Five on Friday – Halloween Edition


#Blogtober14 – Halloween Costume Reveal

Truth: I’m not wearing a Halloween costume this year. It would be different if we had a house and were handing out candy, but that’s not the case. However, we do have some plans for this evening. We’re heading over to our friends’ house for chili and cornbread. I’m going to bake some pumpkin cookies today for a dessert (because what is more festive on Halloween than pumpkin cookies!?). Because I don’t have a picture of my own costume to share with you, I’m going to share something better: our dogs in costumes. It’s from a couple years ago, but it’s still super cute.

Halloween Dogs

Katie looks much more like a half-peeled banana from the side, but those pictures are a little blurry. Same goes for Mischa, but I love the little ladybug antennae. She hates that part of the costume the most, so we have to get pictures quick before she pulls them off. Unfortunately Abby doesn’t have a costume (yet) but I’m sure my mom will find something for her by next year. Continue reading

Home Building: It’s Not Always Easy

It’s a rainy day here in Indiana, and I’m sitting down to write this with cup of coffee in hand. It’s still the morning, but we’ve already had a house meeting today. We had one yesterday morning too. In fact, we’ve had a total of four meeting within the last week-and-a-half. 

I love to write about our home building process, and the vast majority of the time I really enjoy the meetings and watching our house come together. That hasn’t been the case for the past week or two. I’ve been frustrated, angry, and sometimes on the verge of tears. 

The lanai fireplace has been framed and has its gas line!
The lanai fireplace has been framed and has its gas line!

I know how fortunate we are to not only be building a house, but to be building a custom house. That said, building a custom home comes at a cost. Not only a financial cost, but a cost to your time. We are grateful to have the opportunity to customize the smallest little details, but after you’ve put so much thought, time, and effort into designing a space, you expect that it will be executed correctly. In the past couple of weeks we’ve dealt with one problem after another. First the incorrect furnace was installed, then we discovered that we had only been priced out for two HVAC zones instead of four. That meant we needed to pay for two more zones and the contractor had to spend an extra three days installing the new zones and fixing the problems with the original zoning. Then we discovered that the ducting created extra bulkheads in our basement, one of which is currently running straight into the wall where Dave wants to mount a gigantic projection screen. The water heater was installed in the wrong location, which was when we realized that the recessed area of concrete in the unfinished space in our basement wasn’t as large as it was supposed to be, so that needs to be fixed before the water heater can be moved. Then we found out that we had a gas line run to the wrong location, which we’ve just decided to leave in place because we can make it work in its current location.  Continue reading

#Blogtober14 – My Favorite Book

I’ve got a quieter day today, so I’m back to linking up with #Blogtober14 and using their prompts! Today’s prompt is “your favorite book.”

Helene in Between Blogtober

Picking one favorite book is tough, but the one I’ve re-read more times than I can count and am always recommending to people is “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Beredt. It’s an absolute “must read” if you ever plan on visiting Savannah, Georgia. The movie is also really good, and it stars Kevin Spacey and John Cusak. Kevin Spacey uses the exact same southern accent in House of Cards that he used in Midnight of the Garden of Good and Evil. As good as the movie is, the book is better, so make sure you read it first. 

The other book that I absolutely have to recommend is “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. It’s all about Dr. Paul Farmer, the found of Partners in Health (PIH), and his work in Haiti. It focuses a lot on his fight against tuberculosis. I think it’s one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. 

It wasn’t that long ago that I posted a list of my 10 favorite books of all time, so I’ll re-post it again in case you missed it and are looking for a few other options

My Favorite Books

You can find most of my favorite books, along with the books that I’m currently reading, over on my Goodreads profile. If you’re on Goodreads, add me as a friend because I love to give and receive book recommendations from anyone and everyone!

Until later, Ashlen

Five on Friday

I don’t know where this week went. Time flies when you’re keeping busy, I guess. This week we were busy again with house building, so let’s start there. 


House Building Update

Yesterday we had our interior trim meeting. I thought that meant we were going to need to pick out all of our interior paint colors, mirrors, and bathroom hardware accessories (like towel bars and toilet paper rolls). Turns out that comes later (like, next week). During this meeting we picked out interior doors and picked the interior trim paint color. That’s the color that will be used on things like our our baseboards and our fireplace mantle. Not quite as exciting as picking out mirrors or paint colors for the walls. The winner was Mother of Pearl by Porter Paints.

