Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crabapples

When we bought our house, it was the mountains we could see from our backyard that sold us. But as the realtor talked about the great resale potential, I dreamed about the potential of our backyard. I could see beautiful gardens, flowers, and above all apple trees.


Apples are very sentimental to me, as I recall so many summers and falls playing with my brother in the apple orchard behind our house. A real "home" has to have apple trees in the back.


While I have two dwarf apple trees ordered for spring delivery from a local nursery, I have three mysterious trees in our backyard that I hadn't yet identified. As soon as I saw the trees, I assumed they were crab apples, as they have the same leaf shape as regular apple trees. While the "apples" are tiny, marble sized, and covering the tree, I assumed that is because the trees haven't been properly watered for years, haven't been pruned, and the apples were never thinned. I've heard contrary opinions, however, and began doubting my early hypothesis.


What do you think?

My questions were answered last week when my mother in law and sister Cat came to visit before Christmas. Since my mother in law is finishing her masters in horticulture and planning on getting her PhD in Botany soon, I trust her. She said that I do have crabapples growing in my backyard. YEA! I have crabs! I mean crabapples. :) I foresee years of making crabapple jelly. Yum.

Hating Non Primary Colors

It's true. I hate non-primary colors, well, for Christmas lights anyway. I am a fan of classic white twinkers, but in a pinch, understand primary colors. The bright reds, greens, and yellows of Christmas lights. What I can't understand, and kinda hate are the new trend of neon or pastel colored Christmas lights. Its not traditional, and its... well, its just not right.

But I may be biased because I live next to the Griswolds. See evidence below:

Exhibit One: An inflatable and glowing Homer J. Simpson as Santa Claus. (I shudder inside every time I drive by it.)

Exhibit Two: Inflatable and glowing polar bear jazz group. Notice the sunglasses on the polar bear. I'm not sure if they're serenading Santa, or everyone in general. Hmm...

Exhibit Three: Huge snow globe with blowing snow inside. Poor little Santa, I think he may be suffocating inside.

While all of the above exhibits are tacky by themselves, the blinking neon lights of the whole think really sets it apart. I think the planes landing at DIA can see this house from above. And while the blow up decorations are tacky, the thing that sets it apart in its tacky elegance is the absence of primary colors. All the lights are neon pinks, blues, greens. It reminds me of my childhood attending school in Nevada, and all of those school trips to Las Vegas.


I don't think it would be as bad if my neighbors used primary colored twinkle lights. But even though I shudder as I drive past this house, I have to admit that I take the longer route home simply so I can see the lights. The tackiness expresses the simple joy of Christmas, and the enthusiasm for the holiday is breathtaking. While I laugh at the display, I'm already excited to see what they do next year.

I hope they use primary colors though.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Time -- Test Driving Trees

Like many of the crazy people in this country, I participated in the Black Friday sales after Thanksgiving. I am still ashamed of our society that can be so overcome by mob mentality in getting the best deal on a flat screen tv that they trampled a poor man in Long Island. I assure you that I didn’t trample anyone in my Christmas sales scurry, but my debit card took a beating.

I did do something terribly on Black Friday, something that I am almost too embarrassed to share with you all here on the internet. I mean really, its so silly, and as my day progressed, I felt even sillier.

So what was it, you ask? What was the embarrassing, only-I-would-do-such-a-thing? I took two Christmas trees on a test drive. Yes. I. Did.

I know. Silly. But since I got up at 3:00 a.m. in order to be at J.C. Pennys when it opened at 4:00 in order to get a $399 Christmas tree for $120, I felt justified (and since I was so exhausted I couldn’t really thing reasonably). I got my Pennys tree and set it up that afternoon. But as I put up the tree, I couldn’t help but think it looked a little pathetic. A little… well… fake.


I have nothing against artificial trees, in fact, that’s the only kind of tree I’ve had since I was five. While now I believe in artificial trees because I can avoid the cost of buying a new live tree every Christmas, the tree lasts a lot longer, I don’t have to vacuum dropping brown needles, and I don’t feel like I’m wasting a beautiful tree by cutting it down and propping it up in my house. I mean how many of these trees actually get recycled after Christmas? But anyway, (sorry about my rant) as I set up the Pennys tree, I couldn’t get past how shiny and plastic the needles looked.

