Road Trip: Shenandoah National Park

We just got back from three nights in the Shenandoah National Park, home of the famous Skyline Drive, and the second oldest national park on the east coast (Acadia is the oldest).  We went out there years ago for a hike or two but never to stay. In fact, I always thought camping was the only option and I am not a camper. But my sister-in-law did some research and found the Skyland Resort - real rooms with showers and even air conditioning!  I was sold. You can see the resort in this picture nestled into the side of the mountain.

It did cross my mind that there might not be enough to do for a 5 year old and a 2 year old since there is no swimming at the resort (you have to go to Luray) but I figured we could always bring games and toys and the kids would be fine. I was also determined to be as electronics-free as possible. I left my blackberry in the car the entire time!!  Of course having my brother-in-law and his family (including his 3 awesome kids) along  was probably enough entertainment! Fortunately it all worked out just fine.

We did 3 great hikes using the book Shenandoah Scavenger Hike Adventures. Can't say enough good things about this book if you are hiking with kids - or even without. We learned so much about the history of the park, the views, and wildlife. I love that we'll be able to grow with the book and do some of the longer hikes when my kids get older. I loved that each of the hikes we did had a destination. We did the 2 highest peaks - Hawksbill and Stony Man.

We hiked to Rapidan Camp which was built by President Hoover in 1929. President Hoover was an avid fisherman and outdoor enthusiast. The Park still maintains several of the original buildings. Here we are in front of the Brown House that the Hoovers built for their own use.

Perhaps the best part is that it is 15-20 degrees cooler there than in Washington DC. So it was 104 here in DC last weekend and it was only in the mid to upper 80s in the Park!

Shenandoah is only 2 hours from Washington, D.C. so it's an easy weekend trip. There are a few side trips you can make including Luray Caverns, Arrowhead Lake (swimming and fishing), and the Shenandoah River (tubing, kayaking, etc.). We visited Luray Caverns on Saturday before heading into the Park. Definitely worth a couple of hours!

And of course, it's hard to get over the awesome sunsets!

We'll definitely be going back and we've already told a bunch of friends to go - it's hard to beat the convenience!

I recently caught the travel bug again. Perhaps spurred by Alex turning 2 and being generally a really easy kid, and Elizabeth being 5 and absolutely awesome to be around (not biased at all though!).  I have a whole bunch of trips in the works so stayed tuned!!


House Tour Room-by-Room Link-up Party: Mud Rooms

I'm working on a whole bunch of projects which I hope to share later this week. I've been a lazy blogger this month so bear with me!

One thing we didn't get in our renovation was a true mudroom. We have what I like to call a mud area near our side door which connects to the driveway.  But, this does work for us. 

I have some ideas on how to improve this area but the space is limited. The kids use the steps to put their boots on and off. Fortunately they really only play in the snow less than 10 days per year (2009-2010 excepted) thanks to the mild Virginia winters. 

We also have another area outside of our half bath which is a secondary area for dropping things. We have a small coat closet there which keeps my coat collection in check - no hangers, no new coats!

So, make me jealous and show me your awesome mudrooms, but I also want to see where you got creative and made a mud area where there wasn't one before. Can't wait to get some inspiration for my areas! Don't forget to link up or grab a button below!

HOUSEography House Tour Link Party


DC Casting Call for HGTV'd!!

Hey D.C.-area readers!  HGTV is doing a Washington, DC area casting call for its hit show - HGTV'd!!!  All of the info is below so check it out if you're interested.

Are you a passionate fan of HGTV?!?  Do you longingly watch each HGTV show secretly fantasizing that one day HGTV will come to your home and create a truly amazing space? 
Have you always said “I wish they could come do that to MY house!”

HGTV Fans - Your wait is over……..HGTV’d is coming to the Washington, DC-area to create a one-of-a-kind room just for you!!!  

WANT YOUR ROOM HGTV’d?  Are you up for it?!?HGTV’d is the hot new prime-time series which airs on HGTV on Mondays at 9pm/8c. HGTV’d will provide lucky homeowners with the opportunity to experience the fantasy room that they have always dreamt about, tailored specifically to your needs, by a top HGTV star!      

We are looking to renovate rooms where “WHERE FUN HAPPENS” .....Home Theaters, Family Rooms, Great Rooms, Large Master Bedrooms, Multi-purpose spaces, Rec rooms, Garage/multi-purpose space, etc.. If you’re a fun, upbeat and outgoing family/person, we’d love to hear from you NOW!   Please send an email to tkscasting@yahoo.com and tell us why you deserve to be HGTV’d.  Please include your email address so we can send you a questionnaire.  


*Homeowners only.  Sorry, but walls cannot be broken, rooms cannot be enlarged or moved

Let me know if you submit your project!


House Tour Room-by-Room Link-up Party: Play Rooms, Rec Rooms, Lofts & Bonus Rooms

I've lost count on what week we're in and I too need to check the schedule when writing these posts. Hopefully everyone hasn't disappeared for vacation! This week we're talking rec rooms, play rooms, lofts, and bonus rooms. Here are a few new shots of our basement rec room. This are is affectionately referred to as "downstairs" by my 2 year old since most of his big (and favorite) toys reside here.  As a result, our space often looks like this as you enter.

