Monday, November 24, 2014

thankful post

A weekend/Thanksgiving combo post, since it will likely be my last for a while.

- I'm thankful for blog friends always, but especially this weekend. Nadine came to the Houston area for a wedding and we got to meet up for breakfast. We were in an area I never go to (another suburb, sadly not "in the city") so I was lost as to where to take her and we ended up at Fielding's where we both just ordered pastries, bacon, and potatoes. It was so nice to meet someone I've been talking to for over a year now! I wish I could have taken her to some of my favorite places but, next time for sure. I also got a fun package in the mail from Liz. Her boyfriend started a sauce making business and because we love our barbecue, she sent Andrew and me a bottle of barbecue sauce to try. It's really good - sweeter than the Texas-style sauce that I'm used to - so I'm excited for some variety next time we have barbecue (which, let's be real, will likely be in a week or two).

Sorry for the regrams!

- I'm thankful that one of my work friends lives in the area and is excited to include Andrew and me into her friend group. Her friends hosted Friendsgiving this weekend and were nice enough to invite us. We made headdresses, drank wine, played Catchphrase, and ate awesome apple pie. They were all so warm and I'm excited to get to know them all better.

- I'm thankful to live in a place full of parks and trails and places to explore. On Sunday, Duncan and I walked nearly four miles (!!!) to find the neighborhood butterfly garden. It wasn't as cool as promised. But, on the way, we did find a lake that was really pretty. Last weekend, we were freezing, but this weekend, temperatures were in the 70s so the weather couldn't have been much better. You have to love Houston weather.

The best I could get with an 80 lb dog trying to chase everyone at the park!

- I'm thankful for new challenges. Some things have happened at work that are going to make me work harder and have more projects, but I'll also be stretched out of my comfort zone and be able to learn new things. It might not be the easiest thing, but I'm excited about it.

As my presence in blogland has been next to nothing lately and I feel guilty about the frequency with which I respond to comments, I've turned them off for this post. Have a nice Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

life lately: fall 2014

Just to document life lately:

- You may have seen my tweet already, but I kind of already made Andrew buy me us our fifth wedding anniversary gift: Tickets to the ATX Television Festival to see the Gilmore Girls reunion. I have such an attachment to that show. I had to be home to watch every show, or else I recorded it on my VCR (and later, DVR) and I discussed it on the phone with my best friend at the time. I even bought the "Reading is Sexy" tshirt Rory wore in one episode (I want to say season six or seven). I made Andrew watch the entire series and vowed to love him like Lorelai loved Luke in our wedding vows (because she did love him, dammit, and in my head, they got together in the end). It never gets old and I love it so much and I am THRILLED to go breathe in the Gilmore air. So that's happening in June.

- On Saturday we went to Nutcracker Market. It's a market that happens once a year and there are all kinds of things for sale, but mostly Christmas decor and gifts. I was really looking forward to it this year but I found that a lot of things were more expensive than I thought they should be or just weren't my taste. Oops. I guess I'll be hitting Hobby Lobby and Michael's this weekend to see what I can DIY...

- Houston friends, we tried the new Pondicheri Bake Lab. Pondicheri is an indian restaurant that I've been to before, and it's good. The bake lab has spices, coffee, a juice bar, and desserts. Andrew and I shared the chocolate brioche (great) and I got the last of the madras coffee which was creamy, spicy, and delicious. Like a cousin to a chai latte but maybe better.

- We had yet another amazing dinner at Oxheart (the #1 restaurant in Houston according to the Top 100 list). The onions cooked in goat's milk were my favorite (sounds weird but it was awesome). There was also a stew made with "last year's cabbage" that totally gave me pause, but it was fermented cabbage and the stew was really good. They have a record player in the restaurant. It was playing Thriller when we walked in (a personal favorite in our house), then went to Ella Fitzgerald, then a familiar voice came on... I thought no, this can't be, and on vinyl? Upon hearing "Yeahhhh we're happy free confused and lonely in the best way" I knew that we were in fact, listening to an actual Taylor Swift record. I confirmed that it was vinyl with our waitress, who also confirmed that it was the chef's choice of the evening. I told her I would be listening for 1989 on our next visit (just checked Amazon, it comes out on vinyl on December 9th, so of course it went on my Christmas list).

