Decking the Halls: Holiday Decor

Dressing up our house for the holidays was loads of fun—from hanging ornaments on the tree to decorating the outside with giant colorful bulbs. Betty White especially likes her santa mouse friend, which my grandparents always had around during the holidays, so everyone in my family has one to remember them by.

My brother got this Budapest ornament for me when he was on tour for one of his recent productions. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

These old ornaments passed down from my grandparents are pretty hilarious—my grandfather crafted this ninja-looking snowman.

I snagged this Michael Bolton ornament a few years ago from Five Below and was pretty proud of my find…then I felt bad and bought a Miles David ornament too so our tree wouldn’t totally lack music cred.

After my grandfather passed away, I remember going through a box of ornaments and stumbling upon this gem…I guess my grandpa decided to keep the plastic bag over the baby’s head as a joke. I know it’s a little deranged, but it always makes me giggle when December rolls around.

These guys were passed down to me by my parents, who have other mouse/elf duos to keep their tree company. I have always loved their stylish outfits and tend to make them talk in goofy voices whenever I put them on the tree (they discuss the latest love triangles on Gossip Girl mostly since it’s their favorite show).

This satanic looking elf toting a lamb (?) was also from my grandparents. He is absolutely terrifying to walk past at night, but at least there are some cute critter ornaments on the tree to distract me.

It probably comes as no surprise that our angel with unfortunate yellow hair is also from my grandparents’ decoration box. Luckily Pete is supportive of my desire to showcase all things nostalgic and he puts up with our weird-haired angel and the baby with a bag over its head.

I can’t take any credit for the colorful lights, which Pete put up by crawling, army-style on the roof. I did, however, make the little bushes all festive-like with white lights. We both grew up with multi-color lights outdoors, so we wanted to keep the tradition with the large rainbow bulbs.

I like that you can see our Christmas tree through the bay windows from out front…it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when I pull into the driveway.

What are some of your favorite ways to show your spirit during this time of year? Please tell me I’m not the only one with a Michael Bolton ornament…

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Upstairs Bathroom Makeover: Before & After

As you may recall, one of the goals I recently set for myself was to finally get around to painting the upstairs bathroom now that the wallpaper has been down for a few months. The pink butterfly wallpaper was painfully thick (not to mention hideous) and the hardest to remove so far. I spent many sweat-induced summer afternoons with a wallpaper steamer, cursing at the butterflies for being so impossible. Thankfully, there are no signs of butterflies in our upstairs bathroom anymore.

Here’s a look at a before and after of the progress made so far in the bathroom as of today. Eventually we’d like to install black and white honeycomb tiling, but for now we are starting off with budget-friendly baby steps. I’m excited to be able to finally hang our bathroom hardware so our toilet paper will have a home (I realize this is very geeky). This is the bathroom we use every day because the shower is much preferred, so it’ll be nice to see something other than primed walls.

This is a before and after of the bathroom when we first moved in and a shot of it from today. We’ll need to get a new toilet seat and a curtain to snazz it up a bit, but for now, I’m just happy to have fresh paint on the walls.

I definitely love the chinchilla gray by Martha Stewart—I’ve been struggling to find a gray I’m 100% happy with (since the other grays we’ve used so far have turned out more blue and mauve), so I’m really happy with the “true”-ness of it. Just as a side note, these photos were taken at sunset, so the gray is much brighter and lighter during the day.

Has anyone else been tackling home renovations projects now that the weather outside is getting frightful (aka cold enough to make me mumble obscenities like a crazy person whenever I have to walk the dogs)? Also, has anyone installed honeycomb tiling before? Should we leave it to the professionals, or is it something we can DIY on our own?

Wood Paneling, Wallpaper and Other Woes

When most people visit our house, they don’t quite realize that we have a second floor, which can be accessed through the kitchen (right in the corner nook by the oven of all places). I haven’t really shared a great deal of photos from our upstairs, mostly because it remains untouched, apart from using the closets as storage. I’ve been taking a long break from home renovations, mostly because the upstairs overwhelms me. Pete and I dove headfirst into removing wallpaper, patching, priming, painting, and decorating the downstairs for the most part, but the wood paneling upstairs is still looming. Now that the winter months are quickly approaching, I fully intend on hibernating as much as possible while attacking the upstairs with whatever free time I have.

