Friday, January 21, 2011

Home Sweet Home

We did in fact make it back to Dallas! Despite not having a triumphant blog post last Friday -- or even a couple days after -- we did make it and were so happy to be home!
With a packed U-haul, car-in-tow, two cats, and a warm cup of coffee in our bellies, we began the (half) cross country drive Wednesday night -- just hours after my plane landed in Richmond.  
Everything we had worried about seemed to work out just fine -- There was plenty of room for us and all the belongings, Adam drove the truck and trailer like a pro, everything was safe and secure, and the roads were clear.  We did, however, completely underestimate the difficulty of traveling with two cats. After about 5 minutes in the truck, I almost broke down and was certain we weren’t going to make it.  Despite drugging the kitties -- with prescribed meds from the vet, no worries, it was safe -- they would not settle down. They were typical curious cats and jumping all over the van, onto the dashboard, crawling under your legs, jumping in your lap and digging their claws into you at every bump.  The car also turned them into completely different animals and they acted like enemies hissing and trying to fight each other. This was certainly not going to work for the next 48 hours! 
After realizing neither would settle down, we pulled out the pet carrier and put Simba, the least affected by the meds, inside.  We made a little bed on top for Pima and prayed they would settle down -- Success! The meds eventually kicked in and Pima finally fell asleep after some reassuring and attention. Simba was contained, albeit against his will, but at least he wasn’t roaming around anymore. The one problem -- he cried the entire time! We realized there was nothing we could do about it at this point, so we turned up the music and assured him everything was fine.  We made it a few hours before reaching our first ‘rest stop’ in the south-west corner of VA. 
We grabbed a quick bite to eat, filled up with gas, and were back on the road!  We drove a few more hours and finally stopped in Dublin, VA for the night. There weren’t a lot of choices for hotels at this point and we were forced to settle on a non-pet friendly place to stay. 
After securing the room, we started to brainstorm about sneaking the little kitties and their littler box in. Luckily, it was so late and there was a side entrance, so we managed to get them in without any trouble or worker run-ins.  We had no idea; however, that little Simba would continue his whining and ugly streak all through the night.  He literally cried every 5 minutes and would not stop trying to fight his brother. Finally, at 5am, he was banished to the car to cry as loud as he wanted so we could get a couple hours of sleep before a very long day in the truck. 
Sneaking little Pima out the next morning turned out to be quite the task. Maids were all over the halls by the time we were ready to leave and just begging to clean our room. They were practically waiting outside our door since they knew we were loading up the car and checking out.  As a good-girl-rule-follower, I almost had a heart attack when I realized I would most likely be seen with a cat and be a known rule breaker!
Like the most awkward person in the world, I stepped into the hallway and pretended to be waiting on Adam until I could be assured the maid would be busy in another room. She kept asking if we were leaving and wanted to come to our room, so I continued my awkwardness and managed to keep her away. As soon as she gave up on our room, I rushed to grab little Pima, motioned for Adam and we took off almost jogging down the hall to the stairwell. We got him in the car and just needed to go back for the litter box and pet carrier -- both obvious signs there was an animal in the room, so I was still filled with some major rule breaking anxiety! I took a deep breath, we went back upstairs, and we carried out the same plan -- a little more awkwardness and Success! Once everything was out of the room, I was very relieved and could finally relax again.
We made another stop for food and gas and were back on the road!  Here is what we saw for most of our morning drive -- SNOW! Being born and raised in Texas, it was quite enchanting for the first few hours. The novelty of it, however, was quickly lost every time I had to get out of the car and couldn’t feel any part of my face or extremities -- I may exaggerate a bit, but it truly was COLD! 

