Food & Drink

One Bowl Blueberry Muffins


So back in July, I vowed to rarely turn on the oven as to not overheat my house.  Now that we’re in mid-December, I crank up my oven every chance I get so not only do I get a delicious treat, my house feels warm (and smells amazing).  So whenever I open the fridge and I see something close to the expiration date, I start finding ways to bake with it.

Today, during my daily fridge exploration time, I found I had about a cup of sour cream that is on its last days.  A few shelves down, I have a pint of blueberries that are starting to wilt.  On today’s agenda – blueberry muffins.

I’ve found out a while ago that the trick to get muffins to be super moist is just the addition of sour cream (or greek yogurt if you’re on a health kick).  Even if you hate the taste of sour cream, you won’t be able to taste it at all once it’s baked in, and it makes the muffins have a guaranteed moisture lock (trademark, patent-pending, etc.).


One Bowl Blueberry Muffins

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Print


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 pint blueberries


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a muffin tray with liners.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.  Slowly stream in vegetable oil and vanilla extract, continue to beat on medium speed.  Beat in sour cream and milk.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Beat on low speed until just combined.  Fold in blueberries.  Spoon muffin mixture on prepared muffin tray.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  The tops will be lightly golden.

Food & Drink

Ultimate Peanut Butter Cup Cake


Last month, Ian celebrated his THIRTIETH birthday.  To celebrate, I baked him a 4-tiered, peanut butter cup cake.  A lot of recipes online simply did chocolate cake with a peanut butter frosting.  But I wanted the cake itself to have chocolate & peanut butter combo.  The result?  Peanut butter goodness.


Ultimate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tb vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk


  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 Reese’s peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease two 6-inch deep cake pans with unsalted butter.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of flour.  Gently rotate and tap the pan, until the entire pan is lightly coated with flour.  Tap out the excess.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add eggs, buttercream, sour cream, peanut butter, oil, and vanilla extract.  Beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.  Gently stir in boiling water until combined.  Pour cake into prepared pans and bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes.
  3. Remove cakes and place on wire racks until completely cool.  Turn cakes out.  Slice each cake in the middle horizontally so you have 4 layers in total.
  4. While the cakes are baking, make the buttercream by whipping unsalted butter on high speed until light and fluffy.  Add the peanut butter and continue to whip until creamy.  Slowly add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time,  whipping on low speed until each addition is incorporated.  Add salt, vanilla extract and whip until fluffy.  Slowly add milk until desired consistency.
  5. Make the ganache – melt the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a double boiler,  stirring occasionally until glossy.  Set aside to let cool slightly.  (You could also make the ganache in a microwave by microwaving in 30-second intervals)
  6. Assemble the cake – put one cake layer on a cake board.  Add some buttercream and smooth out.  Repeat with additional layers until the final layer of cake is adhered.  Spread the remaining buttercream on top and sides of cake,  smooth out the cake as needed.  Spoon cooled ganache over the top of the cake, and use a spoon to encourage the ganache to drip down the sides.  Top with chopped peanut butter cups.

DIY · house & home

Garage Pegboard Organization



When Ian and I were renovating our old house, Squirrel House, we were working mainly out of a small one-car garage (that actually doesn’t really fit a car).  The garage was super dingy, had minimal lighting, and just wasn’t super conducive to getting work done.  To be fair, we were also horrible at organizing that garage.  So whenever we wanted to do a project, it’d take us 15-20 minutes just to gather all the tools before we could even begin.  That whole environment sometimes just really made home renovation less fun and a bit of a buzzkill.

So when we bought the new house (Squirrel Estate), we were blessed with a 2-car garage (that actually can fit 2 cars).  We were so excited to begin dreaming about how we were going to utilize part of it as a workshop.  We built a huge workbench (a little bit more on that another time) and started using half of the garage as our workspace (the other half will actually park a car.  The tricky thing was that even though we see ourselves DIY-ing forever (because a house is never really “finished”), we predict in about 5 years, Squirrel Estate will get to a “happy place” where we’re not firing up the power tools every weekend.  When that day comes, we’d like to give both of our cars some love and park both of our cars in the garage.  So because of that, we built a really budget-friendly workbench that we can either sell on Craigslist or donate when that time comes and we can switch to a more portable system.  However, where are all of our tools and paint cans and what not going to go?

Because we like to think far, far ahead into the future, we actually thought about that.  So I thought about creating a pegboard wall, so we could really utilize the vertical space (our garage has 9 ft ceilings) and things could get stored away neatly.