- I am insanely obsessed with the Serial podcast and if anyone besides Kerry (who is probably tired of hearing me talk about it) listens to it, then let's talk because I don't know what I think anymore. Since I last mentioned it, I've caught up, started listening to Slate's podcast about the podcast, and read all of Rabia's blog posts about it. Can't get enough.

This is the last real week of work before Thanksgiving and then December is here and life goes crazy. Weren't we just at this place? Where did 2014 go? 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

making a house a home: things I bought that I love

* title shamelessly stolen from Mindy Kaling's blog that I read when I didn't really know what a blog was.

So moving is expensive, especially if you have to buy a bunch of new stuff to fill your said house. I want all my new things to pull double duty and not only be great and useful in my house, but serve as blog fodder, too. So here are things I bought that I love.

My living room, to the right of the fireplace, is pretty much my favorite corner of the house. I'm in love with this stained glass piece (wrote about making it mine here) because I feel like it fits into my colorful, collected eclectic decor scheme I  have going on. I always knew I wanted to put it here, and it seems right at home.

While we were packing, Andrew came across old records he bought in high school that still looked to be in great shape. He said we should buy a record player and I thought that was the best idea ever. I knew that we would have to put our TV stand next to the fireplace, so I wanted to get a neat looking record player to put on top of it. We looked into vintage record players, but restored ones were too expensive and older ones came with potential issues, so we got this one at Target. It was honestly not one of our best researched purchases (we saw it in the store, it was pretty, we had a coupon, and so we bought it) and it does have some issues, but it normally works itself out and we're in love. Going to Half Price Books and looking for new (to me) records is my new favorite activity and once I realized they have $1 clearance records (!!!!) I have to stop myself from visiting every few days. The sound the record makes before it hits that first note and just the way the music sounds are so much better than I ever realized. We've also bought a few more current records, but the old (and cheap) ones are my favorite. Seriously, Thriller for $1? You can't beat it.

Our old house had one eating area; the new one has a formal dining room and a breakfast nook. Our "old" (less than a year old) table works perfectly in the formal, so we needed a smaller table we could use every day. I knew it needed to be small and round, and I kept seeing mismatched chairs and loved that look. I thought I might be able to DIY something, so I started looking on craigslist and found Reluvd. It's owned by a couple who finds and refinishes furniture to sell and rent. Seriously, their warehouse is like a beautiful pinterest project explosion. They already had a table ready to go that was exactly what I was looking for, so I was able to look through their chair selection (literally hundreds) and choose what I wanted them to refinish for me to match the table. I was hoping to have at least two chairs with cushions to add color to the space and then two more conventional chairs. I love the ones I ended up with - the padded ones (that I recovered myself with $20 worth of fabric from Joann) are cheapies that were made in China and the others are Ethan Allen that Reluvd sold me for a steal. I hate that our new house is so far away from their warehouse but that won't stop me from continuing to stalk their facebook in case they have anything else I might want...

Then there was a mirror that was just meant to be. I knew that our sofa table was going to become an entry table in the new house. I knew I wanted a mirror to prop up on it, and for some reason, a window pane mirror seemed like the perfect thing. All the ones I found at Kirklands and Home Goods and those places weren't quite right or were too expensive. When I went to the antique mall the second time to get my beloved stained glass mirror, I saw the perfect mirror in the next booth. Andrew wasn't with me (I do like to get his approval, since he lives in the house, too) and I didn't have enough cash to get it that day, so I took a picture and left it behind. I kept online shopping all week, realized it was a fantastic price, and went back the next weekend (with plenty of cash) to see if it was there... and it was. And it was marked down. I claimed that thing immediately and it's perfect.

Honorable mentions: Bath and Body Works Sweater Weather candle, pumpkin in our front yard, ridiculously soft Target bath mats, beehive cream pitcher.

