Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Spontaneous trip to Charlottesville

Friday night, I randomly asked Dave if we could go to Charlottesville the next day, assuming he'd say 'meh' or something of the like.  But, much to my surprise, he agreed!  Wow!  Don't get me wrong, Dave isn't a homebody, but Friday night isn't usually a good time to get him to agree to anything...that's resting time.

Other than the fact that I knew I wanted to go pick peaches at Carter Mountain Orchard, I wanted to have a road trip day with no agenda, no time constraints, no curfew, etc.  I think we pulled it off. 

After over-sleeping, we hit the road.  I was anxious that sleeping in meant we'd be walking around an orchard during the hottest part of a 102 degree day with no shade except the 8 foot tall peach trees next to us...but I tried not to let it show.  :) 

We've been to this orchard once before but just visited the store on the way to Monticello.  We didn't pick anything or buy anything.  So this time I wanted to take my time and see what they had to offer after we picked our peaches!   It's about an eighth of a mile walk from the shop to the orchard, but it seemed like much longer in that heat!  We should have taken water or something with us, but that whole spontaneous, unprepared thing got in the way of our hydration!  We each picked a bag full and then headed back up the hill.

Dave snapped a pic of this poor apple with a Siamese twin on the way to the peach trees:

They have bird houses in the store - last time they had one painted in JMU colors, but incorrectly labeled the mascot as 'Bulldogs' instead of 'Dukes.'  I was hoping to get a picture of it this time, but they either sold it or yanked it from the shelves due to quality issues, so I didn't see it.  :(  They had plenty of others, though, including a Halloween themed one!  Weird.

We paid for our peaches along with some peach cider donuts, a Lodi apple and peach cider for Dave, and since the orchard also has a vineyard on site we headed over to the wine shop!  We sampled a Bellini slush they make using their peaches - it was so good! 

After the orchard, we headed downtown - stopped at a couple antique shops, Circa and Oyster House.  Oyster House is definitely not my style, but they had some beautiful pieces of furniture in there!  Circa, on the other hand, was lovely.  It was everything antique shops should be - half junk, half legitimate antiques, and half overpriced tchotckes.  Yes, I realize that's 3 halves.  That's why it's funny.

Next stop was the Downtown Mall - a tree-lined city street blocked from traffic.  Picture Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg without all the cars, and you've got this place. Love. 
photo by Andrew Collins

We stopped in one place for lunch, but they had multiple large HDTV's and the US vs. Ghana game was on, so there were no seats available in the whole place!  3 doors down, however, they had a laptop with the game streaming, and there were nothing but empty seats.  So we ate there! :)  After dinner we headed home - we took 250 the whole way for the scenic view. Good day :)

Friday, June 25, 2010


I realize I am not the first person to save up their pennies and turn them into mega dollars, but I'm sharing anyways!

Dave and I have a 'wish dish' where we dump our spare change once it accumulates and is too cumbersome to carry around in the purse or pocket anymore.  I am not a fan of rolling coins - seems so antiquated to me, the counting, re-counting, rolling, realizing you counted wrong, re-re-counting, re-rolling, etc.  No thanks.  I was also turned off by the idea of Coinstar because they keep a percentage of your change as a fee.  I realize it costs them money to maintain the machines, but 10%?  Really?  And you think credit card rates are high?

So, recently I discovered that instead of getting cash and sacrificing 10% of your hard-earned dollars off the top, you can opt for a gift card to a merchant of your choice.  Yes, please.  The list is limited, but who wouldn't want a gift card to Starbucks, Regal,, iTunes, etc.?  I certainly do want one, and I chose Lowe's.  Since we had just finished our study re-design and haven't yet picked up our new light fixture, I thought that was the perfect choice.  Of course, I thought it was wishful thinking to assume that this jar of change would cover the $60 price tag for a light fixture! 

I headed over to Martin's to see how much of that light fixture I wouldn't have to pay for.  I probably looked like an idiot because I couldn't figure out what to do with the change once I put it in the tray.  Even though there were directions on the screen, for some reason, I didn't know what to do. 

Oh, I get it now, you just lift it up and the change falls down the little, tiny hole on the right. Shame on me for not seeing that.  DUH!  At one point, the machine displayed a message that said "My, you have a lot of change, please be patient as the machine catches up."  That's promising, right?

My grand total, after inserting some rejected dimes and nickels into the sorter several times, for no good reason, was $101.69!  WOW!  Holy crap - I can buy my light fixture and some mulch, and a new bird feeder, and some other stuff!  Woohoo!

