The morning after...

Thanksgiving went off without a hitch and I'm so relieved.  Tired.  No, exhausted really.  But mostly relieved.  It is nice to be able to cook for your family and provide them with a warm and cozy environment to relax in.  And the best part was NOT having to drive home afterwards.  When the folks left and the dishes were done, we just plopped down on the couch in our tripophan-induced comas for the remainder of the evening.  B even made me a fire!!

I'm not going to lie to you and say that it was easy...it wasn't, and I definitely couldn't have done it without my mom (A.K.A. sous chef) by my side the whole time...but it was also a little fun and rewarding.  I would absolutely do it again.  Well...that is my response now.  Ask me again when I have a little one on my hip someday!  :)

And of course, in the craziness that was my day yesterday, I forgot to snap photos of the table setting and food prep.  Both B and my mom did a good job of capturing the insanity, but I will have to wait another day or two to get them off of their respective cameras.  I promise to be back with more details next week and even some fun updates to the living room (finally!!).  Things are moving along in our little casa and I'm excited to share them with all of you!  And now that we are nearing the holiday season, I will be setting up the tree and preparing the house with all of my festive decor!  Can't wait to show you all of that as well!

Hope you all had a happy turkey day! 



In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, and with inspiration from Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick and Sherry & John over at Young House Love, I thought I would put together a list of some of the things I am thankful for:

(1) Health: My family, friends and I are all in tip-top shape at the moment (well...that might be an exxageration, but we are doing pretty well considering all of the terrible diseases and illnesses that plague our society). 

(2) Home: B and I have a beautiful, comfortable, cozy and warm home to return to every day.  It has been a labor of love, but every agonizing moment was worth it.  It is no longer a "house" that we bought together, it is our "home". 

(3) Love: I am still absolutely smitten..no, head-over-heels...with B (and more and more every day).  I still get butterflies in my stomach when he kisses me unexpectedly.  I still feel the same passion that I felt on our first date...a combination of excitement and desire and comfort all in one.....something that I had never felt before.  And I still smile every morning when I see him lying next to me.....

(4) Family: We have a beautiful family to share this and every holiday with (and even those unexpected visits when we just stop in to say "hi" or they come to help out with projects at the house).  It is wonderful to have everyone so close and so close by.....

(5) Job: As unsure as I am of where my career is going and what I will ultimately do with my life, I am grateful that I have a paycheck and wonderful co-workers to rely on every day.

(6) Friends: B and I have such an amazing group of friends.  They come from all walks of life and have somehow made their ways into our hearts.  I always worried that it would be impossible to combine all of our friends in one room (both B's and mine), but we have done it before and they all get along brilliantly!  I couldn't ask for a more loving, wonderful and supportive group of people.  I don't know where we would be without them in our lives. 

(7) Neighbors: We have the BEST neighbors!!  They are fun and warm and welcoming.....a dream come true!  When you put an offer on a house, it is like playing russian roulette with your future....you have no idea who the neighbors are and what you are getting yourself into.  Needless to say, we got pretty darn lucky!!!  My parents were always close with our neighbors growing up (in fact, they still are) and I always wanted to have that when I grew up and moved to the 'burbs......and now we do!  I'm so grateful!

(8) DIY: I know this sounds silly, but I feel extremely lucky that we have been able to accomplish so much in our house on our own.  Not only did we save a lot of money on labor, but we also got to learn and grow with each other in the process.  I always knew B was a good partner/teammate, but the renovation really strengthened that bond for us!! 

(9) Car: We had a little scare with our car this weekend (had to jump-start it and it went a little awry)...but we got it back on Monday safe and sound and....most importantly...free of charge!! 

(10) Technology: Again, probably a silly one, but when I think about my daily tasks, I'm not sure where I would be without texting, calling, GPS-ing, and e-mailing my way through.  I think we are all pretty lucky to live in this age of instant knowledge and information.  Even digital photography has brought our lives to a new level.  Granted...I really do miss the process of developing my own film...but we can do so much more with photos now.  At the click of a button (well...a few clicks...but you get my point) you can access just about any memory that you want.  It is all there at your fingertips....AMAZING!!

