Wednesday, October 31, 2012

happy halloween!

i know i told you all that i wasn't really decorating for halloween this year, and i honestly wasnt planning to. but then i went and threw together a halloween party over the weekend, and the occasion just begged for the addition of a few holiday-specific decorations. nothing really over the top, just some spooky towels in the kitchen, a few strobe lights in the dining room, and my halloween lights that mark lovingly strung in the front window for me.

as part of our party festivities, we told everyone to bring a pumpkin so that we could carve jack-o-lanterns! PS those pumpkin carving kits with the little pumpkin carving tools are my new favorite thing. SO much easier than trying to carve with big ole kitchen knives.  

of course, our party was a costume party. Mark dressed as Nick Markakis this year, (the Orioles right fielder) because the costume was easy and free. he already owned the jersey and hat, and when paired with his softball pants it all started to look really official. his distinguishing feature that proved he put at least a little thought into his costume was the ace bandage on his left hand, since it was a broken left thumb that put Nick on the disabled list at the end of the season. it's all about the details.

i went as a rock star this year, with the idea and costume stemming from my purchase of a pair of $4 sequined hot pants. i added some black tights, and then made my shirt using a cut up black t-shirt and some orange sequined fabric, all held together with some iron-on hem tape and a few safety pins. i accessorized with some bangle bracelets, giant earrings, the most blingy necklace i own, and a guitar-hero guitar. by far, my favorite part of this costume was my hair. sure, it wasnt quite the mohawk that i was going for, but it still came out pretty awesome. 

unfortunately, i dont have a good picture of my whole costume, or any pictures of anyone who came to the party, since my camera decided to die right after i took this picture and right before everyone started showing up. we partied the night away with Lady Gaga, Bane (the bad guy from Batman), a "cereal killer", a chick magnet, and Marty McFly. i really wish i had been able to get pictures of everybody, because we were a pretty good looking group. (i'm thinking of dressing up tonight to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters, so maybe i still have a chance to capture a pic of my whole costume.)

 hope you all have a happy halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

my hurricane hero.

so. that was some crazy weather huh?

we are all ok here. our power stayed on, our basement stayed dry, and our trees stayed firmly planted in the ground. (well, there is that one that is now bent somewhat menacingly over the neighbors driveway...) the roads in our neighborhood are covered in leaves and twigs and pinecones, which is very much preferable to them being covered in water. we are extremely lucky and feel so so so blessed to have come out the other side of this storm with such a boring account of it.

the only little bit of Sandy-related excitement around here (which is still so so minor comparatively) happened last night when we noticed that something wasnt quite right with one of our basement windows.

we figured that its generally not ideal to have several inches of water accumulating in your window wells, so Mark decided to brave the storm outside to remedy the situation.

i, of course, remained inside the warm, dry house while Mark and his bucket bailed the water out of the window and checked on the state of all of the outside things like trees and shingles and whatnot.

Mark's only real comment about his up close and personal experience with Sandy was that it was really cold and wet out there. i'm just really glad i wasnt the one who had to do that. he was quickly recuperated from his misery with a hot shower, a glass of wine, and a good book.

my husband: a homeowner, my hero, and hurricane-wrastler extraordinaire.

my coworker snapped this picture of our regular route to work this morning, just to give you all a little bit of perspective as to what all we were so blessed to be missing out on through this storm:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

operation knock-down drag-out: week 8.

this week will go down in the history of this bathroom project as the week where a lot of things all got half-finished. its not that we didnt work hard, or work as much as possible, because we did both of those things. its just that some projects ended up taking longer than we initially anticipated, which meant that in order to keep moving forward, we had to cut a few corners and leave some parts temporarily unfinished.

we fully intend to go back and play catch up with all of the little pieces-parts, but they are each so little on their own, we knew it was a better use of our time this weekend to knock out some of the bigger items (like the fan installation!) that required a larger chunk of a time commitment, and therefore would be more difficult to do on a weeknight.

things like: climbing into the attic...

