Friday, July 31, 2009

The Difference A Light Fixture Makes

Or in our case, a few light fixtures.

We've recently put ourselves on a back on a budget. We're not great at keeping tabs on our money, but working to follow a budget does help us feel like we're not hemorrhaging money each month, especially on house-related stuff.

And we're back on the cash budget, after getting away from it for awhile. Dave Ramsey-style. For us, it is always eye-opening to pay with cash when we're eating out or buying groceries. Or, rather, it is eye-opening to see how fast we move through it. But when we're not doing the cash thing, we just don't keep tabs on what we're spending, and end up seeing grocery bills of $400 for a single month. For two people and one dog. Ridiculous.

Where was I? Oh right, lights.

New light fixtures on the main floor were a priority for us, and we budgeted accordingly. We splurged on a couple, but for most just went up to Menards (with our cash!) and picked some up. That took care of our house fund for July! But we're really pleased with the results.

And I only got electrocuted once in the process of putting them up.

That sucked. Josh was on the phone at the time and his buddy got to here me screaming in the background. Why can't ceiling lights be plugged in like lamps? I wouldn't be in danger of touching live wires if that were the case.

But the end result was worth it. The more we pull this place out of the 1980's, the better.

Here are some before/after shots for your viewing pleasure:

This one was the worst, in my opinion.

Anyone need a box with light bulbs sticking out of four sides? Yeah, we didn't either.

Or shiny brass?

I couldn't find a picture of the dining room, post-painting, and with the old light fixture. But I did dig up a picture we took when we first visited the house. It doesn't give you a great image of the old light fixture (which was really the least ugly of the group), but this really gives you a good idea as to how far we've come overall.
Wall color - check.
Dark trim painted white - check.
Contemporary curtains - check.
Our own furniture - check.

Clearly, we have a ton of fun with this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Gift

Riley wasn't doing so well post-surgery, so I took him into the vet's office so they could check him out. Apart from prescribing additional pain meds and some antibiotics, they thought he might be having some... well... back end problems, and suggested he be given soft food for awhile.

So when we got home, I scooped some canned food into his dish.

It is nasty. It looks like barf.

Riley sometimes gets freaked out by food he hasn't seen before. Like last summer, we thought he'd enjoy some leftover hot dog, so we put some chunks in his dish. He wasn't too sure about this new food, and proceeded to run around the house with hot dog pieces in his mouth. Then he tried to bury them in the guest bed.

We warned my in-laws, who visited the next day, that they juuuust might find cold bits of grilled hot dog between their pillows.

I shouldn't have been surprised by what he did with his canned food. I went upstairs to check on him, and discovered a delightful gift in the doorway into my bedroom.

Thank you, Riley.

Thankfully, the next time I went upstairs it was gone. And he has been in looooove with canned food ever since.

Side notes:
1. No, we don't have a bed. It isn't high on our house priority list right now. The mattress on the floor thing is also working out well with Riley's bum leg issue, so we're not in a huge hurry.
2. No, I don't often make my bed. Don't judge.
3. Riley continues to have issues with his right front leg, and I'm hoping the vets figure it out soon. I hate seeing him in pain.
4. The back end problems, on the other hand, seem to have cleared up. I gave him dry kibble this morning, and he hasn't yet touched it. Mr. Hunger Strike.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


For not living in a place all that long, we've actually had quite a few people stay with us.

We love it.

So if you know us and there is any possibility that you'd drive to Buckeye-ville for a night (or a weekend!), please come. We'd love to have you. And if you're a Michigan fan, we could use your cheers on football weekends.

Both of our parents have come (and helped!) along with my grandparents who have now visited twice. Our friends Lora and Patrick stayed a random night or two before their house was ready as well.

And then our friends Tom and Bethany Reese drove up from Bloomington a couple of weekends ago with their baby Ainsley. Tom is currently a student at Kelley, one year behind Josh, and we lived in the same apartment complex last year. There were many evenings last year that Beth would find me on her front stoop, accompanied by a certain furry leash-puller. She'd get Ainsley set in the stroller, and we'd walk the neighborhood. I miss that!

But we LOVED having them come visit. Ainsley, at 14 (I think) months old, was a complete angel, and she is obviously as cute as a button. And she LOVED Riley. After the first five minutes, anyway. If we were in the house, she wanted to be petting him.

