The Partial Deck Reveal

IKEA Table on Deck

Well, we are long past our September 15 deadline, and snow will soon be falling here in Salt Lake City, so it’s time to share where we landed with our deck project.


Let’s start at the beginning. Here are a few before photos to remind you where we started. You can see additional before photos (and our original inspiration board, which we deviated quite a bit from in the end) by clicking here.

Repairs and Demo

First up, was getting rid of the strange fence on the east side of the deck. We still can’t figure out what function it ever served. It only took a few hours and a hammer to take down. The most “difficult” part was filling in the fence posts with cement, which took less than an hour; just a quick trip to Home Depot and voila.

You can also see that the paint itself was in rough shape. We suspect it wasn’t outdoor quality paint and as a result, the wood piece on the west end of the deck was rotting and breaking apart.

With a couple long screws and pieces of pressure treated lumber later, it looked as good as new (Frodo and Ellie were more than willing to help too!).

Finally came time to paint, we really didn’t want to sand and paint the whole thing again, so Home Depot’s Behr Deck Over product was our best bet. We chose Slate Gray, which was slightly darker than the original color but wouldn’t contrast too drastically with the house. While the Deck Over product is rather expensive, we’re hoping it will prolong the life of the wood. It’s incredibly thick and a number of people who have glanced at it have thought the newly painted deck was Trex!

Here’s an after (which you actually got a preview of in the cement photo above… ha).

We also painted the posts surrounding the deck black (we painted them before we painted the deck). They were a faded brown prior to being painted, and we wanted them to pop with the new gray deck.

Finally, we replaced the light next to the door that you can see in the photo above with a more modern fixture from Lamps Plus.

The Deck Furniture

As the title of the post says, this is only a partial reveal. As of this posting, even though we ordered all the furniture for 2017 by the end of July we’re still waiting on this Tropez natural sofa from CB2 to arrive (just in time for snow!!). The downside on waiting until the end of summer to order your outdoor furniture is most everything will be on backorder (which we didn’t really plan on). However, the upside is we got pretty much everything pictured below on sale.

We still have a bit we’ll add next spring: Accessories, plants, possibly shades on the west end and that couch, but here is where we stand now.

The APPLARO table from IKEA (which was a great price) sits at the east end of the deck near where the fence was. The black chairs are the Sophia Black Dining Chairs from CB2 and the white chairs are the Acapulco Dining Side Chair by Harmonia Living. We love this space so much and can’t wait to spend more summer nights at this table.

On the other end, we have two Acapulco black chairs from CB2, pebble concrete coffee table from West Elm and an outdoor rug from Wayfair.

The third “zone” on the deck is on the north side and has two of favorite pieces of furniture: Swingasan hanging chairs from Pier One. The cushions on the chair are also from Pier One and the pillows are from Restoration Hardware.

And there you have it, there’s our deck (for now.)

Oh, and for anyone reading all of our posts, we mostly did make Brian’s September 15 birthday deadline and were able to have his birthday on the deck. Exactly what we wanted.



Our No Carve, Glow in the Dark Halloween Pumpkins

Confession: The smell of pumpkin guts makes Brian want to puke. Because of this issue, last year was the first year in our entire relationship that we’ve ever carved pumpkins together. (Brian claims to love Halloween and yet doesn’t participate in the pumpkin carving tradition, but I digress…) He made it through last year’s carving with a facemask and lavender scent but this year we decided to try something different and try completely no-carve pumpkins.

Here’s what we used to create them:

1 can white matte spray paint
1 can black matte spray paint
1 can metallic gold spray paint
1 can teal spray paint
1 small container black chalk paint (for Jack Skellington face)
1 package glow in the dark paint in squeezable tubes
Online printables (for C-3PO and Jack Skellington patterns)

We prepped all the pumpkins first by painting them, which took less than an hour including dry time. I failed and forgot to take pictures, but it did leave nice “crop circles” in our front yard, which will probably be there until spring. 🙂

For the pumpkins in which we just wanted words, we created word patterns in Photoshop, which was really easy. We just measured the approximate size we wanted it to be on the pumpkin and created the template accordingly in Photoshop. Then we were off and running.

