What I’m Into – January 2018

frosty winter branches with green leaves

There are definitely pros and cons to having a new baby during the coldest months of the year. Two of the pros are rarely needing to leave the house and wearing pajamas or leggings 24/7. I have found that my favorite time of day is in the very early morning after the baby’s last “night-time” feeding. I keep the living room dark, except for the fire flickering in the fireplace, and catch up on work, journal, read, or simply scroll my Instagram feed while sipping coffee…lots and lots of coffee. Here’s what’s kept me going during the first month of 2018.

What I’m Into – January 2018 Edition

Speaking of coffee, New Mexico Piñon Coffee is my new favorite variety, particular the Trader Joe’s version. It’s very mild and slightly sweet with a nutty flavor.

We spent the early part of the month – and some of December – watching an episode of Last Tango in Halifax on Netflix every evening before I went to bed. I’m a big Sarah Lancashire fan from Happy Valley (also a must watch) and loved this somewhat more light-hearted series. It has its dark moments but offsets them with its dry British humor, which I happen to enjoy more than the American variety of slapstick comedy.

Lack of sleep has my attention span at an all-time low, so reading long meaty novels and thought-provoking non-fiction hasn’t been working out too well. But, in those few minutes when I have turned to a book, I’ve been enjoying Brendan Burchard’s High-Performance Habits.

More so than reading, I’ve been listing to podcasts in the car, on the treadmill, and after my showers. The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher has been a favorite of mine since its inception. I love Jenna’s combination of vulnerability, business acumen, creative spirit, and generosity. It’s perfect for women – and some men – who are looking to improve their businesses in an authentic and intentional way.

I am in that awkward and frustrating post-pregnancy stage where neither my maternity clothes nor my regular clothes fit. And, the pre-pregnancy clothes that do fit just look weird. Why does no one talk about this more? I’ve been interested in the ideas of a capsule wardrobe and a daily uniform before but now so more than ever. I’ve been reading up on both and trying to find some style inspiration that feels both age and lifestyle appropriate. The Style Bee is currently one of my favorite sources and time sucks.

One of the cons of a winter baby is the cold weather, and I’ve had trouble getting back to my pre-pregnancy routine of daily walking. In fact, I haven’t been exercising much at all even though I have re-committed to my pricey gym membership. I’m currently researching workout apps and am leaning towards either The Transform App or FitPlan. If anyone has any recommendations, I’m all ears.


This house is providing major inspiration for my own home.

And this kitchen too.

Watching Restored by the Fords and Fixer Upper season 5 on my DVR every Wednesday during feedings. Particularly loving this episode and this one.

I’m working with clients building a new home, and this post is a must-read for anyone considering new construction.

Thinking about writing posts about my experience with first-time motherhood, but does the world really need another mommy blogger?

Downward Dog TV Show

What I’m Into – July Edition



Downward Dog TV Show

Downward Dog. Ok, this show is a little goofy (and already canceled) but I am totally obsessed. It’s set in Pittsburgh, and any show based in PA is already cool in my book. The main human character Nan is played by Allison Tolman whom you might know from the first season of Fargo. She has a dog Martin, an adorable looking mutt and the narrator of the show. Martin is constantly grappling with some aspect of his existence. He can be misguided, surprisingly introspective, downright silly, and often maudlin. I get the same happy feeling from this show as I did from The Office in the throes of the Jim/Pam saga. I hope another network picks it up because it’s been a bright spot in my week this summer.

Friends from College

Friends from College. The naming of this Netflix show was very clever because anyone searching for Friends reruns will inevitably stumble upon it. And, it is very reminiscent of Friends but for a new generation – my generation, which has been categorized as The Oregon Trail generation, The Catalano generation, and most recently Xennials (my least favorite). It’s also a little darker and a little raunchier. This is Netflix not NBC after all. Fred Savage plays a gay guy – somewhat unconvincingly. Two of the main characters (Keegan-Michael Key and  Annie Parisse) have been having an affair for twenty years (since college) unbeknownst to their spouses, played by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) and Greg Germann (Ally McBeal).

Smulder’s character is by far my favorite. She is suffering from undiagnosed infertility, so I can totally relate. During the episode we watched last night, she undergoes her first IVF round, and in the next episode, suffers an emotional breakdown that felt incredibly authentic (to me) and hit very close to home.

This show isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s real enough and funny enough to make me want to keep watching.


