Some Updates

I always seem to mention various plans/life things and then leave them hanging, never to return. I figured I’d try to remedy that with a few updates, this time specifically relating to this post I wrote back in March…

IMG_0132

Reading:

I finally climbed back on the old book wagon! This seems to happen during the summer, since that’s when we do most of our traveling, plus pool days. I recently finished The Woman in the Window (so good) followed by Sharp Objects (not as good, but I wanted to get through it before watching the HBO series). I also read a novel called The Kiss Quotient, which is outside of my norm in that it’s not a thriller and is more “chick lit” ish. I actually really enjoyed it though, and I think my next book will be another light, more humorous read (although I’m itching to start I’ll be Gone in the Dark).

Work:

Still kind of in a rut here – the opportunities I mentioned in my last post actually ended up being one opportunity that fell through. That’s okay – it’s been a pretty laid back summer, which has been nice, but I’m itching for a new challenge.

Listening:

Still in a major rut. Someone help? I’m so, SO sick of all my usual music, and Spotify seems to just recommend the same 15 songs I’ve been listening to for the past 2 years. I’m going on a mini solo road trip to visit my family next weekend, and I’m not loving the playlist I’ve created for myself…fingers crossed that I come across at least a little something new before then!

Wearing:

As predicted, I’m loving light, flowy skirts for work and ripped denim shorts with simple t’s and tanks on the weekend. Of course, I’m already itching for fall (I already snagged this cashmere sweater in camel during a killer sale), but nothing beats the ability to slip into my trusty Birkenstocks and be out the door in 2 seconds flat.

Watching:

We’re deep into our weird summer viewing habits. As always, we’re loving So You Think You Can Dance and have been watching the aforementioned Sharp Objects, but we’ve also been re-watching the Joe Schmo Show (I told you it was weird) and The West Wing, inspired by Bradley Whitford’s appearance in The Handmaid’s Tale (which I’m super bummed is over).

Sleep/Mental Health:

Every single summer I’m reminded of/shocked by the wild difference in the way I feel in the warmer months compared to the winter months. I know I get Seasonal Affective Disorder. This isn’t something I forget about, but I also deal with low-level depression and varying degrees of anxiety year round, so I tend to forget just how much better I feel during the summer and fall through the holidays. I’ve been naturally waking up earlier without having to do anything to consciously adjust my schedule (although I’d still like to wake up even earlier on the weekends, but my kinda late work schedule makes that difficult since I prefer to wake up shortly before leaving for work), and I just feel more energetic and clearheaded, despite working out less.

Home projects:

We still haven’t dug into anything inside, but we finally had some real landscaping done outside, and it’s a major breath of fresh air. We had landscaping done last year as well, but the company we chose (recommended by…the company themselves on Nextdoor) did a pretty crappy job and it ended up looking just as bad as it had started within a month. This year we used a different company, and while it cost more than double what we paid last year, it was 1000% worth it and looks infinitely better. We got rid of all the weeds/plants lining our driveway and replaced the mulch with grass seed, and had all the hostas and various other overgrown plants removed in the back and replaced with fresh mulch. I’ve also been trying to make our porch look decent (we’ll need to completely rebuild it down the road), and have been making an effort to do a little yard work every evening (the leaves in our yard are out of control, and we have a ton of mature trees that are beautiful, but drop huge chunks of bark constantly and make a big mess) to keep things looking nice. Fingers crossed!

Drinking:

Lots of coffee with Nutpods still! I’ve also been digging Startbuck’s new cold foam drinks, particularly the (apologies if I butcher the name) Salted Cream Cold Foam Cold Brew (phew). And I’ve been enjoying a spiked seltzer every here and there – so refreshing on a hot day! I bought some Smirnoff brand spiked seltzers in Cape Cod to stock our hotel room’s fridge and kinda expected them to suck (being Smirnoff brand – I chose them because the variety pack included a rose flavor that sounded intriguing), but they were surprisingly tasty! I especially enjoy the watermelon flavor…and I normally hate watermelon flavored things.

Writing:

Uh…basically not at all (obviously).

Wanting:

Honestly, not much – I’m pretty satisfied at the moment. I’m looking forward to fall, but I’m not wishing summer away by any means, and we have another mini vacation coming up in August for our anniversary (it’s a super dorky one, too – stay tuned!) Just trying to enjoy the warm weather and sunshine while it lasts.

