Posted by John on December 2nd, 2013
It’s that time of the year again around here. Lisa is digging through our Christmas decor bins and dressing up the house. While holiday decor isn’t really my thing, I do enjoy laughing at some of our older ornaments as we pull them out of the bins. It’s a fun tradition.
Since we could use a break from the whole cabinet construction thing, we’re going to do something fun this holiday season. We’re kicking off an Instagram Christmas Ornament Hashtag Party. Here’s the theme: Weird or Funny Christmas Ornaments.
If you’re not sure what that is, there’s nothing wrong with you. I promise. It’s Captain Kathryn Janeway from the TV series Star Trek Voyager. My folks bought it for me back in Christmas of 1998. Why I’ve kept it this long is the real question here.
So here’s how this Instagram party will work. Take an instagram photo (or Twitter) of the weirdest, oddest or funniest Christmas ornament you own. Use the hashtag #WeirdestOrnament2013 or #FunniestOrnament2013 when you post it. You can also post it on our Facebook wall.
In a week or so, I’ll share the photos in a post. Let’s keep it lighthearted and safe for work, if you know what I mean. Okay? Cool, have fun.
Posted by John on June 12th, 2013
Well, it’s that time of the year again, time to buy gifts for all the dads in your life. Since I really don’t have to lift a finger on this particular holiday and most of our readers are women, I thought I’d dispense some gift giving advice and offer some suggestions. If you’re looking for some last minute Father’s Day gift ideas, you’ve come to the right place.
The Safe Choices:
1. Neck ties, dress shirts, button down shirts, belts, sunglasses and watches. You really can’t go wrong with these options as long as they’ll be worn on a regular basis. Not great options for guys that only wear jeans and t-shirts to work, obviously.
2. If the dad in your life enjoys a glass of whiskey or scotch every now and again, get him a bottle of something good. My personal favorite is Redbreast 12yr. It’s delicious and at around $50 a bottle, it’s probably at a good Father’s Day gift price point. I’m not a big whiskey drinker, but it’s really a smooth, tasty choice and is the perfect whiskey for the occasional drinker. Other options include a high quality beer like a Chimay, which comes in larger bottles. A six pack of the month club is also a worthy gift and even though it’s a mail order service, you can kick off the gift by handing him a six pack of something you know he likes. Trust me, guys like this sort of gift.
If you’re intimidated by buying or even pronouncing Scotch, there are around 45 8-second long videos of the actor Brian Cox pronouncing each one for you on YouTube. You’re welcome.
3. Concert tickets or game tickets make for great gifts. It’s June, so your major league sports are pretty much limited to baseball until the Fall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy tickets for the other major sports ahead of time. Movie tickets are also a welcome idea. Did you know that the new Superman movie opens this weekend? Do you know how ridiculously awesome it looks?
4. Here goes…. telescope, binoculars, leather bag, R/C car, plane or helicopter, die cast cars, ride in an actual helicopter, cooking class, power tools, hand tools, carpentry lessons, a round of golf at an expensive local country club, rifles or guns, golf clubs, high quality shaving gear..
Hope this helps! We’ll be back next week with some garage work updates. Enjoy your weekend!
Posted in Holiday. Tagged in ,father's day, gift ideas
Posted by Lisa on March 17th, 2013
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We hope you had a good weekend! We were busy with “second baby preparations,” which we will be sharing in the next few weeks, btw. We did get a chance to have a low key, but tasty St. Patty’s day dinner!
First off, I made homemade honey butter at John’s request. I’ve never had it, but it sounded good to me. I used Alton Brown’s recipe for the ingredients, but just eyeballed the measurements. I used my Cuisinart hand mixer with the whisk attachment to cream the butter, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Then I placed the mixture in a small ramekin and let it chill in the refrigerator for a few hours. The honey butter was a great compliment to the store bought Irish soda bread.
For dinner, I made Martha Stewart’s Irish Beef and Stout Stew. I halved the recipe and still had left overs for this week! This was a great tasting recipe and was very simple to make. John loves any kind of stew and this one was definitely a notch above my standard go-to stew recipe I make in the crock pot. This recipe is a keeper for sure.
