Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Holiday Weekend and Countertop Decisions

I can't believe it is already Wednesday but I absolutely cannot WAIT for the long weekend. I am so looking forward to having an extra day off from work that I almost can't stand it. In fact I think I will be taking the day off on Friday to give myself 4 full days of relaxation and fun. Not to mention this will be the first full weekend I get to spend with Erik since February and we get to go to a wedding together (this is where you can picture me with a big smile doing a little happy dance--weddings are always fun and I love the thought of spending a full weekend with my boy).

Yay! Let the summer begin!

In terms of cottage updates there hasn't been too much to speak of. I am in the process of trying to decide whether I should replace my kitchen counter tops or not. My parents just got new quartz counters at their house in St. Louis and my mom told me she would save her old laminate toppers for me if I wanted. My brother went to spend time with her at Mother's Day and brought back a piece for me to test out and see how I felt.

Current Countertops

Sample countertop from my mom's kitchen
What do you think? The laminate counter tops would be a slight upgrade on what I have now but would require a significant amount of effort to a) transport all the way from St. Louis, and b) cut to fit my existing counter space. Would it be worth the time, effort, and money to do this or should I just leave the counters be for the time being?

Such difficult decisions...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

See How My Garden Grows

My garden has gone into overload. Check out all this green!


Mint and Basil!
As a reminder this is what it looked like a few short weeks ago:

Amazing!! Fingers crossed that everything continues to flourish...

Friday, May 20, 2011

That Retro-Modern-Cottage-y Feeling

One of the best things about owning my own home is that I have full creative reign on my d├ęcor. It has been so nice to create spaces that I love and not have to worry about anyone else’s opinions. Of course it can also be challenging at times too because the possibilities are endless when it comes to design and sometimes it’s nice to get some feedback and I am always interested in hearing my friends’ opinions when they stop by for a visit.

I’ve tried to figure out if I have a particular “style” when it comes to my decorating but I don’t think I really do. If I had to put a label on it I would say it probably wavers along the line of retro-modern-cottage-y which sounds totally contradictory in a lot of ways. Basically I’ve just tried to work with the things I love (for example my modern couch and my retro dishes) to create a feminine but modern look for the house. I didn’t want it to be too girly but even if it has turned out that way who cares? I am a girl after all.

In the process of decorating I have really tried to upgrade what I am putting on my walls. The days of posters in plastic frames has passed I’m afraid and it’s time to be a little more grown up with my art decisions. I have tried to take my time in making these important decisions because I want to find things I truly love and that are meaningful. Of course my budget these days won’t allow me to purchase any one-of-a-kind art pieces but framed prints seem to do the trick for now. For example I found this print on Etsy called “Bursting With Love” that has really captured how I have felt this spring (the new home purchase, my new man, etc):

I picked up this print at one of my favorite stores in Atlanta, Young Blood, because I loved the colors and the retro look (and who doesn't love a little "Home Sweet Home" artwork in their first house):

Getting a little creative, I made this artwork to hang on the walls in my dining room (all it took was some cheap frames from Ikea and a couple sheets of scrapbook paper from Michael’s):

I still have a ways to go in terms of decorating the walls of the house (both bedrooms are sorely lacking any type of visual wall interest) but it is one area of new homeownership where I am okay being patient. Currently I have been on the lookout for a wall clock to hang in the dining room. Here are some of my top choices so far (all from Etsy of couse):

This one is probably the front runner so far

Im thinking this one may be a bit too retro...

This one kind of reminds me of Salvador Dali whose work I love

I think all of them capture my retro-modern-cottage-y style and (most importantly) they are all within my budget. Im still not quite sure which I like better so if you have an opinion please let me know!

**On a side note, after browsing through the retro/vintage clock selection on Etsy I think I could become a crazy clock lady. There are so many fun and interesting clocks out there. Check out some of these awesome examples:

Would love this for my kitchen

Retro Clue Game Clock--absolutely adore!

This one would be super cute for a kids room

If I had the money this Keith Moore clock would be the first pick for
my dining roombut $200 for a clock? I just cannot justify that.
 Would it be too weird to have a wall clock hanging in every room of the house?  I mean how can you resist with options like these??

