Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Catch Up Post

Goodness. TIME IS FLYING, Y'ALL. I haven't even been taking lunches very often lately so since that is my prime blogging time, the ol' blog has been dormant. I don't know why I've felt so cannot-catch-my-breath-busy for the last month or so, but it seems like it has been non-stop. Here's some of what's been happening.


I made John stand up for an entire football game so I could rest my legs across his seat.

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Charley likes circle time so much at school we decided to do it at home also. Charley, Laney and the toilet make a great circle.

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We got started planning Halloween costumes. Laney was thinking Grimace, but we aren't sure yet.


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Remember when we dropped out of dance class after I'd already spent the $75 on the recital dress that I promised was the UGLIEST TACKIEST THING EVER that wasn't even deserving of dress up box? Well it's been hanging in my closet for some reason ever since May. I did some cleaning out of my closet and figured I should at least have her try it on.

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See? Even uglier than I promised.

QUICK! Let me post something cute as an eye-wash of sorts. I also had Laney try on an outfit I purchased for her to wear in family pictures.


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I gave you a double dose just in case. Hope your eyes are okay.

I decorated for fall and Halloween the other night. John was away that night, so I stayed up late and decorated to my heart's content. Around midnight I held up this creepy guy to see where I wanted to place him.

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I am not exaggerating one bit on the timing of what I'm about to tell you. AS SOON AS I held him up, just like I'm doing there, the FREAKING COMPUTER started playing some commercial. It was just a lady talking, and I'm pretty sure it was just a Value City Furniture commercial, but DO YOU KNOW HOW CREEPY IT WAS TO HOLD THIS UP IN THE COMPLETE SILENCE AND THEN HAVE SOMETHING BEGIN TALKING??? I considered burning the place down and starting over elsewhere. There wasn't even any browser windows open on the computer. It was randomly from some program running in the background. I nearly needed to change my pants.

Let's see, iPhone photo stream, what else have we done in the last month....

We went camping at the beach during a tropical storm.

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I demonstrated my cool demeanor and excellent parenting skills after taking this picture, noticing Laney actually smiled, THEN noticing the cat on Charley's head which caused me to stomp my feet like a toddler and reprimand Charley for ruining my picture. Nevermind her eyes are almost closed.

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Turns out that kind of made the picture so I apologized.

We celebrated birthdays. First Daphne's,

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Then my dad's.

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We attempted to smuggle a baby.

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We didn't take advantage of my children playing nicely together, and instead peeked around the corner the whole time and took pictures.

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We went to the fair where Charley spent a LONG TIME at the bee exhibit talking to the beekeeper who of course was a stranger. You know who else keeps bees? Her uncle. And he keeps them right next door, yet she's never even shown an interest in them at all.

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My serious baby has continued seriousing, despite holding a ball that clearly says SMILE.

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And I am TIRED, y'all.

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But! Maybe things will slow down soon. There aren't many festivals or holidays or anything coming up right?

See you in January. You know. That month where accountants are never busy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Disney Day!

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A couple weeks ago we took a little 4 day vacation to Daytona Beach Shores, Florida. Since it is only a little over an hour away from Orlando and we have children, we had to abide by the Florida law that anyone within a certain distance visit Mickey while there. Dems da rules!

We picked Thursday, August 18 to visit and hoped that many children would be back in school already to lessen the summer crowds a bit. We also watched the weather pretty closely and debated switching our visit to Friday instead when we saw there was a 60% chance of storms that day (which seemed a little higher than the normal everyday chance of storms in Florida), but ended up sticking with our original plan so we wouldn't lose our Fastpasses and all that. It ended up being a perfect day to go! We had the best day! I mean, Disney makes it hard to have a bad day, but crowds and weather can definitely make a huge difference and we lucked out in both departments that day.

I had reserved our three Fastpasses 30 days prior to our visit. (Since we weren't staying on property and were only doing a day visit, that was as early as we could reserve them.) I wasn't expecting much since people staying on property are allowed to make Fastpass reservations 3 months in advance, but I was actually pleasantly surprised at what was left. I used a site similar to this to pick which are most advantageous to reserve, and went from there. I also wanted to pick three that we'd be able to use as soon as we got there so that we'd be able to reserve more Fastpasses for the rest of the day. (You can't reserve any more until your first 3 are used.) I REALLY wanted to ride The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but the first one wasn't available until 8:00 that night, so essentially we'd give up an entire day of Fastpassing to snag that one. So, I passed on that Fastpass (ba dum ching!) and hoped for the best.

