Thursday, June 27, 2013

What We've Been Up To

Happy Thursday everyone! I am lucky enough to be enjoying a delicious cold iced caramel macchiato at a local coffee shop while enjoying the sunshine, from afar, inside in the air conditioning! It's super hot today! I hope you all have been staying cool--wherever you are!

So, the lack of posts lately is mainly because we have been so busy with working on our new table we have barely even been home! We spent the whole day on Saturday, a few hours Sunday morning, and a few hours Sunday night assembling the table top. Then we spent most nights this week, when it wasn't thunder storming, sanding the life out of it! Let me tell you, sanding is not for the faint of heart!

We started out sanding with a 120 grit sandpaper and realized, after sanding for what seemed like hours, that we were not making much progress. So, Frank looked up tutorials online and found a suggestion to use 7 levels of grit to progressively sand which will involved more work, but will reap better and faster results in the long run. So, back to the hardware store we went. 

We decided to try 4 levels rather than 7. We picked up 60, 80, we already have 120, and 180. We most likely will pick up a very fine grit to finish it off, probably around 800-900 as per a suggestion from a friend.

So, the sanding continues. I will be honest--it's frustrating and I have become more and more impatient with this step of the process. But, I keep reminding myself it will be worth it in the end to be 100% happy with our finished product. 

Here is what our table top looks like so far: 

It still needs a final cut to make sure the edges are exactly even and tons and tons of sanding to make sure that the top is perfectly level, especially around each joint between planks. 

After we complete the sanding process we'll be filling in the creases with wood filler and finishing with a nice stain. Stay tuned for the final reveal! Our hope is to finish sometime between this weekend and the weekend following that depending on how the weather holds up. I can't wait to show you the finished product!

Question of the Day: What is your favorite thing to do on a hot summer day?

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Power Tools

Hello everyone! I'm back! Sorry for the unexpected break--we had some family related things to take care of and took the opportunity to take a small break from blogging. Everyone is okay and we are back into our normal routine this week.

However, we do have some exciting news to share! We started a project that we have been itching to start since last summer. Since we live in an apartment, we needed to wait until it was nice outside so we could spend a few days at Frank's mom's house working on it. 

We are not quite finished with it, but I thought I'd give you a bit of a sneak peek! We are hoping to have it finished by some time next week (or earlier if we can manage it!). 

Any guesses? If you've checked out our Facebook page you've probably seen some snapshots as we began working on it this weekend....

Our dining room table is getting a giant make-over!

We bought this table from Craig's list last year for $100 as a set including 4 chairs. We loved the pedestal base, but we were not in love with the linoleum covered top. Looking underneath we figured it would be fairly easy to take apart and just replace the top. When we looked into prices for new table tops we were blown away! If you've ever looked into it before you know it's not cheap to buy a pre-cut table top. 

So, we decided to make one ourselves! We found a couple tutorials and planned out our own tweaks to make it the most affordable and manageable project for us. We decided to take off the top, make our own table top and while we're at it, we are going to re-paint the base and chairs. As you can see, the pedestal is gorgeous, but in rough shape. 

So, first Frank took the table apart so we were able to lug the two pieces to his Mom's house to get started. 

Then, we spent some time at Lowe's picking up all of the supplies we needed to get started! We spent most of the day on Saturday and several hours Sunday morning and Sunday night working on getting the table top glued, cut, and drilled together. This week we will be working on giving it a good sanding job, staining it and finishing the painting. 

Needless to say, we are very excited about this project and I can't wait to reveal what it looks like when it's finally finished! Plus, I learned how to use 3 different power tools for this project which makes me feel powerful! 

Question of the day: How did you spend your weekend? Work on any new projects lately?

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Good morning everyone! I hope you all had a beautiful weekend and an excellent Monday! I am just stopping by for a few minutes to let you all know that I will be MIA for a few days. I have some family-related things to attend to and will be taking the week off from blogging.

But! Please return in a few days for posts on some new projects we've been working on! I can't wait to show you all!