To trace the pattern on the pumpkin we held the pattern on the pumpkin and used a pencil to trace the word and make an indentation into the wall of the pumpkin. We had to be careful not to press too hard, however, so it didn’t rip the paint off.

Once the patterns were traced on, the rest of the painting was easy. We just followed the lines and painted in them where necessary.

(The picture below is a bit misleading – we did the Jack Skellington pumpkin the same was as mentioned above the second time around. The photo below is the first attempt that failed and that we had to wash off the pumpkin, so don’t try that at home!)

And here’s the finished work on the porch in the daylight:

And here are the pumpkins all aglow on Halloween (thanks to the help of a few blacklights):

I don’t think we’ll be going back to carving pumpkins for Halloween anytime soon.

Planning Our Deck Design

We call our backyard a “party yard.” But that’s a bit of a lie, because we’ve had very few parties there (read: none).  We have ample space and a large covered deck. However, it’s a bit dumpy and the deck is a blank slate – especially now that we sold our furniture (thanks Facebook Marketplace!). After a summer of zero parties, we decided that we wanted to (mostly) furnish the deck by Brian’s birthday (September 15).

Here are some before pictures (Ellie included!):


I recently had surgery on my deviated septum, which meant I spent a week on the couch doing almost nothing. I promise a week of doing nothing wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds. However, this presented a perfect opportunity to plan out most of our deck. Bye, bye money (this coming from the cheap one in the relationship, go figure).

We chose a more mid-century modern inspired design because of the style of our house. We started by finding an awesome deal on this IKEA table and based the rest of the design off of that. I used Morpholio to put all the ideas together. Yeah, it’s pretty janky, but it was a bit easier than trying to compile everything in Photoshop.

These weren’t ALL THE THINGS  we are going to buy, but the mood board   put everything in one spot.

We used SmartDraw to completely map out the space after we had a design direction.  The app was easy to use (just don’t use Safari!) and gave us  confidence that we made correct choices. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a screenshot before our free trial ended, so I can’t share the plan. And we’re just not quite to the point yet where we need a full year subscription to the software – maybe by the time we get to that basement remodel.

We’ll be updating with our progress over the next several weeks, and hopefully we’ll make that September 15 deadline!

Refinishing and Reupholstering the Dining Table

After a months-long break, we’re back. We’ve done a few things since our last post: we removed the world’s strongest clotheslines from our backyard, did some major spring cleaning in our backyard, and (somewhat) planned the entire future layout of our house. In between, we trained and ran our first marathon, so no blog posts for you, our few devoted readers. 😉 Now that our days of endless running are over (for now), we decided to refinish and reupholster our dining room table.

Before we get started, I’ll just be frank: this project took a long time. We had a much different design idea in place when we started. (I’ll share more below). But, part way through we realized how terrible that idea would’ve turned out. To be totally honest, if I had to do it all over again I’d probably do the chairs differently (maybe teal-ish/aqua paint and a brown textured fabric?). Although we worked with what we had, and we learned something from this. (America’s Next Top Model Tyra Banks throwback anyone?)

What we used:

100-, 150- and 200- grit sandpaper
Orbital and detail sander
Behr Marquee Painter’s White
Behr Marquee Off Broadway
Polycrylic, clear satin finish
Nate Berkus Cobi Paramount Sarhara Fabric
Staple gun and staples

Total hours: Approx. 75


Brian received this table for free from a friend of ours a few years ago when she was remodeling her home. A new table would obviously be preferred, but this was a much more affordable route. (Yeah, these photos are terrible. But  before photos are supposed to be bad, right?). Then again, I’ve mentioned the terrible lighting in our house, so the after probably aren’t much better. I guess that’s just another project! Or I need to get better at Photoshop…

Refinish and Repaint

So to start things off, we started by sanding everything down. This is where things got hung up. We initially planned to paint the table black with Behr Off Broadway paint, stain the chairs with a lighter stain, and reupholster them with a blue fabric. However, halfway through sanding we realized that’d be fugly.

