Month: November 2013

Last Minute Ways to Make Thanksgiving Special

Holy moley – can you believe it? Thanksgiving is TOMORROW! How did it creep up so quickly? If you’re like me, you thrive on pulling last minute details together to make a holiday celebration extra special. I’ve seen so many cute ideas drifting around the internet that I’ve been ohhh-ing and ahhh-ing over for the past few weeks. We’re traveling all day on Thanksgiving to my home town in Pennsylvania where my Mommom is hosting us for lunch and my Mom and Nana are pulling out all the stops for dinner, so I wasn’t able to put any of these cute ideas to use since we’re not hosting. But, I figured I’d round up my favorite easy-to-execute Thanksgiving ideas just in case they could be of use to you! Meanwhile, I’ll be baking my butt off since I’m in charge of bringing dessert this year. Pumpkin Dream Cake and French Silk Pie, anyone? Yum. But anyway, here are some of the last minute details that I think you could quickly pull together to give your dinner an extra special touch.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Heaping piles of leftovers are the best party of any great Thanksgiving dinner, and your guests will probably be clambering for every last slice of succulent turkey and whipped mashed potatoes to enjoy the next day. This suite of Thanksgiving leftover printables from Courtney over at Pizzazzerie is by far my favorite extra special touch for a memorable Thanksgiving feast. I mean how stinkin’ cute are these? You could easily print them out at home and slap them on plain paper lunchbags using a glue stick for a custom look and your guests will be toting home leftovers in style.

Thanksgiving leftover printables from Pizzazzerie
Thanksgiving leftover printables from Pizzazzerie

Gold-n-Pumpkin Place Cards 

If Laura’s birthday was any clue, you know I love dressing up a table to make an occasion feel extra special. I used a variety of small pumpkins and gourds to decorate our house for fall and they’ve been around for weeks now. When I came across this gilded pumpkin place card idea from The Nest I loved the way it dressed up a simple gourd to feel luxe and personalized. In my case, I’d take a few of the gourds that I already have laying around and  give them a quick coat of paint at some point today before tying a handwritten place card (possibly made from a gift tag?) on the stem. How easy is that? And it’d be super cute!

Gilded Place Cards from The Nest
Gilded Place Cards from The Nest

Notes of Thankfulness

Mike’s family has a tradition of going around the table to say what we’re each thankful as a way to show gratitude for our blessings and reflect on the past year before diving in for dinner. It’s really sweet to hear what each member of the family is thankful for – especially when his little cousins poignantly exclaim, “I’m thankful for Jesus!” or “I’m thankful for school!” When I came across this free Notes of Thankfulness printable from Hello Bee I thought they’d be a cute way to go a step further and write down your thoughts of gratitude. You could even save your family’s notes of thankfulness and revisit them when you’re having a rough day and need a heartfelt pick-me-up. With some printer paper or card stock and a pair of scissors you could quickly prep a note card for each person who will be joining you for dinner in no time. Note, click here for the printable file.

Notes of Thankfulness by Hello Bee
Notes of Thankfulness by Hello Bee

I certainly have so much to be thankful for this year, and I’ll be counting my many blessings when we sit down to dinner tomorrow. I’m wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours! Make it extra special and soak every moment in!

DIY Christmas Wreath

Sunday was another Christmas craft day for me as Mike and I were prepping for our upcoming Christmas decorating bonanza. Thanksgiving is a week later this year so we laid some groundwork for our outdoor decorating by laying out the grid of extension cords across the yard, wrapping the trees with lights (without turning them on) and hanging command strips that we’ll hang the garland from. I showed you the stuff I got to make my own wreaths in this post, and I finally had time last weekend to put the wreath decorations to good use.

DIY Christmas Wreath

I started with a blank slate – this $15 unadorned wreath. About an hour before I started decorating the wreath I took my decorations outside and sprayed them with a weather protectant spray so the wreaths would be weather resistent. I’m hoping to use these wreaths for years to come so I wanted to do all I can to protect them from the elements. Weather proofing the decorations added an extra step to this process, but I’m hoping it will do a lot to protect my investment in these wreaths.

Plain Wreath

 I laid out all of the decorations on the wreath until I came up with an arrangement I liked before attaching them. That way I could rearrange before my design was set in stone.

Test Wreath

When I had the design finalized, it was time to start attaching each decoration with hot glue. I set up my hot glue gun on a plate to protect my table/dining room from any dripping hot glue.

