Product Review: Date Night In

It’s Friday and hopefully that means you have fun plans in store for the weekend. Last Friday night, my husband and I put the girls to bed early and opened up our first-ever Date Night In box. With two little ones at home, it is sometimes hard to squeeze in date time, so I was interested in trying Date Night In. It was so much fun! Our box arrived in the mail and sat on the counter for a few days until Friday rolled around. When we opened it, I was immediately intrigued!


Each date also includes a menu for an easy-to-prepare, yet scrumptious meal as well as a complete grocery-shopping list. Our menu, courtesy of Marina Makes, included roasted walnut and honey bruschetta and a delicious penne bake with vodka sauce. I’ll definitely be making these again.


Our date also included supplies and instructions for making yummy Oreo pops to snack on during the date.


Then it was time to start documenting the “Story of Us.” Each Date Night In box features a unique theme designed to spark conversation. Ours even came with an “old-school” disposable camera.


Our date required us to answer various questions about each other and our plans for the future. It also featured a photo scavenger hunt. We had a great time making our book and can’t wait to complete it when we get our photos developed this weekend.



We were surprised how much the activities in the box really prompted us to talk about our wishes for the future and what we are currently so thankful about in our marriage.


We reminisced about our first few dates and talked about some prospective travel plans, all with our little ones asleep in the other room.


A Date In Box would be a perfect gift for newlyweds or parents with a new baby. We are definitely going to try another one. I love the element of surprise. I also look forward to trying a Kids Night In or Faith Night In.

For more information or to purchase your own box, visit this link. You can purchase a one-time-only box or a subscription for monthly shipments.


Note: Date Night In provided a free date box to A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER for this post, but all opinions expressed are truly my own.



Why We Still Need Feminism

With the thought of today being International Women’s Day, I pulled my old NOW shirt out of the bottom of a dresser drawer last night. It’s wrinkled and worn. In my teens and early twenties feminism was a big part of my life and my identity. As I looked at the old tee from those days, I began to think “is all this feminism and activism still necessary?”


Then there was my answer: My 10-month-old daughter crawled into the room, babbling low and deep as if to say, yes, Mama, it’s all still necessary.

I am fortunate to be married to a great guy who believes in feminism, is dedicated to equal parenting and household duties, and nurtures every hope and dream of our young daughters because he truly believes men and women are equal. I am also fortunate to work with a group of strong and intelligent women as well as men who respect that strength and intelligence.

Still, sexism drifts into my life, usually in the form of comments.

“You might want to think it over a little more. I mean, you just got back from maternity leave.” –A male (former) coworker in response to a business decision I made.

“You’re so lucky your husband will babysit for you.” –A female acquaintance.

“I won’t set foot in that church because women shouldn’t be pastors.” –A male community member.

Occasional sexist comments, while inappropriate and frustrating, are nothing compared to the vicious sexism and misogyny taking place in many places around our world. According to the United Nations, globally, more than 200 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone some form of genital mutilation. Worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

Here at home and throughout the world, we owe it to our daughters to keep gender equality at the forefront. Feminism has a place in our daily lives, even when our NOW shirts are yellowed, tattered, and shoved in a drawer. Feminism isn’t a shirt, or a placard, or a loud angry mob with megaphones.

We can choose to stand up against inappropriate behavior targeting people of all shapes, colors, genders, and beliefs. We can choose to support one another instead of tearing one another down. We can choose to raise strong, confident girls, and fair, respectful boys. That’s feminism, my friends, and we still need it.

A Tour of Hillcrest Estate

I have an amazing treat for you all today! I caught wind of the fact that the talented Tarin of Tayhart Photography had gotten the opportunity to stay in Hillcrest Estate, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ renovated vacation rental. The spread of this gorgeous estate in the winter issue of Magnolia magazine left me yearning to see more of this place.


I reached out to Tarin, who I bump into occasionally in our small western South Dakota town, and asked if she’d be willing to share some of her beautiful photos on A HOUSE WITH CHARACTER. She graciously said YES! Warning: The images you are about to see are going to make you want to drop everything and hop on a plane to Texas immediately, just for those cupcakes alone.


