Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opinions Needed

As I may have mentioned yesterday someone *cough*me*cough* has a birthday coming up *cough*May12*cough* and since I'm apparently an amazing wife Kristian wants to get me a really nice present.

Something I've been wanting for a while now is a nice camera. And as it turns out our current camera has gone to photography heaven and no longer works so unless we buy something else I'm stuck taking all my pictures on my blackberry which is no bueno.

Now I don't need something super fancy, super expensive and that will take me forever to learn how to use properly, I just don't have the patience for that right now. With that said I do want something nicer than the basic point and shoot digital camera like the ones I've had in the past. I just don't think they take that good of pictures.

So here is where you come in Internet friends. Do you have any suggestions of nice cameras that we could look into buying? We really don't want to spend more than $500 if we can help it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It pays to be married

After procrastinating long enough we finally decided it was time to get our taxes done. I kept wanting to put it off after having owed last year I was worried I would owe again this year and our poor bank account can't really handle that after all the money we've spent on the house the past two months.

Since it was our first time filing since getting married and because of some past tax issues we decided it might be a good idea to have a professional do them.  So we headed over to H&R Block and had a nice lady named Jo help us out. And 45 painless minutes later we were done AND we discovered we would be getting a very nice refund.

Jo ran the numbers both ways, filing jointly vs. filing separately to see which would produce a greater refund and filing jointly was the best option. When you're married it's usually better to file jointly but there are some instances where that's not the case so it's good to check both ways.

Going to H&R block wasn't cheap, they charge based on the complexity of your return. Jo told us she's done ones as cheap as $40 and as high as $980! Thankfully ours fell in the lower half of that scale though still considerably more expensive than turbo tax. Luckily our refund will more than reimburse us for the expense, as well as pay off one of the debts that's been a black cloud over our head AND still leaves us extra money which we plan to use to fix our front steps (a story for another post) and landscape our front yard...and maybe help Kristian buy me a nice birthday gift. Did I mention my birthday is in 44 days? Because it is.

So while we may have been able to get the same results on our own using Turbo Tax we both felt a lot more confident having someone do it for us this year and I'm just thrilled we didn't owe again!

Share time- Have you done your taxes? Do you do them yourself or have them done professionally?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Really Mother Nature??

Apparently Mother Nature has not gotten the memo that it's now officially spring and therefore the temperatures in the 30's, snowy mix and morning frost on my car should be long gone by now but alas that's not the case. In fact I woke up Sunday morning to a decent dusting of snow..yes SNOW at the end of March. And I live in Virginia which is technically the south, not North Dakota. Sigh.

On a good note the cold weather has given us an excuse to test out our fireplace. Behold a picture of our first fire in our fireplace last night. We have a wood burning fireplace which Kristian was super excited about. Personally I was quite happy with our old gas fireplace that turned on at the flip of a switch but I guess this is a bit more authentic and definitely cozy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

One month in

It's hard for me to believe but we've officially been in our new house for exactly one month today! In some ways it feels like we just moved in yesterday and in other ways it feels like we've lived here for years. I'm pretty proud of how much we've accomplished on the house in only one month. Yes we still have a LOT left to do and that will take money time but our house feels so homey and nice after 4 short weeks. The guest room and office are still not 100% unpacked but hopefully will be after this weekend. And we've only painted one room so far so I think the theme for April will be PAINT.

I know it's only been a month but I really do love our home and I'm so happy we moved here. In honor of our one month houseiversary I thought I would share what specifically I love about my new house. Maybe I'll share the things I don't love about it in another post because yes there are things I don't love about it.

**I love that we now live in a neighborhood. At the condo we lived 1 mile off of I-95 and another major road so there really wasn't a neighborhood around us and the closest one to us wasn't the nicest. We now live at the end of a long street surrounded by cute houses, playgrounds and woods. We are always seeing people out jogging, pushing strollers and walking their dogs. It's a very family friendly area.

**I love our neighbors, everyone that we've met so far has been so friendly and helpful. Most of them are couples in their 30's and 40's with young kids. The kids all seem to be really friendly and well behaved. And they all love our cats and come over asking if the cats can come out to play. HA!

