Feb 25, 2015

visiting san diego: the san diego zoo

We spent our second day in San Diego at the zoo. It had been… well, I can't remember the last time I had been to a zoo, and going to the San Diego Zoo just sounded like the thing a good tourist ought to do. It seemed like it could have been a pretty overwhelming place, but we got there in the morning and didn't have trouble finding parking or waiting in lines to get in. Right off the bat we were impressed by the beautiful grounds and very helpful and friendly staff. We intended on picking and choosing our top priority exhibits, but in the end, I think we wound up seeing most of the zoo anyway.

The Best of the San Diego Zoo:

Besides the friendly staff and beautiful grounds, one of my favorite things about the zoo was the aerial tram. Not only did it get us from one end of the zoo to the other, but it was a nice rest for weary feet and it provided a great view of the zoo and surrounding areas.  Plus, it was included in our ticket price.

The best exhibit at the zoo by far, in my opinion, was the polar bears. They were super playful and more than happy to put on a show for visitors. Their habitat was also laid out really well for maximum viewing potential.

Another thing that we found to be nice about our day at the zoo was that we could leave the grounds and come back later the same day with just a quick stamp on the hand. This allowed us to leave and have a nice lunch elsewhere and reenergize out of the sun and away from zoo commotion.

Not the Best of the San Diego Zoo:

I hate to use the words "the worst," because we really did have an overall good zoo experience, but there were a few things that I found disappointing that future visitors might want to keep in mind.

When we first got to the zoo, we seemed to have a hard time actually seeing the animals.  A lot of them had found a nice napping place in some nook or cranny of their habitat.  It was later recommended to us to arrive at the zoo right at feeding time, because the animals are out and excited about getting their breakfast.

My least favorite exhibit was the panda bear.  There was a lot of hype surrounding it, and even a waiting line for viewing the exhibit, which probably heightened my expectations.  However, the line wasn't very good about actually moving, and by the time I was able to see the panda bear it just wasn't a prime viewing experience.  

The only other disappointment of the day was that we had somehow missed the turn for the giraffes and zebras, and only caught a glimpse of them as we rode the trolley on our way out.  But if our feet hadn't been so tired at that point, we certainly could have turned around and remedied that pretty easily.

All in all, we had a good, full day at the zoo and I think I would have regretted leaving San Diego without checking it out. Plus, we got to see this guy strutting his stuff on our way out.

When was the last time you visited a zoo?  Which animals are your favorite?

Feb 23, 2015

visiting san diego: del coronado and la jolla

I don't know about you, but I've been surrounded by snow for the last several days so I thought it might be a good time to take a look at some of my photos of sunny San Diego from my trip the other week. I spent four whole days there with my mom, sister and aunt. We packed our days full of sightseeing, good food, and visiting with my cousin and a dear friend of mine, neither of whom I had seen in several years. We started our first day there by visiting the beach at Del Coronado and the stunning Hotel Del Coronado before meeting up with my cousin who gave us the grand tour of the city, which included a breathtaking walk around La Jolla.

When we got to La Jolla it took a bit to find a parking spot, but it was well worth the effort for the views. After walking around for awhile, oohing and aahing over the blue of the water and taking a million pictures, we stopped at Bobboi for the most refreshing gelato.  Highly recommended!
my mom, sister and I did an excellent job of unintentionally coordinating our outfits for the entire trip, if I do say so myself.

Forgive me, but I think I have to end this post with one more food picture so that I can tell you just how good our dinner was that night.  We ate at Basic downtown which had a fun atmosphere in a warehouse setting and delicious pizza.  We tried two different kinds; this was the J street with mozzarella, chicken, bacon and sun dried tomatoes.  I forget what the other one was, but it involved mashed potatoes.  Hungry yet?

We spent our second day at the San Diego Zoo, so more to come about that soon!

Feb 5, 2015

the renovation: the great paint debate

Now, I'll be the first one to admit that I don't have the best track record when it comes to picking out paint colors. When Riley was building our first house, right before we got married, I was in my senior year of college. I had my mind on other things like graduating and planning a wedding and I had no idea what my decorating style was and I certainly didn't have a Pinterest pin board to help guide me. We also had no furniture or belongings to decorate around, so our choices were pretty willy nilly. I do recall at one point Riley recommending that we just paint the whole house white, but to me that just sounded impossibly boring. So picture with me, if you will, a small house with a (bright) yellow kitchen, a (bright) green living room, a bold blue bedroom and a splash of token beige in the bathroom and office. The end result looked something like a cross between a Mexican restaurant and a kindergarten classroom. 

Over the next 5 years every room saw at least one color change. The kitchen got a shade of pale blue, the bathroom a more suitable shade of beige, the bedroom a more sophisticated shade of dark blue, the office a beautiful blush color that is still my best paint choice to date, and then… there was the living room. The living room became my arch nemesis of decorating. I lost count over the years, but I think it may have seen at least 3 paint jobs, and that's a conservative estimate. Long story short, I was always painting and was never satisfied.

