Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas is coming.

Finishing the kitchen in September/October was wonderful because it meant I got to accessorize my new burnt-orange walls with fall decorations.  I loved the bookshelf decorations, and kept it up well past Thanksgiving:

Now, we've moved on to a season that's slightly less compatible with those lovely orange walls.  You're probably thinking red and green.  True, that won't go well with orange; but for now I've got a nice mix of purple, pink, and orange.

If you're confused, perhaps I can remind you that it's not Christmas yet.  Christmas is coming.  Adventus.  (Latin for "coming").  We're celebrating Advent, preparing for Christmas.  I honestly can't give you a great explanation as to why the colors are pink and purple, but then again I also couldn't do very well with explaining red and green for Christmas, either.  I do know that the Church uses purple during times of repentance and reflection, which is exactly what this time is designed to be.

I've become quite frustrated, this year in particular, that our culture has not only over-commercialized Christmas, but has totally revolutionized the timeline.  It seems common these days to celebrate Christmas (or at least be totally immersed and obsessed with preparations) from the day after Thanksgiving until December 25.  And then, abruptly, on the very day commemorating the Nativity of Our Lord, people think it's over.  

In reality, now is just the time to be ready.  Not with presents and cookies and ornaments, but with our hearts.  And on Christmas day, with our readied hearts, our joy should just begin.  The twelve days of Christmas begins on December 25.  Trees don't have to be out on the sidewalk on the 26th.  

Granted, I don't think it's wrong to have decorations out in early December, and I'm not advocating for a December void of Christmas music.  I just regret the attitude that bull-dozes any spiritual preparation.  Be very sure that this is not meant to be a holier-than-thou post.   In reality, it's as much a reminder for me as for everyone else.  It's easy to become caught up in the flurry and frazzle of December; worrying constantly about the things to be done and the presents to be bought.  But it doesn't have to be that way, and my simple decorations are my reminder of that.  Simply, calmly, and with great anticipation we can prepare for the One whose "advent set thy people free."  (Lyrics from On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry)

P.S. On a totally materialistic note, aren't my pinecone trees fantastic?  I wanted to make some after seeing a picture, and my Nanny (grandmother), who has an enormous collection of pinecones, acorns, and other natural items to make beautiful wreaths, helped me to bring my vision to light over Thanksgiving.  I love them for their natural beauty, but also because of the special time I shared working with my Nan!  I also have some plans to bedeck them a little more when Christmas comes!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


As the weather continues to turn toward cold, I am excited about the prospect of a cozy house.  Last year this time, the only warm & fuzzy that we had came in the form of dust bunnies.  All of the year's progress certainly contribute to a much warmer, homey feeling (having walls tends to do that), and I'm having fun with craft projects that further my vision of a warm, welcoming, and comfortable home.

To that end, I have FINALLY finished a blanket for the living room couch.

I found a great tutorial at for a faux chenille blanket.  She describes it much better than I will be able to, and she also has a great tutorial in case you are interested in making one of your own, so go check that out here.  Basically, it is several layers of flannel with many (MANY) rows of stitching.  All but the top layer of fabric are cut, and once it is washed, the edges fray and curl up, leaving a very soft chenille-like blanket!

Now that I look back at her tutorial, she does mention upwards of 10 times that it is a time-consuming project.  Somehow, in my excitement to tackle this project, I missed the warnings about how long it would take, but miles of sewing later, I'm very excited to have it done!  I'm happy with the fabric choices, which tie together the colors of the den, living room, and kitchen (brown, green, and orange).  This blanket not only keeps us warm, but it also is the first step in the accessorizing that makes the orange and green walls a little less circus-like.

Please ignore that striped pillow, it came with the couch, and it needs to go ASAP.  Some new throw pillows will hopefully be joining the blanket as part of Operation: Cozy sometime soon.  Also a new lamp, another chair, and hanging family pictures around the "family tree."

