Monday, December 16, 2013

Our New House: Before

As you know, Hubs and I set out on an adventure this summer to look for a new house.  We had been living in my condo since we got engaged in 2010, and we just outgrew the cozy 928 sq. ft. floor plan.  Plus, with visions of future kiddos in mind, we thought that this would be a great time to find our first house.

We ended up finding the house in July, and we closed at the end of August.  Let me tell ya, buying my condo 8 years ago was MUCH easier than buying a house today.  We had so many hoops to jump through, but it all came together and we closed on time, on our original closing date.  Hallelujah!

The housing market here in Tampa is tricky.  There was some inventory in our price range but it fell into one of three categories:  1.) Total dump in a prime neighborhood; 2.) Good house that was move-in ready in a less-than-desirable neighborhood; 3.) Good house in a desirable neighborhood with work to do.  And by 'work to do', I mean that it's so bad that it would be considered a fixer-upper by many peoples' standards, but there are cosmetic changes and projects that many people would want to do to make it their own or a more current style.  We chose option 3, the great house in a desirable neighborhood with projects to be done.  And OH MY, have there been projects!

This house checked all of our must-haves:
  • Newer (built in the last 15 years)
  • In a specified part of town
  • Open floor plan with master bedroom separated from additional bedrooms
  • At least 3 Bedroom/2 Bath with an additional space for an office/2nd tv space
  • Large pantry
  • Screened in lanai
  • Nice landscaping in a medium sized yard
  • 2 car garage
  • Master suite with large walk-in closet
  • Lots of natural light and big windows
  • Ceiling fans/wiring for ceiling fans
Even though the house has these things, it still needs cosmetic work and TLC to make it our long-term home.  

Want to see the house?  We're going to start with some 'before' photos, then create a separate post for the post-renovation photos.  Here are some photos of our house, during the inspection, before the previous owners moved out...

Looks normal enough, right?

Just keep going...

Laundry Room
WOW, a fluorescent yellow laundry room!  Not my dream come true, but I did like that it was in the house and not in the garage.

Brown doors, brown trim, and faux-finished brown walls.  At least I didn't hate the cabinets or tile.

Breakfast area

More brown, ugly light fixture, and PEACH VERTICAL BLINDS.  Barf.

Dining Room (believe it or not)

Brown walls, gold trim, gold upper walls above plant ledge and another ugly light fixture.  And don't even get me started on how many speakers this guy needed for his entertainment center.

Living Room

The previous owners used the living room as their workspace for their internet business.  She made gorgeous but expensive decorations and toys for children.   As you can see, it had work lighting, faux-finished brown walls, and more peach vertical blinds.  They also hung curtains to block the workspace from the dining room/their living room area.

Master Bedroom
The previous owners had a huge bed with tall rails, so they had a very tiny little ceiling fan that barely churned any air.  The room was painted medium greenish-brown from top to bottom.  Those curtains on the left block off an addition they put on the master bedroom that contained an office, and they were gold.  There was different carpet in the addition than in the bedroom, even though the abutted one another and it looked tacky.  At least the ceiling fan in the addition wasn't bad.

More dark brown walls, a gold door, gold trim and an outdated light fixture.  Good God.

The two other bedrooms were also quite colorful.  

Guest bedroom 1

This one was painted a medium aqua color and had gray vertical blinds flecked with pink and blue.  The trim was brown, and the ceiling, main door and closet doors were aqua to match the walls.  The ceiling fan in this room was great, so we ended up keeping that.

This house had decent tile and yucky off-white grid-patterned carpet throughout.  The carpet wasn't going to last with our dog, who has proven to be completely irresponsible with carpet.  Only hard surface floors for us in the future.

The second guest bedroom, not pictured, was painted DARK PURPLE from top to bottom (walls and ceilings), with brown trim and the closet doors were missing when we initially saw the house.  It was garish, so we required that they painted the room a neutral color when we placed our bid.  The next time we saw the house, at the inspection, the owner had re-installed the closet doors, and -- surprise! -- they were also brown.  Great, I thought.  More brown.  At least they painted the room white!

As far as the yard goes, this house had a decent yard.  The previous owner fancied himself a botanist, so where were some crazy plants and fruit bushes and trees that we'd have to contend with.  At least it was not in bad shape and had been reasonably maintained, unlike many houses we saw.

When I tell my friends about the house we bought and what we started from, they ask how we ever saw past the owners' mountain of stuff and the issues to think we could live there.  The answer is pretty simple.  We saw a lot of crappy houses, so when we saw one with good bones, we snapped it up!  We put in a competitive bid to (hopefully) beat out the other bidders right away and avoid a bidding war, which is exactly what happened.  We were happy that we didn't overpay, but we didn't get some amazing deal either.  We quickly learned that there really are no great deals out there right now in the parts of town where we wanted to live.  We were happy to find out current house and we know it will be a good long term home for us, especially after the work gets done. 

So there you have it.  The 'before' pictures of our new casa.  I will be sharing the 'after' photos with you shortly!  

What do you think of the 'before' pictures?  Could you have seen past the wall colors, light fixtures and mountains of junk to see the bones of the house?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oxford Exchange & A Great Giveaway

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a holiday preview event at Oxford Exchange in Tampa. I'd heard about Oxford Exchange in passing from friends, but I wasn't able to discern exactly what it was. I heard it was a bookstore.  And a meeting and event space.  A restaurant.  A boutique.  A coffee shop.  An architectural wonder.  A gorgeous little slice of heaven.

After visiting OE myself, I can say that it's all of those things.

