Transforming our Kitchen for under $600!

I love a good budget-friendly DIY and today I’m so excited to share our kitchen refresh – a low cost transformation using paint, repurposed materials, and a few simple swaps!

At the beginning of 2021, one of my goals was to paint the main floor of our house. Every wall was brown and the whole space felt dark and dingy, so I decided to lighten everything up by painting the walls (Sherwin Williams Alabaster) and trim (Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray). The more rooms that got painted, the more the kitchen just felt out of place.

Justin swapped out the old recessed light bulbs for these LED options a couple months ago and that change alone went a long way in updating the look of the space, but I knew I wanted to do a bit more. We have dreams of completely renovating the kitchen (the current layout does not work well for our family) but that won’t happen for several years. In the meantime, I decided to do a low-cost, big-impact facelift that would help the space fit in better with the rest of the house.

The previous owners had made a few updates shortly before selling and one of the updates was new quartz countertops. While the style isn’t my first choice, the countertops are high quality and I didn’t want to alter them. The black quartz has a lot of veins in shades of brown, taupe, and gold so I wanted to work with that even though I was moving the kitchen away from all the brown.

I chose Sherwin Williams Link Gray for the cabinets (you can find the full painting tutorial here). The color is very hard to accurately capture on camera – it’s a warm, versatile color that changes from green to gray to blue depending on the light. You’ll notice that there is even some variation between pictures in this post because the look of the cabinet changes depending on where I stand to take a picture!

The previous owners also updated the backsplash, but unfortunately, it was a big miss for us. It only went up about halfway to the cabinets, there were noticeable gaps between the backsplash and outlets, and visible seams in between the sheets of backsplash tile. In our opinion, it did nothing to help elevate the look of the kitchen and we wanted to take it down.

Using two putty knives and a hammer, I was able to peel the old backsplash off the wall. The drywall was a mess behind it, as it appears they had torn down a previous backsplash and then just put the new one up over the torn drywall paper. This was a fine solution on the interior wall, but for the exterior walls, especially around the sink, we wanted to create a better seal. I used primer over the torn drywall, then a layer of joint compound, then another layer of primer (after lightly sanding the joint compound) to create a smooth surface.

When we demoed our home office, we removed beadboard from all around the room and we saved every piece so we could repurpose it for backsplash. Justin cut away the parts with previous outlet holes and cut every piece down to fill the entire space from countertop to upper cabinet.

We used scrap wood with a rounded edge from previous projects to trim out the ends under the cabinets and top around the bay window. I used paintable caulk to fill in all of the seams between pieces and edges and then painted everything, including the window trim, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray. The windows themselves got two coats of Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black. I also ran a bead of clear caulk along the bottom edge of the beadboard to keep everything sealed off from water. To complete the look, we swapped out the old almond colored outlets and switches for white ones and I painted wooden switch plates to match the beadboard.

I also swapped out our hodgepodge of counter stools for these steel and wood ones from Target. It took me a long time to find stools that had a back (Justin’s requirement), worked with our color scheme, and didn’t cost more than $100 per stool. I’m so happy I found these – they’re comfortable, inexpensive, and look great!

I mostly shopped my own house for pieces of decor to finish out the space but I did purchase a new kitchen rug from Target and a small, locally-made maple cutting board from a small business. These little details helped make this space feel complete!

We still plan to swap out the fluorescent light fixture but other than that, this kitchen refresh is finished! It has made such a huge difference in the way our house feels and even though we’re still planning a bigger renovation someday, this has made me love our current kitchen a lot more in the meantime.

Budget Breakdown

Liquid Nails – $4.57

Joint Compound – $6.64

New outlets (two GFCI), switches, and wooden plates – $21.96 (I saved almost $40 on these items using Menard’s Rebates!)

Cabinet Paint – $41.71

Counter Stools – $365.90

LED Recessed Lights – $74.83

Kitchen Rug – $20

Maple Cutting Board – $35

Total Cost: $570.61

I already had the primer and paint for the ceiling, trim, windows, and walls since I’m using the same paint throughout the main floor, so this wasn’t an additional expense. We also had all the caulk, painters tape, brushes, tools, etc. from previous projects. So while it might be hard to recreate this exact project for the same amount of money, I do think it shows that you don’t need to spend a ton in order to see a big difference!

A Quick Makeover for Justin’s Office

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

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

Not exactly an inspiring space, huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bookshelf: Ikea Vittsjo (tutorial coming soon!)

Faux plants: here, here, here, and here

Father and Son Line Drawing (digital download)

Father and Daughter Line Drawing (digital download)

Black Wire Basket

Black Clock

Keurig K-Mini

Round basket

Rectangular basket

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

December 2020 Book Reviews

Happy New Year!

I’m starting off 2021 with one of my favorite things: book reviews! I read seven books in December and I regret to say, several of them were lackluster. This time of year, I want to cozy up by my Christmas tree and read something that gives me all the holiday feels, but unfortunately some books were just duds. Luckily, I ended the month with some really great reads that redeemed my reading stack and gave me the holiday spirit I craved just in time for Christmas.

And just in case you missed it, earlier this week I rounded up my TOP TEN books of the entire year. My favorite reads of 2020 plus a few honorable mentions – you can find them all in this blog post.

Jingle All the Way by Debbie Macomber

Jingle All the Way: A Novel by [Debbie Macomber]

Listen. I’ve read this author before and knew what I was getting into. I knew to expect it to be cheesy, squeaky clean, and predictable but I just wanted a quick and easy read full of Christmas spirit. The cover has a snowy farm scene with presents and a sleigh so I assumed this would put me in a festive mood. Unfortunately, this didn’t do it at all. The first half of the plot takes place in Brazil, which doesn’t exactly give me the holiday vibes, and then the Christmas-y second half wasn’t enough to redeem the story. Without the benefit of warm fuzzy holiday feels, the story just felt overly simplified, cheesy and honestly a little silly. I found myself skimming and rolling my eyes in many places. I don’t really even want to keep talking about it. If you’re a Debbie Macomber fan, I’m sure it’s fine, but I just didn’t get the holiday coziness from reading it like I had hoped and can’t recommend it.

