Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

With another year coming to an end, many people focus on what to do better next year. Me? I'll get there. I have goals. I have resolutions for 2012. There are things I want to do. But right now, I am going to relish in how wonderful two-thousand-eleven has been.

Actually, the end of 2010 is where 2011 really got good. Or at least, a big part of why. And the Christmas before that contributed to that as well. Christmas of 2009 was tough, really tough, on me because Nanny {my grandmother} had passed away and we buried her the day before our traditional family celebration with her. Christmas had lost the sparkle, the magic. It was my favorite time of year since...well, forever. Then all of a sudden I couldn't find the joy of the season any longer. The preparations were routine and empty for Christmas 2010; I went through the motions with my family and made sure the kids were excited. So when gift opening came around, I was showered with a brand-spankin new camera and a GPS from J, while he had only asked for a wallet, which I got him...and felt terrible about but now it's just plain funny. The third and final gift for me was heavier and I had no idea what else he could have possibly gotten. I opened it, saw "Will You...." then turned and saw J next to me on one knee with the ring to ask me to marry him! I cried. Hysterically. I think I scared him...but I was so happy!

I discovered he went to ask my parents for permission earlier in the week {ahh be still my beating heart!} and had been planning this for quite some time. He found out that my Dad proposed to my Mom on Christmas Eve exactly 25 years before! Also, his parents got engaged at Christmastime, too. How perfect. This was an amazing way to bring happiness back to this holiday for me.

Come January, I found my wedding dress. It wasn't love at first sight like they show in movies, but deep down I knew it because I kept going back to it.

Courtesy Sarah Ciccone Photography

February marked the month one of my closest friends, Corie, married the love of her life. It was an honor to be a part of her day. Oh, and the Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl. Hey-o!

March I spent focused on our wedding plans, finally decided on a ceremony site, and had the bridesmaids all set to go in their dresses {which I loved and was tempted to buy one for myself, just for fun}.

In April, I continued the tradition of heading off to a scrapbook retreat with my BFF Corie and my mom. J traveled down to St. Louis to attend supercross races for his bachelor party that same weekend. Most importantly, that month our little B turned 4...F-O-U-R...{going on sixteen...} I can't believe it! She has grown into such a wonderful, sweet, and caring little girl, amongst many other attributes. I am so proud of her and am beyond grateful to be blessed with my little angel!

In May, E turned 1. It was so fun to watch her grow over her first year and I'm honored to be a part of her life as a stepmom. She's a beautiful, loving baby and I am excited to watch the girls grow up together and witness the development of a fantastic sister-sister relationship.

June came and went; we had our engagement pictures taken {favorite below} and I turned the big 2-4.

Courtesy Sarah Ciccone Photography

My little brother also graduated high school in June, and someone managed to snap a picture of all us kids, mostly grown up.

In July, we celebrated Independence Day by attending the local parade and carnival with B, then snuggled up on the balcony that night for fireworks over the lake. It's nights like that I wish summer lasted year-round. Mid-month I had my bachelorette party - about 14 of my closest friends/family went camping for a weekend.

August was the month where my life changed, for the better, for good. J and I chose a beautiful garden to wed at, found a wonderful presider to bless our marriage, and had our amazing family and friends there to witness our vows to one another...for better or for worse.

Courtesy Sarah Ciccone Photography

Courtsey Sarah Ciccone Photography

Aside from April 14, 2007 when B was born, this was the happiest day of my life. I can't believe how quickly it went. In fact, I need to set a goal to write down every detail of that day that I can remember so I can look back on it and never, ever forget.

Also that month, my parents celebrated their milestone 25th anniversary. My siblings and I threw together a surprise dinner party for them with family and friends in attendance. They are such a wonderful pair, and I am so lucky to have them as parents, with such an awesome marriage to steer me into my own. J's younger sister welcomed a baby boy at the end of the month, too!

In September, another BFF of mine, Emily, was married to the ying to her yang. {Moment to brag: I had a slight hand in their meeting because I invited her along with me on a road trip to Chicago in 2009 and he happened to be in the group that was going as well.} Emily and I have known each other since we were 7, so it was beyond words for me to stand up with her and be there for her on her big day.