Thursday, May 19, 2011

She's Crafty

I was reading through posts on some of my favorite blogs the other day and came across this one about a do-it yourself project inspired by the store Anthropologie on Little Glass Box. First let me just say that I love Anthropologie--it is one of my absolute favorite stores. I drool every time I get the new catalog in the mail and dream of a world where my closet is full of their clothes and my house is full of their linens (I say this because their stuff is ex-pen-sive-o but so so cute).

Anyway, the post on Little Glass Box featured these treat pedestals as seen on BHLDN (Anthropologie's wedding website):

Super cute, right? But $78? Yikes.

Courtney over at Little Glass Box took one look at these pedestals and saw the opportunity for an easy and cheap do-it-yourself project. So I am copying her idea (because it was a great one) to make a home made version of these Anthropologie treat trays. To start, all I had to do was look no further than my local Goodwill where I found these cute little sorbet dishes:

Next I began the hunt for some lonely vintage china plates but instead opted for these more modern looking dishes which I snagged on clearance at TJ Maxx:

Put them together using a little epoxy glue (or not if you want to use the plates and dishes separately later on) and you get this:

Total cost of my home-made treat pedestal: about $3 (the dishes came out to $0.85 each and the plates were $2 each). 

You know, I think I may actually like my cheap-o version better than the $78 one from Anthropologie (not to mention they are going to make great gifts for someone). Hooray for thriftiness and innovation at its best!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


With money matters always on mind lately I have tried to think up free and/or cheap fun things to do with Erik. There is a really great website that my friend Monique introduced me to called Atlanta on the Cheap that features deals from all over the city if you are looking for promotions, cheap tickets, etc. that I have used a few times to get movie tickets and ideas for future outings. It is one of I'm sure a thousand great resources out there for cheap-o's like me and definitely worth checking out. But websites and coupons aside, one thing that I thought would be really fun to do and relatively cheap (almost free actually) is to take Erik out and go Geocaching. Geocaching is an activity that I first discovered about 7 years ago and really, really, enjoy. Most people I have met have no idea what it is so I am always more than happy to introduce them. So blog world, consider this your introduction if you have never heard of this fantastic “sport.”

Geocaching is basically treasure hunting with a GPS device. “Caches” (usually metal or plastic containers) are hidden and GPS coordinates are logged in to the official Geocaching website. People who wish to find the caches simply log on to the website by entering their zip code to find coordinates of local stashes and then enter those coordinates into their GPS and begin hunting. The caches always contain a logbook of some sort for people to sign and leave a message and often times will have little trinkets people have left behind. The rules of geocaching allow the seekers to take anything from the cache they wish but they must always leave something of equal value in return.

Since its inception in 2000, Geocaches have been hidden all over the world and as GPS technology has gotten better this game has become accessible to just about everyone. When I first started Geocaching back in 2002-2003 I was using a handheld Garmin black and white GPS unit that was a couple hundred dollars. Back then I would I have to load maps from the computer into the GPS and manually enter the coordinates for each new cache I wanted to find. Talk about a pain! Now I am using a $10 iPhone App that connects directly to the geocaching website and instantly directs you to local caches. It’s pretty amazing.

Throughout the years I have tried to find at least one Geocache in each new city I visit. So far I have had successful hunts in Texas, Oregon, Louisiana, South Carolina, and of course my home state of Georgia. I’m telling you—these things are everywhere and it is so much fun to find them!

In terms of cost the only thing you really have to pay for nowadays is $10 for the App if you have a smart phone (which I think most people do or at least know someone who does) and gas if you have to drive to your start point. I’ve found that places like state parks are great to start out in because usually there are multiple caches and all you need are your own two legs and maybe a picnic lunch. But I’ve also been to very urban areas with multiple caches (think the campus of Georgia Tech) too so it’s very easy to find these things in your own backyard.

For Erik’s first time I took him to the same place I went for my first Geocaching experience: Arabia Mountain State Park near Lithonia, GA. It’s only about a 30 minute drive from my house and is a huge park with lots of trails, different landscapes, and of course multiple Geocaches. The caches we found in Arabia were especially cool because each one had a little history about that particular location of the park the cache was hidden in which made it really interesting. We ended up having a really fun afternoon hiking, finding a couple of caches, and having a picnic lunch in the woods by a lake.

