Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas Eve, friends!  This is the first year in a long time that I didn't send out Christmas cards.  Blame it on not making the time for it and saving a little bit of money by not sending them, whatever the reason I do feel a little bad about it.  Full disclosure- I did send cards to our grandparents, because grandparents always deserve Christmas cards.  So I'll take the time now to wish all of you reading this a "Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy new year!" 

We've had a nice, busy December leading up to the holidays.  As first year home owners I insisted we put up Christmas lights outside.  While I considered talking Rob into getting up on a ladder and hanging lights on the actual house, I calmed my ambitions and decided lights on the bushes and railing would be fine.  There was a moment of "do we really need lights?" as we stood in Target and added up our boxes of lights and extension cords and realized we were spending about $100 on everything.  That might not seem like a lot, but when you have set $25 gift limits on each other for Christmas, you definitely rethink a light purchase that is 4x that.  We justified it by reminding ourselves that we can use the lights again and again, and decorating for the holidays is a fun perk of owning a home. 

We got our tree from Lowes again this year.  Very little hassle as they wrap up and tie the tree to your car for you.  As we were waiting in line with our tree we asked the guy in front of us if he had been helped yet, and he said, "Well yes, but unfortunately I actually have 3 more trees waiting to be wrapped up...and those are just the live ones...we have about 12 more fake trees back at the house."  What?!  We'd never heard of such a thing.  Where does that guy live? 

Last night we went to see the play A Christmas Carol with Morgan and her family & friends.  It was a good time and nice way to get in the Christmas spirit.  Earlier in the week we went with Tom, Linnea and her parents to see the Christmas lights at the Botanical Garden downtown. 

So we are spending Christmas in Atlanta this year.  Rob's step-brother Justin and his family and step-sister Sarah and her family are visiting from Florida and Michigan for the holidays.  They are all staying at Ann and John's place (about 5 minutes from our house), so me, Rob, Tom and Linnea will be spending today and tomorrow with them.  Tonight Rob and I will be spending the night at our house so we can open gifts together tomorrow morning before heading over to his mom's house.  Though it'll just be the two of us together (plus Roxanne) waking up on Christmas morning, it'll be nice to spend it in our new house making new memories.  We'll be thinking of our families in South Carolina and Michigan though, and wishing we could celebrate with them as well.  Merry Christmas and safe travels to everyone this holiday season! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chicago, a party, unexpected visitors, & Grandpa Smith

I got a text from my mom last week that it was time for me to write a new blog.  I wish I would write more individual topic posts instead of these monthly re-caps, but here we are almost a month after my last a monthly update it is...

I had such a great time in Chicago!  What a nice city.  Really, if I was making a list of cities I think I'd love living in Chicago would be on it, along with San Francisco...and Boston.  Megan shares a lovely two bedroom apartment with her sister in Lincoln Park, very close to lots of restaurants and the train to go downtown.  We did some touristy things, like the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (tallest building in US) and a river boat cruise, we did a lot of walking around the city, made our own pizza with supplies from Trader Joe's and enjoyed some real Chicago deep dish pizza the following night, had some beers at an Irish bar, met my cousin Ashley and her friend for brunch at a place that served fruit sushi, shared an excellent cheese board and many glasses of red wine at a bar on the river that had a much needed fireplace and much more.  Hurricane Sandy delayed my trip home (surprise surprise, I have the worst luck with flights ever), but I suppose the 2 hours I spent on hold with US Air was worth the bonus day I got in Chicago. 

Last weekend was Tom and Linnea's engagement party.  It was hosted by a couple that lived next door to Linnea when she was growing up, and they actually live in a subdivision that is literally 2 minutes away from where we live now.  There were sombrero pictures, margaritas, a fajita bar, good people and conversation, all outside on a beautiful patio/covered deck.  It was a really nice night to celebrate the happy couple.  One of my favorites of the night...

We had two unexpected guests last weekend...Rob's dad Ron and Rob's mom's dog Bailey.  Bailey came to stay Thursday night when his mom and John had to drive up to Michigan unexpectedly to be with his Grandpa who was not doing well.  And Ron told us on Friday that he would be coming down to Atlanta Saturday morning through Sunday night for Tom's engagement party.  Ron was supposed to run in the NYC marathon this past Sunday, but he found out that the race was cancelled Friday afternoon, literally as he was about to go through security!  He checked his phone before going through the metal detector, saw it was cancelled and decided not to make the trip out to NYC.  Unfortunately, his bag did make the trip to NYC without him, because it was already checked and on the plane, but it did make it back to him in Michigan safe and sound.  So once the NYC trip was off he decided to make new travel plans to come to Atlanta.  It was a short, unexpected visit, but it was great seeing him again!