So although we haven't yet reached my final vision, it's reassuring for me to look at pictures from last year.  Here's a shot from last December.  I remember I was really proud of the red fabric "slip cover" draped over the twin bed.  It made a nice temporary couch, but not half as cozy as what we've got now :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Good lookin' nook

When people ask about the house these days, I usually tell them that it's "done."  (With quotation marks).  The living room is the only indoor surface that hasn't been redone (every other wall, floor, and ceiling has been sanded, refinished, repainted, spackled, drywalled, carpeted, or tiled).  So while Year 1: Construction has come to a close, Year 2: Decorating & Organizing is well underway.

Here was my weekend project:

In case you don't recognize the space, that's the inside of our bathroom closet.  It probably doesn't look all that exciting, because you didn't see the crazy mess that existed before.  Let me tell you, it was a consistently messy situation that resulted in us having 6 extra bottles of contact solution and no toothpaste.  Imagine everything you see on the shelves now jumbled in bags on the floor, tossed on random shelves, and falling off said shelves.  I didn't happen to take a picture of that "before," but believe me, it was bad.  This is one of only 2 (previously existing) closets in our house, so it definitely became a dumping ground as we slowly improved the "visible" spaces.  I'll admit, there were bags of miscellaneous toiletries that I had never unpacked from my move to New York last July (the one in 2010, not the one that just happened).  

At any rate, I'm so tickled that I can now find the washcloths that I'm sharing these pictures for the world to see.  You know those 1-hour projects that you put off for months, and then kick yourself for not doing it sooner once it's done?  Yep, that's this one!

Does anything about the above picture tell you that my hubby loves getting every last use out of things? ;)  On a similar note, does anyone know good techniques for forming soap scraps into usable bars?  Our little bucket is getting full!

While I applauding myself for this incredible before and after, I happened to look through our home inspection pictures.  Then I realized how far this space has really come!  I had forgotten how bad it looked before my run-in with super adhesive primer last winter.

Let me remind us both.  It wasn't somewhere I would have wanted to put my towels!

Here's another before & after (the closet door):

It's hard to believe that this time last year, the bathroom still looked like the befores!  Year 1: Construction was successful, for sure!  Stay tuned for updates on Year 2: Decorating & Organizing.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Tonight, we had a grand total of 3 trick-or-treaters.  I am highly disappointed that we had even fewer than our whopping 5 last year.  I mean, we even had jack-o-lanterns this year!  Coming from a childhood neighborhood where hundreds of kids would ring our doorbell, this low turn-out is a bit of a shock.

Not to worry, though, we made up for the lack of Halloween celebrations today with a party yesterday.  And, what party would be complete without...Mickey & Minnie Mouse??

Yes, our costumes were my idea, but for the skeptics out there, Justin really embraced his new identity.

Our party was co-hosted by our dear friends Glenn and Jenny, or should I say Waldo and Wenda.

We had two types of chili on the stove, and a spread of hearty bread, chips, and snack mix (in fear that the comma has not done its job properly, I'll insert that only the bread was hearty).  Butter was served from a small bowl sunk in a mini pumpkin.  Justin's gargoyle candleholder (a gift from his high school English teacher) finally matched our decor.

We also served spiced apple cider (warmed in the crock pot), and an orange sherbert punch (my mom's recipe with the addition of gummy centipedes).

I found this cute idea on Pinterest to make mini caramel apples after scooping small balls from each apple.

Pinned Image
Unfortunately, our caramel didn't stick quite as well as those pictured.  Jenny and I have already researched (after it was too late for this batch) and discovered that caramel doesn't like to stick to the wet apple.  Others have recommended online the initial dipping in candy coating, followed by the caramel (with refrigeration in between).  Next year, we anticipate better results.  For this year, at least, they weren't pretty, but they still tasted pretty good!

Our mini pumpkin pies (recipe/idea here, also found on Pinterest) turned out much better!

