Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Mad Halloween Dogs...

It's Halloween and I totally forgot to get our pups costumes this year, I'm a bad doggie mom :(

Rocco and Sadie are so mad at me.... 
Who knew they'd take it so personally?!?  They always look so miserable anyway in their costumes that I thought they'd be happy to skip it this year?  So hard to please these two I tell ya!
HAHA!  Okay, well the real story here is who knew it'd be so much fun to get a pack of fake eyebrows for a $1 and put them on your dogs?!?!  I was cracking up while taking these pictures, Rocco and Sadie really do look mad with those angry eyebrows, LOL!  It'd kind of like the "Uncle Leo Eyebrows" thing from Seinfeld, anyone else remember that?

Alright, hope you got a giggle from Rocco and Sadie's faux brow photos :)  Time to get ready to hand out some candy!  Happy Halloween everybody!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Two Classic Characters for Our 8th Annual Pumpkin Carving Challenge!

We've been doing it since the beginning of time our blog, so the tradition must go on!  It's our 8th annual Pumpkin Carving Challenge!

Yep, Alex and I haven't had a Halloween go by without carving pumpkins together, even all the way back to our first year of dating.  We used to do it simply for the cheesey seasonally themed cute-ness of it all but with the creation of our blog and making our pumpkin carving dealio public, we had to make it a contest and let readers choose who carved the better pumpkin.  Alex and I are both pretty competitive, so we love a good husband vs. wife challenge (even if it is something pretty stupid) simply because the winner gets to be annoying bragging rights.
Thankfully for me, I've taken the crown each year starting with the "Boogeyman" in 2010, then "Chomps" in 2011, and finally my "Hee-Haw" pumpkin just last year (but man, my Halloween hair fail last year is by far more interesting than the pumpkins, I look CRAZY ridiculous!).  So, I've been able to happily gloat when it came to pumpkin carving and I think it really got to Alex because I must say, Alex really brought it this year.  I'm kind of worried, if he wins he will really be annoying gloating!

So, let the games begin!  Here's how it all went down Saturday night...
Sadly, didn't have time to go to the cute local pumpkin patch we've gone to in past years so we settled for grocery store pumpkins instead.  Who knew the selection would be so HUGE, and I'm talking pumpkin size not assortment.  I was surprised that all they had were HUGE pumpkins to choose from but it was better than sad little pumpkins.  Boy, oh boy, I just had a HOOT of a good time marveling at my giant pumpkin....
.... it wasn't until I had to scoop out all the gross pumpkin 'goo' that I realized- the bigger the pumpkin, the more 'goo' to deal with. Gross, super gross.  After about an hour and twenty pounds of bagged pumpkin guts later, we got to carving!  
Probably after another two hours of carving it was finally time to reveal our top secret pumpkin carving designs!  Here's a look at our 2013 creations... 
It's kind of funny we both went the character route, I made the Cheshire Cat (right pumpkin in photo) from Alice in Wonderland and Alex made Michael Myers (left pumpkin in photo) from the Halloween horror movies. Like I said above, I think my winning streak got to him because he knows that the Michael Myers character from Halloween totally FREAKS ME OUT!  When I saw it I said something like "Ewww you did Michael Meyers?!? I hate him!" Alex snickered and replied, "I know!" and in case you don't know what I'm talking about, it's not the actor that played Austin Powers, it's this creeper....  
Seriously, I had nightmares for a long time after seeing that movie, perhaps because I was too young when I saw it but it still scares me now, even the music from that movie scares me! 

Considering I recognized who his pumpkin was right off the bat, I unfortunately think he won this year.  But, we always go by the comments...

So, it's up to YOU! 
Who carved the better pumpkin this year?
Who gets the oh so coveted bragging rights? 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Our Latest Project Reveal! New Color & Lighting in the Dining Room!

It feels like an extra fun and special Friday because I get to share one of the best kinds of posts there is- A completed project and room reveal!!!  (Those are the best right?)  As promised on Wednesday, I rounded up some new photos of our updated Dining Room along with some 'before' and 'after' looks.

