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We’ve lived in our current home for three years now, and we were really lucky that the majority of the living space — the entry, kitchen, living room, dining room, and master bedroom — was painted a nice, neutral beige before we moved in. And, of course, in the month or two following the move, we were all a-flutter hanging pictures and arranging furniture and putting up curtains so I could go back to my regular routine of shunning pants when not in polite company.

I was full of IDEAS for things we could do — so many projects! And then, they promptly fell to the wayside because, you know, life.

Finally, about a month ago, Jared and I were both home on a Friday, and I was a little ahead on my work, so I suggested we go to Home Depot and pick up some paint to do the hallway. This hallway.

Plain hallway

The before. Well, kind of before. Before we painted, but after we added the painter's tape. Obviously.

I wanted to go with a rich, deep red. Jared wanted to stay married to me, so he, too, wanted a rich, deep red. Good man, that Jared. So we picked out a color, got a, “Well, good luck with that,” from the paint guy at Home Depot (who neglected to tell us about Frog Tape until it we went back for white touch up paint to cover up all the spots where the RICH DEEP RED seeped past the carefully placed painter’s tape and adhered to the baseboards and crown molding. That was HELPFUL, paint guy.), and headed home with our treasured paint and primer in one.

There was a bit of cursing and perhaps a few Incidents involving paint where no paint should go (meaning on the ceiling … mostly), but by Saturday, we were done, even though we’d (at Jared’s suggestion, and because we had a lot of leftover paint, and because we hate to waste a good thing) added to the project and painted the half wall dividing the kitchen from the living room. And it was gorgeous. But it wasn’t actually done.

I had a vision, you see. I wanted a gallery of black and white photos, all in black frames with white matting, along the walls of the hallway. I selected and printed the shots I wanted to use (all of the pets), and bought a shit ton of frames, and got a bunch of those fancy magical 3M velcro picture hangers. You know, the ones that don’t put holes in the wall and are supposed to hold up to, I don’t know, several pounds?And can’t be applied until several days after you paint, as it turns out?

So we waited. And waited. And a couple of weeks later, we strategically measured and leveled and carefully followed directions and hung the pictures. And they looked amazing … for a few hours. Because that’s when they started crashing to the ground. So, um, yeah. I do not recommend the magic piece of crap 3M velcro shit. At. All.

Long story made every so slightly shorter, we opted for MonkeyHooks, which, overall, worked really well. And now, I swear, our house looks totally different to me. This single, little project has made me smile over and over and over, and while part of me is so glad it’s OVER, there’s another part of me that’s already planning what I’m going to do next.

(The office, in case you wondered. Or maybe a guest room. OR BOTH mwahahahahaha …)

Painted hallway

The finished product (with bonus Rudi)

A new hallway plus a chance to show off some of my favorite shots of the kids? Yes please!

PS – Yes, I know the two pictures of the finished product look like entirely different colors. I took them on different days and probably with different camera settings because I’m a doofus. But that’s part of what I like — it looks totally different from one hour to the next!

Now, what’s on your DIY home improvement list?

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You all are probably expecting me to start out with some explanation as to why I haven’t written in so long. (And by “you all,” I mean my mom and the other three people out there who haven’t given up on poor ol’ Jeez-o-petes.) I’m not going to. I’m not going to go into the crazy that’s been going on, about how a ton of people I’ve worked with and truly like and respect were laid off and my employment future is a little uncertain, and I’m not going to talk all about how my dad was in the hospital but was finally released today.

No, I’m just going to dive straight into the fact that I might kind of love New York.

Yes, I know, I know, way to be original. I KNOW. But hear me out.

The first time I went to NYC, it was basically Big and Cool and Scary. I was with Jared, who’d been there as a child but not as an adult, and we really didn’t go anywhere without either a guide or very specific instructions. I think we used the subway once. I found it to be an amazing city, but I had a hard time understanding the concept of living there.

After going there a couple of times last summer, I started to get it a little more. It still absolutely wasn’t for me, but I got outside of Midtown and rode the subway by myself and visited more friends who really lived the NYC lifestyle. It wasn’t so scary anymore.

This was a whole different trip. For starters, I was there for a week (Jared was working a trade show, so I went to a few meetings and lunches and otherwise did my normal work thing, except that instead of sitting in my office without pants on, I wore a dress and boots and makeup and worked from a Starbucks in Soho. I have never seen a busier bathroom than the one there, let me tell you.) I had some amazing experiences — going to the top of the Empire State Building, attending a Knicks game in a suite courtesy of Jared’s work, attending and photographing a charity event on behalf of Paw Nation (not something I generally get to do in Gainesville), and eating what might have been the World’s Best Lunch with Metalia.

