Thursday, January 20, 2011

New year, new blog

It’s hard to believe I started this blog a year ago. I feel like it never really lived up to its full potential. I had grand ideas of lots of posts about planning the wedding, the complexities of cohabitating with one’s parents, but they just never fully materialized. Planning the wedding took more work out of me than I expected! And once it was over, I was in full-on vegetation mode for the rest of the summer. 
All this said, I’ve decided it’s time to move on to a new blog. While I felt like the title really captured the Hubs’ and I’s in-between status as we lived with my parents, planned a wedding and searched for a house, I’m having a hard time thinking of us as “semi-adults” now (well, on most days…). It’s somewhat surprising, since I didn’t expect to feel like a real grown-up until we became parents, but apparently being a parent to an occasionally finicky six-year-old house is enough to make me feel a little more mature. Well, that, and the ever-rarer trip to the bar on a Saturday night -- that ends at 10:30. 

That said, I’d like to introduce you to my new blog, Heart Maine Home. This blog will focus more on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of turning our house into our first home, and will feature, among other things: our house projects, both big and small; d├ęcor inspiration; DIY and on-the-cheap decorating ideas; and other musings on married and homeowner life. 

I’ve made a conscious decision to devote more time and energy to updating this blog and connecting with the blogging community, so you should expect to see more regular content. Pinky swear!
Thank you to my loyal readers, and I hope you’ll stick around and follow me at Heart Maine Home.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DIY tinsel garland wreath

I saw this wreath by Creature Comforts featured on Apartment Therapy and knew I had to make it! It was easy, unique, and gave me something to do with at least two of all those tissue paper flowers I made for the wedding (and never used!). If you want to make some too, check out Martha Stewart's easy directions.

Ez at Creature Comforts used embroidery hoops for her base, but since I didn't have any and didn't want to spend the money on one, I just used aluminum foil to create a circle. Tip: Reinforce the joint with a couple pieces of foil, or else it'll come apart while you're wrapping garland around.

Then, I started wrapping a couple strands of skinny green garland I bought from Target around the foil circle, and got little shiny green garland pieces everywhere.

Ez made paper flowers out of wax paper, which has a nice sheen, but since I'd already made a bajillion out of tissue paper, I decided to give mine a holiday sparkle with silver spray glitter from Michaels. To avoid a mess inside, I took the flowers and spray outside. It was about freezing, and since I was hurrying to get inside where it was warm I didn't take any photos. But I just held the flowers out by the floral wire and sprayed them as evenly as I could with numb fingers, and let them try for a couple hours.

I attached them to the wreath using the floral wire that holds them together, and added a little sprig of fake berries I pulled off some garland I have -- and voila! A pretty little wreath that cost me only the money for the garland and spray paint (which really is optional).

Here's a close-up of the glitter on the paper flowers:

I used some red ribbon to hang it from the door.

There really are a million ways you could personalize this. How would you make it your own?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A tale of two trees

We have two Christmas trees in our house, and it makes me. so. happy. I've always been a big fan of Christmas, and having a house with so much space for decorating has been a lot of fun. And since we haven't bought a lot of furniture yet, we had plenty of room for two!

Tree #1 we cut down from the Hubs' parents' property. His family has a wonderful tradition of getting together the Sunday after Thanksgiving for a pot luck lunch and a trek into the woods to cut down a Christmas Tree. Since they're wild, each tree is unique and, by tree farm standards, a bit sparse. It makes them a challenge to decorate, but I still like the end result.

We put this tree in the dining area next to the kitchen, and I decorated it with silver and gold ornaments, plus four white glittery snowflakes from Target.

You can see the garland I put on top of the cabinets. More on that later.

Tree #2 we bought from a guy selling locally cut trees. It's got a more traditional shape and is a little fuller. We put this one in the living room and decorated it with all our sentimental ornaments from childhood and adulthood.

My favorite ornament -- angel frog!

My husband's favorite

And the first ornament we hung on our first tree in our first house!

We also hung ornaments from a collection my mother-in-law gave me as a wedding gift. Called the bride's ornament collection, it features 12 different figurines that are supposed to bring love and happiness to a newlywed couple. It's apparently a German tradition, and all the ornaments, like this angel, are adorable.

And here she is!

Isn't it beautiful? You can see the garland I hung on the stair rails, and our stockings waiting to be hung. We had a little mishap with putting up the shelves that we're going to hang our stockings on, so that's still a work in progress.

I also put garland and lights above our kitchen cabinets. I added in a few red ornaments i bought on sale at Michael's, and filled the glassware I already had up there with sparkly silver ornaments from the dollar bin at Target.

