Thursday, March 29, 2012

i slowed down.

he wasn't supposed to be there.

he had never been there before.

but there he was. just standing on the side of the road.

people passing in their cars slowed to get a good look at him - the stranger, the new guy, the anomaly. there weren't often any of his kind seen around this neighborhood. the bright colors that adorned his head, contrasted against his plain brown coat and the backdrop of long green grasses, stood out starkly in the early morning sun shining around him like gold. he was stunning.

i was one of those people who slowed down. in fact, i even turned around because i was so amazed at the sight of him, i just needed a second look. and hopefully a chance to snap a quick picture. my fingers fumbled blindly in my purse as i hastily navigated a three point turn in the nearest driveway, searching for the distinct texture of my camera case, my eyes never daring to dart away from the stranger.

he walked boldly across the street, seemingly oblivious to the multitude of eyes that were trained on him, the people who's lives he had literally stopped dead in their tracks. and then just for fun, he turned right around and crossed back. all of this transpired right in front of my stopped car, as my fingers failed to grasp the one thing that would guarantee that this surreal series of events, this little bit of change in a normally unchanging morning routine, would be captured and remembered.

the time came when i had to turn around again to point my car back in the direction of work, ending my momentary detour from the regular flow of commuters, slipping back into the same old routine with the ease that comes with going through the same motions daily for months.

as i drove away, my fingers finally locked around my camera. and when i passed his spot again, i searched for him, hoping to get one last look at the stranger who had shaken me out of my well-oiled-machine of a morning routine.

but he had moved on. no longer strutting and posing and allowing himself to be seen. he had gotten his fill of gawkers, and just by being there for those very few minutes, he had made his impact.

he had caused a few people to slow down in the midst of their morning rush, their daily grind, and notice and appreciate something different.

i was one of those people who slowed down.

because he wasn't supposed to be there.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

well hung.

i'm talking about the shelf in our kitchen. get your minds out the gutter you pervs!

so i mentioned a while back that on our list of kitchen to-do's is adding storage space to our teeny-tiny kitchen by putting up a shelf. it took us a while, and we definitely took the long way around to get there, but now we can finally cross it off the list!

technically this project got started the weekend that my sister Abi came to visit. as a part of our IKEA run that we managed to squeeze in between all the other craziness we crammed into that weekend, i picked up a shelf that i had been contemplating for a little while. its a GRUNDTAL (dont ask me to pronounce it) and i think i like it so much because its the same kind that my mom got for her kitchen at our old house.

before we could hang the shelf, we had to wait until the painting was all done, which i mentioned wrapped up two weekends ago. what i didnt mention at that time was that we immediately wanted to hang the shelf, so on Sunday night after my birthday party with the fam, that's what we set out to do.

we decided on where we wanted the shelf to hang by having Mark hold it up and me stand back and make sure that it looked good and wouldnt be in the way of the fridge or the cabinets above the fridge, or people walking through the doorway. we marked our preferred location with pencil on some painters tape. (a trick we learned from Vanilla Ice of all people, so we werent marking directly on the walls)

then it was up to Mark to make sure it would all be secure and level. to make it extra secure, we knew it would be preferable to have at least one side of the shelf anchored into a stud, so we ended up shifting it all about an inch to the right so that the left bracket of the shelf would be centered in a stud. the right side would just have to rely on some heavy-duty drywall anchors.

well apparently, sometimes if you happen to be super strong and you put too much pressure onto a drywall anchor while attempting to attach a shelf to your wall, you can wind up pushing the whole setup (screw and anchor) straight through the drywall.

womp-womp. (there are no pictures of the holes, they were just too sad)

we had to fix this, otherwise we would not have a shelf, and that was the ultimate goal, after all. failure was not an option. so we had to open up the wall. yay for more drywall work! Mark cut an opening between the two studs where we had punched the holes. he stayed away from the corner, because that would have been a tough space to try and fix after the fact.

some random 2x4s were the key to this surgery: to beef up the stud in the corner so that when the shelf went back up it would have something solid behind it, and also to add some lateral supports so that the drywall piece that had been taken out could be reattached to the wall.

from this point on, things went smoothly. but we really didnt want to wait forever for the entire recommended time that it would take multiple coats of fairly thick spackle that we needed to fill the gaps to dry. so we bought a little fan. (we also got a memory card for my new camera when we got the fan. new camera pics for the win!) we wanted to set the fan up as closely to the wall as possible. which meant we needed to be a little creative.

yes. really.

thanks to our fan-tastic setup, the spackle was all ready to be sanded last night, AND two coats of paint went up and dried in no time flat. since we still had the original holes for the left bracket in the wall, we just had to line up the shelf, make sure it was level, mark and drill the holes for the right bracket, and attach this sucker to the wall. piece of cake.

