9/14/14

New Faucet = New Feel

Shortly after I moved into our house, I made the decision to paint horizontal stripes in our half bathroom. Six years later, I actually still really like the look. However, I never got around to finishing up other items on my to-do list in there.

We have focused on other areas of our house and ignored the half-bath. My plan has always been to replace the boring, basic mirror, upgrade the lighting, paint the vanity, replace the sink and add a window treatment. Now, I can say that we have successfully crossed one more item off our list.

While browsing Home Depot's website, I found a perfect faucet. It fit our criteria: it was bronze, unique and less than $100.

We had originally thought about purchasing this faucet-
We just never pulled the $164 trigger. I was convinced I could find something similar for less. Although it took a few months, I finally found a similar, more budget-friendly option HERE-

At $54, it fit all our must haves and was a staggering $110 less than the first option. I did a quick Google search and found a 15% off coupon, bringing my total to less than $50 and free shipping. 

Luckily, Justin is very handy and was able to swap out the faucet pretty easily. 

Original chrome faucet-
  


Officially installed!



Now, we are motivated to replace the light fixture and the cabinet hardware since the chrome pulls no longer match.



It's come a long a way from where we started, but we still have a ways to go-

We are definitely enjoying the upgraded faucet. It's amazing what a simple $50 can do to transform a vanity.

xoxo, S+J

9/10/14

How To Plan a Fabulous Honeymoon Without Budgets or Knee Braces Getting in the Way


I just realized that I never blogged about our honeymoon, which at this point was now 1 year ago! Better late than never, right? It was truly the best vacation I have ever had...even with an injury.

Let's start at the beginning. The 'I Do, Me Too' were spoken and the reception was underway. Our wedding was a success. We were married, blissfully happy and enjoying the night dancing with our friends. I remember literally letting out a sigh of relief. We made it without any disasters...or so I thought.

At the end of our reception, around midnight, something terrible happened. I was preparing to walk out of our reception and into our adjoining honeymoon suite, when my dress got caught and as I took a step, my knee twisted and dislocated. I had dislocated my left knee the first time in high school and it's one of those injuries that once it happens, you are much more susceptible to it happening again. Luckily, one of my husband's best friends is a doctor (he actually works for Harvard), so I was in very good hands. He used what we had on hand ( a plastic bag, ice and duct tape) to secure a knee brace to get me through the night. I was not about to go to the emergency room in a wedding dress.

Justin's groomsmen carried me into our suite and my bridesmaids helped undo the buttons on the back of my gown, take off my shoes etc. I remember Justin and I looking at each other as we sat on our bed in our honeymoon suite covered in rose petals, with about 10 of our closest friends in the room helping us, and just laughing. There was nothing else we could do at that point. So much for the romantic evening we had anticipated. I have never been so thankful for our best friends, especially Sarah and her husband Brian, as I was at that point. Our friends made sure that our gifts were delivered to our room safely and that everything was removed from our reception hall. They looked over every last detail for us, as I laid down with my knee elevated and Justin next to me holding my hand.

The say marriage is for better or worse, and there was no truer testament than starting our first night as a married couple in such a chaotic way. I really wouldn't have changed a thing though.

Our wedding was on a Friday night and our honeymoon was booked for early Sunday morning. So, that Saturday I headed to Urgent Care and got the ok from the doctor. She gave me an actual brace for my knee and told me to be very careful, continue to ice it and wear the brace for 8 weeks. I rested up and prepared for our honeymoon. My sweet father-in-law picked us up at 5am to take us to the airport. The upside of traveling with a knee brace is that airlines will typically take pity on you. Traveling with a knee brace on your honeymoon? Everyone feels bad for you. We scored upgraded seats, the flight attendant kept passing me mini bottles of vodka and orange juice and we were the first ones on the plane and the first off. I joked to Justin that I may never travel without a knee brace again haha. Once we arrived, I was greeted by a man with a wheelchair and a sign with my name on it. He insisted that I take the wheel chair. He wheeled us through the airport as quick as possible. We were literally off the plane and into a cab within 10 minutes of landing. It was glorious.
Justin just had to take a pic.

