June 2022 Book Review

Good morning and Happy July!

Our June was absolutely nuts around here. For one thing, we went on two different vacations: eight days in Virginia Beach with Justin’s family and then six days in Maryland with some friends. That’s 14 days of being on vacation (with kids!) AND roughly thirty-eight hours in the car total on the road trips. That’s right. THIRTY. EIGHT. HOURS. In a car. With two small children and a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy. I honestly don’t know what we were thinking haha, but suffice to say we made lots of memories!

We’re thankful that we had the ability to get some traveling in, but traveling with kids is basically just parenting in a different location. While each trip was fun, neither was what I would call particularly relaxing and I had virtually no time for reading. When we were home, I was either packing, unpacking, repacking, or going about our normal days of cleaning/laundry/playground days/home projects/etc. It was such a full month that I was only able to get through one book, but it was one I have a lot of thoughts about!

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali

Teenaged Roya is growing up in Tehran, Iran in the 1950s amidst quite a bit of political turmoil – there are people passionately loyal to the Shah, those who think Russia and the communists have the right idea, and those who are striving for democracy and have hopes pinned on their prime minister. An encounter in her beloved stationary shop introduces Roya to Bahman, a young man with a yearning for justice and democracy, and it isn’t long before they fall deeply in love. But certain forces are at work to keep them apart, and on the date they are supposed to get married, violence erupts – a violence that will change their country, and their lives, forever.

This was historical fiction like I’ve never read before. Prior to this book, I knew next to nothing about the Iranian Coup. While these characters were fictional, many of the events talked about really did happen and it was eye-opening for sure. I will say, Roya and Bahman are characters you want to root for, and it’s such a mixture of feelings to see how their lives play out. The book started out a little slow but picked up as I went along. While there are some lighthearted, enjoyable parts, overall this book is a sweeping read through the decades and covers some heavier moments – while it’s hard to use words like “enjoyed” when I think about my feelings, it is powerfully written and poignant and I can almost promise you’ll have thoughts afterwards. We read this for my book club and there was no shortage of discussion! It’s got romance, it’s got some mystery, it’s got some tragedy, it’s got some hope, and it’s got a lot of references to Iranian people, places, foods, and events. If you enjoy historical fiction about lesser-known events in world history (I don’t think anyone in my book club knew much, if anything, about this history in Iran and how the United States was involved as well), I think this is a great choice!

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Now I’m curious – do you find you read more or less during the summer months? I would normally say more, but this year is definitely much less. Our July is hopefully going to be much calmer – we’re staying home and hosting quite a bit, but I think there will be much more room for reading in my life in the coming weeks. I’m excited to get back into my reading stack!

Celebrating Nine Years of Marriage

Today is Justin and my 9th anniversary – nine years ago from this very moment we went out to eat breakfast together just us two before all the craziness of the wedding day set in. It’s one of my favorite memories from that day – just a simple breakfast full of anticipation and excitement with the man I loved with all my heart. He’s still my favorite person and I’d marry him over and over again!

Today we’re out of town, so I thought for today’s blog post in honor of our anniversary, I’d just share nine fun little facts about us.

1- We met playing cards and still love games to this day!

Justin and I had some mutual friends and had known about each other and been at events together previously, but we first really got to know one another when some mutual friends needed an extra player for a card game and invited me over. We had a blast and quickly became good friends – and to this day we love game nights!

2 – We’re not big concert-goers, but we have seen Eric Church three times

We have a mutual love of Eric Church and have been to three concerts of his over the years – once when we were still just friends, once when we were engaged, and once after we were married. I’m sure they won’t be the only three times either – he’s our favorite performer! And for the concert above, Justin even rocked a mullet ha!

3 – We’ve lived in three different states together.

We didn’t actually live together in Virginia, but that’s where we met and both lived in our first year of dating. After we got married, we lived in West Virginia for Justin to go to school and after he graduated, we moved to Indiana for his job. We’ve loved each place we’ve lived and they’ll all have a special piece of our heart.

4 – We’ve been DIYing, separately and together, for years!

When we first got married, Justin was in school and I was teaching and our budget was slim. Our DIY journey started more out of necessity for inexpensive furniture and things for our house and quickly became a passion for both of us! Justin still loves woodworking and his skills have increased over the years (he most recently built a beautiful table for my parents!) and I enjoy finding ways to get the look I want for a low cost as we slowly renovate our house. We’ve enjoyed getting to flex these creative muscles over the past nine years and it’s always fun to have DIY Date Night too!

5 – We love finding hobbies to do together

Over the years, our hobbies have changed, but we love to find things we can do together. When we were just friends and then first dating, we loved to play frisbee golf together and went to our local courses often. When we were engaged and living long distance, we got really into geocaching – it was a great (and free!) way to explore new places and work together to find treasure. Now as we’re married with kids and not able to leave the house as much, we love playing games and doing puzzles after the kids go to bed. We definitely have our own hobbies and interests, but I’m so glad we’re able to find things we both love to do together too.

6 – We have very different auditory needs.

