Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Our Kitchen: You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Kitchen circa 2004 (note: this was taken by the home's previous owners. 
I have no idea what the hell that antler thing is above the sink); refrigerator on right wall

Gotta love those avocado appliances, right? 
So vintage they're almost cool again.

Now: white appliances (including a gas range!), 1-by-1 inch tile backsplash, 
butcher's block countertop, repainted vent hood, granite composite sink with push button disposal, 
repainted/opened cabinets, recessed lighting

Custom desk with cork bulletin board, 
open shelving (still needs some organization)

I'm loving the soffit-turned-bookshelf, new section of cabinets, hidden trash can, 
Ralph Lauren river rock paint (on the walls) and wine glass racks 
(behind the scenes: new electrical)

Hosting an event this weekend helped us put a rush order on the finishing steps of our kitchen. Last week, Dan called Phil up to tell him our debacle — two-thirds of the cabinets left to sand/prime/paint, no crown molding, unpainted walls and high hopes of having our kitchen look nice for hosting people at the house Saturday. We really did have every intention of finishing ourselves by then... but our weekends have been non-stop busy and we've both been working late.

Phil, as well as Angel Painting (go Miguel!) came to our rescue. Phil headed over right away on Wednesday night; he and Dan tackled the crown molding in a few hours. Miguel and crew were over to our little ranch for Thursday, Friday and half of Saturday. We're now the proud owners of a kitchen complete with painted cabinets (antique white with light khaki on the back walls), caulked tile, a painted desk, crown molding, a stained door and more. 

While we hadn't originally planned to pay contractors for this final atheistic work, boy are we glad we did. I'm so proud of where we netted out. Dan worked hard and the contractors were all generous and hard-working. The guys all did a great job — and now we're done. Almost*. 

*We're still planning to do an "I love Lucy window" in the wall between the kitchen and dining room. We'll put in a small butcher's block counter top care of Phil (he has an extra piece) and some bar stools. This should help open up the kitchen and allow people to keep me company while I'm cooking. Scratch that. I'll be able to watch Dan as he does the dishes

Posts following our project are here

Monday, March 30, 2009

Honeymoon Recap: Second Full Day in Florence

The Duomo and its glorious dome — words can't describe 
what this looked like up close or in the distance (as seen from the Pitti Palace)

The Gates of Paradise

The Baptistry

We started our day with showers at our B&B then fresh cappuccino and croissants at Ristorante Rivoire. Mmmm. While it was way too early for sweets, I couldn't help but admire the carefully decorated truffles, cookies and other sweets. 

We met up with our Original and Best Tours group (this time, on the right day) near the open market. Our Original Renaissance tour group was larger than the groups we had with Through Eternity — but the guide still managed to corral us through the city. We met at the Palazzo Strozzi was built for the patriarch of the Strozzi family, a rival family to the Medicis. From there we walked to the Palazzo Davanzati, a gorgeous medieval palace. We saw chests, chairs, paintings and frescoes dating back to the 17th century. Our guide pointed out slats through the floor above the lobby that were once used to pour hot oil through (if there happened to be an unwanted guest that made it past security).

I think it was at the castle that our guide first started acting condescending to us. Maybe she dealt with so many ignorant American tourists that she just couldn't keep her attitude inside anymore. Our guide would ask a question, someone would answer (incorrectly) then she would make them feel silly for guessing what they guessed. I will get to an example later.

From there we strolled along the Ponte Vecchio, admiring again the sparkling jewels, handcrafted leather and Italian edibles. Live music filled the streets and the gorgeous weather only played into the beautiful scene. Our walking tour guide then took us through the historic streets of Florence, stopping to tell us about how the city had been reincarnated over the centuries. We admired all kinds of amazing architecture and heard more about the Medicis' rule over the city. 

We stopped through the city's political center, which also happened to be there area we were staying in — the Piazza della Signoria. Gorgeous city square. Our walk continued toward the Duomo and the Giotto bell tower. And the nearby Florence Baptistry was amazing, too. Its "Gates of Paradise" (Ghiberti) were beyond words. These were so popular with circulating tourists that it was tough to get a look. 

Original & Best then took us to our last stop for the morning leg of the tour — The Academy. We were able to skip the lines and get straight to Michelangelo's David, sculpted in the early 1500's. Michelangelo said he had a gift for releasing the statues from within marble. Seeing this sculpture in person was an incredible — maybe even spiritual — experience. Our guide asked, "So, what makes this David different than other Davids?" One man answered, "because his hands and feet are larger than usual?" She responded, sounding irritated. "Umm, no. Why would that make him unique? The answer is that he's pictured without David, something that is very rare." (Note: I see now that there's another tour company called "Original and Best Walking Tours" so I'm not sure which of the two was written up as a great company by Fodor's and Trip advisor...)