This candle is a favorite in our house | No idea why I love this pitcher so much

I take forever to make decisions. I shop around I read a lot of reviews. But I want my house to tell a story, and I love that my favorite things aren't just the little things I've grabbed at Target (believe me though, there is A LOT of that). They're things with a story, that I searched for an had to have. It isn't the best or easiest way to decorate, but it's been fun for me so far. What are some of your favorite things in your house?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I feel bad about my reading habits

When I was a kid, I loved books. I was an only child, so the characters were like friends and I constantly had something to read with me where ever I went.

I blame the internet for my demise. In high school, I started to prefer the warm glow of AOL instant messenger to my book friends, and reading became something I did rarely, if ever. I still like it, but making time for it (and time to go to the library or shelling out money for new books) are just something I don't do as often as I should. But every once in a while, a mood strikes me. I've been in one of those moods the past few weeks so I wanted to share via Steph's linkup.

I've been meaning to read Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck for ages. I picked it up when we were in Dallas a few weeks ago (for $1!) and thought that reading it as I approached my 30th birthday seemed appropriate. It's short stories of Ephron's observations, mostly spanning her life (she wrote When Harry Met Sally among other things). She talks about falling in love with an apartment and the way she expresses herself through food and has a funny outlook on child rearing. This book was beyond my current stage of life but I still found it to be interesting. Plus after wikipedia-ing her, I learned that she was married to Carl Bernstein and knew who Deep Throat was for years before he came forward and no one believed her. I found that fascinating.

Flat Out Love has been all over blogland, so I thought I would give it a shot. It was a free download on my Kindle. I knew there was a companion book, but I didn't know what it was about. Honestly I was trying to read a preview when I accidentally downloaded it, but oh well. I thought it was a book written for adults but it seemed very YA, which is fine but not what I wanted. I figured out the schtick of it pretty fast so I did read quickly to see how it was revealed, but overall, I thought the story was kind of silly. I read it in less than a day, though, so if you want something light, then it's... fine.

I've read both Mindy Kaling's and Tina Fey's books, but I want to reread them and then get Amy Poehler's. There's also a library nearby that I really should check out... any suggestions? I seem to like short stories rather than novels, probably because I tend to abandon books for weeks at a time. I'm not much of a fan of chick lit or romance novels, either.

I'm kind of cheating because this isn't a book but I feel like Steph supports rebels. People have suggested that I listen to audiobooks since I have a long commute but again, I'm cheap. I heard about Serial from a few bloggers and I was intrigued. I like listening to people talk while I'm in traffic and it was free and I heard it was addictive. I. am. hooked. Serial is a podcast (easily downloaded on an iPhone) that is telling the story of a murder that took place in 1999. A high school student was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, but the reporter/narrator has taken an interest in the case and explains a new aspect of it in each "episode." (The first one was about an hour, the rest have been around thirty minutes). A new one comes out each week for apparently as long as there's story to tell. The story is told through interviews with witnesses and people close to the victim and the man accused of killing her. If you like Dateline then I totally recommend it. There are a lot of articles about it, too, so if the podcast isn't enough, you can read lots of commentary (and we can discuss because I'm on episode six and I don't know what I think!)

Life According to Steph

Friday, November 7, 2014

making a house a home: the cribs style tour, part two

If you're really into houses and you want to see what the downstairs of my house looks like, check out yesterday's post.

Okay, so now we can go to the backyard. The door is just off the breakfast nook and opens to a large covered deck. Duncan loves having a protected place to hang out outside, and we can't wait to get more furniture out here to hang out with him. Andrew is going to build a little area for his smoker, too. We both love that there is green space behind the house so we'll never have back neighbors. I have no idea why our grass is dying. We have a sprinkler system but I accidentally broke it already.

I forgot to take pics before Daylight Savings and clearly I had a photobomber on my hands.
Still left to do: Put down pavers for smoker, buy outdoor furniture, convince dog that he loves his dog house (yeah right).

