Tag Archives: home

I’m never going to have a perfect lawn, but…

Ok, so real talk: We are not impeccable lawn people. I don’t detest pulling weeds, but I do hate the thought of putting chemicals into the soil, and would rather be running around smelling the tulips in Pella on a gorgeous Saturday.

But I’m hoping to host a little party celebrating 10 years in Des Moines, so I want to spruce up a bit. The front yard, we have for the most part abdicated to dandelions. I’m tempted to put up a yard sign about their pollination properties so neighborhood joggers don’t hate on us. We did just have a new Maple planted, and I’ve got some dahlia bulbs in  — albeit they were supposed to be in a ring around the tree and then the tree got planted a yard in the opposite direction…

In the back, we’re making slow improvements. Very slow. Want to see? Note that this is all totally un-styled in the midst of Sunday yard work.

I don’t think we’ll do new patio furniture (our metal set was inherited) this summer but Wayfair sent me info on their patio guide and I got to daydreaming. I feel like with the rounded patio we’d need to do a rounded set? I like that this one looks retro and I’m a sucker for pops of red.

We spent last summer building the cedar fence between our yard and the neighboring apartment. Last fall, Joe also put up a temporary snow fence so we could let Wilbur out the back door this winter instead of taking him on three walks a day. Total game, changer, and it mostly keeps the kids contained, too!

I do love how the hostas and ferns grow in. I feel like a baby dinosaur is going to pop out of the vegetation. We’re hoping to build a real fence in place of the snow fence before the next frost. I’d love to put an arbor over the walkway, and develop a green thumb to train roses to creep up and cascade over it:

I’ve always wanted to turn this side of our garage into the “Pink Flamingo Lounge” complete with a window box of mint and other drink muddlers and vintage shutters. Just imagine that instead of the firewood pile and wheelbarrow.

We have a work bench that could double as a bar inside the garage. It’s the ultimate “someday” project. Maybe in time for the kids’ graduation parties? Shooting for the year 2032 on that one, but I do have some cute flamingo rocks glasses to sip from in in the meantime.

We’re going to put in a veggie garden along the back fence again (wish us luck) where the composter is, and have established raspberry brambles that are so fun to pick. I’d love to add in a stand for our porch swing in the corner behind where this green ball is hanging out:

It will obviously look exactly like this shangri-la when installed:

I’m trying to decide if I should use the skills I honed volunteering for Habitat for Humanity to build a play house, or if I should save myself from hammering my thumbs and buy one? If only this taco truck playhouse was cleared for outdoor use! (The outdoor playhouses on Wayfair are totally insane… Like, House Hunters: Tiny House level.)

Investing in a second-hand sandbox and this little slide (re-homed from friends) are pretty much the only reason we can get 15 minutes of yard work done!

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Spread the happy

Sharing a few things that have brightened the past few weeks for me.

Winning the jammie jackpot

First, let me tell you I rarely win things. So I almost convinced myself it was a fake-out when I got a message from the folks at Hanna Andersson letting me know I’d won a $500 (!) gift card through one of their #happyhannas #hannajams contests.

img_1188Granted, it was like two weeks into 2017, but pretty much the best thing that’s happened to me all year.

Since I hit the jammie jackpot, I feel like I should spread the happy!
Comment on this post with something that’s made you HAPPY in 2017 for a chance to win a pair of Hanna Andersson baby jams. They make an amazing shower gift if you don’t have a little of your own. That’s how I got hooked! I’ll pick a winner at random on Feb. 1.


If you’ve ever snuggled a kid in these clothes, you know how super soft and durable they are. My mom spoils the kiddos with them when she finds a good sale, and I do not complain. Since the baby jams are footless, they allow a little more room for growth, which I love. I’m going to be a little selfish and get a grown-up outfit, too, with my gift card.

More bright spots:

Refreshing the downstairs bathroom

This is our primary bathroom (we have a 2/3 bath upstairs) because who doesn’t love a clawfoot tub? Joe added on the shower when we moved in, but otherwise it’s just been the same purple hodgepodge since we moved in. Here’s the grody paint-prep before photo:


And after:

Mostly just a gallon of paint (Hotel St. Francis Spirit Blue which is actually not the paint I intended to go with, but that’s what you get for rushing a trip to the hardware store with a kid in tow), a new IKEA vanity (really a buffet) and bringing in accessories from other areas of the house. I whipped up a little runner for the vanity using fabric from Bonnie Christine’s Succulence line that I bought when Stitch was closing last year.