...cutting holes in the soffet...

...and cutting holes in the ceiling.

the hole from the old fan might be patched with cardboard and duck tape

so let's take a little inventory of the current state of our bathroom project:
- here we have the tub/shower surround, which is all tiled, but not grouted.

- here we have the exhaust fan that is physically installed, but not wired to power.

- here we have all of the things that are getting painted white. the to-paint-white list includes the door, the ceiling, and the shelves. 87.5% of the things on that list are still unfinished. the to-paint-blue list includes putting a second coat on the walls of the bathroom.

- and here we have my towel hooks project. just barely started.

with a great big un-done list like that, you might think we would be discouraged. but you would be wrong. we are still moving forward with the bathroom, and that makes us happy. and if you compare our un-done list to our already-done list, i think the results are pretty impressive. but that's just my personal and totally unbiased opinion...

trips to Home Depot: this week - 3. total - 13.
trips to Ace: this week - 0. total - 2.
trips to Lowes: this week - 1. total - 3.

times Amanda has cried over this project: this week - 0. total - 1.
times Amanda has cried in Home Depot: this week - 0*. total - 0.
*i came close once, but i held it together.

days until Thanksgiving: 37.

Monday, October 22, 2012

meal plan monday: oct 22.

weekends are never long enough.

how i generally feel about mondays.

zero motivation to prepare or eat anything this week except double chocolate chunk brownies washed down with an extra-giant pumpkin spice latte. unfortunately, i dont think the hubs would be down with that plan. so here's my alternative:

Monday: spaghetti squash we didnt eat last week. (recipe)
Tuesday: {Mark's Birthday} crockpot minestrone soup. (recipe)
Wednesday: grilled chicken on salad.
Thursday: breaded fish and a veggie.
Friday: {Jane Austen Movie Night} probably omelettes.
Saturday: {Halloween Party} (note to self, plan this sometime)
Sunday: zuchinni, black bean, and rice skillet. (recipe)

Friday, October 19, 2012

the heavens declare.

its been a little while since i posted a sunrise picture. i just thought this one was especially gorgeous.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world."
Psalm 19:1-4

Thursday, October 18, 2012

finally ready for fall.

over the weekend, instead of painting the bathroom door or the bathroom shelves or the bathroom ceiling or the bathroom walls, i decided to spend a couple hours getting myself and my house ready for fall, since it i can no longer live in denial that summer is long gone. and even though the bathroom is a huge project that does have a definite deadline, there is no need for it to completely consume every aspect of our lives... just most of them.

it all started in the dollar spot at target, one of my favorite places to spend surprisingly large amounts of money one dollar at a time. on this particular trip, i limited my purchases to a brown foam wreath form and 2 yards of assorted ribbon. once i got home, i added some twine, hot glue, and a few sprigs of some branchy beady twigs that my mom got me as part of a gift a few years ago. somewhat shockingly, it turned out pretty fantastical, so i went ahead and hung it on the front door with a creative combination of ribbon, hot glue, fishing line, and sticky tack.

just inside the front door on the not-a-credenza, we have this lovely little vignette. (please to be ignoring the construction materials) everything here was something i already owned, i just had to put it all together. the basket was part of a present from Mark's aunt. the yellow bottle was an impulse buy from Michaels earlier this year. i wrapped that letter S in twine one day because i was bored. the owl was one of those sneaky pieces that hang out in the target dollar spot but arent really a dollar, but he was too good to pass up. and the little wormy welcome guy was a birthday present. its so festive, and it makes me smile. 

after i took this picture, i also added a little green bird in the branches

i found these lamps a few weeks ago at Goodwill for $8 a piece. i didnt share them until now, because for the majority of the time they have graced the end tables in the fireplace room they were without shades or bulbs. not exactly a good look for a lamp. but that changed this weekend, when i bought some shades at target and filled the lamp bases with the rest of the yellow beady branchy stuff that i didnt use on the wreath or in the owl vase. and then i went a little wild and "styled" the endtable with a stack of goodwill books i picked up for $5. because apparently stacks of hardcover books are SO in right now in the decorating world. and also i really do want to make time to read them at some point.

