Monday, December 30, 2013

A Very Merry Christmas

Blake and I switch off major holidays with our families.  This year it was Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with Blake's.  It's a nice system because everyone knows what to expect and when to plan on us.  Plus, we're able to buy our plane tickets way in advance, which is music to my cheapskate ears.

Blake's parents host Christmas Eve dinner and festivities at their house every year.  The 8 nieces and nephews come.  Iya and Papa (the grandkids' name for Blake's parents) give their gifts to the kids and the kids do a Christmas program.  I think Blake took some great shots of the gang doing the nativity and singing carols with matching Santa hats, but I've got to steal those from him, so I'll work on posting those later this week.

We also exchange gifts with Blake's siblings on Christmas Eve.  We pick names and have a specific dollar limit, which makes shopping and planning so easy and stress-free.  This year we had Tyler and Rebecca (Tyler is #2 of 4 in Blake's family).

I wanted to do some handmade gifts this year, so as soon as I confirmed who we had in the exchange I started working on a blanket.

Now that Christmas is over and there's no chance of my ruining the surprise, I can show the final product.  I did it in a thick, squishy, warm yarn in cream and grey.  The last two photos are truest to the color in real life.

It ended up about seven feet by seven feet - perfect for snuggling up with on the couch.  It's not perfect (don't look too closely at where I joined the yarn!), but I'm really pleased that I was able to complete it in time and that it actually resembles what I'd imagined.

Now I think I need a crafting break!  On to house projects for the New Year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Three cheers/chairs for garbage

I think I have a chair problem.  I can't see one on the street and not bring it home.  My basement is beginning to look like an old folks home - but instead of old folks it's old, bedraggled, slightly confused-looking chairs.

They migrate around the house depending upon my whim (and need for seating).  Right now I've got this emerald green velvet fella up in the nook in our room.

The back (where your head would rest) is slightly greasy and needs a good cleaning, so until I get around to that, I've draped a blanket over it.  See no grease, be not scared of grease.  Easy peasy.

If it doesn't clean up well, I'm debating covering it in a charcoal velvet - a color I think would go well with its masculine shape.  I also need to re-stuff the seat cushion so that it looks less tired.  Other than that, I'm really loving the way it looks in our room next to the little Christmas tree.

You really can't beat the price,!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A real tub o' lard.

I fell in love with this bin at an estate sale this fall - I loved the color, the shine and the patina of the metal.  When I asked the owner what it was originally used for, he said it was a lard tub.

So for anyone who remembers grade school insults and is curious what exactly a tub o' lard looks like, this is it:

Pretty, right?  And far less insulting a comparison than I'd always imagined.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas around the house.

I tried something new in my Christmas decorating around the house this year.  Each room had a color theme (more or less): the living room was red, the family room was green, and the dining room was silver and gold.

I had red plaid pillows on the couch in the living room, red candles and a red tree skirt.  In the family room I had green plaid pillows, green topiaries, and a green garland around the windows.  In the dining room I had my silver and gold candlestick collection down the center of the table (with all white tapers) and a new gold Christmas tree in the corner with silver snowflake ornaments.

It was probably too subtle a scheme for anyone but me to notice, but I had fun doing it anyway.  Nothing makes the house feel more cosy than a Christmas tree and twinkle lights.  We added more garland and twinkle lights to the mix this year because we just can't get enough.

You'll notice we didn't put lights or ornaments on the bottom portion of the tree - that's thanks to little Bear.  He's obsessed with the tree and the lights and we were worried lest he bite the lights and electrocute his fully self.

At least now when we catch him laying under the tree biting off the lower limbs (his new favorite past-time) we're not worried about sudden death.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Doggy discourse

This rascally ball of fur brought home a prize from our walk yesterday.  He often brings home branches and nuts that he finds along the way, so I didn't think anything of it when he was throwing something around to himself in the living room.

But.  What I thought was a twig turned out to be a rat leg.

They way I know this?

Once he was done playing with it, I went to pick it up off the hearth to throw it away and realized that it had a paw and claws.  Shiver.  It was one of the more disgusting dog-owner bits of business I've ever come across (and that's saying something seeing as I have to pick up his poop every day).  There is not enough anti-bacterial hand soap in all the world to make me feel clean after holding a dismembered rat claw in my hand.