Hot Glue Gun

I started by attaching the bow at the top of the wreath so it’d be centered. Then I strung my letter “G” on some twine that I bought when we got the rest of the decorations and tied it right beneath the bow.

Bow

With those two key elements attached it was time to start placing the rest of the decorations. I started at the bottom and worked my way around the wreath hot gluing all the ornaments, pine cones and sprays until everything was securely in place.

Gluing

Here’s the final product!

Finished Wreath

Then it was time to put it up out front. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a few wreaths up before Thanksgiving, but we’re saving the rest of our decorating until later. Here’s what it looks like outside – keep in mind we’ll have more stuff out here in a few days.

Arbor Vitaes

Front Wreath

With the first wreath done, I had one more to decorate for the side of the house. Our house is a corner unit so we wanted to be sure we weren’t ignoring our side yard/window. I started with the same decorations that I used for the front wreath – minus the “G.” This is what I came up with for the second wreath.

Side Wreath

And this is what it looks like on the window outside!

Side Wreath Outside

Have you done any crafts to get ready for the holidays? Are there any holiday decorations you’re planning to DIY?

House Tour Part Two

I took you on a tour of the first floor of our townhouse in this post a week or so ago, and it’s time to take a tour of the upstairs. Our home has three bedrooms and two baths upstairs, as well as a laundry closet in the hallway – hooray for not having to climb stairs to do wash! Without further adieu, let’s start the second part of this tour, shall we?

The stairs to the second floor are across from our dining room sort of in the middle of our home. I love having a split staircase with an oversized window to brighten up the upstairs hallway. Isn’t it a pretty window? It’s one of the things I loved about this house when we first looked at it.

StairsWhen you reach the top of the stairs our master bedroom is directly on your right, the office is on the left, and the laundry closet, guest bedroom and guest bathroom are straight ahead down the hall. The washer and dryer are hidden behind bi-fold doors. I think the laundry closet has a lot more potential to be super functional and even kind of cute, so that’s a project I want to tackle this winter. I’m thinking some fun paint could really make this small space pop.

Hall and Laundry Closet

Just before the laundry closet at the top of the stairs is our master bedroom. A walk-in closet and a master bath round out our master suite. It’s a really great space for us and we think it’s pretty large for a townhouse.

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom 2

Bed Pillows

Night Stand
My night stand.

Vanity

The door to our master bathroom is just beyond the TV across from my vanity.

Master Bathroom

Master Bathroom 2

Across the hall from our master bedroom is our office. This space sort of doubles as Mike’s ‘man cave,’ too. We have some of his favorite knick knacks, bobble heads and awards/plaques as well as our college degrees on display in here. Mike uses the big desktop Mac to edit his vlogs and I hang out on the wingback chair when I’m working on the blog. There’s a huge window in this room so it’s really bright in there during the day. We love it!

Office

Keepsake Collage

Wingback Chair

Book Shelf

Book Shelf Close Up

Our guest bedroom is just down the hall from the office. We’re excited to finally have a place for guests to come and stay the night, and it’s already gotten quite a bit of use! I think it’s a pretty cozy space if I do say so myself.

Guest Bedroom

Dresser Top

Bureau

The last room in our upstairs is the guest bathroom. This is one of the only rooms in the house with colorful walls – they’re mint green. I paired the soft mint green walls with tangerine to help make the white tile and grey tub and toilet pop. We used the art in our bedroom in the old apartment and it happened to work perfectly in here. Score!

Guest Bathroom

Guest Shower

There you have it – our upstairs! We have a lot left to do up here, like upgrading the bathrooms and finishing some painting projects, and I’ll be sure to capture any upgrades on the blog as we go.

Pickle Martinis

Last Saturday night was an increasingly rare chance for us to let loose and have fun in the city. We love heading to Philly to have dinner at some of the great restaurants, but we’ve left the bar scene behind us for the most part – except for when Luke Elliot and His Band are playing. Yup, that’s the name of my good friend Dan’s band. He’s the drummer, and he also happens to be one of Mike’s good friends. Oh, and did I mention Mike and I introduced him to one of my best friends Brittany and they’ve been together for a few years now? Yup, we can add matchmaker to our long list of talents. 😉 But anyway, about that pickle martini I tried Saturday night for the first time…

Pickle Martini

While the band was rocking the house, Britt suggested we order pickle martinis to try something new in the spirit of a fun night out. Of course I was game! It was like no other drink I’ve tried. I swear it tasted just like a Wawa Italian hoagie, and immediately knew I wanted to recreate it at home. After researching a variety of recipes, I landed on one that I thought would have a little less ‘hoagie’ taste. The straight-from-the-deli version I tried on Saturday was fun as a novelty drink, but it wasn’t really something I’d make a staple in my repertoire.