In just a couple short hours, we saw our first signs of travel progress -- Tennessee! 
My pictures aren’t super great since all were taken from a moving vehicle, but the color and gloominess is quite accurate. It snowed the entire first half of the day and through half of Tennessee. By the afternoon, I was thrilled to see some clear skies! 
I tried my hardest to get my lovely driver to stop in Nashville for a sweet treat at Gigi’s -- it was just 10 minutes from the highway! -- but he refused when he learned a new store had just opened in Dallas and it wasn’t something exclusive to Nashville. I should have kept my mouth shut and acted totally surprised when we came across the one in Dallas. But seriously, check out their website and you’ll see why I was dying to stop.  Plus, the Nashville store was the original, so there was some significance.  Anyway, we kept on driving straight through Nashville until the sun went down. 
Due to several recommendations, we stopped in Memphis for some good ‘ol bar-b-que from Corky’s. Despite living in Texas, I’ve never been a huge fan of bbq, but that night it sounded and tasted delicious! While at dinner, we did some destination mapping and planning and decided we could make it to Little Rock that night and have just 5 or 6 hours left to drive on Friday. Back on the road again, and just a little ways after Memphis, we saw our next signs of travel progress -- Arkansas! 
I know that picture is AWFUL, but it’s the only one that has signs saying “Welcome to Arkansas” -- I promise, that’s what those blurry squares say! With just a couple hours left until Little Rock, we decided to spare myself another heart attack and called around to find a pet-friendly place to stay.  We had a lot more success this time around with our pre-planning and I was relieved I didn’t have to do any more sneaking and rule breaking. 
We brought Simba in for some food and water and to see if he’d learned to be nice, but quickly realized he was back to his whining and fighting ways. After purchasing enough hand warmers to heat a house, we made him a warm bed with blankets, pillows, and hand warmers all around, and settled him into the car for the night. We knew we couldn’t go two nights in a row without sleep and it was not going to be possible with him crying and fighting all night.  He snuggled up on his warm bed and finally slept -- either the drugs kicked in or he finally gave up, but he slept -- woohoo!
The next morning was the most exciting because we knew we’d be in Texas that day! We left the hotel uneventfully -- since the kitties were allowed to be there this time -- and began the last leg of our drive. Arkansas wasn’t too enchanting but we were thankful the snow had stopped and it was sunny. 
This part of the drive was pretty unexciting until we caught our first glimpses of Texas. We must have missed the welcome sign, but there was no doubt we’d crossed the border -- minus the snow, that’s a little more unusual for us. 

We had just one more stop to make before this road trip would be complete.  As any Texan knows, Dairy Queen is the Texas stop sign and no road trip is complete without stopping for a blizzard. So, despite the freezing temperatures and snow still on the ground, we stopped for lunch and dessert and completed our trip :) Since I did not get my cupcake, there was no way I was skipping this blizzard! 
It only got better when we saw our first signs of downtown Dallas -- Thank you Rockwall, for this lovely view of the Dallas skyline complete with a picturesque lake in front.   
We were home -- finally! After 3 days, 4 states, two drugged-up kitties, dozens of pit stops and one delicious blizzard, our road trip was complete. I must say, once we got the kitty situation sorted out, the drive really wasn’t bad, of course, I was just the passenger -- Adam may feel differently :) I don’t think another trip like this is in either of our near futures, but if something unexpected should happen and we must make a similar journey, we have learned much from this adventure and would get through it like old pros.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Texas Bound!

Today begins the long (half) cross-country road trip from Richmond, VA to Dallas, TX!  And yes, I do live in Dallas but this handsome man does not -- until Friday at least :)

Please ignore our outfits -- they were created for a tacky sweater party and not part of our normal winter attire!
But, back to our journey -- against all common sense, I have flown FROM our destination to Richmond simply to de-board the plane, take a look at the apartment one last time, park myself in a U-haul for countless hours and drive back to Texas.  Seems a little silly, huh? Funny what we’ll do for the ones we love!
We have some fun activities planned and will manage to find ways to entertain ourselves during the long drive, but if you know of any unique, entertaining and creative road trip games, please tell me about them!
Our trip begins in a few short hours -- here's hoping the snow has stopped and the roads aren’t bad!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A New Year Brings New… Furniture Layouts?

I’ve never been one to place my furniture and just leave it there until I move or get more. Even as a kid, I liked to re-arrange my bedroom every few months just for something new without actually buying anything new. One of the reasons I fell in love with my apartment was its loft-style layout which gave me a giant room and endless furniture possibilities.

As I was renewing my lease last week, it hit me that I’ve lived in my apartment for nearly a year already! I hadn’t done much re-arranging during that time -- a few tables here and there, switching out nightstands, changing around the sewing nook, etc. -- because I was still, and still am, acquiring new pieces. I had some money saved up for furniture when I moved, but even budget shopping didn’t get me everything I “needed”.

Besides my need to switch things up every now and then, I also like to be very organized and have a set plan in place before getting started on any project. For example, before I moved, I had NO living room furniture. I was excited because it meant I got to do tons of shopping, but overwhelmed because it left me with every option possible to pick from -- do I get two sofas, one large sectional, a sofa and love seat, a sofa and two chairs, a sofa with a chaise attached, etc??  How do you choose and feel like you made the best decision?

Well, with all the options out there and no idea what would fit best, my interior designer wanna-be personality decided to make a model of my living area complete with some of my favorite furniture options. Now, I would have loved to do this 3-deminisionally -- college roommate architect Jill style -- but I also have this mathematical, non-creative, linear side of me that works in excel 75% of the day, and decided to use those mad skills instead. After some measurements and a little math, I ended up with a model floor plan.
When I found a couch or furniture piece I was considering, I’d measure, do some simple math and add it to the layout. It was extremely useful because I was able to instantly rule out pieces that didn’t look right or fill the space the way I wanted.  Another important thing for me to consider was what pieces would most likely fit in a future place. This wide open floor plan allowed me to do pretty much anything that came to mind, but it’d be wasteful if I had to buy new pieces when I moved -- although fun for me, it wouldn’t be fun on my savings account! As I played around with different options, I discovered I would have more arrangement possibilities with the most seating if I purchased a sofa and love seat. These pieces are also more ‘traditional’ and would fit well in any future home.

