Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Decor

I left my Valentine's Day decorations up until last weekend, when I decided that I really needed to move on to something Easter/Spring (even though it was snowing last weekend - not very spring-like).  My parents are here for Easter, and we are having a friend come join us, so I thought I'd get a little festive...

Couldn't pass these cuties up - the only kind of bird I like

I also did a very quick update of the hydrangea wreath I made last year.  I took out some of the flowers that the birds had flapped to pieces (I get chills thinking about how those birds could have flown in our house) and put in some new flowers... GOOD AS NEW!!!

Hopefully as Monday brings April, it also brings spring - I'm ready for it!!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

DIY Home Improvements - The Kitchen

On Monday, I showed you our weekend project - the completion of our guest bath remodel.  WELL, I realized that J and I have been doing a lot of planning for more upcoming improvements in our kitchen that I haven't shared  yet.  These are things that are going to be coming up SOON and honestly, I'm really just excited to get them done so we can enjoy them!!!

We don't have many pictures of our kitchen from before we moved in, but you can see here what color the walls and the dishwasher were before when we bought it:

As soon as we moved in, we painted, and when we went to Best Buy to look for a microwave (the house didn't have one included) and a new dishwasher (I seriously gagged from the smell when I opened it), we ended up leaving with an entire kitchen's worth of appliances - stainless steal, so here's what our kitchen has looked like since a month after we moved in:

When we moved in to the house, we knew that we wanted to redo the floors (the peel and stick vinyl that's in the kitchen is pulling up because of direct sunlight) and counter tops, and we talked a lot about using the Rustoleum cabinet refinish system to paint the cabinets white.  WELLLL, we decided that we didn't want to put the time and effort into changing the cabinets and instead, move that large pantry down and add more cabinets, that would also add more counter space.

Since we made that decision, we have been MOVING on the kitchen makeover... 

Cabinets - pantry moved and new cabinets purchased, going up this week!!  A couple of cool things we included... a wine rack that's going in with the upper cabinets and a pull out trash going in the new bottom cabinet.  Still need to pick out drawer/door pulls

Counter tops - picked and purchasing this week from Lowe's
Allen + Roth - Antiquity
Tile - picked and purchased from Lowe's... going in after the counter tops are done
Style Selections 16-in x 16-in Tanned Brown Ceramic Floor Tile
Style Selections - Tanned Brown (16 x 16)

SO, I'm really hopeful that we are going to have all of this done in the next month.  We are putting that tile in the downstairs half bath and the hallway that connects the bathroom and kitchen, so I think that's going to be the most involved part - that and waiting on the counter tops to be ready and installed (which we are not doing ourselves).

After that, I may pick a backsplash tile, but I think I want to actually be in the kitchen for a while before I decide what I want to do with that.  What do you think???

Monday, March 25, 2013

DIY Bathroom Improvement

It was a BIG weekend for us!!!  We did a lot of running around on Saturday - getting some stuff ready for Easter next week, and then on Sunday, we finally tackled one of our home improvement projects... the guest bathroom floor.

This is the before picture of the guest bathroom...

Before we moved in

Hard to see, I know... it's a small bathroom so it's not easy to take pictures of it.  It was a basic, builder grade bathroom with those ugly vanity light bulbs and a terrible wood medicine cabinet.  WELL, here are some things that we've done to the bathroom since we moved in:
- New light
- New mirror
- Paint
- New Hardware
- New Floor

AND, here are pictures of the finished product:

After Phase 1 - before the floor

New light (Lowe's) and mirror (Home Goods)

Above the toilet (from Home Goods)

New Hardware


And it's complete!!!
Overall, I'd say we were pretty productive this week - it took about 3.5 hours, start to finish, including removing the toilet, cleaning the floor, cutting the tiles and everything!!  We used a peel and stick vinyl tile from Lowes:

Style Selections 18-in x 18-in Sable Stone Finish Vinyl Tile
Style Selections - Sable Stone (we used 12 x 12)
I'd definitely recommend the product, especially for a small bathroom where you won't get direct sun (we have vinyl tiles in our kitchen that are pulling up because they had direct sun on them for a long time).  The feel of them is great, they won't discolor like linoleum (ours was yellowing) and I think we spent about $40 on the whole room!!!  What a great weekend!!!

What do you think???

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I thought it was Spring??

There is only one week left of March - this time last year it was in the 70s.  This is what it looks like here right now...

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE SNOW!!!  I'm definitely more of a winter girl than a summer girl because I don't love heat, but seriously, this is not spring weather!!!

I'm going to run another half marathon in September and my training officially starts on April 1 - hopefully it warms up JUST A LITTLE before then.  Hope everyone has a great week!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Break Road Trip!!!