Both the chairs and the table have the designs pictured above etched in them. If we’d stained the chairs these areas would have remained dark and the chairs would’ve been a weird modern, rustic combination. There was no way we were going to sand all that detail either. Bad planning. We changed our plan about four times after this realization. (It didn’t help that we had already purchased a gallon of Off Broadway paint and couldn’t return it.)

After a lot of back-and-forth, we finally decided on our final plan, which involved several returns – just not the Off Broadway paint. If we were just painting, we didn’t need to sand everything to the grain. Oh well – here are pictures to prove we did . (If you ever want to refinish furniture with paint, you only need to scratch it up with 100-grit paper, enough to remove the finish, so paint will stick.)

The next stage was much easier. We purchased Behr Marquee paint because it contained paint and primer. We had a lot of the Off Broadway paint already, so we threw that on the chairs and chose the Painter’s White to give the table a lot of contrast.

After painting the table and chairs twice, we sealed the chairs twice with Polycrylic and the table four times.


The least time consuming portion of the project was the reupholstering. We removed the staples from the cushions with a flathead screwdriver. Then we just used the old fabric as a pattern to cut out fabric for the new cushion.

(Total side note, regarding the fabric we/I chose, Brian gave me the most epic eye roll  when he saw it was from the Nate Berkus line at Joann. “Of course that’s where it’s from!” He made fun of me for binge watching Nate and Jeremiah By Design on TLC earlier this year. The first season is over, but you can catch it On Demand and defend my honor!)

Putting the fabric on the chairs was relatively easy too. We basically wrapped them like Christmas gifts and made sure to pull the edges tight and even and they turned out a-okay.


Throwing Our Annual Oscar Party

Our Oscar Party has become a tradition. We love movies. They’re our thing. Well, at least one of them. Since we see a lot of movies our Oscar party is a natural extension of things we love – our friends and movies.

Our party includes Oscar bingo and a prediction contest, of course. (Shout out to my coworker, Brian, who beat me at in our party’s predication contest. That’s actually the first time that’s happened! Maybe I should blame the Oscar producers…)

We enjoy theming the party food each year. So I thought I’d share our what we did this year.

Maybe next year I’ll share our ideas in advance should anyone want to try them for their own festivities.

Anyway, in alphabetical order, here’s what we made:

Arrival: Pod Cookies

THESE COOKIES WERE AMAZING! Seriously the best sugar cookies ever. The spaceships are based off the alien ship in Arrival and the design is the SPOILER ALERT Heptapod language from the film. If you haven’t seen Arrival, you probably don’t know what that means, but if you haven’t and you’ve read this far, I’m sorry that you’ve been spoiled because Arrival is a great movie.

Cookie recipe (Found at: Katrina’s Kitchen)


  • 1 Cup unsalted butter
  • 1 Cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of your mixer cream butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Beat in extracts and eggs.
  4. In a separate bowl combine baking powder with flour and add a little at a time to the wet ingredients. The dough will be very stiff. If it becomes too stiff for your mixer turn out the dough onto a countertop surface. Wet your hands and finish off kneading the dough by hand.
  5. DO NOT CHILL THE DOUGH. Divide into workable batches, roll out onto a floured surface and cut. You want these cookies to be on the thicker side (closer to 1/4 inch rather than 1/8).
  6. Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

Frosting (Also found at Katrina’s Kitchen)

  • 2 Cups shortening
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract 
  • 8 Cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 Cup heavy cream (more or less to desired consistency)
  • food coloring, if desired

For the Frosting:

  1. In the bowl of your mixer beat shortening until smooth and creamy.
  2. Mix in vanilla (and almond extract if using).
  3. Add powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) until combined, then add  cream & mix until smooth and spreading consistency. Adjust cream to desired frosting thickness
  4. Add a few drops of color, if desired. We obviously added coloring to make gray, and used a black icing pen to make the Heptapod language.