I truly believe that Oxford Exchange is the most beautiful building I've seen in Tampa.  It looks like a place I would have frequented in NYC or popped into in London.  Instead, it's right here in Tampa, in my backyard.

OE was gorgeously decorated for the holidays, and they introduced the local bloggers to their book shop, coffee bar, tea bar, retail boutique and samples of delish food from their executive chef, all while they plied us continually topped off our glasses of champagne.  It was super fabulous and I had no problem kicking back the bubbly after a long day at work.

OE's executive chef, Erin Guggino, created some lovely appetizers for us to sample while we enjoyed the evening's festivities.  The first was a dried fig topped with goat cheese and a walnut.  It was delicious, light and flavorful.  The second option was a butternut squash soup shooter, which was smooth and delightful.  My taste buds demanded more, but alas, I was not going to be a piglet and gulp down 5 more.  Though I could have, and probably would have if there hadn't been so many darn people around carrying smart phones and fancy cameras to capture said pig-out.  The chef was wonderful enough to give us copies of the recipes for these dishes, so we can recreate them at home anytime.  Perfecto!

Erin telling us about her nom-noms

After that, we stepped up to the tea bar, and sampled a delicious peppermint bark tea by TeBella Tea Company, a local, family-owned tea company.  They paired the tea with some yummy artisinal chocolate, which certainly didn't hurt.  It tasted just like Christmas!

From there, we had an opportunity to meet the ladies behind my favorite locally-based candle company, Seventh Avenue Apothecary.  I began raving about their candles to other bloggers, only to find that one of the sweet owners was standing behind me!  She heard me praising their products, and she told me that she thought I was only doing that because she was standing nearby.  OF COURSE NOT!!  I love, love, love their soy candles, which have a crazy-long burn time and come in a variety of unique, amazing scents.  My favorite is Tuscan Cypress and Fig... I have two of these sitting in my home fragrance stash as I type this, because I cannot live without it.

Pyramid O' Happiness

The lovely ladies behind Seventh Avenue Apothecary

We also had a chance to try a fabulous dandelion dark chocolate and Buddy Brew Coffee pairing.  I don't usually like black coffee, but this coffee was so flavorful that I'd drink it without my favorite cream and sugar.

After this, the hosts of the evening offered tours.  I was in tour group number two, so I browsed around the boutique to see what types of items they carry.  I was surprised at how gorgeous the store was and how it was filled with exciting finds for those hard-to-shop-for friends and family members.  I plan to visit the boutique in the upcoming week to purchase a few final Christmas gifts.

Here are a few pictures of OE's lovely retail space...

Isn't it gorgeous??  I want their interior designer to redo my entire house.

Next, our tour group was up, so we met upstairs and saw the meeting space, event rooms and work spaces for those with memberships to their club.  For $50/month, you get access to their work space room, complete with vintage-y desks, private phone-call booths, a copy center and servers to bring you beverages and food from the restaurant downstairs.  It's like working at Starbucks, but waaaay more chic and exclusive.  Here's a peek and several meeting and work space rooms at OE...

My, what a big table you have!

Workstation Room

Next, we went back downstairs to see the restaurant and conservatory.  Here's the beautiful conservatory, which features a fountain made from centuries-old Italian aqueducts and a retractable roof.

That's one purty roof.

Love this hallway between the book shop and coffee bar.

Overall, I had a stellar time getting to know the offerings at Oxford Exchange and seeing blog friends that I hadn't seen in ages.  Oxford Exchange is such a gorgeous venue, and would have been perfect for my Florida wedding reception a couple of years ago, had it existed at that point.  I look forward to going back soon to partake in their much-hyped brunch or one of their monthly bingo soirees.  This month's bingo event will be held on Dec. 19 with the theme of Tacky Holiday Sweaters.  You KNOW I'll be there donning my ugliest Christmas sweater!

I also am doing a quick and easy giveaway, with lovely items courtesy of Oxford Exchange.  Up for grabs is a lovey book, The Art of the Handwritten Note by Margaret Shepherd and a package of Sugar Paper letterpress notecards.

To win, just leave a comment on the blog telling me your favorite reason to send a handwritten note by Thursday, December 19.  The winner will be chosen via a random number generator.  (None of that fancy-schmancy Rafflecopter business this time around!)

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sound Off: Celeb Gossip

Have I ever told you how much I love celebrities and celeb gossip?  Well, I do.  I've always had a fascination with knowing everybody's business, which is (I think) what drew me to the human resources profession.  An extension of that is loving salacious celebrity gossip, and lemme tell ya...I follow this stuff in so many ways and have LOTS of sources for my "news".  Sometimes I feel like the mom in that Mike Myers movie, So I Married an Ax Murderer, who considers her favorite tabloid, New of the World, "real news"... except I can tell when a story is BS and when it's real  (most of the time).  Celeb gossip is silly and useless, I know, but it's good entertainment.  Even my girl-crush, Mindy Kaling, loves celebrity gossip and pop culture in much the same way as I do, and that's why I'm sure we'd be BFF in real life.

Anyway, I'd like to bring up a few burning topics.