How To Plan A Fabulous Honeymoon Without Busting Your Budget

We approached our honeymoon like we do every thing we purchase or plan, armed with as much knowledge as possible. We were flexible on the location. All we cared about was that there was a beach and plenty of frozen cocktails readily available. After much research, looking everywhere from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, to Puerto Rico to Jamaica, we found the best deal we could in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. Neither of us had ever been there, so we were especially excited to visit somewhere new.

1. Research, Research, Research.
I realize that I sound like a broken record. This is the first step in every trip we plan, as it truly pays to do your research. We visited every travel site imaginable.  We ended up using CheapCarribbean.com I had used this website a few times prior and typically find the best deals on this site. After much consideration, we selected Secrets Vallarta Bay, an adult-only, all-inclusive. It was perfect for honeymooners.

Also, September is typically rain season in Puerto Vallarta, which meant steep discounts. We experienced a short rainstorm the day we arrived but then nothing but sunshine the rest of the week. Make sure you check out the forecast before booking.

For additional savings, we went through Ebates.com first, which gave us 5% cash back as well, which ended up being about $100. Every bit helps, right?

We read through dozens and dozens of reviews on every travel site imaginable. It took time and we had to create a spreadsheet that clearly identified the major points of every resort we were considering, but we ended up at a fabulous place and remained under budget. Our spreadsheet included how many rooms and restaurants were on site, proximity to the nearest town/city for nightlife, main demographic (did it appeal to families, couples, young singles, etc) and what was included in the price (all-inclusive or not).

2. Give yourself a break. Literally.
The week before our wedding, we had out-of-town family and friends in, which was great. We got to spend time with those we love. However, we also had all of those millions of little errands to run and last minute projects to complete that seem to be inevitable before any wedding. It was a fun week but a busy one. Plus, the actual wedding day is such an emotional high that we were absolutely exhausted at the end of it. Not to mention the whole dislocating the knee at midnight and not being able to sleep a wink that night.

Even without a physical injury occurring on your wedding day, you will still need at least a day to recover from the wedding. You will want to sleep in a bit, see your family, open gifts and to recap the momentous day before. Don't book your honeymoon for the day after the wedding. Trust me. Your honeymoon will be the much better when you have had a day (or more!) to recover from the wedding.

3. Make the most of it.
Once you have arrived at your honeymoon destination, let everything go. Stop worrying about whether or not your wedding pictures will turn out ok (they will) or that the caterers forgot to serve the groom's cake. Let all of that stuff go. You and your partner will never have another honeymoon. Sure, they will be other vacations but it won't be the same as a honeymoon. Enjoy every moment of your new wedded bliss.

We joined in the many activities that our resort offered. I was obviously more limited due to my knee, but I still sat on the beach and enjoyed a margarita with the other ladies during a guacamole cooking lesson. We played trivia at the pool. I chatted with some ladies and made bracelets on the beach. We befriended a great couple from Chicago. One partner wanted to lay at the pool and relax (my bestie, Chuck) and his partner wanted to participate in all the water activities. So, Chuck and I became fast friends and frozen cocktail consumers, while Justin and Gerson kayaked, played beach volleyball and para-sailed. A win/win for everyone. Although some of the activities may border on cheesy (water aerobics, for example), we ended up meeting some awesome people this way and it broke up the monotony of laying in the sun all day.

As tempting as it is to sit and be waited on at the resort all day, it is still a good idea to get out and enjoy the culture of the city. We explored downtown Puerta Vallarta, bought a few souvenirs and enjoyed a cerveza or two among the locals. One of our favorite spots was a church built in the 1851. We also took full advantage of the $25/hour massages offered outside the gates of our resort. #heaven

One of our favorite experiences was taking a boat ride to a private, candle-lit island, where we dined on the beach. Our new fellow honeymooner friends were also aboard. It was truly a magical evening.

4. Make friends
My husband is one of those people that naturally and easily makes friends, wherever he goes. It is a trait I am most envious of. One of the parts that made our honeymoon so amazing were the fabulous friends we made, most of whom were also honeymooners. Our last night there, we had dinner with 6 other couples. It felt like we were among old friends at that point and was a perfect end to a great week. We have all stayed in contact and hope to have a reunion anniversary trip one of these days.

