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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!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Done-ish Sitting Room & Bookcase Sneak Peek

Operation Home For The Holidays is finishing strong, my friends. I powered through and finished painting our front sitting room just in time for company this weekend. And while it's not 100% done because we still need to unpack a few boxes that never made their way out of there, hang drapes and add some pillows and such to the sofas and chairs, it's so close to being done. And we had our first fire in the fireplace this weekend with company - it was so nice to actually enjoy the space for the first time since moving in.

Oh, and we're seriously in need of some tables in here. But anyhoo, here's what we did.


So, it's not perfect yet, but it's a vast improvement, yes?

In my last post I touched on the issue I had with the original paint color I chose, which ended up looking really pink against the gray stone fireplace. I actually had to laugh at myself because shortly after moving in, I painted swatches of a lot of warm beige colors all over our entryway, two living rooms, stairway landing and upstairs hallways because I was convinced I had to use the same color in all these spaces. I spent a lot of time deciding which color worked well in all these spaces, in all the different lighting throughout the day, only to go with a completely different color. A color that was only a shade or two different than the one already on the walls. But, I'm actually kind of obsessed with it. So much so that I've already started to paint our living room with it. The color we chose for these two rooms is called Wood Ash by Benjamin Moore, and it's the most lovely, warm, but also a little gray and, well ... ashy, cream that still allows our trim color to pop nicely. It's very crisp, but also still homey and cozy. It's perfection. And I'm surprised this color isn't more popular.

To paint the room, I had Josh take down all of the moulding for me so I could paint that separately from the walls - fewer cut-ins made the whole process go by so much faster. And also made it look more professional. We still don't have all the ceiling trim up, but piece by piece, we're getting there. And the trim color is the same one we've used everywhere in the house, Bavarian Cream by Ben Moore.





We also updated the mantel in this room. We're so thankful that the same friends* who gave us the beam for our living room had another piece of the same beam to give us. So this guy is the brother of our living room beam. Yay!

Not the most dramatic makeover ever, but I sure do like it.
I've also finished the other side of our build-in bookcases in our living room - yessssssssss. I don't have everything organized and set-up yet, but I did start a little, and here's a sneak peek.





*My very talented and kind friend recently changed the name of her blog. And it's wonderful! You must go visit Honestly Maggie.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Lot of Half-Done Projects: The Rush to Finish Before The Holidays

We're still in the middle of about fifteen different projects (or, at least, it feels like that's how many we have). And because we've been go-go-go since moving in, we've decided we want to really enjoy our first holiday season in the house and not have a lot of distractions. Or, at the very least, get the downstairs as good as it's going to get for now to have one space in the house that's not completely torn apart, and that feels like home for the holidays. The upstairs is still a bit of a chaotic mess, so it'll be nice to have the downstairs as our little sanctuary for the winter.

That means, I started a few projects all at once in a mad dash to get them all done before Thanksgiving. Here's what we have going on:

Oh yeah, and I took down trim in the mudroom, too. 
I started to update our mudroom a little. I slapped a coat of paint on the upper walls (the same color we used in the entryway), hung a picture my mom sent us, made a new coat rack, and put drywall over the exposed studs in the closet. I started to take down the wallpaper on the lower half of the walls, but that stuff is sealed on there good. It doesn't come off. I'm about ready to paint over it since it's just the mudroom. But for now, it stays because Operation Home For The Holidays needs to wrap up soon.


I also took down the wallpaper upstairs in our master hallway and upstairs landing. That stuff came off without me even doing anything to it. It was great! I just peeled back a corner, and off it came in huge pieces. The two spaces took maybe an hour. I'll probably be painting our hallway and master closet during the holiday season, but painting is second nature to me, and not really that stressful, so I'm down with it. And it's upstairs, so our downstairs will stay in tact and organized.


We also started to put up new trim around our kitchen window. We used the same technique as the doorway trim and also built out a new sill. The interior trim is done and up, and so is the sill, but the actual trim around the window has yet to go up because of ... er ... complications. We think we've figured it out and the rest should go up soon, but for now, I'm very much enjoying the window with the new, rustic sill.


I woke up one morning and decided that our front room needed to be painted before the holidays, too. I thought this project would be a quick, simple weekend task, but it ended up being so much more complicated than I thought. Why? Because I'm crazy, and because the paint color I chose for the room looked totally pink once I had it up on two of the walls. Long story short, I started to paint about five other samples all over that room, and also, our TV room. I decided on a color called Wood Ash by Benjamin Moore, and we used the same trim as our entryway (Bavarian Cream) and I'm kind of obsessed with it. It's totally different than what I had originally thought, but I love it, and I'm kind of thinking the other room is going to get the same treatment.


Right around the time I was knee-deep in all these projects, Josh finished reconfiguring our built-ins on the other side of our TV room fireplace. Yay! But also, boo, because I wanted to paint them right away before it got too cold to keep our windows open (the paint we use on bookcases and cabinets is stinky). Thankfully, I just finished that today (yay again!), and after it fully cures, I can set it up as our kind-of-downstairs-desk-but-not-really and put some random things away that are currently cluttering our living room.


Shortly after it started to really get cold this month, Josh decided to rip out all the paneling in our dining room (which we planned on doing anyway) to hook up a baseboard heater. We (obviously) plan to use our dining room during the holidays and there's currently no heat source in there (there's the wood stove, but the chimney is cracked, rendering it useless for the time being). So, we needed heat. And we knew there had been a baseboard in there at one point. True to form with us, though, what we thought would be a simple project turned into a big project. Once the paneling was off, we saw that that whole area wasn't insulated, with big holes leading right to the outside. Fun! So, we had to re-insulate and drywall the whole thing before we could even put the baseboard in. But, Josh finished that today, and once our thermostat arrives in a few days, we'll have heat. Yessssssssss. My fingers have been like icicles while I eat my peanut butter and chia seed toast in the mornings, so I'm rather excited about heat in there. Also, I'm really impressed that Josh did this all himself.

And finally, Josh starting to drywall joint our master closet. We're really, really hoping to get that closet done before Christmas, but I'm not sure if we will. It's going to be close, and will depend a lot on our motivation once Thanksgiving rolls around. We still have to joint the drywall, sand down the adhesive from the paneling (which, thank you Jesus, isn't that bad), prime, paint, install the new floors, and buy the shelving for the actual closet. Oh, and hang a light. We had a contractor out last week to hardwire the room for electricity and I felt very adult saying, "We have a contractor." I don't have a photo of it because it's boring and there's not much to look at anyway.

So, that's what we have going on right now. As overwhelming as it is sometimes, it's still way too much fun. I look forward to coming home from work and diving into another project until it's time to go to bed (or, watch American Horror Story - either way). Our front room is coming together very quickly, though, and soon, it should be done and ready to decorate for Christmas. Stay tuned.
 
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