First of all, Paul Walker.  R.I.P. Paul.  I'd only seen a couple of his movies, which were decent, and he was great eye-candy over the years.  I also love what a devoted dad he seemed to be to his teenage daughter, and I can tell that he'll be missed by so many people.  But... have you noticed how many people are proclaiming him to be this amazing, Oscar-worthy actor now that he's gone?  I mean, he was a passable actor, but did anyone see Snow Dogs or any of his Fast and Furious movies?  These were not what I'd consider to be Oscar-winning performances.  Fun roles?  Yes.  Did he look scrumptious?  Yep.  He did his job, but he wasn't setting the world on fire with his profound acting skills.  This kind of reminds me of when Michael Jackson died, and tons of people proclaimed him to be a genius and their favorite singer of all time.  And MJ was pretty awesome in the 80's, but he was also sort of an oddball later in life.  When he was alive, people berated him and spoke badly about his money troubles, odd lifestyle, looks and children.  He wasn't respected in life the way that he was been respected in death.  It's human nature to put people on pedestals after they pass away because we feel that the best way to honor them is to remember all of their positive qualities and discuss none of their flaws.  While it's wonderful to honor those who have passed on in a positive way, it's also disingenuous to say that they were so amazing when this was not shared or celebrated during their living years.  Now MJ is an extreme example, but it happens with many celebs who pass away, especially when the passing is tragic.  Paul Walker was a pretty good actor and very attractive to boot, but no one was beating down the movie studios' doors demanding to know when Paul would receive his Oscar or when they'd greenlight a sequel to Snow Dogs.  Anyway, Paul will be missed, and I'm sure we'll see him smiling back at us during his Oscars post-mortem video montage.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying the endless tributes being posted on Facebook, particularly when pictures are posted and stories are shared about his family and philanthropic ways.  He seemed like a good guy.

Next topic:  Miley Cyrus.  Miley is on the fast track to being the subject of an E True Hollywood Story about a seemingly good child actor who strayed into the dark, seedy underworld of Hollywood.  I liked her years ago, especially in the Party in the USA days, but began to get skeptical of her when she started dancing on poles at award shows at 17-ish years old.  Fast forward to today, and she's busy feeding the tabloids with her exploits with drugs, sex and broken engagements.  Her new music is just okay, and I don't think it's the timeless classic that she proclaims it to be.  And her high-thigh leotard costumes that are straight out of an 80's Jane Fonda workout video?  They've gots ta go.  Really, it all looks so desperate, particularly the incident where she lit up a joint on stage in Amsterdam and bragged about her favorite drugs to whoever would listen.  Not impressed.  I am tired of celebrities promoting/celebrating their drug use (I'm talking to you too, Lady Gaga and Charlie Sheen), and wish we had more positive role models (a.k.a. Jennifer Lawrence) for our young girls.  When Miley's got this much dysfunction in her life at such a young age, there's bound to be a celebrity sex tape in her future.  I just hope that when Miley's 50 she can look back on this experience and not feel humiliated.

Batter up!  Now it's a two-fer with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.  I used to like Kanye's music when he first hit the scene (his early stuff was great and Gold Digger is an anthem), but around the time that he interrupted Taylor Swift on stage at an awards show to proclaim that someone else should have won, I lost respect for the guy.  You don't mess with Ms. Swift!  THEN, he started getting cockier and ruder in the press, and my respect continued to dwindle.  With Kim, I always lacked a little respect for her because of how she became a household name:  From a sex tape with Brandy's little brother.  After watching Keeping up with the Kardashians, I started to like her more and felt like she got a bad rap.  She was cute and seemed sweet, after all.    Then, I found out she was dating Kanye, the super douche.  Ugh.  She swore that he was such a great boyfriend and then I realized that Kanye is one of those guys who's a dick to everyone except his girlfriend and people he wants something from.  To those people, he's a friendly, affable guy who'd do anything of you.  (I know this type because I dated one eons ago.)  Of course he's nice to Kim--she's hot and clearly has a way with men (Evidence: sex tape).  Then they had a baby and named her North... as in North West... because Kanye felt that this name meant "the top" and "over everyone else".  WTF.  Aaaand now I've lost respect for them both for picking a really dumb name and for douchey reasons.  My latest issue with Kanye is that he can't stop running his mouth about what a genius he thinks he is.  It's laughable at this point.  He gets upset with CEOs of major fashion labels won't meet with him to hear his ideas, because he thinks they should all give him the time of day.  Right.  Good luck with that, Kanye.  Most of the world does not agree that you're a genius.  Just stick to rapping, okay?

I'm done for now, but stay tuned for future rantings about celebs.  I love this stuff too much to keep quiet about it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rose Vox Box Review

Recently, Influenster bestowed up on me a Rose Vox Box and I was really impressed with the offerings this go-round.  Here's a view of the goods...

Clockwise from top left...
Kiss Gradation Nail Polishes
Rimmel Scandaleyes Retro Glam Mascara
Dr. Scholl's For Her Cozy Cushions Insoles
belVita Crunchy Breakfast Biscuits - Cinnamon and Brown Sugar flavor
Lindt Lindor Truffle - Milk Chocolate flavor

I had a lot of fun with this box.  I loved the effect provided by the Kiss Gradation nail polishes, but I kind of made a mess when I attempted this 3-step technique on my own.  It's almost Kari-proof... almost.  Next time my personal manicurist (a.k.a. twin sister) comes to town, I'm going to have her apply this properly so I can show off my pretty holiday nails.

I'd never tried belVita products before I tried these breakfast biscuits, but they're pretty tasty!  After trying these, I bought a box of belVita Soft Baked Biscuits in Mixed Berry, which I've been nibbling on during my commute to work each morning.  They're also delish and full of fiber and wholesomeness.  