25 Days ‘Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander

25 Days 'Til Christmas: A Novel by [Poppy Alexander]

It’s been four years since her husband died, and single mom Kate is ready to bring some of the magic back into Christmas for her son Jack. Coming up with new activities for each day leading up until Christmas, one thing she doesn’t plan on is connecting with a handsome stranger who is also struggling to feel joy this holiday. Can Kate and Daniel find their own holiday magic with each other?

This had all the makings of a PG-rated, Hallmark-y, perfectly fun holiday read to kick off December but unfortunately, it was a big miss for me. First of all, the pace moved super slow (fine for some books but didn’t work for this one). Also, there were SO many plotlines, some of which felt completely unnecessary to the story. I think the point of many of them was to demonstrate the intense financial pressure that Kate was under, but it was overkill. We get it, Kate is struggling to provide for herself and her son. No need to pile on more and more side stories that reiterate it. To top it all off, the romance part of this completely flopped for me. So much time was spent on the smaller plotlines and the same issue of Kate’s struggles that we didn’t get to actually see much of her and Daniel’s developing dynamic, resulting in their whole relationship feeling disconnected and overreaching. Had the plot been streamlined to 3-4 storylines and more time been spent on their budding romance, I think it could have worked. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and this was a big fat “meh” for me.

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

The Tourist Attraction (Moose Springs, Alaska Book 1) by [Sarah Morgenthaler]

Graham begrudgingly runs a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that has become a runaway success in his hometown of Moose Springs, Alaska. The only problem is, most of his clientele are tourists staying at the town’s upscale resort and he hates tourists. Or at least, he hates them until Zoey appears in his restaurant on the first day of her long-awaited dream vacation. Ready for adventure and enthusiastic about experiencing as much as possible, Zoey makes Graham realize that maybe not all tourists are awful.

Honestly, as my follow-up to 25 Days ‘Til Christmas, this book started out feeling refreshing and fun. It’s not Christmas-y but the Alaskan small-town setting is adorable, the characters are likeable, the plot was interesting. Unfortunately, I can pinpoint the exact moment things changed for me 1/3 of the way through the book. A particular line stood out and I realized that the writing was starting to feel juvenile. The feelings, thoughts, and motivations of characters were getting overexplained and the conflicts got sillier and over the top. And this was page 130 – the point in a rom-com where things should be picking up and getting better. Which brings me to another point: rom-coms should be 200 pages, 250 at max. This book was four hundred pages! That is just too long for a rom com, and this book would’ve definitely benefitted from a pare down. All that being said, there were enjoyable parts of this book and since it’s part of a series (I have a soft spot for rom com series featuring overlapping characters in charming small towns!) I decided to give the next book a shot. It falls mid-range for me – not the best, not the worst, a decent C+. Which brings me to the sequel . . .

Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Sarah Morgenthaler

Zoey’s best friend, the rich socialite Lana Montgomery, has risked a lot to get her company to invest in building luxury condos in Moose Springs. Even though she grew up vacationing there, loves Moose Springs, and thinks this plan will ultimately benefit them, the locals are not at all happy with the project. In fact, the attractive pool hall owner Rick seems to be the only local on her side. With Rick by her side, maybe Lana can get everything her heart desires – for the town and herself.

I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than the first. I thought the writing was better, the characters were more developed, the romance was more convincing and it certainly didn’t hurt that this book took place at Christmas so I was all about the festive vibe. It helped that this book was the second one in the series so the author could just expound on what she had started in book one and not explain so much. I also just liked Lana and Rick’s dynamic a lot more and found this book to be a more entertaining read than the first. Again, this book clocks in just shy of 400 pages which is way too long, and it did have one semi-absurd plotline but luckily it didn’t dominate the book like I feared it would. Overall, this series isn’t going to be a top recommendation for me, but it’s a decent choice. I believe there’s a third book coming and while I’m not dying to read it, I’ll likely give it a chance if I come across it when it’s published. I think it’s also worth noting that these book fall in the leaning PG-13 area (pretty tame romantic moments; things are implied but there’s nothing descriptive or graphic at all). That can be hard to find in a rom com these days so if that’s a preference of yours, these might be good ones to check out.

Match Making for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Matchmaking for Beginners: A Novel by [Maddie Dawson]

Blix is old and misunderstood by her high class Southern family, but with her great-nephew’s fiancé Marnie, there is an instant connection and understanding. Blix is a matchmaker and she sees herself and her skills reflected in Marnie – so much so that when Blix dies she leaves her beloved Brownstone, complete with her unfinished tenant “projects” to Marnie. Marnie decides to comply with the unusual stipulations of the inheritance, soon finding herself using her own matchmaking skills to pick up where Blix left off.

I needed a bit of a Christmas break mid-month so I picked this one that has been on my TBR list for a long time. It was really interesting because you kind of know from pretty early on who the main character is supposed to be with, so it becomes less of a story of her love life and more a story of everyone else’s. There are plenty of loveable, eccentric characters and a very unique plot line. I loved the setting in Brooklyn and the family vibe of Blix’s community (it made me want to move in to the brownstone!), and I loved the ways that Marnie used her matchmaking gifts. It’s kind of predictable in that you know what Blix’s matchmaking plans were, but also not predictable because the way that things unfold is unexpected. I liked the pace of writing and the fact that there were multiple storylines but it never felt like too many. I didn’t enjoy the path that Marnie’s own plot line took a few times, but it wasn’t enough to turn me off to her character altogether. I found myself rooting for all the tenants and their happiness and thought this was a charming, quirky, and enjoyable read.