**Our view. I've written about it before but we can't get over how great our view is of the water. In the afternoons we get to watch the crew teams from the local schools practice rowing down the river and it's just so quiet and peaceful.

**Stairs. This is probably an odd thing to love and I know many people would feel differently but I love living in a 3 level house with stairs. Not only does it make the house seem bigger but I actually enjoy the extra exercise, especially on the weekends when I feel I go up and down the stairs 25 times a day. I realize this will get old quick and once we have a kid I'll probably hate it but for now my legs are getting a much needed workout.

**Eating at the dining room table. Yes this is probably another odd thing to love. In our condo we rarely ate at the dining room table because when we did we couldn't see the t.v. and we I like to watch the news (okay it's E! News but still news) when we eat dinner. We use to eat at the coffee table but now we can eat at the dining room table like grown ups and watch the t.v. at the same time.

**Decorating together. When I moved into Kristian's condo it was pretty much all furnished/decorated. Yes I made some changes here and there but it was mainly HIS style. In the new place we've been able to decorate together and really make it OUR style.

**More space. With three levels and multiple rooms we have plenty of room to spread out and get away from each other when need be. Let's be honest even the closest couples need their alone time. And while I sometimes miss us hanging out ALL the time at home it's nice to be able to go to our own spots and just relax, watch what we want to on t.v. and recharge. I think it will definitely help our marriage last :)

**Room to entertain. It was tough having more than a few people over at one time at the condo, but here we have plenty of room. We've already had a few visitors and I love being able to show people our new house. We also plan to have a housewarming party soon and we've talked about hosting a Christmas and Superbowl party later in the year.

That's just a short list, I'm sure it will grow the longer we live there.

What do you love most about where you live?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The best way to convince the boy to do the cooking....

Buy a grill! Yep this weekend we were inspired the 70 degree weather we had last Friday to buy a new grill for the house. When we lived in the condo we weren't allowed to have a grill on the balcony and we both couldn't wait to have one for the townhouse and start inviting friends over in the summer for cookouts on the deck overlooking the water.

We went to Lowe's and found what Kristian felt would be the perfect grill for our deck. He wanted charcoal instead of gas and since he's the one that will be doing all the grilling I left that decision up to him.

So far we've used it twice already, on Sunday night for steaks. And then last night for hamburgers. I must say that the food does seem to taste better. Now we can't wait to go to Costco to stock up on different meats and start inviting friends over.

Kristian preparing to christen the new grill with some killer steaks.

Hamburgers, a beer and an amazing view. Doesn't get much better.

Who needs Five Guys??

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Games

I admit I was a bit slow jumping on this bandwagon but I'm so glad I finally did. This weekend I finished reading the last book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

I have to say I loved loved loved this series. Probably my favorite of all the ones I've read including Twilight *gasp* and the Millenium series. I loved Twilight but honestly Bella annoyed the shit out of me through most of it and while I loved Lisbeth Salander's character in the Millenium series there was so much other stuff about those books that I didn't like. With this series I loved pretty much everything about it. From the moment I started the first book I couldn't put them down and continued to think about each book long after I finished reading.

Of the three I will say that Mockingjay was my least favorite, reading about the war itself was less interesting to me than reading about the Games in the first and second book. With that said I was still engrossed and couldn't wait to see how the series would end and who would survive.

I read a lot of negative reviews about the final book on Amazon and how the series ended and while I agree with a few of the complaints overall I was happy with the ending and felt it was a lot more realistic than most young adult novels these days. I was pleased with how things were left with Katniss and how the love triangle was resolved. The only thing that I'm really disappointed about is the fact that there aren't anymore of these to read. Now I guess I will just have to look forward to the movies and see how the books get interepreted onto the big screen.

I definitely would recommend these books to anyone. Yes there is a lot of violence and yes it does talk about children being killed and war but it's very fast paced, action packed and engrossing. Oh yeah and there's a love triangle in there and who doesn't love a love triangle?

Have you read this series? Did you like/dislike?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Wedding Blessing

Happy St. Patrick's Day folks.

