Thursday, December 29, 2011

happy accidents are happy.

Part The First:
when we bought our house over a year and a half ago, the first room that i had a plan for was the dining room. it was the chair rail that did it for me - i knew that space had potential, and i could see it in spite of the horrid pink floral wallpaper that the room was sporting when we had our first walk-through.

this picture is from about a year ago, after we had taken down the wallpaper (revealing that the rest of the room had once been pepto bismol pink... yikes!) but before we had done anything else.

i had the colors picked out for this space before we even moved in - it was going to be celery green on top, chocolate brown on the bottom, with chunky vertical stripes under the chair rail done in a high-gloss paint in the same shade of brown to keep them nice and subtle. as i mentioned a couple weeks ago, we just recently finally got around to painting the front room, dining room, and hallway. it took a little bit longer to get the details of the stripes together, which is why i didnt share the dining room at that time.

but now, after a couple late evenings of work by the hubs, the dining room is all striped and done! but can you spot the whoops on this one? yeah. that whole 'different finishes of the exact same color' thing? not so much.

the high-gloss paint wound up being a slight shade lighter than the original color. and i think it's even more awesome this way than how i originally planned it. the stripes are just a teeny bit more pronounced, but still very much subtle. so now our dining room is finally back in working order, and looking even better than i could have imagined!

Part The Second:
not long after we got married, i yardsaled a table with four legs which would come to be known as the not-a-credenza. it had suffered from a number of bad paint jobs and at least a little bit of neglect, so although it had plenty of potential it was not looking so hot.

the inside was even worse. i mean, i'm sure at some point these geese were a good idea, but their scuzz was just not going to cut it anymore.

over the 4th of July i started the process of sanding, paint-stripper-ing, and sanding it again. this part took a couple months because i only worked on it a little bit at a time.

then on Halloween i primed it,

and then just before Christmas I PAINTED IT BLUE!

but seriously, we spent part of our Christmas Eve morning putting all the new hardware on this bad boy when i probably should have been doing things like cooking, cleaning, or showering. i do not regret my prioritization on this one.

i originally picked out a paint swatch from Home Depot, but when i decided to go ahead and buy the paint we were shopping at Lowes, so i had them color match it for me. like the stripes in the dining room, the color was a little lighter and more muted than i had originally hoped for. and its perfect.

but the accidentally-amazing shade of blue isnt even the best part... using some leftover paint from another project, i also gave the inside an awesome little bit of happy surprisedness for anyone who ever has to get something out of the not-a-credenza (which will probably most often be me, which is why i decided it was totally worth the extra time and effort to refinish the inside too).

sometimes i'm a little bit sad that i couldnt find hardware that was more similar to what was originally on the not-a-credenza, but then i look at it again and i can't help but squeal with happy and jump up and down a little bit. ok a lot.

this thing took me FOR-EV-ER to finish, (ok so Mark was actually the one to apply the last coat of clear coat because i had to do all the Christmas shopping but i did the bulk of the work so i'm totally claiming this project) and i think it looks awesome so i dont even care if you think my color selection is crazy or if you feel the need to point out all the stray brush-marks and drips because i know that its perfect and i can't wait until i can start storing things in it and decorating the top of it and i'm so glad that that the color turned out different than what i asked for.

come on over anytime. our house looks awesome and i would love to show it to you. but just please to be ignoring the several doors that we are missing on our basement stairs and various closets.
we're working on it. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

maybe i'll get the camera for my birthday.

so i guess right about now would be the logical time to post something about our Christmas. except that it doesn't quite feel like Christmas is over yet at our house. our tree and all our decorations are still up, the Christmas music is still on the radio, and there is still a fairly substantial stack of presents for Harold to look after. don't get me wrong - we've done a lot of Christmassing over here, but we're really only about 66% of the way done with Christmas.

and i love Christmas, so that is quite alright with me. but if it's quite alright with you, i'll go ahead and share a little bit of our Christmas so far.

we started celebrating on Christmas Eve, when we invited Mark's family over to our house after church to eat some food and to just hang out for a little bit. we need to start inviting people over more often, because it was really a good time. although i didnt actually take any pictures of them being here, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

after they left, Mark and I opened our first present of the year, which was (of course) our ornaments!  i had almost forgot that we bought these guys on vacation in Williamsburg over the summer. i'm glad i found them before i stressed myself out about trying to find ornaments the week before Christmas!

