Happy Birthday, Pete: Our 2011 Year in Review!

Happy birthday, poops. Hope your 25th is just as good, if not better than your 24th. I still feel like a cougar, irregardless.

I know how much you love those “year in review” posts, so I thought it might be nice to highlight some of my favorite “before and after” projects we tackled together around the house in 2011. Can’t wait to see what we’ll be saying this time next year about our DIY accomplishments. Also can’t wait to be your Mrs. (Just sayin’.)

Let’s start with the outside, where two huge trees and endless hedges were blocking the view of our house, making us drive past it nearly every time (not that I don’t still do that). I think it looks a lot prettier now that you can actually see our front yard, where we hope to have raised beds once Spring rolls around.

Then there’s this situation, which I still have to resolve by laying my bricks straighter since I was rushing (Pete did a good job with his).

Tada! The brick paths looking a lot less sad

Our sunroom was looking a little unfortunate when we first moved in, since we used it mostly to store lawn equipment and trash bags. I think it’s looking a lot cozier these days:

The Rocking chair revamp might be one of my favorite furniture makeovers from this past year…I love seeing it so bright and cheerful on our sunroom porch.

Here’s a look at our living room when had our first walk-through of the house. I instantly wanted to paint the fireplace white, and although most of my family thought I was crazy for it, I think it turned out pretty nice:

I still can’t believe how much painting we tackled the month before moving in, I wish I still had that kind of energy now.

The dining room used to be a bit of a downer, but with a little love from the wallpaper steamer and a fresh coat of paint, it’s looking better already:

Mmm, yellow.

Remember how smoke-stained our kitchen looked when we had our first walk-through? It looks so much better now without that bunny wallpaper, the new checkered floors we installed, and the white painted cabinets, all of which we did on our own within the first few months of moving in.

This one is lacking a “before” photo, but here’s a glimpse at the chalkboard door in our kitchen, which we try to always update with a weekly menu to avoid endless “what do YOU want for dinner?” ramblings.

This is what our office/critter room looked like when we first moved in. Eek. It’s still a work in progress, and I keep forgetting to take a photo since we’ve added a desk and organized things, but here’s a look at the lack of wallpaper and avocado paint job:

That’s Willie Nelson, our pet bunny. You can’t tell from this photo, but there’s also two other bunnies (Applesauce and Cadbury) and a chinchilla (Maude) nearby.

Here’s our bedroom when we first moved in…we even inherited these curtains from the previous owner. We haven’t taken a recent photo of our bedroom with our new curtains and artwork, but here’s a look at the freshly-painted walls:

Yay, mustard and grey accents galore!

The upstairs bathroom before & after is a pretty simple one as of right now, but it still makes me happy not to see those butterflies when I shower.

These are just some of my favorite before & after photos from the past six months of living in our first house together. I can’t wait to spruce up the yard to make it nice for our wedding and to see how we change the upstairs, since we’ve barely touched it. Anyway, I hope you have an amazing 25th birthday and consider myself the luckiest for being able to share it with you.


{65 Years of Memories…}

This year, for my dad’s 65th birthday, I wanted to do something special. His birthday was in late October, but I wanted to give him a handmade gift from everyone on Thanksgiving since I knew our whole family would be together. In mid-October, shortly after seeing this post on Pinterest, I was inspired to reach out to friends and family from his past and present. My mom helped me gather email and mailing addresses (for those without computers) of people who might be interested in participating. I sent out a massive email, as well as a handful of snail mail letters, and waited. I had only received one or two responses within the first week, but I crossed my fingers for the best. Within the next few weeks, our mailman had his hands full.

Piles of emails, handwritten letters, and nostalgic photos came streaming in. I found myself laughing out loud while reading stories about my father’s antics, whether he was dressing up as Santa to entertain decades of little kids, or helping his work buddies learn the in’s and out’s of deer hunting. I found out a lot of things I didn’t know about my dad, like how my mom and grandma won’t let him live down the fact that he totally denied them when they first asked him to go out for pizza (my mom’s parents and my dad’s parents were friends growing up, so that’s how my parents met).

After dinner on Thanksgiving, my dad did something very “dad”-like and handed out some early Christmas gifts he had wrapped with chocolate foil coins taped to the outside (and real money tucked behind them). This is typical dad behavior, he is always anxious to share gifts with loved ones on holidays, whether he’s giving us reindeer Pez dispensers or decorations for our mantle. Once everyone had unwrapped their presents, I told him we had a gift for him to open as well. He looked both confused and surprised by the pile of 65 envelopes, each one filled with a different memory from his past.

