Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 5 posts of 2012

Happy NYE everyone! We had a good 2012. The year started with our niece being born on New Year's Day (and our older niece turned 10 this year - pretty big milestone!). We really tried to limit our spending so we didn't do much travelling - had a great week with friends in the Outer Banks over the summer and went on a couple of weekend getaways for weddings to Miami and the Oregon Coast. Those were just a couple of the many weddings we attended this year, but I think 2012 marked the end of the wedding craze among our friends - they're going to be a lot more sporadic in the future (kind of sad - I love weddings!). Obviously, our biggest milestone was deciding to build the house - so we are seriously looking forward to 2013 when we can move in!

I started this blog in August as a way to document the progress on our house. The house has been slow going, and I've gotten very excited about blogging, so I've ventured into all sorts of randomness! Another reason I'm looking forward to moving in (other than being able to live in the house, of course!) is so I can focus the blog more on home decor and DIY - although I'm sure there will still be some randomness mixed in!

Thanks to all of my new followers and also for anyone just stopping by. This has been an exciting new undertaking and I'm looking forward to continuing to improve my blog in the new year. Since I've only been blogging a few months, I decided to just highlight my top 5 posts of the year...

Free Christmas Poster Printables

DIY Bina Wrap/Cardigan/Blouse/Scarf {or Dracula Cape}

DIY First Dance Frame
DIY First Dance Frame

DIY Dog Car Seat Hammock

Dog {and cat?} paw print ornaments

Thursday, December 27, 2012

{Free Printable} Cheers to the New Year

I firmly believe in keeping Christmas decorations up until the new year. To me, the period between Christmas and New Year's is really the holiday season where you should be relaxing and enjoying your festive house, after all the stress of prepping is over. But although I'll be keeping the Christmas stuff up, I also like the idea of adding a little New Year's fun into the mix. I whipped up a simple, black & white New Year's printable to stick in a frame.

You can download it here.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

{Recipe} Pineapple Bake

Happy day after Christmas! How did you spend the day yesterday? My day was great but exhausting - started cooking at 6:30 am (turkey + other stuff that needs to bake + 1 oven = looooong cooking time!!), Bryan's mom, grandmother, and sister came over later in the morning and spent the afternoon with us, then I went up to MD to visit my girls from high school while they were all in town and didn't get back till 1:30 in the morning. I was planning on going to work today, but I was way too tired!

Today I thought I'd share my family recipe for pineapple bake. This is my absolute favorite dish that we always have for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I could skip the turkey, the ham, the stuffing... just give me my pineapple bake, and I'll be happy!

I was rushing around like maniac trying to get everything ready, so I just snapped a quick pic of the finished product with my phone. It's not a very pretty dish, but it's seriously delicious if you're a pineapple lover.

  • 5-6 slices bread
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 can (20 oz) pineapple tidbits in juice (don’t drain)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into approximately 1" by 1" cubes. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the bread. Keep stirring and cook until the bread starts to turn light brown. 

Combine the whole can of pineapple & juice, the eggs, flour, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix until everything is combined (I stick it in my KichenAid for a minute), then pour into a casserole dish. Top with the bread and gently fold it into the pineapple mixture.

My mom's instructions for the cooking time are pretty vague: bake 45-60 minutes but check after 30 minutes. I've made this a couple times now and have found that 45 minutes usually seems about right for my oven. It helps to use a glass casserole dish so you can check the bottom - it's done when the bottom starts to turn light brown.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Baking frenzy

It's been a baking frenzy around my house the past couple of days. I'm sure many of you do way more baking than this, but two pies and double batches of two kinds of cookies felt like a frenzy to me, especially considering it was on two post-work, post-errand weeknights.

I love to bake, although I don't do it much since I have zero self-control with sweets! Christmas is always my busiest baking time of year, and I tend to go back to my predictable favorites. Chocolate chip and peanut butter kiss cookies have been my two favorites to make & to eat since I was a kid (mmm, dough!), so I usually bake them every year. And then I learned about Toll House Pie from one of my best friends, Jackie, when we were in college, and that's been my go-to pie ever since. It's also one of the very few pies Bryan actually likes (or in this case, loves). Here's what I made...

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies - Peanut butter + chocolate = my favorite combination of deliciousness.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies -  Real original, right? But it's a classic, and there's a reason for it. I always make mine soft & chewy. Mmmmm...