Erik's first find.
Opening our second find of the day

The lake where we had our picnic lunch

In the last several years I have introduced many of my friends to Geocaching and it’s always fun to see their faces when they find their first cache. I know when I describe the sport to people I always feel like they are looking at me skeptically kind of like “yeah, uh-huh sure there are really all these hidden “treasure” boxes everywhere.” So it’s always a fun validation when that first cache is found and you can be like “see, I told you”!

If you want to learn more about Geocaching including all the rules, how to hide a cache, etc. click here. It really is a family friendly activity (for all you moms and dads out there) and always an entertaining way to spend an afternoon so go check it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Speaking of Deception

Who would believe that this sweet little kitten:

Would turn out to be this sweet little chunker:
But I wouldn't have my Z any other way!

Master of Deception

I always have to laugh when people come to visit my new house and one of the first things they say is “Wow, it looks like you’ve lived here forever”! That is because I am a master deceiver my friends.

You see, the key to being a master of deception is to shove everything you don’t have a place for in a) a cabinet, b) a closet, or c) under the bed. I think every 10 year old probably knows this and I am here to say that this 29 year old is still a faithful follower of this principle.

And it’s not that I don’t like organization or that if you open my closets a mountain of stuff will fall out on you. Anyone who knows me well will tell you I am the exact opposite. I love order and organizing and putting things in their place. It’s just that when you are living on your own and working full time finding the time (and desire) to organize becomes a challenge.

But yesterday I am proud to say that I finally mustered up the energy to organize my kitchen cabinets. You see when I moved in 3 months ago I was in such a hurry to get stuff in the house and put away that I didn’t really care where anything went in my kitchen just so long as it was out of boxes and off of the floor. My mom was helping me with the project and she did the best she could with my frazzled, short responses of “I don’t care” to her questions of “where do you want this”? And it was true—I really didn’t care because I knew I would probably just go back and reorganize everything later. I didn’t think later would be 3 months later but c’est la vie.

So now, all the spices are in one place next to the stove (yes, I made a list of all the spices in my cabinet and posted it on the inside of the door).

All of the baking supplies and cooking oils are united.

And all of the dry foods and canned goods are happily side by side.

Ahhhh. Organization is a beautiful thing I tell you.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Groupon Pulls Through for Me Again!

You know the saying "ask and ye shall receive"? Yesterday I posted about new exercises programs I've been trying lately using group coupons and specifically discussed my new found love for hot yoga. Today I open my e-mail and saw a Groupon for 10 yoga classes for $35 (a $110 value) at Red Hot Yoga here in Atlanta! I'm stoked because my monthly pass at Adrenaline just expired and I was going to miss the hot yoga classes (as you can see from the $110 price tag above they aren't really in the budget). Now I don't have to! God must be a follower of my blog--either that or is was just pure happenstance. It was probably the latter but who cares! 10 more hot yoga classes for me for cheap! I'm one happy camper! If you want to score this deal too click this link:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Explorations in Exercise

So I know I must sound like a broken record when I talk about what I will call “my past life” (the ex, the Tae Kwon Do team, etc) but I ask you to bear with me as this post will (briefly) discuss my past life as a kickboxer and then delve into all the new and exciting forms of exercise I have tried in the last couple months as I search for a new gym (trust me, you’ll want to read about this).

I have never been one to be so self-motivated that I can just hop on a treadmill or pull on the running shoes and go out for a run. If I do either of those things it’s usually about 5 minutes before I am completely hating myself and counting the minutes down until I can stop. In short, I get really, really, bored. Maybe I am just ADD when it comes to exercise but I have found that I only push myself and see real results when I take group classes. In the past, I have tried all kinds of classes including step aerobics, body pump, kickboxing, spinning, yoga, Jazzercise (yes, I said Jazzercise—which I did while I was in grad school and was about two seconds away from becoming an instructor), and the occasional boot camp. I even tried an aerial yoga class with my sister one time at a yoga studio in New Orleans which was actually really cool. It consisted of doing yoga poses in big strips of fabric that were hung from the ceiling.

So yeah, I have run the gamut of exercise classes.

