Podcasts I’m Listening To These Days

It’s no secret that I love to read, but you might be surprised to learn that I almost never listen to audiobooks. With the exception of a really long car ride by myself, I will choose the physical book over an audiobook every time. There’s just something about curling up with a book and a blanket! That being said, I’m also a busy mom of two and a lot of my days are filled with things that make reading a physical book difficult – running errands, doing dishes, cleaning, tackling the laundry, plus all the DIY projects I like to work on when I have some time. I won’t lie, sometimes I’m ready for a break from auditory stimulation (two kids and two dogs make a lot of noise!) and I’ll complete my tasks in silence, but often I do enjoy listening to something. It feels like adult interaction even though I’m the only adult at home and is truly a form of self care for me! Instead of listening to audiobooks while doing these tasks, I love listening to podcasts.

I think I prefer podcasts because they’re more easily customizable to my mood and the time I have. I can choose a 20 minute episode or a 50 minute episode. I can choose to learn something new or choose to laugh at funny stories. I can choose to binge three in a row or just listen to one episode from a podcast I haven’t caught up on in a few months. With an audiobook, it’s hard for me to just start and stop in short bursts and then maybe not listen again for a few days. With podcasts, it’s easy for me!

Way back in December 2018, I shared the podcasts that I enjoyed listening to. Over the past 3.5 years, I’ve tried out many podcasts and have different ones that I now enjoy, so I thought I’d share a list of my current favorites. These are the ones I turn to again and again, whether I’m folding laundry, painting a wall, driving to the grocery store, or any of the many other things that fill up my days.

Happier

This was the top of my list way back in 2018 and it still ranks highly as a favorite these days. It is hosted by Gretchen Rubin (whom I adore!) and her sister Elizabeth Craft and discusses happiness, good habits, and human nature. They share happiness hacks, strategies for knowing yourself better, and tips and tricks for meeting goals and improving your overall quality and enjoyment of life. There are things that the podcast suggested that I’ve implemented that have honestly been game-changers in my life! I’ve read every book Gretchen has written (some of which made it to my all-time list of book recommendations) and think her insights into human nature, particularly with habit formation and her personality framework of The Four Tendencies, is fascinating. I also thoroughly enjoy the dynamic that Gretchen and Elizabeth have. They have two smaller, sort of spin-off podcasts called “A Little Happier” and “More Happier” that you can choose to add in as well. It’s just a really fun and enjoyable listen that can help you maximize different areas of your life for the better.

Sharon Says So

I have been following Sharon and her Instagram account @sharonsaysso for over a year now and appreciate it so much. Sharon shares factual news and information in a non-biased, non-partisan way and has taught me (and her 850,000+ other followers!) so much. One of her frequent sayings is that “facts don’t require your approval” – in other words, you are absolutely allowed to have your own opinions and your own feelings about things, but facts are facts regardless of how you feel. It’s so refreshing! Her Instagram focuses more on current events (which I also highly, highly recommend following) and her podcast focuses more on interesting stories about people and places. Sharon just seems like someone you want to be friends with and her enthusiasm for brain tingles and new information is contagious. She interviews experts in various fields, shares little-known stories about historical figures and locations around the United States, and even has interviewed political candidates, congressman, and others working in government on all sides of the aisle. It’s a fascinating variety of topics and I always learn something!

The Bad Broadcast

This podcast is hosted by a 20-something woman named Madi Muphy and it’s been a fun, bingeable listen for me. Madi…enjoys complaining. Haha! But not in a negative way if that makes sense? She likes to discuss pop culture (deep dives on things like TV shows and Lindsey Lohan), random things like Trader Joes finds and beige foods, and has fun segments like “Dumb Dumb Club” (where listeners submit things they should’ve known a long time ago but just found out) and “Love/Hates.” But my favorite thing about her podcast are the listener submission episodes. She’ll ask her listeners to submit their own stories and experiences on a variety of topics and it is HILARIOUS. She’s done things like bad dates, petty things you’ve done, embarrassing moments, bad jobs/bosses, white lies you’ve told your kids, gynecological stories (lol), legal things that give you a thrill, breakups, in-law stories, wedding frustrations, and more. I am constantly cracking up at both the submitted stories and Madi’s responses to them. I also love the episodes where people submit situations that she judges – things like am I the a-hole and petty fights between friends and family. It’s just entertaining and fun and perfect for when I want to zone out and laugh.

HERself

This podcast is hosted by two friends, Abby and Amy, and discusses a variety of topics that women encounter. They discuss things like setting boundaries, combating overstimulation, prioritizing self-care, apologizing, saying no, motherhood, marriage, finances, sex, confidence, etc. Some episodes are just the two of them discussing things and they also bring in experts to talk about topics like financial investing, mental health, setting boundaries, adult friendships, and more. I especially enjoy the episodes where they bring on their husbands to talk about the triumphs and struggles in marriage, parenthood, and life. I used to listen to every single episode but now I tend to pick and choose the topics that most interest me or apply to my life and am more of an occasional listener, but I still find there’s some good food for thought in whatever episode I listen to!

Young House Love Has a Podcast + The Chris Loves Julia Podcast

These are two different podcasts but I share them together because they’re both not currently active but the archives are still available. Both podcasts were started by DIY couples with blogs (Young House Love and Chris Loves Julia) and both cover a wide variety of topics related to DIY, home, renovating, etc. I follow each of their accounts/blogs and it’s fun to get another perspective of their DIY journey through podcasts. It’s definitely worth checking out their archives if you’re interested in any of those things!

Do you listen to podcasts? Which ones do you enjoy?

Baby #3 is a . . .

I’m officially 19 weeks pregnant and for the first time, we’ve decided to find out the sex of our baby in advance. We loved the surprise at birth with the first two babies, but for a few different reasons, we decided to switch things up this time around – it’s been so fun to have this little secret knowledge this time around!

I’m excited to announce that baby #3 is a . . .

BOY!

We cannot wait to meet our newest family member! The kids were predictably split: LJ was hoping for a brother and Vi was hoping for a sister. We told them by wrapping this balloon in a box and letting them open it – Vi kept searching for the pink balloon for a minute or two before it sank in haha! They are both very excited now and it definitely makes things feel a little more real to refer to the baby as little brother.

