Happy Birthday Ruthie!

Today’s blog post is a special one – this weekend my youngest sister turns 27 (on the 27th – golden birthday!) and I wanted to take some time to give her a shout out. So if you’re not Ruthie, feel free to skip this one 😉

Ruthie is the biggest, most loyal supporter of my blog. She refreshes my site daily to look for new posts, she is always super encouraging, she gives me ideas for new posts, she finds my typos, she celebrates milestones and cheers me on every step of the way. Simply put, she’s my ultimate hype woman and it only feels right to surprise her when she refreshes the site today with a post about her.

I feel very lucky to have the type or relationship where Ruthie is not only my sister but one of my best friends. Even though we now live 800 miles apart, we talk multiple times a week and are very much a part of each other’s lives. Ruthie is a safe space for me to be wholly myself and I can share my stresses, triumphs, failures, worries, joys, and everything in between with her. She’s supportive, she’s non-judgemental, she’s thoughtful, she’s compassionate, and she’s always willing to give perspective when I need it or just listen when I don’t.

Ruthie is an intentional friend, sister, daughter, and aunt. She sends my kids little notes in the mail and makes sure they feel special and loved even from afar and it makes my heart so full!

Ruthie is also the life of the party. She’s energetic, she’s outgoing, and she can make friends with absolutely anyone. She’s just a fun person to be around. To know her is to love her, and man do I love her.

Happy birthday Squirt. You’re one of my favorite humans on this planet and I hope your weekend is as golden as you are. ❤

Tackling DIY with Little Ones at home

If you’ve been following my blog for really any length of time, you know that I love a good DIY project. I often get asked how I have time to do these projects with small children around, and while I frequently use evenings after my kids are asleep, I also do quite a bit during the days. Today I thought I’d just talk about some of the ways I make this happen. I’m not going to pretend that these are the best ways or the only ways, but these are the things that work best for me personally in tackling DIY projects as a stay-at-home mama to two children under the age of three.

Dual Nap = Naptime Hustle!

Probably my biggest strategy is the “naptime hustle,” which just means that the moment my children are sleeping, I jump into project mode.

This has obviously varied a bit with the ages of my children (newborn sleep is a whole different ballgame!) but I have worked really hard to keep our daily routine as consistent as possible so both kids are used to napping at the same time each day. There’s a lot that I’m pretty relaxed about in motherhood but sleep is not one of them. We’re consistent with our routines, we’re consistent with the time, we’re consistent with being home in the afternoon (no afternoon playdates!) – I try everything I can to provide a solid foundation for my kids to nap well. If there is one day we are out of the routine, it’s not a big deal; however, that does mean that I make sure the next day is right back on track. For the most part, this has worked really well and my kids are both great nappers. Right now, they both go down around 1:00. Vi will sleep about 1.5-2 hours and LJ usually sleeps about 3-3.5 hours.

Screen Time is not the Enemy

I think sometimes screen time gets a bad rap and society makes us feel guilty for allowing any TV time, but there is no shame in my mama game to say TV has been a wonderful tool for us to use in moderation. When Vi goes down for her morning nap (usually about 9-10:30 or 11), I have no problem letting LJ watch a couple shows so I can have some time to work on a project. Justin and I both credit TV for actually helping him with language and learning – so many shows have value with teaching new words, showing how something works, teaching simple problem solving, or introducing concepts like letter sounds, counting, etc.

Do projects in small chunks

It’s almost never safe to just leave things out when I’m not working on them because my kids will inevitability get into the tools, paint, wood, screws, etc. Whenever possible, I try to break up a project in small chunks so that it’s easier to get the task completely done in my small work window and then quick clean up when I’m finished. It makes for smaller bursts of work at a time, but that adds up to help get a project finished.

Set up nearby activities

Before Vi was walking, I would often set her up in the pack n play next to wherever I was working on anything, DIY or otherwise. Sometimes LJ would want to join her in there and they’d play together -contained but nearby.

Now that she’s bigger, I’ll try to set up an activity in the next room that I can monitor. As I worked on putting together our Ikea cabinets for the office, I broke apart the box and gave LJ markers to draw on it right outside the room (the doors have glass so I could see) while Vi watched and played with the box. When I worked on the basement kitchen, I blocked off the couch area using boxes and end tables so the kids could play there while I painted cabinet doors on the other side. Neither child is old enough for unsupervised independent play longer than about two minutes so finding ways to partition them from the project while still keeping them nearby has been a big strategy for working while they’re awake.

Let them help!

In each project, I try to find at least one small thing that LJ can help with. This often means letting him help me paint a wall or use something simple like a screwdriver.

In my current project of working on the office, he was thrilled to get a small hammer and helped pound in a few tiny nails into the back of the cabinets. He may only be two but it’s teaching him responsibility, it’s encouraging him to have a sense of pride and ownership, and often, it helps satisfy his urge to meddle in the project, haha! When a project is forbidden, it just increases his curiosity to get involved. When he’s allowed to have a part in it, he’s happy and then will move on and go play with something else and leave my project alone. It’s a win for both of us!

And speaking of help . . .