“I love photography, but my next favorite love (besides Jesus, my hubby, and kiddos) is all things Fixer Upper, ” Tarin said. “I’ve watched every episode of every season and love everything Chip and Jo do!”

So imagine her excitement when she received a text from her mom asking if she would like to take a trip to Waco, Texas and stay at Hillcrest Estate, Chip and Joanna Gaines’ newest vacation rental.


Tarin’s mother went on to fill her in on the details of how her long-time friend from Spokane, Wash. won a three night stay, gift-card, and tour for herself and 11 of her friends. This awesome lady invited Tarin, her mother, and sister to be part of that lucky group.


“Our first glimpse of Hillcrest Estate did not disappoint,” Tarin said. “It’s a stately historic home situated in the middle of a beautifully manicured lawn, complete with a garden area, gorgeous fire pit surrounded by rocking chairs, amazing porches, and a sweet little playhouse.”


“The inside of the home is decorated to fit the historic charm of the house with some of Joanna’s classic touches of antiques, beautiful wood tones, perfect paint colors, gorgeous textiles, and, of course, shiplap,” Tarin said.




Not only did Tarin and her mother get to stay at Hillcrest Estate, but they also were treated to a tour of Magnolia Market.

“My favorite part of the tour was that everywhere you looked you could see glimpses of Chip and Joanna’s faith and their love and appreciation for their employees,” Tarin said.



Tarin said Silo’s Baking Co. was worth every minute spent in line.

“That line was pretty long, but the way they work it is like a fine-tuned machine,” she said.



Tarin found time for shopping, too. Some of her favorite spots were The Findery, The Warehouse, Spice Village, and Laverty’s Antiques and Furnishings.


Thank you Tarin for sharing this beautiful tour with us!





Some Spring Favorites (Yes, I Know It’s Still Winter)

The official start of spring is still a month away and we are supposed to get yet more snow today, but can’t we at least start talking about the end of winter? Here are a few spring items I’m excited to incorporate into my life.


1. These Easter sprinkles are adorable for cupcakes and cookies. (Williams-Sonoma) 2. I love this butterfly pattern and my three-year-old loves the soft feel of this dress. (Cat & Jack for Target) 3. Lately my daughters spend 99% of their time pretending to be unicorns. These headbands will be in their Easter baskets. (Target) 4. This floral pattern makes me feel warmer. (Loft) 5. A precious book about flowers is perfect for spring. (Anthropologie) 6. My dining room table has been rocking this runner for the past few weeks and I’m loving it. (Hearth & Hand with Magnolia for Target)

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Back before I was married I decided to paint the kitchen cabinets in the cute little house I owned at the time. It took forever. I removed all the cabinet doors, I removed and painted all the hardware. I stripped the cabinets, painting them many coats of white, and lacquered them. Then I put everything back together. Yuck.

Although I absolutely loved the results, I swore I would never again paint kitchen cabinets. It was too much work and way too exhausting. However, after nearly five years in our home and at least four years of fantasizing about white cabinets, I finally bit the bullet this past weekend and went hog-wild. I love the results.


Having been traumatized by my first experience painting cabinets, and, now having two little kids in the house (that always makes doing household projects easier, right? NOT.) I spent a lot of time researching how to make this daunting task easier.

Guess what? Depending on what kind of cabinets you have, it is possible to paint them without removing them? I know, right! (I never say that, but I had to just this once.) My cabinets didn’t have hardware to begin with, and I like that minimalist look, so that eliminated one nightmare. The hinges are only somewhat exposed and the way the cabinets are built made attempting this feat seem reasonable.

And holy schnikes, it worked.





I posted a few sneak peeks on Instagram and already had a few of you asking for pointers, so here are a few of mine.

First of all, I can’t say this enough: Find a hardware store associate who seems to know their stuff and follow each of their recommendations. Mine was my local hardware store owner, Bonnie, a super cool lady who did not lead me astray.

