Friday Features {5.14.21}

Good morning! It’s been a big week this week, so today I’m sharing some of the things that have been going on with our home and family.

Kitchen Island Light Fixure

Our kitchen refresh is officially finished! I shared the first part of the reveal a couple weeks ago but there was one thing left on my to-do list: replacing the fluorescent light over the island! I ordered a new light fixture over a month ago but the original estimated delivery date was between July 29-August 2. Well for once, I’m thrilled that a shipping date was off by a couple months because the fixture arrived earlier this week! Justin installed it and we are both thrilled with how it elevates the look of the kitchen.

$1000 Kitchen Refresh

Piggy-backing off that, I love looking at these before and after shots of the kitchen. Justin and I have always intended to do a gut renovation of this kitchen and change the layout, but that is several years down the road. This refresh was a way to make the kitchen feel like the rest of the house without a huge investment of money. Fresh paint on the cabinets, walls, and window trim + updated backsplash from repurposed beadboard + new LED can lights + updated light fixture and bar stools = a kitchen that feels brand new. And the best part of this transformation is that it was right around $1000. Totally worth it!

Last Day of Preschool

And speaking of before-and-afters, yesterday was LJ’s last day of preschool. I cannot believe how much this boy has changed this year! The days are long, but the years really are so short. I went back and forth so many times about whether or not to send him to preschool, but looking back I’m so glad I did. He had a great year!

Mother’s Day 2021

We had a sweet little day with our family on Sunday. LJ went with Justin to the store after their haircuts on Saturday and picked out the brightest flowers I’ve ever seen. Justin said when he saw the balloons he immediately asked if he could get one for mommy. Melt my heart! I will always take the handpicked or handmade gifts over anything fancy. I love his sweet little heart!

We stayed in comfy clothes all day and it was pretty much what you’d expect for Mother’s Day with toddlers. I love being their mama!

Although I have to also include this picture – the day after Mother’s Day, things went back to their normal chaotic selves around here. This is truly my life as a mama haha!

Happy Birthday Mom!

And speaking of moms, today is my mom’s birthday! She is one of the most important people in my life and I am grateful for her everyday. It’s been so fun to watch her thrive in her grandma role these last few years – she is one-of-a-kind and we love her so much!

Have a great weekend!

ORC Week Two: Black Windows + Layout Options

We’re one week in to the One Room Challenge and over this past week, I’ve made a small amount of progress with our primary bedroom.

ORC-Guest-400white.jpg

Since I am still waiting for our bedframe to arrive (the original delivery date was supposed to be tomorrow, but now the updated tracking says Monday), I’m not able to make many other decisions on colors and textiles yet. One thing I knew I wanted no matter what was black windows, so I tackled that this past week!

I’ve been slowly painting all our windows Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black in a satin finish and I just love the way it makes the windows pop! I ripped off the old trim because we’ll be replacing that anyways and it made the windows much easier to paint.

It might not be much, but I’m happy with this simple change and I’m excited to keep moving on the project!

I’ve been using floorplanner.com to try out a few different layout options and get an idea for how I’ll actually set up the room. The room is very large (we think too large) but it has some design challenges with door placement and shape of the room. Here’s one layout option with the king bed in the same place our queen bed currently is:

The benefit to the above layout is an easy room flow – the door on the left side of the room leads out to the hallway and the door on the bottom leads to our bathroom. It does make the room feel too heavy on one side, and with a king bed, I think the walkway between the bed and the corner of the wall down from the bay window might feel a little cramped.

The other layout I’m considering is:

This room feels more balanced, and I love that I could get a little chair or vanity in the bay window area. The downfall is, now we have to walk all the way around the bed every time we walk through the room and we’re not sure how annoying that would be. My gut is leaning towards this bed placement, so I think we’ll at least try it out. If we hate it, we can figure something else out!

I’m crossing my fingers that my bed actually arrives Monday so we can keep moving on this project. In the meantime, be sure to check out all the other ORC participants here!

Spring 2021 One Room Challenge Week One: Primary Bedroom Mood Board!

I’m so excited to be joining in as a guest participant for another round of the One Room Challenge and this time, Justin and I are finally addressing our bedroom!

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I forgot to take “before” pictures prior to our new adjustable base getting delivered yesterday, so right now the room looks like this:

The base is heavy, so we had them set it up and once our mattress is delivered we’ll take down the old bed and move the base in place. You probably get the point, but here’s a few better shots of the room without the extra bed from back in January 2020. As you can see, we’ve done almost nothing to it since then!