I have to admit I was skeptical about the whole gift card thing.  I  mean, it's not like the machine is going to spit out a gift card for Lowe's.  What if it was out of Lowe's gift cards?  Oh, the drama.  This is how my mind operates.  What if my $101.69 is worthless once transferred onto a piece of plastic that somehow doesn't get activated?  Wow, it's scary inside my head.

When I hit 'Done,' out popped a paper receipt with a gift card number and PIN that I can use in-store or online.  Awesome.

After all was said and done, I ended up with my gift card, and some things leftover from the wish dish:
  • 7 Thomas Jefferson dollar coins
  • 5 dollar bills
  • 1 gum wrapper
  • 1 rubberband
  • 1 paper clip
  • 1 Bahamian nickel
  • and a partridge in a pear tree!
Good times - what do you do with your leftover change?  What would be your wish item if you 'found' $100 in change?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer-izing the deck!

This week we got to work setting up our deck for summer cookouts, quiet dinners, and hanging out with a beer after a long day at work.

Here's what we started with:

Dirty, full of leaves, and anything but inviting.  So we got to work.  While Dave swept all the leaves and pollen away, I cleaned the table and unpacked our new patio umbrella.  I think it's our 4th - the first got moldy, second blew away and broke during a thunderstorm, third snapped in half because we didn't take it down before a snowstorm.  We've only had the deck for 3 summers, so that's not a very good track record.  Here's hoping this one sticks around for a while.  It's awesome - rectangular, huge, and it tilts!  The best part about it is that we got it during the snowstorm so it was like 60% off!  They only had a little bit of summer stuff left on the floor, but I asked about patio umbrellas and the guy said they had some int he back.  He gave me some options and got an idea of what I was looking for and came back with the perfect umbrella! 

Once we got the umbrella and I started thinking about summer, I started drooling over these pictures I was seeing in in magazines during the winter and spring of outdoor dining spaces with lights on the umbrellas.  I just think it looks so fun and festive!  Here are some I love:

So, when the summer stuff first came out at Target this year, I went on a hunt for some.  They had a ton of party lights, but they were very expensive and only like 10 lights came in a pack.  No thanks.  Then I found a set designed to be strung from the umbrella supports - sold!    Dave was in charge of putting the lights up while I focused on an unrelated project (stay tuned for details!) and got the fluffy stuff ready for the deck - cushions, plates, candles, etc.

The lights came with cable ties and little clips to attach each strand to the umbrella supports.  There's a ring that connects all the light strands - it attaches to the main pole and screws in to keep it stationary.  We opened and closed the umbrella several times to make sure the lights didn't get in the way of its function.

I set up the table for dinner and lit the candles...voila, we are all ready to go!

The final product!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mostly done!

The study is mostly done!  The only things left to do:  stain 2 shelves, put them back up, buy and install a new light fixture, and clean the turtle tank!  Piece of cake!
Let's take a look back at the plan for the room:

But before I reveal the new version of our study, take a look at some before pictures of the room.  I haven't posted these before because I never took them, plus the room was always messy and unpresentable.  If I could have closed a curtain to shut it off from the rest of the house, I would have.  Not anymore, though!
Book wall

Reading corner

 Front wall

 Old Kristen
Granted, there is some junk in the pictures that obviously wasn't in the room at all times, but you can see how cluttered and chaotic it was.  I just haphazardly put any sunflower item I had on a shelf or tabletop, without regard to the hoarder I was, that's just way too many books...I love books, but do I really need 4 dictionaries and 9 Bibles?  PURGE!

First step was clearing the room and cleaning the baseboards, floors, and clearing out all those spiderwebs in the corners...I wasn't kidding when I said we never went in there.  Then, the painting had to start - I asked Dave how much I could pay him to not have to paint that room.  I just wasn't feeling it that day...Dave obliged, for the cost of just 3 bajillion dollars.  :)

I let him sleep for a few hours, but the next morning he was right back at it, putting the new shelves together.  I only heard a few cuss words, some of which were directed at me when I pulled too fast when taking the wine bar section out of a box and the drawer fell on his foot.  Ooops!

Seems like Dave's doing all the work, right?  Well, with all the heavy lifting and manual labor finished, here's where I come in.  The decorating!  Everything went back where it was before, just a little cleaner and less cluttered.  The book wall is still a book wall, but since the shelves don't have that ugly ass cardboard backing, you can see the wall behind the books and the room isn't chopped off...we purged a good number of books, and I put the ones we decided to keep back on the shelves.  I separated them as classics, fiction, history, ghost stories, photography, etc.  Our scrapbooks are on the bottom shelf, and our yearbooks made the cut, too. 
 Bonus - I had forgotten that there were stemware holders on the wine rack - so that emptied out another kitchen cabinet shelf!  

