Basement Inspiration

So, I need to make a confession. I LOVE LOVE LOOOOVE Polyvore. It may not be a perfect program, but it’s fun, free and helps me to make mood boards that I can actually utilize when looking for projects around the house. I can’t redecorate in one fell swoop (Reasons? #1: money, #2: time. Duh. ;-)) but this gives me inspiration, and the time lapse gives me flexibility. If I find something on the cheap at TJ Maxx or the Christmas Tree Shop out and about that comes close to what I’ve created, well great! I prefer it that way! Plus, I get to be a little creative, so it’s win-win.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a HUGE fan of Young House Love, which is a blog about design and home improvement, among other things. They’re one of the main reasons I thought to start a blog, myself. So, I think I’ll take a mini-vacation from my usual posts and share with you my latest mood board — for our basement, which we’re working on cleaning out and, throughout the summer, waterproofing, painting, and organizing (yet again). We’ve got some additional projects in mind, like adding a 1/2-full bath and creating unified storage areas, but we’re not sure if those will all happen this summer…remember, we’re also planning a wedding. 😉

So, with no further ado…

There are actually three spaces listed: the Living Space, the Laundry Area, and the Possible Bath. These areas are separate; there will be unfinished basement space separating them (it’s a pretty good-sized basement). Since I know we’ll be using a tan paint (either colored Drylok or a paint over the Drylok-ed areas) on most of the foundation walls , I wanted to come up with color schemes that would work with it. Here are some of my ideas:

The Living Space:
-See that curtain on the upper left? I’m thinking of using outdoor curtains on one of the walls to add textural interest and a little bit of insulation. I did research and got the inspiration from this picture; somehow I always feel like I can do something after I’ve heard that others have done it and didn’t have issues. Needless to say, I’m pretty nervous about decorating in a basement — I’ve seen floods and all the damage they can do, but our house is so small we HAVE to make it usable space.
– The color scheme I chose for this room includes beiges and tans as well as greens, turquoise and darker brown. This room will be the most finished (probably including flooring, which may or may not be a chocolately faux wood laminate). When we eventually invest in a new living room set, we’ll be putting our coffee table, couch and chair in this space — so it’ll have lots goin’ on. We already have an extra entertainment center (along with TV — moving 2 apartments into one house does that to ya) for the space, too.

The Laundry Area:
– The black-and-white flooring is actually leftover from our kitchen flooring project last year. If we have enough to make it look good, it’ll also be in the bathroom. So, as with our kitchen, I LOVE a light turquoise (almost Tiffany’s blue) accent, so I’d like to paint out the cement walls in this area bright blue. To tie in with the living room, some pops of lime green will help modernize the space, too. (Baskets, waste basket…any other items I can pick up.)
– To continue the curtain theme, I’m planning on running an industrial steel wire line from the two outside walls of the space and hang grommeted curtains so that we can close off the space or create an “entryway” (a bit of a continued inspiration from the picture).
– Yeah. We don’t have a HE front loading washer/dryer yet…we’re keeping an eye out for sales and “out of box” choices. We’re lucky enough to have a F-R-E-E set right now, but our eventual goal is all-new appliances, upstairs and down. *crosses fingers*

The Bathroom
– As I mentioned, the floor will be checkered. If it’s a half bath, it’ll just have the sink and potty (yes, I call it a potty), so the turquoise towels would be pretty irrelevant. Keeping the whole space a bright tan; crisp, clean white; and sharply contrasting black (check out that fluffy black throw rug! I bought one for my mom’s updated bathroom and she loves it) would be enough. Throwing in a pop of turquoise would be easier with the shower, if it happens. I’m fine if it doesn’t; just having an extra place to *ahem* use would be awesome, especially when kids, one day, will be using the basement to play and have sleepovers.

So, as things get underway, I’ll be updating with photos of the progress. As with most things, I assume this will probably take longer than we expect it to — most projects have been broken up into parts, each of which will make its own timeline. Plus, with a cat who loooooves to look around the basement area (especially when the rest of the house isn’t necessarily cool) and will do anything to be where we are, it should be pretty interesting. 🙂

Look, We’re Normal!