The Rimmel mascara was my favorite item in the box.  I hadn't used Rimmel mascara before, nor have I heard anything about their mascaras.  I tried this about a month ago when my sister came to town, and I was really impressed!  It has a big fluffy, hourglass-shaped brush, and a formula that was neither too wet nor too dry.  It also lengthened and separated my lashes while coating them in the blackest, shiniest formula that came off easily with oil-free makeup remover.  Such a win!  For the $5.99 price tag, it's a great product!  I've actually opted to use this mascara over my tried and true Benefit and L'Oreal mascaras recently, so that should tell you that it works pretty well for me.

I tried the Dr. Scholl's insoles, and I had mixed feelings about them.  They are extremely comfortable, but they were very, very warm and they made my feet sweat.  They'd be perfect for fall and winter boots if I still lived in the cold, crisp northern climates, but living in Florida, where it's still sandal weather, they're just not as practical.

Finally, the Lindt truffle.  I've actually had this type of Lindt truffle before and it's safe to say that I'm a big fan.  I could chow down a whole bag of these truffles in one sitting if I wanted, but I won't.  I want to, but I won't.  (I'll just keep repeating that as reinforcement of my willpower over the Lindt truffle.)

Overall, this was such a fun Vox Box!!  Thanks again to Influenster for furnishing these great items and spreading the joy in their programs.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tiny Prints Holiday Cards: Help Me Choose!

Now that Thanksgiving 2013 is a thing of the not-so-distant past and Christmas 2013 is barreling toward us at warp speed, I took this weekend to get myself in the Christmas spirit.  The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is my favorite time of each year.  With all of the hubbub over our new house and family coming for Thanksgiving, I just don't feel quite as ready for Christmas usual.  I've only bought a few gifts and haven't put any thought into outdoor decorating, but I did several Christmas-y things this weekend:  I got out the Christmas decorations, listened to copious amounts of Christmas music and invested some time in finding great holiday cards.

I'm one of those people who have always loved beautiful, hand-written notes and stationery, and this extends to sending and receiving gorgeous holiday cards each year.  This year, I've browsed a half dozen or so stationery sites and found that the selection of custom holiday cards at Tiny Prints to be the most captivating.

Tiny Prints is an upscale, custom online stationery store that specializes in beautiful invitations, announcements, holiday cards, photo books, and much, much more.  I used their sister site, Wedding Paper Divas, for my Save The Date cards for my 2011 wedding, and got TONS of compliments on them.  The quality and feel of these cards are amazing, and they are definitely worth the money spent.

This year's Tiny Prints Christmas card designs are gorgeous, modern, and a bit whimsical -- everything I want my cards to be. Seriously, even the backs of the cards are pretty!  Even Hubs, who rarely cares about this sort of thing, is impressed with the styles and options available.  I really want cards that use just one picture, and Hubs requested that our cards say Merry Christmas.  I have used Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings and Merry Christmas cards in the past, so I'm totally up for some more Merry Christmas action.  Why the heck not? Hubs and I celebrate Christmas, so it's fitting.

Here are a few of my favorite cards from Tiny Prints the check off all of my must-haves...

Don't you just love them??? They're beautiful and simple.  Just my style.

I'd love it if you helped me choose my 2013 Christmas cards.  I want to make a decision by Wednesday, December 4, so please leave a comment here on the blog or via Twitter (@LaBellaVitaBlog) and let me know which card(s) you like best!

I've also pinned these to my Christmas board on Pinterest, so check that and my other boards out, too.

If you're interested buying your holiday cards or any other stationery from Tiny Prints, they are running some great deals through all of Cyber Week and the holiday season. Use code CB13 for 30% off your entire order!  This code is good through Tuesday, 12/4, at midnight.

Happy December, friends!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Beauty Discovery: Lancome DreamTone Color Correcting Serum

Many of ya'll know that I've been a beauty junkie (or product whore, call it what you want) since I was roughly 11 years old, and I'm constantly on the hunt for new favorite products.  I believe in "holy grail" products, but I don't use that term lightly.  To be a "holy grail" product, the beauty product has to be so freaking amazing that I completely stop searching for alternatives.  For me, that's a very tall order, and very few products I've tried have made that cut.  SO, I'm still looking for the next permanent residents in my beauty regime.

For the past 6 months or so, I have been using face makeup sparingly, mostly because I've just been too tired in the mornings to fuss with it.  If I do use something, it's usually a BB cream that gives just enough coverage to even out my skin tone without looking like real "makeup".  It's been working out, but I love the ease and convenience of no face makeup at all.  The problem with no makeup is that my skin tone is a bit red and uneven, particularly around my nose and the corners of my mouth.  I always thought that I'd just have to suck it up and live with it if I was committed to going sans makeup.

I was recently offered an opportunity by SheSpeaks to try Lancome DreamTone Customized Skin Tone Correcting Serum, and I jumped at the chance.  I've loved many a Lancome color cosmetic product over the years, but haven't tried ANY of their skincare products.  It's high time, right?  PLUS, this had a chance at being a solution for my bare-skin redness/blotchiness issue.  I couldn't say no!

DreamTone is a unique product that claims to be the next generation of dark spot correction.  Lancome promises that this serum will correct dark spots and color imperfections, as well as even skin tone.  They say that 70% of testers saw a more even skin tone in 7 days, and 69% saw a reduction in the appearance of dark spots in 4 weeks.  I don't have dark spots, but the part about evening out skin tone had my attention.

