December 31, 2011

Memorable Dates of 2011

Looking back on the past year, Peter and I realized that it's been full of memorable dates. Here are our Top Five: 

Five: December 4    
Ten months after starting to paint the living space, we finished on December 4th! As I've mentioned, it would be more accurate to say "Peter finished." Along the way, we ran into a number of speed bumps that halted our progress and a number of others that became side projects themselves. Of course now that the walls are finished, I've moved on to bigger and better things like painting furniture and nesting.


Four & Three: October 1 and October 7
In less than week in October, two of Peter's best friends got married to a couple of wonderful women. The first wedding was in Seneca, South Carolina and the second in Nashville, Tennessee. We were delighted to share in the the festivities and support each couple. As a side note, I was happy to see Peter in a tux; in nearly eight years, that was a first!

Picture from Facebook.com
Picture from Day In & Day Out

Two: May 18 
On May 18th, I received an email with the seemingly insignificant subject Handbook Draft. The sender encouraged current students to review the draft and send any comments back to him. Upon reading the draft, I learned that Vanderbilt would accept transfer hours. A short email chain and phone call to Univeristy of Memphis later, I called Peter to let him know I'd be moving back to Memphis, full-time, at the end of the week which was seven months ahead of schedule. We were delighted and bewildered by the news!


One: June 19
Late on Father's Day, we saw two pink lines! (This picture is from earlier that day while we were in Georgia celebrating Peter's dad.) I wish I had some sweet story about telling Peter I was pregnant by alluding to him being a wonderful father or giving him some sort of "Dad" gift but I don't. First off, I'm not that cute. Secondly, we were both surprised, in a wonderful and blessed way, by the pregnancy. We now move into 2012 in eager anticipation of this child's arrival.

December 30, 2011

Kelsey and the Cookbook

For Christmas I decided to compile our family recipes into a cookbook for my three siblings: Kelsey, TJ and Ryan.  Near nightly, my sister and I are in touch with one another, asking, "What are you making for dinner?" or "How do I make this or that?" and the boys always call Kelsey asking the same thing. I figured a cookbook would be a hit. In June, I began asking older family members to send me inherited recipes. While I waited for the recipes from my family, I began compiling my recent favorites. I typed up the recipes and uploaded them onto Tastebook which is a website where you can make very nice personalized cookbooks. By early December, I had one hundred recipes for the cookbook.

Right around the time I finished my cookbooks, my sister learned she has a gluten allergy. Wanting the cookbook to be useful, I decided to alter my sister's cookbook to include as many gluten-free recipes as possible. While the project was a bit laborious, I knew it would be worth it.

One week before we left to go to Baltimore for Christmas I got a bombshell of a phone call. It was my mom, "Parker, you need to talk to your sister! She is thinking about making the boys cookbooks for Christmas." My mom stalled to the best of her ability telling my sister it was a crazy idea and it would take too much time.  But knowing my mom is not a particularly gifted secret keeper, I decided I had to call my sister right away:

          "Kelsey, it's Parker. Don't make the boys cookbooks for Christmas."
          "Why? Mom said the same thing. I think it's a good idea."
          "It is. It's a great idea. And I've been working on cookbooks for them since June. Don't do it."
          "Oooooh! I thought everyone just thought it was a bad idea. Okay."

With the issue of my sister making her own cookbook for the boys out of the way, I decided to figure out a way that Kelsey would still be surprised when she opened her gift. Once in Baltimore, Peter and I hit the mall looking for a decoy present. Peter spotted a very nice apron in Anthropologie that he knew my sister would love. We decided it went with our cooking theme so it would be the perfect decoy gift.

Christmas morning we always start at my mom's house and then head over to my dad's house. Under the tree at Mom's were the cookbooks for the boys and the apron for my sister. When we gave the boys their gifts they were elated. And Kelsey was jealous. Very jealous. She opened her gift to find the apron which she decidedly liked but then said, "I think I'm a bit heartbroken. I want one of those cookbooks. I love to cook." I told her I understood but with her new allergy I just didn't want to give her a gift she couldn't use. Later she asked, "Can I order one of those books on my own?" Nonchalantly I told her she could and we went to over to Dad's.

