Sunday, October 12, 2014

Read a Book- YA Serials

One of my goals for the year was to do more personal/pleasure reading.  I have been doing an okay job at that, surprisingly!  After I found out that borrowing library books from my local library on my kindle is the easiest thing in the world, I constantly have had 2-3 books on rotation.  One is usually a book for book club, and two for pleasure.  I have been mostly drawn to YA serials because they are quick, easy, fun reads, and who knows- maybe they will be making movies in the future (Hunger Games, Divergent, anyone?) and I will be ahead of the curve.  Here are two that I have read recently and enjoyed.

Gone by Michael Grant

I just finished this one yesterday.  There are a whole bunch of other books to this series, and I've only read the first one so far, so I can't say anything about the series as a whole.  But this one was pretty good!  When searching for the book cover, I read that they have signed on for a TV series for these books as well, so there's something to think about if you're wanting to read it.  

This book is if Lord of the Flies, Stephen King's Under the Dome, and the X-Men all got together in a blender... it you strained out all the adult content, you'd be left with this book.  It's a super fast read (I read it in a day).  A bit predictable, but fun.  The premise is: one day everyone over the age of 15 just vanishes.  And there's a barrier around the town.  And some of the kids have super powers.  Like I said... Lord of the Flies/Under the Dome/X-Men.  A few of my favorite things! And maybe if you can read that tiny print at the top of the book, you can see where I heard about these series- that's a blurb from Mr. Stephen King himself.  He recommended this series on twitter and I was reserving it on my kindle within ten minutes.  

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I am obsessed with this series.  I knew at the end of the first book (this one!) that it was something different and special and fantastic.  I'm going to be brief and bulleted while I list some of the (many) reasons why I think this is one of the best YA book series I have read*.  
  • Strong (in a different way!) female POC main character.  In fact, almost everyone in this series is a POC.  Elisa, the main character, is more book smart and strategic than physically strong (think Hermione here).  She's also not a skinny, pretty, white girl (movie Katniss, Tris, I'm looking at ya'll)- she's overweight (fat is a descriptor used often, by Elisa and others), and while it plays some into the plot in the beginning (people are HUGE JERKS to her, and her self-esteem, etc) it is not something that she feels needs to change- and for the most part, it doesn't.  And it doesn't need to.  And it shouldn't need to!  
  • The romance is not central to the story.  It's there, but it isn't central.  And Elisa don't depend on no mannnn to get her through her battles.  She does grow and change throughout the series- it's wonderful to watch.
  • This is YA, but it falls somewhere on the George R.R. Martin spectrum of plot development- there are a bunch of characters, and you'll get attached, but nobody is safe and you need to know that!  The reason I picked this book up in the first place was because someone somewhere said something along the lines of "Game of Thrones-y for YA," and it immediately went onto the "on hold" page of my kindle library.  Whoever that person was, they weren't lying.
Anyway, there's my bulleted points.  I can't get over how much I loved Elisa as a protagonist- and all the other characters too (seriously, they're all wonderfully crafted, even the jerks).  I zipped through this book in like a day, and then waiting (extremely impatiently) for the others (being waitlisted on the kindle is SO HARD to deal with)- to the point where I said "screw this" and actually left my house, drove to the library, and CHECKED OUT THE ACTUAL BOOK.  I never do this.  But I had to finish it.  Then, once I finished the series, I read allll the little short stories that are available as well.  I think there was three or four.  THAT is how into this series I was.  Go read it.  It's refreshing.

*I put the little star here because cruising through the goodreads page, you can see that some people apparently hated this book.  Whatever.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

The "I Peed on a Stick and Everyone Got Excited" Story

Here's the story of how I found out I was expecting an unholy terror of my very own.  And how we told the various people in our lives.

On July 12, Scott and I jetlagged our way back to Maryland from a long and awesome trip to Portland and Vegas.  We were in Portland for my friend's wedding, and to visit Scott's fam, and we stopped by Vegas with a couple friends for fun- because hey, why not?  It's practically on the way.  We hung out, we ate tons of food, I avoided the sun like the plague because I didn't have any sunscreen, blah blah blah you will have read all of this over here at this post.  So my parents picked us up from the airport, we finally got home, dumped our bags down, and immediately crawled into bed for a nap.  I woke up first, eventually, and thought "now would probably be the time to take one of those pregnancy tests in the bathroom."  My period had been due a day earlier, and I had sort-of convinced myself that it was late due to travel, etc... but I took the little cheap test (the one that's like a litmus test or something from 7th grade science class).  And that one came back with two lines.  So then I pulled out the expensive test (the traditional one that costs like 14 dollars and gave me a minor aneurysm when I bought it [I'm cheap] and I vowed never to use it UNLESS I WAS SURE because I would probably cry if I used it and it came back negative and I got my period the next day), the early response kind, and that one popped it's line up within the first 30 seconds of using it.  So then I was convinced.

