Sunday, December 28, 2008

A cut above

In recent years, I've taken a very practical approach to my Christmas wish list. Specifically, I like to ask my parents for things that I need but don’t want to put the time into researching myself. I’d rather just trust their years of expertise. This year, I asked for and received(!) a nice set of knives. The cheapy ones I bought from Target a couple years ago just weren't cutting it anymore (literally and pun intended).

Before. Rusty, lousy.

After. Don't they look sharp?!

White out

Christmas was a blur! The five days I spent at my parents' house seemed to pass much more quickly than a typical work week. The weather was all kinds of frightful while I was there, but my travels to and from my parents' house were uneventful. Feeling reckless, I snapped a picture of the snow blowing across the interstate on my way to the farm Christmas eve. I thought it looked cool (in particular, it made me think of the steam that would roll off a witch's cauldron).

Mystical snow. Reckless driver.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's in the cards

Christmas cards have always been one of my favorite things about Christmas. Growing up, I particularly liked taping them around the kitchen doorway in our house. My parents always received a ton of cards, so the doorway was usually completely framed. This year I'm continuing the tradition and taping my cards around the little peek-through in my dining room.

You should send me a card. Then, you, too, could be part of this amazing display and rich holiday tradition.

Keep the cards coming! For a small donation, you can even specify the spot on the peek-through where you would like your card displayed for the next three weeks. Spaces are limited, so reserve yours today!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

This sucks

I got my vacuum! It was waiting on my doorstep when I came home from work Thursday. I'm pleased to report that it works like a charm just as Consumer Reports and the Amazon reviews promised it would. Best of all, it only cost $60. And the price just dropped another $2. What a steal.

I should have made this purchase a year ago. I haven't owned a vacuum since I've moved into my house which means my area rugs haven't been cleaned. Ever. Sometimes I would take a lint roller to the one in my bedroom, but something tells me that doesn't really count.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

First items of business

Now that Operation Whip-My-House-Into-Shape is in full swing, it's time to make some strategic purchases that I have been putting off for no good reason at all:

Curious what sold me on this paper towel holder? That little cartoon horseshoe magnet, that's what.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I pledge...

On Thanksgiving day, two of my cousins and my sister hosted a little tour of their new homes. All of their houses were so put-together and organized that I couldn’t help but feel a little sheepish about my own, especially considering that my cousins have only been in their respective houses for two or three months! I, on the other hand, have been in mine for a year and a half and it’s still got that just-moved-in quality to it (a certain je-ne-sais-quoi, if we want to put a positive spin on it).

So, I pledge, in the next six months, to really take action with my home. That way, when the extended family treks to town for Easter, I can offer a tour of my home without a litany of excuses for why things look the way they do. Wish me luck.

Bring it. I pledge to whip my house into shape. (Image source)

Homegirl got glasses

Hey, look! Homegirl got glasses! These are just a cheapy temporary pair to tide me over until my beefed up vision insurance plan kicks in in January and I can spring for pricier frames. The ones I'm currently sporting came from Zenni Optical, a super-discount online glasses retailer I learned about from Ashlynn's blog.* These bad boys only cost $8! With the added anti-glare lens coating and shipping costs, my grand total came to $17.50.

The one tricky part about ordering them was measuring my pupillary distance, which is the only necessary figure not considered part of the prescription, and therefore not provided by my eye doctor. So, I had a friend measure the distance between my pupils with a metric ruler about a dozen times until we both agreed that 53 mm did seem to be the correct measurement.

$17.50 never looked so good! With glasses, it's like I'm now viewing my world in high definition.

*Although it might sound as though Ashlynn and I are chums, I, in fact, do not know her. I just like to read her blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Repairs - Thanksgiving edition

Today is Nov. 26. One day before Thanksgiving. Might I ask, "Where the heck did the year go?!" As I look back on what I'm thankful for in 2008, I've realized that when it comes to my home, I'm usually most thankful for successful repairs, particularly the DIY kind.
For some reason, half of these little victories never made it to my blog, but I'm very grateful still the same!
  • A major leak from my shower fixed (Consequently, I'm thankful for running water as well)

  • Rotting siding on my garage replaced

  • Rotting side door threshold replaced

  • Rotting deck boards replaced

  • Anti-freeze applied to my deck to circumvent further rot (Noticing a theme yet?)