Below is the recipe I came up with. Note, this recipe is for two martinis, and these are the ingredients/glassware I used to make my martinis.

Pickle Martini Ingredients

Pickle Martini

Ingredients

  • 5 oz gin
  • 2 oz pickle juice
  • 1 oz vermouth
  • 2 small pickles (for garnish)

Process

Pour gin, pickle juice and vermouth into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for about a minute. Skewer a small dill pickle on a swizzle stick and place one in each martini glass. Pour half of cocktail mixture into each glass. Voila, it’s that simple!

Pickle Martini with Vermouth

I thought this could be an unusual, savory drink to serve at a holiday get together. What neat drink recipes have you stumbled upon lately? Would you give pickle martinis a try?

Just Call Us the Griswolds

Can you tell by the theme of my posts this week that I’m in full holiday prep mode? If you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know we may have gone overboard in our recent shopping trips for outdoor Christmas decorations for the new house…

Christmas Haul

We have enough lights, garland, ornaments and bows to decorate the entire block. Okay, well, maybe not. But we did go a little crazy. Mike and I both love the holiday season and we’re having a blast buying decorations for the new house. It’s a thrill to finally have a home to decorate! Our motto is, “divide the cost by all the years we’ll be putting these to good use.” Yeah, we’ll go with that.

Let’s take a closer look at what we bought to (hopefully) achieve the look we have planned for the outside of our house. I did a ton of searching (both online and in stores) for the perfect wreath to adorn both the front and side of our house. Our home is on a corner lot and exposed on three sides, so we’re planning to decorate more than just the front view. None of the wreaths that fit my budget were quite right, so I decided to buy unadorned, non-lit wreaths and style them myself (hello, future blog post). I can’t wait to get these babies put together to share the final product with you! Here’s the base wreaths that I purchased for around $15 a piece.

Wreaths

And after some more search and planning, these are the decorations I went with to decorate them.

Wreath Decorations

Notice the ‘G’ from my post last week? I told you I wanted to sneak it into my holiday decor! I played around with these decorations after we got home from shopping last night to give you an idea of what I’m envisioning.

Test Wreath

Like I said, the wreath above is no where near final, I just wanted to lay everything out to see if I liked how the pieces were all coming together. I’m hoping to hang the wreaths in the window with a spotlight shining on each one. I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

We also purchased a ton of lights and garland to adorn the outside of our home. One of my favorite things that Mike found were these red and green Edison bulb light strands. I’m obsessed with the festive, vintage feel these have and I can’t wait to see them go up. Mike really wanted some sort of colored bulbs out front and I was struggling to figure out a way to pull everything together – especially since traditional colored light strands include non-traditional colors like purple, yellow and orange. I think these lights will add color without looking too visually overwhelming. What a great find!

Edison Bulb Light Strand

Mike also wanted to wrap the three trees in our front/side yard with lights, so we picked up three 300-bulb packs of mini lights to wrap the trunks and we’ll hang these oversized red and green ornaments from the branches for an extra special touch.

Oversized Ornaments

Finally, we’ll give the look a finishing touch by putting these candles in the front and side windows of our home to give it a soft glow. We decided not to line the house in lights for safety reasons (neither of us are interested in climbing on a high ladder or a roof) so I think these candles will add some sparkle instead.

Window Candles

There you have it! A sneak peek of all the stuff we got in our two-night marathon of shopping trips in preparation for the big Christmas decoration bonanza that’ll be happening at our house during the weekend after Thanksgiving (if we can hold out that long). How are you guys planning for the upcoming holiday season? Any outdoor decorating tips to share before we get started?

DIY Christmas Tree Garland

Happy Monday! I had a pretty leisurely weekend catching up with friends and family, so I wanted to squeeze in some time to do a Christmas craft in preparation for our holiday decorating bonanza that will be happening over the next few weekends. I made a cute paper bunting as a decoration for our housewarming party, and I loved the look of it so much I left it up until a few weeks ago – well past the date of the party. I wanted to bring back the look of the bunting but give it a holiday flair, so I used the same technique to make this Christmas tree garland.