October brought new changes for me on a professional level as I changed jobs. I now work an hour closer to home and that has changed the dynamic of our household drastically. It was a decision that was hard for me, but I am very glad that I made the change because this company has proved to be a fantastic place to work, and the employees here have nothing but good will to pass along to newcomers. It's encouraging and promising.

In November, I went on another scrapping weekend with BFF Corie and my Mom {I'm so grateful for this time with them; not only does my creativity flourish in that environment, but it is a great opportunity to bond}. It was this month that I traded in my sassy sports car for a practical SUV, dubbed "truck". {I refused to get a minivan, not me!} My cousins welcomed a baby girl and my younger sister had her baby boy - and what a cutie he is! I am so happy for her and so excited to have another nephew in my life...he makes 7 nieces/nephews for us! 

As December comes to a close, I reflect back on the excitement of Christmas, the time spent with family and friends, and all the blessings of 2011. I look forward to all of the exciting adventures 2012 will bring, but not yet. I still have two days to soak up this year and two days of memories left. Tonight J and I celebrate meeting six years ago and I am all for hanging on for just a little longer.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Dollhouse Rennovation: Complete!

It's complete!

Between my last update and what I'm featuring today, there was a lot of back-and-forth, hiccups, and neck craning to get the dollhouse done. I mentioned that the paint seemed to be "absorbing" into the wood...well after about eight or ten coats I finally covered most of the imperfections. The ceiling was the easiest to paint - using white craft paint and a foam roller I was done in two coats {leave it to me to buy the foam roller the day I'm finishing this instead of using a paintbrush for the whole thing first}.

I used a smaller paintbrush for the trim on the inside and the windows, both inside and outside of the house. That was tedious, but I kept reminding myself that I was almost done and all of these little details will be well worth it.

My Dad found the linoleum flooring at Menards for pretty cheap and went the extra mile to find me the appropriate glue {thanks, Dad!}. I measured and cut {a few's hard to draw a straight line off a tape measure alone}, battled a rash on my arms and knees from the fiberglass on the bottom of the flooring, applied the glue, and laid the flooring down. I think it looks AMAZING.  

I am so glad to have this dollhouse rennovation out of the was such a relief to stuff it into the truck {okay, it's a Ford Escape, but it's a truck to me...I just traded in my Cobalt Coupe}, watch the hubby haul it up to the condo, set up all the little furniture and details I had spent hours bidding on eBay for, and wrap it. The best part of it all was watching B play with it for the first time. It was so exciting and made me feel all warm and cozy inside knowing all the memories I stored among these miniature rooms will soon be joined by those of my daughter. This dollhouse was certainly a treasure for both me and my younger sisters, and I know it's something that B will not soon grow out of.

Here's the proud new owner of the home:

{Isn't she just darling?} The outside of the house is a navy blue with white shutters, but I didn't snap a picture of it. I will still have some touch up work in the spring with the roof, but other than that her and I can decorate the walls with wrapping paper, fabric, add small pictures, home decor...whatever her little heart desires!

Here's the dining room up close. It features a cute little table set up that includes everything Barbie would need for a fancy dinner party. Even wine {yikes!}. And yes, the window is missing, but we were unable to find it or a replacement. That's OK though. I have plans. Just need time...

Here is a quick pic of one of the bedrooms. There are some details I wish I had snapped on the hutch, like a fishbowl that B went GAGA over because it looks like her own pet, but once some updates are made to the decor I'll feature our creative additions in full.

This is the "big" bedroom...seriously the bed fits two Barbies. I didn't have that as a kid...they just fit one "back in the day"! This is a completely handmade set and I am so lucky to have found it for B. It's made for play, not just a diarama, plus it's fun, girly, and we just love it.

The living room couch is another handmade set, I got it from the same seller as the "big" bedroom. The entertainment pieces are all plastic so they should last for a while.

Well, there you have it. I wish I had taken pictures as I went along, but I'm going to use a bunch of excuses why I didn't and just make sure I photograph my projects better going forward.

What project should I tackle next?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas with the Ks

Christmas seemed to last forever this year; but then again it was only smushed into three days.

