Friday Features

Happy Friday!

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

Summer Weather

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

Plant Refresh

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

LJ and Vi Comparison

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

Spring Cleaning Closets

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

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

Consignment Closet Refresh

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

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

Herself Podcast

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

Aldi Juice Find

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

ASMR Home Video

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

First Covid Shot!

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

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

Have a great weekend!

March 2021 Book Reviews

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

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

One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London

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

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

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Long Bright River: A Novel by [Liz Moore]

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

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

What you Wish For by Katherine Center

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

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

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

An Ikea Hack for Vittsjo Shelves

On Monday I shared Justin’s work office reveal and without question the star of the show was his shelving unit! Today I’m sharing all the details about the hack that took these three Ikea shelves and kicked them up several notches.

We bought three of these Vittsjo shelves from Ikea. Initially I had hoped to use this double Vittsjo, which is a bit more cost-effective, but it was out of stock in my store. This ended up being a blessing because I actually love the look and scale of three even better! The units came with glass inserts to create the shelves, but I was inspired by the chunkier look that Kim and Scott from Yellow Brick Home gave their Vittsjo and we decided to create a similar look. (Note: If you’re interested in doing this hack for yourself, I’ve included a full list of all the materials we used at the bottom of this post!)

Once all three units were assembled, we lined them up against the wall and Justin took measurements of the total length and width of one shelf spanning all three units and sketched out an outline, making sure to include all the places we would need to make notches to accommodate the vertical posts.

Each shelf would have a length of 60″ and a width of 14″. We bought a sheet of 1/2″ plywood, which was enough to make three long shelves and three small pieces for the bottom shelf . The sheet was 4′ x 8′, so our first step was to cut it down to the correct length. It was a gorgeous day, so Justin wheeled his work table outside!

Justin planned to use his circular saw for cutting the plywood to length so after measuring and marking the 60″ length, he also measured and marked out exactly where the edge of the circular saw’s guide would be when it cut the length. We clamped down a piece of scrap wood with a straight edge right where the circular saw guide would run so that Justin would have a solid wall to keep the saw’s guide flush against. This ensured a super straight cut! He also tossed a couple of larger blocks of scrap wood on top to keep the guide wood firmly in place.

After taking this picture, I was in charge of holding the side of the plywood hanging off the work table (since the saw couldn’t be directly over the table or it would have cut into it) and catching the part getting cut off. We saved that excess piece to make the bottom shelf pieces later!

Once the sheet was cut to length, the next step was cutting the width of each shelf. We repeated the same process as before – measuring and marking the width (14″) and also making a mark where the edge of the circular saw guide would be.

Here’s a close-up of the two marks he made. Can you see the little mark right on the edge where the guide wood is placed? That is exactly where the edge of the circular saw will be when Justin cuts the shelf to length. The other pencil mark along the edge is marking where the saw blade will cut the shelf to the correct width.

We repeated this process two more times to create three shelves with a 14″ width.

Next up was marking and cutting out all the notches. Using the outline he had drawn with all the shelf measurements, Justin used his combination square to mark where each notch should go.

This step took the longest, but creating a precise outline of the notch was necessary so he would know exactly where to cut. We highly recommend double checking measurements! Justin initially measured to the wrong spot and the notch would have been off but I noticed it in time and we were able to correct it before cutting. Measure twice (or three times!), cut once!

To cut out the notches, Justin used his jigsaw. He first cut the two parallel lines coming in from the edge.

Before cutting the top line, he drilled a small hole near the top of the notch.

This hole served as a place to start the jigsaw for a more precise cut on the final line at the top of the notch.

Justin repeated this process for all the notches and then lightly sanded all the edges and corners with 120-grit sandpaper. We tested this shelf to make sure it fit on our Vittsjo units (it did!) and then this one served as a template to trace notches on the remaining two shelves.

Once all the shelves were cut and we made sure they all fit, I started applying this 1/2″ edge banding on all the exposed edges. This step is definitely optional if you like the look of the layers of plywood, but we used it for our DIY play kitchen and I liked the cleaner look that edge banding provided.

The edge banding has dried glue on the back that is activated by heat. I turned my iron on to the cotton setting (a pretty high heat – around 400 degrees), placed the banding glue-side down on the side of the plywood, and ran the iron over the banding.

I kept the iron moving the whole time, rubbing back and forth over the same small area for 4-5 seconds, working my way slowly down to the end.

When I got near the end, I used a scissors to snip the band right at the edge of the plywood, and continued ironing to seal the end.

The nice thing about edge banding is if you get a little off and your band is crooked or slipped a bit, you just run the iron over it again to heat up the glue and then you can slide it to adjust positioning or even totally take it off and re-apply. I think it’s a very beginner-friendly DIY trick to elevate the look of plywood!

The edge banding was slightly wider than the plywood so we got this edge banding trimmer to shave off the excess. We had to adjust the blades so it didn’t shave too much off and the tool itself required quite a bit of forearm strength to use so Justin handled this task. šŸ˜‰

Once all the edge banding was trimmed, Justin did a quick round of sanding with 220-grit sandpaper on his orbital sander to give the shelves a nice smooth finish. I wiped them down with a tack cloth . . .

. . . and proceeded to stain them. We used stain and polyurethane we already had on hand and I used foam brushes to apply one coat of stain and two coats of polyurethane to the shelves.

After letting them dry, I very lightly buffed by hand using 400-grit sandpaper. Then it was time to assemble them in their new home in Justin’s office and style them!

