Monday, January 31, 2011

Half Bath Renovation (Bath #2!)

Oh friends.  Looking at the before pictures, my olfactory senses are bombarded by the most offensive urine smell I've smelled in the first world.  As you can see, someone was being "potty trained." and as you can see near the base of the toilet, someone wan't quite getting the hang of it.
The day we got the keys, we bought bleach, a scrub brush, and gloves.
Over the summer, Mr. Palindrome started to attack this bathroom.  He primed the wallpaper with oil based primer since the builders had glued the wallpaper straight to the dry wall.  He sanded.  He patched.  He sanded.  Then his mom had a stroke.  Everything was put on hold.

Months later, when she was back in Colorado and we tried to settle into a schedule, Mr. Palindrome turned again to the bathroom.  In 4 days, we finished the rest.
We installed an out of the box granite vanity topper (Home Depot matched Lowe's price, which is great because we were trying to consolidate errands on one end of town) that came with an undermount sink.  Taking our queues from these two inspiration palettes from our kitchen, we tried several different samples, including the green from our kitchen.
Mr. Palindrome is, how shall we say, particular about his commode.  I believe the exact words he used to describe the mood he wanted was "dark and serene."  We went the third beige from the left.  Lots of people don't like warm beiges because they can come across as pinkish.  However, we decided to keep the oak vanity and trim, so we wanted to pick up on the reddish tones of the wood.

My contributions to the room were the styling, running to Lowe's for random things as needed, cleaning the cupboards/trim with Murphy's Wood Oil Soap, and ordering the hardware online.  Part of our rush was that we were having a party where we invited everyone we knew in the Triangle.  Nothing like having 60 people over to light a fire under our renovating bums!  Mr. Palindrome was a work horse and did most of the work in the bathroom while I frantically swiffered and sprayed Febreze all over our house.
Ahhhh, the Afters.  I couldn't quite cram this tight space into my photo frame (a wide angle would really come in handy), but you can definitely get the gist of the transformation.  We went with the oil rubbed bronze fixtures which really transformed the vanity.

I picked up on the green hues in our inspiration palette by placing some candles on green milk glass saucers from my collection.
And that new commode?  It's a potty trained person's dream.  Clean.

We didn't spend much for this transformation as the paint alone transformed the room (well, that and the bleach), but here's the breakdown:

Toilet -  $3.00+ (after a $100 rebate from the City of Durham for purchasing a water efficient model and selling our old one for $15 on Craigslist)
Granite Vanity Top - $170
Faucet - $88
Paint - $73 ($8 on samples, $25 on gallon, $25 on primer, $15 on misc. drywall supplies)
Toilet Paper Holder - $25
Towel Holder - $16
Mirror - Free, reused
Lighting - Free, gift from parents
Cabinet hardware - $13
Print - Free
Candles - Free, gift
Milk glass saucers - Free, already owned
Total - $309

Not too shabby.  

Are you cringing that we didn't paint the cabinet? Does our elongated toilet tickle your fancy (not a euphemism . . . ha!)?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Finds - Red Ribbon Valentine

In case you actually wanted to be prepared for Valentine's and not scrambling the day before like I tend to do, I'm publishing my Valentine Friday Finds in time for items to be shipped.  I'll reward myself with a cookie later.

First, the red.  The passion.  The intensity.  The "pow" to your senses.  Then there's the moody grey.  There's no room for funny Valentines here, just dark and twisty ones.  This collection actually makes me thinks of Grey's Anatomy beyond the dark and twisty.  There's the red pumping heart.  Life and love in all of it's complexities.

Clockwise from L:
lyralyra - Felted Red Necklace
KaroArt - 14 Love Hearts Ceramic Tile
Allen Company Inc - 1960's Vintage Carnelian Red Fur Cuff Coat
me make - mini pillow

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Anthropologie Stores Overwhelm Me

When I come up with my game plan for attacking Super Target, I think linearly through each aisle and department.  When I go to Home Goods, I wind up and down each aisle, skipping sections as I need to.  I stopped shopping in stores for clothes a while ago, but before, I would explore each cubby from the front to the back of the store, ending with the sale racks.
Our Anthropologie at the Southpoint Mall is a huge open space with an entire sale room in the back.  Immediately  upon entering the store, I'm paralyzed.  I don't know which direction to head.  There are several feet of open space until you actually hit merchandise, so I can't even hide my missteps by looking at the first thing I can touch.  I can kindof go counter clockwise in a big loop, but I always feel like I'm missing items.
The clothes are all over with fancy and casual mixed across the store.  The displays are amazing, but sometimes I see a piece of pottery that I like, only to find that they're all on the other side of the store.  And that really throws me.  I start to feel panicky and frustrated and often end up walking out with nothing.