He started opening the hand-stamped envelopes one-by-one (thanks to Pete for tackling a majority of the stamping duties) and revealed memories from life-long friends, co-workers from his federal marshall days, old neighbors, new neighbors, some of my childhood pals, and last but not least, our family.

I listened as my dad, brother, and mom took turns reading the longer letters.

I laughed at the story about how my dad accidentally swallowed a giant-sized moth that flew in the car window when he was out driving with my mom and friends. It came as no surprise to me since I’m well aware that his mouth is open 99% of the time (he’s a rambler, in case you couldn’t tell).

I learned that he was a Coca Cola aficionado, which surprised me–I don’t recall much soda being in the house when I was growing up. He was also well remembered for his Halloween decorations and how he would swap out a life-size Jason dummy that had been on display and stand quietly in his Jason costume on trick or treat night to then terrify the neighborhood teens (and adults) by slowly chasing them. It’s no why I’m such a horror movie fanatic. As a side note, I love how bored my parents’ dog Whiskey looks in this photo.

My dad didn’t quite understand the concept until after opening the first dozen or so envelopes…he kept asking, “Wait, I have to open all of these!?” My grandma even made a funny comment about how she was in her late 80s and she understood the concept (it was funny because it involved much more expletives, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination). Once we took a break for pie, my dad was finally in the mood to start making headway.

He breezed through almost all of the letters without shedding a tear, but once he got to the end with memories from my brother, sister-in-law, mom, grandma, Pete and I, he had to take frequent breaks to go blow his nose in the bathroom. It was pretty darn precious.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed memories to help make this happen. My hopes are that if my dad is ever having a downer of a day, he can open up some of the envelopes again and remember that he is loved by many. Thankfully I still have a few more years until my mom turns 65 45 (see what I did there, mom?), so I can take a bit of a breather until then.

Happy belated 65th birthday, dad. I look forward to many more memories with our fabulous (albeit slightly dysfunctional) family.

Happy Birthday, Big Brother!

Dearest big brother,

I have learned a lot from you since I was yanked out of mom’s womb roughly 27 years ago. Thanks for warming it up in there for me, by the way. It seems as though I was following in your footsteps ever since my fetus days, as I decided to be a c-section baby because you had done the same 9 years before me. To celebrate your birthday, I’m highlighting just a few of the many reasons why no one else has a brother quite like you.

Even before I came around, you had a keen fashion sense and creative eye for headwear. I’d like to think that rubbed off on me a little bit, but let’s be honest, the stylish gene definitely skipped a generation.


From a young age, you made me realize that bunnies were totally fabulous in every way possible. We’ll come back to this point later.

Even when I was a wee little thing, we still managed to exchange snarky glances when mocking dad’s latest facial hair trends.

Or mom’s glorious 80s perm.

I forgave you when you went to school and left me alone with these crazy people we call our parents…especially when dad wore his old lady mask and dressed in a bathrobe with his hairy legs revealed for all to see. (This is a screenshot from a home video, I couldn’t make this stuff up.)

You taught me to only wear short shorts when you mean serious business.

Thanks to you, I learned the importance of money and how to earn a living (becoming an artist…that pays well, right?).

I told you we weren’t done discussing bunnies. My artistic skills were advancing at a rapid pace, thanks to having these inspirational pieces of yours to motivate me. This bunny you painted has always been a favorite and definitely inspired me to draw some bunnies of my own.

You taught me how to sketch my favorite Disney characters and whenever you drew Abu or Ariel it made my day.

Thanks to you, I began to quickly realize that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Even though I only scored an 80 on the art test above, I kept drawing turtleneck-wearing turtles and didn’t give up.

You taught me that smoking was bad, except for when you are faking it by putting a pen cap in your mouth while shooting artist black and white photos with your big brother.

I also learned not to care what people thought of me when you dressed me up in Johnny Cash-esque outfits and had me pose in the Catholic school playground, with the confused students watching us.

You taught me how to balance life when I was in college and had no desire to drink in a town where there was nothing to do but get wasted every weekend. The result was me taking a lot of nerdy self-portraits and developing a habit for collecting too many pets.

You made me realize that you can never be too overdressed for the beach, as I have been spotted wearing corduroys and closed shoes on numerous occasions while at the shore.

Your inability to do anything sporty (apart from play a mean wiffleball) has also been inherited by yours truly. Although, thanks to this photo taken by your lovely wife, I can say with great certainty that I could beat you in an uphill race.

But you could kick my arse in wiffleball any day.

And probably ballet, too.

