Hardwood Floor Renovation, Part 2

The house is on its way to becoming our cozy little home.

To get there, we’ve had to overcome some nasty 90s colored floors, what-were-they-thinking (?!) old [smelly] carpet, and a bucket full of setbacks. Despite the depleted bank accounts and major (may I re-emphasize major?) headaches because of the floors, I am proud to reveal the before and afters of our hardwood floor project!

I promise you this is the same house. No gimmicks. Just a lot of hard work, investment, seeing the potential, and faith that it will all work out.

In case you missed it in Part I, we had moved into the house with hardwood floors throughout the main floor. They are oak and were stained the standard 1990s blonde color but were significantly scratched in some places. The previous owners had even drilled holes in other spots (WHY on earth, I do not know).

Four-inch black scratch mark on hardwood floor
No, that’s not a scuff mark. That’s a huge black scratch in the floors. Even the hardwood floor guys said they’d never seen a scratch like that.

Even if we liked the color, the scratches and holes still needed to be repaired, so we needed to sand, restain, and seal the floors. It worked out well as an opportunity to update the house with a more modern stain color.

But then there was the upstairs flooring. Ohhhhhhh, the upstairs. I cannot wrap my head around the thought process (maybe none?) behind some of these decorating decisions.

I won’t say more; I’ll just let these pictures speak their “1,000 words” for themselves:

Master Bedroom - electric blue walls and casino carpet
Everyone, meet the master bedroom

Yes, that’s real life.

extremely outdated stairs carpet before hardwood renovation

I’m crying all of the tears on behalf of every decorator in the world.

Needless to say, it all needed to GO. We would have loved hardwood floors upstairs but assumed carpet would be a more cost effective option. Amazingly, after a lot of work to find multiple contractors and collect bids, we found that the cost of installing hardwood floors wasn’t much more than putting in carpet. It was an easy decision for us: install hardwood floors upstairs too!

Downstairs, the floors are oak. We chose stain in Red Mahogany by Dura Seal.

Upstairs, the contractors installed a slightly wider plank of Red Oak. The stain is the same as downstairs, and there is no noticeable difference in the final product between upstairs and downstairs.

Master Bedroom

I am so sooooooooo happy with how this turned out. The floors are so rich. I love the calming color of the blue. The white trim breaks up the wall and floor colors perfectly.


Sorry if I ruined your moment of enjoying the after photos, but I HAD to remind you what this looked like before.

What. Is. This Carpet???

No, that’s not a runner carpet on hardwood. It’s a runner carpet on hardwood-colored carpet. Our theory is that the previous owners were trying to give the appearance of a carpet runner on wood stairs. Instead of real wood underneath, brown “wood colored” carpet on the edge would obviously give the same effect, right?

extremely outdated stairs carpet before hardwood renovation

hardwood stairs renovation with white riser - before stain

hardwood stairs renovation with white riser - after stain

Do you feel relief when you look at the last photo? Yeah, me too.

Living Room

I adored the beautiful, high ceilings in our living room and the open layout to the dining room, which then flows in to the kitchen. Because there are no good breaks in the walls to change color, the ENTIRE main floor and upstairs hallway are all the same color.

The previous owners chose yellow.

They must have liked it because they put it in a bathroom as well.

Besides doing the floors, we obviously freshened the paint on the walls, trim, doors, and fireplace. We picked Revere Pewter (by Benjamin Moore but color matched through Sherwin Williams) as a nice light, bright neutral that we were comfortable running through 80% of the house.

hardwood floors refinish before and after

Finished floors, still buttercup yellow paint.. so this is an “in progress” or “during” picture

Another “before”:


What do you think?

We still have to start decorating. The walls are quite bare, but the big furniture is in. So it’s a lovely, livable space.

We absolutely adore it. It’s an amazing feeling to walk in and see how your hard work has paid off.

Ugly House, you haven’t defeated us yet.

I am so glad I finally got this out to you all. I hope it was worth the wait.

