposed seams.

I had a bunch of coffee sacks I”ve been waiting to use for a purpose like this.  Coffee bags come in all types of textures and these have to be the roughest.  Some are soft like fabric and can be used for pillows.  These are not like that at all. They are heavy and itchy like hay. Since I can’t use them for pillows what better use than stockings.  They are tough and ready to hold lots of goodies!

So here’s how I did it…

I drew by hand a stocking shape on the exterior of the coffee bag.

Cut it out.

That piece then was used as a pattern to cut out the back side of the stocking. For the back side, I used a plain piece of coffee sack that didn’t have any printed words or designs.  That way, I can flip the the stockings to the other side and have the option of decorating them differently in the future.

Put both sides together (with the good sides on the outside) and sew 1/4″ from the edge.  I used white thread and it blended in perfectly with the coffee bag.  The thread is barely visible because the texture of the coffee bag helps hide the thread work.

Then I cut another small section of coffee bag (about 6 inches by 1.5 inches) and sewed the edges to help with unraveling.  This piece was sewn to the top of the stocking in a loop to help hold it up above the fireplace.

That’s it!

This fireplace still needs a little more pizazz…now to start on some garland!

Maybe I’ll make Carrie’s fabric garland? :)

Our Mexican Makeover

15 Dec

Last week, I shared our big Mexican secret.

 

It’s a quite a pretty pad now but it wasn’t always so.

Here are the before (and after) pictures of our Mexican property before we bought it.  I know we are a little biased but we personally think the transformation is significant.   And we are especially proud of it since it was accomplished with very little money.

Parts of it looked quite crazy before.  There was bright blue paint and blue trim work everywhere.  The blue paint could have been a nice affect but what made it terrible was the fact that it was applied poorly.  It was blotchy and didn’t have straight lines which really stood out against the white walls.  And there was a little too much of it everywhere – even in random places.  The prior owners went blue crazy!  The kitchen counter was painted blue.

The stairs…

There was blue paint trim work under the couch.

Blue trim in the hallways.

Even a blue wall and blue trim work in the bathrooms.

And blue wasn’t the only color problem.  There was also this very very very yellow room.

Despite these unpleasant paint colors, the property really appealed to us.  We overlooked most of the colorful flaws because we realized it had great bones including thick cement walls, a marble and stone flooring, nice tiled bathrooms and showers, good cabinets and even built-in cement furniture.

Since we used our entire life savings to buy the place we had very little money to renovate it, that required doing everything on the cheap.  The fact that it had great bones meant we didn’t have to do any major construction and could get away with simple cosmetic changes.  All that was required was paint, decorating and doing a little cleaning and minor repair work.

The first thing we did was paint.  The cement walls were in perfect condition but needed to be repainted.  Since the exterior of the home is vibrant white and very Moorish looking,

we decided to go with the same concept for the interior…very white, very chic.

Once all the blue trim and blue and yellow walls were painted white, it was a major transformation.

Our next project was to replace all the electrical outlets and controllers. Since the home is located about 50 feet from the ocean and is exposed to tropical weather, the electrical outlets and switches yellowed terribly.  For a few bucks each, we changed every single yellow switch and outlet with bright white ones.  Now that they are white, they are hardly noticed on the wall.

Furniture and decor was easy because we bought almost nothing.  The home came with furniture owned by the prior owner which was awesome!   (It’s typical in Mexican home sales that most the furniture and art are included in the sale of the home).  Half the furniture in the house was made of cement.  I thought that was pretty amazing. I love the cement couches, cement bed frame and nightstands.  We never have to worry about them breaking or getting damaged from the tropical humidity.

All we needed to do was have the couch cushions upholstered.  Everything was transformed white.

From this.

To this.

We also had these Mexican equipale chairs changed from forest green…

…to clean white.

A local artisan did this upholstery work for us. It was done for less money than we could have even purchased the fabric for. They did such a skilled job that all the couch cushions and even the equipale furniture looks new.  The fabric is a special thick high quality canvas fabric that can be used outdoors and is resistant to stain.  So no worries about the white!

Then my mother-in-law came up a brilliant idea that made a large impact!  Since it was difficult to ship objects to Mexico and very expensive to buy them there, she suggested we let people vacation at our place for free as long as they brought items we needed.   All they had to do was stuff extra things in their luggage.  That worked out beneficial for both our friends and us!!  We had friends who enjoyed a great vacations and in turn we received much needed items. This is how we received most of our modern kitchen appliances including a toaster oven and coffee maker.  Some people were very generous and brought us other items including pretty decorations, nice rugs and towels.  It was genius plan and made the quickest advancement into getting our place looking and operating like a real home.