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic Paranoia

Being the neurotic and anxiety laden person I am, I’ve begun to really start thinking about the amount of plastic we’re exposed to on a daily basis, and the negative effects it has on our health. While I’ve come to accept that some plastic exposure is just going to happen (I’m not about to start eliminating every type of food or beverage in a plastic container), I figure I should at least do what I can to limit my family’s exposure to harmful plastics.

Although most decent quality plastic containers are now BPA-free, I’ve read lots of credible articles claiming that BPA-free plastic can still produce negative, potentially cancer-causing effects. With that in mind, I’ve decided to make some changes in my home:mwga-17-a17_2

I already don’t typically drink bottled water – I typically use filtered water from our fridge, or the water machine at work. But I’ve now swapped our plastic Nalgene sports water bottles with aluminum S’well bottles for both myself and Jeffrey (that one was a no-brainer – S’well bottles may be a bit heavier and a tiny bit less convenient than plastic bottles, but they keep water cold FOREVER).

71+2CRFcpKL._SX466_

I’ll be replacing our mismatched plastic Tupperwear with a set of glass containers. This one hurts a bit, because they’ll take up more room…but it’s for the best, and I won’t have to deal with the ugly, stained, half-melted (I put them in the dishwasher knowing full-well I’m really not supposed to) mess of containers I currently have. This set comes with a good variety of sizes and gets high ratings on Amazon.

1f3a61e86b6ffa6f29c4f2d7ac953d73_best

No more plastic cups…I can’t get rid of ours (Jeff refuses to drink out of a real glass unless we’re having a dinner party or something), but I’ve stopped drinking out of the plastic cups we stole from the movie theater (yep) in favor of using a real glass (we have this set). I actually originally did this less for the health concerns and more because the plastic cups were starting to pick up a funky dishwasher detergent taste…yum.

So, it’s not much, and I could be doing a lot more, but these few changes make me feel a little better about what I’m putting into my body. If anyone has any other (realistic) ideas of ways to reduce plastic exposure, send ’em my way!

 

Waiting for Spring…

img_1463

tempimageforsave-168

tempimageforsave-167

tempimageforsave-166

I’m pushing HARD for spring around here – I’ve got the bright, flowery candles burning, I’ve got the relaxed, warm weather tunes pumping. I’ve brought the outside in, but I’m ready to take the inside (ME) out. Come on, sunshine & warm weather! We’re waiting for you!

My Kitchen Countertops Are Ruining All My Pictures

Sigh.

IMG_0004

Gross

Why do you do this to me, ugly yellow granite? Or rather, why do you do this to me, previous homeowners who chose the ugly yellow granite? I realize that this was a popular material choice back in the early aughts, but if I’m to understand correctly, our kitchen was re-done shortly before we bought the house (which was in 2013). Could you not have chosen something a bit more neutral or modern? Don’t even get me started on the maroon wall (THAT WE’VE STILL YET TO PAINT).

Nothing looks good on this countertop. Nothing, I say! My white dishes clash with it. It makes pictures look dark and dingy, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to prevent that. Counterintuitively, any light in the area glares off of it, making pictures suck regardless of time of day or weather.

It’s also hindering my ability to re-do my kitchen (which is maybe why I keep putting it off? Sure, we’ll go with that.) Since we don’t plan to stay here forever, we don’t want to do a full gut job and have no intention of replacing these damn countertops. But it makes it difficult to do ANYTHING with the space, because everything I like decor-wise (white, gray, anything neutral) clashes with it. I suppose I could go black (like a tuxedo situation), but that would make the space even darker. Plus I don’t really want to paint the (ugly off-white) cabinets anyway.

Also! (And yes, I know I wrote basically the same thing 3 years ago on my old blog) These suckers are impossible to clean. I mean, they’re pretty easy to clean – they’re granite – but they camouflage everything, so I can never tell whether or not they’re ACTUALLY clean without breaking my back leaning from various angles. “That sounds like a benefit!” you say? To that I very respectfully say, kick rocks. It sucks.

So here I sit with ugly pictures. WOE IS ME. Could I have it worse? OH ABSOLUTELY ONE THOUSAND PERCENT. Am I still going to wine incessantly about it? Quite obviously yes. One day we will buy a house and I will gut the kitchen regardless of condition when we move in and I will have my dream kitchen (white people, amirite?) Until then, I’ll be over here dreaming of all the gorgeous Cambria Quartz. I’LL HAVE YOU ONE DAY, CAMBRIA QUARTZ!!

All the heart eyes.

An ode to Delaware (and southeastern PA)

It may be the fact that this time of year is breathtakingly beautiful around these parts, but I’ve been feeling especially in love with my little corner of the planet recently.

