Month: August 2017

Cut the Cable Cord

There’s a slew of streaming services out there today. Ya know what? I don’t even think the word slew covers it. Gazillion? Yeah, that’s more like it. From Hulu and Netflix to Sling and Playstation Vue, the tech savvy have a ton of options for cutting the cable cord once and for all. My husband? He’s the epitome of tech savvy. Our house is basically a smart home at this point. We have an Amazon Echo (you know, that “Hey, Alexa?” thing) on both floors, an eco-friendly Nest thermostat, a dead bolt on our front door that’s controlled by an app, a robot vacuum, a robot camera that can ride around the house and check on things when we’re not home, and… need I say more, or have I lost you yet? 🙂

I’m the opposite of tech savvy. I know enough to use all the tech in our home, but how could I tell you how it works or how to hook it up? Nope. Nada. Not at all. But do I appreciate the convenience (and cost savings) it provides? Yup. You betcha. So when Mike presented me with an option to get rid of cable while reducing our monthly bills by more than $100 all without sacrificing our entertainment options — I didn’t even blink an eye. And one day later we were switched from Comcast to DIRECTV Now.

Here’s a low tech explanation of how it works. It’s not that complicated — I promise. We use AT&T for our cellular service and we recently upgraded to an unlimited data plan which somehow ended up being a really great deal. Thank goodness for market competition (I’m looking at you, T-Mobile). For $10 more per month we not only got unlimited data, but we became eligible to use AT&T’s partner streaming service DIRECTV Now.  If you’re like me you’re probably thinking I DON’T WANT A SATELLITE DISH! We had DIRECTV service via Satellite when I was growing up and the service went out the second it rained. But this is different.

DIRECTIV Now can operate through any streaming device (think Amazon Fire Box, Roku, Apple TV, etc.) We’re running ours through an Apple TV for our main TV downstairs and we’re using an Amazon Fire Stick on our TV in the master bedroom. First of all, the guide is INCREDIBLE! You can go through and favorite channels so they show up on a separate list which makes channel surfing easier than ever. All the channels we watch are included in the service, in addition to some we couldn’t get through Comcast (Tru TV, Travel Channel and Viceland). There have been ZERO interruptions in our service since we started using it a few weeks ago. And it even has a ton of content available on demand. So far the only thing it doesn’t include is DVR, but everything I would typically record is available on demand, so it hasn’t been an issue. And Mike tells me the DVR service is coming soon.

But the BEST result of us making the switch has been saving a cool $100 on our cable bill each month. By canceling our Comcast cable service we were able to increase our internet to blast speed and drop our bill from $198 per month down to $89. Pretty awesome, right? Just think about what you’d do with an extra Benjamin in your wallet every 30 days. So. Many. Things.

What do you think? Are you ready to cut the cable cord and start streaming your entertainment? Have you tried any other streaming services? If so, what’s your favorite?

Packing for Two Weeks in Italy

Eeek! Our Italian vacation will be here before I know it, so I’m getting a jump start on packing. We’ll be gone for two weeks overseas so I don’t want to forget any essentials. Luckily we’re traveling with our BFFs who take this trip every year so my friend Laura has been a huge help in guiding me on what to bring and what to leave at home. I’m notorious for packing the night before, but I promised myself I’d be proactive with this trip to avoid last minute stress — and I’m making good progress.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best packer. Laura amazes me with how thorough she is and how well in advance she has her suitcase ready to go, but packing ahead of time has always stressed me out more than last minute packing. The reason? How can I know well in advance what I’m going to want to wear on my trip? What if I want to wear it before I leave? What if something I need for the trip is still in the laundry? Plus, we’re always so busy leading up to a trip that I just can’t spare the mental power it takes to plan ahead. But I’m bound and determined to change that! With a two week trip I knew I needed to be smart about packing — so I started thinking of what my Italian “capsule wardrobe” should be. With all my laundry finished and a few hours free this morning I got to work.

Hmmm… can you tell what my favorite colors are? 🙂 I’m a sucker for a gorgeous orangey-red. That’s going to be my go-to pop of color in Italy, with lots of white, navy, black and gray neutral pieces mixed in. Here’s a list of what I ended up packing.

  • 7 casual tees
  • 4 casual tanks
  • 4 dressy tanks
  • 5 dressy tops (some with 3/4 to full length sleeves for evenings, but all are super light/sheer)
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 pants (a pair of black stretch denim and white linen)
  • 4 casual shorts (black, denim, olive green and gray)
  • 4 maxi dresses (on the dressier side)
  • 3 shorter casual dresses
  • 2 swimsuits with cover ups
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 scarf
  • 3 pairs of sandals
  • 2 pairs of sneakers
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 cross body bag
  • 1 clutch
  • Sunglasses

A ton of the stuff I’m bringing can be mixed and matched to be dressed up or down depending on what we end up doing. We’re planning on hitting Naples, the Almafi Coast and Rome while we’re there, so I want to be prepared for everything from a casual day spent at the beach to a busy afternoon sightseeing in the city — and everything in between. What do you think of my list? I’d love to hear your packing tips and tricks! What is your go to wardrobe for long trips away from home?

