I’m Not Even Drinking

All the food yesterday must have done something to my brain.  Either that or the “pregnancy brain” is kicking into high gear already.  My 2 most recent tweets:

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And, 90 minutes later…

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Oops! Let’s just hope that tomorrow night isn’t a repeat of tonight! And if you are in downtown Cleveland tomorrow night and see a pink-coat-&-boot-clad, blue-eyed 3 year old tantruming, please have pity.

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Awesomesauce Roundup & Linkfest

There’s no denying it, the holidays are approaching (even if we are having one hell of an Indian Summer here in NE Ohio).  As usual for this time of year my thoughts start turning towards gifts and parties and outings. Lucky for me there are a lot of great Cleveland bloggers out there who have done a ton of the legwork for me.  So, instead of doing my own post about what we are getting and what we will be doing I’m just going to highlight some of the awesome that is out there right now (with some of my own additions, of course). And while a lot of this is Cleveland-centric I want to encourage you to look around your own area to see how you can get involved in a local activity and support local shops.

What We’re Doing
Kyle at Northcoast Lifestyle has a great post with all the holiday happenings in the area.  Just like the summer months, the CLE is a busy place in December and if you say there is nothing to do you aren’t looking around. M is very excited about all things Christmas this year so here are the things that Kyle highlighted that we are doing for sure:

The Night of Lights @ Legacy Village, This Friday November 20
Okay, this is a freakin’ “lifestyle mall”, the kind of which I pretty much hate with the heat of a thousand suns.  But, this is close by, free and has 3 marching bands (a huge favorite of M’s), including the famed Shaw High School Band and fireworks (a favorite of mine) so we are going.

Tower City Holiday Show & all the other activities, especially the awesome (and kind of creepy-looking) Kringle’s Inventionasium; starting November 27.

Holiday Circle Fest, December 6.  If it’s happening in the Circle, you know it will be awesome !

We will also be doing some sort of giving back.  I’m thinking of something involving the Cleveland Foodbank.  If nothing else I’ll grab one of those $10 bags of canned goods at the grocery store to be donated everytime I shop in December.

Shopping
There is really no excuse not to buy local for just about all of your gifts.  No matter where you live I bet there are shops and artists that have what you are looking for.

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a blog-crush on Chef’s Widow and all things Widow, GHT & Chef Sawyer (psst – go vote for him to win the Jame’s Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award). Her recent post has all kinds of great info for shopping around the CLE.  Cool Cleveland adds to the party with a list of their own.  If you can’t get all your holiday shopping done between these 2 lists then something is seriously wrong. And if you’re not in CLE, take on the 3/50 project in your own area. Here are some of our must-do’s shopping-wise for holiday 2009:

C.L.E. Clothing Co. –  Mark & I love their shirts and want every last one.  Mark picked up the Brown’s one at a WOW concert this summer and I really want Hot Rod Williams, Bingo Smith and Cleveland’s A Plum to show up under our tree this year.

Bazaar Bizarre – I missed it last year but with their new East-side location a mere minutes from my house I will not miss it this year!

Made in the 216 Holiday Shoppe – A collection of locally-made goods.  Enough said.

And you know you can always shop local on Etsy.com, right?  Discover cool goods and amazing talent right in your backyard, no matter where you live!

For foodies on the list send them to one of the dozens and dozens of fantastic local restaurnts with a gift certificate or let them explore our entire culinary landscape with a Cleveland Independents Deck and they can save $10 at 52 locally-owned Cleveland restaurants. You know there are great independents wherever you live, and they’re so much better then giving a gift certificate to Red Lobster!

My brother told me my nephew wants books – “anything for a 12 year old boy will be fine” he said. Uh, yea…how am I supposed to know what 12 year old boys like?  Thank goodness for this list from the Cuyahoga Library! I’ve marked ideas for M and my other nephew and niece, too, and will be headed to The Learned Owl to pick up a few selections and check off a bunch of my list.

