LJ is FIVE!

I cannot believe I am typing these words, but my firstborn baby boy is now a five-year-old.

Over the past year, I have remarked over and over again “I just LOVE four!” LJ at four years old was so awesome and I intentionally soaked it all up. It was such a fun, sweet, silly, innocent, enjoyable year of his life and it is definitely bittersweet for me to see it go, but I’m also incredibly excited to see what five will bring.

LJ is an incredibly inquisitive child. He has 87234 questions a day – he wants to know how things work and can you teach him how to do this and why this or that happens and what are we going to do next and “what’s today for?” and on and on. About a month ago, he asked us if he could have his own calendar because we kept talking about Halloween and his birthday (and other family members’ birthdays) and Thanksgiving and Christmas and he wanted to see it all laid out to make sense of when things were happening. We printed some pages off for him and mapped everything out – holidays, school days, his party, etc. He now checks off the days each morning to keep track and it’s just the cutest thing.

He also has a very sharp memory for details so we’ve learned that we have to answer his 87234 questions in the most truthful, age-appropriate way because he WILL remember what we said! It’s been exciting to see his critical thinking skills develop over the past year; as we give him answers he’ll think about them and process and then have either more questions or an “oooooh, so …” and explain it in his own words or come to a conclusion that makes sense.

LJ is still very into all things tractors and farming. He helps my dad on the farm and enjoys it so much. He has already told me that when he’s 10, he’ll be done living with us and will move to grandma and grandpa’s farm, ha! This love of all things farming has been going strong for years and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

His other love right now is Legos. Justin was also very into Legos as a kid so he has started passing his collection on to LJ – I love seeing them work on building things together! No surprise here, but LJ loves to build tractors, combines, wagons, etc and he has multiple Lego farms set up around the playroom at any given time. This has been a great way for him to use his imagination and makes us so happy to see him have such joy in creating with Legos.

LJ has always been a great big brother to Vi, but I was still surprised to see just how wonderful he is with Ollie. There are only 21 months between LJ and Vi, so while there is still the big-brother-little-sister dynamic, they are also peers with shared play, a shared room, similar activities, etc.

With Ollie though, there is a big gap and LJ has very much embraced the caretaker role. He enjoys helping with Ollie – bringing burp cloths and pacifiers, giving him hugs and kisses, holding him, feeding him a bottle, etc. He is sweet and nurturing and his tender heart really shines in his big big brother role.

Last week Justin and I went to LJ’s Thanksgiving program at preschool and several moms introduced themselves to me, saying they hear all about LJ from their child (in a good way it seems, haha!) Seeing LJ wave and say hi to everyone and watching other kids interact with him – it just makes me SO proud as a mom to see him be kind to everyone.

Of course, there are stubborn moments in our life. There are times when LJ doesn’t listen or throws a fit or gets in trouble for doing something sneaky, but honestly, that’s infrequent. Overall, he is sweet, loving, cautious, affectionate, curious, kind, smart, honest, energetic, playful, and just so much fun. The other night, Justin and I were talking about how much we just really enjoy LJ at this stage – he is fun be around and talk to and do activities with!

This morning when he woke up, I gave him a big birthday hug and talked about how he is older and bigger today. He grinned and jumped up and then asked if we could check to see if I can still hold him – my mama heart MELTED and I immediately scooped him up. That’s LJ in a nutshell – excited to be big but still wants to know he can cuddle too.

Happy 5th birthday sweet boy!

10 High-Impact DIYs {that you can do in a weekend!}

Last weekend, Justin and I rented a scaffold for 24 hours and painted our living room ceiling Urbane Bronze. It was such a dramatic way to make a high-impact change in our living room in just one weekend – it got me thinking about other weekend projects we’ve done over the years that have had a high impact on our home.

I started digging through my DIY archives and it turns out, in addition to painting our living room ceiling a bold color, many of the projects we’ve done in the past few years are true weekend projects. They’re not elaborate, time consuming projects like our DIY home office, but they’re a step above smaller changes like hanging artwork or swapping out a light fixture. I decided to round them up and put them in a post together in case anyone out there is looking to make a change in their house in a short amount of time – all these projects can get done in the timespan of Friday evening to Sunday afternoon (or less!)

I included a little blurb about each project but to read more about each of these DIYs, including the tutorials and sources, you can click on the project title hyperlink text to go to the original blog posts.

Open Shelf Storage Unit

The very first DIY we did in this house was creating a shelving system for the playroom. We essentially screwed four inexpensive, ready-to-assemble bookcases together, added trim to the front to cover the seams, attached a long oak board to the top, and used stained 1x2s along the edges to make the wood look chunkier. It required some paint touch ups at first but I got smart and covered the shelves with clear contact paper which helped a TON and it has held up so well over 3.5 years of play!

Scalloped Accent Wall

We opted to be surprised in my first two pregnancies and did not find out the sex in advance. After Vi was born, her all-white nursery felt super plain, boring, and sterile. I wanted to do something but didn’t want to go too big in case we had a third child (good thing, huh?) so I chose to do a pink scalloped wall. It made such a big impact and while it only lasted two years before Ollie came along, it was 100% worth it.

