Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Four-Month Blur Pictorially Recapped

Today is our four month wedding anniversary so you might be asking, "Hey! What the heck have you guys been up to for the last four months?!" to which I would likely respond by blankly starting into space trying to come up with an organized answer.  Maybe none of you are really losing sleep over knowing what we've been up to, but since I could not for the life of me get my thoughts in order, I decided to pull out the ole' camera to jog my memory and put together this little four month pictorial.  As it turns out, we've been exhaustingly busy...

First, we got married, yeay!
Photo: Black Thumb Studio
 ..and high fives were generously dolled out...
Photo: Black Thumb Studio
...then we went on our honeymoon for 10 nights and 11 sun-filled blissful days...
 ...where Ryan made friends with the enemy...
...and I passed out fell asleep at the pool...
...and we met some really great people!
...and ate a LOT of food like this Indian sampling at Batsmati (took us about a week to build up the guts (literally) to try it and it was delicious!)...
...and this dessert which was the best thing I have ever tasted in my entire life...
...and we went repelling off a questionably flimsy man made structure cliff...
...and got to swim with sea turtles!
...oh yeah and I almost forgot the highlight of the week - Ryan won musical quiz all by himself!
After we reluctantly returned from the honeymoon, I dragged us to Russel Orchards to pick strawberries and learned how to make my own jam...
...which I made as favors for Ryan's 30th which we celebrated on June 24th (and I forgot to hand them out!).
...On June 29th we enjoyed the first Summer adventure on the Sea Pup with some of my besties:
On July 16th I bought my $19.99 media hutch at savers (more on that later) which ended up being my big summer project as I sanded (a little) and repainted it (a lot) for our living room:
On July 21, dad had his liver surgery (sadly I don't have a picture of this!) and once we visited him in the hospital and got the green light to leave the state, we traveled to CT for the Atkinson wedding where, per usual, it turned into a love fest between Ryan and his friends (notice Ryan's new bling!):
On July 29 we headed to NH for Mu'11 with the Hewitt family:
On August 19 we drove Andrew back to Virginia Tech since Dad was still recovering,
and on Sept 2. I took my Latina girlfriend Gaby out for her birthday:

A lot more has happened in the last four months but these are a few of the highlights.  I spent a ton of time with Erica and my sister Carrie (love you seester!), did a LOT of house projects which I will be posting over the next week or so, and ate more grilled catfish tacos than I'm comfortable to admit (thanks to Ryan's family for the new grill!).  I also managed to keep my tan into August which is a triumph in and of itself and keep learning every day what it means to be a loving, supportive wife.  Looking forward to another four months!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hit the Nail on the Head!

I love anything with nail heads almost as much as I love anything upholstered.  In fact, in many cases, the two go hand-in-hand.  I've been wanting a nailhead headboard for the master bedroom for a few months now, but since I'm still a ways away from choosing a paint color, window treatments, etc., I figured it would be smart to hold off just in case the room takes on a completely different look than what I am picturing in my head (which, as we know, was the case with the living room!).  Although I have the headboard on the furniture "wait list", I did manage to snatch up two beautiful nailhead chairs at Marshall's without even considering where they might go in the new house.  Come to think of it, those chairs were my first and only big purchase since we moved in.  I saw them in the store, drove like a maniac back home to get Ryan, dragged him back to Marshall's, and was happily rearranging my new chairs in my empty dining room less than an hour later.  I'm not an impulsive spender, but I knew I HAD to have those chairs and would find the perfect place for them.  They ultimately became the inspiration for the dining room wall color and decor since I agonized for a few months over the perfect color paint to complement their colonial gray/blue color.  In the end I chose Martha Stewart's Cumulus Cloud which is a soft pale blue with enough gray in it to push it out of the "baby blue" category.

