Baby Boy Nursery Reveal!

We’re still waiting on baby boy’s arrival but as of yesterday, his nursery is finished and ready!

This was the first time I’ve really been able to go for it with decorating a nursery space. With my previous pregnancies, we chose to be surprised with the baby’s sex at birth so this is the first time we’ve ever known in advance. We also feel confident that this is our final baby so there’s no need to try to keep things somewhat neutral for the future. It was really fun for me to get to plan and design a nursery with a specific little boy in mind and I’m so happy with how it turned out. My goal was to create a soothing place for lots of baby snuggles, late-night feeding sessions, and (hopefully!) restful nights for our sweet boy. I wanted a blend of graphic prints and organic elements in earth tones that mimic the gorgeous woods you can see right outside his window. [And speaking of window – this room only has one window, never gets in the direct path of the sun, and is always a little moody and dim. I love it in person, but it does make it challenging to photograph well – the room isn’t quite as dark as these photos make it seem!]

Obviously, the main focus of a nursery is the crib. I’ve had the same Ikea crib for all my babies and it has served us so well. I’ve also used this little cloud mobile in all three nurseries (although not always above the crib) and I love how sweet and whimsical it is! The dinosaur sheet was a clearance find from back when LJ was still using the crib, but I never actually used it for LJ. It wasn’t exactly what I was envisioning for this nursery, but it’s hard to argue for buying new when you have a nice option on hand already and I’m satisfied with this choice.

I decided to forgo one large print above the crib and instead create a gallery wall, specifically choosing to center it on the wall instead of over the crib. I wanted a collected look so I pulled together some digital download prints, a maternity photo, the baby’s sonogram, and a simple dried fern in a variety of frames, some new and some thrifted.

The chair we had in here previously was a handmedown La-z-boy from Justin’s grandma with a slipcover over it. It is comfortable and worked just fine, but when I spotted this dark mustard colored recliner with a grid pattern in a local thrift store, I just couldn’t resist! I knew it would be perfect in this room and I was right. The only downfall is that it doesn’t rock, but we are currently brainstorming solutions for finding a way to make it rock.

I asked Justin to create a few little book ledges for baby’s book collection and he made three for me following the same process as the ones we made in our secret nook. They turned out great and all of baby’s books fit!

I kept the same dresser from Vi’s nursery, but decided to re-paint it in Sherwin Williams Iron Ore and swap out the gold drawer pulls for matte black ones. I did a little mirror switcheroo and moved the round gold one that used to hang here into the kids’ room and brought in the black oval one from the kids’ room.

I had the giraffe-patterned changing pad cover from LJ’s nursery and I think its colors and whimsical pattern translated well to this nursery. A little basket full of diapers, wipes, and ointments and we have ourselves a changing station!

I enjoyed spending time on some of the little details throughout the room as well – repainting the little side table we thrifted a decade ago, hanging plaid blackout curtains high and wide, finding vintage brass wall planters on Etsy for a unique touch, filling a basket full of soft baby blankets. Throughout this room renovation, we’ve painted the window and updated trim, replaced the thin baseboards with a chunkier version, upgraded the old worn carpet with this soft greige, and installed a new matte black ceiling fan. I painted the doors and Justin re-installed them with new matte black hinges and handles. I painted the ceiling Sherwin Williams Shoji White and painted wooden outlet covers – it’s the little things that really finish off a room!

Now the only thing we need is one sweet baby boy to enjoy this room!

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Evergreen Fog in Eggshell

Ceiling Color: Sherwin Williams Shoji White in Flat

Crib – no longer sold (similar here)

Crib Sheet

Cloud Mobile

Curtain Rod

Plaid Blackout Curtains

Faux String of Pearls

Diaper Pail

Changing Pad

Sound Machine

Black Oval Mirror

Ceiling Fan

Prints: Rainbow, Black and White Rabbits, Oak Tree

Gold Frame with Mat

Black Frame with Mat

Monitor

Door Hinges

Door Handles

Everything else is either vintage, thrifted, old, or was a DIY project!

