Date Nights


A few weeks ago I was grumbling about how “I just want to go home” and I’m tired of living at someone else’s house. Well, there are also a lot of perks of living with my parents. I also mentioned those in my complaining post. One of the best aspects is the ability to leave the house while Ali is sleeping (when one or both of my parents is home, of course). This has been really helpful with all the running around we’ve had to do with the new house. Often during her nap one of us is running down to the house to check on something or other. My favorite is when we’ve been able to put her to bed at 8:00 and then slip out for a few hours. It reminds me of our pre-parenthood days and it’s just lovely. A few times we’ve popped over to our friends’ house either to watch their kid so they could go out, or to have some adult time after their kid is asleep, too. A few weeks ago, in the midst of a busy travel time for Jason and my intense deadline time at work, we were able to grab a late dinner at our favorite Indian place. It was peaceful, delicious and romantic. Despite our busyness, I felt refreshed—like I had just had a weekend in the middle of the week (it was a Tuesday night).

Jason and I have always been intentional about date nights, even during the first 8 child-free years of our marriage. At least once a month we’d spend a little extra (sometimes that meant $30 budgeted instead of $15) and spend some set apart one-on-one time. We continued that habit when we had our first foster placement, a toddler just a bit older than Ali is now. My parents offered to babysit for us one evening early on and it was a precious time for Jason and me to reflect on everything that was happening. Once baby Ali was placed with us, we found it to be quite easy to take her with us on date nights. We could still go to our favorite restaurants, take our time and have great conversation. It’s a bit different now. The more busy we get with work, home building and an active toddler, the more date nights alone have become essential. We can really feel it when we haven’t had one in a couple months because we need it. We crave that time of quiet undivided attention, away from the distractions of home. Thank you to my parents for demonstrating how important date nights are and for valuing them enough to offer to babysit for us!


Now We’re Cookin’ – Kitchen Plan Part 2


Remember in 10th grade when you would practice signing your future name “Mrs. Jason Ahlbrandt” and “Martina + Jason” and “MLA”  all over your Physics notebook? Oh, wait that was me. Well, that’s me again, except now it’s a house I keep daydreaming about. I was down at the house meeting with our contractor about tile and when I got back to my desk, this happened:

I also might have printed out the kitchen plan elevations from our cabinet guy and sketched in notes about what I’m going to put in which cabinets. (First post about our kitchen plan is here.) It helped me to notice a few things, like that I wanted to add a pull out drawer for the trash and recycling near the end of the peninsula.

Our pantry will surround a coffee/tea bar area.

This open shelf at the end of the peninsula was one of my dream items.

The open shelf here for our everyday plates, bowls and glasses was another dream list item. (Inspiration can be seen in the plan here.)

I’m also very happy about the counter overhang that will allow space for a few bar stools and that cabinet on the right corner that’s accessible from the dining room side—it seems like the perfect place to store Lucy’s dog food and dishes.

New Home: Master Bathroom Plan


Master Bathroom Inspiration Board and Design Plan from


1. Sherwin Williams Window Pane – (I lovelovelove this color)

2. IKEA MINUT pendant 13″ globe light $40

3. Kendal Lighting VF3400-1L-SN Satin Nickel 1 Light White Shade Madison Bathroom Vanity Light (Item #: 411819 |  Model #: VF3400-1L-SN) from Lowes – 2 of these on either side of mirror

4. IKEA LILLAGEN mirror medicine cabinet $70

5. Delta Vero single-hole, high arch faucet

6. IKEA GODMORGON/ODENSVIK bathroom vanity, white stained oak $489

7. Daltile 1×1 mosaic in “marble” tile for the shower surround and the floor

8. KOHLER toilet with soft-close lid

9. IKEA RAMSKÄR bath mat $17

10. IKEA AFJARDEN bath sheets $15 each

11. IKEA GRUNDTAL toilet paper holder $6, hand towel bar $10 and bath towel rack $15

12. Custom carved wood “Relax” sign from William Dohman

13. Eat More Fiber poster designed by me (this may or may not make it back into the master bathroom!)

14. Delta Vero T14243 rain shower head and diverter – 2 of these for our big shower

Those without prices are items that our contractor already has or will purchase and he can get better than retail prices.

Phone Photo Friday


Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!