Shopping the website allows me to easily scroll through, section by section making sure I don't miss anything.
Do you prefer the store or shopping online?  Is your preference different for different stores?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

While the Husband is Away the Wife will Play

In the not so distant past, I had been known to eat popcorn for dinner.  When I was cooking for one, I often ate said popcorn in bed with my blog reader or Netflix queue.   Cooking for two has it's advantages (like better rounded meals), but when Mr. Palindrome was out of town last week, I delighted in reverting back to my singledom days.
As soon as I got home, I'd put on pajamas and my glasses.  I'd start the oil in the pan and wait for those toasty kernels of buttery goodness to pop, pop, POP, pop.
I'd pour myself a glass of wine.  A bottle of blush had been languishing in our fridge, always snubbed by the red loving taste buds of Mr. Palindrome.  I gave it new life, paired with airy handfuls of  popped corn.
I would then turn to my stack of night stand reading, ranging from the spiritual to the social (networking that is).  And I would plop in my night guard early so that I wouldn't forget.
Funny story about my night guard . . . When I picked it up from the dentist's office, they had me try it on.  It fit like a glove, just like the mold they took of my mouth.  When I got home, I dropped the case and as I bent to pick it up, I saw the label on the back.  "Julianna Robinstein."  My name has been butchered on the regular, but I don't think I've ever seen it so drastically changed.  Suffice it to say that neither name is correct and one is drastically different.
Another favorite meal I reprised was the cheese, crackers and wine meal.  This time in front of the TV.  This dinner is the one where you get to eat all of the appetizers you want, then you don't have to force yourself to eat more when the entrée comes out, because the entrée never comes out.
I made this meal a little bit healthier with the addition of a nice, blue devilish cup of water.
Oh, and the crackers were the Special K kind, so that's pretty much like eating cereal with an herb twist.
With Mr. Palindrome gone for several nights, I repeated these dinners another time each, by the end feeling a touch on the sick side and lot on the lonely side.  A part of me will always love a good popcorn dinner in bed, but the new part of me that makes its home with my husband will always love his handsome bum in my bed.  Welcome home, Mr. Palindrome.

What's your favorite meal for one?  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Following the Hanzel and Gretel of Projects

I had every intention of blogging a step by step kitchen lighting transformations for you guys.  As I was hovering over my finds like a Griffon vulture over a wildebeest carcass, guarding the nicely priced bronzish light fixtures at Re-Store, I was already writing this post in my head.  Mr. Palindrome would wake up on the right side of the bed.  He would pose for just the right shots and even do a guest post on the electrical work.  I would brag about all three pieces totaling $42.  When I went to bed that night, I dreamt of flocking readers, glowing comments, and my google analytics page tearing it up.

Then I woke up to this massacre of lighting paraphernalia.
I often find projects in various states of completion around the house.  Mr. Palindrome gets on a roll and if he hits a road block, he moves on to the next project. A lot of times, he gets on a roll with projects that I planned on blogging.  My little midnight electrician got it into his head that he should unload the light fixtures from the car and get a move on, all while I was off in la la land.  In this case, he finished the exchange of lighting . . .
but left the remnants of the project strewn across the kitchen counters, floors, or any other horizontal surface he found.
I grabbed my camera to take you along on my virtual Hanzel and Gretel-esque journey through the kitchen.

Two of the discarded fixtures were from Re-Store and we used them as placeholders until we decided to do oil rubbed bronze hardware in the kitchen.  We plan on taking them right back for a donation tax write off.

