Thursday, December 31, 2009

A year in review: 2009

Jake and I don't write those letters that accompany Christmas cards. While we love receiving them, we're not witty or important enough to write one ourselves. Maybe at some point in life...With that being said, a look back at 2009 is a worthwhile thing. Jake and I have grown a lot together this year and have been very fortunate.

2009 started the best way possible: with a wedding! Jake and I got married on January 17, 2009. It was a fun night shared with family and friends. We had so much fun and the wedding was exactly as I'd pictured - a huge celebration surrounded by those that have, do, and will support us through our marriage.

Since I was teaching and couldn't take off, we had a "mini moon" at the Peabody Downtown (Jake's parents gift to us was a room in the hotel) and spent Sunday and Monday living the big life running around downtown. We saw a show (the Drowsy Chaperone) at the Orpheum, had dinner at Encore, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

Then it was back to the normal life for us. Jake was working at the Veteran's Hospital on the Accord study and I was (and still am) teaching Geography. We lived the married life, cooking and decorating our little hearts out.

March brought our "full moon" (honeymoon) to Fort Myer's Beach in Florida. An island nestled in with Sanibel in the area of Florida near Tampa, we picked it because of its location (further south so it would be warm during spring break), the beaches (they have been voted best sand in Florida before), and the set up of the island. We stayed in the Edison Beach House - a small building of condo units directly on the beach. We enjoyed the trip immensely. It was so nice to be right on the beach and able to walk wherever we wanted. About a block away were all these shops and restaurants and a pier - we saw dolphins, manatees, and pelicans from it! We visited Jake's family in Florida for a day as well in Boca.

In April, we decided to expand our family - to get a cat. We found Tyson through Pet Finder online. He was born at the Family Vet Practice in Bartlett. His mother was a stray and was sick so she was taken in. She had Tyson and his litter mates and directly after giving birth she had to be separated from them because she was so sick. He was a little slow getting weight on him but once he did, he was ready for us to take home.

May brought the end of school for me (yay! summer vacation!). In June, I left for a month for camp, to be Assistant Director at Camp Gailor Maxon. That month was rewarding and challenging in many ways. Camp Gailor Maxon means a great deal to me and aided in my spiritual and emotional development so much - I am glad I get to help build it up and help it continue to do so for generations to come.

In July, Jake started his Master's program at UT Health Science Center. He is in a Master's of Pharmacology program. This was a big adjustment for us, going from two incomes to one, but honestly was a good thing for many reasons. Jake is much happier, studying what he is interested in and wants to learn about. Also, it forced us to look at our finances and budget better.

August brought the return of school. Since this was my second year teaching full-time, I felt much stronger and better about the start of school. So far, this year has been challenging in different ways - better than last year for sure but different. We're on block schedule now (which I love - contrary to most) and I have less kids in my classroom thanks to a hire of an extra Geography teacher. Yet we have less planning time than last year and more kids to teach (due to teaching 7 sections of kids rather than 5) and more paperwork on top of that. This year has helped me continue to grow as a teacher.

In addition to the new school year, August was a time of celebrations for us. We travelled to Knoxville for Beth and Brad's wedding. Beth is one of my best friends and I was right there with her from the start of her relationship with Brad. He's a great guy and I was so glad to be a part of their wedding. It was my first as a bridesmaid! While we were in Knoxville, we also got to help my brothers move in to their dorms for college. They both chose to go to UT and I was so glad (I'm a little biased, though!). I was really glad to get to be there while they moved in - an important first step in adulthood.

The fall has been filled with trips to LSU to see Josh play, a Young Adult river canoe trip, lots of church events, and most importantly, buying a house. This has been a huge change for us and we have enjoyed making the house "our home." We've got a long way to go but have had a lot of support from our family and friends.

