Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Political Ponderings

You know, it's been awhile since I let loose about politics (haha), and it's the tail end of nap time which means there's no point in starting into anything else at this point. Plus there have been a handful of political matters on my mind lately that I've just needed to put out there. I'll do my best to be non-offensive. I sincerely do respect others' views.

Hm, how about a bulleted list? Here we go...

  • I'd like to know who makes up the questions for the debates. It just seems to me that some of the silliest topics have been the focus (What kind of first lady would your wife be? Seriously?) while some major important ones (Iran??) are completely unmentioned. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but the candidates are kind of looking like fools up there babbling about these topics, not to mention being pitted against each other and spending half the debate tearing one another apart, while real issues are ignored. Why aren't there any questions on vital issues like gas prices, Iran, Syria? I also think it's so odd that the news media seems to constantly ask the candidates about social issues and then complain that these candidates only talk about social issues. Dude, you're the ones who asked!
  • Is anyone going to do anything about Syria?? I'm curious about the fact that we intervened in Libya to the point of their leader being overthrown and his dead body dragged through the streets. Yet, thousands of innocent civilian Syrians are being slaughtered purely because they're crying out for democracy, and we can't be bothered? I'm not about America being the world's police and I'd totally be fine if our policy was to mind our own business, but clearly it's not. Why are we picking and choosing? Why did we help the Libyans but are ignoring the Syrians? We intervened in Bosnia and Somalia for similar reasons. It breaks my heart to think about people being gunned down by their own government because they spoke up for freedom while those who could help out are standing by. Humanitarian aid at least?
  • The American soldiers killed over burning copies of the Koran in Afghanistan seems to make a huge and obvious statement to me. Burning the books was the wrong thing to do, whether it was an honest mistake or done intentionally. Our President gave an apology for that which I agree was an appropriate response. Yet the Afghan people, and it seems their president, are not accepting that apology and have chosen to respond with violence instead. I'm not even clear on what it is they want. They've killed people as a response, we've apologized and admitted the wrong. What would make this right for them? What are they asking for? Here is a country that was ruled by a terrorist group prior to our forces being on the ground. Since then we have dedicated our men and women for over a decade to eradicating the terrorists and helping the people build a strong and steady government. And this is how they respond. What seems obvious to me is that we are trying to resolve something peacefully with people who are not interested in peace. Their value system is so vastly different from ours that the destruction of life (not just a life) is valid reciprocation for the destruction of a book. We are never going to see eye-to-eye with people who believe that. They are a theocracy while we [try to] separate church and state. What is rational to us is irrational to them, and what is rational to them (killing people over the mishandling of a book) is irrational to us. I'm not trying to disrespect their beliefs or culture. If they want to punish the burning of the Koran with death, then that's their business. I'm just saying that I think it's unlikely that we're going to understand each other and reach common ground on that matter. Maybe it's time to walk away and hope for the best?
  • Gas prices are ridiculous. The President turned down the Keystone Pipeline since it's not a short-term solution. Well, cancer research has yet to yield a cure for cancer, but would we call that a useless endeavor? I realize that the Keystone Pipeline would not be making a difference in what we pay for gas today, but at least give us a morsel of hope (remember that from the ol' campaign days?) by doing something to move us in the right direction. Even if we didn't see relief right away I think people would have appreciated it as a gesture and a sign of the President doing what he could do (since he really has little influence over gas prices despite often being blamed when they're high). How much influence does the government have, though? Our own energy secretary, Steven Chu, was quoted (in 2008, prior to being Energy Secretary) as saying "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Errrrr-- what?? The rationale behind that quote, which some energy experts agree with, is that higher fuel prices would encourage consumers to purchase more efficient vehicles, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and slow urban sprawl. I'm fine with being mindful of our fuel consumption, but I should have the freedom to be mindful of that on my own will. I wholeheartedly disagree with being manipulated into buying the type of car the government wants me to drive and/or living where the government thinks I should live by the government's clutch on my wallet. That is an incredible over-step and abuse of power. Even though people tend to blame the president for high gas prices, the White House admits that their goal is not to lower gas prices (hmm, then we'd be able to decide for ourselves if we wanted to drive battery cars or gas cars). Just saying.
Whew. It feels good to get that stuff out there! What's bugging you these days? Politics? Reality TV? Me? Do share :D

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


We're moving right along in the kitchen. I wish I could say I've got my drywall cracks all sealed up, but I don't. I do however have a good number of things out of the kitchen and a pile of cash in my wallet instead!