Because if there weren't pics, you'd never believe I was telling the truth!

So then I told Scott in the most "me" way imaginable.  I climbed into bed, stared at his face, poked him until he woke up, and shoved the thing right into his eyes, basically.  Tres romantique.

Then he took the first of a series of photos, the Me Standing in Front of a Wall series.

This is my "starting" picture.  But there is a baby there.  
The food baby from 4 days of all you can eat Vegas buffets. 

Then we had to wait for like, an entire month or something to tell other people (family).  It was HORRIBLE.  Scott can't keep a secret to save his life, and was annoying the everloving crap out of me.  Sorry babe.  It's true.  But this gave me time to plan Cute Ways to Tell.  We ordered my parents some tshirts online (it's a long silly story but the cliffs is that my family likes to do special shirts for big events and it can be embarrassing but in the fun way that families are).  Dad's looked like the Godfather logo but said The Grandfather instead.  Mom's we had custom made at some custom made T-shirt website, and said "Momsy, because I'm too young to be called Grandmother."  We waited until we went to the OB and got our first ultrasound before we told anyone else.  So we took the shirts over to my parents, and they were delighted, of course, and then we showed off the ultrasound.  That same night, we FaceTime'd with Scott's family and told them the news and showed them the picture too.  We had to wait a few days to tell my brother and sister-in-law, but I copied one of the ultrasound photos and wrote "Future model for Peony Blossoms" on there (in case you didn't know, my BFF/SIL has a couple of great knit shops on etsy, and the one for babies is Peony Blossoms).

And that was how we told the fam.  You already saw how we told the rest of the world (aka Facebook).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BIG Life Things

Hey, Alissa, where exactly have you been?  What's new?  We miss you.  And your "weekly" (hahahahahahaha) updates.  Why are you standing in front of that wall?

Well friends, most of you probably know the news, but here it is anyway if you missed the super cute announcement.


So there's the news.  Stay tuned for stories and pictures and all kinds of babypalooza nonsense.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Little Life Things (Week[s] of 7/5/2014 - 7/18/2014)

Double Post!  We were on vacation and it was super difficult to make posts, so I'm doubling up here.

  • We were in Portland for a wedding that occurred July 5.  It was a gorgeous, sweet, emotional wedding, and we were so glad to be able to have been in attendance.  We looked really good, too.
  • After the wedding, we headed off to Vegas!  We went with two of our friends from Oregon, and met a few people there too.  Vegas was great, of course.  The highlight was seeing Evil Dead the Musical.  It was hilarious and perfect.  
Grabbing Ash's boomstick
  • We went down to Fremont street, which I actually prefer to the strip.  It's cheaper, less crowded, and covered so my delicate redheaded complexion won't burn after three seconds outside.  
While there, I discovered how absolutely terrifying the cowboy is 
when his lights aren't turned on.  Yeesh!  Nightmare fuel.
  • Also, we ate food.  We hit some buffets, we snacked, and we discovered the greatest little place on Fremont called Uncle Joe's (go there!).  
This pizza had 10 meats on it.

  • Meanwhile, back in Maryland, a few things happened.  A giant thunderstorm happened and apparently a wind shear (???) swept through our neighborhood and took down a tree in nearly every yard.  We lost the majority of our ONE tree!
Noooooo I had so many plans for this shady space!

  • Also, I got a NEWWW CAAAAAR!  I am very sad to leave my echo.  I've had that car since I was 16, it's the car I learned to drive on!  It drove me all through Oregon too.  But it was time for a change after 12+ years.  After much research and finagling, my new car is a Ford Escape!  My only requirements were: has air conditioning, is big enough for kids and sports equipment and stuff (I'm planning on keeping this one for another 10 years), has storage space, and mostly- HAS AIR CONDITIONING.  Did I mention that I needed my new car to have AC?  
Awkward picture is super awkward

Bonus Photos:

Sunflowers at the Bellagio

Dad sent this to me while we were gone.  He took away the kiddie pool 
and she tried to lay in her bowl instead.  Typical.  