I was so excited about my new chairs that I asked my wedding photographer take a picture of me sitting in one of the chairs on my wedding day.  He happily obliged and his intern got this great shot of the whole chair(ignore the wrinkly curtain):

Photo: Black Thumb Studio -
I did a quick pinterest search and found some images that inspired me to think of other nailhead projects in addition to the headboard idea.  I love the idea of adding them to a bordered rug.  I have a rug at home that needs a new fabric border and this would be such an easy way to add fabric without sewing.
I also love the modern take on this bench (which was placed in a kitchen but I think would look great in a foyer).  While I don't have the wall space in my foyer (or kitchen for that matter), I really like how the nailhead backboard makes a simple bench look so luxurious and expensive.
Here's another idea for a nailhead screen which I was also thinking of incorporating into the master bedroom.  Although subtle, the nail heads add some texture and dimension to an otherwise plain screen (although I will admit, the color is fabulous!).
Finally, because Halloween is almost a month away, here is an amazing idea for nailhead pumpkins!  I'm not very good at carving pumpkins so I love the idea of adding nail heads to make a design (other pictures that I found had a house number or monogram on the pumpkin which I also thought was a very unique idea).
Oh, what the heck, here is the one with the monogram - love it!
...aaaaaaaand some really cute chairs that I also saw when finding the second pumpkin picture.  I promise, that's it!
Does anyone else have any good nailhead pictures of projects that you might have done on your own?  I'm dying for new ideas!

Usless disclaimer: I did an extensive Google search (because I am 100% "Type A") to figure out if nail head is one or two words (I found various sites using both ways).  I discovered that when used as a noun, it should be two seperate words like, "I bought some inexpensive nail heads to add to a chair", but when used as an adjective, it should be one word like, "I love nailhead headboards". Don't you feel so much smarter now? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Last Day of Summer 2011

Most people who know me know that Fall is my favorite season.  September is a time where a lot of people cling to those last days of summer and wish that the warm weather would never end.  I can relate.  Last Winter tested my sanity as we adjusted to a new (and much longer) commute and the new responsibilities of home-ownership amidst record-breaking snowfall that would. not. stop.  We passed papers on Friday, Dec. 17, moved in on Saturday, Dec. 18,  and saw our first snowfall on Monday, Dec. 20.  By Jan. 31, Massachusetts had received 60.3 inches of snow as reported by  Here are some pictures taken on January 12 when the city of Boston issued a snow emergency and we had to stay home from work.  To think, this wasn't even the worst of it... A few short weeks later we would run out of space to put the snow which brought on new challenges other than the simple inconvenience of having to shovel some snow.

We were lucky this tree fell in the perfect spot in our yard...I just laughed when I saw it lying there and figured someone was playing a terrible joke on me
Where was I...oh yeah, FALL.  So as I can relate to those people who feel Winter looming in the background as the Summer days come to a close, I also can't help but love this time of year.  The crispness of the air, the smell of a cozy fire in the distance, something warm cooking in the all makes me giddy with excitement to run home after work and get into some "cozies", as we like to call them in our home, and enjoy the indescribable mystery that comes with this season.
The Fall has always been a time of new beginnings for me.  Most notably, the beginning of a new school year and, in many cases, new relationships.  Ryan and I started dating (secretly) during the Fall of 2006.  I can't believe five years have gone by so quickly and yet it seems like we've been together forever.  I always look at the Fall season as a time to start new projects and reorganize my priorities.  Where the Summer seems distracting and unpredictable to me, the Fall is a time for reflection, redirection, and rejuvenation.  I think that's why I get so excited about it. 

I wish I could say that things just fell into place from there.  They didn't.  We had to work for that house and it was a grueling process at times.  The sellers were totally unreasonable and demanding, and we had to learn a lot about mortgages and home inspections in a very short amount of time.  But we didn't give up, and I think we appreciate it all the more knowing that we stuck to what was important to us while making sure we were making good financial decisions.  This post didn't start out as a look back to our house purchase...I clearly went off subject (my bad), but I felt inspired to share the tougher details of our house purchase and what we went through a year ago.  It's easy to throw in the towel when things get tough or do not go according to plan.  Sometimes it's smart to walk away and sometimes it's smart to not lose site of the end goal when the details and process gets overwhelming.  It's a balance which we learned then, and I'm sure we will learn again in the years to come.
This time last year Ryan and I were at the peak of our house-hunting.  I knew that our window of opportunity was running out with the Winter quickly approaching and the wedding shortly after. We told ourselves that if we didn't find a place by the end of October, we would shelf the house hunt until after we were married.  I don't think I had a chance to fully appreciate the Fall season since we were so tied up with house-hunting, wedding planning, and me entering my final year of grad school.  September through December last year was the most chaotic and stressful time of my entire life.  I felt torn in a million different directions and never got to enjoy my favorite season.  Ironically, we put our first and only offer on our now home on Halloween day, quite possibly the last day we were going to set out to look at houses.  As Ryan said to Erica as we left her house that morning, "We're off to look at a bunch of houses we aren't going to by" (we were pretty discouraged at that point), I had a feeling we just might find "the one" during our journey.  Sure enough, as we were standing in house #3 with my friend Kate who was our patient realtor, I found myself thinking about the first house we looked at that day.  We had initially dismissed it because there was a sign on the front door that said something to the effect of it being sold to the highest bidder by the end of the weekend.  We thought it was a short sale and were kind of frightened by that, but Kate quickly looked up the details and found out that it was a company that was selling the house rather than it being a foreclosed property.  It was also priced well within our budget.  We had to admit that it was the best house we had seen by far in our 9+ month search, and it would be worth throwing in an offer just for the heck of it.  There were multiple offers on the house (also scary) but we didn't let that send us into a panic.  Maybe since we were already feeling pretty defeated, we put in our best offer and called it a day. Nothing crazy, but a respectable offer since we knew it was intentionally under-priced in order to create a bidding war (which never happened thankfully!).  None of us ever thought we'd get a call the following day saying that they wanted to work with our offer.  It was a very happy day for us. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Get Yer' Swizzle On