You’ll notice we also cut three individual pieces to fit the lowest shelf. These were much more straightforward than the other shelves because the Vittsjo units came with a piece of rectangular wood to fit in each bottom shelf and we decided to keep that recessed look rather than cut another shelf like the other three. Justin just traced the wood three times onto the excess plywood we had after cutting the other three shelves to length, cut out each rectangle, and I stained them. No funky cuts or edge banding required!

We are thrilled with the way the edge banding looks. It creates the look of a solid piece of wood instead of plywood and looks so streamlined!

One of the shelves holds Justin’s coffee maker and some drink options, so we’re glad we put two coats of polyurethane on top to help with durability in case of a spill.

The wood look also brings in a lot of warmth and contrast to a room that otherwise was pretty bland and sterile-looking. It also provides a great base for displaying a variety of pieces that reflect Justin’s personality and profession.

We’re so happy with the results of this Ikea hack! It gave the simple black shelves an elevated look full of character and was just what this space needed!

Materials Used (for a complete list of sources on the shelves, check out this post!)

-1/2 inch sheet of 4′ x 8′ plywood

-circular saw

-jigsaw

-drill

-measuring tape

-combination square

-sandpaper (we used 120 grit, 220 grit, and 400 grit)

1/2 inch edge banding

-steam iron

-scissors

-stain

-polyurethane

foam brushes

optional materials:

-clamps

-scrap wood with a straight edge

-orbital sander

edge band trimmers

One Year in a Pandemic: A Photo Journal

We’ve officially been in a pandemic for over a year. On the one hand, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. On the other hand, it’s become so ingrained that it feels like it’s been a lot longer since life was “normal” (does anyone else watch TV made before March 2020 and think things like “OMG they just hugged!” or “Wow there are so many people there! And they’re so close together!”)

I originally intended to write a journal entry type blog post looking back over the past year, but I found myself procrastinating over and over. I think that I’ve been in a mode of just getting through this thing one day at a time for so long, and while I do sometimes stop to process what is going on, it’s such a huge thing that it’s hard for me to mentally wrap my mind around (and honestly feels triggering and defeating right now). I definitely have pandemic fatigue like so many others. We’re all ready for this to be done, but none of us actually know when it will be over. Summer 2021 is looking hopeful, and maybe at that time I’ll feel ready to do a look back over this time in a pandemic with two small children. Right now, I don’t feel ready to mentally take on that blog post.

Instead, I thought I would do a little visual look back over the year. This post is a beast with TONS of pictures. Quite honestly, I created this primarily to have a collection of some of our pandemic life all in one spot. It’s a little look into what the year looked like – what we did, what we wore (spoiler alert: 98% pajamas), what life was like. I fully understand that I might be the only one this invested in remembering what a year in our family life looked like, so feel free to skip this post if 83713491834 pictures isn’t your thing. šŸ˜‰

March 2020

Vi was dedicated at church on March 15, the weekend everything started shutting down. Little did we know that would be the last Sunday we’d step foot inside our church for over a year (we’ve been watching virtually ever since!) Justin and I were supposed to go to New Orleans the next week but that got cancelled so instead his vacation time was spent at home as a family. At that time it felt cozy and special to have quality time together and no other obligations. We had our first DIY Date Night and had no idea that a lot more DIY projects were in store for the following year.

April 2020

I did not leave my house this entire month except to go to the grocery store. Our Easter celebration was held over Zoom and we did a few small activities with LJ at home to celebrate. It was around this time that we realized that this pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon.

May 2020

We entertained ourselves by painting toenails, lots and lots of playtime indoors, watching our farmer neighbors, and enjoying outdoor weather whenever we could. I enjoyed a sweet and simple Mother’s Day at home in our pajamas and got to meet my new niece towards the end of the month. šŸ™‚

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June 2020

Even though it wasn’t a typically looking vacation, we were so thankful for Beach Week 2020 with family. At home, things stayed eventful with our AC system dying in the hottest week and LJ deciding to wash his hair in candle wax.

July 2020

We took advantage of our pond often and got to have my family over for an outdoor party which made this month almost feel normal.

August 2020

Justin’s parents were able to visit us for the first time since March and we celebrated Vi’s first birthday! We also got to go the zoo as a family and it was so nice to have a more ‘normal’ activity to do together!

September 2020

A milestone month for us – LJ started preschool! I was so thankful for in-person preschool and for a school that took tons of safety precautions. We also got to celebrate my birthday with four friends at an outdoor restaurant and my parents watched the kids for a day so Justin and I could have a mini getaway exploring Indianapolis outdoors. My middle sister and I also pulled off a big surprise by driving out to Virginia to celebrate our youngest sister’s birthday!

October 2020

Early voting, Halloween, and lots and lots of work on our home office!

November 2020

Back indoors for lots of playtime and we celebrated my tractor-loving boy’s third birthday! He also got a new bed and was preeeeetty excited about it. šŸ™‚ I had to include a picture of our kids eating apples too – they became obsessed with apples this year and would sometimes eat 2-3 a day.

December 2020

A magical month full of Christmas activities! The kids are at such a FUN stage right now and it really made the holidays that much more special. We didn’t travel to Virginia in December and our extended family gathering on my side didn’t happen like usual, but we had at-home date nights, Christmas jammies, gingerbread houses, and lots of special fun.

January 2021

Usually January feels about 78 days long, but strangely enough this year it didn’t! Maybe it’s because by this time, we were very used to just hanging out at home so it didn’t feel out of the ordinary.