Hidden under my dad's tree was the cookbook for Kelsey which we wrapped differently than the others. When I gave it to her she eagerly asked, "Is this my cookbook?" I told her it wasn't, just a late birthday gift.  As she shook the box and heard nothing rattle (thank goodness I'm married to a packaging engineer!) we knew she'd given up hope of getting a cookbook from us. When she opened the box and discovered her very own personalized cookbook she was beside herself! Again revealing her earlier disappointment she said, "I really was so heartbroken. I didn't know why I didn't get one." She went on to fervently look though every recipe, beaming with excitement.
It's not every day (or year) that I come up with a clever gift idea but when I do it is so worth it even if the gift requires hours of work, a few white lies, and a decoy gift to pull off!

December 29, 2011

Ms. Kathy

Since our Thanksgiving trip to Georgia, Peter and I have been driving his mom's minivan. It makes perfect sense, actually. You see, we'd been in the market for a new loveseat but had yet to commit to one. When Peter found out his folks were getting new couch to replace the current couch and loveseat in their family room, Peter suggested that we buy the old loveseat from them. After a bit of inquiring, Peter's very generous parents told us we could have their loveseat and borrow their vehicle to transport it back to Memphis. After Thanksgiving we left our car in Georgia and drove the van home. Since the van is adorned with a hot pink vanity plate honoring the owner, Ms. Kathy, Peter and I have taken to calling the van Ms. Kathy.
Originally, we were going to hold on to Ms. Kathy for just a week. Ten days after Thanksgiving I had class in Nashville so my mother-in-law planned to meet me to swap cars. However a few days before the planned swap, she called Peter to say she wasn't in a hurry to get the van back and we could postpone the swap until January when she'll be visiting Memphis. We happily agreed to extend our time with Ms. Kathy from ten days to seven weeks.

Knowing we'd be driving Ms. Kathy to Baltimore, we made arrangements to swap our dining room chairs. We took our old dining room chairs back to Maryland and brought back new ones [more on that later].  My family thought taking advantage of the van was a good idea too so when we drove back to Memphis Ms. Kathy was loaded down with a buffet, two side tables, and a coffee-table which I'll deliver to my mom's Etsy customer, along with other odds and ends, all of our luggage, and the four dining room chairs we planned on getting.  
 
Overall, Ms. Kathy has been very good to us. She's very roomy and the stow-and-go seats are pretty cool. We're not ready to commit to driving a minivan full-time but Peter and I have certainly been impressed.

December 28, 2011

Home Again

We just returned home from another speedy Christmas trip to Baltimore. As we've done in the past, we drove up through Tennessee and Virgina then came back through West Virgina and Kentucky. Taking two routes helps break up the monotony of thirty-two hours in the car.

While in Baltimore, I developed a very frustrating upper respiratory infection which required a day after Christmas trip to the doctor and an antibiotic. Illness aside, it was a great holiday! We spent loads of time with my family, ate delicious food, and manged to pull off a few gift-giving surprises. My brothers and sister saw me for the first time since I became pregnant so the shock of my baby belly and its very active occupant provided some decent entertainment.
Tonight we're settling back into our routine, unpacking, and visiting with our pups, who did not come with us this year but spent a week at camp. I'll have some holiday-related posts up in a jiffy or, at most, a couple of weeks.

December 25, 2011

Merry, Merry

Merry Christmas to you wherever you are! Whether you are spending the holiday with dear ones or find yourself far from them, I hope you have the opportunity to reflect on the birth of our Savior and King.

December 22, 2011

Holiday Cheer

The unofficial theme for our Christmas decorations this year is: Less is More.  While there are two bins of Christmas decorations in the attic, I decided to keep it simple with just a touch of holiday decor in our living space.