One More for Christmas by Sarah Morgan

One More for Christmas: A Novel by [Sarah Morgan]

Gayle has a successful career and is an inspiration to countless women, but her relationship with the two women who matter the most – her daughters – has been estranged for years. After an injury leads her to question the decisions she’s made in the past, she reaches out to her daughters to try to mend the relationship. Samantha and Ella are skeptical but agree to spend a destination Christmas together to see if they can reconcile with one another.

Now THIS one was a winner for me. First of all, the setting was just awesome – a snowy Christmas at a lodge in Scotland!? Yes please! I’ll be on the next plane. I also loved the amount of characters: enough for a good variety but not too many that it felt overdone. Then the characters themselves had great depth – they were flawed, yet likeable. I also loved that the plot’s solid foundation was about Gayle, Ella, and Samantha’s relationship with one another but other side stories were mixed in to help you understand each one a little better and give a fuller picture. I loved the exploration of how our past experiences shape our actions, for better or for worse. I loved watching the relationship between the three women; it felt authentic – not too fluffy or sappy, but real emotions, struggles, hopes, and strides toward reconciliation. I adored the supporting characters and felt like they had just enough time – not too much to distract, but woven in well to create a nice rounded narrative. It also does a really great job of striking the right chord with including romance without that being too much of the focus or too little of a side story. It was just a really enjoyable and festive read that is a perfect choice for reading by a roaring fire or the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree! Highly recommend!

A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

Rosie calls her family in England one evening to tell them her great news: her boyfriend of three months has proposed and they are getting married in Colorado at Christmas, only four weeks away! She urges her parents and sister to come join her but doesn’t bargain for what she’s getting when they arrive: parents trying to hide the news of their impending divorce and a sister bent on stopping this wedding from happening.

Thanks to loving One More for Christmas after so many festive duds, I quickly checked out another Sarah Morgan book to squeeze it in before Christmas. I’m so glad I did because this was another winner! The basic formula for this book was the same as before – alternating point of view chapters with each of the three women. I enjoy this kind of storytelling and liked all of the characters. Once again, I loved the setting and found myself wanting to visit this picturesque ski lodge in Colorado at Christmas. I liked the characters and their relationships and I liked the fact that romance was included but the main focus was on family dynamics. I found myself rooting for each character and kept wanting to read more about each one. It’s a good pace of writing and a good length of novel. I kind of wish that I hadn’t read these so close together because they do feel a little similar, even though the plot lines were different, and I think I would have enjoyed more space in between the two reads. I also think if I had to choose between the two, I’d give One More for Christmas the edge as my top pick this month. Even so, this is another book I’d highly recommend as an excellent choice paired with a cozy blanket, a cup of hot chocolate, and a twinkly Christmas tree.

I had a few more festive reads on my list, but I got a little burnt out by Christmas and I’m ready for a change of pace, so I’ll save those for next year. Here’s to another great year full of great books!

A Roundup of All Our 2020 Projects!

If you follow with me on Instagram, you may have seen that Justin and I are currently in the middle of our last project of 2020: building a play kitchen for our kids’ Christmas present! With only three days left until Christmas we’re definitely in crunch time; you can follow along @simplifythechaos to see if we pull it off in time. Fingers crossed!

2020 has been a year full of projects both big and small and I thought it’d be fun to spend some time today re-capping everything we did this year, One positive to all this time spent at home means we were able to tackle a few projects that we weren’t expecting to accomplish and it’s fun to look back and see all the changes our house went through!

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It’s hard to count how many total things we did, because many rooms included multiple projects, but overall we addressed 11 different spaces in our house and also a DIY present for my baby niece. Let’s take a trip down memory lane!

Guest Bedroom + Bathroom

The very first project we completed was a huge renovation to our guest suite (little did we know just how few guests we would end up having in 2020!) We completely gutted the guest bathroom . . .

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. . . and the guest bedroom got upgraded with a new window, fresh paint, updated trim, and a more functional linen cabinet!

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Dresser Makeover

I love quick, inexpensive, and high impact projects so I loved this $50 dresser makeover I completed for my new baby niece’s bedroom!

Basement Refresh

Our basement has a very large living space and while I have more planned for the future, it was nice to spend some time on a few quick updates like removing old trim, painting, and adding some accent pieces.

Simple DIY Book Shelves

In the early days of social distancing, Justin and I had so much fun making these little bookshelves for our DIY Date Night!

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Secret Nook

After finishing up those little shelves, I was inspired to give a little makeover to the little secret nook under the stairs. It may only be 7 square feet of space, but this little room now packs a big punch!

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Secret Nook 2

Scalloped Wall in Vi’s Room

When I was pregnant, we didn’t find out the sex of the baby so the nursery was just plain white walls that felt pretty lackluster. I enjoyed using leftover paint from the dresser project to create a simple scalloped accent wall for the nursery and it made a huge difference!

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Basement Kitchen

I joined the One Room Challenge and spent 8 weeks renovating our basement kitchen. This was FULL of DIY projects: painting floor tiles, painting cabinets, installing a butcherblock countertop, painting laminate counters, and new window trim. It was a huge and incredibly rewarding project!

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$1500 Kitchen Renovation!

Patio Entryway

Directly to the left of the basement kitchen, the floor tile wraps around to the door out to our patio. Since I had painted the tile already, it made sense to give this entryway a much needed organizational and aesthetic refresh as well. My favorite part? That yellow door!

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Modern, Bright Entryway Makeover

$0 Bathroom Makeover

We have an extra bathroom off our laundry room that doesn’t get regular use, but is visible from the door leading from the garage so it is seen every time we come in and out of the house. It was an eyesore! I didn’t want to put money into it since eventually I’d love to gut the space and extend the laundry room, so I did a makeover using only materials we already had. I LOVE how it turned out!

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$0 Bathroom Makeover

Basement Dining Room

For the space in the basement between the TV/lounge space and the kitchen, we created a little dining area. Justin built a table (I’m so impressed!) from scrap wood that was left from the previous homeowner and I spray painted some chairs I found for $2 each on Facebook marketplace.