I’d like to make a few tweaks like adding more art and a mounted necklace hanger, but having a vanity area is a game-changer. The art is a Bozz Prints piece that looks like it’s currently unavailable. Despite the color being not what I intended originally, I’m happy with how it turned out!


Pairing treadmill time and podcasts
I need to do this more like 3 times a week instead of once every week and a half, because heading to the Wellness Center at work for speed walking on an incline while listening to a podcast is pretty great. I’ve been listening to Fresh Air, but branched out and tried Call Your Girlfriend, where I picked up the cute term “doing life admin” as a description of spending time paying your bills, making appointments, etc.

Hanging at ladies’ book club


Being part of a book club (now several years strong) is incredible. It took us an hour and forty-five minutes to before we finally sat down to start discussing the book last night, but that’s part of what makes it so special.

I’m not great at making friend dates and look forward to these pre-planned nights. Honestly, I did not love Swing Time even though I had high hopes. Our next book is Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran.


Filed under At home, Books, What I'm into

3 ways to break up with winter

Winter, we are all so over you.

Dance it out. Even if the warmth in the room is coming from the heat generated not by the sun but rather by dozens of flailing arms and shakin’ booties, it’s better than huddling under a duvet for the bajillionth night in a row, right?

Joe and I went downtown on Saturday night for the MAIDS set/dance party. I wore winter-appropriate boots and snuck a pair of cute shoes in my bag to slip on once we got to the venue. It was so much fun! We even got snapped by Juice, and we asked the babysitter to stay an hour later because I wasn’t done dancing. They’re playing in Iowa City tonight!

I really want to get up the courage to check out one of the Des Moines contra dances that happen down the street from us on a regular basis. (Contra dancing is like square dancing, with a bluegrassy band and caller. We did it at my cousin’s wedding this fall in Portland and it was a hoot.) Looks like the next one isn’t until May, so I’m going to have to find a few other non-clubbin’ places to bust a move between now and then.  Maybe a Zumba class?

Go out for Mexican. The countdown to patio season is on! Until then, spice it up with a trip out to eat at a Mexican restaurant where they channel the color and flavor of the home country. We haven’t gone out for Mexican in forever, but one of my favorite spots is El Aguila Real in Beaverdale. It’s not sunny inside, but the booths are all carved with vibrant designs. Go ahead and order a margarita to warm you from the inside out, too.

Buy a bike. No matter what the groundhog says, the first sign of spring is actually the Bike World Warehouse sale which starts tomorrow. It’s where I found my sweet Terry Prism a couple of years back. Joe just worked his magic (something with its derailleur? I don’t actually know.) and gave me a new gear system so I can shift on the handlebars this summer. Watch out, RAGBRAI! My goal is to do at least a day of this awesome, short northern route. (Have you heard about the new BACooN ride?)


Joe’s tool bench makes me happy.

Or, if you really want to be ambitious, buy a house! My SIL just listed their great Union Park place in hopes to move to our side of town. It’s super close to trails and the East Village and has a great patio backyard. Plus, the price is right for a first-time buyer, especially!


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Aww, honey(comb)

I’ve been jonesing to incorporate the honeycomb trend into our home decor, and went ga-ga over these shelves from “A Beautiful Mess” a few weeks ago. Joe channeled all of his last-week-before-baby nervous energy into making them for me for my birthday!


I watched from the zero gravity chair, popsicle in hand as he tackled the project. (It took a couple of hours over a few days.)


We installed the shelves in our landing, which transformed from a snore-ville junk-piled catchall into an actually adult looking sitting space after the remodel.


Slowly but surely, the nursery isn’t the only finished-feeling space.


I think it has an unintentionally woodsy, Portland-vibe now that everything is together and I’m loving it. My mom finished the Posie Daisychain Crewelwork sampler! It’s one of my favorite gifts, ever.


The quilt was handmade by my friend Amy, for Emmett. The fabrics are so perfect.


As far as styling the shelves goes, I think they need a terrarium.


I’ll have to stop by seed in the East Village sometime soon to get succulents and supplies, but in the meantime, here’s some inspiration:


The “TERRA” Terrarium by Fort Standard

full_Kitty_Terrarium_12Succulent terrarium

il_570xN.360178552_5y1vQuill & Fox postcard set

Terrarium+Tutorial+9Pieced Pastimes tutorial


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Feeling French

I’ve been focusing on the nursery addition, but the rest of our attic master got some attention with the remodel, too. The most significant update is a new wall and French doors that separate the master bedroom from this landing space and our upstairs bathroom.


