Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Taco 'bout Love- A Wedding Shower

I love to entertain! We didn't do much at our last house because we were either working on home improvement projects, or we just lived too out of the way for many people to come over. So I was ecstatic to co-host a shower for our good friends Bonnie and Josh not too long after moving in to the new house.

Fiesta Shower Cookie Favors
Custom cookie favors for guests to take home. 

A little back story on the party theme.... Hank and I are part of a running group in Austin called Gilbert's Gazelles, and every Saturday we have a post-long run tradition of getting breakfast tacos at Taco Deli. Bonnie is known as the "Queen B" of our group, and after she marries Josh, they will be relocating to Alabama. Our group of friends wanted to do something really special for her, and thought this theme would be a fun way to shower them with love and well wishes.

We lucked out with the most incredible weather for a late June party. Given the size (about 35 people), I wanted to have tables and chairs in the backyard so that everyone could spread out and eat comfortably. Temps were in the low 80's that evening and we were able be outside without dying in the Texas heat. You can read below for all the details on this fun shower theme!


Every good party needs a fun invitation. We used evite.com to manage the guest list. As much as I love paper invites, this was just the easier route. I also appreciated the fact that we could upload a custom digital image.  My very talented friend Becky recently opened an Etsy shop for her party goods business Bubby & Bitty. I went to her with a few ideas for an invitation, and she put together an invite that far exceeded my expectations. She also created a matching "fill in the blanks" card, and some fun photo booth props.

Taco 'bout Love Shower Invitation
#tacoboutlove party invitation

Food and Drinks

Two other couples hosted the shower with us, so there was plenty of help to pull this off. I went back and forth over having the event catered, or doing it myself. I really love to cook and I knew that I could make taco fillings better than a caterer. Plus, I love any chance to cook in my new kitchen right now. So I made a menu with items that could all be prepared ahead of time, and was thrilled with how it all turned out.

Veggies/hummus/nuts/olives for light appetizers
Beef Picadillo and Crockpot Verde Chicken for taco fillings
Corn and Flour Tortillas picked up fresh from El Milagro in Austin
Chips and homemade guacamole
Watermelon and Blackberry Salad (link to recipe)
Texas Caviar (black bean and corn salad that also doubled as a vegetarian filling)
Mexican Coleslaw (link to recipe)
Key Lime Bars (link to recipe)
Churro Cupcakes (link to recipe)
Sweet Elise custom cookies for party favors
Salsa from Taco Deli

Topo Chico and Limeade for non-alcoholic options

Party Appetizers
Appetizers and drinks on the island made for easy access for guests to help themselves. 

Personalized Napkins
Personalized cocktail and dinner napkins were a fun touch. 
Taco Bar Sign
Love this quote. 

Salsa from Taco Deli.

Topo Chico
Topo Chico is a lot more fun than plain water bottles. Costco has a case for a good price. 

Churro Cupcakes
The Churro Cupcakes were amazing- definitely give the recipe a try.


I tried to keep decorations fairly simple. We opted for round tables and white chairs outside with white  tablecloths, then added colorful flower centerpieces, succulents potted in tin cans, and a few candles on each table. I probably Pinterested tabletop ideas to death, and am really glad I decided to just keep it simple. I didn't get a picture of the actual taco bar, but we had big sunflowers in a blue and white pottery piece, and a fun chalkboard sign with the phrase "first comes love, then comes tacos". I found the blank sign at Home Goods for $4.99, and used my cookie projector to space out the wording just right. We also ordered personalized napkins, and sent the extra home for the soon-to-be newlyweds to use in the future.

Backyard Table Setup
Backyard set up with a few rental tables. 

Fiesta Table Centerpieces
Table centerpieces. (Those El Pato cans are hard to find!)

Good friends make every party perfect!
My favorite part of the party (and one that was really popular with the guests) was the photo booth we had upstairs. I borrowed a backdrop stand from my photographer friend, hung a white sheet over it, and added some bright colored fans that I ordered on Amazon. On a table across from it I had some fun props I picked up at Party City, along with signs that I ordered from Amazon. I provided an Instax Mini Camera (along with some simple instructions), so that guests could take pictures to contribute to a mini photo album for Bonnie to take with her when she moves. I *think* the album was made by Heidi Swapp. I got it on sale at Michael's and can't seem to find anything similar to link.

Instax Photo Booth
Photo Booth Set-Up, and lovely hosts Murphy and Shelly.

We were too busy to get a good polaroid, but we did stop long enough to take a picture on the back porch.
Overall it was a really fun and memorable party. We had a blast planning it with our good friends, and enjoyed doing something special for Bonnie and Josh. What are your favorite party themes?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hello from the other side (of Austin)

What a crazy ride it's been since my last post on February 1. We sold our home in Steiner Ranch and then closed on our new home in Circle C a week later. Due to timing though, we had to find temporary housing for 2.5 months. Would you believe that I told you we ended up in the exact same apartment that I lived in when I first met Hank? (like, the literal EXACT same numbered unit?!) It was not nearly the romantic interlude that I envisioned in my head. Sharing the tiny second bedroom as we both worked from home, with 4 animals who were all pretty freaked out by the move, made for a somewhat stressful and cramped stay. Fortunately it went by pretty quickly, and we are officially moved in and almost settled into our lovely new home.