July 2022 Book Reviews

It’s finally August, which means one thing around here: IT’S BABY MONTH! I’m so excited to meet our newest little love! The nursery is 98% ready, the hospital bags are packed, and we are all just counting down the days to meeting this sweet little boy.

We crammed so much into June and July because we knew August would be a slowdown month full of rest and baby snuggles, but I was able to carve out some time for reading. In July I read four books, and while only one of them is a certified winner in my book, it felt good to get back into reading! Let’s discuss, shall we?

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Alexis is a sexual abuse survivor and café owner who has received shocking news that turns her world upside down. She turns to her best friend, genius computer geek Noah, for comfort and help. He’s the only man she truly trusts, and he’ll do anything to keep that trust, including keep his own feelings of being in love with Alexis to himself to prevent ruining their friendship. With some help from their friends (and Noah’s reluctant participation in a book club), can they each start to find the courage to be truly honest about their feelings for one another and have a chance at happiness beyond just friendship?

This was a random library find that I saw and decided to try. It’s part of a larger series of Bromance Book Club books and while I like the concept, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of these books. The idea behind the Bromance Book Club is a group of male friends reading romance books to better understand love and women, and also to try and dismantle some of the toxic masculinity they’ve been surrounded with their entire lives. A good premise, but honestly the book club was a pretty small section of the story. I enjoyed Noah and Alexis’s dynamic and watching them finally get to the point of being honest about their feelings beyond friendship. Unfortunately, the book had too much going on with side plots (there was major stuff going on with both their families and histories, within the friend group, Alexis’ history as an abuse survivor and café owner, and the author was obviously spending time setting up another character for a future book). The group of friends is entertaining, but pretty large and it’s hard to keep track of everyone. It maybe it wouldn’t have been so overwhelming if I had read the series in order? It’s definitely rated-R for language and steamy scenes, so if that’s not your thing, you likely want to avoid this one. While I probably won’t read more of the series, I found it to be a decent, but very skimmable, friends-to-lovers romance.

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

After her grandmother, Mags, dies and gives her possession of her home, The Hideaway, Sara is tasked with restoring the home to its former glory but it’s not such a simple request. First of all, the house is full of things and in desperate need of repair and upgrades. Second of all, it is being inhabited by a crew of her grandmother’s friends, some of whom have lived in the home for decades. Third of all, it’s located hours away from Sara’s home and business in New Orleans. Should she cut her losses and sell the property to the overeager developer targeting the land for his next big project? Or can it be restored and given new life? And what answers might this house still hold about the mysterious life of Mags?

I happened to see this book in a thrift store a while ago and it had been sitting on my shelves since then – I finally noticed it again this month and decided to give it a try. I loved envisioning The Hideaway and its restoration – it seems like such a charming home and following along with the renovations was a treat for me and probably my favorite part of the whole book. Other than that, this was the kind of middle-of-the-road book that leaves me without a whole lot to say. The story is told from both Sara’s present-day perspective and Mag’s past perspective but I have to say, I didn’t love most of Mag’s storyline. I don’t want to give a lot away, but it made me frustrated and sad and even a little skeptical. I did enjoy the cast of characters, and the very Southern setting is part of the book’s charm. It’s a little cheesy at times, but I think overall it hits a sweet, mostly-PG note and touches on legacy, loyalty, family, and love. Not my favorite, but still a pretty enjoyable, B or B- level read.

In A New York Minute by Kate Spencer

After being unexpectedly laid off from her job, Franny boards a crowded subway train and gets her favorite dress caught in the doors, causing it to rip all the way open in the back. To make matters worse, a subway lurch causes her to literally fall into the handsome man in a suit next to her. He offers her his jacket to cover herself up and after an awkward conversation, gets off the train. Franny just wants to get home and forget this awful day, but that’s going to be hard since another subway passenger not only documented the whole encounter on her phone and posted on social media, but the story is going viral and she and this mystery man, Hayes, are now being shipped as a couple.