Other than that, though, Bear is a delight.  He followed us around all day on Saturday while we were preparing for our annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party and cried and moaned when he wasn't allowed to taste all of the treats.  I think he's finally figured out how much better human food is than dog food.

But enough about the dog.

The party was great - tons of food, tons of people, tons of funny white elephant gifts.  It's one of our favorite traditions every year and it really helps it feel like Christmas.  Plus, it's a good excuse to get the house all decorated for the holiday.

My mom sent me a new ugly sweater for the occasion.  I'm wearing it below.  I got a lot of comments saying it wasn't nearly ugly enough...and that's true.  I think I'd actually wear it on a normal day.  It's more kitschy than ugly, so it's a winner in my book.

Now that it officially feels like Christmas, I can hardly believe it's only a little over a week away!  Where is the time going?  December, how come you move so fast?!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Santa Paws is Comin' to Town

I think when you adopt a puppy you're signing some sort of cosmic contract that says, "I, the undersigned, agree to never pee alone again."

And then you're held to that contract every moment of every day.  Close the door to the bathroom before he can get in?  No worries, he'll just cry, moan and scratch at the door until you give in to his pleas.  Then again, with a face as cute and fluffy as Bear's, it's really hard to ever say no.

It's also really hard to want to be away from the little guy.

We brought Bear up to New York with us this past weekend (we tagged along with Blake's parents who were up there for the law firm Christmas party).  He was, as usual, a fuzzy celebrity everywhere we went.  He's such a diva.

He got his own seat in the car between Blake's parents and loved every second of the ride - alternately putting his head on Brent and Marilyn's laps for snuggles.  He got to sneak up on the bed at the hotel (hey, I'm not the one washing those sheets, ok?).  He walked around SoHo with the knowing gait of an uptown pup, allowing himself to be snuggled and photographed by all sorts of admirers.

He was, however, particularly sad when we didn't let him eat any Tacos from La Esquina (our favorite place for Tacos), even though I tried to tell him it was for his own good.

After a fruitless 10-block search for a potty spot around our Hotel in midtown, we decided that NYC is just not a dog-friendly place.  Where are all the dogs doing their business? On the streets?  That thought makes me want to take another shower today.

Bear has been trained not to wee on the cement, so he held it for ages while we located a suitable dirt patch.  What a champ.  For only five months old he did pretty well in the big city.

New York, we love you, but we're sure glad to be home.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A tisket, a tasket

Blake took Bear to his parents' house a couple of times while I was away.  Iya and Papa's house is Bear's idea of Heaven and makes himself right at home every time we visit.

He especially loves the basket where Iya keeps her old newspapers and magazines.  It doesn't look particularly comfortable to me, but maybe all that paper is soothing?  Regardless, it sure makes for a darling photo.  All that frizzy hair and the droopy ears.  Be still my heart.

I know I'm biased, but I'm fairly certain that he's the cutest puppy in the entire world.  The entire universe, maybe.

P.S.  Bear has his own tab above. The little guy has his own Instagram account (@sheepadoodlebear).    He's such a little fame whore.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In the Homeland

This was the first time I've visited when none of my other siblings are living at home.  I feel selfish for saying this, but it was so fun to get to spend so much undivided time with my parents.  We ate good food, saw Catching Fire, took beautiful drives up the canyon, went on long walks, did projects, went Christmas shopping, and ate more good food.

The two weeks flew by (even though I was missing Blake like crazy- darn that flu!).  

Nothing makes me feel older than driving by my old high school when it's letting out for the day.  Did I look so young back then?  I swear I was older than those kids.  

And same with the college freshman.  I went to one of the freshman wards in my Dad's stake and felt positively ancient.  So many memories of freshman year with the fatties came flooding back.  Looking around the room I half expected some of my old roomies to come walking through the door. It's hard to believe it was almost 10 years ago that I was in that stage of life.

Oh dear, I'm turing into such an old fuddy duddy.  

But seriously.  I'm learning how quickly life passes us by.  It's been my new goal this year to really try to enjoy each day and to get the most out of it.  Live without regrets. That's going to be my motto for 2014.

But before I wax more poetic than my writing ability can endure, here are some photos of the trip courtesy of my iPhone.