on Christmas morning, Mark and I opened our stockings, ate breakfast, and exchanged presents. and just like last year, i didn't take any pictures of us, or of our presents. i guess i was too busy playing with my new iPad to bother with my camera.

but since i didn't want this Christmas to go by completely undocumented, i made sure i took some pictures of people and presents later in the day at his parents house. i think i got at least one picture of everyone who was there. (except for me and Mark) they are all rather unflattering, but hey, they're better than nothing, right?

and since i do like my in-laws and i feel a little bit bad about posting these pictures of them on the internet, i will also share the one picture that i have on my camera of me and the hubs, taken the day after Christmas at his aunt's house.

i didn't even try to get a better picture of the two of us. i also didn't get any pictures of his grandparents, or his aunt's family. and yes, there are MUCH better pictures of everyone who was at each of these parties, but they are not on my camera.

maybe my new years resolution should be to improve my photo documentation skillz before next Christmas. and i can get a head start with the two more Christmas celebrations we still have to go this year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

home for the holidays.

i know i've already shown you all of my Christmas decorations here and here, but i was struck the other day by this particular view of them from the front door - looking through the front room into the fireplace room.

its pretty much everything Christmassey about my house all wrapped up in one frame... almost like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting. if you move in a little bit closer, you can see some of the details more clearly: Harold; decked out with colored (non-blinking) lights and an assortment of ornaments ranging from angels, cows, and penguins to wolverine and a half-eaten icecream cone. he stands guard over a giant pile of presents, most of them to be given away in the next few days. there's a rocking chair that used to belong to Mark's grandmother sitting in front of our fireplace, which is home to our handmade stockings with our names lovingly stitched onto them. and what's that up on the mantle?

oh, its just our super-awesome nativity scene. seriously, i'm in love. it was an early Christmas present from my mom and dad and i could hardly wait until December to display it. it can be rearranged in any number of ways, and on the back of each piece is a section of scripture that relates the part of the Christmas story that each character played. it reminds me of the type of nativity that Mrs. Repp would love to have as part of her collection, and i think its perfect for our little family.

its a little bit funny to me that this is my house. it just looks so very house-like. no not even that... it looks like home. it was only a year and a half ago that we bought this house and i wondered if and when it would ever feel like home, and now here we are... celebrating our second Christmas together in a home already filling with memories and traditions.

and i love it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

why i celebrate Christmas.

it's no real secret that i love Christmas. everything about it, really.

i love the lights and the way they make everything sparkle. i love knowing the reaction that racing lights evoke from my mother, which kind of makes me love them just a little bit more.
i love Christmas trees. i love the way they smell, how they transform a room, and the memories that are tied up in all the decorations that go on them.
i love the music. i love the silly songs as much as i love the classic carols. i listen to it non-stop from Thanksgiving until they stop playing it on the radio, and sometimes even a little bit longer. its really only acceptable to listen to it this one time of year, so i make sure i make the most of it.
i love the treats: the cookies, the chocolate, the cinnamon rolls, the cookies, the hot chocolate, the cookies, the popcorn, the cookies...
i love the traditions. an orange and a toothbrush in your stocking. a penguin on the christmas tree. a certain movie and opening one present on Christmas Eve. candlelight church services. a santa tray to leave out cookies and milk. and i love that sometimes the specifics of these traditions can change over time, but they are always always what makes each year memorable.
i love the presents: i love getting presents from people who love me, and i love searching for the perfect presents to give to the people i love. and i love the anticipation that comes along with it - wondering both how well you'll make out this year, and looking forward to seeing whether or not you actually found the perfect presents for everyone else.
i love the magic that surrounds the whole month of December. it is a mix of Santa and goodwill and cheer and joy and love and excitement and vacation and snow and i love that even as i get older the magic is still there.

those are some of the reasons that i love Christmas, and some of the ways i celebrate, but they are not the reason why i celebrate.

