Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two Years {And South Africa}

Have you ever heard the quote from Anne of Green Gables, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." ?  I love that quote because like most people who choose to live in the northeast, Fall is my favorite time of year. (I know, I'm really original like that).

We celebrated our two year wedding anniversary last week with some gorgeous flowers, a box of chocolates, and a night on the couch not doing any housework.  We finally cracked that bottle of champagne we were given at our wedding that we were supposed to drink last year but I was in that whole two-week-period-of-the-month-where-I-didn't-know-if-I-was-pregnant-or-not-yet (I was not). It might not sound super romantic, but it was exactly what we needed this year.

I thought it would be appropriate to finally show you some pictures from our Honeymoon two years ago. We took an amazing trip to South Africa - spending 4 nights in Cape Town visiting the surrounding areas and then 4 nights in Kruger National Park at a private resort going on safari rides every day at dawn and dusk.  It was an amazing trip and one I always said I would love to make again (maybe when this whole ebola thing dies down?)

I'll let the pictures do the talking, but feel free to ask me any questions in the comments!

So a big part of this trip was the work that went into planning it.  Obviously traveling to an unfamiliar country brings its own risks (and rewards!!) so we decided to go through a travel company.  We actually did our own research and mapped out the trip we wanted and priced it out to book it all ourselves and then took it to a travel company that was willing to take on the trip as we planned it (versus one of their canned tours) and actually handle the bookings for us.  It wasn't any more expensive to go through the travel company, AND it gave me piece of mind that if a car wasn't at the hotel to pick us up to bring us to our next destination, we had a main contact we could call that would help us with any issues.  It just felt a little more secure (read: SAFE) and less of a headache than to have all of the contact numbers for all of the places we were staying and all of the inter-country car services we needed.  

So here is my super secret tip for exotic travel:  Plan the trip you want (as opposed to a canned tour that might not have everything you want to do in it), and reach out to a reputable tour company that will take on the bookings for you, and will make sure all of your connecting travel plans are safe and punctual.

Also now that we live in New Jersey, and yellow cabs aren't just waiting outside our stoop to bring us to the airport, we need to rethink how we get to and from the airport when we take trips (even domestic flights).  And, when we go on vacation, why not make a little money while we are at it? This is where RelayRides comes in. (My super-but-shouldn't-be-a-secret tip for domestic travel.) It's a peer-to-peer car rental service, which is a great way to either save a little money when you are in another city, and/or make a little money on your car that would otherwise be sitting in your driveway at home/long term parking at the airport while you are away.  People have been doing it with their homes for years now - so it only makes sense we start doing it with our cars as well.  They even have a new initiative to help newlyweds travel well with airport rentals while on their honeymoons - they are in tons of cities and growing! Of course RelayRides also works great if you just need a truck for a day to get some yard work done, or a mini-van to cart a bunch of kids around for a day at the museum.

Ahh, now I want to plan our next trip abroad...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Life Lately...

So…let’s back up a bit.  Last winter Tom and I casually dipped our toes in the hunt for a home.  We had a few criteria – I wanted an open space concept (duh) and Tom wanted a nice master bathroom.  We knew we needed either a three bedroom home with a dedicated office area, or a four bedroom home and one room would be my office (all signs have been pointing to my job allowing me to work from home once the baby was born – fingers crossed I find out this week!). In addition to these items, we had to both seriously consider our commute times.  Tom would be driving to Brooklyn every day and I still needed a reasonable commute to Manhattan for meetings and the chance that I would need to commute regularly.  We ended up concentrating our search in a few towns in Union County, New Jersey, and a few towns in Nassau County, Long Island. We quickly eliminated Long Island because we just weren’t getting the feel we wanted in the homes that were in our price range.  Jersey it was…

One weekend in April, we went out with our realtor and saw about 8 houses in one day (this had become our typical weekend).  This was a particularly long day for us, and it had become unseasonably warm, and I think we were just sweaty, cranky and hungry.  We went in to see the last house of the day.  There was a huge office that was like a time capsule – wood paneling, black leather chairs, and brass pineapple hardware. I fell in love but kept my mouth shut because I thought Tom was going to hate it.  We sped through the house in about 15 minutes – after about 30+ houses we had gotten good at speeding through – and we went out to the car.  Tom said something to the effect of “Ok, let’s buy that house”. Super nonchalant like we were trying to decide between sesame or cinnamon raisin bagels.  If I wasn’t already sitting in the car I would’ve fallen off my seat.  I didn’t even really pay attention to the house because I didn’t think he was going to dig the hefty 70’s groove this house was giving off.  I insisted we go back in and walk around again and we started to get excited. There is a big part of me that still believes we bought this house because we were tired and hungry.