A couple views from my daily morning walks with Mom and Noosa:

My Dad and me at Sundance

My Mom and me at Sundance (of course the only day I remember to take photos is a day I don't wash or brush my hair. Sigh. Why does that always happen?)
More of the beautiful view at Sundance

My lovely parents at Sundance
Noosa guarding the entrance to my parents' house.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Rise and Shout

I just got back from a two week trip to Utah to visit my family.  I was fairly successful in "unplugging" while I was there, which felt so good.  It's hard to remind myself how little I actually need my screen time.

Blake got the flu a few days before he was scheduled to come out and join me, so he spent Thanksgiving alone at the house in the throws of his sickness.  It was so sad not to spend the holiday together (though thank goodness it wasn't Christmas!).  All I know is that this Thanksgiving is going down in our family record books.  At least Blake had Bear to keep him company - though I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing when you're trying to rest.  Bear is such an active puppy!

But, back to Utah.

My Dad picked me up from the airport on Saturday morning and we headed down to Provo.  I got to tag along with him to the last BYU football home game.  One of the best parts about tagging along with my Dad is getting to sit in the President's Box.  Football games are an entirely different experience when you're watching them from a climate controlled room with an endless buffet dinner. I could get used to that type of football.

Provo is beautiful in the fall.  I got to see the last of the bright leaves and the beginnings of the snow-covered mountains.  It snowed during the game and the misty mountain view from the stadium was fantastic.

I think DC is gorgeous, but man I really miss those mountains.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Too much text to read.

This is a couple days late for Veterans day, but I've been thinking about it for a couple weeks now and not known quite what to write.

A few weeks ago I read a fictional account of Iraq war veterans called Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.  It was one of the most thought provoking books on war I have ever read.  I'm not sure I could glowingly recommend it to a wider audience as it was also the most profane book I've ever read.  But, I guess that's to be expected when it's told from the point of view of a young soldier.

Billy and his colleagues are back in the US on a victory tour after their heroism at "the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal."  They are paraded around the country and hailed as heroes at various events, including a halftime show at an NFL game where they're brought up on stage with Destiny's Child dancing around them.  

What struck me most was Billy's reaction to folks who would come up and talk to him and express gratitude or want to discuss the war.  The writing was superb.  Billy would zone out during these conversations and only hear key words that seemed to be repeated by everyone he met "thankful, honor, nine-eleven, terrorist, grateful, Osama...."  The thank yous seemed so empty coming from people who could never dream of understanding what he'd just been through, or how it felt to lose a close friend right in front of your eyes, or how it felt to destroy a person. 

They'd thank him, then move right on to their beer or huddle back in their expensive coats against the cold, while Billy was lost in thought, re-living his terrible experiences.  

All this time, Billy and his colleagues are also trying to negotiate a movie deal.  The money their agent has promised them is going to solve all of Billy's problems (or help solve his parents' problems).  He's got nothing, and his parents will lose their house if the money doesn't come through.  

[Side note: I'm revealing so much of the plot because I feel like if you read it, you'll get lost in the writing and the emotion of it all and not care as much about the spoilers.]

It all really got to me.  How do we sufficiently thank these young kids who are dying for us?  How do we we let them know how important we think they are?  How do you convey your gratitude and patriotic emotion without being so empty?  

How is it that these injured (mentally and physically) boys are not taken care of when they return home? We can't erase their experiences, but can we ease the transition back into "normal" life?

All these questions had been whirling around in my head for weeks, when Adrienne invited me to an anniversary party at Urban Country in Bethesda.  We arrived without knowing that the evening was also a benefit for the Wounded Warrior project.  

I had such trouble keeping my emotions (and water works) in check that night.

I'm grateful to live in a city where I can see so many active military members on a regular basis.  I'm glad that when I do it makes the war seem closer to home.  It's so easy otherwise to just push it out of my mind.

We met and talked with soldiers who are currently recovering at Walter Reed.  Some in wheel chairs, some without legs, some without a jaw, some with pins sticking out of their feet.  All under the age of 30.  

They were so kind and so impressive.  It made the war come so close to home.  My heart just ached for them.  

I felt like I was living my very own Billy Lynn.

How could I express gratitude in a way fitting what they'd done?  How would it sound to them for me to be saying I felt "so patriotic"?  Would it sound to them as empty as it felt to me?  I don't know the words to do justice to my gratitude.