We were actually just talking about this yesterday – Justin and I are very different in the level of noise we can handle. I often feel very overstimulated by noise levels – the kids playing/yelling/asking for things, dogs barking, TV on, etc. When I can choose what to listen to, I often choose…nothing. I love the sound of silence. Even before having children, I would drive two hours in my car in dead silence, just thinking. Meanwhile, Justin loves to listen to music. He’s up early making breakfast? Music is on. He’s out in his shop working on a project? Music is on. Mowing grass? Music is on. Doing work on his computer? Music is on. Meanwhile, I find music to sometimes be distracting when I’m trying to work and often can’t have it on if I need to focus. I do enjoy podcasts, but I don’t always need to have something to listen to. It’s just one of the many ways we have different needs and we try to find a balance that satisfies us both, especially when we’re in the car on a long road trip!

7 – We’ve traveled to four countries together

We’ve been to five countries (Canada, Mexico, Italy, Bahamas, and Jamaica) and at least 19 states together – we love to travel! We’re excited to get to start traveling again once baby #3 gets here.

8 – We do not really enjoy going to the movies

This one is so random, but we have had multiple gift cards to the movie theater just sitting in my wallet for years – we never seem to want to use them! Many of my family members love to do movie nights as date nights but that’s just never been out thing. We prefer doing something together or just staying home and watching old episodes of New Girl again haha.

9 – We got engaged on a hike.

One of our first dates was a huge, 8 hour hike on a gorgeous mountain in Virginia and Justin took me back there to propose. He lugged flowers, candlesticks, a blanket, and a full picnic to the top of that mountain – I just thought he had snacks and water ha! It was such a sweet moment!

I love you Justin – here’s to many more years together!

New Carpet in Kids’ Bedrooms

Last Wednesday, we had carpet installed in both the nursery and LJ and Vi’s shared room and I absolutely love it!

I went into carpet shopping with a pretty specific idea in mind of what I wanted: a warm greige color in a lower pile that still felt soft and had a subtle hint of pattern. I found a Stainmaster style called SOS Shore Line and it seemed perfect except for one small issue . . . there were no samples available to take home and see in my own space. I tentatively made the decision in my head, but came back another day with a baseboard sample to try and envision if the tones of the colors work together (I know paint colors can absolutely change, but I tend to like muted, mid-tone warm colors for bedrooms so this strategy at least gave me a little help with the vision). I settled on the color Shoreline and placed the order. It took about a month between placing the order and getting the call from installation services to set up an install date.

Last week I shared a list of the things I hoped to accomplish before the carpet got installed and I’m happy to report that I finished everything just in time! I was able to touch up all the walls and finish painting the ceilings so everything feels extra fresh.

I definitely breathed a big sigh of relief after seeing the carpet in the space because I do think the color works really well in both rooms. I love the subtle linear pattern – it’s just enough for a bit of visual interest but not too much to be distracting. The pile is low enough that we can add a rug on top if we want, but the carpet is soft enough that it’s not necessary to do that unless we want to for aesthetic reasons. The true test of softness happened when the kids got to check it out – they both give it two thumbs up!

It’s truly amazing to me what a difference a change in carpet makes. The old carpet was 20+ years old and had been well-used over the years; we know stains and wear and tear come with just living in a space and that’s totally okay, but it was definitely time for a replacement. It feels like a fresh start for both rooms and feels so good to walk into a room that we’ve been able to address top to bottom!

Next on my list is replacing the baseboards in each room with a thicker version, and then I just have a few more finishing touches in each room before calling them good for now. At this point, my deadline for these rooms is August 10 – baby’s due date – but I’d love to wrap them both up in the next couple of weeks.

Plans to Refresh our Outdoor Space

Justin and I have always loved to entertain, and having a home that worked for hosting friends and family was a big priority for us when we were house shopping. A big part of the reason we fell in love with our current home was the large entertaining space in our basement, which leads to a walk-out patio and pond – our main hangout spot in the summer! It’s been so fun to host friends and family all throughout the year, but we especially love the warm weather months and taking advantage of our outdoor space.

This year, we’ve been slow to get our patio set up but this weekend we finally have some time and I’m itching to start getting things set up. In the past, we’ve just set up a patio table and chairs (which we snagged off Craigslist six years ago) and a small sectional. There is also a small wooden deck down by the pond where we have two lounge chairs next to the sandy beach area. We have plans for a full revamp of our outdoor space in the future, but for this year we’re focused on small, manageable steps to refresh things and make it feel a little more special.

I think it’s important to note that we don’t subscribe to the notion that things have to be perfect to host. We’ve had countless gatherings at our house prior to this – things haven’t looked perfect and our patio hasn’t been 100% the way we’ve wanted but we still invited people over and made some amazing memories. We even just had people over last night despite the fact that our sectional is still not even set up. While we’re excited to make some changes to the space, we’ve also enjoyed this area every step along the way!

That being said, here are some things we hope to do as soon as possible:

Add sand to beach area

Our beach area was looking pretty washed out, so Justin already spent a Saturday getting a couple truckloads of new sand for the beach area.

We were both impressed with how much that improved both the feel of the beach and our kids’ overall enjoyment of it. We also didn’t realize how inexpensive sand is, particularly if you are willing to pick it up and haul it yourself. We’re likely going to get another truckload or two to add a bit more to the beach and the shallowest end of the pond.

DIY an Umbrella Stand for the Deck

There’s a small wooden deck right next to the beach where we have two lounge chairs. There are a few warped boards on the edge I’d like to fix if we can, and I’d also like to add some shade.