Day One: Christmas Eve Eve

The girls opened presents from us on Friday night.

B was so excited to unwrap her Belle doll...can you tell?

{The funny part was she opened the pajama set for the doll first, so asked, "Where's the doll for this? Duh." and tossed it aside.)

E didn't quite get it at first. She'd pull off a small piece of wrapping paper and go "Ooooh!" but at that rate we would have been waiting all night for her to open her gift {which I was stoked about...I knew she would love it!}. With some encouragement from her big sister, the wrapping paper came off.

This is E's face when Elmo started to rock out. I knew she would love it! The looks on their faces were priceless.

J and I agreed not to buy each other gifts this year, but both of us broke that rule. I purchased a fancy-schmancy fish finder for him {he picked up ice fishing as a new hobby this winter, I made him.} and he surprised me with a beautiful key-shaped necklace that features a stunning sapphire in the center of a ring of smaller diamonds. {Dia-monds...dia-monds...are a girl's friiiiieeeeeend!}

I tried to photograph it, but I don't have the proper lens, lighting, or knowledge to capture the sparkle it gives off...and how tingly and happy it makes me that he was so thoughtful.

Day Two: Christmas Eve

Santa came on Christmas Eve morning for our family since he knew E was spending the night and this was her "Christmas morning" in our home. B was up at 7:30AM and anxiously waited while J and I rolled out of bed and awoke the youngest sleepyhead.

{I was most excited for this moment!}

With camera in hand and J equipped with the video camera, we toddled down the hallway to yells of joy..."Santa came!"

Well, OK one member of the family wasn't ready to be up yet {no lighting in the hallway, lo siento!}.

"That's a Barbie house for me, I know it!", B announced.

Is that kid psychic or what? {When the "magic" of Santa passes on to her, I can't wait to tell her that the dollhouse was handmade for me when I was a little girl - I hope one day she will pass it on to her daughter(s) as well!}

Enamored immediately. With Belle in tow.

It's huge! {Where the heck am I going to put it?}

E still didn't comprehend what unwrapping presents was all about, so I put down the camera for a few moments and enjoyed helping her unveil her "big ticket" gift from Santa...a kitchen!

Oh for cute!

This is one of my favorites. B got SO excited when she saw Santa left Rio for her...she must like that movie or something!

E slowly unwrapped hers...{"Oooooh!"}

I love moments like these. Half a second later, B was staring at E the same way, both smirking then giggled. Sigh. I need to dedicate more time to learning my camera so I don't miss those moments.

Merry Christmas, girls! Here are some more shots from the rest of the festivities:

E found that the most efficient way to open a gift was to stand on top of it.

Umm...yes. My four {and a half} year old has a crush on the Biebs.

Oh. Em. Gee. Another Princess doll!

Whoo hoo! A shopping cart! After our afternoon with J's side of the family, we headed west for an evening with mine, filled with Polish foods, Polish traditions, and dedications to my grandmother, Nanny. I was so busy enjoying my time with the girls, my niece, nephews, and family that I didn't have much time to snap pictures. The one family picture I caught features my precious B in her winning performance of "Photo Bomber of the Year":

{I am on the floor next to J and E.}

Day Three: Christmas Day

This is spent with my mom's side of the family. She has five sisters so after all is said and done, there are many happy faces to celebrate with.

Here are a few pictures I got right before my camera battery died:

B with her new baby cousin, Ryker. {Notice the hair binder? Yep. We're cheese heads.}

Found two blurry pictures of B on Santa's lap. She was so shy but made me smile. Even as my camera battery died.

Overall it was a hectic, long, beautiful, happy Christmas weekend. The aftermath at our home took a few days to clear, but we have finally found a home for all the new toys and created some wonderful memories to treasure for years to come.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

{Insert Sad Face}

I discovered something rather heartbreaking this camera charger is nowhere to be found. I was able to snap some pictures of the girls on Christmas Eve Eve {TBE in a later post} and family on Christmas Eve but lost battery power on Christmas Day, just as B hopped up on Santa's lap.

