December 2022 Book Reviews {+ Top Books of 2022!}

There are still nine days left in 2022, but I’m taking next week totally off from the blog to just enjoy time with family so my book review post is coming early this month. Today I’m sharing both my December reads and my TOP TEN books of the year (spoiler alert: one of my December reads made that list too!) I had a lot going on this year so I only read 37 books, but enjoyed so many of them that it was still hard to narrow down a top ten. Let’s dive in!

Merry Ex-Mas by Courtney Walsh

Eight years ago, Marin’s heart was broken right before Christmas and she hasn’t been home for the holiday since. When a “Christmas traditions”-style segment has the potential to launch her from field reporter to her very own show, she travels back home to surprise (and film) her parents and their holiday traditions. Turns out, the surprise is on her because it’s not her mom answering the door – on live stream! – but her ex-boyfriend Max. He’s staying with her parents for Christmas and the viewers instantly love him, forcing Marin to include him in more and more segments. They start fake-flirting to the camera, but pretty soon it becomes all too real.

Last year I read A Cross-Country Christmas from this author and loved it so I was quick to put this on my Christmas reading list. Courtney Walsh does clean, sweet, Hallmark-y books well and this was no exception. It’s a bit cheesy and predictable but not too eye-rolling – just what I was in the mood for! I liked the characters individually and got invested in their dynamic and fake-flirting relationship. The small-town-at-Christmastime setting is festive and charming. You know when you’re in the mood for just a feel-good holiday movie? This feels like that. I recommend if you’re wanting something easy and festive for the holiday!

Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

After a devastating incident, Sewanee Chester abandoned her dreams of being an actress and is now an audiobook narrator reading everything except romance, which she has long since given up on. That all changes with a late author’s last request and a lucrative offer – now Sewanee finds herself reading a romance novel alongside the hottest audiobook author of the moment, Brock McNight. Though they’re both using pseudonyms, she and Brock form a connection over emails and texts that builds up to one moment: when they have to reveal their true selves to one another.

This was such a unique, fun read! I adored the characters and their dynamic and I found Sewanee to be such a refreshing main character. Her feelings and struggles and triumphs are so realistic and relatable; the author doesn’t try to overly-simplify complex issues. I got very invested in this storyline and loved watching Sewanee and Brock’s relationship unfold. I will say, it is a romance book about audiobook readers reading a romance . . . so it is heavy on steam at times. To be completely honest, I thought the actual audiobook text they were reading was pretty cringe-worthy but I think that was maybe the point? It’s not a central part of the plot and can be skimmed over just fine and the rest of the plot makes up for it!

I liked this book so much that it is actually one of my top ten books of the year! As for the other nine? Let’s recap them:


The Measure by Nikki Erlick

HANDS DOWN my favorite book from this year. Incredibly thought-provoking with a unique plot and interesting parallels to draw in our current society. This is perfect for a book club discussion! See my full review here.

Anxious People by Fredrick Backman

Masterful, clever writing in this slow burn, character-driven work. This book is sweet, funny, deep, and entertaining. I didn’t want it to end! Full review here.

The No-Show by Beth O’Leary

Go in blind. You will hate it . . . until you love it. Full review here.

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

Honestly, anything by Sally Hepworth is worth reading. This domestic mystery has twists and turns that I didn’t see coming – had my jaw drop at one point! Full review here.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne

This book inspired me to work to create a simpler, more restful life for our family to enjoy and savor. I know it will have far-reaching impact in my family’s life and I’ll be referring to it for a long, long time. Full review here.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

A very unique perspective for a WWII novel, taking place mostly in a forest. Compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful, this book is worth checking out. Full review here.

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

The most realistic and likeable romance I’ve read in a long time – a very refreshing read! Full review here.

The Office BFFs by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey

This book was so entertaining I honestly don’t think you have to be a fan of the show to enjoy it. A relatable dynamic and a delightful read. Full review here.

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley

An ensemble-cast read that is interesting, uplifting, sweet, and satisfying. I want to ride on this commuter train! Full review here.

Cheers to more great reading in 2023!

Looking Back at my 2022 Projects & Goals

We only have two more weeks in 2022 (!!) and next week I’ll be taking a break from the blog as I soak up lots of family time so today felt like a great time to check in on the goals I set at the beginning of 2022. I started the year with several house projects on my to-do list, as well as a few personal and family goals. Overall, I’m counting this year as a big success!

Goals for Our Home

While this year didn’t have any major renovations like previous years, I did make quite a bit of progress in some rooms in our house.

