Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree...

...I never want to take you down.

I also never want to take down the stockings, the mistletoe, the plastic candle lights in the windows, the paper snowflakes in the windows, the Merry Christmas sign hanging on the drapes, the ornaments hanging from the ceiling, the wreath on the front door, the snowman, or the snowflake garland on the record player.

Sigh. The idea of having to take it all down in a few weeks is seriously depressing me. Would it be so wrong to leave my Christmas decorations up all year 'round?

Since its highly possible that I won't be posting again before Christmas, and since Seth and I aren't sending out cards this year (things have just been waaaay too hectic), let me go ahead and say MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! I hope everyone has a great holiday and a great break from work and safe travels. I'll be back to blogging next week, and hopefully that will include pictures of a newly painted bedroom! And maybe snow? It sure would be nice to have a White Christmas for a change... ;)

My new favorite thing...


...is Lady Vols basketball. I went to my first game last Thursday, and it is so EXCITING!! I instantly loved it. When its time for the game to start, all the lights in the arena go down, flames shoot out of the goal posts (seriously!), and this music blasts out of the speakers as the players run out. Its so intense! And that was just the beginning of the excitement...the Lady Vols are really fun to watch because they're so talented and Pat Head Summitt is such a great coach. My favorite 2 players are #00 Shannon Bobbitt and #3 Candace Parker (she's 6'4" and is one of the few women's basketball players to be able to slam dunk the ball).



All it took was 1 game and I'm already looking into season tickets ;) Go Lady Vols!!

Baking

Its treat time again at my office, which means that everyone signs up to bring something to eat every day for the month of December. I made another carrot cake (from a box) with cream cheese frosting (also store bought), and I'm telling you...as long as you decorate the cake in an interesting way, no one questions whether or not you made the cake from scratch. If someone asked me straight up, I'd tell them, but no one ever does so I just say "thank you!" when someone says its good :) Last year I made the mistake of using tubed gel icing, and it was mess...I definitely learned my lesson and used a can of icing that came with 4 different tips for decorating this time.



It was a hit! And I purposefully signed up for an early date so I could get it done and cross it off my list. The other thing I got to cross off my list today was giving gifts to the people in my department. Last year....well, last year was just stressful. I took on too much and ended up being completely stressed for a solid month. And part of that stress was due to trying to figure out what to give my coworkers. I ended up picking up some random items (mostly ornaments), and the whole thing just felt forced and expensive. Lots of little things add up! So after watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, I decided to make 1 batch of her jam thumbprint cookies and put them in plastic bags and tie them with cute ribbon (like she did) and be done with it.

If you're panicking because Christmas is 2 weeks from today (!!!) and you're trying to figure out what in the world you're going to give your coworkers and you want to only spend about $10 and 2 hours of your time, this is the thing to do. Here's the recipe for the cookies, and the website says its only going to be available for a limited time, so be sure to print it out if you're going to use it. I'm not a baker (I prefer to cook, plus I prefer salty over sweet), and I was able to pull these off easily. Of course, it helped to have Stacy there with me (so I could ask, "Am I doing this right?" and "Is this how the dough is supposed to look??") and the use of her Kitchenaid mixer, but still...this is a recipe that I think anyone could manage :)

It hasn't really occurred to me until now that I've been writing this blog for over a year (13 1/2 months to be exact), and its pretty cool to be able to look back at what I was doing a year ago...pictures and all. If I keep this up, I could potentially look back at what I was doing 5 and 10 years ago! That's pretty cool. Thank you technology! :)

Our new pet

The craziest thing happened yesterday. Seth was in the kitchen, I was in the living room, and all of a sudden he yelled for me to come look out the window because THIS was in our backyard:



Can't tell what it is? Here's a close-up:


And here's a close-up of the back of his head:


This guy was in our BACKYARD!! Unbelievable. It still blows my mind when I think about it. He started off in the middle of the backyard with a squirrel. He wasn't eating it...just holding it in his large talons and standing there for a long time (maybe 20 minutes?). He finally flew off with the squirrel, and here's a video of him standing there, Seth and I flipping out, and then the hawk flying off at the end):

video

So once he flew away we thought it was all over, but then an hour later I looked out the bedroom window and there he was again! He had brought his squirrel back and now he was eating it. He was back there for about 3 hours, eating every last bit of that squirrel. Amazing.

We named him Tiger, and after lots of googling, I'm pretty sure he's a ferruginous hawk. I'm no bird expert so could definitely be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that's what he is. If anyone thinks he's a different kind of hawk (or even an eagle!), please let me know. His thick white legs are what make me think there's a small possibility that he's an eagle.

It was just so unbelievable to have a creature like that right in our backyard!! Tiger, I hope you come back soon :)

Thanksgiving recap



Oh man, I love Thanksgiving. Its all about hanging out with your loved ones, lounging around the house, talking, napping, eating, and being thankful....and its all done at a slow pace with football in the background, weather that's chilly but not bitter cold yet, and sans the pressures of present-buying. So basically my point is that Thanksgiving is superior to Christmas (sorry, Al) :)
I had so much fun prepping for this big day. Well, it wasn't all fun I guess...trying to get the kitchen, living room, dining room, and bathroom all painted before the family got here was a little stressful. But it was so worth it. And now I can finally relax and do the rest of the rooms at a normal pace, plus I can finally start putting things on the walls.

