Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bunny's 2011 Year in Review

This year I decided to keep a running list of things I did....movies I saw, food I cooked, new things I tried. Nineteen journal pages later, I bring you a smidgen of my most memorable moments from 2011. In all, it was a good year, but not my best. I more or less achieved my goal to tone it back at work and have more "me time," but I know I did not utilize my "me time" to improve me. I just spent it on Facebook and Pinterest rather than reading, relaxing and exercising. And my body let me know because I was sicker this year than I have been in a long time. So, as we head into 2012, my new goal is to use my "me time" to make me a better me. More on that later. For now, here is:

2011 Highlights from Bunny World
  • Watched 55+ movies/mini-series, from a combination of Netflix and theater. WORST: Inception. We only made it about 20 minutes in before we admitted we were hopelessly lost and turned it off. BEST: Tie between The Help and Crazy Stupid Love.
  • Read 15 books. I am very sad about this number because usually I read almost double this amount. Maybe I needed a book breather. And maybe it's because I have not read much worth reading lately. I would love to get back into a book club to challenge myself. WORST: When Engulfed in Flames (expected so much more from David Sedaris!)  BEST: Ape House (so unexpectedly interesting).
  • Made 35+ new recipes. I only counted things I made FROM a recipe, not something I simply crafted from my head. WORST: Gnocchi Mac & Cheese (doughy!)   BEST: Tie between Green Chili Sour Cream Enchiladas and Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin.
 Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin
  • Made snow ice cream for first time (because we had so much snow in the ATL in 2011!)
  • Adopted our third dog, Roxie, Charlie's sister. And, yes, it has been rewarding but definitely not easy.
  • Purchased (finally!) an All-Clad skillet. Too scared to use it much, but it is wonderful.
  • Saw my first professional ice hockey game, The Gwinnett Gladiators.
  • Sponsored my second Compassion child, Beatrice in Kenya.
  • Was bitten (badly) by (my own) dog (Roxie).
  • Started couponing again and saved a shit-load of money, esp. at CVS. BEST SCORE: 18 bars of soap for around $1!
  • Professionally highlighted hair for first time.
  • Discovered Blackberry Sangria at Carrabba's. It will change your life.
  • Discovered Downton Abby which is so incredibly fabulous.
  • Also discovered Larkrise to Candleford which is almost as incredibly fabulous.
  • Finally toured Terrapin brewery in Athens, GA.
  • Celebrated my parent's 50th wedding anniversary with my fams.
  • Met a virtual friend for the first time....had "known" him for about three years and was our first time actually seeing each other in person.
  • Vacationed at Folly Beach, SC for the first time and really loved it. It was Roxie's first time at the beach and she loved it. Just missed Hurricane Irene while vacationing.
 Last Night Sunset at Folly, post-Hurricane Irene
  • Ate at Husk, Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurant in America, in Charleston, SC. Hands-down, the BEST food I may have ever eaten. A true religious experience for a foodie.
  • Bought a new washer and dryer. Very exciting for me since I had the same ones for 10+ years and these are so FANCY.
  • Took part in a local photo exhibit for an art show.
  • Celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary to my best friend.
  • Drank several new beers and spirits. BEST BEER: Tie between Samuel Adams Octoberfest and Sierra Nevada Tumbler. BEST SPIRIT: Pinnacle Cake Vodka.
  • Saw my niece be baptized.
  • Professionally colored my hair red(dish).
  • Celebrated the holidays by visiting for the first time the Atlanta Botanical Gardens' Night of Lights and Christmas on Peachtree.
  • Had a great year at the human society where I work including coordinating an adoption special day that resulted in a single-day record for adoptions: 50 animals to new homes! Also wrote and was awarded my first grant ever for $5,000!
  • Wrote 44 articles for my freelance business which included picking up two new magazines.
  • And, finally, I returned to blogging after a 7 month absence and, so far, I have stuck with it. I lost many of my followers, but as long as there are a few of you out there, and it is pleasing to me, I will stick with it for now.

