Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dream Come True: Staying at the Inn at Wise

 When I was growing up, downtowns were over and strip malls by the large thoroughfares were in. But I've always treasured the idea of a vibrant downtown, with businesses filling the historic buildings, sidewalk cafes, art-house movie theaters and weekend farmer's markets.

Wise just took one step closer to that dream town with the renovation and reopening of the Inn at Wise (formerly the Colonial Hotel), which has sat empty and crumbling on our Main Street since I was in elementary school. It always broke my heart to come home and see it fall further into disrepair, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out recently that the project had moved forward and the hotel was ready for guests just in time for our holiday visit!

 The hotel was originally built in 1910 beside the bustling Wise County Courthouse. The renovated lobby retains much of the look of the original building; it was emotional just to walk in because it took me right back to the last time I remembered being there, as a very little girl.

 For my money, the most beautiful space was and still is the elegant patio. If I had a reason to have a private event in Wise County, I'd book this area in a second.

 The inn has a diner called The Corner Diner, featuring delicious hamburgers and milkshakes similar to those served at my dearly departed favorite Wise restaurant, Shannon's. I thought the Nutcracker display was the CUTEST. I love shelves in front of windows for this very reason.

 Most of the wood floors appeared to be original, and I was blown away by these floors with the wood peg-covered nails joining the boards. So pretty.

 A shot of the hotel in its prime.

I was in love with all of the duck blue trim and old-fashioned lights...gorgeous.

The entire Inn is filled with local and regional artwork. I was beaming with pride when I saw our room included a file photo from my dad's newspaper.

 Behind the front desk was the original mail shelving. I love that so much was able to be's truly a miracle, because the Inn suffered a fire in the early 90s and then sat empty for two decades.

 Everyone in Wise County came out to get a picture with the beautiful tree in the lobby.

 The tree was decorated with past pictures, a lovely reminder of its former glory and hopefully, fortunate future. I can honestly say the hotel was not only the nicest place to stay in the county; it's one of the nicest places I've stayed anywhere. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Giant Christmas Circle of 2014

 We just completed a nearly 1,200-mile round trip for Christmas and we. are. pooped. BUT, we feel so lucky and blessed that we were able to see so many of our loved ones and enjoy great time in our favorite places. We started out on the road last Tuesday, with Sean nursing a heinous cold that he's thankfully managed to shake off. We returned last night, with my voice completely gone! Sure sign of a fun time! Here are a few pics of our holiday adventures:

We started our trip in Alexandria. I got to eat the most delicious steak tips with lime penne pasta at Mike's American Grill with my California favorite, Mark.

 I loved this present from Sean: a promise that I can FINALLY get a cat. (Side note: I'm a little nervous he might have a pet dander we have to investigate that first.) We also got a fireplace starter kit, which I'm champing at the bit to try out! From there, we drove 7 hours to visit my grandmother, and then another hour to my hometown!

 In Wise, we stayed at the newly renovated and reopened Inn at Wise (more on that later!) and I got to celebrate my lifelong BFF Jamie's birthday!

 From there, I carried on to a dinner reunion with hometown friends, and we staged our annual Melrose Place-inspired photo shoot and played Cards Against Humanity with hyper-customized cards that had us dying laughing. The next morning, Sean and I set off for my dad's house on the border of Tennessee, where we had a fun time visiting, exchanging presents and having delicious pizza at Mellow Mushroom.

 I had the Red Skin Potato Pie, which is basically a pizza version of potato skins. Super sinful and super worth it.

 Daddy and I with the Mellow Mushroom's crazy sculpture guy.

 We drove another hour further to Asheville, NC where my grandpa's family rented three cabins for the week! I wish we could have stayed longer, but alas, we only could stay for the weekend. I can't wait to go back.

 It was great to gallivant around the city with my mom...

And admire the mountain sunset with my Papa.

Whew! What a whirlwind trip. We got spoiled to death, with new tools and much-needed house stuff, plus chocolate galore and books for the new year. I also had the pleasure of seeing lots of art, so I'm going to post about my favorite things I saw later this week! How was your Christmas?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Solving Clues with Ravenchase

 One of the funny things about the year you turn 30 is that you spend the whole year doing crazy "Dirty 30" things with your friends for their birthdays. Last weekend, we trotted down to the Outer Banks for Ashleigh's birthday, while this past weekend, I competed in an awesome code-breaking game for my friend Chanelle's birthday! Her awesome husband Ryan (pictured) organized the game through Ravenchase, a company that creates adventures for small or large groups throughout the country. In Virginia, they operate in Alexandria, Richmond and in this instance, Williamsburg. The adventures are part scavenger hunt, part Amazing Race.

We broke into teams and had three hours to solve five clues. Some clues could only be read once you burned a piece of paper or shined a UV light on it or wet it, which made it super exciting and full of intrigue. I was very nervous I'd do terrible because I don't have a lot of patience for decyphering clues.

