Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Christmas Time

Last week, Chris was sick with a flu-like virus. He was pretty much down for the count for 6 or 7 days. Last Saturday, we didn't think he was up for our usual Christmas tradition of going to Beckwith's Family Christmas tree farm to cut down our own tree, so we headed over to Chuck Hafner's instead to pick up a pre-cut one. Once we got it home, poor Chris had to rest every so often while we decorated the tree because he was so weak from the virus. Poor baby!

But we managed to get it together and now we have this beautiful scene in our living room.

You can see in the picture above that we used some tin can lights I made to decorate the tree, as well as some pretty colored patio lights, which you can see better in the picture below. These were a bridal shower gift from my maid of honor last year. They look so good that I might have to try to find a few more strands for next year.

This past weekend, Chris was feeling much better (thankfully!) and even went out Christmas shopping. He returned with a giant present that he wrapped before I got a chance to peak at it. The only problem ... the kitties thought it was a present for them. You can see Zoro in the picture below sitting on it.

Well, the next morning, Chris came down into the living room ahead of me and all I heard was "Ah! The kitties unwrapped your present! Don't come in here!" followed by the sound of paper rustling and scotch tape being generously unwound and applied. haha Then we decided it was best to move that present to the front porch where the kitties couldn't get to it before I got to unwrap it for Christmas.

With that crisis averted, Chris and I focused our attention on decorating the outside of the house. We used to always hang icicle lights from the eaves with little hooks that were screwed right into the wood. But if you recall, we recently had ventilated soffits installed over the original wood, so that meant no more hooks.

Instead, we picked up some little S-hooks to dangle over the aluminum flashing around the front windows, and hung the lights from them. Then I lined the bushes with blinking colored lights and we put our fake white tree on the porch. Chris set everything up with timers, so all the lights come on at the same time every evening and shut off at night.

We also wrapped our lamp post in green lights and added this cute little Santa to our mailbox for something new this year. The pole that was included with the metal sign (from Target) was pretty flimsy, so I used some leftover ribbon from all the gift wrapping to secure the sign to the mailbox for added stability.

Lucky for us, we have a Watch Cat to keep an eye on the house whenever we're out around the holidays. haha

Another fun Christmas activity for us this weekend was decorating gingerbread cookies. Chris and I decided to go the easy (and delicious) route this year with store-bought cookies. So then we just added icing to create these adorable little guys.

Chris decided to go the Leonardo da Vinci route and decorate some cookies using both hands at the same time. Such a Renaissance man, my husband.

The results, however, were more surreal than Renaissance. haha

So that's what we've been up to so far this holiday season. We're looking forward to celebrating with friends and family soon!
Pin It

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chris's Birthday Sword

Some of you may be wondering what we did with the sword I gave to Chris for his birthday. While not everyone would be willing to incorporate it into their decor, I think it looks kinda fun and unexpected in our living room, above Chris's desk. This is Chris's home, too, after all, so I think he should get to be surrounded by things he likes.

The plaque came with the sword and just screws directly into the wall stud for a secure hold.

I like the detail with the lions and castles on the cross section. Yay for medieval kitties.

Plus, if the guys on Big Bang Theory can have a sword in their living room, why can't we? Let's call it geek chic.

Leonard in the guys' apartment from Big Bang Theory with the Game of Thrones sword by the door.

Pin It

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Festive Wreath for Less Than $12

'Tis the season to decorate your house with all sorts of sparkley things. Personally, I love Christmas wreaths, but the pre-made ones can be spendy, whether they are made with real pine and flowers or other materials. So when I was in Christmas Tree Shop the other day and happened upon this fun red wreath for $3.99, I knew I could make something perfect for our house with it. All I needed was a couple of embellishments, namely a pack of green bells and some green ribbon (each less than $4 from Michael's).

The next step was to tie the ribbon and bells in place ... then let the cat make a nest in the middle of the wreath, I guess.

We have a little wire on the top of the front door that we can pull down to hang decorations from, so I just wrapped that around the plastic frame of the wreath and voila! A little Christmas cheer for the front of our house. And doesn't it look so great with that bright green door?

So there you have it. A gorgeous Christmas wreath for less than $12. Can't beat that.

Any one else doing some holiday decorating on the cheap? Any tips or tricks for adding holiday spirit without breaking the bank?