Wow. I am so glad I kept this list because the year really went by in a whirl (as most do nowdays) and it is so hard to think back and remember all the things you accomplished. Sometimes I think I never really do much, but when I was reading back over the 19 pages, I realized I have been quite busy and productive. Maybe not in ways that are impressive to others, but in ways that make ME happy. Cooking. Spending time with the people and pets I love. Helping others. If that makes me boring, then I guess I love being boring. Here's to being even MORE boring in 2012! Happy New Year's! Bunny

Friday, December 30, 2011

What Santa Brought Bunny

Peeps, I know this is a little backwards, but I am finally going to post what Santa brought me. Just took me a week I know, but I wanted you to see my goodies because, well, I was thrilled. And I know you will be thrilled. Ecstatic even. Right.

The saddest thing about getting older is the lack of holiday gifts. I know that sounds horrible, but I just have always loved Christmas and giving and gifts and finding the perfect gift for someone you love. Sadly, as you get older, many times it is about just swapping gift cards/money because everyone, including me, is often too "busy" to put any thought into a special gift.

Those truly special gifts are rare. For example, a few years ago, the hubs gave me a sign that he had custom made that says "Casa Bunny." It was a TOTAL surprise and truly special and it hangs over our front door. Several years ago, I made scrapbooks for my brother and sister that held a bunch of photos of the three of us from through the years. I really put my heart into that gift and I hope they thought it was special, because I did.

I am very fortunate that I have friends and a great hubs who tell Santa what I really want and make sure I have the hook-up. So, here is what Santa (and friends and family) brought me in 2011:

Bobs gave me this collapsible cooler. I have wanted one of these for awhile. I hope it will inspire me to do some picnicking this year or summer concert going and such.

Bobs also gave me this panini grill. Bobs is a super-duper sale shopper and makes awesome scores so he is a great gift giver. I have not used this yet, but I am super excited about it. This is one of those things I would never buy myself, but have always wanted to have. Those kind of items usually make great gifts.

My sister-in-law drew my name and gave me a Williams-Sonoma AND a Kohl's gift card! You saw from my last post that the W-S card is probably going to buy a casserole of some kind, and the Kohl's card has already been redeemed (along with an online coupon! score!) for socks. I am in desperate need for socks because my sock-snatching, hosiery-eating dog, Charlie, has destroyed almost all my good socks, as shown in the example here:

"What Mama?!! Did I dooz that?!?" See, he is always after the socks! Bad, Charlie, bad! And my good Gold Toe socks! So, I used the Kohl's card to buy nice, thin socks for dressier shoes.

Santa brought me more socks, good, thick wool socks from L.L. Bean. Golly, I love these socks! I have a pair on now. They are warm and wonderful around the house and will work well with my hiking-style shoes and Birks.

Lucky for Santa, we live REALLYNEAR a Saks 5th Avenue outlet, which is where Santa picked up these lovely ear bobs from Alexis Bittar. The earrings are actually clear, but have a unique iridescence about them that makes them appear purple in this photo. They are super cool.

At the same outlet, Santa also picked up these really lovely Majorica black pearl ear wires. LOVE! Pearls are Bunny's birthstone. Score for Santa!

Then, Santa hit it out of the park with a double whammy....a coveted 5-inch Santoku Wustof and a new W-S apron in red! While I have not used either yet (I am sorta weird in that I like to break in my new gifts slowly), I know both will receive lots and lots of use. And, finally, a cherry on top:

The DVD of Crazy Stupid Love. Which I crazy, stupid loved. I cannot wait to watch it again. It was a pretty perfect Christmas all around. I loved all my gifts, and loved spending time with my family. And I have loved having this week off work. Now, I am off to go do some more organizing. Kitchen cabinets and laundry room, here I come! Later tater! B.

PS, Pepsi also would like me to give a shout out to her aunt (my sis) and Grammy (my moms) for their kind "donations" to her health care fund. She wants all to know she is feeling better, but is terribly put-out and freakin' pissed that I keep following her around with my sis' camera, as you can see from the photo below where she is giving me the "STEP OFF, BITCH OR I WILL CUT YOU!" stare.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Downey and Dirty

Okay, peeps, that title isn't totally apt, but you know how much I love alliteration so let's go with it. As I noted in my last post, I took this week off with the sole intent of 1) cleaning up Casa Bunny a little and 2) relaxing as much as possible. So far, I have achieved a little of both, but not as much as I would have liked.