Update the Flooring

I’m giving myself partial credit for this goal. Justin and I decided to prioritize some different financial goals this year, which put the major flooring plans on hold for now. We have hopes to update the basement carpet in 2023 and address the entire main floor level in 2024, but we did proceed with updating the carpet in the nursery and LJ & Vi’s shared bedroom. It made a huge difference in both spaces! I’m excited to continue to update flooring throughout our house over the next few years.

Main Floor Powder Room

This project just never felt like a priority for me, and I don’t have specific inspiration for the room yet, so it got bumped from my 2022 to-do list. Maybe I’ll get inspired to tackle it in 2023? It also might just be on hold until the main floor level gets updated flooring – we’ll see!

Finish the Guest Room Stencil

I made some progress on this goal this year, but did not complete it. Part of the reason I stopped is because I’m still not sure if I want to continue the stencil all the way around the room or stay with just the two walls shown. Either way, I need to just commit some time to finishing up in 2023. We did upgrade the bed + mattress from a full to a queen with all new bedding and every guest who has stayed with us since has commented on how cozy and comfortable it is is so I’m counting that as a big win.

Update the Kids’ Bedrooms

This goal is approximately 95% complete! LJ and Vi moved into a shared bedroom this year and it got quite the glow up: matching twin beds, curtains, sconces, carpet, and updated storage, bedding, and artwork. The only thing left on my list to address is the wall behind the dresser – it was originally going to be wallpapered, but that project lost steam after a mishap with the order. I have a new idea for this wall now and I’m feeling very inspired so look for that to be one of the first things I tackle in 2023!

As for the nursery, I had so much fun preparing the room for a baby boy (it was the first time we ever found out the sex in advance!) and I love how it turned out. I painted the walls, hung curtains, collected artwork, hung bookshelves, updated the dresser, thrifted an amazing windowpane chair, and then recently tweaked a few things with some vintage brass items and a woven hamper. It feels finished . . . for now. 🙂

Have the Foyer Painted

I made zero progress on this goal, but rest assured it is a top priority for 2023! Our foyer has been halfway painted since March 2021 and I’m determined to get it finished before the two year mark.

Update the Living Room

It’s slow, but progress is happening in this room! I have painted the walls and ceiling and we installed a new chandelier. We’ve also spoken to an electrician about hardwiring some sconces above the couch and in the new year I’ll be painting the windows and replacing trim. I haven’t felt a strong sense of urgency to finish since we currently have our Christmas tree set up in here, but once that’s down in the new year I know I’ll be itching to finish up this room.

Patio Updates

We did not end up making any changes to our main patio this year but we did DIY an umbrella stand with storage for the little deck down by the pond and we have used that SO much! It’s so nice to have some shade since we spend hours out there each day in the summer; I’m definitely still giving myself partial credit for this goal.

Bonus Projects I didn’t Plan On

There were a few things I accomplished this year that I didn’t have on my original list, but are still worth celebrating. First up, I helped my sister with several projects in her home this year:

We laid down peel & stick tile in her kitchen and it pulled the changes we made last year (painting the cabinets and walls, removing some top cabinetry and installing open shelving, painting the backsplash) together to make the space feel fresh.

In April I thrifted a $20 dresser and upgraded it for her nursery. Justin and I also DIYed a frame for a frameless mirror to complement it. Now that my sweet nephew is here, this gets a ton of use!

Most recently I helped her with transforming her guest bathroom in a single weekend. Using mostly paint and a few simple DIYs, we made this room feel like a completely new space that reflects her personality so well.

I completed a few small projects throughout the year too but my favorite one is the dollhouse I bought and re-vamped for my kids’ Christmas present. I cannot wait to give it to them this weekend!

Personal Goals

Exercise at least 3x per week

Unfortunately, in my very full life right now, exercise is something that can too easily get pushed to the back burner. I am feeling really good after my third c-section and want to get back into regular exercise asap!

Buy thoughtfully and intentionally

I can honestly say that this goal has now become an ingrained part of my lifestyle. Whenever I need something, whether it be a gift, an item for my home, clothing for myself or my kids, or any other product, I first think: is there a sustainable or fair trade option? Can I buy it from a local business? Can I buy it secondhand and give new life to something? A few examples of things I’ve done this year are: switching to reusable fabric cotton rounds instead single-use ones, wrapping my presents in fabric, thrifting or renting nearly all my children’s clothing, shopping small, local businesses for gifts, and finding a gorgeous, fair-trade woven laundry basket and some vintage pieces for the nursery. Sometimes I can’t find something and I don’t drive myself crazy trying to be perfect. I have my fair share of big-box-store-bought items for sure, but it truly feels great anytime I can be a little more thoughtful with a purchase.