Another perk of finding out in advance this time is I actually can prepare the nursery a little bit more. While I’m still working on some updates to the older two’s shared bedroom, I’m going to be making a few updates to the nursery too. Currently, the nursery has a pink scalloped accent wall and is mostly devoid of artwork since many things followed Vi to the other room. I don’t plan to do too much since eventually the boys (I just love saying that!) will share the larger room and Vi will move back to this smaller bedroom, but since that’s several years away I’m going to make some simple changes now for the baby.

This time around, I didn’t do a mood board but I did start a Pinterest board with a few ideas (you can find the picture sources there too!)

I’m picturing the walls being a soft muted green (I’m thinking SW Evergreen Fog) with shades of green, gold, and taupe accented throughout. I want to keep things mostly neutral but also play with a few patterns. I think it will be a really sweet little room for our sweet little baby boy!

If you’ve been here a while, you might remember that I had no motivation to work on the nursery until Vi had almost arrived, but this time around I’m feeling so motivated and excited that I think I’ll be starting very soon. Stay tuned!

Making the Most of Thrifting when I am Limited on Time

On Saturday, I took Vi on a little mommy-daughter date for donuts and thrift store shopping. LJ had been sick with a stomach bug for a few days last week so this was a nice way to spend some quality time together and focus my attention back on Vi while Justin and LJ hung out at home. Obviously a two-year-old’s attention span isn’t huge, so we only spend about 20 minutes in the store. We were able to score a brand new “pop it” for Vi (she is obsessed with these!) and a small puzzle for LJ for a total of $5. It was totally worth it and we had so much fun! She was so excited to get home and show off her purchases.

This got me thinking about thrifting and the time I spend in stores. I feel like thrifting can sometimes seem a little intimidating for people because unlike a regular store, every single item in a thrift store is unique and there is SO much to sift through. It would take hours to look at every single item. And while I love spending an hour browsing the racks and stacks, more often than not, I don’t have that much time. Usually, I have 20 minutes or less to pop into a store in between running errands and sometimes I have as little as five minutes.

Is it still worth it to go even when I don’t have tons of time? YES! I think frequency is just as important as duration; spending 5-10 minutes total browsing my top sections 3 times a month can be just as rewarding as spending 30 minutes in one store once a month. (Side note: I’m talking about when I have 5-10 minutes by myself; I rarely go with my kids because that’s often more work than it’s worth). I have learned to be strategic about these short trips – I don’t have time to sift through racks of clothes or stroll aimlessly. Instead, I have my top sections that I prioritize, and then if there’s time leftover I can branch into other areas of the store. Today I thought I’d share the top sections I head to when I have limited time to try to maximize every minute. These sections are where I find the majority of items that make my home feel unique (and bonus that they’re so budget-friendly!)

Here are my top six sections for thrift store shopping:

Glassware

Glassware is a quick section to check out in just a minute or two; even though there are typically a lot of items there, the fact that they’re all clear makes it easy to skim through and spot the differences. I can pretty quickly scan these items and notice if there’s anything that sparks my interest – usually I’m just on the lookout for things like glass storage containers and Pyrex (I’ve found several nice Pyrex bowels and baking pans over the years), but lately I’ve also started looking for specialty drinkware. Justin just recently asked me to look for martini glasses and I was able to snag a pair of these cute stemless glasses for $1!

Picture Frames

All of these frames were purchased secondhand for $16 total!

I almost always stop in the picture frame section and spend a minute or two looking through the selection. I like to have a variety of frames in different sizes on hand at home so when I’m updating a room or just wanting to refresh a space with a change in artwork, I have options ready to choose from. Thanks to the ability to spray paint any frame a different color, I’m not too worried about finish but I do look for quality, size, and style. I particularly like finding options that can be added to the gallery wall around our spiral staircase: 8 x 10 or smaller in unique styles and a mix of metals. I don’t always walk away with a new frame but because I shop this section so frequently, I do collect enough to maintain a nice little stash of 10-15 extra frames at any given time.

Decor

There’s usually a catch-all “decor” aisle that has all the little tchotchkes we put in our homes. If I have more time, I’ll analyze everything, but if I only have a few minutes, I’ll specifically skim the shelves for decorative bowls, brass candlesticks, and containers that could be used as planters. The little metal bowl in the picture above was thrifted, as is the book it’s sitting on and the gold frames on the wall!

Books

Books can take some time to sort through and I can’t always devote the amount of time I want, but if I have five minutes to spend in this section I’ll at least glance through it. I like finding large coffee table books that I can stack with decor on top, antique books with yellowed pages and lots of character, books that I’ve actually read or would like to read, or just books that I really like the look of. The picture above is just a small sample of the books I’ve thrifted over the years – I’ve found everything from antique hymnals being sold at a flea market for $1 a bag to bestsellers that look brand new being sold for $3. I try to be purposeful with my book purchases; they’re not just to fill shelves. Each one I bring home is one I specifically chose for a reason and I love the collection I’ve curated over the years!

Games/Puzzles

This is a more recently priority for me, but I now try to skim the game and puzzle section if I have a few extra minutes. Justin and I have always loved games and puzzles, so it’s so fun to be in this stage of parenthood where Vi and LJ are now interested in them too! Most thrift stores will make sure that all the pieces are included, or they will note what is missing, so you can make an informed decision on whether a purchase is worth it or not. These days I’m searching for little puzzles for LJ or fun family games for the four of us! I also like looking for 500 or 1000 piece puzzles that Justin and I may enjoy, but I will only purchase one if the store has checked that all the pieces are there.

Furniture

Of all the sections, this is probably the one I actually purchase from the least, but I still always at least glance at it. You just never know when you’ll find the perfect little side table, bench, chair, etc. Sometimes inspiration just strikes! There are some “eventual” furniture purchases I want to make (vintage nightstands for our bedroom, a long credenza/buffet in the dining room, a storage bench in the guest room), and while I’m in no rush for them, the little list is always in the back of my mind as I browse furniture. Even if I don’t make a purchase, this section is fun to look through and get inspired by.

