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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hibernating & Our Winter Project Goals (Also, I Like Winter?!)

So, guess what? I actually like winter. One of the reasons I love where I live is because I love seasons. Some more than others, and winter is probably my least favorite. BUT, I still like it. While I do wish that come March 1st, I could flip a switch and make it spring, over the years I've come to appreciate winter for a few different reasons. One, it makes me appreciate summer so much more. Believe it or not, I wasn't always the biggest fan of summer (uggghhhhh it's so hoooottttt. I'm tired of wearing sun screen! The sun is hurting my eyes!). In my defense, I have really sensitive eyes, but generally speaking, I was weird. After a few winters in Chicago, summer was my new favorite thing of life (I looooove sweating and taking three showers a day! Bathe me in SPF 500! I'll wear two pairs of sunglasses! I LOOOOVE SUN! And popsicles!). So now, being a lover of all things warm weather and everything that comes with it, winter has made me appreciate it all that much more. Second, I kind of love the smell of snow and cold air. Love it so much. You can easily catch me outside just sniffing the air when it snows, or is about to snow. Also, seeing a blanket of snow outside is so calming and beautiful. Lastly, I love to hibernate. While I'm a homebody all year long for the most part, winter is the ultimate season for staying in, eating pasta, drinking a good pinot and having movie marathons. It's like, all you can really do in the winter (well, you can ski and stuff but you know). Monday: Hey, it's cold out, let's make a hearty pasta and drink wine to warm up! Tuesday: Hey, it's still cold out, let's make pasta and drink wine! Wednesday:It's still cold! Pasta time! You get the point. I look forward to this time every year because it forces me to relax, catch up on reading, finish up all my half-started organization projects and well ... do nothing. It's like a homebody's dream come true!

That said, this year will be different. I plan to take hibernation days where all I wear are PJs and fuzzy socks and watch movies and eat popcorn, chocolate and wine for dinner. BUT, we also want to get back into projects. We took the month of December off (kind of) to really enjoy the first Christmas season in our new house together. But now, we have some serious work to do. Here's what's on the docket for our upcoming winter season:

1. We need to finish our master closet. Currently, my clothes are split between two rooms (that we don't sleep in) and Josh's clothes are shoved into a tiny little closet in the room we're sleeping in. At first, it wasn't bad, but now I'm over it (seriously, what closet is that stupid shirt in!?). Josh is officially done drywall-jointing the closet walls, so it's time to paint! We also need to map out our shelving system and decide how we want to design the closet. Then, you know ... install it all, put down the new hardwoods and install the new ceiling light that we bought like a month ago. Our goal is to get the entire closet done by the end of January/early February.

2. Paint our upstairs hallway and our bedroom hallway. When we moved in, our upstairs and bedroom hallways were covered in wallpaper. Thankfully, removing it was very easy, but I never got around to painting. I can't wait to paint the upstairs hallway just so we can hang up some photos and wall art to make it look more homey. And painting our bedroom hallways will just make things prettier to look at as we walk by since it's not closed off by a door (yet).

3. Get our master bedroom move-in ready. While I don't think we'll be able to tackle the actual bedroom ceiling for a while, we really, really want to finish the walls and floors by spring. Our closet was a test run to see if these were, in fact, projects we could handle on our own (we could - yay!). But that was such a small space, and our bedroom is so much bigger, so it'll be a pretty intense project. We need to repeat everything we did in the closet (remove the paneling on the walls, joint the drywall, paint and install the flooring). BUT, if we can just do that, and get our furniture moved in, that will fell sooooooo good. And it'll be amazing to have everything in one room as opposed to having furniture and clothes in every other bedroom of the house.

4. Finalize a layout for our bathroom installation. We plan to take part of our guest room and turn it into a bathroom upstairs so our master bath is more private, and so guests to have their own space when they visit. We've gone back and forth on the layout for so long, and every time we to try to finalize a plan, we just somehow get away from it because it's actually a very daunting task. After stepping away from it for a bit, we both feel more refreshed and ready to figure this sucker out. By spring, we want to have a contractor scheduled to begin installing the plumbing and electrical for the space. Then, believe it or not, Josh wants to tackle everything else himself. Good times! That project will go well into summer, for sure.