Bailey is still here with me and Roxanne, as Rob's mom and John are still up in Michigan.  It's with a heavy heart that I tell you Rob's Grandpa Smith passed away Sunday afternoon.  He was surrounded by his wife, 6 children, siblings and other relatives.  He was a truly great man, and he was such a fighter this past year as he dealt with health problem after problem after surgery after surgery.  I remember meeting him for the first time at Ann and John's wedding.  I feel very lucky that he was able to travel to Boston two years ago for our wedding and I am especially thankful that we made the trip up to Michigan last Christmas, as we were able to spend one more holiday with him.  I'll never forget one time when he was visiting Ann and John here in Georgia and he asked me if I had ever been up to Michigan for a visit.  When I told him yes, I've been to Detroit and Grosse Pointe (where Rob is from), he told me, "No no no, that doesn't count, you need to come up North where we live to really see what Michigan has to offer."  Hopefully someday I will make it up there.  Rob, Tom and Linnea drove up to Michigan last night so they could be there for the viewing today and funeral tomorrow.  I'm at home on dog duty and working, but I am thinking of everyone up in Michigan and wishing I could be there with you all tomorrow.

Tomorrow I turn 28.  I honestly had to think about that for a second.  Ever since I turned 26 it seems the numbers are all the same.  I have accidentally told people this past year that I was 26 and 28.  I don't know what my problem is.  Lets just say I'm in my upper 20's.  I already got some super nice cards and gifts from Rob, mom and dad, and friends, so I'm feeling very loved! 

Double doodle trouble...
(sitting pretty for a treat)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fall Fun

Happy Fall everyone!  This is the first week in Atlanta that it has actually felt like Fall weather, with temps in the 60s and 40s at night, so I'm enjoying it.  I'm actually writing this post outside on our deck it's so nice out.  Here is the front of our house decorated for the season...

For the first time since we moved in we don't have any house projects currently going on, woo hoo!  The family room is done, pending the new couch and coffee table we will eventually get one day though we have been discussing it ever since we moved to Atlanta.  And now the first floor bathroom is done as well! 


We are really happy with how it turned out.  I can't take any of the credit on this room though, besides purchasing the mirror and helping pick out the paint colors and granite counter top.  Rob did all of the sanding, painting, changing out hardware on the cabinets, etc.  Thank you for all of the time and hard work you put in babe!  The next really big project is the kitchen, but that won't start for a while.  We originally thought we were going to paint all of the cabinets ourselves, but after project 1 and 2 we decided to actually leave it up to the professionals and get the cabinets refaced.  More money, but it will be worth it in the end.

Last weekend we went to Clemson for our first home game of the season.  We had a great time visiting with my Mom, Dad and Michelle, tailgating, and watching a really exciting game vs Georgia Tech.  Rob was secretly rooting for GT (because his brother Tom is a Tech grad), but luckily for the rest of us Clemson pulled out a win.  Next month our good friends Lindsey and Dan are coming down from PA, along with sister Lisa, to go to the Clemson vs NC State game.  I cannot wait to have them down to visit because it has been too long since I last saw them, and Dan is a HUGE Clemson fan so it is bound to be an outstanding weekend. 

A couple weekends ago Rob's Dad and Grandma Nancy drove down from Michigan to visit.  It is so nice having a house for guests to come to instead of the small apartment.  We had a really nice weekend with them and Tom and Linnea.  We went to Atlanta's High Museum of Art, which I had never been to, went out to Ted's & CPK for dinner, enjoyed coffee & conversation with Grandma each morning while Rob and Ron went running, went to the Duluth Fall Festival, cooked out on the grill and celebrated Ron's birthday. 

The only trip I have planned for the rest of the year is coming up at the end of October.  I'm super excited because I'm going to visit college/sorority friend Megan in Chicago for a long weekend!  I don't get to see Megan nearly enough, and the last time I visited Chicago-Chicago (not the suburbs where my grandparents live) was so long ago I can hardly remember, so it should be a great time!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Congrats Tom and Linnea!

Rob and I are SO excited!  We got a much anticipated yet unexpected phone call from his brother Tom on Friday that he and his girlfriend Linnea were engaged!  We always knew they were going to be engaged at some point, but had no idea it would be this weekend as Tom was very sneaky with his surprise proposal and had everyone thinking he was in Florida for the weekend with his friend, when really he was right here in Atlanta.  They are a wonderful couple, just a perfect fit for each other, and we couldn't be happier for them.  I have to say, maybe a little selfishly, how thrilled I am that Tom chose Linnea to be his wife and therefore our sister-in-law.  She is such a great person and friend, and I know Rob and I feel very lucky to have someone as special as her join the family.  Congrats you two!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Month 1 of homeownership!