It was a rainy day in the G of A Tuesday, so it was a great day to accomplish some chores around the house. While I was out and about Monday, I went and purchased several organizing tools, so I started early and worked in my master bedroom, master bath, and living room before lunch. Not much needed to be done in these areas...just general straightening and tossing out the mammoth pile of magazines which had been accumulating beside my bed since early fall. Seriously, I don't know why I keep subscribing to so many magazines because I rarely have time to go through them and am bad to hold onto them way too long. As you can guess, many are cooking related so I feel compelled to keep them in case I am missing some awesome recipe that will change my life forever. Then I realized I could probably find most of the recipes online. So all are gone to recycling now!

My big chore for these areas was getting a hold on the equally ridiculous pile of freakin' reusable shopping bags which had taken over our entry closet. I have one...or 10...for every store...CVS, Publix, WalMart, Trader Joes's, IKEA. And I think they were breeding in there. My solution?

A giant plastic tub where I "filed" them "standing up." Much better. No pulling out the ones you need and the rest all falling over. The sorter on the left I already had. It holds scarves, gloves, hats and sunglasses. After I finished with this chore, I took a 2-hour nap (the relaxation part of my day!) and then started on the kitchen.

Like most folks, I have way too many food storage containers and, again, I think they were breeding. So I went through and threw out everything that did not have a lid or was grossly stained (or kept them for cleaning/painting/non-food storage). Here is the cabinet after:

The top left are my muffin pans, cookie sheets and cast iron skillets in a slotted organizer. SO much better. I had seen this trick on many organizing blogs. (Please don't judge me on my crusty dishes! I also was too ashamed  neglected to take a "before" photo.) Top right is the overall view...not perfect but at least neatly stacked. The bottom is my newly sorted plasticware which I placed in wire baskets to avoid tumbling over everywhere, which I think is fabulous. Obviously, I lead a sad, sad life if organized plasticware is the highlight of my week, but it is. So, yes, sad. Next, I tackled the pots.

The left is BEFORE...a huge stack of pots and skillets that threatened to topple out each time I opened the door. And I was scratching the HELL out of my pans. Let's not even comment about the disaster on the top shelf. The right is AFTER....not perfect, but again, much better. The top shelf of bakeware and pot lids is MUCH better. The corner organizers allow you to "stack" your pans in individual slots so you don't have to pull every single freakin' one out to get to the one you want. However, my progress was impeded by this:

Many of my larger skillets have this little handle thingy on the end. Which takes up about 1.5 inches of cabinet space. Guess it is for hanging (?!?) but it was major nuisance when it came to fitting all in the cabinet. As you can see from the AFTER photo, I had to put the rack in at an angle to accommodate this little stupid thing.

Yesterday, the hubs was off and wanted to do something "fun" so we decided to go see the new Sherlock Holmes movie, #2, A Game of Shadows:

Hubs and I agreed not as good as the first...a bit darker, no naked RDJ...but a solid B+ for me. Lots of action. Then, we came home and, you guessed it, napped. We are both just so mentally and physically exhausted after the past month/holiday. Last night, we indulged in dinner out with friends and came home to watch Love Actually, which is always a holiday favorite we watch every year.

Today, I had to drive into the ATL to get the mop cut and colored again; tomorrow and the weekend I anticipate tackling organizing the guest bedroom and den/office which are in BAD shape and will require more than one weekend, but I hope to get a start anyway. Think piles of papers, receipts and books. And photos. And general crap. Oy. I am just where I am ready to get some of the shizz OUT OF MY HOUSE. If I could hire a pro to come in and do it, I would. I seriously considering bartering with a pro organizer, but decided I would not go there...yet.

Hope you are all having a great week! I will be posting a 2011 wrap-up sometime this weekend, so tune back in. XO, Bun.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Those Damn Lighted Vases and Such

Hello, peeps! I hope you all had a marvelous holiday. Mine was good and what is even BETTER is that I am on vacay this week! YEAH! I have big plans for cleaning out my house and maybe also doing a little relaxing, as well. In the meantime, I thought I would do a quick post, which will be somewhat quicker than intended thanks to my sister who is apparently entering early stage dementia. First up, remember these?!!?