Much was accomplished by simply removing art that didn’t fit the new decor and rearanging other items to different rooms.  We moved chairs that were crowded in the living room to provide additional seating options in the bedrooms.  We also removed cluttered art from the living room and hallways and mixed it up in the bedrooms.  We tried to leave everything very white with simple pops of color here and there.

The only indulgence we made was this gorgeous table.  I found it at a local furniture store in Zihuatanejo. It is one of the most cherished things I’ve ever owned.  It looks and feels like wood but is actually made from a plant root.  It is a masterpiece and was only $200 so I don’t feel so guilty.  It’s something we will probably always keep forever.

It’s the easiest decor makeover we’ve ever done!

Here are some side by side shots of some of the rooms before and after:

Master Bathroom


Kitchen

Living Room

Master Bedroom

Second Bedroom

Terrace

Click here to see more pictures or here to travel and stay at our home in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.

What’s for Snack Wednesday :: These Nuts

14 Dec

So my friend Lana calls me to tell me she is bringing me some nuts at the very moment I almost run over two motorcycles cops standing under the underpass.

She got these nuts from her school and she knows they have rosemary in them, but can’t quite figure out what else is going on with the nuts.

I am cracking up because our conversations are quite funny and if anyone were to ever tap our phones or view our text messages, they would A) call the cops, B) call child protective services or C) want to down a bottle of wine with us.

A few minutes later, there is my precious friend, waiting outside our kid’s school, with a white styrofoam cup full of these nuts.

I take one while she tells me to wait til the very end to figure out what is in these nuts.

Hilarious.  I can’t stop laughing.

Rosemary for sure.  But I can’t figure out the rest either so I take another nut.

Brown sugar Lana says.

Lana offers these nuts to another friend…she can’t figure it out.

It hits me…cayenne.

I tell Lana I’m going to google these nuts…and get to the bottom of this life altering recipe.

And as soon as I walk through the door…I google “rosemary nuts”.

Viola!!

Ina-freakin-Garten.

I called Lana and say “did I call cayenne, or did I call cayenne?”

I had to share this story…and recipe.

Because that’s what friends are for.

Laughter, hysterical phone calls, crazy texts…and being nuts together.

Ina Garten’s Rosemary Cashews

This recipe is almost directly from the Bar Nuts at Union Square Cafe in New York City and its wonderful cookbook of the same name.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds cashew nuts
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until they are warmed through. Meanwhile, combine the rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until the nuts are completely coated. Serve warm.

Love you Lana!  Thank you for being my friend, making me laugh daily and sharing those nuts with me.  

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  Is it friday yet?  I am ready for school to be out!

xoxo,

Carrie

Simple Thank You…

13 Dec

To some fellow bloggers who have featured our creations:

A Glimpse Inside

SAS Interiors

Daily Do It Yourself and this one too

Silly Simple

Copycat Crafts
Copy Cat Crafts

Life of Bink

Life of Bink

Twig Home

Shelterness

And some of our favorite blogs we love to read and have formed friendships with:

PB&J Stories

SAS Interiors

Stucco Bungalow

Vegvacious

Style Your Life

What the Graham

It’s important to say thank you for the big…and little things. And we thank you for loving our projects, and being our friends.

Much love!
Angie and Carrie

(if you’ve featured one our projects and we missed it, please leave us a comment!)

Charlie’s Adventures :: Week 2

12 Dec

I am not gonna lie…Charlie fell behind on his duties this week.  It was one of the busiest weeks for me and lack of sleep took priority over Charlie.

But he did manage to watch over the kiddos, and have a little fun too.

Brought advent calendars:

Took a shower:

Helped himself to some Whataburger after Nutcracker rehearsals:

Visited with Santa in the kitchen:

And caused DRAMA after Bubbie found him playing with Woody…and Mater and Lightning The Queen.  Charlie had no idea playing with these toys would cause the total meltdown of a 3 year old.  Lesson learned.

We spent the weekend back and forth for my daughter’s third year performing the Nutcracker.  She’s been an angel, a mouse, and this year the coveted Polichinelle.

Even though it is completely exhausting, it is worth every. single. moment watching her.

 

 

 

Happy Monday!  Are you finished with your Christmas list?  Teacher gifts are on my list and I’m done!

xoxo,

Carrie

 

Introducing :: Lizzie + Luckett

9 Dec

We are beyond excited to launch our alter ego, Lizzie + Luckett.  Vintage home.

Lizzie + Luckett holds a special place in our hearts for many reasons.  Born from our love of creating, we wanted to expand our blog and share things we love the most.  More than just showing how to create, you can own unique creations and vintage pieces for your home.

Why the name Lizzie + Luckett?

Pure love.  Lizzie is Carrie’s daughter’s special nickname.  Luckett is Angie’s british family namesake.  Both names symbolize dreams we cherish deeply.