(11) Faith: We have been through ups and downs and good and bad this year and no matter what happens I know I can turn to my faith to get me through.  I know that we haven't been very good about attending church lately, but I always find time to pray or have a chat when I feel lost or need some reassurance.  I am really thankful for having that presence in my life.  I'm not sure what I would do without it....

I'm sure there is a lot more to be thankful for, but that is just a small taste of what I am going to be reflecting on tomorrow (in between cooking, cleaning and entertaining, of course!)  It will be my first time hosting Thanksgiving and I am both excited and nervous about it all.  I have a schedule and a plan all laid out, but I just want to make sure it all goes perfectly!  I will be back on Friday with some table setting photos and an update on the outcome!  Wish me luck!

Is anyone else out there hosting Thanksgiving?  If so, I would love to commisserate with you!!  Or is anyone else thinking about what they are thankful for?  Have you made a list, or tried adding notes to a jar like John and Sherry at Young House Love?  I would love to hear any and all of your thoughts and/or traditions!

Happy Turkey Day!!!!


Deck Reveal

Ok...it's finally here folks.  I braved the jungle that is our backyard this morning and captured a few shots of the deck in its final form (well final until the spring when I plan to stain/seal it)!  I know you have all been waiting with bated breath, so without further ado......[drumroll please].....

I apologize for the dreary photos, but the weather has not been cooperating in the morning and that's the only time I have to take these shots!!  Sorry!! 

We still have some work left to do in the spring, mostly planting around the deck base, staining or sealing (whichever we choose to do), building a planter to go next to the small set of stairs on the extension deck, and re-seeding the grass in the backyard, but I am really happy with the progress so far!!  And I still can't believe that B did all of this (with the help of our dads and friends Liam and Andrew, of course!!!)  I wish summer would come back a little faster so we can enjoy the new deck....but I guess I don't want to make time go by any faster.  It does that just fine on its own!!

So, here is a little recap of where we were and where we have come:

Crazy!  I am so proud of you, B!  Now, if we could just find some affordable patio furniture ("affordable" being the operative word) we would be GOLDEN!  I have been looking for MONTHS though and can't seem to find anything that I like for a decent price.  I have considered both wrought iron (I always type "rod" first and then realize that I am TOTALLY wrong) and teak, but full sets run upwards of $1,000 - $2,000!  EEEK!  I have now become a craigslist patio furniture stalker.  Every morning I check to see if someone wants to get rid of their AWESOME patio furniture and sell it to me for peanuts.  No luck so far, but I'm not giving up just yet! 

So there you have it, our DIY deck project!  What do you think?  Has anyone else out there built or are in the process of building a deck or patio?  I would love to hear your story and see what your plans are for staining or sealing it...or any tips you might have on patio furniture!! 

And I'll be back tomorrow with some thanksgiving-related thoughts!  I can't believe it's already here!! 


Blog Makeover

I have not been great about posting recently.  I am like the bad friend that never returns your voicemail messages.  Ugh....I thought that things would slow down once we finished up the big projects, but now that we are actually "living" in the house, the decor/design projects are completely overwhelming me.  To the point that I literally sat on the couch last night and stared around at my living room walls for a solid 10 minutes just trying to figure out what could go here and what is missing there.....or what color rug would look good in the room.  This is the fun part; the exciting part of the update process, but I am frozen with fear of making the wrong decision.  Does anyone feel this way? 

I narrow the choices down to two, but then go back and forth until I can't even see straight anymore.  I feel paralysed by it all.  And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I'm subconciously trying to decorate ALL of the rooms at once, instead of just focusing on one at a time.  I guess I just want it all to be done (well...it will never be done, since tastes and styles always change...but you know what I mean!)  But enough of my tangent, I just wanted to apologize for being MIA over the last few weeks.  I promise that I have a lot of projects (once I can make some decisions) in the works, though, so stay tuned!