After going back and forth on a few different ideas, I chose to place individual swizzle sticks at each place setting for our guests at the reception.  I did not grow up calling them swizzle sticks.  I know them as "rock candy", however, after some investigation, I learned that rock candy refers to the bits of candy that comprise the actual candy stick.  Where the "swizzle" comes from, I have no idea, but since I like some variety, I'll probably use both terms interchangably just to add confusion to what was supposed to be a simple post. :)
 I searched around for a while to find the perfect color swizzle to my stick (now I'm kind of having fun typing the word "swizzle").  I actually google imaged them to see what kind of options were out there and found a lovely aqua color that caught my attention.  Since I did not want to have a nautical-themed wedding (as mentioned in last week's post here) I did want to "make a reference" (as the judges on Project Runway would say) to the ocean rather than "going too literal" with my design concept (which I could totally see myself doing without strict supervision of my alter-ego which is a bit more refined than my dominant ego who would have made paper sailor hats for everyone and would have gone so, SO overboard with the sand dollars, sea glass and starfish if she had her way...).  So I thought that the aqua rock candy was the perfect pop of color needed to achieve my desired nod to the ocean. 
 I scoured the Internet for the best deal on rock candy and found that Oh! Nuts was offering the best price and quantity selection for the amount I needed.  Plus I did some extra digging and found an online coupon to sweeten the deal (I am embarrassed for myself...).  I ordered the candy with enough time to do what I wanted with them (i.e. spruce them up with a little tag) but not enough time for them to sit in my kitchen for too long since Ryan and I are avid candy lovers and did not need the extra candy calories right before the big day.  Much to my surprise, they arrived sooner than expected, without a single broken piece, AND I ended up getting an extra box of 20 which might have been an accident (so we had plenty to "sample" without risking any of our guests paying the price for our candy addiction). 
I showed a picture taken by our amazing photographers at Black Thumb Studio in this post but I also took several pictures of them all together the day before the wedding (how I found time to do a little swizzle stick photo shoot, I have no idea...).

It's my sticks-in-a-box!
I probably would have chosen a different way to do the tag since the humidity of our wedding week did not cooperate with the adhesive tape I used to keep the tag together.  But to give a little breakdown of what I did, I simply printed a few sheets of heavy cardstock with the "Joanna & Ryan" script typed out and used my paper-cutter to cut them to size.  Then I folded the tag in half, rolled a small piece of adhesive tape (I like Mono Adhesive but any kind of roll-on archiving or double-sided scrap booking tape will do) on one of the inside halves, stuck the stick in the middle, and pinched the tag together.  Then I cut a little < to make it look like a flag.  It worked, but with more time I might have tried a few other options just to see if something else worked better.
...And a more artsy pic thanks to 

...and the final product on a guest's place setting

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ahoy Matey!

