It’s hard for me to believe, but we have now lived in this home for four years! Each year around this time, I like to compile photos of each space to capture this house fully at each stage. Our home is ever-evolving and I love watching it shift and change over the years as our family grows and we tackle different projects. This home is truly a labor of love and we are so lucky to call it ours. To see our previous home tours, you can click the links here for the 2020 tour, 2021 tour, and 2022 tour.
As it is every year, during these tours I do clean my house so it’s looking its best, but I also try to keep it true to the way we actually live. We’re a family of five with three young kids so there are things that aren’t Pinterest-worthy, but that’s our life! I don’t move furniture around or style things differently or take things off my fridge. It is a true, but very tidy, glimpse of what our home actually is.
I decided not to touch this one before taking a picture because it’s a very accurate depiction of life with three-year-old Vi. Haha! She has commandeered this space for herself and she just piles all her things in. Whenever we aren’t sure where she is, we look in here and 99% of the time we find her burrowed in among all her treasures.
Last week, Justin and I spent 5 days in New Orleans on our first trip away since having our third baby back in August. We went for a work conference for Justin but added a couple days to the front end of the trip so that we had plenty of time for leisure too. It was such a fun getaway and I felt so inspired by the city! It is absolutely full of hidden gems, beautiful buildings, delicious food, fun music, and entertainment unlike anywhere else I’ve traveled before. Even little alleyways had so much character and personality!
I drew an incredible amount of inspiration from this city and made some notes about things I want to incorporate into my own home, so today I thought I’d share them here. Stick around until the end of the post and I also share some of the highlights of the trip and my recommendations if you’re going there yourself!
But first, my biggest design takeaways from our trip:
1. Staircase inspiration
We stayed in a hotel on Canal Street except for the very first night, where Justin chose a cute historic hotel in the Garden District. I could not. stop. staring. at the lobby staircase! For reasons I don’t want to take up space and elaborate on right now, we eventually will need to renovate our staircase and this will definitely be a photo I use as inspiration for that future renovation. I absolutely love how this staircase incorporates clean lines with a traditional vibe and attention to detail. I’m taking notes on the simple balusters, the wood-tone treads, and the simple stringer detail underneath. And look at how the wood-tone handrail extends ever so slightly into the mostly-painted newel! Such a fantastic little detail. (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, this post from ChrislovesJulia.com taught me so much about staircase anatomy!)
2. Lush greenery in outdoor living spaces
Whether it was a balcony in the French Quarter or a single-family home in the Garden District, I was struck by just how much greenery there was everywhere. It brought so much life and character to every space and I could not get enough!
We have a ton of plants inside our home, and we have woods surrounding our house, but our landscaping has never been high up on our priority list. This trip had me inspired to put more effort into not only our landscaping, but also including some type of potted plants on our porch, deck, and patio.
Something about window boxes and hanging baskets filled with flowers and plants romanticizes outdoor seating and I’m absolutely wanting to incorporate that into our spaces this summer.
3. Rust is missing from my color palette!
Over and over again, I found myself loving the color palette of the city and I think a big reason why is because it mimics the palette I use in my own home. It’s full of (mostly) muted shades of green, yellow, and pink!
It was confirmation for me that I love the colors in my home but also made me realize there’s a color missing: rust!
I was drawn to the contrast of brick and warm orange-brown painted buildings sprinkled in among the other colors I love. While I might not paint an entire room this color, I’m definitely inspired to find ways to incorporate more of it in my home.
4. Team Window Grids
Some of the windows in our house have grids and some do not. We’ve debated whether we should take the grids off or buy more to cover all the windows – this trip was ended the debate for me. I LOVE window grids. They give so much character to a building and I could not stop gushing over all the grid details on windows and doors.
Just look at this front porch! I was swooning over that window and front door.
5. Classic Black & White Flooring
Several places had black-and-white flooring patterns and I loved how classic and timeless they were. From the lobby of our first hotel to the floors of cafes, I was drawn to the simple shapes and patterns that laid the foundation for a well put-together space. I especially loved these smaller mosaic tiles and would love to incorporate something like this in a future bathroom renovation.
There’s so much more I could talk about – gas lanterns everywhere! wrought iron railings! roofing materials! window shutters! – but suffice to say this city made a huge impression on me. I will be drawing on this inspiration in my own home for years to come!