Childcare is a huge help to me when I’m in the midst of a project. As a stay-at-home mama, every little bit of outside help makes a huge difference for me. LJ recently started preschool and is now gone for three hours two times a week. Since Vi usually naps during this time, it gives me a bonus naptime hustle. My parents live about an hour away and they have also been incredibly helpful to me with childcare. They like to take the kids for a day or two every once in a while and they’ve also come here to watch them so I can get things done. This is especially helpful when I’m in the middle of a large scale project like painting tile floors or kitchen cabinets and need blocks of time beyond what a naptime provides. Pre-pandemic I also hired a babysitter twice a month to come watch the kids for a few hours so I could get a little work done without interruptions.

Recognize other areas will slip

The reality is, when I’m in full-on project mode, other areas of my life often slip a bit. I don’t try to do everything, and my time gets prioritized differently. Our house isn’t as clean. I have bigger piles of laundry because I’m not doing it as frequently. I don’t have the free time to read. I can’t do it all, so I’ve had to just recognize that sometimes these seasons of projects mean other areas are a little more lax and that’s okay.

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Of course there are seasons where DIY projects aren’t as feasible (looking at you again, newborn stage) but I truly believe that just because you have small children at home doesn’t mean you can’t tackle a project if you want to. Start with a simple job like spray painting some frames or swapping out hardware. When you start small, you learn to roll with the punches, find out what works best for you, your family, your daily schedules, and then you can work your way up to larger scale projects. DIY with small children around is not without its challenges, but it can be done and I’m cheering for you!

If you have finished a DIY project with small children around, what tips and tricks did you use to accomplish it?

My 32nd Birthday Weekend

On Friday, I turned 32! I’m one of those people who love their birthday and if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen all my birthday week updates in stories. I love getting flowers, wine, chocolate, cards, phone calls . . . it doesn’t have to be big and fancy, but I love celebrating and I love the warmth and appreciation that I feel with each birthday wish. It always feels a little extra special when my birthday falls on a Friday, so today I’m recapping my birthday weekend since I love using this blog as a way to document our life.

Note: I’m going to be sharing photos and talking about different activities we did. I’m not going to include the many many many times we wore a mask, used hand sanitizer, washed our hands, made sure to socially distance, etc. Navigating life during covid involves a lot of things and rest assured, we were very conscious and took precautions with everything we did. Just because it’s not easy to see in a blog post doesn’t mean it didn’t happen ❤

Friday afternoon, my parents came to pick up the kids and take them for the weekend. My parents were so excited for time with their grandkids, my kids were so excited for special time with grandma and grandpa, and I was SO excited for a few adults-only days. It was a wonderful gift!

Friday night, Justin and I went out to dinner with a few friends at one of my favorite restaurants downtown. It was a nice day so we could enjoy patio seating and it was so fun to have a delicious meal and a night out. Afterwards we went to get ice cream and ran in to a few other friends unexpectedly so it ended up being a fun little hang out on picnic tables outside.

Saturday morning we got to sleep in (heavenly!) and I got a quick bike ride in on our stationary bike. I love morning workouts but it’s hard with little kids so it was a treat to get to take my time today. We got ready and headed down to Indianapolis for the day. First stop, Ikea! I drew some serious inspiration from their displays. Just look at this gorgeous green kitchen!

I had so much fun participating in the One Room Challenge for our basement kitchen that I’ve decided to join again for the fall challenge. I’m going to tackle our our office, and while I’m still working out a few details, I knew I wanted to do built-ins along one wall. Online it said the cabinets I wanted were out of stock but we asked the lady in store and she had the exact amount we needed – it felt like a birthday gift haha! She drew everything up in their program which was awesome to see and get absolutely everything we needed. I’m so excited to get started!

After Ikea, we picked up lunch from a place called Thaitanium (delicious!) and headed over to our friend’s house to eat lunch with them. They recently adopted twin boys and we haven’t had a chance to meet them yet. It was so nice to get to catch up with them and meet their boys!

We didn’t have plans for the rest of the day – our only goal was to explore and have some fun! We utilized the bike sharing program to rent bikes (our favorite way to navigate new cities!) and biked in and around downtown.

Once we got to monument circle, we decided to trade in our bikes for electric scooters – while initially this was pretty stressful for me (there’s a bit of a learning curve to balancing and the scooters go so fast!), once I got the hang of it, they were so much fun! We ended up scootering all over the cultural trail which was a fun way to explore the city.

My favorite place to explore was around the canal. It’s beautiful and peaceful! I of course had to take the most touristy picture possible. 😉

On our way back downtown we stopped in at a place called The Whit, which is an adult arcade. Lots of fun retro games to try out! I was impressed by all the covid precautions they had in place there and we enjoyed getting to play some very old but new to us games.

We started to get hungry so we headed back to Mass Ave to walk around and find a place to eat. The vibe of this street is so fun – lots of patio seating, people walking and biking around, pedal taverns (Justin made friends with some guy on a passing one which was pretty hilarious), etc. It’s just a fun place to go! We ended up grabbing some pizza at a place called Goodfellas and eating out on the patio while people watching. Then we slowly meandered back down Mass Ave, grabbed some more bikes, and headed back to our car to head home.

Initially, we thought we might stay overnight in Indy but I’m so glad we headed home instead. Sunday morning was so relaxing – we got to sleep in, watch church online without the distraction of two small children, and I got to lounge and read a new book while Justin went to pick up the kids. There is something so great about just getting to chill at home without worrying about a to-do list. It was such a nice, refreshing, restful day and the perfect way to cap off a great weekend!

I am undoubtedly a blessed woman. I’m so thankful for all of the past 32 years – the ups, downs, good days, bad days. They all led me right here and I am so thankful for each and every day. Cheers to the next 32 years!