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Budget Dining Room Transformation-3

Kids’ Bathroom

We gave a quick and easy cosmetic update to the bathroom that our kids share – a fun, bold paint color, a new light fixture and mirror, and functional updates like DIY shelves and towel hooks.

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Home Office

And lastly, perhaps my favorite renovation so far, was our home office! This room was also full of DIY projects: the vertical shiplap, the trim and crown molding, and of course, those glorious built ins! I love, love, love this room!

WHEW! That’s a wrap on our 2020 projects. While I’m already dreaming of what we might do next in 2021, it’s nice to just take a minute to sit back, enjoy our home, and be grateful for all we were able to do this year.

Shopping Small for Simple Toddler Christmas Gifts

I looked at my calendar today and was startled to realize that Christmas is next week. Next. Week! This has been such a strange year that has felt so surreal and slow at times, yet here we are so close to Christmas!

Our tree is set up with my favorite ornaments taking front and center!

Our Christmas celebrations look a little different this year for many reasons, and one unexpected thing that is changing this year for us is gifts. As in, I’m actually going to give our kids some. Ha!

I’m a pretty minimal-ish person and while I do love gifts, I don’t like getting stuff just for the sake of having presents. Last year, we left the gift giving mostly to grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. and kept our family Christmas very small and simple (I even wrapped up some library books for LJ to unwrap and enjoy for three weeks until they were returned – it worked like a charm!)

This year, I decided to ramp up our celebration a bit for two reasons. One, LJ is getting older and understands more of what’s going on – it’s so fun to see his pure joy and excitement opening presents, even small ones. And two, this year has been a hard year for small businesses. This pandemic has caused many small businesses to take a big hit and it became extra important to me to support them with my purchases.

Each year, I try to be intentional with the gifts I personally give my kids and the items that we put on our wish list. Last year, I wrote a post about non-toy gift ideas and also one about intentionally gifting toys with a greater purpose (fair trade, sustainable, eco-friendly, small business, philanthropic mission, etc. The post also includes my favorite brands/shops!) and my philosophy hasn’t changed, so those are good posts to check out to see where I get ideas for gifts. Disclaimer: I understand that items that fit these categories often cost more or are less accessible, and I recognize both the convenience and affordability of big box stores or online companies like Amazon. My children of course get gifts outside of these preferences and that is 100% OKAY. I’m certainly not perfect (you’ll see a couple things I got them are even from the dollar bins at Target) and I don’t expect anyone else to be! While these are goals/preferences, they’re by no means requirements and we’re grateful for and appreciative of each and every gift regardless.

While all the other things listed above are important to me, this year I focused on small businesses first. I tried my best to include products on my kids’ wish lists that are made by smaller brands, but I also encouraged our families to consider purchasing more mainstream toys at local small businesses if possible. A few things on my kids’ wish lists this year were:

PlanToys play food – I love this company’s sustainable mission: sustainable material, sustainable manufacturing, sustainable mind. Bonus that my mom was able to purchase the food and beverage set, breakfast set, veggie set, and fruit set from a locally-owned small business!

A screengrab of Vi opening a PlanToys phone at Justin’s family’s Christmas – she loves it!

Cuddle + Kind dolls – these dolls are high-quality, adorable, and fair trade PLUS with each purchase, the company donates money to humanitarian organizations that provide meals to those in need. Vi has two dolls already (Penelope and Stella) that she carries around everywhere and this year we asked for either Mia or Charlotte.

Bows from Etsy shops – I love having cute bows for Vi and supporting a small business at the same time. I particularly love this one and this one.

Books – We requested books from local small businesses for both kids!

Chalkfull of Design – LJ received a personalized name chalkboard from this small business this year and he’s so excited to practice writing his name!

As for the gifts we’re personally giving this year, I still didn’t get a ton of things, but I did get more than originally anticipated since I wanted to support local small businesses. I thought I’d just show you what I got!

Since Vi is only one and still doesn’t really understand what is going on (and we all know how I feel about clutter haha), she isn’t getting as much as LJ. Even so, I know she’ll love these items! Both she and LJ currently love bathtime so I snagged a few bathtub finger paints for her stocking. The Poke-a-Dot book was found at a small business in my parent’s hometown and I’m so excited for her to unwrap it! She loves books and this one makes fun popping noises that I know she’ll have fun with.

LJ has a few more items since he’s older and understands what is going on. He’s going through a phase where he requests a band-aid for every “injury” (a small bump on the head, tiny scratch on the finger, etc) so he’ll love the PJ Masks bandages! I purchased a cute little tractor + wagon and some farm animals at a locally-owned toy store in Justin’s hometown and I know these will be huge hits for him! I’m putting the tractor and bandages in his stocking and wrapping up the coloring book and animals.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might know that we’re currently in the process of building our main present for the kids: a play kitchen! They’ll be getting play food from other relatives, but since our Christmas is first, I wanted them to at least have something to unwrap and play with when they receive the kitchen. I found this adorable Melissa and Doug cookware set at a local small business and it’s perfect!

I’m also going to wrap up this cute African basket so they have something to carry their fruits and veggies in. I found this at another small business in Justin’s hometown and will wrap it up and let Vi open it since she didn’t get as many gifts as LJ.

While I’m so glad we were able to shop small for many gifts, I want to reiterate that we’re not perfect or expecting anyone else to be. If anything, I’m hoping that by being transparent about all the things I’m giving our kids, both the things from the Target dollar bin and the things from local small businesses, you’ll be encouraged to find a balance that works for you. Maybe that’s trying to find just one gift from a small business. Maybe that’s just focusing on stocking stuffer gifts from small businesses. Maybe it’s asking family members to try to shop small for gifts for you or your kids. For me, the goal isn’t perfection, it’s to try to be more intentional when and if I can. 🙂

Of course, Christmas is certainly about more than just gifts, and we incorporate a lot more than presents into our celebrations, but knowing a few of these gifts helped support small businesses this year does make the celebration seem sweeter. I can’t wait for Christmas morning!