Usually I will find one or two types of classes that I really get into and will stick with them for a while (I guess you could say I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to exercise programs I like). I did Jazzercise for a solid 2 years and my last bout with kickboxing lasted just over 2 years as well. So after the shake-up with my gym in January I was faced with a serious question—to continue kickboxing or not?

At first, I couldn’t imagine giving up kicking. Honestly I believe it was what I was born to do (just ask my mom about my time in the womb).  I tried out a couple of local kickboxing gyms in Atlanta including Bangkok Boxing and Unit 2 Fitness but as I’ve said in previous posts I just wasn’t ready to commit. Enter in the amazingness that are all those group savings coupons—Groupon, Living Social, Sweet Jack, Scoutmob—you know what I’m talking about.

I am probably a subscriber to more of these online sites than are necessary but you can seriously get some sweet, sweet, deals. I bet I could go a solid year just buying these things and trying different local Atlanta gyms while never having to worry about paying joining fees and monthly dues (which definitely appeals to my budget at the moment and my lack of wanting to commit to anything). It’s pretty fantastic.

So one of the places I have tried recently is called Adrenaline Fitness in Chamblee. I bought a month’s worth of fitness classes from Living Social for $25. Adrenaline bills themselves as a “class oriented gym” (great for me). They offer everything from the traditional step and weight training classes to recent fads like Zumba and Hot Yoga. During my month there I tried just about everything except their “Body Combat” (i.e. kickboxing) class. You may think this is a little strange given my past with kickboxing but there are a couple reasons why I chose not to take the class. First I think I needed a break from kickboxing and time to allow my body to explore new forms of exercise. Second, they didn’t use a heavy bag which was a major turn-off to me. Punching and kicking the air is no fun in my opinion.  So it was off to Zumba, body pump, step aerobics, and hot Yoga I went.

For those of you who don’t know, Zumba is a combination of latin dancing, hip hop, and bellydancing. From what I gleaned off Wikipedia it was developed in the 1990’s by a Colombian choreographer named Alberto “Beto” Perez. It didn’t really take off until 2001 in the United States and now there are 110,000 instructors in over 125 countries. In my experience Zumba was a lot of fun—especially if you like to dance. I wouldn’t say the classes I took were particularly challenging but I did sweat a bit and it wasn’t a bad way to spend an hour.

Of the other classes I attended at Adrenaline I would have to say that my  favorite class was the hot yoga. In hot yoga the room is heated to around 105 degrees which is supposed to allow the body to achieve a deeper stretch and better workout.  I’ve read that some hot yoga classes can last 90 minutes but the one I took was only 60. The poses are mostly classical yoga poses—triangle, downward dog, plank, warrior I and II, etc. and each class that I took began with a series of sun salutations and ended with stretching and a nice relaxation period. Even though the poses in the class are pretty basic the heat makes it really intense. I can safely say I have never sweated so much in my life! But the end result feels amazing—talk about getting rid of toxins—and being someone who hates being hot, well, let’s just say I am a believer in hot yoga now.

In addition to the classes at Adrenaline I also purchased another Groupon deal back in December. This group coupon was for…wait for it…pole dancing classes (I told you that you’d want to read on)! A local dance studio called Dance 411 in East Atlanta was offering 4 pole dancing classes for $29 (an $80 value). I had put off signing up for the class for a while but finally strapped on my big girl stilettos (okay they weren’t really stilettos, just some high heels I had hanging around) and took a class last Saturday. Let me just say that I had so much fun! I was a bit nervous at first (I think most everyone else in the room was as well) but Ninja—our instructor (yes, you read that right--the instructor's name was Ninja)—helped us relax by doing a quick warm-up stretch and making us choose a pole name which would be our alter ego for the class. There were lots of embarrassed giggles as she made each person say their name aloud and people threw out names like Candy, White Chocolate, and Miss Apple.  Ninja went over some basic pole dancing terms including “loving the pole” (basically grinding on your pole) and taught us some basic moves like booty bumping and how to spin on the pole. Then she taught us a sexy little dance, split us into groups, and let us work it out. Now let me just say that if you give a woman a pole, she will work it! I’m serious—I don’t care hold old or shy all women like to feel sexy. The women in my class were no exception and by the end of class everyone was practicing their struts and spins and cheering each other on. It was great!

