Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lovin' Those Stars & Stripes

“Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?...”
It’s safe to say that I’ve always been as “proud to me an American” as the next person, and maybe even a little more than “the next person” after my brother enlisted in the Army, but I have never owned anything that showed off my American pride. My parents have always owned, and flown, an American flag on the outside of the house (although, again, it was Jack’s enlistment that encouraged them to hang it from sunrise to sunset (did you know the US flag should never be left outdoors once the sun goes down, unless it is illuminated by some light; check out the US flag rules and etiquette here) every single day. Caton hung one vertically on the wall inside the garage (flush against the wall, with the blue union in the upper left corner, of course) when we lived in the apartment. We also have a new flag to hang outside the house, but have yet to purchase a flag pole. That’s my first “to-do” for 2011, so it will be displayed in a matter of days.
It’s also safe to say that I have never heard of Warren Kimble, an American folk artist from Vermont. Since I had never heard of him or his well-known art, it’s a given that I was a completely clueless bargain-shopper when I found this beauty at our local Goodwill.

The second I saw this piece (which I later found out is named Colonial Flag) I loved the art… didn't care for the color of the frame… but loved the art.  I brought the new purchase home and decided to do some research (read: type the artist’s name in Google) to see what exactly I had snagged up on the cheap. Literally 3 mouse clicks later I discovered that I happened upon a pretty neat piece of art. The original owner had paid $50.00 for the hand-crafted piece, while I paid a whopping $2.50 for the hand-me-down. And not only is the price cool, but I just love the art itself – the colors, lines, distressed/antiqued look. Everything about it.
I knew the lightly stained frame would never work with our dark wood furniture, so I decided to take my first trip down Staining Lane. The first thing I did was tape off the inside of the frame (the art had been professionally framed and the back was covered in paper, so I couldn’t take the frame apart to remove the glass) with blue painters tape.

I had picked up some Minwax PolyShades Stain & Polyurethane (color: Bombay Mahogany – since it matched our furniture perfectly) from Wal-Mart, along with a variety pack of sponge brushes (that was simply my preference). I set up my “staining station” in the garage (the fumes are pretty strong, so I wanted plenty of ventilation) and used a paper box lid to elevate the frame but also allow me to stain the sides of the frame. The number of coats is completely up the discretion of the DIY-er. I did this project over a weekend, so I stained once in the morning and once in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 4 coats, to get it as dark as possible. Many people would have sanded the frame down prior to staining (with 100 grit sandpaper or something similar) but I chose to stain directly onto the original frame. I liked the extra glossy look, but I may switch it up and sand/re-stain down the road. For now, I’m super happy with the results!

“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
I think of you every time I see it, Jackson.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Photo Card Reveal

With the holidays wrapping up this week, and all of our cards having been safely delivered the week before Christmas, it’s time to reveal the photo cards I made this year. I mentioned before Thanksgiving that I was super excited to use Shutterfly for our holiday photo cards this year. I received free cards, thanks to blogging, and also received some great deals in my email and online from Shutterfly. They were such good discounts, in fact, that my Mom, sister and I ended up pooling the discounts, ordering our cards together and splitting the cost three ways. Here are the cards each of us sent out to our family and friends for 2010.

The card from the Walkers. I just loved the fun colors and theme of our card (since our picture was taken on Bourbon Street while we were in Louisiana for our friend’s wedding)! The photo card budget was tight this year, so I felt horrible that we didn’t get to send a card to as many people as we would have liked. But no worries, I’ve already made a mental note to start saving up early next year (when we start saving money for Christmas gifts) to cover the cards and the stamps – those are the killer!

The card from the Wohletz family. Ah, those little boys are so adorable! I am one lucky Aunt.

The card(s) from the Fagan family… all of us! Funny story on this one; Mom had two cards to send out. It’s a long story, but basically she needed more than we could originally order with our discount, so I created another card with the same pictures and message. Some of our family members and friends received the glossy one-sided card and some of them received the matte card stock traditional-open-and-close card. I have no idea how she decided who would receive which style, but loved both of them!