We also saw several unfinished Pietas, some of which he worked on as an elderly man. It's beyond me that a crazy man broke through crowds at the museum in 1991 and shattered his toes with a hammer. Who would want to do that to a masterpiece? Our tour concluded inside the Academy. We spent a little more time there (the David is really the highlight) then decided to hunt out some food.

Before lunch, we went ahead and took advantage of touring the and its campanile (bell tower).  Wow is it breathtaking! The Duomo is most famous for its 42-meter-wide dome. Much of the structure was finished in the late 1300's though the dome wasn't completed until 1436. Both the facade and the interior of the Duomo were sites to behold. We paid the two euros a person to climb the bell tower after we self-toured the inside of the Basilica de Santa Maria del Fiore (another name for the Duomo). The more than 400-step climb was worth the view of the city. Again, wow. Dan was like a kid in a candy store admiring the views of the city. 

Now we were really hungry. We had 45 minutes before meeting a guide for the second half of our tour (at the Uffizi). On a side street near our hotel, we stumbled upon La Buona Condotta. We waited in line among lunching businessmen and few tourists. The non-English speaking staff was accommodating and friendly. We had flatbread sandwiches (ham, artichoke, mozzarella, tomatoes), tortellini, a beer and sodas for 22 euros. 

Over at the Uffizi, we met a different guide for the second part of our small group tour. Only three others from our tour earlier in the day opted to do this leg. Our guide was a soft spoken art student. I enjoyed seeing the Renassiance art — especially Botticelli's Birth of Venus — but our guide seemed like she couldn't get out of there fast enough. Regardless, I'm glad we did both portions of the tour. 

The combined tours were 88 euro/person. I enjoyed what we saw, and of course the company of my new husband among amazing sites, but I wouldn't recommend this tour group if you can research other/better options. Maybe the other "Original and Best" provided a better experience. They did fulfill all their obligations (and we skipped the lines) but this group was not as enthusiastic and full service as our experience in Rome with Through Eternity. 

We chose kind of a random dinner location, but Dan and I both thought it was an interesting and relaxing change of pace. In jeans and t-shirts, we watched soccer and dined on lasagna, greek salad, Magherita pizza, grappa (yikes!) and cold beers. Yes, I realize an Irish pub in Florence seems like a sin — but Old Stone Irish Pub was fun for the night. 

Reflecting on our time in Italy, I realized how clean, approachable and romantic the city was. I'd heard that Florence was dirty, but such was not our experience at all. We saw trucks sweep and wash the streets at least twice a day while we were there. The area felt more walkable than Rome — but somehow the streets seemed more confusing. If I had to single three things out, seeing the David, riding on bikes through gorgeous Tuscany and seeing the Duomo were the highlights of Florence. Oh, I take that back. Everything was so wonderful. The culture, the food, the wine, the historic sites, the architecture and art, spending that first vacation and husband and wife, the whole experience... I breathe out a sigh and smile as I think about how amazing the trip was. I'm ready to go back, as I write this.

(All photos from Wikipedia Commons)

Roosters Ruling Our Roost

A little Rooster love above the window

Up close

What a fun platter!

ah! Because it had been since Christmas, I almost forgot about this rooster! 
Moeko, I love our wine cork (in fact, it's on a bottle of red right now)!

When Dan and I visited Steffi back in July, we ventured out into the cute little mountain city of Clayton, Georgia — and we stumbled upon an art gallery that was closing its doors. Sad for the gallery but neat for us, as we came home with our first piece of art.

Well, some friends of ours decided it would be fun to play up the whole rooster thing at our house. And I love it!

Maria gifted us with three ceramic pieces of art for our newly-renovated kitchen. It only made sense to make the rooster one front and center. (The others had sentimental value as well. The coffee mug one signified both Italy and my love of coffee; the wine one speaks for itself. Umm... love wine). 

When Olivia came over for her baby shower on Saturday, she gave me an awesome and personal hostess gift. The theme was "Enjoy Decatur." She gave me a rooster platter and tapas cookbook for hosting in Decatur (we love to cook for friends) and gift certificates to two local restaurants.

Thank you for your generosity, friends! (And happy birthday, Olivia!)

More on the finished kitchen and Olivia's shower later.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

80's Party — Success

Unbou ladies (plus Paul)

Rock it, ladies.