To stay updated on our latest projects, recipes and adventures you can:

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4. follow me on Pinterest! BrittanyDiBella @ La Vita DiBella

I will be back shortly! Have a great week!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Succulent Revival

Remember when I bought these gorgeous succulents in hopes that I would be able to keep them alive since they are noted to be almost impossible to kill? 

Yeah. My thumb is not green, it's grey. Grey as in my succulents are practically dead. As in I kill everything my thumb touches. Even succulents.

I started noticing a few weeks ago that they started appearing translucent. And then when I touched the "petals" they would easily fall off and crumble. I found out after researching a bit that I have been over watering them. The only way to fix it is to deprive them of water and leave them alone in hopes that the ruined "petals" will fall off but the plant will revive itself and continue to grow new "petals". I also learned from several people that it is important to use cactus soil, which I did, but also to use pebbles at the bottom of the pot to effectively drain the water to make sure the plant does not "drown". 

Here's what I did in attempt to save my succulents:

1.// I got two bags of pebbles from Michael's for $1.25 each. I only ended up using most of one bag, but I'll keep the other bag for other plants. I took out fresh cactus soil. I got it from Lowe's in the gardening section. It's called Cactus and Citrus Soil. 2.// I used a gardening trough to gently empty the potted succulent (into a plastic bag to eliminate the mess). 3.// I gently scraped the pot as clean as I could. 4.// I added a layer of pebbles to the bottom of the pot. 5.// Then, I added the succulents back into the pot and surrounded it with fresh soil. 6.// I added pebbles to the top as well, both for drainage and for looks. I also thought the pebbles might help support some of my scrawny-looking succulents. 

Needless to say, I will definitely NOT be watering these for at least two weeks or so. I am hoping that refreshing the soil and adding the pebbles will help them to recover. The really scrawny ones look like they still have little buds where "petals" could grow, so we will see what happens with them. I hope my succulents can be revived!

Question for you: Do you have succulents? Do you have any tips on how to keep them alive? I'd love your advice!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Clean Eating

In addition to my recent jump back onto the work-out wagon, Frank and I have been talking a lot about our food choices. From the first grocery shopping trip we went on being married we have been trying our best to eat as "clean" as possible. 

Clean eating means that you avoid all processed foods and fill your diet with whole, fresh foods instead. We have avoided buying frozen, pre-cooked foods aside from our black bean and veggie burgers, frozen fruit and the occasional  carton of ice cream. In our pantry we avoid things like crackers, cookies, and other dry snacks that are full of dyes, chemicals, and empty calories (calories that have no nutritional value). The only things we keep on hand in our pantry that aren't really clean is sometimes a box of crackers or pita chips for eating hummus, and the occasional bag of tortilla chips to eat with guacamole. Of course we've strayed at times from this diet. At times I've definitely picked up a bag of frozen chicken fingers for a quick dinner and I've definitely called Frank at work asking him to pick me up a package of Oreos on his way home when I'm craving chocolate...especially during high-stress exam seasons.

I've found that eating clean has not only helped us to feel healthier, but it actually shows when we do stray from our diet and eat something full of fat and chemicals our tummies usually get pretty angry at us. 

Eating clean also really helps our grocery budget. We only buy almond milk--no juice, no soda, no sugary drinks. Sometimes I'll pick up an iced tea mix if we know we're going to have company, but mainly we drink water, hot tea or almond milk. And by the way, cutting out cow's milk was one of the best things I did for my body and stomach. Also, have you noticed how expensive it is to buy a package of Oreos or Cheeze-its or any other snacky food? Expensive! For the same $3-4 you spend on those things you could be buying 2 packages of fresh vegetables, a package of chicken breast, or fresh snacks like cheese, apples or yogurt that will satisfy your hunger and also supply you with important nutrients.