The reading corner didn't change much, except I added a white blanket and a pillow to add a touch of color to that corner.  I brought that tripod lamp in from its previous home in a bag in the garage, and it works perfectly with all the other wood tones in the room!  This corner will get spruced up a little once I stain the wall shelves that were there previously to match the room and put them back up.  I think we'll put Dave's Harry Potter books on one, and my favorite coffee table books on the other, along with our awesome 'A' letter stand from Anthropologie.

The front wall didn't change except for cleaning and new curtains, which I hung high and wide to make the window look bigger.  I knew that using red curtain panels on either side would make the window look small and block a lot of light, and since it's a single window, I hung the curtains about 8 inches outside the frame to allow as much natural light into the room as possible.
 I know the turtle doesn't fit in the design, but this room is his home

Those CD's on top of the cabinet won't fit in the drawers - working on a better solution for them...
There are a couple small projects I did in this room during the reno that I'll share later, along with how I unexpectedly came up with the funds to buy the light fixture, but I am so glad this room is finished!  It's one thing to plan and visualize a room, but seeing it all put together and cozy-comfy is so much better!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What do you collect?

I collect lots of things...some collections are short-lived, some start out innocently enough but then people catch on and start buying you tons of whatever you collect and take all the fun out of it, and some stand the test of time.  Cat's Meow, for me, falls in the 3rd category. 

Even though our house is slowly moving from country and crafty to something else (not sure what it's called), the Cat's Meow pieces I've been collecting will always fit in because I love them.  I started collecting some of the Amish pieces during trips to Sugarcreek, OH.  Bonnie gave me some barn pieces, but the best ones were the quilt shops and quilts hanging on clotheslines!  Cute!

My mom has a ton from Fredericksburg, Williamsburg, and her and my dad's colleges.  I got her a generic JMU one for Christmas one year, and even though we all know how JMU and I got along, she still has it displayed right next to the Wren Building.  The pieces are harder to find now, and some of the good ones are retired, so it's more fun to search for them.  Even the Cat's Meow website only has certain pieces for sale - it's all about the hunt!

Lately I've been wanting some specific Fredericksburg pieces, only places I've visited or that mean something to me, and I promised myself I wouldn't go crazy and buy every single Fredericksburg one.  That was a hard promise to make.  This week, when I was in FXBG for doctor's appointments, I made a quick stop at this crafty store, Dottie's Den.  I figured if anyone would have the pieces I wanted, this would be it.  I've tried to go there a few times, but they have limited hours, and aren't even open on Sunday.  So, this time I was in luck!  Noon on a Wednesday!

Here's what I bought:
  • Paul's Bakery - this place has been in Fredericksburg for over 30 years and it's the place to go if you want a special occasion cake.  We got them there for birthdays and soccer parties, among other things, and used to visit on the occasional Saturday morning for their freshly baked donuts.  It's a local staple.
  •  Rising Sun Tavern - when my mom retired after 30(?) years with the federal government, she got a part-time job as a tavern wench downtown at the Rising Sun Tavern.  It was owned by George Washington's brother, and then turned into a tavern in the 1790's.  I was a frequent visitor while my mom was working, and would help out for special events.  The place is haunted - every night when the wenches lock up, they turn off all the inside lights, and turn on the porch light.  But some nights, when they would drive through town on an errand or just checking the place out, they would notice that the porch light had been turned off, and the upstairs lamp was on.  I experience this mysterious being during a Christmas open house event, when I was sent to the basement for toilet paper or paper towels.  I should have known better - all the employees were free to go down there, but they insisted I do it, and I soon learned why.  While I was down there, the light bulb exploded - didn't just burn out or something, the bulb exploded!
  • Hyperion Espresso -this one might sound strange since I don't drink coffee, but my friends and I used to hang out here on cold weekends,  after movies or the Christmas parade, or any other random reason we could think of.  When we weren't here, we were at that weird gas station on Route 1 by the school, since it was open later than all other gas stations and it had (so I heard) cappuccino.

  • Carl's - if you haven't been to Carl's - run, don't walk.  It's open February - November, and serves the most awesome soft-serve ice cream in the world.  Kline's in Harrisonburg is a close second, though.  Kids who work there swear the ice cream recipe includes Everclear, but no one believes them.  I mean, they would know right?  Why don't we believe them?  The line is always long, but it moves fast, and it's SO worth the short wait.