One Room Challenge Week Four: All About Shiplap!

We are four weeks into the One Room Challenge and have finally met a big milestone: all of the shiplap is finished!!

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This has been a huge project and the shiplap needed to get finished before we could move on to other things like baseboards, crown molding, and final window trim so it was an important thing to check off our list!

Today I’m going to share about the process we used to install shiplap on all the walls and ceilings – it’s the first time we did something like this and we’re really happy with how it turned out!

Items Needed:

Liquid Nails

Caulk gun

Shiplap (we used 8 foot pieces for the walls and 12 foot pieces for the ceiling)

-Nail Gun (we used 1 1/2″ nails for walls and 2″ nails for the ceiling)

-Level

DryDex Spackling and Nail Hole Filler

Receptacle Spacers

Justin also used his miter saw (to cut boards to length), jigsaw (to cut notches for outlets and window trim), and table saw (to rip boards to smaller widths when needed).

Installation:

It made the most sense for us to start in the middle of the wall rather than in a corner because every wall in this room is wonky. Our walls are a touch over 8 feet high, which was nice because there was no need to cut the shiplap for just a plain stretch of wall. We used our liquid nails and caulk gun to run adhesive along the back of the shiplap.

For shiplap on the walls, we used this liquid nails but for the ceiling, we used the heavy duty one since the ceiling boards would be pulled down more by gravity.

This shiplap is super easy to work with because it interlocks and automatically creates the perfect gap between boards.

We also didn’t need to repair any of the walls first (old nail holes, glue from the beadboard we ripped out, etc). All we needed to do was slide in each piece! Since we have those wonky walls, we used a level to ensure each board was running straight up and down.

Then we used a nail gun to attach each board solidly in place.

When we got to outlets, Justin just measured and cut out a notch to fit around the box. We then used receptacle spacers to bring the outlet out from the wall to be flush with the shiplap.

I’d love to say the process was “easy as that” and truly, it is easy to work with this shiplap. If your room is a square, it would be fairly simple to just click each board into place and move around the wall pretty quickly. Our room is not at all that straightforward since we had a bay window and a slanted entry wall to contend with. We also decided to put the window and door trim up first to avoid gaps from the window/door frame and the trim. This meant having to be very meticulous with measuring. We dealt with a lot of funky angles and crazy cuts like this:

It took many hours and a lot of double and triple-checking all our measurements, but I’m incredibly proud of how Justin managed to work with all the crazy angles to make everything fit so perfectly!

When it came to the ceiling, it was a true team effort. We had to use 12 foot boards and each stand on a ladder to get the board in place. Justin used a stud finder to locate all the ceiling joists which was helpful because we could nail directly into the joists for an extra secure hold.

One of us held the board in place while the other nailed and this kept it from sagging before the liquid nails started to dry.

The ceiling was a little more straightforward than the walls. We did have to deal with the angled walls again but knowing that crown molding would cover the gaps between the shiplap and the wall allowed us to have some flexibility with our cuts. The only cut we had to make was for the light in the center of the room, which was much easier than cutting around multiple outlets.

Once the walls were done, it was time to fill the hundreds of nail holes. I tried a different process and I’m really happy with how it worked!

I started out with this spackling and nail hole filler:

I squeezed just a small dab of spackling on my finger

and pressed it into the nail hole.

After making sure the hole was filled, I just swiped it a bit to cover the area.

I waited just a few minutes until it had started to dry a bit, the gently sanded off the excess with my fingers until it was smooth.

The spackling dries white within a few hours and then it’s ready to paint!

I chose the color Treron from Farrow and Ball and got it color matched at Lowe’s. It’s just the perfect olive color: not too deep, not too green, not too brown, and it brings a touch of moodiness and character to the room. If you look really closely, you can see a few of the nail holes but for the most part, it looks great!

Now that the shiplap is done, the project is going to start moving quick! We have two weeks left of the One Room Challenge and lots to do! Stay tuned for more updates!

Vi’s Sweet and Simple First Birthday Party

Yesterday was a special day in our house because we celebrated our baby girl’s FIRST birthday! Where did this year go!?

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Even though her birthday isn’t until the 23rd, we decided to have her party two weeks early because Justin’s parents are in town visiting and this way they could be part of it. We kept things family only – just both sets of our parents, my grandparents, and two of my siblings and their spouses who live close enough to come out for the afternoon.

We keep first birthdays really simple around here. Our personal philosophy is that it doesn’t make sense for us to spend a lot of effort, time, and money on a party for someone who honestly doesn’t know it’s their birthday or what is even going on. If you love throwing a big birthday bash for your one-year-old, that is awesome and I support you! It’s just not our thing. We really believe you can have a meaningful, special celebration while keeping things pretty streamlined and simplified, and this party was just that!

I kept invitations super easy with a free evite that got emailed out to our families with all the party details.

Evite Invitation

Instead of trying to throw together a whole meal, I decided on serving a variety of appetizers and desserts. I put together a large charcuterie board with meat, cheese, and fruit, some raw veggies and hummus, and tortilla chips with our family’s favorite dip.

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For dessert, I bought a small 4 inch cake for Vi’s smash cake and I ordered cookies from my friend – she runs a small cookie business out of her home and does an amazing job! I pretty much gave her free reign on what to do since we didn’t have a theme or anything and she designed this amazing cookie tile platter based on Vi’s outfit in a photo I had posted (how creative is that!?) They turned out so amazing and were such a special touch!

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We also had a simple ice cream bar with vanilla ice cream and a variety of toppings for people to enjoy.

Decorations were sweet and simple and made up entirely of things I already had on hand, like this letterboard with a poem I made up for the food table.

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I had made pink tassel garlands our of tissue paper several years ago for a Valentine’s party and have gotten so much use out of them  ever since – bachelorette parties, baby showers, and now, my girl’s first birthday!