It's quite the list. But I'm so glad that we took a bit of a break because we needed it to prepare ourselves for all of this. And if I mix it in with a night or two of "wine and popcorn for dinner" while watching three or four movies in a row, I can totally handle it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sprinkles of Christmas In The Kitchen & Perfect, Lazy Weekends

Our plan to relax during the holidays was probably the best decision we've ever made. Except for the fact that I'm doing a lot of relaxing and Josh is still working really hard around the house in his free time. But, today he finished prepping our closet for painting, so it's possible we could have that done before the New Year.

In the meantime, I've just been walking around the house in my PJs in my free time trying to add more sprinkles of Christmas in places that didn't seem ... well ... Christmasy yet. Like our kitchen. We spend a lot of time in there and it needed some holiday touches. So I just decided to wrap some twine and pinecones around our mint green cake stand and put a burlap tree on it. Done.



The wall we started and never finished over the summer has looked sad ever since, and because of that, I wasn't going to do anything to it at all for Christmas, but I decided to throw another burlap tree on it, and make that our Christmas card display area this year. Since doing that, it's already brightened my mood. And thank you to everyone that has sent us a card this year so far! Especially Jess' photo card of little Miss Ruby Tuesday. Hopefully by this time next year, the open shelving that's supposed to go here will be done, and the beadboard trim will be installed. 


This morning I slept in (which feels amazing when you wake up at 4 a.m. every day) and then I started to bake cookies. Baking cookies during Christmas, for me, is relaxing and it totally makes me happy. I bought a cookie press this year, too, because I'm always coveting the perfectly shaped little butter cookies I see in Italian bakeshops. And this very not Italian girl had way too much fun with it.



I also set aside time to wrap Josh's presents today, too (while watching a horrible Lifetime Christmas movie, of course).



I also filled Josh's stocking, which sometimes, I think I enjoy more than presents. We could just do stockings every year and I'd be way too excited about it.


And finally, we put up some outside lights. We've had these snowflake lights for a few years, and we knew we wanted to put them up on our front porch here so we could see them twinkle from our kitchen window.




On a side note, my new favorite thing is this Reindeer Farts lip balm from Long Winter Farm Soap Co. I tried it for the first time yesterday and it straight up smells like Christmas. I can haz all the reindeer farts?


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holiday Home Tour: Is It Woodsy Enough In Here?

Operation Home For The Holidays is complete! Well, kinda. Josh is still trying to get our closet upstairs done so I can paint it, and maybe ... maybe ... we'll be able to install the actual closet units before Christmas. BUT, for the most part, it's time for us to just enjoy the house, and the holiday season by spending time watching really made made-for-TV movies and stuffing our faces with advent calendar treats while wearing stretchy pants.

This weekend, we started to decorate for Christmas. Going into the season, I was setting goals of making this house perfect, with every room decorated for Christmas, glowing with twinkly lights and draped in garland. But, then I realized how overwhelming that was, coming from a small apartment. We already had a lot on our list to buy to fill up our two living spaces and entryway, so we decided to focus on these spaces for this season. Every Christmas after this one, we'll pick a new room to buy decorations for, and just keep adding until we're done (so, like, never).

Over the years, I've gone in all different directions with Christmas decorations. I think the first year Josh and I lived together, we went traditional green and red. Then for a few years, we went off into urban/colorful mode. Then we landed somewhere in between. And now, we're back to traditional with a little bit of rustic cabin, and that's also where we're staying. It's taken us 10 years, but we've finally figured out our style, and what makes us feel like home.

For Christmas, I like to decorate for the winter season as much as I can because I hate to put everything away come January. I try to buy staples like pillows and throws that I can keep out all winter long so that when the Christmas decorations do go away, the house still feels wintery and cozy. Lately, I've been inspired by cabins and lodges for wintery decor and I tried to bring some of that into our holiday home, too.