February 2021

We got a ton of snow this month and had lots of fun playing in it. On days when it was too cold, we tried to get creative with new activities indoors – busy toddler tasks, baking Valentines cookies, and the big news: getting a bounce house to burn off our energy!

March 2021

Here we are. One year later. In the last year there have been days I’ve cried, days I’ve felt so overwhelmed, days I’ve yelled, and days I’ve really really struggled. Being the primary caregiver for two small children without regular help or the ability to go to places like the library, playdates, museums, etc has been so incredibly challenging. I don’t want to sugarcoat it – it’s been a tough year. But there have also been so many great memories of our time together at home. So many snuggles, forts, puzzles, laughs, getting creative with finding things to do (and TV shows, let’s be honest here). Time together like we’ve never had before and will likely never have again.

I’m feeling hopeful for the future. My grandparents and parents are now vaccinated (and so is our babysitter – hallelujah for a little more help around here!) The weather is warming up and we’re able to spend lots more time outside. We’re tentatively making travel plans for the summer and feeling optimistic about being able to do more things in a ‘normal’ way. I know we’re not there yet, but it feels closer and closer each day. One thing is for sure, this past year is one I will never forget.

A Quick Makeover for Justin’s Office

Yesterday I spent about three hours doing a flash room makeover to a room in desperate need of some help: Justin’s work office!

Justin works in the healthcare field and moved into a new office building in January 2021. Since moving in, he had done virtually nothing in terms of decorating his office space and asked me to help. Here’s what the room looked like prior to my, shall we say, intervention:

Not exactly an inspiring space, huh?

When thinking about what to do in the room, there were some obvious challenges. The room is painted the same color as all the other rooms on the floor and it’s obviously not our building so we couldn’t make any permanent updates. There’s no window, so I couldn’t use natural light or bring in real plants, and the light in there is fluorescent, which isn’t flattering to work with. While we couldn’t make any changes to the room itself, I was excited to think of ways to bring in interest, character, and functionality despite those limitations. My goal was to make this room more comfortable and reflective of Justin while still remaining functional and professional.

A bookshelf felt like an obvious choice to create some interest and offer a practical storage solution. I chose to create one large unit out of three Ikea Vittsjo shelves – I loved that these metal shelves brought in black accents but the slim frames and open back and sides kept them from overwhelming the space. In lieu of the glass inserts the Vittsjo came with, Justin and I made long shelves out of plywood (tutorial coming soon!) for a more substantial look. I love that the wood tones also help the shelving unit tie in to his desk.

I used a variety of wood tones, storage baskets with natural fibers, and faux plants to bring in warmth, texture, and life to the space and incorporated black and metal accents to keep a masculine vibe. A mirror placed on top of the shelves helps reflect the light and mimic the effects of a window.

While I wanted these shelves to look good, they also needed to be workhorses for storage. Justin has a lot of books, magazines, and papers he needs to be able to reference easily, plus several things he likes to have quick access to (coffee, mints, etc). I kept all but the largest of his books arranged vertically so he can easily pull what he needs from the shelf and corralled all his magazines in a black wire storage basket so they’re easy to flip through and find the one he’s looking for. His loose papers are now stored in simple file folders and stay neat and orderly tucked in a black file organizer.

His coffeemaker sits ready to go next to some other drink options and a medium sized basket above hides all his Keurig cups.

Another basket now discreetly stores his stash of mints so he can grab one easily as he walks in or out of his office.

I wanted to be very intentional about sprinkling little tidbits of Justin’s personality throughout the bookcase. A beer stein from a trip he took to Europe, a hat box that belonged to his maternal grandfather, and a little wooden engraving of The Lord’s Prayer given to him by his paternal grandparents – these sentimental items reflect his history and heritage.

A worn piece of scrap wood on the top shelf provides rustic sculptural interest while giving a nod to his passion for woodworking and salvaging old wood. I also purchased the digital downloads of two minimalist line drawings from BFF Print Shop, one with a father and son and one with a father and daughter, and displayed them in thrift store frames that I spray painted black. I love that they’re an artistic tribute to Justin’s role as father but the clean lines and black and white color palate keep them from feeling too busy among the other items. All these personal touches take the room from being a standard workspace to something that is distinctly Justin’s.

The grid-like pattern of the shelves combined with all the books, papers, and frames created a lot of sharp angles so things like the clock, rounded bookends, a circular basket, and the organic feel of all the leaves throughout helped soften the overall look.

On the wall to the other wide of his desk, I also included a gallery wall of black and white family photos. Justin faces this wall when seated at his desk and he wanted to be able to see us throughout his day (melt my heart!) I chose a mixed finish look with gold, silver, and light wood frames and kept all the pictures black and white for a more coordinated look.

I added a lamp and small faux plant to his desk as well to create a cozier feel for his desk and give him an option if he needs a break from the fluorescent light.

Given the limitations we had in this office space, it was never going to feel quite as homey as, well, our home; however, Justin spends so much time here that it was important to have a space that feels comfortable and inspiring. It turns out, the office didn’t require a complete overhaul to achieve that! I think this is true for any similar space. Maybe you work in an office (or are transitioning back to it soon) or you’re renting your current home or apartment and can’t make big changes or maybe you just don’t have the budget for a big change in your home – a functional piece of furniture, items with varying degrees of warmth and texture, and glimpses of personality throughout can be enough to totally transform a space!