After trying DreamTone for 4 weeks, I have no idea why I waited so darn long to try the Lancome skincare line.  DreamTone has been a wonderful treat for my skin!  I don't know why, but I didn't expect to see really noticeable results... and I did!  After 3 weeks, I saw a visible reduction of redness and splotchiness (it's a word in the Kari dictionary) in my pesky problem areas, I felt confident going out to work and on the town with friends without face makeup.  I used this product twice a day, in the morning before work and at night before bed, and I used Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizer on top of it.  The only thing I didn't love about this product was the perfume-y scent, but it wasn't so bad that it stopped me from using it.  

So I bet you're wondering what I'm so excited about.  Here's my bare selfie after 4 weeks of using DreamTone...


See?  Not completely perfect, but the tone is even and smooth, and it's a big improvement over my previous bare skin look.  Never mind that I could use a smear of lip gloss and some mascara here.  Not to mention a swipe or two of blush... but my skin tone is pretty darn even!  Being fair skinned, I'll take all of the help I can get at removing the rosiness that plagues those of my persuasion.  It's good enough to make me do a happy dance!

Overall, I was SO happy with the results!  I may have to give other Lancome skin care products a whirl in the future since this one worked out so well.  I look forward to continuing to use Lancome DreamTone and seeing even better results in the weeks to come.

Considering trying Lancome DreamTone?  It retails for $98.00 for a 1.3 oz. bottle.  It's pricey, I know, but it works!  Give it a try and let me know how much you love your improved skin tone!  

Want to learn more about Lancome products?  Check them out using the links below...

Lancôme on Twitter: @LancomeUSA 

SheSpeaks and Lancome provided me with this product to try for free, but my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.  I received no other compensation or consideration for this honest review.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Long Time, No See!

Helllllooooooo friends!!  Yes, I'm really here and did not disappear for good.  I'm actually super happy to be back here to say heeeeyyyy and let you know that I'm resuming blogging activities after a brief hiatus. Hubs and kisses to all of you who are still around!

Last time I checked in, I was in house-buying hell and had a million things on my plate.  Work was getting crazy, the house buying stuff was a nightmare, we were trying to pack our stuff and the boxes and moving supplies in our condo were stifling our desire and ability to be home at all.  I began to get very, very overwhelmed and I just wasn't keeping up with anything in my usual, orderly, organized way.  It was quite a cluster.

To top it all off, I decided at the end of July to stop taking several of my medications, notably two antidepressants that I'd been on for over 7 years.  I did this with the assistance of my doctor, of course, but I  spent August and September trying to manage a very stressful time in my life (moving and renovating a house) with going off the trusty meds that managed my emotions and such.  Probably poor timing, right?  Right.

After a lengthy discussion with Hubs, I decided to move a few things to the back burner.  My blog was one of them.  While I LOVE blogging, it isn't as big of a priority as other things in my life.  The beauty of it is that I can always take a break and come back.

And come back, I have!

The house renovations have mostly been completed, and we've had some guests stop by to visit.  Hubs and I are feeling great about the status of everything, but we still have some unpacking to do, some furniture to buy and our pesky condo to rent.  By the way, you have any tips for renting out a condo, please share them with me ASAP!!  I need a renter, like, yesterday.

Now that I'm back, I have so many things to share with all of you.  I have before and after pictures of the house, some stories about things that have gone on over the past 2 months, etc., etc. etc.

Stay tuned for more!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Movin' On Up

The countdown is on.  In short 10 days, Hubs and I are closing on our new house.  It's hard to believe it's almost here.  Pinch me.  No really, please pinch me so I know I'm not dreaming.

Trust me, I am beyond excited about the move, but I'll admit to being a little bit scared and nervous too.  We're just moving across town but it feels like a completely different world.  We've been living in the city, and now we're moving out to the suburbs.  While I've visited the mall in said suburb a bunch of times, I never thought about living here until recently, when our budget dictated that a house in the suburbs would be nicer, larger and newer than a house in the city.  I've absolutely loved the hustle and bustle of city life and the low maintenance of my condo, and let's face it.  I'm a city girl at heart.  However, I'll soon be saying goodbye to these stomping grounds and movin' on up to the northwest 'burb life.

The last week has been a pretty productive one for Hubs and I.  We've been purging things we don't need, packing up those that we do, and cleaning whatever's left in its trail.  It feels awesome to be making such great progress!

I have always known that I have a lot of stuff, but I had no idea just how much stuff I had until I started packing.  Holy schnikes.  The more we pack, the more crap we find.  It's UNREAL.  Right now, I've packed the living room, dining room, guest bedroom/office and guest bathroom, and it's filled 3/4 (or more) of our guest bedroom.

We have't touched most of the master bedroom, any of the master bathroom or any of the kitchen, but thankfully we aren't moving for another month or so, so we've got some time.

Yes, you read that right.  We're closing on the house in 10 days, but not moving for another month.  I'm sure you're curious why, and it makes sense because most people move pretty quickly after they close on a house.  Welllll, we have a LOT of work to do.  The entire interior of the house needs to be repainted (thank you, present owners, for your wild taste in paint colors).  We need to put in all new flooring (just say no to white carpet).  We need to change out about 75% of the light fixtures in the house and install recessed lighting (bye bye, ugly lights).  We need to rebuild the interior of the master bedroom closet (adios, gross wire mesh closet shelves).  Those are the projects that we need to do before we even move in.  Yup, so much to do!!  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared about how to coordinate all of this within the next month.

The day after we close, I'm taking the day off from work to have people come out to the house to do some quick projects and give us quotes for the big stuff.  I've arranged for the locksmith, garage door opener installer, flooring estimator, painter and electrician to come out that day, and by tomorrow, I'll also have a fencing company lined up to give me a quote to finish fencing the backyard.  Whew!