I've been selling things with great success and the kitchen is looking much better for it. The hutch I hated is finally gone for good (donated) and I've been able to shove things around to make the room a little more functional while we're still in the process of improvements.
Saggy old hutch, covered in stuff. I used to have cook books on the somewhat-empty shelf, but pared down my collection and put them in a cabinet in preparation for giving this monstrosity the heave-ho. To the left of it lived our mini-fridge where we store beverages and a 12-bottle wine fridge. To the right of it lived our pile-o-tile and the dog's crate. These things together took up the entire 10.5' wall, pushing our kitchen table that much further out into the middle of the room and basically sucking up 30-ish square feet of our kitchen.

But alas, the hutch is gone :)

Clearly we still have the pile-o-tile, but that is being scheduled for install in the next few weeks so it's fine there for now. I haven't been able to bring myself to take the dog crate out either, mostly because he loves it and hangs out in there so much. I feel like it would be the equivalent of bulldozing his house. I don't want him to feel like I've totally eliminated a space for him in our house, but we really don't have another place on our main level to put his crate. He doesn't stay in it when we leave the house anymore, so it's just his little hangout. Anyway, I plan to move it, just not yet. As for the junk all over the table, it's mostly displaced items waiting to find their new home in the rearrangement of things and/or waiting to be sold/donated. That's just a detail that I don't have time to worry about right now.

My plan is to center the kitchen table on that newly-open wall with a bench along the wall instead of chairs (when the tile and dog crate are gone, it will fit nicely, it's only about half the length of the wall). I'd like to put a nice piece of art up above the table and then some open shelves on either side of that where I can put some books and other decorative/display items. This should make our kitchen look really huge (it is the entire back third of our house) and leave plenty of room for me to add a peninsula beside our dishwasher where our cabinets currently end. It's too close to our sliding door to leave an over-hang for bar stools, but having the extra counter and cabinet space will make it more than worthwhile. We decided not to do that right now because we're not doing our countertops right now, and we definitely want the peninsula in place at the time we install new counters.

Some of the other things we've recently bid a fond farewell, adieu, good riddance to:

Football-shaped crock pot. A gift we never once used. $20

A set of 3 very pretty casserole dishes that took up TONS of cabinet space and again, we never used. $30

A spice rack full of spices I never used. I realized one day that all the spices I do use are in a cabinet, so why keep spices on the counter and in the cabinet?? Just get rid of the ones I don't use. $20

A non-working wine fridge. It stopped staying cold one day (a long time ago) and someone was willing to take it off our hands. Wohoo!

So the process continues, but we're moving right along. I'm really excited to be sending so much stuff out the door to folks who can actually use it. It's going to make spring cleaning so much more fun! There's just nothing easier to clean than a nice empty room :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Other Family

There are a very small handful of people from high school that I ended up staying friends with. I mean legitimate friends, not just like we see each other's pictures on Facebook. One of them I married. Another one, who I might have never guessed would still be my friend 10+ years later (much less that we'd be as close as we are), is Andrew. We met in photography class senior year. I'd say we were friends pretty much instantly. We didn't hang out all the time or anything like that, we just got along really really well. After high school we stayed in touch and when we did get together to hang out it was immediately like old times. We always laughed with and at each other, got each other's sense of humor, shared lots of world views, and always had fun together. I don't even know how we stayed close because it has been one of the easiest friendships I've ever had. I'd actually call it effortless. The best friendships are, I think.

One day he brought this girl home from college and she was just as easy to get along with as he was. My friendship with her has been exactly like my friendship with him- simple and effortless, with lots and lots of laughing. What else could you really want in a friend? They rule.

I think like a year and a half ago (?) they moved to Texas. I wasn't happy with them for that, but I am pleased to say that we've stayed friends just the same. Thanks to blogs and Facebook, we keep up with each other pretty well. I was super excited when I found out they were visiting this month and I think we definitely made the most out of their two-week stay. I only regret that I didn't take any pictures of us, just of the kids. Guess I'll have to do better next time!

Our visits went something like this...

We had our first play date at my SIL Jenna's house. Us girls drank coffee and gabbed while our tater-tots chased each other around laughing and squealing. I realized just how amazing my life will become one day when I have an older child to amuse the toddler-aged child. Laura's oldest, Lucy (almost 5) and C (almost...t-t-two!?) just loved each other :)  Then we went out in pouring rain to eat lunch. I'm sure any onlookers thought we were sister-wives: three twenty-something girls with a total of 5 children under the age of 5, two of them less than 1 year old, haha. So much fun though!

