Wednesday, July 23, 2014

a weekend at salamander

What do you do when a flight cancellation leads to a trip cancellation? In our case, we hop in the car and head to a resort for the weekend.

As we sat on the couch mulling our post-trip cancellation options - our already packed bags sitting by the door just waiting to be whisked away for the weekend - Jon suggested we see if the Salamander had room. I had stumbled across the Salamander in Southern Living (they have the BEST regional travel tips) a few months ago, and it's been on our bucket list ever since. And hey, we deserved a little luck after our flight debacle. We called to say we were on the way, and by 8:30 p.m. we were checking into the hotel with complimentary glass of wine in hand. Ahhhhhhh.

view from the balcony
that bathtub…swoon
It's unlike us to show up anywhere without a plan, but I loved the spontaneity of the trip. Nothing is more depressing than unpacking a bag that you just packed 3 hours earlier. We were making the best of an annoying situation, and I'm really thankful we were able to enjoy a weekend getaway - even if it's not exactly how we planned it.

On Friday, we slept in and enjoyed room service breakfast. Ordering room service always makes me feel fancy - especially when it comes with white tablecloths and fresh flowers.

Later in the morning we headed to the spa. Spas make me feel fancy too. I got a facial and massage while Jon got a massage. It was definitely one of the nicest spas I've  ever been to. Even better, the spa had a private pool for spa patrons only. After our pampering, we spent the afternoon relaxing at the quiet, adults-only pool while the other resort-goers had to slum it down at the noisy family pool. ;)

It wasn't the most patriotic way to spend the 4th of July, but we made up for it by having BBQ for dinner, sitting by an outdoor fire, making s'mores, and watching some fireworks.

Middleburg is horse country. That's the only explanation I have for this. 
the good life

On Saturday, we sipped our way through Virginia wine country. Turns out we have some pretty decent vineyards right here in our own backyard. We've visited a few local wineries here and there, but this is the first time we devoted an entire afternoon to vineyard hopping. It was such a beautiful day.

For dinner that night, we headed to a nearby B&B called the Goodstone Inn. It was a charming little spot with lovely views and excellent food. I kind of wanted to move in and never leave.

On Sunday we headed home, but not before a delicious brunch at the resort. I was sad about leaving so I comforted myself with this little treat. These are butterscotch scones. They left them in our room each evening during turndown service (turndown service...add that to the list of things that make me feel fancy), and they had mountains of them at brunch. I thought about stuffing some in my pockets, but I went for the classier option of buying them at the local bakery on our way out of town.

My next order of business is to recreate these little mounds of awesomeness. It was a lovely weekend full of even more reminders of why Virginia is pretty awesome. Sorry we couldn't see you this time, Arkansas, but we'll be back!
Thursday, July 17, 2014

a new job

After 4.5 years working at a small tourism development company in DC, I recently switched jobs. I really enjoyed my former job where I had some of the best colleagues around. I'm grateful I had a job, and even more grateful I had a job that I liked, but it was time for a change. When we moved to Alexandria, my commute grew to about 1 hour each way. I thought I would make it a few months, but I lasted 10 months.

I wasn't actively looking for another job, but I kept my ear to the ground in case something interesting became available. Lo & behold, someone shared a job opening on the neighborhood listserv several weeks ago that piqued my interest. This is a good lesson in actually reading listserv emails. The opportunity sounded perfect, I applied, and the rest is history.

I started last Wednesday, and everything has been a blur since then. I'm working with a great team of people at a small, boutique marketing recruiting firm. In layman's terms - we find & place candidates for marketing-related jobs in the DC metro area. I'm doing a lot of in-person training these first couple of weeks, but after that I'll be working from home full-time. I'm going from a 1-hour commute to no commute at all. I may never wear real pants again.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014

restor-a-finish dresser

We had a bit of an interruption, but it's time to talk about that stacked dresser.

As you may remember, the dresser looked like this when we found it at the barn sale. It wasn't in bad shape, but it needed a little love. There were no major scratches or defects - mostly it had lost it's luster after years of neglect.

We [we = me & Megan. Jon wanted no part in this project] toyed with the idea of completely refinishing it & painting it, but I couldn't settle on a color, and I don't always love the look of painted furniture. And if I'm being completely honest, I didn't trust my refinishing skills.

On top of that, I'm not sure what the long-term plan is for this dresser. Right now, it's going to live in an upstairs guest room that isn't finished yet (and when I say it isn't finished yet, I mean the only thing in there is this dresser). I hated the idea of going to the trouble of refinishing it before I was 1) committed to a color and 2) committed to it's permanent place in our home.