Prioritize Sleep

I’m not sure what I was thinking including this as a goal in the same year I have a newborn, ha! Ollie surprised us though and it our best sleeper by far so my sleep tank isn’t as depleted as I expected. I don’t always go to bed as early as I hope, but it has helped tremendously to be conscious of timing falling asleep with my REM cycle so I don’t wake up super groggy. I’ve also started using an actual alarm clock instead of my phone to check the time if I wake up in the middle of the night so that helps to not stimulate my brain and disrupt sleep too much. These little habits have definitely helped me sleep better!

Update the Blog Menu

This goal is finished! I updated the entire blog menu earlier in the year AND I’m giving myself an extra gold star because I’ve actually been able to maintain it and keep things updated as new posts get added. It’s now more organized and streamlined and (hopefully) easier for readers to navigate.

Family Goals

Take our first family vacation!

I’m giving us extra stars for this because we did a few trips this year! We went on our first family-of-four vacation to Disney World in February and had an incredible time.

In June, we went to the beach with Justin’s family AND took a trip with one of Justin’s high school buddies and his family to Maryland. We swam in the ocean played in the sand and went for hikes and took boat rides and just enjoyed adventuring as a family – it can be exhausting to travel with kids but it is also so much fun and I’m looking forward to more of it in our future!

Dates with Our Kids

Justin and I are really good about this . . . kind of. Ha! It has kind of naturally fallen into him doing lots of dates with LJ and me doing lots with Vi, which is great! But I also want us to switch and me take LJ and he take Vi for more one-on-one time in those combinations.

Now that we have Ollie I’m also very proud of my “me + 3” dates where I take all three kids to do something. Our favorite place to go is the zoo but we also hit up lots of playgrounds and parks for picnics and little adventures. So fun!

Be Intentional with Making Life Feel Special

I’m a work in progress here, but it has been really fun to try to incorporate fun little things into our life this year. Holidays are so magical for our kids in this stage of life and I’ve enjoyed adding everything from simple Lucky Charms cereal at St Patrick’s Day to an incredibly fun and memorable advent activity calendar this month. It’s also been fun to try to add some special things into everyday life – I’ll take a blanket and picnic supplies to our playground trips and we started a family campfire tradition every week this fall. It’s been a really special year!

I’m ending this year on a grateful note – 2022 is the year we did many things, but the best thing that happened was welcoming Ollie into our family. It was a wonderful year and I’m looking forward to all that 2023 will bring!

Our Transition from 2 to 3 Kids

We’ve been a family of five for four months now and it’s hard to even remember back to life before Ollie. Our life, house, and hearts are fuller and happier than ever! As we’re now out of the newborn haze and settling into more of a routine, I thought it’d be a good time to check in and talk about our transition from two to three children. Today I’m sharing an honest look at how things have been going, and I included some questions I was asked on Instagram last week when I brought up this transition. Full disclosure, it’s a LONG post – maybe the longest I’ve ever had? – so grab a warm drink and a cozy blanket and settle on in. 🙂

How have the big kids adjusted to having another baby in the house?

They have both been beyond-my-wildest-dreams wonderful with a baby! I was bracing myself for jealously, tantrums, and regressions, particularly with Vi. She has always been my shadow and a big mama’s girl and I worried that a baby taking my attention would cause her to revert back to more babyish behavior, but thankfully that never happened. For both big kids, meeting their baby brother was literally love at first sight.

They were both smitten with their little brother and wanted to hold him all the time at first. We had to constantly remind them not to get in his face, only kiss his hands or his feet, give him some space – they were just smothering him with their love! It was very sweet to see how purely they bonded from the start.

I kind of expected the novelty to wear off and apathy (or a delayed jealousy) to set in eventually, but it hasn’t happened yet. They are patient and understanding when I need to be focusing my attention on him. They’re not as obsessed with holding him these days, but they still greet him every morning, kiss him good night, want to see him, be near him, watch him, and sing to him (melt. my. heart!)

Now that he’s more interactive, they like giving him baby toys to see if he’ll grasp them and they love trying to make him smile and laugh by doing silly things in front of him. I’m incredibly grateful that this part of the transition has been smooth sailing.

What has been harder than expected? What has been easier?

Justin and I obviously anticipated being outnumbered, but we didn’t really think about how being outnumbered translates to very little downtime. Previously, we were pros at the divide-and-conquer method: we’d each take a child and address their needs or just spend time with them one-on-one. We could also give each other breaks since one of us could take both kids to do something and the other would have time to themselves. Nowadays, the divide and conquer still happens but there’s not usually an “off” parent. A big example of this is bedtime; we previously took turns doing bedtime. Since LJ and Vi share a room, only one of us was needed for brushing teeth, reading books, and tucking in, so the other would get the night off. Now, we’re both doing bedtime every night – one of us has Ollie and the other has the big two.

