Friday, December 12, 2014

Our 2014 Christmas Photos

Wow, can you believe it is already here?!  It seems like last winter just ended, and here we are again approaching Christmas.  

If you're like me, you appreciate having some good holiday family photos.  I like to send a photo as a card or with a card to our family every year, and to have the photos to add to my album as well.  As many of you know, Tyler and I work opposite schedules, so finding time to take photos can be hard.  Those of you who work full time will probably feel me on this.

Since I'm pretty sure most everyone I sent cards out to this year has already gotten theirs, I wanted to share with you our 2014 holiday photos.

This year's Christmas photos only took us maybe 10 minutes.  I grabbed our camera and a tripod, and headed out to a field with some trees near our apartment.  I've always known about the field, but earlier this year ventured further and found a nice area with some cedar trees that looked like the perfect area for our Christmas pictures.  It had snowed the day before, but unfortunately most had melted before we had the chance to take our pictures.

 We just set up the tripod in a couple different locations, took a couple different poses, and one 'couple selfie' and called it good.  It was just before the sun went down, so the lighting was nice as well.  Our outfits consisted of both of us in brown jackets, matching scarves made for us by Tyler's mother, my Christmas-red pants, and off setting the red with Tyler's cream khaki dress pants.

I'm a firm believer that for outdoor Christmas card pictures, brown grass, dead trees, and green cedars are really a must for the card to really feel like the season.  I see so many green grass/hot sun pictures where people are just wearing sweaters in the summer for their Christmas pictures.  I just don't feel it when it just looks like summer, so we waited until the end of November to snap our photos so they would  be 'in-season.'  When you can take good pictures in just a short period of time, there's really no reason for the green grass Christmas photos.

Go ahead, just call me nitpicky.

I'm loving our photos this year.  I love when we take pictures these days, because it seems like the longer we've been together, the fewer pictures we actually take together.  Its a good thing the holidays come around so I'm conscious of taking some good pictures of the two of us.  Last year we took our Christmas pictures indoors by our Christmas tree.  

Do you find that the longer you've been with your significant other, the fewer you take pictures together?  Do you make a point to take a holiday photo together?

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Special Pictures Documenting Life in our First Apartment

In your first year of marriage, there are a lot of firsts.  

Some memorable firsts are our first meal together after our wedding (which happened to be at a Burger King in a gas station, which I think is hilarious).  I remember the first few times I used "my husband" when talking about Tyler to someone who didn't know him, and how new it seemed when it rolled off the tongue.  

Probably the most memorable thing that was "ours" in our first year, however, was our first apartment together.

To remember our first year of marriage, I made a yearbook compiled of pictures of us and things we'd done between May 18th of 2013 until May 18th of 2014.

A special project for just one page of that yearbook were these photos documenting us in our first apartment together.

I wanted to portray our apartment itself, but I also wanted to show how we decorated, what furniture we had, how we used those rooms, and us in those rooms.  We just set up the tripod and tried to get an angle of each space to define what it means to us.

Blogging was a big part of my free time during our first year of marriage, and I spent most of my time writing and editing pictures at our dining table.

 Tyler's favorite "spot" in the leather recliner, and the infamous blue couch with lumpy pillows in the background.  

I'd like to think in the future we'll remember good times on that lumpy, uncomfortable, style inhibiting blue couch: our many nights spent watching LOST, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, and The Walking Dead, watching the ducks sit and waddle on a frozen pond out the window in the winter, and the zooming hummingbird in the summer.

I will always remember cooking and cleaning in our cramped little kitchen with the red curtain to hide the trash can, washer, dryer, and makeshift pantry shelf.  Where we first used so many wedding gifts, learned more about each other's food preferences, and how to stack a million dishes in one cupboard so that all your wedding gifts fit and can be used.

In our bedroom, we'll remember the places we got ready for work.