All in all, it was a successful party.  It was our first party hosted at the house, and while we decided that the room arrangements aren't ideal for parties, they're still worth having.  And, with a dishwasher, it's easy!

I'll leave you with our pumpkins from this year.  I carved mine first using a template from our pumpkin carving kit.

After I had finished, Justin decided that his would be symbolic and religious.  He spent a great deal of time researching ideas and creating his design.  It is in honor of All Saint's Day (tomorrow, the first), which is the origin of this whole Halloween (originally, All Hallow's Eve) thing anyway.  It depicts an altar and the phrase "Ora Pro Nobis" (Pray for Us) under the altar, representative of the relics of saints which are found under (or within) many altars in Catholic churches.

Of course, in retrospect, I'm feeling silly about my simple Halloween carving.  I've taken to calling it the "Holy Ghost" design instead!

Happy Hallow's Eve!  :)

As a side note, I was reminiscing about last year and remembering sitting on Halloween, waiting for trick-or-treaters, freezing (because our new furnace had yet to be installed) and writing wedding thank-you notes.  I was wearing gloves, so that should explain the messy writing on any notes you received :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coziness & humor

One of the downsides of having a mostly "finished" house is that I don't have as much exciting material for the blog.  Because, honestly, what could top ripping down a wall?  Certainly not our movie night.  But what demolition doesn't have is coziness and relaxation, and that "pro" of being finished with renovation certainly overwhelms the "cons" of boring blogs, at least from my perspective ;)

So, tonight, after picking up some finishing touches for our Halloween costumes, I texted Justin to find out if he'd like a Red Box movie.  He did, so I headed to a local supermarket.  Via text, we selected a film (Everything Must Go with Will Farrell), and then had the following conversation:

Me: "Ok, got it.  Would you like any food or drink?"
Justin: "Sure.  What do they have?"
Me: "Hon.  It's a grocery store."

Perhaps having it written out it's not quite as funny, but it certainly made me chuckle :)  Now, we're off to watch our movie and enjoy our snacks (7 UP and kettle corn popcorn for me; a ribeye steak for Justin).  Yes, a ribeye steak.  That's what happens when the whole grocery store is a possibility!

Happy Friday :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Autumn in Ithaca

This post (titled "Autumn in Ithaca") comes to you with a subtitle: The "oh yeah I have a blog" post.

When I last wrote, we were headed out of town to celebrate our anniversary.  While I would love to say that my delay in posting was due to an extended vacation, that wasn't exactly the case.  But, the weekend away was absolutely wonderful!  How could it not be, with this handsome husband (who had a rose-per-month delivered to our hotel room!)

We were in Wellsboro, PA.  Sunday (which happened to be one of the only sunny days in all of October) was perfect for a bike ride at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.  Yes, we did set a dangerous precedent by going to the Grand Canyon for our honeymoon and the PA Grand Canyon for our first anniversary.  We're seeking suggestions of other holes-in-the-ground to visit in upcoming years.

Here's Justin biking (you should be impressed by my photography skills, because I also was biking while taking this picture.  It gave a whole new meaning to point and shoot).

We came home and celebrated with wedding cake (which was still delicious a year later, thanks to my mom and her excellent following of the "how to freeze a wedding cake" Google directions).

But now back to home improvement.  Another recent post showed my very nice (but very unseasonable) nativity from my grandparents.  Since that time, I've embraced the fall decorating and replaced the nativity with a pumpkin and a basket of apples:

You may also notice the addition of my apron hook (a Christmas gift from Justin, commemorating the quails we saw in Arizona last year - we found them to be hilarious, and they became the official mascot of our honeymoon).  I made the apron (with fabric purchased more than a year before we painted, but with the intention of having it coordinate the new kitchen), and I just hung up some small scissors for herb and flower picking.

