We're finally back from all the travel and holiday activities we've been up to lately. Time to get back to our boring everyday life, back to projects, and back to being productive. But that can at least wait until after the new year!
2012 has been a pretty great year for us. So of course, I must commence with the obligatory yearly highlights post.
There was only time this year to accomplish a couple of Christmas-related things. But the big one is definitely the one I am most happy about. We got our first Christmas tree!
We'd never bothered getting a tree in the past because we don't usually spend Christmas at home, and when we were renters we didn't want to have to worry about storing a fake tree and ornaments. But my husband always promised that when we bought our first house, we could finally get a tree. Just looking at it in the corner of our family room has made me so happy the past few weeks, even if it's only for 15 minutes while I scarf down dinner, only to have to go back to work for the rest of the evening.
Our kitties have been loving sleeping on (and messing up!) the quilt batting I used for a tree skirt. Next year I plan to make a prettier tree skirt that will stay in place better. I've got all of the supplies I need, but it just didn't happen this year.
I feel like I start every post lately with how busy I am, but sadly, it's still true. This is the time of year where my job takes over and I've been working 12-14 hour days over the past few weeks. Last year I was able to prepare, by starting my holiday projects earlier, but with the charity event I worked on taking place the first weekend of December, I had no choice but to jump into work mode as soon as the event ended.
Oh well, Christmas happens every year, and there will always be time to get to the projects I didn't have time for this year. Not going crazy and taking on more than you can handle is important for your sanity sometimes.
So instead of spending time crafting and scrambling to make last minute Christmas gifts this past weekend, we did something for ourselves. We took a drive down to Charlotte and bought the very important first piece toward finally fixing up our family room, a new couch.
Well, we haven't made much progress over the past month or so on our bathroom renovation, but we're getting so close to finally being done!
Our big goal for this past weekend was installing the vanity and faucets. But in order to put the vanity in place, we had to first caulk the baseboard, since it would be too hard to access it later. Same with the toilet, so we went ahead and caulked that as well.
I'm not really looking forward to caulking the rest of the bathroom, since it is kind of a pain. First, you have to tape off both sides of the line you want to caulk.
Then you have to caulk the lines, going slowly to make sure you get the caulk in the cracks.
Then, first dipping your finger in a cup of warm water, run your finger over the caulk, to press it into the crack and leave a nice smooth finish.
Pro tip that I read somewhere: leave about 1 inch not caulked at the back of your toilet, so if your wax ring ever fails, the water leak will come out the back of the toilet onto the tile and you'll see it and be able to replace it. Much better than caulking the entire toilet and having it leak down into your subfloor!
Do your pets love lying on your heat registers this time of year? My kitties were constantly seeking out the warm air blasting out of our heat registers, but it was blocking all of the warm air getting to me!
So I came up with a way that they could enjoy the warm air, without blocking the air flow.
The charity event that I posted about last week was a big success! There were record breaking bids for the dessert auction portion, and I've gotten so many compliments on the decor.
Even with my husband's help, the set up took about two hours longer than I was hoping, but we still got everything done an hour and a half before the event started. And since I already shared the details of all that I'd been working on, I wanted to do a follow up to show the decor in action.
Unfortunately we were a bit rushed at the end of set up (and eager to get home, shower and change, and get back for the silent auction) that I didn't take photos until we arrived back at the venue, and didn't get to capture everything. But here is a peek at all of my hard work for the past few months.
First, this is what the ballroom looks like, taken from the venue's website. It is one big beige room, and you aren't allowed to hang anything from the walls or ceiling, making it a bit of a challenge to decorate on a tight budget that doesn't allow for uplighting or expensive pipe and drape.
No, I'm not dead. I just haven't had any time for posting lately because I've been so busy! Combining planning and creating all of the decor for a huge charity event with the busiest time of the year at my job means I haven't had time for much else the past few weeks.
But things are finally all coming together with the charity auction decor I've been working on, and I am mostly done now. Which is good, since it's this Sunday! And now that I have a moment, I wanted to take a minute to share what I've been working on.
First, some background. It is for an annual holiday auction for the OCRCC, which is their biggest fundraiser of the year. And this year it is the 25th anniversary of the auction, so the theme is silver and sparkles, since the 25th anniversary gift is silver. We also have to work around some of the holiday decor the venue already has up, mostly some Christmas trees, but that is alright, since we want to encourage people to buy gifts at the auction. We just didn't want to go all out with the holiday theme for decor. And one issue with the venue is that we aren't allowed to attach anything to the walls or ceilings. Another factor is cost. Everything has to be done as inexpensively as possible, since it is a charity, and anything not spent on decor goes right back into the organization.
Budget and venue constraints? Basically feels like I've been planning another wedding!