So, everything's a work in progress, and will be for a few years, but, here's where we're at with holiday decor:

Let's start with trees. So, we have a tree farm, and all we had to do was walk down, cut down a couple of trees and lug it back to the house. Yay! We decided on two trees this year: one in each of our living rooms. Once our bedroom is done (hopefully by next year!) we plan to put a small tree in there since we, you know, have like a thousand of them.

Our first tree from our farm!

Yes, that's me.
For our trees, we decided we like them in their natural state, for the most part. We didn't really shape or trim them too much, and left their branches as they were. I love that it looks more natural. You'll see later in the photos. So anyhoo ...

... moving on to entryway, we decided to keep it simple this year, and just added a few touches. Someday, I really want to wrap garland all along the stairway railings, but as it was, we felt like we were leaving craft stores every weekend with carts full of garlands and wreaths so we held off on that this year. We just added a few small wreaths to our little windowpane wall decorations and dressed up our landing window a bit.




We also did one small little decoration in the kitchen on our window. I've had a pin on Pinterest saved for, oh ... only a year or so, and I just really wanted to make it happen this year. Next year, I need to add some extra garland so that it hangs down both sides and hides the tension rod a bit more (which I wrapped in green floral tape to conceal it a little), BUT, overall, I still kind of love it.



One side of our window trim isn't done ...no big deal.
Our front living room is where we decided to concentrate on, since we foresee this space being our relaxation room during the holidays, where we can start a fire, address our holiday cards, wrap gifts, and spend quality time together without the distraction of the TV. We put our bigger tree in here, along with our stockings, and also hung wreaths in the windows. For pillows, since we didn't have any for this room, I bought all new ones at Pottery Barn*. I love the red and green plaid, and the gray and white buffalo check mixed together in the same room. To tie them together, I added gray throws on the chair and sofa.




Over the years, Josh has collected wine toppers that people have given as gifts with bottles of wine and liquor,
and it's so fun dressing up our bar area every season.
While I'm kind of in charge of most of the Christmas decorations, Josh is all over our little winter village. We bought a 6-ft banquet table with a burlap floor-length tablecloth for it this year, and now we have plenty of space to buy more pieces! I think Josh's favorite, though, is our tiny Wegman's grocery store. 


Betty's stocking is the biggest, even though she's a 7-pound dog. But the likeness of her on the stocking was too perfect to pass up. 



For our other living room, I tried to keep it more woodsy-inspired, and I'm not really sure if I did that, but I'm goin' with it. I still keep asking myself, "Is this woodsy enough? More pine trees!? Okay. Josh! We need to go back to Michaels!" The pillows I used we've had for a couple of years, and the only new one is also from Pottery Barn* from this season.





One of my favorite parts of decorating for Christmas is our ornaments. I'm kind of obsessed with all of them. I love all our little woodland creatures mixed with traditional mercury and all the ornaments we've accumulated during our travels.

Owl tree topper: 8-ish bucks at Wal Mart this year! Not thrilled with his gold glitter tummy,
but I can live with it for 8-ish bucks.

The back of our sofa area is still a little fuzzy for me. I kind of just threw some faux pine trees, an owl decoration and a framed map of Block Island back there for now. We still haven't unpacked all our boxes, and I know I eventually want to do a frame wall collage on that back wall, but just for now, this is kind of what I have. I don't love it. I don't hate it.

And that's all we have this year for Christmas. Next year, I think my focus will be our dining room, since I'm hoping we'll have that painted, new trim put up and a new light fixture installed. Fingers crossed. I mean, we have a year, right? Famous last words.

Merry Christmas, friends!