And after allllllll of that work gets done, then we have to move.  We had planned on moving over the weekend of September 14-15, but now we'll be out of town.  My husband's godfather, Tom, and his long-time partner, David, are getting married in Delaware that weekend!  We just found out about the wedding last weekend and we immediately bought plane tickets to Philly.  We will be putting off our move for another week to be there for Tom and David's big day.  I wouldn't miss it for the world, even though the timing is less than ideal!

We've got such an exciting, busy, frantic month ahead of us.  I really, really (really) hope things go smoothly from here on out and there are no major surprises.  Nothing with buying a home is ever easy, but I *think* we've got things under control.  Now on to more packing...  Toodles!

Monday, August 12, 2013

August Popsugar Must Have Box

It's already August, friends.  Can you believe how this year is flying by??  I am continually amazed that it's only a few weeks until football season starts (my favorite time of year!) and 4-1/2 months until Christmas.  It also means that summer will be winding down soon, and I'm totally not ready for that.  I really enjoy summer, aside from the sweltering heat and constant thunderstorms.  I guess I'll bask in the sweaty, summer glow while it's still here.

Anywho, I just got my monthly Popsugar Must Have box!  Wanna check out the goods?  Of course you do.

Gorjana Open Circle Necklace ($65.00)
Bentgo Stackable Lunch Box ($14.99)
Lulah Body Wash in Peony ($11.25)
May Designs Weekly Agenda Notebook ($20.00)
Lunares Apple Bowl ($45.00)
Dermalogica Precleanse and Special Cleansing Gel ($10.00)
Nature Box Granny Smith Dried Apple Slices ($4.00)

Total Value:  $170.24

Not too shabby from a value standpoint, am I right?

In looking at each item more closely, I consider this a very average box.  Some months are obvious home runs and others are total duds, but this one is somewhere in between.  I like a few of the items, while others leave something to be desired.

The deluxe samples of the Dermalogica products are nice, and I've liked the other Dermalogica products I've tried so I'm hopeful that I'll like these, too.  I've actually never tried a precleanse product before, and it just seems like kind of an unnecessary step to me.  We'll see what kind of results this two-step system delivers.

Even though I'm not familiar with the Lulah brand, the shower gel is actually pretty nice.  I think the Peony fragrance smells great, which I expected since I'm a big fan of florals.  There are actually several other fragrances of this shower gel floating around, and I'm dying to try the Magnolia Fig.  I might just have to plunk down the cold, hard cash to try it.

The Bentgo lunch container is okay.  I might use it, but since my normal lunches are Lean Cuisines and yogurt cups, I don't know how much play it's going to get immediately.

We have received yet another Gorjana item, this time a necklace.  My beef here is that the necklace looks very inexpensive in person, and it's SUPER SHORT.  It's practically a choker on me, and my neck is average sized.  I really wish they'd stop sending small Gorjana jewelry and stick to either Gorjana's non-jewelry options (the scarf in a previous box was AWESOME) or pick jewelry from a line that has more reasonable sizing.

The May Designs weekly agenda is one of my favorite items in the box.  I love the design and the pages are really cute.  Who can't use a cute weekly agenda??  I know this girl will never turn one down.

The Nature Box dried apple slices were a nice addition to the box.  I'm always looking for new healthy snacks, and this one was great.  The apple slices are tasty and the size of the bag was impressive.

Finally, the we come to the Apple Bowl.  I had a hard time estimating the price since this item isn't sold separately on the company's website, but similar bowls were selling for around $45.  It's very cute and will make a sweet little fall decoration or a jewelry dish for my dresser.

Overall, a decent box, but not one of my favorites.  I love the value that the Popsugar boxes bring, and I'm already looking forward to the September and October boxes.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Influenster Sunkissed Vox Box

As y'all know, I love getting surprises in the mail.  Back in July, I got a Influenster Sunkissed Vox Box in the mail and I was STOKED about the products.  Usually I'm on the fence about the things they've sent me, but this time I got some nice, useful stuff.  Here's a look at what was in this baby...

Item numero uno was the Dr. Scholl's For Hear High Heel Insoles.  I don't wear many high heels these days, but I tried them out with a moderate-height heel, and MAN, did they ever make my shoes comfy!  I really wish I'd had these for my wedding shoes.  The Foot Petals I used didn't hold a candle to the smooshy, gel-filled comfort of these insoles.  I highly recommend!

The second item was the Olay Fresh Effects BB Cream, and I was ridiculously excited to try this.  I almost bought this back in June when I was on a tear at CVS, but I refrained and used my Olay coupon on the exfoliating cleanser.  Anyway, I didn't expect much, but this really exceeded my expectations.  It's more of a tinted moisturizer with an SPF than a true Asian-style BB Cream, but I appreciated the lightness of the product and the subtle coverage.  It also stayed put all day and didn't cause me to break out.  Score and Score!!  I also recommend this if you're interested in trying a product with some coverage that doesn't feel as heavy as foundation.

The Goody Ribbon Hair Elastics were next, and I was skeptical about these.  I tried the Twistband brand of ribbon hair elastics and was really disappointed in how over-stretched they became after a single wear.  The Goody version holds up better, but still gets more stretched out than I'd like.  When they get stretched out, they don't hold my hair as tight and I end up fussing with my ponytail all day.  Boooo to that.  The nice thing about them is that they don't leave as big of a dent in my hair as a traditional hair elastic, but they still do leave a little dent.  Not perfect, but definitely an improvement over my old standby.