When I took down my hair from the wedding...

Monday, July 7, 2014

How to Be a Rainy Day Bride

1. Get married in the rain!

Just kidding.  Most people probably don't grow up dreaming of rain on their wedding day.  Yes, it is said to be a sign of good fortune/fertility or whatever- but as my dad says, "that saying was made up by someone whose daughter was getting married on a rainy day to keep her from flipping out."  If you are planning an outdoor wedding, you HAVE to be prepared for rain.  I know everyone says this, and you hear it and are like "yes yes, I KNOW."  But inside (and I know this, because this was me), you are thinking "it won't rain on my wedding because it's my wedding and it can't."  Let me tell you- it can.  And it does.  But it's not the end of the world!!!  Take it from me- my husband and I got married during a 15 minute outdoor ceremony while it rained and rained on us.  Was it still a perfect day?  Absolutely.  Would I change anything about it?  Not at all.  Here's a list of some things that helped me through my own rainy day wedding.

1.  Have a plan.
My venue was a state park, so our ceremony and reception were both at the same location, and both outdoors.  When you are booking your reception venue/tent, remember that this is (most likely) your backup location for rain!  Our (unused) rain plan (I'll get to more of this later) was to do the ceremony under the tent with our guests seated at their tables.  Because one of my favorite aspects of the park was the flower-covered arch at the ceremony site, we (I say we, but it was my bridesmaid and her mom) put together a lighted arch from Michael's and decorated it with ribbons, and purchased giant flower pots overflowing with flowers to put it in.  Being as prepared as possible for rain will make the transition much easier if you do have to go with your backup.

2. Practice your plan!
At our rehearsal, we ran through our regular plan several times, and then we also ran through our rainy day plan.  This included coming out of a different door on the house to make the walks shorter.  This included changing up which way the boys came down the aisle so they could hold an umbrella over their escort.

3. Get some umbrellas.
My dad ordered a bunch of giant golf umbrellas online prior to the wedding.  He ordered solid white ones, and some pink and white ones.  You'll see one of the white ones featured in my wedding photos.  You can find some really great deals online.  Or, you can ask around from friends and family to see if they have any extra.  If your budget allows, try to do this in advance, even before you have the weather report- you don't want to be scrambling the week of your wedding to find giant umbrellas that you don't mind having in your photos because the weather report is predicting rain.  We had enough umbrellas for our bridal party and some additional for grandparents/guests.

Take a deep breath.  You'll make it through this, I promise.  Remember: it's a wedding.  Maybe it's not the wedding of your Pinterest dreams, but it's YOUR wedding, it's finally here, and at the end of the kerfuffle- you'll be married to the person of your dreams.  Just remember that.

5. Be spontaneous and laugh a lot.
Here's the part where I tell you my story.  Sometimes, you do all these steps.  You bought the umbrellas.  You made the plan.  You made the backup arch.  You practiced the night before.  And the day of the wedding, it's overcast but holding off.  The wedding ceremony is at 2.  Everyone is seated in their chairs in front of the rose garden.  The music begins to play.  The guests of honor begin to walk down the aisle.  And then... AND THEN... the rain starts.  Your guests pull out their umbrellas- and your dad grabs one for you (the bride), but some of the guests don't have umbrellas.  Your bridesmaids and your groomsmen don't.  You lament that there are TEN GIANT umbrellas in a box inside the manor house, but you're already being escorted down the aisle by your dad and OH WELL, looks like you're doing this thing in the rain!

That's what happened to us on our wedding day.  We stood there while it showered on us, and we stared into each other's eyes and smiled, and laughed, and rolled our eyes, and cracked up at every water reference made in the ceremony- which was quite a few because of the location.  Was I upset that it was raining?  No. I was worried about my guests, but it was a short ceremony and if they were really bothered, they stood under the giant tree.  I even improvised something about the rain into my vows as I was reading them.  The officiant cracked a joke about the rain as droplets fell from his hair onto his kindle.  And then it was over, we were married, and everyone went under the tent.  And the rain eventually stopped.

If you make this big, you can see the raindrops!

But now we have a story.  Something uniquely us.  And very fitting.  Of course we got married out in the rain- why wouldn't we?  That's so very Alissa and Scott.