I ended up choosing:
The Jungle Cruise
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Peter Pan

Our first Fastpass was valid from 11:45-12:45 so naturally we entered the Magic Kingdom gates at 1:00 p.m. Doh. Missed that one. So maybe our day didn't start as expected but we didn't let it get us down.

From there, we Fastpassed, we lunched at Cosmic Ray's, and we Fastpassed some more. In the middle of the afternoon the sky got dark and we heard thunder in the distance so several rides closed for a while, but it didn't slow us down. We chose new Fastpasses for rides that WERE still open and just moved on. It never rained at all, and then the thunder moved on and everything opened back up. We got to do SO MUCH this day! And mostly ALL with Fastpasses! Our ride order looked like this:

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Lunch at Cosmic Ray's
Peter Pan
Under The Sea (during the "storm")
Teacups (during the "storm")
Carousel (during the "storm")
Dumbo (storms over!)
The Barnstormer, twice, with rider swap
Mickey's Philharmagic
Magic Carpets
Tiki Room
Dinner at Pecos Bill
Pirates of the Caribbean
It's A Small World
Haunted Mansion
Jungle Cruise
Light Parade
Splash Mountain, where we caught the beginning of the fireworks right as we came out of the cave and went down the big hill - so magical!
Winnie The Pooh

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Guess I should mention that my BFF Amy was also with us, and was riding with Charley in front of us. :P

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So, we missed a few in Tomorrowland, Big Thunder Mountain was closed for refurbishment, and we sadly never got to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. But I think we did awesome! We never waited longer than 20 minutes for any ride and both Charley and Laney were so good! And sure, it was August in Florida which means H-O-T, but I truly didn't think it was bad at all. Disney must have a way of making the heat not as intolerable, apparently. Oh Disney, how do you do it?! We left around 11, after a visit in the gift shop and the sweets shop while Laney slept in the stroller.

We definitely deserved a redo after our last visit when Charley was sick and this day more than made up for it. We are doing a week long trip in 2017 so I'm hoping for the same crowd volume and luck.

I opted not to take my good camera either based on John's suggestion, and that ended up being good advice. It is big and clunky and a lot to keep up with, and I can't tell you how many times I've almost knocked out my children from it swinging down while I lean over to pick them up. So, my pictures of the day aren't as good, but I enjoyed my time more by not focusing on keeping up with the camera and trying to get good shots. I did buy this one picture for $15 at the end of the night to make up for it, though.

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Worth it!
At the end of the night we had one sleeping baby in the stroller and one sleepy baby that we were carrying on the ferry boat back to our car. She may be 43 pounds, but when your almost 5 year old falls asleep on your shoulder and you think to yourself that this may be one of the last times she does that EVER, you get super strength and hold her and soak it all in. It was a perfect ending to a perfect Disney day.

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We'll be back, Mickey!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Geocaching

(For you, Heather!)

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Before there was Pokemon Go, there was geocaching. Geocaching is an activity that uses the GPS on your phone to find hidden treasures in parks, along trails, or even in shopping centers. We are VERY new at this, so if you are a more seasoned geocacher, feel free to leave extra tips and tricks in the comments or feel free to correct me. I tend to get on board with things way late, so since Google tells me geocaching has been around since 2000 and I'm just now joining in in 2016, I suppose I'll get on board and begin Pokemon hunting in 2032. I'll eventually catch 'em all!

So, geocaching. In my limited experience, these things are everywhere. Lots in parks, lots in touristy areas, lots in shopping centers. It can be completely free to do, or you can go straight to Geocaching Nerd level right off the bat and subscribe for a year like we did. Subscribing gives you more geocaches to find, and who knows what else, but for $6 a month or $30 for the year I figured we'd just go ahead and do the year.

Ok, let me back up to the basics.