I was recently talking with my sister-in-law about how Amazon has impacted my reading life…more negatively than positively. I can’t say how many nights I’ve decided to try a new book and wasted a half hour or more searching through lists and reading reviews. The review system has likely resulted in my reading plenty of average or worse books and missing out on some great ones. I am planning to join the library so I can return to the days of choosing a book for its cover and book jacket. I have managed to read a few books this summer though, including:

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

I was hesitant to read this book and didn’t think I would enjoy it, but I loved it. Historical fiction, masquerading as memoir, it’s narrated in the first person as excerpts from the journals of May Dodd. As the Civil War was winding down, May, a fallen woman from Chicago society, escaped a lunatic asylum by volunteering to marry into a Native American tribe as part of a government program to assimilate Native Americans into White culture. The book chronicles her acceptance into the tribe, the challenges of nomadic life, and the threat of Manifest Destiny to the Native Americans in the second half of the 19th century.

Secrets of Nanreath Hall: A Novel by Alex Rickloff

A perfect read for fans of Kate Morton, Secrets of Nanreath Hall is set in England during the Blitz in the early days of World War II. The main character is a wounded army nurse who is forced to confront the mystery of her origins and secrets of her titled family. I guessed one of the big plot twists early on, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.

Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster

I gobbled this book up in two sittings. Written by an economics professor, it dissects many of the recommendations commonly made and followed by pregnant women in the US (caffeine, alcohol, certain foods, sleeping positions, etc) and the decisions pregnant women have to make (genetic testing, epidurals, etc).

The author, who wrote the book while pregnant with her first child, presents her research in a straightforward manner and tells you what she did but not what you should do. This book liberated me from obsessive compulsive worry over things like soft cheese, sushi, and caffeine consumption. If you’re pregnant and a data driven decision maker like I am this is the perfect book for you.

September: A Novel by Rosamund Pilcher

I’m still smitten with Rosamund Pilcher. This wasn’t my favorite of her novels, but it was a satisfying read due to Pilcher’s talent for depicting places and bringing her characters to life.

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

Another WWII novel, this one is set in Italy, which isn’t so common for this genre, and portrays the unrequited romance between a young Jewish girl and an American born priest. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Our New House. Yes, we’re moving. We started looking for a new house in earnest earlier this year and never thought we would find one that met most of our criteria. The market is crazy! Then we got the inside scoop on a well-maintained home in West Des Moines that was in one of our ideal locations with an amazing yard. We snapped it right up and sold our current house two weeks later. We’re moving the third weekend of August right before school starts. I’ll post some before photos after we become the official owners.

Gender Neutral Nursery Design Scheme

a potential nursery scheme, pre gender reveal

The Nursery. For a while, we thought we wouldn’t find out the baby’s sex, so I tried planning a gender neutral nursery for our current house. Once we knew we were moving, I had to find out boy or girl so I could really customize the nursery. The new house has the perfect spot for the nursery, which is on the first floor right next to the master suite. I’m still struggling with not making it too themey and boy-appropriate.

Chief Architect Kitchen Design

rendering of a recent client project

Client Projects. I purposefully haven’t taken on too many clients lately, but I am working on a couple of kitchen remodels and a master bedroom refresh. I’m going to have one of the kitchens photographed in early September so I can share it here. I think I love kitchen remodeling so much because they’re such dramatic transformations. Stay tuned.

Watercolor rendering chair

watercolor rendering of a chair

Back to School. The new semester begins one month today. I’m teaching watercolors this semester instead of our typical markers for interior renderings, so I’ve been practicing. Playing with paints definitely doesn’t feel like work. But, writing syllabi and schedules definitely does! I’m trying to get everything done before we move so I’m not up until midnight the night before classes start.


Podcasts. Specifically The Goal Digger Podcast, The Business of Design, and Well-Designed Business. Also, occasionally, Happier with Gretchen Rubin and The Lively Show.

Spotify Totally Stress-Free Playlist. This has been my go-to playlist since spring for background music while working or relaxing on the porch. A great mix of some of my singer-songer favorites and several new-to-me artists as well. Light, happy, and totally stress-free.

Spotify Summer Rewind Playlist. I have to think this list varies according to personal taste, but I like what it’s compiled for me – a mix of classic rock, upbeat country, and old 90s favorites. I confess that in the winter, I prefer my typical genre of folk rock and singer-song writer acoustic tunes. But, once it gets warm, I regress to my teen years and prefer the nostalgia of country and classic rock, so this list has been perfect.

The next month is going to be a pretty wild. We’re going on a mini babymoon to Lake Michigan. Then we close on our new house and start making updates. A week later, we have our official move, and then school starts the following Monday. I have a couple weeks left of semi-relaxation, and I plan to enjoy every minute of them.


Five Binge Worthy TV Series to Watch This Winter

This is my first post of the New Year and the first in almost four months. A health challenge and then the election distracted me for most of the Fall. I just didn’t have the heart for blogging or doing much of anything. Then the holidays rolled around. We flew out to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl, and I caught the flu on the return flight.