The Leatherman and some hardware even ended up on the ledge of the laundry closet doors!
And here is the finished result! We'll need to paint around this new fixture since the old one left a gnarly ring on the ceiling.
This fixture was meant to be a chandelier, but Mr. Palindrome reworked the pieces, cut the wire, and removed the chain to create a more flush look since we walk under this fixture.
This one might be hanging a little low, but it's nothing that a one or two link chain adjustment won't fix.  So there you have it.  When I'm a good girl, my electrician fairy transforms my space!  I have a sneaking suspicion that he's started to do it on purpose so as not be photographed for the blog!

We have some big plans for the floors, cabinets, and counters.  I'll be sharing a lot more in the coming weeks!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Best Manicure in Durham

I've tried salons.  I've tried spas.  I've tried strip shopping centers.  Again and again, I've gotten manicures that chip and fade the next day.  Or worse, my cuticles have been left bleeding by overzealous nail technicians.  Ouchie-wow-wowa.

In my hunt for a technician I could trust with my digits, I came across a Groupon for Orlando's Nail Spa.  At $35 for a regularly priced mani/pedi at $75, I jumped at the deal.
Orlando touted his products as top of line and claimed that his manicures lasted up to two weeks.  I told him that I was going to put him to the test as I was leaving for cruise in the next few days.  I was a little skeptical that the vegan nail polish could hold up to my normal wear and tear in addition to salt water and pool water.
Well, it was a regular anniversary cruise miracle because these pictures were taken on the cruise ... 5 days after the mani/pedi.  I chose the Home Body color in SpaRitual's Earthy Lownotes collection.  It's just enough color to show off how well groomed my nails are, but not enough color to shock at the office.

Mr. Palindrome came out of the shower one morning to find me, feet up in the air, scooching here and there to find the right light and back drop to photograph my tootsies.  He's stopped asking what I'm doing when he sees me like this.  Instead he goes straight to the heart of the matter, "Are you planning on blogging about your feet?"  Yes, dear.
Now I know that the regular price is a smidge steep, but honey, did you see the chipless, vegan mani up there?!  It stayed that way for 10 days until my hardest hitting typing digits finally broke the code.  The splurge is really worth it for a special event.  Say a wedding.  Or anniversary.  Or your highest hit count on your blog (101! Thanks Katie!).  Orlando will play you an awesome Pandora station on his i-pad, chat about the vegan properties of his products, and analyze the latest Glee episode with you.  It's an hour of pure magic.  Go treat yourself.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Finds - Chartreuse

Not a lot of explanation for this week.  I favorited the scarf during the first month I used Etsy.  the rest came together slowly with that awesome fondue pot.  I also realized that this is my 4th post revolving around a shade of green with red following close behind.  I feel like I should start keeping track so the other colors don't feel left out.

Clockwise from Top L:
L. Rose Design - Put the Lime in the Coconut Earrings
Beautiful Bridget - Huge Wrap Cowl Warmer in Lemongrass
fanciness vintage - vintage 1960s mod heels
kristy l - Vintage Green Fondue Pot with Stand

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From the Pantry to the Fridge!

Since Ashley over at the (never home)maker spilled about her fridge AND since I'm on a roll with over sharing about our food, I thought I might as well join the fridge sharing party.
 My mom doesn't put things her fridge.  I've had roommates who don't put things on their fridges.  I'm obviously a different breed.  I've got souvenir magnets, save-the-dates, Christmas card photos, notepads, timers and fuzzy bees on clothespins.
 On the door, we have condiments coming out the wazoo.  Whipped cream for hot cocoa.  Parmesan for pizza.  No less than 5 kinds of mustard for everything from bratwurst to glazes.  Pickles, relish, olives, jam, preserves, jelly - We're prepared for any preggo friends who might have a craving attack in our home.
 Soy milk is left over from Mr. Palindrome's parents' visit.  The gallon of cider from concentrate is left over from our Christmas party.  The tipped over can of cat food is going to be Sammie's breakfast tomorrow.  I think I have some chicken in there thawing that I ended up using tonight.  Mr. Palindrome converted me to skim milk. Then there's my favorite - Ranch.  Come to momma, creamy goodness!
 This is where it gets embarrassing.  I was embarrassed a lot later in my pantry post, but our fridge is a smaller space so the embarrassing bits pop up sooner.  We've got eggs and a Pyrex of TJ's frozen pastry appetizers left over from a potluck.  The rest of the Tupperware houses leftovers from before our cruise and *gasp* even before Christmas.  Yikes.  There's also beer and regular soda that got left by my regular-soda-drinking family.  The drawer has some blue cheese crumbles that I meant to use in red cabbage walnut empanadas (doesn't that sound divine?).  There's also some tortillas and a few bags of shredded cheese.  One of my go to weeknight meals is quesadillas.  Sometimes I have soup or salad on the side.
I usually have more produce, but haven't been grocery shopping this week yet, so we're scraping the bottom of the barrel with a bag of radishes and rutabagas from our CSA.  I think there's also a single serving size of hummus in there for no good reason.