I love words, but sometimes they can be so confining.  When it comes to emotion, there are never enough to so finely describe how you feel.

What I know is this. Although I don't have the words (or the capability to be eloquent with the ones I do have) to thank the men and women fighting for our country, I am so grateful for their sacrifices.  I am grateful for their optimism and faith in the greater good.  I am grateful for their bravery.  I am grateful for their tradition and honor.  I am grateful to the families that support their sons and daughters when they're so far away.

The night was to benefit the Combat Soldiers Recovery Fund.  It is a Maryland-based non-profit that provides funds to soldiers recovering at Walter Reed.  The woman who runs it does it for free so that 100% of donations make it to the soldiers.  The soldier is given a check and is able to do with it whatever he wants (fly his family out to visit him, buy Christmas presents for his children, take his wife out for dinner, buy a new prosthetic leg...).  As one of the soldiers I met said, "it is a check, yes, but it is also respect.  To be trusted to do with the money what we want shows more respect than most charities."  If you'd like to donate to the fund, you can do so here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So Succulent

More Good Garbage today.

Folks in our neighborhood will post "curb alerts" on the listserv whenever they're getting rid of something.  A lot of times it's not useful to us, but sometimes we're intrigued and will walk (or drive depending on the size of the item) on over with Bear in tow to check it out.

One of our latest finds was a pile of succulents.  They looked measly laying there on the side of the road, but we liked the texture and color of a few of them, so we were glad to give them a home.

Blake planted them in one of our recent garage sale finds.  We got a plethora of pots for 25 cents each from a home in our neighborhood that we've always wanted to explore.  The house is on a triple lot and has its own greenhouse, so we were simply unable to stay away when the Estate Sale signs went up.  It did not disappoint. We found some other great things there, but I'll save those for another day.

25 cents for a new plant for the kitchen.  Now I won't feel as bad when I end up killing it.  Succulents are fickle in our household - I will neither accept nor reject the blame for this.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mr. Bear goes to Washington

Someone told Bear that the current president is named BEARack Obama.  So, naturally he had to go downtown and check out the situation.  

Oh I love a good play on words.

The weather was perfect on Saturday (70 degrees in November!), so we brought Bear down with us to Eastern Market and the Mall.  Bear was an instant celebrity at the flea market.  We couldn't get three feet without getting stopped and without Bear getting some sort of snuggles.  As the world's friendliest dog, he was extremely pleased and hammed it up for everyone.  

We're trying to get him used to large crowds, so that was the perfect place - lots of people, lots of dogs, and lots of kids.  Oh the kids! He loves the kids most of all.

After perusing the market and gorging ourselves on street food (Chicken tikka at Indigo and blackout and maple-bacon donuts at DC Donuts - be still my heart!), we walked around the Mall to enjoy the fall colors.  It's a rare occurrence that we remember to take any pictures, but the scenery was so beautiful and we happened to have Blake's camera on hand, so we took advantage.

Bear has trouble looking at the camera when there are squirrels in the near vicinity, but I think he's pretty photogenic nonetheless.  

Why can't we have more perfect fall days like this?


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Howl-een!

Happy Howl-een from Rachel, Blake, and Bear 
(a puppy who thinks doing tricks for treats is the best thing since the invention of kibble).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Death by Chocolate

I hate cooking.

Well, I wouldn't say that I hate it so much as I don't enjoy it as much as I enjoy baking. I love baking. I adore baking.  If my pants were stretchy enough, I'd probably bake every day.

I try to keep myself in check by only baking when we have a specific party or person in mind.  That way the extras don't end up sitting around at my house. Hmm. That's just the thing. The left overs don't end up sitting around for long.  And I end up with a sugar-induced stomach ache.

I have no self control.

I could have jumped for joy with my friend, Adrienne, asked if I would bring some treats to her Halloween bash.  I made my usual homemade oreos, but also got into the spirit of the season with these gravestone cupcakes.  I like to call them "Death by Chocolate:" devil's food cake, dark chocolate milano cookies, chocolate cream cheese frosting, dark chocolate lettering, and oreo crumble on top.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have The America's Test Kitchen Baking Cookbook to lust over and holiday baking to plan.  I love this time of year.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Better After

The weather today is gorgeous, so after a long walk and lunch with Adrienne, I finished the touch ups on the chair.  Now it's dry and ready to be sat upon.  I'm loving the crisp, clean white (emphasis on clean).  I decided to add a blue plus sign on the back for fun, but I'm not sure if I'll keep it or if I like it better all white.  My spray painting finger is sore today, so for now it'll live to see another morning.  Who knows, maybe when I wake up tomorrow I'll be smitten with it.

