Life Happens While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

New year, new blog, new fiance, new home.  You read that right, Jefe & Sledge are finally getting hitched! Needless to say it was a rather exciting holiday season as Jefe popped the question right before Thanksgiving.

After the confetti and bubbles in the champagne settled and the parents all had wedding bells on the brain, Jefe and I started to discuss what was next for us.  The big plan if you will.

That led us to Craigslist, an apartment showing and a quick lease signing later, we had the keys to a new place.

So what convinced us to decide to sign a lease while visiting family and planning a wedding all over Christmas break?  Central air.  Refinished hardwoods. Sconces.  A fireplace (nonworking, but it’s beautiful).  FRENCH DOORS.

I’m sure you all want to read a little less and ogle a little more so without further ado, here’s our new place!

 

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Front entrance! White roses line the walkway.

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Our amazing living room!  It’s bright, airy, super spacious yet cozy.

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Great archway in to the dining room.

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A chandelier we don’t hate!  And ALL the lights in the apartment are on dimmers!

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The kitchen is large with plenty of counter space.  The colors have proven a bit challenging as I don’t know how to accessorize two-toned blue floors and buttery yellow walls, but I’m up for it!

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The second bedroom we’ll be using as our home office.  (I can see the Red Sox paraphernalia filling the walls now….)

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And our master.  The place was renovated with such an eye for design while still being neutral enough that we can inject our own style in to it.  Because of this, I don’t even hate the boob light because it matches everything else!

There’s plenty more to come (including our amazing bathroom with pedestal sink and original penny tile floor) but as our place is still COVERED in boxes, we’re not quite ready for the full, non-Craigslist ad pictures yet.

But there’s definitely more to come in the next few weeks!  Sledge is back (and engaged!)

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Hello?  Is anyone there?

Hi.  You may not remember me but I’m the former blogger who disappeared into oblivion 5 months ago without a trace.  Where did I go you might ask.  What have I been doing you may inquire.  Well, to quote the great Donna Summer: she works hard for the money.

The day job got the better of me.  I love what I do, and think I’m damn good at it.  But I definitely have been earning my paycheck lately.  Countless late nights in front of a computer screen and over 30,000 miles flown proved difficult to make time for dinner, let alone playing amateur decorator and blogger.

But I’ve missed you all!  And missed making things pretty which my life could definitely use a little more of lately.  So in the coming weeks I will begin to emerge from hibernation.  Frequency and consistency, however, is not the name of this game so bear with me while I get back in the swing of things and find a little more blogging balance in my life.

Bonus – I already have some fun projects stored in my digital attic that I’ve been unintentionally hiding from you!  Backyard?  Done!  Living room rearrange?  Done!  New artwork?  Done and done!

So for now while you patiently await my next impromptu appearance (as I certainly fail to plan these things lately), here are a few personal highlights from my otherwise very professional last few months, courtesy of my dear friend and companion Instagram:

Jefe & I headed to Seattle in May:
Seattle 2015

Seattle 2015 2

Then I headed to NY for 2/3 of the month of June:

NYC 2015

NY 2015 1

 

 

Insta - NYC Bridge

Finding Neverland

But over the weekends, I’d hop the train to head home to Lancaster, PA for much needed reunions with family & friends.

Lancaster Summer 2015
Besties 2015

Insta - Casey & I

Once I got back, I did manage to find a few moments for a little beauty while at home.  It was peony season after all!

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Jefe & I spent my second favorite holiday at the Hollywood Bowl:

July 4th 2015

Insta - July 4th

And later in July we headed to Anaheim for the annual Red Sox / Angels match up.  The Wells men came to represent:

Red Sox Anaheim 2015

We also experienced the first Anaheim cancellation due to rain in over 20 years!

Red Sox Anaheim 2015 2

A few weeks later I headed out to the Rhode Island Film Festival for work:

RIFF 2

RIFF 1

After all that travel Jefe and I tried to escape for a few days.  But an excruciating LA heat wave kept us from the beach and Disneyland so we escaped inside to the LA Natural History Museum.  Dinos!

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Later in August, Jefe & my friend John and I hit up the LA Food & Wine Festival, complete with a performance by The Roots!  This picture does NOT do it justice; we were 15 feet from the stage!

The Roots!

Once September hit, I was knocked off my butt by a serious cold & cough.  But I had to suck it up as it was time to run the 5K I had been prepping for with Jefe & my brother who came to visit just for the occassion.  It was brutal, but I made it.  Slow and limping wins (well, at least completes) the race.

