Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mantel Redo Reveal!

The mantel transformation for the holidays is complete!  Let me start by saying that after my Halloween and Thanksgiving transformations, the mantel and fireplace did really start to grow on me.  I promise I was no longer complaining about it.  But when I showed Art a picture of the above wreath in the Target catalog, he said "It's nice, we should paint the fireplace and it will really stand out."  It took me about 2.5 seconds to say "Okay!".

We started by priming the bricks one by one by hand.  After about 1 hour we realized that we were getting nowhere fast.  So he ran out and picked up a paint sprayer.  Since we already had an air compressor, the expense was not as much as you'd imagine (we already had primer on hand).
The sprayer cost about $70, plus a gallon of paint.  Total fireplace redo= $85 
Once we had the sprayer we had the job done in about an hours time.  The most time consuming part was taping and prepping the area to spray.  The spraying only took about 10 minutes.

For the Christmas decor I was going for a natural woodsy feel with the berries, garland and pine cones, which have been collected by the kids over the last few years, and I save them away with our Christmas stuff.  The only thing I purchased this year was the wreath because I loved the color and the size, but in actuality it could be even bigger. Now with it painted, the fireplace looks huge!

I wrapped boxes in burlap and hot glued them down (tape would not do!), and then wrapped them in bakers twine.  I put some moss in little votive holders, and to add a punch, covered mini pine cones in Martha Stewart glitter.  The fireplace screen is from Restoration Hardware and we've had it since our old house.  We took it with us because I knew I'd be able to use it again eventually.  My favorite part of the entire mantel though is the fresh garland.  I work very close to the Downtown LA florist mart, and I picked up 75 feet of garland for $50 yesterday on my lunch hour.  I am covering the house with the stuff!  

And that's about it!  I love it and got the biggest smile on my face when I woke up this morning and saw my pretty new mantel.  Too bad I won't be able to enjoy it for a couple of days.  I leave for New York this afternoon and when I get back on Thursday night, we turn around and leave for Mammoth for 5 days!  Please say prayers for safe travels as I leave my babies.  I always get so nervous!  
Wishing everyone a wonderful week and a great start to the Christmas season! 
p.s. In case you were wondering about the stockings, it's tradition in our house that we don't hang them until Christmas Eve so Santa can fill them with goodies

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why You Wouldn't Want To Be Married To Me

I'll make you start a monumental project on Sunday, the last day of a 4 day weekend, all the while, making you think it was your idea. 

And to add insult to injury, the next day when you take my car to work so you can stop by and get me new tires, you'll run out of gas on the way to the station, because I hate to get gas and habitually run it on fumes.

p.s. full mantel and fireplace before and after photos to be revealed tomorrow!

Shopping In My Robe

Shop Sweet Harvey here
Shop Allora Handmade here
Shop Crave Jewelry Design here
Shop The Rusted Chain here
Shop Villarreal Ceramics here
Shop Rabbits Moon here
I'm convinced that only those that have never worked retail shop Black Friday.  And I don't mean just stroll into the stores after waking up from your turkey induced coma.  I mean the crazies (yes, I'm talking to you), that wake up at 3 am and stand in line for "door busters" to get pajamas for $5.  No, thank you.  I worked those sales for years, back when they were still at the somewhat decent hour of 6 am, and still I will never look at Black Friday the same way again.  

I did spend my Black Friday browsing Etsy and Big Cartel though, in the comfort of my robe, and came across some really sweet and special gifts for family and friends.  Above are some of my finds.  I didn't purchase every single one, because we are scaling back this year, but the shops I found have the perfect gifts for certain loved ones that I'm bookmarking them for birthdays and such next year.  

Hurry, some are even having Cyber Monday sales today! 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Being Thankful

Besides my children, the thing I miss most since returning to work over three months ago is cooking every night.  I'm blessed enough to have a mother that cooks two times a week when I am at work, and the rest of the week we get by with crock pot meals, leftovers, or fast packaged dinners from Trader Joe's.  We are fed and nourished, but I dearly miss the time I spent in the kitchen.  Time often spent with my kids.  I'm not the best at playing Barbies or cars, I'll admit that.  It's hard for me to sit down and get lost in role play with my kids.  Luckily they have their dad for that.  I do have all the patience in the world though when it comes to allowing my kids to help in the kitchen.  They measure and pour ingredients into pots and bowls, and mix and whisk away while I supervise.  I love that time spent together.  I guess in many ways, I show my love through the food I prepare for my family, and I saw a chance to retrieve some of that back through Thanksgiving this year.

I volunteered to host, which meant we were automatically in charge of the turkey.  We've made a turkey many times before so I wasn't worried, but I didn't want to stop at the turkey.  I wanted to make an amazing stuffing, the cranberry sauce, try a new desert, and maybe a new vegetable dish.  My family signed up to bring the usual accompaniments, like mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pies and rolls.  The  rest was up to me and Art.

