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Christmas Gifts & Other Good Stuff

Today we’re wrapping up our annual pair of “Christmas present” posts (the first was yesterday’s rundown on what we made Clara) with this summary of what else we unwrapped and how we spent the day, like this one and this one of yore. Think of it as our way of trying to cling to the holiday season for one more day while answering all of those “what did you get each other?” and “what else did Clara get?” questions. Meanwhile, in quick kitchen update news, we’re knee-deep into staining the lower cabinets, which means the room is a complete disaster, but it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas progress.

The doors/drawers/frames have been sanded, deglossed, stained, sanded, and stained again – so we’re just waiting for them to be dry enough to rehang. That should happen this weekend, which means we can share all the photos and details with you on Monday (in case you missed it, we revealed our painted upper cabinets a few days ago). But back to our tree on Christmas morning.

Clara was more excited this year than any other year before – even waking up about 10 minutes after going to bed the night before and declaring that it was the morning already. I was more excited too, because for the first time I could recreate a family tradition of mine growing up: sitting on the steps for a photo before sprinting down to rip through some wrapping paper. We can’t wait to accumulate years of pictures like these… especially since next year Clara won’t be sitting alone!

Clara was an unwrapping tornado. Many of the presents under the tree were sent from relatives (or were our gifts to others that we’d be delivering later in the day), but I was grateful that there were also a bunch of wrapped (not bagged) gifts for Clara so that we could witness her having those exciting moments where you get enough paper off to finally see what’s inside. Here she is actively shouting “oh wow, man!”

We won’t bore you with everything this little lady made off with, but there are some highlights – like these two Cinderella mouse ornaments from my parents, which were mine as a kid.

These were a surprise favorite (my mom worried she wouldn’t even notice them among all the other bigger and newer toys that shared the same package) but Clara was HUGE fan. She even gave them a giant hug before running right over to find the perfect spot for them on the tree.

The main gift from Santa (not to burst anyone’s bubble, but it was really from us) was the “ballerina princess doll” that Clara had been telling various Santas, relatives, and friends about all season. It’s a Gotz doll from Pottery Barn Kids and she spotted it weeks ago when we were in there picking something up for someone else. If you’d like a mental picture, her eyes locked and she saw hearts. Despite our original “she’ll probably forget all about it by the time Christmas rolls around” thoughts, she was still talking about it weeks later. So Santa delivered.

We decided it would be our one “splurge” gift for the year, and after a nice pre-Christmas sale and using an old Pottery Barn gift card, it ended up not being that bad. Honestly, even at full price it would’ve been worth it considering how much she loves this thing. “Melinda” even came to Burger’s annual check-up and to a neighborhood New Year’s party with us this week.

Some people have asked about our family’s take on the Santa tradition. Both Sherry and I both got some gifts from Santa and some from our parents or other relatives, so that’s what we do with Clara.  Since she specifically asked Santa for her the little ballerina – well, Ole St. Nick got the glory for that one. But otherwise we try to give credit where credit is due, like this one that came from Nonna…

…and stuck with the theme of ballerinas. It was like tutu heaven for Clara. She named her “Spaghetti Hair.”

She got other things like books, games, stickers, and clothes, and we gave her a stocking with some socks, PJs, and Pez – which, by some miracle, were all met with equal levels of excitement.

We also did the traditional “you get to open a few smaller gifts on Christmas Eve” thing, and miraculously got this shot with Sherry’s iPhone, which completely captures her joy. As some of you noticed in yesterday’s post, there was a two-pajama-rotation (Clara wanted to wear her Santa ones and her new reindeer ones, so she put these on in the late afternoon, and then changed into her reindeer ones right before bed so she could wake up on Christmas morning in them).

We didn’t get all of the gift-opening action on tape (or even capture it all on our cameras) but here’s a culled down version of the short video that we like to take each Christmas morning, which is mostly just Clara discovering her cubby shelf and hypothesizing about where Santa is at the moment. The bump-kiss is my favorite part.

And we can’t forget about Burger. He made his way out of bed about 5 hours earlier than usual, which earned him a few Christmas treats (literally) from us. He also scored a paw print “Feliz Navi-dog” ornament from my godmother Gerrie, who’s always great about remembering furry family members.

Sherry got me a fun soda-themed gift (she knows me well) complete with four unusual bottled sodas like chai cola, chocolate soda, and ginger cola.

Here’s my soda-tastic spread, which also included some themed candy as well (Bottlecaps are my favorite). I haven’t tried all of the sodas yet, but so far the best was the “Dog Drool” one, which was actually orange lemon flavored.