Fences: Rose’s Ham Sandwiches

Throughout Fences, Rose (Viola Davis) is often in the kitchen and she makes a few ham sandwiches throughout the film. And no, this isn’t why Viola was SO deserving of her (overdue) Oscar. It was all the ugly crying. 😉 No recipe necessary here.

Hacksaw Ridge: Guts Fruit Salad

First, excuse the typo on the food sign. I made them very, very quickly this year. I’ll do better next time. As a war movie, Hacksaw Ridge is a bit bloody. Although it doesn’t quite look like guts, this salad is as creative as we could get.

Red Fruit Salad Recipe (found at Pip and Ebby)


  • 2 Cups cherries
  • 2 16 oz. containers strawberries
  • 3 6 oz. containers raspberries
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped basil


  1. Chop and combine cherries and strawberries in bowl.
  2. Add raspberries.
  3. In a small bowl, combine: Juice from 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons sugar, and basil

  4. Mix well and drizzle over the fruit. Gently stir with a large spoon until the fruit is coated thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Hell or High Water: Steak Fries

There’s a funny scene in Hell or High Water where Jeff Bridges’ character enters a diner and the waitress informs him that he can only order two things: a baked potato or steak. So we combined the two into one: steak fries. A lot easier to make for big group of people. Call us lazy.

Hidden Figures: Lemonade

Food doesn’t really play a big role in Hidden Figures. However, the bathroom does. One of the film’s most iconic lines is: “We all pee the same color.” Thus, lemonade. You get the idea. Brian even made it fresh too! Not from powder!

La La Land: Tapas

Poor La La Land. Many of the pundits were saying the film didn’t deserve to win Best Picture. They got their wish. (And if you’re asking me, Moonlight was the better movie of the two). Anyway, tapas play a pivotal role in the film and we went with a really easy recipe: bacon wrapped dates. Literally, just dates wrapped in bacon, but they were delicious. I’m not sure Sebastion (Ryan Gosling) would approve, but we’ll never know.

Lion: Jalebis

Every year, there’s always a film or two with a very obvious menu item. This year Lion was one. Jalebis mark a turning point in the film. They really were fairly easy to make too. And for all of you Americans reading this – they taste a lot like donuts.

Jalebi Recipe (Found at



  1. Put flour in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add gramflour.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Add yogurt and water.
  5. Mix well, using a spoon, ensuring that no lumps remain.
  6. Mix to obtain what is technically called,”ribbon consistency”.
  7. (Ribbon consistency simply requires you to mix for about 5-7 minutes, really well, so that when the mixture is dropped from the mixing spoon into the mixing bowl, it should fall like a ribbon. Don’t let the term scare you, it’s pretty easy, you just got to).
  8. Add a pinch of baking soda.
  9. At this point, this mixture (batter) can be refrigerated if you are planning on making the jalebis later.
  10. If you plan to make the jalebis instantly, put the mixture in a jalebi bottle (you get these bottles to make jalebis in the market).
  11. If you dont have a jalebi bottle, you can use an empty well-washed and thoroughly clean, tomato ketchup bottle.
  12. Heat oil on low-medium flame in a frying pan.
  13. Meanwhile, spoon the above prepared batter in the icing bag fitted with the star nozzle/jalebi bottle/ tomato ketchup bottle.
  14. Drop the batter by squeezing the bottle/icing bag, into the hot oil, in concentric circular motion to make the jalebis.
  15. Lightly brown on either side.
  16. Repeat until all the batter is used up.
  17. On low flame heat the pre-prepared sugar-water syrup (known in Hindi as”chashni”).
  18. Add few threads of saffron to the syrup- these look really pretty on the jalebis later when you dip the latter into them.
  19. Now, drain the excess oil from the jalebis.
  20. Drop into the sugar-water syrup.
  21. Dip well, toss well, to coat the jalebis in the syrup.
  22. Drain excess syrup from the jalebis.