i love this shelf. the stainless steel matches the pulls that are on our cabinets and drawers, and surprisingly enough it doesnt really make the space feel any smaller, because it just occupies an area of the kitchen that was previously just dead space.

the goal for the shelf is that is will hold some of the pots and pans that we use fairly regularly that currently reside in the clown-car that is our corner cabinet. its amazing the amount of stuff that can fit in that space, but its a pain in the butt to try and get anything through the tiny cabinet door. so hopefully with a little reorganization this shelf will be outfitted with all sorts of goodies and Mark can stop cringing every time he thinks about having to put away the clean pots and pans.

PS. how amazing is my new camera?!! it doesnt take three years to focus and take a picture, it picks up a lot more light so it uses the flash less often, everything looks less blurry, and the colors are way more true to life (except for this one, where the flash makes the kitchen look a lovely shade of banana-school-bus-yellow) best. birthday present. ever.

still on the to-do list:
- swap out all the electrical outlets, switches, and the random phone jack.
- fresh coat of paint on the cabinets and drawers.
- re-hang the light fixture.
- decide on something to do with the fake wall next to the fridge.
- move all our kitchen stuff out of the nook and back into the kitchen.

so there you have it. one step closer to having our kitchen back and fully functional!

Monday, March 26, 2012

meal plan monday: march 26.

i think the best way to describe how we spent this past weekend would have to be something along the lines of house-project-ADD. we worked some, we played some, we started some new projects, we worked on some ongoing projects, and we finished... well, none of them. i plan on sharing more on them later in the week, as we (hopefully) finish them up, but until then, here's just a little sneak-peek:

taken with my old camera. new camera pics coming soon!

and since its monday and i've somehow managed to keep up with this whole meal-planning thing for what has admittedly been way longer than i originally thought i would, here's what we're eating this week:
(capitalized to make it seem fancier than it is)

Monday: Soup from a Can.
Tuesday: CrockPot Cilantro Lime Chicken. (recipe)
Wednesday: Whole Wheat Pasta with CrockPot Sauce. (recipe)
Thursday: Grilled Chicken Salad.
Friday: Fish, Rice, and a Veggie (corn?).
Saturday: Raviolis. maybe a Veggie.
Sunday: Breakfast for Lunch: Pancakes/Waffles, and Eggs.

Friday, March 23, 2012


so did i mention that yesterday was my birthday? i turned 25. which means that i now get to enjoy cheaper car insurance, and i can also rent a car at a reasonable rate too. wootwoot! its kind of funny, because apparently turning 25 means that to the world at large, i am now officially a responsible adult. but the thing is, i dont FEEL any more responsible now than i did on wednesday. in fact, the only real difference i've noticed so far is that my hair has been getting greasy more quickly than normal. but that hopefully has more to do with my new shampoo than it does with my age.

anywho, i just wanted to real quick share with you what the hubs got me for my birthday this year.

present number one from the hubs: MY NEW CAMERA!

this blurry pic was taken with my old camera. obvsly.

it's just the one i wanted, which either means that the hubs is very good at taking hints, or the hints that i gave this time were just a little too obvious. (leaving my research list out on the table with a big circle around the one i wanted seemed reasonable enough) i have yet to actually take any pictures with my cool new toy, because 1. i got sleepy while i had to wait forever for the battery to charge, and B. this pretty little lady doesnt use the same kind of memory card as my old camera, which means we need to get a new memory card before i can really take this gal out for a spin. i'll be sure and let you know how i feel about her once we spend some more time together. (and hopefully you'll be able to see my pictures improve too!) 

present number two from the hubs: I CAN SEE HIS FACE AGAIN!

the beard is GONE y'all! after over three months of looking at him through the filter of his hairy-faced-ness every day, i had just about resigned myself to the fact that i might never fully see my husbands lovely face again in favor of his love of the lower-maintenance beard. but no! he shaved it all off last night while i was at jazzercise! i was so surprised that i just wanted to hug him and squeeze him and kiss his face, but he told me i had to shower first. apparently i was a little too stinky after my workout for being all up in his personal space.

my hubs loves me so much, and combined with all the other presents and cards that i got i'm feeling kind of spoiled right now. but in a good way, not in a slimy rotten disgusting way. and i just want to say thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday, or got me a present, or ate cake with me, or just had a good day for your very own reasons, because you all made my day just a little bit extra special. you're the best!

have a good weekend y'all - i'm going to spend mine extending my birthday celebrations as long as possible... how long do you think i can stretch it?!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

happy birthday to me!

that's really all i wanted to say today. you'll have to wait until later to hear all about whatever awesome gift the hubs decides to get me.
(pleasepleaseplease be a new camera!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

secret's out!

want to see what i was up to while the hubs was dutifully painting the kitchen this weekend? of course you do. because i've been dying to tell you about it.