So, running on caffeine, sugar, and lack of sleep, I jumped in my car and drove to Target, only a few miles away and bought the tree that I’d been eyeing for weeks. It was a bit more than the Pennys tree, but I wanted to see if those extra dollars was worth it.

So I set up the Target tree next to the Pennys tree… and of course there was no contest.



The tree from Target was much fuller, taller, and had different needles, some of them softer and fuller like a real tree, some straggly, and even some built in cranberries, pinecones, and twigs. It was love at first sight.


And so, the test drive complete, I disassembled the Pennys tree, jammed it back into its box, and drove it back to the mall to exchange it.



Be honest, have any of you ever done this? Or am I really just a freak?

Holiday Tour- Part Two

When I was still living with my parents, every Christmas season would greeted with much enthusiasm. My mom, both artistic, creative, and a wonder at decorating would greet the holidays with a determination to fill the house with Christmas cheer. As the one Christmas tree in the living room was joined by another tree in the kitchen, and later, even another Christmas tree, we’d tease Mom mercilessly. “Santa has thrown up all over the house,” we’d tell her. (We were ranch kids, and not delicate or tactful, obviously!) Mom would just smile and continue to hang up lights or holly.


And now that my husband and I have our own little nest to decorate, I’ve realized that my apple has not fallen far from the tree. I am just like my mother. We have three trees in our house, a large cowboy Christmas tree in the living room, a smaller kitchen tree in the breakfast nook, and a tiny tree upstairs in my sewing room.


I didn’t decorate outside this year, but delighted in Michaels and Hobby Lobby sales, and made two wreaths, one for our front door, and one for the upstairs hallway.

I mean, honestly, is there anything cuter than this chubby little cowboy Santa Claus?

Well, this one may be cuter, I can't decide.

Or this one. I'm not sure. And since they were all so precious, (and all 50% off at Hobby Lobby) I ended up getting them all. I'm a sucker, and this Christmas, it really looked like Santa Claus did explode all over our house.

Monday, December 29, 2008

101

In honor of this being my 101st post here on this blog, and because its almost the New Year and everyone is coming up with New Year's resolutions (and I always keep those!), I've decided to create a list. Not a resolution list, mind you, but a list of 101 things that I will do (or attempt) in the next 1001 days.

The Mission:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days. I will officially start January 1, 2009 and will finish September 29, 2011.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

key: (italics means that the task has been completed, with the date completed posted afterwards. If the task is to do a number of things, the number of items completed will be posted before the number of items total. For example. Wash dishes everyday. 5/1001 You get the idea)

Here goes:
101 Things to Do
Send out Novel to Agents
Finish Novel Two
Write 5 more Ranch Essays (5/5)
Compile Branded Nonfiction Book (7/15/10)
Join Book Club
Join Writing Club 1/24/09
Advertise Copy editing ServicesRead 75 books and blog about them
Read 12 classic books
Read 20 devotional books
Read the Bible in one year
Blog at least 5 times a week
Write in a paper journal daily for a year
Daily Devotional time for one year +
Write Down everything I eat for 2 months (1/60)
Attend two writer's conferences (4/2009)
Complete Master's Certificate in Web Design
Apply to Law School 1/1/09
Donate 101 things
Give blood 5 times (3/5)
Submit biweekly budget reports for six months (1/12)
Complete Access training course
Complete Excel training courseCreate Personal Web page
Do cardio 4 times a week for 4 months
Lift weights 3 times a week for 3 months
Get below 22% Body Fat
Complete the Couch to 5K plan
Run a 5K
Run a 7K
Run 5 miles Cherry Creek Sneak
Run a 10K
Complete a half marathon
Do 50 pushups in a row
Get defined Abs and Arms
Swim Two lengths of the Pool without stopping
Lose 5% of my starting weight on January 01
Lose 5% of my weight after losing the first 5%
Lose 5% of my weight after losing the second 5%
Take a multivitamin daily for 1001 days
Don't drink caffeine for one week
Don't watch tv for one week
Take two pilates classes
Attend 20 yoga classes
Attend 24 spinning classes
Pay off Discover Card
Pay off Citibank Card