Manchester By The Sea Salt Water Taffy

This one was a stretch, but a fun play on words, right? Plus it was so much easier than making something like lobster (since characters in the film are lobster fishermen) or sea salt caramels.

Moonlight: Arroz Con Pollo

Like LionMoonlight was the other obvious food connection. Arroz Con Pollo is vital to the film’s third act. It’s really good too. You should try this! Also, how great is it that Moonlight won Best Picture?!

Crockpot Arroz Con Pollo (Found at



  1. Combine all ingredients in the cooking vessel. Stir well. Cover and cook: Low-8 hrs (or) High-5 hours.

And that was our Oscar menu! Until next year, happy film going!

Rehabbing Our DIY Dog Gates

Before I start, let me just say that all that mouse poop I found in the ceiling a couple weeks ago had me slightly worried for a hot second this week. For a minute, I thought those jerks may have given me hantavirus. But good news, I’m alive and well and dragging Brian into doing more projects. 🙂

President’s Day weekend was the perfect time for another project! Up this time, updating the DIY dog and/or baby gates that the previous homeowners left with the house.

Frodo and Ellie are relatively well behaved, but the gates are nice especially when we want to keep the dogs out of the basement or confined to the family room. They also are handy when friends who have kids come over: just shut the gates and let the kids have free reign!

However, the previous owners never painted the gates, so they looked unfinished and the house isn’t industrial enough to pull that look off.




Because I’m basically a commercial for the product, I used Zinsser Bin Primer before painting. I promise I don’t have an unnatural affinity for this product. We’ve needed to get rid of so much wood grain in this house and Zinsser has done a decent job of hiding it.


We chose to paint the gates with Behr’s Iron Mountain to keep with the gate’s looking modern while staying in theme with our gray walls. (BTW, gray is totally the new beige and I’m going to hate it in 10 years, right? ;)). Anyway, here’s what they look like now. I’m happy with them. And seriously, I’m so glad we have them. They’re so functional. For anyone with dogs and/or toddlers or babies I’d highly recommend DIY-ing something like this for your home.

And here’s Ellie sneaking a peak through one of the freshly-painted gates.

How We Decorated Our Mantel & Learned a Communication Lesson in the Process

Now that we’re getting a bit more settled, it was time to decorate our mantel  in our living room. Although we had a fireplace in our first house, we didn’t have a mantel.

We wanted to make sure it had balance, movement and tied in with the rest of the room.

Here’s how it went:

Step 1: The Focal Point: Hanging the Mirror

The only item that was previously owned was the Crate & Barrel mirror below that we received as a wedding gift from my family. We designed everything around the mirror.

Obviously, the first step was hanging it. Brian, as always, was the muscle for the project. After he sweetly hung the mirror, I was a big jerk, and made him do it all over again. We realized the prior to hanging the mirror, we hadn’t communicated on where it should be hung: he assumed it should’ve been in the middle of the wall and ceiling whereas I thought it should be 2-3″above the top of the mantle.

The big lesson learned: talk about what we want before hanging anything in the future. And not pictured here: the large holes in the chimney that Brian patched and filled. He did a great job – you can’t  even tell there used to be holes!

Brian is the best and hung the mirror again. Before (6″ above the mantel) and after (3″ above) pictures are below. (And for any Disney and/or UP fans we decided that the Paradise Falls jug didn’t belong on the mantel and we relocated it a nook in our entry, but maybe that’s a post for another day.)