Our garage is an interesting shape.  It’s not a traditional rectangular-shaped 2-car garage.  On the left-hand side, there’s a little recessed “cubby” part that goes in 4 inches and is about 70 inches wide.  I immediately thought this would be the perfect space to make my pegboard wall.


I scoured the internet for sources of a pegboard wall that was both functional and really cute!  I love DIY and making things but if I’m going to have to look at it all the time, I also want it to look good.  When I came across this beautiful garage pegboard wall by Ugly Duckling House, I knew I had to replicate it.  Some things that I did differently – Sarah built her garage pegboard wall from a large wall, so she framed it out by starting from building the pegboard and working her way out to the sides.  Because I was using this recessed cubby space, I had to work my way in.


Here are all the supplies I used

  • (4) 6-ft 1×3 furring strips ($6.72)
  • (2) 10-ft 1×6 ($25.24)
  • (3) 6-ft 1×6 ($14.44)
  • (2) 8-ft 1×2 ($6.06)
  • (1) 4×8 primed pegboard ($19.48)
  • Pegboard organizers ($12.98)
  • Storage bins ($10.99)
  • Wood screws
  • Construction adhesive
  • Paint

It cost me $71.94 to build the pegboard frame and shelving, and another $23.97 for the pegboard hooks and the storage bins.  This brings our total to $95.91.  Which I think is a total win to be able to do this in a few short hours and be able to organize all of my tools and parts.

Here is how everything went down:

  1. Cut the 10 ft 1×6 into the correct length (for me, it was 108 inches).  Using 3-inch construction screws, screw the 1×6 into studs on both sides.
  2. I wanted to make sure the shelves had a lot of support, so I added 1×2 to to the bottom and sides to the bottom 2 shelves for additional support.  The side pieces I cut 4 inches, and the long strips were 70 inches.  I also screwed these 1×2 to studs to the height I wanted the shelves to be.  The first shelf was 18 inches off the ground and the distance between the first and second shelf was 15 inches.
  3. Cut the 6-ft 1×6 to the correct length (~68 1/2 inches).  I put the board on the 1×2 supports and screwed it into the 1×2.  Repeat for the 2nd shelf.
  4. Cut the furring strips for the pegboard to be attached to.  Since the pegboard was 4ft by 8ft, I had Lowe’s rip it down for me (I already measured the wall prior to going to the store), so I didn’t need to make any cuts.  Make sure the framing for the pegboard has supports in the middle.  For me, my framing had two additional vertical supports in the middle.  Screw framing into studs.
  5. Run construction adhesive all along with the framing of the pegboard,  attach the pegboard and press gently.  Use 1/2 inch screws to attach pegboard to framing while adhesive dries.
  6. When adhesive is dried, paint!  I loved what Sarah from Ugly Duckling House did with the duo-tone look, so I wanted to mimic it.  I chose Behr Ultra Pure White for the top part and Benjamin Moore Newburyport Blue for the bottom (it was what I had on hand already).  Both paints were in the satin sheen, so it’ll be better to protect against scuffs and scratches.  I gave everything 2 generous coats of paint.
  7. Organize with storage bins and pegboard accessories!



house & home

Kitchen Moodboard

Best Coffee in Town.

Photo sources:
Kitchen Cabinets
Subway Tile

This past week was demo week at Squirrel Estate.  Our contractors came and tore up all the first-floor flooring, tile, the kitchen, and the powder room.  Now it’s time to put it all back together!  Our contractors took care of tiling the entryway/coat closet/powder room, as well as installing the toilet and vanity.  So the powder room is 50% done, and we just need to power through and finish it off.

Our biggest priority right now is the kitchen.  Since our kitchen is just bare walls and subfloors, we’ve been living off of our Instant Pot (#shamelessplug).  Anywho, it’s time to design our kitchen!  We absolutely love our IKEA kitchen at Squirrel House and we do plan on using the IKEA kitchen system again for this house.  For the past few months, we’ve been noting things we love about our kitchen and some things we wish we had known we would want.  For example, we wish we devoted more of our last kitchen to pull-out drawers rather than just cabinets with shelves.  Also, we wish we could have some sort of pull-out recycling center in the kitchen.  And it would be nice if we could keep the dog food somewhere in the kitchen.