When we do get “off” time to ourselves, we can feel kind of guilty or have a hard time truly enjoying the time because we know the other one has all three at once. Justin went hunting for a few days this fall; it’s a passion of his that I wanted him to enjoy AND it was really hard for me to be the “on” parent to three kids for all those extra hours. Justin gives me time to myself to read a book or go get a pedicure with a friend; he knows I need the mental break and is happy to give it to me AND it’s hard for him to take on all three after a long, exhausting day at work. We both truly want to give the other one the space and time we each need to recharge AND it’s just hard to take on extra hours with three kids. I will say, it’s getting a little easier with time so hopefully this is an area that keeps improving for us!

As for easier than expected, it’s been surprising to me to see how much I enjoy what I now call “me+three” outings. Starting when Ollie was five weeks old, I often take all three kids somewhere on Fridays – a playground or the zoo for example – and we have a little adventure. Somehow, these excursions have been way easier than I expected, and I think it’s for two reasons. One, I PREPARE. I take lots of snacks, full water bottles, and choose family-friendly locations where my kids can run and jump and get energy out (the grocery store is still decidedly NOT a fun place to take all three kids by myself). I choose times of day when we’re not yet tired and cranky and I go without a time limit – if we stay 30 minutes, it’s a win. If we stay 3 hours, it’s a win. It other words, it’s high-prep, but low pressure.

The second reason it’s easier than expected is because honestly, I have grown a lot as a mom over the past five years. I’m more confident and calm in most situations and am willing and able to just roll with most things these days. I also feel like I set myself up to say YES in these excursions and actually enjoy taking along a little picnic or staying at the stingray exhibit for 20 minutes. I’m proud of the growth I’ve seen in myself as a mom!

How is everyone’s sleep going?

It’s always a little hard to say this when you know other people are having rough times with sleep, but Ollie has been my absolute best sleeper. He was sleeping long stretches of 3-4 hours at just a week old and was fairly consistently sleeping through the night before he turned a month old. I did nothing significantly different with him, it’s just how he’s been. I realize we’re incredibly lucky and as I remember the first weeks with baby Vi cluster feeding round the clock every 60-90 minutes, I do not take that for granted.

Knowing he’s my last baby, I kept him in the bassinet in our room a little longer than I did with the other two, but at 10 weeks we moved him over to the crib in his nursery and the transition was smooth. If he does wake up, it’s usually just because he wants his pacifier popped back in although we do occasionally have to get up and feed him sometime between 3-5 am. For the most part, he sleeps from about 7 pm – 8 am. Hallelujah.

Now naps are a different story. With my first two kids, I could count on 3 regular naps that lasted over an hour each but Ollie mostly just cat naps. Fifteen minutes here, 20 minutes there, sometimes a randomly long hour nap, but nothing is regular. Part of that is we’re on the move a lot more and not home to put him down consistently so I think he’s never really had the chance to settle into a daytime sleep schedule. Luckily, he’s very adaptable and will take good naps in the car seat as we drive around or when pushed in the stroller so I count that as a win.

I also can’t talk about sleep without mentioning the older two and…woof. They’ve started having some nightmares and as the way lighter sleeper of the two of us, Justin is getting up with one or both of them nearly every night (and usually multiple times a night). I’m really hoping this improves soon!

Logistically, how do you travel? How is your vehicle arranged?

We have a van and we put the two big kids in the back seat and the infant car seat directly behind the driver. We collapsed the bucket seat on the passenger side down into the floor which is SO helpful for the kids getting in and out of the van and for me crawling in to help them get buckled. We actually have a road trip planned to Virginia in a couple weeks, which will be our first significant trip with all three so I’ll have to report back with how long travel goes!

Are you breastfeeding? How do you juggle the time commitment of feeding with the demands of other kids?

Our feeding journey has been a bit of a roller coaster actually. I breastfed my first two kids without issue (LJ for 13 months, Vi for 22 months) and expected to do the same this time. My milk came in right away and I had a great supply. I was confident and went along on my merry way.

I actually loved the first few weeks with a newborn at home. There was always another adult around so I would savor the time just him and me alone upstairs rocking and nursing and cuddling. Some of my sweetest memories!

At his two week check-up, we realized that something wasn’t right. He was still six ounces under birth weight. I was given the instructions to start pumping and supplementing with more milk to help him gain weight. I started working with a lactation consultant doing weighted feeds and we realized he was only transferring about an ounce total per feed AND my body had already adjusted to this lack of demand: my supply had gone way down. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it was extremely frustrating to know that my supply had come in strong initially and had I just known to pump a bit from the beginning, I could’ve kept it up to where it needed to be. Instead, I was trying to breastfeed AND them pump AND work to try and build up my supply with extra hydration, lactation cookies, supplement drinks, etc.