So it has been about a month now that we have owned the house and things are going great!  Of course there have been issues, like just now as I wrote that I hear Rob on the phone talking with Comcast telling them he isn't doing that great because our cable isn't working.  But overall we are very happy with our new home. 

A BIG thank you to Rob's mom Ann, step-dad John and Tom for helping with the transformation of our family room!  It was the first major project we took on because the wood paneling was very outdated and just make the room look very dark.  Along with the wood paneling, the built-in cabinets, baseboards and bathroom and pantry doors were painted white as well.  It was my first time painting anything besides small craft projects, so that was interesting.  I didn't mind the actual painting, I just always felt like I was messing up somehow, so that was frustrating.  But within about a week the family room was almost complete.  We even bought a beautiful area rug from Pottery Barn that matches the walls perfectly.  I'm not ready to post before and after pics yet because we still have some shelves to put back in the built-ins, but I will soon!

Another BIG thank you goes out to my mom and dad who helped us pack up and move all of our stuff two weekends ago!  Having 4 people to help instead of just 2 made things go much faster.  It was really Rob and my dad doing the heavy lifting, but my mom and I took care of the random kitchen and bedroom stuff and a lot of the unpacking.  After all of the moving was done they helped us finish up painting in the family room, take off the wallpaper and large mirror in the downstairs bathroom so we can re-do that room next, paint the inside of our pantry closet and sand down the door frame from the kitchen to the dining room. 

And thanks to my parents and Rob's Dad and Kimberly we now have a very nice new washer and dryer set that came today!  I've already done two loads and am really happy with the set we picked out.  A nice plus to this house is that the laundry is in an upstairs closet, so much more convenient that way. 

This upcoming weekend my mom, dad and Michelle are coming to visit for the Clemson vs Auburn game that is downtown at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night.  Michelle is turning 21 tomorrow (can't believe my little sister is 21 already!!) so we will definitely be celebrating her birthday this weekend as well! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 31st

This year July 31st will be an extra special day for us.  Not only is it our second wedding anniversary, it is also going to be the day we close on our first home!  And the crazy thing is that July 31st is only 2 days away!  We are very excited and can't wait to be done with the whole home buying process. 

It all happened pretty quick the second time around.  We made an offer and the next day we received a counter offer that we were satisfied with so accepted it and scheduled the home inspection for the following week.  The home was built in 1984 and has had the same couple living in it since (no kids), so we were hopeful that the couple took good care of the house and that the inspection wouldn't turn up anything too serious.  We were pretty surprised when the report came back and showed many similar problems (but to a lesser degree) to the last house we almost bought.  For a few days we really weren't sure how things were going to play out and didn't get our hopes up.  Throughout this whole process with this second home I really haven't let myself get excited about the house, which I think is the reason I still will not believe we are really getting this house until I sign the papers and have the keys in my hand.  But after speaking with the inspector more and negotiating with the sellers, who agreed to fix almost everything we asked for, we felt comfortable moving forward with the purchase.  We signed the final agreement paperwork just a week ago, so it is pretty amazing that we are still on schedule to close on the 31st.  Our realtor picked the 31st for our closing, I think to appeal more to the seller that we could close by the end of the month, but we really weren't in a rush to close because we have our apartment until the end of August.  I did take it as a good sign that our closing was scheduled on our anniversary though :)

There are a lot of things we want to do to the house relatively soon, like paint the master bedroom, remove some unnecessary doors on the first floor, paint the wood paneling and built-in shelves in the family room, install a light fixture/ceiling fan in family room, paint the kitchen cabinets, paint the wood trim white, paint some doors, update the appliances in the kitchen that are original to the house, buy a washer and dryer, and possibly take out a window that looks into the garage from the kitchen.  All of these projects are very doable, but still time consuming.  This is probably the reason why if I spoke to you about the 1st house we wanted to buy I sounded super excited and if I spoke with you about this house I sounded a little stressed out.  The other house was move-in ready, no appliances needed to be bought or updated, it was going to be easy.  But honestly from the beginning we have been saying that we were willing to paint, do updates as needed and put a little work in to make the house our own and better than when we purchased it and hopefully increase the value of the house.  So when I remind myself of that, I realize that this home is going to be worth it and will be the perfect home for us. 

The plan for Tuesday is to go to our closing at 3pm, give them a ton of money and sign our lives away in return for some keys, drive about 2 miles from the office to our new house, celebrate with some champagne (the champagne the Colonnade gave us on our wedding night that we still haven't drank actually), unload 2 car loads of our stuff we have already started to pack up today, and then go out to a nice dinner to celebrate our wedding and new home anniversary that night.  Finally, so close!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Update on the house search

The second time around, Rob and I are trying not to get ahead of ourselves.  This means trying not to fall in love with a house or deciding what kind of kitchen trash can we are going to need to buy until AFTER the home inspection is complete and gives us the OK to do so.  This is all easier said than done. Rob is already reading websites and blogs about how to paint kitchen cabinets, because the ones in the house we are in "like" with (for now) needs a major face lift.