Then I went up to Andrew's parents' house last week to hang out with Laura and the girls for the morning. Once again, the girls ran around and played and we got to talk about church, babies, homeschooling, politics... pretty much everything important. Andrew had been out for the morning but came back around lunch time and we all went for cheesesteaks at Frank's (the best food in our little hometown). We put the toddlers at one table and grown-ups + Claire at another, naturally. It was totally fine.. as long as you're not the guy who had to clean up ;)

On Saturday it was the big birthday bash for Molly, and Andrew's nephew, Benjamin. That was a crazy birthday party. There were a ton of kids there, which C loved, and even more adults. We got to see Andrew's parents, and of course his sister who hosted the party. Our friends Calvin & Katherine who we met through Andrew & Laura were also there, as well as Laura's sister and parents. 
 It's totally worth having a brunch-time birthday party so you can have a donut cake.

 C & Molly playing with the dollhouse

 C taking a turn at the pull-string Elmo pinata

 If you read P&B you might know that Molly loves markers, she just loves using them on non-paper surfaces including herself. So hopefully these Crayola Color Wonders will help with that :)

 She was so excited about this dress. How cute is she?

 C having fun with Andrew's dad, Mr. Paul

After the birthday party we went home for nap time, and then my mom came over to stay with C while we went out for dinner and craziness with Andrew, Laura, Calvin & Katherine. Somehow I managed not to take any pictures of us big kids together which makes me kind of sad. But we'll just say that what happened on Saturday stayed on Saturday... and may have involved Sangriaritas.

They head back to Texas on Wednesday and thus begins our looking forward to the next time we get to hang out. Since we don't have an official summer vacation planned for this year, I'm thinking at some point over the summer maybe C and I will fly down for a little TX getaway. That's really about as long as I can stand to be away from those crazy kids anyway ;)

Friday, February 24, 2012

All It's Cracked Up to Be

Ah, home ownership :)

I've gotten the majority of the kitchen painted. Yay! The current speed bumps we're working around are some drywall cracks. There are three and they're all in corners. Two of them in fact are on either side of the semi-wall between our kitchen and dining(play) room. The third is along the same side of the house, in the back corner of the kitchen. We have similar cracks on our second level as well, but that's a different project!

I think the problem is really that the walls were just not done properly. We've long suspected some water damage on this side of the house (all along our far left wall). When we first bought the house one of the conditions in the contract we presented was repair to what was obviously water damage on that wall in the dining room. The upstairs bathrooms are right above the dining room and kitchen on that wall and whenever water is running upstairs you can hear what sounds like dripping if you're on the main level. We have yet to see any visible damage from said dripping and are honestly just too paranoid to open up the drywall and investigate. All of this is to say that I'm pretty confident that the walls along that side of the house have been repaired/replaced since the house was built. At that, they were not done very well. It's possible that the owner prior to us (we're not exactly sure how many there have been, but the house was built in 1999) repaired/replaced the drywall only when they were ready to sell. The entire house was spray painted - poorly - all one off-white color in a flat finish (which hides imperfections) and I kind of doubt anyone lived like that.

It appears to me that in some spots drywall tape may have been used without any drywall joint compound. In other places it looks like compound was used without tape. To be honest, it doesn't even look like drywall tape. I don't think I'd be at all surprised if it turned out to be blue painter's tape. Gah.
 Dining(play) room -- clearly some tape, but what kind?

 Corner just on the other side of the wall from the photo above. Also some visible tape (see that wavy spot?). This makes me wonder if it's painter's tape and not actual drywall tape which should have been scraped down onto joint compound then covered by joint compound. I think that's just tape with paint over it!

The back corner of the kitchen (so, damaged left wall of the house meets back wall of the house). I can't even tell if there is any tape here. The crack is directly in the corner with no visible tape edges.

So we're going to pick up some tape and compound and get those corners patched pronto so that the painting can finally be finished! I can't wait to put the kitchen back together. It's pretty much a nightmare. On the bright side of that, I have sold a bunch of stuff we don't use/need anymore and made about $100! I'm just using the cragslist-like board that my school district has and listing stuff on there. It's nice because I can meet people at the schools where they work and not have to worry about strangers coming to my house or going to their houses. Plus you have to pass a background check to work for a school system and that makes me feel better too (not saying there aren't any weirdos working in school systems, I've encountered a few of them myself).

