So very thankful

Well hello there! I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! Our holiday weekend was lovely; Nick and I have so much in life be thankful for – good health and jobs, supportive family and friends, and all the great things that we have – and it’s good to have a day to thoughtfully reflect on all of those blessings.

We started our Thanksgiving bright and early with a 5K Turkey Trot to benefit D.C.’s homeless and poor.

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Despite not running much recently, our little team did great, and we all finished the race in less than 30 minutes.

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Back at home, Nick and I got working on preparing our holiday feast. This year’s menu included all of the classic dishes: turkey, stuffing, cranberries and mashed potatoes filled our plates along with broccoli salad and roasted fennel and carrots.

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As appetizers we once again dined on shrimp ceviche, but added a spicy tuna tartare from one of my cookbooks. Our signature cocktail this year was an apple cider rum old fashioned with rum, brown sugar, bitters, apple-cider ice cubes and a splash of 7-up (so yummy)!

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November is my busiest time of year at work since it’s when my company holds its annual conference, and I typically spend a week away from home (this year was in New Orleans). This year was especially busy at home and work, and I completely slacked on purchasing pumpkins and gourds for decorating our house and table until there wasn’t a single one left in the stores anymore.

So I improvised and put together a simple winter arrangement using some silver candle holders and a vase, a few scented pine cones, and some evergreen branches (which I may or may not have snipped from my next door neighbor’s tree in the dark of the night. In my defense, it’s a huge tree and that missing branch isn’t at all noticeable).

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As for our table settings, I picked up some new gold chargers last month to complement my gold-rimmed china, which belonged to my mother. I also created some simple name cards pinned to clothes pins that I spray painted gold and rested them on some pumpkin napkins we were gifted by my in-laws when they visited us for Thanksgiving two years ago.

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After stuffing the turkey and putting the turkey in the oven, we spent the rest of the holiday snacking on our appetizers in front of the fireplace, playing games, and of course, watching some football (although I mostly read during game 😉 ).

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It’s a tradition at our house to set out a jar in the weeks before Thanksgiving and fill it with slips of paper on which we write the things we are most thankful for that year. Some are silly and others more thoughtful, but we always enjoy taking turns reading our blessings as we eat.

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It’s also become a tradition to take a picture of ourselves looking full after we finish feasting – I think I nailed it this year.

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As we’ve done in the past, the day after Thanksgiving we put up our Christmas trees and holiday decor. Once again we purchased a real tree for our front window, but also set up our fake Charlie Brown tree in our downstairs den to bring some extra holiday cheer to our home.

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On Saturday, we took a break from our leftovers** and got some fresh air by hiking several miles around Sugarloaf Mountain in nearby Frederick, Maryland. The sun was shining and despite a layer of snow on the ground in the mountains, it was a great day to enjoy the outdoors.

**I was, however, able to convince Nick to bring a baggie of turkey with us to snack on while hiking, mmmm-protein.

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I hope everyone else had a blessed Thanksgiving too! Now it’s time to start my holiday shopping…

Step into my Closet

(I’m still working on updates to my bathroom, but in the meantime I wanted to share pictures from a closet project that Nick and I tackled before this blog was created.)

I’ve mentioned it before that our 1920s home seriously lacks closet space. In fact, we don’t have a single closet on the main level of our house (we installed coat hooks near the front door for guests, but Nick’s and my coats hang in a closet on our upper level).

When we first moved into our house, the master bedroom was especially lacking in closet space. It had only one closet, a tiny 3-foot wide space situated above the hall stairwell. You might recognize this closet from another post, when we moved the closet rod further from the bi-fold door to make it more functional. Today, we use this closet for hanging longer items (dresses and pants)…but back then it was not suitable for two people with an appreciation for clothing. 

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All of my hanging clothes ended up in the bedroom next door (what’s now my craft room/office), but that closet is incredibly narrow – so narrow that it can’t accommodate a standard-sized hanger, so we had to temporarily remove the doors and replace them with a curtain. Since that closet is useless for hanging clothes, we eventually installed shelves and turned it into shoe and purse storage, which I’ve also shown a few times before. 