Floating Bookshelves

Justin and I first made these shelves on a DIY date night using scraps from our garage – it was a fun, simple project to do together and we installed them in the little nook under the stairs. I loved them so much that I asked him to make a couple more for Ollie’s nursery. I think it’s such a cute and functional way to display books and make them double as artwork in your room.

Paint Your Cabinets

I have now painted three kitchens (this one, this one, and this one!) and I will say it absolutely can be done in a weekend, but it will take the full weekend! In terms of cost-to-impact ratio though, it just doesn’t get much higher than painted cabinets. You can totally transform the look of your kitchen for about $150 or less in paint + supplies.

A smaller scale project is to paint a bathroom cabinet – this makes a big impact in a fraction of the cost and time!

Faux Marble Counters

One of my favorite projects in our basement kitchen renovation was painting the laminate counters to look like marble. It turned out so well and thanks to this kit that had everything I needed, it was pretty easy to create! This could also easily be done in a bathroom to change the look of the counters.

Geometric Accent Wall

This wasn’t a project from our house, but we created this geometric accent wall for a friend-of-a-friend’s bedroom using inexpensive 1×2’s. It took under 24 hours and cost less than $70 in supplies – a quick and easy way to create visual interest on their large bedroom wall.

Ikea Vittsjo Shelving Unit Hack

When it came time to update Justin’s office, we used large pieces of plywood to create the look of one giant shelving unit from three individual Ikea Vittsjo shelves. I’d say plan for a full weekend for this project, as it did require some tedious measuring and cutting, but for us, each shelf went a little quicker than the last as we got our process down and we love the end result.

Open Shelves with Brackets

It doesn’t get much simpler than this shelving option: cut a 1×8 board to size, stain + polyurethane, install a few brackets into the wall, and place the board on top. Granted, we had previously taken down the cabinet that hung there and painted + stenciled the wall, but cabinet removal + a simple patch and paint job + DIY shelves could definitely be done in one weekend.

Create a Frame for a Frameless Mirror

You know those plain builder-grade mirrors that have no frames and bring no personality to a space? Turns out, it’s pretty easy to upgrade them with a frame! We did one for my nephew’s nursery one weekend and it made the mirror look so much more elevated! For what it’s worth, that dresser is also one of many that I’ve upgraded – painting a piece of furniture can definitely be another great weekend project!

A Dramatic Ceiling for the Living Room

Last week I shared that I painted our living room and while I loved the warm, inviting white, the vastness of the room made it feel a little empty. The cathedral ceiling reaches a height of nearly 15 feet at its peak and it just felt too open and boring up there. I decided to make the ceiling a dramatic feature by painting it a rich, dark color and I have to say, I LOVE how it turned out!

I chose a color I have used several times in the past: Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze. I’ve seen this color described as a warm gray, a deep taupe, and a greige, among other things. It’s a bit of a chameleon color that can change drastically depending on the lighting. It somehow feels dramatic and bold, yet is neutral enough to go with anything. When I started thinking about what color to paint the ceiling, I knew I wanted something show-stopping that would continue to look good over the years as I tweak things in the living room. Urbane Bronze was the perfect choice – I know it will continue to work in the space no matter what updates I make to the lower portion of the room.

In addition to using the 6-foot scaffold we own, we had to rent a scaffold to paint the highest points of the ceiling. There is a large oak beam in the center of the ceiling that I did not want to paint, so Justin and I split the work of cutting in around it. Since we had the scaffold for 24 hours, we also had the chance to take down the light-less ceiling fan and install a new fixture. I chose this round chandelier with globes and I absolutely love it! The dark iron + white globes + warm bronze paint + stained oak combo is just the dramatic vibe I was going for and Justin and I love that we finally have overhead lighting in this room!

Renting a scaffold ended up being a super cost-effective solution. Instead of hiring a painter for the ceiling and an electrician for the light fixture, we were able to rent a scaffold from Home Depot (a 24-hour rental was about $70) and take care of painting and hanging the new light fixture ourselves. I want to add: this is definitely not a beginner DIY. Being on a scaffold is unnerving no matter what you’re doing; you want to be really confident in the task so you can focus more on balance. At this point in our marriage, Justin has swapped out approximately 10 different light fixtures. We would never have attempted this project if he wasn’t experienced and confident with switching things out – even with his skill and experience, the scale of this one still made it a challenging DIY for us. Similarly, the painting was obviously more challenging than painting a room with an 8 to 10 foot ceiling, but I’ve done countless rooms over the years and that helped me feel confident enough to attempt painting a large room using a scaffold. I think with DIY it’s good to push yourself to try new things but it’s also very important to know your limits. Even with the experience we just gained, we will be hiring out the painting of our foyer – scaffolding + stairs is not something we feel confident enough in so hiring out the work to professionals is 100% worth it!

While paint has made a huge impact already, there are many things left to address in this room. I have sconces to replace the floor lamps as soon as we can get an electrician out here to hardwire them, art to hang on the wall, I need to paint the windows and replace the window trim, and I need to figure out the situation with the TV + stand. Oh! And did you see that fun round green chair? We’re going to get a second one – and I need to figure out a side table as well. It’s slow and steady but we’ll get there!