I'm not sure I've ever shown either view of this room. Probably for good reason. This is our furniture graveyard where furniture goes to finish its life. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to clean up this space thanks to the awesome built-ins that Handy Hubby finished up earlier this year (more about those here)

Here's how the space looked after 10 minutes of much-needed toy put-away time. Honestly, I don't mind seeing the toys because this is the rec room.
I hope to change the hodge podge feeling over the next year or so by moving the red chairs out and some blue chairs in. I want this room to have a beach feeling although without being kitschy beach. Of course all of that will take a lot of furniture moving up and down the stairs which may require lots of begging for Handy Hubby to find a friend to help out.  At this point, I'm planning to make these moves next winter. Hopefully. The couch will likely stay and the coffee table is actually my grandmother's cedar trunk. It needs some work but it will work in the space I hope.

p.s. In case you are curious about the toy train set, it's Fisher Price GeoTrax and any 2-6 year old boy or girl would LOVE it.

Your turn! Please don't forget to link back here or add my button below.

HOUSEography House Tour Link Party


Now go clean something...

I wasn't going to post today. Really, I wasn't. But, here I am.

Something was irking me. If you've been around here a while you know that I love trays. I have them everywhere (and plans for more). Unfortunately, the kitchen tray has become a dumping ground for all sorts of stuff. Everything from lollipops to bottles of bubbles from various birthday parties.

Yikes. On the plus side, at least it was contained in one place. Sort of. Sadly, it has looked like this since May. I know that because several of these items were from Alex's birthday.

So, I cleaned everything and it PUT IT BACK WHERE IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE FIRST PLACE. (emphasis absolutely necessary)

Now here's the challenge. Go and clean something up, put something away, or reorganize something that has been bugging you for a while, and do it in 5 minutes or less. Let me know what you did in the comments. You'll feel AWESOME, and you won't even have to go to Starbucks to achieve that high!

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Summer Block Party - 4th of July

We hosted a large neighborhood block party on the 4th of July so I thought I would share some details both for my own future reference and for anyone else who might be planning one in their own neighborhood later this summer. First off, I think everyone had a fantastic time. We have a very tight knit neighborhood but we met a lot of neighbors we had never met before. I should mention that our overall goal is to keep the price very reasonable (about $30 per family) but still have great food and loads of fun for 100+ neighbors.

We started planning about 6 weeks before by lining up our BBQ caterer (Bootheel Catering if you are in Northern Virginia).  This is the key to everyone having a great time. We have them drop off the food an hour or two before the start time with instructions for keeping things hot that need to be hot. Once we worked out the pricing, I sent an Evite to every neighbor who I had an email address for. I made this invitation for those I didn't have emails for and my neighbor and I dropped them off to those neighbors.



This is the first year we did the parade and it was a huge hit with the kids (and the adults). The adults that don't have young kids were the spectators and cheered the kids on which was really wonderful to see.  The kids had a blast decorating their scooters and bikes. Here are my 2 cuties ready to roll.

Next year we'll get a police escort for the parade which I think will make it even more special for the kids, and it doesn't cost a dime.  We had the next best thing this year which was a neighbor with a convertible and some patriotic rock 'n roll!

At the end of the parade, we had the street blocked off by the County. It allowed us to let the kids run free without worrying about cars coming through. Our street is not very wide but it's enough space for the kids to play and for the adults to enjoy themselves a bit more. We decorated the barrels with balloons to make it more festive and the barrels more noticeable. 

After some chips and salsa, and some fantastic homemade onion dip with chips, we brought out hot dogs for the kids and catered BBQ for the adults. Everyone dug in like they had never eaten before!! No pictures of that because everyone's fingers were sticky with BBQ sauce!

Here are my easy table decorations. $2 centerpiece decorations from the party store taped to the top of two sand buckets which we already owned!!

The kids spent a lot of time playing in the street, front yards, and backyard play sets while the adults enjoyed the dinner. We set up water tables, cornhole games (custom made by Handy Hubby), and soccer. Sidewalk chalk and some driveway toys rounded out the pre-fireworks entertainment.

The adults enjoyed some pie from our first annual pie bake-off which was tremendous fun. We had 14 pie entries which spanned the entire scope of pies. I did a not so great fruit pie and a yummy s'mores pie (recipe here and pictured below left side, third from the top).  
Finally we had some fireworks. Fireworks are legal in our county (but not everywhere in Virginia) so this was a legal event!! It was not dark yet because rain was threatening and some people were headed downtown to see the big Washington, D.C. display. Also the little ones were on the verge of meltdown so we got the show on the road early!!
The kids love it but I think the dads loved it just as much!