As we dream up our new kitchen, I wanted to create a mood board for what the kitchen will hopefully have elements of.  I want dark blue cabinets (most likely, we will DIY the doors using Semihandmade doors).  I’ve also been loving the more organic-looking, elongated subway tiles that have really delicate textures.  I’m not sure if we’ll tile the entire wall or just halfway since they are really expensive!  We’re going for lighter wood for the flooring, and I’d love to pair it with a fun, patterned runner.  Lastly, we currently have both recessed lighting and a rectangular, fluorescent flush mount light.  Since our kitchen is u-shaped, we probably can’t get away with pendant lighting because our ceilings aren’t super tall.  But I think a low-profile flush mount would look really pretty to replace the fluorescent light, and would hopefully pair really well with the recessed lighting which we will keep.

house & home

Flooring Options & Making OSB Work

Flooring update on Squirrel Estate!  Since August, one thing on my mind is “what flooring am I going to put down on the first floor?”  We knew that the three-type flooring of the ceramic tile/hardwood/carpet combo didn’t really work and really chopped up space.  We wanted to use up to 2 types of flooring (debating on whether the entry will be a separate thing or not) so everything has a more cohesive flow.  So we have the following options:

  • Laminate
  • Bamboo
  • Hardwood
  • Engineered hardwood
  • Luxury vinyl plank
  • Wood-look porcelain tile

Immediately, we knew some we just did not want to deal with.  At our last house, we laid down laminate flooring.  Honestly, for the most part, we really enjoy it.  It looks great, and even though we bought the cheapest (at the time) at Home Depot, it’s actually super durable and has not been scratched or dinged by our dog.  The problem with laminate is that it’s not waterproof.  Since we live in a climate where it rains and snows a lot, it’s quite annoying to have to be super careful when coming into the house and wipe up drips.  This is especially challenging after taking Chewie out on a walk, and he comes stumbling in, drenched.

Next to go are bamboo, hardwood, and engineered hardwood.  I honestly love hardwood floors, but in our season of life (dog and all), it’s just not the most durable.  My friends with dogs all have pretty beat-up hardwood/bamboo floors, and I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars just to have my floors get destroyed.

So that leaves us with LVP (luxury vinyl planks) and wood-look porcelain tiles.  LVPs have come such a long way, and they basically install just like laminate or engineered hardwood (click & lock systems).  Some of the higher grade ones look super real, and is made textured to mimic real hardwood.  They’re scratch-resistant and waterproof, another bonus.  The main one that we’re looking at is COREtec, which is honestly in a league of its own.  They seriously look so good.

I also was really interested in wood-look porcelain tiles.  Being tile, they’re basically indestructible, plus we could install radiant flooring, so the floors are always cozy and warm.  For a few months, we were pretty sure this was the way we wanted to go.  Until we found out that our subfloors were OSB.  OSB is a super popular type of subfloor for construction because it’s really strong and can hold a lot of weight.  However, one really bad thing about OSB is that because of its materials (wood strands and adhesive), it is prone to expansion and bubbling if exposed to high moisture.  So when you tile, you have to put down mortar (which is high in moisture), what could end up happening is the OSB will expand or contract, making the tile crack over time.  We thought, maybe we could just swap out our subfloors for plywood subfloors and make it work!  And then, we found out our joists are 20″ off-center.  Typically, floor joists are 16″ off-center, but because ours are 20″ off-center, all the tile installers we talked to warned us that floor joists that are spaced out that far apart have 2 concerns: 1) it might have a hard time supporting the weight of the tile, and 2) the wider distance makes it prone to cracking.

Not going to lie, we were pretty disappointed when we heard this news, but alas, these things happen.  So we are going to forge ahead and install ~luxury vinyl planks~ throughout the house!  We are going to install smaller porcelain tiles in the foyer/entryway so it can take the everyday traffic.  Smaller tiles are less likely to crack, so that’s the main reason why we’re still gung-ho about doing the tile in the entry.  Another reason why we’re installing tile in the entry is that we have this big window in the foyer that lets in so much light (south-facing window y’all!)  While the light is great, it bleached the old hardwood that was there before.  LVPs are prone to bleaching while porcelain tiles are not.  So, we figured this will also solve that issue.

The good thing is, LVPs are a snap to install, so we hope to start on this project after Thanksgiving and wrap up before Christmas, so we can have floors for Christmas.  Fingers crossed!

house & home

Foyer Lighting Options

One nice thing about Squirrel Estate is the 2-story foyer.  Throughout the house, we have 8-ft ceilings, but it really doesn’t feel like it because the foyer lets in so much light and it feels so much more open and airy.

Our current foyer chandelier situation isn’t ideal.  It’s not horrible, but very dated and screams the ’90s to me.  It’s a brass octagonal chandelier and the bulbs are encased in glass panels.  For me, it just doesn’t look super inviting, and the dust inevitably makes the glass look cloudy.  I want a foyer light that looks open, inviting, and provides a good introduction to our home.