They hung out for awhile at the top of the stairs.

We had fun showing them around town! Beth, Ainsley, and I went to Easton (fantastic outdoor mall), Tom went out to Scotts with Josh, and all of us headed to downtown Dublin for local pub grub, and then out for our favorite ice cream.

Ever since we moved to Columbus, I've wanted to visit the zoo. Believe it or not, it is actually ranked #1 in the country. Jack Hanna, the guy you can see bringing animals to Regis and Kelly and The Today Show, is from the Columbus Zoo. Who knew? An award winning zoo in the middle of Ohio. But Josh claimed that we were "too old" for the zoo if it was just the two of us.

Well, as soon as I finalized plans with Beth, I pitched the zoo idea to her. It will be perfect, I figured. We'll have Ainsley with us! And Beth was totally on board. Saturday morning we met our other friends (the Rich family) and all enjoyed the zoo together.

The big attraction these days is the baby elephant. Holy cow is he cute.

I can just hear the mom. C'mon now junior. Move along.

The more I spent time looking at the animals, I realized that they're actually pretty similar to the little furball living under our roof. They like to sleep.

So do babies.

The only drawback to the zoo that day was that it was cold. And rainy. I hijacked baby Ainsley out of her stroller and carried her around for awhile, and that helped keep me warm.

We were thankful that we remembered to bring umbrellas.

Josh inadvertently wore this festive zoo-themed shirt that day.

Wearing festive clothing isn't something Josh is usually interested in doing, so it made me laugh when, at various points of the day, our friends were like, hey Josh, nice shirt! Especially perfect for the zoo known for the baby elephant exhibit.

After the zoo, we even snuck in a trip to North Market for tasting some international food. Including divinely authentic Belgian waffles.

We loved having the Reese family come to visit! We were sad to see them go, and will continue to actively campaign that they move to Columbus next summer after grad school. And that they move in down the street. I miss my walking buddy. And my friends.

For more on our fun summer weekend with the Reeses, check here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Tale of Bena-Bena

Two little girls sat in car seats, side by side, in the backseat of their aunt's jeep. They were cousins.

One girl had an imaginary friend. She loved and treasured her friend, always talking to her, playing with her, and playing with her non-existent hair, which she imagined to be pink. The friend's name was Bena-Bena. And the little girl was very protective of Bena-Bena.

The other little girl was not so fortunate as to have an imaginary friend of her own. Oh, how she mourned the injustice of it. She longed to run, hand in non-existent hand across the front lawn with her friend. She dearly desired a listening ear to which she could spill all of her secrets. And oh, the beauty of pink hair. But an imaginary friend never dropped by, even for an afternoon.

She was, of course, not overly clever or creative, or she would have realized that all she'd have had to do was simply make up a friend. And that friend could have had any color hair she chose.

But the thought never occurred to her.

Every once in awhile, the first girl liked to rub it in, just a wee bit, that she was so lucky as to have a perfect imaginary friend, pink hair and all.

As they sat in the jeep together, she remarked, "Bena-Bena is sitting on my lap."

The second girl was hurt. Couldn't her cousin do the kind thing and share Bena-Bena? It only seemed fair. "NO!" she responded, "Bena-Bena is sitting on MY lap."

"NO! MY LAP!" was the reply, with her little girl voice reaching its highest decibel.

"NO! Bena-Bena is sitting on MY lap"

If it hadn't been for the car seat straps, they'd have started throwing punches, or at least pulling hair.

When the high pitched screeching could be heard by several cars in all directions, the aunt decided to take action.

She pulled to the side of the road.

She glanced back at the two angry girls, and the space that was Bena-Bena.

She opened the car door.


Anguished sobs could be heard from the backseat all the way home. They never "saw" Bena-Bena again.


This is one of those famed family stories that gets locks away, and then pulled out at opportune times. You know the type - they rise to the surface during campfires, wedding receptions, and family reunions. This one is a classic from my own childhood.

So which one is me? Guess!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Missing This Place


It was a highlight of our trip to The Netherlands.

Beautiful, quaint, and historic.

We climbed up to the top of the town church and loved looking down on the canals, orange roofs, and little streets.

I could have stayed up there all day.

Climbing back down and walking around town was just as fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Cone of Shame

cone of shame dug Pictures, Images and Photos

Riley had minor surgery last week, and the vet sent him home with one of his own. He is not a fan, but we don't make him wear it too often.