Sherry also got me this big pop-out reflector/screen that I had been eying to (hopefully) help boost my photography skills. I’ve seen how they come in handy to all of the pro photographers we’ve encountered in this job, and I finally figured it’d be worth having one around – you know, to help bounce/block/diffuse light. It collapses and has a few covers that zip on and off so I’m still getting the hang of it.

Since Sherry’s love for white ceramics is undying, I got her this set of porcelain ornaments from Crate & Barrel.

And since jewelry is a close second to her ceramic obsession, I plucked these two items from some strong hints that she dropped (Pinterest, and this gift round up). The arrow necklace is from Madewell and the love bracelet is from Anthropologie, which she liked because it reminded her of the “love” script on the cover of our book.

After all of our unwrapping was done on Christmas morning (and we downed some quick breakfast), we drove about 45 minutes west to meet up with the rest of my family at a nearby cabin we had rented for the night. You may have seen us Instagram a picture of it that afternoon.

We only stayed for about 24 hours, but it was awesome! We took a ton of pictures so we’re going to post a Cabin Crashing of it next week, but here’s a sneak preview.

I think we’re going to officially wrap-up the holiday season at our house this weekend – i.e. take down decorations and the tree. But we did snap a couple better-late-than-never seasonal pictures, since this will likely be the last time we can take a photo like this in front of the tree.

Kinda crazy to think that this was our last Christmas with just one little one (well, two including Burger – and about 30 if you count all of Sherry’s ceramic animals). What’s even crazier is that Clara stood still enough for this long of an exposure!

What did you guys wrap and unwrap this year? Do you do big gift exchanges with your other half, or just little fun things that you’ve been eying? Sherry and I like to keep it pretty low key, but we love hearing about giant surprises (were there any bows on any cars in any driveways?) and little thoughtful things alike.


As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winner, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by kschrav by TomRob
by Maria_OurLakeLife by afnhendrickx



Twenty Favs of Twenty-Thirteen

2013 has been quite the year. It began with a book tour, mid-pointed with us moving into a new house, and ended with us finding out that we have a baby boy on the way. And in between there have been lots of projects, announcements, transformations, and other good stuff. So we thought we’d make our last post of the year a look back at our 20 favorites – from makeovers to personal moments – of the last 12 months. We fell off the “monthly superlative” train somewhere around our move, so we’re well overdue for a little retrospective anyways (cue the slow jazz). So here we go, in no particular order…

#1 – Refacing Our Old Fireplace: Perhaps one of the things we miss most about our old house is fireplace and its total facelift. We marble-tiled the surround (including our first stab at herringbone) and constructed, trimmed out, and painted a whole new surround. More on that here, here, here, and here.

#2 – Clara’s Cheery Big Girl Room: I think we’d all vote that our favorite space in our new house is Clara’s room, where we’ve had fun with a soft pink ceiling, some chunky crown molding, colorful raindrops & a rose-colored door, no more crib, and a wall o’ fun.

#3 – Our Much-Nicer-For-Now Graphic Master Bath: The stenciled subfloor in the sink nook off of our master bedroom is SUCH an upgrade from the old worn carpeting that used to be there – and it was such a cheap solution. We’ve also ripped up that old carpeting, painted the walls/trim, hung a nice big window-ish mirror, and updated the vanity by adding shelves and new hardware along with refinishing it.

#4 – The Pergola, Er, Cargola: The pergola we built on our carport (hence, the “cargola”) fulfilled our lifelong dream of having a pergola. Okay, maybe lifelong is a stretch, but having constructed it from scratch (even building those brackets) gives us quite the confidence boost for someday adding one above our double garage at this house. You can read about the entire process here and here.

#5 – An Imperfectly Perfect Painted Pillow: It’s not what she initially envisioned, but we ended up loving the bleed-tastic outcome of this colorful painted pillow that Sherry stenciled using a metal screen and some sponged-on craft paint.

#6 – Striped Stair Makeover: It was plenty satisfying to finally rip up the old carpet on our stairs, but we’re so glad we didn’t stop there. Instead, we painted lots of blue trim and bannister posts white, also went white with the stair risers, painted the stairway walls and ceilings a light gray-tan color, and stained the railing a dramatic dark tone that picked up on the new black & white runner that we installed. More on that here, here, and here.

#7 – Simple Frames For John’s Favorite Art: Although we haven’t found a new home for them yet (maybe the nursery or the office?), I loved creating these super simple wood frames for my big bike posters when they hung in our old sunroom. And they were only $7 each!

#8 – Spreading Cheer at The Children’s Hospital: How could we not include this? The most rewarding project we took on this year – heck, this decade – was doing a holiday makeover for a family waiting room at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. You can read more about that process here, here, and here.

