Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Merry Christmas to all!  Since I've gotten some feedback from loyal readers (or, viewers I should say.  ahem, ColinandMaura) that a non-verbose Christmas post was in order, here you go....lots of pictures and small amounts of text (I can't help it I'm a talker!)

Look!  Justin Claus on the roof!  He was dropping off my presents (and while he was up there, figured he'd take care of the little entranceway that had developed for our furry friends the squirrels.  Sorry guys, guest room's not for you!)

Presents under tree (I am waiting patiently to open them while writing this).  Also note our "couch" which is really a twin bed with a "slipcover" aka the future kitchen curtains that I haven't made yet.  I'll fake it 'till I make it!  Also, the presents aren't all for me...but there are 4 with my name on them!

Our first Christmas tree, moments after claiming it as ours!

 Christmas tree set up inside 

Nativity scene (try not to be distracted by the horrendous peach walls & blinds)

And last, but not least, check out the other present that Justin Claus built yesterday!  That guy is so multi-talented!  Hooray for a closet in the master bedroom!  We're one step closer to moving upstairs!

Here's wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas.  I hope your heart sings out with joy like the angels on that first Christmas.  I think that mine is :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Christmas sneak-peak

It's incredible the amount of house-related accomplishments that we can rack up in a weekend when Justin's not hunting and I'm not working (as has been the case every other weekend in December).

I'll have lots more to show you over the next week (both in terms of Christmas decorations, as well as a downstairs tour - we're no longer embarrassed to show it off!)

For the time being, I'm exhausted, but wanted to show off one picture of our outdoor decorations:

Please admire, as I have, my husband's perfect star selection, as well as his idea to place the tree directly behind the window, resulting in the perfect placement of the star above the creche.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Home Sweet (song) Home

Just a quick post/quick update.  Today, we did a lot of Christmas shopping AND bought our Christmas tree decorations.  We also tried to buy a Christmas tree stand, but thus far have been unsuccessful.  (Only Walmart was open by the time we finished with other shopping, and would you believe that they didn't have a single Christmas tree stand in the whole store!?)

Anyway, we walked in the door, and Justin started singing "Our house..."  He asked if I knew the song, and I started singing " the middle of the street...." as in the 80s pop tune.  You know, the one with (partial) lyrics as follows:

Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our....
Our house it has a crowd
There's always something happening
And it's usually quite loud

Nice catchy tune, but not the song Justin had in mind.  He was singing the far more sentimental Crosby, Stills, and Nash song with the following lyrics:

I'll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase
That you bought today

Staring at the fire
For hours and hours
While I listen to you
Play your love songs
All night long for me
Only for me

Come to me now
And rest your head for just five minutes
Everything is good
Such a cozy room
The windows are illuminated
By the sunshine through them
Fiery gems for you
Only for you

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And our la,la,la, la,la, la, la, la, la, la, la.....

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And Our

I'll light the fire
And you place the flowers in the jar
That you bought today

We might not have a finished upstairs, or any upper kitchen cabinets, or a washer and a dryer, but we've got eachother and our home - and we're both very much in love on both accounts.  The kitchen doesn't have to be pretty for slow dances to our new theme song.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy birthday, hubby!

 I hope that you, my readers, have been pleased with my recent posting schedule.  I promised that a new computer (and the finding of camera, cord, etc) would result in more entries.  Granted, they're not all necessarily about renovation projects, persay, but they do relate to making our lives better here at the house, and that's home improvement enough for me!

Today, we celebrate Justin's 25 birthday!  He spent the majority of the day finishing a final paper which is due tonight.  I worked a half day, then came home to prepare a birthday celebration for my favorite guy.  I take birthdays pretty seriously, and I wanted his to be great.

As you probably know, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and though I've already managed to win Justin's heart (lucky me!!!!), I still figure food is a way to show him just how much I love him.  I tried to incorporate all of his favorite foods into one delicious meal. 

Our menu:
  • Red leaf salad with beets (I introduced you to this favorite food here)
  • Lentil salad (with balsalmic vinegar and feta cheese)
  • Salmon chowder
  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Garlic bread
and....LOBSTER!  Here's Justin, doing the honors to cook up his birthday treat:

Did you notice a theme?  Basically, give the man some seafood, and he's happy.  There's precious few things in life that bring me as much joy as watching him enjoy a meal I've cooked.  So, today was a happy day all around.

Few decorative items have made it to Ithaca from the Harrisburg gift storage, but fear not - I pulled together a festive table none-the-less.  The tablecloth is a piece of fabric my mom and I bought several years ago, thinking we'd make me an Easter outfit.  Obviously I'm not wearing it, and I'm considering using the fabric for curtains in the master bedroom  For now, though, it worked just fine as a table cloth!

The "Happy Birthday" sign is a wall hanging I quilted last year.  The letters are appliqued on with blanket stitch.  Up close, there are fun details such as beaded sprinkles on the cupcake.  Up close, however, you'd also see that I've yet to finish all the edge seams :)  At least if this freezing cold weather produces a snow storm, I'll have PLENTY of things to keep me busy!