No matter how old we are, when Christmastime rolls around, it’s inevitable that someone always has to play Santa Claus. Thanks to you, I have a sordid appreciation for all things festive when it comes to stuffing your pants with a fake pillow and wearing a beard from the early 80s. As part of your birthday gift, I have spared my readers of the especially vulgar family photos, as these were the only G-rated shots from our adventures as Santa.

Fairly recently, a new Collins family Christmas tradition arose, during which we would embark in a Nerf battle in the basement. In the dark. At first, our main goal was to shoot each other…sometimes in the eye (sorry about that, by the way) and sometimes in other unfortunate places, but overall we looked forward to an all-night shootout as our means of spreading Christmas cheer.

However, our goals soon changed when we realized it was funnier to corner dad with a Nerf gun than it was to attack each other.

That being said, I still get a little scared when I see that crazed look in your eye, whether it’s during our Nerf battles or because I posted an embarrassing photo of you on my blog without your permission.

Regardless, I hope you’ll allow me to keep this post up for more than 24 hours, despite the compromising photos. I made it a point not to include any pictures from your mullet/Prince/mustache/epic goatee/samurai hair days. Despite making fun of your past appearances, I can say with great certainty that my unfortunate hair phases (and eyebrow phases) were much, much more blackmail-worthy.

Anyway, I hope you have a fabulous birthday week. I’ve been eating banana cream pie and drinking lemon-flavored Gold Peak Tea to celebrate in my neck of the woods (any excuse for pie or tea is a good one)!


Your little sister

Happy Birthday, Pete!

Today is Pete’s 24th birthday, so, like the total lunatic that I am, I decided it would be a good idea to blow up dozens of balloons last night. I thought it would be cute to get up in the middle of the night, put all the balloons out on the floor (they were hiding in closets) and hang the “happy birthday pete!” banner I made to surprise him with in the morning. Getting my arse out of bed at 4am was not an easy task, considering it was 64 degrees in our apartment…yeah, for some reason our heat decided to malfunction last night. I tried my best to sneak out of the bedroom like a ninja so Pete wouldn’t notice, but he jolted awake as I was leaving. I mumbled something about needing to take some medicine because I felt sick (straight up birthday B.S.) and I scampered into our kitchen area.

I quietly started to unload the dozens of balloons from the closets and began hanging the banner. I had planned to hang streamers, but Cadbury, the bitchiest of our three rabbits, decided it would be the perfect time to stomp her feet in her cage as. loud. as. humanly (or bunny-ly). possible. I had to run back inside the bedroom because I could hear Pete loudly sighing and I didn’t want the surprise to be ruined. I was greeted by a “What the eff is going on?” inside the bedroom and I mumbled something in hopes that Cadbury would soon be done having her bunny tantrum. Not so much. She stomped (and by stomped I mean STOMPED) for at least an hour. 5am rolled around and our upstairs neighbor was waking up and doing his morning ritual, which we can hear in its entirety because the walls are thin. Any hope of getting back to sleep was quickly dwindling away.

I decided it would be a good idea to move Cadbury’s cage to our back room so we wouldn’t have to hear her being a stompy beyotch. This seemed like a smart move, until during my walk through the balloons, Cadbury decided to kick a ginormous amount of bunny turds from her litter pan onto the kitchen floor. Pete said he could hear the poop scatter across the floor from inside the bedroom…imagine dropping a bag of mini, poop-covered marbles everywhere. Awesome. So, I tried my best to gather all the little bunny poops that were hiding beneath the balloons all over the place. Being barefoot at the time was not an enjoyable experience, as I ended up stepping on one too many bunny poops. Not fun.

Eventually, I flopped back in our arctic bed (after making sure my feet were clean, ick). I felt awful that I was making Pete (who should have been having fluffy rainbow birthday dreams) lose hours of sleep because I wanted to surprise him with some birthday flair. Le sigh.

Speaking of rainbows, when I asked Pete what type of cake I could make him for his birthday, he requested a funfetti cake with lemon frosting. I found a funfetti recipe (from scratch!) on this blog and I tried to make the cake decorations as girly as possible.

These are the ingredients for the Funfetti cake recipe, alongside a bunny cookie jar my Grandma handed down to me (I am so super lucky that my grandparents loved bunnies too).

The ingredients for the lemon-y frosting Pete requested.

Happy 24th, Pete! Next year I promise not to make you lose hours of sleep or have a balloon-hiding bunny turd scavenger hunt in the wee hours! I hope it ended up being a fun birthday, despite the major ninja fail on my part!