We’re probably getting an electrician to come out next month to work on a couple electrical projects, so I need to start narrowing down my foyer light options.  Here are the Top 10 contenders for our future foyer, in no particular order:

  1. Hadley Pendant Chandelier ($299.25 $399.00)

Hadley 4-Light Pendant Chandelier

2. Circles Sphere Pendant Light ($209)

Circles Sphere Pendant Light - Large gold

3. Sculptural Glass Geo Chandelier  ($288.75 $385.00)

Sculptural Glass 3-Light Geo Chandelier - Milk

4. Spheres + Stem Chandelier ($524.25 $699.00)

Sphere + Stem 9-Light Chandelier - Milk

5. Varlene Globe Chandelier ($139.99 $189.00)

Verlene Foyer 5-Light Globe Chandelier

6. Drubin Candle Style Wagon Wheel Chandelier ($309.99 $750.00)

Drubin 10-Light Candle Style Wagon Wheel Chandelier

7. Branch Chandelier ($429)

Branch Chandelier

8. Floral Burst Chandelier ($374.25 $499)

Floral Burst Chandelier

9. Collina Pendant ($260.99 $473.10)

Collina 24

10. Wooden Pendant Light ($194.59)

Sacred shape lamp  universe  pendant lamp  light fixture  image 0

I’ve chosen a wide range of chandeliers – some really classic and I don’t think it will go out of style anytime soon.  Some are a little bit more avant-garde, and I might not like it in 20 years.  And some are just pure fun, which I think represents my personality really well.

Which one will I end up picking?  Find out next month!

house & home

First Look at Squirrel Estate

If you’re new here, hi!  A little summary of our house adventures:  in August 2017, my husband and I bought our first house, a duplex in the northwest section of Philadelphia.  We currently live there and are hoping to move out by the end of the year.  We’ll likely rent it out to longterm tenants, but we’re also toying with the idea of turning it into an Airbnb (since we plan on renting it out furnished), that way it can also serve as a pied-à-terre for us.

In August of this year, we bought a house in Montgomery County.  If you aren’t around the Philadelphia-area, Montgomery County is basically the county to the northwest of the city, and it’s mostly comprised of small, suburban towns.  The main reason we’re moving is because of Ian’s commute.  Although our current house is only around 15 miles to his work, it can take up to 90 minutes to drive one-way (darn you I-76!).  Our new house is 1 mile away from his work, and it shortens his commute to 5 minutes.  Hooray!

This new house is also huge (to us, anyway).  Our Philadelphia home is around 1,200 sq ft (1,500 if you include the finished basement), and it is more than enough room for the two of us and our large dog.  The new house is 2,000 sq ft (2,600 sq ft including the basement), and it’s gargantuan.  We lovingly named our old house Squirrel House, because we lived on a street that had a nature-themed name and we had a lot of squirrels running around.  Our new house is situated on the edge of a forest, so we also have lots of squirrels.  Hence, we decided to name the new place Squirrel Estate.  I know, I know, our house is probably not big enough to be considered an estate.  But it feels like one to us!

We feel very lucky because the last owner (also the only owner) took really good care of the house.  It truly has good bones and he took care of all the important stuff you don’t notice first (new furnace, water heater, windows, roof).  The last owner was a single guy who lived in the house for 20 years by himself.  So it makes total sense why he didn’t feel the need to update anything aesthetic.  As long as it worked for him, why did it matter?  It’s interesting, some rooms feel like it’s frozen in the 90s, in mint condition.

Anyway, it’s been 3 months since we got the keys to Squirrel Estate, and we’ve been slowly and painstakingly transforming it to a house that we can call home.  It’s not easy since we both work, so the majority of the renovations are done on weekends.  By the time we move in, we won’t be anywhere close to being done either, but hopefully, the house won’t be in complete disarray.  We estimate it’ll probably take us anywhere from 3-5 years to get this house to a point where we’ve put some DIY touches on everything.  Without further ado, here’s the first look of Squirrel Estate (apologies in advance for dog photobomb).



One thing we really don’t like about the first floor is that it has 3 types of flooring.  Hardwood in the entry/coat closet (door to the left), carpet in the living area, and ceramic tile in the powder room (door to the right) and kitchen.  These transitions make the overall house feel smaller than it actually is.  The plan is to make this entryway, coat closet, and powder room all the same flooring (we chose a porcelain tile, more on that in another post), and the rest of the house will be one flooring.  Additionally, the entire first floor was painted a peachy color, which did it no favors at all.  I painted it a really pretty soft white that brightens up the entire space.  I also plan on giving the door some TLC with a sleek black color.

powder room



The powder room wasn’t bad, it’s just extremely dated.  This house was built in 1998, and everything just feels very 90’s.  Since we’re re-doing the floors of the entire first floor, this powder room will get new floors, new vanity, new toilet, new mirror, new lighting.  It’ll have the same layout but will feel like a totally different room.

