Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Royally Disgusting

I'll update about all of the cute things little Royal has been doing soon; we really are loving having him around. At the moment, though, I'm too frustrated with his disgusting behavior this morning.

A few minutes ago, I looked out the window to see Royal frolicking in the yard, per his usual morning routine. "How sweet", I thought. "What's in his mouth? Is that his rope? No.... Is that the washcloth? No.... Is that...? Oh, no...."

Yes, our dog was playfully tossing around a dead animal of some kind.

My mind quickly went to this possibility, since just last night we were sitting on the patio when he came in from exploring in the yard, and he had a distinctly gross scent. (Note to self: When the dog's mouth smells like something died, investigate the situation further.) 

It was a squirrel. A rotting, stinky squirrel. But it might as well have had "Toy for Royal" written all over it. Ugh. I corralled the animal (the live one), tied him to the porch (a task in itself while trying to minimize our contact...gross), grabbed the shovel from the garage, and scooped up the carcass.

And then, Royal got a Milkbone. (No, he shouldn't have gotten a treat, but his breath reeked...what would you have done?!)

The dog has a bath in his future today. He's due, anyway. It's 10 days past his surgery, so we should have the all-clear for bathing. But, because his first bath is not a task I care to take on by myself, that will have to wait until Bobby gets home.

Bless that puppy's heart. He was just playing, and I hated yelling at him for that...he really didn't understand.

But, well, whatever...we don't play with dead animals.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Folder Fodder

What, your living room isn't lined with manila file folders? No? Guess it's just me.

We're getting ready to paint the trim throughout the house, and realized that it wouldn't be as simple of a project as it was in the kitchen, where a strip of painter's tape on the tiled floor got the job done. No, for the rest of the carpeted house, we were preparing ourselves to either have to pull up the carpet along the edges, or take the trim off.

And then, last night, I had an "ah-ha!" moment.

The conversation between Bobby and I went something a bit like this:

E: "What if we buy a thin plastic drop-cloth and slide strips of it under the trim?"
B: "That could work."
E: "OR...(running through the house to grab a colored folder)...what if we can slide this under here...(shoving the folder under the trim to try out my theory)...Hey, let's just buy a bunch of these and cut them in half! They're probably about to be on sale with school starting!"
B: "Great idea." (He really was in more of a 'hang-out-with-the-dog-and-not-do-home-improvement' mood. I don't blame him.) 
E: "OR...(running through the house again to grab the box of 100 manila envelopes)...we could use these! We already have them! Do you want to do that tonight?!"
B: "I think that would be a great project for you to do tomorrow. You need something to do." (See what I mean? Oh, well. He was right...I did.)

So, there you have it...the story behind why our living room and hallway is currently lined with halved-manila file folders. I must say, this technique seems to be working quite well. It appears that the folders are thick enough to prevent paint bleed-through, but thin enough to slide easily under the trim, over the carpet...and, if it works, they will make what could have been an awful, awful project of removing carpet and/or trim, quite simple indeed.

Here's hoping this "look-what-I-did-creatively!" post isn't shortly followed by a "why-did-I-think-that-would-work?" one. Oh, well. This is how we learn!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Without Further Ado...

...allow me to (finally) reveal the updated kitchen in our new abode!

We've had the kitchen at this stage for a couple of weeks now, but what with our overwhelmingly-busy schedule as of late and, quite frankly, being rather tired of talking or thinking about the project overall, it's taken until now to write about it. You understand.

Anyway, a quick reminder of where we started and what we had to work with...

After staring at this in the living room for far too long getting all of these painted...

A coat of primer on each side + 2 coats of paint per side + drying time
= a much longer project than anticipated!

...and, after removing wallpaper...

Oh, so much wallpaper....
I'm still not ready to talk about it.
...mudding, then sanding, the sheetrock...

...priming and painting the base cabinetry...

...buying a fridge (!!!)...

...priming and painting the trim and walls...

We used two tones of grey, one above the chair rail in the dining area,
and a darker tone on the island and above the cabinetry.