 But the good news is my Williamsburg knowledge secured us first place by more than 30 minutes! We're number one!!

After we met up with the game coordinator, we won our prize: a golden winged pig trophy! Yay! 

It was a super fun experience and I'm hoping to join in on one of their public games in DC or Alexandria some time. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Best v.227

Diana (linocut) by Alex Katz

Friday, December 19, 2014

Just Call Me the Goldilocks of Couches

When Sean and I moved in together in 2009, we invited some friends to help us schlep our inherited couch to our second-floor apartment. This couch is a sleeper and I was honestly relieved no one died trying to move it. That night, Sean declared, "I will NEVER move that couch again." And he wasn't kidding, one bit.

So as we prepared to move into our new house, I tried to convince him it might not be the best time to take on the expense of a new couch, but to no avail. Not that I needed a lot of convincing...I was PSYCHED. After a lot of internet window shopping, I identified these prospects:

Couch Options

The West Elm Peggy, the West Elm Henry, Room & Board Loring, Room & Board Jasper, and the Room & Board Easton. In general, I wanted a neutral color, thin and elegant arms, and possibly pretty tapered legs. I love the look of a two-cushion sofa (obviously), but from a practical standpoint, it means the couch could be hellish when three people are sitting on it, one trapped forever in the crack.

But before I decided to look at West Elm or Room & Board, we went to almost every furniture store in Newport News to see what was out there. There was this $399 sofa from Grand...I didn't like the way the back cushions looked lumpy and frankly, that price made me dubious.

And then there was this little was okay but it wasn't lighting my heart on fire.

Sean liked this couch from Haverty's, but I thought the arms were offensively wide and huge. I mean, they're like TV trays for this sofa, right?

So that sent me to the Georgetown West Elm, where I could check out some of those sofas in real life. Sean really liked the look of the boxy Henry and although it wasn't my favorite option, I figured it would work. But then I sat down and it was the worst! It's the company's most popular sofa, so I'm sure it was just me, but I like to curl up when I sit on a sofa and it was far too shallow to curl up comfortably.

But then I sat down on the Peggy, which I really hadn't even considered and it was like, *cue Mariah Carey* "Dreamlover, come rescue me!" The seat is perfectly wide for me to curl up, I love the low back and if you remove the back cushions, you legit almost have a twin bed. 

The couch was delivered last week and it's true love. It's definitely not the kind of couch you sink into, but it's totally comfy for someone who curls up like I do.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hardwood, Ahoy!

 We are almost completely moved in, and staring down a ton of projects at both the apartment (spackling, cleaning, vacuuming) and the house (painting, painting, unpacking, painting). The past week and a half has been a total whirlwind, with hardwood floor installation, moving and a trip to the Outer Banks all happening in the span of 8 days.

Speaking of hardwood floors, I thought I'd give you a little before-and-after eye candy! When we first toured the house, we were disappointed to find out it didn't have hardwoods underneath its beige carpet. Hardwood floors were super important to me, and almost every other house we saw had them, but those other houses didn't have some of the great things this house had: a big yard, a great floor plan, a bonus room, and some important updates, like a fairly new water heater.

When we realized that some of the houses we were considering were more expensive AND needed new roofs and/or HVACs, we realized buying this house for less and splurging on hardwoods actually made more sense. As I told Sean the day we made an offer: "Adding hardwoods will make me love this house 85% more."

 I seriously can barely remember what this room felt like, but I can tell you it was depressing as hell.

 We wanted to go with solid hardwoods  because we are making an investment and we want to improve resale value. Laminates look better than ever, but they still look like laminate to me, and they don't offer any option for refinishing, which could be important to a future buyer. But sadly, it turned out the subfloor wasn't plywood and that eliminated solid hardwood as an option, because installers cannot nail or glue hardwood onto anything other than a plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) subfloor.

We were seriously devastated by this, but then we learned you can float a hardwood floor over a non-wood subfloor and the installation would actually be cheaper. That still has drawbacks (dips in the floor, a bouncy feeling in spots), but compared to spending thousands more to rip up the old subfloor and replace it with plywood, it was a better option for our budget. We still are a little sad we couldn't do a traditional hardwood floor, but we keep reminding ourselves it's still better than the carpet.

 We ended up getting Bellawood's natural red oak engineered planks, which are strips of real wood layered with fake wood on the bottom, so it's technically more environmentally friendly because fewer trees are being felled. Although I had moments of waffling about the color, I am SO happy with it. It just glows, especially against all my mid century-inspired furniture and the bright white walls in the den. We had it installed in the living/dining room, den and hallways. It makes a HUGE difference.

Can you even believe that's the same room? We spend most of our time here and I catch myself just sitting and admiring how cozy and bright it feels now.
This is a comparison of the entry from the day we bought the house to the weekend we moved in. It's amazing how hardwood makes spaces look much bigger!