Keeping the Playroom Manageable

When Justin and I first became parents, we decided to make a conscious effort to minimize the amount of stuff we accumulated. The baby/kid market is oversaturated with things and from the very beginning we’ve tried to be very intentional with what comes into our home. Yes to a breastfeeding pillow. No to a baby bathtub. Yes to a baby carrier. No to a wipe warmer. Amid all the decisions like those, it really wasn’t too challenging to avoid stocking up on toys at first – a few books, a couple rattles, a wubbanub (we had no idea how beloved that thing would become!) and we were good to go.

As LJ grew, we started to accumulate a few more toys. We rarely bought him anything, but he would get occasional gifts from grandparents and receive a few things around the holidays. I wrote this blog post about two years ago and showed all the toys we had during his first year of life and how I stored them and kept them manageable. (Look at baby LJ! Where does the time go?! Also, notice the musical lion walker – we’ll circle back to that in a bit).

LJ in playroom

We’ve slowly added to our toy collection over the past two years as LJ’s interests have grown and changed and we added another baby to our family. While we obviously have more now than we did then, it still feels very manageable. Today I thought I’d share some of the things I do to keep our playroom from becoming overwhelming. I definitely don’t have all the answers or think this is the only way to do things – these are just the things that work well for our family to keep our playroom a fun space where everything gets used!

Low-key holidays and birthdays. For each of our children’s first birthdays, we asked for no gifts (read about LJ’s here and Vi’s here). Honestly no judgement here if you love gifts for your one-year-old, but asking for donations to different organizations in lieu of gifts was a great alternative for us. Then for LJ’s second birthday, we got him one big gift (a train table) and had our families decorate their own train car as their gifts to him. This was a great option for making his day special without going overboard.

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Obviously, there will come a time when our kids have opinions and desires for their birthday gifts and we will honor that, but when they’re this little, it’s nice to keep birthdays very simple and intentional.

We’re not at all opposed to gifts or toys and Christmas is always a fun time for our relatives, particularly our parents, to gift things to our kids. I’ve previously blogged about how we usually ask for things like non-toy gifts and experiences or toys with a greater purpose (looking for toys that either support a small business, are made in the USA, are sustainable, use proceeds to support a cause we believe in, etc). These types of gifts do sometimes cost more, which means our children might get fewer gifts, but that is okay with us. We’d rather have fewer things that are meaningful than a bunch of stuff just for the sake of more. Do our kids still get toys and gifts outside these lists? Of course. I’m not going to stress myself or my relatives out with being too vigilant about this. It stops being fun when we try too hard – we just do the best we can.

Borrow (and return!) Toys. I am a big fan of swapping toys and baby gear with friends. There are so many things that your child only uses for a short window of time, so instead of cluttering up your house or filling up your storage spaces, see if anyone you know could make use of something. Remember that musical lion walker from earlier? That belongs to a friend of ours. Our kids are alternating ages, so when their oldest was done with it, we borrowed it for LJ. Then we gave it back when LJ was done so their second child could use it. Then when their second outgrew it, we borrowed it again for Vi. We used this same system for their rock n play, and we’ve borrowed a few other things over the years like a musical activity center and the beaded maze toy you see below.

We’ve also lent things like our baby swing, bassinet, and slumberpod out to friends and family as well. Toy and baby gear sharing is such an awesome way to save money, space, and sanity! You’re not only not spending a ton of money on ALL this stuff that will likely only get used for a short period of time; it’s also more sustainable and helps keep your homes less cluttered because you’re not storing a bunch of unused stuff in the interim between children. Win, win, win!

And on the topic of borrowing toys, I also “gifted” LJ three library books for Christmas last year. I chose three I knew he’s love, we read them a ton in our three week loan window, and then returned them. He had gotten enjoyment out of them and it didn’t result in permanent clutter. Score!

Purge Regularly. Even with borrowing toys and being intentional with gifts, we still accumulate more over time, so it’s important to regularly check in and assess what you have to make sure it’s manageable. At the end of the day, I like to be able to clean up ALL the toys and restore order to the playroom (and all the other rooms toys have migrated to) in under five minutes. Now, if every toy – every single block, train, ball, book, etc. – was taken out of its storage container and was strewn about multiple rooms around the house, it would definitely take me longer than five minutes to clean up. That’s okay though because that situation is rare; normally, not every toy gets played with every day. I want the average, everyday toy mess to be manageable and for me, that means able to be cleaned up in five minutes or less.

Anything that is broken or damaged gets fixed or removed. I also remove things that don’t get played with. Sometimes this is hard. Sometimes it’s a toy that you spent a decent amount of money on or it’s something that you think is adorable and wish your child wanted to play with or it’s a gift someone else gave. Ultimately though, if your child never plays with it, it’s just taking up space and there is likely another child out there who would love to actually play with it. If it’s been several months since it’s been chosen to play with, it’s time to find a new home. I just collect and donate these items to a local charity. I do keep a small amount of baby toys, but I really try not to keep too much because honestly, babies typically prefer to play with the toddler stuff anyways.

When I see something that fits in one of the above categories, I usually take it out then and there. But sometimes, I need to sit down and spend time just going through what we have and taking out things we don’t use. By doing this regularly, it keeps things super manageable and keeps it from getting too overwhelming.