Anyway, with this new lease and new year, I’m itching for something new in the apartment and have been playing around with some different ideas.  I decided not to mess with a good thing that’s proven successful in the past, and got out my trusty old floor plan. I added any new pieces that had been acquired, and started playing around with arrangements. I also made the floor color more true to life and easier on the eyes and took away the bedroom -- not much I can change in there! I have come up with 4 favorite options for the new arrangement and have been polling around to see what everyone thinks.

For comparison purposes, here is my current arrangement:

I have only one chair due to an awful, month-long chair fiasco -- more on that later. My intention is to have a second matching one, so you’ll see two chairs in all the furniture arrangements coming. I also got two new nightstands for Christmas so the previous one can be found floating all around the apartment just looking for a new job. For the time being, it is additional sewing storage and has found a temporary home in my sewing 'nook'.  In most other layouts, it has a job as a side table or sofa table. He is totally flexible and happy to help in any way he can :)

Option 1
Option one is fairly simple to carry out and focuses on moving the TV from the only blank wall in the living room to sit in front of the side window. My hope is to cut back on the glare by having the windows on the side of the TV rather than directly in front of it. If any of you know this to make the glare worse, please let me know as most floor plans include this move! This option also incorporates the two chairs in the living room, rotates the bar so you can eat and watch TV -- hopefully encouraging me to eat at the bar and not the coffee table -- and keeps the sewing ‘nook’ as its own space, the closest thing I’ll have to a craft room for a while!

Option 2
This option is the same as the first; however, it turns the solarium into a whole separate seating area and brings the sewing ‘nook’ into the living room. I like this mainly because I like the idea of having a separate place to sit without having a focus on the TV. I imagine myself opening the windows on weekend mornings and curling up in one of the chairs with a book and cup of coffee -- oh, I wish it were Saturday!

Option 3
The third option turns the solarium into an eating space which would give me a defined ‘dining room’ as opposed to a floating bar height table with stools. I also like this because the sewing ‘nook’ is a part of the living room and the added chairs would be extra seating when having people over. BTW, I should probably mention the area at the bottom of the floor plan, next to the chairs is an entrance from the hallway to the living area and is about 6 feet wide. So if you're wondering why there is never anything in that general area, it would completely block people from entering and enjoying the space!

Option 4
The last option is a little less traditional than the others I’m considering. I think this arrangement takes advantage of the loft feel and gives me an opportunity to do something that wouldn’t typically fit in another space. The couch and the chairs could be switched and any other suggestion for the desk is welcome! I’m a little less certain about where to go with this one, but think it has definite potential and uniqueness!

Any favorites? Or combo of two to create a favorite? Any tweeks to one that would make it a favorite? I’d love to start re-arranging this weekend or during the next week, so let me know what you think! Once it’s finalized, I promise to put up real life pictures!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Just for Fun

Here is sweet little Nolan demonstrating the proper way to chew on one's bone -- take note of his awesome spin jump abilities!  I'm thinking he may have a performance career in the future...

By the way, this went on for a good 20 minutes. I could not resist laughing hysterically and recording him -- hope it made you smile :)

p.s. if you have your sound on, please ignore whatever terrible show might be playing in the background!

Happy Friday!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A (not-so) Little Behind

I know it’s late but MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone! Ok, so the picture above is actually from last Christmas but it’s one of my favs so I couldn’t resist :)

Once again, I find myself falling behind on my blogging! As we learned in October, I’m easily distracted by life’s events and can let the blogging fall behind -- I’m trying to get better! New year’s resolution, perhaps?! Anyway, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas filled with lots of family and friends.  

This year, I was fortunate enough to have nearly two whole weeks off for the holidays and managed to stay busy the whole time. Here are some holiday highlights and ‘would-be’ posts during my time off -- I’ll try to keep them short and sweet with mostly pictures!

Family Christmas

Every year, our extended family gets together before Christmas day for gift exchanging and to eat lots of food! Sadly, I have no photos of our yummy desserts, but here are some present opening action shots and fun pictures of the cousins…
The boys opening their college blankets -- both winning teams this year!

Little Ivan inspecting a present as big as he is!

Sisterly love :)

My sister, Samantha, and boyfriend Jon

A handful of cousins

 Me and Adam -- his first year at Family Christmas!

All the cousins! Poor Chase is the only boy and probably thinks we’re all nuts!