  • Old water heater removed and new one installed

  • Handle on toilet fixed so it no longer stays down when flushed

  • Stuck garage door quickly tweaked to fully close

  • Basement reclaimed with bleach and water following too much summer rain

More than the repairs themselves, I'm thankful for everyone who lent a helping hand (Cue the violins)!

Now, let's eat! Much like I'm doing in this photo from Thanksiving '07.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Home Sweet Home

My stint in the house across town has come to an end. I'm now back in my own house and back to mentally noting all the things I need to do. First things first - unpack my bags. Second things second - do laundry. Third things third - pay bills. I'm sure I'll think of more things as I go!

I have baggage.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

See what I mean?

Confirmed. Homegirl has to get glasses. Sad.

*Sigh* Such is life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

TV time

I'm still sitting in the house across town. And now that I've found my groove with the DVR and cornucopia of DirecTV channels, I might have to politely refuse to leave.

I don't have cable at my house, so I'm a bit green when it comes to all the functionality that is modern television. I spent the first week here just putting my toe in the water, simply flipping through channels. Then, over the weekend, I stumbled upon a remarkable show that helped me rapidly improve my TV-operating abilities. The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

After fifteen minutes of Lisa, Kim, Nene, Sheree and DeShawn, I was finding, rewinding, fast-forwarding, pausing and recording every last episode I could get my hands on. And all in time for the season finale tomorrow night at 9 p.m. central. You better believe the TV is all set up to record that gem!

Classy, sassy and trashy all in one. Could there be better TV? I like Lisa and Nene best! Pic from Bravo.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meanwhile, in a house across town...

Greetings from a different house! I'm house- and dog-sitting for some friends as they galavant around Italy and Switzerland. My charges are one charming 86-year old home, white with red shutters, and one 9-year lab, black with a giant build.

For some reason, I feel like I have more time on my hands here, even with the extra dog duties. I think it's because I'm not looking around my place and mentally noting all the projects that need to be done. My brain is getting a little vacay of its own.

Meet Gordito.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The saga continues

I typically don't have enough patience for catalogs, yet I can't bring myself to recycle them until I've looked through each one cover to cover. So, a few days ago, I found myself leafing through a two-week old catalog from CB2 and came across another coffee table to throw into the mix of competitors - the Lunar coffee table.

Just a week earlier, I was set on getting Pottery Barn's Chase Bench. Now that I've laid my eyes on the Lunar table, it's back to square one. I might just wait and purchase the first one to go on sale.

Me likey.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New throw pillows

After my original pillow post, I changed my mind about what I wanted. So, I polled some of my coworkers and siblings, and ended up buying floral pillow covers from Etsy seller Marie's Cosy Cushions. They came all the way from the UK. I could almost hear a cheery British "hullo!" when I opened the package.

My new pillows. I'm relegating my viney pillow to the love seat. Note that the walls still aren't painted, the picture still is not hung, and the clock still does not go there.

Guten Tag

Janelle tagged me. I now feel like I'm officially part of the blogging club!

Seven random things about me:
  1. I don't like it when people (ahem, siblings) touch my collarbone, or spine for that matter. My collarbone may protrude farther than any other collarbone you've seen in your life, but you should still resist touching it. I think my aversion to this is similar to others' dislike of fingernails on a chalkboard.
  2. More and more, I've discovered I like being at home. If not at my house, then at least in my city.
  3. Unless you catch me after a workout, which are far and few between these days, you will rarely see me in sweats. I just feel so much more confident in something a little more structured.
  4. I like a good literary nightcap. Although, I can't decide what I like better - that phrase or the actual act of reading before going to sleep.
  5. I'm a "psycho magnet." That's what one such "psycho" told me on the bus tonight. Last week, he had turned around and called to me, halfway across the bus, "Yoo-hoo!" This kind of stuff happens with alarming regularity. Must buy mace.
  6. I took some rocks from Machu Picchu back to the U.S. with me. I sometimes wonder if they are cursed like artifacts from the Egyptian pyramids. I doubt it, but my imagination can be quite vivid.
  7. I'd rather ask you questions than divulge my own details
And here's a random photo. My mom, sisters and me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Oh, Bee-have

A swarm of bees. That's what my friends and I were for Halloween. As a result, local hardware stores noted a shortage in yellow duct tape leading up to the big day.

Eleven of us swarmed the streets Friday night decked out in our best bee garb. While we all might have come from the same hive, we each took on our own persona. I went as a spelling bee. H-O-L-L-A. I love Halloween!