the last place in the house that got a little fall-ification over the weekend was the fireplace mantel. and i know, i know, based on all of the design and decor blogs out there i'm supposed to put the most time and effort into making the mantel make a real statement, but the truth is that i dont really care what i'm supposed to do. all i did was set this little scarecrow couple up on the mantle in amongst all the other assorted randomness that has lived on the mantle all year. and i think it looks just fine.

i spent a grand total of $2 to decorate my house for fall this year. (i'm not counting the books or lamps, because they're not just for fall) i pretty much just used what i found in my box of seasonal decorations, which led me to stick with more general autumnal theme rather than do anything overly spooky or halloween-ish (full disclosure, i do have a silver light-up jack-o-lantern on the other end of the mantel, but thats it) this way, i can leave these decorations sit out until i'm ready to decorate for Christmas, instead of having to un-decorate at the end of the month. low maintenance decorations for the win.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

gone tomorrow it is.

if i were a good blogger, i would have posted a picture and a haircut update on Saturday immediately after i left the salon. but i had a lunch date with a couple friends to get to, and then i didnt actually take any pictures of the new 'do until i had gone home and got all dolled up for the wedding we had that evening. what a bad blogger, living life like people on the internets arent on the edge of their seats holding their breath waiting to see the results of your haircut.

so some of you have already seen, some might have heard, and some of you might still be wishing it was just a flight of fancy born from friday afternoon boredom, but i am here to report that i did in fact get my hair cut on saturday. and not just a trim. i think the technical term to describe a haircut of this magnitude would be chopped.

that right there in my hand is the 10 inches of my hair that got chopped off and is getting donated. and that right there on my head is what's left of it.


its the shortest my hair has ever been. it requires more product than i have ever voluntarily put on my own head at the same time. it takes less than half as long to wash as it used to. and i now have very little need for the zillion hair ties i currently own. (i can pull the very front of it up into a teeny ponytail that sticks straight up off my head like little CindyLouWho when i work out so they're not completely obselete)

but the best thing about this haircut is that it just feels right. it feels like me. i knew it as soon as the scissors snipped off that 10 inch ponytail. i did not have to psych myself up for such a drastic haircut. i did not mourn the loss of that hair. i was more than ready for it to be gone.

so... thoughts? love it? hate it? actually, i dont even care what you think about it because i love it enough for all of us. so there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

operation knock-down drag-out: week 7.

when given the options of working on the shower tile or the ceiling this week, Mark decided that it would make the most sense to go straight from tiling the floor last week to tiling the shower surround this week. i can think of three reasons that might have influenced his decision making process: 1. he was already really on a roll with the whole tiling thing, 2. his uncle didnt need his tile-tools back just yet, and 3. it bought him some more time before he has to crawl up into the attic and play with wiring.

so just like last week, we spent our friday evening hanging out at the Depot in the tile aisle. except unlike last week, when we got to the tile aisle we discovered that the shelf we were expecting to be filled-to-capacity with boxes of subway tiles was actually empty. boo. but no worries, we just asked someone for help. a simple solution to our dilemma, or so we thought.

well, the first person we asked was just upset that we weren't interested in signing up for some mailing list and maybe getting some free stuff, but he did offer to find us someone from the flooring department who supposedly could help us. he brought us a man whose orange smock was decorated with all manner of willy wonka decals. willy wonka checked the inventory, mumbled a lot, and then wandered out of the aisle with a promise to find someone from the flooring department to help us. wait, you thought willy WAS the flooring department guy? yeah, us too.

and then - willy never came back. when we were thisclose to giving up and just going to lowes, i decided to see how long it would take me and my helpless-girl-in-a-hardware-store impression to get someone to offer to help. when that didnt work AT ALL i switched tactics and went with my stomping-fuming-dissatisfied-customer impression to corner some poor employee from i-didnt-even-care-which department to take me to the manager who called a forklift driver to retrieve our pallet of tile from the top shelf.

follow all that? it took 5 people and a forklift to find us the 6 boxes of tile we needed. sounds like a super fun friday night date night, amirite?

 ok, fine i'll admit the forklift part was pretty awesome.