Back in the house, I'll show you upstairs. One of the things I loved about this house is that the stairs were laminate and not carpet. I have no idea what to do along the stairway wall. I'm thinking of trying to collect something, like vintage mirrors or window panes, or even pictures of something specific, but we haven't found anything yet. There's a hallway at the top of the stairs and you can go left or right. Walking down the hall, you can see into the living room and entry way. If you go to the left, you'll come to our game room and office/craft room. The game room is open and you can see into the entry way from it. We just got couches to put up there and we plan to use this room for watching Blurays or when Andrew wants to play video games (I normally sit nearby and read or blog). The computer and printer go in the office/craft room. I would love to use this room for gift wrapping or scrap booking or whatever fun hobby I'm currently in the mood for. We also have all of our books in here and all of my extra picture frames, candles, etc. are in the closet so I can see what I have when I get the urge to do some redecorating. We have this extra chair and a half that's in here for now, but it may get craigslisted soon.

View from game room looking down (also Bauer's new favorite perch which TERRIFIES me | The greenspace as seen going up the stairs | From the bottom of the stairs looking up to the game room

The game room from two angles and then the craft room/offce on the top right
Still left to do: Go through old paperwork and file or shred, get a small desk chair, maybe recover couch pillows

To the right of the stairs, there's another bathroom and two more bedrooms. One is a spare bedroom with our old spare bedroom furniture. Nothing too special. I know I'm breaking the home decor rules with the rug but it's in great shape and I don't know where else to put it! The other room was just going to be a "junk" room but my mom was getting rid of a futon, so we took it. Normally when we have guests, we have my father-in-law and sister-in-law, so having two places for them to sleep is a plus. Both spare bedrooms have TVs with DVD players so our guests can watch movies or hook up their laptops if they want to watch TV in bed.

Still left to do: Get a hook for the hand towel in the bathroom. I think the spare bedrooms are fine considering the amount of use they'll get, but is there anything you would do to make it cozier?

A lot of people have asked us why we got such a big house for two people. Honestly, there's no real, good answer. The game room and 4th bedroom are beyond what we were looking for but they're both nice to have. If Andrew is watching football, it's nice to have somewhere to go besides our bedroom if I want to watch TV. When we have company, if the women split off from the men, there are two places to go. We don't need all this space, but we'll definitely find a use for it!

So basically, that's my house. I'm really loving life out here. My commute to work is cut nearly in half (but Andrew's drive home is longer). We've found a lot of cute, local restaurants. My coworker friend has invited us into her friend group, Duncan and I go on walks almost every day, and we're trying to meet the neighbors. There are trees everywhere and so far, watching planes land has yet to get old (we're really close to the airport). It isn't pinterest perfect, but it's ours, and that's more than enough.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

making a house a home: the cribs style tour

Hey y'all, welcome to my crib. Today I'll call it my Humble abode. The suburb we live in is spelled Humble but is pronounced "um-ble" because Texas is weird, so make sure you're saying it right.

This is our house! Most houses in Houston are brick, either all the way around or on three sides with siding on the back side. This house is all siding. All the homes in our part of the subdivision are like that. It's different, and we really liked that. We also have a front porch, which is unique to a lot of homes in Houston but again, is something you see in all houses in our section of the neighborhood.

Still to do: Spraypaint the knocker and paint or remove the kickplate

Walking through the front door, there's the formal dining room on your left. The furniture we bought this past spring worked perfectly in there; we just added a new rug, curtains, and placemats. The doorway goes through to the kitchen, but we'll get there. A lot of my fall touches are out right now, so things will definitely change in the new year I'm sure. The wine rack was actually in a bedroom in our last house because we liked it but didn't have space for it. I'm happy we kept it.

Still left to do: find artwork to go above the wine rack.

To the right of the front door, you can see the stairs and a hallway that takes you to the garage, half bath, coat closet, and utility room. I'm oddly fond of the half bath because it's the first room I decorated in my head before we moved in. I love the wainscoting, too. When we first moved in, the mirror was so tall I couldn't see myself in it. We fixed that pretty quick. I love the utility room because it's a logical place for Bauer's litter box - no more putting it in an area we use daily. We also have tons of storage in there for Christmas decorations.

The half bath, the view of the entryway from inside the house, and a peek at all of our storage space. I spared you a shot of Bauer's litterbox.

