Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Southern Colonial is now open!

So I did it! I created a new blog and I'm very excited to shift focus from fashion to home, food, and adventures. I've got some great things in the works and hope you will come on over to the other blog for some southern hospitality.



Click the link below to be redirected to the new site.

www.southerncolonial.blogspot.com

Pin It!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It's Time to Go

Won't you take me to Slumpyville? What's Slumpyville? It's that period after the holidays when you are back to a full work week, your co-workers (and you) are in a pissed off mood, you look with desperation at your 401K account balance, your Social Security balance (and the amount of time left to work and what your monthly payout would be if you retire at 62 or 67), and the PTO calendar.


After having a full week off for Christmas and a partial week off for New Years, it's hard to be jerked out of my sleep coma at 5:45am, to trek the 50 mins to work across two counties, to hear the annoying sounds of people around me that I had almost forgotten about during my blissful time off, and then commute home another hour. It's routine, it's monotonous, it's Slumpyville.


During my time off from work I had some time to think about our future. This isn't a reflection post or a New Year's resolution thing. It may be prompted by the fact that I'm turning 43 next week. But most likely my Jack Handy deep thoughts are attributable to seeing my maternal grandparents and how they are living in their mid 80s. I don't think they are financially secure (they aren't in dire straights and eating cat food but could be much more secure than they currently are) and they sure as heck aren't digging each other's company in their golden years. They've gone rogue, I tell ya. And over Christmas break I experienced first hand Grandma's memory decline.


Up until the grand'rents (that's short for "grandparents" for all you non-hipsters) decided to take a break from each other, I was on the track of paying off my debt a little bit at a time. No house disaster (upstairs AC handler flooded our spare bedroom carpet on New Year's day - Bono lied - all was not quiet on New Year's day!) was cause for concern for me to make any extra effort. I was content to just keep going at a snail's pace. Nothing has really ever moved me to get out of a habit I had created so long ago. And from observation and conversation, it seems my grandfather and I might actually share the same unfortunate views on spending, money, and living beyond our means. Although my life didn't flash before my eyes, I saw through my grandparents what my life could become if I keep on the same path.


So I sat down with my monthly financial spreadsheet and did some real digging as to what I could reasonably tackle. I've determined paying off the smallest credit card balance would bring me greater victory at a much quicker rate than trying to tackle it all at once or the cards with the highest balance. And it has!
I went after the outstanding medical bills first (I was hospitalized in Sept. for a kidney stone and had a bout of eczema in June where I had two biopsies done on my left arm). I also managed to pay off two store credit cards. In mid-Jan, I'll be done with another two. I even managed to find a way to start saving for the house disaster things (the AC is working for now - but we know we need a new unit).


And after draining my 401K account in 2012 for the CT and FL houses, plus the move back to FL, I've been steadily putting money away for retirement and I'm getting a healthy balance once again. This will also be the first tax year where neither one of us has changed jobs, moved, taken a distribution, etc. Should be smooth sailing when filing taxes this year.


In 2014, I stepped away from my blog for about 5 months. It was liberating. I understand how Young House Love feels now. I'm actually considering doing this again. Actually I'm considering reinventing my blog into a DIY/home improvement blog. I've never monetized my blog. That's not why I do this. But for those of us that don't reap the benefit of sponsors, partners, collaborations, etc., it can be tough on our wallets to stay current and relevant. And you all know that my focus has definitely shifted from fashion to home improvements/DIY. Honestly, if I had the education and experience in Interior Design, that's what I would be doing full time. That's what really speaks to me. I love working on our house. I love combing through Pinterest for ideas and taking an idea in my head and executing it in a room in our house. However, my audience isn't really interested in those things. And why would you be? This was a fashion blog for over 2 years. It was me buying and wearing real clothes, not high end freebies that came with false-positive reviews that so many bloggers provide with the "this was sponsored but the opinion is all mine" bullshit tagline. The fact is when I post outfit pics, you all respond. When I proudly display a home project that took me a week or months to do - crickets. And that's fine. You all are my fashion audience, not my DIY audience. But people evolve and interests change. I'm getting a little too old to keep taking pics of myself in different outfits. It's not fun anymore. I look ridiculous coming to work all decked out and feel pressured at 5:45am to wear something exciting and new for you. So it's time for me to hang this blog up to dry. I hope you all really have enjoyed the ride with me. I'll keep the blog up for any inspiration and if I decide to switch over to a DIY blog, I'll let you all know. Thank you so much for following me since 2011.