So, I might as well start with the 'before' and 'afters'- Here's our Dining Room before with the dark red we grew tired of....
... compared to our new Dining Room look!  It's lighter, cleaner, neutral, and feels a bit more modern but still fits nicely in our old colonial style home.  I'm just in love with it and all we changed was the paint color on the walls and did a DIY update on the pendant light fixture.  Almost seems to easy peasy for creating a different look right?  Makes me love it even more!
When it came to color, after four and a half years of dark red (Behr's Sequoia Grove) it was certainly time for a change.  Adding the new wainscoting last year helped brighten up the room a bit but we both agreed the red had to go...
The not too gray, not too white, not too taupe color of Behr's Wheat Bread turned out to be perfect!  It contrasted with the white wainscoting just right without being too dark, it's a great neutral shade!  We chose the Behr Premium paint option since we knew covering red might be a challenge and it seemed to cover nicely with two coats.
When it came to the light fixture, I had been looking at Drum Shade pendant lights for a while and began to wonder if we could just take apart the pendant light that was there and add a shade around it.  We had an old plain white large drum shade from Ikea in our basement so I thought we could toy with to see if it could work.  Turns out, it did!  DIY surprise!  Not sure if the same thing would work on other hanging pendant lights, but if they are similar to the style we have then it might!  Here is what Alex did to DIY our new light fixture....
He started by disassembling the old light fixture since it came in parts when we purchased it.  The bottom bracket that held the bowl was the first step, then the glass bowl, and lastly the metal bars that accented the hanging rod.  All that was left was the rod and light bulbs.  Sorry I don't have photos of all the steps, I didn't think it was going to work so I didn't have the camera ready :( hope you get the idea still!
Alex then took the drum shade, flipped it upside down so the part that would sit on top of a lamp base harp could attach to the screw cap and bolt that the old bowl pendant had attached to.  So easy!  The only thing I need to add still is something to cover the bottom of the shade so you can't see the bulbs :)  Maybe when I figure that out I can post a better tutorial with all the steps and photos!

That's pretty much it for the bit changes, I guess the only cost to revamp the look was the $32 we spent for the can of paint! Crazy right?!?

When I started putting the room back together I also updated a little bit of the decor.  I decided to add in some floral/foliage arrangements like I did on our mantle since I loved it so much (and they are FREE since it is just pretty foliage from our yard, love it!).
I also decided to add in a new table runner when I found this one during a Target trip for $17.99.  Thought the lattice print with the burnt orange border was cute for fall and not too themed!  It was so hard to ever find a cute table runner that went okay with that dark red paint, now I can decorate with any color scheme really, woo-hoo!  Oh, just think of the possibilities for Christmas decor!!!! 

Well, I guess that's it! 
So what do you think of the new look and new color?  Should I update the black and white wall art next since I'm no longer fighting that dark red color?  Let me know!

Alex and I are doing our annual Pumpkin Carving challenge tonight!  (hehe, I'm betting on me to win.... again)  Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dining Room Repaint Preview!

We're getting things put back together and close to finishing up our Dining Room Repaint Project!  I'm so dang excited about the new look and can't wait to share it all but for now, here's a little preview pic....
I can't wait to share it all along with some before and after shots- You know I LOVE me some before and after action right?!?  It's so dramatic!!!

I'll have our dramatic conclusion post up soon, stay tuned!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dining Room Paint Project & Progress

We kicked off our Dining Room Paint Project last Sunday and sadly didn't get much further on it during the work week, but here is a look at where we are at...
So why the big color change?  Well after four and a half years cooking and dining in the dark red, we were both just plain sick of it. The dark red kept making everything look and feel too traditional country kitchen or something.  I know we liked the color (Behr's Sequoia Grove) when we painted almost five years ago, but I guess it just doesn't reflect our style much anymore.  It was actually pretty funny how easy it was to agree on repainting, all I said to Alex one day was "I'm kind of sick of the dark red color, it feels so old and too traditional, I'm just feeling sick of it" and he replied with a simple "Yea, me too, let's pick out a new color."  I have to say it was probably the easiest project decision we've ever made together- but then there was the color choice of course.