Falafel Pita

Salmon with Avocado Salsa

By refusing to buy these extra things, Frank and I kept our monthly grocery budget at $300! Granted we are only two people, but that means in an average 4-week month we only spend $75 for groceries each week. Don't believe me? Try it! I challenge you. I put together a few things that helped Frank and I to "clean up" our kitchen. We don't eat 100% clean, but our goal is always to be as close to clean as possible.

**We are not certified dietitians and are only offering advice based on personal experience**

Clean up your Kitchen:
1. Take a look at your pantry and refrigerator and take a look at the nutrition labels of anything that's not a fresh veggie, fruit, or protein source. That means packaged foods, frozen foods (aside from fruits & veggies), and basically anything in a box or soup can. If there are ingredients that you don't understand, they're probably some kind of chemical. It's probably not "clean". 

2. If you're not ready to get rid of loads of food, start with one category at a time. Start with, say, snacks. Any type of snacky food that's not clean, dump it. Or start with your freezer and dump anything frozen and artificial like instant pizza, hot pockets, instant microwavable meals (even if they say they're weight watchers--they're not actually healthy if they're full of chemicals). If you're feeling motivated--dump it all!

3. Make a list of healthy alternatives for the things you threw away. Eating clean takes a bit more time and definitely more planning and energy, but it's totally worth it to feel much better and have more energy to spare! Here's an example of what our grocery list looks like. We don't get everything each week, but we use this as a template and circle whatever we need for the week. We try our best to meal plan which I also suggest as it prevents you from wasting your fresh foods or having to run out to the store again in the same week. We also try to buy things that are on sale and/or in season to cut down on costs as well. 

Grocery List                                                          

       Peaches                                                 Hummus                                 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
       Oranges                                                Salmon                                      Olive oil cooking spray
       Clementines                                            Shrimp                                   Balsamic vinegar
       Strawberries                                            Tilapia                                     Apple Cider vinegar
       Blueberries                                          Ground turkey                           White wine vinegar
       Blackberries                                        Chicken breast                                   Black Pepper
       Raspberries                                              Eggs                                           Sea Salt
       Apples                                                 Egg-whites                                     Organic Honey
       Grapes                                                                                                      Whole Wheat Flour
       Pears                                                        Dairy                                            Sugar
       Plums                                                   Almond milk
       Grapefruit                                           Fat free yogurt
       Lemons                                          Fat free Greek yogurt                                Grains
       Limes                                               Mozzerella cheese                            Whole Grain Pasta
       Bananas                                   Shredded Mexican blend cheese                Whole Grain Tortillas
       Avocados                                               Ricotta                                         Whole Grain Bread
       Broccoli                                                   Feta                                           Steel Cut Oats
       Asparagus                                                                                                      Quinoa
       Lettuce                                                                                                            Barley
       Baby spinach                                        Frozen                                             Brown Rice
       Baby carrots                                      Vegetables                                          Wild Rice
       Bell peppers                                          Berries
       Cucumber                                       Vegan burgers
       Celery                                           Black bean burgers                              Snacks/other
       Mushrooms                                    sweet potato fries                                     nuts
       Red onions                                                                                                  dried fruit
       Red potatoes                                                                                              pop-corn
       Baking potatoes                            Canned Goods                                       green tea
       Sweet potatoes                            Tuna (white chunk)                                      seeds
       Brussels sprouts                             Garbanzo beans                                    coconut
       Vine tomatoes                                  Black beans                                       dark chocolate
       Grape tomatoes                     Low Sodium Chicken Broth
       Parsley                                                 Olives

Here are two books that really helped me. You can find them on amazon if you just click the images below. Both give recipe suggestions and explain "clean eating" far better than I ever could. 


I challenge you to take even small steps to eat cleaner! It really has helped Frank and I. We aren't nearly as strict as the women who wrote both of these books and we have taken a realistic approach. When we are at other's houses or when we're out at a restaurant we relax. When we're having a crazy hectic week, we may cut some corners with meals. Kris Carr and  Tosca Reno would probably wag their fingers at us, but right now, that's what we're able to do. Mainly our goal is to eat as clean as possible. Kris Carr from the Crazy Sexy Diet suggests aiming for an 80-20 diet. 80% clean, 20% not clean. We probably do more of a 60%-40% most weeks, but our ultimate goal is always to do as much as we can. 

