Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Gingerbread Extravaganza 2014 December 10, 2014

This weekend I hosted our ninth annual gingerbread extravaganza. In our senior year of college, my roommates Jill and Bethany created a gingerbread house, and somehow it has turned into an annual tradition. Months of planning are now involved since we’re scattered across the Midwest and East Coast. Thankfully since we’ve done this for nine years we know exactly what candy to buy. Our new edition this year was creating a shared Pinterest board so we each could add fun decorating ideas or potential patterns.

Back in October we selected a theme and then scoured the internet for patterns and decorating ideas. This year we decided on a beach theme. Jill usually bakes all of the gingerbread in advance, but since she was traveling from Boston we decided it might be better if I made all of the gingerbread. Luckily a few weekends ago I was able to carve out time to create our three buildings that included a lighthouse, beach yacht club and beach house. Unfortunately I didn’t know that dashed lines meant you were supposed to connect the pieces before you cut out the shape…which lead to an interesting beach house for Jill. I also forgot to make people, but as you’ll see we supplemented by smushing out Starbursts.

Jill flew in Friday night and we got straight to work building the houses. My gingerbread expanded a little so we ended up using a sharp bread knife to help even out some of the connection points. Utilizing our soup and pasta sauce cans for support, our buildings were nice and solid by the next morning.


Bethany arrived on Saturday to begin the best part, the decorating stage!We spent the entire morning and afternoon creating our masterpieces. Since Jill wasn’t going to take her house on the plane, she and I decided to build our houses on the same board. Here’s the finished product.


Even Matt got involved this year! He built an awesome platform for Bethany’s yacht club. As payment he requested lights and or some sort of fireworks on next year’s houses. That might help us to decide on a theme for next year. Guess you’ll have to wait and see what we come up with in 2015!



Christmas Lumberjack December 3, 2014

Christmas Tree ShoppingSaturday’s weather at 50 degrees and sunny was too good not to be outside. So Matt, Porter and I, along with our friends Tom, Kim and their daughter Maddie headed up to Harvard, Illinois to go Christmas tree shopping.

For the last two years we’ve tagged along with Tom and Kim to Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm. Yes, it’s a bit of a hike but it’s well worth the drive. You are able to pick out your own tree, chop it down, enjoy free hot chocolate, sleigh rides with Santa, a petting zoo and have your fresh cut tree tied tightly to you car. Plus, when you have a two-year old girl easily excited by anything Christmas and a two year old black lab who hasn’t seen horses before, you’re going to be in for fun. And we definitely were. Everytime Maddie saw Santa she started waving and saying hi to him. And Porter, well, he was in tree heaven. Plus there were so many other dogs around for him to meet and play with.

When we arrived I was surprised at how much snow was still on the ground. It made for a great wintery backdrop for pictures but made for a sloppy muddy hike with the warming temperatures. All of us walked around for a while trying to find the perfect tree. Matt and I were joking that Porter was going to “pick” our tree by marking it. Luckily for us, all the tree’s Porter picked were not up to my standards so we kept searching.

Tom and Kim found theirs first and shortly thereafter we found our tree. This year I convinced Matt to go a little bigger and I am so happy I did. The tree turned out perfectly! All that’s left is to add Matt’s ornaments and purchase a garland. I can’t wait to show our readers the finished product but this is what we are enjoying for now.


Decorating Quest November 11, 2014

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 11:44 pm
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I had been searching for the perfect lamp for my bedside table for quite some time.  I loved my last one, but it was apple green with a white lamp shade and it didn’t go well in my new room.  {Not to worry that lamp found a home in one of my offices at work.  Everyone teases me for it, but I think it really personalizes a pretty drab space.}  I found a lovely gray base with an exposed teal wire from Target right away that was just right, but the lampshade was proving more difficult for me.  I literally bought 3 different ones before settling on this chevron pattern with gradients of turquoise.   I would buy one, bring it home, put it on the base and hate it.  Then I’d take it back and start over.  When I saw this lampshade in the store I did a little dance in the aisle.  It was perfect!

lamps side by sude

Left- No Light/ Right- Light On

That was until I took it home and turned on the light. Ugh!  I thought I would cry.  Maybe you aren’t as picky as me, but I hated the way the shade looked with the light on.  The color became way too bright and lime.  Right now I’m guessing you are either nodding along with this story saying, ‘This is something I would go through!’ OR you think I am crazy and should really get a life.  Well all I have to say is sorry I’m not sorry for loving details!