In past years they haven't done much for the event, mostly just some simple table arrangements or a pointsettia for centerpieces and additional arrangements on a few of the tables in the lobby. But since it's such a special year, being the 25th anniversary, I was tasked to come up with something a little more special, while still keeping the budget to a minimum.
Which means non-floral centerpieces, when we are talking about 35 dinner tables that need to be decorated. So instead, we are going to have two types of centerpieces. Since we can't have anything on the walls in the ballroom, I'm going to bring in taller topiary arrangements for the tables to the sides and back of the room, to add interest and height. For the center and front of the room tables, we will have simple but elegant shorter centerpieces, so the view to the stage won't be blocked.
Here is a mock up of the tall rose snowball pomander topiary centerpieces, however the actual vases will be 16" x 4" and in my mock up I only had a 14" x 6" vase to use, so the final look will have the pomander ball and vase much more in proportion to each other and more topiary-ish with a taller and thinner vase.
The centerpieces will all be on 10 inch mirrors that the venue provides, and surrounded by 3 or 4 votive candles, also provided by the venue. We are doing all black linens, as a nice backdrop for the sparkly elements.
Well, we've made some small progress since my last update. Nothing too major, but things are starting to finally look more finished. And since it looks like our next three weekends are booked solid, we won't be making much more progress anytime soon, so I might as well share where we are now.
The biggest thing of note is we finally have paint!
It only took me buying 9 paint samples to narrow down the color choice.
We've now gone a whole three months without eating a frozen dinner once (although we have eaten frozen veggies a few times). So I'm pretty dang proud of myself for making this commitment to eat less processed, real foods, and actually sticking to it.
For this past month, I only have a handful of new recipes to share though, because now that we've tried so many yummy healthier recipes the previous two months (here and here), this month we recycled some of our favorite meals again, and added these new ones below to try out.
I hope you guys all have a wonderful weekend planned. Mine will be extra busy, since we will be celebrating my husband's birthday, which was earlier this week.
Happy birthday dude!
Making a friend in Key Largo. I still need to recap our Florida trip, ugh!
We will be plugging away at the bathroom this weekend, still working on touching up the walls and painting the wainscoting and trim. And hopefully picking out a paint color for the walls. I swear, it's driving me insane! Green is such a hard color to choose, especially when I have it in my mind what I want, but when I paint the sample on the wall, it doesn't look right. And the room is especially hard with all of the natural light in the day and the incandescent lighting at night.
I was supposed to post this last week, but I ended up on a flight without WiFi, so never had the chance to hit publish.
I'm headed across the country for a super quick trip to California for my aunt's wedding, so I thought I'd share the outfit I've put together. Wedding guest outfits are always a sensitive subject, it seems. You can't wear too much white, black is still considered a no-no by some, and you have to dress appropriately for the setting and fanciness of the wedding, while taking into account the weather.
So this is what I will be wearing for a fall wedding, taking place mid-day in a church, with a lunch reception in a nice restaurant afterwards. It's supposed to be around 70 degrees but sunny, so layering is important.
Day to day, I feel like we're moving so slowly on this project and I should work harder so I have more to update on, but then I remember that oh yeah, I've got a very busy job and life outside of what I share on this little blog and it's silly to feel pressure because of it. It's not like I bother with advertising, I mostly just write here because I like to share, in case there's anyone else out there going through similar projects, in hopes that something I link to or give a tip on might be useful. And also for my family to see what I'm up to, since they live far away and I don't do Facebook. So I've completely let go of any self-inflicted pressure and our timeline on this project. I shouldn't have been so ambitious anyway, considering we've never gutted an entire room before. I blame HGTV, and bloggers, who I love reading, but who's full time job is working on their house for putting an unrealistic timeline in my head. We'll finish when we finish, and it is what it is. I'm eager to be done though, can you tell? :) But we're making progress, and are definitely coming up on the home stretch.
So, with our timeline out the window, here's what we've accomplished in the past month on the weekends and some evenings after work. But first, a quick look back at how far we've come.
The above "progress" photo is where I left you last time, about halfway through installing the tile in the shower surround.
I'm happy to report that since then we've completely finished the tile. And tiling did get easier, the more I did it. It's still hard, and nerve wrecking to be working with the thinset dry times, but I definitely felt a lot more confident as I worked my way up the wall.
I didn't have time this year to put together a costume (although since we didn't really have any plans, it didn't matter). So today I'm wearing one of my husband's old costumes that I made for him a few years back. At least I'll be dressed up from the neck up for my Skype work meetings today!
Can you tell what I am?
Does anyone have any exciting plans tonight? I think we'll just be handing out candy between working on the bathroom. I might make myself a Halloween cocktail I saw on Pinterest though, apple cider and champagne, with a sugared pumpkin pie spiced rim!