Art & Paying Attention to Details

Back in September, I went on a home and garden tour in my favorite neighborhood in our city. I loved getting to see so many beautiful historic homes and had many takeaways from the experience. Two things that stood out to me on the tour were artwork and attention to details. These homeowners were all appreciators of art and it showed! I loved seeing how their choices reflected their unique personalities and especially enjoyed seeing original art on the walls. I also found myself drawn to the small things that were clearly so intentional -art placed in a thoughtful or surprising location, a little nook made into a special moment, etc. These little details made the homes feel so consciously cared for and it left me feeling inspired to make our home feel this way too.

I’ve been making small strides around here to curate more art that speaks to me and reflects our family well, all while trying to be intentional with the details too. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my recent changes to the far left side of Vi’s gallery wall:

Previously, I had a little print on the top left that I received as a free gift with purchase of one of her dolls. It was fine, but I used it because I had it and not because I chose it. When I saw this girl in a mask print, I immediately felt drawn to it. If you know Vi, you know this print fits her personality so well! I placed it in a thrifted frame and it immediately made the wall feel more like her. I also had the idea to take a thrifted frame of an unusual size, remove the print that came in it, and use it to create a double-framed look around the picture of her and LJ. It’s a simple little detail but I love that it brings some fun and whimsy to the wall!

I loved the idea of a double frame so much that I used that again in my office! My sister is an artist and I loved this moody little flower on canvas she created. I decided to place it in an unique spot to showcase it and used command strips to place it on the trim work of the office built ins. That alone was a fun look, but adding a square frame that Justin made from scraps of trim from our house bumped it up several notches in my mind! I also added a vintage print I snagged at a sale recently to the top shelf – this might move somewhere else eventually but for now I love the peek of landscape up there.

I’m trying to reframe my ideas about what “art” is – anything can be displayed as a special thing. I’ve propped up meaningful books, added one-of-a-kind pottery from a local artisan, and even displayed the cute little card that came with a plant-related purchase. I love the collected, unique look this brings together.

When I purchased the masked girl print for Vi’s room, this unique print caught my eye. It’s not my usual style, but I instantly loved it and decided to roll with that feeling and purchase it in a large size. I love it just propped up against the shelves – it feels both casual and thoughtful at the same time.

Choosing to add these new items in front of the shelves, rather than on the shelves where everything else it, brought a new dimension to the built ins that I’m very into. The layers feel fresh and interesting, and maybe it’s not noticeable to anyone but me, but these shelves reflect our family and our history in so many ways. It makes our home feel like a cozy little haven – a home that gets used and loved and is lived in – and that’s a feeling I have always wanted for this house.

I’ve always been a fan of slow, intentional decorating and these small changes have strengthened my passion for it. I know I will continue to add and tweak and pay attention to the details for years to come!

White Walls in the Living Room

After two weekends of work (and some terrifying time up on a scaffold), the living room walls are finished being painted. This room is still FAR from done but just getting fresh paint on the walls makes it feel so different!

Golden Hour (5 pm):

Morning Light (9 am):

Before:

As much as I love color, I couldn’t figure out a good way to put color on the walls in here. This room is connected to the kitchen and entryway/foyer in a semi-open-concept way; it just didn’t feel like there was enough separation to make this room a different color so I chose to continue the same warm white (Sherwin Williams Alabaster) with greige trim (Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray) look in here. Now that it’s finished, I have to say, I’m way more excited about a white living room than I thought I would be. It actually makes the room seem even bigger than it was before and the white serves as a soft visual resting place in between colors from the other rooms.

Golden Hour (5 pm)

Morning Light (9 am):

I decided to up my paint game to tackle this large room so I used an 18″ paint roller for the first time and WOW. Even for smaller rooms, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. It covers so much more space with each pass and significantly cut down on my work time. I highly recommend!

This was also my first time painting up on a scaffold and that was . . . an experience. I don’t love heights as it is, and even when locked the scaffold was pretty shaky. I knew it was stable but my heart was still racing with the wobbles! Now looking around the room with its huge walls, it really is empowering knowing I did 99.95% of it ALL BY MYSELF. I’m giving myself a gold star.

About that 0.05%. The ceilings in here are mostly 11.5 feet, with one wall going to a peak at 14.5 feet. Justin actually had to paint that apex by raising the scaffold to its highest height and put a stepladder on top. Yikes! My 18″ roller with extender could do the entire wall except for cutting in at the ceiling and I’m thankful he’s not scared of heights like I am or that last little bit would never be finished.

I also decided to paint the door leading out to the porch while I had all my paint supplies out. I considered black, but ultimately decided I don’t want this door to be much of a focal point so I painted it SW Agreeable Gray to match the trim. I love that it looks fresh but doesn’t stand out too much. It’s going to look even better once the lamp is gone and our sconces are installed!

There’s much more to do with the room, but this feels like a really great first step. Next up: windows and ceiling!

October 2022 Book Reviews

Happy Halloween! No tricks, just treats around here and for me, my monthly book review is always a treat!

While this isn’t my absolute favorite holiday, I have always loved dressing up and choosing costumes, particularly group costumes for my family, and I enjoy going all out. This year, my inspiration was from Vi and her obsession with Frozen.