I quickly went through the small stash of breastmilk I had accumulated as well as a stash a friend with an oversupply generously shared. I researched formulas and chose one to use in addition to breastmilk. At one point, I was breastfeeding, pumping, feeding him what I pumped, and giving formula to make up any deficit. It was exhausting and a little defeating because the truth is, Ollie just didn’t do well with breastfeeding. I worked with a lactation consultant for about eight weeks and gave it my best, but when things were only marginally improved (and the improvement had plateaued) by ten weeks, I made the decision to give up nursing. Everyone – my family, my lactation consultant, our pediatrician – was so supportive of this and I appreciate that not one person ever made me feel even slightly guilty about this. I was confident in my decision, but it did really help that there weren’t negative opinions being thrown at me.

Honestly, I thought this would be harder for me but I think because I had two good experiences breastfeeding my other babies, I know this isn’t something I did wrong. It’s just one of those things that didn’t work out for him and I was truly at peace giving it up at 10 weeks. I still continue to pump 2-3 times a day just to give him a bit of breastmilk but the majority of his nourishment now comes from formula.

As far as how I handle the time commitment of feeding with other kids around, it’s the same as it was when I was breastfeeding. They’re there! They like sitting right next to me as I feed him and now that there’s a bottle involved, they even sometimes want to help. I utilize screen time when necessary but they’ve pretty much adjusted to knowing when mommy is feeding they just need to wait. It is also really different having a 5 and 3 year old this time around – they can actually be (sort of) patient and wait if I’m feeding him. They can also bring me things I might need as I’m feeding him, like a burp cloth or diaper, or fulfill their own simple needs, like getting a glass of water or snack.

Having never really used bottles before, I had no idea what a time commitment it is to pump, wash pump parts, wash bottles, make sure you’re stocked on formula, make sure you have supplies for leaving the house . . . whew! It’s a whole different beast. When we moved to exclusive pumping + formula, I invested in the Elvie pump which is a game changer – it’s so SO nice for being able to pump and multitask with the other kids. I keep my pump parts in the fridge throughout the day so I don’t have to wash them each time and we have enough bottles to get us through at least half a day before needing to wash any. It makes a difference!

I’m not sure how long I’ll keep trying to pump or at what point I’ll move to 100% formula but for now I’m content with where we’ve landed.

Which was the most challenging transition: 0-to-1, 1-to-2, or 2-to-3?

Hands down, Justin and I agree that going from one child to two children was the most challenging transition for us. LJ and Vi are only 21 months apart and it sometimes felt like we had two babies – we had two in cribs, two in diapers, two non-verbal (LJ had some speech delays that started to resolve after he turned two). LJ had very few independent skills and still required close supervision in everything; the mental energy and physical demands of two-under-two felt like a lot, all the time. Needs were extra high and sleep was extra low. Obviously, any time you add another person to your family there are going to be unique challenges, but for us, that transition was the hardest.

How did you know you wanted to try for a third child?

I’m happy to share but I do want to first acknowledge: I know not everyone is able to time the gap between children or choose how many children they have. I have experienced pregnancy loss myself, and I always want to be sensitive to those who may be struggling with loss, infertility, or any other complicated factor in their parenthood journey. If you’re in a tough spot with this, I see you and am sending you a big virtual hug.

Justin and I always knew we wanted multiple kids, although when we got married he wanted three and I wanted four. After LJ, we were on the same page with wanting more and were ready at the same time – and along came Vi. At that point, our feelings for future children had shifted. As mentioned earlier, the transition from 1-2 children was SO incredibly tough on us. We originally thought we’d want all our kids close together in age but after Vi we knew we couldn’t do an < 2 year gap again. We tabled the discussion for more children until she turned one year old. At that point, Justin was really content with two and didn’t want to try for a third but I still really wanted to go for a third. We prayed, we talked, we went back and forth, back and forth, for another full year. We could each see the other’s point of view and understand the pros and cons each way, which actually made it more difficult I think. It was our ultimate analysis paralysis! In hindsight, I really wish we had seen a therapist – I think counseling would have absolutely helped us talk through our feelings/worries/hopes/dreams/etc and we would have saved ourselves a lot of cyclical discussions that went nowhere. Even though we didn’t do it, counseling is my #1 tip if you’re struggling to be on the same page with your partner on this.

We both agreed we did not want more than a 3 year gap between Vi and any younger sibling (nothing against bigger gaps, and I know it is amazing in some families – it’s just not what we wanted for ours for various reasons). As that date approached, we actually both came to the decision NOT to have a third. We were at peace with just two and decided not to try for more, final decision. A month or two went by and I just felt a nagging on my heart that would not quit. It’s like once I was truly telling myself we were done and it wasn’t going to happen, my heart kept nudging me to try. I went back to Justin and essentially say “hey, I know we agreed to be done but my heart just will not let this go and I really and truly feel like we need to at least try.” We talked, prayed again, and ultimately (finally!!) got on the same page.