Saturday was finally the day of my sister-in-law's surprise bridal shower!

you guys. i've been keeping this a secret since Christmas. and its been killing me not to be able to ask for ideas, or share any progress pictures, or even sneak peeks for three whole months! Victoria is one of the smartest people i know and it is next to impossible to surprise her. even the slightest slip-up in a conversation, or posting a picture of the spraypainted spot in my backyard, or even mentioning that i had a secret project going on would have tipped her off that something was up. she's just good like that.

since we were expecting a pretty good-sized group of ladies, and in order to keep Victoria from getting suspicous of any extra cleaning going on at her house, (especially during tax season!) we used the church as our location. it worked out really well because we were able to use their tables and chairs, which saved us from having to rent anything.

i was mostly in charge of the decorations for the shower, so of course the first place i went for inspiration was pinterest. (ps. dear pinterest: please look into making an option for private pin boards for planning surprise-type things. pleaseandthankyou.) after looking around a bit, i found a few images that i really liked, and decided that the main colors for the shower would be pink and orange, with a 'theme' for the decorations of burlap and lace. the tables were each decked out with a white plastic tablecloth, a burlap runner, and centerpieces compiled of various glass containers.

each individual centerpiece was different, because i wound up with a wide variety of glass bottles and jars to decorate and use. some jars were wrapped in just burlap, others with burlap and lace, still others with ribbon, and the smallest ones were accented with twine. some bottles were spraypainted pink, others were cool enough on their own to not need any embellishment at all. the flowers were orange tiger lilies from a local florist, because those are Vic's favorites.

the circle backdrop that i made for behind the food table was another idea that i found on pinterest. i was lucky enough to find a pack of cardstock in (close-enough-to) the right colors to work. i used the bottom of a large paint can to trace the circles, and then spent a few evenings punching all the holes and tying them all together with light pink ribbon. we hung it on the wall using command hooks, because they would come off of the walls easily after the shower, and because i already owned them.

the amazing food was a group effort by Vic's mom, her future mother-in-law Stacy, and her aunt Denise. everything that could be made pink was made pink, and i think i may have developed a slight addiction to the cake batter fruit dip.

and then there was the cake, which was the handiwork of Victoria's aunt Gail and cousin Lauren. this thing practically stole the show, as it was by far the most impressive thing any of us had ever seen. it had three layers. each layer was a different flavor. (lemon, chocolate, and strawberry... mmmm) the icing was better than i have seen from some professional bakers. and those flowers? they are made out of icing and are completely edible. absolutely mind-blowing. and did i mention delicious? because yeah, that too.

on the overflowing gift table there were three baskets: one for cards, one for people to write their address on envelopes for thank yous, and one for the recipe cards that were sent out with the invitations. i found the particular ones on etsy, because it was nearly impossible to find any cute ones in real stores. the best part about these is that they were delivered as a pdf, so we could just print as many as we needed, and Victoria can print even more if she wants all of her recipe cards for all time to match without having to pay for them again.

we got Victoria to the church under the ruse that her fiance, Russell, had volunteered them and a few other friends to do the church's weekly cleaning before going to another function later that evening. it was hard to keep track of all the stories we had to spin, and lies we had to tell, and false rabbit trails we had to concoct to keep her thrown off, but it was worth it to get her the whole way through the door before she figured out what was going on. she was completely surprised, stunned even, and kind of speechless for a few minutes. 

the other bridesmaids, Marlene, Sarah, Melissa, Kelli, and Lauren, did a wonderful job with the games and prizes. by far my favorite game (and the only one i have pictures of) was the toilet paper wedding dresses. everyone got involved and had a lot of fun, and some of those dresses were extremely detailed for being made out of nothing more than TP and some tape!

 and then my camera died. because of course it did. so sorry for my utter lack of any pictures of Vic opening any of her zillion presents, or of her wearing her fabulous bow hat/bouquet, or of all of the bridesmaids together with her, (oh wait, thats because we never took that one. oops!) or the fantastic clean-up crew that showed up to help us get the church back in order for Sunday morning.

this shower was truly a group effort, and it took hard work and cunning and even a few lies from everybody involved to pull it off. i can't thank everyone enough for all the efforts that went into this from so many different fronts. it was a ton of fun to put together and attend, but i am kind of very much glad that it is over. keeping secrets is some serious bidness, y'all!

anyone else have any secrets to share? i think if nothing else this whole experience proves my ability as a good secret-keeper...