I put our old sofa table in the entry hallway. I love the window mirror on it (more about that in another post) and the "Happily ever after starts here" sign I made for our wedding. Our growing record collection is stored on the bottom shelf. Down the hallway is our living room. The whole house has new-ish cream paint. While it isn't my top choice, we're going to live with it for now and might paint some of the rooms with shorter walls in the future. I love the high ceilings and the windows that add extra light. We added a section to our existing couch to fit the space better, but that made our rug too small and I've yet to find one to replace it. We also couldn't fit end tables in our old house, but now we can, so we need to buy those. I know mantles aren't everyone's thing, but I love that this one is a little chunky and I'm excited to be able to decorate it each season. I refashioned our old gallery wall with a few new things so it would be a little taller since the ceilings are so high.

Bottom right photo: We have many very unfortunately shaped lights, don't you think?
Still left to do: Print photo for top right of gallery wall, hang curtains on living room windows, buy end tables, buy area rug. I'm dreading the day the lightbulbs burn out in the ceiling fan and have no idea how to clean those windows!

To the left of the living room is the breakfast nook and the kitchen. The wainscoting and trim around the windows in the breakfast nook is one of the things that made me love this house more than the less expensive version down the street. The kitchen had been redone by the previous owners. I was happy to have white cabinets. I also really like the sink - it's asymmetrical, with one really large, deep side, and a smaller side with a garbage disposal. I never knew I had a sink preference, but apparently I do. We had to replace the faucet the day we moved in because it was loose, but other than that, we haven't touched the kitchen. We have a good amount of storage, but not as many drawers as we had in our old house so I had to get creative and put a lot of utensils on the counter. Our pantry is huge and has lots of storage space for all of our small kitchen appliances. The breakfast nook is another one of my favorite spaces in the house. I wanted to find a wall shelf to display all the fun vintage items and other fun things we've collected and I'm happy to have found one with plenty of space. The table is another favorite thing that I'll talk about more in another post.

I forgot to include better pics of the breakfast nook but they will follow when I talk about my beloved table more!
Still left to do: Buy a new fruit bowl and find something funkier to replace the vase next to the fridge (it's where we put bottlecaps that I save for some weird reason). Find frame and hang print in breakfast nook. Buy new placemats.

The master bedroom is also downstairs, and it's the space that is the farthest from being done. Our old bedroom furniture was a hand-me-down from Andrew's dad, and while it was nice, it wasn't my taste. We got an iron bed frame to go along with the vintage, collected decor of the rest of the house. Just off the bedroom is the master bathroom, which is huge compared to our old one (which had roughly 15 square feet of floor space). I've found that I'm not a huge fan of the shower stall (I hate getting my face wet) but my love of the tub makes up for it. Our closet is on the other side of the bathroom, and we put our dresser in there. There are also built-ins where I created a little jewelry station for myself. It makes getting dressed more fun, in a way. In our old house, I felt claustrophobic if I had to get ready with the bathroom door closed, but I don't mind it in this house at all.

I haven't decided if I want a bedskirt or another rug next to the tub yet. The future bedroom sitting area will be next to the floor lamp.

Still left to do: Buy nightstands, a small dresser to go under the TV, and a slipper chair for a small sitting area. Find art and maybe curtains. Hang candle holder above bathtub and find something to hang over towel bar. If we have any "leftover" art, hang it in the water closet (not pictured because it isn't very exciting).

We still have lots to do before it's "done," but it definitely already feels like home. I'll show you the backyard and upstairs tomorrow!

Linking up with Joey and Kristin

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

it was my birthday

And if  you read that title a la Dwight Shrute's birthday banner, then we'll get along just fine.

I turned 30 on Friday (yes, Halloween). And while I wanted to make a big ol' thing about it on my blog, I never found the time or energy to do so. I have no wisdom to impart, no bucket list of things done... it was just a birthday like all the rest, except the number on the left was changing. My husband is in his thirties, lots of my real life friends are in their thirties or beyond, and lots of my blog friends have turned thirty without falling apart, so I figured I would quietly join their ranks. But that doesn't mean I don't want to talk about what I did.