You may have also noticed the new window shade.  Similar to our front door window, it's a two-sided fabric piece that can be rolled up (and buttoned) during the day, and undone at night.  This fabric is particularly special to me because it belonged to my great grandmother.  She was living until my junior-high years, and we had an excellent relationship (centered around our love of sewing).  I remember sending her letters with snippets of fabric from my latest projects, and she'd always write back saying, "Em, that will be just beautiful."  Anyway, when she passed away, all of her sewing things went to my mom.  When my mom was looking through her stash a few weeks ago, she found this fabric again.  We both couldn't believe how perfectly it matches the new kitchen!  It looks as though we chose the paint to match the design!  It's so special that my mom decided to give it to me, and so special that it was Granny Long's.  I'll never know what she bought this fabric to make, but I know she'd be really happy to know this is how it was used.

In other kitchen decorating news, we put the bookshelf back beside the table.  It stores our board games (theoretically so that we'll play them more often, although that has yet to pan out), and I've had lots of fun decorating the top:

Excuse the mis-matched candles; sooner (or later) I'll get some that are all the same shade of white!

One other fall touch, thanks to my mom.  Does she know the way to her daughter's glass-storage-loving heart, or what?

In addition to the fall decorating, I've got some fall cooking going on - mainly in the form of apples, apples, apples!  I went apple picking with friends on Saturday, and still have a huge basket of apples, even after making 4 pies (2 in the freezer, 1 for our neighbors, and 1 to enjoy!)  Applesauce canning is on my agenda soon!

As you can see, there have been plenty of fun things keeping me busy (including several that I'm saving for future blog posts!)  As the weather cools down, it has been fun to make our house cozy.  At Justin's suggestion, I'm including a picture of last year this time (technically, this was from last December since I see the Advent wreath) as a reminder of just how far we've come.

Looking a little better, wouldn't you agree?  I promise I won't leave you hanging for several weeks again (after all, we have some exciting things to share, including new furniture and excellent Halloween costumes up our sleeves!)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Could it be?

Could it be that it's already been a whole year since the best day of my entire life?  And, yet, how could it be that it's been only a year that I've been living my dreams with this handsome groom by my side?

Back to your regularly scheduled home blogging next week....for this weekend, we're celebrating life and love :)

P.S. Photo credit to the incredible Liz & Ryan!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"I think I even got it on the dog"

Just to be clear, up front:

Objectives met by this blog post:
- Returning "from the dead" and posting something...anything on the ol' blog
- Re-iterating how awesome our kitchen floors truly are
- Memorializing a hilarious night, because let's be honest, this blog is really my scrapbook

Objectives NOT met by this blog post:
- Sharing things that are meaningful, cool to look at, and/or relate to making our house better

And now, the blog post:

Tonight is supposed to be our first frost up here in Ithaca.  True to our loyalties, Justin harvested all of the edible plants (all the remaining peppers in the garden, plus large amounts of mint & basil), and I harvested the pretty plants.  I stuck my zinnias in a vase, and Justin settled in for preserving mint and basil in extra ice cube trays.  He blended the herbs (not together) with some water in the blender, and then froze them in the trays, so that we can pop them out for mint tea, tomato basil soup, etc.

Everything was going very well.  I was upstairs, brushing my teeth, when I heard a bang and an "oh no."  I yelled down to check on what happened, and Justin said that he had dropped a tray.  He rattled off a litany of things that were now covered in green sludge, capping it off with "I think I even got it on the dog."  And with that statement, I totally lost it in laughter.  Even typing it again, I am laughing out loud.

I came downstairs and, true to form, wanted to photograph everything before actually helping to clean up.  The picture process took 5 minutes or more because I was laughing too hard to hold still.  Excuse the blurriness of the pictures, they were from my cell phone, and I was still shaking a bit.

In the process of trying to get a close-up of the damage, I ended up accidentally sitting in the mess and getting it all over my pants (I told you, these floors are really good at hiding messes).  And we laughed, and we laughed, and we laughed.