And now, I wanted to share some highlights from our trip itself. Honestly, I planned very little in advance. This city is an easy place to go without an agenda and find things to do. Hop on a streetcar and see where it takes you, wander down streets popping into restaurants for food and drinks as the mood strikes, sit in a cafe or on a balcony and people watch – it’s just a fun place to roam and explore and linger and enjoy. Here’s some of what we did:
Our hotel was on Canal Street, which is right next to the French Quarter, so we walked into the French Quarter pretty much every day. I absolutely loved just walking up and down the streets, turning this way and that depending on which street looked most intriguing. The architecture is so unique for the United States and the atmosphere is so fun. Having no agenda and just strolling and people-watching was an adventure in itself, but some streets do especially stand out.
Bourbon Street is the notorious party street and is worth checking out at any time of day; we went up and down it on a weekend afternoon, a weekend night, a weekday afternoon, and a weekday evening, and a weekday night and each time the vibe was different. While Bourbon Street is known for wild partying, Frenchmen Street is known for quality live music. We ate dinner listening to live jazz on Frenchman and it was such a great experience! Royal Street is another popular street and has more of the shopping scene – lots of art, jewelry, clothing, etc.
Other notable things in the French Quarter:
-dinner on a balcony! Such a fun way to people watch while eating, and don’t discount Bourbon Street. Though it’s a party street, it was also where we found one of our most delectable meals at a restaurant named Cornet. We also got balcony seating at Saint John and Royal House Oyster Bar, both in the French Quarter and both delicious. There are so many restaurants though, so pick and choose what speaks to you 🙂 Honestly one night we just grabbed a slice of pizza on Bourbon Street and even that was delicious so you really can’t go wrong!
-art bazaar on Frenchmen Street; a fun night-time market of booths where local artisans display and sell their work
-Saint Louis Cathedral (free to go inside and it’s beautiful!)
-Jackson Square outside the cathedral is where artists gather to showcase their work. I bought a few pieces from local artists around the square and am excited to have unique artwork that doubles as a souvenir! (This is also where I randomly found my way onto the Today Show!? They were doing a taping here and I got to watch Hoda and Jenna – so fun!)
-Cafe du Monde and Cafe Beignet both have delicious beignets! Make sure to try them both out to determine your favorite – I think I ate 18 beignets total! 🙂
-there’s an iconic bar inside a hotel called the Carousel Bar that we heard about and decided to check out. It’s cool to see but popular and very hard to find an open seat on the moving bar. We went to see it and ended up getting drinks just sitting near the bar and honestly, for how expensive drinks are, it wasn’t worth it. The bar itself is unique but if you’re not actually able to sit at it, I would just peek in, see the bar, and then head somewhere else to grab a drink.
Explore the City by Streetcar
Their streetcar system is a fun way to explore new areas! It’s inexpensive and reliable (we used the app called Le Pass for purchasing multi-day tickets and keeping track of schedules and stops) and I loved watching the city go by as we traveled to different districts!
We took the streetcar into the Garden District one day and enjoyed walking up and down streets admiring the beautiful houses. We found our way to Magazine Street which is full of restaurants and shopping. We went on a Sunday, which I would not actually recommend because a lot of businesses were closed, but we still enjoyed lunch and a few shops!
A random highlight: I spotted a Little Free Library on our walk and picked up a book I’ve been wanting to read. Then a few blocks later we walked by a bar called The Bulldog and they were playing playoff basketball on their outdoor patio TV. We decided to stop and grab some drinks on the patio so Justin could watch the game and I could start reading my book. Just the kind of spontaneous and fun and relaxing vacation moment we both love 🙂
National WWII Museum
When Justin was in his conference one morning I rode the streetcar by myself to the WWII Museum.
I spent three hours inside and honestly could’ve spent three more. It’s fascinating, so informative, poignant, sobering, important, and just incredibly well done. I learned so much and highly recommend checking it out!
One day Justin and I took the streetcar to the end of the line at City Park, which kind of feels like NOLA’s version of Central Park. We rented electric blue bikes right by the streetcar stop and biked all around the park.
The park is huge and there’s no way we could’ve walked it all so biking allowed us to see way more of it. We ended up spotting a Cafe du Monde location within the park and decided to stop and grab some beignets. Sitting on the patio eating beignets watching people buy flowers at a little cart and a woman blowing bubbles for kids to play in was one of my most contentedly picturesque moments of the trip! In addition to all the walking and biking paths, the park also has a little amusement area and mini golf, as well as NOLA’s Museum of Art which we did not check out but I would love to visit on a future trip.
On the way back to Canal Street, we spotted a little Irish pub and decided to make a spontaneous pit stop for a drink and outdoor patio seating. That’s another bonus of streetcar exploration – you can hop on and off as the inspiration strikes!
