Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Grown Up Christmas List

No, I'm not wishing for world peace this year. Although that would be nice.

But looking at my Christmas list this year, I noticed something has changed. Normally, my list is filled with personal items. Clothes, shoes, video games, books, but nothing for my house. In a small apartment, it was hard to find motivation.

But this year, there is only one item on my list that's not home related (and I already bought it for myself, oops!)

So what else am I lusting after? (Note, I will not get all these things for Christmas. I just like to give lots of options. It's true that my husband and my parents spoil me, but not that badly)

The Manzanita Candelabra from West Elm

Throw pillows from CB2 for the sunroom.

Vintage home accents from High Street Market.

Ceramics from Fruit Fly Pie.

Prints from Sharon Montrose.

Prints from Ryan Berkley.

A new rug for the sunroom from World Market.

But at the top of my list are gift cards to Sherwin Williams and Lowe's. Once we get all of the rooms painted, though, I can concentrate on saving all my pennies for decorative accents like these, to really make our house into a home.

So what are you lusting after for Christmas?


It's not that Brett and I don't like a good margarita or a lounge on the beach. And our general love for animals extends to parrot kind. They're colorful, smart, and some of them can talk, what's not to love?

There's one place where parrots just don't belong. And that's in our home decor. We moved into a house with two very prominent parrot features. Our lovely front door features a parrot etched in the glass, now covered with our front door wreath.

And our kitchen features a wallpaper border full of colorful parrots.

Or should I say featured? Brett and are now, happily, a Single Parrot Family.

That's right, I got a wild hair when we got home from our Thanksgiving trip and pulled them down. And found another layer. And another. Ugh. I'm not sure if I went too far or what, but I'm just happy to have those parrots gone. Tomorrow, I'm going to give the walls a good sanding and a coat of Kilz, and hope for the best.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's Beginning to Look

A lot like CHRISTMAS! And I'm already ultra excited. Maybe it's because I'm getting the best Christmas present ever this year. Maybe it's because it's my first Christmas in our much loved house. Maybe it's because I'm skipping my family's Thanksgiving extravaganza. But I'm normally a "Respect the Turkey" person, and this year, I just couldn't wait. I had most of my decorations up almost two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Today, we put up the tree. We're going home to Memphis this week, and we wanted the house to be all Christmasy when we get home next weekend.

So without further ado, here it is. A very Clueless Christmas!

Yes, we desperately need a bigger tree. Our beloved Charlie Brown tree was purchased for $20 (pre-lit!) at Walgreens on black Friday, when we were broke college students. We're hoping to score a deal on a bigger one (with colored lights, please) at the after Christmas sales this year.

These are some of our favorite ornaments. Yoda is very camera shy. We're of the "amalgam of random things you like" school of thought when it comes to Christmas tree decor. We have a huge box of unbreakable ornaments, so the cats have plenty to bat at, and then a few from our vacations (the Mickey head made of bells is from our post college grad trip where Brett proposed!) and that we just love. The piggy is my favorite.

We have a few displays of ornaments and candles set up around the house, on our dresser, our record player, and the living room shelves. I love the glittery trees and the "Joy" sign!

My pride and joy, the stockings that took me hours to complete. I used felt and two different calicos, and cut out hundreds of circles of fabric. Then I tacked them with embroidery floss to stocking shapes I cut from felt. I lined those panels and then hand sewed them and added the ribbons and our first initials.

Yes, we have stocking for our cats. I'm a cat lady.

I have enough circles and felt to make a matching tree skirt, but that is a project that will have to wait until 2010. My fingers can't take much more sewing!

I used leftover garland from our front door wreath to dress up the mantle. Then I added our clearance candlesticks and switched out the candles for some unscented red ones. I got plain stocking holders and topped them with mercury glass votive holders for the two larger (human) stockings. It's chic, festive, and doesn't block the television, so we can still watch 24 hours of A Christmas Story!

Have you started decorating for Christmas yet?