But I figured I would give you all a little update on the house hunt as it stands right now.  We moved our search to another suburb of Atlanta further east and looked at about 10 more houses this past week.  One of those houses we have seen twice now and decided to put an offer on today.  We are hoping to hear back from the sellers tomorrow, but we are familiar enough with the waiting game now that we know it might take longer than that.  The house is pretty different than the last house we almost bought, but it's a good house and with a little TLC it could be a great house.  It's in a nice neighborhood and only about 3 miles from Rob's mom's house.  And it is a traditional brick front, two-story home with shutters, much more appealing than the very yellow house we almost bought.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Back to square one...

Well, the home inspection didn't go as we had hoped.  I said at the beginning of the negotiation process that I would much rather lose this house because of a bad inspection report than because we couldn't reach a monetary agreement with the sellers, because the reality is I don't want to buy a crap house.  I think I jinxed myself.  The inspector found foundation issues- mainly a cracked and sagging girder (which is what was making the dining room floor slanted), and there were moisture/water problems that affected some of the siding, roof and attic.  We started out thinking the inspection had gone OK, and that if the foundation/girder issue was fixed that we would still buy the house, but as we read the full report together last night my heart began to sink.  There were just too many problems.  We sent the report to my Dad, Rob's Dad and step-Dad, and everyone said basically the same thing, we should walk away.  So that's what we are doing. 

I know what people will say, because I would tell others the same thing if they were in my shoes...It wasn't meant to be, the right house is still out there, there are always new homes coming on the market and you will find one even better than this one, at least you found out about these problems now and you won't be paying for them down the road.  While I know all of those things are probably true, it doesn't take away the fact that we spent almost a whole month of time and energy on finding a house that we won't get, the $400 we spent on the inspection, the countless hours Rob spent on paperwork and phone calls with our realtor, lenders, etc. and the fact that we fell in love with the house and now have to say goodbye to it.  We are disappointed and discouraged and the last thing we feel like doing is starting all over again, but that is really all we can do.  So, back to house hunting and looking up homes online...can't wait!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We found the house!

The positive news I was hoping for is here for me to share! The house that we first saw almost two weeks ago, that was at the top of our list before we even saw it in person based on online pictures alone which are sometime pretty deceiving, was our favorite out of all of the houses we looked at. It even beat out the home we liked in another town that we almost put an offer on. We went and looked at the house a second time two days later and put an offer on it the following day (this was two weeks ago). The let's make a deal part of buying this home was stressing me out big time. Putting in an offer and not hearing back from the seller for 36 hours is not fun, especially when the counter offer you finally receive is much higher than you were hoping for. We began to think we weren't going to be able to reach an agreement, but 5 days after our initial offer the sellers agreed to our final counter offer and we are on our way to buying our first home!
I have to tell you that I am in love with this house. My feelings may change after the home inspection on Wednesday, but let's hope not. The things we like best about the house...

-Great location/easy access to the highway/not too far outside of the city/close to LOTS of shopping/2 miles from Roxanne's favorite dog park

-It has 4 bedrooms. Originally we said we would be ok with 3, but once you see a house with 4 you really don't want a house with 3.

-Though we would like wood floors throughout the whole first floor, this house has wood in the entryway, kitchen and eating area which is nice, and really decent carpet throughout the formal dining, family and sun rooms. A lot of the carpet in other homes looked like it needed to be replaced sooner than later, but this carpet is actually fine looking.

-Nice sized kitchen with stainless steel appliances (besides the dishwasher)...down the road replace the laminate counters with granite and it would really look nice.

-No formal living room! Most homes we saw had one and it felt like a waste of space. This house has a family room and off of that is a sun room we would use more like a second family room with a couch and smaller tv.

-No major projects before we move in! Sooner than later the pink princess room will need a new coat of paint, but that will be easy enough.

-Huge, fenced in backyard with a nice deck, and there is even an apple and a pear tree back there!

-At the end of the street the house is on is access to a nice walking/biking path that will be perfect for Rob to run on.

