Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Half Bath, Half Done

Last summer, when we had the terrible Dr. Eddy come replace a couple windows in our house, our half bathroom at the top of the stairs was left looking like this.

The bright yellow paint was the choice of the previous owners and never looked all that great. But after the dirtiest handyman in the world got through with them, the walls were downright disgusting. Even after I scrubbed everything down, it was still pretty bad.

I decided it was finally time to repaint the last room in the house. (That's right, I've painted every other wall and ceiling in the Capers!) I thought since there wasn't a lot of walls to deal with and there was already a lot of white in the room, I could get away with a deep blue color on the walls and ceiling. Boy was I wrong.

I tried out a couple samples of colors I liked but it just wasn't working in that tiny space. Turns out it's true what they say about dark colors making a room feel smaller.

With my plan out the window, I gathered more paint chips and thought long and hard about what color would make that room pop.

And then I thought a little longer. A little longer. Longer. And then it was January, almost half a year later and we still had to look at this multi-colored eyesore every day. Eek!

I can't say this is the only time I've ever procrastinated ... I've been meaning to put up a post on this blog for the last week and a half ... soooooooo ...

But besides color choice and what to put on my "statement wall" (the one you see as you're walking up the stairs) I had another snag in the bathroom makeover. See that piece of wood in the picture above? Up until just recently, there's been a 2x4 on two of the bathroom's walls. Serving no purpose, just nailed into the wall. And I have to admit, I was a little nervous about removing them. I was worried about what kind of mess I'd make pulling them down, and I even had a ridiculous fear that there would be a gaping hole across both walls that the boards were hiding. Like, that I'd be able to see outside. Stupid, I know.

Yet for months I waited, hoping I would wake up one day and magically find that the boards were gone and I had plain normal walls to work with for once. No wallpaper, no paneling, no ceiling tiles, no plaster. Just plain drywall.

When that obviously didn't happen (yay for this crazy old house!) I finally sucked it up and grabbed a flat head screwdriver and a hammer and got to work.

It took some time slowly rocking the board away from the wall. I started with the screwdriver and just tapped it in a bit, then pulled it back out and moved down the board. (Don't rock the screwdriver! You'll leave indents in the wall.) I did this until there was a gap all the way across. Then I used the claws on my hammer to pull the board some more, alternating between the top and bottom sides of the board. But eventually, that baby came off!

I was on a DIY high and feeling pretty handy after that first board came down, so I picked up the pace a little and got started on the longer board.

And then I got a little overzealous.

That mark, my friends, is what happens when you use the hammer as a lever, instead of just pulling straight toward you. Oops!

After some blushing and looking over my shoulder to make sure Chris and the kitties hadn't noticed that, I pressed on, determined to get rid of that second board. The window frame made things difficult on one end, as you can see below.

But with only a few other incidents, I succeeded and I was left with a horrible looking wall. But at least it was finally just a wall. Drywall and nothing more! Hurrah!

I sanded down the excess paint buildup around where the boards used to be and spackled over anything that looked not quite level ... including the hammer-sized hole I left in the wall.

So for a day or two I kept the room closed off while the dust settled, waiting for a day off from work to start painting. Well, as luck would have it, I actually got busy at work again and didn't have any time off for a week. I eventually did sneak in the half bath after work to wipe everything down and clean up the mess from sanding and spackling, so at least we could use the bathroom again. But now our little room was looking worse than ever.

At this point, I was too ashamed to post my progress, so I had to hold off on blogging until I could offer up a slightly happier sight than our funhouse bathroom pictures.
When I got today off from work, I knew what I had to do. I pulled up "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" on my cell phone, put some painting clothes on and went in for the kill. I still hadn't decided on a color or what would make the far wall a "statement wall." All I knew was that I couldn't look at that mess any more.
Enter Valspar's Brilliant White.

