Midwest is Best

A midwestern guide to all things homemaking

Week One … Almost Done!

Well it has almost been an entire week of non-corporate work life.  I have to say it doesn’t feel that different yet.  Someone asked me the other day if it felt like I was on vacation from my “real job”… and it kind of does (just a little bit).  Today I actually am picking up a camera and doing some shooting – something other than the computer work I’ve done all week!  But I can tell a difference though in the work-life balance.  We’ve had a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day so far – including the weekend (my Friday celebration not counting of course).  The laundry is done, the floors vacuumed, and there is fresh bread baking in the kitchen.  Yes, balance is something that is an immediate result… one that I hope lasts!

Now, I am trying to focus on something called IPAs (a little acronym I learned from my Mary Kay director!).  IPA – Income Producing Activities.  Very important to have these activities as a focus because it is so easy to get drawn into non-IPAs.  Like spending an hour on Pinterest looking at pose ideas for seniors.  Or (my favorite) cleaning and organizing the office – I could spend HOURS moving things from here to there and then back over here… then back over there! Writing my blog = non-IPA.  However, making  checklist of IPAs and keeping it posted in plain sight (another tip I learned from Mary Kay – whoot! whoot!) helps remind me to refocus.  And obsessive-compulsively checking my bank account reminds me as well 🙂

Week one almost done…. so far so good!  My only complaint – I am now waking up even earlier than I did when I had a corporate job.  Something in my head just says “It’s 5:00 – time to get up!” Good thing my “boss” doesn’t mind if I lay back down and doze off for a while  until a more reasonable hour 🙂

If you had the opportunity to leave your current job for your dream job – what would it be? Are you one of the lucky ones already living it?



Change is Coming…

I’m going to by-pass commenting on the large gap in time between posts…. All I can say is that change is coming…

Recently, I temporarily lost my mind… (perhaps permanently)…. I have decided to leave the safety net of corporate America and venture out on my own (well kinda…).

Tomorrow will be my last day working for someone else.  I cannot tell you how excited I am for a new adventure but very, very sad that I won’t be seeing my wonderful co-workers on a daily basis anymore.  Instead, I have decided to join Aaron on a full-time basis with our photography business.  I am super pumped for this opportunity and all that it will bring.  I am excited to have some balance back in my life rather than trying to manage multiple businesses.  I plan to keep growing my Mary Kay business as well but my main focus will be Spellman Photography.

I still have a ton to learn but thankfully I have a very patient and talented teacher.  While the technical skills will continue to grow, I’m going to focus on the “business-side” of our work – effective immediately!  Marketing, wedding shows, price restructuring, web updates, OH MY!  We will be busy, busy, busy.

Change isn’t just coming… its here to stay.

Holidays Are Upon Us…

It is official…
The 2012 Holiday Season has arrived!  I can’t count how many Thanksgiving/Christmas related conversations I’ve had this week.  And it always comes back to scheduling… Can we find a way to add a few extra hours to Thanksgiving and Christmas Day?  That would be very helpful.  As our families continue to grow, so does the inevitable scheduling headache.  However, this year all seems to be working out very smoothly.  I feel so blessed to be close (both in proximity and relationship) to Aaron’s and my families.  We never have to travel out of a 30 mile radius from our house to celebrate the holidays.  We can see both families and have both meals – which usually leads to us both having belly aches by the end of the night 🙂
Besides the scheduling conversations, we also are talking about our holiday traditions.  For me it is a pretty simple pattern:

1.  Thanksgiving with the Halsne and Spellman families

2. Get out Christmas decorations and put up the tree (lucky if this actually happens before December 1st but that is always what I aim for)

3. Christmas cookies/goodies baking with my mom and sister

4. Christmas Eve with the Halsne family

5. Christmas morning with the Halsne family, followed by Christmas lunch with the Spellman family

6. Sleep off food coma on couch 🙂


I am the tradition keeper in the family.  I make sure we all sit in the right spots at the dinner table (me next to Dad, naturally), we make kringla and divinity during our baking days, and I move the teddy bear on the advent calendar.  We aren’t too fancy but for me all these little traditions bring back so many good memories.
What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Damn girl – Look at those…. Pins?