Fast forward to June 30th, after muuuuch stress (don’t get me started on the chimney inspection fiasco) we bought the home.  The next week we interviewed a few local construction companies to give us quotes on gut renovations of the kitchen and master bath.  Luckily for us, this home had been relatively untouched since it was built in 1959 and we got it at a good enough price that we could afford our down payment as well as a pretty exhaustive renovation to these two spaces.  As much as I would have loved to take our time and attempt to DIY some of these spaces, we have never actually done anything more than binge on HGTV and oh yeah, I was about 7 months pregnant at the time.  We decided cutting our teeth on these spaces was not the smartest thing to do.  There are plenty of other rooms in the house that need some TLC that we will get to over time. A company was hired and demo started the first week of August.  Thankfully we had the foresight in mid July to extend our rental to early September because, remember, this little guy joined us earlier than planned.

Over the course of the summer we boxed up pretty much our entire apartment and brought it over in carloads. We were taking turns running into granite yards with a three day old in the car, and our son saw the inside of more Home Depots in his first few weeks of life than I probably had in my entire life before this summer.  Was this the ideal way to spend our first few weeks with our son? Definitely not.  Was it terrible? No, not really.  We just accepted our current situation and made the most of it. We discussed putting off the renovation for a year, but decided having to displace ourselves shortly after getting situated and having a toddler running around probably wasn't the smartest idea.  We did discuss living in a construction zone with our pediatrician and we are taking as many precautions as we can to minimize dust. End of the day, it was the right time for our family and I was totally willing to camp out in the family room with the cats and baby all day.

Don't tell Tom I showed you this mess.

So life lately looks like this.  One month ago we moved the furniture into the house and officially left Brooklyn (don’t get me started on the moving truck fiasco) and me, William, Ella, Allen, and Poe hang in the family from about 7:30 am when the workers get here til about 4pm when they leave for the day.  I’ve got my little kitchen set up like I’m in a dorm, my dishes in the guest bath, and we are all sleeping together as a happy family in what will be the guest bedroom at the end of the hallway upstairs at night.  Certainly not for the faint of heart, but I actually feel less stressed now than I did prior to the move.  I was really stressing about the idea of driving three cats and an infant from Brooklyn to New Jersey, a whooping 45 minute drive.  That drive that morning was a very anticlimactic goodbye to my apartment in Brooklyn that I had lived in for seven years. There’s still a part of me that believes my stuff is still all set up and we are about to drive home to Bay Ridge one of these nights since we haven’t really been able to unpack here yet. It’s very surreal still. But I know even this is temporary.

Classy tooth brush/bottle nipple/steak knife pic. Oh look, an apron on my dish soap! 

If you’ve been following along on Instagram you know we are nearing the finish line - the contractors finished up on Friday and now we are in serious clean - paint - unpack - repeat mode. It's happening a bit slower than I'd like (I swear this kid hears me crack open a can of paint and decides nap time is over). I know we made the right decision by doing this now.  All of those “someday when we own a home” ideas are actually coming to fruition and it’s a little unbelievable and awesome.  I am actually in my Someday Home.  And it’s gonna be pretty freaking great.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Three Weeks {Introducing William Odin!}

Today is supposed to be my due date.  But three weeks ago, our little boy (crap, I never told you I was having a boy! gender reveal/shower posts coming soon...ish) decided to come a little early and throw the sweetest wrench in all of our construction/moving (crap, I never told you we bought a house at the beginning of the summer and we are renovating! posts to come soon...ish) plans.

I won't get into the entire birth story now, but I plan to write about it one day.  The short version is that I am proud to say I was able to deliver the au natural way without any drugs (although right at the end I was screaming for drugs and they told me I could push instead).  It was a pretty crazy experience and I think I'm still processing everything that happened that day. Let's be honest, I'm still processing the fact that I was ever even pregnant and the fact that I'm officially a MOM now, and I have SON. Yikes. Awesome, but Yikes.

William Odin was born on Friday, July 25th, at 11:26 am at St Luke's Roosevelt in Manhattan. He weighed 4 pounds, 12 ounces, and was just over 18 inches long.  They took some extra care with him in the beginning for precautionary measures, but he stabilized well and we were all able to go home together on Sunday morning. He is a our little viking boy and perfectly perfect to us. Even as I gather photos for this post, it is amazing to me to see how much he has changed in just three short weeks. I can't imagine if we had to wait this whole time to meet him.