Just about every person who viewed my Home Holiday Tour post mentioned these vases. The two vases we purchased at Home Goods, the T.J. Maxx home store. I think the purple one was around $10 and the green one was around $15?? Anyhoodle, my hubs put the lights in them last year and, trust me, there is nothing special or unique in the technique. Let me show you.

See? Just a few strands of cheap white lights dropped down in the vase with the cord running out the top and down the back. Same for the green one:

The GOOD thing, as you can see from this pic, is that the vases are strategically placed VERY VERY near an outlet so they plug right in with no extra cords. The weight of the plug pulls down the cord so it stays down and out of sight. I have realized, however, from these photos that I think we should put MORE lights in the green vase, maybe fill it halfway up?? I think we will try it and see how it looks. We actually keep these lights in year-round now we like them so much. Nice "mood" lighting.

I also will mention that Santa was very good to me. I received a Williams-Sonoma gift card that is already burning a hole in my pocket, some jewelry, and even a little money from my family for Pepsi's vet bills (they usually buy my furkids a little treat or toy but this year gave monetary donations instead which were VERY appreciated!). However, I have no photos to share right now because my sister, who I dearly love, lent me her Canon SLR to bring home so I could snap some photos of Pepsi for the memories. I also snapped some holiday photos around the house. Including prezzies. Which are still on the camera. Because my sister forgot to give me the download cord. Bah!

What I can share, however, is that I went to the Williams-Sonoma outlet today (which is, blessedly and very badly, 15 minutes from my home) and scored a few little treats:

All the W-S spices they had were 50% off as were their dish towels which are the BEST. With my $10 coupon, I only spent $10. HAPPY. I was hoping to run up on a fabulous deal to use my GC on, but, alas, none were to be found, so I am back to my original desire:

The Le Creuset Covered Baker. If you remember, it WAS on my 12 Days of Williams-Sonoma list. I could basically get it for (almost) free with my gift card. Hmmmm. I will think it over a few more days while the card sizzles in my pocket.

Well, peeps, I am signing off now. I will try to be back soon with reports on how my organizing is going and possible photos of prezzies. Have a good one! B.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Wishes from Casa Bunny

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Joyous Kwanzaa to all my peeps out there in the blogsphere. This morning at Casa Bunny, there are a ton of things to be to be cleaned for in-laws tomorrow, presents to be wrapped for celebration with my fams later today, baking, etc.....but here I am, wasting time wishing all my virtual friends a happy holiday.

I would be lying if I said this holiday season has not had its share of woe. It started off for me with a miserable, awful, kick-my-ass case of bronchitis at Thanksgiving (and, yes, I am still coughing, thank you very much). We also have had furkid woes, from finding out that Pepsi is in her last days and this Christmas will be her last with us because of a bad spleen to Roxie being "impacted" and having to have a doggie enema. Between the human and furry ailments, our financials have taken a huge hit, which isn't very joyous since we are trying to save for a down payment on a new car.

But even with the crap that has been hurled our way, I still tried to make the season least for others. I sponsored Christmas gifts, above and beyond my regular monthly contribution, for my two Kenyan children (shown below) through Compassion International.

I also sponsored a sleepytime bag for a homeless child through Project Night Night. And I joined a legion of Happy Hookers over at Rants from Mommyland for their Grand Hooker Experiment. Those wonderful ladies paired hookers in need with hookers who wanted to help and, as a result, WalMart and Target and a host of other gifty cards were flying all over the continent between hookers.

The ladies at Rants from Mommyland also inspired me to help a hooker at home....a co-worker who barely makes minimum wage and has three kids under 12. She had been unemployed for a long time and, after she got her job with us, her husband lost his job. They only have one car, so he has to bring her to work, and she has very few work-appropriate clothes. And is in need of dental help. Badly.

