Thursday, May 17, 2012

99 Items...A Fun Reflection on Life

I saw this on Life with the Hawleys (my friend Darby's blog) and I thought it was a super cute idea. I feel like it also is a great way to reflect on things you have done in your life. It is a list of 99 random items. You basically highlight the items that you have done in your life. So... here goes! 

99 things
Bold the things that you have done on the list
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightening storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (I call them "mental health days")
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing 
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie 
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published something
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (if you count fishing?)

88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Got a tattoo
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit 
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Copy and paste this list on your own blog and put your link as a comment here so I can read yours! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Organizing the Garage... Lets do it!

After the landscaping project, Ivan and I decide to embark on a long awaited project… the garage. We really needed to get the garage cleaned up. It was getting bad. I was afraid to go out into it for fear spiders might kill me. Yes, I have a very irrational, verging on phobia, fear of spiders… Here are some before pictures (yes it was a mess):

We have a very small garage to begin with so without proper organization, it gets crazy really quickly.

Anyway, the first step was to get the rakes, brooms, and anything with a handle off of the floor and onto the wall. The wall space was completely un-utilized. We found an awesome solution with one quick trip to Lowes: the Rubbermaid Fasttrack. This is basically a rail that you attach to multiple studs. Then you attach a variety of different hooks to it. We purchased one 8 foot rail and one 4 foot rail. This was step one in the garage overhaul. This step alone create a lot of space.

The next step was to get the bikes onto the wall. This was a bit tougher to figure out. We debated a few different solutions from hanging them on the wall, to hanging them from the ceiling etc. Our biggest problem was the width of the garage. We couldn’t put them on the back wall because there was a rack there. Additionally, there is a ladder that pulls down from the attic and doesn’t allow much space between it and the wall. The only option really available to us was to put them on the wall near the Miata (it’s a good thing we have such a small car!!!). The bikes fit PERFECTLY. The way we hung them also left plenty of room for me to get in and out of the car. It was such a relief to get those bikes off the floor. They really took up a lot of space.

After we had fully utilized the wall space, we decided that we needed to add another rack. We already had one rack in our garage (that was originally purchased for my first dorm room). It worked really well in the garage. We also had this extra plastic Rubbermaid cabinet that we put in the garage after we built out the shelves in the laundry room. The problem with this shelving unit is that it was too small. We upgraded for around $50 and purchased a new rack from Target. It is EXTREMELY similar to the one we already owned (which is a plus!). We also got some plastic tubs to hold paint supplies, extra power cords etc. We are loving how it looks!

We even took the extra step and swept/vacuumed the garage! I know, it’s a bit neurotic.. but hey.. no bugs! We also applied a bug barrier to the entire garage.

It may be weird to be this excited about the garage… but I am! I love walking out the door in the morning and bam.. the clean garage just hits me in the face. Then when I come home from work, bam the clean garage hits me again! So what do you think?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Nifty Fifty (or 28)

As many of you know, I have recently started dabbling in photography. I really would like to break into this business. I got a Canon Rebel T2i camera for Christmas, and although this camera is not the camera I eventually want… it will do for now (I eventually want a Nikon D800 or D4.. ya I know $$$$). So, since I eventually want to switch to Nikon… I was in a bit of a pickle with my current Canon. Do I upgrade the glass (lens) on it… since the kit lens is…well…crappy? Or do I buy the new camera, and the new lenses and just take the hit with the cost upfront? With two photoshoots on the horizon, I needed to make a decision quickly.  Ivan and I decided to compromise. I would upgrade the lens on my Canon. I only needed one good lens to get me through a few photo shoots before I could upgrade my camera. I really wanted a lens with around a 1.4 f-stop. Most full sensor cameras would use a 50mm with a 1.4 f-stop. This lens, coined as a “nifty fifty” lens, is good for just general photography use. Now, I considered getting a 50mm lens. However, since I have a cropped sensor camera, a 50mm converts to about an 80mm (which is just too far for me). I would have to stand too far back from my subject.  So, I found a decently priced 28mm lens with a 1.8 f-stop. This lens converts to about 44.8 mm on my cropped sensor camera. This is perfect. It is almost a 50mm and has a decent f-stop. 

The other day it arrived!!! I couldn’t be more pleased. I love the 1.8 f-stop on this sucker. It is just awesome. I can’t wait for the two photoshoots I have coming up. I am definitely a bit nervous but I am hoping that a little practice between now and then will help. Anyway, I have been reading and studying like crazy. I am super excited. Here is one of the pictures I took with it :) (sadly some of the quality was lost with the file size reduction).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

When life gives you lemons... Add salt!!

So  you want to hear something neat? I got a stain out of my clothes! Ya… I know… exciting right? (don’t roll your eyes.. get ready to have your mind blown).

So, I wore this new white shirt to the rodeo for the first time. It was brand new.. and I loved it. The problem is that I only wore it once! When I went to wear it again, I noticed there was a small orange stain on it. It was like an orange dot (almost like an orange pen and marked it or something). Anyway, I tried spray n wash, and Biz… to no avail. L I was  very disappointed because… well.. I had only worn it once!!!!