It's clean. It's calm. It's white.
This is the first time I've ever painted a room white. It felt a little strange at first. Sort of like the opposite of progress. Usually I try hard to banish the white walls.
But it's obviously way better than crazytown color wall. And actually ... I kind of like it.
There's something very soothing about being surrounded by white. Even with the room still in disarray, I felt calm standing there with the white paint on the walls.
I guess what I'm saying is that I'm looking forward to seeing how this room comes together. I may end up stenciling a design on the statement wall. Or maybe hanging a large framed poster. Maybe sticking a bunch of postcards to the wall? Probably not that since it is a bathroom and I guess I want to be able to wipe things down. But something good is going to go there. Just not sure what yet. 
In the meantime, there are a few things I know need fixing. The lighting/electrical outlet situation, for one. Both the lighting and the electrical outlet are pictured below.
That's bonkers, right? Only one outlet and it's on a crazy base of some weird utility light. And the bathroom only has this little candelabra bulb. Yeah, gonna need to fix that.
Also, I love that this room has glass doorknobs like the rest of the house, but someone before me got a little paint happy and painted parts of the door knob and screws. But I've already got something in mind for that ...
I also need to install a ring for a hand towel so we don't have to drape it over the mirror any more. And clean up this mess outside the bathroom.
And I may have to deal with this mess too.
If you don't pet this cat every day, you may not see the mess right away. Let's zoom in, shall we?
If you still don't see it, I'll give you a hint. Zoro has a black tail and a black butt. Yeah, my kitty got a little curious. And as I was writing this, Shadow ran by me and I saw that he too has a new white spot on his behind. Anyone have any tips for getting paint out of cat fur?
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Zoo Date

Last weekend, my darling husband Chris took me on a date to the zoo. My favorite! This was our first time visiting Rosamond Gifford Zoo in the winter - we usually go in the summer. So it was neat seeing the animals with snow, but they were all pretty much as sleepy as usual. haha It was also surprisingly warm for January - about 50 degrees, so most people were walking around with just sweatshirts on.
Anyway, without further ado, here's a little sampling of our zoo visit.

The penguins were in the process of molting, so they couldn't go in the water like usual.

Ring-tailed lemur.

All three lions hanging out.

A very dangerous staring contest.

We found Nemo and his dad!


Two baby snow leopards were born at the zoo last June, but I guess we waited too long to see them when they were tiny.

Barking Deer.

These two weren't speaking to each other.

Notice the "You are here" text in the Atlantic Ocean. This made us laugh because no matter where in the world we were standing reading this sign, it would always be wrong.
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Making Your Flowers Last Longer

I love flowers. Love them. I want them in my house 24/7, but I don't like spending a lot of money on fresh flowers every week. So there's the problem. Over the years, though, I've come up with a few sneaky ways to get the most out of a bouquet of flowers without splurging for fresh ones all the time.

Ok, so admittedly, I don't have any miracle way to keep your fresh-cut tulips from wilting. That's mother nature and I'm not about to go up against her. But, I have come up with a few easy tips to make the most of your flowers.

Who wouldn't want to enjoy all these pretty colors every day?
Tip #1: Buy mixed bouquets instead of a single type of bloom. Some flowers, like carnations, last forever (sometimes you just want them to die already and instead they linger for weeks). Others, like certain types of roses, can wilt in a couple days. Rather than reading up on the life cycle of every single flower I purchase, I just go for pretty mixed bouquets from the grocery store. (Wegmans has great seasonal mixes!) So that way, when your hydrangeas are headed for the garbage, you'll still have some lush daisies or lilies to enjoy for a few extra days.

Also, with mixed blooms, you often get some younger flowers and a few buds mixed in. These will open up after some of your other flowers are past their prime, adding days to your bouquet's lifespan.

Tip #2: Cut the stems to keep them going longer. I'm pretty sure my mom taught me this tip. But when the stems get old, they don't take in water as well, so your flowers start to wilt faster. Cut an inch off the stems with a sharp knife every couple days to extend the life. Also, flowers love fresh water, so don't forget to swap it out every so often.