Doesn't it look pretty? I wish I could leave it up all the time...

I'm linking up to Holiday Home Christmas tree party at Thrifty Decor Chick. There are more than 500 beautiful trees posted already...holy cow!

Friday, November 26, 2010

What I'm thankful for

I will admit, Thanksgiving has always been more about food for me, and I don't often really stop and think about what I'm thankful for (besides sweet potato pie!). But this year, I had a lot to be thankful for: a great man who went from fiance to husband and a great house to call our own. The moment in time we used to talk about -- the days when we'd be married and homeowners, starting our adult lives for real -- is finally here. It seems like we've been waiting for this forever, and I feel really lucky for everyone and everything I have in my life.

I've always been grateful to be so close to my parents, both geographically and emotionally, but this Thanksgiving I felt an especially strong gratitude for them. They let us live with them for nine whole months, giving up their privacy, space and some money, I'm sure, and never once complained (at least to us!). Without their help and generosity, it would have taken us many more months, maybe years, to save up enough money for a down payment on our house and start our grown-up lives. Whenever I look around our home, I am reminded of what they were willing to do for us, and I am moved and humbled. It means more to me than if they had simply given us money for a down payment. In many ways, it's easier to open up your checkbook and write a check than open up your home for nearly a year. I hope someday the Hubs and I can be those kinds of parents -- the ones willing to sacrifice to bring our children closer to a happy future. We plan to pay them back someday for everything they've done for us.

And while I'm on the subject of giving thanks, I'm so happy I married into another loving and tight-knit family. People always complain about their in-laws, and I really lucked out. Mine are sweet and supportive, and I'm very thankful for that. Plus, my mother-in-law makes up one half of my devoted fan following (the other half being, of course, my mom). Now that's unconditional love.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our kitchen goes green(ish)

The hubs and I tackled our second painting project over the weekend: the kitchen and hallway. I think it went better than the first time around, though it was a lot more work getting around the cabinets and doing all the cutting in around the door frames. We also figured out our strong suits when it comes to painting: he's the taping/cutting-in master, and I'm the rolling champ. We complement each other so well!

I did most of the taping little-by-little during the week and did about half the first round of cutting in before the weekend as well. But the job still took us all day Sunday to finish, with two coats of cutting in and two coats of paint. My back was pretty sore for the next couple days, because I spent practically half the day crouched on the countertop, painting under and over the cabinets. It was a long day, but the end result was worth it! I was so happy to see that baby blue disappear.

Here's a shot of painting in progress -- what a disaster.

So, here's the kitchen eat-in area before, in all its blue glory:

And here it is in lovely Ocean Foam by Behr:

The kitchen before:

And after:

Not the same angle, but you get the idea. Doesn't it look so much more sophisticated and inviting? I love how calming it is; it makes me think of the ocean. And the color changes depending on the lighting. Sometimes it looks green, sometimes it looks gray, and sometimes a color in between. Here's the eat-in area in cloudy daylight:

Looks gray, right? It also coordinates well with the gray-toned slate floor in the entryway (in the door on the left of the above photo), and with the other decor in the house that I like to think of as subtle beachy.

It's a good thing we like the color, because we both decided it was such a pain painting the kitchen that we're never doing it again! Now it's time to figure out what to hang on the wall.

Next up in our painting adventures is the living room. It's a nice subtle yellow-beige color, but a hole-patching mishap means we'll have to paint it sooner rather than later. The old owner left all the leftover paint for us, but when we painted over the patched holes with what was labeled as the living room, it turned out it was the wrong now our living room is speckled with lighter yellow spots. We're still stumped on what color to paint it, though. Guess it's time for another agonizing hour or two in front of The Home Depot paint swatches...

On a sentimental note, today marks four years that the hubs and I have been "official." It's such a cute story, too. We'd been dating for about two months, and I asked him if it was OK if I kept a couple things at his place (contact lens solution and case, I think), and he said yes, only if he could call me his girlfriend. Awww...

Monday, November 15, 2010

The destination: homeownership

It's official. We're homeowners! It's only been a little more than two weeks, but it already feels like home, despite the remaining unpacked boxes and a few interesting paint color choices left over from the previous owners.

It might feel like we've been here a while because of all the projects we've already undertaken. Since we closed on Oct. 29, we have:

  • Painted the master bedroom
  • Installed a railing on the stairs leading to the storage over the garage*
  • Installed new locks and deadbolts on the four (yes, four!) outside doors*
  • Installed curved shower curtain rods in both bathrooms, and a double towel rack in the upstairs bathroom*
  • Patched some holes in the dining room and living room*
  • Started prep work to paint the kitchen and adjoining areas
  • Powerwashed the deck and cleaned up some tree debris from the yard*
  • Replaced some ceiling fan blades from multicolored pastel to neutral white

*I can't take the credit. The Hubs and FIL (father in law) tackled these.