I don’t want a permanent canopy, because sometimes we want sun, but I want the option for shade when needed. I bought an umbrella a few days ago and Justin dug out an old umbrella stand the previous owners left behind in our shed. It was SO nice to have shade – Vi even fell asleep two days in a row in the shade while LJ kept swimming and playing! – but the umbrella stand was not sturdy enough to withstand the wind. As you can see in the corner of the picture, we had to weigh it down with some rocks and even then, I had to hold on to it when the wind picked up.

We could spend $400-500 dollars on a large umbrella and stand that would work better against the wind, or I could DIY a solution using the old umbrella stand and $89 umbrella I already bought. It’s probably not shocking to you that I’m going with the DIY version! My plan is to build a planter large enough to fit the base of the umbrella stand, use some concrete mix in the bottom to secure the stand and provide sufficient weight, and then fill the top with soil and plant some flowers around the umbrella. I think it will work – finger’s crossed!

Set up Patio Furniture (with new touches)

We have our table and chairs set up, but we haven’t spend time setting up our sectional yet. This normally tucks into the little corner of our house shown below, and this year, I want to add in an outdoor rug and some small end tables to make it a little cozier and more functional. One thing we already did was have the house powerwashed, which made a huge difference already!

Paint the Porch Ceiling?

I’m debating painting the porch ceiling this year (thinking of going with black!) but that might be a bigger project to save for sometime in the future. We’ll see!

Planter Boxes + String Lights

In our last house, we used barrels with concrete mix in the bottom to secure large posts to hang string lights. I could only find one picture of how we set this up, but we loved how cozy it made the space and want to do something similar at this house.

I’m thinking we might try to DIY the actual planter boxes this time instead of buy barrels. On top of the concrete, we’ll fill with soil and plant flowers like we did at the last house – it adds such a special little touch!

I kind of expect this project to be an “if you give Sarah a paintbrush” situation where I get started and things spiral haha, but this is the list I’m starting out with. We have a lot of plans for hosting this summer so I’m excited to get this patio ready!

Carpet is Coming (but I have some things to do first!)

We’re back from our beach vacation and it was such a blast! We made some great memories and had so many fun experiences as a family. For as much fun as we had, it’s also good to be back in our own house and get back to our normal routines. And I for one am ready to jump back in to some house projects!

One big thing that is finally happening this week is new carpet will be installed in both of the kid bedrooms! Our entire house is in need of new flooring and it was a goal of mine for 2022 to get started on replacing. We decided to start with the nursery and kids’ shared bedroom because these two rooms will have the same carpet and they’re the smallest rooms, making these rooms the least expensive option to start with. The carpet in these rooms is currently worn down with various stains throughout so I’m very ready for a fresh look. I’m just a little bit nervous because the carpet I liked the best in store did not have any take-home sample option and I had to make the decision based on the tiny sample in store without actually seeing it in the space – fingers crossed it looks like I imagine it will! Can you guess which one I went with?

Before the new carpet gets installed (in two days!), there are a few things I would like to accomplish in the rooms. Here’s a look at what needs to happen first:

Take down closet shelving

Have you ever put something on a to-do list that you’ve just finished, for the sole purpose of being able to cross something off right away? That’s what I’m doing here ha! I worked on clearing out the closets yesterday and Justin took down the shelving units so this task is already complete!

The previous owners had created their own shelving units in the closets, and while they have worked fine for the past 3 years, they are not what I want long-term. We have plans to reconfigure the closets eventually to better maximize their efficiency for our needs, not to mention we may possibly be adding a bathroom off the nursery someday (nothing concrete, just a dream at this point!) which would completely change the door/orientation of that closet. Suffice to say – the shelving was always temporary for us. The previous owners installed the shelving first, and then the carpet around it, which meant the carpet was installed around the shelving. To avoid cutting the carpet around shelving we don’t plan to keep long term, it needed to come down now.

See the notch in the carpet where the shelving used to be? That’s exactly what we didn’t want, so I’m glad the shelves are down!

Patch and re-paint the old mirror anchor holes

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I shopped my house for mirror options for above the nursery dresser and came up with three choices: the same simple, gold round mirror that previously hung there, a smaller gold mirror with a fun organic leaf border, or the black oval mirror from the kids’ shared bedroom. I finally settled on the black oval and swapped the round gold one into the kids’ bedroom instead. I’m really happy with the swap, but due to the different shapes, we couldn’t use the old anchor holes to hang them in their new locations. Justin patched the old anchor hole in the nursery last night but I still need to sand and paint it, and we also need to do the same thing in the kids’ shared room.

Touch up ceiling paint

Both ceilings need touch ups – in the nursery, I need some touch ups around the edges and in the kids’ room, I need to paint around the new fan, since the base on the new fan is smaller than the old one. The problem is, we painted the ceiling a couple years ago and I didn’t take note of what paint we used! So I’m not sure if I’ll be able to match it or if I’ll have to just re-paint entirely but either way, it needs to happen before the new carpet!

Address the “accent” wall

Oy. The accent wall in the kids’ room. For so long, it was just a boring white wall. Then I decided to add a fun wallpaper and was so excited for it – until we discovered the scale they sent was all wrong and the pattern was actually half the size I wanted. I’ve been in this limbo of “should I go with the smaller scale pattern, should I keep looking for another pattern, or should I just paint my own unique pattern on the walls for now?” I’m still not sure which direction this is going to go, but I need to at last touch up the wall. I painted the trim and the baseboards and was NOT careful about getting paint on the walls because I thought there was going to be wallpaper covering it. Well…now that that is on pause, it just looks terribly messy. I need to re-paint neatly around the trim so it at least looks nice for the time being! It would also be nice if I could get the doors painted in each room, but I can also take them out of the rooms and paint them elsewhere if need be so that’s going to be the last priority.