But before I go, I want to talk about the obvious changes that you see here today.  Over the past few weeks, the only thing that I could decide on was a new face here at simple.beautiful.home.  I have always wanted to try and learn a big of graphic design/html coding, but never got around to it.  So, the other day while I was checking out one of my favorite blogs Just a Girl, I noticed that she was doing a blog makeover promotion with The Design Girl Studio.  I checked out Design Girl's website and loved her work, so I sent her an email and she said she could do it right away!!  I originally wanted a custom blog design (which is only $80), but I really liked one of her pre-made templates, so I figured I would try this on for size and maybe work up to a custom design down the road!  I sent her the order form and payment at 1:00pm and she had it all complete by 2:30pm....AMAZING!!  If you haven't already jumped over to her website DEFINITELY do.  She also offers custom prints, logos and buttons (and much more)! 

A little facelift was just what I needed to light a fire under the old keyboard (figuratively, of course).  I feel a renewed sense of inspiration to create and share more projects with you.  And HOPEFULLY this will help me move past my paralysis and get our house done before our Christmas party in a few weeks!!  More to come, friends!! 


Lions and Tigers and Bears....Oh my!

Ok....it's really more like lions and zebras and elephants...but you get the idea.  It sounded better the first way!

So, in lieu of announcing the deck reveal, or going into another long rant about cozying up my casa, I thought I would take a break from the regularly scheduled programming and share some photos with you today.  I was going through our Africa photos on my computer last night and came across these ones, which are some of my favorites. 

And since we have officially been back from Africa for a month now, I thought it would be the perfect time to share a few more snippets of our experience.  These were all taken with my small Canon PowerShot Digital ELPH camera.  Not too bad, little one. 

I still have yet to upload all of the photos from our new SLR camera (since our computer is currently claiming there's no room at the inn for memory capacity)....but I will have a lot more close-up shots (we're talking snots in the nose of a giraffe and fuzz on the head of a baby baboon) to share once we can figure out how to remedy the space issue.  Honestly, we are in the market for a new computer anyway, so this might just be the push we needed to take the plunge.  Not in the budget, though, my friends!  Maybe Santa will bring us something special under the tree this year! 


Project: Cozy Casa

WARNING: this is the longest post EVER....but it has lots of pictures, so I promise it is worth it!!  :)

After months of incorporating tools and dirt into my decor, I am happy to report that we have finished enough of the big projects to move all of the junk into the garage. It's design time, folks!!  No more saws in the kitchen or hammers on the living room floor.  It's over!!!  And its actually a win-win for both B and I.  He gets to set up his nice new (well...new to him) organized tool bench out in the garage and I get to have my way with the decor! 

I wanted to start out small though, so first stop on the cozy train is the dining room. 

Here is where we were back in February:

This is the beautiful built in china cabinet.  It sort of just blends in
with the background instead of standing out though....sad! 
And you can also see that there was a swinging door between this room and the kitchen. 

This is the view from the kitchen.  This wall had NO IDEA what it had coming!!
And say "hi" to my father-in-law.  He got caught in my photo shoot frenzy!

And finally, this is the view from the doorway of the room.   

It actually wasn't a bad space to work with.  We just added some fresh paint to the walls and trim and polished up the satin nickel chandelier.  But before long, we started itching to take down that wall.  Two weeks after we moved in we started demo-ing the place.  First, we ripped it down to the studs....

Unfortunately I wasn't a part of the demo process this time, but I can
tell you from the opening we did in the hallway that it is truly
cathartic!  Pure therapy, I tell you!  B and our friend Andrew actually did
all of the demo work in just two days (maybe even less)!!

And here we are with the space opened up and the new support
beam installed.  It makes the room feel SOOO much bigger! 
When I came home from work the day the contractor finished installing
this beam, my jaw literally dropped!  Best decision I made in this
renovation process..BAR NONE!

To be honest, the dining room stayed in this state for quite some time.  We really didn't want to do anything else until we finished the kitchen and the dust settled (literally).  So when that day finally came, I was ITCHING to cozy up the place.  I started with a dining room table.  We never had one in our condo for lack of space, so I shopped around to find the perfect one that we could grow into.  I ended up choosing "the one" from an unfinished wood place, Mill Stores (in NH and MA...maybe elsewhere as well) and had them stain it Red Mahogany (similar to the floors).  For some reason I don't see my table on their website any more, but they still have a lot of great options to choose from.  I also thought about doing the staining myself, but the table I chose has so many nooks and crannies as well as an attached leaf that hides down in the middle...AKA lots of opportunity for me to screw it up.  So, I let them take care of it.  It's definitely not the same as the Sumner table or the Harvest table from Pottery Barn that I have been eyeing for years.....but it was the perfect choice for our needs and our budget.  With the staining and all 6 chairs, I think it came out to $1000 (give or take a few dollars).  The extension tables usually start at $1000 at Pottery Barn and then you have to add the chairs on from there at $150-$300 each.  In the end, I'm REALLY happy with it!