Mark got started on the tile on Saturday, and managed to get all the prep work and one whole row of tile done before he had to call it a day and get cleaned up to go to a wedding. in his defense, the first row is the most important, since all the other tiles literally build off of it, so it makes sense that he took his time and did it right.

here's your technical tidbit of the week: this week mark is using yet another type of mud called mastic. apparently it comes premixed, has a longer open time than thinset, and is less runny and easier to work with, so mastic is the way to go for your mud-related needs whenever possible.

now how about a bonus technical tidbit for this week: cutting tile. there are two saws that mark is using on this project: the wet saw on the front porch, (as seen in last week's post) and this tile cutter that currently lives in the hallway right outside the bathroom. the wet saw actually cuts the tile with a blade, while this cutter is more like a tile score-and-snapper. it is great for cutting tiles in half or close to in half. it is not so good at cutting slivers off the edge of tiles. something-something-moment-forces-tiles-cracking-in-all-the-wrong-places-blah. 

as of last night, mark has about half of the tiles up on the wall. he plans to be able to finish up in the available evening hours on tuesday and thursday, then grout on friday and be ready to crawl up into the attic on saturday. fingers crossed that it all goes that smoothly, because if its looking this good when its only half-done and un-grouted, then i cannot wait to see it actually all done and beautiful.

trips to Home Depot: this week - 1. total - 10.
trips to Ace: this week - 0. total - 2.
trips to Lowes: this week - 0. total - 2.

times Amanda has cried over this project: this week - 0. total - 1.
times Amanda has cried in Home Depot: this week - 0. total - 0.

days until Thanksgiving: 44.

Monday, October 15, 2012

meal plan monday: oct 15.

so apparently i only know how to make a handful of "healthy" meals, and its getting harder and harder to not just keep rotating through the same menu every week now that we're starting into week 5 of the program-that-shall-not-be-named. so for this week i kind of made a little bit of an effort to switch things up. it took me several HOURS to brainstorm enough meals for the week. and Sunday hardly even counts.

eating healthy is harder than some people make it out to be. especially when things like Monkey Bars exist in the world.

Monday: fish with corn and rice.
Tuesday: chicken enchilada soup. (recipe)
Wednesday: english muffin pizzas.
Thursday: breakfast for dinner. eggs and potatoes.
Friday: taco salad.
Saturday: spaghetti squash, chicken, and broccoli. (recipe)
Sunday: leftovers.

Friday, October 12, 2012

hair today, gone tomorrow?

this is what my hair looks like today, right now, sitting at my desk at work:

i am tired of it. i have been growing out my hair for the better part of this whole year, and i am just done with having long hair. so i'm going to cut it off.  and i'm feeling a little bit drastic today, so this is kind of what i'm thinking:

i'm just a little nervous, because 1) this would be the shortest my hair has ever been, and 2) i really dont want it to turn out like this:

no. just no.

or there's always the safer, tried and true option of an angled bob - longer in the front, stacked in the back.

either way, i still plan to donate my hair, and i think it should be long enough to do so. Locks of Love requires 10 inches, and Pantene Beautiful Lengths requires 8 inches to donate, so i've got options. of course, how much i donate depends on how much hair i have left to chop after all the split ends are trimmed off. after the trim, if i dont have enough length to donate, then i'll walk away with just a trim. but when i measured my hair this morning, (top ten random uses for an engineering scale!) the longest pieces were over 10 inches, so i think i have plenty to work with.

i have an appointment booked for tomorrow morning. this is going to happen. if anyone sees any reason that this hair should not be chopped, let them speak now or forever* hold their peace.

