My Moon and My Man

my moon

Tonight there is big moon outside. I don’t know if it’s officially a full moon, but it’s darn big and awesome. Whenever I see an awesome moon, I find myself bobbing my head and performing an impromptu surprisingly-choreographed-looking dance to Feist’s My Moon and My Man (similar to, but not exactly like the one in the video).

I know some people hate Valentine’s Day, but I love it. It’s a time when I try to take notice of the people and things that I love – moons, jars of buttons, a well written memo – and just take note, bob my head and start fake dancing.

Happy Valentine’s Day Moon!


When Cupid knocks at your door….

Whenever I think of Valentine’s Day, my mental ipod plays the Outkast song of the same name on repeat. I do not know why this happens, but it does; judge me if you must.

To celebrate the big V-Day, and because the holidays were way too hectic to send out our usual holiday card and coordinating silly letter, we decided to take a pointer from the fabulous Julia Child and send out a Valentine’s Day card.

We cut out construction paper hearts, stuck them to ourselves and took a series of silly photos that I arranged into a post card.  It will be making its way to our friends and family just in time for Feb 14th.  Fun-A-Day #1 Check!

Enjoy the preview:)

valentine card

Helloooooo 2014

2014 is already off to a solid start and it was time, again to reflect on the past years successes and set goals for 2014. Having just finished The Happiness Project, I’ve decided to focus on one topic each month and stay focused on it until it’s time to move on.

January was for getting organized – cleaning out closets, the basement, my huge stash of random fabric scraps and sending un-needed things to Goodwill or the landfill.

February is for finishing things – touching up those blemishes on the walls from bumping things into them, filling nail holes in my baseboard trim and putting on the final coat of paint.

February is also time for Fun-A-Day: and I will be doing something creative each day during this cold, cold month and posting it here. It may just be writing up an old post I’ve had laying around or sharing a postcard I designed, but it will undoubtedly be FUN!  Here goes!

Capped and gowned

In reviewing my photos from the past year, it was amazing to see all I’ve accomplished.  It is definitely not my nature to be reflective; I’m always moving on to the next project.

For the new year (2013), Michael suggested that we summarize big accomplishments from the previous year and set a few goals for 2013. This was an excellent idea, partly inspired by this blog post at  Fair warning, it’s a bit profane and at first blush a little harsh, but it did inspire me to make a list of things to work on this year.


I’m pretty good at making detailed lists and goal setting, so that part was simple. Reflecting and allowing myself to revel in my accomplishments is my challenge. With that in mind, here’s a photo from my graduation from Iowa State and a link to my research project blog.


December 2011- yep, I’m over a year behind

Some people choose to buy themselves nice things for their birthdays or spend their limited vacation time flying to exotic locales, but not this girl. At least not until my little house is sufficiently pampered.

For my golden birthday in 2011, I decided to take a week off from work between Christmas and the New Year to finish up the kitchen.  This project was too big to be done in one shot, so I took a two-phase approach.

Phase 1: The En”light”enment (March 2010)
paint cabinets, update countertops, update knobs, rearrange movable cabinetry

Phase 2: Cookin’ (one week and massive progress)
maximize countertop and cabinet storage space while creating a more usable space

It can take a little time to figure out how you use a space and how to make changes that maximize utility while keeping the theme of the room. The plan for the kitchen took many Sunday afternoons at the good old Carnegie-Stout public library reviewing small house design/layout books, scratching floorplans onto scrap paper or napkins as the ideas flew into my head, and using (free) online tools like to reconfigure the space.

My final rendering on floorplanner is pretty close to how the project turned out:


It ended up taking the full 7 days from start to finish, including:

  1. Choosing cabinets that closely match the originals
  2. Removing old, non-matching cabinets from the back of the kitchen (future dining area)
  3. Patching and repairing vinyl flooring where cabinets had been
  4. Driving to IKEA to purchase additional countertops and cutting to size
  5. Additional wood paneling patching and painting
  6. Moving old and hanging/installing new cabinets

Oh, did I mention I had my awesome mom helping out most days that week? She kept me from overdoing it as I somehow managed to catch a plague that ended up wiping out my voice just in time for the unveiling of the finished product at my birthday party (more on that later).


My mom and me – VIP

My hometown (Dubuque, Iowa) was in the national spotlight yesterday due to visits from both presidential candidates. As they often do, they brought along a few celebrity supporters. I’ve been to my fair share of political events (since Iowa is such a big deal these days) and have never been as impressed as I was with the speech from Kate Walsh (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice).

I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t find any coverage where her comments are included: She talked about her father’s involvement in his trade union, her family’s use of medicaid, food stamps and her mother’s use of a government training program to return to the workforce after her parent’s divorce. She spoke of her use of Planned Parenthood for her annual exams as being the one form of healthcare she knew would always be available even while she went uninsured for long periods of time. She said that Barack Obama wants to give us a country where it doesn’t matter who your parents are and you don’t have to win the lottery (or get picked for a role on a TV show) to improve your situation.