With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday weekend, I was unable to dedicate time to finding it. Tonight, however, my mission begins. I am going all out, 007 style, to find this charger so I can redeem myself with some fantastic pictures!

Wish me luck...


Friday, December 23, 2011

My Dream Home: Dining Room

I can do all the cooking I want in my "Dream Kitchen", but where will my family eat? Oh of course in my Dream Dining Room!

Since the layout of my Dream Home has a dinette and a formal dining room, I have a few ideas to bounce around for our place of gathering to eat the wonderful food I cook, every day {in my dreams}.

This is what I would like in the dinette area. It's crisp, clean, and matches the kitchen so the room can flow together nicely {pinned it here}. 

I would also love french doors as pictured here. Beautiful!

Oh, and I would love a light fixture like this but of course in coordinating colors. I love that there's a design on it to give the space a little dimension.

I saw these chairs from Pottery Barn and fell in love; however, I would only want two - one for each end. I could also go with some fabric-covered chairs, but I searched and couldn't find anything at this moment that caught my eye {if I did that, I would get a natural rug for the texture}.

These are similar to what I would like for the rest of the chairs, but a bigger table with more of an expresso color than cherry! I am not sold on the black, but white or cream seem to scream T-R-O-U-B-L-E! Who am I kidding? This is my dream, and in my dream everyone is neat and nobody spills {even the kids}. Therefore...

I want these. And I really like that table too! In fact, I'm a fan of the molding here and the columns on the ends of the archway. Big fan. #1 fan. Ooooooh...

I love this wall of storage for the dining room. Expresso colored of course, but it would add texture and dimention to the room. I'm not a fan of the molding pictured here...I need something more crisp and simple.

Ahh...just picturing this leads me to wishful Christmases, Thanksgivings, and birthday parties to entertian for! A girl can dream, right?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Dream Home: Kitchen

The first room I go to when I come home each night is the kitchen. Probably because of where it's located, or maybe subconsciously my heart tells me to go there {you know, because I love food}. Regardless of the reason, it's absolutely one of the rooms in the house that I adore. I love creating a home-cooked meal for my family and entertaining guests; surely the kitchen is where the magic happens!

Here are some of the features I'd like in my "Dream Kitchen":


This kitchen is HUGE! The main things I would like to take away from this design are the counters {LOVE them! The color, molding, edges...oh!}, flooring, light fixtures, molding/trim, and the storage next to the stove! That's the perfect spot for commonly used items {olive oil, salt, pepper, etc} and some trinkets as eye candy!


This is what I would like the island to look like: lots of surface with lots of storage space beneath! I love the glass doors too; makes things pretty! I would like one side to be open for chairs since the kids enjoy helping me in the kitchen so much; that way they can be right up next to the action and I don't have to worry about moving from room-to-room with any ingredients! I also love the cookbook storage in this kitchen...great idea to put it at the end of a counter!


I had a hard time finding my "dream" cupboards, but the white ones in the background are the closest I could find. A little molding for character, and simple yet modern handles. I would change the cupboards above slightly...include more with glass in a "french door" pattern and I would change the knobs as well - to bronze handles. I also love the backsplash in this picture! The pattern and color are subtle yet offer a good contrast to the cupboards.


Let us "oooh" and "aaah" over this corner pantry! I love the can, spice, and wine racks, drawers to hide items "unfriendly" to the eyes, and the built-in storage for baking pans! Of course in my dream panty I have beautiful clear containers to store boxed items such as cereal, noodles, crackers, snacks, etc. In my dreams.

Now I know you're just dying to see the color scheme for the kitchen, and I picked it out to match the color scheme I've been going with already!


Ta-da! I love these colors {even the backsplash I found agrees!}. The dishes I registered for on our wedding lists had these shades in them and I adore the combination. Even though this is my "dream kitchen" color scheme, I already incorporate it anyways so this is my favorite part! It exists! It's tangible!

A few things off Pinterest that I found to make this kitchen more user friendly were a built-in cutting board above the garbage for easy disposal, mounting a paper towel rack in one of the "empty" drawer spaces, having a built-in utensil divider, and using one of the cupboards below to store small appliances on hidden pull out drawers.

*Sigh* What kitchen are you dreaming of?