The only two things Rob and I both weren't fans of was the curb appeal/exterior of the house and the development the house is in. The house is a two story, two car garage, very yellow home. Yellow is not and will never be one of my favorite colors, and while I know it is just paint it still took me a minute to get past that. Eventually far down the road we would probably paint it a different color. The white painted trim around the windows and the white painted garage doors need to be touched up as well. The part of the development that the house is in is ok, and the house is on a cul-de-sac which is nice, but other parts of the development are not as nice and frankly it looks like a bunch of people just need to man up and do some yard work or even just cut their lawns. But I realize no matter where you live you are going to have neighbors that just don't take care of their home like you wish they would. Even in one of the newer, cookie-cutter, homes close together developments we looked at, where the front yards all looked pretty nice and well groomed you have to deal with it. We looked at 2 homes in that development that were actually only 2 doors down from each other, meaning they shared the same neighbor in between. We walked out onto the back deck of the first home, looked to the right and said 'whoa-what is up with that neighbor's back deck/yard?' They had so much junk and who knows what back there that it really was unpleasant to look at. A few days later we looked at the house down the street, went out back and turned left and were like 'oh my gosh, it's that neighbor again, ugh.' So we decided given all the things we love about the house that we could compromise on a yellow house and a development that wasn't as pretty as we had hoped for. If the inspection goes ok then we are scheduled to close on the house on July 25th...fingers crossed!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

House Hunting

I owe our fabulous European vacation a blog post of its own, because it was one of the best trips I have ever been on and we did and saw so much. I don't have the time right now to do that blog post justice though, so I'll leave you with a few pictures from the trip instead.

We decided right before the trip that we wanted to buy a house this summer instead of renewing our apartment lease or moving to another apartment complex. We had many conversations about it and came to the decision that now is a great time to buy with prices and mortgage rates so low, and we know we want to stay in the Atlanta area for the foreseeable future, so why not move out of this sub par apartment complex with its falling down walls, messy hallway painting jobs and questionable residents?

Within a week of getting back from our trip we started the house hunting process. It started out pretty exciting and fun- looking through pages and pages of homes online, deciding which area we wanted to live in, and imagining all of the extra space we would have compared to our current apartment. But I have to say, the process has become increasingly less exciting and fun. I think Rob and I would both call it stressful and time consuming at this point...and it has only been 2 weeks.

We have seen about 15 homes so far. Out of those 15 we have been grossed out by one to the point of not wanting to go upstairs, pulled up to and turned around without exiting the car of another because of the neighboring homes and area, seriously considered 4 of them, fell in love with 2-3 of them, were about to put an offer on one of them until we found out the elementary school was no good, and put an offer on one of them. Everyone tells you not to fall in love with a house before it is officially your home, because there are many obstacles along the way that will prevent you from getting the home, but that is easier said than done. I am a pretty emotional person I would say, at least when it comes to certain things, and so it is no surprise to Rob that I am not handling this house hunting business as well as he is. I have probably shed tears over homes 2 times over the past 2 weeks. Once was over a house that we did not even go inside of, only saw online, a house that we talked up in our minds so much for a week only to find out the day before we were going to go see it that the bank was asking for best and final offers already.

One of our biggest frustrations is that our realtor was not kidding when she said inventory is low. Sure you can find plenty of homes online in the surrounding Atlanta area to buy, but not within our budget, our preferred location and with good schools. I know you must compromise on some things, but those 3 are very hard to compromise on. We would much rather compromise on the inside of the home, maybe a house that needs new floors or updated kitchen counters, than buy a home with bad schools or is further outside the city. When we do a search it literally feels like 75% of the homes we would be interested in or want to go see are sale pending.

So for now we will just keep on keeping on, remember what everyone keeps telling us- what is meant to be will be, the right house for you will come along, and hope for the best! Hopefully my next post is sooner than later and has some positive news to share.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

March/April Recap

I know it has been a very long time since I last blogged, so let me catch you up...

March was a pretty busy month for us. We flew to Boston for Chris and Jane's wedding over St. Patrick's Day weekend. We got in Friday and spent the evening with Rae, James and Jo out in Framingham, and all of us drove out to Salem, MA the next morning for the wedding. Jane was a beautiful bride, it was so much fun to see all of my Delta girls (and their men) again and it was quite the party with the wedding starting at 2pm, followed by reception, wine bar and then dancing at a club. It was also the last Delta wedding I have on my calendar, which means we will have to plan some other trip/reunion because I really got used to seeing everyone a few times a year for the past few years!

At the end of March we went to San Francisco for my college friend/roommate Jessica and Nick's wedding. It was such a fun trip, just the two of us, exploring a fun city on our own. We stayed at the Westin on Market St. which was a great hotel because of how close it was to everything. We rode the cable cars, went to Fisherman's Wharf and shared clam chowder, toured AT&T Park, got lunch at the Ferry Building, went to Coit Tower, did some shopping and enjoyed some nice meals out. Saturday we switched hotels to be closer to the wedding which was in Berkeley. It was a beautiful ceremony- everything from the bride to the vows they wrote themselves. It was the first Jewish wedding we had been to, and Rob really got into the traditional dances at the reception! Everyone had a great time and it was really nice to see Jess again since we don't get to see each other very much living on opposite coasts.