Feel free to email me or even become a Facebook friend. For the first time ever, I'm giving you all my contact info. I know that exposes me but you all have been very kind through the years and not at all creepy or stalkerish. LOL!
Take care!
Niki


Email: foodandwinegal@gmail.com
Facebook: Niki Branson Delehant


*And yes, I stared at this post for quite awhile before I pushed "Publish."



Pin It!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Marvelous Marble

So after waiting a little more than three weeks (sales lady lied to me - surprise! - said it would only take two weeks), I finally had my carrara marble slab installed on my Ikea kitchen island around noon on Christmas Eve and I'm in love. I seriously can't stop looking at it, touching it, and smiling when I walk into our kitchen.

As I said in this post, I've been wanting a marble kitchen island but the prices were insane or there wasn't enough storage. I really didn't want to lug the Ikea Stenstorp island outside and sand it down so I did some research on primers and came across this recommendation. Honestly, I think the only thing you can do for Ikea furniture with glossy finishes is to sand them down because no matter what primer you use, the paint is gonna chip, people. I've had to touch up the paint on my kitchen island already because of rough Bastard Cat play.

Before I go any further, let's see my inspiration. I absolutely loved what Meg over at Oliver and Rust did with an old Ikea Bekvam kitchen cart. I loved the color of the island, the gold detail on the towel rack, and of course the marble top.


And while I contemplated ordering the Queenstown Gray milk paint by General Finishes, I was too impatient for it to arrive and am not a fan of milk paint. So I had the paint chip color pulled up on my phone while at Lowes and just went through all the gray and blue colors until I found one that I thought matched. I wanted it to be a dark gray but to also have some navy as well. I chose "Volcanic Ash" by Valspar and asked them to mix a quart of the best interior paint they carry.

As for the towel rack? I already had two spare Ikea Bygel rails just sitting in the garage, along with some gold spray paint. I've had these rails in my Connecticut kitchen, my FL kitchen, and in the lady cave holding all my necklaces. You can't beat the $3 price! I taped up the rail and added a few coats of gold spray paint. I then had the hubby install the rail on one side of the island. During the holidays, West Elm was (and still is) having a sale on their kitchen towels. The one that is hanging in the pictures is from Zappos (I had a gift card).

So let's do a cost breakdown. The paint was around $20 and I also bought a quart of Valspar Clear Protector as I couldn't find any other non-yellowing sealer at Lowes. It only comes in Satin finish and I'm actually really pleased with it. The paint finish was rough and this really smoothed it out. And my fluorescent lights won't affect the paint color like they would if I had covered the island in polyurethane. I think I paid around $7 for the protector.

I shopped around for the marble. I had to find a remnant slab to keep the cost down. Otherwise, I would have to pay for the entire slab including the excess that I wasn't going to use. I found a remnant piece at Cutting Edge Granite in Largo, FL. I paid $500 for the slab and used most of it. Now that may seem pretty expensive, but if you compare it to the cheapest kitchen island with marble top that I was considering at $400... or the island I saw at Crate and Barrel for $1300, or even the beautiful $3-4K islands that Williams Sonoma carries, it's not a bad price. Plus, I got to keep and repurpose our Ikea Stenstorp, which has the storage that I want.

 
 
 
 
 
 
So do I want marble in my kitchen on all countertops? You bet your ass I do! Will it happen in 2015? You bet your ass it won't! Why? Unfortunately, our upstairs AC is on the fritz and needs to be replaced to the tune of $4K. So that's what we'll be paying for in 2015.

Should you be scared to put marble in your kitchen? Hell no! Do it. It's wonderful. Marble is timeless and lasts. Will it stain and etch? Yes. Does that add to the beauty of the piece? Of course. Will the stains work their way through the stone. Absolutely! I've seen tests online where a stain has worked its way through the stone overnight. My slab held up nicely to being appetizer central on Christmas day. And chocolate milk stains left by my nephew. It all came up with just a little water and Dawn.

Hope y'all have a wonder New Years. Happy 2015 and see you next week!


Pin It!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Containing the Puppy

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and Hanukah. We hosted Christmas dinner for my family again this year. I had the entire week off, which was wonderful, but also filled with shopping, six hours of food prepping, two days of cleaning, and overall exhaustion. But it went very well and we had a lovely dinner. We opted not to put up a Christmas tree this year as I didn't want the Bastard Cats to have a field day. So I put up a couple of mini ones above the mantel.