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Luckily, our master bedroom had an attached under the eaves closet space. Because of its odd dimensions, we’d planned to use it for storage and not much else.

The photo below is very old (from before we moved into the house), but it shows where this space is from outside…it’s literally over our front porch!

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Here’s where the closet is located inside our master bedroom (obviously, this photo is old too and from before we moved in).

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While the space is decent sized (at 5 ft deep x 13 ft long) it has a steep angled ceiling that measures only about 5’5″ at the tallest point.

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I can stand in the entry of the closet, but Nick’s only option is to duck down when he steps inside. While this was far from an ideal closet space, it seemed like our only option.

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The first thing we did was carpet the unfinished wood floor. Then we started planning out the closet for hanging space. We knew one long closet rod across the entire 13′ span wouldn’t work since the weight would surely bend the rod over time, so we researched dozens of options, such as movable garment racks, angled ceiling closet rod brackets and wood shelving systems.

We  eventually decided that the best way to divide the space was with a small dresser in the middle for support and then attaching rods to each side wall. But we needed a dresser in the perfect dimensions. 

I spent hours and hours searching online and eventually realized the perfect height dresser didn’t exist. A few weeks later, I came across an article about building shelving units out of galvanized plumbing pipe and realized it was the perfect solution for us…

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We found a dresser that was closest to our desired width aka very shallow (for the curious, it’s the Hemnes Chest from the children’s department at Ikea, which we bought for $100 and is no longer available). 

modern-kids-dressersWe then purchased a 12′ length of galvanized pipe at Home Depot and had it cut it to size and re-threaded. The pipe and all the fittings cost less than $25. From there it was easy to secure the pipe fittings into the side wall with heavy screws and onto the top of the dresser to give us the extra height we needed so our clothes wouldn’t drag and wrinkle (the fittings were spray painted to match the dresser color, but I didn’t paint the entire bar because I thought the hangers would eventually scrape it off).

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We also added some shelving units at each end of the closet for folded clothes, and hung peg board for Nick’s ties and my jewelry and scarves. (Sorry for the poor quality photos, it’s a tight space to photograph, and even harder with that bright overhead light).

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Even after three years, this setup continues to work well for us, and the galvanized steel pipes are holding up and not at all bowing.

So, it’s a tight space and by no means anyone’s dream closet, but it’s fully functional, only cost us a few hundred dollars, and makes a huge difference in our daily routine.

Here’s what the closet looks like from outside the door…

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And a view from across the room…

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So what do you think of our closet solution; can you think of any other way to have made it work?

P.S. Industrial pipe has recently become an urban trend (check out these West Elm curtain rods), and I like to think Nick and I were ahead of it. 🙂

Be our guest

Last summer, Nick and I made some decorative updates to the bathroom on our lowest level, which serves as the main bath for our overnight visitors since it’s next to the guest bedroom. With the holidays behind us, I had it on my to-do list to tackle the guest room and add a few more personal touches.

Like all the rooms in our house, this bedroom is small at only 10 x 13 feet, but it’s large enough for a queen-sized bed and two night stands.

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I’d decided early on that I wanted to go with an orange and teal color palette, and so a few years ago I purchased an octagon jacquard duvet cover from West Elm along with a matching orange throw pillow. I also purchased some wood tile plaques from World Market that I spray painted teal. And then that was it, and the room sat unchanged for over a year.

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I’d always planned to tie the orange and teal colors together, and I thought the easiest way to do that was to recover the large decorative euro pillows on the bed with a fabric that incorporated both colors. A few weeks ago I found the fabric below, Adrian Dossett Mandarin by Premier Prints at fabric.com, and I purchased two yards for $15.

While I was slightly worried about the two prints clashing, the duvet and euro pillows are separated by our basic white sleeping pillows, which helps break up the prints…but I also think that mixing different patterns makes for a fun and interesting room design.