We ended this year with the holidays - spending our first Christmas together as a married couple. We got to spend a lot of time with family, going to church, and cooking (all of our favorite things!). We decorated our Christmas tree and put our gifts to each other under the tree. We downsized on presents but ended up giving things that were thoughtful and meaningful. I felt that the spirit of Christmas was not compromised by the fact that we spent less money. In fact, I felt it made it mean more.

We ended the year with a visit from Beth and Eric, then by hosting a small gathering of friends at our house to ring in the new year. I can't wait to see what 2010 will bring - hopefully it will be just as great as 2009 was.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

House Tour: Back Bathroom

A MLS photo of the bathroom as we saw it during the house hunt.

As I've said in the past on this blog, one of the reasons we loved our house and decided to buy it was because of the bathrooms. They are large for a house of this age and have a lot of storage. They are in great shape and don't need too much updating. Like the rest of the house, the walls were white when we bought the house. In addition, like the front bathroom, this back bathroom (which is located on a hallway across from our den and in between our middle and back bedroom) has the "vintage" white with gold speckle counters and ugly brass cabinet handles. In addition, the light fixture was dated.

Tyson enjoys sitting in the sinks of our bathrooms. Here you can see the counters.

With a little paint, a new light fixture (the same as the front bathroom, the $29 contractor special from Home Depot), and a new window treatment, we're on our way to having a cute bathroom. We don't have the money yet to put new counters and cabinet pulls in this room since we're prioritizing other places so this was a cost-efficient fix to the bathroom to make it "ours".

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

We've spent the past days with family and friends, cherishing the time we have together and enjoying everyone's company. Our first Christmas as a married couple was successful. While we didn't have much money to buy presents, we budgeted and came up with ideas for the special ones in our lives - things we knew they'd enjoy, appreciate, and cherish. We received many good presents as well. We are so lucky to have supportive family and friends.

I've been struggling with Christmas this year. It seems like the adult years bring less of the Christmas joy and anticipation and more of the Christmas stress. I tried very hard not to get caught up in that this year and yet didn't feel the "spirit." I thought a trip to the mall to see all the decorations and observe the madness would help. While it was fun, it didn't bring about the spirit. What truly brought the "Christmas spirit" on for me was spending time with my family and enjoying being around them. We don't see enough of our extended family and so I guess one of the meanings of Christmas is bringing people together - whether it is your cousins or a bunch of shepherds and wise men.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beer Battered Fried Pickles

As a wedding present Jake and I got a deep fryer. I had never experienced the wonder that was a deep fryer prior to this gift. Now we deep fry okra, fries, chicken tenders... it is a bit ridiculous. Of course, we pace ourselves and try not to clog our arteries too much. It is just fun!

I am a huge pickle fan. In fact, my two favorite foods are pickles and cheese (but not together..). They must be dill, however. And fried pickles? Well they are just amazing. There are different kinds of fried pickles... beer battered, bread crumb bettered, flour/egg battered... and they all have different merits.

For a twist on our frying adventure, Jake and I tried out a recipe for beer battered fried pickles.

Here's the rough recipe. I didn't follow it exactly but if you follow the link below, you'll get the original recipe:

Elvis Style Fried Pickles, courtesy of CdKitchen


About 5 whole dill pickles, cut into thick chips
1/2 to 3/4ths a cup of flour (I approximated based on consistency)
a light pilsner beer (we used New Belgium's Blue Paddle) - about 1/2 the beer
Cayenne Pepper
Ground Pepper
Garlic Powder
Onion Salt
Hot Sauce (We used Louisiana but it called for Tabasco)

I just used as much as I wanted of the spices.... and hoped for the best

Stir all but the pickles together in a bowl. Meanwhile, get your fryer hot to 375 degrees.

** The consistency of the batter is important because it needs to stick to the pickle - go for something sort of sticky mushy flour-y.

Slicing the pickles - we bought just regular ole dill pickles but for the true pickle fan, I recommend Claussen's pickles. They have a better taste.