A few more things I keep in mind while thrifting:

1-I do have a little collection of picture frames and small decor in storage, but I try not to purchase anything else that I can’t immediately use or have a place for.

2-For those things I don’t immediately have a place for but can’t pass up, I try to think of at least three ways I can see myself eventually using the item before purchasing. An item with only one specific use that I can’t even use right now will likely just sit in storage for a long time and that’s not my personal goal.

3-Focus on what can’t be changed (or can’t be easily changed). Lampshades can be changed, but the shape of a lamp can’t. A picture frame can be painted, but the elaborate scrollwork around it can’t. A book cover can be removed, but the size of the book remains. The more I’ve focused on things I can change and things I can’t, the better scores I seem to find. You have to be willing to look beyond some things that CAN be changed to see the hidden gems that a thrift store can hold.

Do you enjoy thrifting? If so, what types of items are you most often on the lookout for?

Friday Features {3.18.21}

It’s been a while since I’ve done a little Friday Features post but today felt like a good day for one. I occasionally like to do these posts with the little things that have happened lately that haven’t warranted a full blog post but I still want to talk about – some of the small tweaks that have happened around the home, a couple projects I’m planning, and a few personal family things. It’s basically a little round-up of life lately!

Thrifted Side Table

Back in 2020 when we renovated our office, I thrifted a vintage yellow chair that was love at first sight. I envisioned a little round side table with some character tucked up next to it, but all I had at the time was a small square table we picked up in the early days of our marriage. I decided to put the square table there as a placeholder while I searched for the perfect round table. While I haven’t necessarily been diligently searching this entire time, I have been keeping my eye out online, at yard sales, and in thrift stores ever since. I squealed when I finally saw this $30 table posted a couple weeks ago in a Facebook yard sale group. I asked my sister if she would be willing to pick it up (it was for sale in her town – 500 miles from me!) and she brought it out last weekend. The long search paid off: this is just what I envisioned for the space and I love it so much!

Wallpaper in the Kids Room

A few weeks ago I made some upgrades to the kids’ shared bedroom including new beds, bedding, and artwork. I mentioned that I have some other plans up my sleeve and one of them is…wallpaper! I am going to take this wall behind the dresser and add a fun wallpaper to bring some playfulness to the space. I selected one of the four options shown above and it is scheduled to arrive in the next two weeks. I’m excited!

Window Treatments

Another change happening in the kids room is with their window treatments. I ordered blackout blinds for each window and installed them (myself!) a few days ago. I decided to just take the curtains down to see how it looked without, and I think it reaffirmed the need for curtains, but I need to find different ones. The ones I had previously were only 84″ and the curtain rod wasn’t extendable so they were really limited – I think something I can hang high and wide will really help the space. I think I found some that will work so it’s just a matter of waiting for them to arrive and see!

In-Law Visit

My in-laws came to visit this past week! We haven’t seen them in person since Christmas so it was great to get lots of quality time together. The kids loved getting to play lots of games, show them all their toys, and have them be part of their daily lives. It was a great visit and we’re feeling thankful! I was especially thankful that the extra hands meant I had some help with the kids and could start working on my sister’s nursery dresser while they played with the kids 😉

Pandemic Reflections

Speaking of my sister’s nursery dresser, this week I’ve been reflecting a lot on the last nursery dresser I made back in March 2020. Yep, you read that right. March 2020. I was working on a nursery dresser for my brother and sister-in-law when the pandemic began. My in-laws were visiting at the time. We watched on TV as everything shut down – no March Madness, no sports at all, nothing. Our travel plans for the following week were cancelled. It was a pretty confusing and scary time! And now here I was, the exact same weekend two years later. Working on a nursery dresser with my in-laws in town. Except this time, we were two years into a global pandemic. It was surreal to say the least.

Google Photos has been showing me lots of photos from two years ago and I have to say, it’s a bit triggering. Looking back on what life was like, knowing what was to come and we just had no idea . . . it’s a lot to process. I think most days, I’m looking forward instead of looking backwards. In the little people years, the heavy demand of life with two small children means I am often just trying to do the best I can each day, getting through one day at a time. But the days are long and the years truly are short, and milestones like this cause me to pause and look back. On the one hand, I cannot believe it’s been two years of a pandemic, and on the other, it feels like we’ve been doing this forever. Two years of navigating the ever-changing public health recommendations, two years of sifting through information to try and make the best decisions for my family, two years of weighing risk before deciding on activities (masks, indoor vs. outdoor, size of gatherings, number of cases in the area, ability to distance, etc.) A missed Thanksgiving due to testing positive. Easter over Zoom with my extended family. Tears of relief when I walked in to finally get my vaccination. Learning what an N95 is and how to give myself an at-home COVID-19 test. Every runny nose and slight cough has become something to monitor closely in my kids. And seeing pictures of my kids just before the pandemic hit makes me really realize how much of their young lives have been encompassed by this. They haven’t experienced many things I thought they would in these little years – beginner sport activities and playdates with new friends and library story time and trips to the science museum and traveling to new places in the world. There are so many things that they don’t think are strange but just a part of normal life: people wearing masks, stickers for where to stand six feet apart, dividers separating us from the cashiers at the grocery store, etc. I think I don’t always process something as I’m living it, but taking a moment to stop and think about it does bring me a little shock.

There are so many things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for our health and that when we did test positive last year, our symptoms were all mild and short-lived. I’m grateful for the ability to work from home. I’m thankful for our home and the safe place to live and stay during this wild time. But it’s also been a really stressful, anxiety-inducing, scary, and sad two years filled with political bickering, misinformation, confusion, and the tragic loss of many many lives. The pandemic years have changed our lives and the world we live in in so many ways and I know this whole experience will continue to be something I have to process for many years to come.

Baby #3 Reveal!