The room feels like a blank slate. All we have done since moving in two years ago is replace the overhead boob light (if you know, you know) with a matte black ceiling fan and paint the walls from the same brown that was everywhere in this house to white (Sherwin Williams Alabaster). That’s it! We have no art on the walls, no window coverings at all (don’t worry, we have enough trees for privacy), just nothing inspiring or relaxing or anything. It just feels like a room, and while I know we’re lucky to have it and we don’t need a single thing for it to be functional, we’re really ready to treat ourselves to a nicer, more relaxing space.

We’re also ready for some upgrades. Our mattress was my college graduation gift so it’s *cough* 10 years old, and while it’s still in decent shape, it’s not providing us with the best sleep anymore. We’re using an old comforter that used to be in our guest room. Our bedside lamps are now mismatched because the other matching lamp died a few months ago and we just used a spare we had. It feels a bit like a minimalist hot mess (is that a thing!?) We’ve just never wanted to spend money on “ourselves” and our bedroom before, but it finally feels like the right time to do it.

I’ve been gathering inspiration for months now and I put together a mood board to help me home in a direction for the room. Here’s my inspiration for the space:

I want our bedroom to feel like a retreat, but like, a colorful, moody retreat. I think bedrooms that are light and airy and done in a neutral color palette are beautiful, but that’s just not the direction I want to head with this room. I’m also not a huge fan of all white bedding (serious question: how do people keep it looking crisp and clean!?) so I’ll be incorporating lots of different textures, patterns, and colors in the bedding. The room is actually very large (too large – who needs enough space for a dresser, a queen bed AND a king bed!?) and there is a lot of wall space so I’ve been thinking of ways to add some interest without overcommitting to a huge project and an accent wall doesn’t feel like a great option because there is a window or door on every wall. Right now, I’m leaning towards trying a limewash paint but I’m going to hold off on making a decision until I can pull more elements of the room together.

Our base is here and our mattress and bed are on their way – I’m really excited to start tackling this room! I’ll be posting weekly check-ins on Thursdays but if you’d like to follow the process more frequently, I’ll be posting more real-time updates on my Instagram @simplifythechaos

Be sure to check out all the other participants and their projects here!

Creating a Simple Craft Space for the Kids

While I finished up the largest part of the kitchen renovation a couple weeks ago, there was one lingering area I had yet to address: the desk. Since the One Room Challenge starts Thursday and that will take most of my home project focus, I decided to spend time yesterday giving a quick and inexpensive refresh to this space.

This little desk area on the side of our kitchen used to be where I worked from home; however, once we completed our office, this space became an area for the kids’ creative activities. We store their playdoh, markers, crayons, stickers, paper, etc. here and they spend hours crafting, making sweet little messes, and stretching their creative muscles. Here’s what it looked like before we did anything to the kitchen:

I painted the cabinets a few weeks ago with the rest of the kitchen but hadn’t done anything else yet. It was time to finish!

A very realistic look at what the space is like on a daily basis.

My goal from this space was to make it feel cohesive with the rest of the house while still feeling like a distinct space for kids. The first step was removing all the stickers off the wall (lol) and then I painted the wall to match the rest of the main floor with one coat of primer and two coats Sherwin Williams Alabaster in Eggshell.

I wanted to have a cute way for the kids to display some of their artwork on the wall above the desk but didn’t want to spend money so I went searching through our house. I found some old 14″ x 14″ corkboards that had been in storage for years (leftover from a DIY project Justin made 6-7 years ago). I collected them from our garage and found some baker’s twine in my gift wrapping supplies. Since our kids are too little to use thumbtacks, I pulled the twine over the front of the corkboard and wrapped it around the back, securing it with masking tape. A simple and inexpensive DIY project that took less than 20 minutes for two corkboards!

I created a crisscross pattern over the front of the corkboard so now they can just slide their artwork in behind the twine and it’s easy to swap out creations when they want.

I attached the corkboards to the wall using command picture hanging strips. I love that these don’t damage the wall if I decide to take them down later, and the Velcro allows me to easily take the corkboard off the wall if I ever want to access the outlet behind (the kids don’t have a need for it, but it’s nice to know we can access it if we need to).