I finally decided to bleach the spot since the shirt was white. So I used my handy bleach pen and let it set for a few hours. Guess what! The stain was still there!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it. What the heck was this spot? What could stand up against bleach?! If I knew WHAT it was, maybe I could google it or something. I had no clue though. So, I decided to go out on a limb. I was at rodeo and the spot was kind of orange, so maybe it was …. Rust? I had no clue but figured I would give it one more shot (before sending my new shirt to goodwill).

I looked up how to get rust out of clothes on google. One of the sites said that bleach is the worst thing for rust (GRREEEAAATT!). However, it suggested that put lemon juice on it and then rub salt on it and let it set. Eh.. didn’t sound like that would work (heck bleach didn’t work)… but guess what… *drum roll please*… IT WORKED!!!! I had to do it twice but it got the spot out! I couldn’t flipping believe it. So my shirt lives again! Therefore, lesson learned… if you can’t get anything to work… try lemon juice and salt! 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Our Landscaping Adventure

So about a month again, Ivan and I embarked upon a “landscaping adventure”. In Houston, we don’t get too many “spring” days before it gets hot and just gross. We decided to utilize the time to replace some of the flowers in the front flower beds. Little did we know that this would turn into a complete overhaul. For the last two years, I have been whining about the flower beds out front. I hate the fact that the builder put in like 4 different types of hedge bushes. I mean who does that!! Anyway, I have really been wanting to rip them out. So when we went looking for some pretty annuals, we also went looking for some flowering bushes. I really love how azaleas look and how they grow. We went to home depot and picked up a few azalea bushes to go right in front of the house. The flower pink and are just beautiful! However, we had a bit of a problem. The azalea bushes were somewhat small (3 gallons) so if we placed them behind the larger bushes that had been there for 2 years, you wouldn’t see them! Therefore, we had to rip those out too (I didn’t like them anyway). Then we replaced those pushes with some gardenia/azalea hybrids that have white flowers. They are sooo pretty. Here is a before picture of our yard (the flowers in the pic were annuals from last year so they are dead now):

So lets “dig” into some of the details now.  When we were deciding to do this we ran into a bit of a spacing issue. We wanted the 5 azalea bushes to be in front of the window spaced evenly. The problem was that there was an area behind our magnolia tree that needed “something”. We also wanted to balance out the Japanese boxwoods that we had on the right side of the garden (not seen in the picture). We decided the best idea was to transplant two of the Japanese boxwoods that were in this smaller flower bed near the drive way to the space in front of the window. That process when fairly smoothly.  The biggest problem we ran into.. and let me stress “big” was planting the azaleas. We started digging the holes for the azaleas and creating a trench behind them near the house to allow for drainage etc.  When we got to the middle of the wall, we started hitting rocks (or so we thought!).  Some of the rocks game up pretty quickly. Others, were a bit more stubborn. It was then that we realized… this wasn’t a rock.. it was a SLAB or concrete under out flower bed. To give you an idea, it was around 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. It looks as if the original contractors had just used our flower bed as a dumping ground for their extra concrete (and hammers, and extra saw blades, and plastic spoons, etc).  This was when Ivan and I had to stop our planting and call in a warranty request. It took about a WEEK for the builder to get someone out to our house to jack hammer the concrete up. So our poor plants just stayed in their buckets… waiting. Check it out:

Once they finally got the concrete up, they had to fill the extra space (that the concrete was filling) with dirt from one of the other lots under construction. We then went and bought a few bags of garden soil to build it up a bit more.

After this fiasco, it was finally time to plant. We planted all the azaleas, and the gardenia/azaleas. The garden was really starting to look nice at this point! After they were planted, we decided to test the sprinklers… and then it happened.. mud.. bubbling from underneath. Sure enough the sprinkler system had got hit in all of the digging. Luckily, it wasn’t a pipe that was broken. The rip was in the silicone hose that wrapped around the tree. These are easy to fix with a 50cent  coupler that can be purchased at home depot. It worked out perfectly. We fixed the hose, and then reburied it and all worked well.

The only thing we had remaining was to rip out the three remaining bushes that were sitting in the smaller flower bed (the flower bed that we took the two Japanese boxwoods from).  Ivan and his shovel went to work on those. After we dug all the bushes out of that area (two Japanese boxwoods that we transplanted +3 other bushes that we tossed), we planted some pretty yellow lilly-like perennial flowers in the area. The pop of yellow is really beautiful… I wish they would flower year round! Eventually we will plant those yellow flowers around the base of the pear tree, but we had already mulched this year and decided it could wait.

So what do you think? Here is a summary of everything we did:
1) Take out all those hedges and replant with flowering bushes in the large flower bed
2) Plant some pretty annual flowers  in the large flower bed 
3) Put some pretty perrenial flowers in the small flower bed 
4) Transplant two of the Japanese boxwoods from the small flower bed to the large flower bed
5) (Unplanned item) Get builder to dig out concrete slab buried underneath large flower bed
6) (Unplanned item) Fix broken sprinkler hose 
7) Remulch large and small flower beds
8) Survive the spiders (ok maybe this was just a personal to-do item)!