I am addicted to Pinterest… I will say it out loud.  I should probably go to a Pinners Anonymous meeting once a week to help me cope with my problem…   However, since I do not have access to said meetings in the greater Des Moines area, my addiction is allowed to grow and flourish with wild abandonment.

This likely will not be the last post I ever make about Pinterest and its infinite, wondrous capabilities 🙂

So the other day, I was happily pinning away (my choice subjects are recipes, home decor, and wedding ideas -shhh… don’t tell Aaron about that last one) and I realized was seeing a lot of repins of stuff I’d already seen that day (when this happens I get very agitated) so I thought about if there were any specific ideas I was looking for that I would just use the “search” function to help get rid of the duplicates. Just as I was about to do that, I decided that I’d look back into my “Following” page to see if anyone had pinned anything good in the last 30 minutes that I might have missed…. Sure enough I saw this gorgeous outdoor patio flooring (if you have time I highly suggest you search for “acid stained concrete” on Pinterest).  So as I went to repin it, I saw that this picture had been repinned by my friend from MY board.  Duh, Katie… I had liked it so much the first time I saw it that I repinned it then, but I had probably pinned so much that day that I had completely blanked out that I had actually already seen and pinned this idea!!!

I told you I have a Pinterest addiction…. do you believe me now???

Anyway, that little pin prompted me to go back through all my existing boards.  This confirmed two things to me: 1. I spend waaayyy too much time pinning and 2. I have excellent taste 🙂  I looked through hundreds of existing pins – each one more fabulous than the next but realized I have actually utilized very few of these ideas.  No, I have not made homemade salted caramel ice cream yet. No, I have not turned my used toilet paper and paper towel cardboard inserts into fabulous works of art.  I have yet to refinish any piece of furniture.  So I have come to the sad, sad conclusion that I am a Pinterest hoarder.  I keep all these great ideas, but do virtually nothing with them!  So I have made a vow to myself, that at least once a month I will attempt one of my pins!  It could be a simple recipe or maybe something more adventurous (I just pinned how to turn a twin size bed frame into a cute farmhouse bench) but I will TRY something once a month!

I believe that if I start now, I could do a new idea everyone month until the  day I die and would still have a few ideas left over 🙂

Less time pinning = More time DOING 🙂
Does anyone else LOVE Pinterest?  If so, what are your weaknesses when it comes to pinning?

Pet Peeve Thursdays

For those of us who just can’t wait until Friday to unwind a little, have had a trying Monday – Thursday, and just want to air their pet peeves… introducing Pet Peeve Thursdays.

Today it seemed like all my pet peeves were coming out of the woodwork!  I am hoping that voicing my pet peeves will allow me to move on from the day.  Here are just a few (in no particular order):

  • Whistling in public 
  • Shuffling your feet with you walk (girls ages 16-24 seem to be the main culprits here – especially when it is Uggs season)
  • People that say caramel like Kar-Mall (really people there are TWO a’s in that word… say it with me care-a-mel)
  • Invisible bumps in the floor that trip you and make you look like a fool in front of your co-workers
  • Crickets (people say that every creature has a purpose but I can’t seem to put my finger on why the cricket was created)

That is probably enough pet peeves for today… need to save some for the next installment….  And really I do feel better!

What are your pet peeves!?!?

Colorado Trip Revisited (Cont.)

Hello Again!

…. Feel free to slap my wrists for taking such long breaks between posts about our Colorado trip!  I’ve been busy, lots to do, blah, blah, blah and just plain forgot! Picking up where we left off!