For dessert we had chocolate cake with green frosting. Pretty straightforward so no pictures here. My personal preference would have been for a few shamrock shakes from MickyD’s, but no one felt like running out of the house to fetch them, so I will have to wait until tomorrow! I don’t know about you guys, but I love shamrock shakes. I have been drinking them since February and will continue to order them until all the McDonald’s near me run out.
So that was our low key St. Patty’s day celebration – what are your traditions?
Posted by John on December 18th, 2012
Hey guys! Christmas is nearly upon us and I haven’t bought a single gift yet. This is pretty much par for the course with me though. I’m always a late shopper. Although, not like Christmas Eve late, just Week Before Christmas kinda late. I’ve got a lot of shopping to do. One thing we were able to knock out though was our Christmas mantel. Lisa didn’t change up too much from last year, at least I don’t think she did.
The stockings are hung by our gas fireplace with care, in hopes that they don’t spontaneously combust. The larger white stockings are new for us this year. Last year we had a couple smaller blue ones. This year we’re going back to the full-sized adult Christmas stockings.
The stockings are hanging from these chrome weights…
and we’re marking the stockings with the initials of our first name (except for the dog, but his stocking will be loaded with treats so he won’t mind).
As far as our fireplace goes, we don’t use it that much. It’s completely automatic though, which is pretty sweet. We have a switch on the wall right next to it that turns it off and on. When I was a kid, my parents had a real wood burning fireplace and it was amazing… until I had to clean it. Then it was a giant PIA. Oh, and we got a bat in there once or twice. Yeah, loads of fun. So this automatic version is awesome.
We keep our daughter and dog away from it with a simple metal guard that folds up and can be repositioned.
So now I have to go out and buy small gifts to stuff in these.
Are you done your shopping and decorating or do you still have some left to do?
Posted by Lisa on December 13th, 2012
Every year I make Christmas cookies with my mom. We’ve been making them together since I was a little kid with my grandmom. Since we’ve been married, I’ve also been putting together a cookie tray for John to take to his office Christmas party. We always make certain traditional Italian cookies and every year try out one or two new cookie recipes. Here’s what we baked up this year…
1. Peanut Butter Blossoms. These are peanut butter cookies that are rolled into a ball, then rolled in suger, baked and while hot out of the oven, they are pressed down with a Hershey kiss. This isn’t a family recipe or anything. You can see the actual recipe on Hershey’s website.
2. Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies. These are a thin, buttery, crispy, chocolate chip cookies that are my “go-to” chocolate chip cookies. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve seen make thicker, chewier cookies. That’s fine if you like that, but I really like this crispy version. The recipe is Martha Stewart’s daughter’s and can be found here. This recipe makes 30 4-inch cookies, which are HUGE. I typically halve the recipe and make smaller sized cookies, say 2 or 3 inches in diameter.
3. Crescent Cookies. This is a traditional Italian cookie that my grandmother taught my mom to make way back in the day. She has been making them ever since. They are made with Pecans and are rolled in powdered sugar. Enuff said. Nom nom. I’m not sharing this recipe. Sorry!! Ancient family secret. I’m sure you can find something delicious online.
4. Spritzer Cookies. These are a cookie that was made by my grandmother. They are a lovely, light, buttery cookie that are decorated with sprinkles. You’ll need a cookie press and various dies to make these. We always use the wreath and the Christmas tree and this year we tried the snowflake shape.
5. Raspberry Filled Linzer Sandwich Cookies. This is a new cookie we made this year and it’s delicious! The only drawback is the recipe doesn’t make a lot of cookies. We used the Wilton recipe that came with the Linzer cookie set. If you don’t bake regularly, these cookies may be more challenging. They also take a lot of time. It’s hard because you have to roll the dough out really thin, which makes transferring the dough to your cookie pan hard without cracking them. They’re definitely worth the effort though! Here’s a tip: Refrigerate them overnight for an even better taste.
6. Raspberry and Apricot Filled Thumbprint Cookies. These are my favorite Christmas cookies of all time. Period. It’s not Christmas without me inhaling 2 dozen of these little gems. Once again, this is a family recipe, so I’m not sharing. There are plenty of thumbprint cookie recipes floating out there. They can be filled with just about any type of jam or dried fruit, but my personal favorite is seeded raspberry preserves dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Ridic.