No, seriously, I might not have great pictures from the fancy basketball game, or any actual pictures of myself with friends I visited, but food? You know it!

avocado toast

Avocado toast with lemon-infused olive oil

crispy artichokes

Crispy artichokes with magical dipping sauce

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I’m not a resolutions hater. In fact, I really like the idea of looking at the calendar and envisioning what kind of changes I can make in my life over the coming month. And lord knows I love my to-do lists, so really, I’m pretty darn fond of resolutions.

I’m making several of the same ones this year that I seem to make every year, but it’s not that I fail at them, really — it’s just that my progress is slow. I said last year that I wanted to cook more meals at home and be a little more adventurous in the kitchen (oh, get your mind out of the gutter. I mean with recipes, you naughty minx). I did, but not quite as much as I’d like. I wanted to keep my house cleaner and tidier and, okay, I just made no progress at all there. Shut up.

But you see, I know my limitations, so instead of listing all my goals for the year (although I have some, and will share them with you as I move forward on them. Probably …), I thought I’d share one that popped into my head, but I knew immediately that writing it down would simply be a waste of ink. And, well, isn’t that what a blog is for?

Get dressed (like, real clothes with pants that don’t have “yoga” or “athletic” or “under” in the name) every day. Yes, it’s commendable that there are a lot of bloggers and freelancers and stay at home what-have-yous who get dressed in something adorable daily. I’m friends with some of them (Susan? Erin? I’m talking to you!) and I love seeing what they wear. But I’d be fooling myself if I said I would do it every day — there are definitely going to be lots of days on which I get up, put on workout clothes, exercise late in the day, then change into lounge-y clothes. Might not be sexy or stylish, but I’m practical — I don’t want to dirty up my nice clothes by sitting in front of a computer with nobody to notice but the cat on my lap and two colorblind dogs.

Besides, I’ve found that when I don’t have to dress every day, I put more thought into what I wear and how I look when I do get out of the house and make an effort. If I’m overdressed, it’s very easy to explain it away without sounding like some sort of dandy. It’s just something I just enjoy doing since I don’t do it often, you know?

Do you have any resolutions you should just put in the “don’t bother” file? Or is that just me?

And, to prove I’m not a total apathetic dud, here are a couple of pictures I took of my neighbor’s cute baby. This is right before he pooped at me. True story. And it only phased me a little since we’d been dealing with four day’s of Rudi’s Explosive Diarrhea. Yeah.

Why did you take away my bottle? Whyyyyy?

Lady, it's really your fault for putting me on a clean, white comforter. You had this coming.

I love shiny, sparkly things. A lot. I’m basically a magpie, is what I’m saying.

But oh dear god, can I tell you how much I hate removing sparkly nail polish? I mean, I actually left some on my toes for the last two weeks, even though it was chipped and looked awful, simply because I knew what a pain in the ass removing it was going to be.

Now that it’s off, all I can think about it how pretty it would look if I did it all over again fresh. (Because it really is pretty when it’s not chipped and gross.) Not only am I a magpie, but apparently, I’m also some sort of nail polish masochist.

I know somebody out there has a tip or trick or extra sandblaster for getting the sparkles off. Please share, because, seriously, I just used about a box of tissues and am halfway to needing an elbow replacement. Halp!

Weather in Florida this time of year is tricky. Some nights, we’re covering our plants to protect them from frost, but by 2 p.m. that same day, it could be 80 degrees and beautiful and sunny.

I hate trying to figure out what to wear right now — I mean, are there really enough layers in the world to take me from 80 degrees to 32?

(No, there are not. Trust me.)

But when I wake up to a chilly house and have to bundle up in my thick, pink, polka-dotted robe to let the dogs out, and I wrap my hands around my coffee mug just because the warmth feels so good … well, I gain a whole new appreciation for 80 degrees and sunny, you know?

(Also helps that the humidity has gone waaaay down, so I no longer feel like I’m trudging through a swamp to get to the mailbox.)

Anyway, stepping outside in the bright sun just made me so damn happy today that I resolved to take a picture of it — a picture I could share with those in a colder, drearier climate. A picture that would make me smile in January.

