White Walls in the Living Room

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

Golden Hour (5 pm):

Morning Light (9 am):

Before:

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

Golden Hour (5 pm)

Morning Light (9 am):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

Wall/Trim Color: Sherwin Williams Ivory Lace

Vanity/Accent Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Inkwell

Shower Curtain

Window Curtain

Bath Mats

Mirror

Soap Dispenser

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

Ollie’s Birth Story

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.

August 2022 Book Reviews

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!

Mama, Sing My Song by Amanda Siebert

NEW BOOK ALERT!

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.

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

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!

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins

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.

With Love from London by Sarah Jio

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.

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

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!

What have you been reading and enjoying lately?

My newest Valentine…BABY #3!

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.

December 2021 Book Reviews: Part Two

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!

Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes

Christmas in Paris: A Novel by [Anita Hughes]

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.

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday

Duke, Actually: A Novel by [Jenny Holiday]

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!

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

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.

What have you been reading lately?

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

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

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

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

Read a book (or three or four)

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

Dream up possibilities

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

Plan a future project

From the Pinterest board for one of my future projects…

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

Budget

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

Clean/Purge/Maintain

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

REST

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

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

Tutorial: Creating the Look of Wallpaper with a Stencil!

The laundry room “wallpaper” is finished and I’m in love!

For this small but mighty room, I wanted the look of wallpaper but without the price tag. I was especially inspired by these wallpapers:

Source: Spoonflower

I found this stencil at Hobby Lobby and knew it would give just the look I was looking for! I decided to do the entire room instead of just an accent wall and I love the impact that it made. Today I’m sharing the process I used to create this look (for less than the cost of one roll of wallpaper!)

Materials

-stencil (I bought three of this one)

foam paint roller

-paint tray

painter’s tape

repositionable spray adhesive

small foam brush

-small level

-scissors

-paint

-drop cloth to cover furniture from adhesive overspray

latex paint remover + soft cloth

An important note: I have tried using painter’s tape to keep the stencil in place and for me, the inside of the stencil still shifted too much and created messy lines. I now use repositionable spray adhesive, but the caveat is there is a lot of overspray! If you use the spray adhesive, you will want drop cloths on everything before you start, particularly furniture. Luckily my flooring was vinyl and the spray residue could be easily cleaned up, but if your floor is really nice wood or carpet, you will want to cover your floors as well.

Starting in the top left corner of a wall, I sprayed approximately 3-4 small bursts of the spray adhesive directly on the wall and pressed down my stencil in place (since it was the basis the entire pattern, I did use a small level to make sure the first stencil was perfectly level). To line up all subsequent stencils, the edges of the stencil had little leaves that were meant to match with the next pattern.

In other words, when I lined up the next stencil, a few of the cut outs would line up with leaves that were already painted. All I had to do was make sure those were aligned and I knew my stencil was in place.

I poured a small amount of paint (I used Sherwin Williams Alabaster in Eggshell finish) into a paint tray and rolled a six inch foam paint roller in it. I then rolled it over the ridges in the paint tray several times to make sure it was evenly coated without excess paint.

I rolled the roller lightly over the stencil several times until the wall color disappeared and the insides of all the cut outs were white. It’s better to have less paint and roll over the stencil several times than to have excess paint and roll once – it helps keep lines nice and crisp!

Once the stencil was completely painted, I peeled it off the wall from top to bottom and started the process again for the next stencil. I did not wait for the paint to dry before laying the next one – the paint didn’t smudge because I just pressed straight down and didn’t slide the stencil around.

I worked my way across the wall in columns, working from top to bottom and moving from left to right across the wall.

I had three identical stencils and my process was to use the same stencil 10 or so times in a row, then clean it and while that one was drying, use a fresh one for the next 10 or so stencils. The key is: you must clean your stencils as the paint builds up! I learned this the hard way, but without cleaning them, paint slowly builds up more and more, making the cut outs slightly smaller each time until it gets to a point where paint can’t even get through anymore. I cleaned mine after 10-12 uses but you’ll have to judge based on how much paint buildup you’re noticing on your stencil.

I used latex paint remover spray and sprayed it all over the coated stencil. I just sprayed it directly on my floor since it was vinyl, but you might want to do this on another surface or put down a protective layer over your flooring.