This book was about what I expected – a little rom com about two opposites who are seemingly mismatched and don’t even like each other initially. I liked Franny and Hayes well enough, I liked the supporting friend characters, and I liked that Hayes in particular was not your average leading man but was actually kind of socially awkward. That being said, I feel like this story could’ve had more depth. There were underdeveloped side plots, particularly with each of their families, that I wish would’ve been given more time. The conflicts were a little forced and clunky, and honestly, I think I enjoyed the banter between the friends more than between Franny and Hayes. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly about the execution didn’t work for me, but I think the story as a whole was a bit underwhelming and I got a little bored – while I think there are those who would really enjoy this as an easy breezy read, it ends up falling in the C+ range for me.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

In early 1900’s Korea, Sunja is a young and naive teenager, the only child of a widowed boardinghouse manager. When she discovers that she is pregnant, and worse, that the father of her child is married, she rejects her lover’s offer to become a mistress and instead accepts the offer of a sickly minister who had been nursed back to health by Sunja and her mother: he will marry her and give the child his name to save her from disgrace. Sunja accepts and travels with her new husband to Japan, setting off a chain of events that will change the course of their family’s history forever.

Wow, I surprised by how much I enjoyed this one! Prior to reading this book, I knew nothing about the Japanese occupation of Korea and how that affected Koreans for generations. This book was eye-opening to say the least! From the very first chapter, the writing style hooked me right in, although I will say things got a big slow for me for a while before picking back up. The plotline is character-driven and by no means fast-paced, plus it clocks in at 480+ pages, so it’s definitely not a quick read, nor is it for the faint of heart. While I typically enjoy reading in long stretches or spending all my spare time reading (once I’ve started a book), I found this novel to be a good one to read a bit, then set it down to pick back up later. Being able to walk away and then digest it in smaller increments helped me make my way through the book – it’s a really good read to savor! I really enjoyed taking my time with it; I got invested in all the members of the family and their storylines and while this book does cover a lot of really difficult, and often sad, topics, there is so much to keep your interest. I read one review that compared it to a hike where the journey along the way is more important than the view at the end and I’d wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. It’s not one to choose if you’re in the mood for a light, quick read, but if you’re interested in a well-written story with history and depth, I do recommend giving this one a chance!

Here’s to lots more reading while snuggling a sweet baby in August!

Baby #3: Third Trimester Update

All photos in this blog post are credited to Natalie Joy Photography.

This past Tuesday I hit the 37 weeks pregnant mark which means baby boy is officially full-term!

While I have a repeat c-section planned, he could decide to surprise us early at literally any moment now so I’m soaking up each day as the potential last day of pregnancy. Knowing this is most likely our final biological baby has made this pregnancy a bit bittersweet – each milestone is a huge blessing and is also a goodbye to another stage of this journey. While I am so so SO excited to snuggle this sweet little babe, I’m also enjoying the final days of feeling his kicks, rubbing my belly, and feeling all the pregnancy feels.

Symptoms/How I’ve Been Feeling

Up until this past week, I had honestly been feeling really great! I’m still overall feeling pretty good but hitting 37 weeks has really started to shift things though. I’m feeling some increased nausea, some changes in my GI system, and more stretching/pain in my pelvis as things shift around. I’m also feeling more uncomfortable (things are pretty squished in there now!) and quite a bit of lightning crotch. Baby has officially dropped too! I felt him really turn around maybe 3-4 days ago and now it’s like my belly is reversed – where I used to always feel his butt is now where his limbs are and vice-versa. My belly is markedly lower than it was before so honestly, at this point, we would not be surprised at all if he surprises us early.

I’ll also say – my fatigue has also increased and I’m wishing I could nap more during the day. My quality of night-time sleep has dropped significantly but every once in a while I still get a decent night’s rest. Hoping for a few more of those nights before his arrival!