The landing area was mostly just a catch-all with papers piling on top of a desk shoved against one wall. In the end, that’s probably what it will become again, but I’m doing some daydreaming for now and “shopping” from other sections of the house to make it a sweet sitting area. Because honestly, sitting sounds really good right now.

The upstairs also got a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore Heather Gray paint on the walls, re-whitened trim and our once-brass fixtures got the ORB treatment. ORB is awesome. Our contractor couldn’t believe we didn’t buy new hardware.


We’ll see how much more progress gets made in the coming weeks. Maybe in three years the landing will still look like that, with a lampshade on the floor. I can’t even post a total picture of our bedroom wall with French doors because it’s still such a shambles in there.


The French Door setup (these are actually white but the lighting was off) will provide a little more privacy without really sacrificing the open feel of the space. Plus, it will be a nice way to keep Wilbur contained without having to put him in his kennel. Eventually, we might get a pretty patterned window film for the glass panes, although Joe questioned my dedication to cutting so many rectangles.

Instead of decorating, a few favorite French-ish things these doors have me daydreaming about:


This quartet of French-y cards from Rifle Paper Co. Ephemera has carried these before.


Mornings at La Mie. (I have a feeling maternity leave will involve several stroller walks to get breakfast sweets.)


A delightful collection of shorts. Yeah, forget hanging curtains, I’ll be re-watching these.

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Thanks, Craig: Nursery furniture!

While our upstairs remains draped in plastic tarps (the drywall stage of our remodel is coming to a close), downstairs is beginning to resemble a stall at the Brass Armadillo.


Tail down = Wilbur is not pleased. But he’s been super curious, too.


It’s getting to the stage where we’re going to be able to start decorating the nursery in a few weeks. My grandpa has this tradition of buying beds for his grandchildren (I think I started it when he gifted me with my first real grownup person bed when I moved to Des Moines), and he’s keeping it alive for the first great-grandchild in the bunch!

I had originally planned on going with a modern crib, but then Jenny Lind cribs kept catching my eye. (This nursery is so incredibly lovely, it put an arrow through my heart.) Grandpa came through and our crib arrived this week. We haven’t set it up yet, but here’s the website image:


Reality is setting in that our new room is actually going to become filled with things, like furniture and a child.

I’m not the kind of person who needs to have everything new, especially considering the environmental impact of having kids, but I also know what I like. I had a vision of finding some of our nursery furniture on Craigslist. We hadn’t had much luck finding what we were looking for, but then yesterday ended up nabbing a glider and dresser set within a few hours of each other for supercheap. Score!


The glider cushions might get re-upholstered if I can figure that out, and a few paint touchups. The dresser will not remain that violet color. (Likely, it will go white. I tried painting a desk a teal color a few years ago and that was a total fail, so I’ll keep it simple/gender-neutral.)

The dresser has a mirror that gets attached on one side, and I think I’ll use the other side for a changing table. And it has a matching mini dresser that will likely go in the closet or something.


Pardon the sandwiching, but I wasn’t about to move furniture today.

We plan to paint the room a light spring green and decor is inspired by the sweetest wall decals that ever lived graced Etsy:



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It’s electric!

The biggest component of the remodel that we decided to take on ourselves (and by “we”/”our” here, I mean Joe and his dad), was the electrical work.


Joe’s dad was once an industrial electrician and is a super handy guy. Joe got out stacks and stacks of books on electrical wiring and whatnot from the library — and he even appeared to read them in preparation for wiring the nursery. Our home was built in 1920 and still has some knob and tube wiring that they had to navigate along with putting in the new stuff.

He was pretty nervous about applying for a permit because he heard they test you, but he designed a super snazzy room diagram/plan and sailed right through. Then it was on to implementing the plans.


In case anyone else is considering a project like this, I asked Joe to share a few things he’s learned in the process:

  • Check out guides to residential wiring from the library. The one he used the most was done by the tool company Black & Decker. He also looked up the Des Moines code, which is pretty much the National Electric Code, but the permit and code center on the city website has some good resources.
  • Rough out a plan on paper first, but then make sure it looks legit to show the inspector. Joe used InDesign to create his diagram of how the wiring would work, basing his rendering off our contractor’s CAD drawings of the room and using the same wiring diagram symbols suggested in his books.
  • Remember that when you start a project like this, especially in an older house, you’ll find weird things. Our main goal with the new room was to keep everything separate from pre-existing wiring, both to help with the inspection and make sure it was as safe as possible.
  • Cornstarch (yes, from the pantry) can help as a lubricant for pulling wire through the conduit.
  • Labeling wires and adding nail strike protectors in places where wires run too close to the end of studs are a few details that can show an inspector you know what the heck you’re doing.
  • Joe really liked this online guide to get an idea of things to keep in mind when doing residential wiring.