IMG_2909

My very favorite house at the top of my street.

As many of you know, I grew up in Western New York (the Buffalo area). I often miss lots of things about it – all the lakes (GOD I miss the lakes), ski resorts every 5 steps (I don’t really even ski – there’s just something about resort life that feels really cozy and special), snow on Christmas (we rarely get snow around here until at least mid-January)…there’s a lot to miss. But now that I’ve been in Delaware for almost 9 years, it truly feels like home…and I honestly never want to leave (for full disclosure, when I refer to “Delaware” moving forward, I’m also referring to Delaware and Chester Counties in Pennsylvania…my house is about 5 minutes from the PA line, so we spend a lot of time just outside of the state). I’ve liked Delaware ever since I moved here, but since settling in North Wilmington, I sometimes get overwhelmed with love for my neighborhood just driving to the grocery store. It sounds totally goofy and a little nuts, but it’s true.

IMG_1902

I can see these trees from my living room window, and I wait every year for them to turn the most vivid, firey red.

Sure, there are things about certain parts of Delaware I don’t love, but the good FAR outweighs the bad for me:

  1. Let’s start with the most obvious and most practical: the proximity to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR major cities (New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC). People like to complain about how there’s “nothing to do” in Delaware (I beg to differ; more on that later), but you really can’t complain when you can drive to Philly in 15 minutes (well…if there happens to be no traffic somehow, haha), or hop on a train and arrive in New York in 2 hours.
  2. Let’s move on to the food scene. You guys, there are SO MANY good restaurants within 30 (really, 10-15) minutes from my house. So many that it’s difficult to decide where to eat, and we can never choose between revisiting a favorite (Harvest, Terrain, Il Graniao, Massamoto, the list goes on…) or checking out something new. And if we were ever to get bored of the selection in our immediate area, we can take a short drive or train ride to Philly and the options become literally countless.
  3. Now, to the people who complain there’s nothing to do…I say you crazy. Aside from all the restaurants (and we all know eating is my favorite hobby), there are tons of options to cure boredom. Sure, if you’re into clubbing and are looking for crazy nightlife you’ll have to go elsewhere, but even the bar scene is pretty large and varied. Aside from that, though, you have Longwood Gardens, tons of parks and nature for hiking or exploring, about a million wineries, beaches, a freaking ZIP-LINE COURSE, the riverfront, plenty of nice movie theaters with reclining chairs and alcohol (at least one of which will serve you food without leaving your seat), theater, live music, plenty of shopping, museums, a zoo, a beer garden (or outdoor ice rink in the winter), kayaking in the summer, tons of orchards/pumpkin patches in the fall…I could go on, but I think I’ve proved my point. If you truly think there’s nothing to do in Delaware, you’re not looking very hard.
  4. And then, there’s just the general gorgeousness of the area. My brother once told me he thinks he’d like to live here someday, and when I asked him why, he said “it’s just so green!” I thought he was a little crazy at the time (my hometown is pretty small, and is not lacking in, well, “green-ness”), but my mom agreed and I’ve been noticing recently that they’re right. It’s not just that there’s a lot of nature nearby, but my actual neighborhood really is green ALL OVER. There are tons of mature trees that explode with color this time of year, and if you drive 10 minutes into PA, forget about it. The trees combined with the beautiful, stately homes and 100 year old stone walls is really unlike anything else. Right next to any modern amenity you could ask for, there’s tons and tons of history and craftsmanship everywhere you look. AND, you might casually run into Joe Biden on any given day! Can you beat that? No, you can not.
  5. Uh…no sales tax, anyone?
IMG_3896

The cutest little creek a few blocks from my house where I walk Grooby.

I’ll stop babbling now, but I could keep going. All in all, I consider myself pretty damn lucky to have ended up settling where I did…thanks, Jeffrey!

Saturday Project

I thought I’d share a little weekend project that I completed a few months ago…I took before & after pics with the intent to write it up right away, but then life got in the way. Enjoy!

This past Saturday morning, I was sitting at my kitchen island drinking coffee, when a sudden stroke of inspiration hit me.

A little backstory: when we moved in to our house, the first thing I did was unpack the kitchen. My life basically revolves around cooking and eating, so getting all of my dishes and cooking equipment out and organized was essential to preserve my sanity. That said, I was in such a hurry to get everything to a “livable” state that I just kind of threw everything into random cabinets and vowed to re-arrange once I had lived with my kitchen for a while and got a feel of where things should live.