So now that I have some time to sit down and write, I have a few updates to show you that have been works in progess. Today I'm going to show you the gate I created to contain our puppy, Cookie. I got the idea off Pinterest, of course. I'm no woodworker, as I can't measure for shit and I don't have the proper tools. I don't own a table saw so I basically have to have Lowe's cut wood for me. And off course any project I work on has to fit into my car.

Oh wait! Let me digress a bit. I don't think I told you about our new car that we bought over the summer. Okay, so as you all know, this is what I used to own. I've had two BMWs. The first was an X3 lease and then the 328xi. There were certain things I loved about my cars, after all they were dream cars from when I was 16. But unfortunately, after I hit the pothole last summer, my car started having issues. I couldn't go over even the slightest bump without hearing a stretching sound and the ride was incredibly rough. The AC was going ($3K to replace) and driving 35 miles each way to work/home using premium gas was killing my wallet. Hubby and I had been talking about getting another vehicle and we both wanted an SUV. We talked about different options. One of my main criteria since I would be the primary driver was good gas mileage. Even though we are moving to a new building in Feb/March that is 10 miles closer, I still wanted something good on gas.

Hubby and I then went to South Dakota over the summer to visit his family and while we were sitting on his brother's deck, hubby's mom pulled into the driveway in the cutest SUV. Ready? It was a Buick and I was smitten! When we got back home, we researched the Buick Encore, found out it got 29/31 MPG, had more bells and whistles than both of my BMWs, and handled like a German car. I absolutely love my new car and it's such a pleasure to drive every day.

 
 
 
Isn't she lovely? Okay, back to the main event. Since Cookie is getting bigger (she's actually the perfect medium-sized dog), the little dog gates we've had for Woozie weren't cutting it anymore. I wanted to be able to either block her off in the kitchen or from the kitchen. So I built her a gate. Not wanting to mess up the chair rail or baseboard, I worked within those elements. I had Lowe's cut some red oak to my specs as well as some 1x3s for the trim.  I chose oak because I knew it was a strong wood, but if I did this over again, I would choose a much lighter wood. Once assembled, the door is HEAVY!
 
So I'll let the pictures speak for themselves as to how I assembled the gate.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Uh oh! Yep. Too much clearance and she got right under it. So in a deflated huff, I sulked to the living room feeling like a big, fat Bob Vila failure. Then hubby said, "Why don't you get some corner brackets and we'll put a board underneath? Paint it white and it will look like it's meant to be there." Isn't he a wonderful, supporting husband? So lucky to have him.
 
So that's what we did. We took it off the wall and attached a painted 1x3 with corner brackets. Now she can't get out and the cats are slowed down from her toothy wrath.
 
 
 


 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pin It!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Dinner Party

Just admit it, you were waiting for "The Conductor" to make an appearance once it got cold enough. It's rhetorical. No need to answer. Your eyes tell me so. For some reason, The Conductor is fitting a little tighter this year. I'm sure it's not the cakes, cookies, artisan bread, larger portions, etc. that I've been eating. Nah. Must have shrunk at the dry cleaners. Yep.

So this little outfit is what I wore to our holiday dinner party. I've had this dress for a couple of months now (shocker!) but didn't really have an opportunity to wear it yet. It's the Elie Tahari dress for Kohl's and I have a few problems with it. The belt is attached and moves all over the place. Unless I tack it down with thread and needle, it will continue to drive me bonkers. The other issue is the butt pleats. So just like you see in front, it has those same folds in the back pretty much on my ass. Because those cookies and cakes didn't add enough bulk. Hence The Conductor. I had to wear something to cover up my butt pleats. This will always be one of those dresses that has to be worn with a jacket, unfortunately. My last issue is the little triangle seam in the front. It's sewn with white thread. Why? I do like the fabric - it's a heavy polyester/spandex so no wrinkles and it maintains its shape. The length could be a tad longer but it's working for my short and stubby frame.

Of course I'm the most dressed up in my office. Of course. The dinner is being held at a nice chop house and employees showed up in jeans and company logo shirts. Two girls made an effort and they look nice - the rest of them - hopeless. C'mon, people! It's a fancy-pants party! Find something in your closet besides the five company shirts you own. Swipe on a little mascara. Comb your hair. Make a little bit of an effort. I wear my company shirts and jeans probably a little too often and have become comfortable lately but I still make hair and makeup efforts. But maybe that's just me.