Christmas is so much bigger than trees and presents and tradition and sparkle. it is essentially a birthday party for the greatest human being who ever set foot on earth. it is the celebration of a baby whose primary purpose in this world was to point to the one and only God who is the main character in all of history. he came to be a perfect sacrifice for a world full of people that in and of themselves are full of sin and incapable of the perfection that God requires. he came to die in our place, to cover all our sins with his perfection so that we might one day be restored in heaven with God. and he came to then rise from the dead - to conquer death, sin, and satan to prove once and for all that God is more powerful than satan, and that the outcome of the battle is already written. and all of that power was wrapped up as a tiny baby.

this year, i'm really being remided that Jesus' birth - revealing the glory of God in a form that we can comprehend, living to die as a sacrifice for the sin that we ourselves could never overcome, and fulfilling the work of the Father to defeat death and crush satan - is the "reason for the season," and it all kind of changes how i look at it. Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection gives me a hope and a freedom that nothing else can.

and so i celebrate. i celebrate with friends and family, with joy and laughter, with lights and decorations, with presents and treats, in the happiest way i know how. because i love that baby and all he stands for. he is why i celebrate Christmas.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

virtual christmas card.

just like last year, i got our christmas cards this year from Shutterfly.

unlike last year, we did not really have a reason this year to have anyone take nice, professional quality pictures of us to put on our cards. in fact, since i was most often the one behind the camera, pictures of both of us together were few and far between this year. and as far as finding one good enough to use, it didnt really help that the ones we did have mostly looked like this:


attractive, no? don't get me wrong - i love each and every one of those pictures. because this is pretty much exactly what our year looked like. and that last one was actually a pretty serious contender to be the one defining picture of our year.

but instead of trying to find just one picture that made us look mostly decent to send out to our friends and family, we ended up with a few pictures that made us look just kind of ok, especially since having more of them meant that they could each be smaller!

also, instead of writing out a christmas letter this year, we found a card that let us just share the highlights of our year in list form. and more words on the card meant even smaller pictures. winning!

so just in case you didn't make the short list* of people who got one of these in the mail, allow me to introduce you to this year's Christmas card! 

*and that does not mean i dont love you but more likely that i might have lost your address and was too lazy to hunt for it so if you want to get on the mailing list for next year you should probably send that to me so i have plenty of time to either add it to my address list or more likely to forget to do that and wind up losing it again at some point over the next 12 months. wow. its kind of amazing that i ever accomplish anything.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

curtains are overrated.

internets, i have a confession to make. we still do not have curtains on 60% of the windows in our house. all the curtain rods are bought and hung on the walls, and we have the fabric that will one day turn into the most fabulous curtains you have ever seen for the fireplace room, front room, and dining room. i promise, there will be curtains and there will be pictures, just as soon as my busy schedule manages to line up with the even busier schedule of my most wonderful friend who has a sewing machine and who also offered to help me make my curtains. and that's obviously not going to happen until after the holidays.

but until then, i am refusing to let our curtain-less windows get me down. in fact, i am using them to my advantage as i decorate for Christmas. because could there be an easier way to hang 48 Christmas balls in your front window than with fishing line and a curtain-less curtain rod? i highly doubt it. 

i found these gems being sold all together in one big box at Target. they're the perfect mix of colors, shiny, and sparkle, which means they immediately and a little bit impulsively jumped straight into my cart. and they're mostly unbreakable too, which is handy for a klutz like me who managed to send several of them flying across the room after accidentally 'trimming' the wrong invisible string. they actually have a pretty nice bounce to them, as long as you don't drop them on their heads.

i'm in love. i mean really. who needs curtains when you could have this little bit of lovely in your life instead?

* i got this idea from pinterest, the great internet timesuck where productivity goes to die.