Here we have BYOB, Killer bee, B Real from Cypress Hill, Worker bee and Spelling bee.

Here's the whole hive, workin' it.

Terrorizing the Neighborhood

Something terrorized my brother's jack-o'lantern as it sat on the front stoop. My guess is either a squirrel or a cat or a Rodent of Unusual Size. Whatever creature it was, it ate away at the pumpkin's mouth, making the pumpkin smile just a tad bit larger, and making Halloween just a tad bit spookier.

This is what greeted the kiddies on Halloween. Oh, the horror.

Monday, October 20, 2008


My coworker Dave answered my plea for Photoshop help and merged together several photos for me so I could get a better feel for my space. I love his attention to detail.

I know for a fact Dave likes dessert. So perhaps as a thank you, I should bake him something in my newly re-designed kitchen.

My new kitchen, complete with rug, coffee table, micro-couch, woodland creature and giant baby. I'm in love.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pillow Talk

There's a lot going on in this little nation of ours right now, and what am I fretting about? Pillow covers. I'm debating between a couple different designs from Etsy. To aid in my decision-making process, I printed pictures of the pillows and then cut them out to test them with the current pillow fleet on my couch. I only need to cover one pillow, so I only want to buy one cover. But which one? The cover that will play nicely with the others or the one that catches my eye over and over again.

In the end, if I don't like the cover I order, I can just relegate the pillow to the love seat (the land of outcasts) which is where the pillow waiting to be covered currently sits.

The three original contenders - miniaturized. The little one on the far right has already been nixed from the competition.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh baby! New kitchen curtain(s)

My kitchen has new curtains! Correction: My kitchen has a new curtain. The other one is still in the works. My plan to finish the second curtain last weekend was interrupted by a new man in my life (more about him later).

A couple weekends ago, I enlisted the help of my mother to make curtains for my kitchen. Really, she did all the work since she is quite the master seamstress. I picked out the fabric and then watched as she did the math, measurements, cutting and sewing.

The curtain is very basic (an idea borrowed from Making it Lovely). It's just a fabric panel with some ribbon looped around it. I put a slip knot in the ribbon so I can raise and lower the curtain by pulling on the ribbon. However, I don't expect to raise (and subsequently lower) the curtain all that much because that window faces the street and I don't want people peeping in as I burn dinner. My only design beef with the curtain is that when it's raised, it doesn't have much shape along its bottom edge. I think a thin wooden dowel inserted into the bottom hem would solve that problem.

Um...this might be the worst "before" picture ever, but I offer it to you still the same. These are the dingy, dirty cafe curtains the previous owners left me.

After - a new panel curtain courtesy of my mom

After, again.

Here's the new man. My just-born-last-week-thank-you-very-much nephew Isaac. I was too enamored with him to get much else done over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hunt for a Coffee Table: An Epic Saga

I've been looking for a coffee table for ages. I keep changing my mind about what I want and can't ever find one that's up to snuff. Indecisiveness is one of my signature qualities, along with talking too loudly and smelling funny.

Lately, I've been thinking I need a table with strong lines to complement the geometric pattern on my rug. But, maybe I'm wrong and I really need a slender, tapered leg table. For the sake of this post though, lets just say I'm right about the strong lines. I've found these two tables that could work. Also, I should mention that I'm convinced that using a bench for a coffee table is the way to go. And I don't want a table with a shelf.

The Chase Bench (in antique white)
Pros: It's pretty and I like it.
Cons: Antique white finish could clash with creamy beige pattern on rug and white bookshelf.

The Startford Slat Bench
Pros: Strong lines and I like it.
Cons: Not sure how I feel about slats. Could look too rustic.

Here's my rug again:

Someone with Photoshop should merge all these images for me so I can get a real feel for the room. That would be so kind.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Owl be darned

After some diligent Internet research, I think I know who the culprit is behind the monkey talk. An owl. In particular, a barred owl, known for its range of vocalizations. That claim really does hold some water since I actually saw an owl in one of my trees last year. That sweet little dear even hung out long enough for me to snap some pictures. Too bad it had to turn around and scare the bejeezus out of me a mere 365 days later.

Who dat? I'm going to go ahead and guess that it's my very own barred owl.

Hear it for yourself:

Turn up your volume. Tell me, does that not sound like a primate to you?