Fast-forward to four years later, and everything was still in the same place I tossed it the night we moved in, for the most part. Our kitchen is relatively roomy, but there are a few pretty distinct challenges, making it a little difficult to re-arrange things: One of our cabinets (a single door, so I guess it’s essentially half a cabinet) doesn’t open all the way because the door is blocked by the built-in microwave. Another set of cabinets is incredibly difficult to access because it’s blocked on one side by the refrigerator, and the front is blocked by the breakfast bar, making the higher shelves almost impossible to reach without climbing on to the island. And speaking of the island, there’s only storage on one side (and a single cabinet on the other side), making it less effective for storage.

A few things did end up working out – our coffee machine (now machines) have their own little corner between the sink and the fridge with canisters for coffee, tea, and now Nespresso pods, and I keep the coffee mugs and extra “hot beverage” gear (extra tea bags, honey, sweetener, etc) in the cabinet directly above. Our tupperware type stuff and extra novelty bar wear (think: big pink plastic martini glasses, extra cocktail shakers, souvenir daiquiri glasses, etc.) are (very messily) stored in the hard to access cabinet to the far side of the room by the microwave – since that cabinet is pretty difficult to access and doesn’t open all the way, not much else can really go there. Oh, and it also has a built-in lazy susan for some reason (which is great for storing spices – there’s another one in the cabinet I ACTUALLY store my spices in, but it was a weird choice for this particular cabinet). Our snacks go in the cabinet blocked by the fridge and island – it works because snacks tend to be things in bags and boxes I can kinda toss into the cabinet without fear of breaking or the need to stack neatly.

What wasn’t working was where I was keeping our everyday dishes. I previously had them stored in the cabinet above the coffee station, along with the mugs and coffee gear, so there was essentially only half of a cabinet dedicated to dishes/glassware. It was okay when we moved in, because we only had one set of dishes and one smallish set of glasses, but as we kept adding to our collection of dishes/glassware (pasta bowls, salad plates, champagne flutes, etc.), things started getting cramped, and it was becoming difficult to access some things – for example, our pasta bowls were buried under our cereal bowls, and were blocked by the center post of the cabinet. So, every time I’d need to grab a pasta bowl, I’d need to reach behind the post, lift up the stack of cereal bowls, and wrestle the pasta bowl out. It wasn’t ideal, and we were in desperate need of more room for glassware. Meanwhile, our “dry foods” (canned goods, pasta, etc.) were stored in the center cabinet along the longer side of the wall. The cabinet next to that holds my baking gear, and while it may seem a bit excessive, I really do need an entire cabinet to hold my ludicrous collection of (multiple types of) flour, sugar, cocoa powder, sprinkles, etc. etc. etc.

IMG_2941

Previous dish setup – note the big post blocking half of the dishes.

IMG_2940

Previous “dry foods” setup…scary, I know.

So, I decided to swap the “dry foods” and the dishes/glassware. The cabinet where the dry foods were being stored is roomier (there’s no center post blocking access), and I decided I’d be able to pare down the crazy amount of non-perishables that were currently very much filling that cabinet to the point where it would fit in the cabinet above the coffee station along with the mugs and coffee gear.

IMG_2942

Purge in progress…YIKES. (Excuse the fingerprints on the dishwasher #KeepingItReal)

After discarding about 5 half-empty peanut butter jars (you guys, I had SO MUCH peanut butter. To be fair, I still have a LOT of nut butters, but most of them are the natural kind that need to be refrigerated), a bunch of cans that probably expired in 2011 (which, I might add, was before we even moved into this house), some half-used dry pasta, and probably 3 boxes of Stove Top stuffing I’ll never ever cook, I managed to fit everything into its new home (and BOY was I proud)! The coffee/dry foods cabinet does leave a bit to be desired in the way of organization, but it just is what it was at this point – maybe I’ll look into under-cabinet mounting for some of the mugs at some point. And the new dishes/glassware cabinet is a thing of beauty – everything is organized, visible, and easy to access.

IMG_2609

Ahhh.

IMG_2608

Not the greatest, but an improvement nonetheless.

Having lived with this setup for a few months now, there are a couple of tweaks that need to be made (mostly requested by Jeff – for instance, he asked if we can move his collection of plastic cups to the other side of the cupboard, so that the door he’d be opening wouldn’t be the one with the extra piece on the inside, requiring both doors to be opened), but I’m SO much happier with the way things are now. This project also inspired me to clean out the below-island storage (which contains a rolling shelf containing most of my baking gear and some small appliances), and it’s been a breath of fresh air to have everything newly organized and easy to access. Next up: replacing the hardware on the drawers and cabinets!

