Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's a Washingtonian Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

This year, Chris and I are celebrating Thanksgiving in the complete opposite fashion that we did last year. Last year was our first year in our new house so we invited both of our families in to town to celebrate the holiday with us. It was great for everyone to see our house for the first time, to cook them a huge Thanksgiving meal, and just spend a few days enjoying everyone's company, but it was definitely completely exhausting.

Our table was set for 9. . .


My brother was anxious to eat. I just wanted to get that bottle of wine open . . .


My family and sister-in-law, Courtney, ran the Washington, DC Trot for Hunger for So Others Might Eat.


An intense game of Sorry! after dinner . . .


While we'd love to be with family again this year and repeat all of the fun we had, we couldn't make the trip back to Missouri and we didn't want to make everyone come back out here, so we decided to take the very low-key, Washingtonian-approach to Thanksgiving. We're staying here, working on house projects, catching up on some movies and TV, and going out to dinner for our Thanksgiving meal! Yes, that's right. We are going out for Thanksgiving dinner. No cooking, no mess, and no carry-out, but waiters, a restaurant, and a check at the end of the meal! It seems to me that anyone who stays in town for Thanksgiving just goes out to dinner. At least that is what I've seen from other Washingtonians I've run in to!

Chris and I will be headed to Jackson 20 in Old Town Alexandria for our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. We love taking advantage of all of the great restaurants around here, and a lot of the deals they run for things like Restaurant Week and holidays, and tomorrow is no exception. Jackson 20 is offering a three-course prix fixe meal option, that includes a turkey dinner complete with pumpkin pie! I am all game for dressing up, not cooking, not cleaning, and still getting to enjoy a big, yummy turkey meal at a steal of a price!

On top of that, Chris and I will be focusing a lot of our attention the next few days to Operation Finish Bathrooms. Yes, that's right, bathrooms plural. Not only is our guest bath still not finished, but now our Master bath is a mess. By the end of the weekend, my goal is to have them completely done and checked off my house to-do list finally. I promise to have a post about it next week. I am so looking forward to that being done!

How are you all spending your Thanksgiving? With family, friends? Out of town, in town?

We hope that where ever you are and who ever you are with that you have a great and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend!! Also, I used to work retail, so be nice to those men and women up at the crack of dawn to work so that you can shop on Black Friday!!  ; )

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Surprise trip to STL

Two weekends ago, while Chris was busy at home finishing up our basement and working on homework, I flew to St. Louis to surprise my Mom on her 50th Birthday weekend! I was only in St. Louis for something like 30 hours, but it was great to see my mom and dad, brother and sister, meet my brother's girlfriend, and also see a lot of my extended family and family friends. You see, not only was my mom celebrating her 50th birthday, but my uncle was also celebrating his 60th birthday, so my mom and uncle did a low-key joint birthday party at a bar that my parents frequent and invited pretty much everyone they knew.

Here is the fam at the birthday party . . . (My Dad decided to take a "serious" picture.)


My little brother, Will, and sister, Danielle . . .


My uncle and cousin playing together for the first time . . .


My dad with his girls . . . (minus, my mom)


The birthday kids at the end of the night! (Happy Birthday and thanks for a great party!!)


In lieu of gifts, my mom and uncle decided to ask for donations to Operation Food Search. This is all of the food they collected that night!


So that was my whirlwind StL weekend. (It was even more whirlwind because I seriously just almost missed my fight back to DC!) Lately, I've been looking forward to the weekends even more as a way to get away from the chaos that is work during the week, so being able to see my family over one weekend was a good break for me. Seeing my family, even if it was for only 30 some-odd hours, was just what I needed!

Thank you, Dad, for arranging the last-minute flight for me to come in, and thank you to all of my family for carting me around that weekend and hanging out with me!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

On this Veterans Day, give to those who make us proud to be Americans

The week before Nov. 11, Chris decided that he was going to post a different veteran or military organization on Facebook each day for that whole week preceeding Veterans Day. He wanted to post organizations that people should not only be aware of but also donate to in order to help our veterans and their families. It is an incredible thing what that the men and women in our armed forces and their families do for us, for our protection. every single day, and it is something that Chris and I both feel strongly about, especially after the loss of our friend Jeremy this summer who was killed in action in Afghanistan. So, after sharing all of these great organizations on Facebook, I asked Chris to write a blog post (his first blog post here at OWL), listing all of the organizations that he shared. Below is his post . . .

It's Veterans Day, so here are a list of well-run and impactful charities that help our servicemen and women and their families. I invite anyone that reads this to take a few minutes out of their day and read about what these charities are doing for the men and women who have done so much for each and every one of us. And, if you're willing, please make a donation -- every little bit helps!

Disabled American Veterans
DAV is a non-profit charity dedicated to building better lives for America’s disabled veterans and their families.  DAV is historically given a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, primarily for it's financial transparency and accountability.
Donate to DAV

Operation Homefront
Operation Homefront is a 4-star non-profit charity.  They provide emergency assistance and morale to our troops and their families, and to wounded warriors when they return home. Operation Homefront has more than 4,500 volunteers and has provided assistance to more than 100,000 military families in need.

Homes for Our Troops
Homes for Our Troops is a 4-star non-profit charity that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured servicemen and women through donations of money, building materials, and professional labor, all at no cost to the veterans.