I am so looking forward to trick-or-treating with this crew tonight, but first things first, let’s take a look back at the books I read this month.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

Fueled by too much vodka and a broken heart, young witch Vivienne Jones uses her magic to place a seemingly harmless curse on her now ex-boyfriend, Rhys Penhallow. Now nine years later, Rhys has returned to town and it isn’t long before Vivi realizes that innocent curse she placed years ago actually has very real consequences. Vivi and Rhys now have to work together to reverse the curse and save the town . . . and maybe discover that their summer love from all those years ago hasn’t faded like they thought.

I specifically chose this book to read over Halloween weekend and that absolutely upped the enjoyment level for me. The small town setting feels like a Hallmark movie but for witches at Halloween and that was just the vibe I was going for. It’s obviously fantasy so you have to ignore the unrealistic bits, but I loved Vivi and Rhys and their dynamic and found the story to be a fun little world to get swept up in. I did wish there was some more backstory and side plot development, specifically relating to their families, and felt like there were a few unresolved or hastily-resolved plot points. There were some random things thrown in there that could have been skipped in order to give more time to relevant side plots, and the ending felt a big rushed. Fair warning: it’s not incredibly graphic, but there are quite a few steamy moments and references (felt a bit overkill at times) so I’d give it an R-rating for content. Overall, I liked it and it was a satisfying choice for Halloween weekend, but I think if I wasn’t in the mood for that specific vibe I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I’d give it a solid B rating, upping it to a B+ if you’re reading over Halloween!

The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea

Once a successful blogger, Willa has been struggling to figure out a plan for her life ever she found her fiancé and her best friend in bed together. After a chance encounter in a coffee shop introduces her to Maisie, they realize they might be the answer to one another’s problems. Willa needs money to start fresh in a new city and Maisie needs one more bridesmaid for her upcoming wedding and is willing to pay Willa to fill the role. Willa is determined not to be burned by love or best-friendship again, so through bridal showers and dress fittings she works to not actually grow close to Maisie – or to the charming best man, Liam. As the wedding approaches, the relationships she’s forming seem less and less like a job and more and more like the real thing and Willa has to decide if it’s worth truly putting herself out there again.

I think this would probably be classified as a romance, but the theme definitely centers more on the importance of female friendship. Willa is clearly way more devastated about losing her best friend from childhood than she was about losing her fiancé, and the central plot focuses much more on her relationship with Maisie than it does on her relationship with Liam. On the one hand, I found that to be very refreshing, but on the other hand, it got really repetitive. Willa is devastated over Sarah. Willa can’t figure out why Maisie doesn’t have real friends. Willa resists getting close to anyone. Rinse and repeat. I guess I got a bit tired of it being continuously about that cycle and I felt like that left some other things underdeveloped. I would have liked to see more of the relationship with Liam and more development within the supporting characters. I liked Willa, Maisie, and Liam and wanted to root for all three, but I also cringe reading plots based on a lie that you know all along is going to be a disaster when it’s revealed, so that did affect my enjoyment a little. I can’t share other feelings without it getting into spoiler territory so I’ll just say: this was a fine read with likeable main characters that uplifts female friendship, but ultimately left a few things to be desired and I ended up feeling like it was B- level.

The Office BFFs by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey

If you’ve ever seen the American version of the TV show The Office, you know Jenna and Angela as two of the main characters, Pam and Angela. What you might not know is that this show brought them together not only as coworkers, but real life best friends. This book recaps their experience on the show and how their friendship grew alongside it through the years, giving lots of fun behind-the-scenes tidbits and photos along the way.

I would consider myself to be a moderate Office fan – I’m not going to win any obscure Office trivia contests and I didn’t watch while it was on TV but I’ve seen all the episodes since and definitely think it’s funny. This book was such an entertaining deep dive into the show and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I actually think this book would still be enjoyable even if you haven’t seen the show; it gives so much insight into how TV shows are made, which I found to be fascinating, and Jenna and Angela’s dynamic is so relatable. You know when you see a magazine feature along the lines of “celebrities: they’re just like us!” and then you see a picture of them pumping gas for their car or watching their kids play soccer? This book felt like that only so much better. I loved reading how Jenna and Angela love crafting and Target and hosting Yankee Swap (aka White Elephant) gift exchanges. Their red carpet experiences were both hilarious and charming and hearing how their friendship grew through successes and challenges, both at work and in their personal lives, was heartwarming. Overall, I just found this book to be a delightful read and especially recommend it to any fan of the show!

Have a happy Halloween!

A Toy Purge Experiment

Our playroom has gone through a few changes lately!

The playroom was the very first room we tackled in this house and since the initial update we’ve slowly been making other changes like swapping out the light fixture, adding chunky window trim, and building the play kitchen and dress up clothes rack. Two big projects remain: flooring and trim. My hope had been to first replace the carpet with a hardwood and then update the baseboards and trim with painted, chunkier versions; however, when Justin and I recently decided to delay the flooring project, I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer to at least make the trim more cohesive with the space. While I didn’t replace it, I did paint the existing trim and that made a big difference!

I also planned to add a big, soft rug to the room once we put down hardwood but now I figured, why wait? When I saw this rug debut in the recent CLJ x Loloi launch I instantly knew I wanted it for the playroom. It’s perfect – and SO soft!