(Valspar "Clean White", Olympic "Thin Ice", Olympic "Flagstone", & Valspar "Graphite"
all color-matched to Olympic Premium Semi-Gloss, Zero-VOC)

...painting the back of the built-ins, a la Young House Love...

We used the same deep tone for the built-ins as was used
below the chair rail in the dining area.
...and using a kitchen that looked like this for a while...

Mom was right...
it was surprisingly handy to not have the cabinet doors! 

...we bought and installed new hardware, and ended up with this!

We could not be happier with the finished product as it stands now. (I love the way YHL refers to their project photos: 'Before' and 'In Progress', instead of 'After'. There's always something else to do. Is it ever really finished?!)

We chose the white kitchen in order for the cabinetry to coordinate with the already-white built-ins, and it is most certainly a much more cohesive look now. The room feels far more open and inviting, and we were tickled by how our color choices really do work with the existing tile flooring. I absolutely love how much lighter the room is, how the white appliances (that I was never particularly fond of) now blend in almost seamlessly with the cabinetry, and how the butcher-block countertop really "fits" now. As my mom said, the kitchen now "feels contemporary, yet classic"...and, more importantly, it is very much "us".

Sure, there's more to be done. We have visions of a silver pendant light above the sink, new (non-fluorescent) lighting fixtures for the ceiling, and under-cabinet lighting, too. Bobby wants to paint the trim in the ceiling above the table, and we still need to paint the window trim...and the door frames...and the doors. But, all in due time. For now, we are just absolutely enjoying this feeling of completion and success for what we've done together so far! (And, I do mean "together". This project was so much fun, and so meaningful, because it was a joint effort. I'm having a blast making this house our home, with Bobby.)

We really did start our home renovation career with what I would consider to be one of the more challenging, costly, and lengthiest projects. We've agreed that anything else is going to seem like a piece of cake! Take, for example, our next project in the line-up...painting the non-wallpaper-covered living room! Shoot, that'll be a breeze.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The 100th Post

As this is my 100th blog post, it seems only fitting to briefly acknowledge the occasion. 'One hundred' sounds like a rather large number when I think about how, for each one of those posts, I've had to sit down, collect my thoughts, and share my musings with the world whoever wants to read about it. It's taken some discipline and confidence to do that! But, I'm so glad I decided to give this whole 'write-a-blog' thing a "go". 

In my very first post I wrote:

"What this will become I’m still unsure, but at this time with a changing world and the changes that I am facing at this point in my own life, the opportunity to write my thoughts on a regular basis seems to be a good idea."
January 20, 2009

I couldn't have said it better myself. (Wait....) Truly, though, that sentiment seems as fitting now as it did two years ago, and it continues to be a really fun thing to be able to reflect on my life through this medium.

Thanks for letting me share with you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The "Royal" Family

The face that stole our hearts and we couldn't resist.
Bobby and I have been "puppy parents" for almost 48 hours now, and we are having entirely too much fun. We brought Royal home from the Humane Society on Monday evening, and he has been a joy ever since! (Interesting fact: Royal, formerly known as 'Brandon', is from Joplin. He wasn't misplaced by the tornado, but was moved to Springfield in order to make room at the Joplin shelter for other animals who were.)

That night, Royal made himself right at home. He was still a bit drowsy from his surgery (a fact which we realize even more now that he isn't), but he was very friendly...lots of snuggling and kisses! We like to think that he was grateful to be ours.
He slept through the night, with no whining, barking, or otherwise bothersome puppy behavior. Bobby and I were quite impressed, especially since there was a storm that night, complete with thunder, lightning, and rain. And, for a puppy at a new home sleeping on the patio, we were a bit worried about him. But, when we got out of bed at 2:30 a.m. to sneakily look out the window, he was neither upset, moving around, or otherwise disturbed. All seemed to be well. (Of course, we still had a hard time falling back to sleep. We are new parents, after all.)

Now, after two days of settling into his new home, Royal seems to be a playful (chasing his tail, robins, or running around with a leafy-stick seem to be his favorite hobbies), happy (that tail hasn't stopped wagging!), and loyal dog. He seems to handle being alone decently enough (he lived in a shelter, after all), but he really, I repeat, really, wants to be close to us all the time. In fact, he rarely leaves the patio by himself...which means that he also doesn't use the patio's doggy-door of his own accord to "go potty". Hello, house patio-training! The bad news is that he treats the patio as though it's indoors, and waits for us to let him out; the good news is, he (usually) waits for us to let him out.