DIY Christmas Tree Garland

My first step was to search for a simple Christmas tree image to print out and use as a template. After a quick search I found this sweet, rounded Christmas tree that was meant to be a coloring page for kids. The simplicity was exactly what I was looking for, so I printed it and cut it out to get started. Though I loved the star on top, it just wasn’t practical for this craft so I had to cut it off.

Template

Next up was choosing the scrapbook paper to make the garland out of. I bought a book of Christmas-themed paper a few years ago so I just thumbed through it until I found the look I wanted. I chose four coordinating patterns to give the garland a little variety while keeping it easy on the eyes. It’s visually interesting without being too busy.

Scrapbook Paper With the paper chosen it was time to trace my template onto the back of each page. I traced three Christmas trees on each page for a total of twelve trees. The finished garland came out to be about two feet long, so keep this in mind when you’re choosing how many trees to cut out.

Tracing

When all your trees are cut out it’s time to punch a small hole in the top where you’ll thread the twine through. I recommend punching a few test holes into the template tree first so you don’t ruin one of your hard-earned trees with a poorly placed hole punch.

Hole Punch

One of the added benefits of a craft project like this is the confetti that results from punching holes into cute craft paper. Check it out! I’m saving this as I go because I can definitely see this looking adorable in a confetti balloon or strewn across a table at a party. This is about three projects worth of confetti so it will be a while before I have enough to use for a party – but you could always make your own by punching wholes throughout a few pieces of scrapbook paper. I don’t think it’d take you very long, either.

Confetti

Anyway, back to the garland. We’re almost done! Now it’s time to string the trees onto your twine. I recommend threading the twin trough the back of the whole twice so the twin wraps around each side of the hole giving it more stability. If you only thread it through once your tree will turn more to one side and your garland won’t look very good from straight on. This is a pretty tedious step too, but once you have your twine threading down pat it moves more quickly.

Twine

The beauty of this project is that the twine holds the Christmas trees in place so you don’t have to go through the extra step and added cost of adhering them (though you can if you want). To hang the garland, I simply wrap the ends of the twine around a thumb tack and push it into the wall. I’m eventually planning to hang this over my mirror in the dining room so you won’t be able to see the thumb tacks at all, but it doesn’t photograph well so I pinned it up on the half wall leading into my kitchen to give you an idea of what it looks like hanging.

There you have it! DIY Christmas tree garland that’s as easy to make as it is on your budget. I actually had all these materials on hand, so this custom garland project only cost me $0. I’m hoping to do some more Christmas crafts on the blog leading up to the holiday. What about you? Have you gotten crafty with your holiday preparations? Do you have a traditional holiday craft that you make every year?

Romantic Dinner

If you caught my post yesterday, you know it’s been a trying week in the Genovese household. To top it off, Mike had to head to his company’s North Jersey office on just a few hours sleep (we’re always up late working) so Thursday was a long day. I was working from home yesterday, so when the clock struck 5 I shut down my laptop and took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have to commute home by putting together a nice little surprise for Mikey to come home to. I figured a special weeknight dinner would be just the thing we needed to relax after a long week.

Romantic Dinner

I started with a special table setting using some of the flowers that were still going strong from Laura’s birthday dinner. I put together a few candles and threw in a sparkly ‘G’ that I got a few months ago from Michael’s to round out the centerpiece (I’m hoping to incorporate the ‘G’ into our holiday decor). I added some Tahari napkins I purchased on clearance at T.J. Maxx to tie in with the color of the ‘G’ for an extra special touch, and aerated some of our favorite wine in a decanter to go with dinner. Here’s a closer look.

Table Setting

Napkins

Centerpiece

And here it is with the candles lit. The ‘G’ was shedding glitter all over the table. I didn’t mind. You’ll notice some similarities to my last dinner party, but this setup was much more simple.

Candle Light

I’ve been on a ‘let’s use up everything in the freezer and pantry’ kick to save a little money on our grocery bill, and I didn’t have time to go to the store – so I got resourceful with the menu. After taking a quick inventory of the meat we had in the freezer (we were running a little low) I decided to go all-in and make oven slow roasted ribs. We had purchased them over the summer on a really good sale and never used them, so I figured why not? I knew Mike would love it and it’d be a special treat since we rarely have ribs. I had just enough time (2 hours) before he’d be home to get them roasted to perfection. Pumpkin cornbread muffins and creamed spinach rounded out the meal.