I finished off the space with an aloe plant and two thrifted containers to hold markers and crayons. Both the yellow container and the basket were $3 each at thrift stores, bringing the grand total investment spent for this specific area to $6. Not too shabby!

All in all, this little refresh took about half a day – and most of that time was dry time in between paint coats. I probably spent about 2-2.5 active hours working on it and while it’s far from glamorous, I’m happy with the result. The space fits in with the rest of the home but still feels distinctly like an area for kids. Both kids have already used it since I finished up and I foresee lots more creativity and fun memories happening right here!

Sources:

Cabinet Color: SW Link Gray

Wall Color: SW Alabaster

Trim Color: SW Agreeable Gray

Planter and Chair are from Marshall’s

Yellow container and basket are thrifted

Citrus Recipe Box

April 2021 Book Reviews

Another month, another book review! I’m really excited to share today’s reviews because I read three books in the month of April and they were all winners – I love when that happens!

Any of these books would make for great summer reads, perfect for sitting back and relaxing in the sunshine. Let’s dive in!

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

The second-born daughters in the Fontana family have been living under a curse for generations: not one of them has found love. Second-born Emilia thinks the curse is nonsense, while her second-born cousin Lucy has tried everything in her power to break it. One day they receive an invitation from their eccentric great-aunt Poppy (also a second-born daughter) to join her on an all-expenses paid trip to Italy where, on her 80th birthday, she will meet the love of her life and break the curse.

While this book started off a little slow and I was initially very annoyed by the family dynamics, I really enjoyed the story once the women actually got to Italy. Justin and I traveled to Italy five years ago and visited many of the places the book mentions so it was fun to connect with the setting. Even if you haven’t been to Italy, this book was a great escapist book that sweeps the reader away to another place with Vespa rides through Tuscany, museums in Florence, and indulgent meals in Venice. I liked that the narration went back and forth from present-day Emilia to Poppy’s life in the past. It was a sweet, indulgent read with several twists to the plot, some I predicted and some I didn’t, that kept things interesting. I finished the book feeling satisfied and ready to travel again (aren’t we all ready for that?) and recommend this book for fans of adventure, sisterhood, and falling in love.

Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez

Life's Too Short (The Friend Zone Book 3) by [Abby Jimenez]

Popular YouTuber Vanessa has traveled the globe and had many adventures, but none have prepared her for the instant motherhood of gaining custody of her half-sister’s baby girl. She’s certainly not prepared for the appearance of her gorgeous next-door neighbor Adrian one night as he comes to try to help soothe the infant’s wails that have kept him up all night. Before long, Adrian and Vanessa strike up a friendship that could lead to something more . . . if Vanessa is willing to hope for a future that a looming health fear has never allowed her to dream of.

Alright y’all. Here’s the deal. I have read Jimenez’s previous two rom coms and while I really enjoyed The Friend Zone, I straight-up adored The Happy Ever After Playlist which has kind of become my rom com benchmark. So I had very high expectations going into this book – and they were exceeded. I loved this one! I loved Vanessa and Adrian as individuals and could not get enough of their fun banter and blossoming relationship. All of the supporting characters are interesting and ultimately likeable. I loved that it wasn’t all fluffy love and “easy” problems; this book covers guardianship of an infant, a drug-addicted sister, a hoarder father, reconciling broken family relationships, and a potentially devastating health diagnosis. Yet the book never feels heavy. It remains relatable, charming, and entertaining. I feel like Vanessa and Adrian reminded me of Justin and I at the start of our relationship – we were acquaintances, then friends, then best friends, then interested in dating but both afraid to cross that line and mess up our friendship, and then we finally dated knowing it was going to be “it” for us. This book took me back! It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s endearing, it’s inspiring – I just loved it so much and highly recommend it!

*A note: the chronological order of books is The Friend Zone, The Happy Ever After Playlist, Life’s Too Short. You don’t have to read them in order, as each book is a standalone, BUT there are some minor spoilers and character overlap so I do recommend reading in order if you can! It’s fun to see where the characters are in different stages of life throughout the book. I would say they also get more tame as they progress, going from Hot to Medium to Mild (for contemporary romance standards) in terms of language and sexy scenes, so if you feel strongly about that you could start where you feel comfortable on that scale.

