Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tough Week

I don't usually take to this blog to vent, and trust me this blog won't be a long winded post, but this week has been a really tough one and I am so thankful to have had the weekend to recover!

You may be asking "what happened?" and trust me when I tell you it's isn't anything major. Everyone has all of their body parts/limbs, nothing happened to the house or anything like that. But it's been one of those weeks that the small "issues" add up to a big inconvenience.

  1. First up on the list-massive project at work! So we've taken on this rather large promotion/campaign at work and there are a LOT of moving parts. It's bigger than the Red, White and BBQ campaign we're working on now,  which is saying something because this month has been busy! I'm always up for a challenge and I'm eager to get this project started, but this week required many meetings to get all of the assignments figured out. Not bad {by any means} just a lot.
  2. Second up? A presentation in front of the other businesses with Dominion Enterprises on social media advertising. I wouldn't say I'm a good public speaker, but I'm not terrible. I've done presentations in the past and I always get nervous, but that wasn't the "issue". On top of a busy week I needed to take time to compile the data from our advertising campaigns and place it in a format for the panel discussion. {more to come on this}
  3. The final straw that broke the camel's back? My computer went kablooie!! That's right, Wednesday morning when I came into the office my computer wouldn't let me login. It decided to play a fun game of turn on, restart, repeat. So a very nice IT technician came up and did a test for what was suppose to be an hour to diagnose the problem. About 5 hours later it allowed me to login!! Yup, lost about half of day of productivity. {Just for everyone's FYI, I kept myself plenty busy with cleaning/organizing my desk-which was desperately needed-and sitting in already scheduled meetings, but I felt ill prepared} Oh, and it gets better! So after I get it back up & backup my hard drive-cause a little scare like that will make you rethink what you could lose-and work the rest of the day. Thursday morning I come in and guess what? It did it again!!!! So I was without my computer for two and a half days this week, which was fine. I got set-up on a backup computer {which I'm using right now} but there was a lot of back-and-forth of getting it set up for Internet, hooked up to the network to access my files, printers being installed, blah, blah, blah. Urgh.... :(

So there it is, my mini-rant about my tough week. I feel silly typing it out because it doesn't really seem like a whole heck of a lot, and could have been a whole lot worse in comparison to other things, but combined it made for one extremely busy {talking 9-10 hour days} week. I didn't feel as prepared for my presentation because I wasn't able to pull all the data without my computer working, which sucks, but that's the way the cookie

Fingers crossed this week will be less eventful and I'll be able to get some blogging in. I've got a under/over wine party that I'm getting crafty with & can't wait to show off my mad skills {total sarcasm}. :) Till then....

Monday, July 23, 2012

Landscaping Makeover Complete!

I'm super pumped to share the last segment of the yard/landscaping work we're having done to the house. We've had the backyard done, the side of the house and now the front flowering bed and the deck. There is a lot at stake with this portion of the work as it'll really help improve the curb appeal of our home.

We're not looking to move any time soon, but it's nice to not be the ugly house on the block-yah know? I wouldn't be surprised if our neighbors called HGTV Curb Appeal: The Block on our ass. But not anymore. But before I show you that transformation, let me remind you of the hideousness of the before pictures.

The previous owners clearly loved ponds by the fact there was one in the back and one in the front. The stone shape here was a pond but we ripped that out when we first moved in. TERRIBLE for mosquitoes. EEK! However, the owners were so fond of ponds that they had a cement surround. So Carter, from Koastal Landscaping Services, had to bring a sledge hammer to remove it all. That job was about 2 solid days in this blistering heat....yeah, wouldn't wanna be him!

Ready for the after photo? {Please prepare your best shocked face!}

In case you can't read it, the flag says Twitter!

So there are small bushes in the back near the deck which are suppose to be really easy to maintain. We can let them grow to get large, or keep them small {which is what I'm thinking}. You can also see the three grass plants which adjourn the rock wall {reused from the previous pond wall} and we have day lilies on the side near the front deck.

Speaking of deck, did you notice the difference in colors? Let me show the before & after next to one another for a better comparison.

And that's it! The 2012 plans for improving the outdoor space is complete! We got the back and front decks redone, the front, back & side yards landscpaed/mulched. I'd say that is one successful summer, wouldn't you?! :) Now it's time to celebrate with a PARTY!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Yard Work Continues

So this week we are getting some yardwork/landscaping redone. Actually, 2012 is all about the outside with us just getting our backyard deck redone and now onto the landscaping/yard work. The backyard is complete, but now it's time for the side area by our AC unit and the front by our driveway {remember the shrubbery}. Here's the before again, to truly appreciate the after...

So the bushes are overgrown, of course, and while I try to get out there every other week it still doesn't seem to be enough. So gone they are. Ready??

We'll need to do a little cleaning up but having the bushes removed makes it look cleaner and better yet, it helps reduce the little critters (i.e. ants) that like to crawl everywhere. So whatta think? Bare, I know. But makes me super happy. Less maintenance and it looks less white-trash! ;)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Style Guide Brings Color in a BIG WAY!

This summer brings lots of fun colors including orange, pink and more! I read in Better Homes & Gardens the July issue an interview with Today show fashion expert Jill Martin stated that the best thing about dressing for summer is using surprising color combinations. "You're now able to put color together in a way that's bold. {The only combo that doesn't work is red and green because it screams holiday.} As a rule of thumb, though, warm colors look best with warm colors, and cool with cool" said Martin.

With that in mind, I rocked two different outfits this week that had packed some color! First up, a casual outfit with some new shorts I bought at the Loft.