Also, our appliance delivery has been pushed back to March 14. Apparently Best Buy didn't properly account for the number of appliances they would sell during their Presidents' Day sale. But we have a dinner meeting tonight with our architect and tile guy! Hopefully it's all good news and we'll have a tile layout and possible install date by the end of the night. Hooray for some progress :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Living Room Paint

Since the transformation is mostly complete, and the kitchen is just a boring mess right now, I decided to go ahead and give you the before & after pics of our living room with the new paint color.

I'll start by telling you about the color choice. As I type those words I can feel my stomach start knotting up again. Boy, am I glad that is over with. So after all the agony of millions of samples, we ultimately chose (drumroll).... Halo by Benjamin Moore. Sound familiar? Yes, that was the original color I had picked and loved and posted about before all the second-guessing began. I know, I could slap my own self. But there's no point in that now. The color is on the walls and we are happy! J and I both realized that amidst all the other samples we had all over the place, that one proved to be the balance between gray and beige that we were looking for without being too dark, too drab, too warm or too cool. When I finally went back to the Benjamin Moore store to pick up the sample strip of it I had another moment of palpitations. Halo was the lightest color on the strip, but the darker two were distinctly green. We were not going for green whatsoever and I definitely didn't want to get the paint on the walls and have it read green. I really gave it a harder look and studied it in its various splashes on our walls. I couldn't get any green from the swatches we'd painted, even against our blue walls (which would certainly highlight any yellow undertones as we discovered with all the warmer tans we tried out). With that, I bit the bullet and bought three gallons of paint. I'm thrilled to report that I haven't had a millisecond of regret since then. Whew.

It took me just over a week of working through C's naps and after she went to bed at night to finish the entry way, living room and play room. There are still things we intend to change so I wouldn't call these rooms a finished product just yet. We will be replacing our switch and outlet covers, door knobs, lighting fixtures, and most definitely the vomit-covered living room rug (a result of babysitting a little one with an undiagnosed milk allergy). And as you know, the kitchen is still a work in progress.

Living room before...

Play room before

And the new and improved living room...

This is to show contrast with our trim/interior doors (neither of which is a true white). Also that's the edge of a soffit on the left of this photo, not a crack in our wall :)

A matted black & white photo to also show the color next to some true neutrals.

So there it is! It's probably so much less dramatic and interesting to any of you than it is to me, haha. The space is definitely warmer though, even though the paint itself isn't super warm. I actually love that it can look so different in different parts of the house or different lighting. Sometimes it looks ivory, sometimes it looks gray, sometimes it looks beige. My main goal was a soft, neutral back drop to highlight our furniture and decor, and I feel like we achieved that. I'm still undecided if we're going to go with brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze for the outlet and switch covers, door knobs and lighting fixtures. It's a big commitment for all of those things. We have some satin nickel and some elements of oil-rubbed bronze in the room now. We also have primarily black picture frames, shelves, coffee table and credenza. That decision is a different post for a different day though. I'm also undecided on the material for a new area rug. I can't decide if I want the simplicity of wool, or the real coastal charm of sisal. I just worry that sisal will not be comfy for future crawling babies and toddlers/preschoolers rolling around playing. Also another post for another day!

For now it's time to hit the road for Sunday dinner at mom's :)  Tonight is my night to cook. We're having teriyaki chicken and I'm pretty excited. I hope it's been a great weekend for everyone else. We have another fun week ahead of us including story time at the library, another play date with our friends from P&B, and more kitchen prep/painting!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Appliance Shopping Success

After doing lots and lots and lots (and lots) of online homework, J and I finally felt like we had narrowed down our field of potential appliances for the kitchen. At the outset I honestly thought doing that research would be fun and interesting - I enjoy design and decorating and often like perusing such things even when I'm not actually looking to buy. This was so much different than I expected! I did have fun at first, but then when I would find something I liked, then find too many bad reviews about motors blowing up in just a few months of use, or discover that a beautiful appliance had no features, or it was beyond our price range... well you can imagine. It got frustrating. We did have some specifications that we had to stick to so we couldn't just pick something from our price range and call it good.