We all have excuses for lots of things. Heck, I put off calling to get a copy of my baptismal record for the wedding — like, consciously delayed it. For awhile I had “too busy” excuses, but those turned into a fearful laziness. I think the more you put something off, the less you want to do it. But, this morning, I finally called and felt the weight lift, especially with how easy it was. Were the excuses worth it? Now that it’s done, it doesn’t much matter.

But what about the excuses we use regularly? Our excuses yesterday were pretty darn good. One, my sister and BIL were coming over for a quick visit (unexpected but always welcome). Two, we had been doing lots of labor-intensive yard work throughout the morning and early afternoon, and were EXHAUSTED. Third, and most importantly, the cat had been sick all weekend — new meds. Remember, he’s had a rough start with us, and while he’s not at 100% he’s way better than when we found him.

So, what horrible thing did we do, having such great excuses in our back pockets? *gulp* I sent Dave out to get KFC. Yes, I know how horrible that is for us. Yes, I know how horribly they treat the chickens. Yes, I consider KFC the devil. Yes, yes, yes. But, we had a great coupon and, in all honesty, it was a moment of weakness — literally! (Mind you…we had a huge haul at the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market the day before — we’re evil.)

I mentioned the guilt factor to Dave, who very easily brushed it off, saying, “Yes, we shop at farmers’ markets, buy organic when we can, and do our best with all the green stuff. But, it doesn’t mean I can’t jump off the wagon for the sake of convenience once in awhile. And, we don’t do it much.” His ease in letting the words flow off his tongue made me feel a hell of a lot better — and let me enjoy the disgustingly fatty chicken, #1 mac ‘n cheese, and buttery biscuits easier.

I’ve noticed that, since I don’t eat junk food as much (the junk I do eat is organic — pita chips, organic Pop-Tarts — I consider myself a stage 2 or 3 on the “how healthy are you?” scale), when I DO, I’m more conscious about it. It’s less of a “I’m gonna gain weight” thing and more of a “I’m not proud of myself. This is disgusting. This isn’t the wonderful stuff I’ve been giving myself.”

Guilt is a human reaction that’s just a stone’s throw from joy. Generally, when feeling guilt, you’re enjoying something that you probably shouldn’t be. We all do it — some guilt is for really bad things, some isn’t a huge deal, but what one person thinks is huge may be nothing to the next, and so on. So, in this case, we’re moving on. Some day, maybe I’ll be so super-human that our future kids won’t be allowed to have McDonald’s , and our house will be impeccable. You can hope for wonderful things, but in the end, we’re all just human. I’m not in this thing to be perfect.

Free Shopping

One of my favorite things about the Internet is guilt-free window shopping. It’s helped with my wedding (although, with so many options out there, it’s made decision-making harder) and to check reviews before making a big purchase. It helped get me through the terrifying wait a year ago while buying our house; it was a foreclosure, and there were lots of delays — so, Lowes.com was a great calmer and made me feel productive, strangely enough. And, we’re still being “lurkers” in terms of the Foodshed Buying Club; none of our necessities have come up yet.

But, on days that I allow myself to be lazier than I’d like to admit, I let my browsing fingers tap the less practical side of my brain and look into the prices of dreams, ultimately researching possible nothings or hopeful somethings. That sounds confusing, so let me elaborate — mind you, these are things that many of our friends aren’t even aware that we discuss.

1. I found some web sites today that got me pretty excited about a prospect Dave and I have discussed numerous times. Dave has always complained that we don’t have a good cafe in our area. You have to drive to Domenico’s in Utica for a decent place to get creative, meet friends or…dare I say…enjoy a good coffee or cappuccino. We have one small joint in Little Falls that could possibly be considered hippie enough to fit this, but considering that Herkimer is a larger town, it’s downright disappointing. There are 2 Dunkin’ Donuts stores a stone’s throw (seriously — one at Walmart, another 1 1/2 blocks away) and a Stewart’s every other town or so — but both places feel franchisey and sterile (when actually clean) and just…not like a “cafe.” So, we’ve considered it as a career/retirement project later in life — or whenever a cheap property rears its head. We both have coffee experience (my own being a few years at said Stewart’s shop) and good customer service knowledge…aaaaand not much more than that! I’d like to do some baking to sell with coffee early in the morning and come up with panini recipes for later in the day, and would prefer keeping the place as green as possible — check out THESE cups and things — but still have refined sugar and “normal” options for our less conscientious clientele. But…again…this is all just a dream, so it may never happen — but wouldn’t it be neat?!