Well, I’m still learning how to properly take a “big” picture. I mean, what I got was fine, but then I was distracted by all the butterflies in my front yard, and, well, I think this picture is far more likely to make me smile.

Flutter on, butterfly. Mi jardin es su jardin.

An apt reminder not to get too terribly caught up in the big picture, you know?

Call me crazy, but I honestly love sending out holiday cards. I always have, ever since I was little. I enjoy going through my list, verifying addresses, adding new names, thinking about people I haven’t been in close touch with … I guess that, since my friends and family are so spread out, this is one little thing that makes me feel a bit closer to them. Plus, it lets me practice good handwriting, which has gone SO downhill since I started blogging for a living. I ought to be a doctor for the scratch that comes from the end of my pen these days. Sheesh.

Although I’ve always loved receiving holiday photo cards, I’ve never made them — it’s just not something my family did when I was younger, and I’ve just kind of followed suit and sent premade cards. But this year, I’ll be sending out photo cards from Shutterfly — perfect timing since I’ve been playing around with my new camera like crazy, right?

Interested? You should be. Shutterfly has tons of great options from Thanksgiving cards to Christmas cards and Hanukkah cards, and even New Year’s cards for those of you who don’t like to send out your cards until you see who’s sent them to you. You know who you are.

After spending a few minutes playing around on the Shutterfly site, I realized just how quick and easy it is to create a delightfully fun card. No, seriously — as long as you have a few favorite photos (or even just one!) in a reasonably large size, the tools on the site make it super simple. You can crop, remove red eye, make it black and white, sepia tones, or increase and decrease the saturation and soft focus. No Photoshop skills required!

The biggest issue is clearly going to be choosing just one.

The first style to catch my eye was Initially Chic Green Christmas Card. I love the apple green color — it’s Christmas-y, but not glaringly so — and it has room for loads of pictures.

But, then again, I love the idea of focusing the card on a specific event. One of the most exciting things Jared and I did in 2010 was go on a cruise, and how pretty are the beachy colors with this bright and cheery Spot the Snowflakes Christmas Card?

As far as actual card designs go, though, I think my very favorite is probably the Fa LaLa Christmas Card — somehow, it manages to be totally retro and completely hip at the same time. And I love the way the bright colors and goofy expression on Rudi’s face work with that whole look.

Then again, maybe this is the year for me to send something a bit more serious and sweet, like the Hip Holly Berry Christmas Card. I love the peaceful design against Hollie’s sacked out little feet. After all, Hollie was originally a Christmas dog (hence the name), and this will be our first Christmas with her, so maybe this card is the winner.

Bottom line — I have NO idea what card I’m going to choose, but I have no doubt it’ll be fabulous.

Luckily for you, there’s no need for you to wait around and see which one I pick; pop on over to Shutterfly and start designing your own cards! Also, bloggers? There’s a special deal for you right now: Click here to go to Shutterfly for information on how you can get 50 free cards this holiday season, and make sure to select Clever 1000 as the referral source.

This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

I also endorse giving bottles of champagne as holiday gifts. Just so you know.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of exciting things, and I want to go into detail on all of it, but the whirlwind won’t stop for blogging, apparently, so I’m just going to have to stick with the highlights for now.

First things first — I got a new camera! (Take that, number 33!) This was not a rash decision by any means. We’d saved up gift cards, and done research, and finally, this weekend, I realized there were a number of things I really wanted a Big Girl Camera for on the horizon, and, well, why not just do it now? And, to top things off, a nice guy at Best Buy gave me his 10% off coupon to use, out of the blue. I wasn’t even showing (much) cleavage!

I’ve quickly learned that the curse of owning a really nice camera is that you tend to photograph everything, and, well, I have so many pictures that it’s almost impossible to edit down to a few of the best. So, I’m saying screw the best, and I’m just going to show a couple of favorites. And you’ll like it. (Well, I hope you’ll like it, anyway!)

We went to St. Pete Beach with the dogs. I won a slogan contest at I Love Dog Friendly, and the prize was two nights at a pet-friendly hotel. We chose the Tradewinds Island Grand because, for one thing, it’s a gorgeous property, and it’s near where we got married, and my parents were spending a week in the area, so we thought it would be fun to hang out with them for a couple of nights. AND IT WAS.

The hotel was great — we particularly liked the little fenced in play area and the doggie room service.

island grand welcome

A warm welcome and gorgeous view.

ball fire hydrant

Classic Hollie. No interest in the fire hydrant or ball. Just hunting lizards.

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