I can relate to Kate – my dad worked at John Deere as a member of the UAW for 40 years and my mom also struggled to find employment that would provide health insurance and a decent wage when my parents divorced over 12 years ago.  We were able to get reduced price lunch and low interest loans for home improvements because we often landed on the cusp of being poor enough. My mom raised my sister and me on the $700/month in child support from my dad and around $10/hr from her retail and community training jobs.

I have an amazing mother who ALWAYS put me and my education first. I went to college (thank you Pell grant, subsidized loans and mom) and graduate school – which I was able to pay for while I worked full-time.

She got me my VIP ticket to see Barack Obama on Saturday and we stood together, side by side, in the 40 degree weather for 4 hours.

If I’ve learned anything from my experiences, it is that we all do better when there is a net to catch people who find themselves in less-than-ideal situations; most of us can’t just “borrow money from our parents”, and many do not have any bootstraps to pull themselves up by.  My mom was there making sure I had the tools to pull myself up, and like Kate, I would compare that luck with winning the lottery.


I bought a chair from IKEA a few years ago when we first moved in to our house. At the time, it seemed to go with the decor, which, if you’ve been reading previous posts at all, you know it left a bit to be desired.

In a burst of creative energy and a randomly chosen Tuesday vacation day, I decided it was time to bring the chair up to par with the rest of the house.

Grey and white chevron fabric, hand cut leather straps, and some mistinted discount trim paint and we have a brand new chair for the reading nook.


I’m pretty proud of this one since when Michael got home and saw it, his first thought was that I had bought a new chair.

Sometimes I feel like I got skills. Tuesday was one of those days.

The (un)usual suspects

We are pretty well known in our neighborhood for being the odd people out. If someone is going to paint their house an odd color, it is probably us; if someone is going to grow giant sunflowers as tall as their house, it is probably us; and if someone is going to dig up their front yard for more spring and fall crop garden space, it is, again, probably us.

After much back and forth – me opposed, Michael in favor – we compromised on how to dig up the front yard while maintaining some appearance of planned landscaping.

We chose one of the hottest days near the end of summer 2011 to plan this out, remove the sod, add a layer of compost and brick in the space. With much water and multiple breaks that included laying on the floor of our house running the ceiling fans (this is prior to giving in to turning on the central air), the project was finished and seeds for the fall crops planted.

Had we known that this heat wave would be followed by massive rains and flooding in eastern Iowa, we probably would not have planted the seeds that were washed away just a few days later.

I took the photos below on July 27, 2011 during the multi-day storm that carried our seeds through the streets of Dubuque and likely out into the Mississippi.

I realize I’m literally over a year late in updating about this project, but it was definitely worth the wait because I can show off the photo below revealing the success of summer and fall crops 2012! Kale, tomatoes, basil, carrots, cabbage, and peppers!


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, mainly because we’ve been so busy with house projects, school, and life in general, BUT it’s time to get back in the swing of things!

An update on our living room and office will be forthcoming, but I am very excited to introduce a pretty sweet find in my home state: West End Salvage.

Many of my good friends know, while I like to get my hands dirty, I also have a deep love for anything overly feminine, ruffly and/or intricately detailed. I didn’t fully realize that this was an oddity until a trip to DesMoines and an introduction to West End Salvage, a great BIG store filled with untouched and reworked antiques and a few vintage finds scattered in between. While perusing the wares with a co-worker, I squealed, put my hands to my cheeks and half whispered/half screeched “ohhh, ladythings!” at the sight of an old hand mirror, brush and comb set. I stepped forward and looked back toward my coworker, fully expecting the same reaction from her, and realized she was cracking up over my excitement at these feminine frivolities.

This visit to middle Iowa also marked my freedom from the reins of grad school (Thank You Iowa State). I’m now ready to rejoin the world, get together with friends and do some of my pre-grad school favorite things: posting, crafting and making all things lovely and functional.

Dirt and Mildew and Paint Chips, Oh My!

I’ve been wanting to make better (and cuter) use of our courtyard, but have been putting it off for the following reasons:
(1) I haven’t had time to paint the house back there, so it is still light grey
(2) The cement wall is dirty, mildewey, and a lot of the paint is loose

Yesterday, I decided to tackle a small piece of this mess and ended up with a pretty good result. I did not scrape and paint the house or the wall. I did scrub off the dirt and mildew with rain barrel water and a washing soda/borax mixture.

In anticipation of doing this cleaning project, I purchased seven large vintage glass vases (thank you Goodwill) that I planned to place on a small protruding ledge for use as giant candle holders (thank you mom for having a million old candles).

The vases looked like this:

The wall transformation looked like this:

Pre scrubbing

post scrubbing

With vases!

As if I didn’t have enough going on, I also decided to make pickles! The front jar is full of cucumbers, jalapenos, chili powder and crushed red peppers…..yum!