New Home Update


Confession: I wrote Monday’s post with my Photoshop mock-ups of the painted house on Friday night. Shocker: The painters came on Saturday and Sunday and finished all the exterior painting over the weekend! Did I tell you things were flying around here? Let’s see, I have a few progress shots of the painting that I took to send to Jason because he was in Norway over the weekend. And by Sunday afternoon I was snapping the finished painted house pictures.

We’re extremely happy with our color choices, in case you’re wondering.

You can see the Drizzle living room wall through the windows beside the fireplace. It’s quite a similar color to the outside Restful.

My desk will be right under that window. Hi, new home office! It’s also the laundry room and (FUN FACT) it’s the only room in the house with a flat ceiling.

The tile in the hall bathroom has been laid. We like. Good find, contractors! Our GC and his son found this for us based on a description of what we wanted. I think they found it at Lumber Liquidators (?) for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.50 per sq. ft. Score!

We had a shower wall enclosure built in our master bathroom and the concrete shower pan has been set. That shower will be all tiled like our last house’s master bathroom and we’ll have the same tile on the shower walls, floor and the bathroom floor.

Shampoo and soap nichés! Nitches. Nissssshes. Neeeeshays. We’ve been having fun with that word.

We had two hiccups with our Daltile selection. First, the mosaic blend we chose for the master called Keystone Mosaics in Beach is apparently discontinued. Frustrating but whatever. We picked another tile off of the same sample boards, a speckled beige called Marble. (Top row arrow in photo below.)

Two days later, our contracter when to the Daltile store to order our selections and found out that our hall bathroom tub surround choice, Aegean, will take 4-6 weeks to order. Seriously?! What’s the deal with the sales people at this store? They could have told us when we were in there the first time that the Beach pattern we selected was discontinued and it would have been really nice to know that some of the tiles they can get in stock in days and others take MONTHS. Ugh! Anyway… thankfully this time I had photos of the tile sample boards and we were able to find another one we like that they can get in stock in a few days: Waterfall. (4th row arrow in the photo above.) All of these decisions happen in a matter of minutes. Contractor calls Jason from tile store. Jason calls me at work. I email Jason pictures of the tile sample boards and my top 4 replacement choices. He calls the contractor and asks which of those choices they can get in stock quickly. Decision made. BAM.

Sidenote: I guess we’re on a turquoise kick!

We’ve also had trim and baseboards installed. They’re mostly done now.

Our site supervisor built steps to go into the house from the garage. Not too exciting. The vertical railings next to the stairs, as well as a handle, were added after I took this picture.

He also finally got rid of that ugly angled board that was giving extra support to the cantilevered overhang above the front door. The framers put it up there because they were concerned it was sagging and it looked awful. Now there is a big steel I-beam instead and it’ll be covered over with Hardie board on the porch side.

First stop on the way home from the airport when Jason returned from Norway: the new house, of course!

I-beam extending into the garage.

Our interior doors were all stained and sealed in natural wood tone and you can see in the background that the kitchen wall that was supposed to be white (Greek Villa) is now white again.

The black wall in Ali’s room was primed again in white. However, the wall that is supposed to be chalkboard black in the den is still white. We’ll see what happens when the painters come back to finish painting today and tomorrow. Say a prayer!

See all those leaves in the backyard? Our back patio is supposed to be poured right there but our contractor doesn’t want our concrete covered with leaf impressions so we might wait a little longer.

Next up? I don’t know… Wood flooring, I hope!

Alianna at 15 Months


On October 20th, Ali turned 15 months old…1 year and 3 months! It didn’t go unnoticed and I wanted to write a record of what she’s doing these days.

Ali-gator, you are now walking more than crawling, and even walking with your hands down! (No more Frankenstein.) You still trip a lot. I guess it takes a while to get a sense of where your feet are and what’s coming up. You’re really into climbing lately. You love to climb from your little rocking chair on to Grandma and Grandpa’s big recliner and then back down. I got you a toddler slide from craigslist to help satisfy your climbing desires but you haven’t figured out the ladder yet. You love the slide though!

You’ve started becoming a little more picky and opinionated in your eating lately. The result is just that you’ve been eating a little less because you don’t always care for what’s offered to you. I figure if you’re really hungry you’ll eat it anyway. We sometimes hand you a plastic toddler fork or spoon with food on it and you’re happy to eat whatever is on it. You haven’t yet tried to get the food on to the utensil yourself but that will come eventually.