Two Friends Two Cities will remain our beloved blog.  The stomping ground for design, inspiration, ideas, food, and DIY.  If it were not for Two Friends Two Cities, there would be no Lizzie + Luckett.

We are so thankful to everyone who reads our blog every day.  And we hope you visit our vintage shop, Lizzie + Luckett.

Happy Friday, friends!

xoxo,

Angie and Carrie

 

Handmade Christmas :: Ruffled Tree Skirt

8 Dec

Hello friends!

I’ve been sitting on this project since the beginning of November.  Procrastinating because I knew it would be a beast.  Not expensive, just time consuming.

I kept putting it off.  Tree came up, I used my old tree skirt.  And ugh…hated it.

So Sunday was cold and rainy.  A perfect day to tackle it.

Using white lightweight denim I bought at Joann’s moving sale last year for $2.99 year less 50% (dirt cheap, I bought every yard I could find), I made a 5×5 square:

Folded into quarters, then a triangle:

And cut, with my little helper beside me:

Cut a slit on one side and you get this:

Then, ripped 5 yards of white broadcloth purchased at Hobby Lobby for $2.99/yard less 40%:

Using my favorite cheetah print, ripped half yard of 2inch stripes, and lots of hot glue..made pleats:

and pleats:

And 2 hours and 74 glue sticks later, I ended up with this:

I am in love.  My daughter wanted to sleep on it.

It is fabulous.

The little touch of leopard is perfect.

And I could not be happier.

And with that, this is my last holiday project of the year.  YAY!

Happy Thursday!

xoxo,

Carrie

What’s For Dinner Wednesdays :: Old Fashioned Kettle Corn

7 Dec

We have two things to share with you today.

The winner of the Shabby Apple giveaway and…

Kettle corn!

Kettle corn — I LOVE it!  It’s slightly sweet, slightly salty popcorn snack.  My two favorite things in one – sweet and salty!

Kettle corn is good gift idea or snack for the holidays.

It’s simple and can all be made in one pan on the stove.  And pretty healthy if you watch portion sizes. This recipe only uses 1/4 cup of sugar for a huge pot of popcorn.  I also use grapeseed oil because it’s lighter and healthier than some other oils.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

(Don’t try to cut back on the oil.  I have tried that and the oil is necessary to retain heat in the pan)

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Mix the salt, popcorn and sugar in a bowl and set aside.

                (Photos taken on my iPhone with the very cool Hipstamatic app!)
Heat the grapeseed oil in a large pot (a thick heavy pot is best) over medium heat. Once hot, stir in the sugar, salt and popcorn mixture. 
My little tip for knowing when the the oil is hot enough is to throw in a few popcorn kernels in the beginning.  They are like sacrificial little lambs.  Once they pop, you know the oil is hot enough to pour in the rest. 

 

Cover and shake the pot constantly to keep the sugar from burning. Once the popping has slowed to once every 2 to 3 seconds, remove the pot from the heat and continue to shake for a few minutes until the popping has stopped. 
Pour into a large bowl immediately or the popcorn will burn.

 

Allow to cool, and break up any large clumps.

I make kettle corn about once a week and it’s a huge hit with my husband. We like it so much, last week we indulged and bought a Whirly Pop popcorn pan which is the bomb!   The regular pan method works great but shaking the heavy pan is a little tiresome.   The Whirly Pop is a cheaply made thin pan but it has a stick inside that spins and mixes the popcorn mixture making kettle corn process even easier.

 

 

And now…

it’s time to announce the winner of the Shabby Apple Through the Looking Glass necklace.

It’s Ginny!

Congrats Ginny!!  Now you can bling out during the holidays!

Don’t forget…we are also giving everyone 10% off anything you order through Shabby Apple! Just enter twofriends10offat checkout.  Order now in time for holiday delivery!

My Mexican Secret

6 Dec

This year has really flown by.   I can’t believe it is already December and the New Year is quickly approaching.

I did something earlier this year that I’ve been very reluctant to share with everyone.   Mainly because I think people will think I’m completely insane.  I know I need to get it out now before another year passes by and my trepidation increases.

So here it is:

My husband and I cashed in all of our life savings and bought a vacation property in the Mexican Riviera.

There I said it.

Ok, let me try to explain.

It all started when my husband and I read the book, The 4 Hour Work Week.  The book is really so much more than the name suggests.  It’s of course about working less but it’s also about making the most out of life and rethinking the status quo.  It’s a completely different philosophy than what has been ingrained in us since we were young.  Instead of saving everything and waiting until retirement to enjoy life, it’s the “anti” of that. Tim Ferris, the author, lives a different lifestyle that involves taking mini retirements throughout his life instead of waiting until he’s old.  He also doesn’t believe in keeping with the Joneses or buying lots of large expensive possessions to fulfill happiness.