Our reactions to opening the envelope

And to end on a more uplifting note, we had our gender reveal while my in-laws were out here! While we didn’t find out in advance for the first two kids, since this is more than likely our last pregnancy, we decided to find out this time. Justin and I found out first and then decided to have a small reveal so we asked my parents to come out while his parents were here too. We kept things very small and low-key and had the kids open a box with colored balloons inside. It was fun and we are all very excited! I’m hoping to share that news here soon so stay tuned. 🙂

A look at my 2022 Goals

I’m not a big resolutions girl but for the past several years, I’ve come up with a specific number of goals based on the year (19 for 2019, 20 for 2020, etc). This year, I’ve decided to forgo the number and instead break up my goals into three categories: home, personal, and family. I didn’t worry about a specific number but instead just thought about what I would like to accomplish or focus on this year in each area. This year I didn’t do very many little goals; most of the things on this list are either big projects or ongoing goals. We’ll see what 2022 has in store but I’m feeling optimistic about these goals!

Goals for our Home

Update the flooring! This has been a top goal of mine ever since we moved in almost three years ago. We will likely approach this in stages, but the entire house needs updated flooring. I believe all the carpet is original (over 20 years old) and after the previous family raised four boys here and then our very active toddlers and dogs moved in, you can imagine what kind of shape it is in. It’s worn down, stained in many places, and fraying around some of the edges. It is past time to replace it!

The main floor currently has a mix of carpet in the playroom and living room, faux wood laminate in the office, and a peel and stick vinyl everywhere else. I’m excited to improve the feel by installing one cohesive flooring throughout. I’m going to keep the basement and our kids’ bedrooms carpeted (and just update the carpet) but everything else will get a new look. This is obviously going to be a huge project that will require lots of planning so it’ll probably happen in the second half of the year but I’m excited to start pouring over samples and hone in on a vision.

Main Floor Powder Room. This is one of only two remaining rooms that I haven’t touched since we moved in. I’m ready to put some effort in to updating it!

Finish the Guest Room Stencil. Last year I started stenciling the guest room to give the walls the look of wallpaper. I started out with one accent wall but I have decided I’d like to continue it all the way around the room. This will probably be the first project I tackle this year – even though it’s going to be pretty time consuming I think the end result will be worth it. The guest room also has the final boob light in our house and a top goal of 2022 is for that thing to go!

Update the Kids’ Bedrooms. As my kids continue to grow, we’ll be making little updates to their rooms. This year we’ll be upgrading to big kid beds and updated bedding. Also, now that they’re old enough to play in their rooms by themselves more, I’ll probably update their storage to keep a few toys upstairs (right now there are just books in their rooms).

Have the foyer painted. I started painting the main floor last year, but our foyer is two stories and because of the way our staircase is, there is just not an easy and safe way for me to paint the second level by myself. It’s a job I need to hire out and this is the year to get it done! Right now the foyer looks pretty ridiculous with just a paint line ending halfway up the wall – haha!

Living Room. The living room is the other room in the house that we haven’t really touched since moving in and I have big dreams for this space. It’s a unique room and has so much potential! We’ve kind of just left it as is the past two years because it worked fine for life with small children, but I’m more than ready to give it some much needed TLC.

Patio Updates. We have a great outdoor space and love entertaining on our patio in the summer. We’re not going to do a complete patio overhaul at this point, but for now Justin and I want to make simple updates like hanging string lights and building planter boxes to update the space.

Personal Goals

Exercise at least 3 times per week. I have not been consistent with exercise lately and I’m very ready to get back in to a regimen and make this a habit!

Buy thoughtfully and intentionally. I love to shop small, but I am also really interested in looking at the things I buy as investments in the world I want to live in. I’m less interested in just buying things to finish a room and more interested in finding items that are purposeful – sustainable or from a small business or ethically made or thrifted or high quality and made to last, etc. I think this is going to translate to less things, slower progress, saving up for a purchase, or searching longer for just the right item and I’m 100% okay with that.

Prioritize Sleep! My sleep habits are seriously lacking lately and I want to set myself up for more success with better sleep by going to bed earlier, keeping my cell phone out of the bedroom, and having no screen time within 30 minutes of bedtime.

Update the Blog Menu. I want to spend time updating the way my book recommendations page is set up as well as the drop down menu for our home and past project. Just some tweaking to make things easier to find and reference here!

Family Goals

Take our first family vacation! We have done vacations with our extended family before but we’ve never done a trip with just the four of us. We are really excited to make that happen this year.

Dates with Our Kids. Last year Justin and I each took a kid and had a special day date with them – he took LJ golfing and I took Vi to the zoo. It was such a fun day and we thought we would do it more often but then we didn’t. I would love to see us do this more frequently (ideally once a month but for now, at least more than once a year!) It’s such a great way to bond with our kids and make them feel special.

Be intentional with making life feel special. This is a hard goal to quantify, but I just want to try to think of simple ways to make days feel special with my kids. Maybe it’s just a pizza picnic on the floor instead of sitting at the table or celebrating minor holidays like Popcorn Day. Maybe it’s a special hot chocolate drink after a day of playing in the snow or making our own ice cream after a day of swimming. Maybe it’s colored bubbles in the bath or washable paint on the sidewalk. It’s so easy to just get into a routine of getting through the days with little ones but these are such sweet, magical years with the kids and I want to be better at making this a year of FUN too.

Here’s to making 2022 a great year!

A final look at my 21 for 2021 Goals

I’m not a big resolutions girl, but I do like setting goals for each year. This year, I set “21 for 2021” goals and even though there are still 11 days left in the year, the rest of 2021 is going to be spent enjoying time with my family and not focused on achieving any final goals. So that being said, today I’m going to review all the goals I set back at the beginning of the year and see how I did!

1– Get involved with our church’s foster care ministry. This has been one of the most rewarding items to check off my list this year. I joined this ministry team a few months ago and have really enjoyed getting involved. My work goes towards helping at-risk and foster families and I’m so glad I can be of service to them, even in a small way.

2- Sort through 2013 pictures and create 2013 family album. After sitting on my list for a couple years, it might just be time to admit that this is a goal I have but just do not have time for. I honestly need at least one full day to just sit down, get out our external hard drive, go through all the pictures, and then go online to create an album. I do want albums, but the time commitment to creating them is an obstacle that for this stage in my life, I just don’t have the capacity for.