Getting Organized

I keep a to do list on a dry erase board in the kitchen. It's always pretty long, and some things just keep getting pushed off. "Organize living room shelves" is one item that's been hanging out for a while.

Last night, Brett said to me, "We really need to reorganize the pantry." There was lots of whining and gnashing of teeth on my part. I admit. Although I use the pantry all the time, and I was tripping over the vacuum and the halloween candy bowl four times a day, I just flat out didn't want to do it. I knew I needed some inspiration.

So today, while he was at work, I got a wild hair and made a Target run. I came home with woven baskets, a couple of plastic bins, and a wire shelving unit, along with some food storage containers.

I took it from this:

(Confession Time: those pictures were taken after I'd already hauled a few boxes of crap out)

To this:

Is it beautiful? No. But it's so much more functional and provides much more space. The items we rarely use are pushed to the back. A closet under the stairs makes for a lot of unusable space, unfortunately. I got the wire shelving unit at Target for $15, and it adds so much storage! It also requires no tools to put it together, so it would be perfect for a dorm or apartment dweller.

I love the Oxo pop containers (a button on top seals and unseals the container to keep dry goods fresh. If you're worried about losing packaging information, just cut the cooking directions or nutritional information from the original package (or just write it down on a scrap of paper) and tape it to the inside or back of the container. Here's our container of brown rice, since I can never remember the rice:water ratio.

I also organized those pesky living room shelves. I got these medium tone woven baskets to hold our spare decorative items (candles, vase filler) and our video games and extra controllers. It injects some color into those black shelves, and hides some of the more unattractive necessities of a video game addiction.

We also got a letter tray to put on top of the microwave, and hold out pile of mail and junk. No pictures yet, as we were putting our kitchen back together tonight!

Oooh, shiny!

Look at that new stove!

So pretty!

And it works great, too. We haven't tested out the oven yet, but the stove top is awesome. It's ultra smooth (much more than our 20 year old scratched beauty) and I love the dual elements. They're great for my larger pots and skillets. I made pasta with chicken, mushrooms and pesto sauce, and I swear the water boiled twice as fast. It cooks so much more evenly too!

We had a big mini thanksgiving feast prepared (sides only and Brett's favorite cornbread) but there was some oven drama (the first one they brought was black) so we settled for a quick dinner. I just can't wait for the new countertops to be installed!

Saturday, November 21, 2009


We took the plunge today and spent a horrifying amount on a new range and countertops. That means our new stove is coming tomorrow afternoon! The countertops will be ready for install in roughly 2 to 3 weeks, but they should definitely be in in time for Christmas!

We got this bad boy, and luckily, Lowe's was running a 10% off sale on Whirlpool appliances. We also added a four year warranty (on top of the standard one year) so we won't have to worry about any issues for the next five years.

Then we came home and came crashing down to earth. Several salespeople told us it would be easy to take out a drop in and put in a freestanding range. As long as we were replacing the countertops, no problemo! But now we had to actually do it. Here's how it went, step by step. It really wasn't that difficult, and definitely worth the savings over another drop in stove!

First, we took off the cooktop (it's a separate piece on most drop ins) and disconnected it. Then we took off the metal guard on the bottom. It was just a couple of screws and it popped right off. I went to get our gloves and the camera and came back to this.

Whoa. He claims it was easy but required brute man strength. He just lifted up and out it came!

Then we were left with the innards that supported the range itself. And we had to disconnect the stove from the electrical. Of course, we made sure the breaker was turned off before we even started the job. The kitchen guy at Lowe's asked us what year our house was built, and determined we needed a four pronged cord. Well, we had no prongs, just three wires twisted together and capped off. Oops. We'll see if I need to run and get a new cord when the installers come with our new oven tomorrow.

Once that was done, we started taking out the supports. We had several supports that were screwed in place, so we took out the screws with our power drill and beat the nailed pieces out with a hammer. A can of air was a great tool for blowing the sawdust and dust dust out of the screw heads.

