Wednesday, April 30, 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday...It's My Birthday Too!

First of all, thanks to everybody for the birthday wishes today…I feel loved :)

All things considered, officially transitioning to my “late twenties” has been fairly painless.

For one thing, I started out having an excellent hair day...I think we can all appreciate how awesome those are.

My 18 month old nephew, Sam, broke up my work day by calling to wish me his version of "happy birthday". While he had me on the horn, he also informed me that a stop sign has 8 sides. He's full of good information like that.

I returned home from work to a lovely surprise from my sweet friend Kate: a nice card and a copy of this book of poetry that she knows I've been wanting for some time. Thanks, Kate!!

Matt knocked it out of the park by presenting me with Dave Matthews Band concert tickets. It will be the inaugural concert at the new Busch Stadium in June. As a practically lifelong DMB fan, I couldn't be more excited! I also got an incredibly comprehensive gardening book and the promise to help me plot out some space for one in our yard, as well as a framed photo of our boys :)

My parents treated us to dinner at a place I adore, yet is so inconspicuous that I always forget about it. I highly recommend Café Provencal in Kirkwood to anyone who enjoys scrumptious French cuisine along with an extensive wine list in a cozy, authentic setting, all at a reasonable price!

I had an hors d'oeuvre of eggplant caviar with a type of soft cheese (I forget its name) and crostini. Ummm, delicious. I had the Poulet de Bergerac (chicken breast with mushrooms, onions and cheeses wrapped in puff pastry and served over a white wine cream sauce) as my entree, and it was the first time in a long while that I cleaned my entire plate. And god help me, I couldn't pass up the vanilla creme brulee. It was all to die for and I couldn't wait to get home to change into my roomiest fat pants :)

As if all of this wasn’t enough to amount to a great day, probably the biggest highlight was the voicemail left for me by my mother in law. In it, she sings Happy Birthday and then, to “funk things up”, her own version of Birthday by the Beatles. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to upload the audio in a format that I can post here. You'll just have to take my word for it: it’s spectacular! Gotta love her :)

Now, I'm finally about to end my day surrounded by 3 loudly snoring boys who are stealing all of my covers, and I couldn't feel luckier!

Just Skidding Headfirst Towards 30...

Am I seriously 27 years old? What the hell? I demand to speak to the person responsible for this!

It's depressing that as an unenlightened college freshman, I considered people of advanced age such as myself to be "old". I'm not old; I'm sophisticated...wise...wordly...experienced.

Oh god...I am old!!!

I think that my feelings at this moment are best summed up by a scene from the truly brilliant movie Knocked Up. Warning: this clip features repeated use of the f word...

So, I just talked to my sister who reminded me that my being 27 makes her almost 33, and I can't tell you how much better I feel about life :)

On that note, it's getting to be way past my bedtime...

Monday, April 28, 2008

"We get like to color!"

Um, I just saw my first trailer for the Sex and the City movie. It's the one where the girls are at lunch. They're speaking about the deed in code because Charlotte's daughter is at the table, and Samantha is going on and on about how much she loves to "color", and would like to have every crayon in her box if she could...God, I love this show :)

I wasn't super excited about this movie until I dusted off my series DVDs last week and watched a few episodes. Now that I've seen this commercial, I can barely stand the suspense!

My college pals, with whom I used to watch faithfully every Sunday night are far away in California, so who wants to go see this with me? I know Matt would offer, but it won't be the same as seeing it with girls!

Home is Where the Heart is...Part II

Here is a little more background on our house. It was built in 1931, making it 77 years old this year. We both grew up in and favor older homes. I have no pictures of it in its original state, but it used to be REALLY teensy. After the addition of the kitchen by the previous owner, it is now approximately 1500 square feet. We bought it in November of 2006.

And a little background on us: we really suck at remembering to take "before" pictures! I’ll have to do my best to describe what the second floor looked like when we moved in instead of posting images…bear with me!

