Tag Archives: at home

Books & Baubles

This spring, I went to a Stella & Dot trunk sale/brunch my friend Nicole hosted just before Mother’s Day. It was the perfect timing to pick out a pretty and personalized piece of  jewelry for my hometown bestie who had just had a little girl & was celebrating her own 30th birthday. And, as tends to happen at those kinds of things, I got a lovely necklace for myself that helped me feel more hip when I was waddling around in my maternity gear.

Our mutual friend Amber is a Stella & Dot stylist/middle school teacher and a fellow bookworm, so this fall when I was thinking about a low-key reason to invite some of my lady friends over, I thought a book swap and jewelry party might be a great excuse. I figured I would get a little lonely being home so much with the baby during maternity leave, and it’s actually easier to have people come to me than will myself to get out in the evening hours.


It was pretty low-key entertaining. I lit a fire, picked out a Songza playlist, set out a spread of cheeses, Amber brought the baubles and friends came with books in arm. I labeled all of the plastic wine cups with names of female authors, to make it a little theme-y. It was fun to relax with Eileen and see a bunch of lovely women at once. I’m also getting a jump on Christmas shopping! If you’re interested in Stella & Dot, you can shop through this link, long-distance, until Dec. 8.

2015-11-18 21.20.05

I’m excited to read “This is Where I Leave You,” by Jonathan Tropper, which was my pick from the swap, and Joe was jazzed that a Bill Bryson book was left.


P.S. Apparently Joe was trying to explain what the heck a Stella & Dot party is to his co-worker, and described it as “hipster Mary Kay”. Ha! Not quite, but I thought that was adorable. 



Filed under At home, Books

Weekend recap

Finally: A long weekend that actually felt like a long weekend! And not a moment too soon, as I’ll be going back to working Fridays with my new gig. My mom and aunt flew in from Chicago on Friday afternoon and left Sunday evening, so we had lots of time to both be productive and relax and try to make Emmett giggle.

We went straight to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden from the airport and had lunch at Trellis, the new cafe by the talented Lisa LaValle.

20140228_134313Our plates were a bright contrast to the snowscape out the window, and the chance to walk around in 50% humidity and 80 degree temps was just what I needed headed into more freezing weather.

Friday night, I ditched the fam for my ladies’ book club. Seriously such a great group of women. I think we met for more than four hours, and discussed the book for maybe 20 percent of the time. Our next read is The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I enjoyed The Namesake, so I’m looking forward to this.


Saturday, we ran a few errands, which included popping into Stitch to get a few more fabrics for a quilting project my mom and I are collaborating on. I joked on Instagram that we were having a mother-daughter stripping session this weekend. (Gross, sorry. Couldn’t resist.)


We love to get Jethro’s carryout when they visit because two of the “Dinner for Two” selections is enough for four adults to eat a hearty dinner with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. Emmett definitely approved. He wasn’t into meat before this, but loved himself some smoked, pulled chicken.


(I gave him plain corn, but if you’ve never had Jethro’s jalapeño creamed corn it is ridiculously good.) Thankfully the meat didn’t shock his little tastebuds too much and he still ate his typical sweet potato dinner the next night.

While the ladies crafted and the baby slept, Joe worked on our beadboard banister project, which we’re hoping to complete before E figures how to crawl forward. He’s been scooting backwards and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. He also started to take some steps when we were “walking” holding his hands. Eeek. We have a long way to go before our house is baby-proof.


Sunday afternoon we made a batch of pretzels – our second in as many weeks. Joe and I made them for a Downton Abbey “picnic dinner” last Sunday from Alton Brown’s recipe. They turned out awesome:


Joe made the dough, which is the hard part, but I got into the dunking-in-boiling-water bit. We ate them with queso because we’re real fond of “light” dining options. 


Filed under At home, Books, Cooking, Des Moines Dining, Getting crafty

Magic words of a happy marriage

I love a good roundup of cute Valentine gifts for your significant other (find some here, here, here and here), but this love-hyped week I’ve been reflecting on the 3.5 years of marriage Joe and I have enjoyed and what’s made it work so far. Some studies have shown a four-year and seven-year itch is common, especially for couples with kids.


A few months ago, I noticed something super simple we do that I think is critical for a happy house. We say some magic words on a regular basis. Nope, not “I love you,” although there’s plenty of that, too. We thank each other. Maybe kind of a lot. Maybe not more than any other happy couple, married or not, or any other unattached housemates who enjoy each other’s company. A few times a day, I would guess.

I’m not sure if we’ve done this since moving in together (which we did back in 2008), or if it’s a more recent development. Regardless, I think thanking each other became more powerful after we became parents. We thank each other for executing simple household chores: “Thanks for taking care of the laundry.” “Thanks for taking the dog on the final nighttime walk in the blistering cold.” “Thank you for making dinner.” You get the picture.