I love making holiday photo cards and love receiving them even more! We have some great ones in our card basket to help us remember 2010, and they’re still arriving this week. Until next Christmas… take great photos in 2011 so you have lots of good options for next year’s card. J

Butter Me Up

The Butter Bell Crock is one of the best inventions ever (in my opinion, at least). I love it! Haven’t heard of them? I hadn’t either until my Mom had this weird thing sitting on the counter that none of us had ever seen before. I won’t lie, we were all skeptical at the beginning, but I have been wishing and hoping we would get one as a gift for about a year now. Lucky for us, Santa brought one for Christmas and we couldn’t be happier.
Here's how it works. It’s basically a modern day version of the French’s ingenious method for keeping butter at the perfect temperature and texture for spreading (because we all know that slathering on that butter is only fun if it’s soft and creamy and doesn’t rip the bread in half as it’s so cold it’s practically frozen solid). By placing a small amount of water in the base of the crock, the lid (and butter holder) is tightly sealed to perfectly protect the butter’s freshness and flavor. It’s hard to believe, but even though it’s sitting out on the counter (it never goes in the fridge) and the butter is tipped upside down, it won’t go bad and it won’t fall out. I promise! If you love butter, I highly suggest picking one up for your household. It’s a great investment, and one that won’t break the bank (they run about $20.00). Just think of all that tub butter you buy throughout the year. You can get a pack of stick butter (the lid holds one entire stick at a time) for half to a third of the price and it will last two or three times longer than one tub… and it will be fresher and more spreadable. Ours is from the Ranchmart Ace Hardware Store in Leawood, KS (the same place my Mom has gotten hers and others for gifts, and it’s also where we picked up the one we gave my father-in-law for his birthday). They carry the Retro & Matte Finish Collection and I just love it! There are seven styles and endless colors to choose from on the website, which makes it all the more functional and fun for you and your kitchen d├ęcor. 
This is the red Butter Crock I picked for the in-laws (they have more of the fiesta theme in their kitchen).

This is our blue Butter Crock; I’m a sucker for anything blue and it goes nicely with my kitchen accents.

Here it is in our kitchen. Isn’t it cute?!

I don't know about you, but I'm craving some bread and butter with dinner tonight! In the words of my 5-year-old nephew, "Bread and butter is my favorite food in the whole world!" Amen to that, Scotty!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Holly Jolly Christmas

We had a holly, jolly Christmas! It was the best time of our year. There wasn’t any snow, but we sure did have a cup of cheer. We said hello to friends (and family) we know and everyone we had the chance to meet. Oh, by golly, we had a holly, jolly Christmas this year… and hope you did, too!

Staying true to our holiday swapping traditions, since we spent Thanksgiving in KC with the Fagans, we hit the road and traveled to Wichita for Christmas. Although we heard about the possibilities of, and waited for, snow throughout the long weekend, but didn’t see a single flake or flurry while we were there. We arrived in Rose Hill just in time for our favorite meal, my mother-in-law’s famous Pizza Tacos! Haven’t heard of them? I’m not surprised. They originated in Pratt, Kansas where Charlie and Phyllis Hoffman (founders and owners of Charlie’s Pizza Taco) invented the amazing pizza/taco creation. Having a hard time imagining it? Just picture a pizza crust with sausage, pizza sauce and cheese folded up like a huge taco and baked in the oven. Once it comes out cooked to perfection, lettuce is added and voila! You have an amazing meal! I’m craving one right now… My MIL is one of the lucky few that “purchased” his recipe and expertise. She spent an entire week with Charlie in his restaurant learning the ins and outs of the Pizza Taco legend (you might be chuckling to yourself right now, but there is more science, precision, technique and heart required to make these than anyone can imagine). If you’re on Facebook, check them out and be sure to drop by if you’re in the area. You won’t regret it! Charlie's Pizza Taco on Facebook

After the amazing meal and catching up with the in-laws we jumped in the Envoy with Dan and Erica, Caton’s brother/my brother-in-law and our sister-in-law, and headed out for a night of dancing and catching up over a few drinks with the cousins. We assumed the country bars would be packed with everyone in town for the holidays, but we were dead wrong! The first place we tried, Club Rodeo, was completely closed (who does that?!) and the second place, Denim & Diamonds, was open, but we practically had the dance floor to ourselves. Not that we’re complaining! We danced up a storm, took advantage of a great drink special and had a blast catching up and two-stepping our boots all around the dance floor.

The girls - Erica, Jessica, Kat

Having a great night with My Love

The boys - Caton, John, Dan

The whole group

We spent Christmas Eve in Pratt, Christmas Day in Rose Hill and Christmas Night and Goddard. It was so great to see family members we hadn’t seen for a while and we had a blast listening to music/singing, catching up on conversation and playing games.