Porter Paints Mother of Pearl

We had already made a lot of decisions about our trim prior to signing our contract, which made this meeting super duper easy. We actually might need to take out the ceiling trim in Dave’s office because it would probably look pretty odd with the sloped vaulted ceiling. We decided that it didn’t need to be added anywhere else so….#winning. I was reminded that we had added the 4′ Wainscott around our dining nook area, which made me swoon (again). 

Last time I posted we had just discovered that our water heater was installed in the incorrect location, and the pit that contains our sump pump pits wasn’t created large enough. Turns out both of these problems can be fixed, which made me uber happy. I really wasn’t sure if they could make changes to our concrete foundation, but apparently it’s possible…whoop whoop! We had to run out to the house in the middle of the day yesterday because we were told that the electrician would be finishing up and would need a fan that Dave is purchasing himself so it could be installed. All of Dave’s electronic / A/V stuff is going in a closet in the basement, and he’s figuring out how to make it work so it won’t overheat. Apparently that includes installing a super quiet bathroom fan in the closet. The problem? Dave had just decided to add this fan and didn’t actually have it yet….and apparently it was a “special order” kind of product at Lowe’s and Home Depot. So we went out to the house so he could talk to the electrician….who wasn’t there. In fact, the electric work hasn’t been started yet. Whomp whomp whomp. In this case, the apparent delay was a good thing because Dave was able to purchase the fan at Ferguson’s (where we bought all of our plumbing fixtures) and he’ll be able to get it to the electrician when he actually starts working on our house. 

When we were out at the house we found out that the soffits were being installed. I didn’t know what a soffit was until yesterday, but apparently it’s the underside of the roof that goes all the way around the house. I think the same crew (or at least the same contractor) puts up the exterior siding, so I’m hoping that’s done soon. I would also love for our front doors to be installed, because they’ve just been sitting in the garage for weeks now.



Aquage Silkening OilToday’s #Blogtober14 prompt is the one beauty product you can’t live without. Right now that’s Aquage’s Silkening Oil Treatment. It’s kind of pricey, but you only need one or two pumps at a time so it lasts quite a while. I just rub it into damp hair before I blow dry and it decreases the amount of time it takes to dry my hair and it makes my hair soft and smooth. Love it!


Helene in Between Blogtober



Let’s just talk October in general.  It’s turned into a pretty special month. Obviously we celebrated our first anniversary this month, and when we got married last year I was aware that our anniversary would end up being the day after my aunt and uncle’s anniversary. What I didn’t realize was that we were actually adding to an already-existing string of anniversaries all on one side of my mom’s family. It turns out that anniversaries to celebrate every day from October 9th to October 12th. How cool is that!?

Kim's 30th BirthdayOctober is also a big birthday month for our family and friends. Of my four bridesmaids (aka 4 of my favorite gals in the world) three of them celebrate birthdays in October. The fourth is a July baby, which is the best month to have a birthday (but I’m only a little biased, being a July baby myself). So HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Steph, Kim, and Abby, and to Dave’s Aunt Wanda who also celebrated her birthday this month! 

We went out last week to celebrate Kim’s big 30th birthday! We don’t live too far away from downtown Carmel, Indiana, and that was where Kim got her friends together. We started off at Muldoon’s, an Irish Pub, and later in the evening we headed across the street to The Pint Room. The Pint Room opened not that long ago (this summer I think?) and whenever we pass by it’s always packed. Now that I’ve had a change to check it out, I can definitely see why. They’ve got an insane number of beers on tap. If you’re into beer at all, you’ll definitely be able to find more than one thing that meets your fancy. 


Blogger Love

Of course I’m linking up with Meagan again today for some Friday blogger love!

All The Joys Friday Favorites

This week I highly recommend that you check Notes from a Newlywed and the florkens for this week’s edition of their “Going Natural” series. Why? This week’s focus was cleaning products. Amanda specifically mentioned Norwex in her post, and Kate talked about Method. Those are pretty much my new “go-to” brands for everything cleaning-related. (Don’t worry guys, I checked, and Norwex doesn’t test any of its products on animals, so it’s also a “win” on the cruelty-free front). 

Just within the last couple weeks I’ve started using Norwex’s Blue Diamond product as my all-purpose bathroom cleaner (as much as the Norwex cloths can do for some places with “just water,” that wasn’t going to cut it for places like the toilet). With the Blue Diamond and the Norwex Ergonomic Toilet Brush, I managed to get the bowl clean faster than I ever imagined possible. Don’t worry, I won’t be sharing pictures of our toilet bowl with you, cause that would just be weird. If you’re interested in going green with your cleaning, let me know because I can suggest some Norwex products that will definitely help you out!