living room/formal dining room

One of the reasons we were so drawn to his house was the open-concept of the living room/formal dining room.  We plan on making this my future piano studio space, leaving it pretty empty so we can easily set chairs up for recitals and baby & me classes.


dining room

I feel like today’s families don’t typically need 2 dining rooms.  Luckily, we have an eat-in kitchen sort of situation, so we plan on just using that as our dining room.  If we ever host a large party, we can always set up folding tables in the “piano room”.  Along with the rest of the first floor, all the flooring will be replaced.  Like our last house, we’ll be building our own dining table!



We really loved our IKEA kitchen in the last house, and we plan on doing it again.  This kitchen layout will probably stay the same (since we don’t want to move windows, we probably will still do the corner sink).  But the huge change here will be knocking down the pantry closet.  I think that’ll really open up space, and I want to install floor to ceiling cabinets that will serve as the pantry.  I think it’ll look really cohesive.





So one of the first projects I tackled was painting the stair railing.  In my opinion, this particular oaky color just looks really dated.  I painted it a really pretty black color and painted the spindles a smooth white to bring the railing to the 21st century.



upstairs hallway


I think there’s a lot of potential here.  I might do some fun wall treatment.  It looks really dark all the time because of the peachy color that is painted in the main living area.  A new lighting fixture will also update this space drastically.

bedroom #1


The smallest bedroom in the house and is painted the darkest color in the house *facepalm*.  For all the upstairs bedrooms, we will swap out the carpet for an LVP flooring, get new baseboards, and paint all the walls.  Since we think this room will be the future nursery, we plan on just doing the aforementioned swaps and then leaving it empty until the time comes for when we need the space.

bedroom #2



This will serve as the guest room.  New floor, new baseboards, new wall color, and maybe a fun wall treatment?

bedroom #3



This room is the largest of the 3 bedrooms (besides the master), and it has a mini walk-in closet.  We figured this could be the perfect office for both Ian and myself, as well as a general lounge area.

master suite









I think the master suite has so much potential to be so cozy and perfect.  But it does need a ton of work.  Besides the flooring, baseboards, and paint, we plan on removing the popcorn ceiling in the bedroom.  Also, where the media stuff is set up, we think it could look really sweet if we did some sort of built-in electric fireplace/tv combo.  We’re lucky enough to have 2 (!) closets.  I think these wire shelving systems are just very inefficient and don’t use the space to its full advantage.  We plan on doing different wardrobe systems to maximize the space that we have.  The bathroom is just not my style, it’s very dated.  Some day, we’ll probably gut the entire thing.  But until then, we’ll do a budget refresh so it can still feel luxurious.

hall bath



Along with the master bath, we will do a budget refresh to this space and gut it at a later date.  Everything here is in pristine condition since the previous owner obviously used the master bath instead of the hall bath.  So it also feels like a waste to just gut it when it’s still in great condition.  The main thing we don’t like about this bathroom is how low the vanity, toilet, and tub are.  BUT, when we have children, it’ll be the perfect height for them.  So the plan here is to do a budget refresh and let our future kids use it.  That way, we won’t feel bad if they destroy anything.  And somewhere down the road, we’ll probably do a full gut job.

laundry closet


I actually really enjoy doing laundry, so this sad laundry space makes me really discouraged.  We’ll get new flooring put in, and I’ll come up with some clever storage solution in lieu of the wire racks.  I want to make this space look really fun and modern.  Also, the laundry closet has two doors that just knock into each other (and block the hallway), so I also need to figure out a clever solution for that.








The basement, again, has so much potential.  We’re so glad the previous owner finished it as a large, open space (it’s an L-shaped basement).  We’ll paint the walls, swap out the carpet for something that’s more pet-friendly, and swap out the ceiling tiles to something more aesthetically pleasing.  The wet bar looks super cool, and we plan on keeping it and just updating it so it’s more our style.  The future basement will have 3 zones – a board game zone with a large table, a movie theater zone with a cushy sectional, and the coffee bar zone.  The basement also has a half bath … that is also very dated which we’ll fix.


An amazing draw of our house is that even though it is in a community of other homes, it really doesn’t feel like it once you step out into the backyard.  Our house is at the end of the cul-de-sac, and it’s just on the edge of a forest.  We have lots of mature trees (one of our must-haves).  The previous owner landscaped it to be pretty low-maintenance, so the backyard is mostly trees and moss.  We plan on laying down sod at some point and maybe moving some trees around.  But we get a ~jacuzzi~.