Day 4 – Estes Park & Rocky Mountain National Park

On Sunday, Aaron and I woke up bright and early (not easy to do after a rocking wedding reception and after hours) and headed to Estes Park.  As with every place in Colorado it was a scenic drive but by the time we got there we were ready to eat and stretch our legs!  If you haven’t been to Estes Park, I would highly suggest you check it out. It is a town where time seems to have stopped.  All sorts of “old-timey” shops are lined up and down the main street.  I tried and tried to convince Aaron that we should get one of those “old western” pictures (where you dress up and everything) but alas, he was a party pooper – plus it is expensive and as photographers we knew we were getting ripped off! We stopped at a local eatery and mustered up the courage to eat some wild game.  Aaron had an elk burger, while I had the bison burger.  Maybe it was because we were starved but the burgers were actually very good (mine was better:)).

We strolled along for a bit more, enjoyed some caramel apples, and then loaded our full bellies back into the car and headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park.  The park has a highway that runs all the way to the top ridge and then comes back down on the western side of the mountains.  We headed on up the mountain and took in the beautiful sights.  Like every other tourist, we stopped at many of the pull-off areas and took scenic pictures (and looked for wildlife – I really wanted to see a big horn sheep)!  I had never been on a mountain like that before and I was just stunned by the beauty.

A nice Dutch tourist took our picture… I’m pretty sure he told us to “say cheese” in Dutch!

We made it all the way to the top and had started back down the other side when we were greeted by some elk.  Did I say some elk?  I meant LOTS of elk!  The elk had taken over a small campsite and were causing traffic to be backed up pretty badly. We were able to snag lots of pictures – they didn’t seem too camera shy 🙂

We continued our descent down the mountain and headed back to Denver where we would be staying for the next 2 nights.  It was a long drive back, we were exhausted and hungry and by 11:30pm we had finally checked into our hotel, eaten some dinner (delicious fish and chips from a local Irish pub) and poured ourselves into bed!

Day 5 – Idaho Springs and Denver

Despite our late night on Sunday, we woke up bright and early on Monday morning and took a short drive to Idaho Springs for a zipline excursion.  Originally we were supposed to do a rafting/zipline excursion but the river was too low to raft.  We had a great time ziplining though!  Stepping off the side of a mountain is a bizarre experience but quite thrilling – plus we looked super cool in all our gear.


Right outside of Idaho Springs is Mt. Evan, so we took a little drive up the mountain until we hit Echo Lake.  I had really been wanting to see a mountain lake and this one sure fit the bill – it was beautiful.

Echo Lake… so beautiful and serene…

From Mt. Evan, we headed over to the Red Rock Amphitheater.  This place has been the home to many concerts, ballets, and other performances and there really isn’t anything comparable to it.  The natural formation of the rocks had created near perfect acoustics for performers and Aaron being the band geek that he is couldn’t get enough!

Reminded me of the Flinstones or Pride Rock from the Lion King 🙂

After checking out the Amphitheater we headed into downtown Denver for some lunch. We ended up at Croc’s (great Mexican inspired restaurant) and our waiter suggested to us some amazing local craft beers. Not only did we get excellent food (bacon wrapped shrimp with tomatillo sauce) but we were introduced to Dry Dock Brewing Co.  Dry Dock is a local brewery that has been snatching up awards left and right for their amazing beers.  We fell in love with their Apricot Blonde… In fact, we loved it all so much, we called them up and asked for a tour that afternoon.  Thankfully they were very accommodating.  So after lunch we headed over to the brewery, received a brief tour, and sat and enjoyed sampling their other various beers – each one was sooooo good!

I am determined to have the Apricot Blonde again! It is the perfect summer beer…. better than any ‘shandy’ around!

After we had our fill of Dry Dock, we traveled back to Boulder in search of a waterfall.  I follow a blog called “Iowa Girl Eats” and she was in Boulder the same time as us and blogged about this beautiful waterfall they had found on a hike.  I thought that sounded like a great idea so we set out to find the same waterfall…..

Aren’t we cute… (actually we were freezing.. darn that fickle mountain weather!)

… we succeeded!  It was rainy and chilly but still amazing.  After we snapped some (er… many) pictures, we headed back into Boulder in search of some pizza!  We ended up in the “college town” part of the city and had a delicious pizza dinner at The Sink (featured on Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins on the Food Network). Stuffed full, we made our way back to Denver.  I won’t tell you that we got lost and ended up driving through the “rough” part of town near midnight.