On the table in the entry I have a glass bottle which I keep a ribbon around. Throughout the year  I'll occasionally accessorize the bottle with a seasonal ornament hung from the ribbon.  I decided to hang a small needlepoint stocking from the ribbon this year in lieu of hanging any other stockings in the house. While visiting, a very sneaky friend tucked a small ornaments into the branches in the bottle. Now, the bottle in the entry welcomes our guests with a hint of holiday cheer. 
A few years ago I bought eight packages of mini ornaments from a Pottery Barn after Christmas sale for 99¢ each. This year I used the ornaments to fill a small vase and bowl as well as adorn our dining room table. When Peter first saw the ornaments on the dining room table he asked if I had spilled them. Evidently the style of the unkempt ornaments was lost on him. Once I explained that it was a look he came around. Peter is so open minded about seasonal decorating.
 
A new additon to our home this year is a nativity scene. While I love nativities, I've always found the small, fragile pieces to pose a bit of a challenge.  Since most nativities are created with exquisite detail, I would want to display the scene where it could be easily viewed; however a visiting child, or down the road our own child, could grab the pieces and toss them about or try to eat them.  So for the last five years we've been nativity-less. When I spotted a metal [read: not fragile], silhouette [read: not detailed] nativity at Hobby Lobby this year for 50% off I knew it would be a good fit for our home. With just five metal silhouette pieces, the risk of losing or breaking one is quite low. Due to the size,  it can be easily viewed on our top bookshelf which is out of reach from grabby hands. 
 
In past years, I've tried differents ways to display our Christmas cards hoping to develop a tradition. While I liked the look of cards-on-ribbon from last year, it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth. This year, thanks to inspiration found on Pinterest, I decided to toss our cards into apothecary jars on the mantel.  It's too early to say, but I think we may have found our tradition. It's simple, easy, and looks very clean. And, if I don't care to clean up the cards until May, the display is unobtrusive. 
 
Perhaps in future years, I'll empty both bins in the attic, purchase fresh greenery and cover each room in our home with holiday decorations, but for this year the simple decorations are lovely.

December 19, 2011

Nursery: Changing Pad Tray

A few months ago I saw a project plan for a DIY changing pad tray on Lay Baby Lay. Knowing that we would be using the top of a dresser as a changing table, I decided it would be a good project for the nursery. Like many other projects Peter and I discuss, we realized that we were short on the necessary building supplies and work space. We agreed it would be a good project for Peter and his dad.  That left the issue of purchasing the changing pad so the guys could build the tray with the proper dimensions.  Conveniently, and to our good fortune, Peter's oldest sister, N., let us know that she had an unused changing pad, among many other items, that we were welcome to use.  While we were in Georgia for Thanksgiving, I collected many wonderful baby items from N. while Peter and his dad built the changing tray using scrap-wood his dad had on hand.

As expected, Peter's dad tweaked the project plan a bit. He determined the proper dimensions for the changing pad N. had given us were a bit smaller than the dimensions in the plan. He also decided there was no apparent reason to use slats for the base of the tray and instead opted for a solid piece of plywood.  Finally, he opted to reinforce the tray with glue.
 
Once Peter and his dad completed the body of the tray, they decided to add beadboard to the sides to create a more finished look. With the addition of the beadboard I think it's fair to say we have the fanciest changing pad tray on the block. 
Once construction of the tray was complete, I painted it using paint leftover from the dresser and shelf projects. One vital measurement that both Peter and I forgot to take before starting this project was the width of the dresser in the nursery. We counted ourselves very, very lucky when we brought the tray home, placed it on the dresser for the first time and discovered the perfect fit! 
Since we used scrap-wood and leftover paint, the total cost of the changing tray project was $0. Even the changing pad was free to us through the generosity of Peter's sister.
*The yellow bird on the dresser was a gift to Baby Slaton from AC. I love the color and the shape! For now, the bird is living on the dresser, though she may get moved onto the shelf once baby arrives. 