Most of what Tim was saying really made sense to my husband Manny and I based on our past experiences.  In 2005-2006, we lived in Mexico City and traveled all over Mexico while living there.

It was a life changing experience.

I started learning a new language, experienced gorgeous places I’d never seen before and absorbed myself in the different foods and culture.

When we traveled to beautiful Mexican travel destinations, many places were filled with retired Americans and Canadians living abroad.  Not one time did we ever find an expatriate living there who was young.  I remember telling my husband that we were at least 30-40 years ahead of the curve.  There we were in our 30’s really experiencing life.  We were getting the opportunity to explore beautiful places and interesting people while we were healthy and young.

So you can see why the book The 4 Hour Work Week hit a nerve with us…

We started the book before we went on vacation to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Mexico and finished reading it while still on vacation.  We had previously seen quite a bit of Mexico but it was the first time we had ever been to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.

If you’ve never heard of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, it’s the tropical paradise in the movie the Shawshank Redemption where Andy wanted Red to meet him after they got out of prison.

Reading the book was such a whirlwind.  It was easy to daydream and imagine working less and living like a king when lounging at the beach without a care in the world.

We really drank the juice and believed in it.  So we did the unthinkable.  We made an offer to buy a property we fell in love with while on that same vacation!  We saw it, loved it and said we’ll take it – all without having any cash or means to buy the place.   All within a week’s time.

We were maybe 5 days into our vacation when we placed the offer to purchase and on our 7th day, exactly when the taxi was picking us up to take us to the airport, we found out the owner said yes.

So it was going to be ours.

(Living area)

 (Amazing table made from a plant root)

 (One of the bedrooms)

We were so excited!

But then reality set it.  We returned home to the real world wondering if we did the right thing.   Well… we could wonder all we wanted but there was no turning back.  The offer we made on the home was legally binding and we needed to come through with the $$ and buy it.

We knew we had the money in savings.  But that meant cashing out our entire retirement.  Completely depleting everything to $0.

30 days later after the typical home closing process, the property was ours.

(View from our terrace)

Giving up all our retirement seemed like such a terrifying thought.  But now that it’s been done, we don’t regret it.  We’ve already started trying to build our retirement account back up and having our tropical paradise has brought so much happiness.   I have spent well over 20 days there this year.  Talk about a mini-retirement!

Our family spends quality time there together also. For example, we celebrated our family Thanksgiving there a few weeks ago.

Here was our amazing Thanksgiving dinner.  Poolside!

Another reason, I’ve been hesitant to share this secret is because not long after we bought our little Mexican paradise, I quit my job.  It seemed so daring and not something I wanted people to ridicule or judge.  Quitting my job meant that my husband and I would be living on one income with no retirement.  Manny had actually wanted me to quit my job a long time ago so that I could start something new I enjoyed.  I had wanted to quit so many times before but the thought of not contributing to the household and being dependent really scared me.  I didn’t want to feel useless.  I am not sure if I ended up quitting my job because of the inspiration I found in the book or maybe just because I just finally had it working at a job that was meaningless…  But on April 1st, after years of being unhappy, submitted my resignation.  Also ironically done while on vacation in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.  I guess I become fearless when I am on vacation there!

The first couple of months of unemployment didn’t end up being hard at all. We had to make some cut backs in our spending but I was able to relax and enjoy massive amounts of free time.  We also realized how much we had previously overspent on stupid stuff.   I may have had less money but for once I was able to spend more quality time with my husband and even had the time to start working on some new exciting business endeavors.

And in an ironic twist, our little Mexican paradise started generating revenue!  Even though we initially bought it to enjoy ourselves, we ended up deciding to rent it out as a vacation rental while it was empty.  Since it was empty most of the time, not renting it out would have been a wasted opportunity.  It’s hard to tell with the way the economy fluctuates but it appears that renting it out as a vacation rental has had a much higher return on investment than if we would have kept our savings in our retirement accounts!  I am still floored by the fact that people contact me every week to rent out our place.  It’s nice to see other people love it just as much as we do.

So that is finally the story of my Mexican secret.

I wanted to finally share with my story with you.  I am not saying cashing out a retirement account or buying a home in another country is something everyone should do.   It’s definitely risky.

But it has been working for us quite well and has created some unforgettable joyous memories for our family this year.

And I really hope you don’t think we are too crazy.

Travel Reservations:

If you or anyone is ever interested in traveling to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and staying in our little paradise, here is information on where to rent:

www.villablancaixtapa.com

I am only sharing our rental website because Ixtapa-Zihautanejo truly is an amazing place to visit in Mexico and I hope others get the opportunity.  I am not trying to exploit our readers with this information.  We already get plenty of rental bookings through our website and I would have shared my story almost a year ago if financial gain was my intention.

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