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Granted I’m a bit of a 70s girl at heart, the concept of wood paneling has been growing me now that I’ve been seeing such successful painted makeovers. Since we don’t currently have the funds to strip the paneling and replace it with drywall, we have to do the next best thing and paint it. I can hear some of the readers out there gasping at the idea of painting the wood paneling already (I may or may not be talking to my brother here).

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For some reason, when we tell people our plans to paint the wood paneling they react one of two ways—they either instruct us to rip it down and put drywall up ASAP or they tell us to keep it as is. You’d be surprised by how many people say things like “you should never paint good wood.” Chiiiiild, if this were “good wood” or even real wood, I would think twice, but our paneling resembles wood as much as Cheetos resemble cheese. I’ll admit, I really like the texture the painted paneling lends to our living room walls, but I prefer wood on the floors over the walls any day. That being said, paneling can give a home a more farmhouse feel if it’s decorated tastefully.

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My favorite is when people say “You can never go back once you paint it!” as if I would like to travel back to 1971 to the happier days when people had fake wood paneling installed in their dens. Le sigh. With a little style and personality, wood paneling can go a long way (right), but definitely not in its current state. See our above hallway for example (left), which was photographed when we first moved in. We have since removed the hallway carpet runner, but you get the idea. It is like a neverending hallway of wooden misfortunes. I’m sure if Stanley Kubrick had known horror like this existed, he would’ve definitely made a few set revisions to the 1980s classic, The Shining.

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I may or may not have to start making poorly Photoshopped gifs to illustrate my points from now on. Also, I am really sad that Photoshop no longer offers “Chiller” as a font option.

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Our upstairs bathroom (seen on the left, as photographed when we moved in, complete with a half-used Kleenex box from the mid 90s) is now wallpaper-less, primed and ready for some paint. I’m quite drawn to the shade of “Chinchilla” by Martha Stewart (right), both because of the pretty grey shade and the fabulous furry critter name. We get a lot of natural light in that bathroom, so I think it would look quite nice.

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We removed the carpet pieces on the stairs (left), but for the most part, our staircase still looks the same. I’m thinking we will prime the walls white and if it looks good as is, we can just give it a few coats of paint and call it a day (like in the photo on the right).

The wood room will have to stay as is per my brother’s request until their Thanksgiving visit comes to a close, but I’ve been ooh-ing and aah-ing over the bright painted paneling in the photos below. The slanted ceilings and insides of the closets are even paneled, which are all distracting from the real wood on the floors. Too. Much. Wood. And don’t worry, these photos were taken when we moved in and hadn’t thrown out the previous owner’s curtains..I promise those aren’t ours.

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Here’s another photo from when we moved in and had yet to remove the old rugs, curtains, etc. I was really psyched to keep these vintage horse curtains, but when I put them in the washer on low, they totally disintegrated. Sad face. They were really smoke-stained and I knew washing them by hand wouldn’t do the trick, but I’m very sad to see them go. That depressing rug, on the other hand, couldn’t have gotten out the door faster.

Here’s the upstairs guest bedroom from when we moved in. We cleared out everything except the furniture, which I intend on spray painting white. We are going to keep the bed as a four poster, minus the canopy, with more modern bedding (not that there’s anything wrong with shabby chic florals…).

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Here are some inspiration pictures I gathered for the upstairs guest bedroom–I like the idea of painting the bed a pop of color, but I will likely stick with white and accessorize with patterned pillows and bedding. Pete seems to be on board with these ideas, so I’m hoping he’ll like the final product. If not, we’ll just have to buy more paint, I suppose.

Did any of you have to conquer endless wood paneling and wallpaper renovations?