So for the big meal, my mom did most of the cooking and I was in charge of figuring out when everything needed to go in the oven/on the stove and at what temperature, plus I did all the decorating. I looooove decorating a table for a special meal, always have. I think I get that from my Grandmother.



The buffet worked out really well, and it was fun to use leaves and berries from the yard to decorate it.

Can you spot my adorable Mom in the background? She really went above and beyond to make Thanksgiving great. There's no way it would have all come together without her.

I also found out that the shelves between the kitchen and the dining room work really well as an extra buffet when you're trying to find room for rolls, broccoli & cheese, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, corn pudding, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a turkey, a turk'y, gravy, pumpkin pie, and apple pie.

The turk'y was DELICIOUS, by the way!! I highly recommend it, even if you're not a vegetarian (it has 77% less fat than regular turkey). I put it in a roasting bag with a mixture of olive oil, rosemary, thyme, salt, & pepper and it was really tasty.



Once all the food was ready, of course I had to run around and take pictures of all of it. Seth is used to me taking pictures of food, but the rest of my family isn't and maybe they thought I was a little odd? I don't know...I definitely don't think I'm the only odd one in the family.



Leave it to my dad to stick his head in the picture :)

I guess the next big thing around the corner is Christmas, and really...its JUST around the corner. Less than a month away! Hopefully one of these days Seth and I can finally recoup from moving and refinishing the floors and painting and hosting Thanksgiving dinner so we can get the tree up. Hope everyone has a great Tuesday!

Finished bathroom

BEFORE (with the Willy Wonka wallpaper and the raggedy green valance):

AFTER (several coats of primer and green paint):



I just love how much cleaner it feels in there, which is why I definitely needed to finish the bathroom before some of my family gets here (tomorrow!!). I'm so excited for them to be here. And I'm so excited for Thanksgiving dinner! I am most excited to eat the following things: corn pudding, green bean casserole, and deviled eggs. And pumpkin pie. And trying out Seth's Turk'y! I really hope its good because Seth hasn't had turkey in 13 years and I want him to be able to enjoy it on Thanksgiving again.

In other news, Al came to visit last weekend and she bought the most adorable pair of space-themed, footed pj's in the boy's department at Target:

I mean, gimme a break --

She couldn't be any cuter! Thanks for coming to visit, Al -- I had such a great time :)

I hope everyone has safe travels, delicious food, and good times this week. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

What a difference hours & hours of hard work makes...







This is the first time I've compared the before and after pictures of the kitchen, and I've known it was a big change but I don't think I realized it was that big of a change. I had already taken off most of the hardware when I remembered to take before pictures, so here's what it looked like:


And this is what it looks like now:



Yea!! :) The kitchen won't be completely finished for awhile...I still have to put stuff on the walls and figure out what kind of curtains to put on the window (suggestions anyone?? I've never put curtains in a kitchen and I'm lost...I don't want to block out any light, and I want something with pattern). But regardless, I'm still really enjoying how much cleaner it feels, and just the fact that all the painting and hardware replacing is done.

So as far as painting goes, the kitchen is done and the living room is done (I finally got the 2nd coat on the walls last Friday)...2 rooms down, 4 1/2 to go! The dining room, both bedrooms, the hallway, and the half is for the 2nd coat of green in the bathroom. Hopefully more progress and pictures coming soon!

winter + office job blues

Right now I'm feeling so inspired to paint and decorate and rearrange and make art and its REALLY BOTHERING ME to be stuck in this cube instead. Because I know that even though I'm all pumped and inspired and motivated right now, all that is going to magically disappear when 5 o'clock rolls around and I drive home in the dark. UGHHHH.

Thrift store finds

When Heather was here visiting from Portland, we spent a huge amount of time looking for 50's furniture to put in my 50's house. On our first day of looking, we decided to trek out to Clinton, TN to find some awesome antiques....what a mistake. Yes, Clinton has allot of antique stores, but good grief! they are SO expensive. Way way waaaay out of my price range. It wasn't uncommon to see a piece of furniture priced in the $500-1,000 range. So we came back empty-handed and discouraged. The next day we decided to stay in town and hit all the local thrift stores, and there was a treasure in every single place we walked into! It was by far the very best thrifting luck I've ever had in my whole life. Here are 3 of the treasures we found:


a great metal outdoor chair


a yellow leather footstool ($5!!!) and a metal desk ($8!!!! Heather and I had forgotten that everything in the store was 50% off, so when the lady behind the counter said $8, we practically danced a jig of joy right there in the store, haha) :)

I haven't taken pictures of the other stuff yet, but I will soon. I'll also take pictures of the finished kitchen soon, too...I just keep forgetting and before I know it, its dark outside already and the light is no good for pictures. Hate winter.