I followed this recipe for the ribs, and they came out amazing! Two hours of slow roasting with a brown sugar chili rub and a quick basting with BBQ sauce followed by a few minutes under the broiler to crisp them up – and these babies turned out perfectly. This is one of the best recipes I’ve tried for ribs, so I definitely recommend it. Check out a close up of the finished product.

Slow Roasted Ribs

I also loved the pumpkin cornbread muffin recipe. I got the original recipe here, but I tweaked it a bit based on what I had on hand. Here’s a look at the ingredients I used.

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins Ingredients

Here’s the recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins, adapted from Nancy Creative. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  •  1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cornmeal (using a whisk to blend these ingredients works well); after blending ingredients well, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, then stir in the pumpkin puree, canola oil, and honey.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon batter into 12 lined muffin cups (each cup should be about 2/3 full of batter).

Bake CORNBREAD MUFFINS at 375 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or almost clean (do not over-bake, or muffins will be too dry and may brown on the bottom).

I’m Thankful for a Warm Home

It’s been very chilly around here this week. And I’m not just talking about the 30 degree temperatures outside. I’m talking about getting home early on Tuesday night (which if you know anything about my daily commute, you know that’s a miracle) and finding out that our gas had been turned off. Night = ruined. No bueno.

Let me back up. As I explained in my post yesterday, Mike and I bought our house as a short sale back in March. Short sales are a great investment, but they’re also a lot of work. After we made an offer we had to RUSH to get our inspections done quickly. But there was one huge hurdle in our way – the utilities were turned off. Yes, we toured the cold, dark house with no electricity or gas.

This was taken during our first walk through. The only light in the room was from my phone's flash.
This was taken during our first walk through. The only light in the room was from my phone’s flash.

In order to protect our investment and ensure we weren’t buying a total money pit the utilities had to be reinstated for a proper inspection. I must be addicted to being crazy busy all the time, because we had a vacation to Florida planned for the exact same week we were doing inspections and finalizing the contract. I totally remember calling the utility companies from the airport making arrangements to get them turned back on. Talk about hectic.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. When I walked up to my door and saw the note from South Jersey Gas stuffed in it, my heart dropped. I immediately knew I had made a huge mistake. In that moment I realized we never received a gas bill – since March. Mike takes care of most of our bills, so I had always assumed he had it on auto pay like all the others. He thought I was taking care of it. Panic ensued, and it was cold in my house. The temperature had already dropped to 60. Crap.

I immediately dialed the number on the letter to right the situation. I figured I could just call, explain the mistake, and they could flip a switch and the gas would be flowing again. Oh, the naiveness of a new homeowner.

The gas company didn’t answer the phone. Yes, you read that right. No answer. Even more panic ensued. How could they not answer? How could their automated customer service line just hang up? I kept calling back and each time a robot woman said, “We apologize but we’re experiencing higher than average call volumes. Press 1 if you’d like us to call you back. Otherwise, try again later. Goodbye.”

I called back, pressed 1, and robot woman said, “To schedule a call back this evening, press 1.”

I pressed 1.

Robot woman said, “A call back this evening isn’t an option. To schedule a call back on Friday, November 15, press 1.”

FRIDAY?! It was Tuesday. “I can’t go without heat or hot water until FRIDAY,” I thought.

I kept calling.

You can image the level of panic in my house at this point. If you know my husband, you know he’s got a flair for the dramatic in a tense situation. The guy who has the air conditioning on when it’s 75 degrees was suddenly shivering in our 60 degree house. I was digging out my Uggs from the back of the closet and furiously robo-dialing the gas company. Chopping onions to make my veggie quiche all the while with my bluetooth in my ear. I wasn’t going to let my dinner get screwed up, too.

I finally got through to a customer service representative who told me it’d be two days until we got our gas back on. I didn’t believe her. The Taurus in me started coming out. I’m usually pretty good with these customer service reps. My PR job helps me be firm yet nice on the road to getting my way. I worked as a telemarketer in college so I always feel bad for people in customer service. It’s not their fault. But after making 10 calls and waiting on hold for more than 20 minutes before getting a live person on the phone, my patience was wearing very thin.

“It looks like someone else’s name is linked to your property’s account and they’ve been getting your bills,” she said. “You need to fax us your settlement sheet and photo ID. Then we can set you up with a new account and you can pay your past due balance in cash. And then we can turn your service back on.”