    Joe wanted me to make sure to note that the wires look messy because he returned them to the box, ready for drywall. I was too late to capture them in their pre-inspection glory.

  • This isn’t a DIY to take lightly. (Pun not intended.) Even with a dad who knew what he was doing, the project seemed overwhelming at first. Joe lost a lot of sleep over this, but we also saved like $3,000 because he was willing to study up and put in the effort.

I think the wiring was basically Joe’s right of passage into fatherhood. He was pretty stressed about the process and didn’t have the option of asking for an epidural or anything. But in the end, I think he emerged learning a lot from his dad. I’m super-impressed with what they accomplished over two weekends. And guess what? They passed the inspection!

The electrical inspection happened at the same time as the building inspection, which did have a bad news moment. (What remodel project doesn’t?) Apparently our windows, which we are totally in love with, aren’t big enough. Even though there are four of them, and they are gorgeous, Des Moines city code dictates that the egress has to basically accommodate a manatee. So. The contractors will be removing the windows and replacing them with probably three larger ones. We got the wooden fancy ones for half off because they were left over from one of our contractor’s other projects, so our replacement windows probably won’t be as high quality. Bummer sausage. I’m sure they’ll be fine, but it’s maybe little bit like test-driving a Mercedes and driving home in a VW. I mean, we totally drive a Passat, but once you’ve sampled the upgrade…

Insulation also went in this week, thanks to some handy friends coming over to pitch in.I wish I had gotten them all wearing their tool belts, but I was busy hanging out, watching The Mindy Project with Arin while our husbands sweated it out putting everything up. Hooray for no longer hemorrhaging heat out of the new room!


Batter up, drywall. Then, paint. Does anyone know how to go about matching exterior paint on a house?


Also, house-hunters, check out Joe’s sister and brother’s historic house for sale in Des Moines’ Union Park. We spend a lot of time there, and it’s comfortable, full of character, close to the park/bike trails, and has a big garage and fun party patio backyard. It’s a lovely home and once they sell theirs, they plan to move closer to us, so spread the word!


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Raising the roof

Baby needs a new room.Well, baby would probably be fine in a bassinet/cozy corner for months, but I’m itching for a nursery that is more than a nook — a room that our kid can grow into.


We love our 1920 hippo house with its Sec Taylor history and location on a leafy boulevard, newish handmade backyard fence and not to mention awesome neighbors who frequently delight us with cheerful whistling and/or by giving us bacon. Long story short, we want our baby to grow up here. Maybe someday we’ll move, but not quite yet.

Still, Joe and I weren’t keen on having a kids’ room on the first floor with ours on the second, which is the case with a lot of old homes around here with converted attic master bedrooms. So, we started looking into additions. I have job crushes on architects, probably because I used to hang out in my dad’s office a lot playing with blueprints when I was little.

Papa architect

I needed a pro to tell me if I was crazy or not to think about adding on, so I called one of my favorite experts. Architect friend Matt Coen came over for a beer and a peek around the house to let me know whether or not an addition was do-able and let us know what we might expect to pay. When he told us we could probably add another room upstairs without changing the footprint of the house or totally breaking the bank, via a dormer addition, Joe and I got all sorts of excited. Matt doesn’t do the kind of work we need (although his firm does amazing work and he’s a genuinely great guy), so he referred us the names of a few contractors. No way in hellz I’d ever DIY a partial roof demo, let alone in winter.

Simultaneous with pinning dormer addition inspiration and nursery decor, we’ve been interviewing contractors and navigating the world of home equity loans. Long story short on that last bit, local credit unions are totally awesome and Bank of America will make you gnash your teeth.

If all goes according to plan, we’ll start the project at the end of the month and I’ll be able to chronicle our nursery from studs to finishing before baby arrives!


Semi-related in local homes news:

The lovely Marissa has an air date (April 11) for their episode of the new West End Architectural Salvage show, which debuts on Valentine’s night. I can’t wait to see her room reveal.

My dear friends Amy and Josh are selling their super-lovely 3-bed, 3-bath Windsor Heights home to move to Pella, where Josh teaches. Part of me is tempted to abandon our improvement project and snap up their house, because it is charming and well-kept and their yard is awesome and the price is definitely right. If you’re in the market, check it out!