Winnings
While I will be shopping local, I will also be trying to win from 3 local bloggers  this season. Think you’ll never win anything? So did I until I won 3 blog-contests this past year – a book and $50 to Gymboree from Classy Chaos and 2 restaurant gift certificates from Trish’s Dish.  I’m sure this is just the beginning of blog-giveaway season, as PR companies seem to be scrambling for an audience, so enter, enter, enter! You may get a few gifts knocked off your list for free, or even better – score an indulgence for yourself.  Here are some biggies that I am keeping my fingers crossed that I win:

Alexa is giving away an HP dm3 notebook PC (worth over $500) on Cleveland’s A Plum.

Pauline is giving away all kinds of stuff on her review page.  Right now she’s giving away Wii Fit Plus board+ Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum, worth over $130 …I know someone who would love to get this from me this year!

And the grand-daddy of all giveaways this season is from the Widow herself .  Amelia has amassed an amazing assortment of CLE prizes for one lucky winner.  (Commenter JMH should probably enter this one and win it for me).  And go check Widow’s sexy new style…her blog redesign was done by my hubby!

What are your favoraite holiday haunts? Where do you shop? What are the contests you are hoping to win this year?  I hope you are starting to get into the spirit of an awesome Chrismakwanzika!

XY

I announced it on Twitter & Facebook but forgot to mention it here.  Last week we decided to find out the gender of our baby and it’s a boy!

Ultrasound_webI’ll spare him from displaying his graphic showing of his boy-ness on the internet, but trust me…there is no mistaking that this kid is a boy.

We are, of course, very excited about all of this.  The pink-princess levels in this house could use a bit of balance with some trucks and dinosaurs (not that M doesn’t play with that stuff, too – but 7 times out of 10 the call of the Disney Princesses wins out).  I’m lucky that we didn’t find out the gender with M so we have loads of unisex newborn clothes and my sister saved me a bunch of her son’s baby clothes, so up to at least 6 months we are set.

But I will be totally honest and admit to something that has gotten me very odd looks the few times I’ve mentioned it out loud.  It’s something that I thought about years ago when several of my friends were having boys.  I just can’t get over the strange, alien, biological fact that right now my body is growing a pen1s.  Think about that for a minute.  Pregnancy is weird enough as it is, but add to everything else the fact that there is something growing inside me that is against every one of my own chromosomes and it’s downright bizarre.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy and excited to be having a boy, but….yea – right now the whole pen1s thing is freaking me out just a little.

The Big Move

I’m about to show you how amazingly ugly our kitchen is.  Brace yourselves.

When we moved to Cleveland almost 2 years ago, it was a whirlwind.  We had about 5 weeks from my job offer for Mark to find a job (which he did quickly because he is brilliant at what he does), find a place to live and sell our Toledo house.  We were heartbroken over leaving our awesome 1912 bungalow in the best neighborhood ever, but it was on to bigger and better things.

DSCF0042Oh Stratford house, we miss you!

We looked to the inner-ring eastern suburbs because we like old houses and it was close to both our offices.  Plus we had friends here whom we had been close with when they lived in Toledo.  The prospect of carrying 2 mortgages was scary and we knew our budget that would allow us to do so would limit our buying options.  But we looked to purchase over rent just to see what we could find.  3 all-day visits later and we thought we found our house.  It was astonishingly like our old house and close to our friends, schools, grocery stores and the library.  The same day we decided to bid someone else also bid and, knowing our limited budget, we knew we would lose a bidding war.

So my thoughts kept circling back to a house our realtor showed me on a whim – it was just a few houses down from the dream house and way, way underpriced for the neighborhood.  The house was in severe need of cosmetic updating and Mark had only seen the dozens of photos I had snapped during my walk through.  Apparently the previous owners lived here for 35+ years and I think the last time they updated anything was during the Carter Administration. Inspections showed that although ancient, the mechanicals were in good shape so we took the plunge.  The thought was that we would hopefully sell the Toledo house within 6 months (hoping only to break even, given the market slide at the time) and then get an equity loan and update this house.  So before we moved in we removed all the nasty carpet and wallpaper with the hopes that within a few months we could afford to have professionals come refinish the unfinished but nice wood floors.  We also planned to have the plaster re-done on the first floor and have the whole interior professionally painted.

P1030350Looks pretty cute from the outside, right?