Finally, I got a Sinful Shine nail polish in Darkroom.  Darkroom = Black.  I don't know about you, but last time I checked I wasn't Carson Daly circa 1999.  I can't pull off black nail polish as part of my everyday ensemble.  I tried it out, though, just to be a good little reviewer, and the shine was GORGEOUS.  I'd love to try this polish in another color, because I have a feeling I'd like it more.

So that, my friends, is the Sunkissed Vox Box.  I'm smitten with a couple of these products and definitely see them becoming part of my regular routine.  

Many thanks to Influenster for sharing the Vox Box love!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Master Bedroom Bonanza

While many people argue that the kitchen is the heart of the home, I say that the master bedroom is of nearly equal importance.  It's my sanctuary, my cozy sleepy place and my place for quiet reflection.  Because I really value having a great master suite, I'm looking to make a few enhancements to our master bedroom in the new house.

First of all, the new house's master bedroom is HUGE.  Like, 30' x 14' huge.  Our current master bedroom is a decent size, 11-1/2' by 15', but the new master puts our current one to shame.  The reason the master bedroom in the new house is so big is that the current owners got cray-zay and put a 14' x 14' addition onto the master bedroom, which they've been using as an office and sitting room.  Hubs and I plan to use the additional space for the same purpose, and it was a big selling point of the house.

I really want to do some things in the bedroom to maximize space and efficiency, and also to make the room comfortable.  We are FINALLY going to be upgrading to a king size bed, which is a huge step for us.  My husband seriously has a love affair going on with our current queen mattress, and I never thought I'd be able to tear him away.  BUT, after sleeping in a king size bed on a recent weekend trip, he agreed that we must have the bigger bed in our house.

And since we're getting a new bed, I have to buy new bedding, of course.  I've been looking around, and Hubs and I finally agreed on getting our bedding from West Elm.  I love the simple modern flair of practically everything in their catalog.  We chose to go with a purple, gray and white motif, and I think it will look awesome with our white bedroom and office furniture.

Here are the quilt and pillow shams we chose...

Stella Quilt and Shams

With these throw pillows...

Honeycomb Crewel Pillow Cover in Platinum

And this sheet set...

Organic Ikat-Stripe in Platinum

Now that we've got our bedding on lock, it's time to focus on other areas of the master.  We've picked out some new ceiling fans, and we'll be choosing new flooring in the upcoming weeks.  We're also still shopping for a loveseat and an ottoman for the sitting area, and I'm working on plans for additional office storage and bookcases.  Last but not least, we need to choose a paint color.  I'm gunning for a light gray with white trim, doors and ceilings, but Hubs thinks that sounds depressing. Ugh.  If any of you have any suggestions for me, I'm all ears!!

I can't wait to pull it all together and share the finished product with you!  Only 6 weeks away... Stay tuned for pictures!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Latest Developments

Hi there, friends!!  I'm sorry that I've been MIA lately.  Life has just been nuts, and between work, friends, family, my dog and planning for our future, it's all been exhausting.  Exciting, but exhausting.

As you know, Hubs and I are in the process of buying our first house together.  So many things have happened in the past couple of weeks, and we're just trying to wrap our heads around it all.

One big development is with our condo.  We were planning to rent out our condo once we move to the house, but we've changed our minds. Neither of us really wants to be a landlord, and we just want to start a new chapter in our lives.  We've decided to sell the condo, as much as it saddens me to do it.  I have a strong emotional attachment to this little piece of the world because it was the first home that I bought all on my own and I've fixed it up to my exact specifications.  The thought of a renter tearing this place apart or mistreating it in any way makes me feel sick, especially since I'd be on the hook to fix anything they do my beloved home.  Soooo, I'd rather leave it completely behind me and allow a new owner to love it as much as I have.  Owners always treat their properties better than renters do anyway.  We'll be putting the condo up for sale next month after we are fully moved into our new abode, so I've got some time to let the whole thing sink in.

On top of the big condo decision, we also got the appraisal back on the new house and sent final documents to the mortgage company.  I also had one my BFFs, who works in insurance, write me our new homeowner's insurance policy, so that's yet another thing crossed off my long to-do list.  It feels great to be making steady progress, even if there are still a hundred things left to do!

Another big development is that my adorable niece, Elise, is now one month old.  I can't believe how much she's grown in the past month!  Two weekends ago, Hubs and I went to Orlando to visit this little lady, my twin sister and my brother-in-law, and we had such an amazing time.  Let's face it, I just needed some girl time with my two favorite chicas, and the trip made my heart happy.  Here are a few cute pictures of my little Ellie...

I love being an aunt and I can't wait until she gets older.  We're going to have a blast together!

Finally, in the biggest news of all, Hubs and I have decided to start trying for a baby!!  I'm scared of this, I really am, but I know I'm ready.  I know that this part could take awhile, so I'm going to be patient and let nature take its course.  Let's just say that baby Elise has both Hubs and I completely smitten, so much so that we want to give her a little cousin!

So yeah, lots of new developments here in the Carruolo house.  The future is looking amazing right now and I cannot be more thrilled about what's to come.

Cheers to new chapters and new beginnings!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Home Sweet Home (Almost)

I haven't been a good blogger lately.  I haven't had the time to spend on writing creative posts, despite tons of ideas floating around in my noggin.  I have found some time to blog about a few things I really love (subs, beauty products and my dog, mainly), but there are sooooo many more things that I want to get out here.  I just desperately want to get back to the meat and potatoes of blogging and documenting all of the great ideas that have been coming to me over the past couple of months.  I'll get back there, eventually.