Tip #3: Toss the wilted and then rearrange. It sounds like tough love, but if you've got a dying flower, get it out of there. I've seen my friends toss entire bouquets just because a couple of the flowers were passed their prime. One or two limp lilies doesn't mean your bouquet is dunzo. Just get rid of the culprits! Without the wilted flowers dragging things down, your bouquet will have a whole new life.

And if you only have a few stems still going strong after you weed out the wilted, downsize your vase or split them up into several small bud vases. By cutting the stems and changing the water, those flowers will also last longer. And by switching up the arrangement, you'll have a whole new appreciation for them. It's like two bouquets in one!

Tip #4: Mix fresh cut with house plants. To go along with #3, mix things up when some blooms kick the bucket. (You could even use a small bucket instead of a vase!) Supplement your arrangement by bringing in house plants you already own. A bit of interesting texture can really add depth to a grouping of flowers.

You can see an example of this below. The flowers are from the bouquet pictured above. I bought that bouquet on December 30th. And I took the picture below today, January 13th! Over two weeks of flowers with just one $7.99 bouquet! What's not to love?

A few surviving flowers look gorgeous when paired with an air plant. Keep the vases similar (ex. all clear glass) to make it all go together.

I hope this helps you make the most of your bouquets. Having fresh flowers in the house is such a sweet little luxury, no one should have to miss out! And of course, in summer, when the flowers are in bloom, don't forget to step out to the garden and bring a few blooms inside to enjoy. I guarantee a flower in the house will perk things up, if even just a little bit. :-)

PS - Happy Birthday Mom!
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Few Christmas "Undecorating" Tips

It's always difficult to say goodbye to the Christmas tree and decorations each year. It marks the end of a favorite time of year for most of us. And it also means a lot of extra work. Taking the ornaments off the tree, finagling the pine tree through your halls to get it out to the curb, unhanging the stockings ... basically whatever the opposite of decking the halls is.

Since Chris and I started decorating our home back in 2009, we've put a few useful solutions into play to make undecorating the house just a little easier come January 1st (or in our case, sometimes closer to February. Oops!)

Tip #1: Store your ornaments in wine boxes. After a very spendy trip to the Finger Lakes, Chris and I found ourselves with a few extra wine case boxes in the basement. We used to try to keep ornaments in their original boxes if they had one, otherwise they got tossed in a big box, wrapped in stockings and tree skirts and whatever was soft and close at hand. Obviously this was a risky strategy, so the wine box idea was a brilliant substitute.

The dividers are just big enough to fit just about any ornament, and since they're so tall, you can keep piling them in. Just remember to separate ornaments with leftover tissue paper, old wrapping paper, or packing materials from your Christmas presents. We can actually fit all of our ornaments in one wine box, which saves sooo much space in the basement.

Oh, and if you don't regularly go on wine tours, you can probably stop by your local liquor store and ask if they have any extra boxes on hand. Most will be happy to have you take a few boxes of their hands.

Tip #2: Pack your lights into plastic bags. Slap a label on the bag so you know whether they're outdoor lights, tree lights, etc. Then tuck them all into a box (we use a spare filing cabinet in the basement) and you're all ready for next year. Couldn't be easier or cheaper.

Just make sure to pack the stepper switch with the tree lights, and any timers you may have with the corresponding lights so they don't get lost!

Tip # 3: Keep all your decorations in one place. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but up until this year, our Christmas decorations were packed away all throughout the basement. I found out when I was unpacking the Christmas decorations this year that there were two boxes full of Christmas-themed decorations that I forgot to put up last year because I hadn't noticed them tucked under the basement stairs.

After my major basement overhaul this summer, I made sure to dedicate a single stack of metal shelving just to Christmas stuff. Our fake tree that we put out on the front porch obviously stands on the floor next to the stack, but everything else is piled together on the shelves.

When everything is together, there's no forgetting about that box full of garland or hours of searching for the tinsel. Easy peasy. And when it comes time to put it all away, you just carry everything back to one spot.