The other big change lately has been a pretty significant reduction of toys, and today I want to give a deeper dive into what I call “The Toy Purge Experiment.” Because truly, the room can be beautiful but that means nothing if it’s not actually functioning well – and for our family, it doesn’t function well when it’s too full of toys. After all, it’s a PLAYroom, not a TOYroom. Let me explain!

The Toy Purge Experiment

Last month, I read the book Simplicity Parenting (you can read my full review here) and it made a huge impact on me. The author, Kim John Payne, advocates for simplifying life in four major areas, one of which is the child’s environment. The biggest suggestion with simplifying environment was addressing toys, and I found myself very aligned with his perspective. It’s not just that I don’t like clutter and don’t want my entire house overrun with toys, but it’s also that the author and I both believe that kids actually need less in order to play more.

Over the years, I have talked openly and often about my desire to not let toys get out of control in our home. I’ve written blog posts like Finding Balance with Toys, Non-Toy Gift Ideas, Intentionally Gifting Toys with a Greater Purpose, Keeping the Playroom Manageable, How We Minimize Birthday Gifts, and Meaningful Gifting.

AND YET.

It’s been nearly five years of parenting, and toys have accumulated. Of course they have! Birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, random gifts received from friends and loved ones, plus something I didn’t expect: all the trinkets that come with being in preschool. Seriously, I was not prepared for all the little things that come home with my children – prize box toys and small items in treat bags and novelty knickknacks in Valentine’s cards. And don’t even get me started on fast food kids’ meal toys or promotional toys from businesses and sports teams (whyyyyy are those necessary!?)

I know that our efforts over the years definitely helped keep things manageable, but things have slowly been spiraling. It happens! I’m honestly not mad about it either – I’m not trying to deprive my kids of the fun of a holiday treat bag or the joy of receiving gifts from people who love them. That being said, many of those toys don’t have a long rate of return. The prize box slinky gets bent out of shape. The cheap plastic holiday trinket gets broken. The cool racetrack toy is fun the first few times but it only does one thing so interest is quickly lost. These toys don’t actually produce play or spark meaningful joy anymore, but they contribute to the clutter and overwhelm of the playroom. These pictures may make it seem like the playroom was “fun” but what was actally happening was things were getting dumped out . . . and then were quickly abandoned or worse, not even really played with at all.

As Kim John Payne stated, “nothing in the middle of a heap can be truly valued.” It was time to remove the heap to let the valued toys be easily seen. Plus, the heaps were starting to spill out of the playroom and into all other areas of the house, and this mama does not thrive in that utter chaos!

Step One: The Purge

I’ve purged our playroom at various times throughout the years, but inspired by the book, I decided to go bigger than usual and see what happened. On a weekend where my kids were with their grandparents, I went through and analyzed every single toy in the playroom.

Anything that was broken or no longer worked well was an easy decision to get rid of. It was also pretty easy to remove the “young” toys that LJ and Vi have outgrown, though I saved a few for when Ollie gets older. I also removed anything we had duplicates of, even if it was something that is liked. Vi had five tutus in her dress up collection. She loves tutus! But she doesn’t need five options. Similarly, LJ still plays with matchbox cars on occasion, but he doesn’t need 15 of them. We don’t need seven puzzles that are pretty similar to one another or ten sensory balls. I also had to come to terms with the fact that some toys I got that I really liked weren’t actually toys that my kids played with. So out they went.

Step Two: Donate

The toys all got donated – my sister works for a school for young children with disabilities and she was thrilled to receive toys and puzzles to take to her classroom. It made me happy (in a way that probably shows that I grew up watching Toy Story) to see these things get to move on and find new life with other kids who will love and use them. Dress up clothes, which were mostly duplicates or things Vi has outgrown, were donated to a thrift store so another little girl can hopefully enjoy them.

The exceptions were what I call “the just-in-case favorites.” I decided to make some bold choices and remove some toys that were still considered “favorites.” For example, Vi is obsessed with Frozen and loves Elsa. But she had three Elsa dolls and that felt so excessive to me. I decided to remove one even though she still regularly played with it. (To be completely honest, I removed the one that I personally found to be the most annoying because it sings the same song over and over!) I also removed a few things that did still get played with, but that didn’t encourage much creativity or imagination (i.e. fixed toys). Rather than donate them, I kept these “favorite” items in a cabinet just in case this came back to bite me and a child was distraught over a missing toy. I didn’t want to get rid of something they really and truly valued. But guess what? It’s been almost six weeks since the purge and there has not been ONE. SINGLE. REQUEST. for these toys. Not even one comment about the missing Elsa! I’ll admit I’m shocked, but maybe I shouldn’t be.

Step Three: Let the Open-Ended PLAY begin!

My kids did not make a single comment about the playroom feeling empty. They haven’t said one word about any of the missing toys, favorites or not, but what they have done is PLAY. In fact, they’ve “re-discovered” some toys that they hadn’t played with much lately! I specifically chose to keep things like Lincoln Logs, Magnatiles, and Legos. These toys inspire building, creating, and imagination and it’s been so fun to see my kids focus in more on those things.

I also kept a wide variety of items to mix and match play in the dress up collection and play kitchen area – my kids invent play scenarios with these things daily! In our house, fewer open-ended toys will always trump a multitude of fixed toys that only do one or two things.