We decided to try for a third, but only in a very specific, and pretty small, window. Essentially, we decided to try to the point where there would be a 3-year age gap and stop at that point. We both felt complete peace with this and truly believed that whatever happened was going to be the right decision for our family. We prayed quite a bit, and low and behold, we got pregnant. It was surprising to us that it actually happened but we both immediately felt like this baby was meant to be. After all that back and forth, in one moment it all just clicked into place.

We can both wholeheartedly say now that we cannot imagine our family without Ollie. This transition has had its ups and downs but we’re adjusting to life as a family of five and we wouldn’t have it ANY other way.

I am so so so so so incredibly and endlessly grateful for this family of mine.

A Few Small Nursery Updates

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been making a few small changes in the nursery. None of them have really warranted a full blog post on their own, but now that they’re all in place it felt like a good time for a little collective update!

First up, after three years in this house we finally have a laundry hamper in the nursery. Can you believe we never had one the entire time Vi used this room? Whenever we had dirty clothes I would just carry them into the kids’ room and toss them in that hamper. I found this lidded woven basket and it was love at first sight – the leather handle is a great detail, it’s well made and very high quality, and it’s fair trade! I also love how the woven texture brings an organic, natural feel to the room. It feels like the perfect fit. Since we have a diaper pail on the other side of the dresser, the hamper is currently sandwiched between the dresser and the door but once we’re out of the diaper stage, it will go on the other side of the dresser.

I also found this little brass elephant at a local vintage sale. I thought it was so sweet and a perfect little detail to add to the nursery!

Speaking of brass, when I first put the nursery together, I bought two vintage brass planters. I loved the look but felt like they were too small for the wall, so over the past few months I’ve been searching Etsy and purchasing more as I find them. I now have five and the wall feels much more proportioned! I love the collected look of various shapes and sizes.

This room doesn’t get great natural light (I had to turn the lights on to take pictures of the planters), but my first attempt with a real plant lived! Now that I have more planters, I decided to try adding another real plant. Can you guess which two plants are real?

I know the nursery will continue to evolve as Ollie grows and his needs change, but for now it feels like it’s at a good place! Although . . . is a room really ever done being tweaked? I think not 🙂

A {semi} DIY Dollhouse for Christmas

This weekend I checked a big item off my Christmas to-do list: a semi-DIY dollhouse for LJ and Vi to share!

Last year for Christmas, Justin and I built a play kitchen for our kids. For Vi’s second birthday, I built her a wooden clothing rack to store her dress-up clothes (still proud of myself for doing that on my own!) For a while now, I have wanted the next big toy/gift to be a dollhouse and I thought it would be another thing we would make from scratch. Alas, when I started talking about my plans to Justin, he literally begged me not to tackle an entire dollhouse.

Justin is normally pretty supportive of my wild ideas (I mean, the guy did climb up on a 12-foot scaffold to help paint our living room ceiling) but he reeled me back in on this one by having me talk through all the logistics. His point was that our time is so limited these days with three kids, plus all the other Christmas activities we wanted to do as a family, attempting a dollhouse would make for a stressful, time-crunched project that would likely be way more involved than I initially thought (as most of my projects tend to be haha). It made me realize that yes, I could make a dollhouse from scratch, but would that outweigh the time and effort that it took from me in this particular season of our life? The answer is no, it wouldn’t be worth it. I decided to pivot and find a ready-made dollhouse.

I searched for gender-neutral options and found this dollhouse from Hape. It was the perfect solution – I loved the clean, minimal design and felt like it would be a great launching pad for lots of open-ended play for my kids. I also liked that I could immediately envision some ways to put my own little spin it. Truthfully, the house would have been just fine in its original, multicolored state, but the thought of still getting a little DIY in and making it my own felt like the best of both worlds! I ordered it a few weeks ago and then over this past weekend, I unboxed it and got to work.

I dug through my paint cabinet and pulled out various cans of extra paint I’ve used over the years. I taped out all the walls on the back and gave them one coat of primer and two coats paint. The trim is wood but the walls are a very glossy particleboard – think of an Ikea cabinet – and I wasn’t sure how well they would hold paint, but it ended up working great! I kept things simple on the back of the house and painted everything SW Urbane Bronze (the color from our living room ceiling).

On the front side, I taped out the three walls with windows in them and painted them three of my favorite colors from our house: SW Blonde (from our laundry room), SW Foggy Day (from our bedroom), and Farrow & Ball Treron (from my office). For the two walls with no windows, I decided to try to apply some extra peel-and-stick wallpaper I had on hand; one was leftover from our playroom, the other was a sample I never ended up using in our house. I applied the wallpaper the same way I would to a real wall – sprayed it down, folded it in half until the paste was activated, then unfolded and pressed it into place using a damp cloth. It worked like a charm!