Step 2: Adding Objects and Layers: The West Elm Phase

Lucky for us, West Elm was having a significant sale on everything in-store because of upcoming inventory. As a result, I found everything below at relatively reasonable prices.

Step 3: Adding More “Greenery” and Foliage

Now I love designer twigs from places like Crate & Barrel and West Elm just as much as the next gal/guy, but do I want to spend $25 for stick? Yeah, no. To the local craft store we went.

Step 4: Getting Personal From Yennygrams

I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to put in the mantel’s frame. Luckily, I have a friend, Kate, from Boston University who has a design and calligraphy business, Yennygrams, who could help me out.

I just wanted a simple piece of word art that told our story: we met at Salt Lake County Democratic Party Convention and became friends, we were engaged at the Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and were married at Snowbasin in Utah. The art also ties in the colors from the rest of the room. Kate did a great job and I’m really happy with it!

Step 6: Antique Books and the Final Product

To add height to the West Elm candle holder, I found two antique books at a local consignment store. One also ties in the blues from the rest of the room.

A Tale of Basement Demolition, Dead Mice and a Design Dilemma

So far the projects in our new home have been easy (read: mainly just painting), but while Brian was out of town at a conference this week I started demolition on our biggest project: the basement.

I affectionately call the basement a dungeon. While it’s not quite an underground prison, it’s not the most inviting space (wood paneling and drop ceilings, ftw!). Currently, it’s framed out to include a recreation/family area, two bedrooms,  storage room, laundry room, 3/4 bathroom, two cold storage pantries and other storage.

The ceilings in the basement are either exposed or they’re drop ceilings with office-style ceiling panels. Our house was built in 1951, so we need all the ceiling height we can get. The ceilings are only about 6’5″ with the drop ceilings in place, so they had to go.

Before (and a selfie for good measure)

After (and a selfie for good measure)

You should note that I purposefully did not include the pictures of the three dead mice (and lots and lots of poop) that I found in the ceiling when I was removing the panels. I figured that was probably something people didn’t want to see. 😉

This is one of those scenarios where its definitely going to look worse before it looks better. However, by removing the drop ceiling, we’ve now entered a bit of a design dilemma.

Design Dilemma

Originally we thought we would replace the drop ceiling with regular drywall celling and recessed lighting. This would gain us about 3 to maybe 3.5″ in height, leaving about 6’8″ in clearance where there isn’t duct work. Not totally ideal.  However, digging down isn’t a very viable option for us because the floor tiles in the basement are sealed with asbestos, and so the asbestos removal combined with the cost of digging down several inches is very cost prohibitive.

However, as I removed the panels, I had a crazy thought. What if we left the ceiling exposed? This would give us nearly 8′ in standard ceiling clearance, or at least the appearance of standard ceiling clearance. Not the most energy or sound efficient, but it might work aesthetically. I did some research and apparently it’s a thing some people do in basements. Below are some photos I found of exposed ceilings (many in basements).

Now, Brian doesn’t think we can pull this off and thinks we should stick with a lower drywall ceiling. I guess time will tell what we decide to do.

How We Threw Our Housewarming Party

Housewarming Welcome Sign


Now that we’ve been in our house a little over a month (and painted almost every room) it was time for our housewarming!

It was nice to finally have our friends over. Plus, I know Brian was thankful to not have to work on house projects for a weekend!

Housewarming Welcome Sign

I made the DIY welcome banner above from paint chips from Home Depot. Simple and super easy.

We gave house tours of the new digs and served a bunch of food. We made away too much — as is typical for a Brian & Jason party.

Here’s a sample of a few of the things that we stole from Pinterest and made on our own (aka the ridiculous amount of pizza purchased isn’t pictured).