One final word of advice- take precautions with your shoes in case of mud.  Scotch guard them.  Buy the little shoe caps to keep from sinking.  Trust me.  

Wedding photographs by Melissa Barrick.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Little Life Things (Week of 6/28/14 - 7/4/2014)

Vacation Edition!

June 28 to July 4

  • We're in Oregon!  Scott grew up in Oregon, and his family lives here still.  I lived in Oregon for about 3 and a half years while I completed my master's program.  One of my good friends from grad school is getting married, so we get to visit our old home AND Scott's family, AND celebrate love love love! 

  • My parents are dog-sitting Abby and Jack.  We took Abby to their house, where she is LIVING THE LIFE- as you can see, up there in her pool.  That photo was waiting for me when we landed.

  • We went to one of our favorite bars with a bunch of our friends, and that was so nice!  
  • We celebrated the Fourth of July with Scott's family- lots of fireworks and SO MUCH FOOD!  My contributions to the fireworks display were all cutesy girly ones with names like: "Unicorn," and "Girl Power," and my favorite one, which was in a heart shaped case with a princess on the cover called "Mini Mi Amor."  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hints and Tips for Writing Your Own Wedding Vows

I knew before Scott popped the questions that we would write our own vows.  It's just a part of who we are.  We have a lot of character, to put it nicely.  And that character was not going to be summarized and expressed nice and succinctly using vows torn from the pages of some old manuscript, that thousands of others had recited before.  Right after we booked our officiant, who would be writing (from scratch!  Character!) the ceremony, we started thinking about vows.  Well, I started thinking about vows.  Scott just sort of waited until I had all my stuff together, and then he started thinking about them too.  Here is a smattering of info that helped me, that I hope will also help you.

For your sanity, start early.  Think about your vows, even if thinking about them causes your stomach to sort of wriggle in a knot and you start to sweat.  That's good!  Maybe that means these things won't happen on your wedding day!  Seriously though, you don't want to be scrambling to write them the night before... or the morning of.  You'll have other things to worry about.  In our case, the officiant requested that we send him our vows at least one week prior to the wedding date.  He would review them and get back to us if any changes were necessary (see the next point for more on this).  It's good to give yourself a deadline like this.  I would suggest a week prior to the event.  That gives you plenty of time to practice, practice practice, and edit and re-edit if necessary.

Come up with a format/Decide on a mood.
One of the first things you need to think about is whether or not you and your partner will be seeing each other's vows prior to when you're reading them.  You might choose to write your vows together (my brother and his wife did this), or share with one another what you have written.  Either way is perfectly wonderful!  Scott and I wrote our vows separately, and they were secret until we read them- we do love surprises.  However, that's not to say that we didn't talk quite a bit, and at length, about how we were writing them. If you decide to write your vows separately, there are a few things to consider.  Do you want the formats to match?  How about the length of the vows?  You might not want to be up there speaking for 5 minutes if your partner is going to speak for less than 1.  Scott and I decided on a basic format that we would both follow.  This sort of made our vows "match" and also gave us (Scott) a little bit of structure to follow.  Our format was this: Two short intro type paragraphs, followed by vows.  The vows began with "I promise."  We wrote some silly (but sweet) vows at the beginning before diving into the serious, heartfelt sentimental ones.  Our vows both ended with a short piece adapted from some celtic vows that resonated deeply with both of us. 

Brainstorm until your brain falls out
Think about all the reasons you love this person, and all the things that make them special to you.  What promises do you want to make?  What can you work on to keep your relationship healthy and growing?  Write, write write.  Write about the things you like to do together, your favorite memories.  Jot down inside jokes, favorite experiences, future plans.  Look back in old diaries, or Facebook.  Have fun remembering the things that you've forgotten (it definitely happened to me).  Use these thoughts, memories, tidbits to write your vows.  Or....

Look for inspiration (online)
There's a reason why I put this AFTER brainstorming.  The Internet is a wonderful resource.  There are a million places to find vows.  Samples of vows, how-to-write vows, traditional vows, vows from other cultures... It's a wonderful resource!  However.  It is extremely, EXTREMELY easy to get lost in all of this "inspiration" and find yourself copying down lines from other people's vows word for word.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing- but remember, your vows are about you and your partner.  Not about MrsSmith2012 and her husband (Mr. Smith).  And while Mrs. Smith might have written some excellent vows and you want to jot those down, just be careful that you don't lose your personal touch.  After all, that's probably the reason why you chose to write your own vows in the first place- because you want them to be personal.  I fell into this pit several times.  I wrote down so many bits and pieces of vows I found online- and I took them apart and rewrote them and rearranged them until they felt like they were mine, because I was terrified that I would get up there and be reading someone else's vows. 