Random Closing Thoughts
New Orleans has a bit of a reputation – I talked to many people about our trip and questions I heard over and over are about safety and cleanliness. True, it’s not the cleanest city and you don’t want to walk alone at night. But using normal precautions like keeping your wallet in your front pocket were really the extent of what we did safety-wise. I explored two different mornings by myself while Justin was in his conference (one morning I walked the French Quarter and another I rode the streetcar) and both times I felt safe. There are so many people around always – so many tourists around always – that I always felt like I had a level of protection just by being around others. Overhearing that the couple walking in front of me are tourists from Oregon made me feel safer, you know? I felt like I could easily get help if I needed, and I also just made sure to regularly check in with Justin to keep him aware of my location.
There’s so much more I didn’t talk about here – walking by the river, checking out the outlet mall, the French Market, etc. There’s also things we didn’t do like a swamp tour, river cruise, or anything with the Battle of New Orleans (maybe next time!) It’s a city full of culture, history, and entertainment and my best advice is to just try different things there. Try different foods, try a museum, try a new mode of transportation. It’s such a fun place to explore!
Two years ago, in April 2021, I upgraded our kitchen with a mostly surface-level renovation.
I painted the cabinets, windows, walls, and ceiling. We swapped out the light fixture and added some new barstools. The most demo-heavy aspect was ripping out the old stone backsplash and repurposing the bead board paneling we took from our office renovation as our new backsplash. I kept the cabinet hardware, all the appliances, the counters, faucets, and flooring the same. All in all, it cost right around $1000 and took a couple long weekends but this kitchen felt like a totally different space. And I’ve loved it ever since!
Last year, I did a check in where I talked about how the kitchen is holding up (and the few lingering things I needed to address at that time). Since that post, things have continued to hold up well. We have just a couple spots where the paint continues to chip off a bit on our most heavily used cabinets but other than that, the drawer and door fronts are all looking perfect! I still love all my choices with this renovation two years later.
This kitchen has always been a great reminder that small updates and Phase One projects can be so worth it. Truthfully, Justin and I still hope to someday remodel the kitchen and rework the layout to eliminate some of the persistent problems we run into. Eventually, we’ll be upgrading the 20-year-old appliances. I’ve been collecting and analyzing flooring samples because that is definitely a future upgrade as well. There are so many things we’re planning to change down the road . . . but I’m so glad we did a smaller update first to love the space we’re in NOW.
The kitchen is the heart of our home. We’re in it every single day, multiple times a day. Most days, it looks like this shot of a recent Saturday morning:
The island feels like our command center: we food prep and eat meals and do homework and art projects and bake and talk about our days and plan for the future and sort mail and do so many more things around the island. We spend a lot of time here and so it makes sense to me to want to really like the space we’re in.
We could have waited. We could have said “ehh, we know eventually we want to re-do the whole thing so let’s just save the money and effort and do it all at once down the road.” We could have lived with the perfectly functional, but totally not “us,” kitchen for 10 or more years. And it would have been fine. But to me, I think it was so incredibly worth it to make small but impactful changes to make the space something we love to look at and be in as it is right now. This Phase One update gave me a new appreciation for what already existed and it makes me happy to walk into this room multiple times a day. I am no longer itching to take on a huge, expensive, time-consuming remodel; although I still want it someday, I’m very content living with our current space for now! It’s like the Phase One actually gave more life and longevity to this space because it reflects our family and fits in with the rest of the house so much better now. And honestly, if the major remodel never happens, it would be okay if it stays just as it is. It was worth the cost of paint + a new light fixture +barstools. It was worth the time and effort to paint the cabinets and replace the backsplash. It did not have to be all or nothing – a middle ground was worth it!
I guess I wanted to share these reflections in case you need some encouragement to try a small update now while you dream/hope/plan for a bigger change down the road. Maybe you dream of a full-blown bathroom renovation someday, but right now a fresh coat of paint and a new mirror would make you enjoy the space more right now. Maybe you hope to replace your flooring but for now, a new rug would make the space feel cozier. Maybe it’s swapping out one light fixture. Maybe it’s painting your existing coffee table/nightstands/dining chairs/etc to change their look to something new. Maybe it’s even doing a Phase One in phases – painted cabinets one month, replace a light fixture a few months later, swap out some bar stools a few months after that. Don’t discount small upgrades – $5, $10, $20, or $50 changes can have a big impact too and you know I’m all about thrifting and secondhand finds to stretch a small budget farther. A plant, a candle, a pillow, artwork – so many things can change the way a space feels!
I think this can apply even to renters – back when I rented a townhome with some friends, we asked the landlord if we could paint. He said yes, we could paint, but we had to take on the cost. I’ve heard the argument not to “waste” money on a rental, but to me, it was VERY worth getting a low-budget can of paint, a brush, and a roller and spending a day painting my bedroom. I lived there for TWO YEARS! Even though it was a rental and it was temporary, two years is a long time and it was not a waste to me to actually love being in my space everyday. In fact, it felt like a form of self care to create a little haven in my room – totally worth it.