I had been skeptical of painting pleather, but after I saw a similar chair that Jenny Komenda did, I took the plunge and bought two cans of Rustoleum multi-surface spray paint.  $6.00 and an hour or two later and I'm already enjoying the finished product.

Not too shabby for a garbage chair.  I only wish I had two (my neighbors had a pair, but kept the other one).  How great would a pair of these look tucked into a long, butcher block-topped desk?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Good Garbage

One of my greatest pleasures in life is finding good garbage.  You know, the kind of garbage that's not really garbage?

My neighbors throw away the greatest furniture and I have been known to make Blake drive me around the neighborhood the night before trash day to check out the situation.  We go under the cover of night and I have Blake shine the car lights at people's piles.  It's all very cloak and dagger… mostly because it feels strange to be looking at other people's trash.

I love turning trash into treasure.  I've furnished a lot of my house that way and now you, lucky reader, get to see it all documented here for my viewing pleasure.

A couple years ago my next door neighbors put this beauty out on the curb for trash pick up.  It was a little worse for wear (grimy pleather- eww- hence the Goo Gone in the second photo), but otherwise in good shape. I loved the lines and the brass casters.  I was sold.

It's been hiding out in the basement all this time as my sewing chair and is now making a resurgence to the main floor.  I'm currently working on updating it, but am still putting on the finishing touches.  I'll share the "after" tomorrow, but for now enjoy the grimy "before."  Bear kindly acted as the model (read: he wouldn't leave the chair alone and insisted on being in as many photos as possible).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


That chair in the last post?  We got it for $50.00 at a neighborhood furniture sale.  It's a brand new Pottery Barn armchair that normally retails for $650.00.  Score of the decade!  I do so love a good deal.

In other news, Bear continues to be an absolute delight.  He entertains us all day with his silly antics and his penchant for snuggling.  He's loving this fall weather and asks to be let out every few minutes just so he can lay down on the patio and chase the falling leaves.  He's trained on the bells now, so all he has to do is go ring the bells and sit and wait for me to open the door.  Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure he's got us trained rather than the other way around.

He loves to survey his domain every morning - both from the front window and from the edge of the patio.  The first thing he does when we come downstairs in the morning is to run to the front window, wiggle his way between the curtain panels, and try to push the curtains aside so he can have a better view.  This means I actually have to be halfway dressed and partially presentable in the morning so that all our neighbors aren't horrified when they look in.  BUT, does this mean I actually do look presentable that early in the A.M.?  Not a chance.

Bear finally reached his 16 week mark last weekend, so he's cleared to meet other dogs and go on more involved adventures.  Yesterday he was the toast of the town in Bethesda when we went for a walk and lunch with friends.  A few people even stopped to take photos of him.  He posed like a champ. That's my boy.

Oh boy. I'm turning into one of those dog owners.  Well, begin as you intend to go on, I say.  To cement my status as crazy dog lady, here's a montage of the little guy surveying his fiefdom:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Secretly 75 years old

I am so behind at life.  Our friends had surprise twins back in February.  By "surprise twins," I  mean that they didn't tell a soul (not even their other children!) they were having twins until the twins were already born.  To say we were surprised was an understatement.  My jaw dropped when we saw the photo of double the baby we were expecting.

So here it is 8 months later and I finally have a gift ready to send off to them.  (Note: these didn't actually take me all 8 months to make, it's just that I was wayyyy behind on starting them.)  Winn and Ellie are getting matching baby blankets.  Grey for Winston and green for Eleanor.  They're not perfect, but they're soft and they're machine wash, and let's be honest, that's what counts most in a baby gift.

I'm slowly teaching myself the ins and outs of Blake's fancy camera.  As you can see below, I haven't really figured it out, but I'm working on the whole idea of white balance.  Here's hoping I can improve enough to not be so embarrassed when I post photos.