Sunday, December 22, 2013

What NOT to buy: A guide to last-minute Christmas shopping

We're almost to the home stretch, just a few days until Christmas and not many shopping hours left. I know a lot of people have probably procrastinated and still have a few last-minute gifts to pick up (Shane and I finished our list this morning) and this guide will help you see what NOT to buy for Christmas this year, unless you're a VERY strong believer in "It's the thought that counts!" You could buy pretty much anything else at the store and be good to go. The only people I would suggest buying these for are people you really hate but are still obligated to buy a gift for...then it would be hilarious. 

Walmart put out an interesting display of cookware this year, featuring a now-disgraced chef and a "Limited Time Only" sticker. This I wouldn't buy for the principle of it. And no, I'm not talking about the recent scandal with the Queen of Butter and the n-word, because that dead horse has been beaten enough and cookware is cookware, y'all. Heck, I have a set of this myself. The sole reason why I wouldn't buy this is because IT'S STILL FULL PRICE.  I know I'm not the only one who scoured the clearance section after the news broke just waiting for those super marked down items to roll through. Walmart obviously had a bunch of stock left just sitting around, waiting, until the story cooled enough to put this back out. 

Pre-packaged gift sets are hit or miss anyways, but this one is definitely a miss. First it comes with an odd number of jar mugs, which I'm guessing they did three because only putting two would look too dinky but putting four would cost too much. Next, what's with the off-brand koolaid? Do they even sell this knockoff brand in the grocery aisles? If you are crazy and just think this is the most adorable idea ever, please please just walk two aisles over to the holiday section, grab some of those mason jar cups with lids and straws and buy REAL KOOLAID. Everyone will thank you. 

These skirts and capris look awful enough before I tell you I found them in the HOSIERY section of Macy's with the leggings and jeggings. I wish everyone reading this could reach out and touch their computer screen and feel the texture of these, because it was just awful. We're talking the stretchiest, softest, thinnest material ever, which translates to looking terrible on anyone and everyone who would ever put these on. I mean if you're buying a seafoam green "denim-look" pencil skirt pair of skeggings (the word I just made up for skirt-leggings), you probably don't have the best fashion sense anyways, but still. 

This Macy's disaster was found on the rack right next to that lovely skirt. There are two types of socks in this picture. One is an acceptable gift. The other should die in a fiery explosion. Can you guess which is which? If you guessed the LEFT is the acceptable gift, you should probably just get everyone gift cards this year. What person over the age of four wears ruffled socks? And those ribbons would be a serious tripping hazard. Plus they're just awful. 

Miley and her twerking have made a huge splash this year but not even she would look good in these sweatpants at Spencer's, nor does their photo model. I don't even remember when sweatpants with words on the butt became popular but it has to have been nearly ten years ago now. Look how  high up the message is printed. Is that so in case you get embarrassed you're wearing lime green "twerk queen" pants you can conveniently cover it with your t-shirt? The model even has VPLs (visible panty lines), so just do yourself and humanity a favor and don't buy them. 

Shane and I are huge fans of board games but I wouldn't even waste my money on this, unless it was as a gag gift. I may be biased because I think the show is super boring anyways but the fact that Walmart has already added this to the clearance section suggests I'm not alone. What's next? A "Pawn Stars" game where someone tries to sell you a $20,000 painting and you haggle down to $20? Or how about a "Toddlers and Tiaras" game where you have to make tough choices like "Should I make my mortgage/water/gas bill payment this month or pay for 1/8th of Little Susie Mae's glitz dress?" 

For those who LOVE the Christmas Shoes song, do I have a movie for you! Perfect for anyone who loves to feel weepy and sad around the holidays for absolutely no reason. If you look really closely, you'll see at the bottom the caption says "The Christmas Shoes finds humor in an emotional story." I don't know what could possibly be funny about a kid buying shoes for his dying mother unless Rob Lowe brings a little Chris from Parks and Rec into the movie and says "literally" about a hundred times. 

Last on this year's guide is anything you wrap like this. Just wrap a bow around that big guy's neck and be done with it, no sense in wasting $2.50 on a not quite big enough plastic bag. If your kid is too stupid to figure out there's a teddy bear in that bag, then they need to be getting some books for Christmas. 