Lately I had been feeling like our playroom was a little too much to handle. It was starting to take longer to clean up, and even when it was all cleaned up it still felt cluttered. So I spent about 15 minutes going through the room – we returned the toys we had borrowed from friends, I took down the pack n play from one corner (I used to corral Vi in there), and I took out the toys that the kids don’t play with. I also took out this plant because seriously…what was I thinking? Oy vey.

Our playroom now feels fresh and spacious again and we still have plenty of toys to play with. In this case, less really does feel like more! More space, more time not spent cleaning, more time spent playing because we’re not overwhelmed with too many choices. ❤

What tips and tricks do you have for keeping your playroom manageable?

August 2020 Book Reviews

It’s the last day of the month and that can only mean one thing: it’s book review day!

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This month I read six books and while there were a few I didn’t totally love, I enjoyed all six for different reasons. I’ve got some nonfiction memoirs, a long historical fiction saga, two rom coms (coincidentally both with protagonists working in the same industries), and a murder mystery whodunit. It was a fun mix of genres and topics and I’m excited to dive in!

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

A glamorous wedding on an obscure island off the coast of Ireland brings together a unique mix of people, including the bride, the plus-one, the bridesmaid, the wedding planner, and the best man. As the wedding festivities unfold, tensions rise and hidden secrets come to light. This alternating perspective whodunit was suspenseful and eerie without being creepy and I could not put it down! The thing about a book like this is that you know from the very beginning (even before you crack open the book, as the back cover mentions it) that a murder happens. But obviously, the author doesn’t want to give too much away too soon. So for the first third of the book, very little is revealed and each chapter ends with a bit of a cliffhanger/allusion to something but you don’t quite know what. It can be a little maddening, but it does make for a binge-worthy read. I just wanted to keep going to finally get a little breadcrumb of a clue. I did guess a few of the twists, some even pretty early on, but there were still some OH DANG moments for me as everything started to come to light. I felt very invested and I had to know who did the murderer was! The thing holding me back from this going on my all-star list is that I wasn’t altogether satisfied by the ending. I appreciated how most of it wrapped up, but there were a few things I wish had been a bit different. There needed to be one more chapter and a touch more resolution, but there are likely many readers who think the ending is perfect. Either way, I’d recommend this as a good binge-y whodunit!

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

But simply punishing the broken – walking away from them or hiding them from sight – only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity. (p. 290)

Whenever things got really bad, and they were questioning the value of their lives, I would remind them that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I told them that if someone tells a lie, that person is not just a liar. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you are not just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer. . . there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us. (p. 290)

Oh my. I have a hard time even putting this book into words. I had known that our criminal justice system has its issues, but this book really opened my eyes to a lot of the realities of its flaws and the many ways in which “justice” has ultimately failed so many people, particularly people of color and/or the poor. This nonfiction book tells the story of Bryan Stevenson’s life working as a lawyer representing those who are often overlooked by our criminal justice system: the poor, the wrongly accused, and those condemned on death row. A lot of the story focuses on one man in particular: Walter McMillan, who is on death row for a murder he is adamant that he did not commit. While Stevenson works to build a case for Walter, we also read many other stories of people who were sentenced for life for crimes committed as juveniles, people who are imprisoned after having virtually no good representation in their trial, or black people who were purposefully given all-white juries for their trials. It was truly heartbreaking to read the many times you think justice will prevail . . . and it doesn’t. Not every story has a happy ending. Not every wrong is made right. There is so much hurt, so much suffering, and so much that just doesn’t make sense. There were times it was really difficult to read. But there were also stories that gave me hope. There were triumphs and there were moments that restore your faith in humanity. It can be overwhelming to realize there is so much work to still be done, but ultimately this book left me feeling passionate and hopeful.  While this is by no means an easy read, I think it is such an important read and absolutely recommend it!

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

I think it’s okay every now and again to reflect on that time. Get down the box from the top shelf of the emotional closet and marvel at the things that used to mean so much. The keepsakes of our mistakes, the souvenirs of lost years. But know when to start making new memories with people who deserve the you that you are now. (p. 326)

I would never have claimed to be a big Jessica Simpson fan (although I love love love her show collection haha), but she was obviously a big part of pop culture in the 90’s and early 2000’s and I feel like I’ve grown up with her somewhat. I actually really enjoyed this memoir! It brought back a lot of nostalgia, and it was fun to read about things like the people she met trying out for the Mickey Mouse Club and her rise to fame with her music and Newlyweds . I was also fascinated to read all the things that were really going on beyond the things shown in magazines or on MTV; as always, there is more to the story than what meets the eye. While reading, I kept taking breaks to look up things on the internet – everything from her music videos to Newlywed clips or pictures she’s referencing. Jessica doesn’t shy away from the darker moments in her past and she opens up about abuse she’s suffered and unhealthy relationships she’s been in. While she does call out people (I wouldn’t want to be John Mayer’s publicist after this book came out), she also talks about the things she herself has done that she regrets and the mistakes she’s made. This book was fun, intriguing, vulnerable, and engrossing. I really enjoyed it and would recommend, even if you’re not really a Jessica Simpson fan.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

January and Gus are former college classmates turned bestselling authors who find themselves as neighbors in a small town in Michigan where they both are suffering from a bit of writer’s block. Though they aren’t exactly what you would call friends, they make a bet – write a book in the other person’s genre and see who can sell their book first. Through mini boot-camp trainings to educate one another on their genres, they get to know one another better and start to realize maybe they have more in common than a shared passion for writing.