Sources (note: anything not listed is either thrifted, old, or no longer sold)

Bookshelf: Ikea Vittsjo (tutorial coming soon!)

Faux plants: here, here, here, and here

Father and Son Line Drawing (digital download)

Father and Daughter Line Drawing (digital download)

Black Wire Basket

Black Clock

Keurig K-Mini

Round basket

Rectangular basket

Gallery Wall Frames: here, here, here, and here

Updating a Bedroom with a Geometric Accent Wall!

A friend of a friend reached out to me a couple weeks ago to ask if she could hire us to install a geometric accent wall in her main bedroom. They had already painted the walls in Sherwin Williams Peppercorn (a gorgeous moody gray!) but felt like the room needed a little something extra. She sent me an inspiration picture and after talking it over with Justin, we decided this sounded like a fun project to tackle together and agreed to do it.

This project took less than 24 hours, cost about $70 in materials, and was pretty easy to do. In other words, a quick, low-cost, relatively easy DIY project that was perfect for a Saturday!

Materials

1 1/2″ primed pine (we used 10 8′ boards)

painters tape

-miter saw

-nail gun + nails (we used 1 1/2″ nails)

spackling

combination square

-220 grit and 440 grit sandpaper

-six inch foam roller

-sawhorses

-paint

-optional: square layout tool; stud finder

On Friday afternoon, Justin and I went over to map out the pattern using painters tape (I chose tape with a width of 1.41″ so it would closely mimic the size of the 1.5″ trim). This served two purposes: it gave the homeowners a chance to make sure they liked the pattern and also helped us know exactly how much trim we need to complete the project.

We chose to use this 1 1/2″ primed pine, which comes in 8 foot lengths, so we created the pattern in a way that ensured no section was longer than 8 feet. We wanted to keep things as simple as possible by sticking to 90, 60, and 30 degree angles and we used this square layout tool to help place the first few pieces. While this tool was helpful in giving us a starting point for placing trim at the correct angle, once the first few pieces were taped down we saved some time and effort and eyeballed the rest of the trim placement. If you want to make your pattern super precise you can absolutely measure the angles for each taped piece but since this was just a guideline for us, we weren’t worried about precision.

We used an 8 foot piece as a guide for figuring out where we wanted each piece of trim to go, then placed the tape right along the side of the board for a nice straight line.

We started on the far right side of the room and created a triangle using the top right corner of the wall as the 90 degree angle, then built out the pattern from there.

Once the whole pattern was up on the wall, we got the homeowners’ approval and made a couple changes at their request. I wanted them to sit with it overnight so they had a chance to make sure they were totally happy with the pattern before we started since tape is way easier to change than installed trim.

At home that night, I used a six inch foam roller to paint two coats of Sherwin Williams Peppercorn in eggshell finish on the trim pieces and let them cure overnight.

On Saturday morning we loaded everything up and headed over to their house to install. We began with the long piece of trim stretching from the right corner of the wall to the baseboards. We knew this piece of trim would create a right triangle with the right wall and baseboard which made figuring out the angles pretty easy. I made a lovely diagram to help you visualize what I’m talking about šŸ˜‰

We knew the length of this trim was just shy of 8 feet, so Justin used his miter saw to trim what would be the “top” end at a 30 degree angle and the “bottom” end to a 60 degree angle, making sure the angles were pointed in the correct directions to line up with the wall and baseboard.

The tape was just a guideline so we were not stressed about lining things up exactly. Once both ends of the trim were cut to the correct angle, we just placed the trim flush against both the corner of the walls and the baseboard and Justin used his nail gun to attach it to the wall. It didn’t end up exactly where our taped line was, but it was pretty close!

We wanted as few nail holes as possible, so I used a stud finder to locate all the studs in the wall and placed a small piece of tape over each one so Justin could nail directly into studs for a secure hold with minimal nails.

We decided to install all the longest boards first and then go back and fill in with the shorter pieces of trim. We worked our way across the wall from right to left, building off of each board we installed. The picture below gives you a good idea of the “in progress” part – we removed the corresponding piece of tape prior to installing each piece of trim and rolled back the intersecting pieces so that they wouldn’t get in the way of install.

Installation wasn’t hard once you understood the general math we were working with. I’ll walk you through our process as we installed trim where the far right green tape is marking in the picture below.

We had already installed the longer trim it would intersect with, and that installed trim made a triangle with the wall and taped line as shown in my lovely drawing below.

We knew we had cut the top angle of the long trim at 30 degrees. We wanted the short trim piece to intersect with the long trim piece at a 90 degree angle. That left one angle, “x”, to figure out. The sum of the angles of a triangle is 180 degrees. 90+30=120, meaning the last angle would be 60 degrees. (It’s worth noting that we didn’t actually do calculations every time – we used 30, 60, and 90 degree angles for the entire wall so determining angles was easy!)

Justin used his miter saw to cut one end of a piece of trim to 60 degrees, intentionally keeping it longer than we needed.

He brought the trim back inside, placed the angled cut flush against the wall, and then used the combination square to ensure the new trim was intersecting the installed trim at a perfect 90 degree angle.

Once the trim was at the correct angle, he marked it right where it intersected the installed trim and cut it right on that line.

Once the length was cut at a straight angle, it fit perfectly in the intended space and Justin nailed it into the wall. That’s the general process we used with each piece of trim, although sometimes instead of a wall being one side of the ‘triangle,’ it was the ceiling or baseboard or another piece of trim.