 I know I have a bit of Irish swimming around in my DNA somewhere (along with a lot of other nationalities...yep I'm a mutt) and of course my first name, Shannon (for those of you that don't know) is Irish. I'm wearing green today and I have a strong suspicion I might get a kiss or two later!

In honor of the holiday I thought I would post an Irish Wedding Blessing. My uncle and aunt actually gave us a really pretty wooden plaque as a wedding gift that has this blessing on it. I would post a picture but unfortunately it's still packed away in a box waiting to be placed in our new home.

Irish Wedding Blessing

May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon the fields.

May the light of friendship guide your paths together.

May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home.

May the joy of living for one another trip a smile from your lips,

A twinkle from your eye.

And when eternity beckons,

At the end of a life heaped with love,

May the good Lord embrace you with the arms that have nurtured you the whole length of your joy-filled days.

May the gracious God hold you both in the palm of his hands.

And, today, may the Spirit of Love find a dwelling place in your hearts.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

House Tour- Entryway

In our old condo we didn't have much of an entryway and whenever we came home we would throw all our mail, keys, purse/wallet on our dining room table (which we never used for eating). When we moved to the townhouse I didn't want to continue the habit of throwing everything on our dining room table, especially since we do now use it when we eat dinner.

In order to have a place to put our mail, keys, phones etc. when we get home I decided to buy a small console table to put in our entryway. Below is a view looking at the entryway from the inside. We may get around to painting this area at some point but I don't really mind the white walls in this space for now.

Below is a view of our entryway from the staircase. The kitchen is to the right of the entry.

I found a great little console table on CSN's website. It's the perfect size, color and even has a little drawer for storage. We also put up a little shelf for one of our plants.

We hung a mirror above the table for those last minute touch-ups before we leave the house. Kristian had this mirror prior to us meeting so I don't know where it's from but I've always really liked it.

I also bought a little desk organizer from Bed, Bath and Beyond to help organize the mail/bills and a place to the throw our keys and whatnot.

*I apologize for the shitty pictures, our camera decided to die on us this weekend so I was forced to use my blackberry*

I love that we now have a nice area to put our stuff when we first walk in the door so that we're not constantly looking for keys, sunglasses etc. and it keeps our dining room table open for actually eating on.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Hospitals are way cooler on Grey's Anatomy

On Wednesday night we had a bit of a scare. Kristian had a fairly severe allergic reaction and I ended up having to take him to the emergency room.

He noticed around 1pm on Wednesday that the upper left side of his lip was swelling. He took some Benedryl, took a nap and when he woke up the right side of his upper lip was also now swelling. He took some more Benedryl. When I got home from work at 6pm I was shocked to see his upper lip which had now swollen massively. His upper lip looked like he had put one of those old school red, candy lips in his mouth. It was honestly that size and he looked like a freakish cartoon character. **We took pictures but he said I am not allowed to post them on the Internet, he's a bit embarassed** I said we should go to the hospital but he wanted to wait since he didn't feel bad and had no other symptoms. He took another Benedryl and we decided to wait a couple hours and see what happened.

Right around 8pm I made the executive decision that we needed to go see a doctor. His lip was continuing to swell and he was now getting hives on his stomach. I was afraid of his tongue swelling or his throat closing up. We tried the Urgent Care but they were closed already so then I took him straight to the hospital. We expected that we would have to wait several hours like most people do when they go to the E.R. but we walked in and they took one look at him and sent us back to an exam room. They were afraid of him going into anaphylatic shock and not being able to breathe.

Once in the room, they started an I.V. took blood and started him on medication. At one point there were 6 people in the room working on him. You would have thought he had been shot. It was a bit scary at that point because they seemed to be taking this very seriously so we worried something was really wrong.

It turns out he had a bad reaction to the blood pressure medication he's on. He's actually been taking it since Oct. but apparently with this medication, the main sign of a reaction is a swollen upper lip and it can happen randomly even if you've been on the medication for years. They knew right away what happened as soon as he told him what medicines he was on.

We waited in the exam room for a couple hours, while they monitored him. Fortunately there was  t.v. so we could watch American Idol at least. Around 10pm they said they wanted to admit him overnight so they could keep an eye on him. He got moved to a private room and was all settled in by 11:30pm and I went home to sleep.

