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.

Happy anniversary, love!

Dearest ginger,

Happy anniversary. I am pretty darn excited to be getting married in a little over 8 months so we’ll have a new anniversary to celebrate. Until then, I look forward to spending our time together making each other laugh at stupid things and dressing Betty White up in ugly outfits. No one gets my funny voices and weird jokes (if you can even call them that) quite like you. Looking forward to many more years of ginger-haired goodness (until you go grey, but I’m looking forward to that too so you’ll stop making fun of my gray hair so much).

Thanks for always giving me somethingone to look forward to.

Lurve,

Shannon

Behind the Curtain: A Peek at Pete’s Photobooth Proposal

It seems to be true that good things come in threes and yesterday was proof of that little theory. When Pete came home from work, I spent a good twenty minutes rambling about how giddy I was since: 1.) I managed to land a job interview with an amazing company and 2.) I found our foster dog, Charsi a new home with a loving family. I asked him about his day and we exchanged our usual stories about each other’s latest happenings. He asked what I wanted for dinner and I told him we could make pasta since we are in need of groceries and it’s one of the only edible things in the house right now. Apparently since he made dinner last night (which consisted of scooping tuna salad I had made onto bread), it was my turn to do the cooking since we switch cooking and cleaning every other night. I cluelessly didn’t realize at the time that he was trying to lead me into the kitchen.

So, to the kitchen I went, where I asked what type of pasta he wanted. I rattled off our options and asked boring inquisitive questions like “what’s the difference between linguine and fettuccine?” When I went to grab a pot from our cabinets, just about our entire cookware set came toppling over. Typical Shannon spazzery was taking place. I started boiling a pot of water and filled our Brita water pitcher, which I put in the fridge without realizing this was waiting for me:

To give you a little backstory, during one of our first outings as a couple, we went to a restaurant and had photobooth pictures taken. Since then, we always take photos together whenever we see an old-fashioned booth and we hang the pictures on our fridge (below). Without me realizing it, he swapped the five strips of our photos with the pictures of him spelling out “Will you marry me?” across the rows.

I had no idea the photo strips were on the fridge until he said “WILL YOU PLEASE LOOK AT THE FRIDGE!” The poor ginger was nervously waiting to ask me to marry him for a good half hour and I was totally concentrated on boiling water and rambling about linguine and had no idea he had alterior motives. Once I looked at the fridge I flailed and turned around excitedly to find him on one knee. He said, “Well, will you!?” and I said “You have to ask in person to make it all official-like!” so he asked (he’ll kill me for sharing this, but I believe his words were, “Will you marry me, my poopins?”), to which I responded with a flail-filled yes and hugged him and danced in place for a good two minutes before he told me we had reservations at my favorite sushi spot. My hands were trembling and the only thing I could think to say was, “Does this mean I don’t have to make pasta!?”

We went ring shopping together in late August and chose a beautiful art deco/victorian style vintage ring from the 1915-1920s era. I had told Pete how much I loved diamonds with a subtle pop of color, so we picked out a lovely yellow diamond with the help of the fabulous jewelry designer behind the Philadelphia jewelry shop, Halloween.

I’m not very skilled in the department of taking photos of my own hand, so I photographed the ring on linens and piles of leaves around our house since I’m a photo geek (I realize rings never hang out on bushes, but bear with me anyway).

Pete had the wooden letters he held in the photobooth custom made by an Etsy shop called RivalryTime, which is why I was left in suspense, since I knew he had the ring for a few months. He even arranged to take the photos at El Vez, the restaurant where we had our first photo booth photos together. He told me he only had the exact change for five strips because he didn’t realize they were $3/piece, so he was really nervous that he was going to mess up the order of the letters. Thus him making a “oh my god, I hope I got this right” face in the last photo with him and the ring box. He said he wanted to take it again so he was smiling, but I like it better this way because he’s rarely nervous so it’s nice to have it documented for life!

I couldn’t be more thrilled with the proposal because it really suited our personalities and our backstory, plus now I have photos to look at whenever I want to relive the moment, and you all know how much I love me some photos.

Speaking of photos, I went a little crazy snapping so many ring shots, but I wanted to share them with family and friends who aren’t able to see it in person just yet.

I really love the vintage setting and would definitely recommend Halloween if you want to find rare antique pieces with a lot of character that they are willing to customize in any way you’d like.

The mister sure did a good job. I feel like the luckiest girl alive and am shocked that I get to spend the rest of my life with my best friend (no offense, Betty White). He gets me and I get him. When he’s being quiet, I am full of pasta rambles. When I’m being a control freak, he helps me enjoy spontaneity. We might be the opposite in a lot of ways, but we balance each other out and at the end of the day, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

I am so thrilled (and not just because there are sushi leftovers in the fridge) and look forward to documenting our offbeat journey along the way.

Thanks again to the ginger for the best night ever (I promise I’ll actually make dinner tonight).

As a side note, my night came full circle when I saw I had a super sweet voicemail from our foster dog’s new parents, which was just another sign of how awesome they are!

I’ll ask Pete to take a photo of me being like “look at mah purty ring” while wearing my embarrassing Charlie Sheen shirt tonight per your request! Did anyone else ramble away cluelessly while your significant other was trying to propose? I love proposal stories, so feel free to comment with yours below!