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

New Year’s Eve, 1982. Eighteen-year-old Oona is at a party that will ring in the New Year and, on the stroke of midnight, her nineteenth birthday. She’s in love with her boyfriend, their band feels like it’s on the verge of their big break, and life stretches out infinitely in front of her. Only when the clock strikes midnight, she opens her eyes to find that while she is now nineteen years old on the inside, she is physically in her 51-year-old body in the year 2015. Her disbelief turns to horror as she realizes that she will live the rest of her life out of order, never knowing what year it will be next until she jumps to it on midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Time travel books always have the potential to be confusing, and I’ve learned you just have to give them a little leeway. I spent some time trying to figure out logistics of her past/future actions and just kept turning my mind in knots. Time travel is impossible, so the book itself needs to be granted a little creative license and once I just accepted that and didn’t try to “figure it out” I enjoyed it a lot more. I found the plot surprisingly easy to follow along with considering all the jumps. I liked the recurring characters and how they wove in and out of her life. I liked that there was some mystery to it – the people in Oona’s future life knew some things that they refused to tell her about her “past” because she hadn’t yet lived it and they wanted her to have some surprises, both good and not-so-great. Ultimately, can she do anything to change her fate? It’s an interesting concept to ponder as we read along with her adventures. There are some twists I didn’t anticipate and ultimately, I found myself wishing for even more. I loved seeing how her life played out and how the things connected and made sense throughout her life and could have kept reading through even more years! This book was recommended to me by friend and I was glad to have someone to talk with about it after I finished, so I think it would make for a great book club discussion.

Friday Features {4.23.21}

A couple weeks ago I put together a “Friday Features” post with a bunch of little things that made me happy or happened in our life lately. It was a fun way of documenting a few small moments of our life, so I’m going to make that a semi-regular feature on the blog. These posts are far from perfect – phone pics snapped in quick moment and random things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other – but they make me so happy to look back on. Perfection is overrated anyways, right?

Here’s what has happened around here lately!

Visit with Justin’s Parents

We hadn’t seen Justin’s parents since November, so we were all excited for their recent week-long visit to stay with us. The kids absolutely loved having so much quality time with their grandparents and a lot of really sweet memories were made.

Day Date with Justin

When his parents were in town, they watched the kids for us on Saturday so we could have a date day. We enjoyed having a bit of a staycation and spent the day exploring local shops and restaurants together.

Small Business Finds

It’s really important to me to support small businesses whenever I can, so it was fun to do a little shopping at several of them on our day date! I found a locally-made maple cutting board, some cute cloth napkins, two summer outfits, some bar soaps (I love using these in the shower and at my bathroom vanity as opposed to liquid in a plastic bottle), and a few new children’s books.

“New” Furniture

I shared before that I added a gallery wall to disguise our thermostat on the wall in between our living room and kitchen and as of yesterday, the wall has another addition. This antique commode was refinished by my maternal great-grandmother and has been in my parents’ home for years. They were willing to pass it down to me and I’m so excited to have this special heirloom in my home. I can’t wait to style the top!

Recent Thrift Store Finds

I love thrifting for home decor because it allows me to find some unique items that don’t just look like what everyone else has and it’s super sustainable! I recently popped in to my local store and scored this little dish that is the perfect size for storing sponges and soap in the kitchen . . .

. . . and I also found this cute little metal bowl that I just know is going to be a very versatile decor piece in my house! Both items together were less than $6 so this felt like a big win.

Second Pfizer Shot

On Wednesday, I received the second dose of my Pfizer vaccination. I did experience soreness at the injection shot, along with some fatigue and minor muscle aches and chills in the day following my shot. Thankfully, I’m now about 39 hours post-shot and I’m back to feeling great. I’m so thankful to have both shots done and am feeling hopeful for the future!

Have a great weekend!

Transforming our Kitchen for under $600!

I love a good budget-friendly DIY and today I’m so excited to share our kitchen refresh – a low cost transformation using paint, repurposed materials, and a few simple swaps!

At the beginning of 2021, one of my goals was to paint the main floor of our house. Every wall was brown and the whole space felt dark and dingy, so I decided to lighten everything up by painting the walls (Sherwin Williams Alabaster) and trim (Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray). The more rooms that got painted, the more the kitchen just felt out of place.

Justin swapped out the old recessed light bulbs for these LED options a couple months ago and that change alone went a long way in updating the look of the space, but I knew I wanted to do a bit more. We have dreams of completely renovating the kitchen (the current layout does not work well for our family) but that won’t happen for several years. In the meantime, I decided to do a low-cost, big-impact facelift that would help the space fit in better with the rest of the house.