Dodgers 5K 1

Dodgers 5K 2

And like the good USC alums we are, we headed to the SC vs. Stanford game with our friend John.

USC Football

Two weeks ago I left for a 9 day business trip to attend a few film festivals.  I was pretty stoked to travel internationally for the first time since I was 16!

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage! 2I also happened to fall head over heels in L-O-V-E with London.  I’ve already plotted how Jefe and I could change careers to make the move.  L-O-V-E.

Insta - Trafalgar Square

Insta - London Bingo

 

London 2015

Insta - Buckingham Tea

Insta - London Eye

Insta - Big Ben

Unfortunately the love affair was short lived as I had to keep on moving.  This time for Vancouver.  Most of this leg was spent either working here:

Insta - Vancouver Bed

…or in screening rooms at the festival.  I did manage to snap this beaut on the way en route to the airport on my last day:

Insta - Vancouver

And this one while landing later that night.City of Angels

I came home carting a handful of gifts for Jefe but he happened to have a surprise for me too!Welcome Home Gifts

I hope everyone had a less eventful, but fulfilling summer!

And the Oscar Goes To…. Not Me

Apologies for my MIA status; my day job got the best of me during awards season.  That, combined with an impromptu trip home to PA over Valentine’s/Presidents’ Day weekend led to one very busy Sledge.  But now that the Oscars are officially over, I’m getting back in the swing.

I’ll be back later this week with not one, but TWO posts for you.  A final recap of Ellen’s Design Challenge (which is currently waiting for me on my DVR) and a little trek through an incredible antique store from my trip home.

So for now, I’m going to leave you with a little preview of what’s to come.  And for those follow along on Instagram, these are just a double dose of beauty.

Federal Mirror - Burning Bridge Antiques

Preview #1 from Burning Bridge Antiques

Wagon Wheel - Burning Bridge Antiques

Preview #2 from Burning Bridge Antiques

Foundry Mold - Burning Bridge Antiques

Preview #3 from Burning Bridge Antiques

Susquehanna River

The frozen Susquehanna river between Columbia & York, PA

Me at our office Oscar party

Me at our annual office Oscar party

 

Isn’t It Pinteresting?

It’s been way too long since I gave you all some pure, unadulterated eye candy and random musings on the world so that’s what you’ve got today while I’m hopping a cross-country flight back to La-La-Land. I’ll be back later later this week with my usual recap of Ellen’s Design Challenge.

Let’s start with a little Pinterest visual stimulation (all the images below can be found on my Pinterest page). Here are some of the things I’ve been drooling over lately:

BEDROOMS

EHenderson Bedroomsource

HouseB Eric Stonestreetsource

ATherapy Bedroomsource

CasaSugar Bedroomsource

KITCHENS

White Kitchen Blue Tilesource

Design Sponge Kitchen Redosource

Grey Kitchen Cabinets Wood Shelvessource

Warm Wood with rugsource

What’s Cooking In The Kitchen
Speaking of kitchens….. after Jefe noticed a bunch of our nonstick pots and pans chipping, we decided it was time for some replacements. I did a little research and turns out Sur La Table, my new favorite place to spend any and all extra cash, sells some of the highest quality sets for under $250.

Sur La Table Cookwaresource

Thanks to a sale and a leftover gift card from Christmas, we brought a new set home last weekend. I also happened to pick up a copy of The Joy of Cooking finally, so naturally I figured the combination of my new purchases would instantly turn me in to Julia Child.

Later that night I discovered I wasn’t that far off the mark: I whipped up one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever made. Chicken piccata with a side of green beans almondine. Although now I think I’ve raised Jefe’s standards a little too high for the amount of time I actually have to spend in the kitchen…

Chicken Piccata with Green Beans Almondine

Fashion Forward
Have any of you been following the latest fashion trend? The industry is FINALLY starting to take notice of the completely untapped resource of plus size consumers. From ModCloth’s amazing commitment to equal opportunity sizing and the wealth of plus-size fashion bloggers to Target’s latest Ava & Viv collection, women of all sizes are finally being given fashion-forward clothing options. I love the new Swimsuits For All ad campaign; who needs a Victoria’s Secret Angel when you can have Ashley Graham? Makes me *almost* brave enough to try out one of their high-waisted bikinis. Almost.

Swimsuits For Allsource

And as a result of this new trend, I’ve discovered some new blogs that I’m loving! Nicolette Mason in particular is my new current fav. Girl’s got sass and style that does not quit!