The plan is for Royal to stay an outside dog. But, he really is happiest when we're with him, and the fact is, we love hanging out with him, too. Bobby said last night, though, that he doesn't want to live outside...which is pretty much what we've done for the past two days in order to spend time with our new pet. I was incredibly adamant during our pre-dog days that our soon-to-be-dog live outside, although multiple people tried to tell me that that never works. This is how we learn, I suppose. So, we'll see. There is most certainly a lot to consider!

In any case, Royal is now learning how to sit, how to deal with being on a leash, how to use one spot of the yard to "go potty", and that it isn't okay to bark at people. As my mom said, it's hard to know if some of his current behaviors are a result of a) being a puppy, b) his breed--Golden Retriever mix, in case you were curious...we're pretty sure there's some Beagle in him, too, c) living in a shelter for months, or d) all of the above. 

We've got some work to do, but he seems very teachable, and very eager to please. The biggest lesson I hope he's learning is that we're not going anywhere. No one's going to take him away, and we'll always come back. It's fun to think that maybe he's starting to understand that....

Bobby and I have a new joint "project", a new shared love of another living thing, and we're really enjoying this adventure together. If the excitement we feel about waking up early in the morning to see our "baby", the absurd number of photos I've taken to capture it all, and the joy we're experiencing in loving (and being loved by) this animal is any indication of what parenthood is like.... If being a puppy-parent is even remotely comparable to the joy that being a person-parent is...well, that's pretty incredible, and definitely something to look forward to.

Welcome to our family, Royal. You're a keeper! We hope we get to love you for a long, long time. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Milestone Day

Today is a milestone day in the Phillips family for two reasons.

Number One:

I have now done my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd load of laundry in the new house.

I know what you're thinking. "Wait, haven't you lived there for a month or so now? You're just now doing laundry? Gross." I'd be thinking the same thing. But, we've been doing laundry at my parents' house since we moved home in November. Yes, that's 7+ months of hauling baskets of clothes to and fro. This entirely generous move on Mom and Dad's part allowed us to avoid renting or buying a washer and dryer set in our apartment, and then, after we moved into the house, gave us a bit of time before we needed to make another big appliance purchase. We are really, really grateful for how it all worked out. But, our very own washer and dryer are now installed, and today it has been so very nice to carry the dirty clothes just 30 seconds from the closet to the laundry room. It's the little things, I suppose.

Number Two:

In approximately one hour, we'll be bringing home a new addition to our family!

On Saturday, Bobby and I adopted a 4.5 month old puppy from the Humane Society. After much discussion, weighing the options and considering our decision, we agreed...we're ready for a pet. We've waited patiently, we have a great yard, and if not now, when?! It really seems like the perfect "post-house purchase, pre-baby" step...and we are both pretty excited about it.

Our puppy had to be neutered over the weekend, but he should be ready to go this evening. (I should think so, after that procedure.) We can't wait to bring our sweet guy home! 'Puppy parenthood', here we come!

Like I's a milestone day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

On a Not-So-Magic Carpet Ride

Here I was, spending the morning building up my momentum for writing about the major house progress we've made. (I've admittedly done an awful job so far of documenting our work. It's been a crazy spring.) Then, as I was straightening the living room by removing the paint supplies from aforementioned house progress, catastrophe struck. (Okay, I recognize that "catastrophe" is a bit dramatic. But, for the sake of, well, dramatic effect, just go with it.)

Said catastrophe has taken up the past hour of my morning, and left me at the moment with little motivation to blog about our home improvement progress. But, it really only seems fitting to discuss one of the major house failures before talking about our first big success. Right?

I thought I could balance more than three 32 oz. yogurt containers full of latex paint.

I couldn't. (I now know that carrying three stacked on top of each other is reasonable; anything more is just asking for trouble.) 