Question of the Day: Do you eat clean? Are you willing to challenge yourself to eat cleaner in even one area of your diet?

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wednesday Wish List: Entryway

Today we're going to talk about entryways. One of the things I love about our apartment is that we actually have a small entryway (more like a hallway) instead of most apartments that open right up into living space.

Entryways are the first thing you see when you walk through the door and the first part of your home a guest sees when coming to visit. This makes entryways important and you'll want to decorate yours with bright and cozy items to welcome anyone to your home.

For now, our entryway is pretty empty aside from a great shelf we got as a gift for our wedding from my cousin and his girlfriend.

Here it is decorated for Christmas:

To the left there is an entrance to our kitchen and the door adorned with Christmas cards is our pantry.

Although it is definitely small, there's certainly room for a great bench or very slim table. I've been loving the great ideas for entryways I've found on Pinterest filled with many things on my wish list!

Entryway Wish List:
{click on pictures to view the image source}

There are so many things I absolutely love about the first picture. The gorgeous color of the piece, its versatility (as coat rack, statement and storage space), and how compact it is. If you don't have a piece like this, you could easily create the look of it by adding a mirror below or above a peg board or shelf and a bench or small table below it.

I also want to point out just how much I adore the basket on the bottom shelf that could easily hold winter hats/scarves in the Winter, flip-flops and towels in the summer, or even umbrellas.

A large basket and either a narrow table or narrow bench are both on my wish list for our hallway.

This table is too big for my space, but I love the industrial look mixed with natural pieces. I also love the idea of bringing a lamp into an entryway, if you can. Many entryways have overhead lights, but a lamp brings warmth and almost transforms the space into another room.

More artwork and something industrial-looking is definitely on my wish list for our hallway. 

One thing I have been pining for is an umbrella holder. I never seem to see them in stores, but I guess you could technically get creative using any large ceramic vase, basket or galvanized bucket.

I am definitely going to be on the look-out for an umbrella holder for our entryway. 

Entryways can also be accessorized just like any other room. Tables and shelves are great for this, but you can also hang artwork or display baskets. 

Question of the Day: Do you have an entryway? What do you display in yours?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Pretty Walk

I have a confession to make. Yep, I haven't been doing the best in the fitness department. Frank was actually make fun of me saying that I sounded so motivated a few weeks ago yet he hasn't seen any action. It's sad but true.

So, I'm not sure if I shared this fully, but basically I'm in the process of going to several doctors to find out why my heart rate sky rockets when I do so much as walk on an incline or jog at a 5.5-6.0 speed on a treadmill. It's honestly been happening to me since I was in 6th grade and I was always told that I had exercise induced asthma. Frank and I began going to new doctors since we moved in the area and this guy was not satisfied with that diagnosis and wanted to find out what exactly was preventing me from running. 

To be honest, it's a relief that someone is finally taking this issue seriously when for years I've felt there was something wrong and nobody seemed to get it.

Well...we're on the third month now of trying to figure this out and until I see a cardiologist I'm not supposed to be straining myself (i.e., no running). Bummer. I think I've sort of taken this news as an excuse. And I did say, No Excuses! So, this week, after Frank totally called me out, I decided that taking walks and getting back into yoga has to happen. And it did.

Frank and I took a nice walk into the main area of Bordentown, past a pretty park, and down the the boat launch area where the trail continues over a bridge beside the railroad tracks. It was probably at least a 2 mile walk and felt great once we got home! We decided to try to do this weekly and possibly bi-weekly in addition to me walking at the gym again. I also did yoga two times this week--yay! It felt great. It's definitely a challenging work-out and I'm feeling it today! It feels good to finally push myself and to know that even if I may not be able to run, I shouldn't let that stop me from doing other types of work-outs.

