Merry Christmas!!!

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Christmas Wishlist: Kitchen Edition

Since I've got kitchen on the brain, I decided to come up with my kitchen Christmas wishlist. Here are a few items I can't get off my mind:

I'm loving these Birch Sapling white accent chairs by Baxton Studio from Sears/Kmart. They would be perfect for our breakfast nook! And after discounts, they're a perfect price of only $75 each!

Anthropology has me wanting nearly everything in their store! How adorable is this Trousseau Apron?

These La Boheme Measuring Cups are the prettiest measuring cups I've ever seen :)

On the topic of prettiest ever, these wine glasses also fall into that category. I love the shape. The Elephant Bar uses these, and we bought a set as a gift for my in-laws. My mom-in-law says they look like jewelry :)

I borrowed this cookbook, Everyday Italian, from my friend Steph a few months ago for a dinner party, and every recipe was a hit!

Even if I don't get a single item from this list, I'm ok with that. I enjoy just looking at all these pretties. And more than anything, all I want for Christmas is to be home in South Dakota with my family. They're the best Christmas present of all :)

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Butternut Squash and Roasted Corn Tacos

Herb Box is one of my favorite restaurants, and my favorite dish there is their Butternut Squash and Corn Enchiladas. Lucky for me, my friend Michelle shared a similar recipe with me! Even though it's a vegetarian dish, you carnivores won't miss the meat. But if you want to bulk it up a bit, you can add some shredded chicken. Or try making these into enchiladas. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash and Roasted Corn Tacos
(serves 2-4)

1 packages frozen cubes butternut squash ($2 at Whole Foods, or you can bake your own.)
2 Tb evoo
½ cup diced onion
1 Tb minced garlic
1 cup fire roasted corn (Frozen section at Trader Joes $2)
Dash of cumin and chili powder
6 corn tortillas
½ cup feta cheese
1 jar tomatillo salsa
1-2 avocados (Diced)
black beans *optional
sour cream *optional

1. Saute garlic and onions. Mix in the warmed butternut squash and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Heat through. Remove from heat.
2. Put 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Put one corn tortilla in the hot oil and fold into a taco shell shape until it is browned. Remove and put on paper towels and repeat with remaining tortillas.
3. Fill tortillas with squash mixture, avocados, feta, salsa and sour cream.
4. Serve with black beans on the side.

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Love me some Jayme Dee!

A few days ago I was blog stalking Promise Tangeman (she's awesome, check her out!) and saw her recent post on Jayme Dee, a singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist from LA. This girl will be only 19 tomorrow, and she's AMAZING!!! Check out her super fun song "Love Whiplash!" below, as well as her cover of "Dear John" by Taylor Swift. Her voice is incredible. Seriously - INCREDIBLE!

Check out her YouTube page for lots more covers she's done on some of my favorite artists including Coldplay, John Mayer and MGMT. I can't wait for her new album coming out sometime in 2011!

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Subway Tile with a Twist

Hey all! Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I still haven't found my camera computer cord, so I haven't had any photos to share with you. I know, I really just need to go out and buy a new cord this weekend. I'm really doing it Harry. Speaking of really doing it, our kitchen remodel has started!!! Our existing counter tops and cabinets were taken out this week (and sold on Craigslist). We also had a soffit in our kitchen removed so we could put in 42" upper cabinets. I'll show pics soon. Promise.

So, when deciding on the finishes for our kitchen, I really wanted white subway tile because I like how it's both classic and contemporary. It's timeless. Our house is really a blend of old and new, and I wanted the kitchen to continue that. But I also like the unexpected, something a little unique. So when I saw these photos of subway tile laid in a herringbone pattern, I fell in love!

Can't wait to do this in my own kitchen!

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Pacific Northwest: Bend, Oregon

In September, Philip and I went on a super relaxing vacation to the Pacific Northwest. It was much needed and truly felt like ten long days away from home and work. Our trip included Bend, Portland, Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle. In true Laura fashion, we packed a lot of sightseeing into every day, so I’m going to break our blog posts up by city, giving you our top five picks for each one.