While Justin focused on cutting down and installing the trim pieces, I visually checked each piece prior to install to make sure the pattern continued to look uniform.

I also followed behind him to fill in all the nail holes using this spackling.

I like using this product because it goes on pink and turns white as it dries. Usually I’ll just lightly sand it with my finger, but this time I put the spackling on a little thicker than normal. I waited until it was completely dry, then lightly sanded it smooth, first with a 220 grit sandpaper and then with a 440 grit sandpaper. I used a little piece of painters tape to create a shelf underneath each patched hole prior to sanding so the tape would catch a good amount of the dust from sanding.

I had thought we’d need to caulk each piece, but we ended up really liking the crisp lines that the trim created on the wall. Plus, the fact that Justin was nailing into studs as often as possible meant there was a nice tight fit with almost no gaps. I did caulk a couple places between the trim and the far walls where there was a little bit more of a gap. After all the holes were sanded and the caulk dried, I used my foam roller to do a quick once over on the whole thing.

And with that – we were done!

The new bed the homeowners chose was really heavy, so we offered to help them put it together before we left. It looks so awesome up against the wall!

We started taping out the pattern around 5:00 pm on Friday, and we were totally finished with the wall by 2:30 pm on Saturday. Quick, easy, low-cost, but big impact – I’m so glad we decided to take on this project!

Sources:

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Peppercorn

Ceiling Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster

Bed: Restoration Hardware

A Round-Up of Our Recent Projects

Since finishing up the dining room renovation, we haven’t had a big project going on in our house. It’s been refreshing to not have paint cans and tools cluttering up my countertops or an in-progress room that I spend my days trying to keep kids out of. While we’ve been in-between big projects in our home, we’ve been working on helping my friend Amber create a cookie decorating space in her home, as well as tackling several smaller projects that have been on our to-do list for a while.

Big, huge room renovations are fun, but the little details that make up a home can have huge impact. Today I thought I’d share the four projects we completed over the past few weeks – they were all easy to do, relatively inexpensive, and took anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days to finish. They may be smaller scale projects, but they went a long way in upgrading a few spaces in our home!

Paint the Front Door

The previous owners had painted the front door the same color as the wall. This was never my favorite design choice to begin with, but once we painted the walls, the door definitely stuck out like a sore thumb! Justin and I plan to eventually replace this with a double door, but for now I just gave it a couple coats of Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black. A small and simple change that made a big difference!

Upgrade our Dog Bowls

We had the same dog bowl setup for years and to say it left something to be desired is an understatement. I bought the mat way back when we only had Macie, so it was only big enough to place one water bowl and one food dish on top. I’m honestly not sure why we never upgraded the mat to a bigger size once Scout joined our family! Scout did have a matching ceramic food bowl but it broke and we replaced it with a metal one, and LJ dropped a heavy toy on the water bowl and took a big chip out of the rim. Suffice to say, the whole thing was a hot mess. Using this $159 raised dog bowl as inspiration, Justin used scrap wood and simple stainless steel pet bowls to create a new setup. I love how clean and streamlined it looks!

Create Gallery Walls

Once the main floor walls were freshly painted, there were a few areas that really needed some personality. Using a mix of frames I’ve collected from various thrift stores, I created two gallery walls: one in between our kitchen and living room and one on the two walls next to our spiral staircase. You can read more about the process for how I curated each wall in this blog post.

Update Playroom Window Trim

The playroom (formerly a dining room) was the first room we updated after moving in to this house. At that time, I wasn’t sure what my plan was going to be for the trim in the house, so we left the baseboards and window casing alone. I haven’t loved the wood trim look so I was excited to finally update the window trim here! Justin followed the same process he used when updating the office and dining room window trim, and I painted the windows Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black and the trim Benjamin Moore Greyhound (the same color as the walls). I love the new look!

I’m still debating on whether or not to paint the baseboards as well. We plan to replace the baseboards, but we also plan to update the carpet once we’re out of the toddler stage (they’re too messy right now to justify new flooring, ha!) So should I wait to replace the baseboards and just paint them for now? Or should I go ahead and replace them? I can’t decide!

Now that these little projects are wrapped up, I’m very excited for what’s coming up next! We have a small project we’re doing for someone else this weekend, and we also have plans to finally show some love to a *very* neglected room. I can’t wait to share more soon!

Creating a DIY Cookie Space!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that Justin and I have been helping our friend Amber with a very unique project: a cookie decorating space! We finally wrapped up the project yesterday and we are all thrilled with how it turned out!

Amber has a cookie business that she runs out of her house and as her business has grown, she has outgrown the ability to comfortably bake and decorate in her kitchen. She reached out to me a couple months ago for some help coming up with a layout in the little nook next to her kitchen that housed a table and chairs. Our goal was to create a large workspace for decorating cookies and also provide ample storage for all her decorating supplies.

She knew she wanted to use Ikea cabinets and after talking through potential layouts, we settled on using the back wall for storage and with a perpendicular counter to maximize workspace for decorating. I drew up three different options for storage layout and while we ended up having to veer a little from the plan because some cabinets weren’t in stock, here’s what we settled on:

I suggested using Ikea Sektion because that’s what I was familiar with from using them in our office renovation. The process of cabinet assembly and installation was very similar to our office cabinets. One extra challenge with this project was the carpet, which is softer and has more give than a solid floor and had to factor into things like where to install the cabinet suspension rail.

Another challenge was the fact that we planned to put a table in the middle of the cabinets – it made it a little trickier to ensure the cabinets were level with one another all the way across the wall, but Justin nailed it!