A few of Tyler's decorations and sentimental pieces are a backdrop to every morning, as well as the wall quilt his family gave me upon our engagement.

On my dresser and the decor near it are many of my favorite things:  a clock for my birthday from my sweetest roommate in college, a picture of my favorite thing - a ladybug - from Tyler in a frame, several tins that I adore, my necklaces, and a wooden box from my grandma where I store my makeup.

Also in our bedroom is our precious wedding quilt, made by Tyler's mother.  The standing mirror is one I found at a yard sale, which is an interesting hobby of ours as well.

Finally, at my craft table is where it happens.  Or more like where the storage happens...because as my sweet husband fully knows, most of my crafts end up in the living room floor rather than on the craft table.
I couldn't be happy without creating something, so as full as my very full table is with the storage of many different supplies, it means my heart is full from all the fun things there are to create!

Moe and Picasso, our pet fish, also inhabited our office/craft room.  We enjoyed their cute wiggles in our first year!

I edited the photos so that they were all black and white and would look cohesive on the page in our photo yearbook.  

Although it is merely one page of our photobook this year, I know in years to come we will appreciate this glimpse into our past at our first apartment - even just seeing how our decor and belongings evolve as we evolve.  

How have you captured and presented memories of some of your firsts?

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Four Years Being Partners in Crime

Four years ago, Tyler and I had a date night.  At his apartment, we strung up Christmas lights, garland, put together a tree and hung decorations before we got swamped with finals and being home for the holidays.  We finished an amateur series we'd been watching together called Dorm Life (a funny, silly, short episode series about a co-ed dorm available free online).  After finishing our show, basking in the Chrismas lights late into the night, then he asked me to be his girlfriend.  In case you were wondering, I obliged.

I can't believe that was four years ago, and now we're happily married.

November 20th is a special day for us, because that's when we became "official."  To celebrate, we've decorated together every November 20th since.  It may be a little early to decorate for Christmas, but I love celebrating our anniversary, being thankful for each other, and enjoying the romantic aspects of the Christmas season all in one.  Who says I can't combine an anniversary and two holidays into one?

And you know why else today is special?  Today is also special because it is my Mother-in-law's birthday!  Happy happy birthday to her, thanks for raising a true gentleman!

We probably won't *actually* decorate tonight, however Friday after both of us are done with work, I have a feeling the celebration will kick in.  I'm so excited for it though!  Its so fun to make the house feel cozy and look at the ornaments we've given each other over the years.

Do you still celebrate any anniversaries other than your wedding anniversary?  
Do you celebrate any anniversaries with specific traditions, or something different each year?

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DIY Industrial Cage Lights

Not even six months ago, the idea of wiring a lamp sounded like risky business.  Even the idea that I would soon have to wire lamps at work under the supervision of management made me nervous at first.  I didn't realize how simple it actually is until I'd done it a couple times, and now I realize it really couldn't be much more simple.  

Now, if you asked me to wire anything besides a lamp, I'd ask you, "Do you want me to burn your house down?"  I'm no professional, I was first taught by a video (don't you love how corporations train you with videos?) and then by senior coworkers.  Literally, all I know how to do is make sure that the right wires get twisted together in very specific scenarios.  So in other words, don't ask me for advice, and don't hold me accountable if you wire something and you are not properly informed yourself.  This post details my tips in a DIY project, which is exactly that:  Do It YOURSELF.  I am happy to give out my tips and tell you how I did something, but I just want to state clearly that you should inform yourself with information from multiple reputable sources before tackling projects that involve wiring, or anything that should be structurally or electronically safe and sound.

Now that I've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, I want to show you how I DIY'ed these two swag industrial lights for my living room.  And since I'm no professional, I wanted to check my work with another source, and used this helpful video to do so.  I didn't cut my wires this way, but instead bought a special tool (linked below) that makes it easier and is actually made to do this job.