Alright. So, to do this activity you need the following:
  • A GPS enabled phone (or you can use a compass I think, but I have no experience using that method so I'm not going to talk about that here)
  • A pen
  • The Geocaching App
  • Some little trinkets to leave behind if you plan on taking something for yourself

You download the app and sign up for an account. (This is free). Once you've done that, you are taken to a map within the app which should show your exact location. From there, you just scroll around to see if any geocaches are located near you. The circles that are dark green are geocaches that are available for you to find. If there are any light green dots, you are using the free version and those light colored ones are only available to super nerd Geocaching Subscribers, like myself.

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Find one that looks appealing to you and click on it. You can see the difficulty, terrain and actual size of the container you are looking for here. If it all sounds like something you'd like to attempt, push the start button and the app gives you the mileage or the number of feet you are away from that geocache.

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A compass is also shown on the screen, with a red indicator at which direction you need to maneuver to get closer to the cache. Sometimes you can tell that the geocache is going to be off of this trail that you are walking on, but since the trail may weave back and forth you may actually walk against the direction it tells you to go in at some points. Does that make sense? Ultimately, you are trying to get close enough to the geocache that your phone buzzes and tells you:

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Once you get to within 30 feet of the geocache they give you a warning that the GPS may not be accurate to the exact location. Like, once you find it it may say you are still 15 feet away, for example, just because GPS isn't that accurate. In my experience though, I'd say it has been pretty accurate from 5-10 feet out. 

So from there? You just look! We have a whopping 8 finds under our belt, but there are at least 2 others (maybe 3? I can't remember.) that we never found. When Charley and I went geocaching last weekend though, I did feel like we were getting much better at this than we were when we started. You sort of start to learn what to look for. 

A few times it has been hidden under some sticks that are placed just so at the base of a tree.

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Sometimes they take advantage of little hidey holes in trees to hide the cache.

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That one above was really cool - the hole was in the middle of the tree where two trunks split apart, and instead of having you stick your hand down there to get it - because ew snakes and bugs and such! - they had a rope tied to it wrapped around the tree so it rested right in the hole. You just pulled it out by the rope and dropped it back in when you were done.

And some are even in just plain sight. This one was called "Bienvenidos" and was a fake rock next to a welcome stone at a nature museum. Turned the rock upside down and voila! 

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So what do you get when you find it? Mostly just the pleasure of finding hidden treasure! But, some geocaches are large enough for little trinkets too. So the idea is to bring something to leave, and to take one thing with you as well if you wish. This one here was the best we've seen so far for actual stuff to trade. Stickers and little toys and magnets and all kinds of things. 


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If you are stuck wandering around and just not finding the darn thing, there are sometimes hints you can use on the actual app, and if those don't help, you can go through the comments of those that have found it before you and try to pick up hints from those. Sometimes there are even pictures attached to the comment which can at least point you to the right tree or right area. We definitely used the heck out of those for our first few finds. 

Another 'hint' is to pay attention to the name of the geocache. Some have boring names that don't mean a thing, but often times they DO mean something. Like the "Bienvenidos"one I mentioned before was right next to a welcome stone, and this one below was called "Sea Turtle" which didn't really help until we actually found it and saw a turtle (not even a sea turtle!) on top of the box but worth mentioning as well. Sometimes the titles help, sometimes not so much.

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The last thing to do is to sign the log. Many geocaches are too small to include a pen in them also so it is usually a good idea to bring your own if you want to sign them. Sign, date, put everything back in the container and hide it just as you found it. Done!

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On the app, you then log your find (or log that you didn't find it) and it places a smiley face over the green dot so you can remember which ones you've found and which you haven't. It is important to log those you don't find also...one of our first ones that we didn't find we searched and searched and searched. Finally we gave up and logged our DNF (did not find) and moved on. I went back to check on it a week or two later and saw that many people after us had the same results so they took the listing off the site completely until the owner could go back and either reset it or hide one again in the same spot. Made me feel much better that others didn't find it either! 

That's really it, I think! I know there's tons more that you can do with these but this is all we are doing so far and it is perfect for Charley's age. We enjoy it, it's free to try, and it gets us out and walking. Of course we completely forgot to look for any last week on vacation, but that's usually when we look for them - makes it easy to explore a new place. Let me know if you try/have tried it! Give me all the tips! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Loving Lately

Here are some things I've been loving, lately.

This bathing suit top.


Publix's Jalapeno and Cilantro Hummus

WITH SOME Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips

This kid's shampoo (SheaMoisture Mango and Carrot)

This little holder for little hands to more easily wrangle playing cards.