  • Lastly, Goolrick's Pharmacy - this place is awesome.  If you've been walking around downtown and need a break, or possible a milkshake, check this place out.  The old-fashioned soda fountain instantly takes you back to the 50's.  They have a limited menu of sandwiches and ice cream creations, but I always get a strawberry milkshake.  Lately, Bonnie and I have added a new activity to the Goolrick's agenda.  Taking copies of the advertisements and local papers on the newspaper rack and marking up the spelling and grammar errors, and over-apostrophication with a red pen - grammar saves lives, people.  I'm not sure if over-apostrophication is an actual term, but it works.  Let's go with it.

Now, I need to find some Richmond pieces. I have a couple, but Richmond doesn't have the kind of stores that would sell these things.  The Capitol has their own piece, and Very Richmond has a couple that I purchased back in February, but it's a very limited's hoping I can find some more!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Updated plan for the study

Months ago I came up with a master plan of making over our front room from a study into a dining room.  I had it all planned out, found furniture I loved, and then Dave said he'd rather keep it as a study...

After stewing for a couple days, I quickly switched gears and thought about how I could still upgrade the room from country-and-dated to modern-and-sophisticated.  I knew I'd keep the same color scheme, with dark woods furniture, sage on the walls, and red accents and accessories, but had a new mission to find modern bookshelves that could double as wine storage, so we'd still be able to move all of our wine and accessories to this room and de-clutter the kitchen.

Here's a look back at the dining room plan:
  • wood floors
  • natural fiber rug
  • dining room table and chairs
  • awesome buffet and plate rack
  • autumn-toned curtains with decorative rod

...and here's the new plan and breakdown:

1: We're continuing Behr's 'Restful' in this room because it shares a wall with the living room, which shares a wall with the kitchen.

2: I found this chandelier at Home Depot when I was picking up paint and fell in love with it! It's simple, and the bulbs are mounted so you aren't blinded when you look up at the light. I hate that! I love the rustic iron finish, but if I found one in stainless steel, I wouldn't be disappointed.  The room will also need task lighting, since we'll hopefully use it more for reading/relaxing - we've had a tripod table lamp like this one in the garage for months, but nowhere to put it.  Great way to save money - use what you have!

3: After our first flood at the house, caused by me flushing Clorox wipes after cleaning the half bath, we installed laminate flooring in this room.  I was thinking about the future when replacing the floors instead of putting down carpet, hoping that this room would one day be a dining room, but we know how that went.

4: Since everything else in the room will be wood or neutral tones but the rug has some red in it, I want to bring in more punches of red with the curtains and accessories. I found curtain panels at Target for $7.99 each (54x84) so I picked up 2!  I'm a firm believer in DIY, but that's way cheaper than I would have paid for 8 yards of fabric to sew my own.

5: Whatever finish I choose for the chandelier will be matched to the decorative curtain rod, like this one I found! I need to find the perfect one - I love the decorative finial of the one in the polyvore, but need a double rod, so I can hang a sheer behind the panels. It's a weird thing i have about the windows looking the same from the street. All the other windows (except my bedroom closet) have sheers and the blinds are always open, but this room just has a bare window. Unacceptable.

6: We bought this card catalog CD cabinet with all the Target gift cards we received as wedding presents.  I had been eyeing this thing for a long time and I love it! 

7: This is the perfect furniture piece for the function we need out of this room.  It holds all of our books, plus wine bottles, and has a drawer for a corkscrew, napkins, and other wine accessories we probably have laying around.  I found cheaper pieces, like this one from JCPenney, that have the same look, but would only serve as a bookcase, so we'd still have the wine bottle storage problem.  So we decided to splurge and get the Crate and Barrel one. 

8: I want to keep the clutter to a minimum in this room because the book/wine shelf will be full and will be a lot to look at.  I have 2 small wall shelves in the reading corner, where I'll display some of my favorite books, like PostSecret, Found, and love letters, and my new ceramic apple and pineapple will find a home there.

9: Bonnie and I took a road trip to Ikea in search of a rug, mirror, and...something else I can't remember.  I had my heart set on a natural fiber rug, but the affordable ones shed, and the good ones are out of my price range.  Later that day we stopped in to Lowe's for a random item and we walked through the rug section just to see what they had.  I found a rug on the clearance rack with no sticker, and they gave it to me for $15!  Can you believe that?!?  It's about 5x7 and it has reds, greens, tans like the one pictured here.

10: This chair is similar to the big, comfy reading chair that we already have in the room.  A few years ago I was casually thinking about chair styles I might want in the study,  so this was kind of an impulse buy because it was on clearance and I knew I'd never get a chair at a deal like that once I was officially looking!