It’s so easy to get stuck in the your chores/my chores routine/rut where general appreciation for what the other does is something that’s taken for granted and rarely expressed. I think that can create a feeling like your partner doesn’t even think about how the counters got clean or the floor swept, and lead to a poisonous resentment.

We have a pretty even division of labor in our house, but the scales probably tip toward Joe when factoring in fixing things and cooking — tasks he typically takes on. Having a kid definitely adds to the piles of responsibility, of laundry and dirty dishes and diaper duty and nighttime wakeups and daily dropoffs and pickups. We’ve figured out a relay of sorts that works for us, and I think that’s when we really came to appreciate those daily things we do that make the other person’s life easier. And in that realization, we’ve been saying thanks.

So, not really a juicy marriage secret or anything earth-shattering. Just something super simple and free that fosters a feeling of being valued, of efforts seen. It’s not really a marriage tip at all, but an observation about how we can be better people to live with — or work with, for that matter.

P.S. Don’t want to get your Valentine stuff? Surprise her (or him!) with tickets to the Des Moines Metro Opera Wine & Food Showcase. It’s happening Feb. 21. Joe and I went with a group a couple of years ago and it was lots of fun.  

Readers, I’d love to hear your tips for a happy marriage, too. 

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Filed under At home, Des Moines Dates, Life lessons

Three Netflix watch instant movies that have helped keep me sane

We’re into day six of being past-due, my friends. My mom had to go back to Chicago yesterday and even gulping down castor oil on my birthday did not do the trick. I am housing one stubborn baby and/or have the most comfortable Steve Urkle uterus (because that’s basically what a preggo belly is, right?) for a baby to hang out in. Sigh. I’m getting an induction massage this afternoon – fingers crossed!

Do know that I recognize I am being a total brat complaining about this, because it’s much less scary to be overdue than had I gone into labor months prematurely.

Anyhow, what’s a beached whale of a lady to do (when not watching fireworks at the Iowa Cubs game, or sitting in her lawn in a zero gravity chair) whilst waiting? We’ve been watching some instant Netflix movies lately and I figured I’d let you in on which ones in case you’re also experiencing ennui.



There was a little buzz here about this movie when it came out because it’s supposed to revolve around the Iowa State Fair Butter Sculpture. It’s actually pretty darkly-funny and not family appropriate at all. It namechecks some Iowa things, which makes me smile. I was surprised by the big-name actors in what seems to have been a pretty low-budget film, but they appeared to have a blast making it!

The Giant Mechanical Man


My watch-alone guilty pleasure show is “The Mindy Project” (it’s seriously hilarious) and this movie stars Chris Messina from that show and Jenna Fischer from “The Office.” Also, Topher Grace is in it and I kind of love him. It’s a pretty slow, predictable movie (IMDB summary: An offbeat romantic comedy about a silver-painted street performer and the soft spoken zoo worker who falls for him) aside from enjoying the actors in it, but I thought it was a nice enough little film.

Safety Not Guaranteed


This movie features another Mindy Project cast member, Mark Duplass, and Aubrey Plaza from “Parks  & Rec.” It’s quirkier (Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel) and sweet.

For movie reviews from someone who actually knows what the hell he’s talking about, let me direct you to my friend Nick Renkoski’s blog. He’ll help you spruce up your queue in no time!


Filed under At home, movies/art

Weekend ode to the couch

We fulfilled our weekend going-out plans — got snazzed up for the Pollack Ball (more on that later) and swung by Confluence Brewing’s grand opening and cheered on the marathoners who ran past this morning. But mostly I worked on a craft project and we hunkered down on the couch. There was lots of football on TV and a book in my lap. Joe made crockpot chicken cacciatore and a ridiculously amazing spent grain bread (modified from this recipe, plus an improvised crusted cheesy topping). I ate it for two dinners in a row.

And I read an entire book for fun this weekend, despite having a bazillion case studies due for my class next weekend. I am such a rebel. It was Anne Lamott’s “Imperfect Birds.”

Reading a book in one day or a weekend, or just a couple of sittings is so deeply satisfying. It’s this immersion experience that leaves you in a foggy sort of mood, like coming out of the movies. I still remember reading Matilda in one sitting after school one day, just draped over the couch, and how amazing and personal it felt — a deeper connection to a book than the typical pick-up-put-down.

I’ve been hearing about Anne Lamott’s books in a few different places, and I can appreciate how her writing ranges from lyrical to conversational and even slangy. The book also freaked me out about ever having to parent a teenager.

I haven’t gotten out of pajamas all day. Why would I, with a book to finish? When I wasn’t taking up the couch, Wilbur had himself a curl-up.

He knows how to do it.

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Filed under At home