We’re working hard on stay positive and redirecting you rather than saying “No” too much. You respond so much better to a gentle redirect than to an angry, “No! Ali! That’s Lucy’s food!” That only makes you want to do it more. I felt convicted recently that I was getting too harsh with you, after reading “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” So true that is with you. Thank you for being patient with me and giving me lots of chances to practice.

Just lately you’ve started putting 2 word phrases together. We were Skyping with Jason while he was out of town one day and right after I ended the call you said, “Bye Dada.” (You also gave him lots of kisses on the phone that day – so cute!) You also sometimes say, “Oh Yeah!” and it cracks me up. You’ve also said “more pwease” and “read it.” You babble all the time and I love getting little glimpses of what’s going through your head. I showed you some pictures I was working on of paint mock ups of the new house and you indulged me with, “Ooooh!” You never hide your excitement when you see something you love or think is pretty. You’re a jewelry fanatic so it’s no surprise that you’re saying “Jewry” even before you’re saying “Grandma” or “Grandpa.” You’ve been trying, though, and I can tell the subtle difference between “Dada” and “Dinda”… Dinda is your word for both Grandma and Grandpa at this point.

You’re growing slowly and steadily. We weighed and measured you at home the other day. You were 21.5 lbs and 29″ tall. (Sidenote: you’re exactly the same height and weight as your cousin Iris right now, who is 3 months younger than you.) You’re still wearing size 3 shoes though 2/3 of them are too small. Your size 4s, however, are mostly all too long. So we’re back to having just a few pairs of shoes that fit, but that’s fine. Your hair is getting longer and longer but still sitting up on top of your head. Is it going to start falling downward eventually? You have 8 teeth now and you are great about letting us brush them before bed every night. Daddy taught you to hold hands recently and you love to hold his hand while I push you in your stroller back and forth from Grandma and Grandpa’s house to our new house.

You’re great at making choices between two items and I love to give you that power. (More than 2 options is a little overwhelming.) Banana yogurt or peach yogurt? Do you want to wear this shirt or this shirt? Should Mommy buy these striped sheets or the gray sheets? Do you like this soap dispenser or this one? Obviously, I think you’re an excellent shopping buddy. I see many, many mother/daughter Friday night shopping excursions in our future. You are super fun to spend time with, excited about life, easy-going, loving and curious. Thanks for being my daughter.

All pictures in this post are from Ali’s buddy Jaron’s adoption day October 2, 2012; taken by Beth Rose Goin.

New Home: Guest Bathroom Plan


I worked on this inspiration board guest bathroom (AKA hall bathroom, kids bathroom, etc.) and I’m glad I did because I kept remembering more details to add to the plan. Beyond the already decided upon tile, vanity, mirror, lighting and paint color, I realized I also need to plan rugs, towels, shower curtain, towel and toilet paper hanging hardware. I didn’t even get to the point of art or sink top accessories. Here’s what I have come up with so far:

Guest Bathroom Inspiration Board and Design Plan from


1. Sherwin Williams Window Pane – (I lovelovelove this color)

2. IKEA MINUT pendant 13″ globe light $40

3. Kendal Lighting VF3400-1L-SN Satin Nickel 1 Light White Shade Madison Bathroom Vanity Light (Item #: 411819 |  Model #: VF3400-1L-SN) from Lowes – 2 of these on either side of mirror

4. IKEA LILLAGEN mirror medicine cabinet $70

5. Delta Vero single-hole, high arch faucet

6. IKEA GODMORGON/ODENSVIK bathroom vanity $489

7. Light gray slate-like 12×24 tile

8. KOHLER toilet with soft-close lid

9. IKEA GRUNDTAL toilet paper holder $6, hand towel bar $10 and bath towel rack $15

10. IKEA FRÄJEN bath sheets $10 each

11. Curved Shower Curtain Rod (maybe this one, pictured, for $40)

12. Daltile 1×1 matte “aegean” porcelain tiles for tub surround

13. IKEA TALLHOLM shower curtain $15

14. White bathtub (it’s already installed and honestly, I don’t remember which one it is)

15. IKEA TOFTBO bath mat in turquoise $13

16. Delta Vero 14453 shower head, diverter and tub faucet

Those without prices are items that our contractor already has or will purchase and he can get better than retail prices.