I truly feel like they’re playing more frequently because they’re not overwhelmed by choices. When there’s fewer options in front of them, it’s easier to see toys and select something that seems fun. In our experience, it hasn’t led to boredom; they are still playing and coming up with new things to do every day. And as a bonus: the playroom stays contained much more easily and is quicker to clean up. A win-win-win for this mama!

Step Four: Plan for the Future/Maintain

Things feel great for us right now, but more is coming. LJ’s birthday is in about a month, and Christmas comes a month after that. I’m trying to be intentional about what we ask for, but also, I’m not going to be super controlling over this. My kids have a say in what they ask for, and toys are a big part of that (I wouldn’t have it any other way!) So I may steer them towards choices of open-ended toys, but ultimately, I’m sure they’ll get a variety. That’s okay! I plan to do a mini purge right before Christmas and maybe I’ll try to involve them in that one. Now that I’ve seen that they really don’t miss the toys that aren’t there, I know I’ll be able to do smaller edits of the room over time to help keep things manageable.

While it can seem like you’re depriving your kids if you don’t allow for tons of toys, I really and truly believe giving the gift of play actually comes from having fewer, more intentional, choices. If you’re wanting to try this but not sure if you can commit, start with the things you KNOW your kids never play with. Keep them in a cabinet and see if the absence is noticed. Give yourself a length of time (one month, six weeks, three months, etc) and if your child hasn’t requested it by then, you can feel good about donating it. I also know people who never have all their toys out at once – they’ll have some out and some in a cabinet and will rotate through toys so things feel new and fresh. Maybe that type of toy-cycling feels better for you. Regardless, I would encourage you to give editing down the number of toys in your home a try! Like me, you too might find that less really is more when you simplify the chaos. 😉

Project Reveal: A funky, fresh bathroom for my sister!

This weekend I spent time at my sister Jenni’s house working on a fun (and quick!) project – transforming her bathroom into a cool, colorful oasis!

While it’s not the primary bathroom for my sister and her husband, this is the only bathroom on the first floor so it gets a lot of use from both them and any guests that come to their house. I think my sister was ready to get rid of the lime green paint on day one after moving in, but she chose to prioritize other projects in their home first (like this fun kitchen renovation I helped with!) and lived with this for over a year.

She called me about a month ago and asked if I wanted to help with a weekend bathroom renovation she was planning and you know I jumped at the chance! With Ollie in tow and the big kids at grandma and grandpa’s house, I headed her way Friday night so we could hit the ground running first thing Saturday morning.

This bathroom has an interesting layout: it’s long and narrow, with a sink first, then tub, then water closet through the second door. If that’s not quirky enough, the previous owners chose the brightest shade of lime green I’ve ever seen in a paint color. These pictures don’t even really do it justice; it was shockingly bright!

Jenni had a vision to incorporate a lot of color, but to do that she needed to start with a blank slate. We spent all of Saturday morning priming surfaces: the walls, all the trim work, the doors, and the vanity. Then in the afternoon we got to painting. She chose to continue the same color from the main living space, Sherwin Williams Ivory Lace, into the bathroom. We used flat sheen on the ceiling, eggshell on the walls, and semi-gloss on the trim and doors. We painted the vanity Sherwin Williams Inkwell in Satin (a callback to the built ins in her living room) and once all the paint had finally dried, it was time for the fun part: decorating with bold, vibrant colors. (Note: the doors weren’t quite done being painted when I took these pictures, but they’re going back up.)

I love that Jenni is not afraid to play with mixing colors and patterns. She chose this fun graphic shower curtain for the tub and this textured jacquard curtain for the window. We made a quick Target run and chose mustard gold bath mats to bridge the two patterns and I love how it all works together.

The previous owners had installed a decorative, translucent sticker over the window to let light in but allow for privacy – we both agreed it had to go.

After painting the window we peeled off the sticker, hung a curtain rod, and installed a holdback on the right side. Jenni’s thought was that this would bring more light into the room and allow the tree outside to be seen, but it’d still be easy for people to close the curtain if they wanted extra privacy (there are no windows from the neighboring house that can look in this window, but still). I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t sure about a full swooping curtain in here but after seeing it come into place, I’m convinced – it makes a fun statement and definitely fits the vibe Jenni was going for!

Speaking of the water closet, one feature I needed no convincing on was Jenni’s idea to fill one wall with art!

Jenni is an artist (and has her own business!) and she wanted to fill this wall in the bathroom with a fun and unique mix of artwork. She selected several digital downloads to print and I surprised her with this cat one too. I also encouraged her to use some of her own original art to the mix. The end result is a funky and fresh gallery wall that brings so much life to the space! I love the mix of thrifted frames (plus one thrifted mirror), prints, sketches, acrylic on canvas, and of course, all the colors! She plans to continue to add to this wall as she finds things that speak to her and I think it will just continue to get cooler and cooler.

Facing the gallery wall is the side with the toilet. Jenni wanted to paint the wall Inkwell like the vanity (we chose an eggshell finish here) and plans to install brackets with shelves on this wall soon.

And speaking of the vanity, this was perhaps the most dramatic transformation!