I’ll step off my soapbox now, but I hope this encouraged you to not wait for a huge remodel or gigantic budget. Maybe that’s never going to be in the plans, or maybe it’ll happen 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road. You’re still living in your space every day – today, tomorrow, the day after that – and there are a lot of things you can do, big and small, to love your home a little more right now.
Hello and Happy Monday! This week is starting off so much stronger than last week – we had a nasty GI bug travel through our family and to say it was no fun is an understatement. Thankfully Ollie and I escaped it but the majority of my time was spent taking care of everyone else and helping aid recovery in whatever way I could. I did manage to get in some time towards the end of the week finishing up another stenciled wall in the guest bedroom so we’re continuing to make progress there!
While the stenciled wall is coming along, it is obviously somewhat tedious and a long process, so I’m going to be sprinkling in some smaller projects to break up the monotony. This week I decided to take some time to do a bit of “spring cleaning” of my project to-do list. Basically, I have a list in my head of the things, both big and small, that I want to accomplish in my house and I’m going to challenge myself to complete a few of the small things this week. I realized that several items were started or connected to the month of March in a previous year, so in the spirit of March almost being over yet again, I decided to tackle all those March-related things.
1. Finish Upgrading the Rustic Dresser
In March 2022, I shared how I made some mistakes in buying this dresser off Facebook Marketplace, which I originally intended to upgrade for my sister’s nursery (thankfully I found a much better option!) This one has just been sitting in our workshop for a year and it is beyond time for it to move on and go somewhere else. It’s already sanded down and Justin recently replaced a missing board on one side. This week, I’m going to stain +polyurethane it and then donate it to a family in need in my community. I’m glad to get it out of our space and very thankful it can go to someone else who needs it!
2. Update the Staircase Gallery Wall
In March 2021, I shared how I started a gallery wall by our spiral staircase. My goal was always to continue to build on this and add pictures as our family grows and now feels like the perfect time. Most importantly, we need to add some photos of Ollie! I’ve been collecting photos and frames to add to the wall so this should be a pretty fun and easy task.
3. Finish the Playroom Baseboard Trim
Also in March 2021, I updated and painted the window trim in the playroom. I later went through and painted the baseboards to match the wall color. The ONLY thing I didn’t paint was the piece of trim at the bottom of the wallpapered wall – I couldn’t decide if it should match the blue of the other walls or be a white to blend in more. I’ve decided on white and it’s time to get it painted and finished!
4. Make a Simple Phone Call!
And finally – also back in March 2021 (what a busy month that was!) I painted the front door of our house. This is significant because notice in the top left corner of the picture how the white paint stops? IT’S STILL LIKE THAT. Two. Years. Later.
It’s been a halfway-painted, two story foyer for 2+ years and it’s to the point now where I’m so used to it it doesn’t even really register for me how ridiculous it looks, ha! I cannot actually paint the second story level of our foyer because it’s way too high and complex, but I’ve just never gotten around to calling/getting quotes for hiring it out. So this week, I’m making the calls. This is probably the easiest item on the list and yet somehow the one I’m looking forward to the least (what is it about making phone calls!?) but I’m hoping that the fact that I’m writing about it here will help keep me accountable. It’s high time our foyer gets finished!
I’m also hoping to keep plugging away at the guest room stenciled wall – my mother-in-law is coming to visit on Friday for a week so we’ll see if I can get another section done before she arrives!
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):
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!
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.)
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!
Wall/Trim Color: Sherwin Williams Ivory Lace
Vanity/Accent Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Inkwell
Happy Tuesday! We had a great Labor Day weekend around here, and with “labor” on my brain and some extra time on my hands, I finally had a chance to sit down and write out Ollie’s birth story. Today we’re taking it back to August 10, 2022!
Because LJ and Vi were both c-section deliveries, I knew that this third baby would also be one. During pregnancy, I mostly kept my mind focused on the baby and hadn’t given much thought to the actual surgery but as the date approached, I have to admit my nerves started to kick in. A c-section is a pretty major surgery and there is always a level of risk with surgery, even a planned one. I started to feel more anxious as the date approached and those emotions mixed with excitement for meeting this baby soon to create a kind of nervous adrenaline energy in the last week of my pregnancy.