Master Bath Mood Board

Our dated master bathroom is currently undergoing a much needed renovation and I’m SO excited to share the details. We’ve always looked at our home as an investment so any updates have to be resale friendly. I love our town home. It was a great deal in a nice neighborhood on a decent sized corner lot. But it’s not our forever home. We had a realtor in earlier this year to give us an outside perspective and his biggest criticism was our master bath. We already knew it needed to be done so when he confirmed our suspicions we got serious about making a plan. Months of research later and my plan is finally coming to fruition!

I love the idea of using white and gray as foundational colors with hints of warm brass to make things feel cozy. I decided to use gold accents in places that are more easily interchangeable like the vanity light, mirror and vanity hardware. It’s much more complicated and costly to swap out the shower head, diverter and faucet since those require a plumber, so I chose a timeless brushed nickel for those finishes. It’s simple, neutral and very resale friendly. Do I dream of infusing more custom finishes into my spaces one day? Of course! But I’ll save those choices for my forever home.

This remodel is very budget friendly. Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses so I didn’t want to cheap out, but I’m also being realistic about the sale price of a house like this. A $20,000 (or even $10,000) renovation just doesn’t make financial sense. Luckily my brother-in-law worked in construction before recently becoming a police officer and he’s a DIY nerd like me, so it didn’t take much coaxing to get him on board. And I’d much rather invest in someone who will get the job done then take a risk on an unknown contractor. Once he agreed to help with the project we were off to the races.

Here are some ways I’m sticking to our budget without sacrificing style:

  • Use an inexpensive shower pan but bring the wall tile all the way to the ceiling. Our shower is small, but it’s a standard size. That means we could source an acrylic shower pan from a local big box store and save money on having to tile the shower base. The plumber we hired set the shower pan with Quikcrete to give it added stability for the long haul and we’re thrilled with how it turned out. I chose an inexpensive white subway tile in an oversized style (12″x4″, source “h” below) and opted to bring the tile all the way to the ceiling. This tricks your eye into thinking the shower is much bigger than it really is.
  • Recycle leftover materials from another project. We had a ton of faux wood flooring tiles, mortar and grout leftover from a flooring project in 2015, but I held onto it “just incase” — and boy am I glad I did. The tile will be the perfect foundation of our new, modern bathroom and it’ll only cost us the labor to have it installed (which is super affordable thanks to Jesse, my brother-in-law). We bought the tile at a professional supply store, but I also found it online (source “l” below).
  • Add upgraded hardware to an off-the-shelf vanity. Searching for the perfect vanity has probably been the most time consuming part of this project. Most of the options at big box stores feel chintzy (which is sure to scare potential buyers down the road), but spending $1,200+ on a more custom option just isn’t in the budget. Kudos to my husband for spotting this Scott Living vanity on a recent trip to Lowe’s. It has drawers for extra storage (something our realtor recommended) and a shelf to keep things feeling airy while giving us easy access to towels. Great find, Mikey! 🙂 It already comes with a synthetic stone top that compliments my gray & white theme and at $400 the cost can’t be beat. The low price gives me some wiggle room to add a special touch, so I’m planning to remove the stock hardware in favor of these gorgeous unlacquered brass misson-style pulls that will age with a gorgeous, warm patina over time.
  • Choose one or two places to splurge for a more custom look. I chose to splurge in two key places to give the bathroom extra style. First, we added two shower niches that will be tiled in marble mosaic accent tiles. At $13 per square foot these tiles are much more expensive than the subway tiles, but we only needed four sheets to get the job done. Our second splurge will be this Metal Framed Round Wall Mirror from West Elm. At $249 it’s more expensive than some other key pieces in the room, but it’s the exact style I’m looking for and it’s the first thing you see walking into the space, so it’s worth the splurge (and it blows your basic builder grade mirror out of the water).
  • Add an architectural element to boost character and charm. I wanted to add something to make the room feel extra special. It’s a small space for a master bath so a little WOW factor will go a long way. The trend setter in me wants to add wallpaper in the worst way, but that’s not realistic for resale. Potential buyers could swoon like me, or it could totally turn them off. The solution? Ship lap. My house was built in the early 90s and it really lacks any architectural detail, so this simple infusion of charm and character is just what the doctor ordered. I’ll probably end up painting the whole room a crisp white which will give the ship lap a classic feel like it has always been there.

I can’t wait to see it all come together and, of course, I’ll keep you posted as we make progress. What major renovations are your taking on these days? How do you stay on budget? What are your favorite ways to infuse your personal style into a space?

Source List

a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | k | l