He ends up smacking into the furniture, which is sad on one hand, but really funny to watch on the other.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Color Splash

We were in Menards earlier this week, looking at light fixtures, and realized that we couldn't quite remember the lighting situation in one of our rooms. Now Menards is a full hour from our house, so we didn't want to make a return trip. So Josh whipped out his iPhone (also known was the iWife around here) and quickly pulled up some old house pictures we'd put on our Picasa page. I have to admit, the iWife is pretty handy.

Our answer was quickly found, and we purchased the correct light.

While we were standing in the store, looking at these pictures, the same thought occurred to us:

Wow, it doesn't even look like the same place.

One of the biggest reason it looks so different? The paint.

When we bought this place it was bare. Stark. Blah. There was virtually no color to be found. We didn't find this to be a problem, because white walls are especially easy to paint over. And paint we did. Our parents helped tremendously, and we were able to knock a lot of out it in the first couple of weeks. After a couple months, we're still happy with our choices.

It took us a long time (including several arguments and trial runs) to decide on the colors. I vividly remember those days.

Anyone need a sample of tans, browns, or greens? You know where to come. They're still in our garage.

So, in case anyone is curious, I'll list the colors we chose. (And really, half of the reason I'm posting this is because I'd like to be able to check back and reference this later on.)

Living Room:
Sherwin Williams 6219 Rain

Dining Room:
Upper - Sherwin Williams 6121 Whole Wheat
Lower - Sherwin Williams 7729 Edamame

Kitchen/Eating Area:
Benjamin Moore
488 Mountain Lane (and thankfully a new light fixture arrived today for this space)

Family Room:
Sherwin Williams 6122 Camelback
(one of the hardest ones for us to get right)

Our bedroom:
Mostly - Sherwin Williams 7601 Dockside Blue
Accent Wall - Sherwin Williams 6082 Cobble Brown

Guest bedroom:
Sherwin Williams 7703 Earthen Jug
(Josh's pick)

My office:
Sherwin Williams 6765 Spa
(my pick! and I'll be decorating with orange one of these days)

Sherwin Williams 7566 Westhighland White
You can see it in the living room, dining room, and family room, and it is one of my favorites. White with the slightest hint of cream. We painted miles of dark trim with it, and it made a world of difference.

Yes, there is a Sherwin Williams around the corner from our place. If they were looking for a sales push one weekend, they got it! But we've used that paint in the past and have always been impressed.

So if you're looking for a good paint color, and you like what we've done, go ahead and steal the specifics off this page. For additional paint suggestions, one of my very favorite DIY house blogs posted a very helpful color guide, so head here if you're interested.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Jessica's European Favorites: Holland, Part 2

For Kara (and anyone else who may have been confused by this): we traveled to Europe about a month ago but have since returned. Every once in awhile you’ll find a new post on this here blog about our time there, but it doesn’t mean we’re still traveling.

One of the most meaningful and interesting aspects of our time in The Netherlands was encountering so much WW2 history. I have long known that the country was occupied by the Germans during the war, and grew up reading books like Anne Frank and The Hiding Place. Both are favorites of mine. But seeing some of these places made it that much more real – and shocking – and heartbreaking.

The Anne Frank House is one of Amsterdam’s main tourist attractions. It is commonplace to see the entrance line winding around several city blocks. We thankfully made it there early and avoided the line, but it would have been worth seeing even if we’d had to stand there for awhile.

Anne Frank's house in the one all the way on the left. The rest of the museum takes up the other building in this shot.

Anyone who has read her book will remember Anne’s accounts of the small rooms she shared with eight other adults for those years during the war. Going up to the “Secret Annex,” it was just as she described it. Looking around, it is no wonder that tempers flared between the residents. It must have been a terribly cramped, lonely existence. Amazing that Anne retained so much spunk in her writing. And terribly sad that her short life ended in the concentration camps.

The Dutch Resistance Museum is a lesser known destination in Amsterdam, but extremely well done and fascinating. Since my grandfather (who I call Opa) was an active member of the Resistance, and was even imprisoned because of his activities with that group, it was especially meaningful to my family. But I really appreciated the experience apart from the family connection. Beyond telling the tale of those brave Dutch men and women, the museum digs deeper, telling the story of the country’s experience during the war.