I think my beef with this book is that the cover and the title feel misleading. Technically there is a beach, and there is a lot of reading involved, but the cover gives off a vibe that is not really at all what the book actually reads like. That aside, I thought the actual premise was cute and enjoyed this read. It took me a while to warm up to January but I loved broody and vulnerable Gus. I liked that the book dug into some meatier topics like marital affairs, abuse, rejection, life in a cult (see what I mean by the cover is misleading!?) and wasn’t just a feel-good, surface-level rom com. There were some parts of the story line that didn’t really interest me, but overall it was a nice enough light read to break up the heavier topics in the other books I read this month. I’d recommend it with the caveat that it falls pretty middle of the road for me – enjoyable, but not a standout.

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

I previously read Lilac Girls from this author and loved it, so I was excited to see this prequel to the book following the perspectives of three women, American socialite Eliza, Russian heiress Sofya, and Russian peasant Varinka as their lives intertwine around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. However, I’m finding this book review a little hard to write. I recognize that this is a a good book, but I’m not actually sure if I enjoyed it. Does that even make sense?

First of all, it’s over 400 pages and I just don’t think it needed to be that long. So many words, but really…did that much stuff happen? No. Secondly, I like having someone to root for but there were no clear heros. I had empathy for Sofya and the plight of the White Russians, but it was also frustrating to see their tremendous sense of entitlement and how little regard they had for the peasants’ suffering. I also had empathy for Varinka and all her suffering as a peasant, but she also did some pretty crappy things once she gained even a slight amount of power. And then Eliza’s story provided some American perspective, but her “America” seemed a little entitled and out of touch and her story felt superfluous to me. I think the book just needed less of her. All that being said, I also didn’t hate it. Ha!  Though it takes place during WWI it focuses more on what was specifically happening in Russia which I thought was interesting and I was invested in finding out the outcome for each woman (mostly Sofya and Varinka). I recognize that the author has written complex characters with vulnerabilities, redeeming qualities, and deep flaws. Overall, this falls in the mid-range for me. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, unsure if I’d recommend. If character-driven historical fiction is your thing, maybe give it a shot?

Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

Dating You / Hating You by [Christina Lauren]

Evie and Carter meet up at a mutual friend’s party and the chemistry is instant. They’re both Hollywood agents and don’t typical date those in the industry, but in this case, it seems worth a try. That is until they show up to work one day and realize their companies have merged and they’re now vying for the same position. What was once a potential budding relationship is now filled with competition, zany attempts at sabotage, and maybe a little bit of that initial chemistry too? I read this book on my Kindle in about a day. It’s an easy read: it’s got some silliness, it’s got some steaminess, it’s got a fun cast of main and supporting characters. It’s got an interesting setting of the behind-the-scenes world of Hollywood. It kind of reminded me of movies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days; even though the plot lines are really different, the general chemistry + sabotage + chemistry dynamic was similar. Overall, I enjoyed this as a nice light read to round out the month.

I’m really excited about a few of the books I have lined up for September so hopefully I’ll have some more great reviews to report next month! What books are you excited to read?

Going for BOLD in the Kids’ Bathroom

The kids’ bathroom got a little makeover recently and I am loving its new bold, fun look!

A Moody Bathroom Renovation

When we first moved in, there were glass shower doors on the tub, which we quickly removed and replaced with a shower curtain so we’d have an easier time bathing the kids. Other than that very small update, we hadn’t put any time and attention into this space since we moved in. Here’s what it looked like before:

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This project came on a whim. When I did my $0 bathroom makeover, I shopped my house and took the mirror from the kids’ bathroom. My intention was to just swap in another mirror, but when I took the original one down, I discovered a huge hole behind it! The new mirror I planned to put up was not the right size and shape to cover it so I asked Justin to just patch the hole and we’d just live with the patch job for a while.

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Justin came in with patching plaster and started to look around at all the walls in the bathroom. He commented they were all in rough shape – lots and lots of nicks, dings, holes, etc. His parents were visiting so we decided he should just patch all the walls and we’d quick paint the room since we had help with the kids. Well, one thing led to another and before we knew it, we decided to just update the entire room!

The kids’ bathroom is windowless and small, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try out a bold paint color. We already had the botanical shower curtain from years ago so I used that as a starting point for finding the right color. I chose Sherwin Williams Cordial in Eggshell and painted the walls, ceilings, trim, and door. Justin was pretty skeptical about my painting the ceiling but it was a fun step away from convention and I love how it turned out! The color is moody and deep and just so dreamy.

A Moody Bathroom for Kids

The previous owners had left the black over-the-toilet storage shelf. While we’ve appreciated having the extra storage since the vanity is only 20 inches, the shelf was not very stable and could easily be knocked over by one of our kids. We decided to remove it and come up with a different storage solution.

Remember way back when we remodeled our guest bathroom? There was a half wall with a long board on top that we had to replace when we added trim to the wall. The original board has been in our garage ever since and we decided to use it here to make a couple new shelves. Justin planed the board down to size, sanded off all the previous stain, and put a few layers of clear polyurethane on top to seal it. We got these brackets and attached the boards to them and voila – two gorgeous shelves!

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I love that they are simple and modern and the light wood contrasts nicely with the dark paint color. I wanted the shelves to be both beautiful and functional so I shopped my home for picture frames and decor and found a few pretty storage solutions for keeping the practical items we reach for often.