Fruity Pebble Rice Krispy Treats

Ingredients (recipe found at madeitwithhappy)

  • 1 bag mini marshmallows
  • 5 cups Fruity Pebbles (or you know, Dino Bytes from Malt O Meal, if you’re cheap like us)
  • 5 tablespoons butter


  1. Line the bottom of an 8×8 pan with foil.
  2. Spray with cooking spray and set to the side.
  3. Over medium heat, melt butter and marshmallows together.
  4. Once completely melted, remove from heat and fold in cereal.
  5. After all cereal is fully coated, mix in the remaining cup of marshmallows.
  6. Transfer to the pan and even out.
  7. Cool and serve.

Oreo Truffles

Ingredients (recipe found at popsugar)

  • 1 package Double Stuf Oreos
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup white candy melts or chocolate chips


  1. In a food processor, chop up Oreos, including the frosting, until a fine crumb is reached. Save 1/4 cup of Oreos for garnish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together remaining Oreos with cream cheese. Once combined, roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a piece of wax paper. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  3. While the Oreo balls are in the freezer, melt chocolate until smooth (we did this in the microwave). Pull the Oreo truffles out of the freezer, and dip into the chocolate. Place on a new wax-paper-lined baking sheet, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining Oreo crumbles.
  4. Place truffles in the refrigerator to set the chocolate

Brownie Batter Dip

Ingredients (recipe found at ohsweetbasil)

  •  (8 Ounce) Package Cream Cheese, softened
  • 8 Ounces Cool Whip
  • 1 (18 ounce) Box Brownie Mix, dry
  • 2 Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips

For Dipping: we used graham crackers, pretzels and fruit (strawberries, grapes and melons)

  1. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Mix in cool whip until smooth. Add in brownie mix and milk. Mix until smooth and fold in chocolate chips, reserving a few for garnish.
  2. Serve immediately or wrap the bowl in saran wrap and store in the fridge up to one day ahead.

Cowboy Caviar

Modified Ingredients (we didn’t include cilantro because that stuff is NASTY) (original recipe found at Culinary Hill)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar (see notes)
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (11 ounce) can super sweet corn, drained (see notes)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt. Add tomatoes, black-eyed peas, beans, corn, red onion, and bell peppers. Stir.
  2. Cover and chill at least 1 hour to blend flavors. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

All of the above were easy and tasty! Although with the Super Bowl today too, we may gain 10 lbs this weekend. Oh well, back to healthy eating on Monday.


Changing the Lights in Our Family Room (and Freaking Out Our Goldendoodle in the Process)

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the lighting in our house is terrible. We have great window lighting, but the overhead lighting comes down to: track lighting or ceiling fans. We’re in desperate need of recessed lighting, but until then, the first project was swapping out a pair of ancient flush mounts in our family room.

If we learned anything from our last house — it’s that a new light can completely transform a room. These lights aren’t on that level, but they’re a big improvement on what was there previously.

We swapped out the lighting at night, so the pictures in this post are pretty terrible.


These are the lights we swapped out:

Here’s what the room looked like when the lights were on (SO DARK):


We bought the new lights from Wayfair. Most people who’ve moved recently know you’re bombarded with coupons from USPS. One was a decent one from Wayfair, so we used it on the lights and it saved a good amount of money.

After Brian’s handyman skills were put to work, here’s what the lighting looks like now:

The lights aren’t that exciting, but they’re really a much better fit for the room and the feeling of the space. Plus, they’re so much brighter and appropriate for the dim room.

The best part of the story

Now, this post is pretty boring, but it gets a bit better.  When we woke up the morning after installing the new lights, Ellie, our goldendoodle seemed pretty upset. While we were eating breakfast she kept barking — at the new light in the hallway. Who knows why, but she was very upset at the new fixture. She didn’t bark for long but she kept stalking and keeping an eye on the fixture for about an hour. Who knows why, but it was hilarious. Much better she freak out a light fixture than a machete man, right?

I should’ve taken a video, but here’s a photo of her stalking the light early in the morning.

How many pets out there really get freaked out by home decor?!