When I mentioned the menu we were preparing to some, they suggested I should just take it easy and not take on so much.  But the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that I wanted to try the new recipes that were more complex, interesting and time consuming.  Sometimes I feel like we get so obsessed with taking the easy route, short cuts here and there, making life as easy, quick and as efficient as possible, with as little work expelled in the process.  Canned cranberries, boxed stuffing, store bought already prepared turkeys.  If Thanksgiving's not reason enough to work hard and slave away in the kitchen, what is then? Now don't get me wrong, many years we have relied on all of those things, but I wanted this year to be different.  I wanted to take back some of that time I have lost in the kitchen these last months.  I wanted to invest time and energy into the meal that is the testament of a year's worth of thankfulness.  I wanted to show my kids how much I care for them, I wanted to show my husband how much I appreciate him, and thank my mom and dad for so lovingly caring for my kids, and tell my sister that even though we may not be as close as we once were, I still love her.  And I knew that with this meal, I could make a start at doing that.  Sound silly?  Maybe, but in the end, when I saw my family go back for seconds and thirds, and tell us that it was the best turkey they had ever eaten (even Syd, my picky eater, went back for seconds!), I knew that our work was not in vain.

We spent over 6 hours cooking in the kitchen yesterday, and another 2 hours cleaning up the disaster we had made, and the kids had made while playing unsupervised for 6 hours.  The kids came in and out of the kitchen and helped throughout the day.  Art prepared the turkey, and we took turns basting it for 3 hours.  I made butter using real vanilla beans, a first for me.  And my hands got stained red from seeding a pomegranate.  I may or may not have had a couple of mimosas throughout the morning as well.  I ended up exhausted and passed out on the couch by 10 pm, but it was the best Thanksgiving I've had in a long time. 

After we had eaten my mom and dad asked, "hey Andrea, did you get a picture of all the food?"  And you know what, I didn't?  Not a SINGLE one.  I was having so much fun I forgot to pause and take a picture of the food for a blog post.  I think that's a good sign.  At that moment we whipped out the camera and took a few blurry, poorly lit shots of the 6 of us sitting around the table.  My brother's family was up with his in-laws this year, and all 6 kids were running around causing chaos and wreaking havoc.  While these pictures don't reflect perfect composition or examples of good lighting, they do reflect a very well fed and happy family.  I'll take that over composition any day.
Here are the recipes we prepared yesterday.  It was a first for all of them and I can easily endorse every single one.  They are not quick by any means, but overall they were fairly easy to execute and with amazing results.  Most are from Bobby Flay, with a couple thrown in from Ina and Smitten Kitchen.  All would be great to make this year for Christmas, or save for next Thanksgiving.  I hope you all had a truly special and wonderful Thanksgiving spent with family and friends. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

My table is set...and that's about it.  For some reason I am unusually calm the night before I am due to host Thanksgiving dinner.  I think I'll go have a glass of wine and watch some TV in fact instead of slicing and dicing.

I sincerely hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving day tomorrow.  I know I will be counting my many blessings.  My children, my husband, my family and my lovely friends.  And you all that read my ramblings.  But most of all I am grateful and thankful for God's love.  I am so far from perfect, but He loves me still.

I will be of course eating a lot.  But that probably goes without saying, right?

Blessings friends.  Thank you for reading along all year.

Here's to a wonderful Thanksgiving, and the start of a fantastic Holiday season!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I may have failed to mention in my previous post that, along with the 2 wine goblets we broke, 2 more of our "everyday" glasses were also broken.  Apparently the paper thin glasses that crack at the slightest provocation, didn't appreciate being toppled on by the goblets when they came crashing into the sink.  Lesson learned for leaving dishes to pile up in the sink?  Me thinks not.  Lesson learned to buy sturdier glasses. 

After the latest carnage on Friday, we were left with 5 large glasses and 1 paltry smaller glass.  In addition, we had 2 more incomplete sets of glassware, for a total of 3 glass combinations sitting on our shelf.  Up unto this point I have had a hard time parting with a set of glasses, even if they were not complete.  Am I alone in this?

I made a declaration that I was tired of living like a college co-ed and having a cabinet full of mismatched, half sets of glasses.  I'm a grown up damn it and it's about time my glasses reflected that.  Art just said, "whatever, go get some more glasses."  So we ventured to the South Coast Plaza Crate and Barrel on Saturday.  While I am not necessarily a fan of their overpriced furniture, I have been very pleased with the various kitchen items I have purchased there, including our everyday dishes, beverage canisters, and stemless wine glasses.  Clean, simple and high quality designs at affordable prices.

I asked the cute little sales guy what glasses he recommended that were sturdy and practical.  He instantly went for the kill and recommended the most expensive glasses, at $7.50 a pop.  Try again friend, try again.

He went on and on about how they were handmade and by far the most superior glasses they offered.  While he was trying to give me the hard sell, I had two children tugging at my arms practically screaming that they wanted to ride the escalator over and over.  I gave him a puzzled look, and wanted to ask if it appeared like I was leading a life that called for $7.50 glasses, but I refrained. 