Tip #4: Hang the pretty things up. This one may be a little too eccentric for some, but when I have something pretty, I like to use it to decorate our otherwise drab basement. So when I walk downstairs, instead of seeing a stack of boxes that hold the Christmas decorations, I see my pretty red wreath hanging from the top shelf. That way, it's like a label for the area of the basement where I store Christmas decorations, and it just adds a pop of color and interest when I'm heading down to do laundry.

I also have a 4th of July banner my mom made me hanging up in the laundry room, and our good buddy "Wisecrackin' Jack" (a gregarious skeleton we hang up at Halloween) lounging around the Halloween decorations. It just makes me smile to see a little holiday cheer on a random Thursday in January. It's not like we often give tours of our basement, so I'm not too worried about someone pointing out that a skeleton and a wreath shouldn't be out at the same time.

So there's our undecorating game plan: Use what you got and don't forget to have a little fun with it.
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy New Year!

So I'm about a week late getting this post up, but what can I say? I had a lot of pictures to post from the last couple weeks. Anyway, for New Years Eve, Chris and I hung out with out good friends Jim and Rhonda Youngs. I made lobster and baked potatoes (yes, lobster!) And for those of you who know that potatoes are one thing I absolutely can't cook well, you'll be surprised to find out that they came out really tasty! Jim and Rhonda brought over wine and some yummy crusty bread with a new dipping sauce from Pastabilities (available at Wegmans) that was sooo delicious. I even made a little salad and served Italian-stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer. Basically, we had a feast.
We had a lot of fun playing the new Battle of the Sexes, which they boys dominated, so that was a little disappointing for me. haha But it's a really fun game, even if you lose.
We sorta kinda missed the ball drop by about three or four seconds ... we may have been distracted because we were taking a stroll down memory lane and doing a Power Hour. Well, part of one, anyway. Chris has an incredible Power Hour DVD with 60 one-minute clips of all these videos and theme songs from his college days. So fun.

All in all, I'd say it was another fun New Years for the Dolens and the Youngs.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

A Few More Michigan Pictures

As if two Michigan Christmases and a wedding weren't enough to take pictures of, I have just a few more pics to share of our week in Michigan (and the return home to New York).
Our adventure began on Friday, December 21st, when my best friend Katie Loring joined me, Chris, and my mom for a trip to Sandhill Crane Winery for lunch and wine tasting. Yum!

I also went to Scrupples Salon to get a haircut before the wedding rehearsal. And Chris and I were so happy to see that it was finally snowing! We hadn't had much snow in New York so far, so we were thrilled by the possibility of a white Christmas.

We also celebrated my dad's birthday while we were out there. We went out to Hardknock Cafe and were entertained by Hadley's many funny faces.

But I did pull my camera away from that adorable girl to take some pictures of the rest of the family too.

A couple days later, we headed back to New York, unsure what we were coming home to. The Weather Channel had said Syracuse was getting a bit of snow, but we were hopeful that we'd be able to just get home and deal with it the next day after some rest.

No such luck.

As it turned out, we got so much snow that we couldn't get the Juke in the driveway. In fact, there was no driveway. It was all snow!
So despite having a cold and being exhausted from the nine-hour drive, my darling Chris trekked into the house in his sneakers, got his snow gear on, and headed out to the garage to find the snowblower, just so we could pull the car in and unpack. Craziness.

I promise I didn't leave Christ to fend for himself, though. After snapping a couple pictures, I too put on my snow gear and began shoveling the front and back stairs and walkways.

But then, just as we were cursing our luck, a belated Christmas miracle happened. Our neighbor across the street drove over in his plow truck! He said his daughter had looked out the window and saw us trying to dig our way to the house and told him to come help us out! How thoughtful is that?

So he used the plow to clear out most of the snow so we just had to use the shovel and snowblower to finish up. What a lifesaver!

So after all that craziness was over, we finally got to unpack the car and collapse on the couch. And guess who was waiting for us, ready to warm our feet and purr louder than a snowblower: the one and only Meowface. And finally, we were happy to be home.