Here she is:

Sorry I don't have a closer shot of the wood.  But you get the idea!

And at the time, the only rug I had was a blue floral one from Target.  I actually really love it, but it was WAY too small for this dining room set.  You would move your chair out an inch and be off the rug.  Not ideal!  So, next step was RUG SHOPPING!!  And to be honest, it was my LEAST favorite part of this process.  I quickly found out that 1) 8x10's are INSANELY expensive and 2) most places don't carry all of their rugs in store, so you have to guess at the colors online!  I was completely overwhelmed...but there were a few things that helped to narrow it down.  First of all, the oriental rug style that I do like (i.e., oushak) are upwards of $2,000-$3,000 or more.  Not in the cards, my friends.  And on top of that, it is almost impossible to find one with a blue/purple/gray color in it to complement the wall color.  I could find you 5 million ones with red or green in them, but the color I want......they don't even MAKE IT!  My color palette was very warm in our old place, so I was really drawn to the beautiful red and black and cream and taupe rugs...but it just wouldn't work in this house, and definitely not this space  So...back to square one. 

The next thing I discovered was that I was drawn to the natural textures and colors of jute and seagrass.  Normally, I would shy away from mixing warm and cool colors, but since the table and the floor are both warm red/browns, I thought I could take a risk with a jute rug and see how it played with the cooler wall tones.  What do you think??

I found this really great jute rug at Overstock.com for $200 (with a coupon and their RIDICULOUSLY cheap shipping costs...$2.99).  I absolutely love it.  And although you can't tell by looking at it, it is SO soft underfoot!!!  We have had it in the space for a few weeks now and it is working out great.  The only thing I worry about in the future is a red wine or fruit punch spill.  Most other things can be absorbed up with a paper towel (or vacuum in the case of crumbs or dirt), but any dark color liquid could really ruin it.  I did some research online before I bought this one and apparently jute does not respond well to water or any other cleaning solvents because it is a natural fiber.  The recommendations I found were to react quickly, and even put some baking soda down to absorb any remaining liquid...then just hope for the best.  That is definitely a drawback for this rug, but I feel like its worth the risk.  I will report back when I have to face one of these clean-up situations and let you know how it goes.  So far, so good though!  And, as tacky as this sounds, it is the same on both sides, so if worse came to worse, I would just flip it over!!  :)  Hehe.   I'm even thinking of getting one for my living room as well!

It looks a lot more yellowy in this picture, but as you can see
from the photo of it in my dining room, it is a lot more subdued in
real life.  It is more of a natural taupe color that you would expect
from a jute material.  Looks can be deceiving online!!

So after the paint and the table and the rug were added to the room, it was finally time to wrap up the cozy project with some curtains.  As you can see in the photo above, I had tried out some black curtain rods from IKEA.  At only $14.99 each, they were definitely the most affordable option.  I even liked the look of them, but they were not extendable, so they only went out a few inches past the window trim.  And although that normally works fine, I wanted a little more drama out of my curtains, especially since dining rooms are supposed to be a bit dramatic.  So, I ended up using those up in my bedroom (which I will share later) and going with some Levolor ones from Home Depot (although I found them a few days later for less on Amazon and returned them to Home Depot). 

They are a little more chunky than the IKEA ones and the satin nickel works much better in the space.  It complements the chandelier and actually blends better against the blue/purple/gray wall color.  Or at least I think it does.....maybe I'm just crazy at this point!!  That wouldn't surprise me.

Without further ado...here is the dining room...all cozied up!