Just in case Vegas was not enough to exhaust me, I came home for a few days and then we got back in a car and drove up to Chicago for the last half of the week, to go to the Big Ten Basketball Tournament to cheer on the Hoosiers!  It's something my dad and his high school friends have done for about 10 years now.  The wives were invited a few years in, and now the next generation (that's me) has joined the fun!

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Metro, which is on the west side near UIC.  It was great!  Reasonable price, in a great area, and really nice rooms!  The only downside to it was that the breakfast was super expensive!  BUT - never fear, we found two great places just across the street.  The first morning, we went to Dominick's which is a small grocery store.  It was pretty good food, low prices and Starbucks coffee, but nothing fancy.  The second day, we went across the other street to Mariano's Fresh Market where we had THE most delicious breakfast!!!  The first day we had this...

The next day - we had oatmeal that was so delicious, I ate it too fast to take a picture of it - OOPS!

Between games on Friday, we had a hell of a time finding a place to eat - there's not much around the United Center so everywhere we tried to go was PACKED!  We stopped by Madison Vine Wines to get out of the rain and bought a bottle of wine.  We sat down to drink the wine and the owner brought up this plate of cheese and crackers for free!  They were so nice there, and the wine was amazing!

On Saturday, my dad and his friends do their Fantasy Big Ten League "banquet".  We went to Roditys Greek restaurant for dinner, and one of our friends met us there to join the fun!  He showed up in a ridiculous green ruffle shirt (his St. Patty's Day garb) and that made J decide we needed an Irish Breakfast shot before dinner.  WELL, the Greeks didn't have any bacon, but they did have Gyro meat to substitute.  SO, we had a Greek Breakfast shot instead!!!  A shot of 1/2 Jameson & 1/2 Butterscotch Schnapps; a shot of orange juice and the Gyro meat to finish... AMAZING!!!

Beyond that, we did a lot of basketball watching - we saw at least part of 10 of the 11 games of the Big Ten Tournament, and I was quite a tweeting machine (#B1GTourney)... although we did leave early from a few games, and we skipped the championship because the Hoosiers weren't in it.

It was a great trip - I love hanging out with my parents and their friends... such great stories!!!  Now I'm back to work, but with only 7 weeks to go until summer break and only about 4 weeks until our next road trip adventure!!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Last Week's Trip to Vegas

Last week is pretty much a blur - I was so busy at my conference and had so much going on, and that coupled with the fact that we were in Vegas - the world of over-stimulation, created an exhausting weekend!!!

I had such a great time seeing all of my friends and colleagues around the country that I don't usually get to see more than once or twice a year.  Seeing them is such a rejuvenation to me and I love having the chance to catch up with everyone!

My friends and I ate at some of the best restaurants I've ever been to in Vegas - places that I would definitely recommend!!!

Monday a friend of mine and I went to Holsteins in The Cosmopolitan.  He had a burger and I had a radicchio steak salad and the we shared an alcoholic milk shake - DELICIOUS and pretty reasonable for Vegas.  We explored the hotel and found and area where we found great views...

On Tuesday, 4 of us went back to the Cosmopolitan for lunch and ate at Wicked Spoon.  It's a $26(ish) buffet, but everything is served as small plate portions, which is amazing because you didn't load on too much of one thing and waste it if you didn't like it.  The food was fantastic and they had everything from breakfast, to shrimp coctail, to rissoto, to sushi and a great dessert bar.  I will definitely going back there!!  I didn't need to eat for the rest of the day - could have been the 5 trips back to the buffet!!

Wednesday was the night that we had the celebration of my mentor's retirement.  After the party, I got kidnapped by a small group and taken to, what they call, the Per Diem dinner.  When traveling to a conference for work, I get a certain amount of money per day to spend on food.  The point of the Per Diem dinner is to spend your day's worth of money on dinner.  WELL, I didn't quite do that, but I definitely came close!  We went to THE Steakhouse at Circus Circus... I ordered the petite cut prime rib, and this is what I got...

There is no way in the world that I would call this petite.  I didn't eat a bite of carrots and I may have tried the mashed potatoes, but I pretty much just ate the steak - it was gigantic!!!

We had meetings and educational sessions and socials that filled up the rest of the week, but I did manage to spend a little bit of time in my very favorite place in Vegas...

... the Fountains at the Bellagio.  We were there at the end of the night so we got to see 3 shows in less than 45 minutes - Time to Say Goodbye (Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman); All that Jazz (Chicago); Star Spangled Banner (Whitney Houston).  I tried to find a video to show those of you who haven't seen them, but you just have to go - photos and videos don't do them justice.

I'm back home safe and sound and have a few days off before we leave for our next adventure!!!