Question of the Day: What do you do for work-outs? Do you have a favorite place to run or walk?

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Our Living Room Gallery Wall

I can't even adequately express how excited I am about this post! On Friday, after Frank and I celebrated our 1-year wedding anniversary in Princeton, we came home and worked on a project I've been wanting to do for what seems like months! I've had the frames laying on the floor in different patterns waiting for pictures and a time to put them up. On Friday afternoon I finally had the chance to have the pictures printed that we had selected and I couldn't wait to have Frank help me put them all up.

This picture above is how we originally planned the gallery to look. And then, we found a large picture of a famous lighthouse during a hurricane that Frank had in his room as a kid. It's something special that we've been wanting to use someplace and it dawned on us at the last minute that it would totally add great impact being so large. 

So, first we laid out the pictures on the floor the way we wanted them and did a lot of math to measure all the distances. First I measured the width of the couch and the width of the gallery we set up. I figured out the middle of both and decided to figure out the biggest picture's placement first to work around it for the rest.

I worked it all out on a piece of paper first. Clearly I am no mathematician and definitely used a calculator. And as you'll notice, it was definitely 9:30 when we started this project. The whole thing took us about 45 minutes to complete. 

After we figured out the measurements, we made pencil marks on the wall as borderlines for our gallery. We started with the biggest picture first. Since it was the heaviest, we used screws to hang it. Then, we added the two smaller pictures beneath it. For those we used command strips. The instructions on the package says you only need one set per frame, but since they'll be above our heads when sitting on the couch we played it safe and used two sets for each frame. 

Then, we put the next largest picture, which we used four sets of command strips to hold up, at the bottom right. We made sure it lined up with the outer edge of the gallery wall we previously measured and centered it making sure to line up with the bottom of the white photo on the bottom left corner. Then, we added the last two frames, each with two sets of command strips, to the top and stepped back to admire our work!

It was definitely worth the wait, all the measuring and leveling! I love the way it fills up what once was a large empty white wall. I'm also so happy we found that large lighthouse picture. It really balances the whole gallery well and fills up so much more space than it would have otherwise. There's also still room on either side for us to add to the gallery if we collect more pictures over time. I just love the way it looks!

So, what do you think? Doesn't it totally bring in the blues of the pillows and color scheme I selected? Plus, we went with an ocean theme with a few photos we took on vacations and one of our wedding photos on a bridge. It's meaningful and adds an extra finished, cozy feel to the space. I'm in love.

Question of the day: Do you have a gallery wall in your home? If not, would you ever create one?

Friday, June 7, 2013

What I Learned about Marriage...

This time last year I was scurrying around my parents' house packing for a weekend I would never, ever forget. I was checking to make sure I had everything I needed before I had to drive out to Spring Lake, NJ with my family to prepare for the rehearsal dinner.

I remember the crazy butterflies flapping around in my stomach, the anticipation of our special day, and the nervousness of making sure everything was in line and ready for the wedding festivities we had been planning for 18 months. Luckily, the weather was gorgeous both for the rehearsal dinner and for our wedding day, unlike today which is cold, gross and wet!

Me and Lauren (my matron of honor) at the Breakers dropping off centerpieces and last minute details.
Me and my Bridesmaids (L to R): Lauren, Holly, Megan (my sister), Me, Jess

Siblings-in-Law! (R to L): Megan, Frank, Me and Bobby (my Brother-in-Law)

You would never know from looking at these pictures, and I know the week before the wedding is hectic, stressful, and emotional for almost every couple, but Frank and I had a very scary, very emotional, and very special experience leading up to this day last year. 

He was in the hospital for 5 days before our rehearsal dinner.

Talk about stress! Frank had been living in my grandparent's home taking care of the lawn. Well, he must have mowed over some pretty potent poison oak which ended up spreading from a little patch on his ankle to both legs up to his knees and both arms. He was swollen, red, in pain, and quarantined in the hospital since when he was admitted, not one doctor in the hospital was sure what he had. He even had residents coming to his bed side with cameras checking out his welts since they had never seen anything like it before.