Once the walls were done, I turned my attention to the smaller details. I painted the balcony railing and light fixture SW Tricorn Black, the front door Urbane Bronze with a Tricorn Black knob, and the little wall by the door SW Agreeable Gray (from our main floor trim). I also painted over the baby blue and white checkered floor to create an Urbane Bronze and Shoji White (from Ollie’s nursery ceiling) diamond pattern.

It’s not as vibrant as it was before, but with patterned floors and wallpapered walls, there is still a fun, whimsical combination of color going on.

I actually really loved the original roof for the dollhouse. It had solar panels and was reversible for the seasons – so charming! Once everything else was done though, the lime green just stood out like a sore thumb and made the whole house seem off. It pained me a little, but I painted the roof with the black spray paint I always have on hand. It was the right decision and the whole house feels cohesive now.

When I finally put everything together – I squealed. It looked even better than I imagined and seeing all the parts transform slowly paled in comparison to seeing the entire thing finally assembled.

I guess it makes sense, since I basically made a mini version of my own house, but I am so thrilled with how this turned out. It only took one weekend and some supplies I already had on hand, so it was definitely cheaper and less time-consuming than a completely-from-scratch version. I know my kids are going to love playing with it!

Using Fabric Scraps to Wrap Presents

With three weeks to go until Christmas, I’m about 90% done with my shopping and ready for the next phase: wrapping. I love a beautifully wrapped present and truly enjoy wrapping gifts for friends and loved ones. The biggest downfall for me is it always feels pretty wasteful to see the beautiful paper get ripped up and thrown in the trash. This year I decided to try something new – it’s inexpensive, sustainable, and pretty which is a win win win in my book!

A few months ago, I was wandered down the fabric aisle of my local thrift store. A large piece of fabric caught my eye – a plaid pattern with greens, reds, and golds that felt so festive without being obvious. I immediately was inspired and thought what if I used this for wrapping presents? Sure it’s not actually wrapping paper, but it could work, right? I bought the fabric for a couple bucks and started to look through the fabric sections every time I went thrifting, picking up a 1/2 yard here, a yard there, etc. Fabric scraps can be found in all sizes for just a dollar or two and soon I had a little collection of fabric for wrapping.

None of the patterns are actually Christmas-y. There’s no reindeer or Santa or holly or candy canes or anything like that, but I chose a variety of textures and patterns that together have an overall festive feel. I also got out my collection of ribbons – a couple rolls were new but I’ve also saved bits of twine and ribbons from gifts I’ve received over the years and thrifted some rolls as well (I thrifted that red and green plaid ribbon over 10 years ago!)

When it came to wrapping, it was basically the same process as with paper. I measured how much I needed for each present and cut the fabric to size.

I tested a few tapes and found that duct tape actually worked the best for fabric. I taped the initial edges directly to the box like I would with traditional wrapping paper and Scotch tape.

To hide the tape, I rolled it to tuck behind the final fold on each side.

I tied each package up with a ribbon, making sure to have the ribbon hold down the sides where I folded the fabric to keep everything securely wrapped.

That’s it! It’s super easy and basically the same process as with traditional paper. I love how all of the presents turned out! The collection of gifts looks unique and fun and I can’t wait to give them out this Christmas. It also makes me so happy to know this is very low waste – all of this wrapping material will be saved and used again for years to come.

Christmas Home Tour 2022

I’ve enjoyed taking a slow and steady approach to decorating for Christmas this year and have added bits and pieces to our home over the last week and a half. As of last night, I think I’m pretty much done (at least with all the major decorations), so today I thought I’d give you a little tour of our home decked out for Christmas!

I want my kids’ memories of Christmas in our home to feel magical so I definitely upped my game this year and concentrated on a few areas where I felt we’d get the most bang for our buck. I didn’t add things to every room. I didn’t add a single Christmas item in our basement. I specifically focused on the areas our family, particularly the kids, use the most. One of the biggest things I did was add ribbons and ornaments to existing decor – it was such a fun way to make things feel extra special without actually swapping out everything and since it’s higher than they can reach, it’s very kid-friendly.

This year my kids wanted to contribute a lot, especially with decorating the tree and dining room – it’s not perfect, but this house is our home and it feels festive and magical to us, which is the entire point. 🙂 I didn’t take a picture of every single Christmas item in my house, but this will give you a very good glimpse at our home this season. Enjoy!