Monday, March 19, 2012

meal plan monday: march 19.

this week in kitchen-news: PAINT!

since the ceiling and the trim got done a few weekends ago, Mark was able to get the painting-with-color started on Tuesday by doing a quick coat of edging around the ceiling. he's gotten really good at cutting-in since we've painted almost every room in our house, so he no longer has to waste time and energy taping things off.

then while i was out partying all day Saturday, (more on that later in the week) Mark painted all the rest of our little kitchen!

if it looks kind of bright to you, its probably because it is.  Mark doesnt seem too thrilled with it, but after that whole 'repainting-the-hallway-a-slightly-different-shade-of-gray' thing, he's already sworn up and down that he's not repainting it anytime soon.

but the good news is that i love it! it is bright and cheery and sunshiney and it covers all the spackle-spots! the only downside to this color is that it kind of makes me hate our fake-wood counters, but since they're not going anywhere any time soon, we're just going to have to live with them for a while.

you can tell that we're not quite done in here, (and also that i dont really bother to stage my photos) as evidenced by the missing cabinet door, the junk on the counter, the trash bag waiting to go out, and the shop vac. oh, and the fact that all the things that usually take up the scarce and valuable real estate on the kitchen counters are currently living on a card table in the breakfast nook. but this step was some major progress and i just couldnt wait to share!

Still on our To-Do list for the kitchen:
- hang a shelf for added storage on the one real wall.
- put the real light fixture back up.
- paint the cabinets a fresh shade of white.
- decide on what to do with the fake wall next to the fridge.
- move all our kitchen stuff out of the nook and back into the kitchen.

but in the meantime, we still have to eat. so here's the plan for this week:

Monday: taco night. (3 days til my birthday)
Tuesday: fish with salad. dinner with the in-laws (2 days til my birthday)
Wednesday: citrus herb chicken, and corn. (1 day til my birthday)
Thursday: IS MY BIRTHDAY!!!  soup from a can?
        (Mark has softball and i have jazzercise so we're not going out for dinner or
           doing anything really special)
Friday: crock pot mediterranean chicken breast and rice (recipe) 
        (going to see the Hunger Games for my birthday!)
Saturday: out to dinner for my birthday!
Sunday: since we never follow through our plan this far, let's just say pasta.

PS. my birthday is this week, just in case you didn't catch that.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Scene: the hubs is returning from the craft store because i asked him to stop and pick up a few things for me on his way home from work.

Me: did you find everything ok?

Him: yeah. i think a gay guy checked me out.

Me: ooh yeah babe! cuz you're HOTT STUFFS! BAM!

Him: i meant like at the register.

Me: oh. well. i still think you're hott stuff...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Birthday Weekend NYC

 yes, my birthday isn't for another 8 days. BUT my BFITW's birthday was 8 days ago. which makes today, the day right in between the two, the perfect day to tell you all about our most wonderful birthday weekend adventures! (also, because i forgot yesterday)(alsoalso, today is Pi Day. coincidence? i think not!)(sine cosine cosine sine! 3.14159!)(wow, nerd much?) 

we're turning 25 this year. (or 52, depending on how you hold the balloons)

apparently at 52 your back just gives up

turning 25 is the last birthday with any real reason to look forward to (cheap car insurance FTW!) so we decided to celebrate this year in style. New York City style. we made a few plans. but our overarching plan was just to wing it and have a good time. our good friend Nadine suggested that we make a list of 25 things that we wanted to do on our 25th birthday weekend. so we did.

and then we did all of the things on it.

1. Anything Goes. the main event of the weekend, and the one thing we had to plan in advance. we bought our cheapseat tickets and sat on the aisle in the next to the last row AND WE LOVED IT! seriously, there are no bad seats at these shows, and this one was freaking fantastic. the music was awesome, the premise was hilarious, and the dancing - can i just say "entire ensemble tap number?" dang, that was impressive.

2. Central Park. granted, we spent most of our time walking around looking for a bathroom, but we did manage to cover an impressive amount of park in our wanderings.


3. Times Square. is way cooler at nighttime than during the day. so glad that our random wanderings managed to get us there at the right time to enjoy all the lights. 

4. Toys R Us Ferris Wheel. for as many times as i have been to the city, i have never rode the big ferris wheel inside Toys R Us. and for as many times as Julie has been to the city (more than me) she had never even been inside the store. so yes, we were those girls who were obviously too old to be so excited to be riding in a Cabbage Patch Kid gondola and we didnt even have anyone under the age of 10 with us to use as a cover. i have no regrets.