The Holland House

Meet the new Holland House! We gained about 500 square feet, and had some immediate furniture needs to address when we moved in. However, the house is barely a year old and has minimal projects (hello weekend freedom!) Hank has a dedicated office downstairs, and mine is upstairs facing out the front of the house (it's still a big work in progress right now). We also have a very empty upstairs living room that will hopefully be furnished in time for football season. We'd love to have a comfy couch and a big TV for movie watching and Sunday football marathons.

Shortly after moving in we did a little sprucing up to the front flower bed. It still had the original builder's package- just a few uninspired shrubs and plants, some of which weren't alive anymore. My parents helped us plan and pick out something more original, and after a hard afternoon of work, it now looks like this.

Front yard landscaping

Inside the home, we have a very open floor plan downstairs. You walk in through the entry hall and Hank's office is immediately on the right. Then it opens up into the kitchen/dining/living room space. I LOVE that I can see everything from my kitchen island. In our old house, the kitchen sink and counters faced away from the living room, so I always felt like my back was to all the action. Now I can see everything that's happening when I'm cooking or working on cookies.

Entry hall design
Entry hall- I'm so glad I was able to use this piece of furniture that used to be in my grandparent's entry.

Entry hall design
Entry hall, with artwork and lamp from Back Home in Austin.

Hank's office- still in need of a large piece of art for the back wall.
Open kitchen design
My new kitchen- complete with a wine fridge that was pretty much what sold us on the house. ;)
View from the kitchen sink.
Living Room Design
Tall walls mean tall lamps, and I adore this pair of blue glass ones. 

Our furniture worked out great in the new floor plan, but there were definitely some things we needed. Luckily my favorite home furnishing store, Back Home Living, was having an anniversary sale in May and I got some great deals on some bigger ticket items. I purchased the mirrored console, the wood bead chandelier, a pair of lamps and a set of chests for our bedroom (which are in transit right now). Seriously- if you live anywhere near Austin, this is the store to shop at. The owner and staff are so nice and helpful, and it's a great source for inspiration as well. I try my best to mix quality pieces with less expensive decorative items found at stores like Home Goods, World Market or online retailers like Wayfair and Joss & Main (where I got this awesome bar cart). 

Our bedroom is still a work in progress. The plan is to replace the carpet with the same wood floor as the rest of the downstairs. I also need to find a dresser, but we're in no hurry for that. Hopefully the new chests will get here soon- the wall is wider than our house and we needed something more substantial next to the bed. Speaking of beds....since we left our headboard screwed into the wall at the old house, we needed a new one. I found this wonderful metal and upholstered bed (on sale, of course) at Bassett Furniture. Their white glove delivery service was amazing and we have been so happy with this purchase!

Master Bedroom Design
The back of the house is another area that is definitely going to need our attention at some point. The original owners of the new house decided shortly after building and finishing this one that they were going to need more space to accommodate in-laws. So they left the backyard as-is, which is basically just one large rectangle of grass. We're doing our best to keep it alive for now, but hope to add a tree or two, and some privacy landscaping along the back fence. Our back porch, however, is another favorite spot of ours. It's covered (we added a fan right after moving in), and it's a lovely place to sit outside and enjoy a cold drink or a meal with friends. Hank got a Weber Grill and has loved cooking on that too. 

Covered back porch
View of the back porch. Brees most certainly has enjoyed her big backyard!

Back porch lounging
Chairs, pillows, and table all from World Market. 

Back porch dining table
Picnic table, chairs and rug all from World Market. 

Overall we're absolutely thrilled with our new house. It's been fun to entertain, and we're enjoying meeting and getting to know our new neighbors. The animals are having a blast too- especially the cats who spend their afternoons sunbathing on the stair case. 


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Before and After

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, then you know by now that we put our house on the market last week. It was a crazy few days that resulted in three great offers and a contract with an amazing family who loves our home as much as we do. Assuming all goes well, our option period ends on Friday and we close sometime between Feb. 23-Mar. 3. I'll tell the story of why we decided to sell in another post. For now, I thought it would be fun to take a walk down memory lane, and look at some true before and after pics of all our hard work over the last three years. Our realtor had professional pictures taken of our home, and I'm so glad I'll have them to remember it by.

The "before" pictures come from when Hank listed the home a few years before I came into the picture, so the furniture and decor was pretty different than after I moved in. However, the "after" pictures are definitely a true snapshot of how our design aesthetics married over time. It has been so fun defining our style together over the years, and I can't wait to see what we come up with in our new home!