Dip them in the batter. Then, throw 'em in the fryer for about 4 minutes or until they float to the top: tip - we took them directly from the batter to the fryer so the batter wouldn't come off on a plate.

The end result - home made fried pickles! We're still perfecting the art of not having the batter stick to the fryer basket. Not sure how to fix that.

Serve with honey mustard, ranch, whatever your heart desires.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Project Update!

Remember Project # 2 - the curtains? It is time for an update.

Here's our inherited curtains, with the fabric I bought, modeled by Tyson.

With the impending Christmas party as a catalyst for progress, I spent some time last week sewing over at my parents.

The back story: When we moved in the house, we inherited some interesting window treatments. Lacy valences, metal mini blinds, and a plethora of these canvas Target tab top curtains.

Now, by themselves the Target basic tab top curtains weren't bad. Yet, they were khaki and a lot of the stuff in our den is khaki. We actually had plans to use the curtains from our dining room in our old house:

But that was when we wanted to paint the den this color:

We thought better of an orange room, while it would have been cool. So we were left with no curtains (who wants a green on green color scheme?).

I've sewn before so I thought about sewing curtains. But then I remembered something I saw on Design Star this summer (that Dan did - loved Dan... he was robbed). Dan took curtains and inserted a stripe of fabric that complemented the curtains. I decided to do the same.

Here's what I did:
1) Found fabric I liked (40% on sale!) and bought one yard

2) Measured my current curtains to figure out where I wanted the fabric (I wanted the fabric to be at eye-height)

3) used sewing scissors (thanks, Mom!) to cut the fabric 18 inches from the top and then 48 inches from the bottom. I was left with a strip of fabric I'll use for the backings of pillows I'm going to make

4) cut my yard of fabric in half so I had 25 inches of height

5) sewed the fabric to the top and bottom piece of the curtains

6) ripped the seams of the old curtains a little in anticipation of a new seam

7) sewed a new seam, making it all one

8) ironed the heck out of them

The fabric was originally $40 a yard and I wouldn't have been able to buy enough for full curtains but I fell in love with the pattern - it incorporates all the colors of our house. So this was the perfect (cost-saving) compromise!

And, here's the final product:

Animal watch: I've noticed each post lately has had at least one of our three in the pictures... they're pretty photogenic, I can't help it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

House Tour: The Den

When we were looking at houses, our priorities were closets (I have a lot of clothes... a lot), 2 full baths, and two separate living spaces. We found all that with this house and love having a living room AND a den. The den's decor, however, we weren't too fond of. The den is part of an addition to the house from the 1970's. We knew this based on the wood paneling but it was confirmed when we started prepping and pulled newspaper out of the bottom of the window ("insulation" I guess?) that was dated January 4th, 1971.

This is what we started with....

We did some research and found out that for wood paneling you need to use an oil based primer before you paint. Here's the post about that experience - my mom and Jake joined in for the fun...

Here's a picture of the den/back door area after being primed:

It stayed like this for a few weeks until we had another free weekend, when my mom and I took the Friday after Thanksgiving to paint. The after pictures from that experience are in this blog post.

In the mean time, Sebastian laid on the tacky, undecorated den wishing we'd get our act together..

But finally we did it - paint on the walls (Sherwin William's Koi Pond), furniture arranged, shelves arranged. Here is the end result:

Look - in the background you can see the results of Project 3!
The pumpkin painting was done by my brother, Ezra. The rocker was my grandmother's that she left for me.

On the left in this picture you can see the shelves we put up above the couch. There are a few Memphis Zoo pictures I took, along with some DVDs, a coke bottle from the Atlanta Coca-Cola tour, and other stuff. Ignore the little wreaths on the ribbon on the wall - it was a Christmas decoration idea gone awry.

You can also see the results of Project 2, the curtains.