This Week in Philly: Two Can’t Miss Conferences

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I’m looking forward to attending two conferences within the next week, starting with the sold out WordCamp Philly, taking place this Saturday, November 5th at Temple University, followed by a developer day for those who are interested on Sunday the 6th. Pete will be one of the speakers discussing their love for WordPress and he’ll be presenting “The Power of the Loop: Using Custom Post Types to Create a CMS based Portfolio Site.” Speakers will cover everything from the basics of blogging and supercharging social media on your blog, to advanced tutorials on Javascript and responsive web design.

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On Tuesday, November 8th, I’ll be heading back to Temple to visit the Performing Arts Center, where TEDxPhilly will exploring the theme of “The City.” Over 25 speakers and even more performers “will take the stage to share with the audience some of the greatest challenges, innovations, concepts, and realties that shape and are shaped by cities and their inhabitants,” according to the website. I wasn’t able to attend last year, but I’m looking forward to being inspired by the speakers, who range from Jennifer Pahlka, Founder & Executive Director of Code for America, to food writer and canning enthusiast Marisa McClellan (I heart her big time). Be sure to say hello if you plan to attend either conference!

Back From Vacation: Part I!

Last week, Pete and I joined his family on a week-long vacation in Ocean City, NJ. The annual Schuster beach shenanigans are always a blast (this coming from my two years of experience, but still…), so this time, I decided to document parts of our trip.

My dad gave us a kite to fly at the beach, so Pete and I tested it out by frolicking around and probably definitely making fools of ourselves. It was Pete’s first time flying a kite and I think he mastered it like a pro.

Goobers.

Thanks to Pete’s generous parents, we stayed on the top floor of this beach house, which was a quick stroll from the beach.

We spent our evenings roaming the boardwalk, playing card games, watching tv and being lazy.

Pete and I played shuffleboard for the first time (although my dad tells me I played when I was a wee little thing).

There were many intense faces made during shuffleboard, which were repeated yet again during the annual game of Goofy Golf (sorry for the lack of photos). Picture putting a ball at a hippo eating a hoagie while “who let the dogs out?” blares in the background. It’s pretty darn good. Shocker: I got the low score.

Pete’s mom made her famous monkey bread, which is to. die. for. We also indulged in caramel corn, berries and loads of other delicious goodies that undoubtedly made me gain a few pounds (totally worth it).

Pete’s aunt and cousin (and her adorable baby) came to visit and I went a little crazy with taking photos of the cute little lass. I don’t often find myself in the company of kids, so I like to take advantage of photographing them whenever I can. It’s always a fresh of breath air to photograph children because they don’t shy away from being themselves or get self conscious when the shutter clicks.

She thought I was interested in stealing her Goldfish crackers…which I might have been…

Nothing beats baby smiles!

She was showing her Grandma where her eyes and nose are located…she’s smart like that!

So. Cute.

Going to the beach also means lots of trivia and reading, which included Bossypants by Tina Fey, who might just be my favorite person ever. Pete caught me Google stalking her after reading the book in a day, which I realize is stalkertastic.

The boardwalk is always fabulous for people-watching, photo booth posing and Skee Ball playing.

We had more than our fair share of fish tacos, smoothies and ice cream. The smoothies at Bryn and Dane’s (a local restaurant based out of Horsham) were the best thing I had on the boardwalk without a doubt.

Pete and I couldn’t resist some Medieval Fantasy Mini Golf, which was definitely worth it just for the black light, airbrushed holes indoors.

Ree-diculous.

Yes, that’s Pete yielding a golf club sword amidst glow in the dark wizards and dragons. There was talk of larping and playing D&D, but hopefully we’ll save that for another year. Or never…

It was pretty challenging trying to take photos in the dark, but I’m glad I was able to get a few shots of the fabulous fantasy world that exists only on the Ocean City boardwalk.

I had to remind myself that I am unemployed and should save my money for more grown-up purchases when I stumbled upon this seashell owl.

We topped off our romantic evening stroll on the boardwalk off with some Elvis crooning while the sun set behind us. Pretty darn priceless if you ask me. Stay tuned for part II of our beach adventures tomorrow, where I’ll share our exciting reunion with a much-missed Betty White.

Everyday Food: Grocery Bag

Top (L-R): Spicy Black Bean Soup, Parmesan Chicken With Mushrooms and Brussel Sprouts, Sesame Beef

Bottom (L-R): Turnip and Sweet Potato Gratin, Chicken Cutlets With Mustard Greens and Roasted Squash, Pasta e Fagioli (recipes by Everyday Food)

*Thanks to Pete for snapping these photos with his iPhone before meals

Every month, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food has a weekly dinner planner, which Pete and I have been taking advantage of for the past few months. We add the “shopping list” of ingredients they provide to our normal grocery list and plan a week’s worth of meals alongside the magazine’s Monday-Friday schedule. I enjoy cooking dinner with Pete this way because it steps us outside of our comfort zone of eating chicken nuggets and personal pizzas and forces us to ask questions like “What do mustard greens look like?” or “How do you chop an acorn squash?”

Everyday Food makes scheduling a week’s worth of meals simple and enjoyable and gives us time to work together after a stressful day at the office. Plus it makes our taste buds happy to try something new and exciting every month. Sometimes there are recipes that we’ve mentally marked as “never again,” but for the most part, we finish our dinners with a smile.

What are some of your favorite cooking blogs or magazines that give you inspiration?