Once the rail was up and the cabinets were secured and level, Justin drove longer screws into the sides of the cabinets to attach them super securely to one another.

For the cabinet counter tops, we used an edge glued panel and Amber applied a couple coats of this black stain + polyurethane with a natural bristle brush.

We wanted the snuggest fit possible, so we chose to do the left countertop, then the table, then the right countertop. While I worked on installing all the cabinet doors, Justin took the panel, flipped it over, and cut it to length with a circular saw. He clamped down a 1×4 to create a guide for a nice straight cut, then installed the panel by screwing it to the cabinet from the bottom up.

The table was pretty straightforward. We used the same butcherblock countertop that we used for our basement kitchen renovation last summer. Amber purchased four turned table legs and Justin cut them down to the correct length so that the table would end up being flush with the countertop.

He used a kreg jig to create two pocket holes on each leg.

I marked where we wanted each leg (1.5″ from each edge of the butcherblock) and Amber’s husband helped hold the legs in place while Justin screwed each one into the butcherblock.

Since we didn’t want to the table to move from the countertop, Justin used two L brackets to attach the table directly to the wall.

Once the table was securely installed, he cut down the countertop for the cabinets on the right side (with a little help from Amber’s son). I ran a bead of clear silicone caulk along the edge of the cabinets to seal the slight crack between the counter and the wall.

Amber also wanted three floating shelves on the wall to provide storage for sprinkles. To easily mark where we needed to place the screws to hang the shelves, Amber used leftover frosting to place a dot right above the hole on the back of the shelf.

I placed painters tape approximately where each screw would go, then pressed each shelf into place on the wall, using a level to ensure it was just right.

This left a perfect little dot right where we needed to drill a hole for the anchor and screw. Very fitting to use frosting as a tool for a cookie space, huh? šŸ˜‰

The far left cabinet was purposely deeper because Amber wanted a space to store her printer. To save money by not having to move the nearby outlet, I suggested using this extension cord (which we have and love) and Justin used a circular drill bit to drill a hole in the back corner of the cabinet. We then ran the extension cord along the baseboard, under the cabinet, and up through the hole so she could easily plug in her printer. We also drilled a hole in the next shelf up so she could run her dehydrator’s cord down and plug it in as well.

While Justin worked on cutting down the toekick, I started installing the handles. We purchased this little hardware template tool for this project and it was a game changer! Amber wanted the lower cabinet handles to be horizontal, so once I determined the width between the holes on the handles, I could use the template to quickly determine exact placement, then just mark the holes using a sharpie and drill each hole.

No tedious measuring required, and all the handles look uniform. This template was WELL worth the money!

Amber stained the table with this leftover stain we had from a previous project and I applied a matte polyurethane on top with a foam brush while Justin filled in the pocket holes on each table using wood glue and kreg pocket hole plugs (which Amber later stained).

The last thing was the Ikea toekick, which Justin cut and installed after a few headaches with figuring out how to properly install the exposed sides under the table (and Vi’s supervision).

Overall, this space now does exactly what she needs it to: provides tons of functional and attractive storage (how cute are the sprinkle shelves!?) and creates a nice large workspace for decorating cookies.

Amber has already used the space multiple times and reports that it has been working out so well! We are so glad we got to help create a space that works better for her business and are excited to try some cookies that get decorated in the new space. šŸ˜‰

Sources:

Cabinets: Ikea Sektion

Toekick: Ikea

Handles

Butcherblock

Floating Shelves

Sleek Socket Extension Cord

Easy, Collected Gallery Walls

I’ve been working on some smaller projects around the house lately, one of which was finally getting some art up on the main floor walls. Once everything had a fresh coat of paint (Sherwin Williams Alabaster), it was time to add some personality back in! There were two areas that I wanted to include artwork in the form of gallery walls. One was a wall in between the living room and kitchen, and the other was actually two walls that frame our spiral staircase into the basement.

Sometimes when I group frames together, I want them to be the same size, color, or material; however, for both of these spaces I wanted a more collected look since I would be using a mixture of new and old photos. I picked up large frames, small frames, frames in non-standard sizes, gold frames, silver frames, wooden frames – anything that was in good condition and a size and shape I liked. I chose to thrift instead of buy new because it would not only give me more of the unique, collected look I was going for, but also cost a fraction of the price of new frames. Most of the frames I bought fell somewhere between 50 cents to three dollars a piece. Here’s one thrift store haul where I got all these frames for $16 total.

To give you context, the one single frame I had to buy brand new (for the unusually sized caricature picture) was $25! Thrifting is the way to go!

Once I had collected around 30 frames, I laid them all out on my dining room table to get a feel for how everything looked together. This also gave me a good idea of which ones I wanted to change the color of, either because the metal was rusting and dingy, or on the opposite end, was really shiny and cheap-looking, or because the frame was wooden and didn’t fit the vibe I was going for. (Check out the frame that came complete with a hand-drawn cow, haha!)

Some frames got a couple light coats of spray paint (either this black one or this gold one). Tip: I like to save used paint trays from previous projects because they make perfect little backdrops for spray painting small items!

I also used Rub n Buff in antique gold to update a few frames. For these, I placed the frame on a cardboard cereal box I pulled from my recycling bin to protect the counter. Then I squeezed a small mount of rub n buff onto a cheap makeup brush (I got one for like $2 at Target) and dabbed it onto the frame, buffing softly over and over until I achieved the look I wanted. In the picture below, the left and bottom side of the frame have been finished and the top and right side haven’t been done yet. See the difference? It took away the cheap-looking shine and gave it a more antique gold look.