Yesterday I went to the hospital around 10am and his swelling had gone down quite a bit but was still apparent, they said they would probably release him around 4pm. I went home at noon to eat lunch and check work emails. I headed back to the hospital at 3:30 and he looked remarkably better. By this point he was getting very ansy to go home. He felt fine and was sick of just laying around. We had to wait for the doctor to come and see him one last time which didn't finally happen until 5:30pm and then wait for the nurse to bring his discharge papers which didn't happen until close to 6:30pm. I think our payback for getting through the E.R. so quickly was having it take extra long to get released.

We finally made it home around 7pm last night and were both exhausted. He's much better and his lip is almost totally back to normal. They prescribed him a steroid and a different blood pressure medication.

It was definitely a scary experience thinking that if we hadn't gone to the hospital his reaction could have worsened to the point of him not being able to breathe in the middle of the night. You can't mess around with stuff like that. The staff at the hospital did a great job and I'm very thankful he's okay.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

House Tour- Living Room

Our living room is one of my favorite rooms in the house and the room I spend the most time in, probably because it's where we have our comfy new sofa and our new 47" t.v. that we were able to buy thanks to a generous housewarming check from my in-laws.

As with the other rooms we haven't painted yet and still have many changes we want to make but you'll get the idea.

Here's a picture of the room before we moved in. You step down from the dining room into the living room which looks out over the woods and the water. We plan to change out that ceiling fan with one we had in our condo.

Once you step into the living room this is the view looking to the right. Here is our new couch which I LOVE. It's a bit large for the room but it's so comfortable I don't care. You can also see our new 47" Vizio that we bought at Costco. Kristian plans to re-stain the coffee table a darker color and build a new t.v. stand to match.

To the left of the stairs is our turtle Wedette's new tank and table, the massage chair and our glass cabinet that holds some wedding mementos and other fun stuff.

Here's the view looking down from the dining room. A lot of people asked why we didn't hang the t.v. over the fireplace. There are a few reasons for that, the first being that we love that mirror and how much larger it makes the room feel. Another reason being that I've heard with wood burning fireplaces like ours they can potentially damage the t.v. if hung above it. Not sure if that's true or not but we didn't want to risk it. 

Here's a closer look at the glass cabinet, we have our wedding champagne glasses and a Waterford picture frame (sans picture) on the top self, our framed wedding invitation, dried flowers from the bouquets and a clock on the third shelf. The other two shelves I let Kristian fill and he did so with shells and other fishing stuff.

We eventually want to update the fireplace including the floor tiles, brass and mantle and potentially have stone going up the wall.

A closer shot of our new couch. Have I mentioned that I love it?

This is the one room where we are still unsure what color we want to paint the walls. The living room is right off of our dining room and we plan to paint the dining room a dark red like we had in our condo. So the living room walls need to work next to the red but still be fairly neutral and light. We don't want this entire area to have dark walls. We like how light and open it feels.

 Also because of our furniture and wall hangings I don't want to paint the walls a beige color because I feel the room would then be too brown and very blah. I'm thinking maybe a light grey or a very light, subtle goldish/mustard/yellow color. What do you think? What color would you paint this room?

Monday, March 7, 2011

House Tour- Kitchen

As of this weekend we've unpacked a good 90% of the house. The only room we haven't touched yet is the office but hopefully we'll get to that soon. We haven't painted any of the rooms yet. We decided to move in, unpack everything and just live in the space for a bit before committing to any wall colors. We also knew the walls would get banged up a bit during the move so no point in painting twice. So there is still quite a bit to be done.

With that said the one room that is completely unpacked and more or less finished...for now... is our kitchen. Now here's the thing, the kitchen definitely needs some updating. We do have new appliances which is great (though not the stainless steel we prefer) but we want to eventually add granite counter tops, replace or paint the cabinets, add hardware, change out the floors etc but that takes time and more importantly money so it will be awhile before that gets done. Until then I think we've made the best with what we are working with.