The polo shirt I had in my closet for several years. And the stripped purse was something my SIL gave me. PERFECT for summer! Especially with the 90 degree heat we've had in Virginia.

Next up? An outfit I just bought and was very eager to rock at work. The necklace was something I had my eye on for awhile & was just waiting for it to go on discount. SCORE! Last week I received a coupon and NY&Company launched CLEARANCE on all of their inventory. Insert Gillian's credit card HERE! LOL

Oh, and in case you didn't realize this from previous style guide photos-my hair is cut super short! ;) Do you like??

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Backyard Revamp 2012

As we make our improvements to the outside of our house, first up on the agenda is completely tearing out the overgrown shrubbery {that word always makes me think of the Monte Python movie}. Here is the before picture of the overgrown crap that we were blessed with...

It took about 8 hours to do it all, but the results are so worth it. When it comes to the back yard, if I want any "sparkle" or "glam" like flowers then I'll put a potted plant out there. That way when it dies, which it inevitably will, I can just throw it out. LOL. So here's the after photos...

Like I said, nothing crazy spectacular but just a little bit cleaner! :) Now this is something I can maintain. We still need to get feed & seed for that area where the pond was, but apparently the grass won't grow because of the heat. So we'll wait a few months for that.

Next on the agenda is the front of the drive way and the side of the house! Can't wait. {insert giddy laugh}

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012-The Year to Update the Outside

Remember when you went to buy your new home and you were dreaming of all the wonderful things you would do once it was yours?

Yeah, that feeling....

In all of our house hunting plans, the front yard and especially the back yard seemed to be a priority {I mean come on, we have a 10 lb dog who needs to have a huge space-right?} Little did Ryan and I know that with that extra space comes obligations to keep it up.

WHAT? You mean a yard requires maintenance? Hold the phone.

Fast forward 4 years {yup, that's how long we've been living in our humble abode} and you won't see any improvement on the yards since we purchased the home. Take a gander...

Yeah, that's what is next to our beautiful new deck in the backyard!

The pond in the backyard...who likes ponds?
The front yard, previously there was a pond {yes, previous owners loved them} not much curb appeal huh?

Bushes in the front of the driveway

Side of the house near the AC unit

I promise we aren't terrible homeowners. We, meaning me, typically stick to what we know which is on the inside of the home. I have never been good at keeping plants alive, that's why it made my 30 Before 30 List. So yard work with trimming hedges, pulling weeks and all that jazz is not my cup of tea. Therefore, we called in an expert!

I've been seeing signs all around the neighborhood for Koastal Landscaping Services. The owner, Carter, has been super amazing and really taking into account our lack of skills in this area.  He's devised up a plan to remove all of the crap in the back yard & just put mulch down. Yup, I want it simple and maintenance free. And in the side/front yard, he'll be getting rid of the overgrown plants and building a beautiful flower garden. That's a huge risk for people such as ourselves; however, Carter has promised me it'll be little to no maintenance!

And if that wasn't enough, we are also getting our front deck pressure washed, stained and sealed. As you can see, it is in desperate need of it {again, I must request you not judge us}

Stay tuned as this transformation takes place. I'm very excited to see it all complete so we can check that off our home improvement list!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fourth of July FUN!

It's never too late! At least that's what I was telling myself this afternoon when I decided to make a little tablescape {amateur at best} for the 4th of July.

I decided to bake cupcakes off something I found on Pinterest as well as sugar cookies. Since I got off work early I figured I'd have plenty of time before the barbeque we're attending tomorrow...... Well, I was right. I did have enough time. But it actually took a lot longer than I thought! Regardless, I'm super please with how it turned out & look forward to showing it off to my friends tomorrow.

First up on the agenda, the red, white & blue cupcakes! Here are the ingreidents for my baking festivities:

I mixed the white cake batter according to the directions {exception, I opt for the lower fat option by using unsweetened apple sauce instead of oil}. A little tip that I learned from a friend is after you mix the batter together, preheat the oven and have the batter sit with a kitchen towel covering the bowl for about 5-7 minutes. I'm not sure what it does, but it'll produce the moistest cakes!

1) Then I separated the cake batter and color one section red & left the other section white. Then I needed to pour it into my cupcake pan one color on top of the next.
2) First I poured the red batter into the pan, then pour the white batter in so it would be red-white-blue {frosting coming soon}. 

While those cupcakes were baking, I also started making the sugar cookies I saw on Pinterest. These, however, didn't turn out as great as I hoped. I think it's because I used too much food coloring. NOTE TO SELF: Start small, you can always add more later! LOL
The batter came together nicely and the cookies were super easy to make but I think I would have liked it better if there were more swirls of color versus completely blue. You know?!

The cupcakes were done by the time the cookies were ready to go in. And without missing a beat {I told you this last minute activity took longer than I original anticipated} I started making the cupcake toppers. I forgot to print out some cute holiday printables from online, so I wanted to make some myself.

I took a stencil I bought at Michaels and drew it out with red and blue Sharpies. Then I colored in some, did stripes, polka dots {love my polka dots}, plaid, etc. And then it was time for the frosting on my cupcakes. Remember the cake batter itself was red and white, so the frosting needed blue! This time, learning from the sugar cookie note, I used smaller doses of food coloring and got a great mixture. Take a look at the final product!

As you can see my little DIY cupcake toppers didn't turn out too shabby if I say so myself. Best part? FREE! After about 4 hours I'm finally done with the treats for tomorrow which is great because I'm looking forward to just laying out by the pool and relaxing on my day off! ;)

How about you? Any fourth of July plans?! Enjoy the holiday!