See my 2012 and 2011 guides to awful gifts for more ideas on what NOT to buy this holiday season :) 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas time is here again!

Only one week until Christmas and our halls are decked to the max! It's our first Christmas in our new home and it has been so fun decorating for the first time. 

A brand new 7.5' tree joined the family this year along with a colorful new tree topper. 

I'm in love!

Of course, our old tree looked so lonely sitting there in that box so it had to join the party too. And don't you love our little Eiffel Tower wrapped in lights?

This wall hanging is my most magical thrift store find, it was only $3 last year! And who knew Walmart would have super cute NOEL tealights?

I know, I know, you're all thinking it..."why aren't the stockings on the mantle?" We actually have our couch pushed up in front of the fireplace and every time we sat down, we knocked the stockings off their hangers. The stair railing made for a great compromise though and I actually kinda like them there better anyways. 

The Christmas flamingo, bought at a Kmart closing sale, is there to guard the stockings against early peekers.

Another compromise this year, wreath on the inside of the door. Our storm door is about an inch away from our front door and no amount of slamming would squeeze that wreath in there.

I finally pulled out our wedding table runner for the first time in five years :) 

And something else we've totally been putting off, dog paw print ornaments! I don't care if anyone thinks we're crazy dog people because we totally are, and I love our new ornaments. Charlie and Sheldon didn't enjoy making them too much but they were mostly cooperative. 

I'm not sure if Sheldon's in the Christmas spirit, but Charlie sure is!

He's even found a favorite new place to hang out. He only has to climb over all the presents and knock off most of the ornaments to get there. 

Happy Holidays from our  home to yours!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

I figured out why I was so stressed the other's because Christmas is so close to Thanksgiving this year and I was subconsciously worried that I'd run out of prep time. Not like I hand make all my gifts anyways or anything, so I don't know why I'm making such a big deal. And amazingly, I've already gotten so much crossed off! One Thanksgiving dinner under my belt and Christmas decorations almost done and I am feeling super accomplished. 

Saturday was the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, so what better way to celebrate than by hosting a viewing party and Friendsgiving dinner? It was my first time roasting a turkey and first time de-gibleting one. It was just as gross as I though it'd be. I had to have Julie Ann come over and help, since she'd watched her mom do it before, and we both definitely wore gloves. Shane got to video the whole thing because I knew it'd be pretty funny, and I was right!!

Cooked up pretty nice if I do say so myself. 

In fact, our only major mishap of the evening was when the macaroni and cheese packet ripped and exploded everywhere, then the paper packet landed on the hot hot burner. Julie Ann saved us from a kitchen fire on that one because I was so confused by the packet ripping out of my hand that I didn't even realize it was smoking on the stove. 

I quickly ran out of counter space and trivets and had to do some improvising, and I also made a gigantic mess. I am most thankful that Shane is so wonderful and did a fantastic job cleaning up after everyone left :) 

You like my "Makin' Bacon" S&P shakers? Thanks, Hannah

I still have plenty of family Thanksgiving dinners to go to but I'm already mentally moved on to Christmas now. Here's a preview of one of my favorite additions, a new tree star for a new (much larger) Christmas tree!

Our zombies and Psy made a new friend too!

Now I have GOT to go to bed, somehow I signed myself up for a turkey run at 6 AM in the freezing cold. I was supposed to be running to build up endurance, but that didn't happen. I may just show up, pick up the t-shirt and then go back to sleep. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dealing with pre-holiday stress, and a turkey picture!

As we all know, the holidays can be a very stressful time. Apparently for me, I don't even have to wait for the holidays to start enjoying the stress. Yesterday I was on the verge of a major breakdown, and to cope I decided to draw turkeys. 

I must just have a thing for turkeys, because I drew this one last year. 

But seriously, though, I wrote a to do list on Tuesday and came up with two and a half pages of things. 

I don't know how I have this many things to put on a to do list, but there it is. Don't worry, not everything has to be done tomorrow, in fact most aren't urgent at all, just things that have to be done in the somewhat near future. Writing it all out like this helped me visualize what all needs to be done, and it also let me empty my mind so I don't worry about forgetting every little thing. I didn't realize how much had been weighing on me until I wrote it all out like that. 