We also swapped out the light fixture for this modern brass sconce and it made a huge difference! The mirror was a last minute decision – I planned to use an oval mirror to break up all the lines of the sconce and shelves. Once the oval mirror was up though it just did not feel right at all. This rectangular mirror with rounded edges provided the perfect balance of lines and curves!

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There used to be a very small towel bar to the right of the shower, but it felt much more practical to install a few hooks to hang multiple towels instead of just one. I chose three gold bath hooks – both because three felt right for the space and also because I’m subtly hinting to Justin that we should have another baby 😉 😉 😉

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LJ saw me scrolling through options for artwork above the hooks and he got really excited about this butterfly, so it felt like the perfect print to choose. I love online print shops – you buy your print, the file gets emailed to you, then you can print it off wherever you want! It allows me to have a nice variety of quality prints without spending a ton of money.

I’m so happy with how this bathroom turned out! I wanted something that felt appropriate for a children’s bathroom without screaming “I AM A CHILD’S BATHROOM” if that makes sense. Now it feels fun and unique and just right for kids while still fitting the style of the rest of our house. I love it!

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Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Cordial in Eggshell

Wall Sconce

Mirror

Black Shelf Brackets

Gold Bath Towel Hooks

Black Frame

Black and White Butterfly Print

Hand Towel

Black Wire Storage Basket

 

 

Vi is ONE!

Yesterday, my sweet little Vi turned one year old. I can still remember meeting her so vividly – Justin saying “It’s a girl!” and her little body being laid on my chest. It doesn’t seem that long ago and yet, it is so hard to remember what our life was like without her. She was meant to be in our family!

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Since we already had her birthday party two weeks ago, we kept yesterday extremely low key. We opened a few cards that her grandparents and great grandparents had sent and I bought a few cupcakes so we could enjoy a special birthday treat. We sang “Happy Birthday,” LJ helped her blow out the candle, and then we all laughed as she fisted the entire cupcake into her mouth haha!

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Watching my kids turn another year older is always a bittersweet day for me. On the one hand, I’m so thankful for their growth, health, and life. It is such a joy and honor to get a front row seat to their lives and it truly is a celebration.

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On the other hand, birthdays are also a reminder that my baby will never be this little again. I love each stage of their lives and it’s always just a little sad to say goodbye to one stage, even though it’s exciting to welcome in another!

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For Vi, the baby year has been quite a ride. As a newborn, she gave us a run for our money: cluster-feeding, never sleeping more than 45-60 minutes at a time, and she did not like to be put down. The first few weeks were very challenging, and it took us about a month to hit our stride.

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Ever since then, Vi has been a mostly chill baby. She has a very mild temperament and is generally in a happy mood. The only time she gets fussy is when she is tired or when she wants mama. She is a huge mama’s girl and always wants to be held by me. She’s okay with other people as long as I’m not there, but if I’m in her sight or she hears me in another room, she immediately cries for me. It makes it a little hard to get things done around her, but it also makes for a lot of sweet snuggles!

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I think part of the reason Vi is mostly easy going is because she has a rough and tumble big brother entertaining her from the moment she came home. When she was an itty baby, he loved to hold her and kiss her. Now that she’s older, he’s giving her full body bear hugs and playing with/next to/sometimes ON her. We have to remind him a lot to be gentle with her but she takes it all in stride. She loves to be included in whatever he’ll let her play with and no one can make her laugh as much as he can – it’s fun to see their bond develop!

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Vi is very curious and super active. She loves to be held so she can be in on whatever is happening with people, but if she’s down on the ground, she’s constantly exploring. She loves to climb stairs, open doors and drawers, and get into whatever she can find. Remotes are especially captivating to her and I have to remove all the batteries before she gets ahold of them or she’ll keep changing channels on us. She is very close to walking and scoots along walls or the couch to move around and get where she wants to go. She keeps me on my toes for sure; I never know what she’ll try to get into!

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She also LOVES to eat. She will eat anything we put in front of her – hot, cold, spicy,  veggies, fish, new textures . . . she is not picky at all and usually ends up eating close to an adult size portion of food. She also loves swinging at the park, stroller rides, and crawling into our bathroom vanity cabinets haha. She loves splashing in the bathtub, playing in the water table, swimming, even just washing her hands under the faucet – she loves water!

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I wasn’t sure how quarantine would affect her relationships with people. From the time she was six months old to like ten months old, she almost never left the house or saw anyone other than her immediate family. But now that we are seeing family and some friends again, she is bubbly and friendly and interactive with others. She absolutely LIGHTS UP when Justin comes home each day and she adores her grandparents as well. She is a people person for sure and has such a joyful, smiley personality.

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Happy Birthday my sweet V! You are so precious to us and we are so glad to celebrate one full year with you!

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Shopping My Home

It feels like with all my little room renovations lately, I’ve been shopping my home a lot. It’s one of my favorite ways to finish off a space and today I thought it’d be fun to talk about some of the ways I’ve shopped my home over the past year.

Shopping Your Home for Decor

When I shop my home, I mean just that: instead of going to a store to buy something new, I walk around my house and look at what I already have. It’s more than rearranging; it’s intentionally trying to see the items I own in a fresh new way.

For example, when we lived at our last house, I bought a pineapple picture (for several reasons, pineapples are special to me) to go above a small cabinet in our living room. It hung here for a few years and I loved both items styled this way – you can see it in the right corner of this picture from our previous listing.