It’s always so much fun when the whole family gets together -- I think we need to start inventing holidays so it can happen more often :)

Tacky Sweater Party

During the break, I also attended my very first tacky Christmas sweater party. When I heard the dress code, I was going over all the horrible sweaters my mom made us wear -- and documented with photos -- growing up, and how perfect they would be for an evening like this! Since most of the tops we wore back then were large enough to be ‘dresses’ worn with leggings or stir-up pants, I was certain I could fit into at least one as an adult. Unfortunately, tacky Christmas sweaters were not considered sentimental in my book, and I could not find a single one in the attic.

Also, with the recent popularity in these silly parties, I knew finding one second hand would not be easy and I had no desire to pay full price for one in the ladies department at the mall. So, I decided the only way to participate was to make mine -- and Adam’s since he’d also never attended one. Luckily, my Aunt had been cleaning out her sewing supplies just before Thanksgiving and brought me several Christmas fabrics and Christmas themed appliqu├ęs she no longer thought she’d use. I decided they’d be perfect on our sweaters and could be easily embellished with some tacky items at the craft store. I bought us each a sweater at Target for around $10, glitter paint and a few ‘tacky’ embellishments from the fabric store, and Ta-Da! Two tacky Christmas sweaters ready for a party…

The front -- minus glitter puff paint and embellishments

The back -- also minus the tacky embellishments

Adam’s front all completed and tackied out!

And the back sans music notes and glittery puff paint -- I didn’t do the best job of taking pictures.

Once at the party, I discovered home-made was the way to go! Here are the girls and I with 75% home-made sweaters. Kelly’s also went a step further and had working lights adorning a Christmas tree on the back -- good ideas for next year already brewing!

Thanks Chris and Betsy for putting on such a fun party!

Yummy Baking

One of my favorite things to do is bake and this year, I had lots of time to make some tasty treats. One new adventure was caramel making -- more on the successes and failures of that another day -- and did manage to get one amazing batch! I dipped half in milk chocolate like a home-made milk dud but a million times better -- and kept the other half plain. Unfortunately, all but a handful were given away as gifts…

I wrapped each individually in parchment paper and put them in clear goody bags tied with a green ribbon and labeled with a cute Christmas tags -- those adorable pictures seem to be missing.

I also made one of my favorite holiday treats -- FUDGE! I brought some to work, gave some away, and still had a lot left over, which I unfortunately could not resist eating. One of my favorite fudge give-aways was to the groomers.

They are so sweet to Shiloh and Nolan every time I bring them in, so I thought they deserved a sweet treat and a cheerful, puppy friendly, Christmas card to say thank you.

I actually received a call yesterday from the owner of Lucca Bella -- what a cute groomers name! -- saying how much they enjoyed the fudge and asking for the recipe the next time I bring the pups in. In fact, every time I make it, I find myself sharing the recipe, so I thought I’d post it here for anyone to try.  It really is the easiest, tastiest fudge and impossible to mess up!

4-Chip Marshmallow Fudge

¾ c. Butter
14-oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk
3 T. Milk
12-oz. package Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
10-oz. package Peanut Butter Chips
12-oz. package Milk Chocolate Chips
1 c. Butterscotch Chips
7-oz. jar Marshmallow Cream
1 ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
½ tsp. Almond Extract

Melt butter in a double boiler. I don’t have one so I place a glass bowl on top of a saucepan to keep the ingredients from burning. Stir in condensed milk and milk. Add chips and stir constantly until fully melted. I usually do one type of chip at a time to make it a little easier to stir and melt. Remove from heat and stir in marshmallow cream and extracts. Pour into 15” x 10” baking pan. Refrigerate until firm then cut into squares. Makes 3 dozen.

Three dozen is not an exaggeration -- it seriously makes a ton! Hope you try it and enjoy!

My other dessert adventures included lemon bars -- which I love all the time -- and sugar cookies, perfect for the holidays. Unfortunately, I left the dough in the fridge for too many days and by the time we were able to roll it out, it was too hard to use.  I’ll just have to try another day!

Christmas Day

Since we do our big family Christmas early, Christmas day is typically low key in our home. We wake up, make some coffee, watch the puppies open presents -- yes, before the humans -- then we open presents, cook breakfast, relax, watch football, cook dinner, and relax, watch football!  This year was not much different except I left after breakfast to spend part of Christmas day with Adam and his family. We had a huge, delicious lunch cooked entirely by his grandmother, opened presents and played a game invented by his mom.  After all the fun and food, we came back for games and more food!
Puppy stockings! They get treats to keep them occupied for a while; however, with 6 dogs in the house this year, some growling and treat stealing took place!

Christmas cheer! From left to right: Shiloh, Bentley, my sister, Jon, Nolan, me Adam, Bella, and Rue -- the newest member of the family and Adam’s new best friend :)

The cutest boy that ever lived -- after a hard day of treats, presents, and playing!

Sorry for the never ending post and millions of pictures! I’ll try to make the next few shorter :)

Happy New Year!!