I also realized that most of my to do items are things that shouldn't be stressful, they should be FUN, like buying Christmas decorations for the new house or hanging up the picture frames I just got. I have decided to stop my ridiculous stressing and just ENJOY myself and the holidays. Because what's the point of buying Christmas gifts if you don't get to enjoy buying and gifting them? That's the whole point. But if I don't touch up the ceiling paint in the kitchen, it won't kill me. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Isn't yard work fun?

We've been in our house for close to three months and I still can't believe we're homeowners! I mean, it all happened in such a whirlwind that it still seems a little unreal. But Shane and I haven't wasted any time putting our mark on the place. There is still a lot left in the works but I think we've made pretty good progress so far. 

Our front and back yard needs a major overhaul. Unfortunately, hanging around Lowe's for hours doesn't guarantee that the Yard Crashers crew will show up, but it will get you some weird looks from the employees. Shane and I decided to try and tackle the project ourselves, and we've started to see why people hire landscapers.

The yard isn't horrible, but just really overgrown. It's a good example of what happens when you overdo it with the decorative grasses and shrubs, and also don't like to do a lot of weeding. 

Our game plan so far has been to rip everything out, including the cheap plastic edging. Sometime in the future, when it's in our budget, this tree will be chopped down as it's a Bradford pear and very near the front of the house as well as the driveway, and we don't want to have any big limbs fall on anything. For now, this will have to do. We may also add some flowers around it for the meantime to liven it up. 

The back yard was more of the same. It's not a big yard but a good portion of it was taken up by these gigantic bushes around the deck. The bamboo has a bit out of hand and has started "running" all over the yard, which turns out is basically preventable by pouring a concrete barrier in the ground or not having bamboo.

Just look at those bushes! They were as tall as Shane, and absolutely completely full of spiders.

It took a lot of digging on Shane's part, and a lot of trimming on mine, but we finally got them out of there! The back yard feels a lot bigger and you can actually walk to the gate without getting coated in spiders (not that the gate really opens very well, but that's another project for another day).

We have plans to build some narrow raised vegetable beds around the deck. We're also going to install some planters around the deck where we'll plant some lemongrass, lavender, and catnip to keep the mosquitoes and spiders at bay. Oh yeah, did I mention our yard is also swarming in mosquitoes? 

And check out our brush pile! That was before we'd even torn up all the stumps. With the six bags of yard waste from our front yard in progress plus all this mess, we're definitely keeping Metro Nashville brush pickup in business. 

Photos of our progress on the inside of the house coming soon! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

We bought a house!

Now that it's officially official and we have keys and most of our junk is moved in, I can finally announce...we bought a house!!!

It's about time too. Since we started college about eight years ago, we've moved a total of 14 times. You'd think that by now we'd be packing and moving champs, but no, it gets worse and worse every time. Considering I'm also a procrastinator and would probably fit right in on the show "Hoarders," it's a huge ordeal every time. During this last move I just crammed anything I could fit into each box and barely labeled anything. 

Let's just hope this is the last time we have to move for a loooooooooooong while. 

We've been getting ready for a family 4th of July cookout at our house this weekend so we've actually gotten a lot accomplished and are about 80% unpacked. We still have a few rooms to paint, rugs to buy, trips to Atlanta to Ikea to load up as much flat pack furniture as we can carry... but we're getting there. 

Now onto the fun part, the pictures! Some rooms have before and in progress pictures, and some just have before pictures. 

We have plans to eventually replace the maroon shutters and paint the front door a nice TARDIS blue.

The doggies are loving their new fenced back yard! It's not a large yard but still plenty of running around room. 

My dad showing off our back deck and brand-new patio table set. Yay for seasonal Target clearance! We went back and bought enough seating to open our own bistro.

Shane using the new grill for the first time :)
(You should've seen us fit that grill box in the back seat of my dad's Altima)

Now let's make our way inside...

The previous owners' living room layout seemed a little awkward to us, especially since the room is sooo large and who wants to have the TV all the way in the corner? 