First up- the kitchen. This was by far our biggest remodel. Hank did the demo, lighting, new cabinets and paint. We hired professionals to install the pecan herringbone wood floor and the countertops. The light and bright feeling has served me well over the years. I have loved hosting cookie classes in this kitchen, and being supervised by all our animals when I'm cooking dinner. The idea of removing the island initially had me a little worried, but I haven't regretted it for a single day since.

Open and airy kitchen remodel

Updated breakfast nook
Breakfast Nook

Next is our dining/living area. Obviously a fresh coat of paint (Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore), updated lighting and new furniture drastically brightened up the area. The biggest change in this space though is our custom shiplap feature wall, with a beautiful new built in and updated fireplace. While we dreamed up the look for this, we hired a professional to complete it for us. This was way beyond our skill set, and I'm so glad we didn't try to attempt it ourselves. This is really the first thing you see when you walk in the door, and it was worth the investment to make it the highlight of the room, and not the eyesore it was for so long.

Custom Shiplap Wall

Living Room Makeover
Shiplap Wall
Here's a better view of our pride and joy- our shiplap wall.

Our master bedroom and bath also got makeovers. We used the same flooring in our master, and updated paint and furniture. Our master bath only went through phase 1 of its remodel. We painted the vanity and room, paneled the vanity wall, added hardware, and updated the mirrors and lighting. We had planned on new tile and vanity, but decided not to follow through when we put it on the market. We just didn't think we'd get our money out of it, and decided to let the next homeowner make that decision.

Master Bedroom Makeover

Master Bath Makeover

Both of our secondary bedrooms and guest bath were updated as well. We swapped the original order of the rooms- the old office became a pretty guest room. The old guest room became a beautiful office thanks to an awesome craigslist find of Ikea bookcases for $100. Hank framed them into built-ins and made the beautiful desk to go in between. We also did wood flooring in both rooms so that there would be no more carpet in our house. (With 4 animals, carpet is a bad bad thing.) I didn't have a great before picture of the guest bath (trust me when I say it was very, very ugly.) But there is a nice picture of the finished product. New listing, mirror and vanity, along with a white textured shower curtain for the finishing touch.

Guest room

Home Office
Our "his and her" home office

Guest Bath Remodel
Guest Bath

One other touch (that took way longer than we ever imagined) was replacing all of the door trim and baseboards with 6" white trim to give it a more updated (and cottage-y look). Hank installed the trim while I did most of the caulk and paint. We never thought we'd finish, but the final result is so much prettier than how it was. Let's face it- 18 year old trim can look pretty dingy. The Simply White color by Benjamin Moore really stands out against the walls.

Craftsman door trim

Our backyard saw just a few changes. We added a rock retaining wall to help with drainage, and planted a big tree at the top of the yard to help with shade over the years. Hank built the deck off the back door, and we planted a small garden where there used to be a cramped magnolia tree. We also replaced the fence last year and stained it a neat gray color to go better with the house.

We love looking back at all of the progress we made on this house. (You can view the full tour here) A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it. While we're sad to be saying goodbye, we're thrilled about new adventures in our first home purchased together. Stay tuned for what's to come. We have two closings and two moves to get there, but we can't wait to settle into our next home!

Monday, January 16, 2017

On Love and Loss

Hello old friends! It's been quite awhile since I last posted, and even longer since I likely posted anything meaningful. 2016 overall was a pretty great year for us, minus some pretty devastating news that we received last April. Hank's mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma (lung cancer) and spent the better part of the year fighting it. When first diagnosed, the doctors weren't sure exactly how long she would have, but we knew she was on borrowed time. Unfortunately it was a type of cancer that couldn't be beat and we said goodbye to her on Friday, January 6th.

Hank and I had just been up to Oklahoma the week before to visit, and I'm so grateful that I will forever have that last memory of playing a card game around the kitchen island, laughing and having a good time. Even though she was tired and struggling with her breathing, she made every effort to enjoy the visit. We did not know at the time just how bad she was, but I think in a way she did.

She went to the hospital a few days after we left, and then we got the call that a cat scan showed the cancer had spread to her good lung, and there was nothing left to do about it. Again- no one knew how long she had. But we got the call late Wednesday that it didn't look good, and Hank left for Oklahoma early the next morning. She Facetimed us around 4:30 am wanting to tell us that she loved us. I wasn't sure that Hank would make it in time, but he did.

Needless to say, last week was a really tough week. We're in our early 40s, an age where we shouldn't have to be saying goodbye to parents just yet. I'm not sure its even really sunk in that she's gone. There was so much to do last week- making arrangements, attending services, looking after Hank's dad. I think it's going to take awhile to process it all.

Hank's mom was a gem. As far as mother-in-laws go, she really was the best!! She called me sugar, never meddled in our business, and made me feel like she loved me as her very own daughter. She raised an amazing son, and for that I will forever be in her debt.

This was from a surprise visit last fall, taken around the kitchen island where we spent so much of our time!

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