The yogurt container holding the dark grey paint (oops, spoiler...we used some dark grey paint in the kitchen renovation) toppled over, leaving a rather large and ever-so-quickly spreading blob on the light tan living room carpet.

What, you're expecting a picture?
There was no time to snap a photo at a time like this.
But, I know...I wish I had one, too.

Did we get any paint on the carpet while the kitchen cabinets were laying in the living room for a month? Nope. (This is why we used drop cloths, I suppose. Still, we never even really so much as dripped profusely on them. Oh, the irony.)

I think I stared blankly at the blob for a second, and then leapt into action ran into the kitchen to grab whatever towel I could get a hold of. After quickly sopping up the paint on the surface, and unintentionally creating a rather unfortunate larger circumference of grey carpet, I realized I was facing what could turn into a really big problem. 

If there was no time to take a picture at a time like this, there wasn't time to Google "what to do if latex paint lands in a big soppy mess all over your carpet", either. (I still haven't researched what I should have done in this situation. Frankly, I don't want to know. It's probably too late now, and hey, I did the best I could.)

After using up our collection of 'towels-we-don't-really-care-about-and-can-use-for-such-a-mess', and creating a few more towels that now fall into that category, I poured entire glasses of water over the carpet (yes, I said glasses...are you getting a good picture of how much of a mess this was?). Then, after diluting/attempting to dilute the puddle of paint that was soaking deeper and deeper into the carpet, I grabbed the big ol' gallon of carpet cleaning concentrate from the garage. (We've been meaning to use the carpet cleaner we borrowed from Bobby's parents. Yay for new incentive!) So, I poured a bit way more than I should have directly onto the newly-grey carpet, and proceeded to use the product exactly not to manufacturer instructions.

Did I dilute it? Nope. Did I use it with the carpet cleaning machine? Nope. (I was the machine, people!) I scrubbed and I soaked up as much liquid (that was now, thankfully, a much lighter grey) as I possibly could. 

By this point, I also ran out of paper towels. There goes the idea of stocking up and not having to buy any for a while. Oh, well. I knew I clipped that Bounty coupon for a reason.

Long story a bit shorter, I've done as much as I think I can at this point. We'll see what happens when it's dried. For now, it's obviously slightly discolored in comparison to the rest of the carpet, but it is far less glaringly obvious that something tragic happened there than it was a while ago. (Whew! That could have been an embarrassing conversation starter for every houseguest we'll have for years to come that I would not have enjoyed having....)

Here's the good news: 

1. I think I did a darn good job of attempting to remedy the situation. I wish it wouldn't have happened, but it's cleaned to the point of being almost like it didn't. Plus, it's in a relatively-shaded part of the room, so the light doesn't exactly emphasize the problem. 

2. It's not new carpet. Far from it. But, it's (still!) in decent-enough condition to not need immediate replacing. (That's on the list of projects for say, 5 years down the road...barring any other unforeseen paint splatters or the like.) This wasn't the first stain, and I'm certain it won't be the last. 

3. That's probably the cleanest part of our carpet right now! Minus the new grey tint, of course. 

4. It had to happen sometime! Look at us, just making the house "ours" in so many ways.... Now it's a memory, and when we do replace the carpet down the road and they pull up the padding and there's a big grey spot, I'll smile. (Oh, yes, I'm sure it soaked down that far. Believe me, it was bad.) These things happen, and I'm thankful to have the perspective that it is just carpet. Life goes on. I'm also thankful, as I suspect Bobby will be, that I'm the first one to cause such a dreadful spill. It's entirely possible that I would have reacted less-calmly had it been someone else make the first big mess. (I'm not proud of that, but it's true.) 

Speaking of Bobby, unless I get brave enough to call him before I post this, this will be the first he hears about it. Not that I'm afraid to tell him, but really, it's not as if anyone would want to get this call at work:

"Hey babe, just wanted to call and say that I almost ruined our carpet this morning!" 

Truth be told, Bobby isn't always able to check my blog during the day, so he'll either be able to read it and hopefully get a kick out of this, or I can see if he spots the spot when he gets home. We might find out just how noticeable the stain is...and he might just learn that it's best to stay caught up on his reading. :)

So, there you have it...what I would consider to be the first "how could we let this happen to our new-to-us house?!" moment. 