I think any parent can sympathize when I say that it is extremely intimidating to try to put to words in exactly how many ways our lives have instantly changed.  For all the friends and family that tried to warn me about the utter exhaustion and the inexplicable tears and the unending happiness I would feel, thank you for futile attempts. I finally get it.

Now, back to snuggle time with Captain Adorable.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

So About That 4 Month Hiatus...

hello? hello? is this thing on? 

I've never been super diligent with this blog over the years, despite various attempts at getting myself into a good routine.  But four months has definitely been the longest break I've ever taken.  You know when you have trouble remembering how to start a new blog post in blogger that it's been a while!

So what have I been up to in the past few months?  Well - my job finally upgraded my blackberry to a droid and I can actually do things like access the internet and have apps like INSTAGRAM. You have no idea how excited I am to finally have instagram. Like. so excited.  You should totally follow me at iamkilobravo!! I miss typing on my blackberry, but since I had no choice I'll say having IG is worth it.  All of the cat pics that I refrain from sharing on fb and this blog can be found on IG in case you feel you've been missing that in your life. You've been warned.

Hmm...what else...Tom and I are finally dipping our toes into house hunting!  It took us a long time to narrow down the towns that would work for us so we both had manageable commutes, but still have a real house and backyard by NYC suburb standards.  I don't know if people outside of the NYC area can really appreciate how hard it can be to have those things. All of it comes at a premium as well, so saving our pennies for the past 7 years together has been totally worth it as we look at what we can finally afford. The original goal was to actually move by the end of this year, but we started our search a little early in order to get to know the neighborhoods, and we've actually seen a few houses we like that we can afford so we might pull the trigger sooner if it feels right. We have been all over the place as we narrow down what we really want in our home and I have no idea what we will end up with, but it is an equally exhilarating and frustrating experience and I'm so excited that we started a little earlier than planned.

Tax season...tax season...tax season...

Hmm...oh yeah - how could I forget? I'M COOKING A BABY IN MY BELLY!!!!!!!

Yes! We are pregnant! And I'm 21 weeks as I write this.  I dragged Tom outside this weekend to take some photos of ourselves as it was the warmest day we've had all winter (I know it's spring, but it still really feels like winter most days here).  I think our tripod did a great job getting our good sides.

So I have so much I want to say about my pregnancy so far, and I'll try to keep it to the highlights (ha), but I want to elaborate on how we found out just a bit first. Humor me, please.

We had been trying for what felt like too long - just a few months short of a year when I finally went to my doctor right after our trip to Norway in November. (Any long time readers may have noticed I never did New Years goals for 2013 because the only goal I gave myself was to get pregnant). I specifically went after our trip because I figured if I got some not so great news, I didn't want it to ruin our trip, and figured some blissful ignorance for a few more days was a healthy way to deal with things.  When I went in to see her we discussed what methods we had been using to track everything (OPKs, BBT, and watching for the old EW if you're into knowing about that stuff - so basically EVERY method because I'm a micromanager) and she told me I would come back on my next cycle to take some preliminary blood tests and we would go from there. And no joke she said the following to me: "Hopefully we won't even get to the blood tests because maybe you are pregnant right now!" And three weeks later I was back in her office taking a blood test because I had not had a visit from Aunt Flo, nor was I getting a positive pregnancy test yet.  She called me the next day to tell me I was indeed pregnant!   It was the best news and I could barely believe it after what she had said just three weeks before.  Basically she chalked up the length of time it took us to get pregnant to my highly irregular system (even doing all those things, science (hormone levels and fetus size) still thinks we conceived about 10 days after I think we did) and the stress of trying. I really feel like once I had given into the idea that maybe this wouldn't happen the easy way for us, I had just enough of a "f*ck it" attitude to finally reduce the stress enough to let it happen.  Even our teeny taste of facing infertility gave me the utmost respect for women and families that really truly go through the various stages of infertility.  I will forever be thankful and humble for the experience we have had.

Still with me? Ok now some of the fun stuff and the not so fun stuff.  We told our immediate families on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day by getting everyone to do group photos and yelling "saaaaay Kayla'a pregnant!" in the hopes to actually catch pictures of everyone reacting to the news.  Tom's family was soo good at holding their pose that no one dared move a muscle to react until after the flash went off!   My mother was a little less restrained and I'm pretty sure we have a picture of her pushing my dad out of the way to bite my cheek. Totally appropriate response. I love you Mom,. never change.