Thus enter Howard's Restor-a-Finish. I first came across this product on Pinterest. After extensive blog research, it seemed like a miracle product. We really didn't have anything to lose - if we didn't like the end result, we could always go back to Plan A: a complete refinish.

We purchased the restor-a-finish at Home Depot. I think it cost around $10. We bought 2 colors to try - walnut & dark walnut - but we couldn't tell a difference between the colors once they were applied. The process of applying the restor-a-finish couldn't have been easier. We just rubbed it on gently with 0000 steel wool and wiped it off. No waiting, no stripping, no elbow grease. The hardest part was pulling out all of the drawers. Ha! We followed the restor-a-finish application with another Howard product called Feed-n-Wax (also purchased at Home Depot), which you rub in & let sit for 30 minutes before wiping off any excess.

now which drawer went where??? 
almost there! we were smart enough to not put all the drawers back in until we had the hardware installed so we could easily pull them back out again.
The final step was replacing the hardware. We raided Anthropologie's hardware section, and we just couldn't decide so we got 15 different ones! I love the charm of the non-matching knobs. It's perfect for the vintage vibe of this old dresser.

i won't tell you how long it took for us to agree on a knob pattern we liked.
those knobs! *swoon*
I love how the knobs look with the camel print I bought in Dubai. Now it's time to get the room painted so I can hang the print above the dresser. 
As you can see, it definitely looks nicer, but restor-a-finish wasn't the miracle worker I hoped it would be. Contrary to the blogs I read and YouTube tutorials I watched, the restor-a-finish didn't make all the scratches or water marks disappear. What it did do is enhance the natural shine and color of the dresser's existing finish. What was a dull & drab finish, now looks more rich and hydrated. I would definitely recommend the Feed-n-Wax. It really helped put the finishing touch on the dresser.
some minor scratches didn't come out.
 luckily, you don't notice them unless you are really looking.
Overall, I'm happy with how it turned out. I may decide to completely refinish it someday, but since it looks fine as is, I'll probably get lazy and just leave it.
Thursday, July 3, 2014

the night the tree fell

It's been one of the weirdest 36 hours on record. Wednesday was my last day at work. I'm starting a new job next week, but leaving an old job is always a little weird. I was looking forward to sleeping in on Thursday morning, but Jon woke me up early with some unexpected news. A tree branch fell on our driveway. We have a knack for middle of the night crashes. This one didn't wake us up, but it was a nice surprise when Jon went to get into his car and found a huge tree branch blocking his way. We got really lucky…this time. The tree fell across the driveway right behind his car. It did minimal damage to one bush. It could have been so much worse. Our neighbor was kind enough to help Jon move it into the street so he could drive to work.

Jon went to work, and my day was full of errands and packing. We were leaving late Thursday afternoon for Arkansas to visit Jon's family. The weather had other plans. We were under a severe thunderstorm warning as we drove to the airport. That should have been our first sign of trouble. The airport was total chaos. The departures board was full of delays and cancellations thanks to the local thunderstorm and the hurricane causing problems all along the east coast. Our flight to Little Rock connecting through Charlotte was one of the few that was still scheduled on time so we checked in and went to our gate as planned. They made one promising announcement about taking off once the ground stop was lifted, but three minutes later, the monitor had changed from on time to canceled. Apparently things were such a mess in Charlotte that they just canceled most incoming flights due to the congestion. 

Since so many people were in the same boat as us, the soonest they could rebook us was Saturday. Arriving Saturday with a Sunday morning departure really didn't make much sense so we canceled the entire trip. Then it was down to baggage claim to try to retrieve our bag. Although we were disappointed about our trip being canceled, we really were lucky - at least we were home. People who were connecting through DC were having trouble getting their bags and getting other flights. One woman's bag was ahead of her in Orlando, but she had no idea when she would arrive to meet it. Another guy was renting a car to drive 11 hours overnight to be where he needed to be. A family from Florida opted to just drive all the way home. Two hours after arriving at the airport, we were back home with bag in hand. 

So what do we do now? Our bag was already packed, and we were already planning to spend the weekend away. Why not find an alternative destination? Although the weather was terrible on Thursday, the rest of the weekend was supposed to be beautiful. I had read about Salamander Resort in Southern Living. It's a new resort that opened in Middleburg, Virginia about one hour from us in the heart of Virginia's horse and wine country. The horses I could leave, but the wine I'll take. We didn't think they would have availability on such short notice, but we decided to check anyway. Surprise! They had a room. So we hopped in the car and by 8:30 p.m. we were checking in for a weekend of spa treatments, poolside relaxing, small town shopping, and winery hopping. I'm not complaining. 

view from our balcony
I quit a job, a tree fell in our yard, our trip to Arkansas got canceled, and we ended up at a resort in Virginia. Just a normal 36 hours with the Hardins. 