2. If the second dream were to happen, the first one definitely couldn’t (at least, not in Herkimer). I use homes.com to search for homes in other areas that are more eco-friendly and less economically depressed (hopefully with more opportunities for us and the “future kids”). I’ve looked throughout New England, “shopped” for jobs in London…hell, I’ve looked everywhere. And, clearly, nothing much comes from it, but somehow it makes me feel better about the future and where we might be going with it.

3. Speaking of “future kids” — yeah, I’ve done free shopping for them, too. More just getting ideas as to whether it’s worth it to be so eco-friendly to give up disposable diapers, and learning about the cost of things. No big whoop. But, it’s still dreaming since we’re not even hitched yet.

Luckily, my guy and I get to do some REAL shopping tomorrow — which may be dangerous since I just got a chunk from my “end of year” check. And this ain’t just ANY shopping! We’re re-visiting the Cooperstown Farmer Market tomorrow morning, this time with cash in our pockets, a cooler in the car and an un-stocked fridge — meaning we can actually BUY AND USE what we get, rather than the last time we went (I’d done some grocery shopping that week…blah). CAN’T WAIT!!!

Meatless Meal

I made an awesome meatless panini today that I thought I’d share. It was just too good not to! The recipe is for just one panini, but you can figure out how to double/triple/quadruple it. 🙂 (Clearly, given my amounts, it’s not uber-specific.)

Balsamic Mushroom Panini
– handful of mushrooms (any type you like)
– chunk of onion, sliced
– extra virgin olive oil (2 Tbsp. for sauteeing + extra to brush onto bread)
– homemade Italian bread or baguette
– 3-4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
– 8 basil leaves
– handful feta
– salt/pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in small saute pan over medium heat. Saute onion (and a sprinkle of salt) for a few minutes, until soft. Add mushrooms and cook until brown and soft. Splash in the balsamic and cook another minute, until reduced.

Brush olive oil onto two pieces of Italian bread (one side). Layer on basil, feta, mushroom mixture, and a little salt and pepper. Put olive oil side onto a grill pan, placing the weight of the smaller saute pan on top. After a minute, flip and weight the other side. Serve it up, it’s done!

See, now, I’m a HUGE mushroom fan (& onion…especially when cooked), as well as a balsamic convert. Dave decided to make a salad, and I was feeling all salad-ed out, so what better excuse to use up some ‘shrooms?

Story of a Cat

I’ve hinted for awhile of a change happening around the McCoy-Dellecese household. Well, here it is! Our last two weekends have been life-changing — we’ve endured some of the happiest, scariest, most stressful moments we’ve ever had as a couple. It all started when…

Two Fridays ago, Dave and I went out for a bite to eat and a drink or two at the bar in the basement of Beardslee Castle [which happens to be the site of our reception (Sign #1), and is undoubtedly haunted — very cool place] with our friends, Tom and Christine. A good time was had and, when it was time to leave, one of the employees told us of a different exit to use. (Sign #2) After ascending the stairs, we turned toward the car, and were immediately approached by a highly affectionate, clearly sick, EXTREMELY smelly cat. He rubbed up against our legs and wouldn’t stop talking. We all looked at each other, wondering where he was from, if he lived at the castle, 3/4 of us thinking about taking him home. Tom talked us all out of it quickly and we left, deflated. On the way home, we chattered about him (Sign #3 — I always refer to animals as females, but knew this guy was a man without catching a glimpse of…anything), deeming him “Dudley” due to his funny, drunk careening while trying to walk straight.