The previous owners had made a few updates shortly before selling and one of the updates was new quartz countertops. While the style isn’t my first choice, the countertops are high quality and I didn’t want to alter them. The black quartz has a lot of veins in shades of brown, taupe, and gold so I wanted to work with that even though I was moving the kitchen away from all the brown.

I chose Sherwin Williams Link Gray for the cabinets (you can find the full painting tutorial here). The color is very hard to accurately capture on camera – it’s a warm, versatile color that changes from green to gray to blue depending on the light. You’ll notice that there is even some variation between pictures in this post because the look of the cabinet changes depending on where I stand to take a picture!

The previous owners also updated the backsplash, but unfortunately, it was a big miss for us. It only went up about halfway to the cabinets, there were noticeable gaps between the backsplash and outlets, and visible seams in between the sheets of backsplash tile. In our opinion, it did nothing to help elevate the look of the kitchen and we wanted to take it down.

Using two putty knives and a hammer, I was able to peel the old backsplash off the wall. The drywall was a mess behind it, as it appears they had torn down a previous backsplash and then just put the new one up over the torn drywall paper. This was a fine solution on the interior wall, but for the exterior walls, especially around the sink, we wanted to create a better seal. I used primer over the torn drywall, then a layer of joint compound, then another layer of primer (after lightly sanding the joint compound) to create a smooth surface.

When we demoed our home office, we removed beadboard from all around the room and we saved every piece so we could repurpose it for backsplash. Justin cut away the parts with previous outlet holes and cut every piece down to fill the entire space from countertop to upper cabinet.

We used scrap wood with a rounded edge from previous projects to trim out the ends under the cabinets and top around the bay window. I used paintable caulk to fill in all of the seams between pieces and edges and then painted everything, including the window trim, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray. The windows themselves got two coats of Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black. I also ran a bead of clear caulk along the bottom edge of the beadboard to keep everything sealed off from water. To complete the look, we swapped out the old almond colored outlets and switches for white ones and I painted wooden switch plates to match the beadboard.

I also swapped out our hodgepodge of counter stools for these steel and wood ones from Target. It took me a long time to find stools that had a back (Justin’s requirement), worked with our color scheme, and didn’t cost more than $100 per stool. I’m so happy I found these – they’re comfortable, inexpensive, and look great!

I mostly shopped my own house for pieces of decor to finish out the space but I did purchase a new kitchen rug from Target and a small, locally-made maple cutting board from a small business. These little details helped make this space feel complete!

We still plan to swap out the fluorescent light fixture but other than that, this kitchen refresh is finished! It has made such a huge difference in the way our house feels and even though we’re still planning a bigger renovation someday, this has made me love our current kitchen a lot more in the meantime.

Budget Breakdown

Liquid Nails – $4.57

Joint Compound – $6.64

New outlets (two GFCI), switches, and wooden plates – $21.96 (I saved almost $40 on these items using Menard’s Rebates!)

Cabinet Paint – $41.71

Counter Stools – $365.90

LED Recessed Lights – $74.83

Kitchen Rug – $20

Maple Cutting Board – $35

Total Cost: $570.61

I already had the primer and paint for the ceiling, trim, windows, and walls since I’m using the same paint throughout the main floor, so this wasn’t an additional expense. We also had all the caulk, painters tape, brushes, tools, etc. from previous projects. So while it might be hard to recreate this exact project for the same amount of money, I do think it shows that you don’t need to spend a ton in order to see a big difference!

DIY Painted Kitchen Cabinets

We’re currently in the process of giving our kitchen a budget-friendly facelift. While we’re still working on a few more projects for the space, we’ve finished one step that has already made a huge difference: painting the kitchen cabinets!

New cabinets were not an option, and the floor and countertops are also staying. With so many things staying, painting the cabinets was an easy and cost-effective way to still make a major impact! Today I’m sharing the process I used for this transformation – it took me about three days of actively working on it (while my parents watched our kids) to get the whole kitchen finished so it’s a good project to tackle over a long weekend.

Materials

deglosser

-lint-free cloth

primer

-paint

-foam roller

-angled brush

-painters tape

The first step was to remove all the cabinet doors. We have a little electric screwdriver that makes quick work of this step, but a regular screwdriver would work too.