Looking at this list, it’s not too terribly long BUT did I mention I only have two days to accomplish these things? The carpet installer comes Wednesday morning so I’ve got to get to it!

30 Week Pregnancy Update

With only two months to go, we’re officially in the final stretch of my pregnancy! I am honestly pretty surprised by how quickly this pregnancy has gone by this time around and I’m doing my best to soak up every minute since we do plan for this to be our last one.

This baby has been super active in the womb – I’ve felt kicks since 17/18 weeks and now that he’s bigger I feel him move all the time. It seems like we’re going to have another high energy boy join our crew! We reached the 30 week mark this week and it felt like the right time for an update on all things baby, so let’s dive right in!

Symptoms/How I’ve Been Feeling

I’m so grateful to report that overall, I’ve been feeling good this pregnancy. While I had quite a bit of morning sickness and fatigue in the first trimester, that has not been an issue in the second and (so far) third trimesters.

I went in for my glucose test and lab work recently and am happy to report that I’m 3 for 3 with passing my glucose tests each pregnancy. It also felt good to say goodbye to that syrupy sweet glucose drink! My lab work did come back with a low iron reading so I’ve been adding an iron supplement and iron-rich foods into my diet to try to get that number back up. But other than that, I’m feeling good!

Energy/Workouts

To be honest, I’ve not been great about consistently working out this pregnancy, or at least not in an official way. I’m certainly getting unofficial exercise in with all the lifting, carrying, and playing around with my other two children! I’m also hopping on our stationary bike when I can for some quick cardio and that always leaves me feeling refreshed and strong.

The one big issue that I have had is recurring lower back pain – every so often, I get some sacral pain on my left lower back and it has not been fun to deal with. It often flares up after I push myself – either by working extra hard around the house or playing extra hard with the kids. I have to remind myself I’m pregnant and need to go slow, stretch, and not try to do too much at once.

Food Cravings & Aversions

Something about my boy pregnancies makes me struggle with dairy products. I didn’t have this issue with Vi, but with both LJ and this pregnancy, I have to be careful with my intake of dairy. Small amounts are okay but any more than that and I start to feel sick. I love dairy, so that’s been a struggle for me, but it went back to normal as soon as LJ was born and I’m hoping that’s the case with this baby too.

Every pregnancy I have craved more red meat than normal and this one is no different – give me all the cheeseburgers! Other than that, I haven’t had too many strange cravings other than grape popsicles and Pizza Hut breadsticks, and outside of the first trimester I’ve been able to eat most things without issue.

Sleep

Ah the ever elusive sleep. I’m by no means getting amazing sleep, but it hasn’t been too bad this time around – I’ve got my Snoogle body pillow, I try to avoid screens before bed, and I’ve got an alarm clock instead of my phone to use when I wake up in the night. It’s also super nice that my kids are sleeping in a little longer, or getting up on their own, so I’m able to lounge and rest just a bit more in the mornings.

What I’m Looking Forward To

August 10 – baby’s birthday! Unless he decides to surprise us early, that’s the date of my c-section and knowing that makes things feel extra real. I’m so looking forward to meeting this sweet boy! Since this is the first time we’ve known the sex of the baby in advance, it’s fun to think more specifically about what he’ll be like. I am specifically excited for sitting on our porch swing, rocking gently with a snuggly baby nestled up on me with a cool breeze blowing over us. I can’t wait!

I’m also looking forward to seeing my baby with his cousin, since my sister is due with her first baby literally any day now. It has been so much fun to go through pregnancy with her and I can’t wait to see these little ones grow up together!

LJ and Vi’s Awareness

This has been a huge difference between this pregnancy and Vi’s pregnancy. LJ and Vi are only 21 months apart, so he was still very little when I was pregnant with her. Though we talked about the baby and he knew I had a baby in my belly, I don’t think he really grasped what was going on. This time around, with a 4.5 and 2.5 year old, they are very aware of what’s going on and they love to talk about the baby. They’ll randomly rub my belly and say “hi baby!” or give it hugs and kisses. They tell people there’s a baby brother in mommy’s belly and they like to talk about him and snuggle up with my belly. It’s the sweetest thing!

We are officially 2 months away from meeting the littlest member of our family and it’s safe to say we’re all super excited. Come on August 10!

 

A Day in the Life {6.2.22}

As I type up this blog post, my family and I are enjoying our beach vacation with Justin’s family this week. We’ve been lucky to get to do this every other year for the past several years and it’s a trip we always look forward to and cherish the memories from. That being said, our lives aren’t made up of the mountaintop, super fun vacations and trips and exciting experiences that only happen once in a while. Ordinary days are truly the building blocks of our lives – the simple moments that show how we actually spend the majority of our lives.

Every so often I like to document a day in our life; I always choose a random day with no particular plan in mind. I snap pictures throughout and I don’t put thought into staging them or changing them from anything other than what they really are. I love looking back at these photos – the grainy, blurry, less-than-perfect snapshots of real life candid moments. This is our real life – my real moments with my children and family – and these are the posts I most love to look back on in the future.