I have never really had a strong sense of smell but holy crap did it kick into overdrive about a week before Christmas when I was about 4 or 5 weeks along.  It was like day and night.  I went from feeling like normal me, to suddenly not being able to handle any smells, or even the sight of certain foods.  I didn't know who the hell I was. And it lasted for what felt like forever.  Weeks 5 - 16 can only be described as the worst hangover of my life.  And I've had a lot of bad hangovers. There was just no relief and I was pretty convinced this would be our last biological child and it was adoption from here on out.  It was hard on me and yes, I was one of those pregnant people that lost weight at first (don't hate the player, hate the game) but I think that stage was hardest on Tom. I didn't look pregnant yet and it was such an immediate switch to go from getting sick from any smells (I couldn't even walk into our kitchen to throw things in the garbage because I could smell food in the fridge) and to crying at the drop of a hat (twice I actually laughed so hard at jokes that I started hysterically crying) but there were no other visible signs that I was pregnant yet. I think it was really  hard for him to wrap his head around how quickly I had changed, and how little control he had over anything.  I stopped cleaning because I had no energy and just couldn't handle any smells. You can imagine how quickly we had to bite the bullet and hire the cleaning lady we had discussed hiring for the past few years. We would order food every night because I couldn't handle cooking, and my food would get there and I couldn't eat it.  There was a lot of wasted money those first few months.

I felt like I popped right away - but in reality I just stopped sucking in my beer belly.  I basically looked like College Kayla circa 2003 by the time I was 10 weeks.  Around 14 - 15 weeks I really popped and was finally looking pregnant which felt very validating to me.  It felt weird to me how excited I was to finally have a belly to show off. It was like "see, I told you guys I was pregnant and not just a lazy lunatic for the past 4 months!"  Very validating indeed.

Now I'm at what everyone tells me is the fun part of the pregnancy.  I've had a bit of insomnia the whole time, even though I feel tired, sleep just won't come and I wake up a lot throughout the night. Learning to sleep on my side has been tough as I'm a flat back sleeper with virtually no pillows most of the time. TGFS! (Thank god for snoogles). Enjoying bad acid reflux hasn't helped my sleeping either but I'm dealing.  But it's all for a good cause, right? Right?

I think I'm beginning to feel kicks - or it's just gas. I'm honestly not sure. People have described a butterfly feeling but I don't think I've felt that.  This is more like popcorn popping.  And then I get down on myself for not knowing my body better and I start crying again.  Oh hormones.

For anyone that hasn't figured out the math yet, we are due mid August, so as you can imagine I am SO looking forward to riding the subway in f*ucking July when I'm a sweaty gross slob. Speaking of the subway - I cried the first time someone offered me their seat.  Yeah, I am that pregnant lady scaring strangers on the subway "gulp, thank you, waaah, so much, gulp, I'm sorry, I'm just, waaah, hormonal right, gulp, now".

So yeah - that is my really long excuse for not blogging for the past four months. I was a little preoccupied with trying not to vomit or cry. If you've made it this far - you get high fives and hugs!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Our trip to Norway!

Our trip route was Oslo > Bergen > Alesund > Trondheim > Bodo > Tromso > Back to Oslo

In early November, Tom and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary by taking a week long trip to Norway.  It was amazing for so many reasons. We were able to meet some of my extended family (Hallo!), visit some beautiful cities, go reindeer and dog sledding, and see the Aurora Borealis!

We got some pretty damn awesome pictures too.

Wandering in Bergen

Bergen at night

Oslo Opera House

Views from the NSB train

Church in Trondheim

A few of our friends, and actually quite a few Norwegians that we met asked us why we chose Norway.  It's my guess that they don't see a lot of American tourists (we were definitely the only Americans we met on our entire trip, which was the exact opposite of our trip to South Africa last year).  There were many reasons why this trip made sense to us now:  1) I have extended family that I always knew I would want to go to meet someday (and next time I would love to take/send my mother and aunt!!)  2) We knew we wanted to do a bit of an adventurous vacation as we are hoping to have kids in the future, and a lot of this trip would have been much harder with kiddos. 3) Once Tom saw some pics of the Aurora Borealis, it was all he could think about! 4) We thought that the idea of going to Norway, and doing a cold vacation in the arctic circle was a really nice bookend to our honeymoon spent in South Africa.

