Building Raised Garden Beds

Over the past couple of weekends, Troy and I have been busy tackling some outdoor projects and getting the yard ready for the upcoming summer. One of the biggest projects of the spring has been building raised garden beds. Now that the lawn is doing well on its own, we wanted to move on to growing edible things.

When we were designing the landscape plan just before moving into the house, we intentionally left the area behind the garage untouched. The ground is sloped and mostly unusable for anything besides gardening.

We decided to build some raised beds into the hill. This will help keep things organized and hopefully deter animals from eating our veggies (although I have a few ideas of additional tactics I’ll try to keep the bunnies and squirrels away). Continue reading

Adventures in Landscaping, Part 2

The snow has melted, the temperatures are rising, and it’s finally time to get back out in the garden and do some work!

If you were around last year, we planted some grass and some flowers, and moved an awful lot of rocks. Oh, and killed some spiders, too. Yuck.

So far this year, the grass has come back with a spectacular green flourish! Our lawn is still the best looking on the block, and that’s not an exaggeration — our neighbors that got sod last year are dealing with an incredibly sad, brown lawn this spring.

I may have been skeptical at first, but now I am a true believer in hand-sown grass seed — slow and steady always wins! There are a few spots that need reseeding, but for a lawn that is not even a year old, it looks damn good, if I do say so myself.

Continue reading

Europe 2015 – Part 3: Venice

This is the third in a three part series about our recent trip to Europe. Find Part 1: Paris here and Part 2: London here.

[Wow, sorry for the incredible delay, guys! Oh well, better late than never. Here is the conclusion of our trip to Europe!]

I was particularly excited about visiting Venice, since I wouldn’t be working at all and it was the only city this trip that I hadn’t previously visited.

We arrived at Venice Marco Polo Airport in the late morning and had to decide how we would get to our hotel: a private water taxi (most expensive at €55 per person and quickest), a shared water taxi (still fairly expensive at €30 per person), or a water shuttle (least expensive at €15 per person and biggest time suck). We decided on the water shuttle, which would allow us to see quite a bit of Venice from as we made our way around the main island towards our hotel.


Travelers’ Tip: Do some research on the public water shuttles, Alilaguna, prior to your trip. You’ll need them to get to and from the airport, and to the other islands surrounding Venice. Trip Advisor had a nice writeup of your options upon arriving at Marco Polo. Continue reading

Europe 2015 – Part 2: London

This is the second in a three part series about our recent trip to Europe. Find Part 1: Paris here.

We left Paris the same way we arrived: by train. We jumped on the metro and then connected to a Eurostar train on its way to London. We made it to London in a little over an hour via the Chunnel, which is about as exciting as it sounds.


Once we reached London, we each bought Oyster cards to use on the tube system. While Paris is very walkable, London is much more spread out and it’s more efficient (and easy) to use the tubes.

Travelers’ Tip: Download a tube app (I like Tube Tamer) that will help you navigate the tube system, and always have a sense of the nearest tube station (especially to your hotel).

Our hotel in London was kind of a bust — I tried to save some money (which was silly, since it was covered by work). It did the job, but I won’t be linking to it because it was just super meh.

The location, however, ended up being a pretty good one: we were near the London Eye, the river, and Waterloo Station, which is where we arrived on the Eurostar and where we would depart to get to the airport. We were just across the river from Parliament, Westminster, and Big Ben, and it was also a central location for the work meetings I had scheduled prior to the trip. Continue reading

Europe 2015 – Part 1: Paris

A lot of friends and family have inquired about our recent trip to Europe. The easiest way to reach the most people is to blog about it, so the following posts will chronicle our trip in three parts — one for each city we visited.

If you’re not into travel tips or vacation photos, feel free to skip these next few posts!

Note: I’m only linking places that were memorable and where we had a nice time, or would be helpful context for the reader. Anything that is omitted is done intentionally.

Part 1: Paris

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’re aware that there was a terrorist attack in Paris recently. This tragedy unfolded about two weeks before we were set to depart. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little uneasy about travelling at this point, and not just to Paris — getting aboard any overseas flight would have caused the same amount of anxiety for me. Everything turned out fine, thankfully, but it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and be smart when travelling.

We had a nonstop overnight flight from Detroit to Paris. Neither of us slept all that well, but were excited to land and make our way into the city. After clearing customs (and a two-hour line to do so), we collected our luggage and jumped on the metro.

Travelers’ Tip: Paris’s international airport, Charles de Gaulle, is a 20 mile/hour-long trek from the city center, so you’ll need to have a plan for getting into the city. I have, in the past, utilized a cab service, but it’s pricey. This time I did some research on taking the metro and it ended up being the perfect option for us.

The metro dropped us off about two blocks from our hotel, Legend Hotel. We booked Legend Hotel using the Hotel Tonight app, which specializes in last-minute deals around the world (and you can use promo code MSTIEVE to get $25 off your first booking!). We ended up getting two nights for the price of one. The hotel was fairly standard for Paris: compact, but comfy. The bed was especially welcoming and we ended up napping for a couple of hours after mercifully receiving an early check-in. Continue reading

Holiday Decor 2015

Even though it’s a little late, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share the decorations we put up this year to celebrate the holidays. I wasn’t much into the holiday spirit this year, but now that we are packing up all of the decor, I’m sad to see it go!

Have I ever mentioned how excited I was/am to have a mantel that I could actually decorate for the holidays?! We got our stockings from Target. The little deer families were gifted from my mom and they looked so cute keeping watch for Santa. Continue reading

Roasted Tomato Salsa

I love salsa. I’ve been known to polish off a single container of salsa, by myself, in a matter of hours. Numerous dinners have been ruined by me snacking on chips and salsa. I’m the first to reach for it when we’re out at a Mexican restaurant, and I’ll normally end my meal by — you guessed it — eating more chips and salsa.

While I’ll eat salsa pretty much in any form (chunky, restaurant style, verde, black bean…), I’m incredibly picky about the quality. I like my salsa freshly made; that junk in the jars doesn’t do it for me. My favorite store-bought salsa is Garden Fresh Naturals, a Michigan-made product that was recently purchased by Campbell Soup (and I swear, Campbell people, if you mess with my salsa, we’re gonna have an issue).

When it comes to restaurant salsa, though, there’s good, there’s great, and then there’s Red Mesa. Continue reading