Ideally, we would have removed the drawer fronts as well; however, when I started trying to unscrew one, I realized that the previous owners had used screws and a nail gun to attach the fronts. I have no idea why they did both, but we would have had to pry all the fronts off – a laborious process that possibly would’ve caused some damage to the drawers. We chose to leave them attached to the drawers and just painted the fronts and sides and left the backs as is since they’re rarely visible. Assuming your drawer fronts aren’t nailed on, I would absolutely recommend removing them as well and following the same process as with the door fronts.

After unscrewing the door from the cabinet, I removed all hardware (hinges and knob). While wearing a latex glove, I poured some liquid deglosser onto a clean cloth and rubbed it all over the surface of the front and back of the doors. This process is a substitute for sanding and prepares the previously stained wood so that paint will adhere better to it. It saves so much time compared to sanding!

Once the deglosser is dry, the doors were ready to be primed. I buy Kilz 2 primer in bulk because I use it so often and it worked well for this project. I recommend starting with the back of the cabinet doors so that once you flip them over, the front will be finished last. The painted wood has the potential to get a nick or scuff when it’s flipped over and I much prefer that if that happens, it happens to the back side

After the primer has dried, it’s time to paint! After a lot of deliberation, I landed on Sherwin Williams Link Gray – a nice warm grayish-green that coordinates well with all the brown and gold tones in our kitchen countertop. I recommend getting a higher-quality paint for the cabinets because they’ll get a lot of use. I chose the HGTV Showcase line from Lowe’s (in a satin finish). There are brands out there that specifically have paint for cabinets but I used this brand when I painted our basement kitchen cabinets last year and they still look perfect!

I used an angled brush to paint the inset edge first . . .

. . . then I used a six inch foam roller to cover the rest of the door.

This paint boasts “one coat coverage” and that may be true for walls, but I found that the first coat didn’t quite get everything and a second coat was needed. That being said, I chose not to do a second coat on the backs of the doors since the coverage was really pretty good and the backs aren’t often visible. This allowed me to also do the entire kitchen with just one gallon of paint!

I waited about four hours and then flipped the doors over to repeat the same process of primer + paint on the fronts. Again, I used a brush to paint the inset first and then used the foam roller for everything else.

When painting the fronts, I like to set them on top of paint cans or other small items where they can be lifted off the ground so I can roll the edges as well.

After letting the fronts dry for at least two hours, I applied a second coat.

For painting the cabinet boxes, I followed the same process of deglosser + primer + two coats of paint. I used painter’s tape to protect the floors and underside of the countertop. Personally, I like a smoother finish on cabinets so I used the foam roller for as many surfaces as I could and saved the brush for edges and corners that the roller couldn’t reach.

I recommend letting the cabinets and fronts cure for at least 24 hours before reattaching the fronts. I have two little kids around and couldn’t leave my fronts off that long, so I reattached them sooner but after the kids went to bed, I opened up all the doors and drawers so they could continue to cure without touching (if the paint isn’t fully cured and a door front rests on the cabinet, it could lead to the paint sticking).

I wish I had a better “before” picture of this angle, but all I have is this crummy screenshot so it will have to do.

And now here’s that same stretch of cabinets:

I honestly can’t believe what a big difference paint made. Same floors, same knobs, same countertop, same backsplash (for now), yet the kitchen looks completely different! And since I could do the whole cabinet with one gallon of paint, this transformation cost me around $50. Well worth it!

I wish I had more “after” pictures to show you, but we’re already well underway with the next step of updating all the backsplash. So stay tuned for more of this kitchen transformation soon!

Friday Features

Happy Friday!

Today, I felt inspired to write up a different kind of blog post than my usual. I typically share a lot of our day-to-day moments on Instagram and save the bigger things for the blog (like finished home projects, family milestones, etc). I’ve talked about this before, but as much as the blog is a fun way for me to share things with others, it’s also a great way for me to document parts of our life for us to look back on in later years. There are a lot of little things that, while they aren’t worth dedicating an entire blog post to, I’m feeling inspired to create a little space for on the blog. Friday seems like the perfect time to round-up a random hodgepodge of things from the past week or two and I love that it just gives a little glimpse into our life right now. I do plan to write little Friday posts like this more often, although I’m not sure how often they’ll pop up. We’ll see! For now, here’s what’s been on my mind lately:

Summer Weather

This week we had several days in the 70s which is just fine with us! We broke out the water table and other summer toys and cannot wait for fun in the sun.