It starts with the events leading up to the war, which I found especially interesting. On some level, I’d always kind of thought, “Man, if I was a Jew during that time, I’d have high-tailed it out of town while I still could. I would have seen it coming.” But I realize now that I, unlike those people, have the beauty of hind sight. While at this museum, I really learned just how cunning the Germans were. They exercised their control over the country in little, gradual ways. Before many people knew it, The Netherlands was in the grip of Germany. It was fascinating to learn about. And horrifying to think that it actually happened. And not that long ago.

While in Amsterdam, we also stopped by the building that once held Opa when it was being used as a prison during the war. It was also the first stop for Dutch Jews as they made their way to the concentration camps. Today it looks like a basic government building, although the shadow of a prison remains. It is surrounded by restaurants and a nearby square where concerts are held. The city’s Hard Rock CafĂ© is within a stone’s throw.

This plaque commemorated the place:

My grandma (Oma) was around my age when that prison held her husband. Can it be possible that things can change so much in one lifetime? As I sit now in my beautiful home, thinking about the happy and easy life we have here, I cannot imagine what it would feel like to live in a war-torn country. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have Josh in a Nazi prison. Would I be so brave, if faced with such evil? Would I resist, knowing it might cost me my life? I hope so.

While in the darling city of Haarlem, Josh and I visited Corrie ten Boom’s house. I’ve always loved The Hiding Place, which is Corrie’s tale of what happened to her and her family during the war. It is a truly inspirational story of God’s faithfulness and grace, even during such dark times. Corrie’s story is one of remarkable faith, courage, and sacrifice, as she tells of her resistance activities, of hiding Jews and finding homes for people on the run, and even her arrest and concentration camp sentence. Instead of succumbing to fear and anger, she allowed God to work through her to bring light and hope to people in desperate need of it.

The family watch shop, still with the ten Boom name:
The actual hiding place - in Corrie's bedroom.
People hiding would climb in through the bottom shelf of the little closet.
The family Bible was out in the living room. Psalm 91 was a passage that was near and dear to the ten Boom family.

I've always loved this Psalm, especially the first four verses:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

They say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

Surely he will save you
from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

In her book, Corrie makes it clear from where she derived her strength. She found her abundance of courage, wisdom, and hope in God alone.

I’m confident that if I was in a similar situation, any peace or self sacrifice or courage would have to come from God. There is no question in my mind - I don’t have a lot of those qualities within me naturally. To make even a fraction of the difference Corrie and many other resistance fighters made, I would need to depend on God’s work in me and through me.

But then, that is always the case – war or no war.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Baby Shower, UP, and Downtown GR

The typical 4th of July, right?

Okay, maybe not the baby shower part.

But my cute-as-can-be prego cousin Chrystin has a hot shot lawyer job in NYC and no other weekend worked out for her to come home for her shower.

Seriously - no pregnant face, no pregnant butt. Just a darling basketball in front. I can only hope to be that cute when I'm in that spot someday.

This is her with her sister, Erin. Erin can't wait to be an aunt.

We set up all the special party stuff outside.

The diaper cake.

The fruit salad in a baby carriage-shaped watermelon.

The amazingly delicious and darling real cake. The special punch. The mimosas.

I mean, if you're going to have a baby shower on the 4th, you should at least have it at a cottage on a lake, right? Right.

But then it started to rain.

Not daunted in the slightest, the entire party just moved right on inside the cottage. The presents were plentiful, the food was excellent, and everyone had a really nice time. It was great to celebrate Chrystin (who is extremely dear to me) and anticipate her new arrival.

Oh, and I was in charge of cutting the cake.

After the shower we met up with our dear friends, Montoya, Aiydan, and Aiyannah. But what do you do with 5 adults, 1 kid, and 1 baby on a coldish, rainy-ish 4th? You go to the movies. We saw UP in 3D and it did not disappoint. Go see it - it is heartwarming, hilarious, and simply innovative. I mean, who thinks up this stuff?

On that note, anyone who enjoys the sheer ingenuity and creativity the folks at Pixar tend to abound in will enjoy this (found on the latest "Clint's Best of the Web."

Lastly, we did the all-American thing and headed downtown for the fireworks show.

If you're a Grand Rapids resident there is only one place to go for such a thing: The Blue Bridge.

We had a blast. (Sorry, bad pun.)