Monkeyin' Around

Last night around 11 p.m., both Brian and I heard what can only be described as a monkey. I was already in bed trying to fall asleep and Brian was in his room tooling around with a broken pair of headphones when we heard the first spooky strains of ooh-ooh-ee-ee-ee-ahh-ahh-ahh.

I thought I'd imagined it, but when Brian said he'd heard it too (and that he wasn't joking), I got a little panicked. Because, really, why on earth would a monkey be outside of our bedroom windows...or worse *gulp*, in my basement?! So, we each grabbed a weapon (I, a hammer, Brian, a crowbar) and proceeded to do a clean sweep of the house. We scoured every nook and cranny of the basement and went outside to survey the perimeter.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, our search turned up nothing. While this little drama unfolded, I couldn't help but wonder, what really made that sound? An actual monkey? The neighbor's dog? Some prankster teenagers? A burglar? Ahh! To help me sleep I pulled barricades (trash cans, chairs, American flags) in front of several of my doors.

The monkey hunters in all their fierce bravery. I'm in my pajamas, people.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spiders 2.0

My house must be some kind of arachnid Mecca and all spiders that have the means must make a pilgrimage here at least once in their lifetime. And September must be their holy month. I find spiders everywhere. EVERYWHERE. They had practically taken over my garage until I did a furious clean sweep a few weeks ago. They pop up in window sills, in door frames, on the fence, on the deck, on the siding, on the stairs, and now on my shoes.

I'd only worn this pair a day or two ago and already a spider has claimed it as its own. I killed the spider after I took this picture. I guess that makes me a religious terrorist and the spider a martyr.

Look closely. That unassuming black dot is actually a spider suspended between the heel and sole of my shoe.

Bumper Crop

A bumper crop of apples on my parents' farm means good eats for me. Well, really, just one good eat. I'm going to turn all of the apples into apple crisp. I have so many apples, I project I will have apple crisp to eat for the next three weeks. Hooray!

I plan on stashing the apples in my basement until they are called into action. Hopefully, they'll keep. That's what cellars are all about, right?

How do you like them apples? Very well, thanks.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New water heater

On Saturday, my parents breezed into town and helped me install my new water heater. I played the role of general contractor and my dad and brother played sub-contractors.

A few days prior to the installation, and three hours away, my dad took care of buying the right pipes and other piping miscellany. I just took a few measurements and a few photos and e-mailed them to him. Then, he worked his magic and showed up with the correct pipes and tools in hand.

Day of Installation
Once we drained the old water heater, it was out of the basement in minutes. When my dad and brother went to carry my new water heater into the basement, I made the unpleasant discovery that it was dented. In multiple spots. At that point, my mind locked down and I could not figure out how I should proceed, suggesting I may be completely hopeless in a real crisis.

Someone told me to call Lowe's to remedy the situation, so that is exactly what I did. And thank goodness too. I was able to get half my money back without even so much as one little argument!

After that minor crisis, the water heater went in no sweat (we did have to make one quick run to Ace, but it was no biggie). To top it all off, my parents hauled my old water heater back with them to dump at a local junk pile. So, no haul away charges for me! I owe my parents big time.

Old water heater - scorched and sad

My dad - doing something important

The new, improved and slightly dented water heater

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Care to guess what kind of plant this is? Hint: It's big and green and leafy.

Give up? It's a poinsettia! As in that quintessential Christmastime plant. While my humble poinsettia finally kicked the bucket after a valiant attempt at a post-holiday life, this one, which belongs to my brother's fiance, has flourished. I was in charge of watching it for a week while they went out of town. I think it died a little under my care.

Poinsettia. It's not just for Christmas anymore.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sweet View. Street View.

Let me preface this post, by saying, "YAY!" I thought it would take a long, long time to be deemed worthy enough for Google Maps' Street View. But really, it didn't take that long at all. Yay!

My, what a sweet little home that is. As viewed from the Google person's car, from the street, from my computer.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A slurry of activity

There's some official city business going on in my neighborhood tomorrow as the city places a slurry seal of my street (this is NOT a resurfacing project, my official notice says). Such serious business warrants these very official "No Parking" signs, with quite the incorrect date.

To me, this sign looks more like something a disgruntled homeowner would spike into the ground, not city crews. Shouldn't their signs be orange and reflective...and not written on with a Sharpie? Ah, who am I kidding, I actually find these signs to be quite endearing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In hot water

Everyone needs to splurge on a couple big ticket items for their home, right? Well, I've been saving my pennies for quite some time now so I can buy myself a brand new... water heater. Glamorous, no?