After letting the spray soak in a bit, I very carefully dabbed up the paint with a cloth. Because it was latex paint, I could also gently use my fingernails to clean out the paint built up in the cut outs. I tried to be as gentle as possible – aggressive rubbing will bend or even potentially break the more fragile cut outs. It was a little tedious to get clean, but a necessary step to prolong the life of the stencils and keep the pattern size consistent throughout the room.

Once the stencil was clean, I just let it dry completely and then could use it again!

When it came to corners and edges, I followed the same process as much as I could. For an outward corner, the process was fairly straightforward. I just lined up the stencil on the wall, left the overhang alone, and carefully rolled over the wall portion.

I’ll admit, the corners didn’t always get lined up absolutely perfectly but overall I’m really happy with how they turned out! The pattern is busy enough that mistakes just blend right in.

For working around inside corners, trim, ceilings, and baseboards, I used the roller to get as close to the trim work and edges as possible, but there was always a small gap left behind.

Once I had worked my wall entirely around the room and all the full stencils were complete, I started cutting up the stencils to finish the edges. I attached it to the wall with the spray adhesive like before, but instead of the roller I used a small round foam brush to dab paint lightly all the way to the edge.

I had to be strategic about cutting the stencil up, making sure the places that needed the biggest section of stencil went first, then I went in order from biggest amount of stencil needed to smallest. I did not worry about taping the trim, because once the walls were finished I was going to paint over the trim anyways.

I did use painters tape in the inner corners – I placed tape in the very corner on the wall perpendicular to the one I would be painting so that I could get paint all the way to the very corner without painting the other wall. I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of that step but just imagine in the picture above, if the trim was actually another wall making a corner. By taping it off, I would have had a nice crisp corner instead of the smudged paint that you see on the trim.

I did have to use a tiny paint brush to do a bit of freehand work to connect the pattern in some corners, particularly the final corner pictured below where there wasn’t enough wall left for a full stencil to make the pattern complete. Luckily it’s such a busy pattern that I don’t think you can tell at all!

Overall I am SO happy with how this wallpaper turned out. The lighting in the space isn’t great for photographing, but here’s a few pictures in both natural and artificial light to give you an idea of how it looks now:

There is still SO much to do in the room, but just having the walls completely done makes it feel so much better! Still to come: painting all the doors, swapping out knobs, replacing the light fixtures, and building shelves above the washer and dryer. Slowly but surely this room is coming together!

I’m working on this room as part of the Fall 2021 One Room Challenge. To see all the other participants, click here.

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Inspiration for a Guest Room Update

When Justin and I started our bedroom renovation, the #1 thing on our lists was to upgrade our mattress to a king. My plan had then been to move our old queen mattress down to the guest room (which had just been a full size). It felt like such an easy solution to upgrade our guests as well! Except, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that “one simple change” is rarely ever just one thing . . . and this time was no different. Enter: project spiral.

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The guest bedroom “before” with a full size mattress

The full size mattress had been sitting on an old metal frame that we thought would easily extend to fit a queen. Long story short, it did extend, but we did not have faith in the integrity of the metal bars going across at that length, so we decided to just get a new bedframe. Except all the bedframes we liked were platform beds, which would not work with our old queen mattress + box spring combo. Before we knew it, the project had spiraled to getting a brand new bedframe and memory foam queen size mattress. But wait there’s more! We realized the increased width of the mattress made everything feel too tight with the nightstands, so we needed to swap those with the smaller ones from our bedroom upstairs. And! All the queen size sheets we used in our room don’t match the bedding we have in the guest room. Oy vey.

Current Guest Room with new bed and swapped nightstands

What started out as “one simple change” has now spiraled into a much larger project. It’s kind of crazy but at the same time, I’m thinking “why not go all in?” When I wrote a “one year later” post about the guest suite renovation, I mentioned that I was itching to add some interest to the white walls with a wallpaper or something. This project has already expanded beyond our expectations, so let’s just tackle that now too, right?

Unfortunately, since this is entirely a result of a project spiral, there’s no budget for wallpaper. I just can’t justify spending several hundred dollars on wallpaper and installation (we do a lot of DIYs around here but after the playroom accent wall, installing wallpaper isn’t one of them haha). So I’m going a much more cost-effective route: stencils!