Fine. I was ready and willing to pay the balance and get this over with. But I knew it’d be a chilly night because it was already 7:30 and their customer service department closed at 8, and I don’t have a fax machine. Double crap.

Wednesday morning I rushed to FedEx Kinkos before work and faxed the proof of residence. The woman assured me if I faxed the documents first thing I’d be able to get my service restored in the same day, I just had to call back and let them know I had sent the fax. Easy as pie.

I knew I shouldn’t have trusted her. 12 calls. I’m not exaggerating here. 12 calls and a 20 minute wait later and I finally had someone live to tell them about my fax. She had this bitchy, “It’s not my fault you’re the idiot that didn’t realize you weren’t getting a gas bill” attitude that made me feel 2 inches tall. I knew it was going to be a shitty day. If only I could just get the gas back on, it’d be worth it. I left the house with the dog wearing his winter coat. It was 58 when I left. Poor Cody.

We went through the usual rigamarole and I held on five more times before she told me I’d have to go to one of their payment centers in person by 2 PM to pay the past due balance in cash for any chance of having my service restored that day. I felt like I was a part of some sort of extortion ring. Thank god Mike’s office is only 10 minutes away from the nearest payment center. We could comply to their crazy demands – 30+ calls later.

So many calls.
So many calls.

The paperwork was faxed. The bill was paid. Heat had to be just around the corner, right? We were thinking of ‘Plan B’ just in case. Mike would shower at the gym and I would go old school and heat up water on the stove to pour in my bath tub to take a bath. Yeah, great ideas. But I was still holding out hope that we’d get the heat back on. Time to make another round of calls to the gas company. I finally got through, and got the news I was hoping not to hear. No one would be coming out to turn on the gas until Thursday. Nooooo…

At this point I was so down trodden that I just accepted it. Plan B it was. “How many pots of hot water would I need to fill the tub,” I thought. I shuddered just thinking about it. But Mike wasn’t taking no for an answer. He took to the company’s Facebook with a lengthy complaint about his shivering pup Cody and his worry that our pipes were going to freeze if we had to go another night without heat (I told you – flair for the dramatic). I was sure a company that couldn’t get their automated answering service right would ignore a complaint on Facebook, but it worked! Within a few minutes Mike got a call saying our house was put on the list to have service restored today. HUZZAH! He did it! I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have to make a pit stop for space heaters on the way home.

9 o’clock rolled around and there was no sign of the gas company worker. We thought we had been punked. That it was all a big joke and the gas company was going to call us and say, “SIKE, SUCKAS! NO HEAT FOR YOU!” I decided to make one last call to the gas company to check in. It was after hours so I assumed no one would answer, but someone did – and he said, “Actually, I think our guy is outside right now.” It couldn’t be! There he was in our driveway. VICTORY! Within a few minutes our gas was back on and the heat was flowing. What a sweet sound – the unusually-loud buzzing from our old heater coming from the utility closet. WE MADE IT THROUGH.

...and that doggy in the window
…and that doggy in the window

Needless to say, we’re having our 20+ year old heater serviced to make sure it will get us through the winter. In the end, I think this was a very important lesson for us both to learn. Both for our marriage and our life in general. We learned how much better life is when we work as a team, and we learned how easy it is to take something as simple as heat for granted. Mike and I live a pretty blessed life, and it’s important for us to remember that always. This year when we’re sitting at the Thanksgiving table I know we’ll both be thanking our lucky stars for this beautiful life we’ve built together. I’m thankful that we have a home to heat, and I’m thankful that I have a husband who cares for our household so well that I assumed he was taking care of the bill without being asked. Sometimes life throws us these curveballs to say, “Hey, WAKE UP and appreciate what you have!” I’m listening, life, and I hear you loud and clear.

House Tour Part One

My husband Mike and I purchased our first home in March 2013, and we’ve been making it our own ever since. The house was a short sale and it definitely needed some TLC. We’ve painted nearly every square inch of wall, ceiling, trim and door in the place in addition to replacing the carpeting upstairs and ripping out dingy carpeting in the downstairs living room in favor of more dog-friendly laminate. We also took down a glitter-tastic popcorn ceiling that spanned the entire downstairs. I’m very proud of the updates we’ve made to our abode and I plan to blog from time to time about home decor (it’s a passion of mine) so I figured I’d give you a lay of the land. The first phase of our virtual home tour covers the downstairs floor of our two-story townhouse. Here we go!