The next morning, Dave awoke to my staring eyes. I’d been up all night, wondering about the cat. Once it got brighter outside, we threw on crappy clothes, grabbed an old towel, and (without thinking much about it) hopped in the car. On the way there, I called my sister for advice — whether or not to bring him to the humane society (we decided against this, thinking it’d cost money, he might get put down if they needed to do lots of surgery, etc.), could I catch any diseases by handling him, how would I know if he was rabid, etc.

Upon arrival, Dave took hold of his senses, realizing that we were probably trespassing and that we could be arrested if anyone was there. My quick temper flared up at him, knowing that we had to just LOOK; I didn’t expect in the slightest for him to still be around, given that the area was farmland and woods (and that he was probably just a barn cat). While in the middle of exchanging spats, Dave followed my frantic searching. In mid-sentence (about the fact that a gardener was on-premises) he turned and saw the cat, asleep (and near death) in a self-made nest within a large bush/tree. His voice changed instantly and his words made no sense — “You mean, THAT?! *pause* I’ll get the car!!!” (Sign #4)

Our hearts were in our throats; he pulled up and I still hadn’t gotten him out of the brush. I made noises to get the little guy’s attention; the only energy he had was to look up with his eyes, meow silently, and put out a paw. (Sign #5) I burst out in tears and scooped him up (using the towel). He was so frail, his nose was running, he reeked of his own urine, but he seemed 100% trusting. He meowed, a little scared of what we were doing with him, but his energy was gone; he seemed as if he’d been preparing for death, and we interrupted.

Shortly after grabbing some food and a couple of items (by the way, we’re not cat people — you’d think I’d have mentioned that by now) we brought the kitty home, where we stayed for a few hours. It was pretty clear that he was sick in the terms that we were used to — coughing and sneezing. But there was more wrong. I guessed that he either had ear mites or an ear infection since he still couldn’t “walk a straight line.” Knowing that he was starving, he still couldn’t eat or drink without having a sneezing fit. We decided to call around for an animal hospital that was open on a Saturday.

Luckily, we could get into the New Hartford Animal Hospital, so we quickly jumped in the car. He was on my lap, in a small new bed Dave had bought him, and quickly failing. While he was bothered by the car earlier, this time he was calm — thanks to the 1940s XM/Sirius radio channel (Sign #6 — what other cat likes oldies and classics?!).

Upon arrival, we brought the still-nameless cat to the exam room, where he was weighed, checked for a temp (nada), and eventually just taken from us. We had lots of questions, and the doctor was great. It turned out that his kidneys were already failing, so he was being put on an IV immediately, and given antibiotics for an upper-respiratory infection. In the end, he was hospitalized for several days, brought back for an emergency visit the next weekend (he wasn’t responding right to the medication), and we’ve been fearful about his health ever since, but that’s mostly because we’ve been on the look-out for issues.

But, he’s massively improved. Although he has had setbacks, we’ve got an appointment coming up (and I’m praying we won’t need to visit the ER before that!) to see what we might have missed. His breathing is still a little strained at times and his balance may never be perfect (he has a head tilt, too, that may be permanent — but it’s adorable and doesn’t bother him), but his personality and ability to show his gratitude and happiness is infectious. Oh, and he’s got a name — Beardslee. (Although, we call him “buddy” and I, especially, call him “Boo” ; I found out from my mother last weekend that, apparently, that was a nickname that people called my dad and, now, my brother. My dad passed away when I was young and I’d never heard the nickname. Sign #7)

And, I’m still concerned that we took him from some family. He’s a year old, has claws (and will continue to — we’re not declawing him; we DID get him fixed, however, but his “friendliness” and chubby testosterone-induced cheeks will stay with him forever) but never uses them, gets picked up without being too bothered, and is just the sweetest cat I’ve ever encountered. The nurses and doctors assured us that someone outgrew the “cute kitten” phase and made him an outdoor cat (or got rid of him) — an outdoor cat in the boonies, where male cats will chase female cats for literally many, many miles, only to get lost. He’d been in fights. He was on his death bed. I have to be resigned to the idea that he’s ours, that we spent a fortune (as Dave calls him, “the most expensive free cat EVER”, but we could care less about the cash) saving his life, that whomever had him before didn’t find him fast enough. *sigh* I’m even a little scared to post this in case the family happens upon it — but it needs to be announced, ‘cuz it’s HUGE for us.