A little light reading…..
I love the Kindle app on my iPad. I’ve found myself reading so much more, especially since it can sync will all my devices. Waiting in line at the grocery store? No problem! You’ve got time to crank out another few paragraphs. The downside? Since you don’t have a physical book and its 800 pages literally staring you in the face, it’s all too easy to get sucked in to a book without fully realizing the commitment that you’re making.

Case in point: thanks to all the great feminist reviews of Starz’ new series Outlander and me without access to the channel, I decided to start reading the book. Literally THOUSANDS of pages and 6 books later, I’m fully engrossed in the series with at least another 2 books and a few more THOUSANDS pages to go. But damn is it good – Claire is the most incredibly fierce female character I’ve read in a LONG time.  And the hot Scot playing her 18th century love doesn’t hurt either… Example #1: Starz’s new ads for season one:

Outlandersource

All the reading though has reminded me how much I love it and list of things next on the docket for after I finally finish Outlander is growing quite long. Number one is Amy Poehler’s latest (I know, I know, I’m behind the times on this one). Thanks to my fav site The Everygirl, I’m certain that #2 on the list, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding (best.  title.  ever.) is going to give me a SERIOUS case of wanderlust.

What I Was Doing.....source

So there you have it. Random musings and a few very pretty pictures for the week. What have you all had your eye on? New cookware? Or maybe a new book you’d love to get lost in? I highly recommend Scottish time travel circa 1743 🙂

Ellen’s Design Challenge – Episode 2 Recap

Surprise!  You guys get 2 posts this week!  First off – are any of you watching Scandal?  Last night’s episode was bananas!  I can’t handle it!  But that’s not the show I’m here to talk about today.

Apparently a lot of you lost your cable on Monday night!  I’ve gotten a lot of questions this week about what happened on episode 2 of Ellen’s Design Challenge.  I have to say, I’m still holding out hope for this show.  There were a few glimmers this week.

To start, the challenge was a lot more exciting.  Each designer was tasked with creating a piece of furniture to house the mystery contents of a storage unit.  The contents varied from barware to baby clothes to craft supplies.

Storage

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What I really enjoyed was seeing the designers spend more time with their carpenters actually designing and building their furniture.  I know in a first episode of a new series that you need more time to establish the show – the rules, the contestants and their backstories, etc.  But in episode 2 you can really dig in and see the contestants’ process.

Building

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Ellen was again – no where to be seen outside of a TV monitor.  She provided the contestants with some inspiration for the challenge, however, I really missed seeing her in person.  Knowing that they film her talk show in LA and they filmed this show in LA, I am sorely disappointed that she couldn’t find time to show up in person to tape 5 minutes for each episode that has her own name in the title.

Katie

source

When it came time for judging all of the critiques were on point.  However, I disagree with their final winning selection.  I thought Gaspar’s sideboard for dishware knocked it out of the park.  I wouldn’t put it in my home but I thought it was stunning for the right space.

The judges had other ideas though and selected Katie’s red cabinet that was VERY 80’s inspired.  I thought it was over the line kitch, but the judges just loved the artful storage it provided for clothing.  Her finished piece is below:

Winning Cabinet

source

The judges eventually decided to send home Leslie FINALLY.  Although she caused drama, which makes for good TV, her overall attitude and approach to everything was just annoying and I was so happy to see her go.  The dresser she created to house baby clothes was too simple, lacking any unique features.  And as Christiane pointed out, the changing pad with a baby would have gone flying off the table without being properly secured.

So I’ll give the show one more week.  What did you guys think?  Are you still watching?  Or have you grown bored?

My Funny Valentine

Valentine’s Day.  A day full of love, romance and scattered rose petals or a made-up holiday perpetuated and capitalized by the greeting card and flower industries?  I admittedly fall somewhere in the middle.  I think it’s a crock to make such a big deal about February 14th.  I do, however, appreciate the sentiment behind it so whether you choose 2/14 or another one of the 364 days of the year, it’s nice to take some time out of your day to show your significant other a little extra love.

Somehow I literally forgot to post last year’s budget-friendly Valentine’s Day recap so here we are.  With 12 days left to make your plans, here’s how Jefe and I celebrated last year in hopes of giving you a little inspiration.

To start, for the last 4 years, Jefe and I both agreed “we’re not doing anything.”  And every year without fail, we’ve both done something for each other.  My gifts have varied, but Jefe has been pretty standard with beautiful flowers (thank you 1-800-Flowers!)  He’s not a romantic flowers kind of guy so it’s always a pleasant surprise when they show up, always at the office.