So with all that being said, here’s how we spent Thursday, June 2, 2022!

We are currently enjoying fairly smooth mornings where our kids either sleep in a little later (and by later, I mean at least 7 am haha) or, if they get up before that, they go to the bathroom and head downstairs and play quietly or turn on a little show. They no longer come into our room right away (unless they need us for something) and that is a glorious feeling to get just a bit more sleep! I know this stretch won’t last forever and we’ll soon have a newborn throwing us back into a wonky sleep schedule so for now I am savoring these mornings.

This morning, the kids got up before me. When I headed downstairs, I fixed them breakfast – I forgot to take a picture until they were done but I try to give them 3-4 breakfast options and let them decide what sounds good. Today, LJ chose dry granola, Vi chose a bowl of cottage cheese, and they both had strawberries too.

As the kids ate breakfast, I tackled the mountain of dishes in our sink leftover from the night before – I didn’t take a picture until most were already done but trust me, it was a LOT.

When LJ finished breakfast, he came to play with his cars on the open dishwasher door as I loaded things into it.

A couple weeks ago, Vi went to her first eye doctor appointment and we were told to start patching her left eye for 2-3 hours each day. We got her some fun, colorfully-patterned eye patches and every morning she enjoys picking out one for the day. On this particular day, she and LJ dumped them all out to make the selection.

I have a part-time, work-from-home job as an administrative assistant and needed to tackle my emails, so I set the kids up with a show and headed into my office to get my morning tasks done.

It took just under an hour to get through everything, and then I closed down my laptop, got the kids dressed, and we headed to Target to grab a few last-minute things for our upcoming family beach trip the following day.

Two little kids in Target is no small feat (especially since I needed a new swimsuit for my pregnant body so our trip included a fitting room stop) so we treated ourselves to lunch in the Target café afterwards. The kids also got to pick out one special item from the dollar spot to take to the beach – LJ was so excited about the green football he picked to play with his older cousin!

We loaded up the car with our purchases and headed to the playground, where we enjoyed the beautiful weather and burned off a ton of energy.

The kids were both wiped out after the playground, so I quickly packed them up and headed home. It’s so tricky keeping Vi awake in situations like this and not let her fall asleep in the car, because then she won’t nap at home, but this time I made it and she crashed as soon as we got home without even asking for a story or snuggles or anything. Success!

While Vi napped, I wanted to take a few pictures of the kitchen for my “One Year Later” blog post and the small touch-ups I just did throughout. While I did that, LJ read a book in the living room behind me with the dogs nearby.

He also wanted to get in on the pictures – ha! Love this sweet and silly boy!

One unusual thing about today was that I had a scheduled training for work. This does not happen very often, but we are super close to switching websites and needed some training on the new system. I was able to attend some of the meeting while Vi slept and LJ was content in the playroom, but then Vi woke up. I always explain to them when Mommy is in a meeting, but honestly, it’s about a 50/50 chance of whether or not they’ll behave, get along, and not need intervention from me. Unfortunately, today was a day they needed intervention. Arguing, picking on one another, crying – it was a rough go and I’m not going to sugar coat it, it was hard. Working from home has definite pros, but there are cons too. Normally my job is super flexible with timing, but because of the training I wasn’t able to adjust as much. I had to excuse myself a couple times to address the kids, but we got through it.

After my meeting, I closed down my laptop for the day and got a quick dinner started for the kids before their swimming lessons. Justin takes them to swim lessons after work and today was an extra special day because my parents came into town too! All five of them loaded up the van and headed off to swim (nobody worry, I know LJ’s chest strap isn’t high enough – he likes to buckle himself in and I adjusted it properly after the picture!)

While the crew was at swim lessons, I picked up around the house and started a load of laundry. The reason my parents came into town was so they could watch the kids the following day to allow me to focus on packing everything up for our beach trip and getting the house cleaned and ready for our dog/house sitter. It was nice to get a jump on things while they were at swim!

After they came home, the kids got ready for bed and of course, wanted grandma and grandpa to be the ones to read their bedtime stories and tuck them in. I had to snap this sweet pic before pulling down the blinds – my heart just gets all squishy and full seeing these sweet bonds.

Once the kids were in bed, we chatted for a while with my parents and then all played a game. I’ve been checking out different games from the library lately and our latest pick was a game called The Sherlock Files – a murder mystery card game. It was really fun to play with my parents even though we didn’t solve the murder (we missed a key clue that would have changed everything, darn it!)

Sorry to Justin, who left the table before I thought to snap a selfie. Love these two and I’m so thankful for their constant love and desire to spend time with the kids and help out when they can.

That’s a wrap on this random Thursday!

To see previous Day in the Life posts, you can check out the links below:

November 16, 2018

July 9, 2019

January 14, 2020

March 26, 2020

February 13, 2021

September 13, 2021

May 2022 Book Reviews

This week, I’m enjoying a fun week with our family at the beach – but as all parents of small kids know, it’s not so much a vacation as it is a trip. Ha! In other words, I’m not kicking back with a beach read in the sand, but I’m splashing in the pool and digging for sand crabs and enjoying making memories with kids. There might not be a lot of reading happening for me right now, but thankfully I was able to do quite a bit of reading last month!

May ended up being a unique month in that all the books I’ve read were from authors whom I’ve read before. It was fun to compare these books to their previous works and I’m excited to chat about them all today!

