Hugo's Toy Test (plus a video)

>> 8.30.2010

I received soooo many helpful comments in my call for affordable and durable dog toys for "The Destroyer" Hugo that I feel  like the topic deserves a bit of a follow up post. Here's a quick summary of Hugo's favorite targets toys:

1. Wubba; $5+
This Kong toy is practically indestructible (which is probably why everyone kept recommending Kongs). Hugo enjoys carrying it around the house from time to time and chasing its little legs, but it doesn't normally carry his attention for longer than a few minutes at a time.
Thankfully I found this dog toy at Marshalls for around $3 because the squeak inside didn't last longer than the evening I brought it home. Hugo does like the crumpling sounds it makes and plays with it every few days.
3. Classic Kong; >$5
Again, these Kongs are practicaly indestructible. Hugo loves licking peanut butter from the insides, but usually stops playing with it once the taste wears off.
4. Squeaky Chicken Toy (random Marshalls find); <$5
We LOVE this one! Hugo loves the squeak and I love that he can't destroy the squeak. Unlike most squeak toys, the squeaker isn't just stuffed inside of the toy, but a part of the actual toy.
5. Nylabone; <$5
This was the second most highly recommended durable toy out there. This seems to be the toy that Hugo goes to when he's in the mood for some intense chewing and there are still no signs of it breaking apart.
Although they're more expensive than I would usually pay for a stuffed toy, I'm super impressed with this brand. Hugo chewed his little heart out and only managed to detach the wings and tail. Yep, the squeak lives!
7. random stuffed pig from Marshalls; <$5
RIP Little Pig.

Yeah, like Hugo would just sit by and watch me take pictures of all of his toys...

How is the diaper working out?
Hugo LOVES his diaper!
Check out this video to see him running to me when I ask if he want to put it on. Yes, he comes running every time! I was sure that he'd try to get it off, but he just loves wearing the thing... as well as "going" in it.

video

...and Hugo wearing the diaper:
video
(this is just for show... we normally only put it on him when he'll be at home/ inside alone)
Also, I know the yard is a mess. We're putting off any yard work until our half Ironman training ends in October. How is that going? Three hours swimming and running on Saturday and four hours cycling and running on Sunday= NO yard work!

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Stripes?

>> 8.26.2010

If I'm finishing my half bathroom by Labor Day I need to decide on paint colors... like... now! If you know me at all, you'd know that I'm no where close to making that decision. Well, I at least know that I want stripes AND that I'd like to do something unique with the sloped ceiling (the bathroom is under a staircase). Let me know what you think:

A. Horizontal black and white stripes on wall with pop of color on ceiling (yellow? turquoise?).

B. Vertical black and white stripes on walls (and vanity cabinet?) with pop of color on ceiling.


C. Yellow stripes on ceiling with neutral walls.

D. Yellow stripes on walls with solid ceiling (color?)

E. Other?
A reminder of the before:

What would you do?

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Two Things

>> 8.24.2010

1. I made a good bit of progress on the bathroom this past weekend. The ugly texture is officially a goner!

Ugh. Ugly wallpaper covered with even uglier texture and hideous purple paint... I have no words.
Actually, I think the wallpaper was a much better look.

2. Today is Hugo's first day using his brand new "washable male wrap." Pammyg suggested it in the comments and I thought it was worth a shot.  I'll be sure to let you know how things work out.
Hey, it might be a diaper, but at least it's "attractive" :).

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Shame on The Bump!

>> 8.20.2010

I'm sorry that this is a bit off topic, but reading this post made me so angry that I felt like I needed to share.

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the next project

It's more than a little embarrassing to have guests use this ridiculously ugly half bathroom. My goal is to get the tiny purple monster taken care of before Labor Day.


Here's what I'm working with:




The to-do list:
  1. remove dated mirror
  2. remove texture from walls/ float
  3. replace light fixture and mirror
  4. update vanity
  5. paint walls/ ceiling
I've been avoiding this project for almost a year... it's time to take care of it!

Which projects have you been avoiding?

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let's talk Groupon

>> 8.19.2010

Ever since I asked for email subscription recommendations last January, I've been a Groupon subscriber. Some of the deals have been pretty amazing, but others weren't quite as impressive as the edgy writers over at Groupon made them out to be.