The vanity situation was pretty bizarre before. Above the sink is a recessed cabinet – the previous owners left the bottom shelf open and installed two cabinet doors above that. Then they chose to put four small mirrors, two on each door, in kind of a grid like pattern which was not only aesthetically jarring but functionally didn’t allow you to see yourself very easily.

I had the idea to remove the two doors and make just one large door instead – my brother-in-law had the same thought so while Jenni and I were painting, he worked on cutting down a large piece of thick plywood to size. We painted it Inkwell and he attached it using three of the hinges from the original cabinet doors. Jenni bought this 30″ round mirror on our Target run and he hung it on the front. We looked at both gold and natural wood frames and the natural wood brought a warmth that felt just right. What was once a very awkward and strange cabinet is now a fully-functioning showstopper!

We decided to forgo a knob because it’s very easy to open the cabinet just by pulling from the bottom left corner and the absence of a knob makes the door even more discreet. I just love that they have the same amount of storage and easy access to it but with the look of a wall – the perfect combination of function + beauty. Jenni added a new little soap dispenser, towel ring, and a few little things on the shelf for guest use.

Time and time again, I’m blown away by the power of paint. She still has a few minor things to finish – re-hanging the doors and she also wants to paint a pink arch on the wall across from the bathtub – but this was a quick and relatively inexpensive project. It honestly feels like she has a new bathroom and we didn’t have to touch one light fixture, faucet, or flooring.

This was such a fun project to help with a great reminder that fresh paint and a free Saturday can go a LONG way in making a space feel totally different. It’s also a great reminder to live with a space for a little before doing anything. Jenni lived with lime green walls for a year and all that time she tweaked her vision for the space so that when it came time to actually tackle it, she was very clear on what she wanted. I’m so glad I was able to help her make it come to fruition!

Sources

Wall/Trim Color: Sherwin Williams Ivory Lace

Vanity/Accent Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Inkwell

Shower Curtain

Window Curtain

Bath Mats

Mirror

Soap Dispenser

Artwork: cat in sunglasses print; ballerina dab; eclectic set; all others are original or don’t have links

Plans to Level Up the Living Room

One of my goals for 2022 was to update the flooring throughout the house. Ever since we moved in, we’ve planned to rip up the carpet in the living room and playroom and put down a hardwood throughout the main floor. We were thinking this was the year to finally do it, but Justin and I have been talking lately about different financial goals and decided we need to switch gears and prioritize some other things at this time. So for now, the flooring stays!

I had been holding off on updating the living room until we did the flooring, but now that that is a further project, I want to at least do a phase one update to the space. First on the list: carpet cleaning! The carpet is in such bad shape with lots of stains, but since it’s here for a while longer, I want to get it looking as good as possible. We have carpet cleaners coming on Friday and then I’m going to start in on some other updates to this space!

Living Room

The living room has remained mostly untouched since we moved in 3 years ago. We plopped down furniture from our last house and have left it as is. It has been super functional for this stage in our life with young children at home, but it’s not exactly cute. In fact, this room is arguably the one we spend the most time in and yet it shows the least amount of personality (minus the child and dog, ha!)

Updating the flooring would make a huge impact here and eventually I want to get a different couch, but for now, I’m working with what we’ve got: carpet and a six-year-old sectional from Costco. I don’t want to add anything too precious because we still have several years of sticky toddler fingers and rambunctious couch jumping ahead of us, but I still think I can make the room functional AND beautiful for our family.

The two biggest things this room needs (besides flooring) are paint and lighting. I’ve gone back and forth on paint color – I really don’t want to do white but the room has such large openings and is very connected to the foyer and kitchen so continuing with white in here makes the most sense. I’m toying with the idea of a fun color on the ceiling though (and maybe planking?) so we’ll see. There is currently NO permanent lighting. The ceiling has a fan only and while we use two floor lamps, they are not sufficient for the scale of the room. I plan to have hardwired sconces above the couch and a large chandelier to match the scale of our high ceiling. These changes alone will make such a huge difference!

In addition to the carpet cleaning, I’m going to add a rug to the space to cozy it up. My throw pillows are showing a lot of wear and tear so I want to swap out the covers – I’m thinking a variety of earthy tones and subtle patterns. There is currently no artwork in the room but there are five large windows looking outside. I’m going to paint the windows black and update the window trim as I’ve been slowly doing in other rooms as we go. I feel like a gallery wall might add too much visual chaos and take away from the view so I’m planning to just hang curtains and add one large piece of artwork above the couch.

Because of the large cased openings leading into other rooms, I don’t have many different layout options and we pretty much have to have the TV on this small wall. It’s sitting on a buffet that was handed down to me from my grandparents; I painted it this bright green in our last house but it’s time for a new color. I would love to someday add a fireplace here (just a little gas insert with a pretty mantle) and mount the TV but for now I just plan to revamp what I’ve got.

Eventually I also want to exchange the smaller couch with two large comfy chairs and update the exterior door leading to the porch but I’m not sure if any of that will happen in this phase or not. I’m going to take my time finding just the right things so we’ll see when that happens. This room is not going to be a super fast turnaround but I’m excited for slow and intentional changes!

Playroom

The playroom is adjacent to the living room and has been a slow and steady process that is mostly updated.