The fridge and the pantry are problem areas of mine on which I can easily close the door and forget.  Looking at the pictures I can really see how much we have that has gone bad or don't use regularly.  In my pantry it was the mound of plastic bags.  In my fridge it's the door full of condiments and the (likely spoiled) leftovers.  I generally try to plan for about 3-4 meals a week but got out of thw swing over the holidays.  These pictures prove me to me that this weekend I need to set aside time to clean out and restock.

Is your fridge feeling a little neglected like mine?  Or are you blissed out in veggies and wholesome meals?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cruisin' - The Review

The short story: We had a fun time on our 3 day cruise on the Norwegian Sky making stops in Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay.  We napped, explored, stuffed ourselves, and overall had a nice time.  However, there were some drawbacks and we probably would  not recommend this same cruise to friends.

The long story:

We flew in on Friday morning wondering the earliest we could get on board. Turns out Noon was just about a perfect time to arrive and grab lunch.  Our first interaction with a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) employee exceeded our expectations as one of the greeters located Band Aids for Jason after he opened an old renovating wound.  Then we were greeted on the boat by a crowd of employees high fiving us.Then a photographer looked at our tickets, assumed we were German because of our surnames, and asked us if we spoke German.  Mr. Palindrome replied, in German, that he spoke a very little.  The photographer told us, in German, that we spoke nothing.  Then he took the worst picture of us that has ever been taken.  NOt that the exposure was bad, we just looked like we had walked through a wind tunnel and had wounded German speaking egos.

After lunch, we napped on the dorm like comfort of pushed together twin beds.  When I woke up, I realized that the sun was setting and we were pulling out of port.  I cracked my back into place and rushed up to take a few photos.

You'll notice that we're wearing fleeces.  Right after this picture, we rushed back "inside" to warm up.  This became the story of our lives for the rest of the trip.

Mr. Palindrome, ever the negotiator, wanted to attend a shopping seminar that promised to teach us how to get the manager's price when we pulled into Nassau.
The seminar turned out to be an hour long sponsored infomercial with a hard sell.  There were no tips on haggling, just story after story about how Nassau was a premier shopping destination.   The only redeeming factor was that I won a free bamboo t-shirt for yelling, "Woo!" at the appropriate time.  In port, I went to buy the incredible bargain of bamboo sheets, but at $140, even with the manager's discount of 10% and shipping, I might as well buy these from Brookstone for a sale price of $79.95.  The shopping was a tourist trap with two capital Ts.  Tourist. Trap.
 We did have a nice morning on the boat eating breakfast and imagining ourselves in a Bond film.  I survived an attack of the gulls by acting like an enraged lunatic and flapping my hands like an Angry Bird.  The only casualty was a sausage link.

Mr. Palindrome stripped down to his t-shirt, but if you can see my reflection in his sunglasses, you can see I was still wearing a long sleeve running pull over.  I figured I could always take it off later if I got too warm on our excursion.  We had two really good guesses about our knee-padded excursion, but I was really doubting anyone would guess.  We're such nerds.

 In my little, naive, and overly optimistic mind, I had grandiose visions of seeing the real Bahamas.  I wanted local guides to give me the inside scoop on the best conch chowder, local beer, and meaningful souvenirs.  What we got was a 10 minute ride down to the Fish Fry, a 30 minute free for all on a cricket pitch, and a hard selling market where children were begging me to buy their mother's goods.  But gosh, riding a Segway is fun.  For reals, if I ever live in a place where it would be plausible to ride one to work, I'd totally get one.
One nice thing about our tour guide is that he took several pictures for us and didn't charge us for the prints.  His directions were hilarious: "Face each other.  Lean over the handlebar.  Give the peace sign.  One knee up!"  This is our one knee up pose.