I spent one of my days off visiting Michelle at Clemson last month. It's a little less than 2 hours away, so a nice day trip. We went out to lunch and did some shopping, and I realized we hadn't seen each other since the week before Christmas. So it was great spending time with her, and Rob and I are actually planning on going up next weekend for an afternoon too.

We spent Easter at Rob's mom's house. John's daughter Sarah, her husband Keith and their two kids were in town visiting from Michigan, so it was nice seeing them again. The kids did an Easter egg hunt on Saturday and then on Sunday Ann made a delicious Easter dinner and a bunny cake for dessert.

This weekend we didn't do too much. Rob has his last week of classes this week so he has a final project and test to study for, and I am trying to get over a bad cold/cough so I've been drinking a lot of tea, taking vitamin c and cold medicine. We did take Roxanne to the dog park yesterday where there were quite a few kids running around, and luckily she did not bark at any of them! Last night we tried a new Greek cafe- Taziki's- for dinner. It is a chain, but this is the first one in Georgia, and lucky for us it is in walking distance of our apartment so we were able to enjoy the nice weather and walk to dinner. It was good food at a good price so I'm sure we'll go back.

The most exciting news I have to share is that just 3 weeks from today we will be in Spain (we=me, Rob, Mom, Dad, Lisa & Michelle)! This is the trip my Dad surprised my Mom with for their 30th anniversary and invited us on. We couldn't be more grateful or excited to be going on this trip, especially because it will be me and Rob's first time in Europe. We all fly out of Atlanta to Madrid where we will stay at a hotel for 3 days, and then we take a train to Barcelona where we will stay at an apartment we are renting for 4 days before we go on a 7 day cruise! Our cruise leaves out of Barcelona and goes to Naples where we are doing a "Flavors of Sorrento & Pompeii" excursion, Rome where Rob and I are going to see the Vatican and the Colosseum, Florence where we will go to the Cinque Terre, and then Cannes and Provence France. Though we will be spending the majority of our time off of the ship, the ship itself is pretty exciting too. It is the Norwegian Epic and it will be the newest and largest cruise ship I have ever been on, with a Blue Man Group and Cirque shows onboard. Today Rob and I went shopping for a new camera to bring on the trip, and tonight hopefully I'll get to look through the tour guide books Rob bought for Madrid and Barcelona.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Roxanne and the kid in the puffy coat

I know I have mentioned our favorite dog park that Beneful sponsored with the bridge, fancy dog fountains and turf grass many times. We used to take Roxanne to a couple of other dog parks until we found out about the new fancy park and now it is the only one we really go to. It is just so nice and Roxanne doesn't get as filthy there as she does at other dog parks where it is all dirt and mulch.

Well lately we've had some problems with Roxanne at the park. Last weekend Rob took Roxanne there on Saturday morning and she had a blast. Rob picked up his mom's labradoodle Bailey and took them both to the park to play for an hour or so and everything was great. The next day I took Roxanne to the park and within 5 minutes of entering the park she spots a little boy running around and starts following him around while still keeping her distance and starts barking at him. I told her no and tried to get her to follow me to another part of the park to play ball away from the kid. She was ok for a little while but within 5 minutes or so she started barking again. Roxanne isn't really one to bark that much though and this wasn't just a couple of barks. This was Roxanne walking around barking non-stop, ignoring me calling out her name, ignoring all tennis balls, just barking. Then I see that same kid about 30 feet away and notice Roxanne sees him too and I realize her barking really is directed at him. I was so embarrassed I grabbed her by the collar and dragged her over to the picnic tables and told her to sit and stay. I had to do this twice. I felt like one of those moms you see at the mall with crying screaming children throwing tantrums and you think to yourself, wow she has no control over her children. I know I didn't have a child, just a loud dog, but the way some people are at this dog park I know someone was judging me and my lack of control over my dog. The third time Roxanne barked at the kid I decided enough was enough and I put on her leash and we left the park, me holding the leash about 2 inches away from Roxanne's collar. We had been there maybe 25 minutes and Roxanne had done nothing besides bark at kids, dogs and at some points seemingly nothing.