The second floor features all 3 bedrooms and the only full bath in the house. When we bought it, it was obvious that all of the extensive work done by the previous owner had been concentrated on the first floor and deck. To start, the staircase and entire second floor were covered with beige berber carpet. Although my preference is hardwood, this didn’t bother me too much. To Matt, however, living with carpeting was adding insult to the injury of having been “forced” to move to the County from South City...

So, the first order of business was to rip up every square inch of carpet, and the thousands of staples it left behind. Worst. Project. Ever. We had the newly exposed pine floors stained a honey color and topped with a high-gloss finish. A word to the wise regarding high-gloss finish: never let an un-housebroken puppy near it…wiz takes the finish right off if you don’t catch it fast enough!

Here is a view from the bottom of the staircase up to the landing. Incidentally, the hall color is my favorite in the house. Unfortunately, we both forget its name at the time being:

And from the landing into the hallway. These are not the best pics...I seriously need a new camera! The door to the left is the bathroom, straight ahead left is the guest room and ahead right is our bedroom. To the right is Matt's office, but we'll get to it!

We set up our bedroom in the biggest room, added a ceiling fan, and painted it a grayed-down blue (Behr’s Lost Atlantis). We're getting tired of it but hate the thought of painting again so it'll probably stay for awhile:

I also just have to highlight this thingy. It's a
piece of a wrought iron fence that we picked up at Gringo Jones Imports. We spray painted it white and thought it looked cool above our bed. I love it, but the thing easily weighs 50 lbs., and I'm starting to rethink it in light of the recent earthquakes!

We use the second, slightly smaller bedroom as the guest room/dog room, where their crates are housed. This is its current color, Behr’s Provence Cream, which followed two previous paint selection disasters by moi:
Matt bought this chest of drawers with mirror for me for $125 after I had been drooling over it at an antique shop…I love it!!
We transformed the tiny third bedroom into Matt’s office and painted it Chocolate Sparkle, again by Behr:
Next, we removed all 10 old bedroom, bathroom and closet doors and replaced them with new, 6-paneled oak ones. They’ve been installed for almost a year and have all been primered, but are still waiting to be painted. Painting doors is a bigger PITA than I realized, and it turns out that neither one of us really feels like finding the time to do it!

The built-in shelves in the hallway were previously stained a dark wood, which stuck out among the rest of the white trim, so Matt repainted them white and cut new shelves to make a space for our (his) massive DVD collection. We’re still thinking about adding doors to it for a more custom look:

We also removed the yellowing canvas accordion-style blinds throughout the second floor and replaced them with white faux-wood plantation style blinds.

Finally, we added crown molding throughout the hallway and all 3 bedrooms, and I was under the impression that we were finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel:

Silly me! The final project, I was to find out, would be the bathroom. The full bath was a nice size, but that’s where the positives ended for Matt. And just for the record, he’s only this picky because of his own rehabbing and real estate experience – he is always looking for ways to beautify, and to his credit, he is always right on target!

I, on the other hand, actually liked the old school black and white floor tile, even though it was cracked in places (character!) I also thought that the baby blue walls looked ok with the contrasting white wainscoting. I could have done without the pastel tiles painted with turtles and fish in the shower (eek—the mark of kids!!) and the outdated sconces flanking the mirror, but other than that, it felt very European to me and I was fine with it.
Looking back, I’m so glad that we are the results!

New sink, toilet and sconces:
Travertine floor tile: New (still unpainted) closet door with cute Anthropologie hooks from Matt’s mom, ceramic tiles and new shower door:

So that's it...the rest of our pad!

I can safely say that I won’t be interested in any form of serious home improvement for a nice long while. As for Matt, I’m happy to report that he is now about 90% content with his surroundings, with the exception of our unfinished basement, which will be transformed into a proper man space the minute our budget will allow it. In the meantime, though, he has even learned to love calling the dreadful County his new home :)

Home is Where the Heart is...