*I work for the Williams-Sonoma brand and received an employee discount on these products.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Small Business Saturday Love: My Etsy Gift Guide

I'm no stranger to shopping at chain stores, but every year I make a big effort to hunt down some perfect gifts at smaller business. Because I'm big on online shopping (I see two people in line at checkout at a store and I'm all like ughhhhhhh never mind and leave), so Etsy is my go-to. While it's become a marketplace for larger companies, too, you can easily weed those out and find some really lovely smaller boutiques with amazing, handmade products. Here are my picks:



1. Personalized stationary is always a go-to gift idea I have. I feel like it's something that's so fun to receive, but not something you'd ever really buy on your own. I've had products from the PiccoloPaperCo bookmarked on my Esty account for a few years now. I love the feminine fonts, bright colors and the price point ($18 for 10 personalized cards). Tie those suckers with some baker's twine, slap on a cute gift tag and you're done.

2. Handmade beauty & bath products. While this shop isn't technically on Etsy anymore, it started out that way (from my understanding, anyway!). I first discovered Long Winter Farm Soap Co. while visiting Portland, ME last fall, and while I haven't experimented with too many of their products, I love the ones I got (a lip balm and a bath soak). They seem to be most famous for their Unicorn Farts scent, which I have smelled, and can attest to the fact that it does, in fact, smell like a unicorn let one rip. But, what I love about the boutique is the variety of smells they offer - there isn't a single one that I don't want to try. I also love that Amanda, the owner, started in her own kitchen just by attempting to concoct products that wouldn't irritate her or her children's skin. You'll find nothing but natural ingredients in her products, and I love 'em.

3. Mason jar spoon rest. If you're like me, you have a problem with mason jars. When I stumbled across these melted-down mason jar spoon rests on Etsy from RedBarnVintages, I immediately bookmarked them. And they come in all different colors to choose from. So you if you have a mason jar-obsessed friend, you should probably get them this.

4. Jewelry. It can sometimes be hard to buy for others, so it's risky putting this on my list, BUT, if you know someone that loves druzy stones, I adore this little shop OhKuol. They offer a wide variety of pieces, but my personal favorite is this lovely little pendant champagne stone necklace. I tend to go bold with my necklaces (because it's like, the only jewelry I ever wear besides my engagement/wedding rings), but, there's something so appealing but one sparkly little stone hanging from a chain. The only downside is that this boutique is Canadian, so shipping charges can creep upwards of $10-$11 (which still isn't that bad). Totally worth it.

5. Photography. Also risky, so you'd have to know the recipient pretty well. But, I love ordering photography from Etsy. I've gotten a few prints over the last few years and I find the quality to be amazing and the prices more than fair. One of my favorite boutiques is CottageLightStudio. Photographs by the owner, Cindy Taylor, can actually be purchased at Pottery Barn, however, she offers a wider variety on her Etsy boutique, and I find that her prices are better there, too (obvs). She captures so many lovely moments that you just want to stare at for hours. My current favorites are her wintery pine tree photos. Swoon.

6 & 7. Speaking of art, I love the idea (again, if you know the person's style well) of getting them a lovely digital illustration of the state they live in. I particularly love the shop Married In May Designs, which offers downloadable prints of all the states, illustrated with delicate florals. So you can take the file, print it where you like, personalize it with a frame, and ta-da! A really well-thought out personalized-ish gift! I also really love the mugs they sell. I have enough coffee mugs to last me four lifetimes, so I like to gift other people fun mugs to live vicariously through them. I really enjoy the "I'm introverting" one because that's totally me before I've had breakfast in the a.m.

8. Candles. Who doesn't love a good candle? I'm super sensitive to smells, but I still love getting a nice candle as a gift. I've had candles from MossnOak saved on Etsy for a while. I love the containers, and I love the overall design of their labels. But most of all, I love that their scents are inspired by nature. I especially think that their Campfire Pine candle would be a really lovely little gift for the holidays, being the we're going into winter. I'm, personally, kind of obsessed with woodsy, firey smells right now though, so if that's not your cup of tea, they have others to choose from.