Kids’ Bedroom

I really wanted LJ and Vi’s shared bedroom to have some Christmas magic and one of the top things I wanted was a small tree with twinkle lights. I was pretty particular about size/looks (and I wanted to try to find one secondhand rather than buy new) so I started my search early and scoured thrift stores for a couple weeks. I eventually scored this cute little tabletop tree at a local vintage shop and is so perfect! I had fun thrifting cute kid-friendly ornaments and also bought a few new ones at a local small business.

LJ and Vi came with me to a local vintage sale and one of them spotted this little set of bottlebrush trees. They both insisted we get them and honestly, it was not hard to convince me! I think they look so cute on the dresser and the kids really love them.

We also have several Christmas-themed books that I always pull out in December and this year I’m keeping them all in the kids’ room for bedtime stories.

Main Floor

This year’s tree is very bottom-heavy with ornaments, but the kids had a blast hanging up as much as they could! Our big tree is always filled with sentimental ornaments and I love it.

I’ve never had a real tree or real garland before but I spotted some fresh cut cedar garland for sale at Costco and decided to give it a try. We made a dried orange garland as a family (well kind of – the kids did help for a few minutes ha!) and I hung it up around the cased opening between the living room and playroom. I LOVE it! Safe to say this will not be the last time I do this.

Normally I display the Christmas cards we receive but this year I’m keeping it simple with a vintage basket on our kitchen counter to collect cards and flip through them at our leisure.

On the first night of December we spent time as a family making paper snowflakes. It was so fun! I thought we’d hang them up on the windows but LJ was adamant that they should hang down from the ceiling and eventually he won me over. I’ll admit, there is something magical about the overall effect in person! I also love how perfectly imperfect the snowflakes are. The kids were so proud of their work and every snowflake, regardless of how it turned out, got hung up. It might not look picture-perfect but it makes us all feel warm and fuzzy so it’s just right for us.

I put together an advent activity calendar for our family thanks to some free printables I found and it’s hanging in our office. It’s been so fun to do!

And of course, Macie enjoys snuggling up with our Christmas-y blankets and pillows.

Now I’m off to sneak upstairs and try to start wrapping presents without getting caught!

Bringing Vintage Brass Back to Life in Three Easy Steps

I recently went to a local vintage sale and scored two different sets of three bells as well as a larger, wall-mounted dinner bell. Typically with vintage pieces, I like to keep the patina (the green or brown tarnished look that happens over time), as I think it adds character and charm. For some of the bells, however, the thing I loved most was the intricate etching and I felt like the high level of patina actually hid a lot of the beautiful detail. Much as I loved the warmth of age, I made the decision to polish them so they could (literally and figuratively) shine again.

I first learned about Brasso last year when I installed raw brass sconces in our primary bedroom. It’s a polish that can clean stainless steel, chrome, aluminum, pewter, bronze, copper, and of course, brass. A quick side note: I have been slowly switching my cleaning products over to nontoxic options when possible, and there are ways to clean brass more naturally (this article has a variety of ideas). That being said, in the past, I have attempted to clean thrifted metal items like brass and copper with things like lemon or ketchup – with mixed results. Since my bedroom sconces were new, raw, and not exactly inexpensive, I chose to forgo a homemade paste and follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to use Brasso instead. I was pleased with the result and am personally fine keeping it in my cleaning product stash, particularly given its infrequent use, so that’s what I chose to stick with here.

The process of polishing is actually very easy, so today I thought I’d share what I did in case anyone else has a piece they want to try shining up!


Brasso metal polish

-newspaper (or something to protect your work surface)

-latex gloves

-two clean cloths

First up, make sure your workspace is prepped with a few layers of newspaper or something else to protect the surface. You’ll want to be in a well-ventilated area and make sure to wear gloves!

Shake the Brasso and squeeze a dollop out onto a clean cloth.

Using a circular motion, rub the Brasso all over the surface of the item, applying more as needed.

I suggest starting with a light pressure until you see how the metal is shining up, and then adjust as needed depending on how much patina you want to keep. For these bells, I didn’t want them to end up too shiny and new-looking, so I kept a light pressure the entire time.

Once you have applied cleaner all over your item, use a clean, soft cloth to buff the surface.

That’s it! Easy Peasy. It only took me about five minutes to polish each bell and reveal the unique, beautiful details.

I’m sure there are people who would argue that all vintage pieces should be left alone and might feel I made the wrong decision here. As I said earlier, I’m usually on Team Patina = Character! But I do think there’s a time and a place to work on a piece and I honestly have no regrets about polishing these. I’m all about cultivating a home that feels collected, cozy, and comfortable, with items that make me and my family happy. The details on these bells are now so vivid and eye-catching in person and I know I will appreciate them for years to come. And as the years go by, I’ll get to enjoy watching the slow process of the patina coming back 🙂

Now I’m curious – are you team polish or team leave as-is?