So I'm a firm believer that you should not go to work on your birthday, assuming you have a vacation day tucked away. I do not want to answer emails or make small talk on MY day. This year, Andrew decided to take the day off, too, which was nice but I did complain about a little since I am horribly ungrateful but I like what I like. I always get up around 9:00 and then watch Kelly and Michael (and all of the things it was before) because they have the best costumes. Then I usually go shopping and end up at Starbucks for a salted caramel mocha. It's just what happens.

This year, Andrew woke me up with Kelly and Michael paused and coffee made. He had decorated the house (granted, I did leave out all the birthday decor for him... sometimes you have to insist on ridiculousness) and I returned some phone calls from family members checking in and opened presents (my friends Kate [Spade] and Kendra [Scott] made appearances this year). I slowly got moving and got packed for the staycation he booked for us downtown.

View from my couch of one of the birthday banners. You can see that we were watching Kelly aka Piper and Michael aka Crazy Eyes.

We went to Triniti for lunch, which is on the Top 100 Restaurant list and hosted Michelle Obama a few months ago. It was beautiful inside and the food was really good. Somehow our drink order was lost, and we honestly didn't even mind, but as soon as someone saw the oversight, they comped our drinks and gave us two vouchers to use on our return visit. I was super impressed with the whole experience.

After that, we went to Kuhl-Linscomb, which is an upscale boutique with lots of gift and home decor items. I thought it was awesome but very expensive so we didn't stay too long. Since I had gotten two pairs of the same Kendra Scott earrings, I went to exchange one. When I did, I mentioned that I wasn't in their system to get a birthday coupon (50% off one item) so the girls working there were super nice and told me to pick something out for half off. Another customer service win. After that, we were close to Cloud 10 Creamery so we had to stop in for ice cream. We split two scoops - sour cream with banana jam and sweet potato marscapone. Both were excellent.

We checked into the hotel and had some down time in which I was still full and didn't want to start drinking yet. There's a nice movie theatre nearby, so I decided we should go see Gone Girl (if you like the book, you'll like the movie. It was a really good adaptation). We got out and started people watching by getting some food at Batanga and then drinks at Moving Sidewalk. It's a new bar and I liked that the outside of the menu had a graph on it going from light to boozy and bitter to sweet with the various house cocktails plotted on points so you knew what you were getting. These two guys were in furry dog costumes and had lingerie on over them. They looked ridiculous and told the bartender they were sexy bitches which cracked me up.

We went to Bad News Bar for more people watching and then down the street to Public Services which is new and serves wine and whiskey. I said it reminded me of a hipster granny's house because it was all antique furniture and old decor. It was very quiet and bright - the kind of place you would want to go to really talk to people - and I liked it. But, I was tired and knew that my 30-year-old self couldn't handle many more drinks so we called it a night when we were done there.

See, it totally doesn't look like a bar | I could eat this bagel combo daily and be fine with that

Saturday morning we went to my beloved Revival Market because it was Bagel Saturday (every Saturday they have a different awesome treat). We checked out a few shops and a fall festival in the area, and then I was kind of over shopping and requested that we go home. So we did. I guess my old age is making me even more of a homebody.

Some other highlights:

- On Wednesday, we went to Coltivare for dinner because they had gotten in fancy truffles that they were giving away for free on some polenta. It was delicious and according to Andrew's  math, about a $100 dish. Add that to the bucket list (also I was singing about tuxedos for no reason in my head the whole night).

The polenta topped with truffles and a butternut squash and brussels sprout salad which was awesome, too.

- Coming home on Thursday to a surprise birthday package from Kerry. So unexpected, thank you my friend!
- There's this awesome thing called Tiff's Treats that basically sends you still warm cookies to your home or office. Well, the things I like are well-known because I got three dozen at work on Thursday.

Two of my three dozen, with milk and beautiful blue hydrangeas from another work friend.

- I love Entenmann's chocolate glazed donuts and they aren't available in Houston so I was thrilled when my father-in-law sent me two boxes with my gift (I probably would have been happy with just the donuts, but let's not tell him that...)

So that's how I spent my Halloween birthday. Next year is my Golden Birthday (31 on the 31st) so I'm already excited to see how I'm going to spend that!