When it came to a new color I knew I wanted something lighter, cleaner, neutral, and really just something that felt a bit more modern.  Most of the rooms I've been pinning all have sort of a black and white or white with warm neutrals with a little color pop going on....
Images via Dream Book Design, French Design, Interior Bloggen,  

So after much debate over said neutral color, we decided on Behr's Wheat Bread.  It was the perfect not to gray, not too white, not too taupe color we were looking for!
Like I said, not much progress during the week but I'm pumped to (hopefully) finish up all the painting and maybe even install a new light fixture this weekend. 

Woo-hoo, here's to high hopes!!!!  What are you working on this weekend?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Leaves Aren't the Only Thing Changing Colors...

I've been noodling on a color change in one of the rooms we use the most...

Time to pull the trigger I guess?!!

The excitement is building- and so are the calluses on my hands from the paint roller :( ugh, manual labor.  Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to Plan a Multi-City Europe Trip and Travel Tips from Hammers and High Heels

Since getting back from Europe and sharing photos of our adventures, I got a few emails from readers and had quite a few friends ask questions like… “How did you go about planning it all?” “Where did you start?” “What hotels did you stay in?” “How did you find the best airfare?” “How much does a trip like that cost?” “What tips do you have for someone going to Croatia?”

After gathering the emails and mentioning the idea of writing up a post on how we planned our multi-city Europe trip, it sounded like writing all this up in one shot was something a lot of you would be interested in… at least I really hope so, this is a pretty dang long post! So here it is- How to Plan a Multi-City Europe Trip and Travel Tips from Hammers and High Heels!

To kick things off, everything in our little ‘how to’ is based on our experience from our two trips to Europe. That said, we know we aren’t Anthony Bourdain or Rick Steves or any other true experienced travel expert. This is just advice from a plain ol’ married couple with a modest budget and saved-up paid vacation time ready to burn.  Planning this kind of trip isn't easy- it takes a lot of time doing research to coordinate dates, flight times, what flights connect to each city that you want, and of course comparing prices to make sure you can budget $.... You bet’cher buns we made an Excel spreadsheet to keep everything straight (that’s tip #1, get crazy organized) it's very necessary and that’s coming from someone who HATES Excel spreadsheets.

For reference, went to London, Split, and Paris in 2011 and then Prague, Milan, Dubrovnik, Kotor (Montenegro), and Rome this past August. This is the order we did it all in when it came to planning and booking to make it all happen…
US to/from Europe Flights
For those most interested in the price tag of our trips, this part is the bulk of the travel budget. Flying to Europe from the US ain’t cheap...$adly!!!  These flights make up about half of your total cost of the trip.
     -We searched on for the US to Europe flight to see which airlines were coming up cheaper, in what timeframe (months and days of the week), in order if cities you want to see (if you are doing one-way flights), and if they had layovers or not. Make sure you take notes as you research, it's a lot to try & just remember once you want to book, especially if you are booking the one-way flights.
     -We flew Delta on our first trip when we went to London, round trip & I think it was around $1,200.00 a ticket per person direct from Minneapolis to London. The bummer there was starting in London and then having to go back there at the end since it was round trip. So we used the high speed train from Paris to get back to London to fly out. If you are able to avoid round trip flights I'd recommend that, it felt like a waste of time & money. The trains aren't cheap, I think it was around $150.00 a person to go from Paris to London.
     -For this trip, we found the cheapest one-way flights out of Chicago that worked for the cities we wanted to visit. We flew from Chicago to Prague with a layover in Stockholm and then Rome back to Chicago with a layover in Denmark. The layovers aren't bad really, one long flight over the pond and then just a one or two hour flight to actual vacation. We used SAS airlines (found on and it was around $1,400.00 a person for those tickets. Higher $ but no waste of time or money when you do a round trip to get back to the first city and really the cost is close to balancing out.
     -Flights seem to be cheapest in the fall or early spring. We always have gone in August because of our wedding anniversary but I don't want to ever again- Read my post about Rome if you want to know why :)

City to City Flights in Europe
     -Now for the city to city once you figure out the US to and from Europe. Best tip I got from a friend that travels a lot, use EasyJet! The flights are crazy cheap if you research days, times, and what city order. Most are around 50 Euro if you look for the cheap ones. EasyJet is a lot cheaper than the trains there but not if you are checking a large suitcase, because their model is carry on only. The cost to check a bag is higher than the plane ticket, so just do a carry on if you can, worked easily for me both times (with a lot of outfit planning and clever packing methods)... 