Pay off USBank card
Pay off car loan
Create Budget 1/1/09
Maintain a Personal Planner Daily for a year
Read 10 financial books 3/10
Create Snowball Debt Plan 1/1/09
Ride bus to work 4 times a week for 6 months (3/24)
Pack lunch to work daily
Save a dollar a day for 1001 days
Open a Mutual Fund
Refinance House
Plant Vegetable Garden (5/2009)
Paint Garden Shed (5/2009)

Complete Wedding Scrapbook
Scan and upload old photos
Make a souffle
Make bread from scratch (Feb. 27)
Make doughnuts from scratch
Plant Roses (6/1/2009)
Redo back porch
Learn how to knit
Knit a stocking
Learn how to Crochet
Finish Queen sized quilt
Make 5 baby quilts 3/5
Build a gingerbread house
Create Emergency Kit
Buy a freezer for garage
Learn how to can food
Send brother cookies biweekly
Meet all neighbors
Host Neighborhood Party
Visit Coure d'Alene family
Visit Mom in Missouri
Visit Dad and Mom in New York
Give handmade Christmas presents to everybody once
Get Pregnant
Give birth to a healthy, happy baby
Do 25 random romantic things for hubby
Buy husband a bike
Plant herb garden
Learn to refinish furniture
Visit a flea market
Fly to Europe
Visit Ireland
Kiss the Blarney Stone
Eat dinner in Paris
Visit Italy
Visit Avignon, France
See a Broadway Play
Climb a 14er
Go camping with hubby
Go on a cruise
Plan special 5 year anniversary vacation

And after I've completed the list above, I will create a new 101 list.
I'll be linking and blogging about my list as I complete and/or attempt to complete the tasks I've chosen. If you're interested in creating a list of your own, check out this site, where a bunch of people have added their lists.

(This list was updated on 8/6/10)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Kitchen-- Before and After

Yes, you all remember the horror. When we first were looking at houses to buy this summer, we saw this kitchen. (shudder) In fact, the ugliness of the kitchen almost made us not buy the house. But we did, and moved into our first home, our nest. As we met our neighbors, one by one, each was delighted to ask how we liked the "custom" painting in the kitchen. Then we all laughed at the horrible combination of colors.
The cabinets and kitchen walls are painted a grayish blue, however each individual cabinet door is framed by a bright royal blue. Right next to the blue cabinets are sage green walls of the breakfast nook. The green doesn't last long, as the whole first floor is an open floor plan, and the dining room was painted a deep tan. The living room is a slate blue. WAY TOO MANY COLORS to absorb without hardly turning one's head. (And sorry about the dismembered state of the kitchen, don't judge me, it's not like that anymore!(Shuddering again!)

So our dear, lovely friend Greg, owner of New Creation Painting, volunteered to come over and help us repaint our kitchen. He showed us some of the tricks in the house painting handbook, as well as let us use his paint discount at the supply store.

(We love you, Greg!) Greg taped off walls and started the more precise areas of the project while the Chef and I sanded off the high gloss on the cabinets. What's worse than bright blue kitchen cupboards? Bright blue sanding dust floating everywhere. Whenever I sneezed for the next two days, my Kleenex turned blue (gross, but true).

Anyway, Greg showed us his nifty paint sprayer, which produced an ultra smooth glossy coat of paint... by the way, we chose a beautiful, pure, bright white-- the complete opposite of the blue horrors.

It took us a full day to paint the kitchen, breakfast nook, and dining area. It probably wouldn't have taken us so long, but we realized at the last minute that if we were going to sand the blue paint, we'd have to unload the cabinets so everything wouldn't be filthy and covered with horrible blue paint dust. So we unpacked, sanded, scrubbed, moved appliances, taped, painted, wiped, sneezed, painted again... and by the end of the day, we were exhausted!

Above, you'll see the Chef finishing up a wall. The lighter color, Salt Brush, is a soft brownish cream, a perfect neutral tone, that complements the slate blue of our living room walls and the bright white cabinets. (Note: the picture below makes the Salt Brush color look greenish, but it's just the camera, it's tan, I swear!) We painted everything around the cabinets, down the hall, all the walls this very calming Salt Brush color. I liked how clean and classic the white and brown cream looked together, so peaceful and calming-- the complete opposite of the feelings I felt before whenever I looked at the blue horror next to the green walls.

I sighed, happy to have finished our first huge home improvement project, when the Chef looked around.

"Well, the colors make the house look like a track home now."