This Weekend

Dave is at a conference in downtown Indianapolis today and tomorrow. It’s close enough to home that he doesn’t have to stay in a hotel, which is nice, but it means that he’ll be leaving early in the morning and won’t be getting home until late at night. So what’s up for Katie-dog and me this weekend? I’m going to be checking out options for our bathroom mirrors for the house, finishing up and ordering our Christmas cards, and working on a super-secret project (which is something I’ve been working on almost daily for months now, but it’s super-secret, so obviously you’re not hearing a whole lot about it!). I’m hoping to finish it up before Christmas, so you’ll get pictures once it’s all done. Katie-dog will be spending time snuggling with me while I do all of these things, as usual :)

Until later, Ashlen

Five on Friday Logo

Lighting Fixtures

The last time I posted an update about our house’s construction I was just starting to relax a tiny little bit because the correct furnace had been installed (as opposed to the incorrect furnace, which was installed the first go-around). Mistake caught, mistake fixed, crisis averted. Right? Sigh. Not so much. Yesterday we had a big huge selections meeting to pick out every single light fixture in the entire house. It was overwhelming, to say the least….but I’ll get to that in a bit. We stopped by the house to check on the progress before heading home, and noticed that the water heater had been installed….in the wrong location. I pretty much had steam coming out my ears. Why do I care about where the water heater is installed? Well, it is supposed to be sitting in a recessed area beside the sump pump pits. That way any drips or relatively minor leaks will trickle down into the pits and drain out of the basement. A lot of thought actually went into deciding how to lay out all the mechanical stuff in the unfinished area of our basement, so having it installed in the wrong location is really not okay in any way shape or form. The other problem is that it was installed right where we are supposed to have built-in shelving installed for storage. You know, for things like Christmas decorations. We’re limited on storage space in the unfinished area, so taking some of that space away from me is definitely not okay. I really like my Christmas decorations, people. Don’t mess with a girl’s Christmas decoration storage space or you’re going to have a problem on your hands. Not to mention that we’re paying a not-too-insignificant sum of money to have shelving installed in an area that is now filled with a water heater. GRRRRR. Okay, rant over. We’ve asked construction to come to a halt until we can meet with the construction manager once he’s back from vacation next week. I would love to be out of our tiny apartment ASAP, but having things done correctly is more important than having it done quick. Sigh.

Now on to the fun stuff….we got to pick out all of our lighting fixtures. For whatever reason, we were totally not prepared for this meeting. We were asked “what do you want?” and they were met with blank stares from Dave and me. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration. I knew what I wanted for our exterior lighting….but that was it. So why don’t we start there?

Exterior Lighting

Our house is a Cape Cod style, so when I started looking at exterior lights I wanted something that would be consistent with that style. Turns out when you Google something like “Cape Cod house exterior lighting” you get a whole bunch of pictures of an exterior light made by Hinkley that they call the “Cape Cod.” Now, my parents were just in New England on vacation and they spent a bit of time on Cape Cod. I got an e-mail from my dad about these exterior lights that they saw on practically every house in the area. Turns out the lights my father referred to looked almost identical to the “Cape Cod” lights I had already found (and decided that we were going to use). So here they are: 

Cape Cod Exterior Lighting


The one of the left will be used over our front door, the one in the middle will be used on each side of the garage doors, and the one on the right is the lamp post that will be at the end of our front walkway. 

Quorum Galveston Patio FanLanai Continue reading

What Makes Me Happy

I’m heading back to the #blogtober14 prompts and today’s prompt is “what makes you happy.” Well, lots of things make me happy!

Katie and Reindeer

Katie-dog pretty much takes the cake for making me happy. She’s just so cute and snuggly! She’s snoozing on my lap as I write this….

My parents’ dog Mischa also makes me really happy. I mean, just look at this face…


Ok, let’s just face the facts. All animals make me happy. At least animals with fur and feathers. I’m not a fan of touching fish or reptiles. If I can feed or pet a furry or feathered animal, I’m in having a good time.  Continue reading

Tile, Hardwood, and Carpet, Oh My!

On Thursday we had our flooring meeting for the house. Flooring doesn’t just mean flooring – it also included the tile for our showers (including the trim), the trim around our tub in the master bathroom, the backsplash for our kitchen, and the material surrounding our fireplace. Obviously there are huge decisions and most of them are pretty permanent. So here’s how it went….