We’ll start with Bend since that was our first stop. We absolutely adored this town! It was so clean and well-manicured, it almost felt like the set of Stepford Wives. Seriously, freakishly perfect. But these residents obviously care about their property, and it really shows. We would love to one day own a summer property here, or at least go back often to escape the Arizona heat. If you’re interested in flying to Bend from the Phoenix area, check out Allegiant Airlines for $39 fares each way. We stayed at AmeriTel Inn, which is in the super charming Old Mill District. Our hotel was very nice, conveniently located, and they gave us a free room upgrade at check-in. Bonus!

Laura and Phil's Top Five Picks for Bend, Oregon:

1. Sea of Lava
West of Bend, on the way to Portland in the Willamette National Forest, are three lava flows - Belknap Crater Flow, Yapoah Crater, and Little Belknap Flow. We didn't even know this existed until we drove right into it. Amazing!!!  It's crazy to imagine red hot lava flowing here 1,500 years ago. There are casts of trees that the lava flowed around, and the Dee Wright Observatory, a sweet tower built out of lava rock. So cool!

This was our first stop when we arrived in Bend, and the perfect start to our trip. Tasty food, great beer, and a fun and relaxing atmosphere. Be sure to try the Mirror Mirror, a barrel-aged barley wine (Phil's favorite), and BenderWeisse, a light, sour German beer with traditional syrup sweeteners of Rasberry and Woodruff (Laura's favorite).

3. Tumalo Falls
Just outside of Bend are the Tumalo Falls. The viewpoint of the 100 feet high falls is just off the parking lot, but a short hike took us to the top of the falls and a beautiful overlook. Another .75 miles through Deschutes National Forest are the Middle Tumolo Falls, a series of three cascades totaling 60 feet in height. We really enjoyed how quiet and peaceful the forest was, and breathing in that fresh, mountain air!

4. Beer Festival
What better way to get to know a town than to attend a local festival?! We were fortunate enough to be in town for the Little Woody Barrel Aged Brew Festival, featuring beers aged in wine barrels, whiskey barrels and oak barrels, which uniquely flavors and intensifies the beer. There were ten breweries at the festival, as well as great food, live music, and lots of friendly Bend locals!

5. Sisters Coffee Company
Just west of Bend is a cute little town named Sisters, and in Sisters is a cozy coffee shop named Sisters Coffee Company. A log cabin with a big wrap around porch, this is the perfect spot to spend a lazy morning. Be sure to try their Banana Nut syrup - it was the best latte I've ever had!

I would also suggest checking out McMenamins. It's another great pub and brewery we stopped in, but was pretty quiet that night due to the Little Woody Beer Festival. You can grab a beer and a seat on one of their comfy couches in the movie theater, or take a dip in their saltwater soaking pool! Lot's of fun to be had in Bend!

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Baby Announcement Photo Shoot

My girlfriend Steph recently found out she's pregnant with their second baby and asked me to do a mini photo session of her family for their announcement. So we went up to DC Ranch and were able to get a handful of photos just before the sun went down. Here's the photo they used for their announcement:

Isn't Miss Nora one of the cutest little girls of all time?!? I love her :) Congratulations Steph and Alan! I can't wait for number two!

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Kitchen Inspiration

With talk of our upcoming kitchen remodel, I've been scouring the internet, books, and design blogs for inspiration. Here are our favorites:

Notice a theme? White upper cabinets with glass doors, dark lowers, white countertops, white subway tile backsplash, silver pendant lights, open bookshelves, and stainless steel appliances (although those might be a year or so down the road). Love, love, LOVE!!! I love the contrast of light and dark. And how the dark cabinets start feeling like furniture while the white uppers fade away, leaving an open and airy feeling to the room. What are your thoughts on different color cabinets for uppers and lowers?

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Pool Resurfacing - Day 6 - FINISHED!!!

The last day of our pool resurfacing consisted of polishing the PebbleTec and an acid wash. Quick and easy! The polisher looked like a weed wacker. Then they dumped gallons of acid on the surface and sprayed it off. All done!

Then they put the hose in the pool and began the long process of filling the pool back up...

...36 hours later, and our pool is ready to use!