My Preparations

I’ve joked that I don’t know if I hit nesting mode so much as panic mode, but I’ve been very busy with preparations over the past week or so. It dawned on me in the grocery store about a week ago that I hadn’t bought any supplies for baby – no diaper cream, no diapers, no nipple cream, nothing! I’m blaming my lax approach to third-time motherhood but even so, I needed at least a few things! Thankfully, my family had already planned to surprise Justin and I with a little sprinkle on Saturday and they brought us lots of diapers and wipes (so sweet!) I also had a friend offer to bring dinner for us a few days ago and she brought some diapers and wipes too. I’m so grateful for the love and support from family and friends!

I’ve also spent time getting things around this week. I bought and set up a new video monitor as well as all-purpose ointment, diaper cream, baby shampoo, and nipple cream. I’ve packed the hospital bag for myself and baby. I’ve dug out and washed the parts to our infant car seat and baby bassinet. The boppy pillow is freshly cleaned, I’m caught up on laundry, and things are finally feeling ready for baby.

LJ and Vi’s Awareness

The kids are so aware of the baby’s impending arrival and are beside themselves with excitement. They constantly talk about the baby, rub my belly and give it hugs and kisses, and talk to the baby. When we’re out and about, whether we’re meeting a new person or literally next to a stranger, they’ll share that their mom is having a baby. LJ regularly asks how many days until baby comes. The other day Vi started talking to my belly and I asked her some questions about the baby and she said “Shh, I’m talking to him!” I guess she didn’t want mom to interrupt their conversation – ha!

The kids both say they’re excited to hold the baby and change his diapers and I think they are going to be the best big brother and sister. I just know my heart will feel so full and happy seeing my three kids all together at last!

What I’m Looking Forward To

Other than seeing LJ and Vi meet their new baby brother, I’m most excited to just see what he looks like. Will he look like LJ and Vi or will he have a totally different look? They take after me more, so maybe he’ll look more like Justin? I can’t wait for baby snuggles and tiny coos and that sweet newborn smell. I can’t wait to just meet him and start to get to know him – I already know he’s a very active little boy by the way he’s constantly moving in my belly but I’m so excited to get to know more.

I’m also looking forward to the simple moments like gently rocking on the porch swing and snuggling on the couch and going for stroller walks. I’m just excited and ready for the next stage of parenthood! Whenever you’re ready baby boy, we are ready for you. ❤

Final To-Dos before Baby Arrives

Yesterday Justin and I were sitting outside on our deck and I remarked on the fact that it’s finally sunk in that we’re about to have a teeny tiny baby in our family. It might sound strange, considering the fact that I’m 36 weeks pregnant and have known about this baby since December, but it has always seemed like a “future” thing. And now, it’s sinking in that it’s not very far in the future at all and in fact will be coming in just a few short weeks – we will soon be a family of five!

We got our maternity pictures back and to say I’m in love is an understatement. Knowing that we plan for this to be our final pregnancy has made every milestone that much sweeter this time around and I loved having the opportunity to document this special time. While I want to continue to soak up every little baby kick and belly rub in the remaining weeks, there are also a few things I’d really like to accomplish before baby arrives:

1 – Finish the nursery! It’s come a long way since it was Vi’s bedroom and I’m really happy with the progress, but I still have a couple things to check off the list. We just installed bookshelves last night (more to come on that soon!) but I still want to put up some artwork on the wall above the crib, add some plants to the room, touch up the paint on the little side table, and re-install the doors that I just painted yesterday. I think I’ll be able to finish all that this weekend so we’re super close!