*or at least until it grows back out.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

dining room art.

anyone remember back in August when we got our new dining room table and chairs and i drooled all over them all over the internet and in the background of some of the pictures there were three blank canvasses that i had hung on the wall but didnt really have a plan for?

ok, how about in September when i previewed a little painting project i was working on? remember that? you might have already figured out that they were those dining room canvases, but if you didnt, now you know!

and today i get to show you what they look like all done and up on the wall!

arent they fun? they werent even all that hard to do. after i painted the backgrounds, i found a silverware image online that i printed to size and used as a general guide for tracing the shapes. once i had the shape i liked, i cut a template of each piece out of a cereal box. i traced them onto the canvases, and then filled in the shapes with white paint. so why did it take me so long to finish them? well that probably had a lot to do with the fact that it took FOUR COATS of white paint until i could no longer see the background through the white. i guess thats what i get for using such bold colors.

i am really happy with how these turned out, but there are some days when i stare at them too long and the what-ifs start... what if the colors were more muted? what if the silverware was more stylized? what if i had actually managed to hang them all level? what if i dont like them after a while?

well, the great thing about this project is that i can change it whenever i want to whatever i want. they're just hung on command hooks, so i can take them down whenever i want. and i can always paint over them if i feel so inclined in the future, because its just paint.

but for now, they're perfect. they are bold and fun and i made them myself and they make me smile, and most importantly they are FINISHED which is such a simple thing but such a great joy. cuz let me just tell you, fork tines are zero fun to paint. zero.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

an idiot's guide to theater etiquette.

1. dress the part. if there's ever a good excuse to dress up fancy, its for a trip to the theater. your brand new super flattering dress? wear it. that fancy bridesmaid's dress you never thought you'd ever wear again? wear it. those ties your grandma keeps buying for you? now's your chance to actually wear one. but your soccer warm ups? um, no. your favorite flourescent yellow hoodie? leave it at home.

i'm the one in the flattering new dress taking this unflattering picture. mark is the one not wearing a tie because i'm slowly learning to pick my battles.

2. arrive early. keep in mind, once you get to the theater you'll want time to grab a drink, peruse the merchandise, and use the restroom before finding your seat, so plan to have enough time for that. always a good rule of thumb: if you're on time, you're late.

3. put your camera away. and your stinkin' smart phone too. photography is usually not permitted inside the theater. i know its super tempting because its super exciting and the opening curtain just looks! so! cool! but. the ushers will yell at you. and that is embarrasing. save yourself the embarrasment and take pictures everywhere except in the theater.

like in the lobby, when you're extra early and need to kill some time. ps he's smoking a giant imaginary pipe like a snobby theater-goer. obvsly.

4. find your seats in a timely fashion. if you are tracking with the rules so far, this should be no problem. the problems arise when you arrive late, because once the lights go down it is not only much more difficult to read the letters and numbers on the seats, but also much more likely that your stumbling around in the dark will annoy your fellow theater-goers.

a very abbreviated guide to theater seating:
- rows are labeled alphabetically in ascending order.   
- seats are numbered from left to right facing the stage.
- when in doubt, ask an usher for help.

and for the love of Oz, please enter your row from the correct end so as to minimize the number of people you have to make stand up as you shuffle past. this is not only a pain to those in your row, but also those in the rows behind you who paid to see a show, not the butts of the people in front of them.

THIS is what i came to see

5. remain seated. yes, the whole time. see above re: shuffling in and out of rows. this is not only disrespectful to those seated around you, but also to the actors on stage. your drink refill is not that important, and it can wait. but if you think otherwise, and you have already arrived late and then left again in the middle of the act, dont be surprised if the ushers refuse to let you back into your row and make you stand. enough is enough.

6. come back after intermission. you guys! intermission wasn't the end! you missed the whole second half of the show! how sad for you...