Pin It

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trotting Turkeys, Saratoga Shopping, and Baby Steps

This Thanksgiving, we spent some time with Chris's family out near Albany. We kicked off our Thanksgiving weekend with the 5K Turkey Trot in Troy, NY. Yep, that's right. I'm a runner now. Blame Chris for that one.

Chris and I met up with his brother, Mike, as well as his wife, Erin and her sister Carrie at the starting location. The temperature was in the low 40s, but that didn't stop thousands of people from coming out for the run. Not even these guys, dressed as presents:

Chris was ready for the race and even braved the cold in shorts and a t-shirt.

I'm happy to say Chris beat his time from the last 5K and I managed to run the whole thing without stopping to walk! haha So successes all around.

Thanksgiving dinner was great. We had a huge table, lots of happy people, and even more delicious food. The next day, we all went out to Saratoga to browse the shops. I picked up a few stocking stuffers and we just admired the local stores. I saw this window and had to take a picture of it for my mom. Such a cute idea.

And Chris and I particularly enjoyed walking around behind his stepsister, Marena, so we could enjoy the sight of her snazzy new coat. haha

On Saturday, a bunch of us rode up to the cabin to shoot some logs. haha We had a couple guns to practice with, and I have to say, the women dominated when it came to aim.

And finally, Chris's step-nephew, Evan, put on a show for us by taking a couple steps across the living room. He was so proud he even gave himself a round of applause.

When we got home, we were surprised to see that Oreo appeared to have made peace with the kittens. Here he is, cuddled up with Shadow (who is keeping two sleepy eyes on us). Apparently the spirit of Thanksgiving got to them. Or maybe the cooler temperature of our house when we set the thermostat to vacation mode. haha

But, the peace treaty was short lived. Eventually Oreo took a few bites at Shadow and came over to snuggle with me. Even if he is still a crotchety old guy, you gotta admit he's pretty darn cute.

Pin It

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Small Change to the Exterior of the Capers

After a long weekend in the Scotia with Chris's family for Thanksgiving (pictures to come), Chris and I arrived home to this sight. That's right, snow!
First snow of the winter!
But the dusting of snow wasn't the only exciting thing that greeted us at our house. If you look very closely in this picture compared to older pictures of our house, you might see a change. Not sure? Let me give you a hint. This was a picture I took a week ago:

Can you see what changed? It's our soffits! Check out the before and after picture below and I think it will be more obvious:


What a difference, right? We actually had Peterson Construction come in and do the work. Gary was such a good contractor and we are so pleased with the results. If you're in the Syracuse, NY region, we definitely recommend him. In fact, we're thinking about having him reside the house in the next year or so. Super exciting! Love the idea of not having "freckles" on our siding anymore. haha

But I don't think Gary has a very hard time getting work. In fact, while he was up on the ladder working on our soffits, our neighbor came over and asked him for an estimate on a section of roof and siding on his own house that had a leak. haha I guess Gary is giving our neighborhood a little makeover.

Anyway, let's continue with the glorious before and after pictures:



In the picture below, you can really see how he cleaned up a lot of the weird angles by boxing them out. It looks a lot cleaner and newer, not to mention hassle-free. No more scraping and painting the eaves. Woo hoo!

The area above the front door was particularly bad. Much of the eaves were covered with plywood, but the section above the door was open because the screen door might have swung right into the soffit if it was any lower. So Gary and his coworker came up with a creative work around.




Here you can see the unpainted, untreated boards that were in the eaves before. Maybe they had something to do with the wires coming into the house? Whatever their purpose, they were ugly and prone to rot since the wood was exposed to the elements.

And now, voila! No more ugly wood. Just clean, simple, white soffits.


You'll also notice the little white vents on the front of the house now. While I wouldn't call this an aesthetic improvement, the vents are supposed to improve the airflow through the unfinished attic spaces inside the house. There were already vents on the back of the house, so now the air can flow straight through and escape. Hopefully this will cut down on the amount of icicles we get on the room, since warm air won't be trapped inside the attic just under the roof.

Our original plan was to cut into the wood just under the roof, so it would be covered by the vented soffits. Air would still be able to get inside, but the openings wouldn't be visible. The problem was in the construction of the house (most new houses already have the proper venting). But our 1930's Cape Cod had several thick pieces of wood right where we needed vents, so that ruled them out. But the new vents on the front should hopefully do the same thing, so I'll keep you posted.