This might sound silly.  But practice reading your vows after you've finished them.  Hopefully you finished them and still have a week (or more!  You go, you overachieve, you!) before your event.  Print them out and stand and read them.  How does it feel?  Do you feel like you're trying to speak too quickly to get through them?  Slow yourself down.  Need to make some changes?  Do it, you gave yourself plenty of time.  Are you comfortable with them?  Great.  Now read them to someone else.  I read them to Abby first before I let any human ears hear them.  Then I read them to my bridesmaids.  You might feel that you can skip this practice part, but please don't.  Maybe you have a funky typo that you missed- you don't want to be reading that on the wedding day!  The more you practice, the more familiar your vows will be, and the easier it will be to read them on the day.

When it comes time to say them, don't mumble!
At the very least, your partner needs to be able to hear you!  And yes, we all know that the wedding is about the couple, and particularly the vows are between the two of you, but your guests DID get all dressed up and travel near and far to witness the two of you commit yourselves to one another.  We used a portable mic at our ceremony.  The officiant was also wearing a mic for the ceremony, and we asked him to hold out a mic for us while we read our vows.  Some couples might not feel comfortable doing this, but by golly we were proud of our vows and our love and we wanted everyone to know it.  If you don't have access to this kind of set up, that's perfectly fine.  Just speak up, and don't mumble.  Don't yell in your partner's face either, but don't mumble!  (This is another reason why practicing is important!)

Also: Don't be afraid to improvise!
Here's a tip from your Rainy Day Bride.  It's okay to improvise during your vows!  (It's also okay to laugh through the ceremony).  If something has come up, if disaster has struck- it's okay to mention it in a lighthearted, fun way.  We stood in a rain shower getting soaked for 20 minutes during our ceremony.  In my vows, I wrote something about going on adventures big and small, with two examples.  Instead of reading the examples I had prepared a week prior (something about road trips, I believe), I stated (in sort of a petulant child voice) "like getting married IN THE RAIN."  Everyone giggled, as it was the first actual acknowledgement of the fact that yea, Alissa and Scott are up there getting rained on and we are all going to pretend like that's something that's not happening.  So it's cool!  You don't have to read exactly from the script.  If you're suddenly struck with inspiration looking at your spouse-to-be-in-literal-minutes, preach it! 

Preserve them.
I've seen lots of sweet ways to preserve your vows.  Pinterest has tons of ideas.  You can frame the actual vows that you used.  You can create some wall art.  Or you can have them embroidered!  There are bunches of ideas out there, and why not immortalize those words that you both poured your hearts into?

Wedding photographs by Melissa Barrick.

Monday, June 30, 2014

DIYish Wedding Garter Set

Up until the meeting the the DJ three weeks before the wedding, I had completely- COMPLETELY- forgotten about getting a garter.  Back in the beginning stages of wedding stuff, it had crossed my mind that maybe I could order something cute and custom from etsy.  But out of my brain went that thought, and by the time the DJ uttered the words "bouquet and garter toss" and my eyes got as big as saucers- there wasn't enough time.  After a slight case of the "oh crap"s, I decided to go the cheap/easy/DIYish route.

These garters came as a two pack from Michael's.  I didn't take a before photo, but I've got a stock photo for reference, and since you can't see the details I will describe it for you- they were plain white silk with tulle-ish bows and a small white silk flower with rhinestone center.
As you can see, kind of boring for my taste.  I knew I wanted two garters, and I knew I wanted some purple involved.  I cut off the bow and white flower, and attached some things that I already had laying around.  On the larger garter, the one that I kept, I glued some leftover silk/lace flowers from the DIY card box I made.  I also added some darker purple store bought flowers (also from Michael's) to tie in with the toss garter.  I reattached the tulle bows (after re-tying them, those bows were not the cutest I've ever seen straight out of the package) and voila!  They had a DIY touch, they matched other elements of the wedding and each other, and they took less than 15 minutes to complete.

I thought about adding some dangley charms or something, but I kind of had this "nobody is EVER going to notice this anyway" attitude about it, so I didn't bother.  It's fine though- I love it, and I have plans to display it so that it won't go unnoticed and unappreciated forever.