On the way home I was so furious I called Rob to tell him about it. I said, "It was that 7 year old boy with the puffy Cars coat on who runs around chasing his dog." (We have both seen this kid there before) Rob immediately was like, "That kid? With the Cars coat? Oh my gosh.." Two weeks ago when Hayes and Caroline were visiting with their lab puppy Oliver, they all took the dogs to the park while I was at work and I was later told that Roxanne had barked nonstop at a kid at the park. Turns out it was the same kid she was barking at both times. I thought it was just a one time thing when it happened a few weeks ago, but apparently not. Roxanne hates this kid for whatever reason. Maybe it's because he chases dogs around the park, maybe it's because of his puffy red jacket, or maybe it's just because he is a kid and Roxanne is, for the most part, scared of kids. The kid is somewhat of a rascal himself, which doesn't help the situation. Rob held Roxanne in a sit position and asked the kid if he would come pet Roxanne so she could see he was ok and he refused and proceeded to shake his finger at her saying "Bad!" whenever she barked at him. I told Rob I really wish we could give the dad our number so he can shoot us a text letting us know when he will be at the park with his kid so that we can avoid going at the same time, because I'm pretty sure Roxanne isn't going to forget this kid anytime soon.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Officially the worst view in the complex

It isn't quite "balcony sitting" season yet, unless we are talking about Roxanne who loves laying out there even when it's cold out just so she can keep watch on the cars, people and most importantly dogs that go by. But if it were warm enough for magazine reading and drinks on the balcony, this would be our view from the couch...

Not that it was ever a nice view, but it is significantly worse since the wall fell down. It happened the Thursday before Christmas, and luckily for me I work 4pm-midnight on Thursdays. If I hadn't been at work I'm about 90% sure that my car would have been parked right in the path of destruction from the falling cement block wall. If I would have taken a picture of this the day after it happened (or 2 weeks after it happened for that matter) you would have seen the 4 cars that got absolutely crushed by the wall. Two out of the four cars that were totalled were owned by the people 2 floors up with the serious birdseed/bird feeder obsession. I couldn't help but laugh a little when Rob told me that bit of information after the wall fell down (he was home for the whole thing). Rob told me not to be mean, but come on, it is a little funny that out of everyone in the building it happened to my archenemies.

I'm pretty sure we will be looking at this mess for quite a while. At first we were told by the management company that the wall would be fixed in 7 days, and we knew that was wishful thinking, but then it looked like a stop work order was put in place and nothing has been touched since then. There used to be a retaining wall there made of long wooden planks, but when a new management company took over the apartment complex they hired a construction company to come in and replace all of the wooden walls throughout the complex with cement block walls. All it took was one bad rain storm to bring the wall down after it had been up for only a month or so. Lets hope none of the other walls in the complex come crashing down!

Monday, January 23, 2012

I love shrimp

These past two weekends I have been very spoiled- I have not had to cook a single thing. As much as I enjoy cooking and all that goes into it, including searching for new recipes and grocery shopping for ingredients, it is always nice to relax and not have to worry about all that on the weekends. Two weekends ago we used a coupon for Dominos pizza, had bison burgers at Ted's Montana Grill the following night, and we rounded out the weekend with Rob's delicious slow cooked ribs. This past weekend we kicked it up a notch from the take-out pizza and cheesy bread.

Friday we went out for seafood at The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill in Buckhead. I had wanted to try the restaurant for a while and I had a Groupon to use that was about to expire. For $35 we had a nice dinner for two that included a shrimp bruschetta appetizer, 2 glasses of wine and 2 entrees, which would have cost $80 had we not had the Groupon. Rob got the fish special with a honey mustard glaze and a bean and cous cous salad, and I got the grilled shrimp and scallops with Georgia peach and key lime mango dipping sauces, a greek salad and zesty cous cous salad. Both of our meals were awesome, and I'm sure we'll go back.

Saturday we went out with Tom to Goin' Coastal in the Virginia Highland neighborhood for more seafood. It was a nice little storefront restaurant, with large blackboards on the walls displaying their daily specials. They pride themselves on being a "sustainable seafood" restaurant, meaning they serve "only the highest quality seafood from sources, either fished or farmed that can exist over the long term without compromising species' survival or the health of the ecosystem (" I had the Coastal Bowl which was a large bowl of shrimp, mussels, scallops, and fish in a tomato stock with andouille sausage, potatoes and corn, with a huge chunk of crusty bread on top. It was simply delicious. Our filling dinner was followed by a stop at Cacao, a fancy pants chocolate shop down the street. Tom got a salted caramel ice cream cookie sandwich that was made right in front of him, and Rob and I got 5 cookies that cost us $17. Enough said.

Yesterday I worked until 5pm and came home to a tasty Cajun chicken pasta dinner prepared by Rob. It was a new recipe we'd never had before that Rob found online. It required a bit of veggie cutting/chicken cooking prep time, and I appreciated all of the time and effort he put into the meal. I only helped him out once when I opened a bottle of chardonnay for him to use in the recipe and for me to drink, and he even cleaned up, which does not follow the "I cook, you clean up" rule we usually follow. And there was so much left over that I didn't have to cook tonight either! I do not know what's on the menu for next weekend yet, but I'm pretty sure it won't be delicious seafood two nights in a row!