Toll House Pie - Ummm, I kind of forgot to take a pic after I baked it. This one was for Bryan's work potluck, so it's already gone. Since I only have one pie plate and obviously I needed to eat some too, I also made a weird rectangular pie for us in a mini cookie sheet - it was ugly, but it's just as tasty! If you haven't tried this before, it's basically a chocolate chip cookie in pie form. Amazing.

What are you baking for the holidays? Do you try out new recipes each year or do you tend to go back to old favorites?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Musings on expensive real estate & why we decided to build

The DC area is expensive. Not Manhattan expensive or London expensive, but still, it's pretty bleep-ing expensive. Even out in the burbs. As a pretty ordinary twenty-something (fine - almost 30) couple, a house - a spacious, single family house on a decent sized lot - can seem like a lofty goal. After living in a one bedroom condo a lot longer than expected, we were feeling more than ready to move to a great house that we'd actually want to start a family in. We had actually decided to build our house well before we started seriously looking into it, but every time I started second guessing it, I'd take a look at some of the existing real estate and completely reaffirm our decision. I'd drive by a house for sale and think, This looks like a nice, comfortable house that I could see us in. It can't be that much, can it? And almost always, it would be on the market for around $1M. Every once in a while I'd come across something in the $800s, but even that rare 'bargain' find was a couple hundred thousand out of our price range.

To give you a better idea (since I always like looking at real estate!), here are a few very random examples of some houses for sale in our area (with none of the important details - this post would probably make a real estate agent cringe!).

Here are a couple of options in our current town, Oakton:

Practically non-existent lot - $1.1M
New construction, very big house -
but it's $2.9M!!
New townhouse community -
starting from the $700s-$800s

Further northeast in the county it's even worse. Like in McLean? Ridickles.

Comparable size house/lot
to ours - $3.0M
.18 acres, icky house -
$600s (our price range)
And just for fun - this one's
 listed for a cool $32.0M

The town where we ended up buying our land, Burke, is definitely on the more reasonable side (otherwise we never could have afforded to buy land there!), but still it's tough to find something that's a great fit or that isn't just a little too expensive.

House we could actually afford -
New houses, itty bitty lots -
from the mid $700s
Similar to ours but smaller & much smaller lot - $700s

So to get what we wanted within our budget, it just seemed like it made the most sense to build our own house, on our own lot. Which is not to say that we're getting everything we want - we certainly had to make some concessions, but I feel like building gave us some more flexibility to pick exactly which concessions we wanted to make.

Even though the process can be really, really (really) slow. C'mon house, can't you just be built already?!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ideas for displaying your holiday cards

How do you display your holiday cards? My parents have this wooden reindeer cardholder that I've always loved. He's about 4 ft tall and has slats in his antlers where you can stick the cards. We bought him at a Christmas craft fair when I was 13 - which I specifically remember because I got the 12 & under children's discount from a little old man trying to be nice. I've been 5'8" since I was 11, so no one ever actually mistook me for being younger than I was, but it still made me irritated ("OMG, I'm a teenager, not a child!!"). So that's what I remember from the craft fair - getting the card reindeer, getting the children's discount, and also getting some yummy peppermint hot cocoa. Funny what sticks with you a decade and a half later!

So back to the point...what do you do with your cards? Since we've been living in our condo, I've just been sticking them on the fridge. You can't get much more boring than that. This year on a whim when we got our first two cards in earlier this week, I decided to string them up on the back of the front door with some twine. It's not exactly going to win any awards for creativity, but it took less than 5 minutes, and it's a definite improvement over the fridge. (I may need to update this once we've gotten some more cards in - it's looking a little sad at the moment!)

After I set up our little card contraption, I started looking around at some other ideas... since of course next year, in our new house, I'm going to be a lot more on top of my decorating (at least that's the plan...). Here are some other ideas from around the blogosphere...