Flowers at the office

Flowers' ride home

Don’t throw away the box!  Repackage them for the trip home and no spills!

Last year, I was a little strapped for cash so I had to get creative and turned to Pinterest for budget-friendly inspiration.  There were thousands of options, some cute, others VERY tacky, but the things that caught my eye the most – food.  They say the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right?  Since VDay last year was on a Friday and Jefe would have just gotten home from a trip to NYC, I decided I’d make him his favorite for dinner – steak.

Dinner was a simple enough gesture though that I felt I needed to kick it up a notch.  So dessert was to be my special surprise.  Thanks to my Pinterest inspiration and Jefe’s unfailing love of root beer floats, I came up with this adorable little tag:

Valentine Float My Boat

Valentine Float My Boat 2

Then I attached the tag to a 4-pack of gourmet root beer (the vanilla ice cream patiently waited in the freezer.)

Valentine Float Root Beer

But that still didn’t seem to be enough so I whipped up a batch of brownies (Betty Crocker to the rescue!), pulled out a heart-shaped cookie cutter and went to town.  A treats box with gift tag later, and I had a great little set up.  To top it off, I grabbed one of our drinking straws, cut out a red heart from construction paper with 2 slits and added it to the straw.

Valentine Heart Shaped Brownies

With the places set though, the table looked a little bare (notice the vast void of blackness at the top of the picture).

VDay Place Setting 1

So I scrambled around the house for a few accessories to jazz up the space: flowers swiped from the bookshelf, votive candle holders stolen from another shelf, and I pulled out our fancy candle sticks.

VDay Place Setting 2

VDay Place Setting 3

I stood there staring, wishing I had a non-holiday table runner to really finish it off.  That was when I remembered Sherry of Young House Love fame (R.I.P. tear….) had previously used scarves to finish off a few spaces.  Next thing you know, I was rummaging around for my red infinity scarf and voila!

VDay Place Setting 4

All in I think I spent about $30 between supplies from Michael’s (gift tags, string, treat boxes and heart cookie cutter) and the grocery store (brownie mix, root beer and ice cream).  So you don’t need to get too fancy just to spread some extra love.  It was a bit cheesy, but I didn’t care and Jefe certainly appreciated the effort (and the brownie/root beer float mega dessert he had later that night!)

VDay Place Setting 5

Head on over to my Pinterest page to see some additional ideas that caught my eye for your own VDay inspiration!

Home Sweet Home

Christmas decorations always give any apartment that extra homey factor that many of our starter (or 2nd or 3rd or 4th) apartments are generally lacking.  I’m pretty proud of how cozy and “at-home” I felt with our home this holiday season – we thoroughly decorated and made merry with lots of friends of 3 different occasions, filling our home with not just holiday cheer but memories.  Now that the decorations are down and our place seems to be lacking in that “je ne sais quoi”, it got me to thinking about what really makes a house (or apartment) a home.

Living Room - Jan 2014

Our current living room

I’ve lived in LA for 7.5 years now and I can honestly say that Jefe and my’s current apartment is the first one that really felt like home.  When you live 3,000 miles from your nearest and dearest and are living on a limited budget, finding a place where you feel at home, especially in the urban sprawl that is the greater LA metropolis can be very difficult.  It’s taken me 7 years.  Now that’s not to say that it will take everyone that long, but it might.  So how do you combat that nomadic feeling that your “domicile,” for lack of a better word, just feels temporary?  That it’s not just a white box where you spend the hours you’re not in the office?

Croft Ave Apt - Moving Out Day

Our last place (aka – “The Big White Box”) on moving day

The first thing that is most important is the bare bones.  The physical space itself.  When home hunting, you need to think about:

a) Budget.  This is obviously you’re starting point.  What can you afford?  And is that number really what you want to spend?  Or would you rather go a little lower so you have extra cash for things like drinks with friends?  (Or if you’re like me, for Sallie Mae….)

b) Location.  Your neighborhood is a real contributing factor to your overall happiness.  My first place in LA was near USC, just off-campus while I was in grad school.  I quickly learned that I was on the WRONG SIDE of “off-campus”.  I couldn’t go out after dark by myself, neighbors were not friendly, and nothing was walkable.  It also lacked quite a few amenities both in the unit and nearby.  No one wants to have to drive 45 minutes in LA traffic to get to a Target.