I left the lampshade alone for a few days because honestly I couldn’t handle taking back another thing to Target.  I’m guessing by now they have me on a list of suspicious people.  Then I remembered David Hopkins!  My sister and I attended an open house he hosted a year and a half or so ago through the Airbnb website.  One of the main things I remember David saying was that lights should not be too bright.  He suggested choosing lampshades with black interiors.  A light bulb went off in my mind {horrible pun, but I couldn’t resist}!  I could create a black interior for this lampshade!

I set to work with some black paper and some tape.  I used my handy paper cutter and just patched together the paper until it covered the entire inside.  It’s not pretty, especially with all the tape, but you really can’t tell when you turn on the light and stand back.  I’m so relieved my search for the perfect lampshade is over.  It just took a little persistence and DIY on my part.



Deck the Halls December 4, 2013

Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving Holiday!  I had a great time visiting with my family, eating too much food, and sleeping in almost every morning.  I used the time off to decorate for Christmas and do a little bit of shopping including a mini Christmas tree!  Although I am living in a smaller space now, I still insisted on having a real Christmas tree.  I set up a little table in a nook of my living room and went tree shopping with my sister at Home Depot.  They had 3-4 foot mini trees for between $19 – $24.  Kate took home a perfectly shaped Scotch Pine and I chose a Frasier Fir because that is the kind we always grew up with.

tree stich

I arranged multi-colored lights on the tree and added my silver and turquoise glass garland.  My mom had quite a few strands of glass garland that looked like fruit and my sister and I are obsessed with it.  As long as I can remember we have argued over who will get to keep the garland after my dad stops putting up a tree.  A couple years ago I found glass garland at Target and snatched it up!  I never was able to find it again and I always kick myself for not buying more.  With the mini tree I didn’t have to spread the garland so thin.  There is garland on the whole tree and it looks pretty good.  My sister somehow got a hold of some of the fruit garland and is using that this year…sneaker!  I placed the tree up on the table in my living room and wrapped the tree skirt I had around the base.  The skirt was a little too long to let hang off the table and to tell you the truth, I was scared one of my cats would play with the skirt and bring the whole thing tumbling down.  I unwrapped all my ornaments and had to choose my favorites because they couldn’t all fit on the tree.  I miss having a full sized tree, but I think the mini is pretty cute and it still gets me into the Christmas spirit.


Besides the tree, I wanted to decorate the shelf I have in that room.  I removed everything that was currently on the shelves, dug into my Christmas boxes, and settled on a metallic, white, and blue theme.  I got so excited taking out my Putz Houses!  Those were new last year and I wrote a whole post about them you can see here if you are interested.  I just love how glittery and vintage they look.  Those went on the very bottom shelf.  The next shelf up I left my card catalog drawers where they were and added my yarn trees with the blue and champagne color scheme.   I kept the next shelf neutral with a snow covered branch and lantern along with the glitter chevron project I did awhile back.  And on the top shelf I put a tree with mercury ornaments, a glittery silver bow, and a bowl of pinecones.

shelves detail whole shelf

I had lots of other decorations to use and I couldn’t let the living room be the sole festive spot in my apartment  so  I decorated the dresser in my bedroom with  an even smaller gold tree!  My sister helped me start a pink antique ornament collection a year or two ago and I use that tree to display them.  I added a cute little strand of snowflakes, an ornament that wouldn’t fit on my tree, one of my housewarming gifts from my sister, and wah-la!  I have a pretty festive vibe going on that I can now enjoy every morning when I wake up.


Now that all my decorations are up, it’s time to start shopping and wrapping!  Now sure where I’m going to stash all the gifts before Christmas…guess I’ll have to get creative.


Creating A Home November 20, 2013

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 9:05 am
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Last week I wrote about the beginning of a new chapter in my life, moving all of my stuff out of Oak Park and into Lombard. The big reason behind the move was I married a wonderful man on September 20, 2013. Writing about that day will be a very special post and it needs to be just right. Apologies for once again being a tease!

So instead you get to hear about our organizing weekend. Matt and I still use our make-shift Kanban board in the office. We’ve since taken down all of the wedding items but put up new cards like, get my name changed, order thank you cards, send thank you cards, update rental agreement, get wedding dress preserved, purchase storage bins, find new bank, update insurance, get house organized so we can get a dog, etc.

Get a dog, that’s our carrot for getting things done around the house. The major deal is once everything is “put away” or finds an organized home in the garage, closet(s) or attic we can get the dog. Luckily, this weekend we made major headway on the almost ready to start researching dog breeds….which in our house is the first step to getting a dog.