The picture below is one of my favorite views. Such a big improvement. The contractor even wrapped the corner pieces and the section behind the spotlight with metal, so that won't need painting anymore either.



So there you have it. New soffits on the Capers. It's really one of the first improvements we've made to the exterior of the house, and I'm loving it. It's a small thing, but it needed to be done (no more exposed wood with the potential to rot), and it looks great. And it's got me thinking about how much new siding will improve the look of the house. But for now, I'm happy to have new soffits checked off the list!
Pin It

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A New Way to Blog

As you may have noticed, I've once again changed the format of this blog. But this time around, the change was prompted by an error message I got when trying to upload some pictures: "Your Picasa account is full."

You see, Blogger stores my uploaded photos in my Picasa web albums with up to 1 GB of storage space. Well, after four years of blogging, I finally hit that 1 GB mark. At first, it seemed like my only option was to pay $2.49 a month for an additional 25 GB of storage space, which was kind of a drag. Not a crazy amount of money, but I sort of hate recurring payments.

My next thought was to just start a new blog with a new account and link the old one to it. But that seemed less than thrilling to me. After all, this is my blog. That also seemed like it might get confusing for readers.

That's when my wonderful geeky husband stepped in. He had taken a class on hosting a web server before and still knew how to set it up. The thing about that is that you have to have a computer running 24/7, since that's where my pictures would be stored. Lucky for us, we already have a computer that we leave on all the time. When we installed our security cameras, Chris set them up to record to that computer so we would be able to catch any robbers if our house was ever robbed again. So our "DVR computer" now doubles as our server, and we're good to go.

The main difference for me is that when I upload pictures, I upload them from a URL instead of from my computer. So I have to transfer photos onto that computer over the network first, and make sure to resize them myself so they don't slow down the blog load speeds. Sound complicated? It's really not too bad (I'm just glad I have a couple years of computer consulting under my belt so I feel comfortable keeping up with my hubby after he does all the heavy lifting). haha

And the reason for my blog's aesthetic change was that Dynamic Views, the template I was using before, has limited usability with any server other than Picasa. So the pictures wouldn't load in the previews. After we figured that out, I decided it was probably easier just to switch my format back to a classic view. Plus, it's nice to give the ole blog a little face lift every so often. :-)

So there you have it. That's how we worked around paying $2.49 a month for the rest of my life. :-) If you are a blogger out there and come across this, leave me a comment about how you manage your blog! I'd love to hear about other solutions people have come up with. And if you want more specific information about how we are hosting our own photos (I know I didn't give a very technical explanation) I'd be happy to get the details from my husband and pass them along.

Happy blogging everyone!
Pin It

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chris's Birthday Celebrations

Chris and I celebrated his birthday this year in true geek style: with a huge medieval sword.

Ok, I guess I should begin at the beginning. Last time we were in Orlando, Chris and I had dinner at Medieval Times. After the show, I basically had to drag Chris away from the display of swords so we could leave. Add to that Chris's love of all things medieval, (think World of Warcraft), and I knew I was onto something. So I made a mental note and pretended I didn't notice the drool running down his chin as we walked away from the swords.

The one I gave him is pretty cool. It's very heavy, so it feels pretty authentic. The handle has some neat engravings on it as well. It also came with a plaque so we can hang it on the wall. I'll post a picture of that once we get it up.

Here's Chris opening a present from my parents.
Gotta love this look on his face as he discovers his wife just gave him a sword.
His birthday balloon
Chris also received a massage cushion from my brother and sister-in-law that he loves. He's already logged quite a few hours of heated massage while playing computer games.

I also made Chris a birthday brownie cake. Now, you may be wondering, "What exactly is a birthday brownie cake?" Well, allow me to explain. This confectionery mishap is the product of buying a brownie mix when you think you're buying chocolate cake mix and then deciding to proceed with cake preparations anyway. I adjusted the timing for two round pans and then did my best to make it look like a cake.


As it turns out, if you can put a candle in it, it's a birthday cake. haha And luckily, it tasted delicious too!

Chris, me, and the rest of his family also celebrated his and Mike's birthday on Saturday after Thanksgiving. And you know what that means: more cake! And that one was an ice cream cake. Yum!

The birthday boy
The other birthday boy with Jackson after they all blew out the candles
Kara and Evan sharing a quiet moment
Chris received even more great presents from everyone and we had a blast just getting to celebrate with his family. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty fun birthday week.