And this is the living/dining room without the wallpaper, random railing or wall-to-wall carpet (but plus a super dirty old faux-flokati rug I'm using for the time being). I cannot wait to paint in here and hang some art!

The hardwoods were a huge investment, but I cannot even express how much they improved the look and feel of this house. I think if the house had these floors when it was on the market, it would have sold for at least $10,000 more dollars. Now I just have to take care of best believe I've been slapping felt furniture sliders on anything that stands!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Wrapping 2014

 In between all the craziness of moving, one of my friends Alex sent me a note that said basically, "I know you're moving and congrats on that, but where's the gift wrapping scheme?!" Every year since I graduated college, I've picked a gift wrapping color scheme. I do this for two reasons: 1) I hate most Christmas wrapping paper and I like to have paper I could use all year and 2) it pushes my creativity and makes me think a lot about color theory.

 Maybe I should just *sings* Let it goooooo, let it gooooo, but I couldn't get the "Frozen" colors out of my mind this year. It's super girly, but I wanted to see if there was a sophisticated way to pull off those wintry colors of blue, silver and purple. Let me tell you, there is very little purple wrapping paper out there right now, but I found a way to work it in with ribbon.

My papers include:

  • A gray herringbone print from TJ Maxx
  • Blue triangles from Target
  • Blue-green geometric print from Target
  • Gray gingham from Target's baby shower gift wrap section
  • Purple floral from World Market

 I always get my ribbons at Michael's or fabric stores. This year, I bought skinny and fat rolls of purple satin, a wired silver ribbon, a sparkly blue, a braided purple ribbon and this awesome star ribbon from World Market. The rest of the ribbon is left over from previous years.

See all my previous gift wrapping themes: 2013, 20122011, 2010 and 2006-2009.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Best v. 226

I spent this wonderful weekend in the Outer Banks celebrating the 30th birthday of my bestie, Ashleigh, who nagged me for not blogging. Needless to say, the past week and a half have been a whirlwind! We are 90% moved into our house, but that last 10% of stuff at the apartment is weighing me down. But soon enough, it will be a distant memory and we'll just be focused on making our house a home.
  • Adorable stories made up about strangers.
  • What happened to overtime?
  • An amazing underwater ballroom!
  • SNL cut this hilarious sketch mocking those VH1 countdowns.
  • A powerful article about acknowledging privilege.
  • Darrell DMC says Sarah McLachlan is a god. (Seriously, listen to that story. It's amazing.)
  • What you learn in your 40s.
  • All the women in peril in entertainment who somehow find time to shave.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

House Chronicles

Things are moving along quickly at our house! On Saturday, I went over there with a spray bottle and some Snuggle and went to town on the wallpaper in the dining room. Everyone had warned me removing wallpaper is the WORST, but I actually found the removal of the top half super satisfying. The bottom You'll see.

Following the wisdom of the Internet, I created a mixture of half hot water and half fabric softener. I spritzed it on the top layer of the wallpaper first, let it sit a few minutes, and then pulled from a corner to take off each panel of paper. Sometimes this worked amazingly well, sometimes it was a little more tedious, but I can't recommend this method enough if you have paper wallpaper (as opposed to vinyl).

After I tore off my first sheet, I was greeted by this patchy mess of backing paper. I then spritzed that with my fabric softener mixture, waited a little bit, and then got to work peeling it off. It comes off in amazingly large strips or — if you're really lucky — entire sheets!

Sometimes I would spritz and be greeted by these really delightful air pockets, which meant it was TOTALLY WORKING.

After four hours, I had accumulated this trail of wallpaper dead and it was SO rewarding.

And then I tried to tackle the bottom half of the walls. And lo and behold, underneath the (MUCH TOUGHER) wallpaper, the walls were completely different: textured and blue, like clouds. Unfortunately, the backing paper was really stuck to this mess and with Sean's help, we finished peeling off the last little bit after four additional hours.

Which meant it took a total of 8 hours to remove all the wallpaper. Completely worth it!

About that textured on the wall: unfortunately, more than half the walls in the house have been texturized. It's entirely possible to remove wall texture with a lot of water, diligent scraping, skim coating and sanding, but on we lack the time, DIY know-how or resolve to really tackle that. Maybe someday if it's really driving me crazy, we can try, but for now the plan is to paint the texture walls a nice flat finish and call it a day.

On Monday, we painted the molding in the den and it made SUCH a difference. I know it's hard to tell, but it makes the ceilings look taller and really makes the beams pop.

We will be painting the baseboard, too, but it will have to be after the hardwood floors are installed, which starts this week! It's amazing to have gotten some of these projects done already, but I've learned in my few weeks of homeownership that nothing is EVER done. Every time I walk through a room, I see to-do lists. But it's okay...that's the beauty of it right?