Megan, you rock.

A girl named Dion brought a delicious cake 
for the birthdays

Me and my hunky date

Great craftsmanship, Maria!

Blues Brothers were amazing (plus I think my hair was close to what I wanted)

More amazing outfits

The fam

Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday night. Party goers' dedication to the 80's Prom theme was beyond amazing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Moeko and Matt's Wedding Shower

Playing the newlywed game

Food. Mmmm.

Cake and banana pudding. Mmmm.

Silly wedding dress with toilet paper game.

The groom (far left) and bride wait on a hamburger

We picked Moeko and Matt's wedding shower date more than two months ago, crossing our fingers that the weather would be warm by the time March 14 rolled around. Well, it wasn't warm — nor was it dry. Luckily, we were cautious in our party planning and reserved a covered picnic area. 

Despite the drizzly, 44-degree day, many people still turned out to celebrate Matt and Mo. Among the party planners (Matt's parents and sister plus Dan and me), we prepared a spread of hotdogs, hamburgers, fruit and veggie trays, chips and dips, cake, banana pudding, beverages (adult and other), cheese platters and more. 

Also, Kristen had an ingenious idea that she passed along to Matt's parents: bringing a tailgate tent to cover the grills. They brought one and I was able to borrow one from a coworker (thanks, Jenn!). 

Of course there were also the obligatory wedding shower games. The two we did were the toilet paper wedding dress design competition and the newlywed game. We had several good sports for the wedding shower competition (and several fabulous designs). The newlywed game — played by Moeko and Matt, Matt's parents and Matt's sister and brother-in-law — was hilarious. We used wipe boards and dry erase markers to make the show a little more game showy. I tried to keep the questions relatively innocent, but some of the answers sure made for some comedy and awkwardness. 

Here's the question list we used:

Have the girls answer/guys write on wipe boards
  1. What is your your husband's worst habit?
  2. What is your special nickname for your husband?
  3. What is the strangest gift your husband has ever bought you?
  4. What would your husband says is the last thing you two argued about?
  5. What does your husband have a fear of?
  6. How many girlfriends did your husband have before he met you?
  7. What is one thing your husband can't live without?
  8. At what age would your husband say women are at the peak of their attractiveness?
  9. Who initiated the first kiss?

Have the guys answer/girls write on wipeboards
  1. Complete this sentence: I think my wife looks the sexiest when he/she wears __________
  2. Complete this sentence: the one activity that I hate but I do it with my wife because I love her is ________
  3. What part of her body is your wife most insecure about?
  4. Within five pairs, how many pairs of shoes would your wife say she has in her closet?
  5. What celebrity do people tell your wife she looks like?
  6. Close your eyes. What color are your wife's eyes?
  7. What TV show could your wife watch a five-hour marathon of?  
  8. What celebrity would your wife leave you for?
  9. From the first time you met, how long (within four weeks) did it take for your wife to know you were "the one?"
And like any successful wedding shower, Matt and Moeko got lots of awesome gifts that they'll be able to enjoy throughout their married life. Matt even got a few "man gifts" (ratchet set, shop vac, etc.). 

Congratulations, Matt and Moeko!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Party Countdown

Exhibit A (my target hairstyle)

Exhibit B (my rockin' frock)

In one week and two days, my bbs, I'll be rocking to the beats of Michael Jackson, Foreigner, Depeche Mode, Flock of Seagulls, Bon Jovi, Tiffany, Whitney, Madonna and more at our 80's Prom Party. 

I'm stoked about:
  • Dressing up (see exhibits A and B)
  • Seeing many of my friends, coworkers and family (in fact, my three true siblings will all be there!)
  • Listening to 80's tunes all night
  • Taking lots of silly pictures
  • Flip cup!!!

RSVPs — What Gives?

Today I feel compelled to re-post a portion something from about a year ago:

What is the deal with people not knowing how to handle RSVPs and Regrets?

Dan, my husband, claims "the system is broken." I don't totally understand what's so tough about handling them correctly, but I do recognize his point that something isn't working.

RSVP. Most of us, myself included, can't repeat verbatim that RSVP stands for "Repondez s'il vous plait," French for "reply, please." I do know, however, when I receive something that says "RSVP" at the bottom that I should call the host regardless, letting him or her know if I will be able to attend — and if so, who my guest will be.

Regrets seem a little more straight forward. If an invitation mentions "Regrets Only," this means you only call the host if you are unable to attend the event. In other words, you're calling to say, "I regret I am unable to attend..."