When we moved to our new house, we placed this cabinet at the top of our stairs and I just did the same thing I had always done and kept the same picture above it. It started to feel like a bit of a rut. When you get so used to seeing things, it kind of makes them disappear. This pineapple picture used to make me smile but  now I barely noticed it because it was always there. Does that make sense?

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When it came to finishing the basement kitchen, I wanted to created an sort of gallery-wall looking stacked art ledge. There was a lot of blank space to work with, and I knew I needed at least one large piece for the scale to feel right. I looked around my house and grabbed the pineapple print just to check the size and low and behold – I loved it there! Although I’ve had it for years, it feels totally fresh and new seeing it in a different spot. It works so perfectly in this space and I would have never known if I hadn’t shopped my house. Once again, it makes me happy every time I see it!

$1500 Kitchen Renovation!

And speaking of the basement kitchen, when it came time to decorate, instead of buying all new things, I shopped my house for some functional decor items. One of my favorite little areas is where I now keep this wooden cutting board that Justin and I bought on our trip to Italy. I also pulled out a marble rolling pin that I got several years ago and use to make pie crust (you can stick it in the freezer so it gets really cold and helps the crust stay cool). It had just been stored in a cabinet but when I saw it while shopping my house, it felt like a great opportunity to put it on display. Both were practical things I had already and they feel extra special now.

$1500 Kitchen Renovation!

Shopping your house not only works for decor but can also work for furniture. In our last house, we had a small foyer area by our stairs. I bought a narrow table to use in that space and it worked really well as a little entryway console.

When we renovated our guest room, the layout of the room provided some challenges. We could not fit a dresser but I at least wanted a small vanity area for guests to sit and get ready.  I looked into buying a narrow vanity but decided to shop my own house first and see if there was anything I could possibly use in the meantime. I saw this console table and thought…hmmm. Maybe? I took it down to the guest room and oh my gosh – it is JUST what I needed for the space! No need to buy a thing.

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I would never have thought to use an entryway console table as a vanity, but it works!

When it came to my $0 bathroom makeover, I shopped my home to find hardware AND a mirror to swap from one bathroom to another. I spray painted the mirror gold and the handles matte black and all of the sudden they feel new and lux in this space.

A $0 Bathroom Makeover
Vanity hardware from our half bathroom, mirror from our kids’ bathroom.

Another area where I’m constantly shopping my house is with artwork. A unique postcard that a friend sent me on her trip to Switzerland years ago is now on display in our guest room.

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A precious recipe written by my great-great grandmother (and namesake!) that was previously in storage is now a very meaningful piece of artwork in my basement kitchen.

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A little fox that my sister drew as a handmade card with her baby shower gift when I was pregnant with LJ is now a fun little part of our playroom’s gallery wall.

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Random scribbles that LJ drew one day became an “abstract” piece of art in Vi’s bedroom when I couldn’t find the right piece to finish her gallery wall.

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Shopping your home saves money (free decor!) and can give new life to old items, whether they’re repurposed for a totally new use, given a minor face lift to modernize, or simply brought out of storage and put on display. The next time you’re looking for a piece to go somewhere in your house, before you head to the store, try walking around your house first. Open cabinets, look through drawers, analyze existing decor in other rooms. Take a critical look at what you already have – you might just find that you already have the perfect something!

Vi’s Sweet and Simple First Birthday Party

Yesterday was a special day in our house because we celebrated our baby girl’s FIRST birthday! Where did this year go!?

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Even though her birthday isn’t until the 23rd, we decided to have her party two weeks early because Justin’s parents are in town visiting and this way they could be part of it. We kept things family only – just both sets of our parents, my grandparents, and two of my siblings and their spouses who live close enough to come out for the afternoon.

We keep first birthdays really simple around here. Our personal philosophy is that it doesn’t make sense for us to spend a lot of effort, time, and money on a party for someone who honestly doesn’t know it’s their birthday or what is even going on. If you love throwing a big birthday bash for your one-year-old, that is awesome and I support you! It’s just not our thing. We really believe you can have a meaningful, special celebration while keeping things pretty streamlined and simplified, and this party was just that!

I kept invitations super easy with a free evite that got emailed out to our families with all the party details.

Evite Invitation

Instead of trying to throw together a whole meal, I decided on serving a variety of appetizers and desserts. I put together a large charcuterie board with meat, cheese, and fruit, some raw veggies and hummus, and tortilla chips with our family’s favorite dip.

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For dessert, I bought a small 4 inch cake for Vi’s smash cake and I ordered cookies from my friend – she runs a small cookie business out of her home and does an amazing job! I pretty much gave her free reign on what to do since we didn’t have a theme or anything and she designed this amazing cookie tile platter based on Vi’s outfit in a photo I had posted (how creative is that!?) They turned out so amazing and were such a special touch!

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We also had a simple ice cream bar with vanilla ice cream and a variety of toppings for people to enjoy.

Decorations were sweet and simple and made up entirely of things I already had on hand, like this letterboard with a poem I made up for the food table.

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I had made pink tassel garlands our of tissue paper several years ago for a Valentine’s party and have gotten so much use out of them  ever since – bachelorette parties, baby showers, and now, my girl’s first birthday!