I can't believe this week is over already! Between starting tennis lessons, working around the house and several trips to Lowes, finalizing the decor proposal for an upcoming charity event (basically feels like the pressure of planning a wedding!), and, you know, actual work, this week has gone by in a flash. And we've got a busy weekend planned too, I'm running jogging a 5k tomorrow, my husband has got a soccer game, and we'll be making some really good progress with our bathroom renovation.
With everything going on, I still haven't gotten around to narrowing down all of the photos from our whirlwind Florida trip last week, but I couldn't resist sharing what I think is going to be my favorite of the trip!
I got to hold the softest little baby alligator at the park where they film Animal Planet's Gator Boys! Definitely one of the highlights of the trip, although I kind of wish we hadn't done a 15 mile bike ride through the Everglades in 90 degree weather right before, so my hair and makeup would have been cuter for the photo opp. Oh well, I'm sure the baby gator didn't mind my disheveled look. :)
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend planned. Is anyone doing any Halloween activities?
I'm going to be spending Friday night grouting our downstairs bathroom floor tiles (exciting Friday night, I know!), so things will be dry enough for us to install the beadboard wainscoting Saturday afternoon, paint it, and finally be able to put our toilet back in place on Sunday. I can't wait to have a toilet on the main floor of our house again!
But that means we need to make a decision on what color of grout to use ASAP. For our shower surround tile, we just went with a standard white grout, which went very nicely with our white-with-light grey-marbling tile.
But for the floor, I'm torn between two options, either slightly darker grey, or slightly lighter grey than the tiles themselves. We're using Spectralock epoxy grout, which is a bit more expensive than standard grout, but you don't have to come back and seal it later, it is stainproof (coming clean even after weeks of being soaked in cherry kool-aid), and it lasts longer and just holds up better than regular grout. But the downside is that there is a limited number of colors it comes in, so we can't get an exact match to our light slate grey floor tile.
Really, that's OK though, because I want a tiny bit of definition with the tiles, I just can't decide if we should go lighter or darker. So I made a little tester board with scrap pieces of tile, and I'd love to get your opinions!
Here is a zoomed in photo, under indoor lighting conditions. The slightly darker on the left (Slate Grey), lighter on the right (Silver Shadow).
And the same samples, in shaded, natural lighting. Our bathroom has a quite large window, so it will be getting a lot of natural light in the daytime, through the plantation shutters we plan on installing.
I think I'm leaning toward the lighter option, considering we'll have white baseboards, white beadboard and all of the white tile in the shower. But the darker the grout, the easier to clean/shows less dirt. I'm so torn!
Which grout do you like best with our grey tiles? The darker on the left, or the lighter on the right?
I'm participating in the October Photography Challenge by Our Wired Lives
this year, to push myself to try to take a photo each day, and learn
some new things on my camera. For more details on the challenge, go here.
Here are my photos from the third week of October. Some of these were taken out of order, since we were traveling, but close enough!
Wonderfully grouted shower tile. This bathroom project, especially the tile part is my baby. Lets just hope it doesn't take a full 9 months to complete though!
We finally had a break in the rainy weather, so I could put out the rest of our autumn decor. As tempted as I am to buy or make more, this will probably be it for this year. Gotta start planning/saving for Christmas, since this will be the first year we get a tree, and we hardly have any ornaments.
But I'm happy with the extra color the additional pumpkins give our front steps. And I couldn't resist putting some corn stalks on our handrails. I also want to put the leftover cornstalks on either side of our mailbox post, and wrap it with orange ribbon, but I haven't had the chance yet.
I always love it when bloggers share their tips on how to pack for trips. I've gotten some great tips over the years on ways to save space and bought handy products that were recommended in the posts.
But you know what I never seem to see? Blog posts on how to actually plan the trips, and even more importantly, tips on how to be organized when you're on the trip. Maybe nobody cares about this, but whatever, I'm going to share it anyway! :)
It's no secret that I love to plan trips. LOVE. It's like, 40% of the fun of travel for me! And while I've shared some sample trip itineraries with budget breakdowns, I thought I'd dive a little deeper and walk through how I actually plan out trips. These days, anyone can be their own travel agent, it's all just a matter of doing a bit lot of research, keeping things organized, and having the tools you need when you get there.
So here are the steps I go through every time we go somewhere:
I'm participating in the October Photography Challenge by Our Wired Lives
this year, to push myself to try to take a photo each day, and learn
some new things on my camera. For more details on the challenge, go here.
Here are my photos from the second week of October.
Grain-free cheesecake swirl brownies with orange food coloring, which were amazing. Melty and gooey when warm, and like fudge when cold. And I didn't notice it until I uploaded this photo, but doesn't it look like an eye in the middle of the brownies?!