The major thing that has taken me away from blogging lately is Hubs and I's search for a new house.  We FINALLY decided to look for a house after living in my teeny tiny condo for three years.  I've actually lived here for 8 years, and it's been a good little place for me until I got married.  We simply can't do this cramped style of living anymore, and frankly, moving into a bigger house is long overdue.

After looking for about a month and seeing TONS of duds, Hubs and I finally found a house that we can see ourselves living in.  It's in our desired neighborhood, but literally at the tip top of our budget.  I discovered that that's what its going to take to get the kind of house we want in the neighborhood we want.

Here's a first look at our future casa...

Ta-da!  It's a very typical newer Florida house style, but it's twice the square footage of our condo.  We are going to be spoiled by all of the space!  The yard has been maintained very well, and includes pineapple plants and banana trees.  We love how bright and sunny the house is, we adore the vaulted ceilings in every room and the split floor plan is going to be perfect for us.  Yay, yay, and yay!

There are some downsides, though.  The current owners were very paint-happy, and they've painted nearly every surface some crazy-ass color.  And not just walls.  We're talking doors, trim, hinges and baseboards, too.  Holy cripes, some parts of that house are so ugly, due entirely to poor paint color choices by the current owners.  We'll be investing in a full-house paint job before we even move in.  We are also going to be updating a lot of the light fixtures in the house, as well as the flooring.  Thankfully, we have some money to put into making improvements, but some more expensive projects will have to be put off for awhile.  I'm okay with that, though, because I know we'll be living in this house for a long time.  I will definitely be posting before and after pictures for you all to see!

We'll close on the house on August 29th, and then the real craziness begins.  August and September are going to be whirlwind months for us, but I've never been so excited to take on this type of stress.  I just know the house's transformation will be amazing and we can't wait to make it our own.  I could bask in this glow of happiness forever!

When you bought your house, what were the most exciting and stressful aspects?
Do you have any tips for making our move easier?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

FabFitFun VIP Summer Box

Okay, I have to confess.  I've been getting one more subscription box.  It's kind of a sickness, really, and I've committed to paring back my subscription boxes once Hubs and I buy a new house.  I heard about Guiliana Rancic's new FabFitFun VIP box several months ago, and it sounded amazing.  The blogger preview boxes had great items and it looked like a hell of a value.  It costs $50 and new boxes come out once every three months.  The cost is a little steep for me, to be honest, but I thought I'd try it once and see how I liked it.  Plus, the preview boxes they sent to a number of well-known bloggers were so impressive!

I received my Spring box in April, and was not thrilled with it.  Several of the items from the blogger preview boxes weren't in my box, and instead I got some extra ugly jewelry.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and emailed FabFitFun's customer service to express my disappointment.  I seriously hate complaining, but I just felt compelled to tell them about my experience.  They immediately offered me a free Summer box for my trouble.  I mean, how could I pass up a free box??  So I agreed, and I just got my Summer box this past week.

This box was far better than the previous box, and I think they're learning that habitual subscription box addicts subscribers are a picky sort.  We expect great value and consistency, as well as the opportunity for new discoveries.  I was really impressed by the overall value of the box, which has a combined product value of over $250.  Most of the products in the box were full-size, and the travel sized items were still pretty generous.

Here's what I got...

Pur-lisse Pur-delicate Face Wash -  Full size ($36.00)
Ivory + Mason Wesley Sunglasses ($135.00)
It Haircare Surf Spray - Full size ($6.99)
Evian Mineral Water Spray - Full size ($12.00)
Infinity Sun Glow on the Go Sunless Tanning Spray - Travel size ($35.00)
Catalina Su Lipgloss - Full size ($14.00)
Orly Nail Polish - Full size ($8.00)
Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Hypoallergenic Facial Towelettes - Travel size ($2.99)
Kind Nuts & Spices Maple Glazed Pecan & Sea Salt ($1.39)

Total Value:  $251.37

I actually haven't tried a few of these products yet, but I really like the ones that I have.  The Evian mineral water spray is incredibly refreshing, and far more useful than I had initially anticipated.  I also liked the Yes to Cucumbers facial towelettes, which is surprising because I normally don't like the scent of cucumber.  The sunnies are cute, but Hubs says they don't flatter my face.  Color me disappointed!  I'll probably hang on to them for trips to the beach.  I hate taking my expensive sunglasses there because things always seem to get lost, broken or covered in sunscreen during beach outings.

I'm excited about trying the Pur-lisse face wash because the reviews online gush about how fabulous it is.  The granola bar is coming to work in my lunch next week, I'll be trying out the lip gloss and surf spray as part of my weekly beauty routine.  I'm not sure I'll be trying the sunless tanning spray or the Orly nail polish. I hear Orly polishes are good, but neon orange isn't a shade that I'm anxious to wear.  

Hopefully the next box will be just as good.  If you want to give the quarterly FabFitFun VIP box a try, use my referral code to sign up!  The code is 712393, and you'll get $10 off your first box if you sign up before August 11th.

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Tampa, Florida, United States
I'm a wife, daughter and amazing twin sister. I'm a mom to my adorable dog, Bella. Loves: Shopping, cooking, baking, good grammar and Dave Matthews Band. I'm also a Bath and Body Works addict, a Michigan State Spartans fanatic, and an iPhone aficionado. I see beauty in simple things and little things make me ever-so-happy. Welcome to my world!

La Bella Vita

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