Month : January 2012

planning for Oscar 2.0

Last year, I threw my first Oscar party, and before it even took place, I knew I would be making this an annual thing. Winters, post-holiday in Iowa, are anti-climactic and I find myself searching for little things to look forward to.

Enter the Oscars – what’s not to love? The glam, the gowns, and the love of this art we call movies all comes together in one fun night. I like any excuse to throw a party, but there’s something extra fun about Oscar night – you can go a little bit glitzier…

My very favorite thing about hosting a shower, a theme party, even book club – is picking a color scheme. Last year was what I would call classic movie colors – silver, gold, black, and bits of red here and there.

This year, I am uber excited to go in a totally different direction…pink and gold!



I have been in love with this combination as of late…and an Oscar party is the perfect time to play around with it. To go with the GOLD statues, I actually had a PINK carpet in my Amazon cart today (last year the girls walked a red carpet to come to the party) but decided that some things just can’t change. So, aside from the red carpet, it will be pink and gold glitz and glam for Oscar Party 2012. And I don’t want to give ALL the secrets away…but I am beyond stoked (and Page is rolling his eyes) that this 53 ” tall blow up will be on our porch welcoming guests the night of February 26th…

I know…nothing says “classy” like some blow-up object for the neighbors to see, but this was just too funny to pass up.

Have you heard the news of this year’s nominees? Any guesses as to who the big winners will be? I have my work cut out for me to still see a few of the “Best Picture” movies!

the photo wall (finally)

Over a year ago, I set out to design a photo wall. After going back and forth on several ideas, I decided to do all Ikea Ribba frames in white and created the above arrangement on my computer to get a feel for how I wanted to arrange it. Then, we decided to start looking for a house and given that the frames are “less than easy” to hang, they went right into a moving box for several weeks until now. I ordered my prints from  – I love the quality of prints for the price, and that they offer all of the unusual sizes I needed for these frames. I highly recommend them!

I knew from day one when we looked at this floor plan, that I wanted the photo wall to go on the entry hall wall between the front door and the kitchen. Here are a couple of before shots to give an idea of the space…

With the frames purchased, the prints inserted, and a wall and a plan, I got to work.

I just happened across this pin on Pinterest and it was a HUGE help. The idea is to drill a screw into the end of a paint stick, then hang your frame on the paint stick as you position it on the wall. When it’s exactly where you want it, lightly press on the frame so the screw behind it makes a small hole in the wall. Use this hole as your guide to place the hanging nail. Especially when you’re trying to perfectly line up a bunch of frames hung with wire, this tool was invaluable. We ended up using our new paint stick tool for a variety of projects around the house as we settled in.

And here is the finished wall! The only bad thing about its location is the lack of a good angle to get a “finished” photo. So here’s a glimpse coming in the door, and a couple segmented shots from inside the powder room…but you get the idea, right? 🙂

Cooking, entertaining, enjoying.

It’s been a little while since I posted. Now that we’ve had time to get moved in, unpacked, through the holidays, and (somewhat) organized, I’ve been logging a lot of hours in my favorite spot, the kitchen, as we’ve been hosting a bunch of guests over the past several days. It has been really fun to share our new space and start to really live life in our dig as we cook, lounge, and enjoy being home with some of our favorite people.

Our friends Matt and Amanda (Matt was one of our groomsmen) came from North Carolina and spent last Friday night with us before heading to Kansas City for a wedding. We were so excited to see them and loved that they had the extra time to make the three-hour trek north to hang out, if only briefly. I had the best of intentions to take some photos but the time was so short, it just never happened. (All the more reason to schedule a reunion again – soon!)

Page’s parents came just a few hours after our NC friends left, and stayed through the long weekend. It was fun to show them around a couple spots in Des Moines we hadn’t been with them before, and do lots of hanging out and movie-watching at the house. It was hard to get a good shot with the lights off, but I did manage to get this pic of Page and his parents at the diner inside Page’s office, of which he took them on a tour.