     -If you go on their site review the route map to see how you can connect city to city. We went from Prague to Milan to Dubrovnik to Rome. We actually didn't have Milan on our wish list but it was the only way to get to Dubrovnik and that was our #1 priority, the Milan flight was cheap so we figured what the hell and did a day and a half there. Other cheap airlines for city to city are Ryan Air and SAS from what my friend said but we never used either for city to city flights.
     -Trains to go city to city where a lot more expensive from what we found and I heard the same from the same friend that travels a lot. If anyone out there thinks differently, let me know in the comments, but hopefully I'm not wrong.

Hotels and Apartment Rentals
     -After figuring out all the flight stuff we moved onto booking hotels. We used all kinds of hotel search engines but booked most through It was nice because we basically searched by looking at the map on the site to pick hotels that were nearby areas we wanted to be in. We stayed on traditional hotels for all cities on both trips except while in Croatia. If you do research for a stay inside the old City Walls of Split or Dubrovnik, you will see that most of the hotels that come up in a search are actually privately owned "apartments". In order to find more traditional hotels and luxury accomodations you often will have to look beyond the walls of the Old Town. Both options have their benefits so you will have to decide what kind of stay you want to have but, we decided that staying within the Old City for our vacation and one of the biggest benefits of being in an apartment is taht you often gain the ability to do your own laundry which makes carry-on only packing easy since you can clean dirty stuff and wear it again.
     -Free in room Wi-Fi was another thing that we checked for with our hotels - Remember, it's much easier to stay connected with your Wi-Fi enabled device then by relying on an expensive calling plan. We always keep our phones on "airplane mode" during vacation just to be certain that we avoid any strange phone charges. Seems to work perfectly and it's fun to Instagram and use Facebook to share pics. Lots of cafes and restaurants have free Wi-Fi too.

Here’s a full list of the hotels we stayed in and recommend:
Other Transportation Tips
This is what "herding" does to you, it isn't pretty
      -If you book a hotel or apartment contact them to see how you should get to the hotel or if you can book a taxi through them. If you opt to use public transportation ask the hotel for directions/instructions, it's much easier than figuring it all out yourself and they will give you the easiest route. If the hotel offers a taxi though and the price is decent (30 to 40 euro usually) I recommend doing it. We've used metro trains from airport hotels and it isn't always awful but it can take long and if you are traveling with a spouse it can result in arguing and crabby attitudes when you are dodging crowds and trying to figure out where to go. The feeling of being herded gets real old after a few flights, taxis are worth the extra money, trust me.

Sightseeing and Tours
     -Alex and I aren't the type that likes going on organized tours with a tour guide so we usually do online research to figure out what we want to see and when. The Frommers website is pretty good and we also like Anthony Bourdain's page on Travel Channel’s website since he is pretty laid back and gives you real advice about what to do and what to avoid.
     -If you buy books to do research beforehand I recommend Frommer’s “Day by Day” type of travel books. I like the way they are laid out and they give you ideas of daily itineraries if you want to sightsee on your own. They also have more trusted restaurant, bar, shopping, etc. recommendations. We had a “Top Ten” type of book, can’t remember the brand, but the 2 restaurants we went to that were recommended in that book were terrible!
     -BOOK TICKETS IN ADVANCE! If there is a sightseeing attraction that you know charges admission and you need to buy tickets for, buy them well in advance!!! Not only will you avoid a long crowded line, you can ensure that you will get to see that attraction. We learned this the hard way, lots of very busy attractions make you book a day and time to see it- we wanted to see Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper painting in Milan and didn’t book tickets ahead, when we got there they said that the next open day they had tickets for was two weeks out, it was such a bummer. After that we hopped online and bought tickets for all the other attractions we wanted to see on our trip so that we didn’t have to be disappointed again.