9. Do you need to get a gift for someone who loves quotes? Then you need to visit Letters With Impact like right now. This store offers cute little prints of movie, book, TV & music quotes in a typewriter font. My personal favorite is the It's A Wonderful Life One (oh, that Clarence!), but there are plenty to choose from. Personalize the frame (again) and you're done. Woo hoo!

Umm, so, if we exchange gifts at the holidays, be totally prepared to unwrap any one of these items. Just sayin'.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Be Thankful, Always

I love Thanksgiving. The older I get, the more I appreciate holidays because they seems to diminish over time due to the workaholic and consumeristic nature of the world we live in (and I'm not excluded from that group!). Holidays, to me, have become so sacred because it seems we're heading in a direction where they're not valued as they once were. With stores opening on this day to sell cheap TV's (don't even get me started) I think a part of me feels scared that Thanksgiving won't even exist in the future. While there are underlying political issues of the holiday, I'm aware, I tend to lean more spiritual about holidays as simply time to spend with family. This is my religion. Family should always be valued and made a priority, regardless of how cheap that stupid TV is. And I feel so strongly that on these designated holidays, whether you have a family of friends or your own family to spend time with, this shouldn't ever change.

Josh and I don't do much for Thanksgiving. While sometimes I do miss the excitement of packing up the car, heading out of town on Tuesday evening, taking time off work and having the whole weekend to look forward to with a big group of friends and family. But, we do that at Christmas, so Thanksgiving For Two is actually rather nice. Especially this year with it being our first in our new house. We've started traditions over the years that I've grown to really look forward to! We start with pumpkin bread for breakfast and a morning walk in the woods, come home to start drinking champagne (yessssss), snacking on cheese and crackers and celery and cream cheese (my family's tradition) and we cook all day, play music, eat an amazing dinner, and then end the night with pie and ice cream while watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It's kind of awesome. Just sayin'.

I try really hard, even on the worst of days, to always stop and remind myself of what I'm thankful for, and like most people I use Thanksgiving as a way to really reflect on that. This year, I'm thankful for everything - like I am every day, and every year. I'm thankful for my friends, family, and my husband. I'm thankful for this house (especially because six months ago I was convinced we'd never find it, and here we are). I'm thankful for the memories we've already made here. I'm thankful for nature and the fact that we have a lot of land for animals to roam free on (I really love those darn turkeys and deer!). I'm thankful for big things like my freedom, and I'm thankful for stupid things like the fuzzy socks I'm wearing with a little fox on them. I just think it's so great to have a day where we can reflect on that without distraction, around loved ones, and with pie and ice cream.

Here's a snippet of our Thanksgiving day.

This view is mostly what sold me on this house.


The turkeys came to visit! We counted 22 of them. They know they're safe with us.






Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christmas Card Photo Rejects

This weekend, we took our Christmas card photos. It's become kind of a tradition to do photo cards every year, with a brief hiatus a few years back when I thought it was a good idea to hand make our cards from scratch (seriously, never again). Since we have a Christmas tree farm on our property, we decided it was imperative to take some photos down there. We also tried to get a photo with little Betty, but she wasn't really feelin' it. While we're pretty happy with some of the photos we got, we also had quite a few awesome rejects. So that's what I'm sharing today.

Betty's over the Christmas photo thing.

Clearly, we're vampires and don't like the sun.


I think I'm over the Christmas card photo thing now.

Josh is over it, too.

While we were totally over it after taking photos, I'm so glad we did it. Since moving into the house, we haven't taken a single photo of us with it, near it, around it ... no photos to document our first year here. And I hadn't realized it until this weekend. We're probably not using this photo on our card, but it was one of our favorites that we took, and it's going to get framed and put somewhere in our house so it stays out all year long.



And finally, I found this photo of Josh that I actually kind of love. I had him sit on our porch while I did some test shots and for some reason, this one just makes me smile. I think it's because Josh usually has a huge, happy grin on his face for every photo we take (which I love, don't get me wrong - he's just a happy guy), but sometimes, it nice to see him captured being himself. Ten bucks he's thinking about drywall jointing here:



Happy almost-holidays from us to you!
 
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