Once the frames were all ready, it was time to choose what to hang!

The wall in between the kitchen and living room houses used to be such an eyesore. It had our thermostat, an unused humidifier control, and lots of toddler scribbles on the wall.

A fresh coat of paint and removing the old humidifier control helped significantly, but I was eager to get some other things up on the wall to distract from that device sticking out like a sore thumb!

For this particular gallery wall, I wanted to gather mementos and photographs that are extra special for our family. I chose a few items from travels, a wallpaper label that was discovered in a renovation of my grandparent’s farmhouse, two recipes, one in my grandma’s handwriting and one in Justin’s grandma’s, a picture of my dad, brother, and me from childhood at a place special to our family history, and a photo of my maternal grandfather with his parents at their home in Puerto Rico.

I’ll often map out where I want everything to go before hanging anything, but for this wall, I just went one frame at a time and went based on what placement felt right.

Before hanging, I removed any of the little collapsible stands behind the frames. These aren’t necessary to have when the picture is being hung, and will often prevent the frame from lying flush against the wall. I used a pair of vice grip pliers to pull them off. Sometimes on older frames, I could just use my hand to pull the stand and the whole thing would come off, other times, I had to use the pliers to pull off the metal hinge as well.

To hang the pictures, I used picture hanging command strips. I like these because it’s a way to hang lots of pictures without adding lots of nail holes. I’m happy with how this wall turned out and I love that it helps camouflage the thermostat!

For the walls around the staircase, I wanted a mixed metal look and chose gold, silver, and black frames. To keep a cohesive look, I went with all black and white photos and specifically chose a mix of professional family photos and more casual candid shots from our life.

I also included pictures of our grandparents, special handwritten notes, and a caricature of Justin and me from a work holiday party a couple years ago.

I love the mix of old and new, traditional and modern, formal and casual. It really feels so representative of our family and each one is special to us! I decided to have the frames loosely follow the curve of the staircase and I plan to add to it over the years so it continues to reflect our family.

I’m really happy with the way both gallery walls have not only added interest to our plain white walls, but they have added so much personality. Our family is so well represented – our history, our ancestors, and the ordinary, and everyday moments that make up our lives. It is a small change that made a huge difference in making this home really feel like ours.

February 2021 Book Reviews

February may be the shortest month of the year, but you wouldn’t know it from this month’s book stack. Since we weren’t working on any major home projects, I had extra time to read and I made it through six books – almost all of which I enjoyed!

Only one of the six books was by a new-to-me author. Four of these books were from authors I’ve read and enjoyed before and one was a book of poems from a woman I’ve fan-girled over on Instagram for years. That made for an interesting month of reading because I more I or less knew (except in one unfortunate case) what to expect from each book. Let’s dive in!

All The Ways We Said Goodbye by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

All the Ways We Said Goodbye: A Novel of the Ritz Paris by [Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White]

The Ritz hotel in Paris has hosted many people over the years, including three different women in the pivotal years of 1914, 1942, and 1964. This novel alternates perspectives from Aurelie, Daisy, and Babs as they navigate very different circumstances in the world and in their own lives. I love historical fiction so much and I’ve read and enjoyed works by this author trio before so my hopes were high going into this book – and I was not disappointed! I absolutely devoured this one. It is a bit of a sequel to The Glass Ocean in that there is some character/family overlap. While you don’t need to read that book first to understand this one, but there are a few minor spoilers (finding out which people ultimately ended up together, who survived the ship, etc.) so I would personally recommend reading The Glass Ocean first.

With this book, there weren’t any shocking revelations – I predicted all the secrets and “twists” pretty early on but that honestly didn’t ruin the experience. I still enjoyed the journey of figuring out how the characters got from points A to B to C. I loved each of the three women, and admired how each one felt inadequate in her own way, but ultimately each one came into her own and discovered strength she didn’t know existed. I also loved the setting! I have read a lot of WWII historical fiction but nothing with a setting like the Ritz in Paris and I enjoyed seeing how that hotel connected all three stories. One thing about books by this trio – they always leave me a little bit heartbroken. Because you’re reading from three different time periods, the later stories reveal what happened to the previous characters and sometimes it’s lovely, while other times it’s very sad. Overall, I loved this book and highly recommend!

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party: A Novel by [Lucy Foley]

A group of longtime friends decides to spend New Years together at a remote estate in the Scottish Highlands. At first it seems like the perfect getaway, but it isn’t long before tensions rise and old hostilities emerge. Before the end of the stay, one of the friends will be dead. And another one will be a murderer.