It was really dreary out this morning, so the pictures aren't great, but you get the idea.  The curtains are from IKEA and they are amazing.  They look and feel like linen but they are just cotton.  And they are heavy enough to hold their own in the room, but light enough to filter the sunlight through a bit as well.  EXACTLY what I have been looking for, but it took me an insane amount of trips to fabric stores and curtain stores and online stores to find them.  The best part of all, though, is that they are only $19.99 per pair!  Yes, you heard read me write!!!  I was very naive going into this process...a virgin curtain buyer, you could say, and I got all excited thinking that I could buy pottery barn drapes for $30 per pair.  Ha!  I wish!  What they don't tell you (or what I probably should have known but wasn't paying attention that day in Home Ec) was that most stores sell them per panel.  Which means that I would have been spending $60/window or more plus the cost of drapery hardware....UGH!!  I can only imagine what the cashier at Bed Bath and Beyond was thinking when I was furiously returning the (1) panel that I bought for $30 since I was not going to pay $60 per window at Bed Bath and Beyond!!!  I thought it was the place to get deals....but no!  I could get the ones I wanted at Pottery Barn for that price.  I think I was a little hormonal at the time as well, so that didn't help the situation.  Long story short, though, she thought I was crazy!  "Lady, everyone knows they are sold per panel!"  WHOA!  First of all, don't call me lady, and second of all, there should be a little disclosure sign in the drapery section of the store warning people like me of these SCANDALS!!  Hrmph!  Ok...off my soapbox and back to IKEA!  So these RITVA curtains are clearly amazing, but there is one little problem.  They do not come hemmed.  And that actually is a good thing AND a bad thing.  Good in that you don't have to stick to a standard size, but bad in that it took my mom and I (she's such a trooper) 4 hours to get just these 4 panels hemmed and up on the curtain rods!!  EEEK!  IKEA provides you with some no-sew bias tape (or stitch-witchery...which I've also heard it called) to ease the pain, but it still takes a while to measure everything and iron it out!  I admit that it is a lot easier than hemming them on the sewing machine, but still, I was looking forward to buying something and throwing them up that day!  No dice.  All in all, TOTALLY worth it though!  The price is right and they are exactly what I was looking for.  I actually bought 8 more pairs of them for my living room and bedroom!  Lots of hemming going on in my house these days.....and while I'm on that topic, one more quick thing...I decided to hem them just an inch above the floor so that they wouldn't collect dust from the hardwoods!  I thought about hemming them above my baseboard heaters, but since they are oil heat and not electric, they will never get hot enough to cause a fire hazard (I googled that one too!). 

And since I love a little before and after action....here it is:

So that's it for part I of the cozy-up casa project. I apologize for the length but its a lot of info to squeeze into one post. Hopefully the living room will be a little more succinct! I will be back with that at the end of the week!


Behind door #2...

I have a dirty little secret to share with you.....sometimes I don't completely finish all of my projects!!!  I know, I know, its terrible.  Most of the time, I just tell myself that I will just get to it tomorrow or the next weekend, etc., etc., but there are definitely times when I literally FORGET about a project.  And that is the case with our bathroom door.....

During our renovation of the half bath a few months back, I painted EVERYTHING from wall color to trim to ceiling....EVERYTHING!  I even painted the exterior-facing side of the door black (in keeping with the other internal hall door theme discussed here)...and later changed my mind and re-painted it white, since the bathroom is right next to the kitchen where the cabinets and other doors are white.  But...somewhere along the way I forgot to actually paint the other side of the door.  And since I hardly ever use that bathroom, or even pay attention when I actually do, I never noticed that the yellow door stuck out like a sore thumb in our nice new blue and white bathroom!  OOPS!  Guests that have visited must have thought I was crazy!!

Awful, right?  Made worse by the fact that the rest of the room is freshly painted!  EEEK!  To remedy the disaster, I pulled out my handy-dandy Purdy brush last night and went to town with some already-owned Behr white trim paint.  I probably should do a second coat for good measure tonight, but the initial results are already 100 times better!! 

Now I just need to hang some photos on the right-side wall (or left if you are standing in the doorway).  Our computer crashed the other day and iPhoto is not cooperating, so we are going to have to wait on that project until we can a) fix the problem; or b) buy a new computer (which I'm voting for)!  Until then, I am just happy that the yellow door is no more!  I have to admit that it was a little sad to see the last of the drab, dingy yellow color disappear from our house....but that moment was fleeting!  Now, I'm just happy to check another project off my list (regardless of the fact that I wasn't aware it was on my list).  Perhaps I have just gotten to the point where I subconsciously remove things from my list to make it appear less daunting??  I guess we'll never know!