General Europe Tips:
     -If you do go to Italy in August it is true that lots of businesses are closed because they go on vacation at the end of August and return on September. We saw this on our trips but still got by just fine, only a couple restaurants we wanted to go to were closed. Most tourist things are open though.
     -If you go in the high season it is CROWDED, everywhere. That said stock up on patience before you go, I guarantee you or and your hubby will have a fit/ freak out at some point because of crowds. According to my hubby I complained or had a crowd freak out at least 3 times a day on our last trip :) I'm sure it makes me charming.
     -Related to crowds, be prepared to have some of your moments kind of ruined due to crowds and large tourist groups. I think London was pretty bad but Rome was the worst when it came to crowds that I've encountered. The beautiful moment when I laid eyes on the Sistine Chapel for the first time was pretty disappointing considering I was being pushed through a sea of people while security yelled "no photos" and "shhh" constantly. I couldn't even stop and stand still for a moment, such a bummer.
     -Last but not least, if I can recommend any must-visit cities for you, it’d be Paris and Split or Dubrovnik in Croatia. Croatia is a mix of that historic European feel but you also get a gorgeous, relaxing beach vacation! Split and Dubrovnik were both built during the Roman Empire and are inside old palace walls, it is just amazing! Anyone that goes there loves it! And if you haven’t been to Paris you have to go there! Alex and I knew we wanted to see it but had no idea we would really love it so much. It is a beautiful city, clean, romantic, relaxing, chic, and the food everywhere is amazing! You have to get a bottle of wine, a baguette, fruit and cheese and do a picnic on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower at sunset- favorite moment of that trip, I think I even cried because it was so beautiful. Ahhh, I want to go back to all three places right now!

PHEW! I think that covers a lot and if there is anything else you want to know just ask, I will be happy to share more! I just loved our trips to Europe, I wish I was still there :) Whether you are planning your first trip to Europe, a family vacation, honeymoon, or a trip with friends I hope some of our tips are helpful! Good luck with your planning and enjoy every moment of the adventure!

Monday, October 7, 2013

And the Shabby Apple Dress Giveaway Winner Is...

Oh the anticipation!  Ready to find out who won the giveaway???  The lucky winner of a FREE Shabby Apple Dress is....

Wait for it....
Wait for it...
Oh okay- sorry I'm being a nerd :)

Congrats Laura!  The winning random number was 8 and your comment was the lucky 8th! Please send me an email with your contact information so you can pick out something cute from Shabby Apple for your fall wardrobe!
Random winning number selected by Sequence Generator

Thank you to everyone that entered the giveaway last week!  It was fun reading all the comments as they rolled in!  Lastly, thank you to Shabby Apple for providing such an awesome giveaway for all of our blog friends! 

Hope you'll stop back by tomorrow Wednesday, I ended up working on a 'How we planned our Europe Trip' type of post over the weekend since it seemed like some of you might be interested when I mentioned it.  It's turning out to be REAL lengthy, but I think it has a lot of great information for anyone thinking about planning a trip as well as other travel tips (like don't leave your camera on a plane...genius!).  I'll have it ready Wednesday- be there (here) or be square!

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Fall Campfire for Two

After a crazier than normal week, I came home to the sweetest surprise Wednesday night!

Alex set up a little fall campfire for two, complete with some of my fall favorite treats- Pumpkin Beer and the next best thing to Pumpkin Pie (since you can't bake a pie over a campfire), Cookie S'mores!

It was just what I needed and I just loved the cute little set up Alex come up with, what a guy :)  I always look forward to backyard bonfires when fall arrives! 
Sadly though (and if you live near Minneapolis you already know), about five minutes into sitting and relaxing it began to downpour... tons of icky, wet, cold rain.... boo. 

I guess that went along with the theme of my week, rain on my parade campfire.  We still made the best of it though and snuggled up in our PJ's with my Pumpkin Beer and I still got my Cookie S'more, it was oven baked :)  I think we will give our little backyard campfire another try this weekend, hoping we get a break from the rain that's in our forecast, we'll see! 

What about you?  Do you love backyard bonfires in the fall too? 
I'd love to know if you have a special set up, treat, or if you have favorite kind of Pumpkin Beer... I'm trying to search for the best one so let me know!  Have a great weekend everyone!