1 800 GOT JUNK: Yes Please

Let me start this off by saying 1-800-GOT-JUNK didn’t pay me to write their praises or provide us with free hugs or cupcakes or anything of the like. Pete and I have been collecting a giant pile of tree branches since the guys removed the trees and hedges in our front yard four months ago. (Just as a quick side note, it’s crazy to think that we’ve been living in our new house for four months now!) Anyway, Pete spent hours and hours trying to bundle the branches and bag them up for trash removal, but it was a never-ending project, involving non-stop Lowe’s bags filling up on our front lawn. On Friday, we decided to give in and schedule a 1-800-GOT-JUNK pickup for the following afternoon.

We had a pretty hefty wood pile in our basement (inherited by the previous owner), which was a total time consuming pain in the arse to try to properly dispose of for trash pick-up. Not to mention the box spring upstairs that we also inherited, with a certain retirement home smell that could not be avoided when walking into the bedroom. Let’s not forget the large mysterious reddish brown stains as well. Eeep. Needless to say, the box spring was still lurking upstairs, due to the fact that it doesn’t fit around the stairwell corner.

Luckily for us, the guys at 1-800-GOT-JUNK came with a handy dandy massive saw, so they were able to cut the box spring in half to dispose of it. Success! Now that I don’t have to smell the box spring every time I walk into the guest bedroom (ew), I have a feeling I’ll be a lot more motivated to start removing wallpaper and making progress on the upstairs. Yeah, we have a whole room of wallpaper still. Big sigh.

When we got our quote for the junk removal, the guys said they thought we’d only fill up 1/6th or 1/8th of the truck (under $200). Once all of the branches, wood and box spring were thrown in, the truck was pretty much filled to the brim. Whoops. They cut us a deal and only charged us for 1/4 of a truck (which ended up totaling to $300), which is definitely a fair price for the peace of mind it brought us.

I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to see the branches gone for the first time, even if the grass is totally dead underneath. We’re having a gardening consultant come over this weekend to give us advice on how to repair our lawn (we are overcome with weeds), so I’m sure I’ll be posting about that soon enough!

Have any of you had any experiences with 1-800-GOT-JUNK (apart from pitying the crews who have to deal with the people on Hoarders)?

Fall Festivities:Smashing Pumpkins

These decoupaged pumpkins from the folks over at Country Living Magazine are seriously refreshing and cute. I especially love the one painted with chalkboard paint, which we have lots of, so I’m definitely going to give that a try. I’m craving pumpkin picking and hayrides with hot chocolate at Linvilla Orchards in a big way, even though last time we went I managed to get lyme disease briefly.

{Photos courtesy of Poppytalk}

What are some of your favorite festive crafty ideas for Halloween?

Meet Charsi: Our First Foster

This past Saturday, Pete and I made our way down to the Animal Care & Control Team (ACCT) in Philadelphia with Betty White in tow. As soon as we opened the doors, the place was packed to the brim with pets in serious need. It was unstomachable how many pet owners were giving up on their dogs or cats. The volunteers at the front desk were telling people that if they dropped off their pet, they would have to be euthanized due to major overpopulation, but the pets kept streaming in. We were looking forward to finding the perfect fit for our first foster dog, so we filled out some paperwork and began touring around.

One of the volunteers pointed out a dog named Mariah, who was recovering from several major surgeries, one of which she had the day prior. As much as we were smitten with a certain a shar pei named Broddy Bell, we knew it was likely he would find a home much easier since wrinkly dogs are pretty irresistible. So, we decided to have Betty White and Mariah meet in the outdoor courtyard, where they proceeded to hit it off. Both of them love butt scritchers, quiet moments and staring nervously with adorable, shifty eyes. It was a perfect match, so we filled out some remaining paperwork while waiting to receive her medicine and before we knew it, we were on our way to the pet store with our new friend.


Since we aren’t the most ginormous Mariah Carey fans, we changed her name to Charsi (a Diablo gamer reference, courtesy of Pete’s geekiness), which of course is temporary until we find her a forever home. She is a seriously strong lady whose life got off to a rough start, but she didn’t let that get her down. Charsi was brought into the ACCT nearly two weeks ago as a stray, and needed to have a mammary lump and hernia removed, in addition to a spay procedure. Needless to say, this shepherd/terrier mix is looking forward to a lifetime of cuddling and now has a clean bill of health. Currently Charsi is kicking back her paws and relaxing with us, but she is excited to find a pooch parent who is in need of a sweet four-legged friend.