Here is what we still have to do:
1) Get some matching stones to put around the perimeter of the beds (the builder put in some but it would nice to have the stone also going around the trees too)
2) Get a big boulder to help the area to the left of the magnolia tree which is suffering from water erosion
3) Line the trench behind the azaleas with some river stones to help with water and bugs.
4) Get iron remover to get the fertilizer stains off of the sidewalks 
5) Get some outdoor lighting to light up the plants and trees (it would be nice to find some solar ones that actually WORK!)
6) Get some lanterns put on the outside of the house….not sure how to do the wiring on this one yet, but I figure I will hire an electrician. 

On to the next project for now! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Rug Change Up

We have only lived in our home for about 2 years now and we are already replacing some items that we previously purchased. Back in 2011, we searched and searched and searched (you get the picture), for a rug that we would like. We really needed a rug in our family room area because it sort of morphs into the kitchen, eating area without one.
We finally found a rug that we loved at Lowes. See below. It really did fit our d├ęcor.

Now, much to our dismay, we found out that I have a severe (and this is not a joke!) dust mite allergy. So much that I started wheezing as a reaction to the allergy test! Not to mention my skin swelled up where the dust mite test solution just touched my skin. Therefore, around December time we purchased some major heavy duty mattress covers, dust mite proof pillows, and duvet covers. Basically everything in our bedroom has a cover over it. We also now wash our sheets, blankets, and mattress protector once a week. We wash our bedding (duvet and decorative pillow covers) once a quarter (which really scares me because they are delicate and I fear they will get damaged, and we all know replacing Pottery Barn bedding is not cheap!).
As a result of this, my asthma has been feeling a bit better at night and in the mornings. It isn’t perfect and probably never will be due to pollen existing in this universe. However, it is a start for us.

The one thing that we realized was that the rug in our living room was a decent habitat for dust mites. Whether we liked it or not, it had to go. About a month ago we sold the rug (originally around $400) for $140 on Craigslist. I hate Craigslist so much because you can never get a good price for your stuff. Everyone always undercuts you. But what other option is there!? (Seriously, if you know of another option for selling furniture and rugs locally, I would LOVE to know!).

So for the last month we have been searching for the perfect rug. This has NOT been easy. We knew we needed some sort of woven rug, such as jute or sisal, etc. I also wasn’t opposed to having a nice bamboo rug. However, the biggest problem we ran into was that most stores don’t sell these types of rugs. Sure, you can find them at Pottery Barn but they are ridiculously expensive.

One of my friends (Cheryl) told me about IKEA. I looked online and sure enough they had a few natural fiber rugs. I was a little nervous because the rug we had previously was an 8x10 and IKEA’s largest size was 6’7”x9’5” (or something like that). I figured we would just bite the bullet and try it out. It was the only rug in IKEA’s selection that didn’t feel like it would seriously be exfoliating our feet every day. We got it home, unrolled it, and well…. It just didn’t fit. I loved the rug but it was just too brown and thick for the area. When I compared it to the nice ones at Pottery Barn, it was just a lot thicker and darker. It didn’t work. However, thanks to IKEA’s return policy, it went quickly back to the store.

Then we were basically in the same position as we were before. We would have loved to purchase a bamboo rug but all of these had to be ordered online. After our IKEA rug fiasco, I was really nervous to order anything from online. That would be a “pain in the butt” to return! I was not going to ship a huge rug back. So, we decided to check around locally. We finally stumbled upon World Market.

We started looking through their rugs and landed on one that looked promising. It was a 100% jute rug but it was BRIGHT ORANGE! Ack! That would not go with the red sofas. So we kept looking through the rack… bingo… there was the SAME rug in an avocado green. I fell in love with it instantly and it was $30 cheaper than the IKEA rug! It was a little bit smaller than the IKEA rug but again, we figured we could return it if it didn’t fit right. My only concern with this rug was that it was green (I know… I just said I loved the green)! Well, we have red sofas. You tell me, what comes to your mind when I say red and green… um Christmas! I looked a bit further and I found the same rug in brown but it just didn’t look as “pretty”. Not to mention, someday I will get rid of these red sofas, and I didn’t want to eliminate the option of having brown sofas (brown sofas + brown rug=bleck!). So, we decided to buy the green rug.

Well, I have to say, we got it home and I think it looks great. If I could adjust anything, I think I wish it was a little bit wider, but all that said, it looks good in the room. I was also surprised that it doesn’t look very “Christmas-y” either…so that is good! The only thing that was a little weird about the rug was that it had a mildew/grass smell. I wasn’t sure if this was normal. I checked online and multiple people mention that smell. It may be a bit of a mildew smell but it will go away over time as the rug dries out. So that is good. I guess jute is very sensitive to moisture so a bit of baking soda on it will also help. So here it is... (excuse the mess in the pictures). So what do you think?