Now I realize that this has been a long post so I will get to my point. My point is that in my experience trying new types of exercise is refreshing and good for your body. Even though I may be bitter about what happened with my last gym I have been able to try some new things and I am really glad about that. Who knows, there could be some pole dancing classes in my future (don’t even think that it was not a workout—my arms were feeling it the next day) and at some point there will definitely be hot yoga. The good thing is that I am still free to try some new things and I am keeping my eyes peeled for more fun group fitness deals. I am going to go back to kickboxing for a while (Unit 2 had a Living Social deal this week for a month of classes for $30 and I couldn’t say no) because I still feel as if that is where I get my best workout but now that I know there are other things out there that I enjoy maybe I’ll mix it up a bit. It never hurts to explore.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Changes and Shifts

I’ve been a little lax about posting on the blog lately (apologies) and it’s due in part because I have been enjoying this beautiful Atlanta spring but also because I have been dealing with some personal issues. Given my current “frugal lifestyle” and Erik’s very busy work schedule I’ve had a lot of time at home to think and reflect on the state of my life right now and to assess how I’m holding up after some very big life changes. I’ve realized that in the past year my life has done a complete 180. This time last year I was a member of a competitive Tae Kwon Do team, working out five days a week with some of my best friends. I was in the best shape of my life, living in a cute house, in a good neighborhood, with a man I had always intended on marrying. Just last spring he and I had been on several trips to look at engagement rings and I was hopeful of a proposal “any day,” carefully pushing away the growing doubts in my head and the warnings from others that maybe, just maybe, things were not going to work out how I planned. I was ignoring warning signs (who gets into an argument about marriage on their way into the jewelry store to look at engagement rings???) because I wanted to believe in him and trust him.

It’s hard to write these things down right now because as much as I want to move on (and you can’t believe how much I want that) there is still this pain and bitterness associated with the break-up with not only my boyfriend of 8 years but also the loss of his family who I really loved, and mutual friends who I cared about. Even though we weren’t married it was like a divorce. Add into that the equally painful break-up and loss of my gym family and friends and, well, that’s a lot of hurt to deal with in the short span of 3 months—hurt that I thought I could easily just push out of my mind and heart but is proving to be a lot more difficult to exterminate. I am angry and resentful for the way I was treated by my ex and I am angry and resentful for the way I was forced to leave my gym. These are feelings which I feel are important to acknowledge and that I recognize I have to work through right now. In terms of heartbreak of this magnitude I am told how I am feeling is completely normal.  My sister said that after her first marriage ended she was told it takes half the time you were with the person to really get over them. I really hope she is wrong because I never want to give my ex the satisfaction of knowing it took me 4 years to get over what he did to me. I want to be stronger than that.

And I feel like I have been pretty strong throughout the whole ordeal. Of course I’ve had my meltdowns and bad days but I’ve asked myself on many occasions if I would want to go back to the life I was leading a year ago. The answer is always: hell no.

Yes, my life is very different from what it was at this time last year but in a lot of very wonderful ways. I am a homeowner—something I always dreamed about being—and I am doing it on my own. It is such a liberating feeling to know that I don’t have to answer to anyone if I want to re-decorate or make changes. It’s my house.

And there’s also Erik who has been such an incredible person throughout this crazy time in my life. At my lowest point after my break-up I told my mom that I felt like I was doomed to roam the planet alone. Little did I know I would meet an amazing man so soon after losing what I felt at the time was just about everything. I feel a lot of love and happiness right now and that is a really good thing in the midst of all this pain and resentment.

So these are the things I try to hold onto now when I start to feel angry—how much better my life is, how much happier I am, how much freer I feel. And as I start to get a better handle on these emotions I know I will continue to heal that much quicker. I just hope that everyone close to me continues to be as patient and wonderful as they have been because that means everything to me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Moment a House Becomes a Home

I was reading one of my favorite blogs today called Young House Love and there was a post about when your new home really started feeling like your home. For those who aren’t familiar with the blog it’s about this young couple who like to fix up houses. They bought their first house as a newly engaged couple, held their wedding in their backyard, totally renovated and fixed up the place, had a baby, and then decided they needed a new challenge so they bought their second fixer-upper this past winter. Their website is full of interesting ideas and do-it-yourself projects and I love seeing the transformations going on at their new place.