Master Bathroom: daltile Healthland White Rock ceramic tile
Master Bathroom: daltile Healthland White Rock ceramic tile

We started off picking out tile. We have tile floors in four places: our master bathroom, the Jack & Jill bathroom, the basement bathroom, and the laundry room. We started with the master bathroom. We have dark cabinets and our granite in that room has dark and light aspects, so overall we decided to go with a lighter colored tile. In the end our favorite was daltile Heathland ceramic floor tile in White Rock.

We had the option of picking a different trim in the master bathroom that will go around our garden tub. There will also some of the trim in the shower. There seemed to be a million different options but we had a really difficult time finding something. We finally made a decision, but neither Dave nor I were absolutely in love with it. We happened to be walking around in a different area later in the meeting while we were looking at fire place stone options, and ended up coming across a really cool shower display. I really liked the trim on the display, so I asked if we could use that option. At first everyone thought I was still talking about the fireplace, but after I clarified that I liked it in the bathroom we went back and grabbed a sample of our tile….and it ended up looking pretty good! Dave and I liked it a lot more than our original choice, so it was nice that we ended up with something that we loved!

Indian Autumn Slate Tile

Our trim will be in the straight-line pattern, like the edge of the shower base, not the pattern on the floor of the shower. Apparently this is a slate tile called “Indian Autumn.” 

The choice in the master bath was between the daltile Healthland option and Vitromex Miramar ceramic tile in Elegance. We hate leaving an option we really like on the table, so of course we just decided to use it in another location! In this case we decided to put it in the Jack & Jill bathroom. 

Jack & Jill Bathroom: Vitromex Miramar Elegance ceramic tile
Jack & Jill Bathroom: Vitromex Miramar Elegance ceramic tile
Laundry Room: Esta Villa in Garden White
Laundry Room: Esta Villa in Garden White

We had a ton of options laid out on the floor, and there was one option I really liked but it didn’t go very well with our granite. That option was daltile Esta Villa glazed porcelain tile in Garden White. BUT we don’t have granite in our laundry room. Instead we have the Umber cabinets with laminate in a color that’s called Jamocha Granite. The Garden White wouldn’t be a problem with those options, and I really like how light and airy it will look in that room (especially because it’s an interior room without any windows). 

Basement bathroom: American Olean Belmar ceramic tile in Olive
Basement bathroom: American Olean Belmar ceramic tile in Olive

The last option we needed to pick out was for the basement bathroom, which has a completely different granite but the same Umber cabinets as the Jack & Jill bathroom and the laundry room. Dave was thinking of doing a bit of a darker tile option in the basement. We had a really tough time choosing, but the final winner is American Olean Belmar ceramic tile in Olive. 

So here’s the thing about the tile pictures from the manufacturer’s website….they don’t all look exactly like they look when they’re in front of me. The master bathroom tile is not quite that gold, and it’s actually not that different than the tile going into the Jack & Jill bathroom. In the pictures above, the Jack & Jill bathroom tile looks like the whitest, but in reality the laundry room tile is actually much whiter than the Jack & Jill bathroom tile. Go figure. 


After picking out tile we moved on to the checking out options for around the fireplace. We knew that we could go back to the Stone Center if we didn’t find anything we liked. As I mentioned earlier, I found our bathroom trim while looking for our fireplace stone. When I pointed out the trim option, we found out that the slate used for the tile also comes in a stacked stone form that would be perfect for use around the fireplace! Because it comes in the stacked stone and a tile form, the tiles in front of the fire place will be a perfect match to the stone on the fireplace. The colors are absolutely gorgeous…

Indian Autumn Slate Tile

I know this lousy cell-phone picture is of a bathroom, but the tiles on the wall will be exactly what will be on the floor around our fireplace, and the exact same material will be used in a stacked stone form around the fireplace box. 

Kitchen Backsplash

This was the option that I was most concerned about going into this meeting. Why? I don’t like a lot of the kitchen backsplashes that I’ve seen. It seems to be common to use a lot of smaller glass tiles in a variety of colors, and I find that it ends up looking too busy for my personal taste. The model home in our community was gorgeous, and we’ve copied a lot of the design ideas, but the kitchen backspash was the one thing I wanted to do different….big time. So I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to find anything I liked for this area. In the end, it turned out to be our easiest choice. I stood up, walked a couple feet, pointed to an option, held up our samples, and we went with it. 