Monday, December 12, 2011

meet Harold.

we had a beautiful weekend here. it was sunny, it was warm enough to be outside during the day in just a sweatshirt or sweater, but there was enough of a chill in the air to make you remember that it is December and Christmas is coming. it seemend like a perfect day to get our Christmas tree!

last year, we used the artificial tree that i had in my apartment. it was tall and skinny and came complete with fake snow. i thought it was adorable, and it had plenty of room underneath it for presents, but my sisters made fun of it when they came to visit.

this year i convinced the hubs that a real live tree was the way to go. we weren't quite ambitious enough to go cut down our own at a tree farm, but we felt pretty qualified to pick one off a lot.

we looked around for a short time to find a tree that was the right height and nicely shaped. it was a relatively painless decision, and the nice guys who were working there whisked the tree away to wrap it up before i could even take a picture of it where it stood.

the hubs loaded the tree onto Sophie's roof, being careful to put down some old towels to protect her from scratches.

then i helped him tie it down nice and securely for the ride home.

on our way home, we took turns checking to make sure the tree was still attached to the roof. and then this conversation happened:

A: i think he looks like a Harold.
M: who?
A: the tree.
M: you cannot name our Christmas tree.
A: ...
M: it's too late, isnt it?

so our tree this year is named Harold. (it's safe because neither of us were planning on naming one of our kids Harold someday) we're not sure yet if ALL subsequent trees will also be named Harold. i guess we'll have to wait and see what next year's tree looks like.

as for this year's Harold, i have taken a lot of pictures of him. you could probably make a flip-book and see the progress. or you could just scroll down through the rest of this post and see the progression too.

i got the tree stand all ready for him while the hubs took him off the roof of the car.

we put him in the stand and made him stand up straight.

i let him "settle" for as long as i could stand to wait, and then i added lights...

...the bow on top and a tree skirt around the bottom... (which is actually a twin-sized flat sheet from target!)

... and all our ornaments!

his decorations are admittedly a little bit sparse. i can't help thinking that we could use something like hand-made snowflakes to fill in the gaps, with a matching angel for the top if anyone out there would like to get a head start on an idea for us for next years Christmas... (hint,hint,wink,wink)

the final touch for now was putting some presents under the tree! i finally unpacked the gifts that were sent home with us from Thanksgiving and was happy to see that the presents had all survived the trip. a few needed some minor wrapping paper repairs, but only one needed a major duct-tape wrapping overhaul.

doesn't he look great? dont you just want to come over and visit him? and of course us too... but i might totally understand if you just stopped by to say hi to Harold. he is really quite charming.

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our house... how about yours?

Friday, December 9, 2011

never stop improving.

yeah, i stole that from Lowes. this post has nothing at all to do with Lowes.

but it does have something to do with home improvement.

wanna see what we've been up to? what we've been so busy doing that we havent quite yet fully gotten into Christmas and why we're on the brink of being hopelessly behind on Christmas and considering just giving up and buying all of our presents this year at Home Depot?

painting. thats what.

the front room is done! the plastic is up off the floor! we no longer have to re-live the scenario of Trip-Shriek-Hubs Comes Running-Hubs Collapses With Laughter at the fact that the plastic tripped me AGAIN! we moved the monstrosity of a china cabinet back into the room to make room for a tree in the fireplace room! we discovered that the outlet by the monstrosity is controlled  by the switch by the door that we thought did nothing!

the hallway is done! i only changed my mind about the paint color once! there are still no doors on the closet or the basement stairs! i'm not really sure why i'm using so! many! exclamation! points!!!!1! but they make this all more exciting!

the dining room is mostly done. i still have a little bit of detail-painting to do in there under the chair rail, so it is still sporting its platic-covered floors and painters tape. i'll hopefully get to that soon.

but wait, thats not all! we also moved straight from painting and started hanging curtain rods! because you know, eventually we're really going to have curtains to hang, and they are going to be FANTASTIC!

we had one minor snafu with one of the special heavy-duty wall anchors pulling right out of the wall that it was supposed to be anchored into, but other than that nice fresh hole in the wall, the process has gone fairly smoothly. this is the first one we hung. whaddaya think? beautiful, right?

we didn't quite make our goal of having the entire upstairs finished this year, (and by finished i mostly mean painted) we still have to do the kitchen and the bathroom, but we came pretty close and i'm pretty happy with where we are. and we still have a few weeks to try and tackle the few things still on our list of

- hang the rest of the curtain rods.
       (one came out of the box corroded :( so we have to return it )
- replace the outlets and light switches.
- finish the not-a-credenza. (i'm so close!)
- paint the stripes in the dining room.
- paint and re-hang the basement and two closet doors.

think we can make it and still survive Christmas? fingers crossed...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

i dont think my coworkers know what to do with me.