We have it set up with our seating in front of the fireplace and the entertainment center on the opposite wall, where they had their couch. We already know this layout works much better for us because this is exactly how we had our apartment set up

Our dining room is pretty boring at the moment, we're in major need of a new paint job and some fun things to hang on the wall. It's just so DARK.

The kitchen needs a new paint color and eventually a new counter top and back splash. We've already changed out the plaid curtains but no pictures, our temporary card table kitchen table is too tacky ;) A new table and chairs is on the list of Ikea purchases. 

Downstairs half bath. Not too exciting except for the totally 80s fluorescent light fixture, which has got to go.

Let's head upstairs...

First spare bedroom used to be their baby's room. Now it's our guest bedroom! I'm in love with the Cynthia Rowley quilts I got at TJMaxx, even if Shane thinks it looks like a little girl's bedroom. That trundle daybed has been one of our best Craigslist purchases ever. 

Guest bath. The green color was even more awful in person than in the pictures. This is our first home project, we're currently on coat one of a new color. Can't wait to show pictures of the updates!

Aren't we lucky, the second spare bedroom was painted the same lovely shade of green. This is the next thing on our list. This room will be used as our office and my craft room.

Our bedroom, their furniture. We're on the lookout for a new bedroom set. We've never bought a headboard and Shane is currently using a plastic tote box for his side table. 

Master bath.

The tile isn't what I would've chosen, but we're working with it. 

And check out the skylight!

We've got several projects lined up and lots of plans for the house. It's so crazy to think that we can do whatever we want and not worry about landlords. Stay tuned for project updates!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

House Hunters: Tennessee

A month ago I came home from work to find Shane on the phone with the police and our front door busted in. Yup, we got robbed.

That's a lovely sight to come home to, right? Not only did they smash our door frame to bits, they took our XBOX 360, PS3, and my beloved 27" iMac. They were also apparently in the process of raiding our DVD collection when our upstairs neighbors came home and that scared them off.  Thankfully our two dogs were safe and sound, and building maintenance came over later to fix it with some EXTRA HEAVY DUTY hardware to deter any future pesky burglars. 

That day, we decided to buy a house. 

Don't get me wrong here, this isn't just some sort of impulse decision. We had already started saving for one but were going to stay in the apartment for a few years until we had a nice big down payment saved up. After the break in, we started to rethink that strategy. I mean,  my car had been broken into six months before while parked right outside our door. And when the building was literally struck by lightning later that week, we took it as a sign we'd made the right decision. 

Here's something HGTV doesn't tell you hunting sucks. Especially when you're looking for something in Nashville, recently named one of the most desirable cities in America. And you're on a budget. Oh, and you want to live in one of the trendiest parts of town. Needless to say, we've had to make some compromises already. It gets pretty frustrating when everything in your budget is either basically uninhabitable, in the sketchiest part of town, or haunted by the old lady died there, leaving her 50 year old furniture and wallpaper behind. Our real estate agent is fantastic and we love him, but he's not a magician. 

It's also really difficult to actually find an available property in this market. The market has picked up a bit but interest rates are still pretty low, so things are going so quickly. Our agent said the last house he sold was under contract within just FOUR HOURS of listing! Crazy! And for every ten listings we find online and think are decent-looking, about two of those will actually be available. That means if you find something you like and it's available, you need to go see it ASAP or it'll be gone the next day. Can you say "impulse purchase?"

We actually already made an offer on one house and had to withdraw it, which sucked because it was the cutest house ever and the yard was amazing. Too bad when they did the inspection they found out that not only were the kitchen cabinets original to the 1934 house, so was the knob and tube electrical wiring. The plumbing made of electrical conduit along with the leaks, termite damage, dead critters in the attic and crawlspace, and about eight zillion code violations were also turn-offs. Thank goodness for contract contingencies!

Since then, we've had to re-evaluate our priorities a lot and we actually think we've found another place that we like. No details just yet because it's not final and we don't want to count our chickens before they hatch, just go ahead and clear your schedules for the month of June so you can help us move. 

Don't you love our new place? We're going to spend a fortune on tapestries though, those hallways can get pretty drafty #firstworldproblems

To be continued...