While Page isn’t a fan of jalapenos (I’m amazed how many people aren’t!) I can always count on my in-laws to be down for some spiciness. So I had this jalapeno popper dip ready when they arrived. Between the three of us, it was gone before the weekend was over. This is a SUPER easy dip and delish with Lime Tostitos. It’s best served hot, but unlike some dips, if it does sit out for a bit and cools down, it’s still tasty enough to serve.

A day after my in-laws’ departure, I hosted book club, which consisted of a dozen girls and we had the bonus of celebrating one of the girls’ soon-to-be-born baby girl. After so many friends have had baby boys, I was thrilled to use some PINK! If you’ve been on Pinterest, you’ve no doubt seen one of a zillion versions of these colorful layered cakes. I bought my 2×7 round pans at Sur La Table, and instead of gradually layering the pinks darker, I mixed up the shades. Lesson learned – this is a bit more involved than it looked in the photos – I really did try and vary each cake layer’s pinkness, but here they only look like two shades of pink. Tip: LOTS of food coloring is needed to pull this off!

Aside from cooking for guests, I’m just enjoying this blissful thing called “free time” to play around in the kitchen and I have found some new favorites I will definitely be making again!



First up was this cherry chocolate granola. I left out the coconut (not a fan) but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. It’s very tasty and much more fresh than boxed cereal. A goal of mine for 2012 is to eat more breakfast and this is a really good option to have on hand. It’s calorie-dense, but it’s also very filling and rich in fiber, so a little bowl goes a long way in staying full.



I’ve never been a huge fan of chicken tenders, but I know several people who go crazy for them (one redhead, in particular). I love this gal’s blog (fantastic recipes and photos to accompany) and this recipe for cheddar-crusted chicken fingers did not disappoint. They were easy to make and are a healthier alternative to the fried version you’d get in a restaurant, without sacrificing flavor.



I was out of college by the time I learned to love pad thai, but now that I have, it’s a mild obsession. This recipe could have easily passed for the “real deal” from a restaurant, but I cut down on the amount of oil called for (less greasy) and used whole grain linguine noodles – and didn’t taste any difference in the flavor. If anything, I liked the slightly chewier, heartier, texture. I only used about half the red pepper it calls for (still had some kick), and added a dash of ground ginger and about a tablespoon of peanut butter to be sure I could taste the peanut flavor. I ate these hot for dinner and then cold for lunch. I can’t decide which is better – they’re THAT good!

What’s cooking at your house lately? Planning any parties or hosting company anytime soon? We’re already getting stoked for a superbowl party and I’m planning to host my second annual Oscar party later next month!

a date with des moines: all spice

You know that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie, donning that infamous striped skirt, declares that she’s not dating men and is instead dating the City of New York? She goes all over, to the museums, to restaurants, and of course, to the shops. I had a day like that recently, only I was dating downtown Des Moines’ East Village neighborhood.

It was sunny and warm (for January in Iowa) and I hit up several of my favorite shops and took myself to lunch at Lucca (first time I’d been there – yum!). The whole motivation for the trip however, was to check out a new kid on the block – All Spice Culinarium.

Last week while in town, my bestie, Laura, gifted me some amazing vinegar and oil flavors, and a New York steak and burger spice blend.

She gushed about how you can sample your way through this little shop, taking shots of every flavor of oil and vinegar you can imagine, and smelling the dozens and dozens of exotic spices. (This is NOT your grocery store’s Tone’s aisle, people.)

On a side note, I love their very warm, but clean and crisp, branding. The colors are hearty and the typography is bold – everything you would expect in culinary flavors. Plus, they’ve done a great job of writing a little blurb on the label of every product in the store – to tell you WHAT it is, and how to use it. The most novice of cooks could walk in here and act like they knew exactly what they are doing (I know…because I did just that!)

Here’s my loot! And a closer look…yes, that’s dark chocolate balsamic you see. Amazeballs.

Check them out if you’re in the area! 400 East Locust!

my favorite spot

This post could also be called, “I’m learning how to use my new camera flash…so bear with me”….it could also be called, “Damn, I wish I had moved the trash can out of sight earlier!” But here it is, “My favorite spot”.

I suppose it changes from time to time, but the kitchen ranks very high on my list of favorite spots in the house. There were so many decisions to be made in this room, and it’s fun to see them all come together (hooray for granite and subway tile!). I like the clean white and the crisp grey in here, but wanted to use some hits of my favorite color for some interest, both in decor items and cooking tools like my buttercup beauty.