I have been holding off on painting the wooden trim until the flooring was done, but since that’ll be a while now I’m going to go ahead and paint the trim. I also want to add a fun rug and then I’ll probably consider this room good for a while.

I’m excited to get started!

September 2022 Book Reviews

I always enjoy Book Review day, but this month I’m particularly excited about it. Not only did I enjoy all four books I read, but two of them have potential to top my list for favorite reads of 2022. Needless to say, it was a great month of reading and I’m very excited to discuss, so let’s get to it!

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

Yona has only the faintest memories of life outside the forest: memories of her parents and a warm nursery. Memories of a family, before she was stolen from her home by a woman named Jerusza. Jerusza whisked her away to the deepest parts of the forest where, year after year, she taught Yona everything she knew about surviving alone in the forest. Neither Jerusza nor Yona could ever imagine how these survival skills would be used one day, long after Jerusza has died, when Yona encounters Jews fleeing into the forest away from the Nazis. Yona is faced with a choice: continue to live alone or take the risk of helping those seeking refuge in the forest.

I have read a lot of WWII historical fiction over the years, but this story felt very unique to me. The vast majority of the plot took place in the forest, which is not the typical setting I’m used to. While there are references to the ghettos and concentration camps, the reader doesn’t spend any time in them and instead, we as readers are kind of hidden away in the forest with Yona, receiving scraps of information from those she encounters. Yona is such a strong character and I really enjoyed seeing her come into her own. It could have easily become monotonous with years of surviving in the forest, but there was enough variety to keep my interest the whole time. It’s hard for me to describe books based on WWII or the Holocaust as being enjoyable because the subject matter is so hard and heavy, but I will say I found this book to be incredibly compelling. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful – I do recommend this for the historical fiction fan!

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

Just look at that subtitle! Sign me up please. I’ve had this book on my shelves for a couple years now and I finally made time to read it – I’m SO glad I did. I have always felt a pull towards simplicity (hence, this blog which I named nine years ago!) and this book aligns so well with my personal philosophy, but with the years of research to back it up. The author covers four aspects of life where he encourages simplicity: environment (stuff), rhythms, schedules, and filtering out the adult world. He talks about the benefits of simplifying in these areas and gives a lot of suggestions to achieve this. He covers things I’ve always been passionate about and brings up things I’ve never thought of before. I’ll admit, I’m not going to go to the extreme of fulfilling every suggestion, but I did gain a lot of insight into things I can do that feel good for our family.  

The book gives so many reasons why simplifying is great for children (which spills over into being great for adults!) and I think it is an incredibly beneficial read for parents at any stage. It’s inspiring me to work to create a simpler, more restful life for our family to enjoy and savor. The end of each chapter gives a little “imagine life” look that encourages the reader to imagine their life without the chaos, clutter, distractions, etc. that bog us down and each one made me more and more excited about actually living this life I’m imagining. I know this book will have far-reaching impact in my family’s life and I’ll be referring to it for a long, long time. Highly recommend!

The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

Alice is a middle-aged widow struggling to cope with her intense grief over the loss of her husband. Jake is a teenaged boy learning to navigate life in the wake of an accident that left him as a paraplegic. Harry is a twenty-something man living with crippling social anxiety and unsure of how to find work to support himself. These three strangers with seemingly nothing in common are all drawn together around one unlikely source: Alice’s honeybee farm. When a new pesticide company threatens the health of their local ecosystem and honeybee population, the three new friends unite to work together to save the bees – and in the process, find hope for their individual futures as well.

This book was my book club’s pick this month and we found it to be a nice, uplifting read. I thought the character development was fantastic; to see each character wrestle with their individual trials and learn to forge new paths for themselves was really satisfying. Each character was someone you want to root for, though I particularly enjoyed Jake’s storyline and cheering for him. The chapters switch perspectives from the three characters and sometimes will overlap timelines but I didn’t find that too difficult to follow. Overall, I found this story to be heartwarming and satisfying and would recommend it.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

On an unsuspecting morning in March, the entire world wakes up with one thing in common: regardless of where they live, every adult 22 years and older has a small wooden box waiting for them. Those who open the box all find a string inside, though the length of the string differs. It isn’t long before the realization is made that the length of the strings correlates to exactly how long the owner’s life is going to be. Everyone on earth is now faced with the decision on whether or not to open the box and find out their fate. As people wrestle with the choice of knowing or not, one politician makes a decision regarding his string that has immediate, and far-reaching, impact.

WOW. I absolutely devoured this book in under 24 hours. I just could not put it down! Chapters alternate from the perspectives of eight different characters – some with short strings, some with long strings, and some who have chosen not to open their box. I loved how intricately woven the storylines were; it was so easy for me to become deeply invested in each one. I laughed, I gasped, I cried, I felt all the feels. The premise was fascinating and I kept thinking about what I would do in this situation. Would I look at my string or would I choose to keep my box closed? I honestly still don’t know. I think this is an excellent choice for a book club – I had so many thoughts I wanted to talk through with someone both as I read and after I finished. I know it will stay with me for a long, long time. It’s intriguing, it’s poignant, it’s surprising, it’s hopeful. I highly recommend this one!

What have you been reading lately?