in my office, there are these hanging plants that i suppose are strategically placed to make the cubicle world feel less cubicle-ish. they are green and leafy and they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

that is, until i did this to the one that hangs by my desk:

this is by far the best use of $4 and the second half of my lunch hour that i have ever found. so freakin festive! and yes, pink sparkles are in fact the epitome of Christmas festive-ness and are keeping me from slipping into a Christmas funk fueled by a lack of decorations at home coupled with the current weather, which is 60 degrees and rainy.

chance of snow overnight though... fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


sometimes, the Google people know just what to say to make me smile


Monday, December 5, 2011

battle of the christmas carols.

five days into december and i already feel close to hopelessly behind on Christmas. i have zero presents bought, zero decorations in my house, we're still not sure if we're going real or fake for our tree this year, and our free time between now and Christmas is rapidly decreasing. 

but nevertheless, i have been doing as much as i can to get into the Christmas spirit this past week, which basically means that i have been listening to Christmas music exclusively since we got back from WY. its really the least i can do, but at least its helping me cope with the fact that the holiday might actually be coming up a lot quicker than i would like to believe.

but what i never really realized about Christmas music is that its not all entirely universal. yes, there are the classic carols and rudolph the red nosed reindeer who are no doubt listened to and loved by the masses, but there are some Christmas songs that only exist in certain areas of the country, because they wouldn't really make a lot of sense to anyone outside those areas. what i'm trying to say is that there are such things as colloquial Christmas-isms.

i don't know if they exist everywhere, but i do know that both the Steel City (where i grew up) and Charm City (where i currently live)  both have their own. here, let me show you them. 



whaddaya think? they're both catchy, get-stuck-in-your-head-for-days kinds of songs. they both pretty well capture the essence of their respective cities - both the Yinzers and the crab-obsessed people of the bay. one will leave you craving pierogies and a sandwich topped with fries and slaw, with a peppy tune and a cheery "i'm tellin' yinz hows come" popping into your head throughout the day. the other will have you anxioiusly awaiting the return of crab season and make you belt out randomly and borderline-obnoxiously "NO NOT SCROD!"

if you're exclusively from da Burgh or B-more, maybe you're perfectly ok with that because you never have to listen to both in the same season. but if you're a transplant like me, then you might find yourself humming a tuneless mash-up along the lines of  "jeet jet? then dontcha kno yinz come on dahntahn picksburgh hon and get some steamed crabs and a beer n'at for Christmas!"

and i'm just not sure how i feel about that.

so, good people of the internets: if you had to choose, who do you say has the better Christmas song?

ps. i still have no idea what scrod is, but i dont think i would want it for Christmas either.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

no elk here.

over Thanksgiving vacation, the hubs went hunting.*

rereading that sentence, i am struck by the feeling that this sort of thing probably isnt newsworthy in much of the country, and definitely should not be for a girl who grew up having the first day of hunting season as a day off of school. and yet, there it is. big news in my little family.

but this wasn't just any hunting trip - this was Mark's first time ever hunting, and he wasn't just hunting deer - he was hunting ELK. go big or go home, amirite? he borrowed all the appropriate hunting clothes from my brother and a guy from my parents church, and spent two days in the wilderness with my dad and a couple other guys. i sent him with my prayers that he would come back in one piece and not full of holes, and also with my camera. because elk hunting seemed to be a little more photo-worthy than what i was doing for those two days, which was mostly laying on the couch, reading books, and watching my brother play zelda while we each ate our own box of cheezits.

but you should just know - this is what you get when you trust the photo-documentation to someone else:

a picture of the butts of the guys you trusted with your hubs' life:

a picture of the hubs with the butts of the guys you trusted with your hubs' life in the background:

and a picture of... a deer. because it felt wrong to come home without any pictures of wildlife, and the HUNDREDS of elk that they saw were apparently too far away to get a picture of.

too far away to shoot a camera at, but not too far away to shoot a gun at. men and their priorities. i just don't get it.

*ok, so technically he wasn't the one hunting, because he didn't have a tag. but he did get to carry a gun, just in case he happened to be attacked by a bear. not even kidding. big game hunting is dangerous y'all!