5. Empire State Building. this part of our adventure included my sister with the babies (who are like all growed up into full-fledged kids!) and her husband. we bypassed all the lines with a VIP pass and took in the sights from both the 85th and 102nd floors. it pays to have an awesome brother in law who works in the Empire State Building.

6. Exchange Presents. this was the first thing we did, because we love presents and also because we didnt want to have to carry them around taunting us all weekend before we could open them. best friend necklaces, a pink sparkle clutch, and some gorgeous painted wine glasses were exchanged. happy birthday to us!

7. Go Out To Dinner. on our way to Times Square we stopped in a little cafe to eat. it wasnt a fancy dinner, but it counts.

8. Drink Something Alcoholic. thank you Jimmy! whatever it was that you mixed together in those glasses, it was delicious!

9. Minion Cupcakes. ok. so we saw this picture on Pinterest and decided that we absolutely NEEDED these cupcakes. they were fun and surprisingly easy to make, and they were some tasty artery-clogging goodness. note for next time: invite people to help you eat them all, and cover them overnight unless you really like super crunchy twinkies.


10. Shamrock Shakes! because its March. duh.

11. UnicornHockeyPuckMonkeyMonkeyUnderpants. is a mix CD we made in college. full of songs with wonderful keychanges. we made several of these mixes over the years. this was by far our best effort. also, wonderful tunes for driving, and an amazing Gilmore Girls reference.

12. Take at Least 25 Pictures on Each Camera. the last few times we've been together, we've forgotten to take any pictures. not this time. no way.

13. Eat Good Bagels. Abi went out on Saturday morning and got these from the best bagel place in the city, which just so happens to be in their neighborhood. ours had vegetable cream cheese and Lox. which is salmon. and surprisingly delicious.

14. Go For a Run. its been forever since we've run together, and it felt good to burn off those minon cupcakes from the night before. by our best estimate we did almost 3 miles without even realizing it. yay us!

15. Eat From a Street Vendor. the worst soft pretzel we have ever had.

16. Buy (think about buying/haggle for) a Knock-off. he just wouldnt budge on his price. so i walked away. i'm only a little sad about it.

17. Sushi. oh yes we did. Jimmy took us to a buffet right around the corner from his office. there were a few that i tried and did not care for, but for the most part everything was delicious and filling and the desserts were so tiny and adorable!

18. New York Pizza. remember that random place that we stopped for dinner on our way to Times Square? yeah, we count a slice of pizza and some mango snapple as going out for dinner.

19. Ride the Subway. we did it twice. all by ourselves. Jimmy pointed us in the right direction to get us down to Lower Manhatten, and when we wanted to get back we just picked a random subway station and it just so happened that we picked a good one and we rode it back north to Central Park.

20. Stop at a Convenience Store/Rest Stop. ok so at this point we were struggling to come up with things to finish our list. but we did it, both on our way to and from the city. and it was fun. honest!

21. Try Something New. for me, it was the sushi. for Julie, it was fish on her bagel. 25 things is a lot for one weekend, ok?

22. Get Gas in Jersey. we almost missed our chance on the way in, but stopped at the last rest stop in New Jersey for a snack and for gas that we didn't have to pump ourselves.

23. Ride the Train. Abi and Jimmy rode the train into the city with us in the morning. later after the show, we had to find our own way back. we only got a little bit turned around, (we were NOT lost) but we had to run through the station to catch the train back to Queens. so what if we added it to the list just to cross it off? it was all part of the adventure.

24. Parallel Park. in between two cars. go ahead. be impressed. i know i was. (Abi fixed it for me later. shhhh... dont tell!)

25. Sign the Brooklyn Bridge. this one was kind of a happy surprise bonus for us. we were trying to go to the 9/11 Memorial, but by the time we realized that we needed to get tickets to get in, we would have had to wait 2 hours just until we could get in line to get into the memorial, and we didnt have that kind of time. so instead we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. (confession: we really only did half of it.)

and on our way back, we decided to sign it. just to let people know we had been there. you know, in case we ended up getting shot on the subway later in the day, we didnt want to be forgotten.

so that was our epic 25th birthday weekend celebration! sorry for the long post and the millionandahalf pictures, but it was a jam-packed weekend and i wanted to tell you all just how awesome it was! sometimes facebook albums just dont quite cut it.

if you're looking to have an epic NYC weekend, i know a place with a couch and an air mattress where company is always welcome as long as you dont mind being woken up by a 4-year old tickling your feet or a 2-year old jumping on your bed. but make your reservations soon, because they won't be in the city much longer!

so, anyone have any fun plans for Pi Day!?