Aside from the aesthetic, I like that I have room to cook and entertain in now, and there is a place for ALL of our dishes, drinkware, serveware, and all the other hostess things I seem to “need” (thanks in part to Starsky, our new hutch!) I like the window and the view, I like the gas stove (my ONE demand), I like the speakers Page installed in the ceiling, I like the island for prep space and for setting out food, and I love that there’s space to actually have a “workflow” in here when cooking and baking. It’s not what I would call a “large” kitchen, but it works perfectly for us – and a huge step up from the dark (windowless) corner kitchen we’ve been using the past three years.

There is little on my “to do” list for this room – I love everything about it. As we figure out which cabinets get used the most and how to get everything organized for the long haul, I would consider finding a new spot for the microwave and adding a range hood over the stove…but really, that’s about it.

Here are a couple glances back at how this room came to be…I so love that we were able to see this house appear out of nothing. Makes for some cool memories.

Framing (early October)

Drywalled and cabinets in (November)

Final walk-through (December)


Starsky, the Hutch

Seriously, I sometimes name our furniture. Just go with it.

As I’ve unpacked the kitchen and made a place for every last cup and saucer, this hutch from Ikea has been a God-send. In our last house, we had a dining table and hutch set, which we sold prior to the move, and we knew we’d need something to replace this storage-friendly piece. We looked many places, but kept coming back to this piece for the color, the size and shape, the functionality, and who are we kidding – the price didn’t hurt, either. The gray-brown finish is cool with the grey wall color, but the warm floors and granite color. It came home with us on our most recent Ikea excursion.

After many (yes, as in multiple) hours of putting a zillion (no elaboration) pieces together – an entire Friday night’s activity for Page – we had ourselves a hutch.

Within easy reach of the dining table, we both have said this is one of our favorite things we bought for this house. Aside from easy-gliding drawers for table linens and candles and all other fun entertaining stuff, I love that I finally get to display our wedding china!

Do you have a favorite piece of furniture in your home?

(Better yet…do you name your furniture in the weird way that I do?)

looking ahead (far ahead)

When we began the search for a home, we knew we would want to find ways to make our own mark and make it feel truly “ours”.

With new construction, we got a say in customizing several things, but we didn’t get to do much of the work ourselves. We knew as we were building there would be changes and upgrades we’d make later on, but we had to draw the purchase price line SOMEWHERE initially and we knew several items on our wish list could be done ourselves, and for a fraction of what a contractor would charge us.

No, it won’t all get done in the coming year, or even two, but we’ll certainly get started. It’s anyone’s guess really, but our hunch is that we’ll be in this home for around seven years. This is much longer than we’ve been in any other one spot, but also – we know we won’t be here forever. We’re keeping this in mind as we select our projects and figure out to what degree we want to dive in. We are hoping most of the projects will only add to eventual resale value and in the meantime, make the home even more enjoyable for us to live in!

Project #1: Built-in bookcases in the living room.

Source: via Melissa on Pinterest


We fell in love with some built-ins in older homes we toured throughout our home search. We could have had the builder add these in for us, but we wanted to do them ourselves and get them just how we want them. These will be one of the first things we get done and I’m anxious to have the extra storage for books, DVDs, photo albums above, and cabinets below for entertaining dishes, extra glassware, etc. I anticipate a hubby-authored post on this adventure! 🙂

Project #2: Finish the basement

Source: via Elizabeth on Pinterest


This is obviously a bit larger task than building a couple bookcases. The key to this one will be working in stages – both to spread out the cost and our level of sanity. We plan to frame one month, drywall another (we might hire out that part!) but eventually we’d like to finish the basement level to include a media area to gather a big group to watch movies and football games, a small wet bar area, an unfinished storage closet, and a half bath. As the house stands now, the main floor doesn’t have much more square footage than our current townhome’s first floor, so within a year, we’ll be ready for the extra lounge space to spread out with friends and family.