Welcome to Casa Genovese (fondly known by many of our friends as ‘The G-Spot’ thanks to my husband’s wicked sense of humor). Here’s the view as soon as you walk in the front door. The kitchen is at the front of the house (to the left) with a door to a half bath and another to our pantry/garage to the right. You can see straight through to the living room from here.

EntryThis is our kitchen. It’s the most colorful room in the house. I chose to paint it a vibrant red/coral color that plays really well with the cabinets. The bright color works in here because of the floor length windows that bathe the room in sunlight. Eventually we’d like to install a backsplash to kick it up a notch, but this kitchen has come a long way from what it looked like when we bought it. Two words: wallpaper border. Ugh! Thank goodness it’s gone.

Bay Windows

Fridge

Cabinets

SinkA downstairs half bath is one of three bathrooms in our house. I chose to amp up the small space with a fun striped wall. We installed the new vanity a few months ago, and I handled the plumbing!

New Vanity

Hall Bath

Striped Wall

 

Just past the kitchen and bathroom is the dining room. One of our most impactful updates in the dining room was replacing the old ‘boob light’ fixture with this new chandelier. The dining set is very special to us, too. The table was Mike’s grandmom’s that was used for years and years to make big batches of gnocchi for family holidays, and the chairs were handed down to me from my Nana (who has a flair for decorating).

Dining Room

View to Living Room

Our living room is a wide room that spans the entire width of the house. We replaced old carpeting with this new laminate to match the existing hardwood in the dining room and entry. Eventually, we’d like to give the windows a more custom, high-end look by installing built-in bookcases and a window seat. How awesome would that be?!

CouchEntertainment Unit

Finally, our living room opens onto a patio in our back yard. The back yard is one of the reasons we loved this townhouse because it gives our dog Cody a place run free. We haven’t done much out here other than purchasing a grill (which we use ALL the time) and a chimnea to give the patio a little ambience. We’re hoping to purchase some new patio furniture and build out a deck over the old, cracked concrete patio in the spring. The fence will be getting a fresh coat of paint, too!

Patio

 

I can’t wait to show you the second story in a post next week, and I’ll be sure to share any DIY projects as we continue to update our place. Are you working on any renovations right now? What DIY projects got your home looking like new?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Christmas Stockings

I’m still having trouble grasping that the holiday season is upon us again. Christmas is one of Mike and my favorite holidays – and we’re even more excited to celebrate this year since it will be our first Christmas in the new house. We’ve been searching for, pinning and discussing our holiday decorating strategy for weeks now (I know, we’re nerdy like that) and it has us excited to break out the decorations while the Thanksgiving leftovers are still warm. That is, if we had any holiday decorations…

Christmas Stocking Roundup

When we were in our old apartment we had one bookshelf and a coffee table to decorate. I’m not kidding. That was about all the ‘open space’ we could free up in our little one bedroom place to both decorate and later store holiday decor. We’d get a real tree each year (because we like the fragrance, and also because we could recycle it at the end of the season – no storage required). And yes, we fit a 6′ live tree in Mike’s Scion xD each year. Here’s proof. Needless to say, it’s time to invest in some beautiful, quality, grown-up holiday decorations this year. And I’m excited to shop for them!

One of the things I’m most excited to get this year is a pair of Christmas stockings for us that I’m hoping to hang from our banister (since we don’t have a mantel). I’m totally torn though on what style I like, so I decided to show you guys a round up of the my favorites. Also, it’s a crime that I’ve spent so much time searching for these stockings, so I figured I’d share the love with you in case you’re in the market for some too. As you can probably tell from my top picks, I’m feeling a rustic and vintage vibe with a hint of glam – if that makes any sense at all. We’ll see where I end up when it’s all said and done. Here goes…

Natural Quilted Stocking, Mark & Graham - $34
Natural Quilted Stocking, Mark & Graham – $34

 

Felt Snowflake Stocking, West Elm - $24
Felt Snowflake Stocking, West Elm – $24
Knit Nordic Pom-Pom Stocking (in Cream), Macy's - $20
Knit Nordic Pom-Pom Stocking (in Cream), Macy’s – $20
Purl Soho Felt Stocking, West Elm - $19
Purl Soho Felt Stocking, West Elm – $19

What do you guys think? Let me know your favorite pick in a comment below! What holiday decorations are you most excited about? Do you have an overall holiday decor theme this year?