I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is only 15 days away. Its unreal how times flies! And I've got so much to get done before then...mainly painting. Lots and lots of painting. I've had a few recent setbacks, mainly with the bathroom. Remember it was wallpapered when we moved in? Well, Seth stripped all that off in September, and I finally got all the holes patched up, so last week I was all geared up to finally get that room completed. I sanded and primed all the walls last week, then started painting on Saturday. Warning: Never use Ace Hardware brand Lotus Queen paint. It is HORRIBLE. I can't stress this enough. I spent a good 5 hours painting the 1st coat in the bathroom and it looked terrible, but I just chalked it up to being the 1st coat and assumed that a 2nd coat would do the trick. Not the case. The 2nd coat went on just as badly as the 1st one did, and I could already tell that a 3rd coat still wasn't going to look good. I called Ace Hardware and found out that this particular color has no white in it. WHAT?! What kind of paint has no white in it? No wonder I could see every brush and roller stroke. Needless to say, I'm pretty pissed about the whole thing...I planned to get the bathroom finished last weekend and I've already put in about 12 hours of work into it, and now I'm looking at paint chips again. But, such is life I guess. Everything can't go exactly according to my carefully crafted plan :) Hopefully I can get the bathroom painted this week and the dining room painted on Saturday. Stay tuned!

The last 2 weeks in pictures

Its been a very eventful past 2 weeks and I gotta share. First things first -- my good friend Heather D. came to visit!! We've been friends since 1999 but hadn't seen each other in over 6 years. She came all the way from Portland, Oregon, and it was so good to have her here. And as if that wasn't enough, Ryan came from Chicago to visit too! I got so spoiled having such good pals in town and it was hard to see them both go.

Here are some highlights --


Smoky Mountains


Ruby's first hike


She made it to the top!


mountain man (hubba hubba!)

beautiful fall colors


a Smoky Mountain katydid


The Sunsphere


view from inside the Sunsphere


carving party! pumpkins by (from left to right): Heather & Libby, Seth, Ryan


yea Heather was in Tennessee! This was after an awesome hockey game that included 7 fights AND funnel cake. Can't beat it.

And that's all for now. I have lots more to post about (like some awesome thrift store finds, Halloween 2007 costumes, and a FINISHED KITCHEN), and hopefully I can get to them in the next couple of days.

Hole in the wall

I feel like I've gotten 2 mini-educations these past 2 months. First I got a Bachelors of How to Buy a House, and I now know what PMI is and how escrow works and that the $ figure estimate that real estate websites list for the monthly payment for a specific house are not at all accurate. Then I moved on to work on my Masters of Home Improvement Projects, with a concentration in Sanding. I wish I never had to sand anything ever again, but I know I will because sanding really is important and it works wonders. You know what else works wonders? Toothpicks. After the cabinets were painted and I started putting the new hardware on the doors and drawers, I realized that the screws that came with the hinges were too skinny for the holes that were already in the doors from the old hinges. I trotted off to Home Depot for the three-thousandth time to buy fatter screws, and I luckily found an extremely nice employee who had "been wood-workin' for 30 years" that saved the day. He told me to cut up toothpicks and put them in the holes first and that would make the screws fit tight enough to keep the hinges on. And it worked! I love little tricks like that.

So after successfully refinishing the floors and getting the cabinets painted with new hardware and hanging again, I sort of feel like anything can be done with enough research and advice from handy Home Depot employees. Which is why a hole below the bathroom sink where an old pipe used to be seemed like no big deal to fix.



And you know, it was no big deal! It couldn't have been easier, actually. Its amazing what kind of gadgets are out there...any kind of problem you can imagine, there is something out there to fix your specific problem. All I had to do was cut a wall patch to size, dip it in water and place it on the wall, let it dry for half an hour, spread some spackling on it that looked like bubble gum...




...and 2 hours later, voila!!



The hole is gone!! This stuff is so cool. And not just the hole patch...all of it. The pink spackling, the toothpick trick, and all the other things I've learned - its all fascinating! I wish I was an expert about all things do-it-yourself because I'd love to work at a hardware store and help people like me find the right things and tell them about secret tricks. And best of all, I'd get a discount! Maybe after a few more years of working on this house and I'll be ready to do that :)

The pink walls are slowly disappearing. Here's a sneak peak of the new living room walls:



For awhile the living room looked like a baby's room with the pink and blue, but I now all the pink in the living room is covered by the first coat of blue and half of it has a 2nd coat. Once the living room is done, there will only be 3 more pink rooms to go (both bedrooms and the hall). Apparently the old owner was really into pink.

All the pictures so far on this post are ugly, so here are some pretty ones from the past few days. Hanging out in the backyard --




View from the roof --


Isn't it amazing how the minute Fall starts, everything immediately turns crisp-looking? Its like you've been wearing glasses that are too weak all summer and then suddenly you've got the right prescription again.

I've got my 10-year high school reunion this weekend, so I won't have any updates for a few days. Apparently I'm the only one who's nervous about it...everyone else I've talked to is so excited, but I feel anxious about seeing people that I grew up with after all these years (our class only had 34 or so people in it, and our school was K-12...I went to school with most of my classmates for 10 years!). Anyway, everyone tells me it'll be fine, and I'm sure they're right. But I'm still nervous so wish me luck!