We encountered some stress in the days before my surgery too: my parents, who were originally supposed to come stay with the kids while we were in the hospital, found out they had been exposed to COVID-19 just two days before they were planning to come here. There wasn’t enough time to wait and see if they also tested positive, so we had to scramble and come up with alternate arrangements. We’re so thankful for our community here, as we had multiple friends step up to offer help and watch our kids while we were in the hospital. The night before my surgery we dropped the kids off with some of our best friends and both our kids and theirs were SO excited about their first ever sleepover. It made me feel so much better about the situation knowing LJ and Vi were safe and having this special experience with their little buddies. It was kind of surreal tucking them in and kissing them goodnight knowing the next time we saw them we’d be a family of five!
Justin and I went home and got ready for the next morning. I re-used my hospital packing list from Vi’s birth and double-checked to make sure I had everything. The beauty of a planned c-section is you can actually feel pretty prepared beforehand; I showered and washed and dried my hair before heading to bed, so all I needed to do when we woke up (bright and early at 4:30!) was wash my face, put on a tiny bit of makeup, and take my last belly picture. 🙂 I honestly LOVED my round belly – pregnancy gives me a whole new level of body positivity and I savored my bump each time.
We had to be at the hospital at 5:30 am for my 7:30 surgery. Once we got there, we were taken to a room for me to get prepped for surgery.
I had to scrub down with sterile wipes and get in my hospital gown, then was hooked up to all the monitors and IVs – I have to admit I don’t love this part. It was a little uncomfortable for me to just be sitting in a hospital bed with all the wires and monitors and not be able to move around much. Plus, it was around this time that I really start to get nervous about the surgery. This last-minute anxiety happened for me with Vi’s birth too, so I just reminded myself of the same things I did back then: I am capable, I am brave, and I am doing this for my baby! So many friends and family members were checking in with us via text and Marco Polo by this point – letting us know we were in their thoughts and prayers and they were excited for us – and this was also a big comfort to me and helped keep my mind from spiraling to worry and negative energy.
Surgery time rolled around and I got wheeled into the (very cold) OR for my spinal block. This was honestly the worst part of the whole thing for me. I had the same anesthesiologist as my previous two surgeries which was comforting because I trusted her, but it’s just a nerve-wracking process regardless. This time was unfortunately my worst experience with it; I was feeling the burning pain too much on my left side so there was additional poking and pushing as she worked to get it set more centrally. I really had to breathe through the pressure and pain and try my best to relax (tensing makes it harder, but dang it’s hard not to tense when you’re feeling pain!) I was incredibly relieved when it was finished.
Once I was positioned on the table, I said some prayers and mentally prepared to meet my baby soon. Justin was able to enter the room and hold my hand while everyone got ready – I was thankful for that warm, reassuring touch and instantly felt more prepared once he was there. My OB came in and things got rolling! There’s something very energizing about the room at this point – baby is coming soon, everyone is excited and alert, there’s a little suspense as we get closer and closer, and I just have this feeling of being READY. I prefer to have the curtain up during surgery but my OB and Justin kept me informed of how things were progressing and pretty soon, I’m hearing that they see the head and here comes baby! One of our nurses was Justin’s cousin and she graciously offered to take some pictures of the process so we could both be fully present in the moment.
With LJ’s birth, we didn’t find out the sex ahead of time AND we didn’t know we were going to need to have a c-section after 25 hours of labor (which started 10 days early!) With Vi’s birth, we planned the c-section but once again didn’t find out the sex ahead of time. With this baby, we knew the sex, we knew the c-section date, we had the name solidified . . . I wasn’t sure how I would react when he was born because there wasn’t really any element of surprise if you know what I mean. And yet, the MOMENT I heard his tiny cry, I instantly teared up. My heart was just FULL knowing my baby was here. They lifted him up for me to see over the curtain (and he looked rough haha – lots of gunk all over his tiny body!) and I was just so dang happy. I smiled the whole time and couldn’t wait to get snuggled up with him. I had requested skin to skin asap, so as soon as they had him cleaned off a tiny bit and finished their initial assessments he was on my chest.
Justin’s cousin remarked that I looked so content laying there with Ollie on my chest and it is so true – I felt so much peace, love, and contentment in that moment. I think because Justin and I debated for so long whether or not to even have a third child, and then we weren’t sure if we would actually get pregnant once we decided to try, it just seemed even more incredible that he was actually there.
After I got stitched up and cleaned up, we were transferred to the post-op room and then eventually back to our bedroom. The whole morning just felt so joyous and exciting and we loved calling family and friends and introducing them to our sweet Ollie. And later that day, the MOST special moment happened when our kids came in to meet him! I’ll save that post for another day though 🙂
We are so thankful for Ollie – he just feels like he was always meant to be part of our family and I’m incredibly grateful that he’s here.