So, what have I been doing, then, if I didn't do a lot of these DIY projects? I've done a lot of unpacking, cleaning, organizing and general home-making.

Oh, and of course I've done some shopping! I have to share an incredible find. We're fortunate to live close to the L.L.Bean flagship store and, even better, its outlet store. I popped in the other day to see what deals I could find, and was thrilled to find this little gem:

A couch cover, originally priced at a whopping $169, on sale for $19.95! We have lots of hand-me-down furniture, including a lovely (sarcasm) plaid small sleeper sofa. We bought a brown couch cover for it from Bed Bath and Beyond a couple years ago but, made of relatively lightweight material, it didn't hold up well, and had started to fade and wear. I wanted to replace it, but with plans of upgrading our furniture someday soon, the Hubs talked me out of spending the money on a new cover, since they cost at least $70, even at Target.

But a mere $20 for something of better quality? Score! I also grabbed a soft, blue "picnic throw" for $6.99 (that I later discovered was definitely not worth more, since it's pretty much useless in keeping you warm...).

I put the new cover on as soon as I got home. Here's the BEFORE before, with the plaid fabric (yes, that's an egg crate stuffed under the cushions, to keep the sagging couch somewhat comfortable):

The before, with the old cover:

And the after, with new cover and throw:

Not much of a change, since it's still dark brown (only color they had for a small couch), but it still makes me happy. Now, if only I could train the Hubs to tuck everything back in after he's done laying on it...

Once we pick a color for the living room walls, I'll be doing more accessorizing -- replacing the pillows, maybe getting another throw (one that actually keeps you warm) and hanging something up on the walls. I'm already excited to decorate for Christmas! I know, we haven't even seen Thanksgiving, but I make no apologies.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The way to a (wo)man's heart

The Hubs can cook. Like, really cook. He has that innate ability to throw a bunch of ingredients together and come up with a masterpiece. I'm not gonna lie, his culinary skills definitely earned him some major points when we were first dating. One of our first dates, he invited me over to his apartment and made me Rachel Ray's You Won't Be Single For Long vodka cream pasta -- yes, that's really the name. I guess it worked!

This morning, to mark our last Sunday morning living with my parents, he made us all banana crumb muffins, the highest rated recipe ever on I committed a major faux pas by whining that I didn't really like bananas in the first place. But oh. my. god. These muffins were awesome! I may have to rethink my stance on that mushy yellow fruit... (Oh, and not only does he cook for me, but for my parents too. Double points!).

Unfortunately for the Hubs, I'm a little culinarily challenged. Okay, a lot challenged. I hid it well, until he broke his leg two years ago, and I ended up having to do all the cooking. Throwing together ingredients and trying to make something yummy usually resulted in some kind of brown, tasteless mush. I even tried following recipes and was underwhelmed by the results. I finally managed to pull together a few good meals I could handle, like tacos. I make a mean taco. But, despite my mad taco skills, he was back in the kitchen as soon as he could hobble around on one leg.

Actually, there is one meal I can consistently make and it's always good, and it's homemade mac and cheese. I know what you're thinking: "Um, hello, melted cheese and pasta -- an eight-year-old could manage that." But trust me when I tell you this is the best mac and cheese you've ever had. Yes, I'm that cocky about it.

It's from the Pillsbury Kitchens' Family Cookbook, copyright 1979, and I learned how to make it from my mom in the way she cooks, which means kind of making it up. I loosely follow the recipe, but when it comes to the cheese, I have my own little mixture that includes 3/4 of a block of Hannaford medium sharp cheddar cheese, some Kraft American cheese and whatever else I have in the house -- mozzarella, taco cheese, colby jack. I don't really measure, but throw it in until it looks and tastes right. It never tastes the same twice, but it's always yummy. I made another recipe once with fancy Gruyere cheese and lobster, and the Hubs admitted he liked the Pillsbury one better. Which is good, 'cause Gruyere ain't cheap!

The real secret? Topping it with buttered pieces of regular white bread, cut up into little pieces, before baking it. I scoff at those silly bread crumbs!

I don't know if I won the Hubs over with my mac and cheese, but I don't think it hurt. I'm looking forward to doing some cooking together in our brandy new (to us) kitchen in only one week! Maybe we'll celebrate it with more of that magic vodka sauce.