I also realize that I promised the deck reveal today (or yesterday...I can't remember), but B is still working on the final 4 railings, so I thought I would let him finish those up before I posted the reveal.  It will look much more complete that way!  Hopefully I will have something to share with you next Monday!  In the meantime though, I am working on some decorative updates to the dining room and living room this week.  I will have some updates on that tomorrow!! 


Backsplash: FINAL REVEAL

I thought this day would never come.  It was the FINAL project in our kitchen overhaul (well....for now)......and it's done!!  I can't tell you how relieved I am to have this off my list.  It was hanging over my head like an albatross for the last few months, and I feel so good now that I can check it off!  DONE!

As I said with the tiling part of the project, I'm not going to lie and tell you that I loved doing it.  Don't get me wrong, it was definitely rewarding to look back at the end of the day and say, "I did that," but it was said with an ice pack on my lower back and grout shoved so far under my finger nails that I can still see remnants this morning.  There were several moments on Saturday when I wanted to just curl up on the floor and sob because it was going to slowly....but I finally got to the end...and I love it! 

But before I reveal any photos, I need to confess that I COULD NOT have done the grouting job without my dad.  He was a rockstar!!  We traded off applying the grout and wiping it off (although he ended up doing most of the application part since I was being anal-retentive overly particular with the wipe off part).  I'm not sure that you really need two people for the job, but it definitely helped.  He would go a little ahead of me and I would start sponging off the excess grout from the tiles about ten minutes after he applied.  I suppose you could have done this by yourself but it would probably take days to keep running back and forth!  But again....let me remind you that I was being really particular about the way it looked, so it might not take everyone as long as it took me.  If you haven't noticed yet from this blog, or if you are new here....I'm a big of a perfectionist.  Shocking, I know!

So...enough rambling...let's show you the goods:

It is NOWHERE near perfect, but it's not too bad for a first-timer either.  I am actually pretty happy with the final result (and the final price of $73...read more about the cost breakdown here).  I really feels like the last piece of the puzzle has been placed on the kitchen renovation.  Phew!!

Before I wrap this topic up, I just want to do a quick recap on the grout decision-making process (in case anyone else is planning this type of project in their house).  I went back and forth for weeks on the grout color and decided to use the gray (Deleorean Gray) AccuGrout sanded mix that I already had on hand from the bathroom tiling project a few months back.  White was my other choice, naturally, but after stepping back and looking at the whole picture, I felt like it would be TOO much white for my kitchen.  If you look back to my inspiration post you will see that most of the photos had white on white on white!  It looks beautiful in those kitchens, but they also have lots of pops of color throughout or bold hardware on the cabinetry.  The main theme is that there is something in each of the kitchens that stands out.  Either the floor or the countertop or the light fixtures....and in my case, it will be the backsplash!  I chose to really define the subway tiles with the gray grout.  It is an easy way to make them pop and come alive.  I like the subtle contrast, and most importantly, the gray grout just happens to the be the same color as the gray striations in the granite countertop, so it brings out some of those colors as well.  I love how things just work out like that! 

And another reason that I chose the darker color was that I envisioned my lovely husband wildly stirring spagetti sauce one evening.  I imagined how much of a pain it would be to get the red out of the white grout.  Maybe I'm crazy, but those are the kinds of things that I think about when planning a project.  I had to confess this part, because I honestly make most of my design decisions based on how they will function with kids (in the future) and with my husband (who tends to be a TAD messy at times).  Your house is not a museum...not by any stretch...so it has to function with your life.  There are so many beautiful kitchens outu there, but if they don't work for your life or your family then it's not the right choice!  Ultimately, you have to find the option that is both beautiful AND functional for you! 

So, that wraps it up for the backsplash! YAY!

What are your thoughts on functionality vs. beauty?  Do you have a hard time saying no to the beautiful off-white sofa because it doesn't function?  Or, have you done any recent grouting/tiling projects that you want to share?  I would love to hear/see all of your thoughts, projects or ideas!!! 

Next up: Deck Reveal!!!