Display your Christmas cards on a ladder with twine and clothespins!
Hang your cards on a ladder - A Night Owl

Hang with ribbon and clothespins - The Anderson Crew

A fun way to display holiday cards...hang garland around your doorway and place cards throughout it. Add pinecones, berries or lights to make it feel even more festive!
Put them on garland around a doorway - Bright Bold & Beautiful
Or on garland down the stairs - Martha Stewart

Create tinsel card garlands - Martha Stewart

Foam board covered w fabric. Pin Christmas cards to it!  I really LOVE this idea !!!  I'm always looking for different ideas for Christmas card displays, other than hanging them on the stair banister or on the fireplace mantel. This could be placed on the mantel, making it nicer than just putting cards on it.  Or I can temporarily replace wall art/photos with these boards for the season!
Pin them to fabric-covered foam board - Pens and Needles

Hang Christmas cards on winter berry branches. Materials:  Branches  Base container  Stones  Ribbons  xmas cards  Hole punch  Beads    1. Weigh down base with stones. Add water for berry branches. Insert branches.  2. Punch holes in the cards.  3. String ribbon through the hole and some beads. Tie the ribbon into a bow.   4. Arrange on tree.
Make a card tree - Martha Stewart

Hang them on Christmas lights - Swoon!

Make a clothespin wreath - Martha Stewart

hanging from office window
Hang them on chains with bells & ornaments - Centsational Girl

Hang ribbons on your doors - Country Living

Take a spool of Christmas ribbon. Tie it around all the upper kitchen cabinets…knot inside the cabinet. Clip cards with clothes pins to ribbon.To conserve ribbon use painters tape on the inside of the cabinet to secure the ribbon.
Or ribbons on your cabinets - Greener Grass

String wall christmas tree
Create Christmas string art - My Poppet

Make a cork strip - Unknown source (please tell me if you know!)
What's your favorite way to display your cards?? I'm also curious - do any of you skip displaying them? Maybe you just open the card to find out that Great Aunt Bertha says Merry Christmas, and then immediately chuck it or stick it in the mail pile till the holidays are over?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Ball Ornament Wreath

I made a Christmas ball ornament wreath today. This should be a really simple project. But I didn't buy nearly enough balls and had to improvise. I also overpaid for my balls. If you want to make one, aim to get lots & lots of cheap balls!!

  • Wire hanger
  • Boatloads of balls - I used 22 large balls & 30 small - not nearly enough!! Depending how big you are making it, I'd guess 80-100 would be ideal
  • Ribbon - if you want to add a bow
  • Wire or String - if you need it to make/attach the bow, to hang your wreath, or if you didn't buy enough balls (described below)
  • Scissors
General Process

I started by taking the hanger and turning it into a circle. I folded one end over to make a secure end (or so I thought - one ball slipped off and shattered, oops!! Be careful to make sure your end is actually secure!). Then just keep sliding the ornaments down the hanger until you get a nice, full wreath. I just slipped them on trying to mix up the colors and sizes but didn't stick to any particular pattern.

Once all of your ornaments are on, wrap the two ends of the hanger around each other to close it off. I had a lot of excess hanger - you can cut it off if you prefer, although I used it to hang my wreath by wrapping the excess hanger around the door knocker. Add a bow if you'd like, and hang it up!

My Added Complications

My wreath turned out to be a lot smaller than I was planning initially, but that's one advantage to using the hanger over a preformed wreath - you can adjust the size of the wreath as necessary. Even with my smaller sized wreath, I was still struggling with my puny amount of balls - it wasn't full enough at all. When I held it up, the balls would slide to the bottom, so I had to figure out a solution to avoid having a very bare wreath (since I refused to just go buy more like a normal person would do...). At first I was trying to make a wreath backing out of cardboard - I figured if the wreath was flat on the back and all the balls were pushed to the front, it would help to fill it out more. In theory, I think that would work but I was having trouble successfully executing it, so I scraped that idea. I ended up tying some wire around the top of the hanger, then winding it around some of the ornaments so that they were basically tied to the top of the wreath and wouldn't slip down. I would imagine that you wouldn't need to worry about that if you had enough ornaments to make the wreath as full as it should be, but using wire to tie them in place works well enough if you have to resort to that method. However, it does give you less flexibility with adjusting the balls once you're finished. I'd guess that it would be easier to scoot them around to hide bare spots if they weren't tied. Also in a couple of places my wreath was kind of lumpy/not completely circular looking. I pulled one ball off entirely because it was sticking out, but there are a couple of spots where it still looks kind of weird. Again, I would think that if you had a full wreath and the balls were able to settle naturally, this would be less of a problem.