7. Sugar Cookies. These are basic sugar cookies that are rolled out and cut with Christmas themed cookie cutters. They are what we’ll be leaving out for Santa and Rudolph on Christmas Eve. Any basic sugar cookie recipe will probably do fine.
So, this may be my favorite Christmas tradition and I’m still making some yet. If I do, I’ll share those as well.
What are your Christmas culinary traditions? Do you bake something every year or do you cook?
Posted by John on December 11th, 2012
Finishing a new home seems to be a continuous series of baby steps. There have been major “ah-ha” moments, like when we finished the shed or the dining room wainscoting, but for the most part, our DIY projects have been minor in scope and fairly frequent. Our to-do list never seems to end. One of my pet peeves after having lived in our current home for a couple years now is the lack of general decor. We keep it simple. There are still a handful of rooms in the house that literally haven’t been “improved” upon since we moved in, including our master bedroom and bath (more on those very soon). Nothing on the walls, no paint yet, zip, nada. Since Lisa is in charge of what goes on the walls (she picks it, I hang it), I’ve been bugging her to come up with some more decor and interest for our spaces. This week she bought a couple floating shelves from Target. Big fan.
Even bigger fan of the hardware that came with it. I have a love/hate relationship with molly bolts… no, it’s mostly hate. I hate them. Molly bolts that come with most commercial items are almost always a crappy plastic piece that a.) spin in the drywall and never fasten down b.) refuse to accept the screws that came with them c.) pull right out of the drywall even after you’ve gotten them “right.” /end rant.
These shelves came with my favorite type of drywall fastener, the white oversized screw type (see below). You just push on them until they pierce the wall and then you just screw them down tight.
I’m also a big fan of how the shelves attach to the wall. They have a two piece metal bracket. I also fully endorse Ikea’s floating shelf brackets, same basic concept.
Once the bracket is mounted, the shelf just clips onto it.
They’ve got a sweet coved edge on three sides. We’re showing the photo above to give you an idea of how far they stick out from the wall. Not too bad.
With both shelves mounted, you can see how they add some needed Christmas cheer to our wall. We actually had to think about how far “in” the top shelf needed to be. Too close to the wall edge and a tall person could accidentally walk right into it.
It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye walking into a Target floating shelf. How many times have we heard that childhood tale?
That’s our tinsel reindeer. You’re going to be seeing a lot of him. We throw him into nearly all of our Christmas photos. He’s got a 3 year, 12 post contract. He’s pretty much the Charleston Heston of tinsel reindeer. He’s kind of a big deal around here.
How are you adding interest to your spaces?
Posted in DIY Projects,Holiday,Home Decor. Tagged in ,christmas, decor, Decorating, floating shelves, shelves
Posted by John on December 9th, 2012
So our busy schedule as of late should start to slow down some soon. I’m really looking forward to having the next several weeks off (from class)! Going to get a ton of stuff done around here including a WordPress Theme upgrade! We’re going to try to DIY it, so stay tuned. More importantly, we found some time to do some holiday decorating. Our Christmas trees are up!
This is the second or third year in a row that we’ve had an artificial tree as our main Christmas tree. It’s a nice quality pre-lit tree, which makes decorating it and taking it down loads easier. We stick with the artificial tree because of little paws and little hands. We had a real tree for the first couple years we were married. The first year we had the real tree AND Finegan, he tried to drink the tree water every chance he got. SO, add a baby to that equation and we’re going to be rocking the artificial tree for the foreseeable future. Lisa and I both grew up with real trees. You can’t beat a real tree. Love the smell and the whole picking one out experience. Looking forward to the days when we can do that again.
So, I mentioned trees, as in plural. We keep a small narrow tree in our living room so it’s visible from the road.
We have a couple personalized ornaments we’ve gotten over the years on this smaller tree.
Our main Christmas tree, which will be the one we keep our presents under and sit around on Christmas morning is in our family room.
If you look close, you may notice that only half of the tree has ornaments! There’s a good reason for that…
Yep, that’s right. We have a toddler that
likes loves to rip the ornaments right off the branches. Lisa was smart about her ornament choices though and went with shatter proof plastic globes. That way there’s no possibility any glass ends up in pieces on the floor.
We have our mantel started, but not quite ready for prime time. More Christmas decor posts coming your way soon!