Happy Birthday, Justin!  I love you, and look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with you :)

Stay tuned: upcoming posts include our first Christmas tree, outdoor holiday decorations, and more....Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A healthy appreciation for renovation

Well, it appears that Mother Nature read my last post requesting more time, and provided it - in the form of a sick day.  Unfortunately, spending Sunday and Monday napping and watching movies didn't exactly fit into my to-do list, but aside from the fact that the rest and relaxation helped me begin to shake this virus, it also provided some, well, rest and relaxation, which isn't something I regularly schedule.

You see, I have a bit of a complex with sick days, and usually second-guess myself, thinking that I could have probably made it through the day.  (This has been a lifelong problem, as I often got sent home from school sick, after convincing my mom and myself that I'd be fine; even having mono a few years ago had me feeling guilty for missing work, and actually went back to the office after a few days at home, only to be sent home after barely making it through an hour).  I can't help it; my name means "industrious."

Anyway, today I realized that I truly was feeling pretty sick, given that yesterday I watched 3 movies straight without even so much as a thought towards the many projects I want to do.  It's unusual for me to relax without being distracted by something I wanted to take care of, make, or organize.  Just ask Justin, who isn't renewing our Netflix subscription given that I never sit down long enough to watch movies (except the occassions when we start one late in the evening and I promptly fall asleep).

The good news?  This evening, I started to feel creative juices flowing.  I stopped searching Netflix for romantic comedies and headed out to the great Internet for answers to my latest home thoughts...can you paint our old, ugly shingle siding?  (yes!)....How would a closet look with curtains instead of doors (pretty good, if it's done right)...What cool furniture is available currently on craiglist for me to snatch (unfortunately, not the hutch I'm looking for).  Just the mere fact that I was looking for ideas and planning new projects made me realize I was feeling better.

I thought I'd share it on the blog because it made me chuckle that the home renovation has become my health benchmark.  Thank God I'm feeling better; I was already getting bored of being sick, plus someone special has a birthday tomorrow, and I want to make it wonderful for him :)  He especially deserves it after his loving attention and chicken-soup provision over the last two days.

Friday, December 10, 2010


...more time in a day.  Anyone with information on how such an arrangment could be made, please let me know immediately.  An acceptable alternative would be a clone of myself (that's almost like having more time, although I do admit it wouldn't be a very kind thing to wish on my dear husband, as one of me is surely enough).

In any regard, I was just daydreaming of all the things that I would like to accomplish at our house.  Progress is certainly being made, and I have yet to reach a point of frustration in which I wished for a less-work-intensive house, but it sure would be fun if I had a few more hours each day to paint, organize, craft, sew, and otherwise transform this house into the vision I see when I look beyond its current mess and dilapidation.

Here's hoping I have some progress to show you soon ~ but certainly not tonight!  I've lost my collegiate ability to spend extensive period of time on little sleep [studying, not partying - you know me!].  Perhaps my infamous motto of "I'll sleep when I'm dead" would have been better phrased "I'll sleep when I'm an adult."

P.S. Apologies to Colin for another picture-less post.  :P  That is, if you're even reading this one!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our other home in Ithaca

Lovely Readers,
Hold on to your hats, lest your heads explode. . . Emily posted twice in two days!  I told you, this new computer is like magic.

Anyhow, tonight I thought I'd give a little update on our other home here in Ithaca - our spiritual home - our church.  Anyone who knows us is aware that our faith is a big part of our lives.  A large part of that faith is being active in a community.  In fact, many of our close Bucknell friends are those from CCM (Catholic Campus Ministry), and our involvement with CCM certainly didn't hurt our blossoming collegiate romance, either.  After graduation, I returned to my home parish in Harrisburg to be involved with the Parish Council and other activities, and Justin was active with the Cornell Catholic graduate student group.

Coming from such environments, it was easy for us to feel a little out-of-place at a church where no one knew our names.  We were very excited this evening to attend Mass and a Potluck dinner at our parish to celebrate the feast day at - fittingly - Immaculate Conception Parish.  We met a lot of great people and already feel right at home.

At a potluck, you always know it's either very good or very bad when someone says "who brought such and such [insert item you brought]"!  Happily, this time they were looking for the recipe because they liked it.  I really can't take any credit for the many recipes my mom has passed to me, but I'm certainly glad to have them!  Thanks for making me look good, Mom!  And to whoever gave my mom this recipe, thanks to you, too!

Since I have been asked for this recipe many times in my (short) domestic life, I thought I'd share it here, as well.  And so, without further ado, Orange Fruit Salad.  (Also known by my 5-year old cousin as "Aunt Pat's DELICIOUS fruit salad)

1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate (approximately half of a 12 oz container)
3/4 cup sour cream

1 chopped apple
2 medium bananas
1 can mandarin oranges
1 can peaches
1 can pineapple
halved grapes

Mix pudding mix and milk.  Stir in orange juice concentrate and sour cream, then add fruits.  I always use the mandarin oranges, peaches, and pineapples, but change the others depending what I have and how I'm feeling. 