Plant Refresh

I had several plants that were getting too big for their planters so the start of spring felt like the perfect time to do some transplanting. I bought a few new pots and just switching out a few plants and planters has everything feeling so fresh around here!

LJ and Vi Comparison

Earlier this week we went to a park we haven’t been to in a long time. Vi has recently started doing slides 100% independently and she is so proud of herself! I snapped this picture of her and it immediately gave me a flashback to LJ using that exact same slide when he was about her same age. I had to dig through my archives and I found a video of LJ that I screenshot so I could do a little comparison of my babies!

Spring Cleaning Closets

This past week, I went through LJ and Vi’s dressers and removed anything that they’ve outgrown or is not the right season (LJ is still in 3T, but doesn’t need sweaters for the spring/summer months). I also checked for anything that was stained or had holes or other major signs of wear – anything that fit this category went straight into a bag that I’ll drop off at a local company that accepts fabrics in any condition for textile recycling.

I keep large clear tubs in each of their closets to store clothes they’ve outgrown. I keep the bin organization simple – I keep sizes separate by using a piece of cardboard as a divider and slipping a piece of paper with the size marked in the bin so it’s clearly visible. It’s nothing fancy but this system works!

Consignment Closet Refresh

The vast majority of my children’s clothing is either hand-me-down from friends or was bought secondhand at a consignment store. I don’t like spending lots of money on their clothing. They outgrow sizes so fast that it doesn’t seem worth it to spend $20 on a shirt they’ll only wear for a couple months. Plus. let’s be honest. Kids are messy! I’m constantly removing stains from food, dirt, markers, etc. I prefer to spend $3 or less on a shirt – if it is still in good condition after it’s outgrown and can be passed down to another child, great! If it has holes or stains and needs to be recycled instead, it doesn’t feel too wasteful because it’s already been worn a lot. Secondhand clothing is cost-effective for me and sustainable for the planet – a win win!

We’ve already received a lot of hand-me-downs that will fit my kids this summer, so after going through their closets and getting the next sizes ready, I made a list of things they still needed. We took a trip to the consignment store yesterday to fill in their wardrobe gaps – LJ especially had fun getting to pick out some shirts for himself! We got all these items (plus one shirt he already wanted to wear) for $40.

Herself Podcast

I’ve talked before about the HERself podcast but I listened to episode 69 while painting the kitchen cabinets that really resonated with me. Their guest, Elicia, is a stay-at-home mom and talked about the balance of staying at home but also wanting to have something for herself outside of motherhood. She personally had a passion for her kids AND also had a passion with connecting with other women so she’s joining the podcast as an employee while staying home with her kids. They talked a bit about finding little opportunities to fulfill a passion or have a role outside of the role of mom. This spoke to me so much! I am so thankful that I am able to stay home with my children (though I’ve been honest that it isn’t always easy) and love being able to fill this role for my children and our family, but I’m also a wife and a woman who has passions and interests beyond motherhood. Reading is a way for me to rest and recharge, and I also find a lot of joy in using this blog as a creative outlet. Over the past two years, I’ve also really leaned into updating our house and sharing all our projects, big and small, and it’s become a huge passion of mine. I’m learning the value of the word and. I love my kids AND I enjoy some alone time. I like completing home projects AND reading bedtime stories. I love to nurture AND create. My kids are a priority AND so am I.

Aldi Juice Find

Does anyone else love Aldi? It’s my favorite place to stock up on all our basic grocery needs! I love that it’s inexpensive and you don’t get decision fatigue because there aren’t like, 82935792348 brands of ketchup to choose from. They also have lots of great organic options at a fraction of the cost of other grocery stores. I saw these juice pouches in the Aldi Finds section and decided to try them out – they have been a HUGE hit with my kids! They don’t drink juice very often but these pouches make for a nice little treat with less sugar than other brands of juice.

ASMR Home Video

I’ve been watching this video on repeat – it’s so satisfying to hear all these little sounds of home!

First Covid Shot!

Indiana opened up eligibility for those 30+ last week and I jumped at the chance to schedule an appointment. I got my first dose of Pfizer last Wednesday and was SO excited! My only side effects were a sore arm and some fatigue around the 24-hour mark (but after a nap, I felt great!) I’m so thankful for the efforts of scientists to make this happen so quickly. I’m feeling hopeful for the future and “normal” activities resuming soon!

Note: I’m not interested in debating vaccines on the internet. There are lots of great resources out there to help make your own decision – I personally found @kinggutterbaby and @jessicamalatyrivera to be great sources of information for me.