We were both terrified.

We didn't know what he had, when he would be released, or what was going to happen. I visited him everyday and never wanted to leave. Since he was quarantined, we couldn't even hold hands. I had to wear a gown and gloves whenever I was in his room and nurses were telling me that he'd either be in a wheel chair on our wedding day or we'd be getting married in his hospital room.

Although I think we can both say it was one of the most difficult 5 days of our lives, it was such a precious glimpse of what true love really means. It put the "in sickness and in health" part of the marriage vows into perspective and really tested our ability to trust in God and to love one another through even the really bad times. I remember driving home each night crying desperately and just praying until I fell asleep at night that God would miraculously heal Frank and 

everything would be fine.

Frank and I would pray in his hospital room and try to make light of things, but most importantly it helped us to really bond, to recognize how ready we truly were to give our entire lives to one another, and I believe God used that time to make our wedding day just that much more meaningful to both of us. 

Courtesy of Kara Loomis Photography

The day of our wedding Frank still had welts all over his legs and arms and they were raw from having two biopsies. He was on high doses of antibiotics and steroids to help his legs and arms heal. But, we had the most gorgeous June day for our wedding. We were both ecstatic to finally say "I do" to one another. I was so excited I woke up at 4am that morning and never was able to fall back to sleep!

Courtesy of Kara Loomis Photography

I can truly say that our wedding was the best day of my life, and I think Frank can probably say the same...I hope! We really feel blessed that God showed us just how strong our love for one another was and revealed to us very early on what marriage is really about. 

Courtesy of Kara Loomis Photography

What I've Learned about Marriage in the First Year

1. It's fun. I still remember the first few mornings waking up and realizing I was married to Frank. We'd joke to each other and say, Hey! You're still here? It was exciting to get to make breakfast together, to plan our days together, and to look forward to our future days together. The first year was full of firsts! Our first vacation together, our first time attending a wedding as a married couple, our first apartment, first Christmas, and now our first anniversary! It's fun to learn about the little quirks you never knew about the other person and to notice as time passes how much more you are comfortable living together. 

2. It's work. I won't lie. The first year is tough. I'm sure marriage will continue to be tough. The thing that was most challenging to me was letting go of "my way" and working with Frank to create a new way, "our way". It was hard to switch from the way I always did things, but it changed me--in a good way. I think I've learned to be more flexible, to listen better and to express my feelings more clearly (let's face it we can't always read each other's minds no matter how well we know each other). It's not just work during the difficult conversations or conflicts. I've learned marriage requires effort 24/7. Only, the more I "do" marriage, the less it feels like work! I realized that what once was "work" to me, after practicing at it, it has become more like a gift. I am lucky to have the chance to try to make Frank happy every day. 

3. It's worth it. Every single bit of it. We learned from some very dear friends early on to learn to put the other person first. It seems so counter-intuitive in our individualistic society, but really it works. When I focus entirely on making Frank happy, not only does it make him happy, but it makes me happy to see him smile or laugh. In addition, if he does the same for me, we're both taken care of. But marriage also involves coming to a place where the other person's happiness is most important. The feeling of loving someone that much, making the choice each day to find ways to make him smile,  and then getting the chance to see him smile--that is why marriage is worth it.

4. It's still fun. Even a year later after many challenges, changes, struggles, and stress. Marriage is still fun! I can't wait to embark on our second year of marriage. I am looking forward to learning and growing through this year through the challenges and exciting times. It really is an adventure. And I feel so incredibly blessed to be on the  adventure with Frank.

Courtesy of Kara Loomis Photography

So, this weekend, as we head out to celebrate our friends as they embark on their marriage adventure, Frank and I will be undoubtedly looking back at the year behind us, much stronger, much wiser, and excited to make this next year as memorable and as meaningful as the one before it.