2 – Finish the Outdoor Space Refresh. A goal of mine this summer was to refresh the outdoor space. While I didn’t get as much accomplished as I had hoped, we did add seven tons of sand to the beach area, complete a DIY umbrella stand (a game changer on our deck!) and added a few updates like a new patio umbrella and outdoor rug and a few Adirondack chairs around our firepit. We have two more chairs to assemble and I’m hoping to snag a couple side tables to fit in between because our firepit has been a huge hit this summer and will continue to be well into the fall. I also think it’s not too late for us to try to get our string lights hung – our travels are done for the summer and the next few months are going to primarily be spent at home, with a lot of time outside, so they’ll still get use.

3 – Finish the Kid’s Shared Bedroom. This is a project that has gone on way longer than expected thanks to a wallpaper fiasco. I had finally decided on a wallpaper and was really excited about it . . . then it came in the wrong scale and was unusable. The correct scale was smaller than I wanted, which was disappointing, and my enthusiasm for the project kind of drained. I haven’t been too motivated to finish up this last wall, but I’d really like to try to do that before the baby arrives – whether that means find another wallpaper or go with a painted accent wall. I also still want to replace the baseboards and paint the doors, so a few things to accomplish!

4 – Actually prepare to have a tiny human live here. I realized yesterday in the grocery store that I have not bought anything for baby yet – no diaper cream, no baby wash, not even a single newborn diaper. Whoops! I stocked up on some all-purpose ointment, diaper cream, and baby wash but I still need to get diapers and wipes. I also need to pull out and clean things like the infant car seat, breastfeeding pillow, and my breast pump + parts as well as dig out things like breastmilk storage bags and the bassinet. You know, just the things that I need to actually have a tiny human live here in this house, haha!

The list feels long, but luckily everything on it is pretty manageable. And for the most part (other than the things on #4), nothing really has to get done before baby arrives. Whatever gets accomplished will be good enough, but it’s nice to have this list as a guide to help me focus over the next three weeks to prepare!

How we made a DIY Umbrella Stand (with built-in storage!)

When we first looked at this house as potential buyers, we weren’t quite sure what to think of the pond. We never specifically looked for a property with water and had no experience with maintaining a pond; however, one step out onto the patio looking out onto the water and we were hooked. We knew this could be a very special place for our family and now three years later, we absolutely love it and are out there all the time. The previous owners created a small beach area along the edge of the water and installed a little wooden deck beside it. This has become my favorite spot to lounge and read a book while watching the kids play in the sand and swim. The one thing it was missing was an option for shade and this year I decided it was high time to come up with a solution – and we did!

We looked at weighted umbrella stands, but most options would’ve cost around $500 and we weren’t even confident what we chose wouldn’t tip over since the deck is not near anything to block a strong wind. Instead, we came up with a DIY version that not only looks much cuter (in my humble opinion haha) but is sturdier and MUCH less expensive. Granted, we used a lot of scrap wood and supplies we already had, but this version cost us right around $200. Today I’m sharing all the details with how we did it step-by-step. Here we go!

Materials

Umbrella Stand

16″ x 16″ outdoor planter

-umbrella – I used this one

-4×4 wood for filler (optional)

-level

concrete mix + water

-5 gallon bucket

-large stirring stick (we used an old broom handle)

-spade

-large piece of cardboard (we used the box the planter came in)

-box cutter

Tabletop

-3/4 inch plywood

-1 x 1/2 inch slats of wood (I used pine)

-black spray paint

-wood stain

-wood glue

-nail gun + 1 inch nails

spar urethane spray paint

-other tools used: table saw, miter saw, jigsaw

Umbrella Stand Directions

I wanted something that felt streamlined and modern so I bought this planter off of Amazon for the base of the stand. Justin took an old wooden 4×4 post we had in our scrap wood pile and cut it down to create a filler border around the inside edge. This is not a necessary step, but he did it to reduce the amount of concrete used and the overall weight of the finished product.

We plugged the hole at the bottom with the plastic gasket that came with the planter and moved the whole thing around outside until we found level ground.

Justin poured the concrete mix into a bucket and added water according to the directions, using an old broom handle to stir the mix.