After the tour we thought about heading back to the Fish Fry area for local food, but since we had passed it twice on the Segways and it was out of the way from down town we skipped it.  Big mistake.  We ended up eating at the Iguana Cafe Bar and Grill.

At this point, it was overcast and windy but I still insisted on eating outdoors.  After earning my nickname of the Bee Slayer though, I thoroughly regretted it.

I had just read an in depth article in the Delta magazine about bee keeping, so I felt bad about killing off a dying species, but not bad enough to risk getting stung.  Been there, done that and never want to get stung again.  Mr. Palindrome said he would take over, but after a few missed swats, I knew he wasn't a killer and I took the duty back.

In retrospect, we should have made the extra effort to walk back to the Fish Fry because as I alluded to before, the shopping was not worth the effort of walking around down town and the lunch was so-so.

Actually there were a series of things that were advertised on the boat that turned out to have strings attached.  The shopping seminar's "Free Charm Bracelet" was only if you visited a certain store down town, presented a coupon, and then you had to buy the first charm.  The poker tournament rules weren't announced until after the initial buy in and it turned out that they were offering 3 additional rounds of re-buying in and a waiting list that could get spots for the first hour.  The art auction advertised a free print, but when you got there it was explained that you had to apply for a credit card that you could only use to buy art with their auction company.  The gimmicks went on and on.  I haven't felt more nickled and dimed since the last time I did my own taxes.  Soda mugs were being sold for $6.95 a day.  Coffee was only free in the buffet not at the bar in between meal times.  Printed photos were running $10-30 depending on the size.

We had decided that we didn't want to pay too much for extra food and drink, so we didn't sample any of the upscale restaurants which had $25 cover charges.  We hit up the two for one martini (STRONG!) and the two for one mojito (weak!) specials to limit our alcohol bill.  Even with fairly conservative on-board spending, the cabin bill still seemed high for a vacation that is marketed as inclusive.

On the last day of the cruise, we moored near NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay which they tout as this pure, untouched paradise.  Some of it certainly was very scenic and nature-y.  However, when they're in the middle of construction on half the island and there are 1000 people all in the same little strip of beach, it's not quite the paradise you'd imagine from the description.
Mr. Palindrome and I braved the water for about 15 minutes when the sun managed to peek through the clouds.  We donned snorkel gear and swam about the cove with about 20 other snorkelers until we got separated.  Mr. Palindrome swam with another woman for a few minutes before realizing she wasn't me.  By that time I had headed toward shore with blue lips and chattering teeth.  We went back to the boat and took a nap.

Besides the poker tournament, our other evening entertainment consisted of a newly wed/not so newly wed game show, a Elton John/Billy Joel sing-a-long and a comedian.  The game show was only as good as the contestants, but we had a lot of fun talking about our answers to the various questions.  The sing-a-long was a ton of fun - even though we were the only ones under 50, we knew all the words and belted them out with the gusto that accompanies a bucket of beer.  The comedian was hands down the funniest comedian that I've seen in a long time.  Guttural laughs are the sure sign that it's darn funny.

We didn't know the check out time until the night before the last morning.  Turns out that latest time to disembark is 9:30. AM.  In the morning.  The 9:30 we hadn't been awake to see the whole cruise.  We actually had to set an alarm.  What a way to end vacation!  We weren't about to skip the included breakfast, so we crammed that in too.

The bottom line is that we got a good deal ($229 per person for the 3 day cruise with an ocean view picture window)  which is reasonable for food and lodging on a vacation.  Our excursions, Segway and snorkeling, were fun but did not meet expectations.  Our favorite part about the trip was spending time together with no technology.  We realized that we're more into travel vacations than tourist vacations.  If you were interested in going on this same cruise, I wouldn't recommend it but would rather encourage you to try other ports and go later in the year.

Have you been a cruise?  Give me your recommendations!