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In addition to the food table, I had to give her high chair a little something special too. 😉

First BIrthday Party

The last element of parties is typically gifts. We personally prefer to not have gifts during our children’s first birthday. We are fairly minimal people and don’t want to accumulate a ton of toys just for the sake of gift giving, not to mention at this age our kids are just as happy playing with a cardboard box or a plastic cup haha! In my experience, just saying “no gifts, please” doesn’t always work. It can feel uncomfortable to show up to a birthday party empty handed, which is understandable. But then some people still bring gifts and some don’t…and that can be awkward for everyone. So what we do instead is include on the invitations an option for people to give a donation in lieu of gifts if they want. For LJ’s first birthday, we asked for book donations for a local organization that distributes them to hospitalized children in our area (LJ got three books when he was in the NICU). For Vi’s first birthday, we chose a ministry at our church that distributes basic essentials to local families in need. Through this pandemic, there have been many families financially struggling and we felt this was one tangible way we could help. Those who still wanted to bring a gift were very happy to be able to bring donations in Vi’s honor.

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The highlight of the party was Vi getting to dig into her little cake. She didn’t hesitate to get into that frosting  ! We did not let her eat the whole thing but she really enjoyed it while she could. 😉

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That last picture was right before we took away the cake – once it was getting in her hair we figured she’d had enough haha!

We had so much fun enjoying the beautiful weather outside and hanging out with our families. We ate delicious food, we played cornhole, we talked, we laughed, we had a great time celebrating our little girl!

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I cannot believe my baby girl is almost one! She is such a joy and I’m so glad we could have a special day celebrating her life!

Our “New” Dining Table + Chairs!

Justin and I have always envisioned our basement as a space for guests and entertaining. We’ve been slowly addressing various areas of the basement (like our guest bedroom and bathroom, living area, kitchen, and entryway) but the space in between the living space and the kitchen has been neglected . . . until now! We’ve both been putting in work to create a dining area for food + game nights and it’s finally finished!

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As a refresher, up until a few weeks ago, it looked like this:

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I still cringe looking at this combination workout + collection area for things to sell/donate right in the middle of the basement. It was time for a change!

Justin actually made the table entirely out of old scrap wood that the previous owners of our home left behind when they moved out. He worked so hard on it and I’m so impressed – not only is it gorgeous and full of character but it perfectly fits our needs. I was able to give him the exact dimensions I wanted: large enough for 6-8 people to sit comfortably and linger over good food or a game night.  It’s perfect!

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The chairs were an absolute steal. I had been scouring websites for inexpensive dining chairs but I just couldn’t find anything under $60 per chair that fit our needs (not a barstool or folding chair) and I was not about to spend $300-400 on six chairs for a free table. I started browsing Facebook marketplace and one day I came across these chairs being sold for $2 a chair and I jumped on them! They obviously needed some TLC but I loved their size and shape and knew with a little work they could shine.

Chairs

My preference would have been to reupholster them, and we could have reupholstered the seats no problem, but the backs were attached in a more complicated way that would have been really difficult to reupholster well. So I started looking at other options and discovered a fabric and vinyl spray paint that I decided to give a try. The nice thing about $2 chairs is that it makes you willing to try a few things that you maybe wouldn’t risk on a more expensive piece.

Chairs w Painted Upholstery

The fabric and vinyl spray paint worked…okay. It took 3 light coats to cover the fabric, and while it’s not perfect, it does look a lot better. I actually think the black over the old striped and floral print makes it look like a cool Victorian-y fabric now. But the spray paint did cause the fabric to have a scratchier feel, which is not ideal. I think I will eventually get some thin black seat covers to help improve the feel of the seat (even if the fabric wasn’t scratchy, I would want to do this because there is very little cushion in the seat’s upholstery and they’re not super comfortable to sit in for a long time).

Chairs with Table

After spray painting the seats, I decided I needed to also paint the wood black. I actually really liked the look of dark upholstery and lighter stain, but I did not like it for this particular space. It just didn’t work with all the other wood tones of the table, half wall ledge, and other wood tones throughout the open concept basement. I tried out two different methods for changing the wood look: spray paint and Polyshades. Polyshades is a product I hadn’t heard of before, but it’s essentially a stain that you can apply over another stain to achieve a different look without having to sand off all the previous stain. I tested both on an inconspicuous part of the chair and found that spray paint’s coverage was much better. Polyshades would be an excellent candidate over raw wood or stained wood that isn’t glossy, but these chairs were glossy and it just didn’t look that great. I could have sanded the chairs down to remove all the gloss, but since every surface of the chairs was rounded, it just felt like a lot of work ha. I’m all about keeping things simple!

I lightly sanded each chair with a piece of sandpaper, taped off the fabric seats, and then applied black spray paint in a satin finish using repetitive light strokes. It took just about 3 full cans of spray paint to cover all six chairs.  Then all I needed to do was wait for them to dry and bring them inside!

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The chairs are definitely not perfect, but I think they work really well in this space and I love their look. And the total cost for this project was under $50, meaning this set of 6 chairs cost less than just one brand new chair in all the places I was looking beforehand. Win win!

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I finished out this little dining area by shopping my home for decor, although I did buy one new thing for it: that gorgeous arched mirror in the corner. It was another Facebook marketplace find – a brand new (still in the original packaging!) Project 62 arched black mirror for $30?? Definite score.

Overall I’m so happy with this space and how it makes the room flow from the lounge area to the dining space to the kitchen. It feels just right!

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Repose Gray

Chairs: $2 x 6 = $12

Fabric and Vinyl Spray Paint: $18.60 (total for 3 cans)

Black Spray Paint: $19.20 (total for 3 cans)

Total cost of chair project: $49.80