Our next dilemma is pictured below. Our kitchen, which is connected to the den by this mini hall, needs some work. It is dated - decor wise and functionally. We get the tax credit for first time homeowners so I think we're using that money to do something with the kitchen. Here's what we're working with:

Standing at the backdoor looking in the kitchen. To the right of the refrigerator is the door to the dining room and next to the door is our stove, which you can't really see. Behind the door with the cork board is our pantry (currently a laundry room).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

House Tour: Front Bathroom

When we started out in the house, the front bathroom was... like everything else... white. One thing we love about this house are the bathrooms - they are both generous in size for Midtown houses and in good shape. This front one has a large linen closet that is very (verry) deep (to the right as you walk in) and we've turned the bottom in to a little cat apartment for Tyson.

This first picture is the realtor's picture and you can tell they used a wide lens because I can't seem to get that much of the bathroom in my picture and I stand against the hall wall! What we loved about the bathroom was the classic black and white tile. We didn't like the light fixtures (in the second picture you can see them - a plastic tube on the wall and a gold thing on the ceiling), the cabinet above the toilet (purchased from Sears in the 1960s in case you wondered), the medicine cabinet mirror, and all the white in the room.

The realtor's picture of the bathroom, from MLS.

My excellent photography skills documenting the prior light fixtures in the bathroom.

We started out trying to decide on a color. I really wanted to use the white and wheat bathroom stuff from our old bathroom (shower curtain and hand towels) and wanted a bright, cool color to complement the white, beige, and black we'd have going on in our bathroom. I started out picking out this blue.... (In this pic, check out the 1960's cabinet above the toilet!)

Some Glidden blue from Lowe's....

But decided it was too baby blue. I really wanted a turquoise to go with the black. We ended up picking Drizzle from Sherwin Williams and I love it. It has just enough grey to be mature while still being bright and turquoise. In this picture you can see the Drizzle paint in action, along with our Pottery Barn clearance silk roman shade, my awesomely amazing picture of the CGM tree Ellen gave me, and our toilet that is off center (which totally bugs me). Does anyone else notice the toilet isn't centered between the wall and the vanity? Or is that just me...

Tyson decided to be a model that day. This is HIS bathroom, after all.

Here you can see our new light fixture. We got two of these, one for each bathroom, from Home Depot's contractor series line for 24$ each. Compared to other brushed nickel finished bathroom vanity lights with white frosted glass, we saved about 30$ doing the contractor line.

Also in this picture you can see that we took the medicine cabinet out and replaced it with a regular mirror, black framed to match the tile. It was $16 from TJ Maxx... And behind it is still the hole from the medicine cabinet but luckily we have a brother with carpentry skills who needs some fast cash!

I've learned it is very hard to get a good picture of a light fixture. I don't like to take pictures with the flash and yet if you turn the light off to get a picture of the fixture, it is too dark... Also to the right in this picture you can sort of see the entrance to Tyson's apartment. He jumps in through the hamper door.

Here's Tyson, modelling again in his new bathroom.

And here is the final product. What do you think?

Monday, December 14, 2009

House Tour: Dining Room

Next on our tour of before and afters is our dining room. Here's the before, taken on closing night as we walked in the door. One of the things about the dining room that you can see here is the amount of doors - on the left of the picture is a door to our guest bedroom. Straight ahead is the door to the den and to the right (barely seen in the picture) is the door to the kitchen.

Since that picture we've painted (the same Bee's Wax since it flows into the living room), replaced the light fixture, and replaced our thermostat with a programmable one. We also acquired a console table from a friend to add to our dining room hodge podge of furniture. Here's where we are now:

On one wall we have my IKEA prints (love them) and console table. On the table is one of three wooden ducks I have (a small collection), the cute lazy susan serving dish I got from my mom for my birthday, and a copper serving tiered dish. You can also see the new thermostat.

On the other wall is my china cabinet. I got it from my parents for graduation from an antique store in Knoxville called Three Sisters. Inside are our two china sets, the blue is every day from Gift and Art and the yellow/black is our "china" china from Macy's, it is Villeroy and Bach's Audun pattern. I've also got my glassware in there.