Do you have any questions about any part of our project? If so, I’ll answer in the comments or, for more involved answers, I’ll write a brutally honest response post about the experience. 🙂

How are your latest projects going? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy renovating, lovelies.

Continue Reading

7 Easy Super Bowl Party Recipes and Ideas

7 Super Bowl party recipes and ideas

It’s official! We hosted our first party, a Super Bowl viewing party, in the new house.

It was a huge success*! Our guests enjoyed themselves, were well fed, and had enough beverages to go around. We invited a few different friend groups, family, and coworkers, so it was great to see all those worlds blend together.

In addition to the food (see info below), we did the classic Super Bowl squares for $1 a square. It was a fantastic way to keep everyone engaged, even those who aren’t big football fans and are just there for the commercials. I loved seeing the nearest person to the poster run and look up the name in the square each time the score changed. 🙂 A few people walked away with some cash in their pocket, which adds extra fun.

I’m sharing my food and recipes from our Super Bowl party with you all! There was a good balance of food that I prepared from scratch, recipes from online, recipes from friends, and a few pre-prepared items.

Making the chili before Super Bowl Party

The food below was perfect for a 12 person get together (note: medium appetites. I think everyone had dinner first).

7 Easy Super Bowl Party Recipes and Ideas

  1. Chips, salsa, & guac – This is a classic and never fails. The salsa had a little twist by being of the mango variety. We purchased both the guac and mango salsa from Jewel Osco. The Jewel Oscos in the Chicagoland area have excellent guacamole. I highly recommend it if you’re trying to put together an appetizer on the fly. Lesson learned: Buy a second guac. It goes fast.
  2. Veggies and dip – easy and a safety for guests who are on New Year’s Resolution health kicks. I did celery, broccoli, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, and baby carrots. It was both colorful and healthy! For dip, I made life simple and used ranch dressing and red-pepper hummus. (Can we take note of the cute football shaped servers I found at Aldi?)
  3. Crispy Baked Potato Skins– This was the hands-down favorite and the first item gone! The recipe is from my friend Marissa Allen at First & Full. Check out the recipe here. I could gush forever about what a talented and amazing Super Woman Mom she is, so definitely check out her site for delicious eats. What I learned: There was a lot of extra potato when you scoop out the centers. Next time I do this, I’ll come up with something to do with all the extras (mashed potatoes maybe?)…  That, and the resounding obvious request from everyone at the party, “Can you make more next time?”
  4. Wingsssss– Another football and tailgate classic. A friend of ours made chicken wings from scratch and brought them to the party. No, really. He made the barbecue sauce from scratch. The wings were awesome, and I’ll have to get the recipe from him to share with you.
  5. Jalapeño poppers– Okay, I got lazy on this one. I’ve made bacon-wrapped, cheddar and cream cheese stuffed jalapeños from scratch before and ended up scarred for life. I made the mistake of accidentally touching my face near my eye after handling the peppers. It burned so badly. I couldn’t believe that relatively mild jalepeños could do that. Needless to say, when I saw a package of 8 pre-made poppers at Aldi for $6.88, it was worth. every. penny.
  6. Maggie’s Award Winning Chili – Full recipe coming soon! This was also a hit with our guests. I served the chili with toppings on the side — shredded cheddar cheese, fresh chopped bacon, sour cream, and green onion. I recommend keeping the chili in a slow cooker to keep it warm for your whole party. Lesson learned: The chili is very dense so it took a long time to heat up. It wasn’t warm enough in time for party. Heat it on stove first or allow enough time (2+ hours) to heat up slowly.

  7. Cornbread muffins – I used 2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix, which made 13 muffins. Tip: listen to instructions on the box that say to let the batter sit for 3-4 minutes before placing it into the muffin tin. It makes the tops taste way yummier.

All of the recipes were gluten free except the cornbread muffins.

*I promised you all on this blog that I would be honest and let you know my successes and failures. How you define “huge success” is clearly subjective. I define it as my guests enjoying themselves, leaving with full bellies, and making it home safely. If I get to enjoy the party while hosting it’s a bonus. All of that was accomplished.