It was a really fun evening for everyone and we are already talking about how to improve on it next year. Overall, I don't think we'll change much because everyone had a great time. One of the best parts for me was talking to a whole bunch of new neighbors and now we wave and talk during walks around the block which is always fun.

Any block party tips?  Feel free to link up any block party posts in the comments because I would love to get some ideas for next year's event!  Bonus points for free and easy ideas.

Photos courtesy of Meghan Keller


House Tour Room-by-Room Link-up Party: Garage

Well, not the most exciting of the link-up parties but we are down to the garage. We have a nice little garage which is made to fit a car but which will probably never house a car since it's really a big shed. I would love to get the car in there on occasion just not sure it will ever happen!

We had to tear down our old garage as part of our renovation (basically, the addition could not be within 8 feet of the garage). It would have been too limiting to keep it so we took it down. We wanted a really cute garage which fit the style of our home and looked a bit more like a carriage house than a standard garage.

The brick around the foundation was actually the brick from the old garage which was original to the house. The foundation really helps tie it into the house which also has a brick foundation. We chose the carriage style doors but we really should get the extra hinge hardware. Add that to the list...

We are always reorganizing and we are planning yet another reorganization shortly. Just need to buy some bike hangers and I think we'll have what we need. Generally I love organization projects but this one is overwhelming and the weather hasn't really been cooperating.

Here it is on a good day.

Usually it looks much, much worse with many more bikes thrown around.

Here is my favorite view of our garage.

I'm not going to think about how many times we'll replace the glass in those windows over the years!

Let's see those garages - inside, outside, or both! I could really use some organization inspiration!! Please link back to my blog or use the button below in your post. Thanks!!

HOUSEography House Tour Link Party


{Yet another} Couch Update

Yet another update on my family room couch. I recently purchased a slipcover for my sofa (more about that here).

My slipcover came with matching off-white denim throw pillow covers. Honestly, I hadn't even thought about that because I don't use the pillows that came with sofa so I never thought that I would get another set of covers with the slipcover. Total bonus. But totally plain and a little boring.

Our winter pillows are monogrammed chocolate velvet which are cozy and adorable.
So, I asked my favorite ladies at A Needle Pulling Thread and they hooked me up with some embroidery for $12 per pillow. Now they look like this...

I think they came out really well - lighthearted and fun for spring and summer. In the fall, I'll take the slipcover off again and put the velvet pillow covers back on. Fortunately, that's still several months, and lots of summer fun, away. I love having a transformable couch which I love with or without the slipcover!!

Have you had anything monogrammed lately?


Quick fix for an ugly problem

We had an ugly little problem which detracted from our home's curb appeal. Most people probably didn't notice it but I noticed it every time I pulled in the driveway or went out on the front porch. It was this...
Can you see it?  Here's the close-up.
It's actually a pipe connected to our basement sump pump which pumps the water out to the street. It's ugly. And white. Which is not a nice contrast with dark brick.

I was tired of it. So, I picked up a can of this -

available here
Of course I didn't want to spray the surrounding brick so I rigged up a shield with an old box which was headed for the recycling anyway.

I also taped off around where the pipe goes into the house so the brick there wouldn't get too much over spray. Sorry, I forgot to photograph that part. And apologies for the darkness of these pictures. I did this at about 8 p.m. last night when the temperature finally dipped below 90 as recommended on the paint can.

And now we have this...
So much better and I won't think about how ugly it is every time I pull into the driveway. We have a few other pipes for our downspouts in back which I may give the same treatment so they blend in a bit more. Unfortunately the plastic paint doesn't come in tons of colors so it's harder to find a good match to the dark green-brown siding. Brown/espresso may be the best option because it at least blends with our brick foundation (which goes all the way around) and mulch.

Did you do any quick fix projects this weekend?

Linking to -


House Tour Room-by-Room Link-up Party: Landscaping

The Room-by-Room House Tour is back with yards and landscaping! Basically, we all want to see your outdoor rooms! We love entertaining in our back yard. We don't eat out there that often unless  We have worked really hard on our landscaping over the past 2 years since everything that was there before was pretty much destroyed or moved during the renovation. Honestly there wasn't much there before the renovation so there wasn't that much to kill!  Still loads to do but we've come a long way!

If you were coming to our house for a party, you would probably come through this gate into the back yard.

Here's the patio. I am really excited about our landscaping filling in. The solar lights are probably going to go this year. They just aren't holding up the way I would like although I like the effect.

Building some sort of cover for the air handlers is on the to-do list. The hydrangeas have really taken off this year.

Then there's the yard itself which is dominated by our play set. We still need to do some work on the grass and we're considering a sprinkler system.
The biggest changes under way in our yard is actually our neighbors' new garage. Here's how it looked as of late last week!

It's big and close but it will provide some great privacy. I'm really looking forward to the new fence and gate between our yards!

Your turn now! Can't wait to see your yards and landscaping projects!! Don't forget to link back to my blog or this page or grab the button below.

HOUSEography House Tour Link Party

Hope you had a great 4th of July! I think we're all still recovering from the block party but it was a fun day and evening!