Awhile back I read The Guest List and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to read another book by the same author. The problem is, I believe I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t actually read The Guest List and this felt like a new story. Instead, it felt like a deja-vu read. Obviously there were differences in characters and parts of the plot but the overall formula was the same: mystery/lite-thriller, small gathering of people, one of them is dead, one of the remaining ones is a murderer, remote location with weather events causing isolation, chapters with alternating perspectives of some of the guests and employees. Everyone has motives, everyone has secrets, and no one is particularly likeable. It takes a long time for anything to be revealed – you know that something is going to happen but it’s like each chapter leaves you hanging for a long time. In both books you get a sense of all the tension simmering but you don’t even know who is murdered for a long time. And as little hints are dropped throughout the story, you can’t decide what is just a red herring and what is an actual relevant clue. All of those are fun aspects of a read, but I just couldn’t be as enthusiastic about it as I wanted to be because it felt like a story I had already read. I was still invested and got through the book quickly because I wanted to find out who the murderer was (and there were things revealed that I definitely did not predict!) Overall, I give it 3/5 stars, but likely would have given 4/5 if I hadn’t read The Guest List first.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

In a desperate situation that she can’t see a way out of, Addie LaRue runs into the woods and makes a deal with Luc, a god of darkness – in exchange for her soul, he will help her out of her situation and she will live forever. What Addie doesn’t bargain for though, is that in this never-ending life, no one will ever remember her. Three hundred years later, Addie is still roaming the world, forgotten by everyone she meets . . . until one day she enters a bookstore and someone remembers her.

I couldn’t put this down and read in under 24 hours. It has a really intriguing and unique premise and the short chapters kept me going – I kept telling myself “just one more, just one more!” Chapters alternate back and forth between Addie’s life now and her life at various points in the past centuries. I will say the ‘history’ parts got repetitive and a bit slow for a while, particularly in the first few years of Addie’s bargain (although that is kind of the point, to show how monotonous and never-ending life now feels for Addie) so I skimmed a few of those chapters. Once Addie finds someone who actually remembers her, the book really picks up! I was very invested in figuring out why Addie could now be remembered by someone and loved the ways in which she made her mark on history, despite being forgotten. I found this to be a really compelling read overall, and it falls just short of my top tier of recommendations only because some parts feel repetitive and slow and the book feels overly long (450 pages!!) I also don’t want to spoil anything about the ending so I’ll say this – I can appreciate how it was satisfying, but it also felt kind of underwhelming and made me want a bit more. It’s definitely a unique novel that is unlike anything else I’ve read before and I do recommend it!

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

In Five Years: A Novel by [Rebecca Serle]

Dannie has her life planned out to a T. She just nailed the interview for her dream job and said yes to her boyfriend’s proposal and knows exactly where her life is headed. Until she falls asleep and somehow flashes forward five years into the future, where she has a different ring on her finger, a different apartment, and a different guy in it. She spends one hour in the future and then wakes back up in her regular life, where she now grapples with knowing that a different life, with one very clear hour, is quickly approaching.

This book is very hard for me to review because I don’t know how to talk about it without spoiling anything. Let’s just say it was very unexpected. I went in expecting a fun, somewhat mindless romance, and instead it was surprisingly poignant and deep, covering friendship, grief, loss, letting go of best-laid plans, etc. I read The Dinner List by this same author a couple years ago and it was also a novel with a fun concept but more depth than expected so maybe I shouldn’t have been as surprised that this one was the same way. It definitely had twists and turns I did not see coming and was actually a pretty great book, but definitely was not the right book for the mood I was in and so I didn’t really enjoy it. I kept waiting for it to change into the book I expected it to be, so when it didn’t (obviously), I judged it more harshly. I know if I would have gone in with less expectations, I would’ve liked it a lot more. I didn’t love the main character, I didn’t love certain aspects of the plot line, and I wasn’t totally satisfied by the ending. That being said, I read this in like, half a day. It’s a nice short read (250ish pages) that is easy to get through quickly. And I have a friend who read it without having expectations and she loved it, so I think it helps to not expect light, fluffy romance beforehand!

The Survivors by Jane Harper

The Survivors: A Novel by [Jane Harper]

On a visit home to Tasmania to help his parents pack up his childhood home, Kieran is haunted by memories of a long-ago storm that changed his life and his hometown forever. When a young woman’s body is found dead on the beach one morning, old memories and long-held secrets threaten to resurface and once again, change the town forever.

I love Jane Harper! If “environmental suspense” was a genre, she would have it locked down. The Dry, Force of Nature, The Lost Man – her books always include an atmospheric element that makes the weather feels like a character. This book was no different, as the ocean played a big part in the story. I was super invested in this book and the dual-mystery aspect of the current murder and the questions surrounding the long-ago storm. This book kept me guessing and was full of little clues and red herrings, and after finishing up, I had to go back and reread several parts of the book to see all the things I missed the first time around. I liked reading from Kieran’s perspective and thought the setting was great. I could picture this little seaside town so vividly and the characters were complex and interesting. I will say, wish there had been one more chapter! It felt like after a lot of buildup, it ended somewhat abruptly and I wanted a little bit more. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Harper’s other works.

What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer

I’m not sure a book of poetry has ever made my list before, but this one was fantastic! I don’t know Kate personally, but we have multiple real-life mutual connections and so I’ve been following her on Instagram for several years now. I was so excited to see her first book of poems was finally published! One of my best friends from college surprised me with a copy and I loved cozying up in a comfortable chair and reading these poems. Kate has a way with words that is just beautiful. The book separates the poems into three parts based loosely on three categories: life as a woman, life in a relationship/marriage, life as a mother. These poems are relatable, accessible, modern, and even nostalgic. Some are heartfelt, some are downright snarky (in a good way). It’s a short book and could easily be read in an hour or two, but I recommend indulging in a slower pace to really absorb and enjoy each poem. I know this is a book that I will pick up again and again and return to my favorites. Even if you’re not a poetry fan, I encourage you to check out this book!

Whew! What a month! I’ve already started my first book for March and I’m loving it so far, so I’m hopeful next month is just as full of great reads as this one was! As always, if you have great suggestions for books to read, please send them my way!