Bonnie recommended Kilz 2 Primer/Sealer/Stainblocker and Valspar Premium Latex Enamel. I purchased a quart of the primer and a gallon of the paint. This was more than enough for my small-to-medium-sized kitchen, including the large pantry at the end of the room that is not pictured here.

I would recommend having the paint tinted, even if the can says white and you want white. As crazy as this sounds, the straight-out-of-the-can white is too white. Plus, then you get to pick a white with a really fun name. I considered Wooly Lamb and Bridal Wreath, both by Valspar, but I selected Warm Oatmeal. It was the perfect shade with a comforting, kitchen-sounding name. While the image below looks quiet beige, the shade itself is definitely white.


My cabinets are wood. They are stained, but haven’t been touched up at all anytime recently so all I did was clean them really quickly with warm water the night before and then invested in a high-quality primer as well as the best roller Bonnie could recommend.

I had taken Friday afternoon off work so I jumped right in and got the whole kitchen primed. That only took two hours and so that evening, after the primer had dried at least three hours, I dove right in with the first coat of paint. You should definitely read the directions on whatever product you choose, but my primer dried quickly so I saved some major time.

On Saturday, bright and early (6 a.m.), I tackled the second coat, then I met my mom for an afternoon play. Early Sunday afternoon (also 6 a.m., thanks kids, for getting me up) I did a third coat only in the areas that really needed it as well as a few other touch-ups here and there.


Full disclosure: If you are an absolute perfectionist this is not the job for you. There are going to be a few flaws here and there, but I kind of love that about DIY projects. Plus, at under $100 for the entire project, I can’t complain.

I bought several replacement heads for the roller, too, as it is best to replace them at least a few times throughout the project. They are never quite the same after being washed.


I also bought one good small brush and a handful of cheap sponge brushes for a variety of touch-ups.


I still need to touch up a few small spots here and there, but for now, as we go back to work for the week, I’m just going to sit back and admire my work for a while. I’ll tackle a few touch-ups next weekend. All-in-all, while I am a bit tired, I could not be more pleased with the results.


This experience was much less traumatizing than my first cabinet-painting experience and, no joke, I’d maybe be willing to do it again someday, but we’re never moving because I just painted our cabinets! If you decide to tackle your own cabinets, let me know! I’d love to see the results.

Books: The Girls

I love reading debut novels. There is something so fresh and ambitious about an author’s first piece of major published fiction. The Girls by Emma Cline was a great read. It provides a vivid and very believable account of a cult in the 1960s.

In graduate school I spent a lot of time researching on cult leadership. I have often asked how a cult leader with bad motives can secure a large following of loyal cult members. Cline’s novel gives us a detailed example of how this happens. It follows Evie, a teenage girl living in California in the 1960s. She seeks love, belonging, and someone to notice her.


Then Evie notices fascinating people in the park one afternoon. From there, she becomes involved in a group lead by a charismatic man, and soon, horrific events occur. The story of cults isn’t a new idea, but Cline’s writing makes this book stand out as something special.

Happy Birthday Norm: Birthday Cake for Dogs and Humans

Norman turns nine this week. After his cancer scare last month and the surgery that followed, we are celebrating his life and health more than ever. This birthday cake is edible for dogs and humans, so it is perfect for spoiling our furry friend.


I scoured the web for dog-friendly cake ideas and ended up combining a couple of recipes to come up with this. It’s quick and easy. My older daughter had a great time helping bake it.


Full disclosure: It wasn’t my favorite cake in the world, but it wasn’t terrible. Norman, actually a fussy eater most of the time, devoured his serving. My daughter thought it was so cool that she and her dog brother could eat the same cake.


I loved this green striped number candle by Papyrus that I found at Safeway. My daughter helped Norman blow out his candle and said she made a wish for him. Later, she revealed the wish: “I hope Norman gets a princess.” I think he has more princesses around than he can handle.



  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (plus more for frosting the cake)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg


  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the flour and baking soda.
  • Add the remaining ingredients.
  • Stir with a spatula until combined.
  • Place in a greased 9-inch pan.
  • Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool for 30 minutes and frost with peanut butter.
  • Serve to dogs and humans alike!