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I’ve shared before my obsession with frequently recovering our throw pillows (here and here), but this time I challenged my amateur sewing skills by actually sewing zippered pillow covers (I followed this great step-by-step tutorial). I’m pretty sure I would have made my mother, who was a very talented sewer, at least a little bit proud.

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Nick and I also  purchased some small reading lights for the nightstands. We were most attracted to these lights because of the plug-in socket in the base of the light. There are a few poorly placed outlets in this room, so we figured it would be more convenient for our guests to plug in their cell phones right on the nightstands.

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I also added a few more orange and teal decorations to the cabinet at the foot of the bed, basically a few books we already had on hand and a lantern I recently picked up at Ikea for few dollars.

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I also added a framed print from one of our trips and a new candle to the nightstands. While there’s definitely more we can do to this space, for now I think the decorative touches make it warmer and more inviting…even Cooper the cat seems to like it.

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Anyone else tackling rooms in the new year?

P.S. – who wants to be our next house guest and try out the new room? 🙂

It’s very merry

It’s become a tradition for Nick and I to put up our Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving, and this year was no different. I just love the glow of the lights on the tree and the extra cheer that holiday decorations bring to our home – so the sooner we put up our decorations the longer we can enjoy them.

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I mentioned last year, that we always decorate two trees – a real tree in the front window of our main level, and a fake Charlie Brown tree downstairs in our den, where we relax and watch TV.

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After trimming our trees, we also put out the rest of our holiday decorations, including the nativity set that always gets displayed on our mantel; our other decorations get changed up from year to year.

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I like simple holiday decorations and often decorate with natural elements, so I spread some extra cheer around the house by putting out a few glass containers filled with red bulbs and scented pine cones.

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Since we frequently use our fireplace, our stockings get hung downstairs – I also set out a holiday poinsettia and some large pine cones that I spray painted silver.

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The lighted garland was a recent purchase and I absolutely love it – it’s pre-lit and decorated with pine cones and red bulbs and was so much easier (and cleaner!) to hang than the real garland we’ve hung the past few years.

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While I enjoy decorating our home for Christmas, I dislike the time it takes to put everything away in January; so my strategy is to simply add holiday touches to decorations that I already have displayed.  I added a green ribbon and some red ornaments to the lantern below and covered a book in holiday wrapping – and just like that it looks like Christmas!

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We also decorated the outside of our home, we attached a simple wreath to the front door and hung our icicle lights to brighten up the exterior of our house.

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Nick and I also spent some time creating a new display for our holiday cards. Last year I made a yardstick Christmas tree to display our cards, but I had an idea for something new this year. A small ledge runs along the stairwell between our main and lower levels, which I think is the perfect place to display the cards we receive. So we purchased a 6-foot length of 1 1/2 x 3/4-inch poplar from the hardware store for a couple of dollars.

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Our first step was to distress the wood. Nick heavily sanded some of the edges and then we randomly banged on the wood with the edge of a hammer and pounded some nail heads and screw marks onto the top of it.

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After it no longer looked like a brand new piece of wood, we added a couple of coats of stain (which we had on hand from another project) to match it to our hardwood floors.

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Our next step was to add a cut down the middle of the entire length of the board to insert the cards; our cut was about 1/2-inch deep (a circular saw would work great for this, but we just used our Dremel Saw-Max). Since holding the board and cutting the wood was a two-man job, there are no pictures of this step – but below is a close-up photo of the finished result.

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Here’s a photo from further back – the board blends in well with the color of the wood steps and it looks like it could have always been there.

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And here’s what the display looks like filled with our holiday cards (note, we’d only received a couple of Christmas cards when we worked on this project, so I pulled out some of the cards we received last year).

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I’m so happy with how the card display turned out, this was a super easy project and it’s working really well for us…and it’s especially nice to see the faces of our family and friends every time we walk up and down the stairs.

Anyone else have a great idea for displaying holiday cards? I can’t believe that Christmas is only a few days away!