I was crushed, and I know the colors are popular for being so boringly common... but at least now I have a background to work with, something that I can imagine repainting a more unique color later on, or highlighting with bright accents, rather than looking at the kitchen an whimpering in pain... what do you think? Are the color combinations from the Track Home theme? Or Classically Clean?

(PS. This is my 100th blog post... isn't that awesome!?)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas time is coming...

Welcome to my home! I know that most of you lovely readers can't actually come to my home and celebrate the holidays, so I'm participating in a couple lovely holiday home tours, via the lovely world of blogs.

Let me introduce myself for those that haven't visited before, I'm Cowgirl, born and raised on a cattle ranch in the West. Due to my happy marriage, I no longer live on a ranch but in the middle of a city. I'm trying to adjust, as well as settle into our first house, which we bought in August.


Our tree, which for the first time since we've been married, is a normal sized tree... before we had a miniature version. My decorations are what I'd like to call New York Cowboy, a nod to my husband the Chef's New York roots, and my own cowboy roots. So we have cowboys, boots, and horses mixed in with crystal, silver, and gold. Just because I'm country, doesn't mean I'm not fancy!

Love the star.

Cowboy Santas decorate the tree (which I just got from Target, and LOVE!)



The Nativity Scene that we just got from my New York in laws. Perfect!

The tree below resides in the breakfast nook so we can enjoy it in the kitchen. Last night as I was baking cookies, I was able to see the tree and look out the window at the falling snow... ahh. It's home now. This tree has super sentimental ornaments that the Chef's Nana made him almost thirty years ago. BooMamaChristmasTour
Today is exciting as both Hooked on Houses and BooMama and Kimba are hosting holiday tours... gotta love looking at people's fancy decorations! Stay tuned throughout the week as I continue giving the home tour.

Ya'll come back, now, ya hear?

Also check out these posts about my holiday decor:
Holiday Decor-- Part Two
Test Driving Christmas Trees

“The reports of my death are largely exaggerated.”

No, I’m not dead. Not even close, however I did fall into an exhausted coma or two during the last few weeks. Let me explain what happened…

(Also you get my English major’s kudos if you can identify the source of the quote above without googling it! Comment below and let me know!)

So, the end of the academic quarter is the week before Thanskgiving, which is always a bit stressful for me, as I finished up my own classwork, helped organize and advise students on the coming winter quarter, as well as helped wrap up the end of the year office tasks. On top of all that, since I work at an institute of higher education, all of the students were fighting off various diseases that were ravaging their poor exhausted, sleep deprived bodies. And then those same students come and sit at my desk and explain to me all about their registration woes, while breathing germs on me, and fingering my red stapler… So I got sick. Bleh.

Next on the list was Christmas shopping. I did the 3:30 a.m. shopping excursion on the day after Thanksgiving, hitting J.C. Penney’s, Macy’s, the mall, Home Depot, Pier One, etc… all before 10:00. I was exhausted but my Christmas shopping was finished! However, in the past week, I have returned almost 60% of what I bought originally, after all, I suffer from buyer’s remorse, and the economic downturn has made me more remorseful than usual. That Thanksgiving weekend I set up my Christmas tree, decorated, and cleaned like mad for my parent’s quick overnight visit.

The next weekend we hosted our first real shindig at our new nest. We had a housewarming/holiday party, and invited people from all of our lives. We had kung fu students, church friends, coworkers, and college professors mingling it up in our house. Because we (ok, it was all my fault!) were a little ambitious with our invitations, about 65 people showed up for our three hour open house. While the Chef’s biggest fear was running out of food, my biggest fear was that people wouldn’t like the house or would spill red wine in the middle of our cream colored carpet. None of the above fears occurred, and all say our first social event at our house was a great success! Yea!

But it’s taken me until now to clean, organize, and recover from all of that. So just today I feel alive! So, I have big plans for the next few days to take you on a tour of our house, now that we’ve painted, primped, and settled in. Christmas decorations are up, and I’ll show you those as well, and take you along through cookie central (i.e. my kitchen). It’ll be a wild ride!

So have you forgiven me for not writing? Let me know, sometimes I wonder if I'm just writing into the void and if its only my husband that reads this... I need encouragement! :) (I'm pathetic too, apparently!)

Also, check out today's super fabulous Christmas giveaway at My Journey Toward: The Glamorous Life of a Housewife.

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