The first plan of attack – the kitchen. When I first moved in I brought with me a decent size kitchen island. Matt’s kitchen is a good size, but it already had some extra cabinets and shelving. We created a “temporary” fix that didn’t allow for a good “flow”. Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it was definitely starting to get to me. We flipped a few large items on different walls and placed the island on an angle. The lack of symmetry  bothered me initially, but now I love it. We can both work at the island and easily move around to get to the sink or cupboard.

Kitchen in progress of rearrangement

Kitchen in progress of rearrangement

Kitchen After

Kitchen After

Kitchen After

Kitchen After

Kitchen After

Kitchen After

Next it was on to the dining room. Over the last month we made huge progress in going from two dining room tables to one. One of my co-workers was able to take my old dining room table, corresponding chairs, two end tables and a whole bunch of kitchen stuff. With all of that gone next came moving around furniture with the new found space.  With our reorganization of furniture it works so much better, don’t you think?

Dining Room During

Dining Room During

Dining Room During

Dining Room During

Dining Room During

Dining Room During

Dining Room After

Dining Room After

Dining Room After

Dining Room After

Dining Room After

Dining Room After

One thing you also notice in the before and after pictures is a lot of more art. We hung pictures in our living room, dining room, kitchen and hallway. Matt even commented to me tonight that he really likes having the pictures up, it seems more homey. I couldn’t agree more. We didn’t hang up everything because we still have two and a half more rooms to go through, organizing and re-working the layout to make the house what we want. But we are getting there together and that’s the important thing.


Future Dinner Parties Are Being Planned! February 11, 2013

Filed under: Kate — Uncharted @ 12:42 pm
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Now, this may be considered a small project by some of you, but it is the first completed of MANY home projects that Eric and I have taken on since buying our beautiful little 1950’s house on a hill in Barrington, IL. When Eric and I bought our house in April of last year, our wish list included a huge list of items, some of which we knew we’d have to compromise on, based on our budget and targeted area to live. Some of the things that we wished for: 2 Car Garage, En Suite Master Bath, Huge Lot… we got in the house that we purchased. Others (Finished Basement, Lots of Closet Space, Modern Fixtures) we had to surrender and hope for in the future. But just because our little starter house isn’t our dream house, doesn’t mean we can’t fix it up for the next owners (and for us too, while we live there!).

So together we have been tackling many small projects around the house – taming the jungle in our front yard and growing grass in our mud pit (I know, I’m making this house sound like a dream!), pulling up the nasty carpet in the foyer and tiling it (this one is on my 2013 list of aspirations) and changing the light fixtures so we don’t feel like we’re in the 1980’s… but our first entire room is finally complete… the Dining Room.

Now, as you can see from the below picture, our dining room wasn’t in too bad of shape. It was really sort of a bonus to have one in the first place, even if it was a bit dated and needed to be cleaned up. As you can see from the stylish window coverings, there wasn’t much “covering” going on and we received several comments from our neighbors (quite politely I might add) that their dog barks at us when she sees us through the window. I’m pretty certain this was their nice way of asking us to cover the windows because they’re tired of watching us walk around half naked. (What? Don’t you do that at your house?) You will also notice that the chandelier was dated and perhaps it’s just me, but not to a 20-something year old’s taste and was hung way too high. Lastly, the walls were filled with nails and holes from picture hangings. I might also add that the furnishings is this picture are not ours.

old dining room


To beautify our amazing dining room, here’s what we did:

(1) Removed the old window treatments
(2) Pulled the nails, patched the holes and painted the walls – Tiffany Blue!
(3) Bought a chandelier at Menard’s (though I don’t have a love affair with the chandelier we chose, we felt it was modern and would appeal to the masses) and made sure it was dark to pop against the walls.
(4) Purchased Custom Sized, Faux Wood Blinds at Menard’s and hung them (I’m not even joking, these were less than $100, they look amazing and were super easy to install. Plus, they cut them to your size right there in the store – it takes like 5 minutes!)
(5) We are lucky that Eric’s grandfather built our dining table, but we needed chairs, so we purchased some at Overstock.com and assembled them. By the end, we were blistered and bloody… but it was all worth it.

Lastly, I wanted to point out the table mats in my after shot. For my wedding, I believe I mentioned we bought some material to jazz up the white linens on the tables, just a couple patterns where we used some material in the center of the tables… well these table mats, my tablecloth (not pictured) and my new cloth napkins (yellow with polka dots!) are all from the wedding cloths we used. What a cool way to turn them into a keepsake!

And now for the grand reveal:


new dining room



What do you think?