3- Register for Be The Match registry. Done! This process was super simple. Be The Match sends you everything you need and it’s a very straightforward process to swab and send your samples back in. This is something I have wanted to do for a while now and I’m so glad to officially be in the registry now.

4- Take LJ to swimming lessons. Done! Both LJ and Vi have been enrolled in swimming lessons for several months and they have both gained swimming skills. Vi especially has become quite the little fish and gets so excited to go every week (LJ isn’t quite that enthusiastic…) It’s been fun to see them each learn new skills and develop confidence in the water!

5- Invest in footwear with a purpose. I did research different brands and found some footwear that I’m really interested in, but I still haven’t actually purchased anything. These pieces are definitely investments (read: not cheap), so I just want to be extra sure before actually buying.

6- Continue to “level up” small areas of our houseThis is an ongoing goal and so far we’ve upgraded the playroom light fixture, the mattress in our guest room, the curtains in LJ’s bedroom, and a few of the pillow covers in our living room. I recently added some original artwork to our bedroom.

We’ve also replaced the window trim in the playroom with a chunkier trim (we’re slowly doing this throughout every room in the house). Just some small changes here and there that have made a big difference in the way our house feels!

7- Exercise at least 3 times a week. Sadly, I did not reach this goal. There were times this year where I was better at prioritizing exercise than others, but I have not been consistent at all. This is definitely a top goal of 2022!

8- Give our bedroom some TLC. DONE!!! I am in love with how our bedroom renovation turned out. The room truly feels like a relaxing little haven for Justin and I now.

9- Commit to less screen time. I now have a timer for Instagram and this has made a big difference for my daily screen time. Not only does the timer limit the total amount I spend on Instagram, but knowing I only have a limited amount of time makes me more conscious of how I actually spend that time – I now have less mindless scrolling and more intentional use!

10- Learn how to use at least two new tools. I did not learn any new-to-me tools but I became a lot more confident with power tools, particularly the miter saw and nail gun, after replacing all the primary bedroom window trim and creating Vi’s dress up clothes rack by myself. The whole point of learning new tools was to become a little more independent with my projects and I think I did achieve this!

11- Paint the main floor of our house. This goal is about 75% done. I painted the laundry room, kitchen, dining room, and bottom half of our two-story foyer, but still need to address the living room and the top half of the foyer and staircase. It’s not going to happen in 2021, but I think it definitely will be finished in 2022.

12-Invest in a good night cream and eye cream. I’ve been using this moisturizer at night and this eye cream and so far I’m happy with both.

13- Explore three new-to-us places in our surrounding area. We did two different places, so this goal got 67% complete. In the spring, Justin and I had a day date exploring a small town about 20 minutes outside our city and it was so fun to spend the entire day doing whatever we wanted: shopping, enjoying a bourbon and wine bar, dinner out, and splurging at a candy store haha.

After dropping off the kids with my parents one weekend, we decided to stop in a nearby downtown area before heading home. It’s a town we’ve driven by but never spent time in together – it was in December and we strolled the downtown square where there were pretty light displays, live music, and a little Christmas market. We also popped in to a local brew house + wine bar. It was a fun way to connect and explore a different area!

I had hoped to explore a new-to-us local area with our kids, and while we didn’t get to any “new” area, we enjoyed lots of fun family adventures like local festivals, trips to the zoo, tons of swimming in our pond, and trips to visit our families.

14- Build planter boxes for our patio. We didn’t get to this project this year. Better luck in 2022?

15- Create/enjoy a new family tradition. Last year we poured some hot chocolate and drove around to look at Christmas lights and we did that again this year. Such a fun little tradition! This year, LJ was in soccer and we started having a weekly ice cream treat afterwards. Justin and I also started having little day dates with our kids where we spend one-on-one time with them and that’s a tradition I definitely want to continue!

16- Organize our utility room. This area of our house is kind of a weird landing zone for project supplies and things coming into/going out of our house. So it would get a little cleaner, then stuff would pile up, then I would organize a bit, then it would go back to cluttered. It’s definitely an area that needs more focused time to organize and improve its overall function!

17- Replace the boob lights in our house. Playroom, check! Dining room, check! Laundry room, check check! Four down, only one left to go. The guest room boob light is the last one remaining and while it may not get replaced by the end of 2021, its days are definitely numbered in this house.

18- Wake up before kids to have quiet time to start the day. I did get better at doing this, and also my kids got better at sleeping in! There was a point there where LJ was waking up between 6:00-6:30 and coming into our room to ask for breakfast . . . those days were rough! Now he’s waking up between 7:00-7:30 and he’s able to entertain himself for a while (and Vi sleeps in until 8 or so!) so I’m feeling like our mornings in general have been much more enjoyable lately.

19-Swap out our living room throw pillow cases. 50% done-ish. I did buy a couple inexpensive Ikea pillow cases to swap out about half of the old ones. I didn’t end up prioritizing this goal very much because the living room is likely going to be a 2022 project. I’ll decide on fabrics and patterns as I make other decisions about the room!

20- Support small businesses as much as possible. On our day date to a local small town I purchased a maple cutting board, linen napkins, soaps, and books for the kids from different small businesses. For our bedroom upgrade, I bought two gorgeous sconces from a small business in Texas called Illuminate Vintage. Other things I’ve bought are greeting cards from a vendor at our farmer’s market, home decor from a fair-trade business in my parent’s hometown, and birthday and Christmas gifts from local small businesses. Sometimes shopping small means paying a little more and buying a little less, but the quality of items is often higher and I appreciate knowing I’m putting money back into my local community. This is an ongoing goal that I’m going to keep doing as much as possible in the future!

21-Set aside one date night each week. We have been pretty good with this, although sometimes “date” is very loosely defined haha. While we do occasionally get a babysitter so we can go out to dinner, out date nights are mostly spent at home after the kids go to sleep: we might play a board game or do a puzzle together or just sit and talk on the couch, or snuggle up and watch a show together (we love This is Us and we’ve also really gotten into an older show called The Killing). Wednesday nights have become our night to set aside for time together and we’ve tried to stick with it every week.