I'm certain, now that I've shared this home un-improvement, I'll be ready to give an update on how nicely we're treating the house, too. Soon, very soon!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

You Make Me Smile

One of the perks of being a big sister is getting to do things 1st…driving, going to high school, going on dates…. One of the sacrifices of being a big sister…is getting to do things 1st. A younger sibling has the opportunity to learn from what you did right, and what you did wrong, and do things differently, if need be. Some of you may recall Rachel’s mentioning in her Maid of Honor toast at my wedding, my attempted effort to include the Dr. Quinn theme song somewhere in the day’s events. That didn’t happen. Rachel got it done today, and I commend you, Rachel, for your tribute to our mutually-beloved program. Very well done.

I think it’s fair to say that, as her older sister, I played a role in influencing who Rachel is today, but it would be flattering myself to think that I was the only, or even the primary factor. Rather, this beautiful bride is the confident, capable, independent, spirited woman she is because of her relationship with Christ, the leadership of our parents, her friends, her education, and her new husband, Brice.

Brice, you are a good man. I was worried we wouldn’t get to see you again after you backed your truck into my car the week of my wedding, but after you came to the door, faced my dad and took responsibility, I knew you’d be around for good. You make my sister so very happy, and I thank you dearly for that.

When Rachel and Brice were newly engaged, the song “You Make Me Smile” by Uncle Kracker was playing frequently on the radio. Rachel gave some thought to using that song somehow in today’s festivities, and it was about at that same time that I began to think about what I might say today. I couldn’t stop thinking about the title of that song, and how Rachel has made me, has made our family, has made everyone who has the pleasure of knowing her…smile.

Her quick-wittedness, her recitation of movie quotes, the way she always knows just how to make us laugh…the memories I have of growing up with her: administrating the last of the “quinine” from an empty vanilla bottle to our imaginary patients (just like Dr. Mike), playing Power Rangers with Dad in the front yard, and swinging on the tire swing in the back. Singing at the piano together as Mom played….

So many things to smile about. Today, I smile at my little sister, who has grown into my friend, a stunning bride…a wife.

Brice, I hope you recognize, I think you do, the treasure that Rachel is. Just as she has made all who know her smile for so many years, I know the two of you will continue to bring joy and smiles to all of us as you grow in your marriage in years to come.

I don’t know that I’ve been married long enough to give many words of wisdom about marriage, but as your big sister, I must give this advice. Help each other smile, too, and keep smiling.

Rachel, you make me smile…you always have. To my sister and her new husband, Mr. and Mrs. Flynn, I love you both. Congratulations!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird...Or Two

We acquired with the house a small, backyard fountain that Bobby and I recently cleaned and got into working order. We scrubbed off the algae, rearranged the rocks around the edge, and have since been enjoying the gentle sound of running water as we sit on the patio in the evenings.

We also have a birdbath elsewhere in the yard, but it's old and cracked and barely holds any water. We've been working on finding a replacement.

Now we're working faster.

Because yesterday I discovered that our fountain is a murderous trap for our backyard wildlife. There were two dead birds floating in the water yesterday, and this is on top of the toad that was belly-up in there a week or so ago. (The amphibian I can understand. How the poor birds managed to get themselves killed, I don't know.)

The point is, it was rather tragic to discover that what we thought was a pleasant addition to our landscaping is instead a deathtrap. Not exactly what we were going for. 

The long-term solution may have to be getting rid of the fountain. But, for now, Bobby will be removing the birds (I love you, dear!), we'll try adding some chlorine tablets, and you'd better believe that I'll be monitoring the water supply in the real birdbath more closely.

Good grief. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

April Shower

In preparation for Rachel's wedding on Saturday, 
here's a little glimpse of the bridal shower brunch 
that I hosted for her mid-April. 

It was such fun scheming & planning & decorating for this occasion, and I think it turned out to be a special time for Rachel and her friends. I know I enjoyed it!  

 Fabric banner inspired by Social Graces.
Ribbon window covering inspired by sheer and chiffon.