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Pool Resurfacing - Day 5

Day five of our pool resurfacing, and it's finally time for PebbleTec! I had no idea it would be such a production! The guys first covered the pool deck and tile with plastic and taped it down. Then they tied ropes all across the pool, so they could hang their hoses over them so they wouldn't drag across the wet PebbleTec. The product came through hoses from a huge truck in front of our house. Then the guys put spikes on the bottoms of their shoes to walk across the surface and spread the PebbleTec out evenly. The color we chose is White Diamonds. And it really almost sparkles! We love that it gives the classic/retro look of white plaster, but obviously with the low maintenance, lifetime guarantee of Pebbletec. It looks beautiful! The uneven color will disappear once it drys. One more day till our pool is done!

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Pool Resurfacing - Day 4 (of actual work)

I still haven't found my camera/computer cord, but my wonderful hubby downloaded the photos for me. So here's a pic of our tile! Day four of work (after a three week search for tile) consisted of tearing out the rest of our existing tile, and grouting in the new tile. It looks great! Matches nicely with a few indigo blue pots on our patio.

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Choosing Pool Tile

This weekend I'm going to look long and hard for my camera cord, but until then I'll leave you with some of the tile options we considered for our pool. These are all from National Pool Tile and Stone, where California Pools gets most of their tile.

This is the tile California Pools took the liberty of installing after knocking out our existing tile:

Not gonna work for us. We loved our beautiful, ornate tile, and these plain blue tiles just don't cut it. So we were back to the drawing board.

The first option we considered was 1x1 glass tiles. I love the look of these. Sort of a retro modern combination. The first three are OceanScapes. These are by far my favorite. But then we inquired about the price. $50+ per square foot! Our glass tile dreams ended there. So we looked at a similar alternative, Mini Koyn tiles (the last two above.) When we saw the actual sample, they looked like cheap plastic. No thanks!

Next we looked at stacked stone. I really like the texture these create. This Ledger Stone was absolutely beautiful! Unfortunately we were restricted to tile that is 5/16" thick or less, otherwise it would stick out further than our cap tile (the beige tile that lines the very top of the pool). The stacked stone was out.

So we were back to ceramic tiles. We knew we wanted something with a pattern, similar to our existing tile. We considered the Casablanca and Luciana tiles. But we decided the varying colors and overly ornate patterns could quickly look dated.

In the end we decided on Moonbeam in Cobalt Blue. It is reminiscent of our existing tile that we love so much. And since it's a 6"x6" tile, instead of a 2"x2", it looks a little less blocky when applied all the way around the pool. Can't wait to share photos with you!

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Update on House Projects

I've been waiting the last few days to write this post till I could find my camera cord to download photos and show you updates, but I still can't find it. So for now you'll have to use your imagination :)

Pool Resurfacing

 After three weeks of negotiating with California Pools about the tile they knocked out, the lowest price they would give us to replace the tile is $700. A whole $250 off the $900 price they originally quoted us. I'm really frustrated with them since it's their fault that we have to replace the tile at all. I would not recommend California Pools for their customer service. Anyways, we picked out a cobalt blue tile that is pretty similar to the tile we currently have, just a bit larger in scale. The guys came yesterday to tear out the rest of the old tile and install the new. It looks really great! I'll post a picture as soon as I find my camera cord.

My amazing in-laws came into town this weekend, and were at our house all day yesterday cleaning and working on projects, including hanging our chandelier! I loved it so much that we had decided to hang it even though it wouldn't work. We have tons of can lights in our great room, so we didn't need the chandelier for light. I just wanted it to ground the dining room table in that huge room. Well, when my brilliant father-in-law got up there to hang it, he found a junction box he could wire it to! And voila, we have a chandelier that really lights up! He also installed dimmer switches on all our great room lights. It looks so beautiful now and gives off a nice warm glow! Thanks dad!!! Photos coming soon.
Philip tried to fix our overflowing toilet on his own, but to no avail. So we hired Aaron from Brothers Plumbing & AC come fix it for us. He was awesome and we would definitely recommend him! We also used Brothers to replace our AC units when we first moved into our house. They've always done a phenomenal job for us!

We're meeting with my uncle on Thursday to talk about ideas for our kitchen remodel. His company, Re-Bath, will soon be expanding into kitchen remodeling, and we might be his first project! I'll post our inspiration photos soon :)

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Two newlywed's adventures in home renovations, traveling and experiencing life together.

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