Day 6 – Denver

Tuesday was our last day in Colorado.  Everything was bittersweet that day… Aaron kept saying “say goodbye to the mountains this will be the last time you see them…” What a turd!  Thankfully our flight didn’t leave until 7pm so we had plenty of time to go exploring that day.   We headed out about 30 miles east of the city and went to an animal reserve that was designed for rescued large game.  Many lions, tigers, and bears (oh my) along with wolves, pumas, and even a porcupine.  The reserve is miles and miles of mostly open land and a 25ft high bridge cuts through the middle.  We able to walk on the bridge and look down into the animals dens rather than looking through 10in of plexiglass at a zoo.  The animals that were there had many sad stories (rescued from bad situations) so it was a little saddening but we got to see the tigers at feeding time… that was pretty cool!!!!

Keeping in our animal theme, we headed back to Denver and hit up the Denver Downtown Aquarium.  It was overall a pretty relaxing day.  We got to see some nasty looking sharks and even petted a stingray!  After the aquarium, we headed to Freshcraft, a downtown Denver restaurant that one of the locals we met at the Dry Dock Brewery had suggested.  We feasted on some delicious food and of course, enjoyed more local craft brews.  Then it was time to pack up and head back to the airport.  On our way, we stopped at the Moonlight Diner again (where we had enjoyed a magnificent breakfast on Day 1) for a traditional chocolate malt.  So. Darn. Good.  I hadn’t had a malt in months (years maybe) and this really hit the spot!

A short wait at the airport and before you knew it we were back in Des Moines.

While we loved visiting Colorado, we were thankful to be back in Iowa (with its flat roads, minor traffic, and more affordable cost of living)… Aaron and I are keeping some of the Colorado influence in our lives – trying to make sure we enjoy being outside when we can (and when it is 1000 degrees) and have even tried our hand at brewing our own beer (thanks to my brother-in-law).  We are counting the days until we can go back and visit again!

Colorado Trip Revisited

First… shame on me for waiting so long between blogs!  I can’t believe it has been weeks since our fabulous trip to Colorado. We headed to Colorado for a wedding for Aaron’s close friends, Andrew and Laura. We thought that extending our trip by several days would make for a great vacation! We had such an amazing time and I still think that I have vacation brain.  I can’t seem to get real motivated to clean, do laundry, or even exercise…. Oh well, vacations have to end at some time.  Well I just wanted to share with you a quick recap of our trip (plenty of pictures included)!!

Day 1 – Fort Collins

We landed in bright and early in Denver (7:30am) and immediately had the most amazing breakfast at a fantastic diner outside of the airport.  I ate so much that I nearly busted my zipper!  I can’t remember the last time I had chocolate chip pancakes but I think they might become one of our more regular Saturday morning breakfasts!











After our friends arrived on later flights, we drove up to Fort Collins to start our day.  We headed to the New Belgium Brewery tour for the afternoon.  We had heard a lot about this tour and had to reserve our spot about 3 months in advance (and honestly it was sooooooo worth it)!  Our tour guide was fantastic and told us all of the in’s and out’s of brewing – not to mention all of the free samples 🙂  We got to see everything, from the brewing of the hops (actually it is called “wurt”) to the bottling and distribution.  It was so cool!  Our favorite part of the tour is where we got to sample the now infamous “sour beer”.  I had never heard of sour beer before and honestly I was a little leery to try it but let me tell you how happy I am that I did.  I am now a sour beer fanatic! The New Belgium Lips of Faith – Lychee was perhaps one of the most delicious beers I have EVER had… too bad I can’t get it in Iowa!  I am now a New Belgium believer and Fat Tire is a regular in our house 🙂

Aaron’s next project!

The sour beer is kept in these huge barrels… so tempting!