So I called up my skinny hooker friends (because I am NOT and my co-worker IS) and gathered up three bags of clothes for her, and then one of my skinny hooker friends wanted to donate some money, so I matched her money and we got co-worker a $50 WalMart gift card, too. For food or toys for her kids or whatever she needs. And I bought her a few clothes off the clearance rack at WalMart. And I was able to deliver it all anonymously. But she figured out it was me (though I thoroughly denied it!) and cried and hugged me. It was good to know I made someone's day, and holiday, a little happier.

I would have loved to have done more this season if we had not had such a financial drain, but as I saw in a great article this morning about people paying off other folk's KMart layaways, "You know, 50 bucks may not sound like a lot, but I tell you what, at the right time, it may as well be a million dollars for some people." It's so true. (BTW, if you want to read that story, it is HERE prepared to ugly cry).

I have been thinking that maybe in the new year, my resolution will be to help at least one person or charity each month, in addition to my regular charitable contributions to Compassion and the shelter where I work. Each month I could anonymously brighten someone else's life....or a few people. Sponsor an adoption at the shelter. Give gift cards to random people who need help. Because they can say the economy is recovering, but they lie. Not a political statement, because I have come to believe all politicians lie, but because there are still LOTS of people struggling and suffering. Because even though I was unemployed for a year, I was and am still blessed beyond belief with more than I need.

I encourage all my friends in blogland to do the same. And it doesn't have to be money. Gifts of time are equally welcome by most non-profits. I know we could NOT do our work at the shelter without the help of our 200+ volunteers. I think if we are going to see our country turn around, we are going to have to do it ourselves, at home, helping each other. And, besides, it will make you feel good, too.

On that note, I hope each and every one of you have a happy, restful and drama-free holiday. I will be back next week with more posts including one on how to make those beloved lighted jars all flipped for on my holiday home tour. Peace and blessings, Bunny.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Homes Tour 2011

Welcome to bunnygoround! I hope you enjoy the photos of Casa Bunny all decked out for the holidays. Yes, we do lots of decorations. No, it doesn't take all that long to put up (we do it in stages). No, we do not have rug rats. Yes, we do have furkids. No, they do not bother any of the decor. And, again, yes, we have lots of decorations. Thanks for stopping by and have a Merry Christmas!

Our front stoop

The bench inside our front moms provided the sleigh, I am in love with the lantern

Balls in my Grandmother's antique glass basket...this is the "elegant" part of the tour

Living room bookcase decked out in angels

Colored vases with Christmas lights

Our grove of trees off the living room....three cheap trees
draped in hundreds of lights and glass ornaments

My collection of Lang snowman....all three of them

Dining table centerpiece...more lanterns and Byer's Choice carolers

Our new hutch with our Christmas china and a few of the hub's Santas

The decor at the top of the kitchen cabinets...what more do you really need but lights and balls??!

The ledge above the kitchen sink

The wreath my hub's made hanging on his antique sled

The dresser off our sitting area....stockings on the front for our furkids

Detail of the top of the dresser....a collage of Christmas goodness

The small display in our guest bedroom....yes, people give me lots of bunnies

Our office shelf....Radko figurines, garland and balls

More Byer's Choice carolers

The chair shelves in our bedroom....this starts the "whimsical/fun" part of the tour

Details of the vignettes...blocks, beads and House of Hatten Santas
Santas and snowmen in bedroom

Detail of Santas and snowmen

Folk angels in bedroom

Two small trees in bedroom....these are our "fun" trees

The door on our deck with artificial wreaths decked out on fresh greenery

Every year we say we are going to "scale back" but we never do. We both love Christmas. My hubs, who is working and in school full time, said no decorations this year. I couldn't do NO decorations, but we couldn't agree on how much was enough so we wound up doing it all; however, not much changed from last year...we simply recreated very similar decor and didn't try to get all fancy with new set-ups. I have come to believe that the best Christmas decor is little touches all around the house woven in with your "everyday" decor. Balls and garland here, a snowman or Santa there.

We actually did not photograph everything but this is 90% of it. I do apologize for my lack of photography skills and sucky camera for night/lights shots. And thanks to Jen on the Edge for inviting me to be a part of Holiday Home Tour 2012. Again, may you all have a blessed, happy and (fairly) drama-free holiday season, and I hope you will visit bunnygoround after the season, as well!