The Chick Fil A One App. OMG. This should be the first thing on this list.

CoTZ Face Sunscreen. Is tinted, so this is all I wore on vacation. So light! Love it!

The Yeti Colster. Honestly have no idea what the point of other koozies are anymore.



And in that same picture, the Aden and Anais sleep sacks. So perfect for summer.

Again, from Publix (grocery store here, if not familiar to you), the cajun catfish filets from the seafood counter. So easy. So delicious. You want these.

The Norwex Dust Mitt

The Young House Love Podcast

Planning upcoming Disney trips on MyDisneyExperience.com.

Our camper

Season 4 of Orange is the New Black

These beach towels. (The Big One from Kohl's)

This man.


These girls.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

3 Year Houseiversary

Here we go! One of my favorite posts each year...not because it is anything wonderful or groundbreaking or clever, but because I myself like seeing our annual report card so to speak. To see what all we've been able to do in our home in one year's time. So, not the most interesting post as far as you are concerned, but I like it for myself. And, I include a full page spread of our house photos each year in our annual photo book, so this accomplishes that for me too. I would love to have had pictures of the houses I was in growing up (besides just seeing stuff in the backgrounds of other photos) but that was before the age of digital photography slash the age of take pictures of every tiny thing.

So, three years in our home! The clunkiness of the photo collages I was using in prior year houseiversary posts was going to be even clunkier with a 4th photo added to them, so I set up permanent pages for each section of our house which I'll link to in each category. I'll just show this year's picture on this actual post and will only include stuff we actually completed in this past year in the checklists.

Of course I'm two months late posting this again this year so I squeezed in some updates that technically didn't happen in year 3, but with the frequency I update this blog lately, I'm throwing them in here anyway for documentation purposes or else the documentation may not ever happen.

Honorable mentions for year 3 go to our master bedroom and the basement. Basement progress is still ongoing but it is well on its way!


OUTSIDE (these section headers are links to pages that have the pictures from every year, and the entire checklist of what we've done in each space)

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Completed this year:
  • Added a bench swing on the front porch, and removed two of the rocking chairs.
  • Pressure washed the deck.
To do:
  • Finish Charley's playground. We have a second slide and platform we want to add.
  • Build a lower deck.
  • Clean up the woods/natural area by the road.
  • Build an arbor around the garage doors.
  • We've found a new home for the trash and recycling cans, but they need something built around them so they aren't such eyesores.
  • Add some more flower/shrubbery beds around the entire house. (We did add one little section this year, but need to finish it all the way around the house.)
  • Furnish the rest of the deck.
  • Stain the deck.
  • On the front porch replace the two remaining rocking chairs. (Last year I said repaint - this year it is becoming more clear they need to be replaced instead.)
  • Finally decide on a paint color for the front door.
  • And maybe one day, replace the whole front door/sidelights with something more attractive. 
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Completed this year: 
  • Got rid of the collage over the desk and added a single large map. Still not completely sold on this, but it works for now.
To do:
  • Find nicer office chairs.
  • Crown molding. 
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Completed this year: 
  • Well, there is a play grocery store/lemonade stand living in here at the moment. (not pictured, but what Laney is playing with).
To do:
  • Move that grocery store toy to the basement.
  • Crown molding.
  • Find a rug for the room.
  • Maybe recover the chair cushions.
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Completed this year: 
  • Basically, nothing. But we did both decide we like almost NOTHING on the counters so a couple appliances (Kitchen Aid Mixer, Toaster Oven, Blender) found homes in the pantry or cabinets so that we have 90% of our counters empty. 
  • Added pendant lights over the bar.
To Do:
  • Repaint the walls.
  • New counter tops.
  • Back splash of some sort.
  • Possible cabinet refinishing.
  • Get some bar stools already.
  • Replace the builder's basic sink/faucet.
  • Decorate.
  • Maybe build an enclosure for the fridge - it sticks out a bit since it's not a counter depth fridge.
  • Wallpaper or paint the pantry walls.
  • Replace the spaceship looking light fixture with recessed lighting.
  • Crown molding
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Done:
  • Returned the accent chair to the corner, as large baby gear things are officially outta here!
To Do:
  • The walls are all getting repainted.
  • Hang a couple of wall sconces.
  • MAYBE get new living room furniture and move this stuff to the basement. 
  • Thinking about a new larger rug, also.
  • Crown molding.
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Completed this year: 
  • Added the cute little monogram to the headboard.
  • Changed the bedding.  