Here’s the kicker: we did have the smoke alarm go off twice (very strange because we didn’t see any smoke) and the toilet overflowed.

Yes, the toilet overflowed at our party. (Don’t worry, it was clean water… but still not entirely fun.)

So, how can I possibly define the party as a success with an overflowed toilet?

What makes the party a success despite those bumps is:

  1. Our guests were cool about it and so were we. It was a judgement free zone.
  2. We fixed the problems. The smoke alarm was off in a matter of seconds each time by me waving a kitchen towel under it to dispel the smoke it sensed (thanks a lot, bacon grease from jalapeno poppers). The toilet we managed to catch as it was happening. Minimal water got on the floor because Doug was standing there and turned off the water right away. We cleaned it and directed our friends to use our upstairs bathroom instead.Honestly, most of our friends didn’t notice it had happened until we shared the information. They were all busy enjoying themselves.
  3. Mistakes don’t define your event. They also don’t detract from the sentiment of your hospitality. When your guests are people who know you and care about you, they’re grateful to be there and spend time with you.I hope that my honesty didn’t scare you off. It’s my goal that sharing this with you will let you know what happened beyond the pretty, staged pictures of the food. They’re called a still life for a reason, guys. Life moves. And that’s what makes it fun.

    It’s my goal that sharing this with you will let you know what happened beyond the pretty, staged pictures of the food. They’re called a still life for a reason, guys. Life moves. And that’s what makes it fun.

What do you like to serve at parties or tailgates? Do you have any hosting disasters? (I know I can’t be alone on this!)

Happy hosting, friends.

Continue Reading

Finding Our Home and Hardwood Floors Part 1

I’m still getting used to this blogging stuff, so thank you for your patience on this post!

The last few weeks have been busy but exciting with finalizing renovations and getting the green light to move into the house.

I started to type the Hardwood Floor Post “with a bit of our home search story weaved in.” That quickly turned into me blabbing about finding our house instead of the hardwood floors.

So. I promise, promise that I’ll post this first as a teaser and then get right to the Hardwood Floor Post. Think of this as an intro or as a 2-part story, because they do go together!

Finding Our House

We purchased our first home about 2 ½ months ago and got the keys about 6 weeks ago. Since then, it’s been an exciting and busy adventure!

The day we first toured the house, we admittedly hated it. It was outdated and smelled strange. There was floor-to-ceiling wallpaper in the powder room, wallpaper borders in others, horrible carpet on the second floor, buttercup yellow (flat) paint throughout the house, outdated fixtures and appliances… the list went on. It screamed “work.”

One redeeming feature of the house was the hardwood floors. Even on our first visit, we saw past the glaring flaws of the house and appreciated the real hardwood floors throughout the entire main floor. They were in decent shape. The color wasn’t ideal (read: ’90s), and it did have some major scratches. But they were hardwoods.

Four-inch black scratch mark on hardwood floor
No, that’s not a scuff mark. That’s a huge black scratch in the floors. Even the hardwood floor guys said they’d never seen a scratch like that.
Another 2.5 inch deep scratch in the floor
Deep scratch in the hardwood floor that definitely requires sanding

We saw three homes that day with our real estate agent. We just been outbid on a house in the same neighborhood the week before, and it took a surprisingly emotional toll on me. I was crushed to lose that house. I really thought that was “the one” and could picture our family there.

By a strange stroke of luck, there was another house for sale in the small neighborhood with the exact same layout as The House We Lost. We’d seen the pictures online before and hadn’t even considered touring it. Even through the pictures, you could tell it needed a lot of love: it was the Ugly House.

We weren’t really interested in a fixer upper, but I wanted to see it. In some strange, twisted way, I thought it would be therapeutic to go see the Ugly House, pretend it was The House We Lost, and live vicariously through being there.

Bad idea.

Floor-to-ceiling bathroom wallpaper
It’s like you can see him thinking “This room isn’t really happening.”

The moment we walked in, I was just wanting for The House We Lost, putting its paint colors on Ugly House’s walls, mentally placing its nice details throughout. I was getting emotional again.

But maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. I’d just make Ugly House into The House We Lost!

My fiancé was the first to discuss after seeing all three houses. “Well, that was a total bust,” he said. “Not one of those is even an option.”

I was crushed. He didn’t see what I did. I chalked up my optimism of fixing up Ugly House to still being overly attached to The House We Lost.

I called him the next morning, like I always do, and said, “Hey, I was thinking about it, and I have a really crazy idea. Promise to hear me out?”

He interrupted me, “I know what you’re going to say. We can fix up Ugly House. I think we should go for it.”


My heart leapt. I was so happy that he was willing to take on this big project.

After a lot of fixer upper math, discussion, thought, and prayer, we put an offer on Ugly House. We had a lot of back and forth with the seller and a completely rejected offer, which led to some anger (from me). Eventually, the seller came back after a few days and accepted our offer.

The joy was overwhelming. We finally got a house!

We quickly got to work researching contractors and scheduling appointments for them to come the moment we got the keys. We. Were. Ready.

It turned out that Ugly House (which was now Our House) was a much better option than The House We Lost all along. THWL was nice, but there were some parts of it I didn’t love. I would have worked around those design choices and compromised my own style (e.g. a brand new nice blacksplash. I didn’t love it. And I definitely couldn’t justify tearing down something brand new.)

Having a house where we could make it our own was the very best decision. It would be more work, but it would be worth it. And, no. I would have ZERO regret about ripping out the carpet at Our House.

“Having a house where we could make it our own was the very best decision.”

Renovation #1: The floors. The hardwoods needed to be re-sanded to get rid of the scratches. That carpet needed to go. We’d replace it with nice neutral carpet.

Removing gross, old carpet to create a new look.
See ya never, nasty carpet!

Deciding a stain color was our next step. I wanted to go with a dark color because I think it looks really elegant.

Our contractors sanded a portion of our dining area and stained 5 different samples of stain colors so we could decide. Here they are:

 We didn’t have a whole lot of time to choose because everything moved so quickly. I’m glad I didn’t have time to dwell on it because I would have overthought it. As someone perfectly commented on my Instagram it’s a hard decision because it makes such an impact. So true.

The amazing thing about the pictures is that they aren’t different stains. They’re not even in different parts of the house. That is the EXACT SAME area. The top image was taken at 7:00 PM when it was dark. The bottom image was at 7:00 AM when the sun was just rising.

And we chose….

Red Mahogany!!

Stay tuned for all the pretty pictures of how it turned out!


Continue Reading

Gluten Free Eggnog French Toast

Gluten free eggnog french toast

As background, I am a carbivore through and through. Pasta, cookies, brownies… I love it all. Give me all. of. the. gluten.

About 4 years ago, my fiancé learned that he had a severe gluten allergy and had to begin a strictly gluten free diet.
Although we didn’t live together, this change impacted both of us.

We had to think more carefully about what to eat and what not to eat… and where to eat. There were countless times where we walked in and out of 3+ restaurants during a date before settling on one that reassured us they had a good understanding of “gluten free.” Our travel planning was always coupled with questions like, “Will there be things for you to eat?” “How do you say ‘no wheat’ and ‘gluten’ in [language]?” We’ve learned to pack protein bars as meal replacements at weddings and sometimes still leave after the first dance to snag more food at a local convenience store.

It’s been an adjustment, but we’ve learned so, so much in the past 4 years. Even better, the food industry is much friendlier to marking items “GF.” It’s thankfully now uncommon for a restaurant to lack a gluten free menu.

I put it in perspective that, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that bad. It’s something that we can work with so he can be happy, healthy, and full.

I’ve actually enjoyed the challenge when it comes to cooking – “Can I make this gluten free?”

Of course I can make it gluten free! The question is if I can make it gluten free without that gluten free, unsatisfying taste.

You’re probably asking why I don’t go completely gluten free myself. It’s a valid point. It would probably be the healthier option.