P.S. Happy 4th of July! 
Tuesday, July 1, 2014

megan's visit

Megan, aka my older sister, aka Schmee, finally came to visit! We've seen each other a lot over the last several months, but it just hadn't worked out yet for her to come here. It was driving us both insane. I've been bouncing house/decorating ideas off her since we bought this house (and vice versa since she bought a house last year too), but you can only look at so many photos and inspirational Pinterest boards before you have to just see everything in person. The free decorating help aside, I was really happy to spend a whole week with her. We haven't hung out just the two of us like that in ages.

Her visit came at the perfect time. I've made a renewed effort recently to focus on house projects. If decorating a house is like writing a novel, then the last few months have been one long slog of writer's block for me. I'm not very patient. I hate having to wait for inspiration and clarity, but I think the fog has finally lifted. I recently had a lightbulb moment, and I'm starting to see how everything is going to come together, which is good because I have 6 months until we host my family for Christmas. That seems like a long time, but my to-do list begs to differ. It won't all be done by then, of course, but I'm sure everyone would at least appreciate having a place to sleep.

Here is everything we managed to squeeze into one week.

We shopped for (and found) treasures at barn sales in Frederick, Maryland. I came home with this cute little dresser. I loved the shape of it, and at $150 its was a pretty great deal considering similar pieces are going for almost $700!

We went to a baseball game and the Nats finally broke their curse against the Braves. I think Megan is good luck.

baseball selfie!
We made a strawberry rhubarb pie. This  lil' baby attended a USA soccer watch party/BBQ with us, but the pie didn't make it home.

While I was at work one day, Megan cooked a delicious dinner of spring pea & asparagus lemon risotto. I didn't mind.

Since she made me dinner, I thought the least I could do was make her a Pimm's cup. I've been obsessed with Pimm's cup cocktails lately. They are the perfect refreshing drink for a warm summer evening.

We went to dinner at Roses' Luxury - one of our favorite new places in D.C. The food is swoon-worthy. If my waistline was no object, I would eat here every day.

gnocchi, a.k.a. tiny pillows of love

megan said this dessert tasted like a meadow. it turns out meadows are delicious. 
As if cooking dinner and schlepping to barn sales and home stores wasn't enough (I'm sure she really hated all the shopping), we made Megan earn her keep. This light fixture in our entry had to go. I've hated it from day one. It was way overdo for an upgrade. 

ugly old fixture
shiny new fixture
Luckily, Megan has experience in this department. She's hung a few fixtures in her house.

Not so luckily, hanging a new light fixture in an old house can be quite complicated.

But she was determined to finish what she started. She's a lot like Dad in that way. Again, I didn't mind. It was a bit of an adventure, but after 5 hours and 3 trips to the hardware store, we had achieved success. This is what homeowners do on a Friday night. If you don't already own a home, get excited.

hanging out in some natural light before we left for work this morning.
do you see the sheet of gold dots sitting on the chest (far right)?
they are leftover from the bathroom project,  and i have big plans for them.
and that chevron entry rug? i have big plans for that too.
and those two wallpaper samples hanging out in the dining room? yep, even more plans.
so many exciting things happening. stay tuned!
It was more than worth it! I love how it turned out! It's amazing what a difference a new light fixture can make. My excitement level over this light fixture officially means I'm old & home owner boring, but I don't care. The midcentury vibe of the fixture is perfect - it works in our old house while still remaining modern & playful. The brass fixture also plays off the brass drawer pulls & gold lamp on the chest. Hiding in the backdrop of the photo is our new fireplace screen, which adds even more shimmery warmth to the house. I love how the geometric shapes in the light fixture and fireplace screen complement each other.

One of the hardest parts of decorating is making things flow from room to room. When you walk into my house, you see into the entry, stairway, living room and dining room. Making sure all of those spaces blend well is a challenge, but I'm pretty thrilled with how it's coming together. It's making me anxious to finish with some other projects and ideas I've been pondering.

a closer look at the fireplace screen
One project done, one to go. Remember that dresser we bought? You didn't think we were going to leave it like that, did you? It was in pretty good shape, but it still needed a little TLC. But you'll have to come back tomorrow to see how it turned out. How rude of me.

We really put Megan to work. I feel a little bad about that. I'm not sure it was much of a vacation for her. But we did make sure to reward her helpful efforts in a big way. On her last night here, we took her to get her very first lobster roll. I felt like a parent introducing my kid to something new and wonderful. You'll have to ask her what she thought, but I don't think it disappointed. Lobster rarely does.

mmmmmmm, lobster

Thus ended the trip. I kind of miss her already.