My USC Hood

My former USC Hood – Its not too bad in the daylight…

c) Features.  What’s important to  you to have in your home?  Do you despise dishes and absolutely must have a dishwasher?  Or do you value a guaranteed parking spot at the end of a long day?  Make a list of your absolute must-haves.  And no, a girl (or guy) on a budget may NOT put “walk-in closet” as a must.  They don’t exist on a budget.  If you’re lucky enough to find one, you hold on to that unicorn because they are very few and far between.

My unicorn - Current Walk In Closet

Our Unicorn – The walk-in closet in our current place before we moved in

Now, make your list of “it’d be nice to have’s”.  Things like a washer & dryer in-unit.  Central AC.  A fireplace.  Once you have both of your lists and your budget, you’re ready to start your search.

The Search – I love looking at apartment listings as I’m always intrigued by architecture and design.  But you may not be like Sledge so you’re not inclined to just ALWAYS be looking at places.  But I do recommend that you start early.  Months in advance.  You never know what you’ll find and how long it will take.  Example: last summer Jefe and I briefly discussed looking for a bigger apartment.  We were outgrowing our 1 bedroom with open floor plan but we weren’t in any rush as our lease was month to month.  So I casually started doing my research as to what was available within our budget in our desired area.

Doing your research will help you set realistic expectations and ensure that you get the most bang for your buck.  In our case, I found a place rather quickly that from my research told me was a steal for the price with everything it had to offer.  Although Jefe and I didn’t think we were quite ready to move as we had hoped to have some more time to save up, the apartment was too perfect of a fit for our needs to pass up.  We had to rearrange a few things financially to make it work, but in the long run, we’re now in a place we can call home for the foreseeable future.  It’s somewhere we can just BE for awhile and feel settled.

So how did I find it?  Each city has it’s on idiosyncrasies when it comes to apartment hunting.  For example, in LA, Craigslist is a fairly safe bet up to a certain price point.  Once you start looking for nicer, better maintained units particularly on the westside, you may want to consider purchasing a monthly membership to Westside Rentals for the duration of your search.  Certain landlords ONLY post on that site in an effort to attract the right type of tenants (reliable with a steady income above a certain threshold).  I would only recommend this if you’ve gone the Craigslist route and have continually come up empty-handed.  What’s $50 if it leads you to the right place that will save you money in the long run?

Westside Rentals

I can’t speak to other cities, but I do know what a BEAST apartment hunting can be in New York.  I’ve never done it myself and from friends’ horror stories, I think I’m quickly aging out of my desire to move to the isle of Manhattan.  It’s like the Hunger Games out there.  And don’t even get me started on broker fees.  So what’s a single gal in the city to do?  I’ve only heard one success story of someone finding a place via Craigslist.  It was in Harlem but I’m still skeptical it was as easy as a simple Craigslist search; there had to have been a catch, right?!

So do you just ask for a trusted friend’s broker info?  That option gets pricey VERY quick.  But word on the street is that there’s hope.  Now I’ve never used the service myself, but for those of you longing for a shoebox to call your own in the concrete jungle of New York, there’s a new startup that I hear is doing wonders for the way Manhattanites apartment hunt.  Urban Compass, recently profiled by Bloomberg and TechCrunch, is trying to change the game.  I’ve played around with the search functions and have to say it’s definitely worth checking out if you find yourself searching in NYC.  The best part is you can easily focus your search on specific neighborhoods.

Urban Compass

In general though, apartment hunting can suck.  But by doing your homework, you can hopefully find a place to call home sooner rather than later.  Some things I looked for during this last round of hunting:

  • Lots of natural light – I’ve lived in a cave-like space before.  No fun.
  • Original hardwood floors – They give a space character and add warmth.
  • A more house-like layout – This is one of the biggest factors to making our current place feel less like an apartment and more like a private house.
  • Architecture features – These are obviously not necessities, but really can give a place character.  Archways, built-in bookshelves and fireplace mantles (regardless of whether you can actually light a fire) go a long way to making a place feel less like a cookie-cutter white box.
  • Open mind – This isn’t so much something I looked for but something I tried to keep.  No space will be perfect unless you build it from scratch.  So, if an apartment is 99% perfect, think about how you can take that imperfect 1% and make it work.  Example 1: how can you minimize that horrid, pink bathroom tile to make it livable?  Get a larger shower curtain, hang the tension rod higher off the ground and more of the tile will be covered!  Example 2: Hate those gilded brass kitchen knobs?  That’s an easy fix with a trip to Home Depot for a value pack of brushed silver handles.

Once you’ve found your place with the right bare bones, it’s on to the fun part – decorating!  But we’ll save that for another time.

Home Sweet Home