#9 – Celebrating Our Little Dragon: We didn’t think we could top the fun of Clara’s worm-themed 2nd birthday, but celebrating Clara’s third birthday with dragons was a heckova good time. Speaking of which, someone’s already talking about her 4th birthday, and she came up with the idea of “a gold party” all on her own. So far she wants to wear a gold dress, serve gold food, and give out gold coins to everyone while they get their faces painted gold… should be interesting to see how this evolves over the next five months.

#10 – Making Over Our New Deck & Sunroom: We can’t wait for winter to ease on outta here so we can get back to enjoying the outdoor spaces that we spent so much of this year transforming. From patching, stripping and restaining the deck to completely overhauling the formerly closed-in sunroom (lofted ceiling! tiled floor!) we’re ready to kick of Spring out there already. You can read more about the deck makeover here, here, and here. And check out the sunroom reveal (with links back to each stage of that undertaking here).

#11 – Dropping Our First Single: I just watched this again and half-laughed, half-buried-my-face. We are SUCH BIG NERDS. But hey, it’s all in the name of some good fun & foolishness (pun intended).

#12 – Upgrading Our Vacation Jars: This easy update to our little vacation time capsules – which up until now had been housed in mason jars – breathed some much needed life into one of our favorite projects of yore. It was nice and simple – and now we’ve got an even bigger collection of these personal “travel snow globes” of sorts.

#13 – Hardwood Floor-ifying The Upstairs: This almost didn’t make the list because the process was far from my favorite time of the year. But ripping up the carpets in our upstairs to install new hardwood floors (and painting all of the doors and trim) was certainly well worth it. You can read more on that process here, here, here, and here.

#14 – Taking On A Showhouse: Accepting the challenge of helping to design an entire house for the 2014 Richmond Homearama (to benefit Habitat For Humanity) has been both exciting and more than a little intimidating. Over the last month we’ve transitioned from the planning stage to full on let’s-get-this-thing-built-and-finished mode. It’s been a bit hectic lately, so we totally owe you an update (beyond just what’s been showing up on Instagram). The house is now framed, sheetrock is going up next week, and one of our favorite elements – the exposed wood porch detail (made from reclaimed wood) – is coming together right before our eyes.

#15 – Our $51 Guest Bath Update: Embracing the vintage-y feeling of our old guest bathroom, meant sprucing it up with simple (and extra budget friendly) ideas and accessories. First we painted the walls, tended to the window, and then added art and accessories. I’m not sure we’re ready to start putting yellow tile in anywhere voluntarily, but it was undeniably charming in the end. We actually kind of miss it!

#16 – Clara’s Jellyfish Costume: In our second year not doing a store-bought costume, Clara threw Sherry a curveball with a request for a jellyfish fairy/princess/queen (depending on the day). But with an umbrella, some pretty dangly things and a string of LED lights, we had one happy jellyfish on our hands.

#17 – Cheap & Easy Hallway Upgrade: Another project from the last house that we’ve earmarked for this house is hallway board & batten (although I’m sure it will evolve for this space – maybe in a chunkier and more detailed way). This hallway update cost us less than $60 and was something the new buyers loved during their first tour, so we’re so glad we got ‘er done. You can read more about the process here and here.

#18 – Interviewing Jonathan Adler: Put a line through this on Sherry’s bucket list: she talked with one of her design idols, Jonathan Adler. And we got all of her extra-gushiness on tape to prove it. If you missed it before, here’s her giddy interview below:

#19 – Finalizing Our Curb Appeal: In addition to the aforementioned pergola, we also stepped up our front exterior by boxing out the porch columns to make them match the chunky columns that were already on our carport (more on that process here and here), painting the siding for contrast, and even adding some window boxes.

#20 – Announcing The Barnacle: And of course, we can’t make a list of favorite things in 2013 without including a nod to what will surely be the highlight of 2014: the new baby boy (er, “bun” if ask Sherry, “barnacle” if you ask Clara) that we’re expecting in April. Which reminds us, it’s just about time to start working on that nursery!

And of course, a big reason that these moments are our favorites is because we get to share them with you guys. So a big thanks for being part of our 2013. We can’t wait to continue this wild ride with you guys in the big ’1-4. Sherry’s currently going through 10,000 photos and writing a big tutorial about Clara’s homemade Christmas gift, so we’ll be back with those details on the 2nd! Haaaappy New Year to you and yours!

Now it’s your turn. What’s topping your list of favorite life moments / house projects / rapping attempts of the past year? Is there anything in particular that you’re excited for in 2014?