December 15, 2011

Sayonara Grad School

Last night, at 10:00, I finished graduate school. There were no fireworks just a small green box stating: This assignment is complete. I got word ten days ago that I passed my comprehensive exam so my online assignment submission really was the end. I suppose now I'll keep an eye on the mailbox and wait for the diploma to arrive.

December 14, 2011

Living Room: Rug

Earlier this year, it occurred to me that our concrete floors may not be particularly child-friendly. After hitting numerous stores in search of a rug, the living room floor was still naked.
To be fair, my list of wants was pretty specific:
          - neutral color(s)
          - measures 8x10
          - under $200
          - easy to clean
          - highly durable
          - relatively soft

While I originally imagined getting a sea grass rug for the living room, I knew it wouldn't last. Sea grass wouldn't be soft enough, easy to clean, nor would it hold up to the dogs wear and tear. So I expanded my search and I found many lovely rugs on Overstock.  Unfortunately most of them were over budget and bold or graphic rather than neutral.  As the search continued we visited Capel Rugs, Kiser's, the Pottery Barn/West Elm Outlet, Target, and countless websites with no success. Finally, a little birdie told me that Garden Ridge has a decent carpet selection at very reasonable prices.

Last weekend, we headed to Garden Ridge with nothing but our list of demands and left with an indoor/outdoor carpet that satisfied nearly every demand:

          - neutral color(s)
          ✓ - measures 8 x 10 7'10" x 9' 10"
          - under $200 (bonus: it was under $100)
          - easy to clean
          - highly durable
          - relatively soft


December 13, 2011

The Morning Routine

Peter wakes up, gets the pups from their crates and feeds them. We go for a walk. When we get home, Peter gets ready for work, I make breakfast, and the dogs climb into our bed. They linger until 8:30 or 9:30 when I force them out.  Tough, right? 

December 12, 2011

Living Room: Coffee Table

In 2008, Peter and I upgraded from his bachelor-pad coffee table to a more substantial piece found at a Crate and Barrel sample sale. The coffee table has a glass top intended to reveal the items displayed inside. When we got the table, the plan was to line it with dark fabric and display our piecemeal collection of silver.

Fast forward to December 2011, the coffee table remained on an ever expanding to-do list of home projects. But no longer! When Peter cleared out the dining room in order to paint, he had to empty the bookcase we use as a china cabinet. Since he emptied the room and painted, I figured the least I could do was restock the bookcase. After filling nearly every shelf, I was left with our various pieces of tarnished silver. Upon noticing the tarnish, I decided I should clean the silver before putting it away. While the newly clean silver sat to dry on the kitchen counter, I thought, "What a pity I'm just going to store it away in the bottom of the bookcase."

The thought was enough to motivate me right over to Joann's. I considered using black felt or black velvet; however, once I saw the prices of the fabric my mind was made up. At $2.99/yard, the price of felt was right! I went ahead and bought a yard and a half, double what I needed, in order to leave room for error.

I meticulously measured the inside of the coffee table then used white chalk to mark my cutting lines on the felt. While the efforts at precision took longer than anticipated, they paid off. Once cut, the felt fit snugly into the coffee table. I put the silver in the coffee table along with some other odds and ends, and it's great {it looks much better than it photographs}:
After nearly three years in the queue, line the coffee table has been scratched off the to-do list.

December 9, 2011

Living Area: Paint

Remember when I mentioned we were planning on painting our entire living area? Ten months later, I am happy to report the project is complete!  We didn't go with Behr's Heavy Cream as originally planned but instead used Martha Stewart's Pip. Heavy Cream, as it turned out, had a bit too much cream in it. I wanted a color that lightened our space while coordinating with our current trim color. Heavy Cream was too light so the trim looked yellow. Pip, on the other hand, brightened the trim.