Everything is cleaned up now, and we're only short a few herb cubes.  But we're both still laughing...and I thought that was something worth sharing!!  Justin shared it (more concisely) on his facebook: Preserving Basil and Mint tonight...via freezing them in herb ice cubes. The process was working very well until I splashed a mint slurry on our carpet, fridge, cabinets, and dog, all of which are white. Also got my slippers, shorts, shirt, socks, and even my wife when she fell down in it from laughing. What a night.

Can you tell we're adjusting to a new "post-renovation" lifestyle?  There's still plenty of little projects to keep us busy, but we're getting used to our "new normal"....and loving it!

P.S. We didn't get a dog, we're dog-sitting Justin's family's dog Buddy for the week.  If dogs could talk, he'd probably be begging to go home...where they don't spill mint sludge on his fur!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Procrastination, continued

Today's edition of "things I do when I should be sleeping" is another blog post.  I'm totally worn out from a week of work that has been similar to drinking from a fire hose (and of course, my late-night crafting habit that hasn't helped the sleep schedule!), but I have another exciting kitchen update to share.

You may remember that when I last shared the kitchen, there was a little disorganization issue going on over in the corner:

Well, last Thursday night, we remedied that situation with a trip to Home Depot.  After some careful direction following, we have a pantry!

The amount of storage space is amazing.  It's really nice to be able to store all of our canned goods, dry goods, etc in a way that is easy to access.  (I should note that before our renovation, all of the aforementioned items shared a single kitchen cabinet with the crockpot, cutting boards, rolling pin, and baking dishes.)

On top of the cabinet, I placed the fern from our front porch (we had some cool evenings and I was afraid of it dying a premature death).  While I was in the process of deciding what else to put up top, my grandparents came for a weekend visit.  They brought the handmade nativity set that my grandmother has had for years.  Since I always admired it when we visited their house at Christmas time, she decided that she wanted Justin and I to have it.  We were both really touched by this very sweet gesture!  We talked about putting it on top of the cabinet at Christmastime, and by the end of the weekend it was set up there!  I imagine that we'll rotate seasonal decor and other things on top of the cabinet, but for now I'm enjoying seeing this gift.

Hooray storage and hooray generosity!  And now...hooray bedtime!  :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things I do when I should be sleeping

In college, my mantra was "I'll sleep when I'm dead."  After graduation, I updated to a slightly more sophisticated description ("sleep deprived since 1986").  My mother can attest, I never was a great sleeper.  It's not so much that I don't enjoy sleeping (in fact, I do enjoy it very much, despite my high school psychology teacher's adamant teaching that this is impossible), it's just that I enjoy living more.  I'm always several steps behind all the things I'd like to do in a day (who isn't!?), so I continually seek "just a few more minutes" for several hours each night.

Case in point:  this week, while I should have been sleeping (or at the very least, when I should have been doing other important things like cleaning my house, or working on the grant I need to submit on Friday afternoon at work), I hung out in my sewing room.

Monday night, I was inspired by this pillow on


I headed up to my sewing room, looking to make a similar pillow, but in the process of getting out my scrap bag, my eyes fell on the boring beige lampshade, which I've been wanting to decorate for some time.

Although I like the clean look in the picture above, in real life, it constantly looks boring.  It's been boring me long enough that I accidentally killed the above pictured plant during the time that lapsed.

Doesn't it look much more dapper?

Yesterday evening, I suddenly decided that I absolutely needed a charcoal gray clutch purse to attend a wedding this weekend.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I shelled out $10 for supplies at Jo-anns and, by the end of the evening, had a gray clutch purse!

I have to share that this is only the second time in my entire crafty life that I've purchased supplies and finished a project all within one day.  Hooray!

So while I'm a little extra tired, it was worth it to have two cute new projects!  Tonight while I was supposed to be sleeping (and still supposed to be finishing that grant!), I wrote this blog post :)  What exciting things keep you from meeting your recommended 8 hours??