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In addition to the food table, I had to give her high chair a little something special too. 😉

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The last element of parties is typically gifts. We personally prefer to not have gifts during our children’s first birthday. We are fairly minimal people and don’t want to accumulate a ton of toys just for the sake of gift giving, not to mention at this age our kids are just as happy playing with a cardboard box or a plastic cup haha! In my experience, just saying “no gifts, please” doesn’t always work. It can feel uncomfortable to show up to a birthday party empty handed, which is understandable. But then some people still bring gifts and some don’t…and that can be awkward for everyone. So what we do instead is include on the invitations an option for people to give a donation in lieu of gifts if they want. For LJ’s first birthday, we asked for book donations for a local organization that distributes them to hospitalized children in our area (LJ got three books when he was in the NICU). For Vi’s first birthday, we chose a ministry at our church that distributes basic essentials to local families in need. Through this pandemic, there have been many families financially struggling and we felt this was one tangible way we could help. Those who still wanted to bring a gift were very happy to be able to bring donations in Vi’s honor.

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The highlight of the party was Vi getting to dig into her little cake. She didn’t hesitate to get into that frosting  ! We did not let her eat the whole thing but she really enjoyed it while she could. 😉

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That last picture was right before we took away the cake – once it was getting in her hair we figured she’d had enough haha!

We had so much fun enjoying the beautiful weather outside and hanging out with our families. We ate delicious food, we played cornhole, we talked, we laughed, we had a great time celebrating our little girl!

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I cannot believe my baby girl is almost one! She is such a joy and I’m so glad we could have a special day celebrating her life!

July 2020 Book Reviews

Somehow, someway, this crazy year that is 2020 just keeps moving along and we’re onto another month and another book review!

I’ve been wanting to challenge myself with some harder, deeper books lately and this month I read some very compelling, meaningful books that I know will stick with me for a long, long time. Let’s dive in!

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How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist by [Ibram X. Kendi]

The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it – and then dismantle it.

I would have always said that I was “not racist.” I would have considered myself to be colorblind (“I don’t see color”). Reading this book gave me so much insight into that language though and I now realize that when I was “colorblind,” I really was just oblivious. I was ignorant. And while I may have been “not racist,” I was not actively antiracist. I read this book as part of a virtual book club and it is POWERFUL. It’s really hard for me to summarize because there is so much in this book worth mentioning. I am thankful that I bought my own copy because I was constantly underlining, starring, making notes. Kendi addresses racism in many different areas of society and how it affects everything from policy making to poverty to standardized testing to individual relationships and so much more. It touches on the history of race and racism both globally and in the United States and shines a light on how both systems and individuals play a part. There may be those that disagree with me, but I would say that this book mostly manages to stay apolitical. In addition to a tremendous amount of research noted in the back, Kendi uses examples, both good and bad, on both sides of the political spectrum and even takes a critical look at himself. He writes so vulnerably about the ways in which he has fallen short or needed to grow in his own journey to be antiracist and I feel like that makes it easier for the reader to look critically at him/herself. I had to take a lot of hard looks in the mirror as I read and I feel like this book stretched me and changed me in many ways. It gave me a new lens with which to view the world around me and identify areas for growth. Now for all my gushing, I will say that Kendi is one man. This is by no means the exclusive answer to all the problems within our society and there are many perspectives and platforms to consider. Even so, this is such a valuable resource and I absolutely recommend it to everyone as an incredibly important opportunity to read, reflect, and grow. It is challenging but ultimately I found it to be inspiring and hopeful. I think it is an excellent candidate for book club discussions, or even just reading with a friend to process together. Highly, highly recommend.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Emira, a young black woman, is accused of kidnapping the girl she babysits while the two of them are in a grocery store. The entire confrontation, made by a white grocery shopper and the white security guard, is filmed and the story eventually gets back to Emira’s employer, Alix. Mortified by the situation, Alix tries to rectify the situation by befriending Emira – but is that really her place? And is she handling things as well as she thinks she is?

At first the style of writing felt disjointed to me, and it took me a while to establish a feel for it and get into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. I read this entire book in less than 24 hours! It was especially interesting to read this on the heels of How to Be An Antiracist – that book really did open my eyes to the ways in which so many well-intended “not-racist” behaviors are actually racist. Such a Fun Age was like a case study for exploring the dynamics of race, class, and privilege within relationships, both romantic and professional. The characters’ intentions didn’t always match the outcomes of their actions and it demonstrated the nuances in interactions and how things are rarely just black and white (no pun intended). When I tried coming up with a few adjectives for this book, intriguing, provocative, and engrossing immediately came to mind. I’m not sure if I would have felt this way had I not just read How to Be An Antiracist, (in fact, I know I would’ve viewed some of the interactions and characters differently beforehand!) so I would actually recommend reading both books if you can. But even if you can’t, this book is well worth a read. I think it would be an excellent candidate for a book club discussion on racial inequality and the white savior complex.

One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk

One in a Million: Heartwarming and uplifting, the perfect feelgood, funny romantic read by [Lindsey Kelk]

After several books on the heavier side, I was in the mood for something light and easy and this book seemed like just the thing. In an effort to save her small social media marketing business, Annie accepts a bet: a free month’s rent if she can make a total stranger Instagram famous in 30 days. The only problem is, the chosen target is Dr. Samuel Page, a dry historian with an overgrown beard, a flip phone, and absolutely no interest in social media. Annie is determined to win the bet, so she makes a deal with Sam. Allow her to open the Instagram account, and she will help him win his girlfriend back. Except it isn’t long before Annie realizes she doesn’t want Sam to win back his girlfriend…

I wanted so badly to like this little rom-com, but gosh I just did not. Honestly, I was bored! The pace is so slow and it is really long – I read it on my Kindle and remember looking for my percentage thinking “surely things are going to pick up soon” and I was shocked to see I wasn’t even 25% of the way through the book and it felt like nothing had happened. I also could not really get into the characters or understand Annie and Sam’s dynamic or growing relationship (and I wouldn’t even say that’s a spoiler, because this book is super obviously predictable). I think it was supposed to be endearing and sweet but I can’t really say there was ever a point where I felt super invested or interested in them. There were way too many underdeveloped side characters and stories (one side story seemed like it was going to be more of a thing which would have been interesting but then it just…wasn’t). As a whole, this book was fine if you want a feel-good, somewhat mindless beach read, but I found it to be pretty underwhelming and forgettable.