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Autumn home updates

Year three in our hippo house and we’re finally making some tweaks. It’s always good to remember a home is a work in progress, but filming a dorky application for the West End Architectural Salvage HGTV show (alas, we didn’t get a call back and no, I’m not linking to the video!) helped me think that we could take some strides to spruce up a few areas ourselves.

Mom picked up this armoire office for us from a Chicagoland IKEA:

The computer was upstairs and felt really isolated, especially since I’ve been on it so much for freelance assignments, my Masters papers and, OK, blogging. I kind of love the drafting stool, which changes heights – a bonus because Joe is a foot taller than I am.

I like that we can close it up to keep the mess at bay, and that the computer is now across from the couch, so we can also use it as a second TV and watch HBO Go shows. I’m thinking of papering the back and adding cork to the inside of the cabinet doors, Pinterest-style.

Then, we got a rug! Gotta love Overstock for affordable, room-covering options.Wilbur sure does!

This one isn’t as high-quality as the wool hooked rug I have in the den, but it brings together a lot of the colors in our house, and it’s 7’10” x 10′, but we won’t have to take out a second mortgage for it. Wilbur enjoys how soft it is, natch. You can always find him hogging a sunny spot. (Protip: always search coupon codes when buying stuff from Overstock. I added a nonslip pad to the order and was able to get it pretty much for free because it bumped my original total up to make me eligible for a 20% discount on my entire order.)

We moved our FLOR tiles to the dining room to replace the dinky IKEA rug that was there.

We’re still rearranging art, too. Debating whether to hang this Craft Breweries of the United States map in the kitchen or the dining room. I got it from Pop Chart Lab , and (despite missing lots of awesome Iowa breweries), the customer service was awesome. When our order arrived, the tube had opened and our posters had been rolling around in the delivery truck and were crunched. I let them know in an e-mail and within days they’d replaced them.

So, that’s what we have going on around our house! Oh, and the sound of lots of falling apples. This year’s crop is especially delicious.

Speaking of homes: My sister and brother in law are selling their lovely, updated Union Park home. It’s super close to the carousel, bike path to downtown and adds elegance to east side pride. If you know anyone looking, it’s a great place. I love their kitchen.

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House history in a Younkers box

Our backyard neighbors were doing some cleaning and came across a Younkers box full of clippings and letters from our “house ancestors” the other week, so they literally passed it over the fence for us to check out. I don’t think “house ancestor” is a real term, but that’s how I like to think of Sec Taylor and his wife, who I’m pretty sure was named Hazel. It also helps justify my curiosity as I went through the letters, articles and photographs.

Scan from the Des Moines Register archives

Joe and I have known about the Taylor connection since we first spotted the house on Zillow in 2009. Sec Taylor was a longtime sports editor at The Des Moines Register and Des Moines’ Iowa Cubs stadium was originally named after him, so he was a local celebrity about town, especially in the first half of the 20th century. Having a kind of house ancestry is one of the reasons I fell in love with our home in the first place, in addition to its cuteness, built-ins and our location on a leafy central Des Moines boulevard. We found a few photos of Sec in the Register’s archives when we worked there, and did a tiny bit of research on him and his work at the Des Moines Public Library. (They have some great local history info online.)

The box contained some mundane but fascinating correspondence among Sec’s siblings about what to do with a farm in Kansas that their father had passed on without a will (and under which there was the possibility of an oil strike), and fun surprises, like a photo of Sec Taylor and some Milwaukee Braves players, one of whom happens to be Hank Aaron. Or so thinks Joe, because I have no idea.

There were also clippings from Helen Hazel Rex’s society page writings for (we think) the newspaper in St. Joseph, Missouri. “Will you stand for a bit of scandal? I’ll try you one…” It’s funny stuff I can’t believe she got away with writing in such a small city. She would have been one snarky blogger.

The box also contained some glamour shots of Miss America, 1954, and photos of Sec at various hob-nobby looking functions with people holding an Oscar and in front of a model horse track. I think the Braves photo will go in a frame near our Iowa Cubs art, but I’m not sure what we’ll do with the rest of it. We’ll have to talk to Leo, our next-door neighbor who is curator for the Salisbury House!

Do any of you know the stories of your home’s ancestors?

Baseball photo update from Leo: ‎”44 is definitely Hammerin’ Hank. 21 is Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, 41 is HoFer Eddie Matthews, and only player to play for Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves and Atlanta Braves. Pretty sure Frank Torre is on the left, possibly is 1957 or 1958 World Series.” I’ll tell you, having a museum curator/bacon expert as a next-door neighbor never fails me. Thanks, Leo!


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