In addition to not buying enough balls, I'm also annoyed at myself for spending too much on the ones I did buy. I went to Michael's and the ornaments were all 50% off, so I just got them there without thinking much about it. But even with the sale and my puny-balled wreath, I still spent $30 on the ornaments! I would never normally spend that much on a pre-made wreath, so why did I spend that much on materials to make my own?! This evening I went to the grocery store and saw ornaments for $2.50 a box - half the price I paid. They were plastic but would have worked fine (and actually maybe that would be better - having that much glass hanging up makes me nervous!). I bet I could have found them for even less than that had I actually looked around a bit.

Lessons learned - next time I will buy more ornaments and spend less!! And sorry for the text overload and lack of pics to show the process - that's something else to fix in my next go-around!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

All Pets Want for Christmas: Wishlists & Giveaway

Hey there everyone! I'm participating in today's All Pets Want for Christmas blog hop. Since we have both a dog and a cat in our family, I decided to put together a wishlist for each of them with products ranging from simple to luxury to high tech (in other words, they will not be getting everything they want for Christmas, but hey, they can dream!). If anything catches your eye, there are links where you can buy the products listed under each photo.

Once your done looking at Aria & Smokey's lists, hop around to the rest of the blogs participating! And don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Aria's Kitty Wishlist

  1. The Willie Tribal Dog/Cat Collar XS Dogs/Puppies Aztec by zeezoes, $25.00
  2. Kitty Washroom Cabinet, $99.98
  3. Dog Cat Food and Water Feeder / Bowl Holder by modernmews on Etsy, $68.00
  4. FroliCat™ DART™ automatic rotating laser light, $39.95
  5. K&H Thermo-Kitty Cave Heated Cat Bed in Mocha with Leopard Print, $83.49
  6. Adult Cat Tree House, $699.00 - $1,500.00
  7. SUSHI CAT TOY catnip sashimi crochet organic by meowadays on Etsy, $20.00

Smokey's Puppy Wishlist

  1. Christmas Dog Collar 3/4 or 1 LQuick Release by fairytailcollars, $17.00
  2. Ruff Wear Quinzee Insulated Jacket Granite Gray, $84.95
  3. Plexidor® Electronic Pet Door with One Touch Programming, $1,149.00
  4. Dog Tail Leash Holder Paw Paws Personalize It by AplombDesigns, $15.95
  5. Dog Bed Blanket Simon The Shark PetCosy Silly Pet by rikarika, $45.00
  6. Tandy Pet Bed, $371.00
  7. Squishy Travel Pet Water Bowl Chartreuse Garden by dudleyandbea, $24.00
  8. Tagg Tracker – GPS Pet Tracking, $99.95
  9. 24” Braided Candy Cane Rawhide, $19.99
  10. I was rescued Pet ID Tag Mixed Metals by FetchAPassionTags on Etsy, $13.50
  11. All Natural Peanut Butter Barks by GigglesandBarks, $2.50

All Pets Want for Christmas Blog Hop - 8 December

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pining for a great outdoor space

I stayed home from work sick today since whatever's been going around finally hit me. I've started to feel a lot better this afternoon though, and it also happened to be about 70 degrees today (in December, in the DC area, crazy!). All I really wanted to do was lounge outside.
Our sad little patio

But this is our patio. It's... least it's a patio, and I'm thankful that we have some sort of outdoor space (and being on the ground floor is a definite plus with a dog!). But it's so small, and the furniture we have out there is fine for a quick meal but not comfy to relax on. It's also not at all private - it's right by the parking lot and there are always a bazillion people walking by (or in today's case, a big noisy truck and workmen). Not exactly the outdoor retreat I was craving today.

We ended up taking a little walk to the dog park just to get outside a bit, even though lounging outside sounded a lot better than walking.

Even after we got back, I just kept thinking about how amazing it would be to have a nice outdoor space... like a REALLY nice outdoor space... like one of these...

Ok - stopping myself there. I could look at outdoor spaces all day - firepits and outdoor chimneys, pools and hot tubs, built-in barbecues ..ahhhh, so nice! Once we move into our house, I realize it'll be a long time before we have much going on in the backyard - but we will have a yard, and I can put a comfy chair in it, and I won't be disturbed by people on the sidewalk 10 feet away - and that is plenty for me to look forward to!