Day 2 – Boulder

After a fun night in Fort Collins, the gang headed down to Boulder to get ready for the other wedding festivities.  When we arrived in Boulder, we headed to the Atomic Clock hiking trail.  I have never hiked ANYWHERE in my life and in my vacation-induced excitement (or perhaps it was the elevation) I thought it wouldn’t be too hard.  I was wrong!  Man oh man is hiking a workout!  But it gave us some spectacular views (we could even see all the way to Denver)!!

Looking out over the beautiful scenery….


Aaron is so strong!


Later that night we dined at a fabulous Italian restaurant – Pasta Jay’s.  I swear that they must have a sweatshop of Italian grandmothers working in the back – the food was THAT authentic!  We ate and ate until we couldn’t eat any more…. (warning: common theme throughout our vacation)

Day 3 – Boulder

On Saturday Aaron and I were up bright and early to hit the Boulder Farmer’s Market.  A friend had recommended we check it out and it turned out to be one of our favorite spots on our trip.  The Boulder Farmer’s Market is the people-watching equivalent of the Iowa State Fair.  Except, instead of counting overalls and mullets you can count hippie tye-died skirts and women with no bras (this seriously bothered Aaron as most of the sightings were quite disturbing).  We strolled through the aisles of vendors selling local produce (lots of veggies, bread, and honey).  We happened to find some beautiful artists as well.  Aaron even bought me my very first piece of jewelry from him! After three years of dating, I can now proudly wear a beautiful pair of earrings from my sweetie.  We found a local jewelry artist that makes pieces out of guitar strings (Aaron’s jaw was almost on the ground when he saw this). $20 later they were mine!
After we strolled through the Farmer’s Market, we headed to the Pearl Street Mall.  The Pearl Street Mall is a ped mall that spans several blocks, full of antique stores (so Aaron could go junking), restaurants, and retail shops.  Several street performers also were sprinkled around on the corners.  We spent several hours exploring the area before heading back to get cleaned up for the wedding.
The ceremony and reception were held outside of Boulder in Lyons at the Lioncrest Manor, which is up a twisty-curvy gravel mountain road (so fun to drive up).  Though road left me a little unnerved, the views from the Manor were fantastic.  What a beautiful setting for a mountain wedding!  Everything went off without a hitch and we partied all night long with friends.  The party continued through the night… when we got back to the hotel, Aaron and the other Clear Autumn band members played a little impromptu concert under neon glow of a Walmart sign (classy right?).  It was a beautiful wedding and a great night filled with catching up with friends!
Since this post if becoming the blogging equivalent of War and Peace, I will end it at Day 3 and pick back up with the rest another day! (sneak peek of Day 4 -6 includes mountains, ziplining, eating wild game, and lots of craft beer 🙂
I’ll leave you with a few more fun pictures…

Awesome beer bottle artwork at New Belgium Brewery

Aren’t we cute…

I got adventurous and climbed up this large rock… and when I say “large rock” I really mean mountain-side!

Best Boyfriend Ever….

And the award goes to….. AARON!!!

I have to simply give Aaron some props for being the best boyfriend ever…. Not only has he bought me a new iPad in the last month, but this week he also gave me a cute pink iPad cover and a wireless keyboard so I could more easily write my blog 🙂

Isn’t he the best?

What are some of the recent suprises your sweetie has done for you?

Perfection Correction

I am hereby coining this term as my own!!! However… Feel free to use it as much as you want.  What does perfection correction mean you may ask? To me perfection correction is when we get so caught up in trying to do something so perfectly that if we can’t do it 100% perfectly then we don’t do it at all!

Example 1: When trying to get my miles in each day I get so worried while I’m running that my form might not be 100% perfect that I start talking myself into stopping or cutting back my miles.. When really I should just focus on the fact that I’m out there giving it my best already and that I already have  good form and maybe “perfect” form will come in the future.