Revisiting 30 before 30… January 12, 2012

Today is my 27th birthday.  That means it’s been about a year since I posted my 30 before 30 list.  And that means I have another 3 years to finish everything on it.  In the spirit of getting another year closer to that big 3-0, I thought I’d revisit to see the progress I’ve made…

1. travel to a foreign country (outside of North America, because let’s be honest, even though those Canadians can get  crazy, they don’t count for my list)…not yet…but I’m starting to make a list of places I’d LIKE to go.  Then maybe I can progress from there!

2. own a dog…not yet…this one won’t be able to happen until Jonathan and I move out of our apartment, since they don’t allow dogs…and gosh, moving is such a pain!

3. get a real Christmas tree (a live one)…not yet…we still had a fake one this year, particularly because we thought about a real one, but wouldn’t be around to care for it over the holiday since we went back to Chicago and decided we’d rather not come back to a fire hazard of needle piles.

4. read at least 3 books per year (ones I want to read, not required reading)…got it…so far since this post last year I’ve read OVER my quota of 3…including Room by Emma Donogue, The Help by Karyn Stockett, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson, and (one of my favorites, so it’s a re-read) Sense and Sensibility.  Let’s see if I can keep this up!

5. go back to Vegas…got it…Jonathan and I got to go back in November because he WON a trip from Allstate! Read about that here.

6. camp in a national park…got it…I’ve been camping in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, plus we’re going camping with some dear friends in Yosemite this May!

7. create a signature cocktail…not yet…but I feel like it will include Cake vodka 😉

8. swim with dolphins…not yet…

9. go on a hot air balloon ride (sorry Kel, I had to add this one to my list, too)…not yet…

10. go wine tasting (it’d be nice to actually know a thing or two about it, not just drink it)…got it…in Santa Barbara, California with some of my favorite ladies!

11. go back to the Grand Canyon…not yet…

12. learn a new song on the piano…not yet…and this one’s going to be harder now, because we don’t have a piano!

13. make a home with Jonathan…got it…love our neighborhood, love our apartment, still working on some of the decor

14. take a photography class (well, another one, maybe digital photography!)…not yet…

15. ride a double-decker bus…not yet…

16. take Jonathan on a ‘spring break’ trip (because he never had one)…not yet…but we may be going to Mexico this summer, so that’s pretty close!

17. try at least one adventurous recipe each month…got it…here are some of my favorites: meatloaf muffins with mashed potato ‘frosting‘ and the Barefoot Contessa’s chicken with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes.

18. perfect my great grandma’s butter cookie recipe…got it…with my brother Sam’s help this year, I think we perfected it for our Christmas cookie tins (which I referred to in last week’s post).

19. have a garden…sort of got it…I’d like to have a real one, but at least we planted a small herb garden this year for our apartment…

20. write a book (I’ve been thinking of ideas for children’s books lately)…not yet…this one will be a challenge!

21. take a yoga class (this may surprise some of you, but I never have…I don’t want to do hot yoga, just a regular class)…not yet…still a bit intimated to show my lack of flexibility…

22. finish a triathlon…not yet…but I’d like to sign up to do one this summer and start training soon!

23. see another panda bear in real life…not yet…

24. sew something (other than just putting a lost button back on)…got it…took a sewing class, made a tote bag, got a sewing machine for Christmas, and you saw the pillows I made in last week’s post!

25. try a new haircut…sorta got it…got my hair chopped from being long this past fall.

26. take a golf lesson…not yet…

27. find a go-to sushi restaurant in Denver…got it…we LOVE Okinawa on Colfax, and we’ve been to Sushi Den a few times too.

28. take a Spanish class (or several)…not yet…

29. recycle more (and reduce, and reuse…)…trying to, but surprisingly enough it’s hard when our apartment building doesn’t provide a recycling service!

30. tell the people who are important to me how much I love them more often…on my way, working on it!

If I keep it up, I think the whole list can be green by the time I hit 30!  Although it’s amazing how quickly 3 years can fly by…


Cards and Flowers Anyone? April 19, 2011

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 9:48 pm
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Some of you may remember me mentioning a glass vase  I found back in November that I intended to use for a project.  I understand if you don’t remember because that was a long time ago for most memories.  Especially for something so unmemorable {I didn’t even show a picture!}  Well the project is finally complete.  Now don’t get all worked up, it wasn’t a 5 month project or anything.  It just took me that long to get my act together.  I was perusing Joi’s blog Nuestra Vida Dulce one day (err, last spring?) and came upon a post that stopped me in my tracks called ‘Don’t Hate on Carnations.’  It stopped me because I do hate carnations.  {Side note: so does my sister, we’ve discussed it in much detail}  But this arrangement, although made to look like carnations, looked pretty and sweet so I ignored my prejudices and decided I would create it for myself.