To Do: 
  • Move some of the larger toys to the basement (kitchen, anywhere chair, maybe Disney castle too.)
  • I'm getting close to wanting to redo her whole room too. Paint, curtains, bedding, all of it. As it has evolved over the years, it doesn't really go together anymore. Curtains for sure are the first step, and if that doesn't solve it, paint next.
  • Crown molding.
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Completed this year: 
  • Well, I added these flower 3-D wall sticker things I found at Target on clearance that I actually don't like but cannot remove because they are taking off the paint behind them. BLAH.
  • Added hardware to the dresser.
To Do: 
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Completed this year:
  • Replaced faucet.
  • Added fabric covered cornice.
  • Replaced counter top with granite.
  • Replaced sink with an undermounted sink.
To Do:
  • On the wall above the light switch, I've swapped out art several times already and I just can't find something I love in this spot. I'll keep looking.
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Completed this year:
  • Painted
  • Refinished nightstands.
  • Painted mirrors above dresser.
  • Added pocket door into master bath.
  • Upgraded to a king sized bed.
  • Built and painted a new bed.
  • Upgraded the TV in here to a larger Smart TV so we can now Netflix in bed. (ahhhhhh!)
  • Tiled the middle of the faux fireplace, and therefore moved that outlet as well.

To Do:
  • Crown molding.
  • The other side of the room that isn't pictured needs SOMEthing. I've considered large mirrors (already have them, just not 100% sure yet) or even built-ins along the whole wall (may look too busy since the view out of the bedroom door is the built-in shelving in the living room). Just need to figure this out.
  • Maybe replace carpet with the hardwood floors we have elsewhere in the house. And then we'd need a rug, of course. 

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Completed this year:
  • Nothing, except the door was replaced by a pocket door to give us easier access to the linen closet, but I included that on the master bedroom list so I can't double dip and include it here too.
To Do:
  • Replace the linoleum with tile.
  • Take out the shower stall and make a larger tiled shower instead.
  • Paint.
  • Decorate.
  • Update the giant builder's basic mirror by framing it in or replacing it. 
  • Replace faucets and light fixtures.
  • Replace towel bars.
  • Add some chunky shelving over the toilet and decorate the tiny room.
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Completed this year:
  • Nothing at all.
To Do:
  • Get one of those fancy fold-up ironing boards or figure out some other solution for where to put our ironing board.
  • Build or buy a counter top over washer and dryer.
  • Paint. Something fun in here. Stripes or something. Maybe wainscoting or wallpaper.
  • Replace linoleum floor with tile.

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Completed this year:
  • Framing. John and I drew up plans of what we wanted to do with the large right half of the basement and then John and my dad put up the framing.
  • HVAC. Hired out and got a unit for the downstairs installed.
  • Electrical. DIYed it. Lots of wires, light fixtures, outlets and all that kind of stuff. Also wired in speakers in the ceilings like we have upstairs.
  • Walls! Hired out for the huge job of hanging and mudding the dry wall.
  • Paint. Picked one color for the whole basement. And chose it in the store (instead of buying testers and all that mess) and bought 20+ gallons of it. Living on the edge.
  • Baseboards and moldings added and painted.
  • Purchased flooring. (Went with laminate down here instead of the real hardwoods we have upstairs. Mainly because this space is huge and our bank accounts are not.)
  • Began installing flooring.
To Do:
  • Finish laying the flooring, and then add the shoe molding.
  • Add a bathroom to the roughed-in plumbing.
  • Buy carpet for the guest bedroom/craft room.
  • Paint walls in guest bedroom/craft room.
  • Build/buy a high top table and bar stools which will go under those pendant fixtures.
  • Organize my craft stuff and create a craft area.
  • Stain the treads and paint the handrail and maybe do something fun on the stair risers on the steps coming out of the basement.
  • DECORATE/begin emptying out that storage room! Acquire furniture! (pool table, couch, cabinetry, rugs, etc etc etc - there's a lot of space down there to be filled...and a TON of stuff I've acquired that is just waiting in that storage room.)