Project #3: Hot tub cove


Source: via Elizabeth on Pinterest


Now we’re getting pretty far out as far as our current funding and schedule haha, but eventually we would like to add a small hot tub in the “cove” under our deck stairs on the back patio. We had this on our original wish list as a “someday it’d be nice to have a spot for one” kind of way, but we weren’t sure how much sense it would make until we found out our house would have an unplanned walkout basement. We are pretty encouraged by the possibility of scoring something on Craig’s List or through ReStore which would make this a much more affordable reality, sooner than later.

Project #4: Upgrade the master bath

Source: via Elizabeth on Pinterest


No house is perfect and we agree that while there are many “scores” to the floor plan we built, the number one place we miss out is in the master bathroom. It’s the exact same layout as our upstairs hall bath – your basic single sink vanity, toilet, and shower/tub combo. There’s not much room to make it any larger, but we would eventually like to upgrade it by taking out the shower/tub combo that is in there now, and tile in a nice glass-door shower, very similar to what’s shown here. This layout is exactly like our bathroom and the shower wouldn’t be anything crazy grand, but it would certainly be a step up from what’s in there now. I’m sure there are people wondering why we didn’t have these things done when we originally built the house. The short answer? We made lots of changes NOT counting these – and they all cost money ha. We were maxed on upgrades for the time being and knew we could wait on these items. We talked about doing a shower only in this bathroom at our original specs meeting, but to accomplish this with the original amount budgeted for this bathroom still would not have gotten us what we wanted, so we elected to go standard for now and take on this project ourselves down the road.

Project #5: Beadboarding in the powder room

Source: via Elizabeth on Pinterest


The photo above looks exactly like our half bath on the first floor – minus the beadboarding and extra chair-height set of molding. Add it to the list! 🙂

Project #6: Laundry sorting cubbies


Page showed me this one and I couldn’t get on board fast enough. Our laundry room is technically a “room” I suppose – but not a large one, and we’re all about using any vertical space we can. Eventually we’d like to build a base like this to go under our washer/dryer that will fit three laundry baskets for sorting and storing garments that need to go to the dry cleaners.

This certainly isn’t every little “to do” but it’s the bigger things on our list that we look forward to working on in the coming months and years in our new home. You can be sure there will posts chronicling each adventure – the good, the bad, and the ugly! 🙂

office digs for the designer dude

My husband, Page, is a web designer “by day” but also runs a freelance design business out of our home that has (knock on wood) been busier than ever in 2011. Workflow doesn’t slow and deadlines don’t disappear just because you’re moving to a new home, so getting him set up and productive again was at the top of the to-do list after we closed.

He is really excited about this space (which is quickly becoming an office/man cave) and I’m really excited FOR him. Finally, he has a place to shut the door and do whatever he needs to do to make the web magic happen – be it blaring some music, taking a brain break with the Xbox, making phone calls to clients, or hunching over pages of coding.

So here are the quick iPhone “before shots” from the night we closed…you’ll notice he already has the ladder in there to get to painting and the door off the hinges in anticipation of fitting a new couch through the frame.

He wanted to go darker with the color in here and chose a color, “Storm”, that is several shades darker than our color throughout the rest of the house. I like the drama it adds to the room. He ordered some blinds for the window and added a rod and curtains.

The first couch he ordered to put in here just BARELY wouldn’t fit through the door frame, so back it went and option 2 turned out to be just as awesome.

Some green Crate & Barrel pillows and some organization from IKEA brought in his favorite color, and a new Expedit shelf now houses his books, files, and vinyl collection. The dude is ALL about lighting, so a few cool lamps rounded out the vibe.

Black Friday brought a “couldn’t pass up” deal on the TV that can double as an extra-large monitor when needed.

And what’s a good work space without some tunes? After inheriting these Polk speakers from my dad, my only contribution to this room was to paint the previously oak finish the same color as his walls…he did everything else!

Page is constantly scribbling out bits of code and navigation ideas for his clients’ sites, so these three “notice boards” from IKEA were a great addition for him – and a little more modern than a traditional whiteboard.

My favorite part of this room though might be the closet that keeps all of his ski/golf/sports gear all out of sight. 🙂 Can’t wait to see the next web creations that come out of this room!