We started painting back in May with the plan to do one room every other weekend until the job was complete. We were able to do the master bedroom and living room before we got off schedule.  While Peter did the majority of the leg work, I helped a bit with those first two rooms. Then I got pregnant and was quickly put on bed rest so Peter was tasked to complete the job alone.  It would be an understatement to say I was needy while on bed rest. On the weekends I wanted constant company. I justified the delay in schedule any way I could and asked Peter to sit with me. Once my restrictions were lifted, Peter painted the hallway leaving only the dining room. The dining room should have been a breeze to knock out. But it wasn't. Not only does the dining room contain the heaviest furniture in the house but we had loads of excuses, from visitors to our own travel. Six months after we started painting, the dining room still looked like this:
 Last weekend, I went to Nashville for my last class! While I was gone, Peter solicited the help of some friends to move the heavy furniture out of the dining room then finished the painting project started so many months ago. I came home to a very bright dining room that now matches the rest of the house: 

December 7, 2011

Potluck Season

As December presses on and Christmas approaches ever more rapidly, I find myself in the midst of Potluck Season. This week alone, I will attend three potluck events each with a different theme.  When I consider what dish to take to a potluck I assess general likeability, time to make, ease of transport, serving temperature, and cost of ingredients.  I have found a few fail-safe recipes that are sure to please. Each time I've made these one of these dishes, I've left with an empty dish and requests for the recipe – I'd say that constitutes a potluck "win."

For the Brunch Potluck: Monkey Bread or Glazed Doughnut Muffins
For the Tailgate Potluck: Buffalo Chicken Dip , Tailgate Toasts, or Hot JalapeƱo Popper Dip
For the Fiesta Potluck: Chicken & Cheese Taquitos
For the "Letter S" Potluck: [Butternut]Squash & Sage Soup or Spaghetti with Sausage
For the Dinner Potluck: Buttered Rosemary Rolls or Greek Salad Quinoa (I add cucumber)
For the Dessert Potluck: Oh Baby! Bars, Brownies, Buckeyes, or Sweet Pumpkin Dip

Picture from Wedding-zine.com

December 2, 2011

Geez Louise!

Turns out, I'm not the only one nesting in our house these days.

When we returned from our Thanksgiving trip Peter noticed Lily sniffing around the laundry closet with excessive curiosity and immediately knew something was amiss.  Upon inspection, Peter found a hole had mysteriously appeared in our dryer hose. Seeing no evidence of rodents in the laundry closet or around the dryer vent outside, Peter patched the hole with duct tape and let it go. A couple of days later, while I was doing laundry I heard unfamiliar sounds coming from our dryer. Peter checked again and, sure enough, something had chewed another hole through the hose. Upon second inspection, Peter found some droppings. He suggested that the droppings belong to a mouse (he was clearly overestimating the abilities of mice). When I looked I knew it was something a bit larger.

Peter disconnected the dryer from the wall so that we could sufficiently inspect the hose and dryer. After cleaning out the hose we turned on the dryer. Like confetti, dog food and leaves came flying out. It seems the invader was building a nest in our dryer. Not good! Once we finished up inside, Peter went out back with a flashlight to look in the dryer vent again and see if he could find the perpetrator.  To his complete surprise, he found it!  Staring back at him from inside the dryer vent was a fat rat whom was seemingly undisturbed by the company.

When Peter came back inside he told me about his discovery and I was not pleased. As my imagination wandered, I catastrophized a house overrun with evil rats attempting to invade the nursery, much like this Lady and the Tramp scene:
 
I put in an emergency request that Peter call a friend who had dealt with his own rodent issues so that we could  borrow a trap. Despite being late, this very kind friend got out of bed to fetch the trap and put it on his porch for our retrieval. Baited with dog food, the trap was set to catch the rat. So far it's been 48 hours and we have not caught the rat. But we have destroyed it's nest and Lily is ready to serve as executioner, if necessary. She's even spent the last 48 hours sharpening her skills.