Once the concrete mix had reached the desired consistency, he poured it into the planter and used a small spade to smooth the top flat.

Justin ended up using about 1 1/3 bags of concrete. I think one bag would have been sufficient if your umbrella is going to be near a house or other structure that would help to block wind, but since ours is out on a deck with no windbreak around it, we wanted a little extra stability.

Then it was time for the most meticulous part – getting the umbrella stand perfectly in place. This can be done solo but was easier with two people, as one of us used a tape measure from side to side in each direction to find the exact center while the other carefully set the pole in place, then we used the level to make sure it wasn’t crooked. We also stepped back and visually confirmed with one another from all angles that the pole looked straight up and down. We really took our time with this step and it was well worth it!

Once we were fully satisfied that the pole was not crooked, I took a piece of cardboard from the box the planter arrived in and used a box cutter to cut an “x” in the center. I slid the hole made by the x down over the pole and it created a kind of holder to keep the pole from moving in the wind. We weighted it down with some scrap wood and shovels and left it to dry and set for about 36 hours.

Our original plan was to stop here and fill the top half of the planter with soil and flowers, which I think would’ve been lovely! But before we could do it, we actually used the umbrella over the weekend when friends came to visit and we quickly realized that the base made an awesome catch-all spot for sunscreen, books, phones, etc. I was immediately inspired and came up with a vision for a removable tabletop that allowed us to access the storage underneath.

Tabletop Directions

Once I explained my vision to Justin, he was excited to jump right in. He used his table saw and miter saw to cut down a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to size (in two pieces) to fit inside the planter.

He then used a jigsaw to cut a small notch on the edge of each piece of plywood for the umbrella pole to fit through.

Tip: Justin spent a lot of time on these first two steps measuring and re-measuring to make sure the pieces would fit as flush to the inside edges of the planter as possible. We’re not including dimensions, because every planter and umbrella will be slightly different and it’s important to measure your own to make sure it fits well!

Once the pieces were cut to size I spray painted each one black.

I wanted slats for the tabletop, but rather than buy new wood, we had leftover pine 1×5’s from the DIY clothing rack I made last year and Justin took one and ripped it down into one inch wide strips. He cut them to length so that they would hang over the edge of the plywood by a half inch and I tested a few stains from my stash before landing on Varathane’s Golden Oak.

Justin applied a small bead of wood glue to the back of each piece, then used a nail gun and one inch nails to secure each slat in place (he used a thin piece of scrap plywood in between each one to evenly space them out). This is one step where I didn’t communicate my vision with Justin well and I wish we would’ve spaced the nail holes differently, but honestly, it’s fine and doesn’t bother me too much!

He used the jigsaw again to cut a notch in the top slats that matched the one in the plywood underneath and I stained that little notch as well.

Since this is going to be outside, I sprayed several light coats of clear spar urethane over everything to give it a good protective coat. We let it dry overnight and then we installed it in the planter.

I am in LOVE with how this turned out – it honestly looks like it was always meant to be this way! I love that Justin took the extra time to make sure the slats were cut and spaced in a way that created an equal amount of space around the edge all the way around. It looks so good!

The top lifts off easily to provide plenty of storage underneath – it’s so nice to have a shaded place to store things out of the way!

Here’s a close-up of how the top looks in place. The plywood goes all the way to the edge inside and the slats keep it in place with a half inch overhang.

I have to give a huge shoutout to Justin here. This umbrella stand was my vision, as was the design of the tabletop, and he worked to execute my vision perfectly! I am so thrilled with how it turned out.

Ultimately, there is still a lot of work to do here. The deck actually needs completely replaced (boards are warping and breaking off) and we have plans to expand it to accommodate more people. For now though, this is such a nice little spot to hang out and enjoy and I’m thrilled that we now have the option for shade. In fact, it’s calling to my eight-month-pregnant self and I think I’ll spend some time out there today!

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!

***

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!