Charsi arrived at the shelter underweight at 26 lbs, but we’re putting meat on her bones and making sure she will be brought back on track in no time. Charsi is recovering and counting down the days until her sutures will be removed, so we have to be very gentle with her. When we first came home, she absolutely refused to go outside, which made potty training a bit difficult. It is pretty impossible to pick her up without possibly hurting her stitches, so we remained patient and positive, with plenty of puppy pads on hand. Now, just two days later, Charsi is totally responsive to going outside and fully potty-trained.

She has already mastered how to “sit” and likely has some more tricks up her sleeve, which she’ll hopefully share once she has recovered from her surgeries.

Her favorite pastimes so far include: watching cars out of the sunroom window, snoring loudly while dreaming about being adopted and stealing Pete’s clothes from his dirty laundry pile.

Betty White was pretty tuckered out all weekend from having to share our bedroom at night with a near stranger, but she has really warmed up to Charsi. I think fostering pooches will be great for socializing Betty White and helping her become more confident around other dogs.

Since Charsi was a stray, her age is a bit of a mystery, but she looks to be about 5-years-young. No matter how many birthday candles she’s blown out, Charsi has a lot of smooches to share and loves getting pets.

I forgot to mention how much Charsi loves looking at herself in the mirror. Whenever she passes a reflective surface, she stares at herself with a “oh, girlllll, you so good lookin’!” expression on her face. She’s a little conceited, but we still love her…perhaps that is why she was originally named after the great diva herself, Mariah Carey.

Several people have shown confusion over why we would choose to be foster pooch parents—how it must be nearly impossible saying goodbye when you find the adoptive parents for the dog. Fostering an animal means providing food, shelter and love while ambitiously searching for weeks or months to find an appropriate match for the pet. During this time, it’s obvious an attachment will form, but the thing that gets me through this is knowing that as soon as we find Charsi a home, we will be able to help another dog in urgent need.

I’m not saying we’ll be fostering dogs for the rest of our lives, but during my hunt for the perfect full-time job, I have the time needed to give back in small ways. As a freelancer working from home, I can get a little stir crazy—going through half of the day without actually speaking to anyone—so this is a great opportunity to get out of the house and explore the area. I’ve met way more people in the neighborhood over the past two days than I have since we moved here in June, which is saying a lot.

It’s really nice feeling like a little family in our new house. Last night, the pooches joined us while we made a bonfire and toasted s’mores…it was one of the most relaxing Sundays in a long time.

If you would like to find out more about Charsi or want to set up a puppy date, feel free to comment below! She is only $75 (think about how quickly you spend $75 at a trip to Target!) and totally priceless. The donation to the Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) covers all vaccines, a microchip and her spay procedure, all of which have already been completed.

Does anyone else have any foster stories they’d like to share? I love hearing advice and anecdotes from others who have fostered pets in the past.

Autumn Decor: Yes, Please.

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October is just around the corner, which means mustache madness, candy corn and impending holiday music 24/7. I’m especially excited this year because Pete and I are hosting our very first Thanksgiving together, which means this will be the first time when the majority of guests will have no desire to watch football. Ever since Hurricane Irene rained on our parade, we had to cancel our BBQ, so my family will be making the trek from NYC and Delaware to indulge in turkey goodness. Luckily for me, Pete has experience cooking a turkey, but the most I’ve ever helped with Thanksgiving meals in the past has been microwaving mashed potatoes. So, needless to say, I am ready to solicit some advice from pumpkin pie-baking veterans.

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The idea of mini white pumpkins scattered on a mantle makes me anxious to go pumpkin picking—I always like cutting out the centers to make them votive candleholders to bring a warm glow to the room.

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Anywho, I’ve been browsing Foodgawker and Pinterest to collect autumn decor and festive recipe inspiration, but I was wondering what some of your favorites are?