Fisher House Foundation
The Fisher House Foundation is a 4-star rated non-profit charity that manages "comfort homes" on the grounds of military and VA medical centers, enabling family members to be close during hospitalization.  These "comfort homes" have provided millions of days of lodging to the families of injured and rehabilitating servicemen and women, all at no cost.

Walter Reed Society
The Walter Reed Society is a non-profit charity that benefits the Walter Reed Army Medical Center though its educational, treatment, patient, and research activities.  They manage a fund that provides assistance to servicemen and women injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wounded Warrior Project
The Wounded Warrior Project is a 3-star rated non-profit whose vision is to "foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in this nation's history."  They raise awareness for the needs of our injured service members, help injured service members aid and assist one another, and provide various direct services and programs to help meet the needs of our injured service members.

Special Operations Warrior Foundation
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is a 4-star rated non-profit, consistently considered one of the most well-managed charities out there today. They specialize in providing assistance to the special operations community, which consists of Army Special Forces (Green Berets), the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Navy Small Boat Teams, Navy SEALs, Air Force Combat Controllers, Air Force rotary and fixed wing squadrons, Marine Corps special operations personnel, and, of course, their families.  They help severely injured special operations personnel and provide financial assistance to the families of fallen special operations soldiers, including scholarship grants and educational and family counseling to the children of these fallen soldiers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My work has been really crummy the last couple of weeks months, to put it nicely, and so every day I hang on to those things that make me happy. My walk to work this morning was one of those things . . .

First of all, on my way to work I pass two historic cemeteries, a sprawling armed forces campus, a high school, and other various places that have a lot of green space. As you can guess though, there isn't much "green" about these spaces lately. They are literally bursting with beautiful fall colors - reds, oranges, yellows. The image below is of this magnificent tree in one of the cemeteries that I pass in the morning. Brilliant, no?

Anyway, this morning not only were all of the trees bursting with colors, but a thick fog was still hanging in the air making the colors seem even more vibrant than usual. On top of that, there was a slight breeze making it literally rain brilliant fall-colored leaves. It was gorgeous, and made me happy.

Even though I live in a huge city, I'm so grateful that I get to pass through lots of green spaces every day that often remind me that whatever crummy day I've had (or will have) doesn't really matter. Right?!

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fun with Fun Paint

So, while I was yet again procrastinating on our bathroom project, I decided to start another DIY painting project in our house. You see, I had been inspired by Martha thanks to Pinterest . . .

. . . and decided that we needed to make a more permanent calendar, like Martha's. Somehow I convinced Chris because on the next trip to Home Depot I purchased some Rustoleum Magnetic paint primer and Chalkboard paint (in Fresco Red).

Here was our wall before, just gray with our old calendar-turned-wall-art.


We decided that we wanted to paint the entire "bump out" section, floor to ceiling, with magnet paint, and then cover it in chalkboard paint. I wasn't going to be like Martha and make the fancy, different colored squares because, let's be honest, I'm too indecisive. I figured this way we could use the space for a calendar, to-do lists, grocery lists, and for a drawing space for very-distant-future kiddos.

Step 1 was to paint on the magnetic primer. For those of you who have not played around with this fun paint, it's really not so fun during the actual painting process. First of all, if you buy this stuff get it shaken at the paint counter and then use it right away. Don't be like me. I bought it, let it sit around in our house for a few weeks, and then opened it only to find that all of the magnetic "stuff" had formed this huge mass at the bottom. Some quick internet searches revealed to me that you needed to get the stuff shaken, and shaken really well, or you could stir it for 15 minutes or more (and no, the directions on the box didn't mention that). So, I went back to Home Depot and had it shaken, and then still had to stir it. Ger. I repeat, if you buy this stuff get it shaken at the paint counter and then use it right away. 

After running back to Home Depot and then stirring, I was finally ready to actually paint. The directions on the box state that you need to apply 2-3 thin coats. Lies, lies I tell ya! I think I probably applied 10 thin coats. Yup, I spent an entire day painting on a thin coat, waiting 30 minutes for it to dry, and then painting on another. After every coat dried, we'd test our magnets on it, only to find that it wasn't quite strong enough yet. After 10 coats, it was decently strong. And, I was tired of painting (the stuff smells too). As you can see from the "after" photo of the magnetic paint, there were also patches that didn't cover too well - Chris thought it was because of a poor dry-walling job . . .


Then, I moved on to the chalkboard paint, which was much much easier. I chose the Fresco Red tintable chalkboard paint, and if you happen to chose it too, don't be alarmed if it looks hot pink. I was a little nervous about it too, but the Home Depot-paint-counter-guy told me it'd dry much darker, and it did. After about 8 thin coats of the chalkboard paint, the wall was done! (These instructions also told me 2-3 thin coats. Lies.)

The chalkboard paint instructions tell you to let the paint dry for 2-3 days, and then cover the entire surface with chalk for 7 days before wiping it clean with a damp cloth to "cure" it. It was really really hard to be patient and wait all of that extra time before I could actually use it, but I think it paid off. Here is our new wall now complete with our new chalk calendar and magnets!


By the way, if you haven't caught on to my habit of having a short project turn into a long one, this small project is a great example. I bought the paint around mid-September, I got around to actually painting the first week of October (before our vacation), we finally started using it last week, and I am just now blogging about. That's our life, I guess!

What do you think? I'm not too crazy about how our November calendar is set-up now, but at least I can erase it and start over! So, that's the story of our almost-two-month long fun chalk/magnet wall project!
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