I'm a homebody. Not in an agoraphobic sense...I just love being at home and taking time to make our surroundings here cozy and pretty. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I am in love with our current residence...which is a great thing, since we will probably live out our lives here unless the real estate market takes an incredible turn anytime soon!
As most people do, I always use a part of my weekend for household chores. Yesterday, however, I spent a whopping 8 hours giving some serious TLC to and connecting intimately with my home - we're talking mopping, waxing and polishing hardwood floors. I don't know what came over me, but for the 5 minutes that it stood in its pristine state (before I allowed the dogs back inside), I was reminded of why I fell in love with this space at first sight. In honor of its potential, and because I know that at least someone (cough, Kristal, cough) has commented about seeing more, I'm dedicating this post to my house...well, the first floor of it, at least. Other than some painting, we really haven't done too much on this floor. The next house post will focus on the second floor and will feature some of our projects :)
First things first: the front of the house. I have no idea how this is possible, but we don't have a single pic of it before we re-landscaped last spring. This is the photo from the MLS listing. I know it's small, but notice the overgrown plantings on either side of the house and massive thatch of ivy covering the ground around the tree at left:

This is a picture from last summer. I took one yesterday, but the hostas and other plants haven't completely grown in yet, so this gives a better idea of how it looks when everything is at its best. Anyway, we ripped out all of that ivy and dug out a bed all along the front sidewalk that Matt outlined with stone pavers:
Next up we have the living room, which I know I've posted about before. The fact that there is no transitional space like a foyer or entryway is one minor thing that I would change about our house. The front door opens right into this room:

Here is a view from the halfway up the staircase at the far end of the room:

Looking into the dining room:
It's not a formal dining room, and opens right onto the deck. While I like the very open floor plan of our house, I personally prefer actual dining rooms...I like entertaining :) We've talked about putting French doors in the archway between the living room and this room, but the price tag associated with custom French doors is a little too much to handle these days. Oh well:

Moving on...the kitchen, a.k.a. my true love!
This is the room that sold the house for me. It's a galley-style, but most I've seen are extremely narrow. This kitchen was built as an addition by the previous owner, and is huge! There's a large breakfast bar, but there is even room to add an island in the middle for additional storage and seating. I am obsessed with the Brazilian cherry wood floors...

...the double sink and concrete countertops (although they stain easily)...

and the custom cabinetry, stainless range hood and slate backplash:

When it's perfectly clean, I could spend all day in the kitchen. However, now that it's nice out and we do have a cool deck, that is a fun place, too! Door leading out from the dining room:
Good view of our awesome patio furniture, which was a wedding gift from my in-laws:
This part of the deck wraps around the side of the house:

Finally, I'm including some backyard landscaping pictures. These first two are from last spring. Previously, there was this stone walkway up to the deck and the area along the fence was covered in more ivy and literally hundreds of bulb-based weeds. We dug all of it up, and started from scratch:

After: this is late summer, but you can see the newly-stained fence, all of the new plants that we added to the empty beds, and the wall of stone pavers that Matt painstakingly installed:

Where the stone walkway was, we took them up and evened out the surface with sand and gravel, added a bed of river rock and outlined the area with more pavers before replacing the stepping stones. Sorry that I didn't remove the dogs' blue poo bucket before taking this...too lazy :)

And here is a view of the deck and back of the house from the yard:

Now, as I started this post by saying, I love my house. However, I was driving around the neighborhood this weekend and found one that I've never noticed before. And ohhh how I want it!! Naturally, I immediately came home and asked Matt to look it up for me on the MLS. If I can ever afford the $1.2 million-ish price tag, $11k a year in taxes, and heating/cooling a 4500 square foot house, it's sayonara to my current casa and this baby is MINE:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Louie!

I can't believe that our puppy/baby is 2 years old today! I'll admit that I got a little excited and spoiled him rotten all evening long.