Enjoy :)  I promise that it's easy and delicious.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What we've been up to

This post will not fall under the category of "major changes."  Our recent activities have not involed tearing things apart, putting things back together, or even painting them.  However, we have been busy, and I know that the loyal readers have been waiting far too long for a post. 

Allow me to introduce you to our kitchen: 

Notice anything missing?  Yep, our kitchen came without upper cabinets.  While this arrangement was likely just fine for our predecessor (we're guessing she was quite short, given the average height of all of her relatives we have met; and we know that in her later years she was wheelchair bound), it is not an ideal solution for two tall people who have a large assortment of shower and wedding gifts to store. 

Down the road, I have big plans for adding more storage than I'll know what to do with that I'll use to store the remainder of our kitchen gadgets that my parents are graciously storing in their basement.  We also have big plans for replacing the wood paneling, changing the color, finishing the drywall seams on the ceiling, and all those other minor details (ha!).  However, there are many rooms in line in front of the kitchen for major renovation, so the current goal was to find ways to make the current space functional without being too ugly, since it will remain this way for at least a year.  Previous to extra attention that the kitchen got over the last week, it was a semi-organized space with haphazard storage, a continual pile of (clean) dishes since we couldn't figure out how to put them all away, and - frankly - a space that could pretty instantly make me grumpy.

To meet our non-ugly/functional/non-grumpy-Emily goals, we used the following tactics:
    1) Adding shelves for additional, non-counter-space storage
    2) Making storage pretty
    3) Thinking strategially about what should stay where

The shelf is actually one I had in my college dorm room.  Now, instead of textbooks, it is home to the coffee pot, the salad spinner (our favorite kitchen tool), the larger pots and pans, and other things that were a waste of space in our 2 cabinets.


Looking ahead, I have plans to paint the shelf and make a curtain to hang across the front.  For now, even though the storage is open, it doesn't look half-bad since the items are arranged neatly.  Since there are a limited number of items on each shelf, I'm hopeful that it will actually stay looking this nice!

Another big improvement to the kitchen was the shelf my dad installed during my parent's recent visit (I hinted to my excitement about that addition here.  This allowed me to keep items like the knife block, the spice rack, and the recipe box within reach, but off the limited prep space on the counter.

In terms of making storage pretty, this has mostly involved losing store packaging and replacing it with glass bottles/jars.  There is a jar of popcorn kernels on our counter (for easy access and use with our second-favorite tool, the popcorn maker).  On the shelf, we have all of the items needed for Justin's favorite salads.  Seriously, he would survive on salad alone if left to his own devises (and, I think, did for much of his bachelor life in Ithaca).  His favorite salad includes red leaf lettuce, peanuts, garlic, pepper, and oil and vinegar.  As you may be now, I was skeptical when I first heard of the combination, but have since come to enjoy it.  Given the frequency of use for these items, we store them right next to the dinner table.  And I think the current solution looks a lot prettier than the plastic grocery store bottles of oil and vinegar!  (p.s. I thought I should clarify while we're talking about salad that the philodendron you see here is purely decorative!).

The third tactic to finding kitchen sanity was to think logically about each item and where it should be stored.  This came into play not only with the addition of the shelves and the glass storage containers, but with each item that we have in the kitchen.  As much as I would love to have all of our new shower/wedding gifts in the kitchen (and even in New York state!), I knew that it simply wasn't practical, and had to decide which things were most needed.  Anything that isn't absolutely necessary doesn't currently have a home here right now.  This also includes the majority of our dishes - there aren't any large dinner parties planned in the near future, so six placesettings in the cabinet is more than enough, even if we went on a huge dishwashing strike!  Seemingly limited, this approch to storage is actually very freeing.    In fact, this is the approach we're using throughout the house.  Things that aren't used, or don't bring us joy, don't stay.  As a side note, the fact that one of my primary job responsibilities is to  manage a free secondhand clothing/linen closet is extra incentive to embrace the lifestyle of reducing clutter!

So, as I mentioned, this post isn't terribly exciting.  Organizing a kitchen isn't as cool or blog-worthy as rebuilding a bedroom.  However, I've set out to document our home progress, and this has been the progress recently.  I haven't even picked up a trowel for more spackling since my last post!

In terms of other progress, you've probably noticed that the ol' blog looks a little different.  Having my (awesome) new computer has given me more time and interest to play around with the blog - and it doesn't hurt that Blogger has, in my hiatus, come out with much nicer editing tools.  Plus, I decided that my blog, which documents the swan transformation of our ugly duckling house, shouldn't be so ugly itself!  Check back to the now-attractive blog soon - having exhausted most excuses (missing camera parts, no internet, heat waves) for not posting more frequently, I seriously think that I've finally got everything together to actually keep everyone in-the-know.

For today, I leave you with our sign of the season.  If you're confused about why there is pink and purple instead of red and green, read here.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!