The last obstacle was the cabinet kickplate. It was one long piece, and we needed it to be flush with the cabinets on either side. So with a quick evaluation and a trip back to Lowe's for a small handsaw, we had it out. Now we have a big hole in our kitchen. With a little but of white paint on the edges, it will be all ready for our brand new range tomorrow!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christmas Presents!

We've decided on our mutual Christmas present this year! (Okay, so I already put a video game in Brett's stocking and promptly let him open it. Before Thanksgiving. We're incapable of gift giving like normal people.)

Anyway, drumroll.

New kitchen counter tops! Yay!

Okay, maybe it's not a big surprise, but we're so excited. We had an installer from Lowe's come out and measure. We got the quote back today, and our suspicions were confirmed. We can get a new freestanding range and new counter tops for less than the price of a new drop in range. I just can't wait to see them! And I'm more than a little excited about the prospect of NOT cleaning my white counters with a scotch brite pad fourteen times a day.

We chose Formica (it's really the only option if we don't want to price ourselves out of the neighborhood). And we knew we wanted dark, dimensional, and textured. The newer options from Formica are really incredible! They have some that look literally like a solid surface.

The color we ended up choosing is Labrador Granite, from the honed collection.

I'm so excited to see it! The kitchen has definitely moved high up on our to do list! Here's the plan:

1. The existing cabinets are totally fine. I hate the curved detailing but I can live with it. I'll wither give these a fresh coat of white, or go with a light color.

2. New counters. Squee!

3. White appliances. Yes, we like the look of stainless. But we have a brand new white fridge and a newish dishwasher and we don't want to spend $2k on something we don't need.

4. Paint the walls a yellowish green, our inspiration is the color of olive oil.

5. Tile the backsplash. We've yet to make a decision on even the sort of tile. We love glass subway tile, but we worry it's too modern for our house. Not to mention that stuff is EXPENSIVE.

6. Flooring? Hell if I know. We'll cross that bridge at some point in the future. We'll either break our backs pulling up the botched ceramic in there and replace it with the ceramic we have in the LR/DR, or put laminate throughout the entire downstairs (oh please, oh please!)

We have time to decide. We're going slow on this project. But I can't want to have a kitchen I'm happy to cook in!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Appliance Shopping

Guess how we spent our Saturday? Driving around to every place we could think of that sells appliances, our heads spinning with cubic feet and accubake and stainless and white and everything in between.

That's right, the oven started beeping again. So badly that it's out of control. So we get a new oven, yay!

Here's what we've decided.

We're going with white. Our fridge is brand spankin' new. Our dishwasher looks pretty new as well. We don't want to spend $2k we don't have to on things that won't add any appreciable value to our house.

I'm pretty sure we're going with a Whirlpool (5.3 cubic feet of accubaking beauty, with a smooth glass top and steam clean/self clean. I'm a little in love). I like the brand, and it seems we get a lot of bang for our buck. The best price we've found is at my beloved Lowe's, but I'll be calling a few more places to make sure.

We're getting new laminate countertops. We just can't justify the cost difference between laminate and solid surface, and we have serious doubts about the durablity of paperstone. Now we just have to find someone to install them since Home Depot aparently doesn't do it any more. I am super excited though, to instantly change the look of my kitchen, I can't wait to get rid of the expanse of white and put in new, dark gray/brown counters.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Welcoming Front Door

My first attempt at making a wreath is done!

I've had my eye on this wreath at Target for a couple of months now.

But at $35 it was too rich for my blood. Plus, it was a lot skimpier and cheaper looking in person.

But while I was browsing Hobby Lobby last night for stocking supplies, I found a familiar looking green garlands! They (along with an oval grapevine wreath, a spool of ribbon, and a gold initial) were on sale so I snapped up a couple of them and set to work last night.

Here are the results!

What's that on the front door? (And yes, that is a blooming hibiscus in November. There are times when I LOVE our climate! You should see the one in our backyard)

Currently, I'm taking a break from cutting out hundreds of fabric circles because my right thumb is seriously protesting. I've still got to finish cutting the white and do all of the green dots, then I can start construction! I think I might have enough material to make a matching tree skirt, if my fingers can handle it.