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Alexis is a 37-year-old doctor from a wealthy, high-profile family of physicians at a prestigious hospital system. Daniel is a humble 28-year-old carpenter and B&B manager from a small, tight-knit rural town two hours away. The two seemingly have nothing in common, but when car trouble lands Alexis in Daniel’s tiny town, the two meet and just click. And while they seem to work really well together, both have family legacies in their respective communities and both feel deeply duty-bound to continue the legacies on. Could there actually be potential for a real, lasting, relationship here?

I’m a big Abby Jimenez fan so I went in to this book with pretty high expectations and it did not disappoint – it was just what I expected in another installment of the little world she’s created. There was referenced character overlap and other callbacks to previous books (she also wrote The Friend Zone, The Happy Ever After Playlist, and Life’s Too Short, all of which have some character crossover) which was really fun to pick up on. Daniel and Alexis are both likeable and I thought the character development, specifically on Alexis’ end, was believable and real. As it is with all of Jimenez’s books, there is fun, flirty romance woven into harder, deeper topics – this book specifically dealt with verbal, emotional, and even some physical abuse and toxic relationships (both familial and romantic). I would rate it as PG-13 for steaminess – again, it’s very similar style to the author’s other books. I loved the characters, I loved the cute little community, I loved Alexis’ best friend (and it sounds like her book is coming next year!) – this was a fun read and I really enjoyed it!

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

After a failed bank robbery, the would-be thief flees from the bank to a neighboring building and inadvertently interrupts an apartment open house. All the sudden, the bank robbery becomes a hostage situation that includes a young married couple about to welcome their first child, an elderly woman waiting for her husband to come join the viewing, a retired couple looking to turn a profit on the fixer-upper, and a bank director who has her own reasons for choosing this specific apartment to view. As the police try to navigate how to deal with diffusing the hostage situation, the people in the apartment start to learn more about one another and prove to be the worst group of hostages, being held up by the worst bank robber, and none of them could have predicted how entering this particular apartment on this particular day would alter their lives forever.

While I did enjoy My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry and Beartown, this might be my favorite Backman book yet! The character development is incredible, the writing is masterful and clever, and I found the whole story to just be an enjoyable treat from start to finish. It was sweet, it was funny, it was deep, and it was entertaining. I think Backman managed to attain a great balance of humor and wit with more complex themes of the things that go into being human: doubt, loneliness, regret, anxiety, and love. I didn’t want it to end! It’s definitely a slower burn read, but I think it just really works as one to savor.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

A young man is found brutally murdered on a houseboat, and suspicions and questions arise about three women who knew him. There’s the young and troubled laundromat employee who recently went on a date with him that didn’t end well, the nosy neighbor who knows more than she’s saying and has reasons for keeping secrets, and the aunt who has already has had more than her fair share of grief over loss in their family. As the police try to determine who murdered him, they find each woman had means and opportunity for murder – but which of them was pushed to the point of also having motive?

Years ago, I read Girl on the Train and loved it, and I expected another fast-paced thriller from Hawkins. I found this book to be appropriately named though, as it was a slower burn of a thriller. It’s one of those where you can’t really decide who you think the killer is – no one is particularly likeable, but all have their good and bad qualities and it’s hard to nail down what you think actually happened to the dead man in the hours before he was killed. In my mind, it’s no match for Girl on the Train, but it was intriguing and kept my interest and I read it pretty quickly trying to figure out who did it. As motivations were unearthed, I found myself more and more interested in how the plot would turn out. Overall, while it was not a heart-pumping thriller, it was a solid murder mystery and I enjoyed it.

The No Show by Beth O-Leary

Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane are three women with very little in common except one thing: they were all stood up on Valentine’s Day. Even more, they were all stood up by the exact same man. But Joseph Carter is apologetic and charming and none of them can hold on to their anger for too long – as they all work to forgive him and move forward in their relationship, each woman is in danger of falling in love with him. But of course, they do not know that the other two women exist, nor do they know where he actually was on Valentine’s Day. With so many secrets, is it possible that any of these women can find happiness or are they all destined for a broken heart?

I loved The Flatshare by this author so I was excited to see she wrote another book. I went in pretty blind and now after reading it, going in blind is the way to go so I’m not going to detail much more here. I will say, there were a few different times I got frustrated and wanted to quit – I had no idea how this could possibly have a satisfying ending – but I kept going and ultimately was so glad I finished it. After it’s all said and done, I would say The Flatshare still tops my list but I did actually enjoy this book and do recommend it. It was definitely worth the frustration I felt at times!

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Anna is a talented violinist with a few big problems. For one, she’s finding herself burnt out and unable to get through a single piece of music without having the compulsive need to stop and start over. For another, her long-term boyfriend says he believes he wants to marry her . . . but just to be sure, wants to have an open relationship first to make sure there’s no one else out there. Anna is blindsided – and angry. She decides that she’ll do the same as her jerk of a boyfriend and have a string of meaningless one-night stands, and the first guy she tries seems perfect: Quan is a motorcycle-riding, tattoo-covered man with his own reasons for wanting a meaningless connection. But when their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, and then their second and third as well, their connection becomes anything but meaningless. In fact, it might have more meaning than either one of them ever bargained for.