Overall, I’m really happy with the progress I made this year on the goals I set. Bring on 2022!

Project Pause: How I spend my time in between home projects

Since finishing up the laundry room renovation about a month ago, I’ve been in a home project lull . . . and I’m kind of loving it. There have been stretches this past year where I basically just jumped from one project right into the next, and while that often felt energizing and exciting, it also got to be exhausting and overwhelming at times.

I really and truly making our home feel special. It’s something I’ve been doing for years and years in the various places I have lived- loooong before I ever dreamed of sharing about it online. But I have noticed something since I started really sharing my projects on this blog and social media a couple years ago- the pressure to constantly create and produce content is real. I see other accounts constantly pumping out renovations and projects and it can start to feel like I need to be doing that too. The truth is though, for me that is not at all realistic or sustainable. I have time constraints and budget constraints, not to mention – I have a life to live! I want to be a present mom and prioritize my marriage and spend time with friends and family and travel and spend time on other activities outside of home projects.

All the algorithms may want consistent posting and more more more, but I feel happier, healthier, and more satisfied with my overall life when I have a balance of projects and time in between. I really value taking some space in between projects. I regularly pause from sharing things on social media. I need that bit of margin to keep from burning myself out! Since I’m currently in the middle of one, today I thought I’d share some of what I do and how I spend my time when I’m in the lull between home projects.

Read a book (or three or four)

It’s no secret around here that I love to read, and while I am sometimes able to read while in the midst of a project, I often just don’t have the time to juggle both. My “free” time comes in three major chunks: when the kids are in preschool two mornings a week, after they’ve gone to bed, and on the weekends when Justin is home or we have grandparent help. When I’m in the middle of a project, I might be able to squeeze in a chapter or two here and there, but there just isn’t much time leftover for reading. When there’s no project going on, it feels like such a treat to just cozy up with a book and get swept up in the story.

Dream up possibilities

When a project is going on, I try my best to keep my mind focused on the tasks at hand. There are decisions to make and work to be done and it keeps my brain fully occupied. When I’m in between projects, my mind has some room to just breathe and dream. For me, the dreaming stage is just as important as the focused “doing” stage! With the exception of the $0 bathroom update I did last year with virtually no prior thought or planning, I need to live in a space and devote time to really thinking about it before jumping in to a renovation. Without a project taking my focus, I can allow my mind to meander and just have time to dream about possibilities. I walk through spaces and sit in rooms and let myself dream big, even if I know it’s likely not feasible to actually implement a certain idea. I try not to rush decisions or force my brain to think about a certain space; some of my favorite ideas have come unexpectedly with a room or project that wasn’t even on my radar until my brain wandered there one day. I know I’m getting ready to work on a space when my thoughts about it are consistently the same – it’s like my dreams have been honed in on a specific vision and I’m ready to proceed!

Plan a future project

From the Pinterest board for one of my future projects…

Planning is different than dreaming. With dreaming, no ideas are off limits and I just allow my mind to think of possibilities and ideas. Once my dreams have gathered into a clearer vision, I start using some brain power for planning. This doesn’t even mean I’m ready to jump into a project, but I might be ready to start gathering actual inspiration to hone my vision even further. I’ll start a Pinterest board or a saved folder on Instagram. It often starts with just one element that I love; for example, with our bedroom renovation, I knew I wanted a navy upholstered bed so my planning began around that. I’ll save anything that inspires me! If it’s an item way out of my price range I still save it because if I really love the look, I can usually find (or even make!) a dupe for less. I enjoy starting the planning stage way before I’m actually ready to start a renovation because having no time constraint takes the pressure off and allows me to cultivate ideas and items. I enjoy when a space feels carefully curated with unique items that feel like me and my family rather than just buying everything at once.

Budget

This is kind of like the Part Two of the planning stage. It takes time to save up for projects, but both Justin and I really value paying for them as we go and not accumulating debt just because we want to update something. While I’m planning for a future project, I’m also saving money, thinking about an appropriate budget, and coming up with ways to maximize whatever amount we have.

Clean/Purge/Maintain

It might not be glamorous, but time off from projects gives me the space to really maintain the home. I spend time deep cleaning rooms, purging closets, and tidying drawers and cabinets. I take things we no longer want or use to my local thrift store, textile recycler, or ReStore. I do things like swap out seasonal clothes for my kids or sort and store the items that no longer fit them. I go around with a magic eraser and clean marker spots and dog hair off the walls (gross, I know, but that’s the reality of our house!) I re-caulk around the bathroom sinks. I give my plants some TLC, which can be anything from transplanting into bigger planters, dividing them into two, propagating new ones, trimming off dead leaves, etc. I touch up paint and freshen up bedding. Basically, when I don’t have a project going on, I have the bandwidth to deal with a lot of the little things that go into keeping our home feeling cozy, comfortable, and (mostly) clean.

REST

Admittedly, I have a hard time slowing down and truly resting. Whenever I have a break, like if Justin takes the kids to swimming lessons or my parents take the kids for the weekend, I feel like I need to maximize the time and take advantage by being productive. But I’m coming to really appreciate how rest IS productive. Taking time to shut my brain off and just exist is a treat. I enjoy taking an evening to just do a puzzle with Justin or spend a lazy Saturday morning lounging in bed with a good book. I like snuggling on the couch with my kids and watching a movie or just talking about whatever they want. I revel in strolling the aisles of a thrift store looking for nothing in particular, ready to snatch up an unexpected gem. There is something so refreshing and rejuvenating about just slowing down and spending my days more intentionally – it’s something I’m continuing to make an effort to prioritize!

When we first moved in, Justin and I both knew that this house would become a labor of love. We saw so much potential in making it our dream home, but we also knew that it was going to be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s been important (and fun!) for me to enjoy the full process, both the projects themselves and the time in between. Taking time to pause is essential for me to have space to dream, plan, budget, enjoy other hobbies, maintain our home, and just rest. I’m enjoying this little break and it will likely last through December. That being said, I’m definitely also dreaming and planning for 2022 and I’m getting very excited for the projects I want to tackle next. Next year is going to be a great one, but first I’m going to finish this one strong with relaxation and quality family time.