The Holland family in Pratt

The Christmas tree in Rose Hill

Christmas morning with the Walkers

Since we spent the long Christmas weekend in Wichita, we actually celebrated a week early with my side of the family. Even in your mid-twenties it’s still exciting to give and receive gifts early, isn’t it?! The Fagan Christmas celebration started out the best way imaginable… with a surprise visit from Santa! Who knew he could deliver presents to your grandparents’ house?! Hehe Since my sister and brother-in-law have such a crazy-hectic Christmas celebration schedule, they decided they could get away with an early Santa delivery at least one more year. My 5-year-old nephew, Scotty, knew (thanks to a letter to and from me Santa a few weeks before Christmas) that Santa would deliver his gifts early IF he was a good boy up until Christmas, but he didn’t know when or where they would be delivered. The look on his face was P-R-I-C-E-L-E-S-S when we walked into the Family Room that afternoon to see the Santa spread waiting for him and his baby brother, Aiden. After we made it through the slower-than-a-snail amazingly-fun-and-totally-worth-it traditional Fagan method of opening gifts one-by-one so everyone can see what you’re receiving, we enjoyed wonderful Christmas music, our new items, great wine (for the ladies) and Scotch (for the guys) and sat down to a delicious meal of grilled sirloin steaks, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and fluffy Hen House rolls.

Santa visited Scotty & Aiden at Mimi & Pop's house

One surprised and happy boy

Our smocked stockings

Jackson and his Angel

The Christmas tree in Prairie Village

The beautiful early Christmas dinner

The Fagan family on (early) Christmas

I have always been one to get more joy out of giving gifts than receiving them; and not only giving gifts, but watching the gifts being opened by the recipient. I love everything about it: the way my heart races just before they tear open the wrapping paper, the look on their face as they realize what it is, their first words or reactions, everything about it! This year may not have been our biggest spending year, but it was definitely one of our best gifting years. Every item was well thought out, meaningful, and purchased after much discussion. Many of the gifts we gave this year were also given from the heart - literally. I made the majority of gifts that we gave this year (whether it was jewelry, a personalized calendar, or a potted plant) and it made the entire experience that much more special and fun!

We were blessed with many wonderful gifts from our family members. Here are a few of the highlights.

Ahhhh! Isn't she beautiful?! What a great husband.

The hubby also surprised me with my favorite perfume, VS from VS.

And the lotion to go along with it!

My parents got us a Butter Bell Crock. So exciting! I'll explain more later.

My 63" HO Blast Combo Skis!

I was beyond shocked when my in-laws surprised me with these... my very own water skis! I have rented these exact skis (they're blue, of course, and child's size so they actually fit my narrow little feet) the last two years we went to Table Rock Lake. They secretly bought them at the end of the trip after I had returned them and I had NO idea. Oh, I just love them so much! Hurry up, summertime!

One of my favorite gifts for the hubbs.

The North Face fleece from my parents.

Another North Face item from his honey.

Caton's AC Delco jack stands from his parents.

My husband has developed an obsession with all things Elvis. Gotta love The King!

We are so very blessed to have each other, our families and friends. It was a great year and wonderful Christmas holiday. We can't wait to see what 2011 has in store for us!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

House Tour Part II

Welcome back to the three-part Casa de Walker home tour. House Tour Part I covered the front of the house, entryway, living room and dining room. Below are pictures of the kitchen, family room, first floor guest bedroom and hall bathroom.

The Kitchen – Before:

The Kitchen – After:

Oh, don’t you just love the little galley kitchens that so many smaller homes from the 40’s and 50’s?! Ha! I do love the tile, white cabinets and extra large sink. We went from an open, expansive, more-cabinets-than-we-need kitchen in our apartment in Olathe to this closed-in, narrow, slightly claustrophobic, just-barely-enough-cabinets-for-everything-except-the-pots-and-pans kitchen in the rental house in PV that you saw above. Here is what our kitchen looked like (almost completely packed up right before we moved):

Yowza! It's like night and day... oil and water! BUT, we told ourselves that we love love love everything else about the house, so we can find creative ways to deal for a couple years. The first (and best) thing we did was purchase a pot rack. The landlord/previous tenant had a three-tiered shelf along the back wall, but it seemed too invasive and overwhelming in the small space. That, and the fact that we would have nowhere to put our trash and recycling cans or my trusty Kik-Step stool. Seriously, one of the best wedding gifts we received. It’s a rolling stool that you can “kik” (read: push or nudge) around with your foot, but once you place any weight on the upper or lower level of the stool, it plants itself and locks in place. We love our stainless steel one, but they come in a variety of cool colors. Check them out! 