I'm a little rusty when it comes to painting houses these days, although I do have to say I did an excellent job at choosing the colors for the sailboat's hull and stripe. And I think our time in the apartment this past year has helped me to appreciate the value of a neutral.

Fast forward to our current renovation and the decision making process for choosing a paint color. Now, this is our "grown up" house. It's not a "newlywed's color experiment gone wrong", it's not a boat or an apartment. It's a real life, grown up house and it's time to start making mature paint decisions and taking this neutral thing seriously. We have a whole lot of house to paint, and I don't intend on doing this again for a very long time. The goal is one color, in the "griege" family. Riley's preference is towards the gray spectrum, so my task is trying to figure out how to sneak a little of the "-iege" into something he'd still be able to live with.

500 paint swatches and 9 samples later, and still nothing felt quite right. The thing about neutrals is, they all look perfectly innocent on paper, and relatively the same at that, but get those babies up on a wall and all of a sudden one's blue, the other's pink and the rest fall somewhere in the green and yellow range.

We had a color on our short list, that neither one of us was particularly excited about, to be honest, when we went over to my parent's house and it suddenly hit me that the color in their kitchen was the exact color I wanted! Decision made, done deal, right? Almost. You see, first I had to find out what the color actually was. It sounds simple enough, of course. But Mom didn't remember the name, and there was no point in asking Dad because he would most likely just make something up. However, I was directed to their handy "decorating" file in the filing cabinet. As I sorted through the carefully organized system of paint swatches and cringed as I reminisced with the long forgotten Nefarious Rose of my teenaged bathroom and the ex Pine Green of the basement, it became clear that that perfect shade of light griege in the kitchen was nowhere to be found among them. The wild goose chase sent me to the garage next, to sort through an array of half full gallons and jars of paint. Finally, I came across a suspiciously pleasant looking paint remnant in a mason jar, labeled even (!!!), by the name of Tempered Gray.  But wouldn't you know, the thing was painted and frozen shut.  Three strong men, one can opener, and an hour later, and I finally had my perfect paint sample. A quick trip to Lowes confirmed that it was indeed Tempered Gray, and we bought our first gallon.

So, all of this to say, an infamous poor paint color picker has finally made her selection.  Cross your fingers for us, will you?

Feb 4, 2015

currently… lots to love

hearting: little baby kicks!

reading: the Little House on the Prairie collection. For whatever reason, at this time of year in particular I'm really drawn to books that take place on the prairie, about life on a wagon train, or as an early homesteader in general. For the last several years I've been wanting to reread the Little House books, but I could never seem to get my hands on them. So this year, I put it on my Christmas list.  Barnes and Noble had this beautiful leather bound collection of all five books, and let me tell you, if you're going to reread Little House on the Prairie as an adult, it should definitely look like this.

pinning: everything. I've been on a bit of a Pinterest kick lately and have been finding so much inspiration for everything from meals to renovation ideas to cute baby girl things.

eating: would it be terrible if I said "everything" again?  I've been trying to eat really healthy, and have been pretty successful for the most part.  But yesterday, right before I went to the grocery store, I started thinking about Nutella. I pushed the cart through the store saying to myself, "Don't buy the Nutella.  Don't buy the Nutella." But of course, I had to go down the peanut butter aisle, so I was already entirely confident that I was going to wind up buying it anyway. Maybe if I stick it in the back of the pantry I'll forget it's there?

anticipating: a girl's trip to San Diego!  I've never seen the Pacific or been to California before, so I'm so excited to check it off my travel bucket list. I'll be spending several days there with my mom, sister and aunt, and can't wait to experience some warmer weather, beautiful views and fresh seafood.

Have you ever been to San Diego?  I'd love to hear your recommendations if you have!

linking up with Jenna and Anne today.

Jan 28, 2015

the renovation: bathroom design inspiration

In thinking about our design ideas for the bathroom, our main focus was making the space as efficient and usable as possible.  It's not a large bathroom by any means, but it's big enough.  One of the most important things to us, both visually and practically, was to be able to replace the vinyl accordion door (yuck!) with a real door. After bumping the wall into the kitchen a few inches, we created enough space to allow for a door to swing and for a slightly larger vanity that wouldn't impose on too much of the floor space. We also decided to center the shower on the back wall, eliminating the awkward narrow cabinet, but creating wall space for hanging bath towels on either side.

the bathroom before (in a grainy panoramic shot)

In terms of the "look" of the bathroom, our ideas are very similar to that of the kitchen.  We want a bright, clean look with some traditional elements, some contrast, and the warmth of some natural wood.  A very traditional scheme for an early 1900's bathroom (just so you know, most of my "research" is done by watching Rehab Addict on HGTV) would have been a white subway tile backsplash with white hex tile flooring.  That just sounded like too much white for us, so while we like the idea of the subway tile as the backsplash, we're thinking of using a charcoal matte hex tile for the floor instead.  I think it would be a little bit of a modern twist while still giving a nod to traditional design.  We're thinking that a stained wood vanity, also in shaker style, would add warmth and break up some of the harsh contrast between the white and the black.  We are also planning to add in a built in medicine cabinet for extra storage.  It's a small space (which unfortunately makes it had to photograph), but I think that our ideas are going to make a big impact and I can't wait to see it take shape!