I ended up going with subway tile. It’s a little more modern than some of the other choices in the house, because we tend to gravitate towards more of a traditional or rustic look. That said, I didn’t want our kitchen backspash to make a statement. I don’t want people to walk into our house and say “wow, I love your kitchen backsplash!” unless they’re like me (recently) and are specifically checking out everyone’s kitchen backspash to try and find what they like. This backsplash had everything I was looking for – it was stylish and classy without being too bold. 

Transceramic French Clay subway tiles in Bronzage
Transceramic French Clay subway tiles in Bronzage


This was our last decision of the day, and it was probably a good thing that we did it at the very end because I was getting mentally exhausted and carpet was the mentally easiest decision. It was easier because a) it’s the easiest thing to replace out of all these options and b) we only have it in four locations: the basement, the staircase, and two of the upstairs bedrooms. We started off by deciding to upgrade from the standard 6 lb carpet pad to the 8 lb Spillmaster carpet pad. The 8 lb pad will lengthen the life of our carpet (always a good thing in my opinion) and the Spillmaster pad prevents stains (like doggy vomit or urine) from seeping into the pad, making those messes easier to clean. The fact that I will probably never be without a dog was the reason we put hardware and tile in most spaces throughout the house. But, if you’ve ever had a dog, you know that they like to run to the only carpeted space around when they’re about to be sick. So I’m planning on cleaning up messes on carpets, and if that’s the case then I want maximum-easiness in the clean up process. I’m also pretty sure that I vomited on my bedroom carpet at least once as a kid….so there could easily be biologic messes from human sources in the future

The model home had a really nice patterned carpet on the stairs, and I like the idea of making that carpet a little nicer because the stairs are one of the first thing you see when you come in our front door. I saw a pattern I loved right when we walked into the carpet section. If you know me, you know that I’m a sucker for linear patterns. Especially tartan. Someone’s going to have to stop me from putting tartan decor everywhere in our home. Maybe it’s my Scottish heritage, maybe it’s the fact that I work a tartan uniform to school for 10 years as a kid….I dunno, but I’m a sucker for it! Don’t worry, I didn’t put down tartan carpet on our stairs, but I did pick out this gorgeous diamond pattern. Swoon! It’s made by Dixie Home, and it’s the Ellsworth style in the color “Riddle.” 

Dixie Home Ellsworth Riddle

The carpet on the stairs will be directly adjacent to the carpet in the basement, so we got out all of the samples of our included carpet options (which are just a standard-looking Shaw carpet) and picked the option that was closest in color to the carpet on the stairs. 

So there you have it – all of our flooring selections are done! Next week we have the last two big selection meetings. On Tuesday we’ll be picking our all of our lighting (eeek!) and on Thursday we’re finishing up with our interior trim selections (eek again!). Lighting is pretty self-explanatory, but interior trim will include things like our interior doors and door knobs, shower doors, bathroom fixtures (towel racks and toilet paper dispensers), and interior paint colors (ahhhhh!). You can look forward to a lot of updates in the next week or two!

Until later, Ashlen

Five on Friday


House Building Update

Lanai Floor

We had our flooring meeting yesterday, and I’m working on putting a post together about all of our selections. I’ve got samples of some of our tile, but I’m waiting to receive carpet samples in the mail. I went back to the showroom earlier today to show my parents what we picked out. I hadn’t taken any pictures during our meeting (I know, what blogger doesn’t take pictures!?) but I snapped a couple cell phone pictures while we were there today. I guess what I’m saying is….don’t have great expectations for my ability to show you everything until it’s finally installed in the house!

In terms of construction, we’ve been happy to see some progress this week. Unfortunately we ran into a small (ok, kind of big) glitch earlier in the week. Apparently the contractor who is installing our furnace somehow didn’t realize that we had made a gigantic upgrade several months ago. When we heard the furnace and ducting were being installed this week, we were confused because we had not yet talked to anyone about the zoning for the system. We contacted the contractor, who contacted the guys at the site, and it turns out they had installed the wrong furnace. Whoops. So they’ll need to pull that furnace out and put a correct one in, but it sounds like we’re back on track.

Plumbing work has continued, and on Wednesday we headed out and found that the concrete that makes up the floor of our lanai and our front porch had been poured!  Continue reading

Be the Change…

For years, this has been my favorite quote….

Be the Change

I don’t even remember where I heard it for the first time. I liked it because it makes me feel like my individual contributions to the world can actually mean something….like they can actually make a difference. And how can we make a positive impact if we don’t actually make the changes that we want to see in the world in our own lives? 

Helene in Between Blogtober

Continue reading