I've been meaning to bring Groupon.com back up on my blog, but haven't been inspired to do so until today:


People are so excited about this deal that they've crashed the site!

How do you know if a Groupon is a good deal?
Before getting wrapped up in the excitement of a Groupon offer, make sure that the coupon falls in one of the following categories.

1. Using it will save you money.
Do you plan on going to that restaurant/ shop/ car wash anyways? Will you use the coupon to replace a planned expense? Don't let them trick you into breaking your budget!

2. It will allow you to afford something you wouldn't usually be able to afford.
Maybe you wouldn't usually be able to go to the expensive restaurant downtown, but the deal puts it in your price range.

3. It's an unusual deal.
Is it rare for this business to offer other coupons, sales, or promotions? If you know you can pick up a coupon in the Sunday paper, do that instead of paying upfront!

Other things to think about:
*When does the coupon expire? Will you be able to use it by the expiration date?
*What are the restrictions? Are all menu items included? Are there blackout days/ times? 
*Can you combine Groupons? Will buying several coupons save money?


Personally, I'm skipping the Gap deal (although you know I love the Gap!):
1. I don't need any clothes right now.
2. I'm not really pining after anything particular.
3. I have a Gap card and get 50% off offers all the time.
If you planned on buying something in that price range, especially if it's on sale right now, go for it!

Do you Groupon? What deals do you usually buy or avoid?

PS No, my goal was not to see how many times I could fit the word, "Groupon," into one post... sorry about that!

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Pillow

>> 8.18.2010

My new CSN pillow arrived this week. Which one did I go with?

It's the Unison Static pillow in "Reef."

There were plenty of great choices so I had to come up with a super scientific way of deciding which pillow to go with. After reading the comments on the pillow post, I made a tally mark for each vote and an x for each anti-vote. The two pillows with the most votes also had the most anti-votes so I just went with the pillow with the most votes and zero anti-votes. 


Lucky for me, the pillow took less than a week to get here once I decided which one to go with (have I mentioned how impatient I am?). The cover and filling seem to be really great quality... good enough that Hugo guards the goose feather filled pillow from CC like it's his supper!

I like the way that it contrasts with the feel of the floral Tonic Living fabric while relating to the colors in the pattern.

The blue pillow isn't the only newcomer; we picked up yet another pillow at the Crate & Barrel outlet this past weekend:
I really like the colors and the image on the pillow, but I'm not quite sure if it works with the other patterns going on in the room. Nate LOVES it so I'm going to see if I can make it work somewhere.

Thoughts?

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Tricky Target

>> 8.17.2010

Another one of my cell phones bit the dust this past weekend (I must have a talent for ruining these things!) and I found myself heading to Target to pick up another Go Phone (read why I use them here). I'm lucky enough to live within 15 minutes of two Targets, but I usually go over to the older one in the less affluent neighborhood. It tends to have a larger selection of the trendy home goods and a less crowded parking lot. Unfortunately, it was also sold out of the cheaper Go Phones.

Before heading ten minutes up the highway to the other Target, I checked the housewares section for sales on these cute plastic cups I've been eyeing all summer. I was excited to see that the entire collection was on sale for 50% off... but they were all out of my cups :(.


Luckily, the newer Target had my Go Phone AND a ton of my cups!

...but only at 30% off.

I asked a red-shirted employee why the other store would sell the same products on the same day at 50% off and she said that they base the sale percentages on stock levels. According to her, if one store has more of an item, they'll reduce the price more. This would all make sense if I hadn't just seen a store with fewer cups selling them for less.

My personal opinion is that it's more about the store's neighborhood than its stock levels.
What do you think?

PS Yes, of course I still bought the cups! A set of the short ones will go in our picnic basket and the taller ones will go in the kitchen cabinets :).

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What was in the box?

>> 8.16.2010

I can't say that I didn't have a tiny sneaking suspicion that a new camera might be in the old cereal box that Nate used to wrap my birthday present in... what I didn't know was that  he would exceed the $250ish price tag we set for our gifts (by a lot). Anyways, meet my new love camera:


I'm not sure if you've noticed but the picture quality hasn't been the best around here lately**. Back when I started the blog, I had a pretty good Olympus point and shoot (see picture quality here), but it was stolen when my car was broken into in January. Since then I've used Nate's even older 7.1 mega pixel Olympus point and shoot that often took grainy pictures in low light (see quality here). Nate knew that I was itching for better photos so in came the Sony-Cyber Shot.
**I also need to mention that I do borrow Nate's DSLR from time to time when I want better quality (as seen here).

I'm really excited about using the camera's panoramic feature to take "after" pictures of the rooms in my house! How cool is this picture Nate took on our bike ride this past Saturday:
When a camera is drop-proof, it's okay to take pictures while riding a bike... right?

One of the big factors in Nate's purchase was the waterproof feature of the camera. We're near water/ sweaty so often that it just doesn't make sense to get a normal camera. And honestly, who wouldn't want to miss out on moments like this:
he's a little daredevil

...and speaking of dogs, I have to mention that SOMEONE got into a dog food bin while being babysat last Friday. After SIX POUNDS of food, an extremely bloated belly, and trip to the emergency vet, she's doing just fine. I guess something has to go wrong when your birthday falls on Friday the 13th.


To summarize:
1. When a boyfriend buys you an expensive present you can get over it pretty quickly
2. Expect better pictures from now on. 

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More Nest Feathering

>> 8.12.2010

I've been on a bit of a feather kick lately.

First, there was the new shower curtain:

And now there's the feather tray:


I liked the size and shape of it, but the finishing was a bit too shabby chic for my space. After a coat of white spray paint, it was ready to go on the bedside table:
ugh, sorry about the poor photo quality

I'm loving it. It's the perfect size for my bedside table and serves as a catch-all for the jewelry and other clutter I need to set aside before bed.

Oh, and I bet you'll never guess where I bought it... the grocery store! It was on clearance in the floral department. Strange, huh?

Have you ever come across inexpensive home decor in an unexpected place?

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thrifty and gifty?

>> 8.10.2010

Whoa, just outdid myself with the lame title there...

With Nate's birthday (7/31) and my birthday (8/13)  falling within two weeks of each other, things have been really gifty around here! We might share signs (Leo), but we don't exactly share gift styles. Nate really enjoys receiving and opening as many gifts as possible, while I'd rather get a smaller number of higher quality presents.

Here's one of the many gifts that Nate opened up last week:


In my opinion, the set of petrified wooden book ends is a thoughtful (Nate's really outdoorsy) and appropriate (he also has a ton of books) present for someone who asked for a lot to open... at the same time, it was also thrifty. Yep, I actually bought a few of Nate's gifts from a discount store (gasp!). I must say that I'm quite happy with Marshall's $25 price tag (especially compared to the ones that sell for well over $100!), but I can't help to wonder if buying a gift with a discount takes away from any of its appeal.

It might not be surprising, but I come from quite a thrifty family. Each year, my mom would shop the sales for my Christmas and birthday presents. I remember hating knowing that everything was "cheaper." For years I would beg my mom (especially as middle schooler) to give me just one cool full-price Abercrombie hoodie or pair of Nike shoes. Now, of course, I beg Nate to price shop online for the best deals :).

What's your opinion on thrifty gift-giving or receiving?
Does a cheaper price tag cheapen the thought? Would you be less likely to shop the sales for a friend's gift?



And because I think it's too funny not to share, here's a peek of Nate's gift to me:
Supposedly, there's an amazing gift waiting for me inside the old cereal box.
*sigh* boys...

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a conversation with the cable company

>> 8.06.2010

For the past year I've been stuck in a bundled cable contract (internet/phone/cable) that costs me, after taxes, a hefty $125 per month. I've known all this time that having the phone line has been a waste, but I've debated whether or not to cancel the cable tv. After a year of watching Bravo reality shows and Tour de France on Versus, it was decided that the cable would stay, but the phone line would still go.


Based off of my monthly statement, it seemed that I would save around $30 by cancelling the phone line.
Sounds like a simple savings, right? Eh, here's a (paraphrased) account of how my conversation with the phone company went:

Me: "Hi, I'd like to update my services."

Time Warner Cable: "Sure, what can we help you with?"

M: "Well, I'd like to cancel my phone line. I just don't use it enough to justify the cost."

TWC: "Okay, well your new monthly bill will increase by $10."

M: "...but I'm removing a service."

TWC: "Yes, but because of promotions..blah, blah... discounts..blah... price goes up"

M: "Well, that price just won't work for me. I'm probably going to be better off going with another company..."

TWC: "Let me see what I can do.   .    .    .     Yes, well, I see there are some discounts that I might be able to apply to your bill. How does $25 less sound?"

I found it interesting how he was able to find those discounts AFTER I mentioned going with another company.

So, in 10 minutes I went from having to pay $10 more for my services to paying $25 less. At $35/ month($420 for the year!), I'd say it was worth the tiny bit of haggling I had to endure!

I've heard this sort of strategy also works with the credit card companies and their interest rates. Have you ever haggled your way into a lower bill?

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More Pillow Talk

>> 8.05.2010

One of my favorite things about this blog is that I can come here to get real opinions about decisions I make in my house. You all tell me when you love a choice I make and when I'm being a tasteless bore (me? never!). I can trust you to give me real opinions and I love that.  So, when most of you said, "eh" to my new pillows on Tuesday, I knew I needed to keep looking.

I saw it as fate when I was contacted by CSN stores to do another review... you know, the online resource for pretty much everything from dining room furniture to space heaters to duffel bags. With thousands upon thousands of items to choose from, how can I not find an amazing and chic pillow to add a bit of excitement to my space?!

I'm thinking of adding something from the teal-turquoise-blue family into the mix:
A


B


C


D


E


F


G

Which one(s) do you like for my space?

*All images taken from AllModern.com

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Thoughts?

>> 8.03.2010

I'm trying to add a little interest to the living room. Unfortunately, I have some complex that keeps me from buying pillows for over $10. I bought a pair of the pictured pillow from World Market for $9 each (and they're still returnable).

It seems to have the colors that go with the room and the fabric I plan to use on the blue chair, but I'm not sure if it's too similar...

Thoughts? Should I keep looking?

PS Yes, Hugo is trying to steal the show.

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a quick house tour

>> 8.02.2010

I've been asked several times to post a full house tour on the blog. My guess is that you thought I was hiding some secretly decorated rooms from you. Trust me, the rooms I haven't written about were not worth posting. I guess since I promised to post my tour by August 1st (sorry, I thought today was August 1st), you can just see for yourself...

My Current House Tour:

the front yard

the backyard
We really haven't put any work into the exterior spaces of the house (yet). The plan is to start beautifying the space once the half Ironman training is over in October.

the kitchen
The kitchen is the first room to your right as you walk into the home. Read more about its makeover here.

across the hall from the kitchen is... 
the half bath (aka hot mess bathroom #1)
The walls, the mirror, the light... how can so many things be so wrong in such a small space?!

 after passing the bathroom, you'll find yourself looking at the entryway on your left...
the entryway 

and the dining area on the right...
the dining room

finally, past the dining room is...
the living room
1. Yes, it's super boring right now.
2. There will be art on the walls and a mantle on the fireplace eventually.
3. I haaate the 1980's sliding glass door and it will probably go soon.
4. The rug is in the garage right now. Jute is difficult to clean and I don't want any Hugo puddles ruining it!

To get to the bedrooms, you have to go up the stairs and into...
the upstairs hallway 
I'm only showing this because it's so crazy. Not only have I not replaced the ugly blinds that came with the house, but I've added a sheet of cardboard and a baby gate to keep Hugo from getting anxiety when he sees strangers out the window.

The door to your right leads to a closet and the door to the left leads to...
the master bedroom
1. Yes, I bought the blue Nate Berkus duvet set... post on that soon.
2. "Building in" the IKEA PAX is on the to-do list.
3. Art and accessories are also on the to-do list.
4. *Ugly ceiling fan not pictured.

Off the master bedroom, you'll see...
the master bathroom
Read more about the master bathroom here.

on the other end of the upstairs hallway is...
the office
1. I haven't painted the walls yet.
2. I haven't removed the popcorn from the ceiling yet.
3. Other than moving furniture into this space, zero thought has been put into this room.

and if two bathrooms weren't enough for this 1,100 square foot space...
the other full bathroom (aka hot mess bathroom #2)
Please note the wall and ceiling textures... niiiice.
Also, it just seems crazy to have more toilets than people in a house, no?

As you can see, I have enough blog material for the next 5 years. Stay tuned as I work through each space!
Any guesses to which space I'll finish next?

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