 
 
 
 
 
 
{Dress: Kohl's | Shoes and Blazer: Zara | Lips: Nars Dragon Girl (my favorite)}
 






Pin It!

Friday, December 19, 2014

SeaWorld

Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins. Lots 'o dolphins at SeaWorld. In shows, in nurseries, in underground viewing centers, swimming next to turtles ("I like turtles"), and splashing Brazilians who always wear soccer tees. Yeah, that last part was a huge generalization.

So hubby and I hit the road around 10am last Saturday to make a noon company luncheon at SeaWorld. On the car ride over, I found out my husband has never been to SeaWorld. Disney and Epcot - yeah. But that's about it. I was a little nervous leaving the pets with a new sitter after the fiasco at the vet over the summer. Oh, I don't think I shared that with y'all cause I was taking a blogging break then. So real quick - hubby and I visited his family in South Dakota over 4th of July week and we boarded the two dogs and asked my sister to watch the two bastard cats. I paid over $400 to board my dogs in two private suites.

Cookie was fine. However Woozie came out with a torn ACL. I was a wreck but after talking with the head vet and nursing her back to health, she is much better. She's 12 so those knees are just deteriorating. Not sure how much longer we have with her but her spirits are still good, she's still eating, she doesn't look like she's in pain, and she acts like an older, happy Chihuahua. Well, except she asks me daily when all the animals will be leaving and tries to intimidate them with her ferocious teeth.

So we have a home sitter now for the pets and I couldn't be happier. She left me detailed notes, sent me text messages when she got to the house, and loves our animals. She's a keeper! And she's fairly inexpensive. Four visits, four pets - $90. Plus my pets were able to stay in their own environment.

When we got to SeaWorld, we paid the $20 to park (preferred parking $20, regular parking $17), which only got us slightly closer to the gate. We ended up going through Christmas Village, which didn't open until 6pm (I think) and headed into a private pavilion. It was actually really cool cause we got to take some pictures w/out crowds. My husband and I don't really like theme parks or crowds. Lunch was hamburgers or chicken sandwiches and lasted about an hour. Some guy got up, made a short 5 minute speech, handed out an award, and then we were off to enjoy our day.

We walked all around the park and got a recent art grad to paint caricatures of us - it turned out really cute - doesn't my husband look like Don Johnson? People have told him that before and I never saw it until the drawing was done. We tried to get into to see the penguins as I'll often walk around the house shuffling like a penguin and making little penguin noises (I also imitate baby piggies - oh the talent), but it was an hour wait. No thank you. I think my waiting in line days are over. We caught a pretty cute dolphin show and were hoping the macaws wouldn't poop on us as they flew over. Hungry and pooped ourselves, we headed out around 6:00pm and went to Bahama Breeze for dinner. Sitting outside under the large heaters sharing a bottle of wine and just being away - that was pretty nice. We both agreed that we needed to reconnect more often. Life just gets in the way sometimes and takes over.

Our hotel was the Hawthorn Suites. It was actually bigger than some NYC apartments with a sitting area, bedroom, kitchenette, etc. It was a mediocre, "this will do for one night" type of hotel. Certainly not as bad as the $100/night Carter Hotel in NYC that we stayed in a couple of times. It was a flea hole! But it was super cheap for Manhattan. Our Orlando hotel was clean but had a very strong perfume odor and I have a super sensitive smeller. I mainly booked it for the free hot breakfast. Should have just had some Egg White Delights at McDonald's down the road. Breakfast was no beuno. And somehow I convinced my husband to stop at Orlando Premium Outlets for a couple of hours after we checked out. I drooled over a pair of Prada oxfords and ended up buying a small Kate Spade cross body.

It was a really nice weekend getaway and I'm glad we went. Would I recommend SeaWord - eh. I'd tell ya to go to Discovery Cove (I've never been but who wouldn't want to swim with dolphins?!) or Epcot during the Food and Wine Fest before I would recommend SeaWorld. Of course if you don't want to shell out the money for theme parks, you could just enjoy Downtown Disney and the abundance of restaurants, etc. along International Drive (I-Drive) in Orlando. Downtown Orlando is also pretty cool!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





Pin It!