We’ve learned a lot, especially as our future as parents. I’m the disciplinarian but the provider (usually of food, and I’m generally more attuned to his health issues); Dave’s the worrier but loves with 100% of his heart. Dave has also overcome some of the icky stuff of “parenthood” — potty time and the surprises brought on by illness. We’re working on giving him enough attention but still maintaining our relationship; for awhile there, his illness was ALL we thought about, talked about, worried about. Took a bit of a toll, but it’s a healthy, good lesson to learn.

So, help us welcome Beardslee to the McCoy-Dellecese household. We hope he’ll be here to add continued humor and warmth (and countless other positives!) to our family for many years to come!

Quitting Walmart

Well, maybe quitting is a strong word. Somehow, I’ve escaped “needing” a Walmart visit for a good while; or, at least, one where I look around a lot and actually USE the place. (I was using their prescription department, so once a month I’d have to go in, but it was a quick stop.) It might be the fact that we’re buying our groceries at Hannaford (mostly) and Aldi (occasionally), and are visiting more farmers’ markets.

Today, I had little choice but to go to Walmart for my consumerism needs. An after-school meeting for summer school made my time scarce, and somehow the crumby weather and my mood matched, so I wanted to get home ASAP. I needed to grab a couple items — and I needed to do it fast. Fast = hesitation to go to the busiest place in the Valley at the busiest time of the day.

Most Walmart stores are, admittedly, the hub of their town. Unfortunately, this is what Walmart hopes for. Heck, I remember going to Walmart in high school to hang out with friends (they DID have air hockey, after all). Trips to Walmart have marked several important points in my life, from heading to college to getting an apartment to when we finally moved into this house — huge Walmart hauls accompanied each.

A quick stop at our Walmart is never that. The parking and general traffic there is a flustercuck. (Yeah, I said that.) People (myself included — hey, following the flow of traffic!) drive over the parking lines, criss-crossing and nearly hitting other cars driving in opposite directions. An overhead camera shot throughout the day would probably look similar to a beehive. Bzzz bzzz. Only less organized. 😉 So, the driving itself is a lesson in patience and life philosophy. “Do I hate people, or do I pity them? Wait! I LOVE people, that guy just let me in.”

The stress only follows you into the aisles. Why are there not driving lessons for carts?!?! Or, at the very least, lights and turn signals? Rudeness abounds. And, above all, don’t get me STARTED on the fact that you enter for one item (in this case, a baby gift) and you leave with a million extras. Some say convenience; I say too much.

Walmart used to be such a routine for me, I went to no other stores locally. Zilch. Occasionally, for clothes, I went to Utica (our closest, mid-sized city). Man, did I have a lot of grocery bags to show for it!

Since buying groceries mostly at Hannaford, we haven’t noticed our grocery bill getting larger — which is surprising because Hannaford’s prices are higher. However, we’re looking a lot more at what we’re purchasing and why, and are building our organic and natural products a little at a time. Overall, though, we may actually be saving money while spending more. How crazy is that?! It makes me feel pretty darn good.

I realized that, when I walked into Walmart, it felt as if it was my first time entering. It drew me in. I saw hip-designed beach towels, cool sunglasses, and comfy flip-flops that called to me. It was kind of like a drug or some other addiction — when you’re off it for awhile, you forget the appeal until it’s introduced again — at which point, it’s intoxicating (sometimes literally). Thank God I was aware of myself and only ended up leaving with ONE extra product — some gum. *whew* But, man, was that tough!

After recognizing that Walmart can be so addicting, I resolved myself to continue avoiding it — to shop locally as much as possible, and to make the occasional trip to Target (in New Hartford) for sustainable products when absolutely NEEDED. Yeah, I think Target IS better than Walmart, mostly because you can find biodegradable and eco-friendly products and because it’s further away, it’s less likely for me to stop by weekly, becoming dependent.

I’m happy that I’ve realized my choices — and the fact that I have them — when shopping.