First, you'll need to pick up some parts to make your lamp.  But before you go to the store, get a tape measure and take some measurements.  Make sure to know how much cord you will need to get from the outlet you plan to use to wherever you hang your light.

Here's what you'll need, and I've linked exactly what I bout for my lamps if I could find a link for it.
  • Predetermined Length of Lamp Wire (I used 18-2 lamp wire)
    • There are also really cool colored fabric covered or braided wire options available online.
  • Light Socket (make sure to note which type of switch you want)
  • Polarized Plug (make sure the plug has both a silver and a gold screw, or that the package clearly states that it is polarized).
    • In lieu of the things I listed above, you could also opt to purchase a swag light kit.
  • Wire Stripper and Cutter
  • Light Bulb
  • Hanging Mechanism
  • Cable Staples
  • Trouble Light Cages

Shown here are the wire strippers, wire, the wrong plug (instead find a polarized plug), and light socket.

*Note: I later realized this plug was not polarized, and thus took it back to the store to get the correct one, and then warned you to not make the same mistake.  The steps will remain the same, and the only thing that will change is your need to ensure that the same side of the cord (ribbed or smooth) that you attach to the silver screw on the socket must also attach to the silver screw on the plug, and same for the gold screw.

Start at one end of your wire and split the two sides down the middle an inch or two.  Notice on one half, the plastic surrounding the wire is smooth, and on the other half is ribbed (there are small lines running down the whole way).  This is to help you identify each side of the wire.

Find the size on the wire strippers that is just slightly smaller than the plastic coating the wire.  Strip off around an inch, or however much you need to wrap around the screw.  I like to use a longer piece than some people because it is easier to wrap.

Once you've exposed the wire, twist the wires.  It just makes it easier, and should help conduct the electricity better because they aren't fraying.

Take the socket apart.  On a polarized plug (which this is NOT in this photo, remember I had to return it to the store), you will have one silver and one gold screw.  Its important.  And yes, I'm going to keep reminding you throughout this entire tutorial.

You'll split and strip your wires, loosen the screws, and wrap the wires around the screws, then tighten them.

 When you tighten the wires, make sure both come out in the center between the screws, otherwise you'll have to redo it because when you put the plug back together it won't fit.

Slip the cover back on.

Here is a picture of the screws on the light socket.  The right side is gold, the left side silver.  You want to BE SURE the same side of the wire you attached to the gold screw in the plug is the SAME wire you attach to the gold screw on the socket.

I didn't take pictures actually twisting the wires around the screws because, well, its kinda hard to do that and take the picture too, but you can see it very well in the video I embedded above.

Now test out your work and let there be light!

I decided to swag them, and since just the light bulb and cage aren't that heavy, I decided to just hang them from the cord without the chain.  I think the chain is actually hideous, and I'm simply not worried about it being a problem.  If you're hanging something heavier like a glass globe, I would suggest finding a way to take the stress off the cord.

Here is a close up of the lamp with the cage on it.  The cage ended up being slightly too large to clamp to the socket, so I used a slim piece of cork as a make-shift spacer, which has worked quite well.

I hung them with these small hooks and made a loop with the cord.  

I used these cable staples to tack the cord down straight against the wall, and to keep them organized behind our furniture.  

The lights before I bought the cages.

And now with the cages!  I love the vibe they have, and I really love having the extra light.

The main reason I decided to create these lights is due to the lack of an overhead light in our apartment's living area.  We've survived with the diy burlap lamp in the corner thus far, but since it has been darker the closer to winter it becomes, I decided enough was enough and I needed more light in our living room.  I feel very good about the amount of light that these give off with just 25 watt bulbs in each.

We've been using the lights in our living room for about a month now, and they still work great and have really enhanced the ability to do (and actually see) things that are happening in the living room.  Goodbye dark house at only 5:30 to 6:00 pm!

What projects have you done recently in your house or to prepare for winter?