Happy September 1! Many people celebrate this day as the start of fall but I personally celebrate it as the start of birthday month. 🙂 And it’s also a great day for my monthly book review! After not being able to read very many books in June and July, I’ve been taking advantage of all the time sitting, snuggling, and breastfeeding my newborn to get more books in lately. In August, I read five books, including one brand new children’s book, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you. Let’s get started!
I consider myself lucky to be part of the launch team for this book and to have received a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Mama Sing My Song is a company that writes personalized songs for children – I bought a personalized song for LJ two years ago and it blew me away! We still sing it to him regularly and I’m planning to order a song for Vi soon (and one day, Ollie will have one too!) This book is like a song written for all children and it is very sweet. It’s a Christian children’s book that reinforces how unique and special the child is and how they have purpose and are so very loved. It’s encouraging and uplifting and the illustrations are beautiful and whimsical. I can see this book being one I reach for again and again for bedtime stories! You can pre-order the book now and it’s set to be released on September 27th.
Minnie has had a lifetime of bad luck on her New Year’s Day birthday. From losing out by minutes on being the First Baby of 1990 (and the big cash prize that came with it) to getting locked in a bathroom all night during a NYE party, something disastrous always seems to happen and she blames one person for her misery: Quinn Hamilton, the man who beat her out for First Baby of 1990 and took her name along with it. When the two finally meet on their 30th birthday, Minnie is determined to hate him and the charmed life he has seemed to lead. But as they bump into one another more often and their lives start to overlap, she realizes maybe they’re not so totally different after all.
It took me a few chapters to warm up to Minnie – she was a little too woe is me, too obsessed with her luck, and too jaded against money/anyone rich at first. Once I warmed up to her, I enjoyed the rest of the book! I thought the setting was going to keep jumping forward New Years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the timeline actually shifted between moving along in present day, and flashing back to previous New Years. It’s a little far-fetched at times but if you can allow for a bit of unreality, it’s sweet. I loved seeing the progression of Quinn and Minnie’s friendship and I appreciated the growth that each of them went through. I also felt like there were the perfect amount of side plots and secondary characters – just enough to keep things interesting and add to the plot but not too much that it got confusing or took away from the main storylines. I’d rank it as PG-13 for a bit of language (mostly from one side character) and one pretty brief make-out scene. While it’s centered around New Years and would make for a good read to cozy up with a blanket, it’s not so festive that it can’t be enjoyed year round. It’s a cute little read and I liked it!
Jenny Tate decides a change is necessary after her divorce, which was so weirdly amicable that she has stayed friends with both her ex-husband and his new wife, so she moves out of New York City to set up her wedding dress design shop in her hometown. This puts her closer to her mom and sister, Rachel, who leads an idyllic life with her handsome lawyer husband and their triplet (!) daughters. But things aren’t quite what they appear to be in each of the sister’s lives: Rachel’s perfect marriage is starting to fall apart and Jenny can’t seem to shake herself free from the hold her ex-husband has on her or figure out what the deal is with her charming and elusive downstairs neighbor. More than ever, these sisters are going to have to rely on one another and find their own inner strength to reach for the happiness they both crave in their lives.
This book has been on my list of top recommendations but I read it several years ago – long ago enough that I don’t have a book review on the blog and couldn’t actually remember much of the plot. After re-reading it this month, I’m not entirely sure why this made it onto my list of tip-top recommendations. There are redeeming qualities for sure and I certainly didn’t hate it, but I spent most of the book incredibly frustrated. I wanted to root for Jenny and Rachel, who are both likeable, relatable characters, but their inability to stand up for themselves in their respective situations for so long just made me angry. I think maybe I personally have changed since first reading – as a wife and now mother, there were certain aspects of the plot that I was just so bothered by. While the ending is mostly gratifying, it takes a really long time to get there and I’m not totally sure it’s entirely worth it. On the other hand, the author does a good job of depicting flawed, real humans and the complicated realities of life and relationships. The dynamic between the sisters felt really authentic to me; there is support and love and also they have to work through hurts and mistakes. There are pieces of the plot that break your heart and others that make you want to cheer. Overall, it’s a decent read, but I’ll be removing it from my top recommendations list, as it now feels more like a B+ level read.
Valentina Baker was only eleven years old when her mother, Eloise, abandoned Val and her father in Southern California and moved back to her native England, never to be seen or heard from again. Twenty-three years later, Val receives the news that Eloise has died and left her beloved bookstore to Val. Fresh out of her divorce and needing a new beginning, Val decides to travel to London and take over the bookstore, only to discover upon arrival that Eloise left her a scavenger hunt as well. Is it too late for Val to connect with and understand her mother and the choices she made in her life? As Val works through the scavenger hunt, she starts to fall in love with the neighborhood, the cozy flat, and the people who lived with and loved her mother and comes to realize that her mother’s life was much more complicated than she ever realized.