Really, I'd rather get a coffee table or headboard, but instead, I'm buying a Whirlpool 50-gallon natural gas water heater from Lowes. My current one has just got to go. It's at least as old as I am and is sporting a scorched, ready-to-rust-out, ready-to-burn-someone look.

Since I'm not keen on paying the $255 for delivery and installation, plus the unspecified amount the plumber is likely to charge for "updates," my dad has agreed to help me install it. I did an initial consultation with him over the phone, and now he's running the show - figuring out what pipes I need, what kind of flex tubing will work best, etc. Thanks, Dad!

Now, I just need to actually go purchase the darn thing.

The 50-gallon stallion from Lowes.

Dragon boat

Wee! Dragon boating has started once again. I'm not much of an athlete (read: I'm terrible at sports), but I think I do OK paddling the dragon boat. That said, we had our first practice tonight and I'm wiped out after just one hour on the water. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will feel all rigor mortis-y tomorrow morning.

It is a lot of fun though, and it does support something worthwhile. And - bonus - it makes me feel just a little bit like the Olympian I know I am inside (hehehe).

Last year. Pushing off. I'm the second one from the front on the port(?) side of the boat.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ode to electricity

Oh, electricity, I don't really know how much you mean to me until a "tree makes contact with an electrical facility" and leaves me without power for 16.5 hours. I'm so glad you're back.

Brian and I spent Monday morning and evening in the dark. We played Connect Four to pass the time.
Fun (and nerve-wracking if you're me) with or without electricity. Get yours from Amazon.

Baby got showered

Last Saturday, Lola and I threw a baby shower brunch for Becky and baby at my parents' house. The preparation took a lot more work than I anticipated. Granted, I created a lot of the work myself, but still.

Lola came up with the "dots" theme for the shower, and I went berserk creating centerpieces (from How About Orange) and a 23-yard garland. Poor Brian got roped into assembling large sections of the garland because I was too busy scouring Microsoft Office Online for the best clip art.

The clip art was for our onesie-burp-towel-sock decorating station (inspired by Say Yes to Hoboken). We had buttons, paints and iron-on transfers at the ready for guests to personalize items for the baby. Since I couldn't find any iron-on transfers in stores that met my discerning taste, I set about creating my own. I spent hours (HOURS!) first finding the "cool" clip art and then arranging them in Publisher to fit the most items on one piece of paper (I'd only bought seven sheets of ink jet printer iron-on transfer paper). Once they were printed, I roped poor Ben into helping me carefully cut out every single image. Hand cramps abounded.

In the end, all the prep work paid off. We had a festive atmosphere, great food, and fun activities. What more could you ask for in a shower?

The garland

The clip art iron-ons

The decorating station and centerpiece

The Zuester. The Zoo. The Zooey-Zawee-Zoe. The diva.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

How I spent my weekend.

My fourth of July weekend was filled with a lot of food, family, fireworks and fun (How's that for alliteration?). And that's just how I like it.

In contrast, the weekend preceding Independence day was filled with gross gutter garbage (Again, how's that for alliteration?). That's not how I like it. Since my gutters were sprouting maple trees, I figured that was a good indication they needed cleaning. Too bad my 6' step ladder isn't quite tall enough for me to safely reach the gutters. Most of the time, I ended up perched on the do-not-go-past-this-step-or-risk-injury-or-death rung of the ladder. Talk about a dirty and dangerous duty (wee! Alliteration is out of control tonight!).

Here's a shot where I'm actually practicing safety first.

All hands on deck

Last weekend, after lovingly repairing the rotting car siding on my garage, my father took particular issue with the wacky chop job that was my deck railing. That meant one thing: it had to be repaired. NOW. Since my dad had to hit the road to milk cows, that left Brian and me to fix it. It took two trips to Mendards, five new boards of pressure-treated pine, one bottle of carpenter ant and termite killer, and Brian's muscle and skill to get the job done. I did a little bit of holding the boards in place and a lot of staying out the way.

My before and after shots are kind of lousy, but here they are regardless.

Instead of laying one solid board on top of the deck posts, the previous owner cut the top railing to angle around the posts so that the tops were flush. The wood was rotting all over the place.

Brian prying some nails loose.

Brian drilling the last screw in place while supporting the Bush-Cheney '04 election. Talk about multi-tasking.