Although your honeymoon is all about you and your spouse, it was nice to chat with other new brides and swap wedding stories. The boys talked about sports and played beach volleyball together. It made for such a fun week with a nice balance of romantic time together and also fun times with new friends.

5. Go for All-Inclusive but Pay Attention to the Fine Print
This may be a controversial statement, as some folks are opposed to all-inclusive and think they are all the same. They are not. I am all for adventure and for trying new local restaurants while traveling, but it was such a relief to eat and drink to our hearts' desire without having to worry about the tab. Your honeymoon is all about you and your partner. This is your time to be spoiled, to be pampered, to be waited on.
That's Justin way up in the air, parasailing

We brought some cash to tip (always remember to tip!) but left our wallets in the safe in our hotel room. The cost associated with staying at our all-inclusive resort compared to similar resorts that were not all-inclusive was hardly noticeable. We believe firmly that we saved so much money this way. I shudder to think what our bar tab alone would've been, after all those frozen cocktails we consumed on the beach.

We also made sure that our resort offered plenty of dining options. Ours included a few breakfast options, several lunch and dinner options, 24hr room service, a stocked mini-bar and plenty of snacks and drinks pool-side. Had our resort had more limited dining options, we probably would've gotten bored with it.
 The table-side dessert coffee presentation was fantastic!

 Overall, we had an amazing experience while staying on budget and with a busted knee. A special thank you to our dear friends that we met on this trip, who made it all the more special and memorable. May we meet again soon!

We're already dreaming about our next beach vacation!
xoxo -S

9/7/14

Justin's Beer Tasting Brew Ha-Ha Birthday Bash

Justin's 35th birthday fell on a Saturday this year and if that isn't reason alone to throw a party, I don't know what is. The problem was he couldn't figure what he wanted to do to celebrate.  We find it difficult to get a large group together for dinner, even if you can find a restaurant that can accommodate a large group and ensure everyone shows up on time, you are still left chatting with the few people sitting beside you all night and no one else at the table. Plus, we are also a little too old for the going out all night dancing scene. I really wanted to make this birthday special for him though. Justin does so much for me on a daily basis that I wanted to show a small token of my appreciation.

After brainstorming  party themes we have not attempted before, we ended up settling on a Beer Tasting. Although I am not a huge beer drinker myself, the party was still top-notch, if I do say so myself.

We gathered our closest friends and asked each couple to bring a 6-pack of any variety. You may want to suggest that each guest(s) bring a certain type of beer to ensure you get a variety, but we figured with a guest list of 24, we would have our bases covered regardless.

I then contacted an old friend from high school that is now a Cicerone-certified beer master and asked if he would come over and chat about beer, answer questions, etc. Not only did he oblige, he ended up bringing great beer from a local brewery he works at, which was an awesome touch. Thank you Andrew!
Andrew and Justin


I wanted this party to be fun and filled with lots of cute manly décor, so I printed some signs from Etsy, as well as typed up a few of my own.


We wanted everyone to have their own pint glass, so I began looking everywhere for an affordable option. I finally found the perfect, fun option- mustache and lip pint glasses for guests to use and take home:

They were ordered from DollarTree.com and were such a cute touch and just a buck! This was way cheaper than any other pint glasses I could find anywhere else. Plus, I thought they were so fun. We added a tasting sheet and pencil, so party-goers could take notes on beers they liked and didn't like.

A party décor kit from Michaels provided a fun color and texture to our dining room:

We kept the food really simple: beer and cheese dip (which was super addictive!), buffalo chicken dip, hot wings, pasta salad with goat cheese and fresh basil (that my sweet friend, Crystal, made) and deviled eggs (a special request of Justin's for his mom). We had some sausage we had planned on grilling and slicing but never got around to it.


For dessert, my sweet mother-in-law made chocolate cupcakes with Bailey's and Kahlua-flavored icing. Yum!

We cleaned out our fridge as best we could before the party and set out several coolers for extra beer. The beers we were currently tasting were put in the trough and buckets on our kitchen counter.The extras were kept in the fridge or coolers.

I would suggest leaving extra bottle openers out and a jar of some sort to corral the bottlecaps.