This book felt similar to the other book of Hoang’s that I’ve read, The Kiss Quotient, in that the main female character is on the autism spectrum. The author’s note at the end says Hoang herself is, and it’s evident that she writes a lot of herself into her characters. There is also some character overlap, as the people from The Kiss Quotient make appearances in this story as well. All that being said, the struggles that Anna and Quan face are unique and in many ways, relatable. I enjoyed seeing their dynamic develop and follow Anna’s journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance. The book is also similarly very steamy and definitely gets a rated-R warning from me. In addition to the theme of acceptance of an autism diagnosis, there were deeper plot points of heavy family expectations, end of life care and the toll it takes on a family, and dealing with the after-effects of a cancer battle. I wanted to root for Anna and Quan as they each had personal struggles to overcome, and overall enjoyed this read.

What have you been reading and loving lately?

2022 Goals: Summer Check In

Even though it’s still spring, for the past several weeks, the sun has been shining, the weather has warmed up, and it officially feels like summer -I love it so much!

Usually I wait until July to do a mid-year check in for my yearly goals, but this year I decided to do a check in at the beginning of summer. I thought this would help motivate me to keep working on things throughout the summer and sort of refocus some energy as we head into the season. Today I’m re-sharing my 2022 goals and the progress I’ve made so far – let’s dive in!

Goals for our Home

Update the flooring

The entire house needs new flooring and it will happen bit by bit, but I’m excited to report that we are just about to finish the first step of this goal: new carpet for both the kids’ room and the nursery is scheduled to be installed in less than two weeks! We have also gotten a quote for replacing the basement carpet and are budgeting to hopefully get that done by the end of the year.

Main Floor Powder Room. 

I thought this was going to be the year to finally update this little room, but the more I think about it, the more I think I might just wait until the flooring is updated. Or maybe I’ll just do some very minor tweaks in the meantime. TBD with whether I actually tackle this in 2022 or not, but either way, I’m definitely dreaming about what I want the space to be.

Finish the Guest Room Stencil. 

This goal isn’t finished, but progress has been made this year. I still need to finish the bottom edge along the baseboard, as well as decide if I’m going to continue the wallpaper look all around the room or just leave it on the two walls.

Update the Kids’ Bedrooms. This goal is well on its way to being checked off the list! So far LJ and Vi’s shared bedroom has gotten matching twin beds, new curtains, sconces, and updated things like bedding and artwork. The last thing on my list for this room is wallpaper for the wall behind the dresser, which is currently on hold thanks to a little mishap with our previous order. I’m super happy with the progress so far!

I’m also in the process of working on baby #3’s nursery! It’s still a work in progress but will definitely be finished by August.

Have the foyer painted. 

I haven’t touched this goal yet, but there’s plenty of time left in the year.

Living Room. 

I haven’t done any updates to our living room yet, but I have been dreaming about it and slowly putting together a mood board to hone in a vision.

Patio Updates. 

We have already been spending a ton of time outside, but most of it has been just relaxing and enjoying beautiful weather with our kids. While that’s been wonderful, I’m itching to transform our patio into a nicer space for entertaining. We have a lot of plans to host gatherings this summer so this is one of my top priorities to get finished asap!

Personal Goals

Exercise at least 3 times per week. 

I’ve definitely been doing better with this, but I’m still not up to 3x a week consistently.

Buy thoughtfully and intentionally. 

I’m still focusing on purchasing clothes for my kids secondhand, which is not only softer on the environment but is better for my wallet! I also have enjoyed searching thrift stores first when I need something, like when Justin asked for martini glasses and I found a pair of cute stemless ones for $1!

When I do buy new, I try to support companies that are local or use recycled packaging or sustainable materials for their product. I’m certainly not anywhere close to perfect, but I do enjoy when I find a product I can feel extra good about purchasing!

Prioritize Sleep 

One of the best things I’ve done in this regard is invested in an alarm clock! I charge my phone on the floor underneath my nightstand and this change alone has greatly helped my quality of sleep. I don’t reach for my phone to check the time if I wake up in the middle of the night, and it’s not immediately the first thing I reach for each morning. I also have been working to have less screen time right before bed and I took a little quiz to determine what time I should go to sleep based on when I want to wake up (based on REM sleep cycles). I’m amazed at what a difference these small changes have made in helping me wake up feeling more refreshed and ready for the day!

Update the Blog Menu. 

I am happy to report that I finished this up and am really pleased with the updated menu! It is now more organized and streamlined and hopefully easier to navigate.

Family Goals

Take our first family vacation! In February, we took our first family vacation and it was SO much fun! We went to Disney World and made so many memories with our little crew.

Dates with Our Kids. 

We’ve done this and it’s been so fun! Just this past week, we each took a child for a special day out. I took Vi to the zoo and Justin took LJ golfing (I can’t even handle the matching outfits!)

We each agreed that we had a blast with our kids and they both really enjoyed having one-on-one time with us. Next time, we’re going to switch and take the opposite child and LJ has already been talking about things he’d like to do on his mommy day.

Be intentional with making life feel special. 

We’ve had several pond days with just our family enjoying the water. I’ve been taking the kids to the library so they can check out their own books and games (our library rents out games – it’s so fun to try new things!)

We’ve spent lazy weekend mornings all four of us snuggling in bed. We took the kids to the grocery store to pick out a treat and new toy for Macie’s birthday (they were SO excited to celebrate her!) We took out kids putt-putt golfing and to an arcade, where Vi easily made the most tickets thanks to a jackpot run on a tickle monster game haha!

