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

Funniest Childhood Memories

The thing about my funniest childhood memories is that they weren’t so funny at the time. But now, looking back, I see why my parents thought they were so humorous. At times, I did some pretty ridiculous things (but then again, what kid doesn’t do crazy weird stuff at some point in time?). So let’s take a look back in time….

Oahu 1996In 1996 we took a family vacation to Hawaii. I was nine. My parents decided to take me to Hanauma Bay, where it was popular to feed fish. You could buy fish food there, then go into the water and have all these tropical fish come up to you because they wanted the food. Sounds great, right? Yeah….not so much. My nine-year-old self didn’t realize that if you throw a bunch of fish food in the water to attract a bunch of fish, they’re come swarming around you and might actually touch your legs. That didn’t go down so well with me. I ran out of the water and up the beach to my mom as fast as my little legs could take me…..while wearing flippers. From what I’ve heard I just might have made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest 100 meter dash in flippers…if there even is such a thing. For the record, you can no longer feed the fish at Hanauma Bay because it wasn’t exactly the most environmentally friendly thing for the coral reef, and the beach is now part of a marine nature preserve. I did much better when we went snorkeling off a boat in Maui because the water was deeper and the fish kept their distance.  Continue reading

Apple Crisp

I squealed a little inside when I saw today’s #Blogtober14 prompt (“favorite fall recipe”) because I love talking about food. So today I’ll be sharing a recipe for apple crisp (aka Apple Betty) with y’all. 

This is apple season. My Facebook feed is filled with parents taking their kids to pick apples, and there are giant baskets of apples staring you in the face when you walk into the grocery store. I had ordered 7 Gala apples in our most recent Green B.E.A.N. bin. The last time I made this recipe I definitely didn’t use the right type of apples, because it wasn’t nearly as good. The sweet flavor and the softer texture of the Gala are definitely the way to go, in my opinion. 

Overall this recipe is pretty easy, even if you’re not the most avid baker. You don’t need fancy mixers or anything like that, and most of the prep work is just cutting up the apples. 


Sliced Gala apples – approximately 3 cups (6 or 7 apples)
Granulated sugar – 1/cup
Butter – 1/cup (room temperature)
Brown sugar – 3/cup
Flour – 1/cup


Start by greasing your baking dish with butter.

Wash, peel, and slice all of your apples and place them in the greased baking dish.


Continue reading

The Best Advice

The Best Advice I've Ever Received // A Diamond with Sapphires

Today’s #Blogtober14 promp is “the best advice you’ve ever received.” As usual, I can’t just pick one. So I’m turning this into categories. Interestingly, I’ve actually been referring to some of the best advice I’ve received in some blog posts recently. Also, I’ve decided to team up with my husband Dave today so you can find out both of our thoughts!

The Best Marital Advice // A Diamond with Sapphires

Ashlen: If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend that you head over to The Grits Blog and read my Saturday takeover post from yesterday! Given that my husband and I are celebrating our first anniversary today (YAY!) I shared some lessons that I’ve learned from our first year of marriage. My favorite “marriage tip” was advice given to us during our pre-marital counseling. It has to do with making trades with each other. I’m going to leave it at that…go read the post and you’ll figure out what I’m saying!

Dave: Compromise. (Note from Ashlen: my husband got this advice from his dad. Neither of them are big on words….so yeah, expect some short answers here).  Continue reading

Never Seen Before Wedding Pictures (Part 2)

My husband and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary tomorrow (yay!) so in honor of the event I’m sharing the “unofficial” wedding photos. Earlier this week I posted part 1, with pictures from before the ceremony and from our photography session at Holcomb Gardens on the campus of my alma mater, Butler University. If you missed part 1, check it out here.

Today I’ll be sharing the remainder of the day, starting with when we got back on the party bus to head downtown to our reception. That’s when things really started to get wild…


Courtny Courtny and Rob Nate Steph and Kim
Continue reading

Five on Friday

Is it seriously the end of the week already? For whatever reason this week seemed to fly by. I’m pretty excited for this weekend because we’ve got a few big things coming up. On Saturday we’re heading to Lafayette (Indiana, not Louisiana!) to meet up with Dave’s parents for dinner. They were kind enough to store the top layer of our wedding cake in their freezer for us because we’re so short on space. As it is I usually have food tumbling out on top of me every time I open the door. We’ll be celebrating our anniversary on Sunday, so it’s time to thaw that baby out and eat it! It’s a chocolate fudge flavor, and I’m crossing my fingers that it tastes as good as it did the first time around. To celebrate our anniversary on Sunday we have reservations at the famous St. Elmo Steakhouse in downtown Indianapolis. When I first moved to Indianapolis my dad promised to take me there once I graduated from pharmacy school, and he was true to his word. It’s pretty much the best restaurant for celebrating special occasions (and only special occasions because it can be crazy expensive). Their filet mignon literally melts in your mouth like butter. I can’t even explain how much I’m looking forward to that meal. 

St. Elmo Steakhouse

Enough about my weekend, let’s get started with Five on Friday! There were a ton of blog posts this week that I really enjoyed reading, so this week is full of some blogger love.


Blogging 101 – Creating a Custom E-mail Signature – Love the Here and Now

Anne posts some great tutorials. I (finally) created a separate e-mail account for A Diamond with Sapphires because my regular e-mail was getting overloaded with my Bloglovin’ feed, comments, comment replies, etc. Separating it from my regular e-mail has helped me stay much more organized and on top of replying to comments because those e-mails aren’t getting lost in the middle of a million e-mails about our house or those thousands of promotional e-mails that I get every single day. (I’m slowly unsubscribing myself to the ones I never read). 

Anyway, it’s a new account, so creating a custom e-mail signature for it is something I need to do ASAP. Anne also posted about how to link up your social media accounts at the bottom with cute little buttons, which I hadn’t thought of doing before. So thanks to Anne for the great idea and nice tutorial! Continue reading

Halloween Memories

Ashlen as Raggedy Ann, 1993

My mom was the mom you wished you had at Halloween as a kid. She sewed all of my costumes. Every year we would go to the fabric store and pick out the pattern for my costume. One year I was a pumpkin, another year I was Raggedy Ann, and one year….I was a cow. Seriously people, I was a cow for Halloween. I have NO idea why I decided to be a cow. Maybe my mom chose it for me because I would just make the cutest cow ever? I was a really cute cow…but that’s beside the point.  Continue reading