Where I’m Looking for Meaningful Gifts This Year

It’s a little hard for me to believe, but with Thanksgiving less than one week away, the holiday + Christmas season is upon us! I’ve already been slowly accumulating gifts to give to friends and family for the holidays and today I thought I’d share just a little bit about some of the sources and general places that I’m looking to when coming up with gifts. While I do my fair share of just buying something that someone asks for, I also like to put a little extra thought and try to find meaningful gifts to give when I can!

In previous years, I’ve shared non-toy gift ideas for kids, toys with a bonus greater purpose, and some small businesses that I like to shop for toys. I still love all those ideas and I look to all those businesses and sources for gifts to this day! For this post, I just wanted to include a few more ideas for ways to buy meaningful or unique gifts for both kids and adults. If you have places or ideas to add, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Books from Small, Locally-owned Bookstores

Personally, I think books are always a good idea! I have even been known to gift library books when my kids were little (which is a great gift hack if you have very young kids and not a lot of space: they get to enjoy new books for a couple weeks, then just when they start to lose interest, you can send the books back!) If I buy books, I really try to support a small, locally-owned store instead of Amazon or Barnes and Noble. This year I’m gifting each of my kids a couple books (and requesting a few on my own list!) all from a small bookstore I love.

Highlights for Kids

Last year, my mom gifted each of my kids a subscription to Highlights and it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. My kids get excited to receive their magazine in the mail each month! Vi’s is for younger kids and is made of a special type of paper that is hard to tear or destroy – perfect for early readers! LJ’s is more of a typical magazine and has fun stories to read and activities to do. I also love that the magazines show a lot of diversity (our magazines have included children with Down Syndrome, limb differences, and from various races and ethnicities and I love that they cover models are specifically diverse from month to month). They meet my kids with educational and fun material at their developmental levels and provide us with something to look forward to each month. For adults, maybe you can find a subscription box or magazine subscription catered to their personal interests that will be a fun gift to receive all year long!

Personalized Song

I adore the company Mama Sing My Song – they create custom songs for children that are so beautiful and magical. Just check out their Instagram to see videos of kids reacting to their songs and it will melt your heart! You fill out a detailed questionnaire about your child and choose a style of melody, then they write a personalized song for your child and send you the file. I had one made for LJ for Mother’s Day and I cried listening to it! The first time he heard it, he was grinning from ear to ear because he recognized the special parts that were just for him. It captures him so perfectly! I now sing it to him every night and it’s just the most special thing. You can also order a stuffed animal that comes with a recording of the song inside if you want or the music sheet or artwork – what an amazing and personal gift for the child in your life!

Gift an Experience

Concert tickets. Pottery Class. A day at a local spa. A mini session with a professional photographer. Sporting Events. There are so many experiences that you can gift to your loved one to make them feel special and seen. This year my parents are creating an Escape Room for all my siblings as part of our gift and the anticipation of fun and all the memories we’ll make is a gift that will keep on giving for years to come!

Custom Artwork

I think anytime you can put a little extra time and thought into a gift, the one receiving it feels extra special and loved. One way to do that is through custom artwork. Maybe there’s a special building (a childhood home, a beloved vacation spot, a family cabin, etc.) or a cherished pet (still living or perhaps one that has passed away) that you’d like to memorialize for your loved one. A custom piece of artwork can be such a special gift. And bonus, you’re supporting an artist with their livelihood! You can even gift your loved one with a certificate to commission a work of their choosing, which is an especially good option if you’re not 100% sure what they would want or if the artist you love is already booked through the holidays. I do just happen to have an extremely talented sister who does commissions (check out her work here) but there are also many talented people selling custom work on Etsy of their own websites. Or if you walk through an arts and crafts fair or farmers market and see an artist selling work in a style you love, don’t be afraid to ask if they take commissions.

Secondhand Treasures

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about giving a used gift just for the sake of being cheap, and I’m definitely not just talking about re-gifting or giving someone else’s junk. I’m talking about thoughtfully curating gifts that have been loved before and are still in amazing shape for another owner. The other day on Instagram, I say @shelbygoodman talk about how she found small, very inexpensive glass jars at a thrift store and planned to wash them, fill them with a homemade infused olive oil, cork them, and gift to friends. What an amazing, creative idea for gifting DIY + secondhand! If your loved one is a home decor lover, maybe it’s pairing thrifted vintage brass candlesticks + new tapered candles. If they’re a book nerd, maybe it’s a collection of classics and/or bestsellers from a secondhand store (books are always sold SO cheaply!) Maybe it’s a puzzle (make sure it has all the pieces!) or a vintage rug or a unique planter or container that you transplant a cute plant into. I just bought my niece a dress for her American Girl doll from Poshmark. It’s in good condition and I guarantee she will not care for one second that it’s used. Gifting secondhand is a great way to give a unique gift in a sustainable, often more budget-friendly way!

Shop Small (when you can!)

I get it. Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, all the bigger stores are often cheap and convenient. I’ve used them in the past, I’ll use them again in the future, and I’m truly not judging if that is the route you take. But whenever you are able to shop small and support a small business (bonus if it’s local to you), I would really encourage you to try to do so. Small business owners are working SO hard, particularly in this pandemic. They are passionate and driven. They are often working to provide creative, unique, and high quality items. Yes, the shipping can be longer and the cost is sometimes higher. But more isn’t always more; sometimes one high quality item is much better than three gifts that will break, wear out fast, or quickly go out of style. Buy once, buy well and give a gift that lasts!

I bought myself some earrings from Kipepeo and I’m considering buying more as gifts this year. They’re handmade clay earrings made by a young girl working out of her home. She’s created her own business as a teenager! The earrings are beautiful and high-quality and unique. They’re also a little pricier than something I could find at Target and the shipping is often a little slow. It’s. Worth. It. It might mean I can only gift this one item instead of multiple items. It might mean I have to order now and wait a few weeks for them to arrive. It’s worth it to me! There are a lot of small business making and/or selling very cool things that you might feel are worth it to you too and I encourage you to consider it if you’re able. Even if most of your gifts are big box stores and you buy one thing from a small business, that made a difference to the small business!