Have a great weekend!

March 2021 Book Reviews

No tricks, just treats today as I’m kicking off April with my favorite kind of post: book reviews!

In March I read three books and mostly (you’ll see) enjoyed them all. Let’s dive right in!

One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London

One to Watch: A Novel by [Kate Stayman-London]

Bea is a successful and popular plus-sized fashion blogger, and after writing a scathing about the lack of diversity on the reality show Main Squeeze, she is approached by the producer to come on the show and give a new look to the franchise as the lead for their next season. I’ve watched the Bachelor/Bachelorette for years (although less frequently in the past 5 years) so this was a really fun read for me. I liked the characters, I liked the parallels to the franchise we all know and love (or love to hate), I liked how it gave a peel-back-the-curtain feel to “reality” TV . I found Bea to be a charming and relatable heroine and I was rooting for her to find love. Most of the other characters are also really likeable and I loved that in between chapters we would see what was happening around the country – what were people saying in podcasts or writing in articles or talking about in group chats. That’s really what Bachelor Nation is like and it broadened the plot beyond Bea’s personal experience. The real Bachelor franchise is currently experiencing a major reckoning with lack of racial diversity over the years, and they also never have contestants with body diversity either. It was really interesting to imagine a scenario where they would move in this direction! I loved the message that everyone deserves love and size isn’t (or shouldn’t be) what people judge you on. I’ll give a little warning that while the Bachelor has producers to edit out language and sexual content before viewing, this book doesn’t, so be aware of that if that’s not your cup of tea. If you’re a fan of the Bachelor franchise, I really think you’d enjoy this book but I also think those who aren’t fans would enjoy it.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Long Bright River: A Novel by [Liz Moore]

Mickey is a cop whose beat includes a tough Philadelphia neighborhood overwhelmed by the opioid crisis. Her sister Kacey is an addict who lives on those same streets. After Kacey disappears around the same time as a string of murders begins, Mickey becomes obsessed with finding both the killer and Kacey.

This was a book chosen by my book club. I’m not sure I would have chosen to read it otherwise, but I can say with a good amount of confidence that if I had chosen to read it on my own, I doubt I would have finished it because the plot absolutely dragged. It’s not really a mystery and not really a thriller, though it had elements of both. It was a character-driven novel, but I struggled because I didn’t actually like Mickey, the sole point of view and main character, very much. It is very slow-moving and covers a lot of hard subject matter like drug addiction, exploitation, murder, single parenthood, homelessness, etc. There are a lot of little side plots and a lot of time spent on Mickey and Kacey’s history and childhood. By page 200 I was really having to force myself to keep reading and I think had it not been a book club pick, I would have quit. But then, all the sudden, something happened in the plot that changed everything for me and I couldn’t put the rest of the book down! I absolutely flew through the last third of the book and loved it. Everyone in my book club agreed that the last portion of the book was so different than the rest; it felt like “this is the book I wanted to read!” To be honest, I don’t know if I recommend it or not. I think it definitely depends on the reader. It needed to be 100 pages shorter, but I did ultimately really enjoy where it ended up. I’m glad I finished it!

What you Wish For by Katherine Center

Samantha and the rest of her colleagues at school are reeling from the loss of their beloved principal. Just when it seems like things will never be good again, Duncan Carpenter is announced as the next principal. Sam’s history with Duncan at a previous school gives her hope that he will bring much-needed fun, joy, and life back into the school. But when Duncan arrives, the rule-following, safety-obsessed authoritarian is nothing like the guy she remembers. Is the old Duncan still in there? And can Sam help coax him back?

I wanted to read something fun and interesting, with a bit of depth but not too much and this was the perfect choice. I found the characters, both main and side, to be interesting and likeable, I loved the relationship between Sam and Duncan, I enjoyed that there were only a couple side plots included and they were all meaningful to the story. The setting in a unique school in the beachside community of Galveston was fun to picture and I easily felt like part of the school community there. I will say, this book does cover the heavy topic of reasons why safety in schools is important in this day and age, which might be triggering for some people. That being said, it didn’t really feel overly light or overly dramatic – it just hit a nice middle ground, like a Hallmark movie with some depth. I enjoyed it!

My April stack is growing so hopefully I’ll be able to devote quite a bit of time to reading because I have several books I’m excited about reading soon! What books have you been loving lately?