The flu is no joke. Even when I’m really sick, I’m usually doing something…reading, web surfing. Not this time. I’ve been lying on the couch or in bed for five days now and just feel able to use my computer. So, I’ve been watching a lot of streaming TV. We’ve also watched some other great series over the past couple months, and I thought I would round them up in a post because they’re too good not to share. I also haven’t seen them on any other lists recently.

Red Oaks

Five Binge Worthy TV SeriesSet in New Jersey in the 1980s, this comedy drips with nostalgia. It’s like a less slapstick version of That Seventies Show. The main character is David, a young guy in his early twenties. He and his friends work at a posh country club – Red Oaks – over the summer, and the show chronicles their misadventures. It’s both funny and sweet. Jennifer Grey plays his mom and Paul Reiser the rich jerk with a hidden heart. Two seasons, available on Amazon.


Five Binge Worthy TV SeriesWe binge watched Lovesick on our ski trip via the Netflix app on my laptop. The main character of this quirky British series is Dylan, a young man in his late twenties who discovers he has an STD. Being the good guy that he is, Dylan decides to contact every girl he’s ever slept with to let them know. Each episode centers on a different girl and flashes back to a pivotal point in their relationship. The arc of the series is the poorly timed, ill-fated, and secret love that he has for his best friend and roommate Evie. I thought this show was charming, hilarious, sometimes crude and other times tender. You could finish it in a weekend…we did.


Five Binge Worthy TV SeriesMy favorite show of the last year has to be Catastrophe, another British-based comedy. Why-oh-why are these series so short? It’s not fair! The plot focuses on the relationship between the two main characters Sharon and Rob. Sharon is a 40ish British school marm. Rob is the slightly younger American ad exec – think a goofier version of Don Draper – with whom she has a week-long one-night stand. Spoiler alert: she gets pregnant. If you don’t like vulgarity, this is not the show for you. However, the crudeness serves a purpose. It lightens the more serious moments like Sharon’s cancer scare and stress over their unborn baby’s health. The characters are imperfect and ultimately relatable.

Bleak House

Five Binge Worthy TV SeriesBleak House could not be more different from the series above. Based on the novel by Charles Dickens, a web of characters and storylines is held together by the common thread of a long-standing court case surrounding the execution of a wealthy estate. The primary character is Esther Summerson, a young woman with no family nor pedigree. Esther is selected to serve as companion to one of the potential benefactors of the estate in question. The mystery of her origin is a central plot line. Being Dickens, this show requires a lot of concentration, and I’m sure I missed some of the finer details in the haze of flu. However, I was still able to enjoy it and was thoroughly satisfied by the ending. Perfect for fans of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre.

Upstairs Downstairs

If you love and miss Downton, then Upstairs Downstairs is the perfect quick fix. And, I mean quick…it’s only nine episodes. I watched it all in under two days. This show has everything I could ever want – history, stunning costumes, incredible interiors, romance, high drama, British accents, a war, and espionage. Plus, Claire Foy plays the villain! Highly recommend.

Pacific Coast Highway Big Sur

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend

Ever since I read Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur in college, I’ve wanted to travel down the winding Pacific Coast Highway and see the redwoods and majestic views. During my 20s, I lived in California for almost two years and never made the trip, which I’ve always regretted. Well, earlier this summer, I decided that Labor Day weekend would be the perfect time to finally have this experience that I’ve been dreaming about for over fifteen years.

1. Lunch in Carmel

We flew out to San Jose last Thursday and drove down to Carmel, where we had lunch at Dametra. The restaurant was a recommendation from a friend (and also #1 on Trip Advisor), and it lived up to the hype. The decor was a charming mix of Mediterranean and Californian style. We sat down at 3:00, and it was busy but not crowded. Our waitress recommended a local Chardonnay and the Greek platter, both of which were delicious. My lunch was probably some of the best Greek food I’ve ever had.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Lunch at Dametra in Carmel

2. Pebble Beach

After lunch, we walked around picturesque Carmel and picked up some wine and beer for our hotel in Big Sur. We drove North along the coast just enough to see Pebble Beach and stopped to take some photos of the view and gnarled trees.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Pebble Beach Carmel 17 Mile Drive

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive

3. Pacific Coast Highway Drive

Then we began our drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur. We noticed a lot of activity on the road both from tourists and also firefighters who were working to contain the wildfires in the area. Both of us were mesmerized by the views but also by the bridges which were constructed during the 1930s.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Pacific Coast Highway Big Sur

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Pacific Coast Highway Big Sur

4. Glen Oaks Roadhouse & Motor Lodge

Our first two nights, we stayed at Glen Oaks in Big Sur, which is a 1950s roadside inn that has been completely remodeled in an updated version of California Mid-Century Modern. We stayed in one of the Adobe Motor Lodge queen suites (I tried to get a cabin, but no luck). It was small, but comfortable, with a queen size bed and fireplace. The bathroom was modern, with a big walk-in shower, and a small window. Dark bathrooms in hotels are a pet peeve of mine, so I was very happy with this one. Each room also had a small patio with two chairs and table, screened from the parking lot with native plants and succulents.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Glen Oaks Big Sur Queen Room