One day I set up a little station with baking soda and food colored water so they could experiment with colors. Sometimes we spend a bit of money, other times we do something free, but no matter what, it’s been really fun making some special memories on ordinary days with our kids and we’ll definitely be continuing this!

That’s a wrap on my progress so far – I’m excited to see what the rest of this year has in store!

One Year Later: How has the kitchen held up?

It’s been just over one year since I finished up our kitchen renovation so today I wanted to chat a little bit about how everything has held up, where I need some touch-ups, and what small detail I still need to address.

The kitchen is truly the heart of our home, but when we first moved in, it didn’t really reflect our family well. I still dream of a full kitchen remodel, complete with a different layout, but a relatively inexpensive Phase One renovation (coming in right around $1000, not counting the new fridge we had to buy when our old one died) has made a HUGE difference in the meantime.

I still absolutely love so many things about this kitchen. I love the barstools – the wood brings in warmth to the space, they’re comfortable, and easy for the kids to climb up and down. I love the light fixture above the island – it’s about 100x better than the fluorescent light that was there previously! I recently took all the globes off and cleaned the whole fixture since it does collect some dust and it’s looking particularly shiny and new again.

I still love the color of the cabinets and how the blue-green-gray chameleon color plays off the warm tones in the black quartz countertops (which I didn’t originally like but now I think they work well with the other changes in the space!) I love the repurposed bead board backsplash, the warm white walls, the updated can lighting – this room still makes me smile everyday! Even though I know a different layout will work better for our family and we will change things up in the future, this kitchen fits us right now and I know I’ll even be a bit sad to eventually see it go.

So now that it’s been over a year, how has this renovation held up? Let’s chat!

Cabinets

You might notice that every photo makes the cabinet color look slightly different – that’s not an editing trick! This is a true chameleon color and it changes depending on lighting, time of day, and angle of your view. I still love the color (SW Link Gray) and it has mostly held up well on the cabinets. I think choosing a higher-quality paint really made a big difference in this space that gets a ton of traffic and use.

That being said, there are a few cabinets that need touching up around the knobs. These are the most-frequently used cabinets (trash can, silverware, plates and bowls) and over time, the constant friction of fingers and/or nails around the knobs has worn away the paint. Our trash can and silverware drawers (pictured below) are particularly bad because our kids also use these two cabinets and they’re not especially gentle users, ha!

Luckily, this is a super easy fix. Today, I’m going to go through and quick touch up these spots with a roller and they’ll look good as new! The rest of the cabinets have held up well and still look great.

Backsplash

One of my favorite updates to this space was removing the old tile backsplash and replacing it with the bead board paneling that we ripped out of our office. We painted it SW Agreeable Gray and it looks so great in its new home. Bonus that it was free! 😉

There are just a few little spots that need touching up, and again, it’s in the most frequently used space: behind the sink and drying rack. Since this spot is a major player in our daily kitchen use, it obviously gets a ton of use and over time, small nicks in the paint have occurred. Again, it’s an easy fix and today I’ll be going over those spots with a roller and get it back to looking fresh.

Also with the backsplash, I’m going to run another bead of clear acrylic latex caulk along the seam between the bead board and the counter to reinforce the waterproofing behind the sink. We have had no issues over the past year, but I want to keep it that way so I plan to just re-caulk once a year or so in this spot to keep things waterproof.

The Vent

This kitchen may look finished, but it’s actually part of the 95% club. In other words, I got 95% of the way done, hit a point of exhaustion, and didn’t finish the last thing I needed to do to actually make it finished. And that thing is…the vent.

Above the kids’ craft area is a vent that had been painted the same brown color as the walls. I meant to paint this the same color as the white walls (SW Alabaster) but it just . . . never happened. And now it’s been over a year and I am sick and tired of staring at it and thinking “I really need to get that painted” so today is the day! I am going to check this off the list and get this kitchen DONE!

A few other small things I’m going to do in the kitchen today:

  1. Paint a second coat underneath the cabinet in the kids’ craft area. I was running low on paint when I first did the cabinets, and this was the very last one I painted. I went sparingly on the underside to conserve paint but I have a small sample jar now and I’m going to give it a good second coat so it looks nicer.
  2. Do some thrifting for a different utensil crock. The orange has been fun, but it’s time for something that works better in the space. I might not find one today, but if not it’s going to be on my list of top things to look for in future thrifting trips.
  3. Remove the bits of black paint that got on the window while painting. Another small detail that I didn’t take time to address the first time – when I painted the window sashes black, a small bit got on the sides of the window. Since it’s latex paint, it’s easy to take a baby wipe and just scrape it off but I haven’t taken the time to do it. Today is the day to get it done!
  4. Tighten up the screws on the barstools. These counter stools were a great find and overall I’ve been pleased with them. They clean easily, still look great, and were a really great price point. That being said, over time, the screws do loosen a bit and the chairs can get wobbly. Probably once every 2-3 months I go through and just re-tighten any loose screws and they’re sturdy once again. It’s not ideal, but it only takes 10-15 minutes and it was honestly worth it to have no other complaints about the chairs and be happy with the price point.

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster

Trim + Backsplash Color: Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray

Window Color: Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black

Cabinet Color: Sherwin Williams Link Gray

Light Fixture

Counter Stools 

LED Recessed Lights 

Kitchen Rug (similar here)