Emily Post and her contemporaries tell us we need to respect the needs and wishes of party hosts, following through with the RSVPs or Regrets as indicated. And I thought this was fairly common knowledge. Seems easy enough, right? In an era where Evites aren't quite yet kosher enough for formal events, everyone ought to become familiar with the rules. 

Well, then why is it so difficult for people to make the call? From parties I've hosted, attended or helped coordinate on the periphery, it seems as though the answers have to be dragged out of people.

I put myself in the place of the invitation recipient. What is going on in my head? Here is what I came up with:
  • I feel really guilty I cannot attend. I don't really want to call and tell anyone I can't come to the event.
  • If this invitation says "RSVP" and I'm planning on attending, I don't have to call. (wrong)
  • Will anyone really notice if I don't call?
  • I feel awkward calling someone I don't know. Do I really have to?
  • I live out of town. It's got to be obvious to the host that I'm not coming
To address the first point, if you feel that nervous about saying you cannot come to an event for your friends, you have bigger problems than calling to say you cannot attend. Your real friends will understand a prior commitment or your inability to travel from a time and money perspective.

Response to bullet point two: an RSVP asks for your response regardless. If you can come, you call. If you can't come, you call. And when you do call, you don't just say "I'm calling to RSVP." Due to the meaning of an RSVP, you must indicate "I am RSVPing 'yes'" or "I am RSVPing 'no.'"

Yes, people will notice if you don't call. Hosts take numbers into consideration when they order food, drinks, favors, space and so on and so forth. In the event of a wedding, one guest costs anywhere from $50 to $150 dollars (sometimes more) for the couple. RSVPing "yes" and not making the event is costly for the couple. (We had five people say they were coming to our wedding who didn't show).

Fourth point. If you can call and make restaurant reservations or a doctor's appointment, you can call a stranger and let them know whether or not you're attending an event they're hosting. Chances are, they won't bite, especially over the phone. While it's definitely not the best option, if you don't want to call the host, at least tell the person being honored at the shower or party that you will be unable to attend.

And lastly, people come from out of town for weddings quite often — so why would you not RSVP for a baby shower, 40th birthday party, bridal shower or other? RSVP if that's what the host requests, people. We're not that busy.


I was checking out my blog roll today and realized that several of my favorite new blogs haven't been updated in weeks.

Should we hold funerals for your blogs, friends? You know who you are. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Today's Mantra

"It's never to early to make a google document."

(Response to me saying that I've created google documents for everything from "Christmas 2009 gift ideas" to "books I want to read.")

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dear Google

Dear Google,

Thank you for adding back the "search the web" feature (next to the "search mail" feature). I had been missing it terribly for several weeks.

Katy (Gmail user of four plus years)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Nadine just sent me one of the most interesting requests I've heard in quite some time:

"I have a case of crappy TP, do you want some?"

Makes just a smidge more sense when you consider that she's a rep for a large tissue manufacturer.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Customer Service Department that Actually Listens?

Seems like enough people complained about Lean Cuisine's "new" meat lasagna recipe, as the latest batch of lasagnas I picked up are made from an entirely different recipe (and it's tasty indeed).

(See another blogger's complaint here - ha).

I can't believe I'm blogging about this again. What have I amounted to?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Office Garden

Not long after Allison gifted me with a gorgeous arrangement of pink flowers, my awesome girlfriend Maria brought over some precious little daffodils (and some carrot cake — mmmm...). Then maybe an hour later, a florist delivered some hyacinths from my father and stepmother. 

It looks (and smells) like I'm growing my own little garden in my office. I love it!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Working on your birthday isn't that bad...

Sometimes you get surprises from your coworkers, like these beautiful flowers from my thoughtful coworker Allison! Thanks so much, Allison. What a nice surprise!

Go check out Allison's new blog! She's writing about trying new things throughout 2009.

Music Makes a Great Birthday Gift (and so do kitchen gadgets, project management books, cash and friends and family!)

I will soon be able to add another band to my "concerts I've been to list." On top of some other goodies, Dan surprised me with tickets to the Collective Soul concert on 3/27. It's at the Tabernacle and benefits Darfur. I'm so excited! 


I'm only a few hours into my birthday and I don't think it can get any better than this. I had a fabulous weekend with family and am going to be seeing some wonderful friends for dinner tonight. 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What's Your Happy Weight?

I saw this article (titled "What's Your Ideal Weight?") on Yahoo! and thought it would be interesting to check out. I've been a variety of weights in my adult life.

Take the quiz and see what your happy weight is. My quiz results for my happy weight was precisely my weight. Now whether or not I could be more in shape, now that's debatable. :)