The Roadhouse restaurant, which is also part of the hotel, was located right across the road. We ate there both mornings, as the food was really good. Keegan had a delicious chicken fried steak one morning, and I had the breakfast sandwich. The food was simple but very tasty. They also provide coffee and fresh, housemade donuts to guests of the hotel, which were still warm and soft and not overly sweet.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Glen Oaks Big Sur Roadhouse

Glen Oaks Roadhouse Big Sur Donut

There was a short trail behind the Roadhouse that led down to the Big Sur river. We took this walk twice, just to get a little exercise and see the redwoods. We were lucky to have a trail close by that was open because all of the neighboring parks and trails were closed due to the wildfires.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Glen Oaks Big Sur Trail

5. Hearst Castle

On Friday, we intended to drive down to McWay Falls and take the short walk to see the waterfalls, but it was so foggy that we decided to drive down to Hearst Castle. The castle was a little touristy, but I enjoyed hearing about the history of the castle and taking photos of the view and some of the finishes.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Hearst Castle View

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Hearst Castle Dining room

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Hearst Castle Indoor Pool

We saw some of our best views driving north back to Big Sur that afternoon. We stopped to see the elephant seals and then several other times just to take in the landscape and the ocean. We thought we would check out the waterfall on the return trip, but it was a total tourist trap nightmare with cars parked all along the road.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend

6. Cocktails & Lunch at Nepenthe

We had a late afternoon lunch at Nepenthe, which was also a recommendation from a friend. The view from our table was amazing…like sitting in a tree house with a clear sight line to the ocean. I highly recommend visiting Nepenthe just for the experience, though the food was good too.

Seven Must-Sees From Our Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway Weekend - Nepenthe View Big Sur

Nepenthe Big Sur

7. Dinner at Deetjen’s

That night, we ate dinner at Deetjen’s, which was my runner-up hotel. I didn’t take any photos because it was dark when we arrived, but the vintage interior was incredibly charming. The service was impeccable, and the food was equally delicious. Keegan had the paella and I ordered the fish special, which came served with a wonderful coconut sticky rice. Unfortunately, we were so full that we had to skip dessert.

Big Sur Sunset

On Saturday, we left early after a second Roadhouse breakfast and got to LA to stay with our friends by around 3:00. We had a quick lunch in Santa Barabara, but nothing too exciting, since it was fairly busy with returning college students, their parents, and tourists. We spent the next two days in LA with our friends and had some great meals and drinks. The return trip on Monday morning came way too early, and now we’re back to reality again.

I wish I had appreciated California more when I lived there. The weather is perfect, and I love being so close to both the ocean and the mountains. There’s no shortage of delicious food, and as a designer, I appreciate all of the shops and access to resources that are so hard to come by in the Midwest. I would definitely do Big Sur again, but I would probably opt to stay in Carmel instead.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Touring the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

On Saturday, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday with a trip to the Des Moines Botanical Gardens. I’ve lived in Des Moines for almost eight years and driven by the large dome visible from 235 countless times, but I’ve never visited until now. Everyone in my husband’s family loves plants and gardening, with him being a landscape architect by day (and grill aficionado in his spare time), and my sister-in-law an avid gardener in charge of the family garden center.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

We were blessed with an absolutely beautiful afternoon and we began our visit with lunch on the patio of Trellis. The food was fresh and plentiful with a view of the spectacular water gardens.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Afterwards, we toured the indoor tropical gardens before making our way outside to meander through the lush perennial and annual plantings.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

I love plants myself, particularly tropical houseplants and perennials, but I don’t know very much about planting them or keeping them alive. I’ll leave that to the experts.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

My favorites, of course, were the large tropicals like the split leaf philodendron and fiddle leaf fig as well as the rex begonias.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

This flower dripped down from an interesting vine growing up and over a trellis.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

I’d never seen a hibiscus with coloring as dramatic as this one.

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Des Moines Botanical Gardens

I can definitely see myself returning to the Botanical Gardens during the winter months to help alleviate my seasonal affective disorder and feel like it’s summer again for a little while at least.

Later that evening, we went out to my father-in-law’s for a dinner and a swim. I couldn’t resist the obligatory puppy photos, since they’re so good at posing.

Booker’s sister lounging poolside…

Photo Aug 06, 4 11 16 PM

And Booker in the grass at sunset…

Photo Aug 06, 9 39 32 PM

These late summer evenings in the 70s and low 80s are so pleasant and enjoyable. Here’s hoping the heat stays away, and the mild days continue.

Photo Aug 06, 9 22 13 PM