What places do you like to turn to when shopping for meaningful gifts?

Friday Features: A look back at our October Activities

Every once in a while I like sharing a Friday Features post with some little snippets of our life lately. Today I thought I’d specifically share a look at all the special activities we’ve been doing lately. October is such a fun month full of fall festivities and it has been so great to get to watch my kids experience so many things this year!

Pumpkin Painting

This is the first time we’ve ever painted pumpkins but I know it won’t be the last – it was a huge hit with the kids! We did it early in October when the weather was still fairly warm and sunny and we spent a big portion of the afternoon outside enjoying the sun and working on pumpkins. Major mom win! We used this washable paint and it was very easy to clean up afterwards.

Fall Festivals

We spent back-to-back Saturdays at local fall festivals and had a great time at each one! There were so many awesome activities for kids at both – rides, tractors, animals, little shows, inflatables, a corn pit (which my kids both loved), and more. The first two weekends in October were gorgeous and fairly warm still so we enjoyed the heck out of each festival.

Pumpkin Treats

My kids both love to help in the kitchen so when I saw this Rice Krispie pumpkin treat kit in the Aldi Finds aisle, I knew it would be a perfect activity for them. We spent a really sticky, messy, (Vi is shirtless for a reason!) and fun afternoon making these – the kids had a blast and were both so proud of their little pumpkins.

LJ’s First Field Trip

LJ had his first ever little field trip to the pumpkin patch with his preschool class and I got to go along. It was so enjoyable for me to get to see him interact with his classmates, learn a little about pumpkins, and hunt through the patch for the perfect pumpkin to take home. It was also a great little bonding experience for us!

Zoo Trip

We go to the zoo so much in the summer, but we’ve never gone in October before. A friend of mine asked us to join her and her kids one Friday morning and so we bundled up and headed to the zoo. Even though it was cold, it was actually really enjoyable to spend a day at the zoo! They had gone all out with fall decorations – giant spider webs and pumpkins and hay bales galore – it wasn’t crowded, and the animals were super active and entertaining. We had a blast and will definitely go again in future Octobers!

Trick-Or-Treating

I have always loved Halloween and the fun of dressing up (check out this post to see some costumes from past years) but it is even more fun to experience this holiday through the eyes of a child. My kids have been getting so excited for trick-or-treat and we went last night to my hometown so we could enjoy their trick or treat night with my parents, grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles. I won’t lie, wrangling two hyped up, sugar loaded kids through the streets with a light rain drizzling is wild and exhausting but it was 100% worth it. The magic of holidays is so much sweeter through a child’s eyes! We had such a great time and the kids loved their costumes since they’re currently pretty obsessed with the Minions movie.

Plus, it was extra sweet to get to trick-or-treat at my grandparents’ house. I am truly so very lucky that my kids and grandparents get to know one another and share in some of these precious memories together. We cherish our time together!

Have a great weekend and Happy Halloween!

Friday Features {9.24.21}

Good morning and Happy Friday! I’m feeling like I’m in a very transitional stage of life right now – the weather is changing, my kids are outgrowing clothes and needing the next sizes up, I’m mid-project on the guest room and waiting to help my sister with her next project at some point in the near future . . . it just feels like I’m “part way” in many things right now! Because of that, today felt like a good day to share some of the little snippets that have been going on around here lately – time for another round of Friday Features!

Fall has Begun!

I know a lot of people like to celebrate fall starting September 1, and you do you, but I love summer and the warm weather (and winter seems to last foreeeeeever in Indiana) so I cling to summer as long as possible. This past week, not only did the weather start to turn cooler, but the fall season officially began on a rainy September 22 so I’m finally feeling ready to embrace it. I am not a pumpkin spice fan and I haven’t set out any fall decor yet, but I did turn on a lamp and light a fall candle and that brought instant coziness! I’m also in my slippers as I write this blog post and I’m thinking about which soups to add to my list for next week’s dinners, so it’s safe to say I’m now all in.

LJ and Mommy Day

Yesterday, LJ had an eye doctor appointment. We see a specialist out of town, so since a bit of travel was involved, we decided to make a fun day out of it! After the appointment (where he did so great!), we headed to explore a fun new playground. Then LJ chose his favorite spot for lunch: Culver’s! We then headed into Target to grab a few things for the guest room and LJ enjoyed strolling the toy aisles and telling me some ideas for his birthday (in two months haha). He also saw these fake flowers and wanted to buy them for his grandma – isn’t that the sweetest!? We had such a great day together!

Guest Bedroom Bedding

Speaking of the Target trip, one thing I wanted to look at was some bedding options for our guest room. Now that I’m updating the walls with a stenciled “faux wallpaper,” I also want to upgrade the bedding a bit. My goal is to have several different layers so guests have options to use depending on their sleeping preferences. We have a down comforter from our previous queen bed and I’ve been looking into duvet covers, specifically linen options. I loved this one from West Elm but just could not justify the price for a bed that only gets used maybe once a month. Yesterday I saw this very similar one at Target for a fraction of the cost and snapped it right up! I also grabbed a yellow grid lumbar pillow and, combined with a textured throw and sheet set I already had, the bedding feels like it’s slowly coming together. I like the mix of large and small graphic patterns in the bedding and think it will provide a good contrast to the botanical pattern that will dominate the walls.

Toddler Mom Life

The other day I was doing some laundry and noticed this in the bathroom sink. Discoveries like this are just little daily reminders that yep, I’m firmly entrenched in the wild world of toddler motherhood. Haha!

Jenni’s Built In Cabinets

On Monday I shared all the work we did in my sister Jenni’s kitchen, and if you follow me on Instagram you probably also saw that we did some work on the built ins in the adjoining room too. Jenni chose Sherwin Williams Inkwell for these built ins and it’s such a great moody color that perfectly plays off the red brick fireplace. Such a great improvement already and we’re just getting started – she and her husband officially move in to the house tomorrow and I’m so excited to help them with some more projects!

Have a great weekend!