Monday, January 9, 2012

I'm back!

It has been almost 2 months since I last updated this blog. I am almost embarrassed to write now after it has been so long. I mean, the last time I wrote was November 14th, so...Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and hope y'all are having a great new years so far? You know it's bad when I haven't even been logging on to blogger to read other friends' blogs. When I started to type in the web address tonight it didn't even come up on the drop down bar like it normally would have. I have no excuses other than I've been working a lot, the holidays got crazy busy, I spent too much time baking cookies, and when I have had a free afternoon or evening to write all I have really felt like doing is sitting down and relaxing. Hopefully I pick it up in 2012.

The holiday wrap up...We stayed in Atlanta for Thanksgiving and went over to Ann and John's (my in-laws) house in the morning. Step-brother-in-law Justin and his wife Hilary and their brand new baby boy Cooper were visiting from Florida, and brother-in-law Tom was there too, so we had a nice group for the big feast. We ate our Thanksgiving meal in the early afternoon and then I headed to work to hang out with my girl Morgan for the evening.

December was filled with the typical Christmas festivities...major cookie baking, decorating, Rob's work Christmas party shenanigans, shopping, Rob and I getting our first real Christmas tree from Lowes which we enjoyed for a few weeks and then threw in the dumpster before road-tripping it to Michigan for Christmas. We enjoyed a pre-Christmas weekend with my parents and sisters here in Atlanta since we wouldn't get to see them on Christmas. It was a great weekend where we went out to our favorite tapas restaurant with everyone, did some shopping at Atlantic Station, and exchanged gifts.

On the 23rd, Rob, Tom, Roxanne and I piled into Rob's Pontiac G6 and headed up to Grosse Pointe, MI to be with Rob's Dad and Kimberly for Christmas. We stopped overnight in Lexington, KY, so the 11+ hour drive wasn't that bad. Roxanne did great on the long car trip- taking up as much of the back seat as she could, resting her head on my lap and napping most of the way. And she loved the hotel. When we checked in she even put her front paws on the counter to greet the lady at the front desk. We arrived in Michigan on the 24th, watched the Lions game, had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner, wrapped some gifts and then went to the 11pm church service. On Christmas morning Rob's Grandma Porter, Aunt and Uncle from NY, and a nice couple Ron and Kimberly are friends with came over for brunch and exchanging gifts. Later that evening, Rob, Tom and I drove about 45min north to the Smith family Christmas to see his mom, John, and all of his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents on his mom's side. I had a great first of many Christmases in Michigan!

The day after Christmas we went to the Henry Ford museum, out to a nice Italian dinner, and Rob and I met up with Hayes and Caroline for a drink. I flew back to Atlanta on the 27th and went back to work that night, and Rob stayed in Michigan for the rest of the week through New Years. In the weeks leading up to our trip up North I had hoped for snow and maybe a white Christmas. No such luck until literally 2 hours before I was scheduled to fly back to Atlanta. It wasn't too much snow, but just enough to delay my flight by an hour or so. Given my luck with flying I'm surprised there wasn't a blizzard that delayed my flight for days.

I can't say the whole trip went off without a hitch. A few days after I left I got a call from Rob saying Roxanne was throwing up all morning and that he felt horribly sick with severe stomach pains. It turned out Roxanne had eaten too much of Hayes and Caroline's dog Oliver's nyla bone and was throwing up chunks of it the next day. Since there was blood in the vomit Rob decided it was best to take her into the vet and get checked out. While he was at the vet with her, Rob started throwing up. Luckily his Dad was there with him to help out! Rob ended up going to the hospital where they did some tests and they said he had a stomach virus, so they gave him some fluids and medications and he went home later that day. Within a day or so both Rob and Roxanne were feeling much better.

So it's 2012! I didn't really make any official resolutions on January 1st, but I do want to make a conscientious effort to have a healthier 2012. I miss the days when exercising was a normal part of my everyday life. Well, I don't necessarily miss the actual exercising but I do miss how much better I felt about myself after putting in the time to take care of my body. We have some fun trips coming up this March to Chris and Jane's wedding in Salem, MA and Jess and Nick's wedding in San Francisco. And then the countdown begins to the family trip to Europe in May! Rob is already planning for his next marathon in a couple of months, and we are looking forward to having any visitors that might want to come to Atlanta this year! Hayes and Caroline are already planning on coming over President's weekend, which will be a great time. Happy New Year everyone!