Materials List:
Pack of garters from Michael's (with 50% off coupon)- somewhere around 8 dollars
Homemade flowers: free with supplies on hand
Rhinestone purple flowers: ~$1.50 at Michael's with coupon
Hot Glue Gun
Seam ripper/scissors

Total Cost: Less than $10 and less than 15 minutes of your life
Which is pretty fitting for something nobody sees and is only the center of attention for 5 minutes

Wedding photographs by Melissa Barrick.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Little Life Things (Week of 6/21/14-6/27/14)

It's only been since Aughumdy Eleventywhateverth August since I've done one of these... Guess what happened in August?  Oh right.  I became employed.  So that is pretty much the best indicator of what my first year at my new job (career?) was like!  But it's summer now, so I'm going to try to keep myself on track with these updates!  Let's get to it then.

June 21 to June 27, 2014

  • Went to the library and got a library card for the first time since I was a little kid.  It was AWESOME.
  • Got some new plant friends for the house.  The succulents above came from an Amish market and are propagating and growing so fast I can't keep up.  I gave some of the babies to my sister-in-law (can I just call her my sister?)
  • The other new plant friends have a home on the new ledge/shelf thing in the kitchen.  It's actually three different kinds in one basket.  Let's hope they live in harmony.
  • Painted!  
  • Made a lot lot lot of jewelry.  And marathoned Orange Is The New Black.  These two events are extremely correlated.  
  •  The next door neighbors gave (!!!) us their old treadmill.  For free.  So we added that to our budding little baby home gym that's apparently sprouted up in the den downstairs.  

And then the electrician showed up and claimed we were "sabotaging" him!

So many textures!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How We Celebrated Our Anniversary- Part Three: Let There Be Light (and cabinets and counters and paint)


When we last left off, we had knocked down half a wall, and then patched it back up.  Here's some photos to jog your memory, if you didn't feel like clicking the link up above.

Okay, so.  Down went the wall, goodbye went the gallery frames, and we tossed our pantry to the wind (just kidding.  It's currently sitting in a corner in the dining room.  Eventually it might make it down to the laundry room or garage, but don't hold your breath).  We were left with a giant cardboard box filled with our chips and cereal, and a whole lot of patchy walls and open/empty electrical sockets.  

With a wave of the magic wand, however, all of that has changed!  The electrician bounced in and fixed some things (the wall socket things were way too low for the level of the counter), then the drywall guy came back and patched some things, and then the cabinets/counter dudes came and installed... well, the cabinets and counters.  Scott and I were in the process of painting the space when the electrician showed up again to put on the plates and hang our lights, and then suddenly without any warning, we were done!  Well, mostly.  There's still some painting to do, and some plates to purchase, but good news- we have cabinets!  And counters!  And the whole space is so open and bright!  NO MORE SPLIT LEVEL KITCHEN!

First of all, our fancy cabinets.  They aren't just any cabinets, OH NO.  As you can see, there are two big drawers, and regular cabinet with a shelf- and then a middle/corner cabinet that is ACTUALLY a lazy Susan, and a pull out drawer that holds two- count 'em, TWO- trash cans.  Jack is a huge fan as well.  Jack actually loves this whole situation, because now he can sit on the ledge and survey the front door, deck door, living room, dining room, kitchen, and hallway from one spot.  

We also painted the kitchen!  No more of that beigey-bleh color that was all over the house.  It's a shade lighter than the living/dining room, and is the same color as the hallway and bedroom.  

Our new lights.  This was kind of a super spontaneous add-on.  When the electrician first came to the house, he asked if we wanted any lighting up there, and I said, "ummm.... SURE!"  He asked how many and my response was "umm..... two?"  So now we have two lights.  And I LOVE them.  The colors are not as bright in the photo as they seem in person, but I think they perfectly pull all of the spaces together- there's the blacks and browns that match the counters, the yellowy color is like the sunflowers I have in the kitchen, and the blue pulls in the blues I have in the living space.  

Lots more counter space!  We were able to hide some appliances in one of the new cabinets, and brought some of the others out onto the new island for an all over more spacious area.  

More pic spam:

Still on the To-Do list:
  • Paint the ceiling
  • Paint the ledge/shelf and baseboards
  • Replace the missing light switch plates
  • Fix the few missing/cut tiles
Before/During/After Pics: