Sunday, December 27, 2015

A latte on my mind... but I'll give it a shot

Christmas on a Friday this year is pretty much a gift in itself. Having an almost 4-day weekend is incredible. I was ready for some rest and relaxation- after the baking, of course.

Plus, I love spending time with family. There is always wonderful music playing, a fireplace warming up the family room and an endless supply of coffee. It is the ultimate cozy atmosphere. While our family has become smaller over the years and bittersweet memories always rise to the surface, I still will always cherish these moments with joy. And the older I get, the more I understand how rare it is to have a family come together to celebrate God's love for the world. 

As much as I hate to contrast my love for the intangible, I  have to brag for a moment that my parents and husband went all out to make me feel special this year. 

As you can tell from the title of this post and this site in general, I enjoy a good cup of coffee. And I suppose what makes a "good" coffee is in the mouth of the beholder, but I mean smooth, dark and strong- and never from a can. 

The hubs and I are pretty budget-conscious, but the one thing we splurge on consistently is our occasional  "fru-fru" coffee drinks. We have longed for an espresso machine, but never could rationalize purchasing one, so when we opened up a Nespresso coffee/espresso machine from my parents, we were like two kids getting a brand new toy and could hardly wait to try it. 

I admit I was a little skeptical of a capsule machine claiming to make a great cup of coffee or espresso, but good cow, that makes a smooth cup! I think we have had more coffee in the last 36 hours than we have in the last two weeks! They even included these two mini-mugs with our initials for our espresso shots! I think we're still buzzing... 


And as if that didn't already make my year, my husband has been hard at work on a mystery project for the last couple months in our basement. I knew it would be a table, but beyond that was up to my imagination. He and a friend transported it up to our kitchen and even had it covered in wrapping paper, so it was a blast to unwrap it Christmas morning and reveal the most beautiful live-edge walnut dining table and matching bench I've ever seen. What you can't see from these photos is the steel pipe table legs. The grain is incredible and at 7 1/2 feet long, I'm so excited to have larger groups over for dinner! 


He even made a Shutterfly book to show me the whole process since I didn't get a play-by-play of its creation! 






So as I enjoy my lattes with a little less guilt and ooo & ahhh over my stunning new furniture, I am in awe of how incredibly loved I am. I couldn't have asked for a better Christmas and hope you all had an amazing weekend as well. 

Let me know your favorite coffee drink! I need to gain some barista skills since I am limited to a latte and macchiato at the moment. :) 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Christmas Time Is Here

 I typically get crazy excited for Christmas- so crazy that I get an ache in the pit of my stomach to turn on Christmas music around the middle of November. This year, however, I've been having trouble getting as excited as I normally am. I suppose it could be that my Lieutenant will be absent for the first half of December or that I am getting old and crotchety about the cold weather. 
Regardless, I knew I wanted to get the house all Christmasy before my hubs left so we could decorate together. 

I didn't want to get too crazy in the decorations, but I can't get enough of candles and lights! I just thought I'd share a bit of our setup in case anyone needs any inspiration. :) 

First of all- I have long dreamed of having a Willow Tree Nativity set. Definitely not on the cheap side- but an incredible gift from my incredible parents. Hopefully we will complete the set someday! 


And my sister-in-love is to blame for my favorite ornament. She gave it to us as a wedding gift. It's hard to tell in this photo, but the curly paper strips inside the ornament are from our wedding invitation and colors from our wedding. I especially like the little "C" charm on top. :)


 And of course Louie enjoys the lights too. :) 


Love how candles make everything feel so warm and cozy!  


 A huge part of our Christmas traditions come from our Swedish heritage, so I always have a few Scandinavian pieces mixed in, like the Santa Lucia doll... 


 And our Made-in-Sweden wooden snowflake light.


And probably the best part of the decor for the evening was a Wookiee under the tree.


I'm starting to feel the Christmas spirit setting in, so it will be non-stop Christmas music as I practically live in our front room. I think I'm finally ready for snow! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Spicin' it up

I absolutely love trying new spices and seasonings. And while Tone's is the bee's knees for affordable spices, the yellow and red containers aren't exactly attractive in the kitchen. In order to make my spice rack a little more pleasing to the eye, I re-purposed an old shelving piece went to work thinking of a new idea for a container. 

I have been using these for about 5 years now, and it has worked splendidly (although I probably should re-do a few of them now that I know what spices I use and don't use.)

First, you will need small glass jars. I chose these cute little jars from Bed Bath & Beyond. They came in a pack, but now are sold individually here. 


You will also need painters tape, a while paint marker, Chalkboard paint and a small brush or sponge (depending on the look you want.) 


First, spread out a bunch of newspaper. (If you're anything like me, nothing is safe from a crafting mess.) Then cut small strips of painters tape (twice as many strips as you have jars) and place them on the front of the jar, leaving only the center exposed for painting. 


Using your sponge or brush, fill in the un-taped section with blackboard paint. It may take a few coats.  


Once you have as many coats as you'd like, peel off the tape and let the jars dry.


Then, using a white paint marker, or a chalk paint marker, write the name of your desired spices on each jar! You can make it look fancy or casual!


It has worked great for my spices and holds about 2 oz, which is fantastic since I go through them so quickly! There are always a few spices I don't have room for, so I still have a drawer for excess spices, but this is so much more fun! :) 


Have a fantastic week and let me know if you think of any unique spices I should incorporate in my spice rack!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Who let the Hawks Out?

Memories come flooding back when I read this title. Back in the early 2000's, they would play "Who let the dogs out?" at Iowa Hawkeye basketball games. Of course, changing dogs to Hawks was incredibly innovative at the time. It was super cool when I was in junior high, but has quickly become a pathetic attempt in hindsight. 

Alas, as fall is in full swing, Hawkeyes are on the mind. I'm admittedly not much of a basketball fan, but I love college football. It is a core part of my autumn buzz! 

A few weekends ago, I finally caved and did a little fall decorating, but even with all the cute candles and wheat, something was missing... 


It was time to bust out my black and gold sign of support! I was all jazzed until I pulled it out of storage. . . It had faded to the point it wasn't even remotely yellow anymore! I put a bit of real yellow next to it to show how much it had faded. :( 


I figured I had some yellow acrylic paint lying around and some fine-tip brushes, so why not make it new again? 


It took a few more coats than I thought it would- but good as new! :)  


Check out the trademark symbol to see the difference!  


Ta-da! 


So now I can display my Hawkeye pride once more... and hopefully it will distract from our old siding. :) 


I will be at the game this weekend on Halloween day, so if all goes well, I will be a zombie fan. I will also try my darnedest to get my dad to dress up as well, but slim chance there! 

Let's Go Hawks! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

E-I-E-I-O...

I absolutely adore this time of year! The crisp mornings that turn into warm breezy afternoons, Crunchy leaves with golden sunsets and changing over my wardrobe to include hoodies and jeans. 

This past Sunday, however, didn't get the memo! We had a high of 85 (no complaints here), but it thankfully cooled down just a bit for a quick photo session with the beautiful McDonald family in the evening. 

It is truly an honor to do a photo shoot for them- Momma McDonald has been a lifelong friend of mine since before I can remember. We have always been "un-biological sisters," and my entire life is intertwined with wonderful memories of our adventures and her encouragement as a sister in Christ as well. Now it's so much fun to be part of her kiddos' lives. 

It was hard to narrow down this session, but I figured I couldn't get too crazy! :) 


See what I mean? Adorable family! My favorite is the one below. These little throwback Nike shoes belonged to papa McDonald when he was a baby! 



 



This next one probably makes my top three as well. You can't get much more realistic than this! Thankfully, he was back to his happy self not but a minute later. :) 






Wednesday, October 7, 2015

3 Years = Leather

It has been a pretty crazy last few weeks. Life kind of gets away from me sometimes and I need to really re-focus and hone in on what is important. Last night was the perfect opportunity to do that as my husband and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary! 

I love having my hubs by my side- especially when life gets the way it has been. Even when we face pay-cuts and job stress, he is always steadfast. I get a little emotional and frantic and he stands firm. I literally thank God for giving me such an amazing spouse. 

Three years ago, we decided we wanted to stick to the traditional anniversary gifts. While this has meant we have to get creative with themes like paper, cotton and leather, it has actually been pretty fun! 

This year, I was a tearful mess as I opened a hand-made leather photo album with a beautiful note and a few photos of us so far. He started our own scrapbook! It reminds me of the adventure book from the movie "UP." 

While we had big plans to go out and have a romantic dessert night on the town, we decided it sounded better to get Perkin's pie to go and watched a movie at home. :) I think that means we're getting old! 

I hope you're all having a wonderful start to fall and enjoying your family and spouses like I am this week! 


Monday, September 14, 2015

Na na na na .. Bat Bar!

It is always so wonderful to get refreshed over vacation. After a week away with my Soldier, I couldn't be more thankful for the time we had together. It is such a great thing for our marriage to really just have fun together and de-stress. 

We were blessed enough to receive a trip to Big Cedar Lodge at Table Rock Lake for Christmas last year from my parents, so we put that to great use and stayed there most of the week! This place is incredible- seriously, check it out: www.bigcedar.com 

We were able to stay in a duplex cabin, so even though the chimney had some issues and the last 24 hours were quite smokey, we did get to enjoy a couple evenings like this: 


They also have this incredible restaurant/golf course called Top of the Rock. You can do a golf cart tour of the property, including going through some natural caves (with water dripping from stalactites) and some breathtaking views of the lake.  My only request was that I got to drive for the tour. Those little carts can go pretty fast! 



While we didn't get any photos in the cave (much too dark!) they had an amazing addition to the tour- a bat bar! You can pull up in your golf cart and order their specialty drinks, wine, soda, juice, water, etc, then carry on with your tour in the dark and damp winding path through the caves. It really is a cool experience! 


My parents love Big Cedar Lodge and had actually made reservations during the same week we were there, so we ended up going on the tour together and doing a few double dates- talk about great timing! Plus, it's always entertaining to watch the guys be goofballs: 


Toward the end of our stay, we also went on an evening cruise on Table Rock lake- such perfect weather! 


My hubs even surprised me after our stay with an out-of-the-way trip home to swing through Rolla to visit some wonderful friends, then on to St. Louis & Chicago to see some wonderful people I miss a lot! So it was a wonderful end to the trip (albeit a LOT of driving!) 

And I found out the hard way how stressful it can be to drive in Chicago when you're used to the laid back Iowa life: I almost ran a cop car off the road because I didn't know where I was going! Needless to say, he pulled me over to see if I was intoxicated! My husband made fun of me the rest of the time and I'm sure will not forget about it anytime soon. Thankfully, the officer was super nice and helped me out with directions since I was obviously confused! 

Have a fantastic week and enjoy the last warm days before fall kicks in! 


Monday, August 31, 2015

Country livin'

Last spring, my husband and I decided we wanted to get out of the city and have a bit more space for us, the pooches, a garden... anything! We decided to set out in search of a home, but after months of this process and finding nothing that really matched our search parameters, we decided to look into building a home. 

Fast forward about a year and a half and here we are, our 2 1/2 acre lot paid off and finalizing the estimate for our new home! We won't actually start building until next spring, but I have to admit how happy I am it has taken a little longer than planned. It has really given us time to save up a bit more and truly identify our needs vs. wants. We have ended up with a plan we love, which means a plan built around the idea of hosting family events and gatherings. 

Even though the commute to work will be a bit longer, I'm excited to carpool with my husband and who can beat a view like this on your way to and from work? 



So as we make the final touches on our plan and approach the design aspect of it all, I'm curious what your dream home would have in it, without breaking the bank. My hill to die on, for instance, is a wood-burning fireplace. I absolutely am ecstatic about this part! I would give up a dishwasher for this! 

I'll be posting a list of a few of our must-haves as we finalize what we can realistically build, but I'd love any input! 

So if you were building your dream home, or already have, what would you include? 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Under Pressure! (Pressure Washing, that is...)

What a week! 

As I briefly mentioned previously, my awesome husband has been gone for the last three weeks at Annual Training in Fort Polk, Louisiana. I did not envy him his time there in the 112 heat index with humidity that rusted his pocketknife! 

I have been so excited to have him home (three weeks is a long time!) and have been booking it to get everything done in his love language, which means hedge trimming, mowing and pressure washing our fence. 

Seriously proud of that one: Check out this image from when it was almost complete! Who knew we had such a good-looking fence!  


My love language is definitely not action oriented like this. I am big on gift giving and words, so he always gets some punny little goofy cards when he goes on longer trips like this. I get some inspiration online (DatingDivas.com is amazing for sweet hubby stuff like this!) or just come up with our own inside joke ideas. I include a Bible verse that I feel will encourage him that day and pack them all up for his trip!

He loved his cards AND the yard being all done, so he could actually relax when he got home... or so I thought! We had a lovely evening at home... and then out of nowhere, I get sick. Horrible stomach pains for days. So there went our plans to spend a romantic weekend together and make homemade meals for him, but it was pretty nice having him there to take care of me. :) 

I just had my first day back a work today- which completely wiped me out- but I can't complain! I have no idea how all of you moms can go through this stuff and still be taking care of everyone else! I have a hard enough time letting the dogs outside when I'm sick! 

So enough about me and my lazy sick days, I will leave you with two things this oddly chilly Wednesday in Iowa: 

First, a suggestion: if you can find a good deal, get a pressure washer! It's so amazing to watch things transform when you clean them! We use it on siding, sidewalks, fences, etc. Awesome machine that really saves money in the long run! 

Second, a video of the pups seeing their "dog-dad" for the first time when he got home. :)





Thursday, August 13, 2015

Welcome, Little Pumpkin Baby Shower

Since I don't get to host baby showers every day (only two, ever, in fact), I thought I might give a little glimpse into one I planned last fall. It seems especially appropriate since fall is right around the corner! 

Since I am a sucker for themes and wordplay, pumpkins seemed perfect. Plus, it's super easy to decorate with pumpkins when they are outside every grocery store! 

I also ended up spending a lot of time at Hobby Lobby, where I found these adorable little straws and flags. I combined mason jars from my own collection, my mom's and my sis-in-luv's, so that was pretty easy! A warning on those paper straws, though- they get a little mushy the longer you use them! 


We also ordered cupcakes from a local bakery, Creme Cupcake- and provided little candy pumpkins for decor. Amazing flavors there! We went with Mocha Fudge, Salted Cinnamon Caramel and Red Velvet. We hosted it in the early afternoon as a dessert reception. We also had coffee, tea and apple cider! 


And centerpieces/decor was a breeze...


I also baked apple and pumpkin pies, added a little wheat to a pitcher, and voila! The pie stand below is actually from my wedding. My hubby, the officer, made it from wood in our backyard!! 


And to sub as a welcome sign, I painted a larger pumpkin  and included some fresh fall leaves, mini pumpkins, and an old milk crate I actually used in my wedding as well. 


And while it seems most people hate baby shower games (or any shower games), we had to throw in a few that weren't too bad: First up was only selecting volunteers to guess the baby-food. (and we only picked ones that didn't sound nasty!)


There was also a pumpkin painting contest, which the mom-to-be got to judge so the winner received a prize. We had everything from little colorful brads (to act as safer push-pins), paints and glitter. The results were pretty awesome! 



Gifts followed of course, and even the new big-sister reaped the benefits of the shower with her own personalized shirt. 


Before everyone left, we made sure to have a small gift for them on the way out! This cute little pumpkin bear guarded our basket of Apple Valley soaps with different fall scents. If you haven't heard of them, check out their website: http://www.applevalleynaturalsoap.com - I have never met a soap or lip product I would recommend, but my husband, parents and I all love these! 

Okay.. I'll get off my "soapbox." :) 


The party was a great success and we had a blast putting it together! I can't wait to host another shower- there are so many great ideas out there!