The bride-to-be! 

Happy Wedding Week, sister! Let's do this!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Still Honeymooning

A month or so ago, Social Graces highlighted my honeymoon to St. Lucia as part of their honeymoon series! Once again, it was an honor to be a part of what they're doing (exciting stuff!), and it was such fun to reflect on what was such a memorable time in my life...and to be given an opportunity to share it!

I find myself thinking back to our time in the Caribbean again this week. Our dear friends and favorite newlyweds, Mr. and Mrs. Piatt, are in St. Lucia right now enjoying their honeymoon. Admittedly I'm a bit jealous, but mostly just thrilled for them; I know what a grand time they must be having! We can't wait to hear all about it!

I realized when writing my Social Graces submission that my honeymoon took place before I was back in the blogging-on-a-regular-basis-swing-of-things, and I never shared much about it. For posterity's sake, I think it would be valuable to record more details about the experience. In a funny way, I'm thankful to have waited so long to share, as I suspect my appreciation and reflections of the trip are different now than they would have been nearly two years ago....

Never before have I longed to jump into a photo and insert myself into a scene as much as I do with the image below….

The above photo is of my husband, Bobby, and me on our honeymoon in St. Lucia during late-August 2009. The image captures everything I loved about our trip…the sand, the sun, the setting, and having my new husband by my side. We stayed at the Sandals La Toc all-inclusive resort, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The honeymoon was everything we hoped it would be…relaxing, romantic, and memorable.

And goodness, was it ever memorable?! On our first full day at the resort, Bobby tossed me playfully into the water…and accidentally tossed his wedding band, too! Talk about a devastating moment. I suspect I will forever remember the look on Bobby’s face when he realized the ring had flown off…and the frantic (though futile) search through the waves, helplessly hoping against the odds that we’d find the ring. Unfortunately, we did not.

The Sandals catchphrase (at the St. Lucian properties, anyway) is “no pressure…no problem”, and we very much appreciated the island’s laid-back, carefree perspective throughout our stay. No more so than in the hours after our “loss”. Sad as we were, that time was precious. It was the first real test of how we, as husband and wife, handled a trying situation. And, I must say, we handled it quite well. We recognized that it was only a piece of jewelry…just a symbol of the commitment we had made…and our day and our trip were far from ruined because of a lost ring.

We actually had so much fun during our time in St. Lucia that we literally lost all track of time, and tried to leave one day early. We weren’t in a hurry to leave…far from it! We just miscalculated. (How, I’ll never know.) We got so far as to pack our things, checkout of the resort, and board the shuttle. Thank goodness we looked at the tickets once more before we started the hour-long commute to the airport…good grief.

Sure, we had one more day to enjoy the tropics…but that was also the day that my prescription sunglasses joined the ring at the bottom of the sea. The trip turned out to be more costly than planned, but as they say, “no pressure…no problem!”

I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the St. Lucian people and the Sandals experience. (It was just as breathtaking and incredible as the commercials make the resorts appear!) But, besides the fine dining and luxurious accommodations…besides lounging on the beach and soaking up the sun…besides candlelit dinners and moonlit walks by the water…besides all of those wonderful things, we experienced something else for the first time in St. Lucia. We experienced the blessing of what it means to be husband and wife, sticking together, for better or worse. How lucky for us that we got to discover that in such a beautiful place!

Losing the ring wasn’t the last time we’ve faced trying times in our nearly two years of marriage. (Actually, we’ve replaced the wedding band more than once, but that’s neither here nor there.) And, those experiences are always difficult. But, when I look at that photo on the beach, I am immediately taken back to that happy, blissful day at the beginning of our marriage. I can almost feel the hot Caribbean sun and the sand beneath my feet. Beyond that, though, it is a constant reminder of the excitement and anticipation I felt as a newlywed. And while we’re far from the Caribbean these days, I’m still exactly where I love to be, next to my husband, and full of joy that I’m his bride.

St. Lucia holds a special place in our hearts, and we would visit again in a heartbeat. Though this time, I’m sure, we’d leave the jewelry and eyewear at home….