So if you celebrate Christmas, do you go for the real tree experience or do you opt for the fake??
Posted in Holiday,Home Decor. Tagged in ,christmas, christmas tree, decor, holiday
Posted by John on December 5th, 2012
Things are a bit busy at the moment. Work is hectic, which is typical before the holidays and I’ve got about a week left in my grad class. I’m really enjoying the course, but it does eat into my free time like a son of a gun. Looking forward to the Christmas break. I’ll have something like six weeks until classes resume. Two more classes after this current course and I’ll have degree in hand.
As a consequence of our recent schedule, we’ve been somewhat lax in our Christmas decor. We’re looking forward to posting on all the holiday cheer we’ll have in our home shortly. We DO have our tree up.
In the meantime, I thought I’d share some holiday photos of our beloved schnauzer/wolverine Finnie. Finnie isn’t big on wearing shirts or sweaters. They make him a bit nervous. That’s a shame, because we have a bunch of dog sweaters. (He’s actually really chill when he’s got one on and he doesn’t mind getting them on that much.)
Here’s Finnie back when he was still a puppy…
This was his first taste of Christmas cheer ala dog sweater. He was somewhat ambivalent on the whole issue, but Lisa and I were big fans because a.) he looked good b.) he stopped chewing on our cabinets when we was donning his gay apparel.
After the success of that first year, we naturally diversified his holiday wardrobe somewhat..
This maybe my favorite one yet. He looks like Chewbacca wearing a Japanese kimono.
There it is. It’s a “deck the halls” sweater. Look at him. He loves it. I think. Honestly, I’m not sure where his face is in this pic.
But wait, there’s more…
That’s a candy cane and snow flake sweater in case you were curious. It’s times like these that I wish he was a real person, just so I could whip these photos out to show his first girlfriend.
So do any of your holiday traditions involve your pets?
Posted by Lisa on November 20th, 2012
Hey hey! This time around I get to share with you my two cents on Christmas shopping for the ladies.
My parents and I have been midnight Black Friday shoppers since, well, Black Friday shopping started at 5am. Since we do the majority of our shopping then, I request lists from family in advance, so I can plan accordingly. This year I will be making a trip to a certain red retailer that opens at 9pm Thursday evening, which I am very excited for!
So here are my recommendations for Christmas gifts for the ladies – young and old!
From what I have seen on the web, this wallet packs a lot of punch for it’s size. It’s designed to hold a lot of cards, has a bill fold, a zipper pouch, and room for spare change. If you aren’t familiar with Vera Bradley, she offers a variety of patterns and colors to excite anyone. One problem? Choosing the color and pattern that’s right for you. My pick – Priscilla Pink (not shown).
2. Extreme Calendar/Planner
There’s a few of these floating around these days. Maybe you’ve seen them. Erin Condren or May Books have some of my favorites. They are large keep-it-together date books used to remember events, plan meals, remember birthdays and much more. Check them out at the links above.
Yes I am a woman, and I am suggesting you purchase a gift card for a woman (is this almost as bad a suggesting a vacuum?). I know some may think gift cards aren’t personal, however I really do like them. Ulta or Sephora has so much to offer: makeup, hair products, flat irons, and even salon services. Let her choose what she wants to buy at a store like this, I am sure she won’t be disappointed. That is unless she is expecting a diamond engagement ring!!
4. Getting engaged!
Since I did bring up the pink elephant in the room, I think Christmas is a great time to get engaged. Although I am a little biased – John and I were engaged two days before Christmas! It was really sweet because we exchanged Christmas gifts before getting engaged so it was like having two Christmases! Great job, John!
5. Personalized stationary
Ok back to realistic gifts. I love the idea of giving personalized stationary. There are plenty of website that offer this. If you really want to splurge, why not add matching address labels as well?
6. Pajama Set
I’m talking about comfy pajamas here! You know, lounge wear. It’s perfect for snowed in days to keep you warm and fashionable all at the same time.
This is a great smelling perfume and I have never met anyone who didn’t like the scent. It is a little pricey so look around for free deals with this purchase at department stores (maybe a free cosmetic bag with purchase). If not, I have seen knock off versions, and they smell pretty close to the real deal.
If you have a special lady who likes to sew, or who is thinking about learning to sew, why not encourage her creativity with a sewing machine? I don’t have one yet myself, but I’m thinking about getting one eventually.