I was just as surprised as anyone when my living room started to look alarmingly nautical after a mid-summer throw pillow shopping spree.  I've been trying my best to live with two very ugly (but very comfy!) couches that my parents gave us a couple years ago that we painfully moved to the new house (despite my plan to leave them on the side of the road).  I scored some suede-ish slip covers at The Christmas Tree Shop about 6 months ago in a soft pool color which has helped me embrace the couches for now, but the new covers meant that the orangy and green/pink floral throw pillows had to go.  I was having a hard time deciding what color to paint the living room after painting the adjoining dining room Martha Stewart's Cumulus Cloud.  I waned to choose a complimentary color but something that would hold its own without letting the dining room steal the show.  I was pretty convinced that I wanted to paint the room a "colonial purple" color (whatever that is) but after painting about 5 different shades of purple, I came to terms with the fact that it wasn't going to work.  So instead of trying to start the room makeover by painting the walls, I decided to move forward with styling the room in hopes that the perfect color choice would reveal itself in the process.

I had never been to West Elm before but decided to stop there after work with Ryan to look for some curtain panels for the living room.  I heard they had a good selection and was impressed with what I saw online so I figured we'd give it a shot and see if they had anything on sale.  I liked the curtains but since I needed SIX panels just for one room, I could not justify spending $40-$100+ on each panel, so I soothed my frustration by diverting my attention to the sale corner.

And that, my friends, is when I saw THESE:
I tried to quickly walk away from them (I mean WHALE PILLOWS? that's a little much, even for me) but I kept finding a reason to meander back over to the sale corner and run my hands over the silky fabric and smile at how happy the whales made me feel.  Ryan must have seen me in the corner cradling the pillow cover in my hands because he came over and casually said,
"Oh, what do you have there?" As if he didn't already see the strong bond I was developing with the whales swimming in their beautiful silk ocean.
"Oh, just a pillow cover," I said. "They are kind of silly I guess." 
"Do you want to get one?" Ryan asked. 
"Nah, it's fine."
"You can," he said.
"Maybe I can just get one and try it out and return it if I don't like it," I said.
"That a'girl," he said (I love him).
So I went to the counter to purchase my whale pillow cover but made sure to look and see if there were a few more in the sale bin juuuuuuust in case I "needed" to get another one.  And off we went back home.

The following day Ryan was distracted with something (sports probably) so I took advantage of the situation to do a little shopping on my own.  And wouldn't you know it, I wound up back at West Elm buying a second pillow cover for "the whales to have some friends to look at on the other couch".  On my way home, I happened to pass Crate and Barrel so I bopped in (Ryan hates when I say "bop") to see if they had any pillows on sale (or anything else for that matter) and found these puppies on sale...
...which I thought would be a nice complimentary color and sort of pulled out the teal in the tail and flipper (fin? I don't know my whale anatomy...) in the pillow.   THEN I just happened to pass Home Goods on my way home (part 2) and found some cool cabana stripped navy and white pillows for $9!  I couldn't find a picture of them online but I was very excited to see that Sherry from Young House Love also bought the same ones in green seen here.  Actually I did end up finding a picture of something similar but I don't think this is exactly them (I promise one of these days I will take some real photos of the room!).

Where was I...oh yeah, SO, I was very excited about my pillows and staged propped them on the couches so that I could see how they worked together..and I was in love.  While I tend to lean towards more formal decor, especially given the colonial style of my home, I love how the whale pillows look so luxurious and expensive while sending the message that, "We don't take ourselves too seriously around here."  I had to laugh when my mother came over and saw these pillows and said, "Sooooo, we're going nautical???" after months of listening to me insist that I would NOT have a nautical-themed wedding despite having my wedding reception overlooking Gloucester Harbor (another story for another time). I think these pillows were less about being nautical and more about being plain ole' fun (no idea where the apostrophe goes in "ole", before? after? Watch me continue on without getting hung up on it). 

So why is this so important to me?  It is no secret that I am drawn to the beauty of a fomally decorated room (lots of fabric, LOTS of upholstery and shiny accents...), and I am not ashamed to admit that the word "tufted" makes my toes tingle, however, I'm always worried that the fun of who I am as a person and who Ryan and I are as a couple will be lost in my love for formality and perfection.  It's something I think about a lot - how can we put some fun into this room? - and hope that I can find a balance between the two. Thankfully my budget does not allow me to get too crazy with the luxury and certainly supports the fun in repurposing second-hand furniture.  For now my whale pillows will be my little decorating mascots to remind me not to forget to have fun during this whole setting-up-home and decorating process and, most importantly, to value all the little things that bring me happiness every day.
PS how CUTE is this picture from

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall To Do List (Part 1 of many, I'm sure...)