This began with about 5 new toys, including his birthday bear that was torn to shreds roughly 2 minutes after this photo was snapped:

Then it was time for a family need to remind me what complete dorks we are; I already know. I'm also aware that our dogs are aliens in disguise, at least judging by their eyes:
Not surprisingly, we couldn't get both boys to sit still and look at the camera in unison. Louie is embarrassed that we are taking yet another photo of him in this ridiculous hat:

Finally, it was time for a bedtime snack:

Louie enjoying his treat...

...while Desmond looks on, dejected. I didn't think it would be a great idea to introduce doggy ice cream into his developing digestive system. And fine, I've also decided that we've cleaned up enough of his diarrhea for one week (he keeps sneaking Louie's food). Call me selfish!
Both dogs are now passed out in their respective beds, and I just put the finishing touches on these lovelies, now chilling in my fridge. Some of you will get to sink your teeth into them tomorrow, unless I eat every last bite before then (this is sadly more likely than you might think...ask Matt. I think my sugar comsumption abilities scare him).

Happy Birthday, Lou Lou, and Happy Friday to all!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Decent Proposal

Two of our best friends got engaged over the weekend! Yeah!

Matt was the Best Man at our wedding...

...and Tricia was our Honorary Dog Handler. She lobbied quite aggressively for mention in the program, as well as a mesh dog stroller resembling a suitcase that she found in SkyMall, in order to better perform her duties. Despite having both ideas shot down, she still very graciously transported Louie to and from Tower Grove Park for pictures after our ceremony...doesn't she look so serious? She's like the Secret Service of dog sitters:

These two are one of the most fun and lovely couples I know, and I couldn't be more excited for them! Don't you want to hang out with them just based on this picture?

It doesn’t hurt that this is sure to be one HELL of a wedding, too...I was talking to her dad on Sunday and I told him to make sure his check-signing hand is ready. I think he appreciated my honesty :)

We’ve all been waiting for this day with great anticipation, as they’ve been together for coming up on 5 years. Matt has been to our jeweler several times over the past few months looking at diamonds, but it was only last Thursday that he found the perfect one. The ring is a gorgeous round-cut solitaire that positively shines, and it’s exactly what Tricia wanted. He met her dad right away to ask for his blessing, and the two of them hatched a plan that involved the whole family, although none of them – not even Tricia’s mom or sister – knew!

Matt has known for years that he wanted to propose at the Grand Basin at the base of Art Hill in Forest Park. Picturesque, n’est-ce pas?

Tricia’s dad told the whole family that everyone was getting together to celebrate her grandfather’s birthday at the Boat House in Forest Park. So on Sunday, Matt told Tricia that he would have to meet her there because he’d promised to do some work with his dad earlier that afternoon.

She drove with her parents to the park and as they approached the Grand Basin, her dad slowed to a stop. “Speed bump?” she wondered. Suddenly, she noticed Matt standing there in front of the fountain in a suit, holding an umbrella and flowers. All her poor dad could manage to get out at that point was, “Tricia, get out of the car.” Awesome!

After they met their immediate families for a toast at the Boat House, they hosted everyone including us and 10 more friends at Massa's, their favorite Italian restaurant in Kirkwood:

Matt gave a sweet speech about how happy he was and can’t wait for the next year…precious…

As for Tricia, you couldn’t wipe the smile off of her face with a towel!

We decided that she should probably walk around like this for a few weeks, just to make sure that everyone is sure to see her gleaming rock! Just kidding, this is actually an inside joke…our guys have this friend from high school who got engaged awhile back. The first time we all ran into him and his new fiancée post-engagement, she literally thrust her left hand into our faces every 2 minutes. Calm down! Whenever her name comes up, we do this pose.

Congrats, guys!! Love!
Aww…and to think that it all began over penny pitchers at
Humphrey’s :)