Bedroom Sneak Peek

As I was saying, I’m not quite ready to share a full bedroom tour just yet…but I thought it’d be fun to share just a few little snippets:

IMG_2763IMG_2886IMG_2887IMG_2889

These were just taken with my phone, so they’re not the best quality…but I just couldn’t resist. We’ve had a few little snafus (read: I ordered the wrong size blinds) that have held us up, but we have everything we need now (save for a few decorative elements), so we should be finishing up soon. Stay tuned for the full reveal!

Five impulse buys that ended up being my favorite items

…Plus two things I thought I needed that ended up being duds

As I’ve mentioned, I (VERY) frequently end up falling victim to impulse buys. A lot of the time these purchases end up being left laying around for several weeks before being stored away somewhere or thrown out. But every once in a while, I’ll grab some random little item that ends up being one of the most useful things I own. Here are five items I grabbed on impulse, but ended up being some of the most handy things in the whole house:

1. Marble “Cheese” TrayIMG_2631I grabbed this little guy from Target one day because it was marble and it was cute. I didn’t really have a specific purpose in mind for it (it was labeled as a cheese tray, but was a little small to be practically used as such), but as soon as I got home it hit me – it’s the PERFECT little tray to keep my dish soap, hand soap, and kitchen sponge corralled! It keeps everything neat and together, and most importantly, it covers the stupid hole in the countertop meant for a sprayer hose. We removed the hose a few years back because it wasn’t functional and we had installed a faucet with a hose built in, and the hole has been driving me absolutely bonkers ever since. I had it covered with a little metal cover for a while, but I couldn’t put anything on top of it without being lopsided, so I eventually took it off and just placed my soap directly over the hole…but I still knew it was there and I hated it. This little tray makes me practically forget all about it. Get it here.

2. Salt WellIMG_2633Another impulse buy from Target – big shock, I know. I always knew salt cellars LOOKED pretty, but I didn’t realize how much easier they make things – I use kosher salt pretty much exclusively when cooking, and the only practical way to do so is to grab a pinch with your fingers and sprinkle it on (much like salt bae). Honestly, I don’t remember what I even did before this little guy – did I just take the salt directly from the huge carton? I don’t know, but I keep this little bowl right on my stove and it makes cooking a pinch (see what I did there?). Get it here.

3 & 4. Mid Century Planter & Artificial PlantIMG_2630This one’s a twofer, although I don’t always keep them together – I grabbed this Nate Berkus planter on clearance from – where else? – Target one day, and the cute little artificial succulent is from Ikea. I have the blackest of black thumbs and although I buy real succulents pretty frequently, they usually don’t make it more than a few weeks. This little artificial guy looks pretty darn real, and is cute as all get out. Similar stand here; similar plant here.

5. Lunch ToteIMG_2632For the longest time (we’re talking years), I brought my lunch to work in a variety of efficient, yet classy grocery bags. I always felt a little embarrassed and unprofessional doing so, but I could never seem to remember to pick up a reusable lunch tote. Until one day, I grabbed this adorable little fella while waiting in line at Old Navy, and the rest is history. It’s just your basic lunch tote – nothing super special about it, but the bright yellow graphic makes me smile every time I look at it. I can never seem to find these online, but they’re always right by the register in the store. These also come in pretty cute patterns.

And now…Two things I thought I needed, but ended up being duds.

1. Spoon RestIMG_2627I know a lot of people (probably most people) use these, but I just don’t see the point…I insisted on buying a really pretty one from Anthropologie, but since it’s so pretty, I hate to get it dirty. Which…is kind of the whole point. Even after buying this, I pretty much always rest my dirty cooking utensil on a paper towel, so this just sits on my stove collecting grease. I throw it in the dishwasher once a week or so, put it back, and there it sits. Pretty, but pointless (much like Kylie Jenner – zing). If you’re so inclined, you can grab a similar (actually, cuter) one here.

2. Passport CoverIMG_2628This one pains me, because I was SO excited to buy it (I bought this one for me and a brown leather one for Jeff right before our honeymoon) and it’s SO pretty, but it’s really more of a hassle than anything. Have you ever tried to use a passport in a passport sleeve? Does. Not. Fly. (Literally!) The TSA makes you remove it, so I always end up taking my passport out and carrying it around the airport naked, and then I just have an extra thing to lug around. But…I still use it, because it’s pretty, damn it. You can snag a similar one here.