We thought it would be ideal to find all three appliances (refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher) at the same retailer so we could easily schedule one delivery. That hope was short lived. We also had to have the counter-depth refrigerator and really wanted to avoid another side-by-side. We were ok with top freezer or bottom freezer with one top door, and french-door was the favorite. The stove and dishwasher I wasn't as particular about but still wanted them to be intelligent choices. We had to have hidden buttons on the dishwasher with our curious toddler around. She would never leave buttons on the front alone. As it is, we're lucky to have a difficult dial or she would have the dishwasher running randomly throughout the day. We also of course wanted them to match reasonably if they weren't going to be the same brand. We have to live with them for a few years until we're ready to move so I didn't want to just take whatever I could find.

All that said, we scoured online, found a few prospects and decided to peek around some nearby stores to see if there were any good deals there. Luckily a few stores had already started their Presidents' Day sales, so we did find some really good prices. After some browsing we selected all three appliances from HHGregg. We went back two days later and our dishwasher was no longer available. The stove was floor model only which I wasn't comfortable with, and there were just 4 of the refrigerator of our dreams (and for the price of our dreams- on a closeout sale for just $1,710) left in the warehouse. We got the fridge for next-day delivery and decided to go back to the drawing board for our dishwasher and stove.

The fridge was delivered Thursday and looks spectacular! The function isn't bad either, haha ;) While it is a relatively small fridge at 19.8 cubic feet of interior space, it fits beautifully in our kitchen and for the first time in almost 5 years our pantry door opens all the way! Luckily we don't store that much food around here with just two adults and a toddler. Our fridge primarily keeps milk, yogurt, eggs, butter, condiments and a few containers of leftovers which we either eat or clear out on a weekly basis. The freezer also feels smaller (though I'm not sure if it is based on cubic feet since the side-by-side freezer was pretty small) but I was still able to fit everything we had into it comfortably. Again, we don't store that much extra food.

Anyway, enough chatter... shall we take a look?

Hello, glorious new fridge! Why, are those hinges I see on that pantry door??

Allow me to briefly refresh your memory as to how our pantry has opened for the past 5 years...
About 45 degrees, right? A total pain to stand beside the pantry and reach in with half of your body. I don't even think this picture does it justice. I really should have taken a picture with someone standing there to show just how annoying it was. But alas, this is no more...

Our pantry door now opens almost a full 90 degrees! I really could slap the person who decided that the  refrigerator should be placed where the pantry door opens, but I think we have made the best of that with our little counter-depth beauty :) J and I have each caught ourselves standing beside the pantry with the door barely ajar reaching in. Such a nice realization to swing that door open a little further and actually stand in front of the pantry for the first time. 

As for the other two appliances, they are ordered and should be delivered on March 5th. I was so disappointed to have to go back and start doing more research to find new ones after our first picks fell through, but I think we're actually better off. I decided to go with Whirlpool after reading a Consumer Reports article showing they had the fewest number of service calls for the past 15 years in a row. The appliances that were in our house when we bought it were/are all Whirlpool (and I'm fairly certain they're the originals that were installed when the house was built in 1999) and so far none have needed repair since we've lived here. I found a dishwasher at Best Buy with tons of features, positive reviews and on sale for a steal at $411. We found a matching Whirlpool stove from Best Buy also for just $600. Our expectations were that we'd spend about $2,000 on the fridge and then get as close to $500 (or less) as possible for the dishwasher and stove. And we have success! 

I'm super excited for the other appliances to get here so we can have the whole set (they actually all match surprisingly well for being different brands). In the mean time, the hutch is clear and just needs to be taken out of the kitchen. Then I'll be finishing up my cutting in on that wall and repairing some corners so I'm ready to roll-- paint roll, that is. I'd love to get all rolling done in the kitchen during one good long nap time. I'll have to wait until J is home to help me move the stove and fridge so I can't paint behind them, but everything else can be done at nap time. I'd like all the paint done by the time the new appliances get here. We had a pre-tile consultation with our tile-laying helpers and that looks like it should be happening within the next month or so as well. Yay!

After paint, appliances and tile, the only thing left to do in the kitchen is painting the cabinets. Hopefully by the time the other stuff is done the weather will be warming up a little bit and I'll be able to get started on that project out on our deck. Can't wait! :)  Anyone else doing any make-overs at home? Has anyone painted their cabinets? If so, what's your best piece(s) of advice? I have a pretty clear plan based on what I know has worked perfectly for others, but I'm always open for pointers.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We "Break" for Friends!

That's right, y'all! Our beloved friends from Texas are in town so today we took a break from kitchen reorganization/paint prep to laugh and squeal and smooch all over some babies!