This book has a charming setting, a likeable cast of characters, and a little bit of mystery – all elements that I love in a book. Told in alternating past and present perspectives from Val and Eloise, it weaves together a story of love, loss, heartbreak, forgiveness, and family. I should have loved it, but I found myself only moderately interested because I kept having the feeling that I’d read it before – it felt like the combined pieces of several other books I have read. It seemed predictable to me but I think if I hadn’t read other similar stories (specifically, it felt a lot like How to Find Love in a Bookshop meets The Forgotten Room) I would have enjoyed it much more. I did also struggle with some of the more tragic elements of the plot; although it portrayed the missed chances that are often the case in real life, I think I was hoping for a little more feel-good escapism? Overall, I this this was a just-okay read for me but I don’t actually think it’s a bad book and would suggest giving it a try if small-town English bookstore vibes are what you’re craving.
Single mom Nora Hamilton wrote a screenplay based on her divorce and now her home and beloved tea house out back have been taken over by lights, camera, and action as it’s now the set for the movie adaptation. After filming is finished and the crew leaves, she discovers one person has remained: the star of the movie and highest-paid actor in Hollywood, Leo Vance. Leo is in need of some time away and makes Nora a deal: he’ll pay $7000 to stay in her tea house for a week. To steal this from the book cover: “Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity, depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.”
I’ve seen a lot of buzz about this book lately so I was very eager to check it out and it didn’t disappoint. I LOVED Nora and wish she was real because I want to be friends! I also loved Leo and how refreshing their dynamic and desire for simplicity in life was. It actually felt like a realistic romance between a 39-year-old mom of two and a 40-year-old Hollywood movie star. My biggest complaint with this book (and maybe this is a bit of a spoiler) is that the conflict takes up a lot of time. I felt similarly reading this as I did reading The No-Show – there was a point where I was like oh my goodness what do I even want to happen here? How is this going to be redeemable? And yet, when I finished, I realized I actually loved the book. I went back and re-read so many parts and I have to say, that part of the reading process was extra enjoyable. The overall vibe of the book reminded me of Evvie Drake Starts Over, so if you loved that book, I highly recommend this one (and conversely, if you hated it, you might not like this one either). I personally really enjoyed it and think it will make it to my top recommendations!
I can think of no better day than Valentine’s day to introduce our newest little love – a baby set to join our family in August!
You may have noticed that things have been slow around here – I have only done a few small projects, haven’t read many books, and just have been quieter in general over the past few months. It’s all because of this sweet little one! I found out I was pregnant in early December and then had to focus my energies on holiday prep. We were able to get an early ultrasound (due to my history of ectopic pregnancy, it was a huge, huge relief to see baby growing in the correct place) then by the time the holidays arrived, so did my nausea and morning sickness . . . that lasted all day.
By far, this has been my roughest first trimester in terms of sickness. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s been challenging to say the least. Add on to that the pregnancy fatigue and keeping up with two very very active little ones – I really needed to step back these past two months and focus on my kids and my own health each day and let all the other little things slide.
Thankfully, I will be 14 weeks tomorrow and finally feel like I’ve turned a corner (and was mercifully feeling about 90-95% myself during our Disney trip!). My nausea and sickness is lessening, I’m able to eat more foods, and I feel like I have more energy each day. In both my pregnancies with LJ and Vi, the second trimester was my sweet spot so I’m very excited to have arrived!
Telling the kids was a pretty fun experience. They took a while to process, but now they understand and are so excited! They talk about the baby in my belly a lot and it’s been fun to have that excitement to share with them since last time LJ was so little he didn’t really understand he was getting a sibling until she arrived. I think it also helps that with this baby, I’ve started to show early and already have a little baby bump they can see. LJ wants a boy and Vi wants a girl – and for the first time, we are planning to find out in advance! I have never wanted to, but Justin has always wanted to so it felt like time for him to get to decide. 😉
We are excited and can’t wait to welcome this new little love in August!
Before leaving, I want to acknowledge that I know announcements like this can be painful for some to read. Re-sharing these words I wrote in our pregnancy announcement for Vi: “While we are so excited for this new little life, I know that for many, announcements like this are bittersweet at best and agonizing at worst. A huge part of my heart goes out to all who are enduring the pain and struggles of pregnancy loss or infertility. I have felt the feelings of injustice to be denied what I most wanted, the ache of empty arms who long for a baby to hold, and the sting of another person’s happy announcement reminding me of what I had lost. It is a pain that no one should have to endure and my heart breaks for all who experience it. If you are struggling with infertility or loss of a baby, I know there’s nothing I can really do or say to take away the grief and ache of longing, but I want you to know I acknowledge you and am sending you love and holding you tight in my prayers. I hope that our journey gives you hope that your story isn’t finished.“
The first book reviews of 2022 are here! Earlier in December, I shared reviews for the first half of the month since many of them were holiday themed. You can read all about the books I read and their reviews here. Today I’m covering the three books I read in the second half of the month: two holiday reads and one memoir. Let’s dive in!