Their post today really got me thinking though—at what moment did my house start feeling like home? I’ve often mentioned on this blog how the feeling of being a new homeowner is still a bit surreal. As Sherry over at YHL points out it’s a very strange feeling to know you can paint, knock walls down, hang curtains, etc. without having to consult a landlord or property manager if you’ve never had that before. For me there was definitely that feeling of elation that comes with buying something as big as a new house and as I have noted I definitely went through that “honeymoon” phase of this-is-going-to-be-so-fun-I’m-a-real-grown-up-now (I found it funny that the couple at YHL compared their home ownership experience to a romantic relationship too). But as far as the house actually feeling like my home…that did take some time.

I think initially there was just so much to do when I bought the house that I couldn’t really focus on much else. Painting and repairs were at the top of my list and although they were part of the getting-the-house-to-feel-like-home process, I saw them more as items to check off a huge to-do list. I had a goal of getting to my sister’s baby shower (scheduled for 6 weeks post move-in) and I was not going to relax until everything was as close to perfect as possible.

So yeah I would say it was about 2 months in—after the baby shower and after coming home from a much needed vacation with some of my friends—that I really began to feel like the house was my home. I walked inside with my luggage and saw the pictures I had hung on the walls and the paint that I had so carefully chosen and it all just clicked. Ever since then the house just feels cozier to me. I’ve now had a couple of parties and cooked more than a dozen meals in my new kitchen. Just the other day I made one of my favorite meals ever, stuffed grape leaves (a Greek delicacy). It may sound ridiculous but I secretly always use that recipe as a test for my new kitchen—an inaugural dish of sorts—and despite a blender malfunction (RIP old friend) they turned out delicious. I know I am weird but it made me very happy that my kitchen passed the grape leaves test.

Overall it’s such a good feeling to come home now. I have now established new routines and everything has its place, which to a Judger (Meyer’s Briggs anyone?) like me is essential. There is definitely still a lot that needs to be done but nothing that is critical and even though there are things I still want for the house I am pretty happy with the way things are at the moment.

So I’ll leave asking the same question they did at YHL—at what point did your house become home?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Cottage Fantasy Land

Since I have no money to really work on big projects around the house I have slipped into what I like to call “My Cottage Fantasy Land.” In My Cottage Fantasy Land I have unlimited cash to complete all the projects on my to-do list in the way in which I would ideally like to see them done. This includes designing and implementing a plan to create my dream backyard.

The backyard in its raw and unfinished state
When I purchased the house the backyard wasn’t an area I was too concerned with. I appreciated the fact that it was a nice size and was fenced, and I thought I might throw down some grass seed, mow it when it needed to be mowed, and just be done with it. But now, after thinking about it more and discussing with friends I realize I am sitting on an area that, if used properly, has the potential to be a really fantastic multi-purpose space. It is a nice size, is very level and flat, and is shady thanks to all the trees hanging over from my neighbors’ yards.

If I had my perfect world, my backyard would have the following:

A patio with a built-in fireplace or fire pit
An area for a raised garden
A grassy area for future kids/pets to play on
A paved area devoted to extra parking
Pretty paved stone or brick walkways
An area for grilling (could be with the patio/fire pit)
Flower beds interspersed to add color and visual appeal

I’m pretty confident that my backyard is large enough to contain most if not all of the items on my wish list, now it’s just a matter of figuring out what bank I have to rob to get it done (kidding of course). In the meantime, thanks to a fantastic website called Pinterest I can continue fantasizing with the help of some inspirational images. What do you think?

I love this curving path with the planters
Really like the mix of grass and hard scape

Talk about fantasies--this would be it!

Love how cozy and warm this is
(all of these photos can be found on the Pinterest website with links to where they were originally seen)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

For All You Voyeurs Out There...

And you know you are! It's okay I promise. I Facebook stalk just as much as the next person. It's just that normal human curiosity--unless you're peeking in people's windows of course. That's just creepy.

So I've taken some updated photos of the house with the new couch and all. Plus since spring has sprung my yard has greened up and the flowers are blooming so I thought there was no better time. You can check out the updated photos here.

Enjoy and have a great rest of the weekend!