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

Charles and James, two men from very different backgrounds, feel the same call to preaching and end up as co-pastors at a Presbyterian church in New York City in the 1960’s. Their wives come with them, although it soon becomes apparent that they could not be more different. Still, the foursome have a unique bond and navigate the ups and downs of their relationships and faith journeys over the years.

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I dove in without really knowing what to expect. While the book does technically cover multiple decades, it really focuses on their lives in college as Charles and James meet Lily and Nan and are led to divinity school and then the early years of their ministry. This is definitely a slow burn, character-driven story so don’t expect a fast paced plot, but it is really well written and ends up being very thought-provoking. I am a Christian and found it fascinating to think about what faith looks like to different people – how they think about God, how they feel in their callings, how they cope with suffering. I do not think you have to be religious to appreciate this book. There also ended up being a pretty large part of the plot that I didn’t see coming but was super interested in given a specific part of my background (I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoiling things). I felt like I could relate to each character in a unique way and felt drawn to them all for different reasons. This novel is compelling and moving and rich – definitely recommend.

 

Whew! What a month, huh? I know I’m going to continue processing many of these books for a while. At the same time, I currently have NINE books stacked up on my nightstand waiting to be read so I’m going to be processing these and taking in some more in August. 🙂 What have you been reading lately?

One Week Challenge Week 5 & 6: DIY Window Trim

Another week of the One Room Challenge is complete!

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We were making good progress on this project until we hit a major obstacle in Week Four: mold. When we ripped off the paneling on the half wall and discovered mold, we knew we needed it to be taken care of by professionals.

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Another thing we got slightly held up on was due to an outlet. Previously, there was just a 3 inch casing around each window. I wanted to install a chunkier trim but one of the outlets was too close to the window, so we couldn’t install the window trim until this was moved to make room.

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My grandpa is extremely handy and has done electrical work in the past, so he and my dad came out one day last week to shift the outlet over a few inches.

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He also split the outlet and added another one behind the stove. Previously, the stove had to be plugged in using one of the above-the-counter outlets, which just wasn’t very visually appealing. Now it can get plugged in without the cord showing!

We were kind of at a standstill for a while waiting on these few little projects to get finished. Last week we had drywall guys come out and they tore all the mold and replaced the drywall, and we also had them patch the hole left by the outlet.

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They finished up the jobs on Monday and we were back in business. I painted the new drywall and we were finally ready to start on the window trim.

DIY Window Trim

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I wanted to go with a chunky craftsman-style trim with clean, simple lines and we decided to DIY it using some basic lumber.

Materials + Tools Needed:

  • 1 x 4 board (we used one total)
  • 1 x 2 boards (we used two)
  • 1 x 3 boards (we used three)
  • primer
  • paint
  • angled brush
  • nail gun
  • miter saw
  • wood filler
  • sandpaper
  • silicone caulk

I decided to paint all the boards first, which I did by simply laying them down on saw horses inside. I used one coat of primer and two coats of Sherwin Williams Alabaster in Satin.  (I did have a drop cloth underneath when I actually painted, but I moved it before I remembered to take the picture).

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Justin used his miter saw to cut each board to the correct length. We ended up choosing to install the boards from top down: we started with the top horizontal board, then the two vertical boards boards. We used 1 x 3’s for the top and sides of each window and attached them with a nail gun (I would also recommend using a level – this helped us make sure each board was perfectly straight!)

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To attach the bottom boards, we first held the 1 x 2 in place on its side. Instead of having it end flush with the vertical boards, I wanted a little overhang so Justin cut it long. It ended up sticking out 7/8″ on each side. I would worry less about an exact measurement (like wanting exactly one inch overhang) and more about making sure it sticks out the same amount on each side.

While I held the still-unattached 1 x 2 in place, Justin held up the 1 x 4 underneath and got it right where we wanted it. He nailed the 1 x 4 to the wall, then turned the nail gun 90 degrees and nailed the 1 x 2 down into the 1 x 4. We chose this method because it was easier to ensure that the nail didn’t accidentally go in the 1 x 2 slightly angled and come through the top of the board.

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Of course, nothing in this house is simple, so we did run into some technical challenges with the second window. The cabinet was too close to the window to accommodate the full width of the trim, so Justin had to cut out a notch for the trim to fit.

In addition, the trim was too thick and we couldn’t fully open the cabinet door, so Justin ran each board through the planer (he planed the unpainted sides) to take off about 1/8 inch on all the boards. The extra steps were annoying, but they paid off because the trim fits perfectly and we can fully open the cabinet door!

Once the trim was finally in place, (and once I had primed and painted the window sills, which I could have done at any point in this process) I used wood filler and a putty knife to fill in all the nail holes. I like using this filler because it dries super quickly!

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After about 15 minutes, I just lightly sanded each spot and it was ready for paint. I painted over all the wood filler and the edges where the boards had been cut, as well as over anything that got scuffed up in the installation process (the boards that had been planed needed some TLC touch ups!)

Once all the paint was dry, I used caulk to fill in the edges, reinstalled the blinds . . .ORC Window-6

… and voila!

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Look at the trim that we had to plane – it fit perfectly next to the cabinet!

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The trim color and wall color are actually the same, just different sheens. I wanted the trim to have just a little detail but keep clean, simple lines and not take too much focus, because I want the gorgeous view to be the focus.

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I’m super happy with how this trim turned out! Here’s a before and after from the original kitchen to where we are now. HUGE difference!