New Home – Exterior Paint Mock-Ups


Because things aren’t moving fast enough (that’s a joke!) I decided to take some of my photos of the house with siding and add our paint colors in Photoshop to see how they look. The house process has been flying lately at the house so it’s possible that by the time this post goes live, the painters will actually be painting the exterior…but anyway…if I’m going to waste my time daydreaming, I might as well waste yours too:

(The battens weren’t all up yet when I took the picture below, but close enough.)

Use your imagination here. Our garage door will not be translucent. It is coming soon, though. Hopefully the rest of the driveway (and back patio) concrete is coming soon, too.

OK, now this one got me really excited. Our front door area has been a mess since the beginning of construction and I never like how it looks in photographs. Now I can really start to visualize how lovely this courtyard entrance could be…

My landscape expert husband Jason will be planning out this courtyard with what areas will have planters, paver stones, gravel, potted plants, etc. All I know is that our OTP orange metal chairs will be resting here. Probably. So the birds have somewhere to perch while they watch us eat breakfast.

Phone Photo Friday


Most of my Phone Photo Friday pictures are from my Instagram feed. Follow me @mahlbrandt if you’d like!

New Home Update


My blogging has been a little scarce this week because it’s been busy ’round here. Ali got sick with a cold on Saturday and earlier this week I caught it too. Thankfully I’m not on deadline at work because there is a lot going on at the house and we’ve been running all over town looking at tile and flooring samples and meeting contractors and sub-contractors over at the house. A lot has happened since my last update. The interior walls have all been primed, though a few colors are in wrong places…we’ve been promised they’ll fix it when they do the paint. The doors have all been hung and the trim and baseboards are in progress. The exterior siding is a little more than half way done. We met with our kitchen cabinet guy earlier this week and made the final adjustments to the kitchen design. (I’m so excited about the kitchen!) We’ve had to make our selections for hard wood flooring and tile. We’re narrowing down the light fixtures and fans. A lot of things will be wrapped up in the next couple of weeks…we might even be totally done in a month! We’re hoping to move in or at least get our occupancy permit before Thanksgiving.

The “floating wall” we call it, in the living room is primed with SW Drizzle. The lighting is a little weird in this picture. It’s not quite that greenish.

One wall of the kids’ room will be SW Melangé Green.

Primed for SW Window Pane in the hall bathroom.

My office/laundry room. Boy, that primer is bright! I hope the paint color is not so bright…

Oops… this wall in Ali’s room is supposed to be pink (Rosebay). The black primer was for one of the walls in the den/playroom that will be chalkboard paint.

Oops #2… the kitchen side of the floating wall was supposed to be SW Greek Villa like the rest of the walls in this photo. The painter promises his crew will fix it.

We have a front door!

Interior doors! We were thinking about painting them white at first but once we saw them hung, we decided we love the wood grain.

I have a pocket door. I’ve always wanted a pocket door. It’s between the mud room and the living room. It’s one of those little details that our architect added (I had never mentioned it) that make me so happy!

Our friend Andy won the bid for our kitchen. He’s marking everything out to make sure it will all fit. He was able to include everything on my wish list and he used my sketch as a plan. Cool! I don’t love to cook but I’m determined to do it more once we’re living here. I’m really excited about this kitchen!

The hall bathroom will have turquoise (“Aegean” by Daltile) 1×1 tiles around the tub and some kind of yet-to-be-determined gray tile on the floor.

The master bathroom floor and walk-in shower will all be this 1×1 mosaic called “Beach” by Daltile.

While we were looking for floor tile, we found a great deal on the kind of hickory wood flooring we were looking for!

Hickory is an extremely hard wood (durable). We like the utility grade because it has a ton of color variation including some knots and mineral deposits. It lends itself to rustic design but Jason and I fell in love with it and think it’s going to look really pretty in our house. The variety of color means it’ll match our black-brown furniture as well as our walnut furniture.

It was such a blessing to find that because we were really squeezing our budget to afford hard wood and we really, really didn’t want to go with anything else.

On to the exterior siding!

Originally we were going to do cedar siding. Because of budget we decided to go with Hardie board instead. I love this solution for 2 reasons (3, if you count staying on budget!): 1. it’s very durable and low maintenance and 2. it can be painted any color in the world.

We’re doing a mix of board and batten design and flat panels. The board and batten will be our main color (SW Cast Iron) and flat panels will be our accent color (SW Restful).