Example 2: I was cleaning tonight… I promised myself that all I needed to clean tonight was swiffering the floor and vacuuming and dusting in the living room. As I was doing these things I started noticing all the other tasks that need tended to around the house… (all 13 million of them) and thought to myself “well if I don’t have time to do all 13 million things then I shouldn’t even get started dusting and vacuuming since the house won’t be perfect at the end of the night anyway”. Instead I told myself “how nice will it be if the house has been vacuumed and dusted when you wake up tomorrow morning?”  Thus I coined the idea of perfection correction!

What do you stop yourself from doing just because you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t do it perfectly? Better yet… What are all the things you could be doing if you weren’t worried about doing it perfectly?

Busy, Busy, Busy

Busy, busy, busy… isn’t that everyone’s story?

How is it that the days in the summer are longer however they seem to totally fly by? I swear I’m just running out of days/time to get things done!  Aaron and I have some lofty goals this summer…. 1. Finish phase two of the kitchen remodel (that means build the dishwasher case, the over-the-stove microwave hutch, and replace the counter top and sink 2. Build more storage in the basement (more on that later) 3. Reorganize the office so I have my own desktop computer and filing space 4. Finish off the patio and make the repairs (Miss Leala thought that digging up the corner of the patio seemed like a good idea this winter!)

So many projects so little time!  So I’ve resorted to a tried-and-true method of getting things done… LISTS!  Every week I list out each day and what essential things need to happen on that day for us to move forward with our projects.  I’ve also included other essential tasks (vacuuming, dusting, etc since I tend to forget to do those types of things when I get busy) and I’ve included our daily meal plan.  I started planning out my dinners every week a few months ago and I’ve found it to be super helpful!  I track all my meals on MyFitnessPal and ever since I have started meal planning I’ve been able to make smarter meal choices and our grocery bill has gone down!  I used to find myself throwing out rotten produce every week.  I would buy it with the best of intentions but due to lack of planning I usually never got around to using it and ended wasting it.  It was like throwing dollar bills straight into the trash!  Ever since I started meal planning, I only buy what produce I know I will need that week for my meals.  It isn’t 100% perfect but I’m far better than I used to be 🙂

Well – that is my sermon on meal planning 🙂 Moving on…

I have been using these weekly lists and find such satisfaction when I cross everything off at the end of the night! I know there are fancy apps out there that will make lists for you… and honestly I have one.. Aaron prefers it since he is a tech geek but I just LOVE the feeling of physically writing out then CROSSING OFF my lists!

In addition to all our house goals, I also am working in some dedicated work out time (6x per week).  I recently signed up to run the Des Moines Half-Marathon which will take place in October 2012.  I will preface this by saying I am not a “natural runner”… I don’t love it.. it usually hurts me.. I struggle the whole way.. yet I have signed up and paid my money so I’ll be damned if I don’t learn how to run it and make it happen!  My trainer has given me a running plan that will gradually get me up to running a half-marathon and I started last week.  October seems so far away but starting early and building slowly will hopefully help eliminate any injuries and lead to lasting habits. Today was a “long” run… 5 miles!  I haven’t ran 5 miles in probably 10+ years!  I won’t lie, I was a bit intimidated by the idea of it.  However, I am happy to report that I ran those 5 miles without stopping this evening and even felt pretty good afterwards.  Which is probably a good sign since I have to run 6 miles on Sunday!  Leala joined me tonight as well but I think 5 miles is her max… she is totally pooped out!  I was even ambitious enough to follow-up my 5 miles with some ab work and Pilates (all signs point to the fact that I will likely be very sore tomorrow).  My trainer always reminds me of one thing “you never regret working out when you’re done”.  She is so right!  I never regret spending that hour doing something that is good for my body.  Sure, it is hard to get motivated to get going, especially when we have so much to do around the house or at work or now with Mary Kay but I never regret finding time to fit it in when I’m done.  (and hopefully one day soon those last few pounds will melt away – wishful thinking????)

What motivates you when you don’t want to get going on something?  Do you ever regret the time you spend doing something for yourself?  Whether it is taking a walk, getting a manicure, or just finding time to have coffee with an old friend, I find these activities usually energize me and just generally brighten my day!



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