I mentioned last week that I'm planning on running a 5K in December, and have been doing the C25K program to get in shape for it. Well, now I've been talked into running another 5K. One that is coming up much, much sooner!
Fingers crossed I don't die trying this. At least the race isn't timed. And I've heard that things are usually so crowded, it's hard to run fast anyway. Yes, I think that's the answer. If I need a walking break, I can just blame the crowds!
Have you done a color run like Color Me Rad or The Color Run? Were things really crowded? And was it fun anyway?
Now that I've been working from home for a year and a half, I find myself buying a whole lot less as far as clothes and shoes go. With a whole closet full of business attire and 4 inch pumps, just awaiting the day when I might need to look professional, I've become a lot more picky about what I'm spending my money on.
So lately, I've only been stocking up on a few essentials every season, and I've been leaning toward spending a little more on quality items that will last, rather than going for quantity like I used to. Last fall I purchased three new pairs of boots, a bomber jacket and an Anthropologie coat, all of which are still in great condition. But there have been a couple of new fall items I've splurged on lately.
First up, slippers. I gotta have them. In the cooler months, as soon as I get out of bed or come home, slippers are on my feet. Otherwise my feet are freezing. But I always seem to buy really cheap slippers from Target, and they only last a month or two before the bottoms have holes in them. So this year I spent some time actually shopping around. Let me tell you, it is actually really hard to find slippers that are both cute and won't wear through on the bottoms in a matter of weeks (sorry, not an Ugs fan!). But I finally found some cute ones. They look like ballet flats, but are so soft and fluffy on the inside!
I ordered two pairs, and hopefully with the more rugged bottoms of the soles, they will last me at least through the winter, if not longer. I definitely think these were worth spending a little more than I would at Target, for something that will hold up over time. Or at least hold up longer than a month!
I'm participating in the October Photography Challenge by Our Wired Lives this year, to push myself to try to take a photo each day, and learn some new things on my camera. For more details on the challenge, go here.
Here are my photos from the first week of October.
Cell phone picture, while on one of my walking breaks from jogging. I like to think about my 'to do' lists while jogging, and of course I remembered I needed a photo for the challenge after I messed up my hair and didn't have on much makeup!
I can not believe how much we've got going on over the next few months: an impromptu out of state vacation, meetings and creating all the decor for a charity auction, concerts, running a 5K in December (and doing C25K so I don't die), 2x per week tennis lessons starting soon, my aunt is getting married in California, my husband's birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all of the activities and travel that come with holidays, plugging away at our bathroom renovation (we've got the shower tile all up and floors prepped for floor tile this weekend), and oh yeah, it's the start of my busiest few months of the year at work. And probably 40 other things I'm not even going to think about until a calendar reminder pops up.
But all of that aside, I'm still committed to cooking us dinner nearly every night and eating healthy. I'm going for a lifestyle change, and no matter how busy life gets, I'm determined not to slip back into the pattern of just eating frozen dinners every night. And I'm back with a another recipe review post--reviews of the meals we've eaten over the past few weeks. There were some definite home runs this time around, and a lot I will be making again!
And here are my notes on each, the links to the recipes, photos and even the calorie counts. I've started counting calories, since going on this low-carb diet I was finding that some days I wasn't eating enough (good news, I've lost a few pounds). So I've been adding up the ingredients for each of these meals, so I can accurately account for what I'm eating. So many of the paleo/primal/healthier eating recipes don't include calorie counts, so I thought I'd share. Obviously it will differ depending on which brands you use, but at least it's something to reference!
It's just a first pass at decorating though--I've got more I'll be putting out, but it got dark too dang quick last night for me to finish. I hate that it's starting to get dark so early, it's one of the only things I don't like about fall!
I can't believe it's almost October already. And that means it's almost time to kick off the holiday decorating season!
Unlike retail stores, that had their Halloween decorations out since before Labor Day, I always try to hold out until the first week of October to start decorating. But this year I'm so excited to decorate our new front porch, that I started gathering some ideas early.
If you remember from when we closed on our house in March, this is what our front porch looks like. It's not very big, and doesn't really have much of an overhanging roof, but it does have some stairs and pretty brick that I can work with.
But other than that, I'm completely open to new ideas for this year! So I wanted to share some pretty autumn decoration ideas I've found so far. I'm leaning toward doing something more fall-inspired, than strictly Halloween, so I can use most of the decor for Thanksgiving as well.
I have a deep love for shoes, anything with garlic on it, and all things DIY. Just a West Coast 30-something adjusting to life in the South with my husband and 3 kitties. To pay the bills I'm a marketing communications professional, but my true love is crafting and working on decor projects. And now that we are homeowners, I love taking on bigger renovation projects side-by-side with my husband, as we strive to make our new house a home.