I am what you would call, “task-oriented”. I need lists to feel like I’ve accomplished something. I’m one of those crazy people (or maybe I’m the only person) who writes lists of already completed tasks, just so I can cross them off a list and feel good about my accomplishments (neurotic much???). We did a ton of work on the house this summer without the use of a list (if you don’t count shopping lists to Lowe's and Home Depot) yet I feel like we’ve reached a stage in a few of our rooms that we need to focus on the “finishing” process so that I can start reducing the amount of random projects around the house. Enter the need for a new fall list. Part of being crazy "task-oriented" means that I also need to have a set deadline to have my projects complete. This will be an easy part of the process since the holidays are coming up and I find Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the start of the New Year to be great deadlines for my projects.
So here is my first attempt at creating a fall “to-do” list so that I can stay busy and keep on track before the cold months are upon us and I become an unmotivated couch potato… And since I didn’t create a list for the summer projects, I will add some items to my list below that are already compete due to the neurosis described above.

Living Room: This was the room that I worked on the most this summer. Due to a camera malfunction I have been unable to take pictures of the “after” part of the project. Stay tuned…

 • Find a paint color for the living room I ended up choosing Gray Morning by Behr
Start painting living room
Purchase/find a corner media console for TV and electronics and UGLY chords Found one at Savers for 19.99!
• Finish painting the bay window area of the room
• Take town curtains, iron, re-hang (after painting)
Find a coffee table (savers? IKEA?) Got one for frees (!) thanks to Erica’s stellar furniture scouting
Paint Hutch, add knobs, and transfer to living room
• Assemble IKEA bookcase and determine a good place for it. Line the back of the bookcase with wallpaper or decorative fabric
• Select some wall art or photos or mount Lenox chirp plates

Kitchen: I mostly reworked the layout of the kitchen to give myself more storage space and de-clutter the counters. I’m still deciding if I want to build an island but for now our craigslist table we bought for our old apartment is working just great.

 • Buy some storage furniture at IKEA to store and display plates, bowls, vases, etc. Bought an Expedit bookcase that I laid on its side and placed under the kitchen windows to extend the counter area.
Look into finding or buying a cute plate rack/shelf to display my collection of plates and mugs Just received one as a wedding gift from Erica and Beth – the one I had been coveting at IKEA! I love my friends…
Take off depressing ceiling lamp and replace with a track light. I bought an amazing track light at IKEA and Ryan installed it a few days later! I can’t believe how happy it makes me to be able to see what I am cooking at night.
• Research good electricians in the area and see if we can install a second light fixture in the kitchen (among a host of other electrical needs).
• Find some window curtains for the kitchen window in a light, cheerful pattern. I can’t really cross this off yet but I did find a lovely cotton fabric shower curtain at Target that I am going to use to make some curtains once I learn how to sew. Currently I just have the fabric tacked to the window.
• Push dishwasher into place and finish with a wood baseboard to match the cabinet baseboard.
• Organize cabinets
• Do something fun with chalkboard paint on one section of the wall

Dining Room: I haven’t really touched the dining room since we got married aside from moving a hutch that my parents gave us into the dining room closet. It was too big for the kitchen but I really love the storage/display functionality so it works well in the open closet. We took the door down so it looks like a built-in hutch (although getting it in there was an incredibly frustrating process!)

• Find/purchase a round table for the center of the room
• Sew a seat cushion for the window seat
• Consider wintry curtains for more coverage and protection from the draft
• Remove final remnants of wedding paraphernalia that is sitting on the floor without a home (possibly donate?).
• Reorganize furniture to create both a dining and seating area in the room
• Find a better light bulb for the pendant light
• Find a rug (possibly round?) that matches the color scheme
• Hang wall art/photos/maps on the wall

These projects will pretty much finish the first floor of the house for now which is the space that is most used by us and seen by visitors. I do have quite an adventure in front of me regarding the front foyer and stairs, but I’m basically going to continue ignoring that headache as I have done for the last 9 months since we moved in. I have some ideas in my head, but I really don’t think I will get motivated to do anything in that space until the rest of the first floor is complete. I’d rather commit to a plan for the larger rooms and then work in a complimentary entry/stair space since the kitchen, living room and dining room are visible from the front entry.