As a special touch, I made palette-cleansing pretzel necklaces for our tasters to wear. Super easy but added a festive touch.
 *The pretzel necklace palette cleansers were made just before guests showed up, so they wouldn't get stale . You can see them above hanging from our kitchen cabinets. Another tip- include small shot-size plastic glasses to allow guests to test beer before filling up their pint glass. Lemons, limes and oranges were also set out to help enhance some beers.


No party of ours is complete without some trivia. We had 10 beer related questions for everyone to complete.

The winner received the classy prize of a beer-can holder hat. Perfect for tailgates and parties. The 'prize' was such a hit that several people gave it a whirl.
Even the birthday boy tried it out.

Last but not least was the prize for worst beer...that individual (who shall remain nameless but here's a picture...) won a mug full of little liquor bottles. Since he had such bad taste in beer, we figured he better stick to liquor. For the record, he brought Hamms beer:)

All in all, this was the easiest, most laidback party we have thrown, and yet it was probably the most successful. I had so many of our friends tell us what fun they had and that the beer tasting was such a fun idea. Don't forget to include root beer and water for anyone that's not drinking or needs a break from all that beer!

Most importantly, the birthday boy had a fantastic time.

 Guests mingling

 The brewmaster giving us a lesson in Beer 101

Here for Beer sign hung above coolers


 Funny beer signs I made and placed throughout the party

 Some helpful beer signs were on display as well

Thanks to our friends and family for making this such a fun night. Happy Birthday Justin!

xoxo, Suzanne

6/29/14

Master Bedroom Update #3,657

Our Master Bedroom has gone though more changes and updates than any other space in our home. Due in large part to 2 reasons: my tastes have changed and matured greatly in the past 6 years (at least, I like to think they have) and that the starting point was truly awful.


Phase 1 (six years ago)



Phase 2


Phase 3
 

Current

I'm not sure I can ever call a room 'done', because I'm the type of person that may wake up tomorrow and have a sudden urge to paint our bedroom blue, which literally happened yesterday morning. Our bedroom now has blue swatches over the walls now. I don't like my environment to be stagnant and constantly rearrange and move things around. For the most part, I am really happy with where our bedroom is currently. It is definitely our oasis from the outside world.

Justin and I had grand plans of building a new bed. However, due to busy work schedules and packed weekends, we never found the time to dedicate to such a large project. When I saw that One Kings Lane was offering a 30% discount  off their already lower prices during a one-day flash sale, I quickly logged on to search for beds.

I came across several and ultimately we ended up selecting this one.


I do wish the gray color was a bit darker. Overall though, I am happy with the purchase and find it to be great quality. Plus, the fact that we no longer have a dust ruffle (my nemesis)  is amazing to me. It feels much cleaner without the dust ruffle, and I don't have to worry about the dogs accidentally pulling the dust ruffle down on one side etc.

Once the silvery gray bed was complete, the taupe x-benches at the end of the bed were NOT working anymore. Luckily, it was a quick fix.

You may recall that I first purchased these x-benches at Kmart.com for a steal. However, they came covered in cheap, leopard-print polyester.
 I recovered them with the same taupe chenille fabric from our original DIY headboard.

This time, I wanted a charcoal linen-like fabric.

While browsing Hancock Fabrics over the weekend, I found just the look I was after. Unfortunately, it was in the form of window curtains. I figured one curtain would give me enough fabric to cover both seats, so I picked it up.


After cutting the curtain to size, I got to work with my trusty staple gun. Justin was watching the World Cup at a friend's house, so I was working alone which means I wasn't able to get many in-progress pics.
 I then decided to dress them up with some nail head trim, that I still had left over from the DIY headboard from eons ago. You can pick up a roll at Joann's for $20 (or $12 with a coupon).Justin was home to help with this part. Using a nail head trim kit is very easy but it does help to have 2 people. One to hold the trim down and the other to nail in.

One last Before and After-

I also ended up finding a pair of drapes at Hancock Fabrics that I couldn't resist. The silvery blue print is gorgeous, hard to photograph but stunning in person. I felt as though they lightened up the space, in contrast to the existing espresso brown Thai silk drapery from Restoration Hardware. I love that drapery as well, but they feel very heavy both literally and figuratively in the Summer time.

We are planning on painting this room a dusty blue color and then calling it done. My sights are set on our bathroom next... No rest for DIYers.
xoxo, Suzanne