Here's the whole effect - check our our new light fixture. It lets off much more light than the last one (our main concern) and also fits our style better.

And, for effect, here's our spread from our Christmas party. You can see the red door in the background there, referenced in my living room post.

Notice that Tyson is staring longingly at the food...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

House Tour: Living Room

We moved into our house on October 15th.. it has taken us 2 months to get the house where I even feel like I can show it on the blog and facebook! We hosted a Christmas party for church last weekend and it was a good "push" to get us to get the work done. With a lot of work and help from Jake's parents, we spent all of Saturday getting the house cleaned, organized, and ready to go. I took pictures to document the clean house, a momentous occasion. I'll write a few posts, highlighting each room.

Today we're starting with the living room. Here's what we were working with when we moved in:

This picture was taken off the MLS listing and shows the former owner's stuff... this is how we saw it when we came with our realtor. Nothing wrong.. just not our style. The stark white was throughout the whole house. Notice the wood and how it looks awkard against the white.

This is a view of the living room from the other angle - standing in the dining room looking at the front door.

The first thing we did was paint. Well, we WANTED the first thing we did to be to rip out the carpet and have the hardwood that is below but the former owner's son told us that they took the carpet out of the bedrooms and the hardwood had to be refinished due to the carpet glue and such so we decided to put that off...

But back to painting. As you all know from our "Bee's Wax" saga here, we started with this color by Sherwin Williams:
Lovely but not the color we wanted. We already had Bee's Wax in the other house and everything matched that... so we re-painted with the right paint and got this:

Notice how the wood pops now? It looked 100% better. After painting, we let the room sit for about a month and a half looking like this:

Jake, Sebastian, and Beamer studying on the couch with mismatched furniture sitting all around.

Meanwhile, Beamer and Tyson enjoyed having the living room to themselves since no one could get to the living room through all the boxes..

The next thing I did was paint the door. Previously, the front of the door was painted white (like the rest of the house), while the back of the door was wood. I took some leftover paint from our last place and painted the door brick red. You know, Episcopalians love our red doors...

I used to hate our front door because it looked dated but now I've decided the three window thing sort of fits the vibe of our 1947 ranch so I'm warming up to it...

After painting the door, we stalled
some more before really knocking it all out the other day. Pretty much everything came together at the last minute. Now, for a tour of the room...

Here's a close up of the fireplace. We've got it set up for Christmas (hence the stockings and garland). The painting was done by a local artist, Kristi Bauer, and given to me as a housewarming gift by my parents. The glass boxes on the ground are from World's Away and were used as centerpieces at our engagement party - they sell them as planters in their Memphis warehouse showroom.

To the right of the fireplace is a built in book shelf. Previously it had four shelves that were equal and I took one out and made them different heights. I also painted the back of the book shelf the same color as the walls. Before, our stuff hid against the wood and now it stands out. I've got an assortment of pictures, bowls, plates, and such on it now. A few things of note are a gold plate that was my grandmother's from Germany and a sunflower clock you can barely see (in the bottom shelf on the left) that my friend CHB made out of salvaged metal for me.

Also in this picture you can see a lamp - this lamp was in my pink and green bedroom from college and is also from World's Away (gotta love the scratch and dent warehouse sales). It was pink and green (like everything else in that room) and had a different shade. I got a drum shade from World's Away and spray painted the lamp chocolate brown. It really fits well in the room.

Here's the view standing in the living room looking at the dining room. Here you can see our new slipper chairs, one of only two furniture purchases we had to make for the house. We got these Avington slipper chairs in vine for a steal at Target online (blog post here) and have really enjoyed them.
And now, a view of the room as a whole. Here you can see our Christmas tree. I love that it is in our front window so you can see it from the street.

And lastly, a picture of it all lit up at night - cozy, right?

So does it look better than when we first came in to the room?


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