A few things remaining on our to-do list: reinstall the peninsula cabinet and the new counter top, replace the sink faucet, swap all the outlets for white ones, plus all the little touch-ups and caulk we’ll need for the finishing touches. It’s coming together!

If you’re interested in checking out some of the other rooms people are renovating for the One Room Challenge, you can check them out here. We’ve got two weeks left!

Simplify the Diaper Bag {Two under Two}

I’ve now been a mother of two for just over six weeks and I’ve made it a point to get out of the house as often as we can. I want to enjoy the warm weather while it lasts and leaving the house to go to the library, playground, or a playdate boosts my mood and helps LJ burn off a lot of energy. Win win! In order to leave the house though, I have to be prepared to take a diaper bag.

I have blogged several times about what I carry in my diaper bag (newborn, infant, toddler) and it may sound strange but these posts kind of serve like snapshots into my life at various points of motherhood. I like to share these posts not only to give some ideas to fellow mamas who might be looking to streamline their diaper bags but also to document what I carried at that point in time so I can look back later and reminisce on that stage of life. 😉

My goal with a diaper bag is simple: I want to have access to the things I may need when we’re out of the house but avoid feeling like I’m carrying around everything we own. I don’t want it to be so full that it puts strain on my back or is impossible to find anything quickly.

Today I’m going to share everything that I carry in my diaper bag these days with “two under two” (two kids under two years old). As with all my previous posts on this, I want to emphasize that this is what works for me. It might not be what works best for anyone else and that’s okay. I personally want my diaper bag to be efficient and minimal-ish (more than just a bare minimum of diapers and wipes). I know I could pack more items that may offer convenience in various situations, but I choose not to. I pack what I am most likely to need and anything not listed is honestly something we can do without in 99% of situations.

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First up, I have a new diaper bag! I had used this diaper bag since LJ was born and I honestly loved it; however, it got such heavy use that it was getting pretty worn down and the front compartment zipper had completely broken. Rather than get the same bag again, I chose this one because it offered a similar look but had a few more inner pockets which I wanted now that I have stuff for two kiddos. One thing I definitely wanted to keep the same was a backpack-style bag – my arms are full enough these days that I don’t want to have multiple bags slung over arms. I want one bag that holds what I need and allows me to be hands-free so I can push a stroller/carry a carseat/hold my toddler’s hand, etc.

As it was with my first diaper bag, the front pocket is my “mom” pocket. This takes the place of carrying around a purse and holds a pen, a few snacks (I like to have protein-packed snacks while breastfeeding), hand sanitizer, headphones, and gum.

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The side pockets are great for carrying my water bottle and I also slip my phone into the other side (usually I slip it in my jeans back pocket but if I don’t have one, I can quickly stash it there).

The main compartment is where I keep everything for the kids. I roll everything and place it on its side to maximize space and keep things easy to access. The main space holds a muslin blanket, flannel blanket, two burp cloths, a spare outfit for Vi (a sleeper, because that’s easy right now!), my wallet, a nursing cover, and a toy for LJ. I also usually throw in a snack container for LJ with crackers or something similar and his water.

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Additionally, there are 5 pockets around the side and I’m purposeful with each one (counter clockwise from “top” of picture): The back pocket holds a changing pad (came with the bag) and a reusable clutch of wipes.  The next pocket is insulated for a bottle, but since I’m currently breastfeeding I store extra pacifiers and a pair of socks for Vi here. The next pocket holds 3-4 diapers for LJ. The next pocket holds 4-5 diapers forVi, along with diaper cream. The last pocket is LJ’s “snack” pocket. It holds a reusable placemat (handy at restaurants), a bib, spoon and case, and snacks (typically 1-2 pouches, fruit snacks or a fruit strip, and some type of bar).

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There is one last thin pocket outside the diaper bag (in the back) and it is usually empty, but it’s a handy place for me to slip something small I might need to carry for a particular purpose, like our mail, a book for my bible study, etc.

A few additional tips for a “two under two” diaper bag:

-Repack when you get home. It’s not exactly calm when we’re trying to get out the door. I’m getting kids changed, breastfeeding, getting myself ready, cleaning up spit up, changing a final diaper, grabbing LJ’s water bottle, trying to find shoes, wrangling LJ into his shoes, etc. The minutes leading up to us leaving the house are often hectic and rushed. It is not the time to realize “oh shoot, we have no diapers for Vi” or scramble to grab snacks in for LJ. And I certainly don’t want to leave the house and realize I have no wipes to clean up a poop mess (have you seen this!? OMG – hilarious, but also I would be so stressed out if this happened to me!) So in order to avoid that extra stress right before leaving or realize too late that we forgot something vital, I “reset” it each time we get home. I refill diapers, wipes, snacks, take out anything extra we used last time, and just get the bag back to baseline. I may not have time to do this right away when I get home, but I don’t put the bag in its “spot” unless it’s reset and ready. This way, the ONLY thing I have to do before leaving is throw in LJ’s water and zip it up! So much less stressful.

-Have an extra diaper clutch ready to go for your toddler. The first time I took both kids to my bible study, I went to drop LJ off in childcare and realized I couldn’t leave the diaper bag with him because I needed it for Vi! So I clipped his diaper name tag to one single diaper and handed it to his teacher like “uhh, sorry this is the best I can do.” Such a rookie mistake! I purchased this simple clutch and it’s the perfect size for a small pack of wipes and a few diapers (and even his water and one snack if needed). I keep it stocked with wipes and 1-2 diapers and store it next to my diaper bag; any time I’m going somewhere where LJ and Vi will be in separate places, I throw it in with my main diaper bag and then have something to leave with LJ. So much easier!

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As you can see, I still carry quite a few things around in the diaper bag. I’m prepared for the situations that are most likely to happen (hangry toddler, messy diapers, etc) but I’m not going to stress out about every possible situation (if LJ gets bored or restless, I don’t need 7 toys in the bag to distract him because we’ll typically be able to find something in our surroundings to focus on). That’s what works for me!

What are your purse or diaper bag must haves?