I find that keeping gluten in my diet allows me to more honestly compare the gluten free options to gluten/standard foods. It turns out, my glutenous diet (yep, we’re making up words here) makes me the perfect critic of gluten free recipes.

If it’s not up to a glutenous standard, it doesn’t pass. So it had better be delicious. It’s that simple.

So here we are!

If you’re like me and enjoy eggnog at the holidays, that sweet, creamy, spicy drink makes you think of Christmas Eve. Since we’re past the holidays, I had just a few cups of eggnog left in my fridge and the expiration date rapidly approaching. I couldn’t quite bring myself to drink it.

But I was inspired at breakfast time the other day so it didn’t go to waste. Behold! The perfect recipe to use the last of your holiday eggnog.

The best part? This recipe 100% passes my gluten-snob test. Sooooo delicious!

It might seem like we didn’t make very much, but I can tell you that this recipe turned out very dense and filling because of the eggnog. 3 pieces filled my very hungry man, and 2 pieces was plenty for me. (Edit: I was kindly reminded that we also had a side of strawberries, just in case that makes a difference 😉 )

Enjoy friends!


Gluten Free Eggnog French Toast

Serves: 2

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes


  • 6 Gluten free bread slices (I used Essential Baking Deli Slice Multi-Grain)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp gluten free vanilla extract (or more to taste. I prefer a much more vanilla-y flavor. I probably used closer to 1 ½ tsp. Beware: that amount of vanilla is quite strong.)
  • 2/3 cup eggnog
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg + 1/4 tsp
  • Optional toppings for serving: butter, syrup


  1. Beat eggs and vanilla in a bowl. Stir in eggnog.
  2. Add ½ tsp cinnamon and ¼ tsp nutmeg to mixture. Stir well.
  3. Pour the mixture into a shallow dish. Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg on the surface of the mixture. **This is my trick 🙂 In between each slice of bread, re-sprinkle the nutmeg and cinnamon on egg mixture surface.

    Coat bread with egg mixture in shallow bowl. Lightly press bread so it absorbs the mixture.
  4. Carefully lay a slice of bread in dish into egg mixture. Lightly press on bread with backside of fork or spatula to help it absorb mixture. Flip with spatula to coat other side.
  5. Place coated bread slices on lightly greased nonstick skillet on medium heat.

    Sometimes gluten free bread is fragile 🙁 But don’t worry! It still tastes good in the end. Note: this was the only piece that broke, which is very impressive performance for GF bread
  6. Cook approximately 1 minute per side, or until lightly browned on both sides.

  7. Top with more sprinkled cinnamon and butter or syrup to taste
  8. Devour.
Continue Reading

In case you missed it – Stamp prices are going up in 2017

Stamp price increase 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!

2016 was an exciting year for me (getting engaged, buying a house, starting Dash of Discovery), but I am really looking forward to 2017 (getting married, moving into the house, and seeing Dash of Discovery grow!).

Anyone getting married or planning to send mail in 2017? Well, yes to both for this girl.

A little bird gave me a heads up that U.S. Forever Stamps will increase in price by $0.02 each, effective January 22, 2017. Note: International postage cost, postcard stamps, and per additional ounce cost will remain the same.

I know I’m late to this news because the official press release from the United States Postal Service is dated October 12, 2016.

Either way, I certainly can’t be the last one to find out, so I wanted to give you all a heads up. Two cents a stamp might not be a big deal, but it can start adding up.

In a typical book of Forever Stamps, there are 20 stamps. That’s “only” a $0.40 increase for the whole book.

But with wedding invitations (and a few going international), thank you notes for showers and wedding gifts, and plenty of miscellaneous mail to send, I will use way more than 1 book of stamps in 2017.

Here’s a great guide from Today’s Bride about postage cost by weight and category. They already have the new stamp price updated. Check it out if you’re sending mass amounts of mail this year and want a bit of Post 101.

I’m off to the post office this week to stock up on at least 8 books of stamps before the price goes up. That might only save me $3.20, but I’d rather spend it on something other than stamps… like ice cream… or coffee. 🙂

Hope you’re all enjoying your New Year so far!


Continue Reading