Views from the Hurtigruten cruise ship

Getting "christened" with ice water as we crossed the arctic circle by King Neptune!

The sami tent we slept in overnight

Playing with the dogs before we went dog sledding

Over the river and through the woods...

Our reindeer Gobo that pulled us sledding the night before

I'm no Anthony Bourdain, but we did get to eat some exotic dishes from an American perspective:

Reindeer soup in the sami tent

...and deep fried whale in Tromso!  Tasted just like beef. Delicious.

Last but not least, some of the blurry pictures I was able to take of the Aurora Borealis!

Getting better at focusing in the dark...

And the non-blurry pic that the professional photographer took.  Clearly he earns his money :-)

It truly was an amazing experience, and Norway is a beautiful country to visit. I"m keeping this post short on words, but if you have any questions about our trip feel free to shoot me an email or post in the comments!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Painted Cork Placemats {or Dare to DIY - Entertain! Edition}

Linky parties are seriously my fav.  It's a nice kick in the butt to actually do some of the crafts that I've been dreaming about - not to mention a good excuse to clean the house enough so that I can take photos.  I'm linking up to Maybe Matilda today - go check it out to see what Rachel and everyone else has posted!  And remember, half the fun of a linky party is meeting new blogs! And if you're here from the linky party, Welcome!

This past weekend I got out our bins of holiday decor and spent the long weekend cleaning and getting jolly with it, and also had some time to do a little Small Business Saturday shopping.  I'm making it a personal goal this season to either make gifts, buy handmade, or buy from small businesses.  I figure I spend enough money at all the big box stores year round, and it's a fun challenge for myself.

Of course while I was out getting gifts for others, I got a few for myself at the local art supplies store. I'm so good to myself. The first was a wood burner and I was this close to purchasing the whittling tools that were in the same aisle.  I have no idea how to use either, but for some reason when I'm in an art supplies store, I suddenly picture myself having a life where I would have time to sit and whittle.  

Anyway, wood burner, check. I also picked up a roll of cork.  I had recently seen these placemats at C&B and these placemats at Ikea.  Both were honestly pretty reasonably priced, but for some reason, I always look at items like this and think - I can do that!  So do that I did.

I started by cutting my cork into 13 1/2" x 18" mats.  Unfortunately, I was only able to eek out three from one roll, so I'll have to buy more this week.  I'll eventually make trivets and/or coasters from the scraps (which will make great gifts!).   I placed some books on them over night to try to flatten the cork out. You'll see they weren't quite flat when I started painting, but I'm impatient. 

The next day I took my ruler and just started attaching lines into what I consider to be very modern trees.  I cut these shapes out and took care to keep the trees intact.

Then I got to spray painting.  I went with my go-to white and gold sprays - but I really think these would've popped with some traditional red and green.  The next mats will definitely get some of that. 
I tried a few different methods with my  handmade stencil, but this would work great with any store bought stencil. 

First I sprayed over the stencil very lightly with white, then I laid my cut trees on top, but just ever so slightly to the side.  I was going for a shadow outline around the edge of each tree.  I sprayed my gold lightly over it next.

Not bad, but definitely had some seepage. The actually force of the spray moved the paper more than I anticipated. I would definitely suggest using some re-positioning adhesive spray if you try this. 

Next up: a heavier coverage of the white first, and then I shifted the stencil itself ever so slightly, and gave it a heavier coverage with the gold.  I like this one a lot, but the gold is almost too close to the color of the cork.  This could be great if I were using some geometric shape and I wanted a tone on tone look.

Last up - a reverse of the last method: a heavier coverage of the gold first, and then I shifted the stencil itself ever so slightly, and gave it a heavier coverage with the white. This ended up being my favorite of the three...

Now the fun part - setting the faux table!  I decided to go with a green, red, white and gold theme in my dining room this year.  Sometimes it's nice to go super traditional in your holiday decor. Yes, white trees are super traditional if you speak to the right people.  

Love how the tree branches just peek out from behind the chargers.

Oh, you want a gratuitous shot of the tree lit up in the dark? Of course you do!

Doing anything special to entertain your guests this holiday season? We don't have any plans to host any guests so far this year, but I'm sure someone will pop over at some point.  Even if no one comes over, I still totally enjoy seeing the all house dressed up!  

And the cats like helping too, of course.

If you're here from Maybe Matilda, thanks for stopping by!  If not, go to her blog and check out some of the other projects linked up today!