That brings us to now/5 months later and I have decided to finally get my dupa {Thanks to my dear aunt for this lovely Polish substitution for butt} in gear.  I ended up following a mix of the tutorial Joi linked to and her own instructions.

Here is the final product:

I already redecorated with it. What do you think?  Karla mentioned that it looks like a pineapple.  I do think perhaps I need a different vase for this arrangement, but for now I think it will stay.

Also wanted to share a little project that Karla, Sarah, and I put together.

I was brainstorming volunteer ideas to make up for the fact that I didn’t volunteer last month {doing double this month I swear!}.  I drive by an assisted living facility on the way to work every day and it reminded me think about how my business fraternity used to go play bingo and bring cards to the nursing home near our college campus.  The idea was born and after a lovely dinner and a few hours, 20 unique cards were born!  Now I just need to go drop them off before the holiday passes…

Happy Easter


If Walls Could Talk March 15, 2011

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 10:56 pm
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One of my favorite things to do is get lost on the internet.  I find blogs and pictures and fascinate myself with other people’s seemingly perfect lives.  It is so addicting, but the problem is I get really wrapped up in what could be and hardly ever do something as a result.  However, once and awhile I fall so deeply in love with an idea that it ends up happening!  Remember Joi from Nuestra Vida Dulce?  A long way back she posted about SJP’s bedroom wall collage on the set of Sex in the City.

I immediately fell in love with the idea and showed it to Karla.  She agreed that we should try to do it on our living room wall AND that we should each have 4 items by the end of the next week.  Not gonna lie, this assignment terrified me!  I liked the idea of doing the collage wall, but to actually have items picked and ready to hang so soon was a big commitment for me.

I went to Etsy to look at my favorites and see what would work.  I immediately picked a ‘Home Sweet Home’ print that I had been eying for awhile and ordered it.  I was super proud of myself that I had made progress.  That was until Karla showed me that she already had her 4 items for the collage.  She was serious about this deadline and it was scaring me.  I went back to Etsy and searched around for something else unique.  I found a women who sews initials in buttons onto pillows:

Isn't it Pretty?

I asked her if she could make me a ‘K’ and sew it onto a piece of fabric instead of making it into a pillow.  I then went and bought a sewing hoop, painted it eggshell, and proceeded to use a lot of hot glue.  Now I was up to 2 items…and Karla {that sneaker} was up to 5! <—This was the first lesson to me that if you give Karla an idea, she will make it happen…quickly.

I decided that Etsy worked great for unique items, but it was taking a lot of time and was expensive.   I ran over to good old Hob Lob and found a cross I really liked and a wooden sign with a cute birdy that tied all the colors together.  Wall décor was half off that day so I think I came home with both of them for around a total of $14 (Just as a side note: If you wait long enough it will eventually be 50% off at Hobby Lobby).  I couldn’t let Karla outdo me with 5 items and my problem was solved the weekend after the deadline when I was out shopping with my friends.  We were leaving a store and saw a mirrored Fleur de Lis.  I went back in to inquire about the cost and they told me all the mirrors were half off!  I had finally finished my assignment!

Later that day Karla and I set to work on arranging our items on the floor so we could see what it would look like on the wall.

Upside down bowl represents the Wall Nipple

It took awhile.  We had to work around the ‘nipple’ attached to the wall (we really aren’t sure what this is, but think it was an electrical outlet many years ago) and we rearranged a few times before it was just right.  Even though getting all the items stressed me out, in the end I think the wall collage is one of my favorite design elements in our apartment, what do you think?

It is Complete!

An Up Close Look


Patience is a Virtue…and a Safety Feature December 7, 2010

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 6:24 pm
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Last year Karla and I got our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  By the time our New Year’s party came around the thing was so dry, I was scared to use the oven for fear the tree would burst into flames.  And that is with 2 rooms in between!  It was my fault.  I saw a Christmas tree lot a couple blocks away from our apartment and got so excited I dragged Karla over there and way overpaid for a tree on the spot.

This year has been drastically different.  I am being way more patient about the tree, and we are being more intentional about decorating.


1.        We cleaned the apartment all day

~After everything was spotless~

2.       I unpacked all of our Christmas decorations and laid them all out


1.        We decorated room by room.  The entryway has a blue/white theme, the dining room has religious pieces (angels and mangers), and the living room has a red/gold theme complete with a Santa-bear sleigh on the mantel!

There is still no tree.  I think the one from last year really taught me to wait it out a little bit.  Plus once we get one, we have to start using a squirt bottle on Harlo every time he gets near the thing.  Cats really do climb Christmas trees.  I saw it happen this weekend at a friends house.  Hey, at least I let him play with some ornaments before we put them up…


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