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bye Bye Kitty

Last week, my family had to put down our sweet kitty Casey.  She got very sick last week, and after going to the vet, she continued getting worse.  Since she was nearly a 15 year old cat, my parents made the decision to have her put to sleep instead of cause her more suffering.  

She has been in our family for just short of 15 years.  I still remember that year.  My parents had just bought a house the winter before, and it was the first time we had lived in town since I was probably about 3 or 4.  It was the first time I really remembered having more than two sets of neighbors, and since it was a tiny town with really no law enforcement or animal control, that meant stray dogs and cats run loose everywhere.  Welcome to basically all podunk towns in Oklahoma.

Cats somehow sense when people like them, and if there are strays, they always show up on your doorstep.  The first summer we lived in our new house, we had my first cat that moved with us from the old house.  His name was Sally (yes, I said HE).  Sally was a lazy guy, but none-the-less made friends with a pregnant stray that "landed" on our doorstep, and no, he wasn't friendly with her because of THAT, he was physically safe from parenthood.  We called his little stray friend Little Bit.  Not long after that, Sally got hit by a car and died.

Little Bit had her litter of kittens, and the runt of her litter was strikingly handsome and quirky, and he was the one that pulled our heart strings.  No, it wasn't Casey.  This little quirky kitten would be Simon.  

Here is a picture of Simon when he was full-grown, handsome kitty.

Simon was really born feral, as his brother's and sisters were extremely hard to catch, but since he was the runt he was small and slow, so we caught him often and he got used to us.  He finally got so used to us that he slept on my bed every night before going outside to go on his kitty adventures.  Little Bit didn't really like our intrusions, so she moved her family along elsewhere.

Just  a month or so later while my family was on a walk in the country - which really wasn't far from town.  (When I say I'm from a small town, I mean the 2010 U.S. Census says there is a population of 350 people kind of small). Deep in the woods yet just off the road, away from any houses or places where people live, we heard a faint meow.  Out came a solid white kitten with a black spot on her head who looked to be a few months older than Simon.  It was apparent that someone had most likely drove her out to that place and left her there because they decided they no longer wanted her.  My dad picked her up and carried her back home with us, and she was as happy as could be.

The next morning, I woke up to this new "Casey" sniffing my mouth while I was asleep.  Gross!  At least Simon quietly got up and went about his business instead of disturbing my sleep in the mornings.  Already, I knew she had a very 'outgoing' personality.  Sometimes that outgoing, or should I call it "meow't-going" personality was a bit annoying to all involved, but we loved her for it anyway.

From that day, "Simon and Casey" were a duo that never separated.  

Simon had some severe mental issues and was terrified of people.  One day when some family that he didn't know visited my parents, he got scared and somehow sneaked out of the garage, never to come home.  Casey has since been an 'only cat.'


To remember Casey's life, I just wanted to share some photos of her doing her favorite things.
These are the things that if she could have talked, she would say made her life worthwhile.

Cuddling with her humans.

The paw towards my mom's face is her sleepy cuddly trademark.

Cuddling with "brother."

A nice enough pillow.

Sitting in boxes and paper bags, and even both at the same time.

Laying on computer keyboards during important work.

Sitting in open drawers.

Rolling in the dirt.

Chin scratches.

Sleeping on the bed.  My bed, but thinking it was her bed.

Loving the Christmas tree box every holiday season.

Being cute and answering questions.

And the glamour shots.  She loved ALL the glamour.

 Oh yes, she loved her glamour shots.

Casey has been a part of our family more than half my life.  We will always remember all the little details about her that made her special to us, like the rip in her ear, the way she meowed to answer questions, the way she came to "Pig, Pig, Piggy" instead of "Kitty, Kitty, Kitty" and all sorts of other things.  

The Turner family is missing someone special now, but we are glad that Casey didn't suffer long from her illness.  

Bye bye, Piggy.

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Copyright 2012-2014 Saxon Smith (Let's Drink Coffee, Darling). All rights reserved.
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