Then the market started to tank.  We sold our Toledo house after 5 months but took a 5-figure hit to do so.  Paying off that debt took about a year, which meant no updates to this house.  Now, another year later and really the only update we’ve made was to install a dishwasher in the kitchen (when we bought the house it had a portable dishwasher, the kind you have to roll over to the sink, hook up to the faucet and plug in.  After a few months it started to leak all over the place).

Anyway, I’m not someone who can’t/won’t do a bit of work in the name of updating a house.  We painted most of our old house and did several other small projects.  However the scope of what this house needs (new plaster, sand and re-finish floors, woodwork stripped and repainted, etc) is best left to professionals. Trying to tackle projects with a kid is drastically different then without one.  Plus, if I stay up to midnight or so painting one night, I’m wrecked for a week – I need my sleep.  So this house has sat basically untouched for almost 2 years.

The worst offender has always been the heinous kitchen.  It’s something we looked past because of it’s size (our Toledo kitchen was tiny).  It’s done in 1981-era country and it hurts your eyes just to look at it.  2 counters are faux woodgrain and the other has an atomic pattern on it.  Besides the aforementioned portable dishwasher it also has crappy (original?) cabinets painted country-blue with wallpaper in the insets.  Plus one wall is covered in faux brick wall paper.  It’s U.G.L.Y.  But it functions and there are other things on the list to be done before we sink tens of thousands of dollars into a complete remodel.

But, there was one thing I couldn’t take anymore.  The refrigerator wasn’t in the kitchen.  It was in the adjacent back entry/mudroom (but it’s really to small to call a mudroom, it’s more of a mud cubby).  This has always drove me crazy.  And it doesn’t make any sense.  Here – I’ll show you pictures so you can laugh at my ugly kitchen:

P1030328Behold the lovely blue cabinets and faux brick wall.  Note the portable dishwasher next to the stove.  We got rid of that about a year ago and since then M’s art easel has occupied that spot. The green box on the wall is an electric knife – klassy.

P1030330The assault of country-blue continues into the back mud cubby.  The back door is just to the left outside of the frame. This area is only about 3-feet wide and in addition to the refrigerator also houses the basement door and the smallest half-bath you’ve ever seen.  This area tends to get overrun with too many coats and shoes, not to mention that there are FOUR doors opening into this space. It’s an architectural wonder.

So, Friday night I mentioned to Mark that maybe we could fit the fridge in the space that the old dishwasher used to occupy thus opening up some real space in the mud cubby for coat and boot storage.  I wasn’t prepared for him to tackle the project Saturday morning but that’s what he did.  It involved removing one door, both fridge doors, an amazing amount of found dirt and grime behind the fridge and help from a neighbor to install a new outlet.  But by mid-afternoon it was in it’s new location.  It’s not ideal set up, and we had to really squeeze everything together so we could still open the dishwasher.  But it works and it’s so nice to actually have the refrigerator IN the kitchen.  What a novel idea.

P1060911Three appliances all in a tidy row.  Kitchen designers are falling off their chairs right now, but it works…and it will need to work for another few years (or until we win the lottery).  Maybe I should just take that damn knife down already.

P1060912The new mudroom area.  I need to find a bench with storage baskets that fits in this nook and will put coat hooks just under the cabinets.  This makes the entire entry feel so much bigger.  And believe it or not, Mark scrubbed that wall with bleach; that’s just how disgusting it was behind the fridge.

It’s small, but it’s one of the few things we can do to make things more livable until we have the money to really tackle the other projects (a new boiler has been added to that project list but we can’t do that until we have the entire electrical system updated – old houses = money pit).

Better Late then Never

No real reason for not posting here for awhile…just busy freezing (broken boiler – it’s now fixed and we are now broke) and hanging out under layers of blankets.  Or, if I’ve had time at the computer it’s been spent trying to sort the 558 photos I’ve selected for M’s baby book.  No, she doesn’t have a baby book, or any sort of photo album for that matter.  Yes, she’s 3.  My goal is to make photobooks for year 1 and 2 before the baby is born.  To do that I need to slog through about 4000 photos and figure out which ones to use. It’s a bit overwhelming.

Anyway, in lieu of a real post here are some week-old Halloween photos of a really cute bumble bee.