The plaster finishers should be done this week, so our next task at hand is choosing paint colors!  We're going neutral, so if you have any favorite colors, please pass them on!

Jan 23, 2015

twenty weeks // we're having a...

How far along: 20 weeks

Size of baby: An 11 oz. mango

Maternity clothes: I'm still holding out… although my wardrobe choices are getting a lot slimmer.  I'm down to just one pair of pants that fit, so I think it might be just about time to give in.

Gender: It's a girl!!!

Movement: A little!  Not too terribly often yet, but there's definitely something going on in there.

Sleep: This is probably the biggest pregnancy related struggle so far. It requires a body pillow, a humidifier (to help with uh, "loud breathing"),  and several wake ups to flip to the other side because of hip pain.  I already can't remember the last night of good sleep that I've had.  Needless to say, Riley's wound up on the couch more than a few times.  

What I miss: Regular coffee now and then.

Food cravings: My perfect meal would involve a nice steak, green beans and mashed potatoes. I've indulged a few times, but we'd be having it for dinner every night if Riley didn't loathe green beans.

Food aversions: I'm still not too fond of eggs or chicken, but it's not too bad.

Symptoms: Some nausea if I get too hungry and occasional acid reflux.

What I'm looking forward to:  Now that we know that it's a girl we're starting to seriously talk about names and other plans.  It feels much more real now and that's pretty exciting!

Jan 20, 2015

the renovation: kitchen design inspiration

When we started thinking about the design scheme for our house, which colors and which materials we would like to use, there were a few key themes that stood out to us.  First of all, we want to preserve and respect the integrity of the house.  It's an older house and it's always going to look like an older house, that's part of it's appeal.  We didn't want to add anything to it that would stand out as too modern or out of place.  Instead, we decided that we want to use colors and materials that would highlight the features of the house that we were initially attracted to like the hardwood floors, the wide trim and the high ceilings.  We also want our design theme to flow cohesively throughout the house. Personally, I'm attracted to light neutrals with a few dark elements for contrast and accents of natural wood. So that's where we started.

Thinking about the kitchen specifically, we realize that most of it is a narrow galley space, so it's going to be important to incorporate as much light as possible. I'm drawn to the idea of white shaker style cabinets and subway tile backsplash. Of course, this is a very trendy theme right now, and while I'm sure that fact has some influence on my decision, at least subconsciously, I have other reasons for my choices as well. The look of shaker furniture is an accurate choice for the time period and craftsman style of the house, and after seeing the bulky dark cabinets in the original kitchen, I think that white would be a much better bet. I also want to do away with the cabinet between the two windows because I feel like it looked too bulky and obstructed too much of the view.  I think that a few open shelves for everyday items would make the space feel much more open and also provide an opportunity to add in another natural wood element. Subway tile as a backsplash is also a historically accurate material choice for the era of the house. Now, we're not too concerned with making every decision historically accurate, but I do want to incorporate some such elements where possible. Hardwood floors and a dark countertop and dark grout would add some warmth and contrast to the space and keep it from looking too sterile.  As far as appliances, I'm actually not a huge fan of stainless, but it seems to be our best option, and with Black Friday sales we were able to purchase them in advance for a good deal.

the kitchen before
the kitchen currently

We have had to nix a few ideas along the way.  For example, a farmhouse sink would have put us way over budget. I was also really attached to the idea of keeping the breakfast nook in the kitchen, but Riley was able to convince me that using the space for a fridge and cabinets would be much more practical. As it is, the galley part of the kitchen is simply too narrow to be able to open a fridge door and actually stand in front of it.  All in all though, our ideas for the kitchen came together really quickly and meshed pretty well. In fact, after seeing the house for the very first time I came right home and sketched out the kitchen exactly how I wanted it. This was way back in July, and for the most part, our design ideas haven't changed much. Our only design stalemate so far is specifically which color and style tile we want to use for our backsplash.  We'll see who wins that one…

Our cabinets are being built, and we have a plaster finisher lined up for later this week. I can't wait to see how our ideas for the kitchen come to life!

A lot of the work in the bathroom is happening in tandem with the kitchen, so I'll share some of our design ideas for that next!

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