After calling off her wedding a week earlier, Isabel decides to go on her Parisian honeymoon by herself. While enjoying the view from her hotel balcony, she accidentally locks herself out of her room and luckily is rescued by Alec, the Frenchman staying in the room next door. Alec is also nursing a broken heart after a failed engagement and the two start to spend time together. When they run into a fortune teller in a street market in Paris, her prediction makes Isabel causes Isabel to become singularly focused on finding a way to make that prediction, and her happily ever after, come true.
I do not like to be super negative with reviews, but wow oh wow I did not enjoy this book. This was very nearly a Did Not Finish for me. There was way too much time spent on Alec and Isabel’s flashbacks to their previous relationships and not nearly enough time spent on present-day relationship development to make it feel believable. The plot was unrealistic and jumped all over the place and the characters seemed superficial and shallow. I found myself getting especially annoyed with Isabel – she seemed fickle and immature both in her previous relationships and in her present day self. There’s a lot of luxury and Parisian references, but it didn’t feel particularly Christmas-y and there were too many aspects of the plot that just felt trivial and bizarre to me. I unfortunately cannot recommend this one at all.
Dani Martinez is post-men. After her soon-to-be-ex-husband left her for a woman twenty years his junior, she has decided to shift her focus away from men and dating and onto getting tenure at her job as a professor while preparing to be the best woman in her best friend Leo’s wedding. Max, or rather, Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla, is also going to be in the wedding, which some may consider surprising since he was formerly engaged to the bride-to-be. While there was no love lost in that failed engagement, Max has no interest in fulfilling his family’s wishes and marrying their next choice in bride. Still, he goes to New York to pretend to care about his parent’s wishes and there he meets up with Dani. The two strike up a platonic friendship that continues to grow over time. As the wedding approaches and they become more and more important to one another, it seems like the friendship may in fact have grown into something more.
Once I started reading, I realized that the author had previously written a book about the love story of Leo and Marie, the couple getting married in this one. Dani and Max were both in that book, and it seems like they even met briefly there, so at first it did feel like I missed a step. It wasn’t really a big deal, and once the story got going it didn’t matter, but there were a few references to the past book and how they initially met that threw me off a tiny bit. Despite that, I enjoyed this book. It is set around Christmas time and does have Christmas-y references, but Christmas is not a central part of the book. Instead, it’s all about Max and Dani and how they develop a close friendship that turns into something more. I am a sucker for a best-friends-to-lovers storyline – Justin and I were really close friends before we ever started dating, so these storylines have a special place in my heart. I loved Dani, I loved Max, I loved how they supported one another, I loved the character development, I loved the side characters, I loved picturing the setting in Aquilla. I found it to be an enjoyable holiday(ish) rom com! It does fall in the rated-R category for some steamy scenes. I thought Max and Dani were convincing and charismatic and I was rooting for them the whole time. I enjoyed it!
In this memoir, Michelle explores her childhood memories of growing up in Oregon as one of the few Korean children in the community, traveling to Seoul in the summers to visit her mothers family, and her relationship with her now-deceased mother over the years. Through vast descriptions of Korean food and culture, she weaves stories of her life, family, grief, hope, personal dreams, and identity.
This book was chosen by my book club and I had high hopes for it. It’s on tons of bestseller lists, I’ve seen rave reviews online, I’ve heard podcast interviews with the author – it was all set up in my mind to be an astonishing memoir to read. And in reality, it was . . . fine. Many members of my book club agreed: there’s nothing wrong with it, but we couldn’t quite understand why it was so hyped up? While the author has found success in an Indie rock band, none of us had ever heard of her before so we were starting from ground zero. There are a lot of Korean food references, and as someone who is not a big fan of Korean food, I wasn’t interested in that much of it. It feels kind of strange critiquing a memoir like this because it was clearly very personal for the author, who vulnerably writes about so much of her life and family. I did enjoy reading about the mother-daughter dynamic and their family in general, and the way the author writes about her grief is both touching and relatable. I didn’t not like this book, but I think it was too overhyped in my mind and definitely didn’t live up to the high standards. It’s a solid mid-range memoir for sure, and if you are a fan of the author’s music or particularly interested in Korean food and culture, it’s worth checking out. But if those things don’t interest you, the book may be overhyped for you as well.