7. ENJOY!!! going to the theater is fun! seeing Wicked at the theater for your anniversary is extra-fun! dont be embarrased to lip-sync to all the songs, because chances are at least half of the audience is doing the same thing. i mean, they totally were, right? i wasnt the only one, right?!? eh, i dont even care if i was. it was AH-MAZING!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

operation knock-down drag-out: week 6.

so in case you havent noticed already, the general game plan around here is that pretty much nothing bathroom-related gets done in the middle of the week (Tues - Thurs) and most of the significant, amazing, and impressive feats of home improvement are performed over the extended weekend days (Fri - Mon). this week was no exception.

on Friday night, we took a trip to the Depot to pick up the floor tile and a few other related necessities. since the store was mostly empty, i took the opportunity to get a picture of the tile we're using for the floor and in the shower area, since i couldnt find any good pictures online. and also because its way less awkward to be kneeling on the floor of the Depot taking pictures if no one but your husband is around to witness your insanity.

since the rest of Friday evening was spent cheering the O's to victory in the wild card game, the real work started on Saturday. before Mark could start cutting any tiles, we had to mark out some guidelines on the floor, since i wanted the tile to be laid on the diagonal. so here's a real world application for all you math-haters out there: how many engineers with math minors does it take to calculate a whole-number length of the legs on an isosceles triangle that will provide a whole-number length hypotenuse?

we got the answer within 1/32 and called it good enough

mark made all the cuts on the wet saw that he borrowed from his uncle the tile-expert. he had access to another kind of tile cutter that would have made the process faster, but he wasnt happy with the quality of the cuts it was giving him, so he just stopped using it in favor of the wet saw.

Mark didnt end up making as much progress on Saturday as he had hoped to. instead of workworkworking all day, he stopped when he was about halfway done with the cuts to take me out to dinner and the theater for our anniversary! he is seriously the best ever.

on Sunday, Mark finished cutting and dry-fitting all of the tiles, and then started setting them in place.

since he is a genius, he numbered all of the pieces with painters tape before he took them back out of the room. this made putting it all back together super simple, and ensured that all of the time he spent laying them out wasnt a waste of time.

i was busy painting things and doing laundry for most of this time, but i caught up with the process right at the end to take some tile-tutorial pictures for you all.

Step One: spread some mud on the floor.

Step Two: use the trowel to make some lines in the mud.

Step Three: drop a tile into place, pound on it until it is level with the pieces around it. its just that easy!*
*but it might not be. dont take my word for it.

once all the pieces were mudded into place, i made my one and only contribution to the tile-ing process by assisting Mark with cutting the threshold to size. and by "assisting" i probably mean "flashlight holding." but you should never underestimate the effect that good lighting can have when cutting tile, especially at 9:30 on a chilly, rainy Sunday night.

after the threshold was cut, it apparently needed to be polished. so Mark did that last night after work.

and then, after drilling some holes into the tile underneath to give the mud and the threshold something grippier than smooth ceramic tile to hold onto, the threshold got mudded into place! pro tip: do not step on the freshly mudded threshold. it will shift and the hubs will not be happy. (ps i did not step on it, but i was warned ahead of time of the potential for disaster.)

because my hubs is awesome, he worked late into the night (on a work night even!) to get the floor grouted so that this step would be complete, and so he could return all of his uncles tile tools that he had borrowed for the weekend, which stretched into a weekend and a day.

so as of this morning, we now have a beautiful new tile floor in our bathroom! i am so impressed and excited and i cant help but stare lovingly at it every time i walk down the hall.

next up: shower tile? ceiling? i'm actually not sure. but i'll be sure to let you know all about it once i find out.

trips to Home Depot: this week - 1. total - 9.
trips to Ace: this week - 0. total - 2.
trips to Lowes: this week - 0. total - 2.

times Amanda has cried over this project: this week - 0. total - 1.
times Amanda has cried in Home Depot: this week - 0. total - 0.

days until Thanksgiving: 51.