Anyway, so we decided to skip the bulky shelving unit and go with a more modern look by using a pot rack. Some people may cringe at the thought of their (or anyone’s, for that matter) pots and pans out on display for everyone to see, but we love the idea. For starters, our wedding-gifted Calphalon set is still super nice looking so it wouldn’t be an eye sore, at least to us. In addition, we do a lot of cooking, so the thought of not having to bend down to get pots and pans in and out of the cabinets on a daily basis was super exciting, especially to my 6’2” husband! We looked all around, but I ended up making the final purchase with a site I’ve been coming back to time and time again, Hayneedle. They. Have. Everything!!! We’re talking over 220 stores (and counting) of online shopping heaven all combined in one website! If you haven’t checked them out before, I suggest that you do now. And I’m going to apologize in advance because you will probably be upset that you didn’t know about them sooner when you were doing all of your Christmas shopping. And the best part, they don’t have sales tax and they ship for free. Well, at least with the last 4-5 orders I’ve placed randomly throughout 2010 the tax and shipping was $0.00, oh, and you can sometimes find coupon codes out there as well. Happy Shopping!

So, I purchased the pot rack online and was very excited when it arrived less than a week later. The hubby opened, assembled and hung it on the wall in no time at all and a few minutes later I had everything (besides the wok and huge stockpot that are only used a few times a year - those will reside in the basement until they’re needed) neatly hung in its new hanging home. I love it! I still need to do something decorative and cute with the top shelf, but there is plenty of time for that.

The Family Room – Before:

The Family Room – After:

I love this room and am so thankful to the original owners for busting out the dining room wall 20+ years ago and adding on this amazing family living area (and the master bedroom). We love having a family room and have spent time in this room every single day since we moved in. It definitely makes it feel like home when we can be in the same room (whether we’re watching TV, I’m doing crafts on the coffee table or floor, Caton is working or playing on the laptop in the huge chair or we’re doing a combination of all of these) and we’re doing things together. We bought the matching couch, love seat (which currently resides in the living room, and will until we move to a bigger house with a bigger room that can accommodate all 3 pieces in the set) and over sized chair the week we moved in and we are so pleased with our purchase. The other piece of furniture we wanted I had to have was that incredible 9 shelf room divider (although we’ll always have it up against a wall). I first saw this beauty at the big NFM - Nebraska Furniture Mart - a few years ago and fell even more in love when my friend, Cindy, and are husband bought it for their home office last year. It is just perfect AND it matches the rest of our furniture in style, color, and design. I’m certain it was destined to be part of our home decor. I just love that I have a place to house a large number of our picture frames, fun pieces and decor, and even my 'Legacy of an Adopted Child' Poem (although, this isn't the exact one I have framed), for everyone to see.

The one and only thing I would have to complain about in this room is that wall paper. I’m not a huge wall paper person in general and, even if I was, this is definitely NOT my style. While we thought time and again about ripping it down and painting, we continue to tell ourselves that we don’t own this house and there is really no point in putting money into it. We are so excited to do home renovations on our own place some day, but until then we will deal with not-so-much-our-style wallpaper and be thankful that it at least goes well with our furniture and curtain color choices.

The Guest Room – Before:

The Guest Room – After:

I am so thankful to have not only one guest room, but two, in this house. This is the guest room on the main floor that will be used most often by our beloved family and friends that travel for miles away (or just drink too much to drive across town) to see us. The curtains were left by the landlord and I haven’t had a chance to replace them yet, but they will most likely be a simple navy blue to coordinate with the awesome Paisley bedspread (have I mentioned how much I LOVE Paisley print?! Don’t worry, you’ll get to see more of it in our master bedroom as well!). Unlike the guest room in the apartment, we did hook this monster of a TV up to basic cable so our guests, and nephews, have a place to get relax and unwind before bed or, in the case of the nephews, get away from the adults and play some video games or watch kid-friendly movies without interruption.

The Hall Bath – Before:

The Hall Bath – After:

The same goes for the wallpaper in this bathroom. It's just not our style, but I do like the color and we can live with it for a couple years (I tell myself this at least once a day, can you tell?!).

Stay tuned because the third and final house tour post is still to come. Last, but not least, we will tour the master bedroom and bathroom, the office/upstairs guest bedroom and the basement.