Yes! My suggestions would be any cook books from Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, or Rachael Ray. All three of these ladies offer great recipes.
10. Puffer Vest
Just about every store has an outerwear vest to offer. Why not pick up a fashionable vest for your loved one? It’s sure to be a staple in her wardrobe for years.
11. Matching hat, gloves, and scarf set
Some stores will sell this gift as an all-in-one piece, or you can be adventurous and pick out your own ensemble. My suggestion – keep it neutral that way she can wear the set with any coat she already has.
So maybe John will pick me up a couple of the items on my own list! Wouldn’t that be nice. It’s probably why he had me write this post in the first place!
Are you planning on shopping on Black Friday? How about Cyber Monday? Do they still have that?
***Full disclosure: John and I are members of Amazon.com associates. If you purchase any of the items above, we get a small kickback. If you’re interested in joining Amazon Associates, go to Affiliate-Program.Amazon.com ***
Posted by John on November 19th, 2012
Can you believe Thanksgiving is this week already? Ridiculous! What’s even worse is we’ve already started decorating for Christmas. Yikes. It feels like it was Labor day just a couple of weeks ago! We have a lot of fun Christmas activities planned per our usual holiday traditions. There’s a ton to look forward to. There is, however, one thing I dread every year and that is Christmas shopping. I’m not a fan. I never know what to buy Lisa. It’s easier if she just tells me. I can only imagine at least some of you suffer from the same ineptitude when it comes to buying gifts for your loved ones. To help you out, Lisa and I are going to do back to back posts on what gifts we recommend this holiday season. Yay! I’ve written a post picking a bunch of gifts for the men in your life and Lisa will recommend gifts for the ladies. We’re just trying to make life easier for everyone. Plus, it’s fun to write lists.
Christmas Gifts for Guys 2012
1. Black Ops 2. Of course! It’s the most exciting violent video game release since Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops 1. I’m all-in on this game. This is literally at the top of my personal Christmas 2012 wish list. Last year I made the switch from the COD franchise to Battlefield 3. This year, I’m looking forward to getting back to Black Ops. Is this an annoying gift to give your boyfriend or husband? Maybe. Does it beat watching golf and college football all day. Yep.
2. A Cordless Drill.
If he doesn’t already have one of these, get him one. These drills are a thing of beauty. I use one on nearly every DIY project I attempt. Porter Cable also has a great 2 for 1 deal. You can get a cordless impact driver and cordless drill for a pretty reasonable price. Once my cordless DeWalt dies (if that ever happens in my lifetime), I’m going to grab a cordless impact driver.
3. A Miter Saw. These saws rule. We have a sliding compound miter saw and I can’t live without it. This Hitachi is a pretty basic unit, it’s just a compound miter, but it’s a great entry model. If you’re up for something with a little more versatility, a sliding compound miter saw gets the job done.
4. Beer of the Month Club. This is a great gift. If the beer is delivered right to your door, you don’t even have to stop playing Black Ops 2 to go out and buy some. It’s a perfect. Plus, guys are usually parched after using their cordless drill and miter saw all day. For real though, a relative gave me a beer of the month club membership for Christmas a couple years ago and it was sweet. There are 3 month, 6 month and 9 month options depending upon your budget.
5. North Face Etip Gloves. What a clever idea. You don’t need to take your gloves off to use your touch screen smart phone or iPad. Ingenious! This is a great idea for regular skiers or anybody who spends a lot of time outdoors.
6. A Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Kit. This is a DIY blog. We’re going to recommend a lot of home improvement products. This may be my favorite. We’ve built a ton of stuff using pocket holes… our first home’s kitchen cabinets, our garage shoe organizer, the dining room, on and on. This is such a smart and easy to use system. Great buy for any guy, but really anyone at all interested in DIYing.
Neck ties. Lots of neck ties.
I’m pretty sure the guys on your shopping list won’t complain about any of the items above. Unless they hate DIYing, video games, outdoors and have a gluten allergy. Then it’s pretty much a bust.
***Full disclosure: Lisa and I are members of Amazon.com associates. If you purchase any of the items above, we get a small kickback. If you’re interested in joining Amazon Associates, go to Affiliate-Program.Amazon.com ***