I pointed to the $1.50 glasses .  "What about those?", I asked.  "Eh.  Those are okay, but they are man-made."  He gave me a few more reasons why I should reconsider buying el cheapo glasses, but all I could think was "Don't look down your nose at me."  He acted as if he was trying to explain to me the difference between Lanvin Haute Couture and Lanvin for H & M.  After a few sentences he could tell his pitch was lost on me.  I said rather politely that it didn't necessarily matter to me if they were hand made or man made, I just wanted to know if the glasses were sturdy.  His reply?  In a very exasperated, huffy breath he said "Well at $1.50 a piece you can just replace them each time they break."  And that is the problem with today's generation.  They think money just grows on trees.

I confirmed with Sarah, whose judgment on matters such as these I trust, that the $1.50 Impressions glasses were just fine, and that after 5 years of marriage and 2 children, she had not broken a single one.

Sold!  To the lady in the chunky sweater and knit hat with the 2 crazy kids.
I brought home a set of tall water glasses, short highball glasses (you know, for all the Scotch we drink), and a set of itty-bitty juice glasses, as pictured.  These are my favorite, so petite, so cute.

By the way, cute little sales guy.  Hoity toity?  Yes.  Good at counting?  Not so much.  He shorted me one glass, so I have 7 instead of 8 tall glasses.  My 8th guest at Thanksgiving is going to be drinking out of a red Dixie cup unless I can convince Crate & Barrel to spend $15 to overnight an item that costs $1.50.  What do you think my chances are?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gobble dey Gook on Marriage

Art and I have been married eleven and a half years. In that time, we have never broken a piece of our wedding china or our goblets. We drink wine out of our goblets often. In the last 2 days we have broken 2 goblets. One yesterday and one today.

As I was huffing around the house I said “This is a sign. What does it mean?”

As a side note, I strongly believe in Karma and am highly superstitious and always think God is somehow trying to punish me if something bad happens. I have a huge persecution complex, and I am the eternal pessimist in the relationship. I am like Chicken Little, always running around saying "the sky is falling, the sky is falling!"  I sound like a lot of fun, huh? Wanna come hang out with me? I promise I’m not actually that bad and only those closest to me know of my true neuroses.

Art on the other hand is the eternal optimist and firmly believes that God and His subsequent Universe, only have good wishes for us, therefore he never really sees things as a “sign”, but just happenstance.

So when I ask him “Don’t you think it’s a sign?” in regards to breaking 2 glasses in 2 days, after not breaking a single one in the first 11 ½ years of marriage, his response was simply:

“I take it as a sign that gravity still exists.”

Well done, Mr. Howe.

Family Photos With Meg of Whatever

 Back in September Meg Duersken posted that she was going to be in Southern California visiting this rad girl, and was thinking of doing some photo sessions.  It was early in the morning (see, it pays to get up early), and I emailed her with the subject line "Are You KIDDING ME?!?!?"  I've been a fan of Meg's for a while, and I still remember the first post I read of hers.  It was about how her and Craig surprised all the kids, minus Annie I think, with tickets to see U2.  I remember she was bummed out that Fergie had cursed so much.  Since then I've been hooked to her bright and simple images of life around the house of a family of 7.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just as interested in getting family photos taken, as I was in meeting Meg in real life. 
So we arrive to our shoot right on time (a rarity for us), with a box of cake pops in hand to get started.  The shoot took place in Downtown Orange, filled with lots of cool old buildings and pretty architecture.  Julie encouraged us to go BRIGHT in our attire, which was a new venture for us.  We usually do the standard black or white shirts with jeans.  Boring, I know.  So since Meg specializes in color photographs, we went for it and wore an aqua and orange theme. 
 Things started out okay, but within about 10 minutes, it was clear it was going to be a rough day.
 First it started with Taylor acting completely silly, but silly bad, not silly good.  Art had to have a talking to, which she did not appreciate.
 Then Syd decided he didn't want to participate.  Back turned in below photo as evidence.
 Taylor cheered up and we got a few cute shots with her and daddy.
 But then they both turned sour, and so we had to break into the cake pops early.  They were supposed to be post-photo shoot treats.
 That perked them up for a minute.
 But then the sillies started again and we couldn't get any decent Mommy & Taylor shots, Mommy & Daddy shots, or Mommy & Syd shots.
 Art looks a little irritated below, don't you think?
 There's a sweet one.
 This was our attempt at a Syd & Daddy shot. 
 Somehow towards the end we did manage a couple more decent family shots.
 And then Syd for some reason, got depressed.
 And then he got mad.  And that was our cue that we were all done for the day. 
But not before Meg and I got to take a few shots.
 the one above is her taking my profile picture
Thanks Meg for a great photo shoot, even though my family was a little crazy.  You were so sweet and patient, and managed to even get a Christmas card worthy shot, amidst all the chaos.  Can't wait for you to come to Cali again!


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