I’ve never stenciled a wall before, let alone a whole room, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic so far and I’ve been gathering lots and lots of inspiration!

This is one of the earliest images I saved when I started dreaming about adding something to the walls and it remains one of my favorite choices. I love the organic, soft flow of the olive branches and I love the varying shades of green throughout. I want to imitate the subtle differences in leaves, but I also want to infuse a little more color in my palette.

Credit: Home Depot

I love this color palette – give me all the muted shades of green and pink! – but the actual pattern itself is larger and busier than what I’m looking for. I also don’t like how all the flowers line up precisely and prefer a little bit of a looser pattern.

This one is similar to the one above and isn’t as precisely lined up. I actually really love this one and wish I could consider it for the guest room, but at $92/roll, it’s just not a realistic option for the entire guest room. I’m definitely keeping it in mind for Vi’s room down the road though!

Coffman 33' L x 20.5" W Wallpaper Roll
Credit: Wayfair

Okay, I am not a bird person, but there are still a lot of things here that speak to me. I like the white background. I like the varying colors of green in the leaves and I really love the subtle pops of color (particularly pink and yellow!) in the flowers. I’m drawing a lot of inspiration from this one!

Here are a few other photos of wallpapered rooms that I’m drawn to. While none of them show exactly what I have in my mind for the guest bedroom, they are all giving me inspiration for the feel I want to create in the space.

I purchased a few of these stencils from Hobby Lobby and I’m going to test out different color palettes (I’m thinking shades of green with small touches of muted yellows and rosy pinks). Once I finish up Vi’s birthday gift, my focus is going to shift on getting this project done and then updating the bedding to coordinate. We have guests coming on September 10 so that is my timeline for finishing – just over three weeks away!

ORC Week Four: Cozy Layers on Our New Bed

It’s week four of the One Room Challenge and it’s hard to believe, but we’ve reached the halfway point. I feel like this past week was a productive one, but there is still SO much to do in the next four weeks!

ORC-Guest-400x218.png

This past week, my focus was on our bed. We’ve had our adjustable base for a couple weeks now, but both our bed frame and mattress finally got delivered so we could put everything together!

We’ve known we wanted to update our bed for a long time now, so I’ve been looking at beds and headboards for months. I really wanted an upholstered headboard in a dark moody color and I didn’t want it to have lots of detail. We also didn’t want a low profile bed or a short headboard – it doesn’t seem like this is a huge list but it was really hard to find something that fit my criteria! Finally I came across this one and it was love at first sight. The streamlined look was just perfect and while I originally thought I wanted green, I’m so happy with the navy color! It says online that it doesn’t work with an adjustable bed, but we just didn’t put the slats in the middle and our adjustable bed fit perfectly!

I love the look of crisp white bedding, but I knew that wouldn’t be a practical solution for us. Honestly, I don’t know how people keep white sheets and blankets so clean! Maybe Justin and I just have oily faces or something, but pillowcases always tend to discolor a bit over time? Plus, we have kids and dogs in and out of our room all day – white sheets just aren’t something we’re going to do. Since the headboard is a neutral backdrop, I wanted to have some fun with colors and patterns. It took playing around a big and trying some different arrangements, but I finally found a combination I really like!

I love the mix of graphic prints on the accent pillows mixed with the floral print on the sheets. It provides just the right amount of interest and contrast without seeming too busy for me.

We also did a little nightstand swap – our nightstands went down to the guest room and the guest room nightstands came up here. We’re definitely enjoying the increased drawer space and I think the larger nightstands (these are about 2 inches wider and 1.5 inches taller) feel like a better scale with the king bed.

This progress feels good and we’re loving the new bed, but we still have several things to tackle. My to-do list still includes: paint (a paint chip deck I’ve been waiting on has finally shipped and should be here soon!), baseboards, sconces, rug, curtains, and finding a new dresser and vanity table. I forsee some thrifting in my very near future . . .

Be sure to check out the other ORC participants here!

Bedroom Sources

Upholstered Bed

Nightstands

Cream Pillows

Green Pillows

Lumbar Pillow

Quilt

Floral Sheets + Throw, both from Target (no link available)