When we first saw the house one of the things I worried about most was the size of the kitchen, it seemed so much smaller then the kitchen we had at the condo and we didn't think we would be able to fit all our dishes and cookware, which we have quite a bit of. To our surprise we've been able to fit most everything in our tiny little kitchen and in a weird way it now actually feels bigger. We still have long term plans for possibly expanding it but for now it works.

Here are some pictures we took when we first moved in and the kitchen was bare.

As you can see despite the new appliances it's fairly dated so we'll definitely need to update the counter tops and cabinets.

This area is to the left of the oven and as you can see there is a door that leads to the dining room and living room. There isn't much counter space in the kitchen so we've thought about long term plans of moving the refrigerator and cutting a whole in the wall to add a pass through to the dining room and adding more counter space under the pass through.

Here is the view from the entry way of the house and the kitchen is to the right of the entry. Once you enter the kitchen there is a large window on your right side.
Here is the kitchen all unpacked. All the cabinets are filled but well organized and so far the counter space has been adequate, though we haven't been cooking too much yet.

This is the view from the wall with the sink and oven looking at the entry way. We had both this small white pantry that we bought from IKEA and the pot rack we bought from Crate and Barrel at our condo and at both the condo and in our new house they have helped add so much extra storage space. This is the wall we though of eventually moving the fridge too if we want to add that pass through into the dining room. Though I must say I love having the pot rack there so we'll have to see.

Here is the view from the dining room entry. We have that large window which overlooks the street and the cats love to sit there. We've also though of building a window seat or bench there with more hidden storage but again that will be in the future.

So there's our kitchen. We have lots of ideas for changes but for now we really like it and the homey feel it has.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Everyone Gets an Upgrade

When we first found our little turtle Wedette back in May she was literally the size of a bottle cap. Well in the past 10 months she has grown quite a bit, and even though she is still rather small we saw that she was starting to outgrow the tank we had for her.

*Wedette (on the rock) not long after we got her in her smaller tank*

Lucky for us about a month or so before we moved Kristian's buddy decided to get rid of his large fish tank and said we could have it for a small price. If we planned on keeping Wedette we knew she needed a bigger home so we snatched it up real quick. We had the new larger tank on an old beat up table and decided when we moved into our new house we wanted something nicer as well as more sturdy.

Kristian being the creative little handy-man he is was able to take some leftover cedar wood from his job and make a new table to put Wedette's tank on.

*Voila! The new table Kristian built and stained and it only took him two sessions of a few hours each. I love it and I've now tasked him with building a similar looking new tv stand for the living room. *

*Here is Wedette's new larger tank on the new table in the townhouse. Pardon the ridiculously bright light at the top. She now has so much more room to swim around and it's on a much nicer looking table*

So not only did we upgrade to a nicer, larger home but so did our turtle.

*Our favorite turtle*

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pretty Pedestal

My mother-in-law is a rock star. When she came to see the townhouse last week for the first time we walked her through, showed her everything and also talked about changes/updates we would like to eventually make to the house. One of the first changes I would like to make is to our downstairs half bathroom. Primarily because it's the bathroom that will be seen the most by our guests and since it's small it won't be super expensive to update.

Right now we have a pretty standard/ugly vanity in the half bathroom and we both agreed that it would look so much better with a pretty pedestal sink. Since it's only a half bath we don't need all the extra storage of a vanity with cabinets.

Well the very next day my mother-in-law sent me a link for a pedestal sink she found on Craig's List. I think her new favorite hobby is scouring CL for us. I thought it looked great and it was selling for $30!! We saw similar at Lowe's for well over $100. I emailed the woman who posted the ad to see if it was still available and it was! So we made arrangements for Kristian and I to pick it up Friday night. It's even nicer in person and we can't wait to install it.

We also bought a new toilet this weekend at Home Depot for about $100 which will go in the half bath as well. Sidenote- prior to buying a house I had no idea how expensive toilets can be!  Kristian can get us some nice tiles for cheap and we just need a new faucet, mirror, light and some paint and we'll be all set. I'm hoping to get this project knocked out in the next month or so before we have a housewarming party

Here are the pictures that were posted on the CL ad of our new pedestal sink.

Have you found any good deals on Craig's List lately?